A Modern Woman's Perspective On The Kingdom of God on Earth

Showing posts with label The Bible. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Bible. Show all posts

October 7, 2021

The Tension Between Scriptural Knowledge & Spiritual Experience

This is an important topic to me. As Christians become more enlightened to the role they play in the approaching End Times, it is urgent that we understand just how critical our relationship to God through Scripture and Spirit really are. But, you will notice that I used the word "tension" when mentioning the two. I did so because I often find that my fellow Believers fall on one side or the other when it comes to the best way "to know" God's will. And this often causes friction, or tension, when discussing our role in carrying out that will. 

Let me explain further ... Many Christians are adherents of "Sola Scriptura", the theological doctrine which holds that the Bible is the sole infallible source of authority for Christian faith and practice. The spiritual aspects of our faith are given little or no attention. Then there's the faction of Christians who uphold that since God is all about relationship, the best way to hear from Him [as to what His will is] is for us to transcend this material world and sit at the foot of the throne to hear from Him directly. I often find myself trying to explain my position that it's not either/or, but both, which are essential for the full experience of our faith walk. One viewpoint is not more correct than the other. In fact, if you don't utilize both sources, then it is my opinion that you are not receiving the full counsel of God.

As representatives of Jesus on earth, we must find the balance and the proper exercise of both methods of growing our relationship with our Creator. Speaking for myself, my relationship with God developed in what felt like a natural progression: I began reading the Word, admittedly from a very surface level at first. But by just taking that step, it was an open door for the Holy Spirit to begin instilling a strong desire to know and learn more. That quickened my mind [and soul], and as I pressed into God more [through His Word], I learned that I could have a spiritual experience with Him. I could actually hear His will for me, just as Jesus heard what to say and speak from the Father ... What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me (John 12:49-50).  From there, as I dove deeper into the Word, I began to seek out the experiences that were being highlighted by the Holy Spirit; my faith grew to the ability to engage my spirit with the Spirit of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. I could not have done this without first, exploring the Word with ever-increasing fervor.

So, I am often concerned when I hear Christians advocating for more "going in the spirit" experiences, while minimizing the importance of Scripture for discerning the legitimacy of those "experiences". And I am equally uneasy when I hear Believers deny or criticize our ability to have that intimate relationship with God in the spirit, declaring them to be "un-Biblical". The Bible says that "faith comes from hearing, and hearing from the Word of Christ" (Romans 10:17). To me, this verse validates that we can hear from God [which is a spiritual experience], but it starts with seeking Him through His Word, the Bible. Encouraging Christians [especially immature Christians] to explore the spiritual realms without a solid foundational understanding of who God is from His Word, invites the potential for those Believers to "get smoked".  And likewise, discouraging mature Christians from enjoying our status as co-heirs with Christ, while being seated with Him in the Heavenly realms, is to be like the Pharisees, shutting the Kingdom of Heaven in people's faces (Matthew 23:13).

It all comes together for me when I consider how easily the Enemy can keep us confused and in conflict. The Bible is so rich in the knowledge of the Nature and Character of God! Studying it can be a spiritual experience in itself. Yet some Christians only long for the "sensual" encounters they have access to as spiritual sons and daughters. Just consider the foundational belief of our Christian faith, as stated in Ephesians 2:4-6, But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus... We cannot possibly understand the fullness of all that this passage teaches us without first, studying the Bible, and then experiencing the spiritual effects! 

If we tried to go in the spirit where we are seated with Jesus, without the knowledge of the history of all God did to make that experience possible for us, then I submit we could not possibly comprehend the fullness of who we are. And in the end, for me, that is the most important aspect of both Biblical knowledge and Spiritual experience -- to fully know who we are; why we're here on the earth at this time in history; and what Jehovah Elohim, our Creator, expects from us. It is more important, now than ever, that we understand that "all of creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons [and daughters] of God ... to be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God". That will indeed by a spiritual encounter worth experiencing! But the impact of that experience will be lessened if we do not have the knowledge of all that it has cost God to bring that about! May we embrace the fullness of our relationship with God, and know Him in all the ways possible!

Ephesians 3:19    And [that you may come] to know [practically, through personal experience] the love of Christ which far surpasses [mere] knowledge [without experience], that you may be filled up [throughout your being] to all the fullness of God [so that you may have the richest experience of God’s presence in your lives, completely filled and flooded with God Himself].

April 20, 2021

Deep Diving Biblical Precepts: Jesus Is The Bread of Life

I want to start a new series called "Deep Diving Biblical Precepts", in which I will be doing an occasional investigation into Biblical doctrines that we all are familiar with, but which we take for granted. In other words, I want to take a deeper look at common teachings that cross denominational lines, and that are theologically accepted as valid principles, but which we may only have a surface understanding. The first of these topics will be the understanding that Jesus is our Bread of Life.

There is a fascinating passage in John 6:22-59 where Jesus is approached by the crowd after feeding about 5,000 men (not counting the women and children that accompanied them) with five barley loaves and two fish. The people were astonished by the miracle they had witnessed, and Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king (John 6:15), so He withdrew to the nearby mountain. The crowd then saw the disciples depart in a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee to Capernaum on the other side. The next day they were mystified by another miracle they struggled to understand -- There had been only one boat at the shore when the disciples departed and Jesus had not been with them, but yet here He was in Capernaum with them [they did not know that He had walked on water the evening before to join them in the boat]. So, they question Jesus... "Rabbi, when did you come here?"

Jesus reprimands them because they were more concerned about mundane things and didn't recognize the miracles that came from the Father, and were only seeking Him because they had all been fed from the few barley loaves. Jesus tries to explain that they are more concerned about doing works for food that perishes than they are about eating the food that endures to give them eternal life. Jesus says the only work they need to do is believe in the One that the Father has sent, referring to Himself. So the crowd challenges Him... what miracle [sign] do you do that we can visibly see, and then we'll believe. And they made it clear that they were seeking a miracle like the manna from Heaven that appeared by the hand of Moses. 

Jesus tells them that it was not Moses that did the work, but God who provided what they needed to survive. He reminded them that their ancestors had eaten the manna in the desert and they died. And here is where I gained a new understanding of the "manna miracle", as we will call it .... In reality the manna was provided by God sending the dew [or more likely rain] from the 1st heaven (our skies and atmosphere) to cause the manna to grow on the ground in the wilderness. We find this scenario in Exodus 16:14-15 where Moses instructs them to gather it because "this is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat". God was the Giver through natural means. But this time Jesus was giving them the true bread from heaven [the 3rd Heaven where God resided and Jesus had come from] that they might never hunger or thirst again. 

I believe this passage has been so misunderstood in our life time! The manna the Israelites received in the wilderness was physical bread. It was like coriander seed and they ground it in their mills, or beat it in a mortar, and baked it in pans, and made cakes of it (Numbers 11:7-8). It had a "shelf life"; it molded and could not be counted on to sustain their flesh and bodies after a period of time. But Jesus is true bread; a spiritual bread that is everlasting and sustains their souls and spirits. He is the bread of LIFE! He states in verse 51, "I am the living bread that came down from Heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh."

