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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Protestant Popes

  In his commentary "The Baby and the Denominational Bathwater" Rev. Frederick W. Schmidt writes, "Spare us the pontifications of church leaders who don't want popes, but want to speak ex cathedra on countless issues."


  Rev. Schmidt refers to a particular custom practiced in the Roman Catholic branch of the universal Church, a custom that Protestant members of the universal Church criticize as being unbiblical.

  As it turns out, some Protestant ministers criticize the custom while practicing it themselves, being oblivious to their hypocrisy.

  Granted, these Protestant ministers do not openly say that they are speaking ex cathedra, but they act like they are any time someone dares to disagree with something that they preached.


  Ask yourself this question: Why should anyone believe anything that a Protestant minister says from a pulpit?


  Is it because the minister is ordained?


  Ordination by itself is no reason to believe a person who has it.


  The Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines "ordain" as "to invest officially (as by the laying on of hands) with ministerial or priestly authority."  In other words, ordination merely means that the person who has it has the authority to teach, preach and officiate in the organization that provided the ordination.  Ordination does not mean that everything said by an ordained person is true.


  Plenty of people are ordained, but they disagree with each other about how to properly interpret the Bible.


  A Southern Baptist minister and a Methodist minister are both ordained, but they have opposing beliefs about the proper mode of baptism.  The Baptist will claim that the Methodist is wrong, but how could the Methodist be wrong if the Methodist has been ordained?


  It is no wonder that Roman Catholic Christians are sometimes bewildered by the beliefs of their Protestant brethren.

  If Protestant ministers act like mini-popes, then why shouldn't Roman Catholic Christians remain loyal to the Roman Catholic pope? At least Roman Catholics aren't being hypocrites.

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The Christian Middle

In my writings I claim to be a member of the Christian Middle, as opposed to being a member of the Religious Right or the Religious Left. I have no doubt that my use of the expression Christian Middle has left at least one reader asking, “What on earth is he talking about?” Thus I would like to explain what the Christian Middle is.
 
During the time that Jesus walked on the Earth, there were two distinct religious groups dwelling within Israel, and these groups were polar opposites. The people of the Religious Right were called Pharisees. The people of the Religious Left were called Saducees. In between these two groups were the people who made up the Jewish Middle.
 
Regarding such religious polarization, the only differences between then and now pertain to the faith and the nationality of the people. The word Pharisee has been replaced with Fundamentalist, while the word Saducee has been replaced with Progressive.
 
So what sets members of the Christian Middle apart from the Religious Right and the Religious Left? Perhaps the most noticeable feature of the Christian Middle is that it operates without notice. A parodox indeed, but a nice paradox. I liken the Christian Middle to salt in a serving of mashed potatoes. When eating mashed potatoes that have been properly salted, a person enjoys the taste of the potatoes and thinks nothing of the salt that has been added. However, should there be no salt, the person immediately senses the absence of it.
 
How do the Religious Right and the Religious Left fit into this analogy? Imagine that you have mashed potatoes without salt. Now imagine that a person pours the entire contents of a salt shaker onto your mashed potatoes. What we have here is an example of the Religious Right. But suppose instead of an entire shaker full of salt, someone offers you a salt substitute. Now we have an example of the Religious Left.

Granted, there are people who desire a complete elimination of spiritual seasoning in the world. But should that ever happen, then life would be rather bland, and even a spiritual skeptic might start saying, “Can someone please pass the salt?”

Spiritual Baptism



 In his book The Holy Spirit, Dr. Billy Graham makes the following comments.
 
  Many years ago when I was attending a small Bible school in Florida, I visited what was called a “brush arbor revival meeting.” The speaker was an old-fashioned Southern revival preacher. The little place seated about two hundred people and was filled. The speaker made up in thunder what he lacked in logic, and the people loved it.
   
  “Have you been baptized with the Holy Spirit?” he asked the audience during the sermon.
  Apparently he knew a great many in the audience because he would point to someone and ask, “Brother, have you been baptized with the Spirit?” And the man would answer, “Yes, bless God.” 

