Monday, October 19, 2009

The Danger of a "Conservative" Bible.

By now news of an upcoming Conservative Bible has spread throughout the media and Internet. This news can be viewed as just another flash-in-the-pan-soundbite: strange but harmless, or it can be recognized as part of a multi-staged campaign to hijack and destroy Christianity. Conservatives might consider that accusation as "unfounded", but in fact it is very deeply rooted in the very scriptures that Conservapedia is hoping to edit. For example, no matter how much conservative spin may be placed on the gospels, Jesus clearly implied his belief in the separation between church and state by many sayings, including: "give unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.", and "No person can serve two masters; he will hate one and despise the other", followed by something that should frighten many conservatives: "You cannot serve both God and money".

The Republican party and the mainstream "Conservative" church have become hopelessly addicted to one another. The relationship between these two groups reminds me of the unfaithful wife and her lover, as described in Proverbs and elsewhere in scripture. No good has come of this relationship, and no good ever can. The world has already witnessed how the religious right-wing handles power: with unquestioning devotion to their leadership, and vile contempt for their political adversaries. Unfortunately, there are also many Obama supporters today who have followed the conservative example, and are just about as deep in their own political trench.

The fact is that political trench warfare which defines modern American politics started with members of the right wing whispering about some sort of "vast left-wing conspiracy" against the Republican party. Because of this unfounded rumor, the religious right banded together, voted in blocks, and vowed to destroy their democratic adversaries. By creating the phantom menace of a vast left wing conspiracy, an actual right wing conspiracy was born; its purpose was to win at any cost, which happened in the stolen 2000 Presidential race. Now the same accusatory tactic is being used in dealing with scriptures. The argument made on Conservapedia makes it seem as though there is a vast left wing conspiracy in translating the scriptures. They are working to rally the troops in making a Conservative Bible by outlandishly claiming that Liberal Bibles already exist. There is strong evidence that the spirit behind conservative Christianity is not the spirit of Truth. A by-product of political trench war-fare is a filter of bias that clouds the judgement on both sides; the reason is impaired, and chances of changing course go way down. In other words, turning the political arena into a battlefield makes it very difficult for people to go through the process of repentance.

Various definitions of sinful behavior come from scripture. The process of repentance is described in detail from many perspectives in the Bible. The tricks of the devil's trade: his tactics and strategies are exposed in the Bible. It is from studying the Bible that I have come to realize that the mainstream conservative church has fallen into the hands of the enemy of God. Conservatives who have followed the fold, and remain largely ignorant of the information contained in the Bible are lost without the guidance and correction that is offered through the Bible. What is being proposed in creating a "Conservative Bible" is a way to bypass the glaring discrepancies between what scriptures teach, and what many conservatives believe. The idea that such a translation could be made without completely butchering the entire Bible is laughable. But Conservapedia is attempting to do just that.

I believe the Republican party is an interloper that is figuratively in bed with the unfaithful wife known as the church. When on the mountaintop, Jesus refused to be given complete power in the world because he could only obtain it through spiritual infidelity: worshipping another over God. I believe that the modern church was given a similar choice, and chose worldly power and affluence over the course of faithfulness. In America today, churches are everywhere; compare this modern fact to Ezekiel 16:24-25 which says,
"You build a mound for yourself and make a lofty shrine in every public square. At the head of every street you built your lofty shrines and degraded your beauty, offering your body with increasing promiscuity to anyone who passes by".
Furthermore, the conservative mainstream church gives the Republican party votes, the only currency that matters to the GOP, and has done so for decades. In exchange for this, the Republican party has delivered nothing but lip-service in return. No laws re-banning abortion, no real steps taken to abolish gay rights (which are the two main hot-button issues of the religious right). Every voting season the Republican party brings these issues out of storage, and uses fear and promises to obtain millions of votes from church-goers across America, but the politicians never deliver on their promises. This, too has striking resemblance to Ezekiel 16: 32-34:
"You adulterous wife! You prefer strangers to your own husband! Every prostitute receives a fee, but you give gifts to all your lovers, bribing them to come to you from everywhere for your illicit favors. So in your prostitution you are the opposite of others: no one runs after you for your favors. You are the very opposite, for you give payment and none is given to you".
It is the responsibility of all Christians who are not under the spell that has hypnotized the religious right to stand up against such things as "the Conservative Bible", and to boldly hold powerful and persuasive church leaders accountable to the various ways that they consistently violate Biblical commands. That such misguidance has been allowed to flourish is evidence that we are very near the time of God's judgment. But judgment begins with the church.
Romans 13:10
"Give everyone what you owe him: if you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, pay revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Let no debt be outstanding, except the continuous debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, "Do not commit adultery" "Do not murder" "Do not steal" "Do not envy" and whatever other commandments there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself" Love does no harm to its neighbor, therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
Passages like these do sound suspiciously liberal. That fact should be an alarm to self-proclaimed Christians who subscribe to conservative principles. The warning signs and red flags that saturate scriptures against a selfish conservative spirit cannot be ironed out as mere wrinkles. To do so would be to close off the only escape from a labyrinth of dogma and emotionality. The only way to love misguided religious conservatives is to explain to them the error of their ways, using scripture. The spirit that would inspire a Conservative Bible is the adversary of Christ.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Tale of Two Kingdoms.

