Ephesians and Eschatology.

Eschatology: a branch of theology concerned with the final events in the history of the world or of humankindMerriam Webster Dictionary

Eschatology can be a touchy subject these days. Those who endeavor to understand it soon find themselves traversing a theological gauntlet. Today some sects and denominations reject those who do not adhere to their end-times doctrine. Add to that the multitude of failed end-time prophecies, in the 1970s and 80s and it’s no wonder that eschatology has become a proverbial hot potato that many pastors simply avoid. Still, if we adhere to the basic tenants of Christianity rooted in an eternal perspective, we will always begin with the end in mind.

Our view of the end drives how we live in the present. 

Most people automatically think of the book of Revelation anytime the end times are mentioned. Yet it is a huge mistake to begin there. None of the New Testament existed when Jesus gave His near bullet-pointed eschatological discourse on the Mount of Olives in Matthew 24-25, Mark 13, and Luke 21. Even so, given that we are studying the Book of Ephesians it may be worthy to note that Ephesus is the first Church to be addressed in the Book of Revelation.

But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Rev 2:4-5

Given the current and emerging state of Polycrisis in today’s world, more and more people are concerned about eschatology. That’s not a bad thing. The sheer number of unbelieving friends and family that suddenly wanted to know about the end times when COVID lockdowns went into effect made us realize that sometimes “eschatology drives discipleship”.

Still, there is a multitude of eschatological views and variations of those views regarding when and how the end times play out. Add to that the differing views regarding when a “Rapture” Harpazo takes place and you’ve got seeds of even more division. We think Jesus is super clear in Mat 24:29-31.  Even so, we will be thrilled if we are wrong and receive early cloud tickets home.

Confusion arises when people trust their preferred eschatological experts without testing 1 Thess 5:20-21 or searching scripture to see if it is true. Acts 17:11 Reading books and listening to sermons about scripture instead of studying scripture itself is unacceptable 2 Tim 2:15. At the end of the day, eschatology should be studied like any other topic in the Bible. That means as literally as possible in the original textual, grammatical, and cultural context.

A common problem among those most interested in eschatology is viewing scripture through a lens of current events. The tendency is to focus on topics like the Mark of the Beast Rev 13  as people try to predict the identity of the antichrist and the trajectory of humanity toward the greatest tribulation. Dan 12 Mat 24:21 Rev 13 An unintended result is that the plans of the enemy may trump (pun intended) the return of Jesus as every disease, conflict, disaster, and member of the political and financial elite is falsely correlated with scripture.

Some correlations are crazier than others…

This approach becomes most problematic when the resulting eschatological views become dogmatic. That’s what happened with people such as Hal Lindsey in the 70s and 80s. In the end, the multitude of false end times prophecies made Christians everywhere look like children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemesEph 4:14  They also helped to validate things like New Atheism as those not firmly rooted and grounded in God’s Word continued to destroy the Christian witness with bad exegesis.

At worst bad eschatology results in crazy cults and tragedy like the Branch Davidians in Waco Texas in 1993.

Hence not only can eschatology drive discipleship. Eschatology can also drive heresy.

We’ve studied it in depth and still only scratched the surface. If you still insist on studying eschatology; great. But let us do it soberly and well. 1 Thess 5:6 Sober” is nḗphō to be calm and collected in spirit, temperate, dispassionate, circumspect.

Our Hope in Two Parts

The Gospel message is two-fold. First, we have the fulfilled Gospel of Salvation whereby Jesus conquered sin and death and made a way for all people to be reconciled to the Father. Eph 2:8-10  Where people previously relied on a high priest to enter the Holy of Holies on their behalf Heb 9:7, Jesus tore the veil that separated us from God. Mat 27:51 Today we are able to come boldly to the throne of grace…on our own. Heb 4:16 This is the meaning of “It is finished”. The second part is eschatological, the Gospel of the Kingdom which is yet to be fulfilled. Rev 21-22 Together these define the Aramaic word

Maranatha. 1 Cor 16:22

Jesus has come.  Jesus is coming.

If we view the world and its events through the lens of scripture then we remain mindful that Judgement comes first to the house of God. 1 Pet 4:17 Our first concern should be the status of the body of Christ, not the anti-Christ. Psalm 139:23-24, 1 Cor 1:10, Eph 4:13, Heb 12

Any correct view of eschatology prioritizes the fulfillment of God’s purpose and plan for His bride without spot or wrinkle Eph 5:27. The endgame for the end of days is the full acquisition of our inheritance for which Holy Spirit deposited in every believer is

“an earnest” – arrhabṓna down payment. Eph 1:13-14

That’s not to make light of the gift of Holy Spirit but a call to be mindful of how much more is to come. This is the correct approach to eschatology. We must keep in mind that our inheritance will only be realized by individuals existing as part of a unified bride, not individual Gnostic Christians, prepping for battle with returning Nephilim and the antichrist. Regardless of how we imagine the end times, if we study eschatology as Jesus taught it we will see an emphasis on a call to endurance and faithfulness. Rom 5:3-5, Mat 24:13, Rev 12:11, Rev 13:10 Jesus framed endurance in the context of childbirth. Mat 24:8 Faithfulness carried to fruition looks like All attaining to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of ChristEph 4:13 Incidentally “manhood” does not refer to the masculinity of individual men any more than the spotless bride refers to individual women. Both are allegorical references to the body of Christ unified in Him. Eph 2:15-17

It’s no accident that Paul concludes Ephesians 5 with the image of marriage between a husband and a wife. The one new man and unity of the faith is represented in ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife,  and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. Gen 2:24Mark 10:7-8 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. Eph 5:32-33 It follows that the state of our marriages in the church reflects the state of the church and visa versa. Hence, our eschatology should be more focused on spot and wrinkle removal, unity in the faith, and maturity than on wars and rumors of wars over which Jesus said we should not be alarmed. Mat 24:6 I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me! For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 2 Cor 11:1-3

The potential consequences of rejecting this essential foundation of eschatology are profound.

“But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.” Mat 22:11-14

The benefits of embracing it are beyond comprehension.

“Hallelujah! For the Lord our God
    the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
    and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
    with fine linen, bright and pure”—

for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” Rev 19:6-9

Our view of the end drives how we live in the present. 

Maranatha!

Expose What?

Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, Eph 5:11-13

Expose is elénchō bring to the light, convict, refute, confute, reprehend severely, chide, admonish, reprove, chasten, to punish.

Ephesians 5:3-20 addresses the issue of sin, in the church. …instead let there be thankfulness to God. It also instructs us to Look carefully then how we walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

The biggest question in our Acts 17:11 Bereans Bible Study this past week was “Exactly what do we expose and rebuke?” “What does that look like if we do?” Are we to simply reject those who are in sin as Eph 5:7 seems to imply?

Therefore do not become partners with them…

But Jesus hung out with sinners. Luke 7:34-35 Yes but He did not participate in their sin. That said, Ephesians 5 specifically addresses the issue of sin as it relates to believers within the church. Paul addresses the same subject in 1 Cor 5 when he orders the church “to deliver (The offender) to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.”

Mathew 18:15-20 gives clear instructions for exposing and rebuking sin on an individual basis. Ephesians 5 goes deeper. In my opinion, we are to bring sin that might not be identified as sin to light so it can be clearly seen, understood, and avoided.

…when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Eph 5:13

If you are young and or new to the church you may be unaware of the most recent spiritual attacks that produce unadulterated heresy. This is evidenced by a growing number of formerly biblically sound teachers like Tim Keller, Beth Moore, Mike Todd, and Andy Stanley to name just a few who have embraced aspects of what is commonly called WOKE ideology. WOKE ideology creeps into the hearts and minds of believers under the auspices of compassion and acceptance in a spirit of

“love the sinner, hate the sin”. Luke 7:34-35

Given the history of racism in the USA, especially in the South, the basic tenets of WOKE ideology seem righteous and loving. After all what kind of Christian supports racism or opposes justice for the oppressed? Given the history of publicly sanctioned atrocities e.g. slavery that occurred before the Civil Rights movement, only a monster would oppose a movement underpinned by the idea of making previous wrongs right. Micah 6:8 The question is not if righteousness is required but rather; what is righteous? The heresy begins when we regard the flesh as identity, mistake reparations for grace, confuse justice with equity, and love with acceptance of sin. At the end of the day, WOKE is another gospel for which Paul says those who preach it are accursed.

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. Gal 1:8-9

He reminds us that we are soldiers in a war and instructs us how to fight.“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.”. 2 Cor 10:4-6

Perhaps you have seen news footage of parents in front of school boards disputing the teaching of subjects like Critical Race Theory (CRT) and aberrant sexual behavior to children in schools. The normalization of all that was previously defined as mental illness is simply unfathomable to most. Hence much of Paul’s meaning in Ephesians 5 involves shedding light on the enemy’s methodologies in leading people astray. Eph 6:11

What is commonly known as Critical Theory and Post Modern Theory form the philosophical backdrop of the Woke movement. It is a mutation of an opportunistic virus created by Satan when he rebelled against God and was cast out of Heaven. It is rooted in pride, fertilized by entitlement, and watered by conflict. Just as the Bible provides genealogies that culminate with the birth of Jesus, so does the WOKE movement have a satanic genealogy that culminates with the intention of destroying the Church and any civilization supporting it. For those who may be interested I have compiled a timeline listing people and events that directly influenced the replication and propagation of all that resulted in WOKE ideology up to 2021. You can download the PDF here. CRT History.

CRT

Critical Race Theory (CRT) is often framed by words like “diversity”, “unconscious bias” or “sensitivity training” and always in the name of love.

The Woke Church is CRT applied to the gospel.

Again, as the aforementioned download shows, CRT is derived from failed Marxists in the Frankfurt School of Economics during the early 20th century.  I say “failed” because Karl Marx believed in an inevitable violent revolution of the working class against the capitalist class. Rooted in the Hegelian Dialectic this revolution was to produce order out of chaos and finally a utopia. However, Marx did not account for the fact that while the rich indeed got richer under capitalism, the poor got richer too. When the Russian Revolution only produced greater economic disparity and human suffering, the Marxists returned to the proverbial drawing board. Given that Marxism requires conflict between oppressor and oppressed classes, Critical Theorists substituted race and gender for the previously failed model based on economics alone. Minorities and women became the oppressed and white males the oppressors. While it is certainly true that disparities exist in society and are problems to be overcome, they are a vital means to a desired outcome for these rebranded Marxists.