  “Young man,” he said, spotting me, “have you been baptized with the Holy Spirit?”   “Yes, Sir,” I replied. 

  “When were you baptized with the Holy Spirit?” he asked. He had not questioned the others on this. 

  “The moment I received Jesus Christ as my Savior,” I replied.  He looked at me with a puzzled expression, but before going to the next person he said, “That couldn’t be.” 

  But it could! It was.    
  I do not doubt the sincerity of this preacher.  However, in my own study of the Scriptures through the years I have become convinced that there is only one baptism with the Holy Spirit in the life of every believer, and that takes place the moment of conversion.1
  
  Every believer should have the same fruit as every other believer, but not every believer will have the same gifts as every other believer.   No, the Holy Spirit distributes the gifts in such a way that every believer has at least one gift which is uniquely his.  You may have been given a certain gift by God, but it would be a mistake for you to say everyone else should have that same gift.

… the gift of tongues is not necessarily a sign of the baptism of the believer by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ. . . Nowhere in the Bible do I find it said that the gift of tongues is a necessary evidence of being baptized with the Holy Spirit into Christ’s body, the Church.3
 
  Although it is not commonplace, there are still people who claim that one has not received the baptism of the Holy Spirit if one does not have the gift of biblical tongues.

   Such a claim is what Dr. Graham refutes in his book and what the Apostle Paul refutes in 1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 27-30.
 
  Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.  Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. . . 

  … Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles?  Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues?

  The body of Christ is able to perform its mission because its members all have the same spiritual baptism but have different spiritual gifts.  
   
  It is childish to believe that having a particular spiritual gift makes one spiritually superior to those who don’t have the same gift.
 
  So, let us believers in Messiah Jesus put away such childishness and embrace each other as spiritual equals.  Doing so is one way for us to love one another as the Lord commanded us to.

Notes:

1Billy Graham, The Holy Spirit (Word Publishing: 1988), p. 62.

2Ibid, pp. 133-134.

3Ibid, pp. 173-174.


Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Are Tattoos Taboo?



Over on a forum set aside for Christian singles, someone claimed that Christians are required to conform to Mosaic Law as it is stated in Leviticus 19:28. That verse says, "You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the Lord."

The validity of the aforementioned claim is not supported by scriptural evidence.


Here is a statement about Leviticus 19:28 made by Dr. David Capes, a Professor in Christianity at Houston Baptist University: 



It is true and undeniable that Leviticus instructs the people of God not to cut their bodies or get tattoos. But we must ask what function those laws had. 
There are 613 laws in the Old Testament that make up—and this is key—God’s covenant-agreement with the people known as Israel. Some laws are universal (no murder, no stealing, no adultery), but the majority are specific to that people. 
Christians today, for example, don’t remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy by doing no work on the Sabbath. The Sabbath is the 7th day of the week, Saturday, not Sunday. Christian women today don’t follow the laws of what to do during their menstrual cycles. The majority of Christians eat pork, shrimp and catfish despite God’s clear instruction to Israel not to eat these things (Leviticus 11). Christians today don’t celebrate Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. 
Now why don’t Christians follow these laws? They are part of the Bible. True, they are, but these are laws God gave to establish the people we know today as Israel. These laws set them apart from their pagan neighbors. They are written, according to Paul, for our instruction but they do not apply to us. 
Paul, you remember, did not insist that Gentile men be circumcised in order to follow Christ even though circumcision was central to the Abrahamic covenant. Circumcision is the mark/cutting of the body that set the men of Israel apart from their pagan neighbors. Today many Jews still follow these laws and practices. 
Informed by the Old Testament, Christians are to be formed by a different set of teachings (the Sermon on the Mount, law of Christ—Galatians 6), practices (Sunday worship, Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, hospitality), and beliefs (incarnation, trinity, resurrection, etc).


In the 15th chapter of the New Testament book of Acts, we read about a council held in Jerusalem by the Apostles and elders of the Church at that time. The topic of their discussion was whether or not Gentile followers of the Messiah were required to conform to the Laws of Moses as spelled out in the Tanak (a.k.a. Old Testament). 

