Thursday, December 31, 2009
Father when I wander
Make that land a barren desert
Provide me with no relief
Let the sun scorch me,
May the thirst crush me,
Allow me to feed only on sand
For it is when my feet are burned
And I can no longer walk
And my tongue has dried,
And I can no longer speak
That my heart will cry out to You,
My God my Savior my King
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Parishes across the nation are participating by holding classes also called "Catholics Come Home" which are designed to reinforce the content of the adds, the historicity of the church and overcoming evangelical objections.
Monday, December 28, 2009
"Nearly 100 years ago, utilizing Bible prophecy and with strong faith in God, Pastor Russell foresaw: technology that would instantly spread knowledge and information to everyone on earth; global warming with melting polar ice caps;.."Impressive? Hhhmmm Well he also falsely predicted the end of the world a number of times. He canonized a pyramid. He believed germs, rabies vaccines and some operations to be hoaxes. He had a terrible fear of aluminum, science and doctors He constantly misinterpreted the scriptures and deceived his followers with scams like "miracle wheat." So no... not really.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
For Christians, Christmas is a celebration of God the Father, in love, sending us the gift of his one and only son into the darkness of this sin-ridden world in order to be crushed for our iniquity. And as much as it is a demonstration of his love and mercy, it is also the greatest testimony to the sinfulness of sin that one could imagine. If we really want to know how far we have fallen, one only needs to look at the price that was paid for our redemption.So I keep seeing status posts flying around on Facebook about Keeping Christ in Christmas and "It's Merry Christmas, not Happy Holidays," etc, etc. This made me wonder, aside from joining these groups and making these statements, do we do anything throughout the rest of the year that makes the world think that Jesus is, in fact, all that important to us? The rest of the year, do you celebrate who He is and what He did, or do you use his name as a curse word whenever the feeling arises? Do you think about Him, read what He said, DO what He commands? Do you love what He loves and hate what He hates? Do you complain that your kids can't sing Christmas songs and then not give a second thought to the rest of the year and what they're taught in school? Are you upset that they can't worship the Savior or is it just that they can't talk about Santa? If you want the world to respect you wanting to keep Christ in Christmas, how about keeping Christ in your life throughout the whole year?
But for those who reject Christ, for those who treat lightly his birth and sacrifice, perhaps we should not be wishing them "Merry Christmas." Perhaps it would be better to share the story in all its detail so that instead of a "Merry Christmas," God would grant them a "repentant Christmas." A Christmas where their hearts are broken and their lives are changed.by the gift of faith in the Savior who we celebrate.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
The other parts can be found here.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
"The loneliness of the Christian results from his walk with God in an ungodly world, a walk that must often take him away from the fellowship of good Christians as well as from that of the unregenerate world. His God-given instincts cry out for companionship with others of his kind, others who can understand his longings, his aspirations, his absorption in the love of Christ; and because within his circle of friends there are so few who share his inner experiences he is forced to walk alone.
The unsatisfied longings of the prophets for human understanding caused them to cry out in their complaint, and even our Lord Himself suffered in the same way.
The man [or woman] who has passed on into the divine Presence in actual inner experience will not find many who understand him. He finds few who care to talk about that which is the supreme object of his interest, so he is often silent and preoccupied in the midst of noisy religious shoptalk. For this he earns the reputation of being dull and over-serious, so he is avoided and the gulf between him and society widens.
He searches for friends upon whose garments he can detect the smell of myrrh and aloes and cassia out of the ivory palaces, and finding few or none he, like Mary of old, keeps these things in his heart.
It is this very loneliness that throws him back upon God. His inability to find human companionship drives him to seek in God what he can find nowhere else."
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Oh how I long for these verses to be as firmly planted and deeply rooted in my heart as they are in my mind. This is the lens through which I want to view everything, whether it be my pain or my pleasures, my joys or my struggles, my gains or my losses. There is nothing that I posses that is not ash in my hands nor any desire that is not ultimately and completely satisfied in Him.
