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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Money and the Church?

The whole meaning of community of believers has been lost, especially in today's commercialized church system. Or another name institutionalized religion done in Jesus name. If we survey the New Testament all giving was to only meet the needs of fellow believers. Now, the money received in church offering today goes for mostly pastoral staff salaries, church buildings and its infrastructure, electronic equipment, security guards, fingerprinting, cell phones and many other things that are NOT needs as spelled out in the New Testament. A thing unheard of in the first two centuries of church history. We are to take up offerings to benefit the poor and needy and widows in the community of believers (see Acts 4:32-37). Plus, they never charged for the Word or try to profit off sermons or instruction (i.e. book, music or video sales) or to council fellow believers for money.

Anyone who has ever had a relationship with the living Christ must ask, "Since when has Jesus become dependent on worldly business methods and technology to promote the gospel of the kingdom of God to grow His Church?" Is this the rock He told Peter that He would build His church on--common worldly business model practices? Where once the Lord added to the Church daily as many as should be saved, now we see a church growing itself by appealing to the world's senses. Where once the Spirit of God drew people, now people are enticed with sensationalism and entertainment, an appeal to the eyes and ears.

Jesus prophesied that before the coming judgment it would once again be as it was in the days of Noah, when the earth was filled with the feasting, drinking and hedonism. It would be as it was in the corrupted society of Sodom where it was business as usual, "They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built."(see Luke 17:26-32). Can anyone look around western culture and its churches and not see this prophecy fulfilled?

Perhaps a more telling question might be, "Are we willing to live on bread in order to preach the glorious gospel of the kingdom of God in Jesus name?" Did Jesus pay the price and live in poverty so that the apostles and believers that followed didn't have to? Did they live lives of ease and opulence in order to leave a legacy of established kingdoms in this world? Did they build great institutions, naming great churches, universities and seminaries after themselves as is the practice today?

Let Paul's words suffice: “But sometimes I think God has put us apostles on display, like prisoners of war at the end of a victor's parade, condemned to die. We have become a spectacle to the entire world--to people and angels alike. Our dedication to Christ makes us look like fools, but you are so wise! We are weak, but you are so powerful! You are well thought of, but we are laughed at. To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, without enough clothes to keep us warm. We have endured many beatings, and we have no homes of our own. We have worked wearily with our own hands to earn our living. We bless those who curse us. We are patient with those who abuse us. We respond gently when evil things are said about us. Yet we are treated like the world's garbage, like everybody’s trash--right up to the present moment.” (1 Corinthians 4:9-13, NLT)

These men served the kingdom of God and cared nothing for worldly gain. They didn’t push people to give in order to meet the churches annual budget of salaries and utilities. You wouldn’t see an overseer standing in line to buy the finest clothing from the Roman Empire while the people he shepherds stand in line for their next meal. I remember seeing a local pastor standing in line for the next iPhone while people in the congregation had to stand in line to get food stamps from the state.
The apostles supported themselves and often went without. They had no homes of their own, much less any house worth six figures or annual six figure salaries. They heeded Jesus' words and did not seek to find their lives. They had tasted the heavenly gift and found it good. Their only legacy was to live and die just as their Forerunner, the very Son of God, promoting the eternal kingdom of God. They did not consider their service to be a vocation or livelihood but were witnesses, appointed unto death. It was not a living but a dying; a life laid down and never an excuse to gather wealth to themselves.

Without doubt, the prevailing conditions on the earth today are identical to what existed before the judgment of the flood and the judgment of Sodom. Hedonism has infected the whole world, and the church has been tainted by it in its evangelism of the unbeliever. It goes forth converting men to its corrupt ways, especially in America, convincing all that this is true Christianity. The lust for wealth has not only been found a home in the gospel of prosperity but also in nearly every local church and denomination in America, and gain is preached as godliness is commonplace (see1 Timothy 6:1-11).

Then I heard another voice from heaven say: “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; - Revelation 18:4 (NIV)

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Charlottesville, VA, Should We Judge?

1 Corinthians 5:12-13 (NIV)
[12] What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? [13] God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you.” 

In resent days a deadly protest broke out in Charlottesville, VA. White supremacists  groups and those that oppose them clashed over ideology. One of the white supremacists used a car as a weapon to run over those that opposed them. Killing one and injuring others. Another sad day for humanity. 

The reason why this is being written in because over the past few days many reports have been coming out about this event. In one of those reports the label Christian was attached to these white supremacist. This is what will be addressed.

Jesus came to tell humanity about the kingdom of God. That one day God was going to return and restore what was lost in the garden of Eden. Where only one nation will govern the earth and that's God's kingdom. A place where there will be no more pain, suffering or death. Where perfect justice will rule. Where all hatred, greed, malice, injustice and every other evil that lives in the hearts of humanity will be no more. 