When the Old Testament prophets weren't foretelling doom and gloom, or exposing the spiritual harlotry numbness and disobedience of the chosen people, they were predicting a time where all of the nations in the world would come to Israel in order to serve the one true God. This as-of-yet unfulfilled promise was also made by Paul in his letter to the Philippians, when he paraphrases Isaiah and says "At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow." Even though Christianity has grown by leaps and bounds since it's origin, it's popularity is not the fulfillment of this prophetic promise, and no amount of human strength or force could make it come true. The day is still ahead of us when this prophecy will come true, by the power of God, in his timing.

Jesus is described as the "King of Kings" in the book of Revelation. Many sermons, hymns, and worship songs have been written about his royal standing, which is unquestionably greater than the kings of the world. However, there is an assumption made often in these messages that Jesus is in charge of the kings of this world. Referring to Jesus as the King of Kings gives many believers a comforting feeling; a sense of pride and encouragement (which is fine). But the fact remains that the kings of this world are not being ruled, guided or governed by Jesus Christ, and they never have been. I believe that there have been Christians in power before, however the title "King of Kings" for Christ implies total authority over the world, and not selective (and always limited) dedication from compromised Christian heads of state.

Before he began his mission of preaching the gospel of his father's kingdom, Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness, where he was tempted by Satan. During this famous encounter, Satan showed Jesus all of the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said that he would give authority over them to Christ, if Christ would bow down and worship him. Satan offered to make Jesus the King of the world's Kings right then and there, no painful sacrificial death needed. The devil revealed that his authority extends over all the kingdoms of the world...and Jesus refused to accept the role of King over the kings of the world.

Three years later, as he stood questioned by Roman governor Pontius Pilate, Jesus explained that his kingdom was not a part of this world.

I believe that Jesus was, is, and will be King of his Father's kingdom; but the prince of this world is Satan. That's why the separation between church and state is so important. That's why the recent Republican experiment to put professing Christians in power has been such a tremendous failure. That's why clubs like the Bohemian Grove exist (where heads of politics, media, and commerce throughout the western world meet each summer to worship the ancient Babylonian demon god, Moloch).

During the 1950s, some well meaning religious fundamentalists lobbied to add "Under God" to the pledge of allegiance, and to officially make "In God we trust" the national motto of America. This legislation did absolutely nothing to further the cause of Christ, but it did provide Satan with some very useful camouflage. The phrase "One nation, under God", which is repeated by school children every day for several years, directly implies that Jesus (or God) is the King of Kings when it comes to America. This not-so-subtle suggestion has caused a veil of blindness to come down over millions of patriotic "born agains". When Bush was in office, his sins were considered mere means to an end. Our righteous standing in the world was unquestioned in many fundamentalist minds, even when leaks of torture, and obvious war profiteering came to the surface. This total lack of discernment has been allowed to grow because of the false belief that we are a "Christian nation".