The key is in the word “CRITICAL”

The “Critical” in CRT is not the same as the “Critical” in Critical thinking.  Critical thinking is based on the discipline of logic and the laws of coherence, noncontradiction, and correspondence. Simply put, Critical thinking applied to problem-solving is solution-focused.  Critical Theory is problem-focused. Critical Thinking is constructive. Critical Theory is deconstructive. All Marxist revolutions begin with historical, cultural, linguistic, and institutional deconstruction then revision.

Critical Race Theorists are Cultural Marxists or Neo-Marxists. 

Some dispute this title as “Marxist” is often regarded as a pejorative.

In more spiritual terms, Voice of the Martyrs founder Richard Wurmbrand wrote that Karl Marx a Jew by birth then “backslidden” Lutheran eventually became a SatanistFabian Socialism which is clearly Satanic, is the English version of Marxism that preceded and contributed to the development of Critical Theory in late 19th-century England. “Like critical theory, Fabianism was informed by Marxism and was responsible for the setting up of the London School of Economics and Political Science in 1895 to “study and eradicate social injustices and societal ills”The origins of critical theory in education

Fabian Socialism was a catalyst for Critical Theory in that they also recognized the futility of violent revolution and instead sought to transform society via social and ideological reform. Therefore deception is key.

The Fabian window explicitly reflects the goal of the Fabian Society to portray an outward role contrary to its real character, i.e. to use deception in pursuing its ultimate aim. Specifically, a wolf in sheep’s clothing is the image which appears in the shield above the world being wrought in the Fabian mold.” The world is heated by socioeconomic and politically orchestrated chaos and then beaten into the desired shape by the proverbial Fabian Socialist blacksmiths. If we look closely we will see CRT and Fabianism working in harmony to undermine the Judeo-Christian foundations of Western culture.

Satan always comes as an angel of light 2 Cor 11:14 and always in the name of the greater good. 

Antonio Gramsci

Antonio Gramsci was an inspiration for Critical Theorists. Imprisoned by the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini Gramsci was the first to define socialism as a religion and stated “socialism is precisely the religion that must kill Christianity.” He is best known for his Prison Notebooks that inspired future critical theorists and formed the basis for the theory of hegemony whereby instead of a violent and bloody revolution Marxist goals could be achieved through institutional manipulation and coercion via institutions like media, religion, and education. His socialist religion was rooted in “trust in man and his best strengths as the sole spiritual reality.” 

Not everyone needs to study and comprehend all the nuances of CRT and its proverbial cousins. But just in case you are still thinking these are coincidences rather than parts of an elaborate and very well-thought-out satanic plan…

In 1963 undercover FBI agent Cleon Skousen testified before Congress and outlined a 45-point plan of the American Communist Party. (also a PDF download) Incidentally, the word Communist is from the “Communist Manifesto” by Karl Marx. Here are a few points in the plan worthy of note for this discussion.

24. Eliminate all laws governing obscenity by calling them “censorship” and a violation of free speech and free press.

25. Break down cultural standards of morality by promoting pornography and obscenity in books, magazines, motion pictures, radio, and TV.

26. Present homosexuality, degeneracy, and promiscuity as “normal, natural, healthy.”

27. Infiltrate the churches and replace revealed religion with “social” religion. Discredit the Bible and emphasize the need for intellectual maturity which does not need a “religious crutch.”

28. Eliminate prayer or any phase of religious expression in the schools on the ground that it violates the principle of “separation of church and state.”

40. Discredit the family as an institution. Encourage promiscuity and easy divorce.

41. Emphasize the need to raise children away from the negative influence of parents. Attribute prejudices, mental blocks, and retarding of children to the suppressive influence of parents.

As you can see they have been rather successful in promoting an agenda formed at least sixty years ago.

CRT Thinking Errors

Incoherence

Similar to atheists who frame their defense of atheism based on what atheism “is not” Today’s CRTs do the same when confronted with its abject lack of coherence.  For example, if I dispute the framing of my identity as “white” on the grounds that it is racist, CRTs will readily admit that my “whiteness” makes me guilty of racism. However, “whiteness” has nothing to do with skin color. On the other hand, if I say a black person is being racist they will say black people can not be racist. Only white people can be racist.

But I thought it wasn’t about skin color?

That their reasoning is incoherent within an objective worldview is irrelevant.  In their eyes, objective truth does not exist. They regard knowledge derived from critical thinking and logic as a form of colonialism. Basically, the evil, Christian, cisgendered white male-dominated patriarchy colonized all knowledge as a means of oppressing women and minorities. That this absurdity has taken root as truth should be regarded as a clear and present danger.

WOKE is a worldview.

As I’ve said, all world views are based on one or more empirically unprovable presuppositions. Some basic Christian presuppositions are that God created the universe and all people are created in His image. Truth, reality, and morality are objective, absolute, and enumerated in scripture that is inherent.  “Objective” means it is coherent and corresponds to reality as defined by our orthodox Christian worldview and does not contradict scripture. A very simplistic example of objective truth would be that if I jump off a cliff I am going to hit the ground below. Or, Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap… Gal 6:7-9 Absolute means the same thing will happen every time. While Christians regard the Word of God as absolute objective truth. CRTs consider reality and the very idea of truth, especially moral truth to be a social construct. “Social construct” means man-made. The primary building blocks are language.

Hence what one says to a CRT carries more weight than what one does.

Postmodernism is another root of the Woke. Postmodernism maintains that truth if it exists at all is relative. What is true for you might not be true for me. What matters is that we respect one another’s FEELINGS. That means I respect your right to determine your truth.  You respect my right to determine mine.  If gay marriage and abortion fit your moral paradigm I should accept it. If any implied disagreement on my part hurts your feelings it is my moral duty to apologize for my insensitivity and admit I am wrong. In some places, insensitivity is grounds for being charged with a hate crime.

Progressivism

Postmodernism was a catalyst for Critical Theory to enter the church. Critical Theory is also veiled by the word “Progressive”. As is the case with Progressivism which views the US Constitution as a living document, Progressivism applied to Christianity views scripture the same. The understanding of scripture evolves in conjunction with the moral advancement of humankind. Gay marriage, Transgenderism, and abortion are moral advancements. If the Word of God is a living document its interpretation is always subject to revision according to our socially constructed reality.

Add CRT to the mix and traditional orthodox interpretations of scripture become invalidated due to their oppressive, racist, patriarchal roots. Hence today’s progressive WOKE church frequently frames Jesus as a revolutionary, who fought the patriarchy on behalf of the poor and oppressed. He was subsequently murdered by the same patriarchy for His impassioned pursuit of social justice. Hence, patriarchy in any form is always oppressive. This includes but is not limited to all creation governed by our Patriarch in Heaven.

Intersectionality further groups society based on subcategories of oppressed versus oppressor status.  Influence and authority are determined according to the number of intersectional groups to which one claims membership.  In a word, it validates and turbocharges the “victim stance”. For example, black is one group. Women are another. There are Muslim, gay, transgender, bisexual, nonbinary, soon-to-be Pedophiles a.k.a. MAPs (Minor Attracted Persons), and AI to name a just few.  The point here is that a gay black, woman has more clout than a mere black woman. A gay, Muslim, black woman has even more. Oppressor groups have just four categories white, male, cisgender, and Christian.  While it is possible to have membership in both oppressed and oppressor groups e.g. a white woman, or gay male, white, heterosexual Christian males can only be oppressors. Again this is not because of anything they do but because of who they are.  Any disagreement with this paradigm is labeled “White Fragility” which means an oppressor is too fragile and weak to accept culpability as the sole cause of all past and present social ills. Any denial of guilt is regarded as further proof of guilt. 

Critical Thinkers call this a Kafka Trap.

Standpoint Epistemology

Intersectionality defines reality and truth according to “lived experience”. This is called Standpoint Epistemology. Metaphorically speaking, “lived experience” is a form of social credit. These proverbial credit scores are elevated according to the number of intersectional groups to which one claims membership and their corresponding lived experiences as an oppressed person. Voddie Baucham called this “Ethnic Gnosticism” because it asserts secret knowledge held by the oppressed. The oppressed have the right to speak and to be heard. Those with the highest scores become influencers with the power to define truth. Oppressors have the right to shut up, listen and admit their guilt.  Those who admit their guilt and actively oppose their fellow oppressors are called

“Allies”

Corporations can also be allies

Membership and participation in the “community” is their reward. Community membership is maintained by compliance with the group consensus.  Consensus and acceptance are love.  Disagreement is hate.

Hate must be canceled.

Satan always mixes his lies with truth.

Scriptural meat that counters empty CRT deceit

In the case of professing Christians who have been “cheated  through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.” Col 2:8, scripture clearly refutes the foundations of CRT. 

Christianity in practice is about redemption and reconciliation between mankind and God in Christ.

“From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the. ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” 2 Cor 5:16-19

CRT defines all human interactions according to power. Power and reparations are the goal. 

Forgiveness

Daniel interceded on behalf of Israel and modeled how we should pray to God regarding the collective sin of a nation Still, Christianity is predicated on repentance from personal sin. Forgiveness from God, and for others are core values without which it is impossible to be a Christian.

CRT is obsessed with the past collective sins of ancestors we never knew and for whose actions we are to be held responsible but never forgiven. Christian repentance and forgiveness are not possible in CRT because racism is not something one does.

Racism is something one is

Eternal penance through never-ending “anti-racism work” and becoming an “ally” are the only path to partial redemption. Redemption can only be partial because anti-racism work means continually identifying how one is a racist until the day that one dies.

Justice

Christianity maintains that everyone is created equal in the eyes of God and everyone is equal in the face of truth. Ethnicity and social status have no bearing. 