28 But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge;
I will tell of all your deeds.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
I hope you are doing well, and at the same time I hope your computer crashes(;}-) "
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Thursday, November 19, 2009
“A holy man will follow after spiritual mindedness. He will endeavor to set his affections entirely on the things above, and to hold things on earth with a very loose hand. He will not neglect the business of this life now; but the first place in his mind and thoughts will be given to the life to come. He will aim to live like one whose treasure is in heaven, and to pass through this world like a stranger and pilgrim traveling to his home.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
"Preach the gospel, and if necessary use words."
Putting aside the fact that there is no real evidence that St. Francis ever actually spoke these words that were attributed to him by others long after his death, and putting aside the fact that he was a constantly preaching, and putting aside the fact that he was not shy when it came to speaking of sin, the need for repentance and faith I ask this question: Is this advice biblical, or does it merely tickle the narcissistic ear?
Romans 10:14 tell us of our need to speak to the lost:: "How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?
Are we to believe that the answer to this rhetorical question from Paul would be: "Well Paul, people are going to observe my goodness, and when they do they will repent and trust Jesus because they observed my goodness. Did I mention that people saw my goodness?"
So many of us struggle finding the courage to open our mouths with the lost about their desperate need for a Savior, but are we really helped by this quote? Are we encouraged to be bold witnesses for Christ by this quote? Or is it possible that the use of this quote could actually undermine a verse like Romans 10:14 by giving the impression that "speaking" about the things of God is of secondary importance. To borrow a line from Ray Comfort we would never say "feed the starving, and when necessary use food.’
Should people see Christ in us? Absolutely! But that in no way relieves us of our obligation to open our mouths saying, "if Christ can save a pitiful worm like me, He can save you too."
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Praising God today for the blessing of participating in my twelve year old daughter Katie's baptism. I praise God for the countless Christians in our lives, in her school, and in our church who have been so faithful to God and His word in teaching her, praying for her, challenging her and loving her. May God bless you all.
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
I had cut my hand one evening changing a tire on my car. It was just a little cut, maybe a quarter of an inch or less, and I thought nothing of it. When I woke up the next morning, it was very red and quite tender, but still I thought nothing of it. By lunch the spotty redness had moved up my arm and reached my elbow. I showed it to my coworker, and he took out a pen, drew a line where the redness had ended, told me to check it at the end of the day, and if it crept past the line, to stop at the doctor's office on the way home.
At the end of the day I checked the redness as he had told me to, and it had moved past the line, over my shoulder, and onto my chest and back. My coworker took one look at it and told me that he would drive me to the E.R., where the doctor looked at the streaky redness, asked me a couple of questions and then to my surprise told me I wasn't going to go home; he was calling a specialist and I would be there a couple of days.
As it turns out, that tiny cut somehow got infected. The infection had spread to my cells and my blood, and because a minor heart condition that I have, they were quite worried about the infection spreading to my heart. I remember the specialist telling me that he was going to start me on a high dose of I.V. antibiotics and we would have to wait and see what happened. He had no idea what the infection was or why it was spreading so fast and he wasn't exactly reassuring that everything would be all right. Despite all of this, I was absolutely at peace. I was newly saved, and I trusted Jesus completely no matter what the outcome was.
In the bed next to me was a man who had just had his foot amputated due to an out-of-control infection. The first night I was there he didn't speak much, but he did moan alot. The next morning we ended up talking quite a bit. He told me about his family and work and I told him about mine, and then almost out of nowhere he pointed to my bible sitting on a table next to my bed and he asked me "You're a pretty religious guy, aren't you?"
I replied "What makes you say that?" to which he quickly responded "You don't seem at all worried even though you're sitting next to a guy with no foot, you know they can't just cut your chest off... and you have a bible you've been reading."
It's a funny thing that he brought this up because the night before I was thinking about how well my cut illustrated the gospel. I used to think sin was no big deal, just like I thought the cut was no big deal. It had never crossed my mind that my little cut could lead to death if left untreated, just as it had never crossed my mind prior to being saved that my little sin could lead to death if left unresolved. In both cases I had no idea how serious my situation was until it was pointed out to me.
However, I never shared any of that with him. It wasn't because I was ashamed of my faith or afraid to be labeled a Jesus freak. What happened was this: As soon as he asked me the question, I had an overwhelming feeling that I was unworthy to speak about Jesus. At the time it was as if all of my past sins were being heaped upon me all at once and I thought to myself, "Why would God ever want to use a wretch like me to proclaim Him as Savior?" My mouth was all but shut. I had prayed and prayed that God would present me with opportunities to share the gospel. Now He had answered that prayer, given me a perfect opportunity and I failed with a capital 'F."
