12/26/08

... being a man, make Yourself out to be God.

Jesus during the Feast of Dedication (John 10:22-42)


It was winter in Jerusalem and Jesus was walking in the Temple during Chanukah. The Jewish Leaders had gathered around Him to ply Him with questions. One Rabbi said, If You are the Moshiach, tell us plainly? Of course this question was dishonest. They had already made up their minds concerning Jesus. Those convinced against their will are of the same opinion still. Jesus than tell them about the nature of His sheep. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish (John 10:27,28). The same nation the Prophet Ezekiel once declared: As for you, My sheep, the sheep of My pasture, you are men, and I am your God, declares the Lord God (Ez. 34:31). From Jesus point of view these religious leaders were not truly following Torah (see Romans 9:6). Jesus than makes one of the most incredible statements of his entire ministry on earth: I and the Father are one. Sort of a Christological Shema. The leaders clearly understood the import of this proclamation. They claimed that Jesus is claiming to be God. That was precisely His point. The charge of blasphemy was most heinous. If Jesus was not God than He would have immediately rebuked the religious leaders for such an appellation. God is not a man, that He should lie (Num. 23:19a) so wrote Moses. The Temple leaders than pick up stones in a vain attempt to destroy Jesus before his hour has come.




I was thinking about Chanukah (Feast of Dedication) and how Jesus revealed his deity during this feast. It was about two hundred years earlier that Antiochus IV had erected a statue of the Greek God, Zeus inside the sacred precincts of the Temple. This abominable act prompted the Jews to rise up and overthrow their Greek oppressors. I can not help but think that the religious leaders of the day must of had this story in their minds when dealing the Jesus. Here was another 'god' in the Temple setting Himself up as divine in our most sacred place. Stoning was a fitting punishment. Nevertheless, the stone do not leave the hands and Jesus once again confounds them with is answers. Therefore, they were seeking again to seize Him, and He eluded their grasp (John 10:39). He eluded their grasp physically, and more importantly, spiritually.



Zeus is as dead at the stone used to represent him. Jesus continues to live in Heaven and in the hearts and minds of millions. Shalom



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This Momentary Light Affliction ...

I recently read the following commentary from the Artscroll "Tehillim" (Psalms):


" Dorash Moshe elaborates on this theme (Psalm 43:23 - Because for your sake we are killed all day long we are considered as sheep for slaughter.) by citing the Talmud's description of the heroic death of Rabbi Akiva. As the Romans tore at his flesh with iron combs, Rabbi Akiva calmly recited the Shema. His disciples were amazed by his fortitude, but Rabbi Akiva attempted to minimize his heroic accomplishment. He explained, 'All of the days of my life I recited the credo And you shall love Hashem your God will all your heart and all your soul, but I was grieved that I was never given the opportunity to fulfill this commitment. Now that the opportunity has finally arrived should I not fulfill it (joyously)'?

The Shaloh Hakodosh reveals the profundity of Rabbi Akiva's statement. When reciting the words, With all you soul, one should imagine the excruciating pain experienced whey dying and try to feel the torment of an agonizing execution. If one conditions himself in such a manner all the days of his life, then when he is actually confronted with the need to submit to a violent death for God's sake, he will be so accustomed to the pain that it will hardly affect him (Vol. 1, pg. 556)."


The Apostle Paul uses this text (Ps. 44:22; Rom. 8:36) to describe the incredible love that the Father has bestowed on those who place their trust in Yeshua. If God gave his most prized possession, His Son, for us will He not give us that which is nothing in comparison. For as he says eariler, the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Rom. 8:18). As Paul says elsewhere, momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison (2 Cor. 4:17). When we finally depart this mortal coil all the stuggles, all the trials, all the doubts will melt away and seem like rubbish. They will all be forgotten when we behold him panim el panim (face to face).

12/22/08

Take up the Cross ... Daily


"And whoever does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it and whoever loses his life because of me will find it (Matt. 10:38,39)."