“You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.” Lev 19:15

While Christians should be concerned about injustices like genuine active racial oppression, abortion, abuse, human trafficking, etc. true biblical justice is only promised in eternity. The American legal system was based on the premise that we are innocent until proven guilty and it is better that a guilty man go free than for an innocent man to be convicted.

CRT pursues social justice by aligning oppressed groups against designated oppressors for the sake of retribution and equity. One is guilty based on gender and race and unless proven to be a member of an oppressed group.

Equality versus Equity

CRT dismantles meritocracy and equal opportunity with the goal of achieving equity of outcomes. Everyone is to be rendered the same regardless of intelligence, ability, or effort. That the greater means of one person resulting from parents who worked sixteen hours a day to provide a better future for their children while those of another used drugs and refused to work at all is irrelevant. Unfortunately, just as impassioned Marxist revolutionary pawns learned during the previous century, applied Marxism never ends with equity for the poor but a consolidation of wealth and power among a ruling elite. Please understand, you are always facing a form of Marxism when the word “equity” is used in the context of social issues and social justice.

Wielding the Sword of the Spirit.

An entire counter-argument is contained in the scriptures that follow. I recommend copying the scriptures that resonate most with you. Formulate your own argument and be ready in season and out to rightly divide the word of truth and cast down these vain imaginations that exalt themselves above the word of God.

Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.”  Rev 12:10 “Accuse” is katēgoréō from which the English word categorization is derived. Like Satan, CRTs forever classify people into socially constructed subcategories under the primary headings of oppressor and oppressed. Acts 10:34-35, Rom 2:11-16, and Gal 3:28-29 are clear that God is no respecter of persons, genders, social status, ethnicity, etc. Categorizing anyone apart from the Imago Dei and In Christ v.s. Not yet is demonic; period. God’s only criterion for acceptance is that we love and obey Him. Of course, we weep and pray for all who are blinded by the god of this world many of whom are in our own families 2 Cor 4:4. Still, we know that apart from Christ our most righteous deeds are like filthy rags. Rom 3:10-18, Isa 64. In the end, those not “in Christ Jesus” Eph 2 will perish for their lack of repentance just like the Galileans in Luke 13:1-5

“There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.  And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered in this way?  No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem?  No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

Woke is predicated on a lie

When engaging Woke ideology it is vital to understand that committed CRTs are never objectively honest. Not because they are intentionally lying, but because they have a different definition of truth. They will not examine or even acknowledge their own logical fallacies and thinking errors. Instead, they divert the conversation, move the proverbial goalposts, redefine their terms, and engage in “whataboutism” to keep you on the defensive. As for the Christian Woke, they rarely cite scripture. If they do they do so out of context. Isaiah 61:1 is a favorite that they interpret as speaking about themselves in the context of a personal social justice anointing, not the prophetic word that Jesus fulfilled in Luke 4:18. In my experience, there is little point in debating with them. Most importantly, be angry but don’t sin. Don’t give way to anger as their goal is often to trap us and invalidate our witness. Simply, define your terms, state your point, and preach the gospel. Any increase is up to God. 1 Cor 3:6-9

Finally, when contending with the Woke know that Rom 1:18-32 always applies from the first presupposition regarding God and his creation through the entire downward spiral to becoming reprobate. Almost every tenant of the Woke is addressed. Remember, hold your ground and reject Wokness knowing that it is the ideological spirit of the antichrist not the person in front of you that you oppose and seek to expose.

This PDF Download list of Bible verses is intended to help you frame a solid 1 Pet 3:15 apologia regarding God’s view of humanity and expose the contrast between the true Gospel of Jesus Christ and the increasingly popular false gospel of the WOKE church. You may also be interested in reading how Jesus dealt with racism here.

MARANATHA

Trust God?

Given that I am very visual, I have always likened faith to Indiana Jones’s “leap of faith” in the movie The Last Crusade. Ironically it is the final step in his search for the Holy Grail, the cup from which Jesus drank that he needs to save the life of his father. Left with no other option but to trust the instructions he was given he fans the flames of his courage and steps off the edge as a bridge appears beneath his feet. As is the case with so many Christians today, faith is portrayed as the tool he needs to

Git’er Done!

If you’ve read the book of Job then you are familiar with the quagmire associated with answering the question; why do bad things happen to good people, especially when spirit-filled believers pray the prayer of faith? It’s confusing because Luke 10:19, says that Jesus has given us all power– exousía (authority) over the power dýnamis (strength, supernatural Power) of the enemy such that nothing can hurt us or stop us from manifesting the hope of His calling. Eph 1:18

Why then are we hurt and why do believers still get sick and die when we pray?

My Word of Faith friends say this is the first question they will ask when they get to heaven.

That said, scripture does not contradict itself. Only my understanding does. It would seem that scripture says power is the birthright of all who are born again and in Christ Jesus. Eph 2:1-6 

So what am I missing?

Maybe it’s a question of how we access that power.

Jesus names unbelief (distrust) as the reason for the disciples’ failure to do so.

For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” Mat 17:16-20

More often than not I see nothing happening when I pray. Still, I’ve seen enough signs and wonders to know they are real. I prayed and saw a demon cast out once. I prayed again and a man with a stomach ailment was healed. Three weeks after being saved Cathy prayed for her dad’s colon before his surgery to have a tumor removed. Soon after the dumbfounded doctor emerged and proclaimed “he has a healthy colon! We didn’t find a thing!” She says she had no idea what she was doing at the time. We’ve seen deaf ears opened once and the miraculous replication of food twice. Ironically the first time no one prayed. We were trying to get rid of the food as fast as we could. It just wouldn’t go away.  The second time a group of five-year-old Mozambiquens prayed. You might accuse me of negative expectations or unbelief. The truth is I had negative expectations and unbelief every time something happened. When I fully expected something to happen nothing did, at least nothing I could see. I feel like my faith must be a lot smaller than a mustard seed. If indeed faith is the key to miracle-working power then

The obvious question is how do I get more?

We can’t believe God unless we first hear His word. Hence we know that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. Paradoxically the word of God also produces the ability hear. Rom 10:17 Most Word of Faith people claim they are growing in faith. That seems sound. After all, Galatians 5:22 says faith is a fruit. Then again  Ephesians 2:8 and 1 Cor 12:9 say that the same faith (pístis) is a gift. Hebrew 11:1 says faith is the substance of our hopes and the evidence of what we can’t see. Paul separates the gifts and healing though they are given by the same spirit in 1 Corinthians 12:4–11. That might explain why some are healed and others are not. However, the consensus among the charismatics I know is that faith drives healing. 2 Tim 1:6 says faith can be imparted – that we can fan the flames or stir whatever gifts we have. But it does not say how we should do that. Finally, as far as I know, scripture does not say that faith is something we can will into existence of our own volition. 

Maybe I have a wrong perspective.

Could it be that my desires are out of alignment with God? You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. James 4:3-4

Hold on, Brian! You just went off the cliff. Paul is clearly talking about lust and hedonistic pleasures there, not prayer.  We pray for others because we care about them. Fair enough. I’m not saying that you don’t. Still,

whose desires motivate you?

What would you say if I told you that altruistic people are driven by selfishness? That selfishness has been inescapable since the fall of man in Gen 3.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta

I find it both ironic and comforting that when questioned by a reporter regarding why she chose the life she did, Mother Teresa replied, “When I looked inside myself I saw Hitler”. She later stated that she was the most selfish person she knew. While it might not meet the world’s criteria for selfishness, Mother Teresa was insightful enough to recognize that at her core she lived as she did because it provided her with a sense of meaning and fulfillment. Interestingly, only two documented supernatural healings are attributed to her even though healing in Jesus’s name was her life’s work.

If I am honest, I find selfishness is at the root of all my most righteous thoughts and deeds. But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness are as filthy ragsIsa 64:6 Paul reiterates this principle in Rom 3:11-12 Yes, of course, we are new creations IN CHRIST JESUS. But the self-centered, self-willed self has no part in Him. Mat 16:24 I’m not implying that we are not clothed in His righteousness. 2 Cor 5:21 My point here is that the people addressed in both Isaiah 64 and Romans 3 were obsessed with their “identity”. They believed their salvation was sealed because of who they were instead of who He is. How many today refer to THEIR identity as confirmation of their salvation? There is a subtle but important distinction here.

Maybe chew on that…

Still, disagree?

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Phil 1:21

Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 2 Cor 5:8

Why would I dictate that God keep someone I love away from Heaven and the fullness of seeing Him face to face especially if they are suffering except that I am selfish? Not only that but doesn’t my overwhelming desire to remain in the world for as long as possible still qualify as

“friendship with the world”?

Maybe. Maybe not. It certainly seems worth asking.

Still, it was in response to Peter’s seemingly selfless concern for Jesus’s well-being that He said, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.  For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Mat 16:24-25

“Awww… But Peter loved Jesus.”

Jesus explained what loving Him looks like. John 14:15-31 No, Peter was led by his emotions rather than the will of God.  The idea of losing someone he loved was too much for him to bear and he inadvertently sided with Satan.

Perhaps I’m not as mature or on as high a level as some. Perhaps some of you are more like Paul who viewed his remaining days on earth as a sacrifice – a delay in receiving his full inheritance for which Holy Spirit in us is just a downpayment. Eph 1:13-14 While I am certainly more sanctified and detached from the world than when I first believed, I am also so, so very grateful for everyone and everything in my life. You might debate me on this. But there is a fine line between gratitude and attachment. Paul’s mind was fully set on the things above. Col 3:1-4 Mine could just as easily be set on my next meal. If I am honest, I remain more consumed with the affairs of this life than the Bible says I should be.

No man that warreth entangles himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier. 2 Tim 2:4

Hang on. It gets worse.

Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. James 4:6-10

I could be wrong but the hubris that we know as contemporary pride aside; am I not prideful if I assume the right and power to dictate to God what should be done in His name? Am I not prideful when I proclaim the indisputable rightness of my views regarding His character and nature especially when others read the same Bible verses differently? Furthermore, why do I seek things like His manifest presence or joy except that I want it for me? Why don’t I just forget about me and ask on behalf of those dying in Ukraine, or believers who are being persecuted in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, or Iran? I must be really important. “He wants to give it to ME because He loves ME.” you say. This may be true. The question is; who am I really magnifying and why?