It bothered me for months that "I" had failed in faithfully proclaiming the gospel that day until I stopped wallowing in my failure and started looking for the lesson that God had intended to teach me through it.
What was the lesson you ask? There were several:
1: But for the grace of God I will never be worthy to share the gospel. I don't share the gospel because I am good or worthy, I share it because He is good and He is worthy.
2: "Feelings" are untrustworthy guides in and of themselves, and no matter what our feelings tell us, if it is contrary to what Jesus commands us to do (like sharing the gospel) they are to be ignored as He is Lord and they are not.
3: Feelings that are contrary to what God has said do not come from God. The adversary lies in wait for a chance to "sift us as wheat" as he did me that day. When he whispers in your ear who and what you were, quickly remind yourself who and what you are now, in Jesus Christ.
In John Chapter 4 Jesus meets the adulteress Samaritan woman at the well. He points out her sin, offers her living water and tells her that He is the Messiah. Now Jesus, who knew all things, knew how she would respond:
Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?" They came out of the town and made their way toward him. (John 4:28 to 30)
On Monday, a French court convicted the Church of Scientology on fraud charges stemming from complaints by two women. The judge in the case levied massive fines as punishment, fueling a long-running battle between and France, which considers the group a "sect" rather than a religion. The legal ruling is the latest in a string of recent setbacks for the star-studded organization. Here's a recap of what's taken place recently:
The judge in Paris ordered the Church of Scientology to pay a €600,000 fine (roughly US$900,000) and sentenced its French leader to two years in prison along with a €30,000 fine (US$44,000) for "organized fraud." One of the women involved in the complaint claimed that she was conned into spending over €20,000 (US$29,500) on vitamins and life-improvement courses after she took one of the stress tests the group is known for administering to prospective members. Another claimed that she was fired by her boss, a Scientologist, after she declined to complete initiation. France refuses to acknowledge the group as a religion and views it as a profit-generating commercial organization. Scientology has been highly scrutinized by the nation's authorities over the past decade for fraud and for making false claims to consumers, causing many to call for the Church of Scientology's ouster for allegedly posing a threat to "public order."
Reacting to the judge's ruling, Scientology spokesman said that the ruling violated the group's rights and that he expected it to be thrown out on appeal at a later date.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Saturday, October 17, 2009
In answering the question of whether or not organizational growth is an indication of God's favor or blessing the Watchtower of January 15th 2001 said the following:
But then just four months later in the May 15th 2001 issue they said:
"Of course, the number of those associated with Jehovah's Witnesses is not a criterion for determining if they enjoy divine favor; nor do statistics impress God." - The Watchtower, 1/15/2001, page 17
I wonder if the writer of the second article read the first article? I wonder if the Governing body read either of the articles? I wonder how many active Jehovah's Witnesses at the time caught that quick reversal.
"Consult the current Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses, and note the lands now reporting from 100,000 to nearly 1,000,000 Kingdom publishers. This is powerful proof that the Kingdom-preaching work is being blessed by Jehovah." - The Watchtower, 5/15/2001, page 13
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
“Of all the list of Christian duties there is none to which there is such abounding encouragement as prayer. It is the duty which concerns all. High and low, rich and poor, learned and unlearned – all must pray. Above all, it is a duty in which everything depends on the heart and motive within.
“Our words may be feeble and ill-chosen, and our language broken and ungrammatical, and unworthy to be written down. But if the heart if right, it matters not. He that sits in heaven can spell out the meaning of every petition sent up in the name of Jesus, and can make him that asks know and feel that he receives.”
More J.C. Ryle quotes can be found here
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Sunday, September 27, 2009
" Hi my friend
This morning at 957 my wife gave birth to our daughter, Jessica. Sadly Jessica was less than 24 weeks. that's some 12+ weeks premature, January was her due date and this has come right out of the blue! we have hope and I can see the Lord's hand in this but there is a long way to go She has made it through the Day and her chances are 4 to 1. I hope and trust God so much for her. Please pray for Jessica and my with Lyudmyla at this time. I believe a miracle has happened so far and I am trusting In God for some more."