It was Bonhoeffer who said, "When Christ calls a man He bids him come and die." What a frightening proposition. It would be the same as saying 'take up your electric chair' 'take up your guillotine 'take up your noose.' We must bear the very instrument of our execution. Execution of self is a life-long death.

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit (John 12:24)."

It is in Vain, O Men!


"It is in vain, O men, that you seek within yourselves the remedy for your ills. All your light can only reach the knowledge that not in yourselves will you find truth or good. The philosophers have promised you that, and have been unable to do it. They neither know what is your true good, nor what is your true state. How could they have given remedies for your ills, when they did not even know them? Your chief maladies are pride, which takes you away from God, and lust, which binds you to earth; and they have done nothing else but cherish one or other of these diseases. If they gave you God as an end, it was only to administer to your pride; they made you think that you are by nature like Him, and conformed to Him. And those who saw the absurdity of this claim put you on another precipice, by making you understand that your nature was like that of the brutes, and led you to seek your good in the lusts which are shared by the animals."


Blaise Pascal

The Loneliness of the Christian



"The loneliness of the Christian results from his walk with God in an ungodly world, a walk that must often take him away from the fellowship of good Christians as well as from that of the unregenerate world.
His God-given instincts cry out for companionship with others of his kind, others who can understand his longings, his aspirations, his absorptions in the love of Christ; and because with his circle of friends there are few who share his inner experiences, he is forced to walk alone.
The unsatisfied longings of the prophets for human understanding caused them to cry out in their complaint, and even our Lord himself suffered in the same way.
The man (or woman) who has passed on into the divine Presence in actual inner experience will not find many who understand him. He finds few who care to talk about that which is the supreme object of his interest, so he is often silent and preoccupied in the midst of noisy religious shoptalk.
For this he earns the reputation of being dull and over-serious, so he is avoided, and the gulf between him and society widens. He searches for the friends upon whose garments he can detect the smell of myrrh and aloes and cassia out of the ivory palaces, and finding few or none, he, like Mary of old, keeps these things in his heart.
It is this very loneliness that throws him back upon God. His inability to find human companionship drives him to seek in God what he can find nowhere else."

A.W. Tozer

12/13/08

The Tithe and the New Covenant

For those ignorant of the revolutionary nature of the New Testament teachings the idea of the tithe seems straightforward. The Old covenant stipulated that Israel give a 10th of the produce to the Levites to support the work of the Temple. In fact many modern day evangelical churches make the claim that the Levitical role has been filled by the ordained pastor and the role of the Temple has been filled by the local church. In fact a local Baptist church puts it like this:

In Christian life, the role of the Levites has been filled by ordained pastors, and the role of the Temple has been filled by the local church.

This fallacious claim is presented to new church prospects for membership. But is this bold statement true. Consider the following. 1.) The Levites were a distinct caste of members in the commonwealth of Israel. 2) To make a one to one correspondence between Levitical priests and “ordained” pastors is to contradict the clear testimony of the New Testament:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a Holy Nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).

3.) The Temple was a physical structure that represented God’s presence on Earth. The Temple was a sign of God’s holiness and utter distinction. The Temple was so Holy that the high priest could only go into the Holy of Holies once a year. If the local church corresponds to the Temple than clearly most of the gatherings should be in the foyer. And the “ordained Pastor” should be the only one allowed in the “sanctuary” and only once a year!

“… the high priest enters once a year, not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the sins of the people committed in ignorance (Hebrews 9:7).”

The distinction inherent in the statement: … the role of the Levites has been filled by ordained pastors, once again erects the veil between God and Man. The Levites were set apart to minister to God. When Christ came all such distinctions were abolished. The Veil of the Temple was torn in two. The distinction that the Levitical priesthood represented, Paul declares “… which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross (Colossians 2:14)” has been taken away. All believers can now enter the Holy of Holies. As the writer of Hebrew declares, “…let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).”