O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together. Psalm 34:3

Once again, old things are new and I am now a beloved son. Eph 5:1 Embrace the paradox… Still, I have had the repeated experience of realizing that so much of what I previously regarded as my righteousness in Christ was just selfishness and pride in disguise. One thing is certain, the closer I draw to our Holy God, the more I am convicted of my remaining double-mindedness.

Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

It seems that wherever a spiritual failure or shortcoming exists; self is there.

Self is insidious

I find it noteworthy that in the context of assuring the disciples that the power to move mountains is theirs and requires so little faith, Jesus prioritizes humility.

Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven. Luke 10:20

Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Mat 11:25-30

Lowly is tapeinós: humiliated (in circumstances or disposition):–base, cast down, of low degree, brought low with grief, depressed, humble,  deferring servilely to others.

How often are believers caught up with such a desire for supernatural power and outcomes that they skip the most fundamental principles such as the fact that we are barely saved? 1 Pet 4:18 And,

deny self!

Once again, Deny is aparnéomaito utterly, disown, abstain:- affirm that one has no acquaintance or connection with someone, to forget one‘s self, lose sight of one‘s self and one‘s own interests.

If the power to heal and cast out demons begins with faith then faith begins with the abrogation of self, not the embellishment of “my identity”. If I miss this, my theology will always be more self-centered than God-centered and powerlessness will be the result.

Could it be that faith is proportional to the degree of my self-denial?

In my observation, my faith grows when I empty my hands in voluntary surrender or utter despair – when I submit to the reality that HE

Is our Father, We are the clay, and (He) is our potter; And all of us are the work of (His) hands.  Isa 64:8

It is with hands up and arms wide open, emptied of all to which I most desperately cling, that my faith seems to grow. In my experience, faith is never the exercise of my will in His name. Rather it is the fruit of my delighting in Him alone until His desires become my desires. Psalm 37:4 and I become an unconscious instrument of His will.

Faith increases to the degree that I Trust in the Lord with all my heart, and lean not on my own understanding. When in all my ways I acknowledge him, he makes my paths straight. If I remember to not be wise in my own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. Prov 3:5-8

I find that my trust in Him grows.

Viewed through the lens of scripture, it seems that the flames of faith are fanned by trials and testing. James 1:2-4, Mat 5:48 I have found that my faith expands most when amid testing and trials, God preserves me like Jacob in Gen 32:30. Preserve is natsal to preserve, recover, rescue, to snatch away, deliver, rescue,

to plunder, to strip.

My faith is stirred when I surrender all to Him despite my circumstances in a spirit of, though he slay me, I will hope in him…Job 13:15 

Weakness and brokenness always result.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. Psalm 51:17

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Cor 12:9

So why do bad things happen to good people, especially when spirit-filled believers pray the prayer of faith? I could be wrong but I suspect it may be because what we call prayer is often a veiled attempt at “dictating to God”. While many “git’er done” believers view the signs and wonders that Jesus performed as ends in themselves – that healing was and is for healing’s sake. I suspect the real purpose is to facilitate dependence that produces absolute, unadulterated trust. At the end of the day, everything we see is temporary 2 Cor 4:18 this life is a vapor James 4:14 and this earth is not our home Heb 13:14.

It’s probably no coincidence that Oswald Chambers said it best on the very day that I finished writing this post.

If only we could get it.

The only aim of life is that the Son of God may be manifested and all dictation to God vanishes. Our Lord never dictated to His Father and we are not here to dictate to God; we are here to submit to His will so that He may work through us what He wants. When we realize this He will make us broken bread and poured out wine to feed and nourish others.” – My Utmost for His Highest, May 15th –

The “Pale Blue Dot” is a photograph of Earth taken Feb. 14, 1990, by NASA’s Voyager 1 at a distance of 3.7 billion miles from the Sun. It just happened to be caught in a reflected ray of sunlight.

All our self-willed striving in His name is backward. At best all our claims regarding His thoughts and ways reveal just how silly, small, and ignorant we are. If only we could recognize our utter dependence on Him for every breath and heartbeat, every thought that is true, maybe then we would

Trust God to do what only He can do!

“God, we love you and we thank you for your amazing, amazing patience. I can’t imagine what it’s like to watch us down here chasing our tails scratching all our itches thinking we’ve found answers. We’re digging holes in the ground calling them wells – just starving little people. But God if we’d open up our hearts to you – trust you – you’d do something only you can do.” -Casting Crowns- Here’s My Heart-

MARANATHA

Knowledge Applied

As I’ve said, Roland Baker reminds me of Miyagi from the movie The Karate Kid. I remember listening as people tried to debate him on theological topics in Harvest School. “Is God like this or is God like that?…” “Well…this and that.” Roland would reply. “Do we have free will?”

“Yes and no.”

Have you ever found yourself in a discussion with other believers on something as seemingly clear as salvation a.k.a Soteriology and left feeling more conflicted and confused? How could two believers read the same Bible and arrive at such different conclusions?

If you aren’t Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or Coptic then you are Protestant. The roots of every Protestant denomination began with the Protestant Reformation. Over time, these denominations continued to split over theological disagreements. Blatant heresies like Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses aside, these disagreements were almost always rooted in the views of two theologians, John Calvin, 1509-1564, and Jacobus Arminius 1560-1609. Both arguments are rooted in five opposing points as follows.

Calvinism

  • Total depravity – Mankind is incapable of obeying the law of God. No one is righteous Romans 3:10, Romans 3:23 We are “dead in trespasses and sins”. Ephesians 2:1 We have no hope of salvation apart from divine intervention.
  • Limited atonement – Jesus’ death and resurrection made salvation possible. However, it is only definite for those elected (Predestined) by God. At the end of the day we don’t choose salvation we are appointed to it. “As many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” Acts 13:48
  • Unconditional election – Those who are saved are predestined to be saved. Ephesians 1:4-5 God chose them before the foundation of the world. Salvation is in no way influenced by our decisions or actions but by the sovereign will of God.
  • The irresistibility of grace – No one can be saved unless God draws them. No one can resist God when they are drawn. John 6:44 “All that the Father gives me will come to me,” John 6:37  Whom God calls He will justify, sanctify and glorify. Romans 8:28-30. Those predestined to be saved can not stop God from saving them.
  • Perseverance of the saints – Once saved ALWAYS SAVED John 10:28-29. We immediately obtain eternal life the moment we believe. John 5:246:47 Our salvation cannot be lost John 10:27-28Romans 8:31-39.

Denominations that lean toward Calvinism include Primitive Baptist or Reformed Baptist Churches, Presbyterian Churches, and Reformed Churches. The United Church of Christ, The Protestant Reformed Churches in America.

Arminianism

  • Human Free Will – God does not want anyone to perish 2 Peter 3:9 but many do. If God is sovereign, then part of that sovereignty must include that he gave man free will to choose Him or reject Him.   
  • Conditional Election – God has foreknowledge of who will be saved because He is omniscient. He does not pre-determine who will be saved. In the end, we make the final decision whether we will be obedient to the call. 1 Peter 1:1–2
  • Prevenient Grace – We absolutely CAN reject salvation via our own free will. We hear the Gospel John 6:45 are convicted John 16:8 and exercise free will to believe in Christ. Holy Spirit makes us open to the message  Acts 16:14, Luke 24:45 and draws us to God. John 6:4412:32 Still, we must exercise our free will to believe. 
  • Universal Atonement – Jesus bore the sin of everyone who ever lived not just the elect. 1 John 2:2, 1 Timothy 4:10
  • Persistence of salvation – A person can fall from grace and lose his salvation.  Galatians 5:4, Hebrews 10:26-29, Hebrews 6:4–6 The NT is a higher standard than the OT. Mat 7:21-23, Mat 5:28 We must “endure” to be saved. Mat 24:13

Denominations that lean toward Arminianism include The Evangelical Methodist Church, the Church of the Nazarene, the Free Methodist Church, the Wesleyan Church, and the Salvation Army. The Assemblies of God, Church of God, and the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel.

The Division

Calvinists accuse Arminians of minimizing or even denying the sovereignty of God. Arminians see Calvinists as robots living in a proverbial Truman Show before Truman realized he had free will.

Most debates concerning the character, nature, and will of God are reduceable to the subject of free will or the lack thereof. Exactly how much free will a.k.a POWER do I have? Arminius says, “Some”. Calvin says, “None”. Consider this. Suppose every thought and action of yours was in fact predetermined by God.

How would you know?

That’s a deep rabbit hole

Roland Baker frequently writes provocative FB posts illuminating this seemingly bottomless rabbit hole and Ecc 1:9 debate.

If Roland’s posts don’t clarify the confusion the comments certainly do.

“Who cares!” some of you say. “That’s theology or “religion”. “I’m led by Holy Spirit!” Ok. But doesn’t every believer makes that claim? Like it or not we all have a theology especially those “religiously irreligious” people who claim they do not. That said, anyone who has studied theology understands the Ecc 1:9 nature of most unresolved theological debates.

What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.

One thing is certain, our theology is at least partly shaped by the denomination or faith stream we choose. Hardly anyone reads their Bible without also consulting books and commentaries written by theologians and teachers aligned with their stream. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this unless you don’t read the Bible and only read books by theologians and teachers aligned with your stream. Think about it. How many of those aligned with Bill Johnson read books by Paul Washer or God forbid the likes of John MacArthur? If they do it is usually through the lens of Bill Johnson.

“That’s not right! Bill Johnson says…”

Of course, the opposing side is just as guilty. The point is that too many determine the truth by who said it. This is the Genetic Fallacy and always results in Christian tribalism otherwise known as denominations and streams.