Of course, this confuses them again ... "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink." Then He qualifies exactly what He means in this strange discourse by repeating what He had said earlier, "This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever."

First of all, any serious student of the Bible understands that if something is restated in a passage, then it is an important concept that God wants us to comprehend. When Jesus repeats that He is the bread that came down from heaven, [and He is not like the bread the Israelites ate in the wilderness], He is making a distinction between being fed spiritually and being fed physically. Also, there is the principle that the physical bread can't keep you from dying, while the spiritual bread gives you eternal life. Furthermore, I know that there are some denominations that teach that when we take communion, we are literally eating Jesus's flesh and drinking His literal blood. But this passage is not to be read as a literal translation at all. Instead, His words symbolize His action of sacrificing His flesh and blood for us.

 Again, He is making reference to His flesh as true food in a spiritual sense, and His blood as true drink; again referring to that which feeds us spiritually. In no way, does He suggest that we are to physically eat His actual flesh or blood. That would make us zombies and vampires! Instead the sacrifice of His flesh and blood, which resulted in His death on the Cross, made way for us to restore our relationship with our Heavenly Father -- something all mankind had been starving and thirsting for since Adam's fall in the Garden! That's the essence of verse 35: He is the Bread of Life! Whoever comes to Him will not hunger, and whoever believes in Him shall never thirst -- our eternal life will be a spiritual one, sustained by His power in us.

Did you notice the two different sets of circumstances in that last sentence? You must come to Him and you must believe in Him. It is the only way to satisfy what your soul and spirit hunger and thirst for. Come, eat of the Bread of Life and partake of the Living Water. It is eternal and nothing will ever taste as sweet!

Matthew 5:6    Blessed [joyful, nourished by God’s goodness] are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness [those who actively seek right standing with God], for they will be [completely] satisfied.

March 8, 2020

The Bible and Knowing The Lord

     I write today's post out of more than a little frustration, along with a desire to speak honestly and candidly to my fellow Christians. When the Lord first starting bringing people to our table for an encounter with Jesus to receive Inner Healing from the Lord, they resembled the people Jesus ministered to .... people who either did not know Him or had wandered away from Him. They were people who were desperate to change the circumstances of their lives; they had reached a place where they were willing to take a chance on the advice of someone to come see us. And just like with Jesus, their encounter with the Lord healed them of their bondage and torment from the devil, and they were willing to seek Him and the Father.
     But these were people who did not feel welcome in the Church; did not feel comfortable sharing their wounds with those who might look down upon the secrets they had been careful to keep hidden all their lives. After Jesus set them free, they were eager to be discipled and learn more about Jesus. We emphasized getting to know Him through His Word and weekly Bible studies in the Book of Matthew showed them a whole new way to live, and the Word spoke Truth and Hope into lives that were ready to receive them.
      Time has progressed, and a reputation we did not seek began to bring more "churched" people to our table. And as we have said over and over, people in the Church are as much in need of Freedom in Christ as the un-churched. Many are wonderfully Saved, but tormented in soul and spirit from the wounds that have kept them from walking in their full purpose and identity in Christ. And rest assured, we make no distinction between any person that finds their way to us for healing with Jesus. He died to take away everyone's pain, and we are only too happy to be obedient and provide a way for them to receive Him. But here is where my frustration comes in...
     We end every session with reminding the Beloved that although they have received blessed freedom from the wounds of their past, the Enemy will try to use the same tactics to bring them back into bondage. They must be prepared to recognize those lies and schemes; they are the same tactics that have worked all these years. And when they discern them, they need to identify the lie that's being whispered ("you're worthless", " you will fail again", "you're not worth loving"; whatever it is) and verbally renounce it and declare the truth from the Word of God ("He loved me enough to send His Son that I might have eternal life", "I am God's Temple, and His Holy Spirit lives in me", "I am a son or daughter, and an heir through Jesus Christ", "I was wonderfully and fearfully made in the image of my God"). We teach them that the Devil is a liar and the Father of all the lies they've been hearing their entire lives about who they are, and that's why it is important to take every thought captive, as the Bible tells us to do; especially those lies.
     These are very simple instructions, backed by the Bible, and we emphasize them as an effective way to keep the freedom one receives from an encounter with the Lord. But, sadly, we are finding that so many Christians leave our session and do not follow what we've advised. And I'm beginning to think it's because they don't read their Bibles, and therefore the advice is not recognized as valid or needed. After all, they are flying high after being freed from painful wounds in their past, and they saw or heard Jesus take away their shame, guilt, anger, rejection, abandonment, pride and other sin-caused torments. Surely, nothing could take that away, right?
     Yet, the first time the Enemy throws that familiar fiery dart, it strikes home. The old thoughts return; the lies that tell them they're a fake, or unworthy of the freedom they received. And they do not take those thoughts captive and declare that Jesus removed all that garbage and washed them in His Blood and Living Water. And just as Jesus warns us in Matthew 12, "When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation.” But wait, they either don't read their Bible or don't take what it says to heart! In fact, I would venture that when the spiritual attacks renew, the last place the Beloved goes is to the Bible! They are confused. They know they were free. What happened? Why are they under attack again? It's as if our admonition to them fell on deaf ears.
     Mind you, these are "good Christians"! They are at their Church every time the doors are open. They involve themselves in community projects; are on at least one committee; hold a title at the Church; and even declare, "The Lord told me...". Some even see and hear in the Spirit and have received giftings from the Lord, but don't really know what He expects of them -- because they haven't read their Bible to know what He commands. It makes them feel good about what they're doing; that they're working for the Lord in the Kingdom (without knowing what Kingdom Living is really all about, because they don't know what the Lord reveals through His Word and the Holy Spirit). But doesn't that make it all about them and not the people they are supposed to be ministering to and discipling?
     I am reminded that Jesus teaches that there is a narrow gate and a wide gate. The wide gate is the easy route and many will enter through it. Is that a picture of the majority of the Church? Do they not understand that Jesus also spoke about another gate; one that is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few? And here is something else, that frankly should terrify every Believer... it is what Jesus says in Matthew 7:21-23, “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.’ 
     These were people who thought they knew the Lord because they knew the Law, followed the rules they established for themselves and others, and had listened to Him teach. They probably had followed Him around Galilee, saw the miracles, and thought they were following His example. Is that any different from those today who listen to teachers and preachers and prophets and podcasts; who read books by best-selling Christian authors? Just as with the people Jesus spoke to, the act of using the Name of the Lord in the work you do for the Church does not necessarily mean you know the Father's will or His heart. He is revealed to us through the Word! 
     As you read and study the Bible, the Holy Spirit brings revelation. Yes, you can learn much from those teachers and preachers and prophets and books and podcasts. But the best way to know the Lord is by reading God's Word. And knowing Him means we continually seek Him, and we don't get comfortable with what someone else has told us about Him. We actually meet Him personally in His Word. That's when the real relationship happens. And it is not a relationship founded on religion or doctrine. The Bible is the key to understanding and knowing the Lord. Pure and simple. It's time Christians make the effort to read it.

Mark 7:6    And He said to them, "Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, 'This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me;' "

March 5, 2020

Is God's Inspired Revelation Limited To The Bible?

