Is Your Faith Growing in ‘Church?’

Forget about the doctrinal disputes among religion for a minute. Go to any church in America, and probably in most Western nations, and you’ll find they are all pretty much the same: Platform up front, pews, chairs or theater seats down in the auditorium/sanctuary. Sometimes there’s an altar up front. There will be religious icons around in the form of stain glass windows, sculptures or pictures.

The place you go is also recognized as a non-profit (non-prophet?) CORPORATION. That’s right. Churches in America are corporations.

The pastoral staff, elders, whatever they call themselves, are the “professional” Christians who are in charge of the corporation that tells the “lay people” or the customers what Christianity really means.

The church staff mirrors a corporation in many respects. There is one “senior” pastor, or a head bishop, who oversees the location, hires the staff and attracts and retains membership.

Those who attend will look up to the pastor as the authority on all things Biblical. Questioning the pastor is frowned upon and will result in marginalizing the person who attempts this, and possibly the removal of the offending ‘heretic.’

I was thinking about this a lot as I’ve been studying the writings of Menno Simons (the Anabaptist theologian from the early 1500s). Much of what he wrote still applies today, though it wouldn’t be limited to the Romans, Lutherans and Zwinglians.

Then I came across this YouTube video pointing out, Scripturally, the very same issue. It’s 20 minutes, but it’s well done and on-point.



I don’t know the YouTuber personally. I’ve watched two and a half of his videos. But, he is exactly right in his indictment of the “system” of church as we know it.

The Roman church in the 1500s was a powerful Church/State system that held people’s eternal condition in its filthy hands. When Luther began the reformation, it shook that power. Luther probably assumed he would die for his rebuke of the Church.

But then, he backed off and endorsed the System, which still held the power over the blasphemous infant baptism and the mockery of the Lord’s Supper (embodied in what is known as Transubstantiation, or the idea that the bread and wine are made into the actual body and blood of Christ as the priest holds them up).

Today, people still believe that baptism must be done by a pastor or priest to hold any weight. And that cuts across from the infant baptizers to those who practice believer baptism (though not all, just by consensus). Many believe that the Lord’s Supper, or Communion, holds some magical properties when administered at church by a pastor or priest. When I grew up, I was warned about eating the crackers or drinking the wine after the service for fear that I’d be violating the sanctity of the communion bread and making light of the Lord’s Supper!

How absurd! Have we had the teachings of Christ so long and we still elevate rituals and other humans among us so that we blaspheme the Lord?

Taking communion in an unworthy manner means pretending to commune with Christ as his brother while being outside of faith and a traitor like Judas.

Communion is more than unleavened bread and grape juice. Anyone can eat that. But if an unbeliever seeks to blend in with the Lord’s sheep and enter into the intimate communion with the Lord, they are being Judas and it would be better if they had never been born!

The true Pastor, King, High Priest is Christ. He is the Good Shepherd who guides his flock. He is the Groom that prepares His Bride (the ecclesia, the true, spiritual Israel).

Some are appointed Apostles, teachers, prophets…we all have talents. But none of us are to “lord it over another” like the world does. We are not to have corporations of professional Christians as opposed to the unprofessional masses. All of Christ’s purchased souls are Saints in a Holy Priesthood. We have no need of any other instructor outside of the Holy Spirit and God’s Word.

We should all be seeking the truth and exhorting each other from Scripture. We should wrestle with questions and help each other through it. But we should never believe something because some human with a degree said so.

Doctrine vs. Repentance – Which is more important?

Doctrine camps can be like the border battle of ‘The’ Ohio State vs. University of Michigan, or the Vikings vs. the Packers, or the Bears vs. everyone! Folks will break fellowship and refuse the salsa dip over these things. But here’s a question to ponder — Is doctrine really the biggest issue? Are you collecting all the “facts,” or growing your faith?

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What is the Cry of Your Life?

“The cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great.” This was what the Lord told Abraham as they looked out over the valley, past the still waters of the Dead Sea to the lush, quiet cities of the plain. As the sun set in the west, casting it’s long, warm shadows against the sturdy walls and gentle rooftops, illuminating the stately palm trees that rose from amid the buildings, Abraham might have asked, “what cry?”

Creation itself groans under the weight of human rebellion against God. But, each life sends up a cry, betraying the self-satisfied pleasure each one feels in committing both macro and micro evils. What that means is that we may not be committing murder (macro), but we still show hatred, or outbursts of anger (micro). We may not rob a bank (macro), but we rob another’s virtue through gossip (micro).

Each one of our lives cries out to God, alerting him to our sin though we have tried to cover ourselves with leaves and have hidden from His sight.