It is likewise ironic that the modern money-changers of the Usury fueled Federal reserve bank can dare to print "in God we trust" on all its coins and notes, because in reality, the people have been forced into trusting an unsustainable monetary system based on debt.

By coming to terms with the fact that Satan is the "prince of this world", it becomes possible to realize that our national policy from the beginning has been to steal, kill and destroy. All Throughout American history, there is ample evidence that the "higher power" that guides our leaders has been Satan and not Jesus Christ. From the genocide of native Americans, to slavery,
to the start of the great depression in 1929 (and the 2008 economic "meltdown"), to the Atomic bomb, to the global infection called consumerism. Not one of these things would have happened if America were really a "Christian nation". The truth is that the so called good old days were pretty bad. Anyone who says otherwise is lying. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit.

I believe there is no hope in Christian government in this world system because the core of Christianity is life-long devotion to a kingdom that is apart from this world (which is just as fallen now as it was when Constantine declared Christianity to be the official religion of the Roman empire). To pretend that any government in history has fully followed Christ is destructive to the gospel. The past 2000 years have been filled with suffering, corruption, religious hypocrisy, greed, war, famine and all of the other tell-tale signs of a fallen creation. We must believe that when Christ returns, that curse will be lifted.

Conformity has killed the hope of Christian government at every juncture. Paul boldly instructed new believers in the Roman empire this: Do not conform to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds. Not only does this command apply to us as individuals, it is also meant for the institutions of Christianity (in church and government). By conforming to the structure of the pre-existing world system, no officially "Christian" government has been able to allow the light of Christ to shine upon and heal it's citizenry. If our kings were subjects under the rule and authority of Christ, the world would be a completely different place. It should give us hope to keep that in mind. There is no compromise in the kingdom of God. There will be no mistaking when Jesus takes his crown. As Daniel describes it, the kingdom of God is like "a rock, not cut by human hands". It is light that has nothing to do with the darkness of the present day.

In closing, Jesus said that in the last days, "nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom". I don't think he was repeating himself there. I believe that we see evidence of nations fighting against nation every day. But the bottom line of this last battle rests in the Kingdom of God finally rising against the kingdoms of this world, to crumble them into dust.

A wonderful prophecy dealing with the dual nature of God's kingdom and the world kingdom can be found in Daniel 2:31-45. It paints a very clear picture. Stay blessed.

Monday, June 8, 2009

What it takes to be a Disciple...

In Luke 14:26-27, Jesus, who taught of love for one another, said this;
"Anyone who comes to me must hate his father and mother. He must hate his wife and children. He must hate his brothers and sisters. And he must hate even his own life. Unless he does, he can't be my disciple. Anyone who doesn't carry his cross and follow me can't be my disciple."
Sandra brought this verse up recently. She asked how it can be reconciled with the command to love. Are we being sent into two different directions by Christ? Is this a message for all who hope to be saved? What's going on here? To find an answer, first we should try to figure out what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.

As far as I can tell, being a disciple means to be in the type of relationship with Jesus where he is the master, and we are his apprentices, learning the skills of his own trade, and preparing to follow in his footsteps. That was the role of the twelve named disciples in Jesus' day, and of all 72 disciples that he sent out to preach the gospel in pairs (Luke 10:1-9). That can be the role of any of us, so long as we are up to the challenge.

Immediately following the "hate" passage of Luke 14:26-27, Jesus explains the level of commitment that it takes to be his disciple. He removes all of the sugar coating, perhaps because many people in the crowd that was following him around fancied themselves to be his disciples, simply because they were there. Jesus was a very perceptive son of God. He wanted them to make no mistake about what it took to be his disciple. There was and still is no such thing as a half-hearted commitment. Luke 14:28-35

"Suppose someone wants to build a tower. Won't he sit down first and figure out how much it will cost? Then he will see whether he has enough money to finish it.

Suppose he starts building and is not able to finish. Then everyone who sees what he has done will laugh at him. They will say, 'This fellow started to build. But he wasn't able to finish.'

"Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. And suppose he has 10,000 men, while the other has 20,000 coming against him. Won't he first sit down and think about whether he can win?