     I have no doubt that what I am going to say today will be found controversial, at best. It was generated by a conversation that Mark and I had during our morning study time. I was cross-referencing Scripture about the judgment by Christ at His Second Coming, when I came across the familiar passage in Jude 14-15, It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”
     Our conversation began with my understanding that the "these" Enoch is prophesying about are "the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling" that Jude mentions in verse 6. Remembering that Jude is the younger half-brother of Jesus, I could imagine the conversations and questions that he might have had growing up and listening to Jesus's teachings. And then that lead to my comment about verses 14-15 being a direct quotation from 1 Enoch 1:9, a passage from a section of the apocryphal Book of Enoch called The Book of the Watchers. And since the Book of Enoch is not included in the canon, this resulted in Mark's response: "I wonder if we have the Bible God intended us to have?"
     So let me be perfectly clear about my position on this before I go any further ... Both Mark and I believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God --- no matter how many translations and versions it has undergone. And there have been many! [I urge you to read a very informative article on the history of the Bible at greatsite.com.] I have come to the conclusion that even though our English Bible has survived the various interpretations and agendas of its human apologists, and it may not be perfect in representing God's original revelatory language, it is the Holy Spirit that is still able to convey the authentic and genuine divine disclosure that God intended for mankind. In other words, God still reveals what He desires us to know about Him in the book we call the Bible. It's up to us to pursue that relationship and be open to receiving the message, even if it is different than we've been taught. One of the most erstwhile pursuits a Christian can aim for is to develop your own theology based on serious time in the Bible.
     But I also understand that before the Bible appeared in its completed written form, there was a span of approximately 1500 years from the time Moses wrote Genesis in about 1400 BC, and the Book of Revelation was written around 90 AD. And in between there were only oral versions of what we know as Scripture. No one was writing down the Sermon on the Mount or the various parables Jesus spoke. Men memorized them and passed them down orally. We need to remember that the culture of ancient Israel was primarily hearing oriented and not written oriented. That's why Jesus is quoted so many times as saying, You have heard that it was said... He is repeating a teaching, or religious idea that was accepted as truth because it was passed down from generation to generation, and believed to contain God's message as disclosed in the ideas and narratives of the Old Testament.
     It is generally accepted that the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were written down by eye-witnesses [or at least derived from the testimony of eye-witnesses to Jesus's teachings] and it happened over the next century after His death and resurrection. So you can see what a miracle it is that we have God's inspired Word to guide us.
     But I also want to state that I am a firm believer in Proverbs 25:2, It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out. And that brings me back to a consideration of this passage in Jude that is a direct quote from the Book of Enoch. How does that affect your opinion of whether we are to restrict our knowledge of God to Solo Scriptura (a theological doctrine held by some Protestant Christian denominations that the Bible [as we know it] is the sole infallible source of authority for Christian faith and practice)?
     The reason I ask is because of the first Book of Enoch, [or 1 Enoch as it is known -- to distinguish it from 2 Enoch and 3 Enoch, later versions plagued with manuscript variations and  Jewish mysticism or Kabbalah writings.] While there is no evidence that the Holy Spirit inspired men to include this book in the authoritative canon -- and I am not claiming that it should be considered canon -- is it possible that the Spirit included a section of it in the Book of Jude because it offers us the opportunity to study the history, and spiritual and doctrinal influence it had on the early Church?
     A website called bereanbiblechurch.org quotes 1 Enoch translator E. Isaac, who writes, "1 Enoch played a significant role in the early Church; it was used by the authors of the Epistle of Barnabas, the Apocalypse of Peter, and a number of apologetic works. Many Church Fathers, including Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Origen, and Clement of Alexandria, either knew 1 Enoch or were inspired by it. Among those who were familiar with 1 Enoch, Tertullian had an exceptionally high regard for it.... There is little doubt that 1 Enoch was influential in molding New Testament doctrines concerning the nature of the Messiah, the Son of Man, the messianic kingdom, demonology, the future, resurrection, final judgment, the whole eschatological theater, and symbolism. No wonder, therefore, that the book was highly regarded by many of the earliest apostolic and Church Fathers." " [E. Isaac, A New Translation and Introduction,in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, vol. 1].
     Once again, I am not maintaining that 1 Enoch should be included in our Bible. But I also find it interesting that the Pre-Tribulation Rapture doctrine didn't exist in the American theological psyche until just 111 years ago when the Scofield Bible was printed; or that King James authorized a new translation of the Bible in 1611 for clear political motives, and he directed that the language was to reflect his ideas of church government; or that the NIV Bible, published in 1973 has gone through several revisions in which the Deity of Jesus is removed. An example of this is Acts 8:37, which reads, And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest [be baptized]. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. The NIV, New Living Translation and some of the latest versions of the Bible do not include this verse.
     So, why wouldn't the writings credited to the same Enoch who is revealed in the Bible in Genesis 5:21-24, Luke 3:37, Hebrews 11:5, and Jude 14-15 be given some authority in further understanding the beliefs of the Early Church? While 1 Enoch is only part of the Bible in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, it has been invaluable in shaping Christian doctrine since the writers of the Bible first began recording the inspired Word of God. And shouldn't it be taken into consideration that 1 Enoch is believed to have been written from 100-300 years prior to the Bible, yet portions of it are consistent with not only the ancient prophets, but the writers of the New Testament? Here are some examples:

     1 Enoch 1:6-7The high mountains will be shaken, and the high hills brought low, melting like wax in the flame. 
     Micah 1:4, And the mountains will melt under him, and the valleys will split open, like wax before the fire, like waters poured down a steep place.
     2 Peter 3:10,12: But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies[b] will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed... waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!

     1 Enoch 91:16a, The first heaven shall pass away, and a new heaven shall appear. 
     2 Peter 3:13, But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
     1 Enoch 48:6–7a For this (reason) he was chosen and hidden in his presence, before the world was created and forever. And the wisdom of the Lord of Spirits has revealed him to the holy and the righteous; for he has preserved the lot of the righteous.
     1 Peter 1:20 He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake.

     1 Enoch 69:27 And he sat on the throne of his glory, and the whole judgment was given to the Son of Man, and he will make sinners vanish and perish from the face of the earth.
     1 Peter 4:5 But they will have to give an accounting to him who stands ready to judge the living and the dead.

     So I present all this to you, not in an effort to convince you that you should consider the Book of Enoch as equal to the Bible, or even that you should read it. But I do subscribe to the ideation of Mr. Isaacs, the translator of 1 Enoch, in that it bears similarities to Scripture, and might possibly "have been influential in molding New Testament doctrine."
     And in accordance with this thought, I do not find it heretical to read it (as I have been accused). Rather, I believe that God may have concealed more background information in this apocryphal book that might be beneficial in understanding Scripture. And I trust the Holy Spirit to reveal whether what is written there is divine truth or not. If God has concealed it, then my searching it out glorifies Him. If He had nothing to do with the writing of the Book of Enoch, then I trust the Holy Spirit to show me that, too, and I will consider it just an interesting read of apocryphal writing. And I trust and rely on my relationship with the Holy Spirit and Jesus enough that I do not fear being deceived.
     So, now you know a little bit about how my mind works and why I love to go deeper in trying to understand all I can about God and His Word. As I've said so many times to Christians [who look at me like I'm being blasphemous], "Everything in our Bible is about Jesus Christ and the Father... but everything about Jesus and God is not in the Bible". They cannot be contained in something as finite as a bound book of 1547 pages. They are supernatural, and multi-dimensional, and worth every second that I am searching them out. Holy Spirit, show me more!