So much for attaining the unity of the faith…Eph 4:13

Call me crazy but maybe we have never agreed on the answers to certain questions because we are asking the wrong questions. “Can I lose my salvation? Or in the words of Martin Luther, am I free to “love God and sin boldly?” “How righteous or unrighteous am I? “What is my true identity?” “How much power have I been granted?” “Does more faith mean more power?” “Can I choose to grow in faith or am I stuck with the measure I have been given?” It seems to me that a better question might be,

Does Jesus know me?

 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Mat 7:21-23

The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. Prov 9:10

Some of you were just triggered.

For the record, fear is never the goal. 1 John 4:18 Most fears among believers are rooted in groundless accusations from people and the accuser of the brethren. Still, sometimes fear points to things that we are reluctant to address Phil 2:12

All fear aside, What if it is only possible to understand what matters to God in the context of doing what matters to God?

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.  For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. James 1:22-25

For example, Ephesians chapter five speaks of marriage between Christ and His Church in the context of the relationship between a husband and a wife. It follows that learning about marriage would be a good way to understand Paul’s words to the Ephesians.

Husbands love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Eph 5:25-27

I could study about being a husband, and read opposing arguments about loving a wife. I could read books about family dynamics. I could get a degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. I could memorize all the love languages, read books on human sexuality, and neuropsychology, and become an authority on the differences between the male and female brain. I could lead marriage seminars and debate other credentialed therapists before writing my own expert opinion on marriage. I might even become a celebrated expert cited by other credentialed experts. I might have paid speaking engagements, sell millions of books and God forbid, find millions of people rebutting arguments with,

“But Brian Gray says…”

At the end of the day, the only way to know anything about being a husband and loving a wife is to be married to one. Even then most of what I know is beyond what mere words can convey. The same applies to walking with God as a part of His body and bride. For the record that is not an excuse to not study yourselves approved. 2 Tim 2:15 Faith (still) comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. Rom 10:17. God’s Word remains Truth. John 17:17. The full understanding of God’s word comes by walking it out. Eph 5:9-10 Don’t go beyond what is written. 1 Cor 4:6 And don’t extrapolate weird abstract meanings from scriptures. Focus on what is clearly stated in the text.

Then walk it out

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. Eph 5:1-2

Roland Baker is a theologian. More importantly, he is an imitator of God. That’s not an invitation to put him on a pedestal as another celebrity idol.

You’ve missed the point entirely if you do.

If you’ve been to Mozambique and seen the suffering that surrounds him and spoken with the locals alongside whom he and Heidi suffer, then you know Roland’s knowledge of God is beyond words he can express. It is rooted in his best attempt at walking in love, just as Christ also loved him. Again I’m not suggesting that Roland is some elevated saint whose shadow heals and whose touch turns everything to gold or that he can mystically impart his knowledge and anointing through his hands. That’s Harry Potter Christian silliness. I am saying that he is an example of what it looks like to imitate God’s faithfulness the best way he knows how. God calls us to be faithful, not successful. Mat 25:23 Faith precedes knowledge. Everything else is the fruit of

knowledge applied. 2 Peter 1:5-11

Chew on that…

MARANATHA

The Paradox of “I”

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Eph 5:1-2

Beloved is agapētós: esteemed, favorite, worthy of love. It is the same word the Father spoke immediately following Jesus’ baptism.

“And behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved (agapētós) Son, with whom I am well pleased.Mat 3:17

God’s love in John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son…” is agapáō love in a social or moral sense, to be fond of, to love dearly.

The difference is subtle but profound. Agapáō in John 3:16 is the love with which He loved us even when we were dead in our trespassesby nature children of wrath. Eph 2:1-3. This is a statement of God’s character. He loved us because of who He is despite who we were. In contrast, Agapētós in Eph 5:1 is a statement about us. As believers made alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised up with him and seated with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, Eph 2:5-6 we are now esteemed as His favorites, worthy of His love.

The reason for the change in our status remains the same. For by grace, you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Eph 2:8-9 Nevertheless we have been promoted to the rank of favored children with Jesus and seated with Him as if we’d been there the entire time.

Let that sink in…

When viewed correctly this revelation should provoke both

Gratitude and Fear.

Historically, believers embrace one or the other. We are consumed with Rom 7:15-25 “Oh what a wretched man I am! Who will save me from this body of death?” Or we redact Romans 7 completely in lieu of Romans 8.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. Rom 8:1-2

Mind you this is Paul the Apostle speaking about himself. He went a step further in 1 Cor 4:13 when he described himself as the scum of the world, the refuse of all things. He said this in the context of addressing what I call “celebrityism” beginning in chapter three.

So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 1 Cor 3:7

“Celebrityism” is born of the “self” that Jesus requires us to deny. Mat 16:24 “I” becomes doctrine such that “My identity” supersedes His wherever “self” is not slain. It is so subtle, so seemingly normal that most do not give it a second thought. The doctrine of “I” is most clearly seen in an obsession with “My Ministry”, “My Calling”, “My gift”, “My significance” etc.

I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it? 1Cor 4:6-7

“Celebrityism” begins with a sincere desire to be used by God and becomes idolatry when we idolize those we wish we could be in the world. “Celebrityism” is pride unwittingly instilled by culture. It is carnal- a work of the flesh. 1 Cor 3:1-4 It is a desire to be something or someone in the world in Jesus’ name. It is a fruit of immaturity, comparison, performance, and a perverted understanding of what it means to be

beloved children.

Many believers wrestle with the paradox of identity IN Him. Either we are so consumed with beholding our reflection in His eyes as we imagine it that we can not even see Him. Or we are so consumed with guilt, shame, and condemnation that we can not see Him. Either way, the enemy doesn’t care if we are consumed with narcissism or self-hatred. He only needs us to be focused on the unholy trinity of

Me, Myself and I

It’s been the same game since the fall when Adam and Eve’s attention went from perfect fellowship with God to an obsession with self when their eyes went from Him to themselves and they realized they were naked. Gen 3 The enemy doesn’t need us to choose sin. He just needs us to be focused on sin. He is perfectly happy to have me indulging with impunity or shamefully struggling in the flesh to avoid it. If only we would realize that all of us are born addicted to self, that

Selfishness and self-centeredness are the root of all our troubles.

We’d understand our identity as beloved children and be free.

That identity is a dead child of wrath revived, redeemed, and now beloved because of who God is, not because of who I am. He does not need me. He wants me. His plans are not contingent upon anything I do or fail to do. My participation is an undeserved privilege granted to me as a beloved son. If I rule and reign with Him it is only because my life is in Him. Today, I do not regret the past or wish to shut the door on it because it is covered by the blood of Jesus. Hence, my brokenness has become my blessing, my rap sheet my resume. I don’t need to affirm my or your identity in Him because the “I” is dead or still needs to be slain.

i die daily.

For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Col 3:3

You are a beloved child.

Embrace the paradox

Maranatha

Watchman On the Wall

“so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes…” Eph 4:14

The Acts 17:11 Bereans Bible study made it to Ephesians 4:17 last week. We covered a lot. Someone briefly mentioned that it might benefit us as believers to remain ignorant of evil and its ways, otherwise known as human cunning, craftiness, and deceitful schemes...” After all, Smith Wigglesworth was so single-minded that he wouldn’t even allow a newspaper to enter his home. It makes sense within the proper context. That context is underpinned by fearlessness.

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 1 Cor 16:13

The strength of which Paul speaks is characterized by complete surrender to God’s will in our circumstances regardless of how those circumstances appear to us.

I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance, and need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Phil 4:12-13

We are not to be ignorant of satan’s devices lest he should take advantage of us. 2 Cor 2:11 Jesus commanded that His disciples be wise as serpents and gentle as doves as they went out among wolves. Mat 10:16

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Pet 5:8

Sober is nḗphō calm and collected in spirit, temperate, dispassionate, and circumspect. Circumspect means being careful to consider all circumstances and possible consequences

Circumspect is the Watchman on the wall.

Still, Churches like ours tend to focus on what God, not the devil is doing. Again, that’s a good and correct thing for most people provided they have also done all, to standEph 6:13-14 and aren’t hiding from hard things because they idolize comfort and are terrified of losing it.

I felt a gnawing conviction after our study.

I have always been a watchman. Ironically it’s a calling I fully embraced until I moved to Tennessee.  If I’m honest it’s the fear of man that zips my lips. I don’t want to offend the culture and people I love, and who thrive on joy.

Joy in the third world where we spent the better part of the last decade, is rooted in Col 3:1-3. I perceive that many American believers unconsciously correlate joy with their present health, wealth, and prosperity.

This is known as “Favor”

Facing the possibility of enduring suffering like so many believers around the globe already do is usually not a popular topic of discussion among contemporary lovers of His presence. Hence our stream’s foundational principles of “honoring first”, going “Low and Slow” and the oh-so-slippery slope of always “speaking things in love” can just as easily become justifications for me to bury my head in the sand. 

Watchmen are often confused with prophets because they sometimes project future outcomes based on a current trajectory. But watchmen are not prophets. For example, David Wilkerson was a watchman who repeatedly corrected those who called him a prophet. He viewed the world through the lens of scripture. He could see where we were headed and called Americans to repentance. Jeremiah on the other hand, was a prophet to whom the Lord spoke directly about Israel’s future. For 40 years he called the nation of Israel to repentance.

Israel didn’t and neither have we.

I used to write blog posts from a watchman’s perspective. Posts like Truth or Trump and Better than Ninevah remain published. Others related to situations like COVID were removed because well… “what’s done is done”. More recent posts were never published because I got cold feet. It’s much easier and palatable to proclaim God’s goodness while ignoring His severity. Rom 11:22 This was the problem in ancient Israel, a nation whose moral decline so closely mirrors that of the USA today. Jer 14:13-22, Jer 23, Jer 28

The Conviction

A few days ago, the Lord led me to Ezekiel 33. It was as if I were reading it for the first time. Immediately I felt His rod of correction.

But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes someone’s life, that person’s life will be taken because of their sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for their blood.’ Eze 33:6

I confess that I’ve put my head in the sand. Not to hide from seeing and hearing. I put it there to silence myself for fear of offending those whose souls might be required at any moment. Luke 12:15-31

Forgive me, Lord! I repent!