"And suppose he decides he can't win. Then he will send some men to ask how peace can be made. He will do this while the other king is still far away.

"In the same way, you must give up everything you have. If you don't, you can't be my disciple...

"Those who have ears should listen."

I have felt for a long time that Jesus knew, before he was crucified, exactly what would happen in the future, in his name, through the church. He saw with great clarity into his future. However, he went to the cross anyway because he was commanded to, and because he saw what is still ahead of us, the great Feast of the Kingdom of God.

There are plenty of halfhearted Christians out there, and there have been plenty throughout history. They believe there is no distinction between any John-Doe born-again Believer and the Apostle Paul, in the eyes of the Lord (because God doesn't show favoritism). However, what is missed by that simplified perception of grace is the principal that you get out of anything just as much as you are willing to put into it. Their religion is a spice that is added to their lives, not a whole new life.

What separates disciples (spiritual adults) from the millions of believers (spiritual babes) is a sense of determination and commitment to the ultimate goal of seeing this Kingdom become manifest in the earth, obeying and serving God for that purpose. Those that don't actively live with this priority may survive the refiners fire with their souls in tact, but they will certainly not have any heavenly rewards. In the process of making Christianity more palatable for the masses, the evangelical version of Christianity dismisses the fact that we are not our own but were bought with a price, and that we have each been given work to do, as servants of Christ...neglecting that work means forfeiting our heavenly treasure (1 Cor 3:10-15)

Jesus drew a line in the sand with his words in Luke 14. On the left were those who enjoyed their lives on this earth yet also enjoyed the teachings of Jesus. Those who followed him on foot only a few dozen miles away from their own village, before they turned back around and went home. These sort of people are like a field of wheat waiting to be harvested, or sheep in need of a shepherd.

On his right side were actual disciples. They were completely dedicated to Jesus. They gave up their lives, their jobs, their families to wander around from town to town with him. They chose homelessness so that they could hang on to every word Jesus said about his Father's Kingdom, they were taught by him to preach about it too, to perform miracles as he did. Theirs was a higher calling; to assist him in his purpose, and find their own new purpose through him. These are the laborers Jesus meant when he said, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few". And these are the people that Jesus referred to when he said, "Much will be required of those that are given much".

The disciples of Jesus come to see the world from his point of view as they grow in the spirit. The vision of God's fair and wonderful kingdom grows stronger in their minds as they meditate on it, and the inferiority of this current system becomes more and more obvious, until it becomes almost intolerable.

Many, many people are so charmed and/or tangled in this world system that they simply cannot imagine anything else. They are content in their stations in life, not looking to rock the boat, just trying to take care of their own needs and their families. They will actively resist radical change to the status quo while they are in this state. These people are the wives, husbands, children, parents, aunts, and uncles of the disciples of Christ. What Christ has given to us is a gospel of a completely different world order. There is always a choice given to the called when they try to respond to God, and only disciples would choose God over family, and they would do it without much of a second thought, because disciples are given eyes to see the ugliness of this current world system compared to the glory of the coming Kingdom of God. They recognize it's poisonous nature. They know that unless God is obeyed by those he calls, the world will continue down it's path to destruction.

Christ clearly said over and over again that we must leave everything to follow him. He also said that through him was life, and that he had the ability to cause springs of living water to flow through us. Therefore we must offer up what limited life we have without him (when we are called), in order to claim the eternal life that comes from him. In Christ we are no longer living for ourselves, or our families, but for Christ. Once we have access to the eternal life he gives us, we can return to our families and share it with them by our demonstration of Christ's love.

Whatever "hate" disciples have for their families is not lasting, but is an emotional part of the first step into new life. Our responsibility is to be true to our spiritual father first and foremost. Everything else will follow suit as long as we are faithful with that responsibility.