Psalm 14:2   The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.


November 17, 2019

A Historical and Biblical Argument In Favor of Women

Once more, it seems as if Beth Moore has found herself the target of religious men. This time it is Reformed Baptist pastor John MacArthur who has her square in his sights. Although MacArthur lists his church as non-denominational, his doctrine of salvation is clearly founded upon Calvinist theology. [It has been my experience in a church I attended for 20 years that many Baptist churches move to a "non-denominational" designation to appeal to a wider audience]. But let me be clear, this post is not about my views on any particular belief system, but about the good Pastor's recent statements regarding the place of women [such as Beth Moore] in the the leadership of "the Church".
     During a panel discussion among male preachers, MacArthur was asked his opinion about including Beth Moore as part of the Church's circle of leadership. He responded that he would tell her to "Go Home", and then followed that comment with, “There is no case that can be made biblically for a woman preacher. Period. Paragraph. End of discussion.” According to The Christian Post, MacArthur argued that 1 Corinthians 14:34, which reads: “Women should remain silent in the churches,” shouldn’t be “hard to understand.” “You don’t say anything,” he stressed, later adding: “Women need to get themselves under control and realize they are not to speak in a church.” But MacArthur wasn't through. He went on to say, “When women take over a culture, men become weak; when men become weak, they can be conquered. When all the men have been slaughtered, you [women] can sit there with all your jewelry and junk. You’ve been conquered, because you overpowered your protectors.”
     Okay, Pastor, I think I have presented your argument fairly. Now, let me bring another point of view to this little controversy you've stirred up. In fact, I am borrowing from a post that I originally wrote over four years ago. I still stand by it. So, let me first share another Scripture that is often used to substantiate Pastor MacArthur's position: A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet (1 Timothy 2:11-12). By the way, although both verses in 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy refer to women remaining silent, the latter verse is the only I could find in the Bible that refers specifically to women's authority in the Church. So, without a confirming witness, I decided to take a deeper look at this conflict and see within what context the Apostle Paul made this statement.
     As always, I find that our English translations of the Bible leave something to be desired when comparing them to the original Hebrew and Greek manuscripts.  Such is the case with the central word in the argument against women leading men in instruction ... it's the word, authority.  It seems that a study of Paul’s letters shows that he regularly used a form of the Greek word “exousia” when referring to the use of authority in the church.  But in this particular verse, Paul used the word "authentein".  This unusual Greek verb is found only once in scripture and rarely in extrabiblical texts, where it is usually associated with aggression.  Authentein is translated as “domineer” in the Latin Vulgate and New English Bible and as “usurp authority” in the Geneva and King James Bibles.
     So if Paul used the word exousia when talking about the use of authority in the church in 1st and 2nd Corinthians, Colossians, 2nd Thessalonians, and Romans; why would he choose to use authentein to refer to the same thing in 1 Timothy?  Could he have been referring to something else?
      This is where the context of this passage is so important!  In the case of 1 Timothy, Paul was writing a personal letter instructing Timothy about how to deal with heresy being spread by false teachers in Ephesus. This is spelled out at the beginning of the letter: "As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies…".
     On the surface, there are a few things to consider when correlating this warning with the suggestion that Paul meant women had no authority in the church.  1)  Could it be that most of the teachers of false doctrine in Ephesus were men, and that women might have had little training in theology; making them subject to repeating these false doctrines?  It would seem to me that Paul might have been warning the Ephesians that any interest in these false doctrines by women might become dangerous to the Church.  If that is the case, then this warning in 1 Timothy is specific to that church in Ephesus, at that time -- not meant to be a permanent restriction on all women for all time.
     2)  Keeping the context of this letter and these verses in view, remember that Paul was writing to the Church in Ephesus; a city known for its worship of goddesses, as well as heretical Gnostic teachings.  Some of the Gnostic texts of the time sometimes described Eve as Adam’s teacher. She is also depicted as superior to Adam, as preceding him, and as giving life to him in some way (part of the goddess obsession).  His admonition that women should not assume authority over a man might have been in answer to these Gnostic teachings.  (The Gnostic teachings on Eve could be what Paul is referring to in 1 Timothy 2:13-14 when he pointedly explains that Adam is the superior one, not Eve.  Reading these verses out of context to what was going on in Ephesus gives a completely different meaning).
     3)  Then there is the contradiction between other examples of Paul's writings where he provides instructions for women praying and prophesying in church (1 Corinthians).  When Paul mentions the spiritual gifts, he does not state that women are restricted from receiving any of the leadership gifts.  And it is interesting to note that he takes special care to record commendations to a number of women serving in leadership positions (Romans 16).  Can we agree that Paul is generally supportive of women’s participation, which contradicts the idea that women must be silent? 
     But I keep coming back to that word authentein.  The mystery of why Paul used that particular word instead of his more common use of exousia drove me to dig deeper.  Why did he include this passage about women and authority in a letter that began by warning against false doctrines and myths?  As expected, the uncertainty of 1 Timothy 2:11-12, has resulted in much historical study of the times.
The goddess Cybele and her consort, Attis
     It seems that in Timothy’s time and locale, the goddess Cybele (called Artemis by the Greeks) was worshipped through violent rituals against men that symbolized the murder/suicide of a false god named Attis.  In his letter to Timothy, Paul repeatedly warns against false doctrines, mythology and extreme forms of self-denial (1 Timothy 1:3-7, 4:1-5, 6:20-21), even referring to the false teaching and related practices as “demonic”.  The violent act symbolizing the death of Attis was indeed an extreme form of self-denial.  Male priests of Cybele and Attis renounced all sexual feeling, irrevocably, through ritual castration.
     When the 5th Century Christian theologian Jerome translated 1 Timothy for the Latin translation of the Bible, he forever changed the meaning of our contested verses.  Let me explain.  He translated the key verb authentein as "to exercise authority", and rendered it more in terms of “having dominion over” or “dominating” a man.  Prior to Jerome's translation, the word more commonly referred to the instigation or commission of an act of violence, suicide or murder.  In the Greek Septuagint, for example, a noun form of the word (authentas) refers to those who engaged in ritual violence in the worship of a false god.
      Are you starting to see the connection between Paul's initial warning against false doctrines and false gods or myths, and the more accurate interpretation of giving his prohibition against women teaching or instigating ritual violence against men?  It's all in the context of what was going on in Ephesus!  The nature of Paul’s concerns, the most common meanings of the verb “authentein,” and the religious and cultural context in which these verses were written are all lost in Jerome’s Latin translation of 1 Timothy 2:12-15.  Subsequent translations into German and English followed Jerome's misleading example.  Concerns about women becoming involved in false teaching and violent rituals were replaced with warnings against leadership and teaching roles for women in the Church.  It seems very possible that Paul's true counsel was lost in translation!
     I recognize that this new understanding I have projected is only a theory; and I also discern that it will likely not change the 1600 years of bias against women as having a place in the Church's ministry as teachers ... or in the case of John MacArthur .. as preachers. Believe me, I am no feminist looking to usurp the leadership of men -- I am simply trying to put forth the argument that the Lord has bestowed the spiritual gifts of teaching and prophesying and wisdom upon women as well as men.  Why would any man deny himself the benefit of learning from a woman whom the Lord had blessed?  Certainly, Priscilla played a major role in furthering Apollo's education on the full gospel of Jesus (Acts 18).  And then there is Phoebe, whom Paul commends in Romans 16 as a "servant of the church". I find it interesting that the word servant is translated from the Greek word, diakonos, from which our English word deacon comes from. At the very least, it does seem that Paul intends us to understand Phoebe as in some sense an official representative of the church at Cenchreae.
     And again, it's ironic that in a time when women could not be legal witnesses, Jesus Christ chose women as the first witnesses of His resurrection. So, Pastor MacArthur, I believe that women can still be witnesses of His glory today, to all who will listen. I pray that you receive divine revelation on this matter.
It seems that in Timothy’s time and locale, the goddess Cybele (called Artemis by the Greeks) was worshipped through violent rituals against men that symbolized the murder/suicide of a false god named Attis.  In his letter to Timothy, Paul repeatedly warns against false doctrines, mythology and extreme forms of self-denial (1 Timothy 1:3-7, 4:1-5, 6:20-21), even referring to the false teaching and related practices as “demonic”.  The violent act symbolizing the death of Attis was indeed an extreme form of self-denial.  Male priests of Cybele and Attis renounced all sexual feeling, irrevocably, through ritual castration.