I’m not being a “Debbie Downer” or a “Prophet of Doom” as some are sure to say. The fruit of the spirit including the genuine joy of the Lord does not change if I face plenty, hunger, abundance, or need. Granted, my mood might change if I get a million-dollar check in the mail versus a nuclear bomb in Nashville. But the genuine joy of the Lord is not determined by worldly circumstances. James 1:2 commands us to count it all joy when facing trials that test our faith… To count is hēgéomai and means to take authority.

Count it all joy is an offensive, rather than a defensive action.

In January 2020 I taught a “biblicized” version of The Fourth Turning to a group of young missionaries in Guatemala. In a nutshell, the authors, Straus and Howe framed history as a recurring cycle of approximately 80-100 years comprised of four “Turns” (think seasons) of 20-25 years. They are 1.”The High”, 2.”The Awakening”, 3. The Unraveling and 4. The Crisis. You can buy the book on Amazon or read my synopsis here

Most of these 18-21-year-old “gap year” missionaries just rolled their eyes as I challenged their worldview. Others were angry because I’d called their previously prophesized dreams and plans upon which their joy was predicated into question. Less than two months later the entire world went into lockdown as COVID hit. Their dreams were squashed as they and 400 of their peers from around the globe were emergency evacuated back to the USA. Some barely got out before the borders closed. Suffice it to say that we are in a Fourth Turn now. Here are a few timely conclusions from the book.

“Sometime before the year 2025, America will pass through a great gate in history, commensurate with the American Revolution, Civil War, and twin emergencies of the Great Depression and World War II…” “…The risk of catastrophe will be very high. The nation could erupt into insurrection or civil violence, crack up geographically, or succumb to authoritarian rule…” “…Through much of the Third Turning, we have managed to postpone the reckoning. But history warns that we can’t defer it beyond the next bend in time…”

Not since WWII, have we been at such risk for an economic collapse, unmitigated global crisis, and military conflict. Not since the Civil War have we been so divided as a nation. In the words of the World Economic Forum at Davos this year, “The collective vocabularies stored in the world’s great dictionaries didn’t appear to hold a single word, to sum up, all this strife. So here’s a new one:“

Polycrisis

The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2023 uses the term, to explain how “present and future risks can also interact with each other to form a ‘poly-crisis’ – a cluster of related global risks with compounding effects, such that the overall impact exceeds the sum of each part”.

Nothing is new under the sun. Ecc 1:9 And there is a time and a season for everything. Ecc 3:1-8 Crises or Fourth Turns have come and gone and come again throughout history. More often than not they arrive just as people assume peace and security. 1 Thess 5:3 Others clearly hear the trumpet but refuse to heed the warning. Eze 33:4

Normalcy Bias is a snare in a Fourth Turning.

In any case, history teaches us that the primary determining factor in the outcome of any crisis is the individual and collective character of those upon whom the crisis falls. Sometimes God uses a crisis to produce character. Rom 5:3 In the end, Fourth Turnings, in particular, produce one of two outcomes.  Either there is a return to traditional values, religious revival, prosperity, and freedom. Or people descend into darkness, moral depravity, persecution, and bondage. That said, it is within the context of bondage that God’s promise and warning in the oft-misquoted Jer 29 applies. Hence,

Fourth Turns (crises) are not a call to build bunkers or hoard ammunition, and gold, but rather a call to repentance, fearlessness, and faith amid turmoil.

It may be worthy of note that the word “Crisis” is derived from the Greek word Krisis which means “God’s judgment.” The purpose of God’s judgment, not to be confused with His wrath, is to discipline the rebellious and bring us to repentance.

Only illegitimate children escape discipline. Heb 12:6 Heb 12:8-11

Perhps one of the hardest things for believers to accept since the fall of man is that throughout human history “Adversity makes men. Prosperity makes monsters”. -Victor Hugo- 1 Tim 6:10

We were isolated in the mountains of Honduras after COVID hit and were amazed at the number of people back in the USA who contacted us with the question, “Is this the end of days?” Suddenly everyone was curious about God and His word. What a blessing it was to have an audience comprised of previously deaf ears. Alas, COVID passed, normalcy came back into view and people lost interest in the Bible. It seems they only cared about God when faced with the prospect of their imminent demise.

Sociological data only confirms this.

According to the American Worldview Inventory 2023The first national study of Americans’ worldview since the COVID-19 lockdowns show that the incidence of biblical worldview has fallen to a mere 4%—a drop of one-third from the 6% recorded just three years earlier. Dr. Tracy F. Munsil | February 28, 2023, | CRC | 

What determines a biblical worldview? you ask. Very basic tenants of the faith. Click both hyperlinks for details.

“But that’s not me. I have a biblical worldview,” you say. And maybe you do. The question is; how could so many professing Christians be so devoid of truth? John 17:17 It would seem that what many are calling revival is more in line with a great falling away. 2 Thess 2:3

I could be wrong.

Don’t freak out. Search it out Acts 17:11

The truth is like a lion; you don’t have to defend it. Let it loose; it will defend itself. -Augustine of Hippo –

Look maybe this Watchman stuff isn’t your cup of tea. Maybe you are already one who praises the Lord whether life gives you a proverbial massage or a kick in the butt. “It’ll all pan out.” I get it. But if you value seeing and discerning the time Mat 16:1-4, then join the discussion by subscribing by email in the sidebar as I may not link every post to social media. Hardly any of our readers link to us via social media anyway. I’ll categorize future Watchman posts under Red Pill Diaries.

Categories are listed above the title of each post.

Jesus said, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” Mat 7:24-27

Maranatha

Walking in Dust

Unity in Littelness

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Eph 4:1-3 ESV

We continued to focus on unity this week. How can we or will we attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of ChristEph 4:13

Why is Paul so redundant? 

Ephesians chapters four through six, known as the marching orders for the church, begin with establishing the character qualities required for unity.  Humility seems to be the most foundational. Still, our friend Leon made an interesting point. The root of the issue is power. Humility is the fruit of giving our power away instead of hoarding it for our own prosperity and prestige etc.. This is counter-intuitive in a world driven by the idolatry of celebrity. Add to that an obsession with personal identity and imagined significance and we’ve got a recipe for God’s opposition in our lives. James 4:6

He opposes the proud…

According to some scholars, the Greeks didn’t have a word for humility until the New Testament. When they did it became a pejorative. Paul’s redundancy may indicate that Jewish and Gentile believers were still struggling to lay their biases and pride aside. In any case, Jesus is our example. He is the all-powerful, all-knowing incarnate God who humbled Himself and gave everything so that one day we might be unified in one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Eph 4:4-6

How many of us are willing to give everything?

A gift made by South Sudanese children. It was all they had.

It was 2016 and we were with South Sudanese Refugees in the Rhino Refugee camp in Northern Uganda. Our outreach team was asked to address leaders from different tribes who had been fighting one another in an ongoing civil war. Now fifty thousand of them were unified in their

loss

Given that I was the oldest male on the team they asked me to speak first. Unity was the theme. Nearly every sect and denomination were represented. There were Anglicans, Catholics, Baptists, Congregationalists, Seventh-Day Adventists, Pentecostals, and Presbyterians to name just a few. Even Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses were there. Suffice it to say, I felt thoroughly inadequate. What could I, a spoiled American from Hawaii tell these men about unity amid such suffering? I had everything. They had been stripped of everything. I babbled some kind of message that I can’t recall. I only remember one South Sudanese man, a former “Lost Boy” (child soldier) who stood up at the end and proclaimed,

“There is no good tribe! There are no good people! Only one is good! That one is Jesus!”

These doctors, nurses, lawyers engineers, teachers, professors, and preachers never imagined they’d end up living in the dust with their children without food or water for days at a time.  They never imagined that one of their children would die daily due to starvation or a lack of medical care. Now they understood the utter futility of human power, resolutions, and pride.

Toy truck made from hard-to-find cardboard and wheels cut from worn-out flip-flops

Having come to the end of themselves they’d found unity in the dust.

I’m certainly not on a quest to suffer. Yet as much as we may deny it, the path of Rom 5:3-5 tribulation is unavoidable in this life unless, of course, we refuse to persevere. Tribulation is thlîpsis anguish, burden, persecution, distress, oppression, affliction, pressing together, and pressure. Paul doesn’t specifically mention humility here. But he further clarifies the connection in 2 Cor 12

... I refrain from it (boasting), so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me. …to keep me from becoming conceited… But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Cor 12:5-10

That is humility in action.

The joy in James 1:2-4 is a fruit of 2 Cor 12:5-10.

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

James 1:2-4 in action looks like the South Sudanese man with whom Cathy walked in the Rhino camp.

After praying with a woman whose child had just died, Cathy asked the man “How do you cope with all this pain?”  “We have lost everything…”  He smiled,

“…but we have Jesus!”

James 1:2-4 looks like our friend who lost two children to suicide. She wrote the following after she lost her third child to an accidental overdose in October.

As I sit in my cozy home with my Bible and too much food in my kitchen and so, so many blessings, it seems to me that God is good. Not because of material things, but more so in the area of loss. I have lost three of my children, the three youngest, three that loved me, three that did not hold my failings over my head. three that I am convinced we’re saved! And so there is hope. Hope that we will be together again, one day- minus all the baloney of this life. Hope that they now- at last, have a full understanding of “why?”
What has happened, how my life has transpired, the hardships, sufferings, pain, and sorrow, is nothing compared to the glory which shall be revealed in Heaven. So many people have suffered hardship and grief throughout the ages. Many folks have had it ALOT worse than I do. Among those are many stories of strength and perseverance. The ability to continue on with this life in the face of great loss. To continue in hope. To know that God is sovereign

and God is good.

James 1:2-4 leads to completeness. Completeness leads to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of ChristEph 4:13

Hence, Paul begins with lowliness (humility) in Eph 4:1-3 KJV + Strong’s

It occurs to me as I ponder the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, Eph 3:9 that somewhere in the neighborhood of eight trillion people have walked the earth since the fall of man. Gen 3. Every one of them became the dust upon which we walk until the day we become dust ourselves. Gen 3:19

It seems to me that if humility begins with giving power away, then giving power away begins with facing the dusty nature of what many call

“I-dentity”

Hard Red Pill.