I believe that Jesus was very uncomfortable in the world, he constantly went to the mountains, or other secluded spots by himself to "get away from it all" and pray. He had a discontentment in his spirit that was given to him by God. He also wasn't very nice to his own mother and brothers when they came to visit him on one occassion, choosing to continue addressing the crowd, rather than step aside quietly for a little family time. He said, "Those that do the will of my Father are my mother and brothers" (Mark 3:31-35). Jesus seemed to be interested in destroying the family ties we have in our minds, and in our lives; in order that we might love all equally. Ironically, he seemed determined to take the Focus OFF of the Family, saying instead that family ties are more lasting on a spiritual level. Some famlies are spiritual, and do serve and follow Christ before the potential disciple is called. These families offer encouragement, support, and the example that we need to see how real this faith is.

The real issue is whether we will be willing to give up everything we have in this world for the sake of responding to God's invitation. The test before us is to keep God as God of our lives, and not as a separate, distant ruler figure (that might be ignored). Nothing and no one should ever come between us and God.

Luke 14: 16-24

"A certain man was preparing a big dinner. He invited many guests. Then the day of the dinner arrived. He sent his servant to those who had been invited. The servant told them, 'Come. Everything is ready now.'

"But they all had the same idea. They began to make excuses. The first one said, 'I have just bought a field. I have to go and see it. Please excuse me.'

"Another said, 'I have just bought five pairs of oxen. I'm on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.'

"Still another said, 'I just got married, so I can't come.'

"The servant came back and reported this to his master.

"Then the owner of the house became angry. He ordered his servant, 'Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the town. Bring in those who are poor. Also bring those who can't walk, the blind and the disabled.'

" 'Sir,' the servant said, 'what you ordered has been done. But there is still room.'

"Then the master told his servant, 'Go out to the roads. Go out to the country lanes. Make the people come in. I want my house to be full. I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my dinner.' "

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Purpose of Christ, and the Gospel he shared.

When preaching the famous beatitudes, Jesus said to those who were following and listening to him:
‘You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.
This was a prophecy to all who would claim to follow him at that time and in the future. Salt is not just a seasoning, it's a great preservative used throughout history (which sometimes meant the difference between life and death if the salt went bad). I believe Christ used the analogy of salt as a warning to preserve the integrity of what we are called to be. Failing to do so doesn't just diminish our worth, it makes us completely worthless. Unfortunately, Jesus gave a lot of warnings and words of caution that seem to have fallen on deaf ears.

However, there is no reason for average church goers to lose hope. It is not too late to reexamine the guidance and caution that Jesus gave to us, for as long as it is called "today", we can shake out of our religious comfort zones, and really apply ourselves to the commands of our faith. I believe the guilt is in the leaders who are charged with preserving the faith, not in those who have been led astray. If someone has been offered light, but has never been led completely from the darkness, it is still possible for them to find the light, and become transformed by it. For God does not desire the destruction of the wicked, but desires that all might come to repentance and do what is good in His sight. Demonstrating our obedience to the commands of Christ can be done at any time, and will always be accepted. God demonstrates his mercy to us by every day that does not end in Judgment. The catch is this: God cannot and will not change the terms of repentance, or the rules of his the same time he will not fail to meet us if we turn ourselves to face Him.

I believe if people (in their flesh) try to redefine the terms of grace, the definition and duration of repentance, and the message we are called to share, they become the salt that loses it's savor. Though they might use the same Christian terms, and act as if they believed, they are worthless to Christ and to those who would feed off their teachings. They will be "trampled underfoot" (or overcome by the "feet" of the body of Christ).

It's really amazing how the Organized Christian system works: how thousands of different people can work together, building religious empires, recruiting millions of followers on behalf of a man whom they themselves know very little about. Traditions and assumptions have replaced the raw, and powerful message that started this faith in the first place. Churches have used the K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid) method to compete for new recruits, and to maintain full pews.

Most modern pastors don't preach messages that will anger their rich members (though there is plenty that Jesus said on that subject). If they encounter scriptures that warn against the sort of war crimes and selfishness that the republican party endorses, they'll probably preach on something else. There are exceptions to this rule, thank God, but many pastors act this way because their incomes depend on an active and happy congregation. They work so hard at maintaining their flocks (and their livelihoods), at not rocking the boat, and preaching things that they think their congregations want to hear, that they have lost track of the very heart and soul of Christianity. To prove my point, I'm going to explore what should be a very basic and obvious question about America's most popular faith.