For a more comprehensive look at the ancient Gnostic teachings, false doctrines, and translation errors that contributed to our confused understanding of 1 Timothy 2, please click here.  My thanks to Bob Edwards for his outstanding research and commentary.

Acts 2:17-18    And it shall come to pass in the last days, God declares, that I will pour out of My Spirit upon all mankind, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy [telling forth the divine counsels] and your young men shall see visions (divinely granted appearances), and your old men shall dream [divinely suggested] dreams. Yes, and on My menservants also, and on My maidservants, in those days I will pour out of My Spirit, and they shall prophesy [telling forth the divine counsels and predicting future events pertaining especially to God’s kingdom].

September 9, 2019

Should We Be Charging For Ministry?

     This post is the result of lots of soul searching and seeking an answer in the Spirit. The question of charging for ministry and equipping the saints has long been a topic of discussion between me and my husband. And I believe it is worthy of discussion here.
     It is also the result of listening to a short podcast by a well-known woman who is seen as an apostolic/prophetic voice in today's Body of Christ. I want to say that I greatly admire her spiritual discernment and wisdom, and was most interested in hearing her presentation on the destructive influence of the spirits of Jezebel and her daughter Athalaia. She disclosed her battles with these demonic spirits and that, through spiritual revelation, she had found the key in Scripture to defeating them. But she closed her presentation with an invitation to find out what that key was by enrolling in her online course for a fee of $79.
     Now, I want to say that this is not a unique situation. Many gifted teachers and ministers take advantage of technology to reach millions of people seeking the Lord; people they would otherwise never be able to reach with the Gospel. And it is a revolutionary way to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ and His Kingdom. But I personally [and seriously] struggle with charging for this [literally] life-saving knowledge.
     Is it unfair of me to ask this question: If you know the key to defeating Jezebel and her daughter, why would you not freely share that information so that other Believers could be delivered from their bondage? How do you justify withholding that counsel for a sum of money? Please, I am not judging or blaming the ministers of God for making a living. We all have to live in this world and it takes money to meet our worldly needs. And I know that Scripture says, "the laborer is worthy of his hire" (Luke 10:7); or another way to put it is, "the laborer deserves his wages" or "you are my harvester, and you deserve to be cared for." But does that mean we should be charging for what the Lord has called us to, or the revelation He has freely provided?
     I realize this is a touchy subject, and it is certainly one that Mark and I have wrestled with over time. The foundation of our Inner Healing Ministry has always been Matthew 10:8, which says, "You must continually bring healing to lepers and to those who are sick, and make it your habit to break off the demonic presence from people, and raise the dead back to life. Freely you have received the power of the kingdom, so freely release it to others." I remember the first time someone tried to slip me some money after a Healing session, and it literally felt like it burned my hand! I could not conceive taking money for something that Jesus had done [albeit through our obedience and participation]. It just didn't feel right.
     In fact, Matthew 10:9 says [in the Passion Translation], "Don’t heap up silver and gold in your money belts." This Aramaic interpretation is about more than just not taking money, but is about not seeking the accumulation of money by using God’s anointing that He has graciously imparted to you.
     Again, I also understand that people doing the work of the Lord have to make a living. And if the Lord's work is their heart's desire, then how is the financial provision to be made?  I believe there is a difference between offering a service to people that requires materials, a staff, and the rental of a place to conduct the work for the Body of Christ -- these are expenses that must be paid -- and dispensing Biblical instruction to people that costs nothing more than your time with the Lord to receive the revelation. Am I being overly judgmental, or is my thinking wrong on this matter? How did the Early Church Fathers handle this situation? 
     I look to Paul's writings for revelation. Scripture tells us that he continued his vocation of tent-making whenever his ministry allowed. I believe that means that Paul supported himself, instead of charging for his ministry. That seems to be his message in 1 Corinthians 9:16-18, too: "For you see, even though I proclaim the good news, I can’t take the credit for my labors, for I am compelled to fulfill my duty by completing this work. It would be agony to me if I did not constantly preach the gospel! 17 If it were my own idea to preach as a way to make a living, I would expect to be paid. Since it’s not my idea but God’s, who commissioned me, I am entrusted with the stewardship of the gospel whether or not I’m paid. 18 So then, where is my reward? It is found in continually depositing the good news into people’s hearts, without obligation, free of charge, and not insisting on my rights to be financially supported."
     So can you see my dilemma and why this is such a sensitive subject? If the Lord has called us to do the work of the Kingdom, and it is by His gift of anointing that we have been spiritually educated to spread and share what He has revealed, can we in good conscious profit from it? And if your answer is "No", then how are we to support our needs while carrying out our assignments?
     I will share with you a particular situation that my husband and I recently encountered. We were approached by a minister and greatly-respected teacher of the Kingdom of God to assist in managing his growing web-based teaching sessions. We would facilitate the online courses for all those who enrolled in the classes, and he encouraged us to join him in this ministry saying that we could easily earn a sizable amount of money. But that opportunity came at too high a price. It would mean that we would have to give up our own ministry that God had called us to. It didn't take but a few minutes to walk away from that temptation. We knew that God had sanctified us and our property for His purpose and we were on mission for Him. We still see [and approve of] the incredible work this minister is doing for the Lord, and we know it benefits so many Christians, us included. But it is just not the way we want to serve the Lord.
     So, I come back to the question of how do lay ministers who want to freely give what they have received, support the call on their lives? I will tell you that it can be a struggle to balance your desire to pursue your calling and still pay the bills. And if your spirit is not comfortable with charging for ministering to the Body of Christ, then I offer this from Scripture: "Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? 14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:13-14). 
     In other words, by being obedient to fulfilling the call and purpose on your life to minister to the Body of Christ, I think that it is acceptable [in my mind at least] to receive what we call "love offerings"; financial support freely given from the heart of those who have benefited from your teaching, or those who wish to sow into God's harvest. But I also feel it is an individual decision, whether to give and whether to receive. And there are those instances in which I see books being sold and that money being poured back into the ministry to help dispense teaching materials to the Believers in the field of harvest. There will just be those times when money is exchanged. And it is definitely clear that there are no black and white rules, and each person must go to the Lord to determine his/her path in this debatable arena of ministry. 
     So, the bottom line is this: we are blessed in this season to have an abundance of exceptional teachers and ministers of the Gospel. Each must decide for themselves how they will make a living and what place profiting from God's calling on their lives will hold. Ultimately, it is between you and the Lord. I just bless all who answer the call and pray that their decisions honor God's purpose and will.