The cry of the oppressed, the down trodden – the victims of human violence and lust. The cry of the maiden, the wife, and the child. These were the cries which had entered into the ears of the Lord God of Sabaoth. And each sin has a cry. “The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto Me” and it will go on crying; unless it is silenced by the yet greater voice of the blood of Christ “which speaketh better things. –F.B. Meyer

Our sin cries out to God, betraying our guilt. No amount of good work or religious leaves will cover our shame and nakedness. Only the sacrifice of Christ can cover it.

What is the cry of your life? Do you have Christ speaking louder on your behalf?

What is the Sabbath and do I keep it?

Two phrases stand out as the most discouraging things Jesus said: “Have I been with you so long…” (John 14:9) and “how long am I to be with you…?” (Matt. 17:17, Mark 9:21, Luke 9:41–granted, all of those references refer to the same incident).

In each case, we might read the words with a tone of exasperation. After all, he was teaching the disciples, but they didn’t seem to get the overall theme. He multiplied the bread and fish, but in another instance, they didn’t look to him for food. He taught them that he was their teacher and they were all brothers. But they argued about who would be the greatest in the kingdom. He taught that his kingdom was not like those of this world, but they continued to think he would overthrow Rome.

Anyone would be frustrated if their followers didn’t get the message. But Jesus wasn’t just anyone. He is fully God and fully man. He lived with every temptation common to each of us, yet without sin.

I believe his words were filled with patience and longing. Like when someone is trying to explain something wonderful, and eagerly anticipates the moment the listener discovers that ah-ha moment.

“Have I been with you so long…?” “Don’t you see?”

In Mark chapter 2 we see Jesus answering a common question from the religious leaders: Why are you and your disciples doing work on the Sabbath?

For the Jewish people, they had rituals and religious observations that they kept, well, religiously. The seventh day was a day of rest! No argument.

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” (Exodus 20:8). Again, “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:11).

Well, actually, there was plenty of argument. What did work mean? What if this? What if that? How about when it lands on Leap Year?

The real irony is that they actually made the day of rest into another “work” to keep them holy.

This makes me think of a period when I was a kid. We were told that we couldn’t change out of our church clothes or play outside on Sunday (because some Christians don’t get Jesus’ teaching, either, if you believe that! And that we changed the Sabbath to Sunday because Jesus was raised on the first day of the week).  So, for a while, we’d sit around reading books and making sure we didn’t play too hard on Sunday. And we’d keep clear of clothes that might imply we were getting ready to play (or work).

Later, we decided that the best way to rest might be to change into clothes that allowed us more comfort.

As I grew up, I struggled with this. We are to obey God’s word. Not just the parts that are easy. The commandments include, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” (Exodus 20:8). Again, “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:11).

“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27-28).

There are 28 verses in the books of the Law talking about the Sabbath and the requirement that none among the people of Israel should do any work.

One of those passages was somewhat quoted by the ruler of the synagogue in Luke 13:14 when he tried to keep people from being healed by Jesus on the Sabbath!

This came up a lot. The pharisees didn’t like Jesus’ disciples picking grain on the Sabbath. They didn’t like Jesus healing on the Sabbath. They didn’t like Jesus, frankly. They saw him as a rival to their authority over the people. And the Sabbath violations were a perfect scandal headline for their endless indictments against the Lord.

Stop and think about that for a minute. Someone is healing incurable diseases, casting out demons, restoring people’s mobility … and these religious leaders say, “If you’re going to do something supernaturally wonderful, make sure it’s on Sunday through Friday, not on Saturday, buddy!”


I’d be tempted, and might just fail in responding with more than just exasperation. I’d throw in some sarcasm. But, God’s working on me with that flaw.

Jesus didn’t have that sin. He responded patiently. He sought to teach the leaders.

He told them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27-28).

What does this mean? Jesus is the lord of the Sabbath … does that mean he gets to decide who observes it and when? Is he above the Law? This was probably what the Pharisees thought he meant.

But there’s a deeper meaning. Think way back to Genesis and the first Sabbath. God had completed creation. He narrates this to Moses in six days, describing the work in terms we’d understand. When the word was complete, He rested.

This is a pattern for us. It is good to rest from our work. We shouldn’t work continuously or we’ll get sick!

And, like we all know, sometimes we need to be forced to take a vacation. For our own good, someone might tell us, “It’ll wait till Monday. Go home.”

That’s a pretty neat meaning. Take some rest. But what about the part in the Law that we are to remember it and keep it holy? And why the emphasis on the Sabbath day in such detail? Couldn’t God have just said, “take a break! Trust me!”

Granted, God didn’t need to rest after creating the cosmos, spacetime and the planets and all living creatures, microbes and atoms. He doesn’t grow tired.

We do.

But that’s not why God created the Law of the Sabbath. There was something that all parts of the Law pointed toward that He wanted us to remember. Something far more important than taking a little vay-cay.