Please pray for Phillip and his family.
Friday, September 25, 2009
Cairo, Sep. 25 (ANI): Ancient coins bearing the name and image of biblical Joseph have been found from the Museum of Egypt, contradicting claims made by some historians that coins were not used for trade in olden Egypt.
Archaeologists provided by MEMRI show that the coins were discovered among a multitude of unsorted artifacts stored at the Museum of Egypt, The Jerusalem
The period in which Joseph was believed to have lived in Egypt matches the minting of the coins in the cache.
“A thorough examination revealed that the coins bore the year in which they were minted and their value, or effigies of the pharaohs [who ruled] at the time of their minting,” the paper quoted experts, as saying.
The most significant thing about the discovery is the find of scientific evidence proving that coins were used for trade in ancient Egypt, and not barters as claimed by various historians.
Some of the coins are from the time when Joseph lived in Egypt, and bear his name and portrait, the report says.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
MacArthur says of the series:
"When Jesus encountered religious leaders teaching dangerous error, He didn’t seek common ground. He confronted, exposing the lies and shunning any sense of unity with false teachers. The need today is desperate for a fresh understanding of Jesus’ model. Step inside one of His poignant confrontations with pious enemies of truth and learn How to Talk to a Heretic."
I must say that I totally agree with what MacArthur says. Turning a blind eye to heresy, coddling false teachers and avoiding confrontation at all cost are not Christian virtues as some so desperately want us to believe. There is nothing unkind or unloving about warning others that they are following a false Jesus or that they have embraced a false gospel that has no power to save. In fact quite the opposite is true if one is to truly love as Jesus did.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Is it wise to constantly expose young children to graphic images and endless discussions about impending destruction as the Jehovah's Witnesses so often do?
The answer is clearly NO, as the results can be tragic.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Friday, September 11, 2009
I don’t really like discussing Greek grammar with Jehovah’s Witnesses because it has been my experience that most don’t know the first thing about the language and will simply parrot what they have been told by the Watchtower or an apologist and then make up the rest as they go along. They will reject outright what I say no matter how much evidence I provide and will rarely honestly engage the evidence provided them. But a new argument has been concocted and brought to me, so I will address it quickly here, and I will also provide some of the responses I received to the counter-argument I made. They are quite revealing.
“Brian, when Thomas says Lord and God he is not addressing Jesus, he is addressing it to Jehovah. This is proven by the fact that the two nouns (theos and kurios) are in the nominative case and not the vocative case. This proves that Jesus was addressing Jehovah his Father and not Jesus. So much for Jesus being God, the Greek has proved you wrong again“
While it is true a vocative noun is used when one is being addressed, a nominative noun is employed when the speaker is expressing a quality or an attribute. Let me give you an example:
Not everyone who says to Me, "Lord, Lord," shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. (Mathew 7:21)
In this case the two occurrences of the noun “Lord “are used as a formal address, and the nouns are both vocative as they should be. Another example would be “Mr. President, it is time to go.” “President” is vocative because it is used as an identifying address.
However, the nouns in the verse in question express qualities of the one spoken to, and the statement itself is a declaration, not a formal address. In other words, Thomas is exclaiming “what” and “who” Jesus is to him, ie “my Lord and my God.” Notice the possessive pronouns as they are significant. If I said, “Mr. President, you are doing a good job,” the noun “president” is vocative. However, if I say, “You are my (possessive pronoun) president,” the noun “president” is now nominative because it is expressing a quality about the one being spoken to.
As an example, in Mathew Chapter 16 Jesus asked Peter, “Who do you say that I am?” Jesus here is asking for a quality, as in “what” am I to you? ( Peter knew this or he would have answered “Jesus.“) Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the son of the living God,” expressing two main attributes of Jesus. Just as in John 20:28 the statement functions as a declaration, confession of faith, and the nouns are not functioning in the role of formal address. (However, please avoid the category error; this does not mean that he was not talking to Jesus.) Therefore, both nouns “Christ” and “Son” in Matthew 16 and “Lord” and “God” in John 20 are in the nominative case, as they should be.