1 Corinthians 9:10     Doesn’t He also give us this principle so that we won’t withhold support from his workers? It was written so that we would understand that the one spiritually “plowing” and spiritually “treading out the grain” also labors with the expectation of enjoying the harvest.

July 5, 2019

Walkin' The Line Between Faith and Fear

     This title of this blog is a line from a song that suddenly appeared in my mind this morning, and I think it best expresses what I have been reflecting on for the past few days. There are mornings when my husband and I sit down to pray together and my conversation with God is full of joy and thankfulness for all I see Him doing in the lives of people with whom He is working. Then there are the mornings that we find ourselves discouraged and asking for His wisdom and love to persist in reaching those who are blinded or lazy or disinterested in pursuing Him. Those conversations with the Father are always centered around the assignment He has given us while we are on this earth, and His message we are appointed to deliver.
     Please do not mistake my thoughts for arrogance or pride; we are well aware that we are not the authority or judge of anyone else's walk with the Lord. But when you, yourself, are persistent in seeking that intimate, relational knowledge of Jesus through both experience and the Word, you want everyone to have that same encounter and come to Him in truth and spirit. But there are just times when it is clear that there is a spirit of deception or confusion, and yes, I'm going to say it ... a spirit of religion that is blocking true revelation. Their faith is evident, but so is their fear.
     And I don't use that word fear in the sense of "awe" or "reverence". I mean that they hesitate to consider any new idea or revelation of God's Word because it makes them uncomfortable; it threatens the security of their soul (mind, free will, and emotions). They live in fear of failure (What if I don't get it right, or what if God doesn't work through me?); fear of deception (this is different from what I've been taught. What if it's wrong?); and fear of man (This is stepping away from my religious tribe. Will I be isolated or ostracized? Will I be excluded from the community of organized believers?).
     But Jesus gave us two parables in Luke 18 that shatter these fears. The first is the Parable of the Persistent Widow. He tells of a widow who kept coming before an unrighteous judge, asking for justice against her adversary/oppressor. The worldly judge simply got tired of her repeated requests. He finally granted her petition for justice -- not out of a religious or moral compulsion -- but because "she keeps annoying me, demanding her rights, and I’m tired of listening to her." The point of the parable is soon made clear by Jesus, who says, Did you hear what the ungodly judge said—that he would answer her persistent request? When the Son of Man comes back, will He find this kind of persistent faithfulness in His people? The widow's relentless faith overcame any fear of failure or what the judge thought of her. She was single-minded in continuing to ask for what she needed and desired. Her faith did not depend on social norms or what was expected of her.
     The other parable follows right after the Persistent Widow. It's the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector.  Here we have a self-righteous religious leader who confidently stands before God, pointing out all the things he does right to please the Lord, while unjustly condemning the tax-collector, an outsider. On the other hand, the tax-collector, who would have been ostracized for daring to appear before the altar of the Lord at the same time as a Pharisee, practices his faith by humbly asking God to forgive him of his sins, showing not only his reverential faith, but the risk he was willing to take to express it [by daring to remain in the Temple in the presence of such an important religious leader].
     I believe these parables display two of the Keys of the Kingdom that Jesus speaks about in Matthew 16:19.  PERSISTENCE and RISK will propel a Believer into new realms of faith; beyond their comfort zone and scope of routine religion.  Persistent faith ... constant, unending, tireless, determined people who never stop seeking more of Christ and revelation of His Word! They don't fear failure or deception because they hear their Shepherd's voice and are familiar with the Holy Spirit's presence, and are confident of His counsel. They never tire of asking for more and are persistent in their obedience to what He reveals, whether they fail or succeed in their mission. They are willing to take the risk of exclusion or rejection by others in order to receive more of Him. They are willing to run the risk of failure because they know the results are God's, not theirs.
     Because they are persistent in asking for more -- and actually receive more -- they are willing to trust Jesus to take them to new heights of intimacy and authority and power. They don't get discouraged; they keep on knocking, knowing that they are called to endure and persevere. They have lost their fear of man [and what the religious community might say] a long time ago, because the riches of the Lord's revelations have led them to heights never imagined or experienced before they took the risk to trust Him. Walking alone doesn't deter their faith or their obedience. The Word of God is their guide and their foundation.
     And I'm afraid that's where so many Christians fall short. I am amazed as we talk and counsel with people throughout our daily lives, just how many Christians do not read -- let alone experience, comprehend, or take hold of -- their Bibles. How can we profess to walk in faith [standing on a foundation of hope for the divine promises] if we don't even seek the One [who is the foundation] through His Word [which is His revelation of Himself]?  No wonder Jesus said in Matthew 7, Everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, will be like a wise man [a far-sighted, practical, and sensible man] who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods and torrents came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; yet 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 (stupid) man who built his house on the sand.  And the rain fell, and the floods and torrents came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great and complete was its fall.”
     The Scriptures were not written in the day He spoke those ominous words. The teachings were given orally, and one had to be conscientious to hear. Today, we have the benefit of the written Word -- the Word that we can read again and again and again, persistently asking for revelation as to how we are to "act on them" or "do them". There is no excuse for the Body of Christ not to know or do what He says. Are we just spiritually lazy? Or in our fears of becoming deceived, do we cling to what others say about what the will of God is? Remember that Jesus began this conversation in Matthew 7 by saying, 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."
     That word "lawlessness" is many times translated "iniquity" which is a perverse rebellion against God and His will. These people thought they were doing God's will, with acts that mimicked righteousness. But as the following verses showed us, Jesus wants to be the [good and solid] foundation behind our actions, because we intimately know His heart through the revelation we have received from His Word. He wants authentic followers who know him through experiencing Him, not pretenders of a faith that will not stand against the storm that is coming.
     I will tell you that this kind of deep introspection with Jesus in His Word can leave you walking a narrow and lonely road. But take heart! I am seeing more of His remnant coming out of hiding and out of religion into His Truth and Spirit. The numbers may not be large, but the conviction and the resiliency is steadfast and devoted. The remnant is aligning together and speaking His Biblical Truth, causing lives to be dramatically changed as they walk and talk boldly of the power and majesty and authority of the Lord Jesus to transform the earth for His glory. I pray that the line between Faith and Fear dissolves as He equips those He calls; those whose faith will overcome fear, blindness, laziness, the restraints of religion, and the lies of the Enemy in order to see His Kingdom, His power, and His glory reign forever. Amen!