What was the purpose of Christ on earth?

The most tempting scripture to use in answering that question is John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life". This verse is true, and it's a great promise, but it's not the be-all end-all answer. Many trained evangelicals will say that the purpose of Christ on earth was simply to die on the cross as a price for our sins. While this is common Christian knowledge, it's not a complete answer, or even the correct answer, according to Jesus himself.
Luke 4:42-44
At daybreak he departed (the town of Capernaum) and went into a deserted place. And the crowds were looking for him; and when they reached him, they wanted to prevent him from leaving them. But he said to them, "I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose." So he continued proclaiming the message in the synagogues of Judea.
The purpose of Christ while on Earth was to preach the gospel (good news) of the kingdom of God. Jesus went out of his way to include the words "kingdom of God" when speaking of the good news, because there is power in his message, and the enemy of God will do whatever he can to disconnect us from that power. He knew there would be something less-than-complete, calling itself the gospel after he returned to heaven, because the church would be buried in assumptions and traditions for two thousand years before being resurrected. He knew there had to be clues for the last days people to find in the scripture. These people are not a part of the established church, just as new wine is not going to fill an old wine skin. But by the spirit they are being led to see through the facade, and Jesus knew we would need to be able to find out exactly what has gone missing from the gospel. Jesus said nothing carelessly. Every single word that comes from the mouth of the Logos (word) of God is deliberate, so that we might be able to go to the scriptures and validate what he is revealing by the spirit.

Even though millions assume it is their Christian duty to preach the gospel (good news) about Jesus; the truth is that all followers of Christ are called and commanded to imitate Christ, and by doing that, we must preach the same good news that he preached, as well as the good news about him. We cannot exclude either part from what is classically called "the Gospel", they both must be preserved and shared. That is how we obey Christ, that is how we love Christ, and that is how we can receive the promises of Christ. Thankfully, you don't have to take my word for it, when Christ is describing the end of days in Matthew 24:14, he says this:
"And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come."
The gospel is not just John 3:16, and Romans 5:8, and all of the other verses that talk about how our sins will be covered and we will be saved from the fires of hell. The Gospel is the promise made by God to us all time and time again about his coming Kingdom right here on Earth.

The Gospel of the Kingdom is weaved all throughout the scriptures. It is in the Psalms and in Proverbs, it is foretold by the Prophets, and Moses, and God Himself... In Genesis and Revelation...everywhere. It is precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little, there a little. There is no one verse or sentence that can contain the wonder of the mystery of the Kingdom Gospel. To be able to share it, we must faithfully make the ongoing effort to study the scriptures for ourselves; seeking in them clues and explanations of this coming Kingdom. No matter where you turn, you will be close to a message about the kingdom, because that is literally the cornerstone of Judaism, and Christianity (though it has been rejected by the builders). It was a message that Christ himself learned, and then shared for the rest of his life. When he was 12, he was giving full grown priests a run for their money because of his knowledge of the scriptures. To get this knowledge takes study, and dedication. We must all follow Jesus' footsteps in this regard, as in others, if we are to be prepared for what is still to come. By imitating him and by knowing what is promised, we will be able to overcome Babylon.

I would love to hear different verses that readers come across that refer to the kingdom. It really amazed me when I first discovered how much this message saturates the scriptures.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Confidence In God's Promises

Today, I'd like to focus on a couple of concepts: 1. the boldness of God's promises, and 2.the sabbath rest of the kingdom of Christ.

Hebrews 3:5-6

Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that would be spoken later. Christ, however, was faithful over God’s house as a son, and we are his house if we hold firm the confidence and the pride that belong to hope.
When Israel was led from Egypt through the Red Sea, to Sinai, and onwards to Jordan, God demonstrated his power and provision to them time after time. They should have been filled to the brim with confidence in their God, but when they got to the edge of the promised land, and found out that the Canaanites were giants (around 20 ft tall), they lost heart. However, two out of the twelve spies that were sent into the land (Caleb and Joshua) had confidence and pride which belonged to their hope in God's promises, and God blessed them for their bravery by letting them lead the way into the promised land 40 years later. All the rest of Israel was sentenced to wander and die in the wilderness, forbidden access because of their unbelief. I am convinced this story is a type and shadow of the gospel of the Kingdom.