Yes, the body has many parts 1 Cor 12:12-31. But what good is a hand or a foot apart from the rest of the body? Parts only matter in the context of the whole. Unity is the joints that connect the parts. Eph 4:16

Only unified parts can make a whole.

Humility – tapeinophrosýnēa deep sense of one‘s littleness.

Maranatha

The Bread of Life

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Eph 4

The Acts 17:11 Bereans Bible study begins Ephesians 4 this week. Given the “season”, I’m going to jump ahead for in this blog post.

And God said, Let there be lights in the 
firmament of the heaven to divide the day
from the night; and let them be for signs,
and for seasons, and for days, and years:
Gen 1:14.

Seasons is “mowed“: “an appointed feast”.

Specific instructions and times for these feasts were given to Moses in Leviticus 23.

Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, Concerning the feasts of the Lord, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts. Lev 23:2

Convocation is “miqra“: a “dress rehearsal”.

What many regard as obscure, obsolete Old Testament feasts are in fact the Lord’s feasts appointed 1,948 years before Go made His covenant with Abraham. Gen 17 Each of the seven feasts is a type and shadow of God’s plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. Eph 1:9-10

Passover Ex 12:1-11 Lev 23:48 2023 began on April 5th at sunset. The Gospels tell us Jesus was crucified “on the day of preparation” John 19:14.  “The day of preparation” was the Jewish idiom for “Friday”.  John is referring to preparation for the Sabbath that fell during Passover week. It was not the preparation for the Passover meal that Jesus had already eaten. Mat 26:17-29 The Feast of Unleavened Bread Lev 23:6-8 begins on Passover and continues for seven days. Jesus was crucified during Passover and resurrected three days later on the Feast of First Fruits. Lev 23:10-11 The day after Passover begins the Feast of Weeks and the counting of the Omer (sheaves of wheat) for fifty days leading up to Shavuot Lev 23:15-16. Passover to Shavuot marks the beginning and end of the wheat harvest. Christians call Shavuot Pentecost because it means “fifty”. One hundred twenty people waited fifty days in the upper room until Pentecost was fulfilled in Acts 2.

When the law was given from Sinai, God appeared in a thick cloud. Exod 19 Then the Lord spoke to the Israelites from the midst of the fire Deut 4 He showed them his great fire and they heard his words from the midst it. In Jerusalem, there was the rushing of a violent wind from heaven divided tongues, as of fire, which rested upon each one of them, and the apostolic proclamation of the Gospel in tongues. Acts 2 The Old Testament Pentecost was the giving of the 1st Covenant, the Law. The New Testament Pentecost was the giving of the 2nd Covenant, the Holy Spirit.

As For Easter…

Easter actually originated as an ancient pagan celebration of the spring equinox. In Christianity, the day was dedicated to observing the resurrection of Jesus Christ, celebrated around the time of the Jewish Passover. However, with the spread of the Gospel of Christ, early Christians who did not participate in Jewish customs eventually merged their observances with the pagan spring festival, recognizing Easter as “resurrection day.” History of Easter

The Passover meal that Jesus ate with His disciples and is repeated yearly by Orthodox Jews and Messianic believers is called the Seddar. It has fifteen steps the first of which is the removal of Leaven from the home.  Leaven (yeast) represents Egypt out of which Israel emerged into the desert. For us, it is worldliness, false teaching, sin, etc. The leaven is not to be touched so the father takes a candle for light and a feather and goes about the house sweeping the hidden leaven into a bag. When all the leaven is collected both bag and feather are burned. Of course, yeast is not found scattered in most houses today. Therefore pieces of unleavened bread are traditionally hidden like the pagan easter eggs parents hide for children today.

Jesus was removing Leaven in John 2 when He cleansed the Temple during the feast of Unleavened Bread.

It was Passover when He fed the five thousand and The Feast of Unleavened Bread when He declared

I am the bread of life. John 6

Where Passover represents our justification (the remission of sin), The Feast of Unleavened Bread represents our ongoing sanctification. Justification is an exclusive work of God. Sanctification takes place in partnership with God. Justification is instantaneous. Sanctification is ongoing as we become Holy even as He is Holy. “Holy” is to be separate from the world.

Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, 2 Cor 6:14-18

This is not an obsolete Old Testament ceremonial law but a New Testament command for those already justified by grace through faith. Eph 2:8-10 Our part in sweeping the leaven from our lives is illustrated by Paul in the book of Romans.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. Rom 12:1-2

As for those who claim the feasts are not for today Paul is clear that they are. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.1 Cor 5:8

Leaven includes but is not limited to the thoughts, words, and actions that we do not want to acknowledge as sin. It is the worldliness we justify, rationalize, and minimize to avoid the fact that friendship with the world is enmity with God. Opposition implies stubbornness which is idolatry. 1 Sam 15:23 Active opposition looks like a violent attack.

Enmity is active opposition. James 4:4

Leaven compels us to make idols of politicians, celebrities, political parties, denominations, faith streams and wealth, etc. Mark 14:8-20 Leaven might be the music or tattoo that we think gives us the “cultural cred” we covet. We rationalize that they open doors for the gospel.

Leaven is the beloved tradition that emerges from syncretism. Syncretism pleases man in the name of God rather than God for the sake of man.

Easter 2023 at Transformation Church in Knoxville TN.

Leaven is false prophecy, false signs and wonders, and, the false teaching that deep down we suspect or even know is unbiblical.

But it tickles our ears in such a sweet way. 2 Tim 4:1-4 1 Tim 4:1

Leaven confuses loyalty with faithfulness, pride with anointing, intention with action, and cognitive dissonance with faith. Leaven fuels offense and even rage when our loyalties and wrong beliefs are challenged. Leaven always seeks its own and with it approval from the world rather than God who opposes it. 1 John 2:15-16

A little leaven leavens the whole lump. Gal 5:9

I’m not a Methodist. But given that I live in Appalachia, I find the alleged connection between John and Charles Wesley, the Methodist revival, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread rather poignant. After having profound personal encounters with God, the Wesleys preached the necessity of sanctification through personal holiness in thoughts, words, and actions. This is the point for Christians during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. It was in this context that Paul wrote.

Now, this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Eph 4:17-32

Maranatha

His Surpassing Love

Ephesians 3:18-19

March 1st marked a year since we moved to Greeneville TN and since I last wrote about my best childhood friend Craig Hammerly. Craig was the unauthorized friend with whom I used to play in the woods between our houses when we were 6 or 7 years old. I say “unauthorized” because Craig was that “bad kid”.  My mother forbade our friendship. So I’d grab my Tonka dump truck, excavator, and matchbox cars and meet Craig secretly to play.  Craig didn’t have any toys so it was up to me. Craig lived alone with his grandfather. Rumor had it that he “did… things to Craig” – the kind of things that people didn’t talk about let alone do anything about in those days.  Craig got held back in the third grade and we eventually grew apart. He grew grew more angry and became the school bully that everyone was afraid to fight. Craig couldn’t read but he was good at fighting. Man could he punch hard. Elementary school mythology had it that “he’d knocked out a high school kid when he was in the sixth grade. Even the teachers were afraid of him.” He moved away before we got to Jr. High. Ironically after 50 years I felt prompted to look him up on the internet. He was all over the internet. Craig, who called himself Damien Knight had been on drugs and in and out of jail for most of his life.  He’d been arrested again just a week before.

Craig beat his roommate to death with his fists.

Craig is by definition,dead in his trespasses. Eph 2:1

The Acts 17:11 Bereans Bible study just finished Ephesians chapter 3. We ended last session with all of us pondering the breadth and length and height and depth and the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, Eph 3:18-19 We all agreed that His love is best understood in contrast with who we were; dead people appointed to wrath Eph 2:1-3 versus who we are today

in Christ Jesus. Eph 2:4-6

God’s definition of love is counterintuitive to that of the world.

Even more counterintuitive is that “Dead in our trespasses” puts all of us on equal footing with Craig and even the worst serial killer.

That’s a hard red pill for some.

It’s not that our actions here on earth equal those of Dahlmer. Rather it is that all dead people are equally dead. Jesus clearly illustrates this principle in Luke 13:1-5 …No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish...

At the end of the day the only thing that any of us brings to our salvation is our sin.

That should be really good news to all but the unholy trinity of

Me, Myself and I.

Thankfully Jesus prescribed the antidote. Mat 16:24-26

“My Identity”

“My Identity” is a favorite theme in the church these days. If there is anything good in me now it is Jesus. My identity is in him Col 3:3 “But what about 2 Cor 5:17?” “I thought all things are made new.” Yes, they are and yes you are. But only in Christ Jesus. Narcissism hates that. Narcissism can not survive in Christ Jesus. Thankfully, the Father is conforming us to the image of His Son Rom 8:29 in an ongoing process of transformation and renewal Rom 12:1-2.

Once again we don’t worship a God of this or that. Our God is a God of this and that. So often believers skip Oh wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?Rom 7:24-25 to the so much sweeter Rom 8:1-2 where There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus… Yet, we must embrace and internalize both if we are to do more than just scratch the surface of His love that surpasses knowledge.

Oh wretched man…

I raised a few eyebrows when I wrote about my Holston experience in For the Love of Sid. It was inspired by the Toy Story character that everyone loves to hate. Some were disturbed that I would still identify with the evil Sid. “I refuse to see you as Sid,” said one friend. “But you have a new identity now!” assured another. Well…

Yes and No

I ended up living on my own at 14 and subsequently took Craigs place in the community. Suddenly I was that bad kid with whom mothers forbade their children to associate. I walked a lonely angry path that eventually landed me in jail. I could have easily been where Craig is today. But I came face to face with the love that surpasses knowledge amidst a point blank shotgun blast. I wasn’t looking for God. I was looking to die. Little did I know I was already dead. Jesus showed up and saved me. And not just from the shotgun. He saved me from me. Why me and not Craig? If you say it is because there was something different about me then you’ve missed the point entirely.