What was this thing that God wanted us to remember and keep close to our hearts? Why does this commandment rest within the 5 commandments that relate to our relationship to God? What’s the meaning here?

The writer of Hebrews points this out: “So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whosoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from His.” (Hebrews 4:9-10).

How do we enter God’s rest? It is through repentance and faith in Jesus as the completer of our redemption by His work on the cross and resurrection from the dead. Remember Jesus’ last words on the cross? “It is finished!”

Jesus completed the work of redemption for the world on the cross. Those who believe in Him as savior enter by faith into God’s rest, never to need to work the various requirements of the Law. The Law and the Prophets were fulfilled by Jesus. He did it all for us.

He is the Lord of the Sabbath not because He selectively enforces the law, but because He completed His work and we all enter a perpetual rest with Him.

For the Christian, every day is the Sabbath day because we no longer have a list of requirements to please God. We no longer have sacrifices to bring, or washings and fastings to observe. If you don’t have your males circumcised on the 8th day after birth, you’re fine! No infant baptisms, either. And believer baptism is not a requirement of salvation, either (it’s an act of obedience to Jesus’ words). Communion, too, is not a “work” that we must do to receive the grace of God, as many teach from the pulpit (to their own judgment). The grape juice and crackers are not the body and blood of Christ. They are bread and juice. The fool who holds them and tells you they changed is a bald-faced liar.

We who have been completed in Christ’s work, having claimed that work by our faith (which is also a gift of God) are filled with the new wine (the Holy Spirit) and no longer need the pots of water for ceremonial washing. Jesus launched His ministry at a wedding, performing His first miracle of changing the water to wine. And it was the most amazing wine anyone had ever tasted.

Jesus will conclude all things of this earth at a wedding. It will be the marriage of Him with His people, the spiritual Israel, His congregation, his bride!

We’ve been called out of the old system of rituals that pointed toward Him and we embrace Him alone. He is the sign and substance of our New Covenant. He has purchased us completely out of this world.

We are at rest. We no longer observe new moons, sabbaths or other festivals. They mean nothing.



Can Anyone Enter The Narrow Gate?

19, 10, 18, 24, 25, 25. No, that’s not my high-school locker combination. Those are the chapters and verses in Matthew, Mark and Luke that record one of the more popular illustrations that Jesus gave:

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.

I’ve heard that the “eye of the needle” referred to a gate in the city that wouldn’t allow a camel to pass when it had all its baggage on it. Allegedly, the camel would have to be unloaded, get on its knees and then crawl through.

I’m thinking the illustration is more imagination than fact. The meaning is actually worse than the fanciful explanation: No one can enter the kingdom of God through their riches, either moral or monetary. Let’s look at the context.

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Ignorance is the New Sin: How Modern Heresy Works

I was shocked when Ted Dekker, a well-known Christian author–son of missionaries to Indonesia–ripped off the mask to reveal himself as a prophet of Baal.

I’ve written about it here for part 1 and here for part 2. Like all heretics, he declares that he received an audible-yet-not-audible word directly from God telling him to forget everything he knows about God and embrace the new way that God was going to reveal to him.

There’s a long list of people who will have similar stories. Some are more heretical than others, but they all bring strange fire before the Almighty. They all claim to have a New Way that nobody knows about. For Ted, it’s the ‘Forgotten Way.’ And it can be yours, for as low as …

Funny how that works. I’m fairly certain that Moses, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Peter, Paul, and John never charged for their inspired works. How times have changed.

I continue to see Ted–in unrepentant fashion–promote his new cult. Here’s a quote:

Why are people leaving churches? We’ve lost sight of the power found in our true identity as the light which manifests in a radical love without which all else is found worthless, as Paul wrote. Ignorant of who we are, our own self-limiting beliefs sabotage us and keep us in darkness every day. But that can change today. Watch this eye-opening 2 minute video and see the only problem Christians face today. You don’t have a light. You ARE the light.

Good marketing always tells people what they want to believe.

This pill will shed all your excess fat without any exercise or special diet! 

Drinking beer will make you popular and sexy!

Drive this car and you’ll command respect from everyone around you! 

Wear this bracelet and you’ll have energy all day! 

You can write a novel in 3 days if you follow these two simple steps! 

I think we’ve all seen these types of things. The Superbowl is coming up and we’ll laugh, we’ll cry, we’ll … buy. We even know that it’s pure marketing, but we still really, really want to believe it.

Same with what Ted’s selling. It’s actually no different than what Rob Bell advanced in his book, Love Wins. The premise is that our ignorance of God’s love is our ‘hell’ or ‘darkness.’