The fact that the nominative case is used in this verse has the exact opposite effect you are desiring as it proves conclusively that Thomas was not applying an empty title to Jesus or using the nouns as a formal address. Instead, the nominative proves that they were used to express exact qualities or attributes of Jesus, who was clearly the one that Thomas was conversing with.. Just as in Mathew 16, this is a confession of faith. What was Jesus to Thomas? Jesus was his “Lord” and his “God.”
As I said in the beginning, I don’t really like to discuss Greek grammar with Jehovah’s Witnesses, and this partial response I received is an excellent example of why:
“You are wrong, it was not an address. and as I proved to you and you just won’t let go of what your church has taught you.”
(notice he ignored that I clearly stated it was not an address, and that his first point was that it was an address, just not an address to Jesus but it was an address to Jehovah. The next comment makes clear he caught his error)
He later wrote to try to convince me the nouns "WERE vocative and that scholars are divided on the issue." (new light I suppose) When I asked for some evidence of this supposed scholarly division, he replied, “Do your own research.”
None are as blind as those who refuse to see.
Monday, September 7, 2009
"Brian,why would an impartial loving awesome God restrain grace from someone who had no choice but to NOT be saved because that's the only choice He's given him/her even though God sets OUR moral compass and even we would find such a notion appalling given NO ONE even asked to be born?!"
Before I actually answer the question let me make two points.
1: It is a very dangerous thing to stand in judgment of God as Katie does in this question. God is not in need of our counsel and He does not conform His actions to our wills. Standing in judgment of God is strictly forbidden as the verses to come will demonstrate.
2: Our first calling as Christians is not to understand why God does everything that He does. It is instead to submit our will to what He says whether we understand it or not, never doubting that whatever God chooses to do is always the right thing.
With that said the answer to the actual question is found in Romans Chapter 9 and requires no commentary if one is to accept what God says in these passages at face value:
"10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion,  but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—"
Sunday, August 30, 2009
For those that don't know Brian Garcia his incredible story is told in this video:
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Here's my one sentence synopses of the video:
Imagine a prosecuting attorney addressing a jury in the same manner at the end of a murder trial:
Ladies and gentleman of the jury maybe the defendant murdered the victim. Or maybe someone else did. Maybe there's not even a victim at all, All we really know for sure is that at some point something happened. I know that's all very confusing to you but trust me, I'm a.. a... what's the word for a "law talking guy?"
Monday, August 24, 2009
Over the past couple of weeks I have spent a good bit of time reflecting on the first eighteen verses of the gospel of John. And for the last couple of days I have focused in on the sovereignty of God and the uselessness of man in every aspect of salvation in John 1:13 which reads: ..(children) who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
Your heritage is Useless:
Whether one is born a Jew or Gentile, prince or a pauper, born to a Godly family or born a helpless orphan, no one is made a child of God because of their genealogy. The Jews of Jesus’ day were certain that they were God’s children because they had Abraham as their Father; however, a stinging rebuke from John the Baptist made it clear that they were dead wrong:
as our father.' I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. (Mat 3:9)
The faith of one’s parents, spouse, family, or ancestors has never and will never make one a child of God.
The Human Will is Useless:
The desire to love God, to serve God, to obey God does not come natural to us. We were all conceived and born in sin. And as a result of our fallen nature, we are willing to make any number of things our god, things that momentarily satisfy our sinful desires, but ultimately always leave us decimated and desperate for something else to feed our cravings. We will naturally embrace anything as our god, anything that is but God. It takes an “outside force,” something uncorrupted and pure, to create in us the desire for God. And it’s that desire that is the soil in which repentance and faith, watered by grace and mercy, take root and bloom into salvation and adoption as children of God.
sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on
the last day. (John 6:44)
Human Effort is Useless:
Sonship is not a prize to be earned; it’s an underserved gift that is received. No amount of good works done in the flesh will ever qualify one to become a child of God. If it were true that one could work their way into this righteous relationship, to sonship, then mercy would no longer be mercy and grace would no longer be grace.