The members of the Council decided that Gentiles were not required to conform to the Laws of Moses. The Council drafted a letter that was sent to the Messiah's Gentile followers living in other cities. This is what the letter said: 

The brothers, both the apostles and the elders, to the brothers who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greetings. Since we have heard that some persons have gone out from us and troubled you with words, unsettling your minds, although we gave them no instructions, it has seemed good to us, having come to one accord, to choose men and send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth. For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.

In short, the claim that Gentiles must conform to the Mosaic Law stated in Leviticus 19:28 is a claim that contradicts the teachings of the Apostles.






Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.



Sunday, April 21, 2013

Time to leave the Pulpit


TEN SIGNS THAT IT IS TIME THAT YOU LEFT THE PULPIT
 
1. On Pastor Appreciation Day the congregation gives you a trip to the Orient, but it's for one way only.
 
2. The Deacon Board forgets to include your salary in next year's church budget.
 
3. The last time you preached a funeral, people mistook you for the deceased.
 
4. The congregation is given No Doze tablets instead of communion wafers.
 
5. The church bulletins have crossword puzzles where sermon notes are supposed to go.
 
6. The local ministers association notifies you that your lifetime membership has expired.
 
7. Doctors prescribe recordings of your sermons as a cure for insomnia.
 
8. Your children tell their friends that you work for the Mafia because they are too embarrassed to say what you really do.
 
9. Your wife attends another church because nobody there knows who her husband is.
 
10. Rodney Dangerfield gets more respect than you do.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Judge Not




In 1 Corinthians 5:12-13 the Apostle Paul states, “What have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside.”

In his commentary about Paul’s statement, William Barclay writes, “It is Paul’s principle that we are not to judge those outside the Church. “Those outside” was a Jewish phrase used to describe people outside the Chosen People. We must leave their judgment to God who alone knows the hearts of men.”

The idea that Christians are not to judge non-Christians isn’t an idea that every member of the Christian community accepts. All too often, Christian adults in the USA will get on their soap boxes and lecture non-Christian adults on how to live their lives. The ones doing such lecturing may feel pleased with themselves, but all that the lecturing does is to cause the non-Christian adults to put up their defenses.

Christians who engage in such lecturing fail to grasp one of the realities of life: It is foolish to expect spiritual fruit from one who is spiritually dead. If Christians behave in a way that pleases God, then they do so because the Holy Spirit dwells within them and gives them the ability to behave in a way that pleases God. Without the power of the Holy Spirit, Christians are no more able to live a godly life than non-Christians are able to.

In John 15:5 Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” Godly living isn’t something that is self-generated.  So, one does not make others clean by getting on one’s soap box.



Quote Sources:

William Barclay, The Letters to the Corinthians, The Daily Study Bible Series (The Westminster Press: 1975), p. 48.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

In Another Land



“Dear Sponsor, I am shivering for it’s cold outside.

The scary things in my world make me want to hide.

I know you love me, but just why I do not understand.

I’m glad to be your little child in another land.”


She was only six years old when she came into my life,

Born into a cold, cruel world full of poverty and strife.

She needed someone to love her and to point the way to God.

That is when she touched my heart and became my child of love.


“Dear Sponsor, I’m not hungry now. You gave me food to eat.

It’s easier to walk to school with new shoes on my feet.

I know you love me, but just why I do not understand.

I’m glad to be your little child in another land.”


Sickness left her. She grew strong – a miracle in her world!

It was plain for all to see that God was working in this girl.

Then one day there came the time that I had been praying for.

My little child gave her life to the Savior Christ the Lord.


“Dear Sponsor, I’m a new girl now. Jesus gave me a brand new heart.

Even though you’re far away, we won’t always be apart.

I always knew you loved me, and now I understand.

God made you love this little child in another land.”


Other children in the world need special friends to care,

Ones willing to touch their lives and the love of God to share.

Will you be one of those to lend a helping hand?

Will you share Christ’s love with a child in another land?



“As you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

- Jesus,
Matthew 25:40 (ESV)

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