I’m no longer dead in my trespasses. Nor am I consumed by guilt, shame, and condemnation. Still, I am very much Sid. I am Craig. I am Jeffery Dahlmer. The only difference is that I am in Christ Jesus.

God loved me and still loves me in spite of me not because of me.

God loves me because of who He is. 

This is such a deep core truth and just the beginning of His love that surpasses knowledge.

The best I can do today is to be grateful and love the people like me that He sends my way. Luke 7:47

I shared the story of Craig and me with some of the boys with whom I work. You know you’ve hit a nerve in boys when they just look you long and hard in the eye and don’t say word. Only one boy asked a question. “How does that make you feel Mr. Brian?” “Sad” I began

“And Grateful.”

We ended the Bible study session with my favorite allegory about a righteous African King whom everyone loved and respected. His word was unshakable. He said what he meant and meant what he said.

One day his administrators reported that someone was stealing chickens in the village. If you’ve been to places like Mozambique then you know that “chicken thieves die!” So the King made a decree. When the thief was caught he would receive one hundred stripes, enough to potentially kill a grown man.

The next day the thief was caught and brought before the king. It was the kings mother. The king was distraught. Still he commanded that she be stripped and tied to the whipping post. “One hundred lashes!” cried the king, “and not one less.” “If I even think you are holding back I will have you executed.” The men assigned to the task moved solemnly toward the kings mother. “Wait!” cried the King. “There’s one more thing.” The King stood and removed his shirt. Then covering his mother with his own body the King exclaimed,

Proceed!

Even this does not begin to describe the love that surpasses knowledge.

Even so, Passover has officially started as I publish this.

Maranatha

Chew on This.

…his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law, he meditates day and night. Psalm 1

The word “meditate” in Hebrew means to chew as a cow chews its cud. Cows have four stomach chambers. Hence every bite is thoroughly chewed four times over.

Ephesians 3:1-13

As we’ve said, unity is the underlying theme in the book of Ephesians. Paul sums up the unity between Jewish and Gentile believers in the conclusion of Ephesians chapter 2. 

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God…vs 19 In him, you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. Vs 22 This is not just a fleeting epiphany.

We are God’s field, God’s building 1 Cor 3:9

The language is mysterious which is fitting because Paul calls it a mystery in Ephesians 3:3 and repeats it in verses 4, 6, and 9.  Ideological importance in a passage or book can often be identified by the number of times a word or phrase is repeated. Galatians 1:8-9 and Luke 13:1-5 are two examples. If you’ve ever read an in-depth commentary then you know that Bible scholars frequently count the number of times words are used when establishing authorship as well the primary theme. It is for this same reason that most online bibles will tell you the number of times a word occurs in the Old and New Testaments.

The mystery of which Paul writes is that before the foundation of the world God planned to save both Jew and Gentile in Jesus creating in himself one new man in place of the two. Eph 2:15 Paul says this mystery was revealed to Him by God.  And while he does not formally declare himself to be a prophet, this revelation exemplifies the nature of true prophecy which is the testimony of Jesus. Rev 19:10

Jesus is the Word. John 1

While not explicitly stated, the implication is that the depth of our understanding of the mystery is contingent upon our unity. This is more clearly illustrated in chapter 4.

till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— Eph 4:13-15

The current denominationalism a.k.a. the fragmented church, is full of winds of doctrine, craftiness, and plotting. Even so, each one has a piece of the truth puzzle.  Unfortunately, each denomination thinks it has the whole puzzle and unity will only be achieved when everyone conforms to their piece.

The Acts 17:11 Bereans Bible Study

Cathy and I open the church doors and set up the chairs each week to make space for two or more to gather together in the name of Jesus. We study and present the pieces of the mystery that we think we’ve grasped albeit with our blurred vision and partial knowledge. 1 Cor 13:12 Others come alongside us and do the same. I think I can say that when the session ends we each walk away with more insight than we could have obtained on our own. This weekly experience lends deeper context to “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.Mat 18:20 This is what we mean when we say,

We all see better when we see together.

With the theological foundation for the church now laid, Paul prepares to frame the building by summarizing the church’s ultimate purpose in Eph 7-13

Of this gospel, I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given to me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory. Eph 3:7-13

It is worth noting that Paul was in prison when he wrote this letter. This was after he’d met with the Ephesian elders in Miletus Acts 20:29-30. The elders wept because Paul knew he was destined for prison and eventual execution in Rome and they would see his face no more vs 38. Paul doesn’t want them to worry and mourn for him because it was God’s will that Paul suffers for them which was their glory. While many avoid talking about it, suffering is another aspect of the mystery and unity.

What most caught my eye in this chapter was that the purpose of the church is to make the manifold wisdom of God known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

1 Peter lends some insight.

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1 Pet 1:6-9

That as a church we would believe John 1:12-13 and stand Eph 6:13 and rejoice in our suffering Rom 5:3 and conquer by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of our testimony, and love not our lives even unto death Rev 12:11 and all this by faith rather than sight 2 Cor 5:7 apparently amazes the good rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. It stumps and defeats the evil ones. Eph 6:12

Certainly, these are some of the things into which angels long to look. 1 Pet 1:12

Also, consider that Angels can not be saved. The third of them that fell are already condemned with no hope of redemption. They have no experience of grace or regeneration. They can not be indwelt by the Holy Spirit, or delivered from sin. And yet the remaining two-thirds are our fellow servants. Rev 19:10

The more I dig into the Word of God the more mystified and awed I become. Ephesians 3:10 should produce the fear of God. After all, we have such an important mission contingent upon unity, and yet we are so divided as a global body.

How will we ever come to the unity of the faith?!

What exactly is it that keeps us so divided? Is it envy, pride, laziness, ingratitude celebrity worship, or genuine confusion?

Maybe it’s all of the above. Or maybe we just don’t fear God. Prov 9:10

My friend Tyler and I were discussing how little we actually know about the world in which we live. Yet we go about our daily lives as if the mysteries of creation have been revealed. Many will readily admit they do not know how things work, that science is a mystery.  They just trust the scientists. Those who understand the nature of science know the absurdity of that statement. For example, while theories abound we still don’t know what electricity is.

“Why it’s a flow of colliding electrons!” you say.

Ok. But what are electrons?

A middle school science lesson.

Turns out those neat little electron orbits that they showed us in middle school aren’t accurate. Based on the findings of a guy named Heisenberg scientists can not prove that electrons don’t pop in and out of existence or bounce between dimensions.

Everyone knows that water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit and a cup of water freezes faster than a lake.

Amirite?

Not so fast. Scientists just learned that water can remain liquid as low as minus 47 degrees Fahrenheit. And it’s only possible in the smallest quantities.

Of course, everyone knows what gravity is.

Wrong again!

Currently, there are at least twenty different theories of gravity. Isaac Newton, the scientist who read his bible more than any other book allegedly came up with what amounts to a theory of gravitational effect when an apple fell on his head.

Speaking of gravity one of the most interesting theories known as String Theory fully supports the fact that Jesus, the Word, spoke creation into existence. Gen 1, John 1:1-3 According to String theory the subatomic particles of which the universe is composed are made of sound frequencies like individual musical notes.  Words are composed of letters that represent sounds or frequencies.

In the beginning, was the Word…

Please don’t feel pressured to leap down the aforementioned rabbit holes. My point is that we exist in a realm of mystery that we know very little about. What we do know is that any knowledge we have concerning the mysterious, manifold wisdom of God ultimately only comes by revelation.  While secular society may regard scientists as an all-seeing priesthood, many of our best inventions arose from what secularists call accidents. 

Here’s a list of 30 if you are interested.

The truth is we wouldn’t even have a thing called science were it not for God-fearing Christian men and women who saw a world governed by objective laws created by the objective lawgiver – God. They saw the complexity in the creation and knew it was designed by Him.  God veiled the glory of His design in a mystery. These men and women were compelled to search it out. Prov 25:2 Anyone who reads the life stories of men like Sir Issac Newton, Blasé Pascal, and Max Planck to name a few will clearly recognize the revelatory nature of their discoveries.

Nothing is by accident.

I suspect that the unity of the faith will only be realized when God humbles us through various means such that every member in the body of Christ realizes that all is a mystery and none of us knows anything apart from or beyond that which God gives. 1 Cor 4:7

For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?

It is for this reason that Paul warned in the previous verse, do not depart from what is written. 1 Cor 4:6

Believers everywhere are and always have been crying out for revival. Others say it is upon us. However, the Biblical World View has been in steady decline for years. As of 2021, only 6% of Americans were following a Biblical Worldview. From a purely scriptural viewpoint, these stats seem more indicative of a falling away 2 Thess 2:1-3 than the cusp of a major revival. Then again repentance always precedes and accompanies true revival.

Maybe we need to repent?

If I am perfectly honest when I look at the body of Christ today I see a growing number of fractures and a lot of what I call “Harry Potter Christianity” that results when people depart from what is written. I can’t help wondering if these are the times when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. 2 Tim 4:1-4

Perhaps we should ask ourselves. Do we depend on Holy Spirit whom Jesus promised would lead all of us into all truth? John 16:13 Do we take the words of Jesus seriously;  Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth? John 17:17 Or are we always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. 2 Tim 3:7 Do we believe He is there when two or more of us are gathered together? Or does he only speak to an anointed celebrity few that we must chase from conference to conference in the hope of receiving an impartation? If in fact, we know Jesus is in our midst shouldn’t we be hungry to embrace the royal privilege we’ve been given together and search out the matter of truth in  His Word that He breathed?

Please don’t misconstrue my constant emphasis on the Word of God. I am not minimizing any other aspect of our faith. Jesus said the gospel of the kingdom WILL be preached to all the World. Mat 24:14. The unity of the faith is a benchmark goal. That being said, if we believe that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God Rom 10:17 then it follows that unity of the faith will only be realized in and through the Word of God. In our experience, a deeper comprehension of the mysterious manifold wisdom of God is always the fruit of such fellowship.

Chew on that.

Maranatha!