The Kingdom of God on earth is the same as Caanan (the promised land), all of Christ's followers and believers are like the children of Israel, still in the wilderness. The world is like the giants of Canaan, enjoying the fruits of this planet which are destined for God's kingdom. We must believe that the Lord God will make good on his promise to manifest his Kingdom on earth, the same way that he made good on his promise to deliver the Canaanites into the hands of Israel. As long as we are faithful, obedient, confident and responsive to God's call, we will see 1000 years of peace on Earth under Christ, as spoken of in Revelation.

According to scripture ( in 2 Peter, and elsewhere), 1000 years is as one day to the Lord, and one day is as 1000 years. I believe that this present millennium is a Sabbath, and contains the promised Sabbath "Rest" that is openly discussed in the passage below. It is important for us to study the promises of the kingdom so we can know what to look for, and how to prepare. We have to know what's been promised, so we can decide if we believe, and open our hearts to let ourselves believe. Nobody can believe what they haven't been told, or shown. This passage really spoke to me today, I hope it speaks to you as well.

Hebrews 3:7-4:13
Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,
‘Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
as on the day of testing in the wilderness,
where your ancestors put me to the test,
though they had seen my works for forty years.
Therefore I was angry with that generation,
and I said, “They always go astray in their hearts,
and they have not known my ways.”
As in my anger I swore,
“They will not enter my rest.” ’

Take care, brothers and sisters, that none of you may have an evil, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today’, so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partners of Christ, if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end. As it is said,
‘Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.’

Now who were they who heard and yet were rebellious? Was it not all those who left Egypt under the leadership of Moses? But with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, if not to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.

Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest is still open, let us take care that none of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For indeed the good news came to us just as to them; but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said,
‘As in my anger I swore,
“They shall not enter my rest” ’,
though his works were finished at the foundation of the world. For in one place it speaks about the seventh day as follows: ‘And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.’ And again in this place it says, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’ Since therefore it remains open for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he sets a certain day—‘today’—saying through David much later, in the words already quoted,

‘Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts.’

For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not speak later about another day. So then, a sabbath rest still remains for the people of God; for those who enter God’s rest also cease from their labours as God did from his. Let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one may fall through such disobedience as theirs.

Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Getting Back to the Basics of Christianity.

So far this has been a really bad millennium for Christianity. The established church has been put to a very serious spiritual test in Bush's war on terrorism, and it has largely failed. In America, the "religious right" claimed back in 2000 that God appointed George Bush to be president, and that he would lead our nation into a Christian utopia. That's what he promised, after all, and since Bush publicly (and regularly) confessed that Jesus was his Lord and Savior, that meant to them that he wouldn't lie.

Right from the start, a huge chunk of voters and heavy-hitting evangelical ministers lined themselves faithfully behind Bush, and vowed to support him through thick and thin, come what may. In the past year or so, some have started to reconsider that vow, but most have just buried themselves in their political trenches, seeing reasonable arguments as attacks. They refuse to face reality, and are still defiantly on the wrong course. Bush regularly held conferences with high ranking ministers all throughout his presidency. He calmed down on the religious rhetoric significantly in his second term, but still played the faith card when he thought it would be useful. For instance, he had Homeland Security devise a plan for ministers to preach on Romans 13, and encourage their congregations to obey the government if martial law were declared.

Bush and the Religious right were thick as thieves. And yet the past eight years have been some of the most scandalous, corrupt, and merciless years in our nations history. Billions of people outside of the evangelical "fold" have suffered tremendously because of the horrible mismanagement, and devious fixation on vengeance that has led America until very recently. The whole world is now suffering some of the consequences that were lined up by this bad, foolish leadership. What's more, there's a greater price to pay ahead of us if we don't slam on the brakes and really start to take our planet and our behavior seriously. And what has happened is not simply George Bush's fault. The blame belongs to all of the "yes" men who surrounded him during his rule, all of those who could have spoken up, but didn't. This includes many of the most influential spiritual leaders in America. How could this have happened? I know that the course we took over the past eight years has run completely contrary to the basic principles of Christianity...How do I know this? Because I read the Bible, and it spells these things out over and over again. But yet, supposed "Christians" have been setting this course in action, and holding all of the power as we went astray. Are we in the twilight zone?