Ephesians 1:17   I pray that the Father of glory, the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, would impart to you the riches of the Spirit of wisdom and the Spirit of revelation [discovery] to know Him through your deepening intimacy with Him [that gives you a deep and personal and intimate insight into the true knowledge of Him].

March 21, 2019

Correctly Reading The Bible In Context

     On a recent trip across country, my husband and I listened to a podcast by Dr. Michael Heiser, who has a PhD in the Hebrew Bible and Semitic Languages, and is the scholar-in-residence for Faithlife, the makers of Logos Bible Software. So, to say that he is well-educated and immersed in the Bible is an understatement. I find his writings and interviews illuminating, although I don't always agree with his conclusions. But that's OK .... God conceals the revelation of His word in the hiding place of His glory. But the honor of kings is revealed by how they thoroughly search out the deeper meaning of all that God says (Proverbs 25:2, The Passion Translation). And that truth applies to me, you, and Dr. Heiser.
     This particular podcast centered around a question he asked .... Are we willing to be serious about interpreting the Bible in context? And I would take it a step further .... are we willing to accept the context from which the New Testament writers wrote? Or are we only willing to shine a light on the set of beliefs that our churches have taught us (our doctrines), while ignoring the substance of material that informed the writers in what they wrote?

     I think, if we are going to be serious students of the Bible, it is important to understand the culture, issues, and historical background of the times in which the Bible was written; and it is important to try to understand the purpose behind why the author was writing.... in other words, the context. 
      It is important to recognize that the books of the New Testament, which is considered the authoritative canon (measuring stick) of the Bible were formed very late; scholars think around the 4th Century. But in the 2nd and 3rd Centuries, there were already many Christian documents being written and circulated. So although the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are part of our Biblical canon, they were all written in the 1st Century, long before the New Testament canon was established. The same is true of Paul's writings, which were also written in the 1st Century, and were circulating in the 2nd and 3rd Centuries, most likely as packets among the churches, but not yet as New Testament canon --- there was no New Testament at the time!
     It is important that we understand that during the time that the Apostles were writing in the 1st Century, there were other Christians writing prayers, poetry, and revelatory texts written by others who received information from Jesus as His disciples. It is not emphasized in the Church, but there were more than just the 12 Disciples that were true followers of Christ. History hasn't given us the exact number, but it is surmised that many thousands followed Him at the height of His ministry. How many were true disciples? We know that 120 true followers gathered in the Upper Room; that He appeared to at least 500 true believers after His resurrection; and that given the response on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2, we can assume that the number of real disciples was in the thousands. We may not know the accurate number, but I think it also realistic to assume that many of them made their testimonies available in those years that Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Paul were doing their own writing.
     And while those writings might not have been established as official Canon by the time the various church councils established the New Testament in the 4th-5th Centuries, they are amazing and valuable texts for teaching us about what early Christians believed. So that brings me back to the question by Dr. Heiser, Are we willing to be serious about interpreting the Bible in context? And, are we interested in looking at what those New Testament writers were reading in order to better understand the context from which they wrote? Or are we satisfied in imposing our own limited context [and our denominational doctrine and theology] on the Bible?
     Those are tough questions! After all, we are cautioned against being deceived! But can you just step back for a moment and consider this .... The New Testament writers had 400 years of Inter-Testamental writings that we don't have.  In other words, are we willing to read what they were reading to understand where they were coming from? Yes, the Bible is the inspired Word of God; He inspired those men to write from the revelations He gave them. But if the Book of Jasher, for instance, is mentioned in Joshua 10:13 and 2 Samuel 1:18 and also referenced in 2 Timothy 3:8, shouldn't we consider that God inspired those writers to mention Jasher; and might we benefit in knowing more about what those writers were reading? For instance, 2 Timothy 3:8 is a fascinating verse. It reference Moses and the history of the Exodus, but Jannes and Jambres are never mentioned by name in Exodus. It simply mentions the sorcerers who wanted to compete with Moses and his authority. These two names are, however, mentioned by Origen, one of the church fathers, who makes reference to the Book of Jannes and Jambres, but no complete copies of these books have ever been found. The honor of kings is revealed by how they thoroughly search out the deeper meaning of all that God says...
     Another fascinating Book that helps us to understand the context of the Bible is the Book of Enoch. The first part of this ancient book describes the fall of the Watchers, the angels who fathered the Nephilim. The remainder of the book describes Enoch's visits to heaven in the form of travels, visions and dreams, and his revelations. Considering that Enoch was Noah's great-grandfather, it is interesting that this Book offers unique information regarding the origins of supernatural demons and giants, why some angels fell from heaven, details explaining why the Great Flood was morally necessary, and prophetic exposition of the thousand-year reign of the Messiah --- giving us historical relevance for the mysterious and difficult-to-interpret-and-understand passage in Genesis 6:1-4; which I have seen many a pastor skip because they don't want to take it literally.
     But if they believe the Bible is inspired by God, then God wanted us to know this and isn't it at least plausible that we should look at what was read and believed at the time? Furthermore, at least one of the authors of the New Testament was familiar with some of the content of the story. A short section of 1 Enoch (1:9) is cited in the New Testament, in Jude 1:14–15, and is attributed there to "Enoch the Seventh from Adam". Jude actually quotes from the Book of Enoch: “Look, the Lord came with myriads of His holy ones to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly deeds they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh and cruel things ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.” 