Now for humanity to be apart of this new nation they must look to the Son for entry. If you enter you must adopt the living principles and authority of the leader of this nation, which is Jesus the Christ. One of those principles is spelled out for the citizens of this new nation in a letter from Paul an apostle. He says to those who are followers of Jesus we must live a certain way, 

Colossians 3:10-11 (NIV)
[10]  and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. [11] Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

As citizens of God's kingdom, which is what you are if you claim Christianity, there are no more racial divisions, ethnic divisions, social status divisions among it's citizenry. Because since Jesus doesn't look at humanity in this way we shouldn't either. Therefore, believers are to adopt this biblical view. As ambassadors of Christ we represent God's kingdom who's leader is Jesus. Jesus informed us to go out into every nation of the world and invite all to be apart of His Kingdom. Now He didn't tell His disciples to go out and make the nations of the world into Christian nations. Because His nation was not of this world. It's from another place. We are to go out and tell the down trodden, the disenfranchised, the marginalized, the out cast of society within all nations that there is a better nation coming. There is good news about the Kingdom of God and all can be apart of it, however you must adopt Jesus' ways and become aliens in the nations we dwell. 

However, are we, as ambassadors of Christ, to wade into the cultures of the world and tell them that must adopt Christ's principles apart from becoming a citizen of His kingdom? 

As followers of Jesus Christ we should speak out against racism of all kinds, but, as Paul said to the Corinthians it needs to be directed to the body of Christ as a whole. People are coming into the kingdom all the time but they bring the baggage of their old life with them. As new citizens of God's kingdom we must put on new clothes. 

Paul understood that those outside the church are in darkness, as he once was and as we were once. He said to the Ephesians, 

Ephesians 5:8 (ESV)
[8] for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.

The nations of the world resist the light of Jesus, as we once did. They can't be judged by us to adopt Christ principles as His citizens because they are not His citizens. The citizens of the nations of the world are blinded to the gospel of the Kingdom of God by the devil. John tell us, 

1 John 5:19 (NIV)
[19]  We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. 

We adopt this principle of no racism not to make ourselves feel better about ourselves or look good in the eyes of the world but to point to the One who showed us the way, Jesus.  However, if you take the label of Christian, Paul says you will be judged by those who belong to the body of Christ. Since racism is not part of the citizenry of God's kingdom therefore, those who claim Christianity must remove all racism from their lives. It is not God's will and must be soundly condemned within the body of Christ.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Modern Areopagus Message

Humanity is religious by nature. People have desired to connect to something greater and outside themselves throughout human history.  There is a pantheon of gods throughout human history. However, in almost every culture a god with no name is acknowledged. This is usually the result of people becoming disillusioned about their gods and the religious official that represent these gods.

This un-named God has a name. He is the God that created this world and all that is in it. He is the Lord of all that is in heaven and on earth. He doesn't dwell in buildings of stone or wood. He doesn't live on some plot of land on the earth. He doesn't need our money or help in any way. He needs nothing because He has provided the life that animates us as people. With a Word He created the lands and the seas and all the living creatures and plants.

Through Adam and Eve he started the human race. We were meant to have dominion over the entire earth. We were to live in harmony with one another and our environment. We were to live in the unveiled presence of God as He guided humanity through the journey of a life untainted, without pain or sorrow or death. It was going to be the perfect kingdom that covered the earth. He made a covenant with us for this perfect life. The only thing we couldn't do was to unilaterally determine what was right and wrong or good and evil. However, humanity decided to break the covenant because they wanted to be like God and determine what was good and what was evil. This breached resulted to humanity being removed from God's presence. A metaphorical veil was erected between humanity and God. Not only where we removed from paradise on earth, we would now become familiar with pain, suffering and ultimately death.

People began to multiply and nations formed. These nations covered the earth. He knows which ones would come into existence. It was Him who orchestrated their boundaries. It was in these diverse cultures that God knew some would reach out to that unknown God.

Some might think He's too far to reach but He's not. We were created in His image. He is ever present, ready to welcome us back into His kingdom.

Since we were created in His image, God cannot be reduced to a statue of stone or gold or anything created by the hands of men. He is not confined to a building or a plot of land. He doesn't listen a little more because of money.

But humanity has been in the dark and as a result we didn't know God or what God wanted from us. However, ignorance is no longer an excuse. Because God has revealed Himself and is calling of all humanity to turn from their ignorance, to step out of the darkness and into the light, to commit to changing their ways. Why? Because a time is coming when He will judge the entire world with perfect justice. This will be done through Jesus Christ. The evidence for this claim is the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

The first perfect man Adam plunged all of humanity into darkness and death. This resulted in God's perfect justice coming to bear because Adam broke God's covenant. Jesus on the hand came to start a new covenant on behalf of all humanity. However, before he could accomplish this he had to satisfy the requirements of the old covenant on behalf of all humanity. He was the second perfect man. He never once disobeyed God. Since a perfect life was require in God's perfect justice when we disobeyed we could never pay that price, which would result in our being separated from God for all eternity in outer darkness. However, that was the reason Jesus came. On behalf of all humanity he could offer that perfect life to God. That’s what happened. Jesus entered a new covenant with God on behalf of all humanity. This covenant will never be broken. We can become citizens of Gods kingdom right now if we are willing to agree to the new covenant. It's the only way to know the unnamed God. Why? Because of the resurrection.  All the nations of the world are coming to an end and if you're not a part of Jesus's nation then you will perish with the rest of humanity that rejects the gospel of the Kingdom of God that Jesus revealed.

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