The "church" of the Bible is a very different creature from what we see on almost every street corner in some towns. In the early days of the church, the Holy Spirit and great blessings of God flowed through all. Everybody worked together, providing for the needs of one another. People remembered that heavenly treasures mattered so much more than any wealth on earth. Many rich people who converted also went on to give all of their possessions to the poor, and the poor were honored. It's all in the book of Acts. Nowadays, with the gospel of prosperity, many Christians truly see their possessions as blessings from God, and many of them hate the idea of their taxes being used on welfare for the poor. Plus the Holy Ghost is mostly a legend.

If you are not a Christian, I can understand why, and I believe Jesus would understand why as well. He knew there would be a lot of people who believe they know him, but don't at all. Jesus has become little more than hell insurance to millions. Christianity was always meant to be much more than what we're selling it as. A recent poll showed that the number of Americans who call themselves "Christian" is down 5%. What's more, while the number of Evangelical Christians is rising, the number of denominational, (or traditional) Christians is dropping off significantly. Why is this? What's the difference between the two?

Traditional Christianity is less emotionally appealing than the evangelical brand, but yet it's more enriching; it is not as politically charged (or in some cases, has stood in opposition to the Bush trajectory); it requires much more personal involvement, and provides far fewer easy answers (at the same time, it is weighed down by age). Evangelicalism draws people by their heart strings, promises to give them great musical entertainment each week, joke-strewn sermons full of spiritual milk, (or worse, the "gospel of Prosperity"). Church has become a great social activity, a well integrated part of the modern world. That's exactly why it's in serious trouble.

Paul and the apostles knew that if they, and future generations weren't careful, they would lose their anointing, and become harmless to their enemies. That's why the Bible has many warnings, and quotes like, "Do not conform to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds". They knew what human nature would lead to, and here we are, just under 2000 years after the death of Christ, the natural result of human nature and faith. The history of the church is a blood-soaked embarrassment, and the recent power enjoyed by several Christian leaders of America has only led the world to the brink of collapse and destruction (through either warfare, the economy, or the environment...take your pick).

Those who follow Christ are in a really bad situation right now, or so it would seem. The wonderful truth is that there is a spiritual awakening taking place in certain people, even as the wheels start to fall off of the Babylonian (or world) system. God is composing events, completely engaged and involved in the world, yet still operating behind the scenes. This awakening is in some ways still underground, because the kingdom of God has not yet been established. But that time is coming, and nothing will stop it.

If the millions of people who practice the cheap, selfish, heartless version of evangelical Christianity call themselves "believers", then the awakened Christians would be "followers" of Christ. James tells us that faith without works is dead, and that is true. If you believe, and yet do not follow the commands, instructions, and guidance of Jesus, you are still in your sins. The "believers" are the established Christian power. They are very similar to the kingdom of Saul. But God's chosen followers are like the anointed David: underground, renegade, but blessed of God, and destined to enter Zion. I will be writing more about that specific comparison sometime soon, but in the meanwhile, I recommend reading 1 and 2 Samuel. There are patterns throughout scriptures: all peices of the same puzzle, working together to form a marvelous big picture.

The basics of Christianity are simple, including but not limited to the following:

Love your neighbor, Love God and follow his instructions (no matter what). Be merciful, generous, kind and selfless. (That's a very hefty burden in modern America). Seek out the kingdom of God: try to find out what it is, what it will be, and how it's supposed to come about. Remember that there can be no real rest for the world until the kingdom comes, and believe that God will use all who hope to be used to bring it about. Remember it is never the power of the person that makes a miracle, but the power of the God behind that person. Read the Bible for yourself, don't take anyone's word for it. Remember we are all on trial right now, so don't be a harsh judge. Thank God.