     I am willing to agree that the Book of Enoch may not have been accepted by the Nicene Council in the 3rd Century, but if God inspired Jude to quote from it, why would it not be important for us to consider it as part of the context in which the Bible was written? For me, it becomes a matter of either wanting to understand the Bible from the perspective of the author who composed it, and the audience he was writing to, and the reason he was writing it -- or I just want to limit the context of the Bible to fit my theology, which is 2000 years or more after the writers wrote what they did.
     A good example of this is the writings of Paul. I think we can all agree that Paul helped establish a number of churches across a broad area of the known world shortly after Jesus's crucifixion and resurrection. His mode of communication with all these churches included circular letters, a word by messenger, and an occasional visit when it was convenient. It is easy to read the Bible and think because it is the inspired Word of God that Paul served as God's authoritative voice to establish Biblical doctrines and practices that all future Christians should observe. 
     But when considering his writings from a historical and cultural perspective, can you reflect on the possibility that, as a mentor to those churches he established, Paul is addressing specific issues that arose in those particular congregations? For instance, he wrote to the Church in Ephesus, Masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.  This does not mean he is advocating slavery, anymore than he is promoting the practice of all women in the church remaining silent in 1 Timothy. (For an interesting take on this topic, read my blog post on women in the church). He is addressing a particular situation in Ephesus that, frankly, we don't have a definitive idea as to what it's about. Paul is writing to a particular group of people, at a particular time in history, about a particular subject. Is it inspired that we might glean some 21st Century truth for our own walk of faith? I believe that answer is "Yes". But I think it is important to recognize the context in which it was written -- to 1st Century believers about particular issues. 
     It is a difficult thing to navigate the Bible. Some Books were in the original Canon of the Bible and removed in 1684, such as 1 and 2 Esdras, 1 and 2 Maccabees, the Book of Judith, Bel and the Dragon, the History of Susana, and seven more. And then there is the Book of Revelation which was rejected by many more orthodox-leaning Christians and is absent from early canon lists, but is now considered canonical in virtually all modern Christian denominations.
     To sum it all up, if we call ourselves Christians, the Bible is the only authoritative book we have on our faith. I believe it IS the inspired Word of God, but I also see that man, down through the centuries, has tried to shape the Bible (and its understanding) for his own purposes. But I believe that God can still speak to us in Truth from the Bible through the revelation of the Holy Spirit. And if ancient sacred texts such as the Book of Enoch or the Book of Jasher are endorsed by Scripture, and can add to the illumination of the Holy Spirit, and the original inspiration given to the writers, then I want to know what they say.
     And here's a final thought.... if we ignore the context of the Biblical writings and don't know what inspirational texts they were reading, then it's going to be easy for the modern writers of the History Channel's Ancient Alien series, and the writers of the Marvel Studio movies to control the narrative of these "last days" and distort the Truth of our returning King. Which do you think have more merit ... the writers of the 1st Century who understood the culture and the context of Jesus's message? Or the imaginations of 21st Century writers who have hundreds of years of distortion and falsified information to weave their tales? Something to think about.

Romans 15:4     For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.


January 20, 2019

The Word Empowered By The Spirit

     Well, Beth Moore is once again the target of her fellow Christians. This time, she has offended Believers with her comments about Bible Study. Here's what she said: "Spending time with God and spending time with the Bible are not the same thing. The Bible is the Word of God, crucial to knowing Him, but it's not God. We can study our Bibles till the Second Coming and leave God completely out of it. We can grow in facts and never grow a whit in faith".
     To begin, I would venture to say that sometimes we Christians react hastily to comments such as this, without first trying to understand the central point that is being made. Secondly, I would also say that we Christians often times don't clarify the point we are trying to make, and can confuse those we are trying to reach. I have been guilty on both counts.
     But let me tell you what I believe Beth Moore's comprehensive position is and why I agree with her. I think most people reading her statement got stuck on the first sentence, and never went any further in trying to determine the point she was attempting to make.  And I have to say that I can see why -- when I am spending time with the Bible, I feel I am hearing from God, so my time is well-spent. But I do not think that I am receiving the fullness of God just by reading the Bible. In other words, I am encountering Him in part through acquiring history of Him, His Nature and His Character -- an intellectual comprehension of who God is. But there is a supernatural empowerment that comes when the Holy Spirit inspires us in the Word. I believe that is what Beth Moore was trying to articulate.
     Let me see if I can explain it this way.... Someone reading the Bible without the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is able to capture the meaning of the written word and understand it according to the human mind.  But someone reading the Bible under the inspiration of the Spirit is captured by the Word and is activated to apply it to his or her life. See the difference? In the first instance we are doing the capturing; in the second it is the Word capturing us through the Spirit.
     Where we Christians are coming into so much conflict is when we limit the empowerment of the Word in our study. And I think it is this "middle ground" that Beth Moore was trying to address. You see, our human understanding of the Word is veiled without the Holy Spirit. It is possible that sin [which is inherent in every human being] can get in the way of our mind's discernment. And because we tend to let our religious traditions and group opinion within our denominations determine our interpretation of the Bible, we oftentimes ignore what the Holy Spirit is trying to illuminate in a passage.
     Beth Moore is not trying to devalue Bible Study nor say that God is not speaking to us when we study the Bible. I believe she is trying to say that time spent studying the Bible without the illuminating and empowering presence of the Holy Spirit is leaving an important aspect of God out of the equation. The bigger question she is posing is this: What is the role of the Holy Spirit in Biblical interpretation, and do we allow Him to reveal His Truth?
     If we realize that the Holy Spirit is the "breath of God", breathing life into our souls and spirits, then we can see His importance in comprehending the Bible. The Bible is the written Word of God, and words are spoken with the use of breath. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 reads, Every Scripture is God-breathed (given by His inspiration) and profitable for instruction, for reproof and conviction of sin, for correction of error and discipline in obedience, [and] for training in righteousness (in holy living, in conformity to God’s will in thought, purpose, and action), So that the man of God may be complete and proficient, well fitted and thoroughly equipped for every good work. The Passion Translation actually says, Every Scripture has been written by the Holy Spirit, the breath of God. The rest of that passage articulates that "It will empower you ... to fulfill any assignment God gives you". The Holy Spirit does not try to give a new meaning to the Word of the Bible through how we personally relate to it, but instead, shines His Light into the Word that He wrote so that we can more fully comprehend it.  It is His Light, not our minds or religious traditions that determine the Truth of the Bible!
     I will finish by commenting on Beth Moore's last sentence .... "We can grow in facts and never grow a whit in faith". And I think this is the point on which I agree the most. We can study the Bible and accumulate mountains of information about faith -- but never be empowered in and by faith to act for God's purpose. But if we do as Jesus commanded ... "Have faith in God", we can actually move mountains. Faith is not just knowing, but doing.  And it is the Holy Spirit that empowers us to do.
     I believer the Apostle Paul expressed the heart of Beth Moore's argument when he wrote, "so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God". We are sometimes guilty of studying the Bible without inviting the presence of the power of God [the Holy Spirit]. I'm sorry, but I believe that to be true! 
     I will grant that Beth Moore's words were controversial and subject to different interpretations. But she made her position quite clear when she followed up her original remarks with the following statement: "... People who study the Scriptures constantly and are continually mean-spirited, rude, slanderous and aside [of] their religious rhetoric, bereft of outward evidences of the Holy Spirit are having Bible study without God. He affects us." Perhaps it is time that we, the Body of Christ, examine ourselves. Are we being impacted by outward evidences of the power of God when we study the Bible? Are we allowing the breath of God to move us from continuing in our man-made religious traditions to acting in faith from God's perspective? Are we allowing the Holy Spirit to show us the meaning of our study, or are we relying on, as Paul says, "the wisdom of men"?  If not, then we are studying from our human intellect. 
     Don't you want to know and understand the things of God from a personal, active, and empowered basis? I know I do. And I know that I can only apply the Word of God in my life with the help of the Holy Spirit. So, I was not offended by Beth Moore's comments. Not at all. It only made me more determined to seek the Spirit's help whenever I sit down to study. Bible study without God is not an option.

1 Corinthians 2:14   "Someone living on an entirely human level rejects the revelations of God’s Spirit, for they make no sense to him. He can’t understand the revelations of the Spirit because they are only discovered by the illumination of the Spirit".