At the root of the desire to equate the Levitical priesthood with the “ordained” pastor is the Old covenant concept of the Tithe. When attempting to bind the law of the Tithe onto the backs of Christians.
Modern-Day Pastors will often make long expositions of Old Covenant practices which bound the Israelites to the Tithe. Malachi 3:10 - 11 is an oft quoted passage used to vex the consciouses of New Covenant believers. In fact one local Baptist congregation places the verse:

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the Lord of Hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven, and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows (Malachi 3:10).”

Onto a “Tithing Challenge” card. The card than uses a psychologically manipulative appeal to tithe by challenging believers to tithe for forty day and give God a chance to bless. Two boxes are presented, one yes and one no. The card states:

I commit to put God to the test by tithing for forty days and giving him the opportunity to bless me as He promises.

By checking ‘No’ a person in effect is saying, “I do not commit to God by tithing, in fact I don’t want to give him the opportunity to bless me and I really don’t care about his promises.” The card also appeals to a magical, superstitious view of ’40 days’. This magical 40 day formula has become en vogue among evangelical Christendom. It was derived from the self-help, pop-psychological methods propagated by the best-selling book The Purpose-Driven Life. Many denomination has bought into this concept of ’40 days’ without question. You will see “40 days of Purpose, Community, Love, etc…
In fact, the author of the Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren claims that “Whenever God wanted to prepare someone for his purposes, he took 40 days (p. 9).” While there are example of God using ’40 days’ to prepare someone this number can not be used a Christian formula for blessing. If tithing really is a command to New Covenant believers why have them commit to tithe for 40 days. Tithing should be a life long action. The very statement “… put God to the test by tithing for forty days” makes a mockery of the notion of tithing. The Christian life does not consist of formulas.

40 days + T (tithing) = B (Blessings) to the power of 100.

On what basis will you determine that this ’40 day’ God test has worked? This formula is as psychologically manipulative as the “Pray of Jabez.” Jabez prayed “… enlarge my border, and that Your hand might be with me, and that You would keep me from harm that it may not pain me (1 Chronicles 4:10).” A believer can not use this verse to stroke a lamp and have a magic genie pop out to grant wishes. The Apostle Paul clearly did not have enough faith. He was given a “thorn in the flesh” to torment him. He states, “Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:7-9).” The purveyor of Purpose Driven methods would have told Paul that his problem was that he only implored the Lord three times rather than over a 40 day period!

Rather than teaching that “whenever God wanted to prepare someone for his purposes, he took 40 days,” it is more accurate to say that sometimes God took 40 days, but not all the time, and not even most of the time. Rather whenever God wanted to prepare someone for his purposes, He took however much time He deemed necessary to prepare that person (Fool’s Gold? Pg. 52).

What of the Malachi 3 passage. First, the context of the passage deals with oppression of the widows, the fatherless, and the stranger. These groups were the rightful benefactors of the tithe. Israel was ignoring these three groups by not bring in the full tithe to the storehouse (located in the chamber of the Temple, these chambers were set apart to hold the tithes which were produce not money, in fact a local Baptist church indicates that their tithe is divided up as follows: 40% salaries, 30% Building and Land, 20% General Operations, and 10% missions; Talk about building treasures on Earth). The passage was directed to the ancient commonwealth of Israel when they were under the Law of Moses. Hence, the desire to make a correspondence with the Levities and the ‘ordained’ pastor; the temple and the local church. If this relationship exists than Malachi 3:8-12 can be used as a proof text to bind on the conscisouses the Old covenant practice of tithing. But from the clear New Testament teaching this relationship is non-existent. We, as New Covenant Believers, are freed from the burden of the tithe and given liberty to give cheerfully and from the heart. There are not set amounts of cute formulas. Each is to give as purposed in his heart (2 Corinthians 9:7) not under compulsion. For the letter (tithe) kills but the spirit (cheerful giving, not out of obligation) gives life.