Rob says that everyone is a child of God and are already in His family. They simply choose to leave, like the prodigal son. Or, like the older brother, when the prodigal’s father throws a party upon the younger son’s return, everyone is at God’s ‘party,’ though some create a ‘hell’ for themselves because they allow envy to get in the way of experiencing the Father’s love.

Ted’s doing exactly the same thing: Our ‘ignorance’ of ‘who we are’ is ‘keeping us in darkness.’

But that’s not the most startling thing. He goes on to say who we are is The Light.

You don’t have a light. You ARE the light.

Who knew?

Ted rips this from Luke 16:8, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.”

Context is key. Just like Mr. Bell can offer a plausible twist to parables and other verses to support his universalism, so does Ted.

The context of Luke is the testimony of the believer. If we turn to John 8:12, Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Again in John 9:5, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

John the Baptist was sent as a forerunner to testify to the ‘light that shines in the darkness.’ John 1:5-8.

Ted and Rob’s message to the world is the same: We’re ignorant of who we are and we need to simply ‘wake up.’ In fact, that’s the title of Ted’s e-book promo for his Forgotten Way study. Once we let go of our “self-limiting beliefs,” we will be free to experience God the way we are meant to.

This message is appealing because it comes packaged in terms our culture loves. It’s a ‘cleanse,’ as if we need to clean out the toxins that have polluted us. Evidently, orthodox theology is one of those toxins!

It’s easy! 12 days, or 20, or 30, or, gasp, 40. Those are always the quick 12-step-program words that promise we’ll be kicked into high spiritual gear!

Do this study and in 20 days you’ll be experiencing heaven on earth, here and now! 

What if you could take a simple spiritual cleanse to free you from all the negative thoughts and beliefs that are keeping you from experiencing life to the fullest?–Ted Dekker

Sign me up! I don’t want to wait! I want my milk and cookies now!

It also appeals to us because we all crave acceptance, but we loath repentance. We desire love, but hate truth that allows intimacy.

Ted and Rob’s version of the gospel offers a mirage of love. It’s actually more like infatuation, or puppy love. It’s self-centered and experience-based. It sits and dreams of an image of our ‘loved one,’ but knows that when we get to know the actual person, things will fall apart.

Hence the term “fall out of love.”

I thank God that His version of love is not this insipid, gooey Valentine’s Day box of chocolate love. God didn’t send us a glittery, cheesy card with Hallmark sentiments.

No, He sent His Son, Jesus Christ who had to bear the weight of our sinful rebellion against the demands of God’s Righteousness. It was a burden you and I could not carry or pay. Not in a thousand lifetimes could we compensate for the offense against an eternal God.

Puppy love knows nothing of the demands of true Love. Puppy love doesn’t look at our sinfulness and die to redeem us from it!

This is why it can be so sugary-sweet and then so desperately empty. It’s the donut compared to the true meal. We may prefer the pastry, but our bodies will waste away.

True Love required a heavy price. True Love depended on God, not us. For He loved us while we were still in open rebellion to Him. Romans 5:8.

Love demands we turn from our sin and make Jesus our Lord because he bought us on the cross. Love will then show itself in our obedience to Him, as our Lord.

Dekker references “radical love,” as evidence that we’ve found our true identity as “the light.” His version of love, however, doesn’t cross paths with obedience. It simply “holds no account of wrong,” and is the genial non-judgmental acceptance of everyone.

This is where heresy gets it’s power. It sometimes has 90% truth to it. It’s true that we must forgive those who sin against us. We are to turn the other cheek. We are to go two miles when someone compels us to go one. We are to love our enemies. We are to do good to those who hurt us and despitefully use us.

But, how are we to love them? Though we don’t strike back, but turn the other cheek, we should wonder, why do they keep striking us? Why would they be enemies to us if we go extra miles and love them?

Because, what we love more than the acceptance of our fellow man is the acceptance of God. And God calls us to run the race, put to death the things of the flesh, and grow the fruit of the spirit through obedience to Him.

Paul compared his spiritual life to an athlete in severe training, working his body so that he’d find favor from God at the end of his course. He’d rather die than deny his Lord through disobedience or hypocrisy.

We are to hold every thought captive to God. Each attitude must be passed under God’s gaze to burn away our self-life (pride, selfishness, greed, envy, etc.).

The Christian life is not about letting go our ignorance or our ‘self-limiting beliefs.’ It’s about putting to death the works of the flesh.

Apart from Christ, and His life within us, we most certainly are not the light.

Dressing Up The Simple Gospel Is Death

God has impossible demands that no one can meet! God wants perfection, but that’s not me. I’m tired of all the judgment and the rules. I can’t do anything right, so I guess I’m just going to unplug and do my own thing!

That’s the response many have to Christianity. And it happens because they have not seen the beauty of the Gospel, which is filled with Grace from an incredibly loving God.  Continue reading →