For by grace you have been saved
through faith; and that not of yourselves,
it is the gift of God (Eph 2:8 )
It is man’s utter and total dependence upon God for the desire to seek Him, for the repentant heart that shines light on the need for a Savior, and for the faith by which we call on His name to be forgiven and reborn as a child of God that pour the meaning into the words “mercy” and “grace.” It is because we cannot achieve it that God is merciful in His giving. And because we don’t deserve it, God is magnified and glorified as the gracious giver.
I am a child of God because of…….God
Thursday, August 20, 2009
What did I do with my salvation today?
Did I rejoice in it, did I rest in it, did I delight in it?
Did I walk in it, did I talk in it, did I share it?
Did I overcome because of it, did I show love because of it, did I grow because of it?
Did I use it to free me, did I use it to shield me, did I use it to guide me?
Was I thankful for it, was I grateful for it, was I comforted by it?
Did I remember the Grace that was shown me, the Mercy that was given me, the price that was paid?
Or did it even cross my mind?
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
3:10 Bring the whole tithe into the store-house, that there may be food in my house, and test me now in this," says Yahweh of hosts, "if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough for.
The question before us is this: Is it proper for a Christian pastor to use this verse as a way to encourage tithing and promise blessing in return based upon the promise given in Malachi 3:10? Before I answer the question, I feel I need to preface what I say with a couple of important points.
1: This essay is in no way intended to imply that people should not give. While I strongly disagree that this passage is being used in its proper context, I firmly believe that the Bible teaches that Christians should be bringing their gifts and offerings to the table and that they will be blessed for doing so. However, the tithe, or exact ten percent figure, is a function of the old covenant law, not the new which has a radically different outlook on giving. I am not alone in this view.
John MacArthur in his "Commentary on the Book of Romans 9-16“ (Moody Bible Institute) has this to say:
".......Christians are not under obligation to give a specified amount to the work of their heavenly Father. In none of their forms do the tithe or other Old Testament levies apply to Christians." page 233.
To add weight to Macarthur’s position, I would add the likes of John Piper in our modern day all the way back to Martin Luther at the dawn of the reformation. Theological institutions such as Moody, Wheaton, Dallas, Talbot and Masters Theological Seminaries also hold and teach this point of view.
To be clear, none of these men or institutions would object to anyone giving ten percent. As a matter of fact, I am certain that all would urge you to give until it hurts, and the New Testament would back them up on that. So I pray that by the time I am done here, one does not leave feeling relieved of his or her Christian duty to give, because quite the opposite is true. The question at hand is this and only this: Are pastors fishing in the wrong pond by using the passage in Malachi in an erroneous way and by promising a blessing from God to the tither that is no longer available…and does it matter?
2: This is NOT an issue that should divide. There are many pastors that I love and respect that use this passage in regards to tithing. Reasonable men and women can disagree on issues of interpretation without division or contention erupting.
As we examine this passage in Malachi, I will be approaching it from two different angles. The first is the hermeneutical angle, in order to see if that passage is being properly applied to Christian individuals who are a part of the new covenant initiated by Christ Jesus.
Secondly, it’s important to examine the ramifications of ripping a passage out of its God-intended and ordained context in order to demonstrate a principle, even if it’s a Godly principle that the teacher wishes to promote. It is my firm belief that the misuse of this passage, no matter how well intended, results in the stumbling of tens of thousands of Christians every year. I believe that the misuse of this passage is the “gateway” to the prosperity gospel, if not the prosperity gospel itself in an embryonic state as it can unintentionally promote a “give to get mentality” among those who adhere to it. How many preachers have said “Begin to tithe and then keep your eyes peeled for the blessing,” to which I can only reply “Sir, my eyes have seen as far as Mars on a darkened night, but they are in no way so sharp that I can peer into Heaven, as my heart and the treasures that I desire are all stored there.” ( Math 6:21)
For many, for some reason when it comes to this verse, the well-established rules of hermeneutics — the art and science of interpreting scripture — seemingly become irrelevant. It is as if all the hermeneutical principles that have served the man of God so well for so many years are sidelined or tossed out the window altogether. What is the context? When was it written? To whom was it written? And what does the blessing from Heaven and filling the store-houses actually refer to? I have listened to numerous sermons on this passage in person and recorded, and in every single instance the text has been isolated, ignoring altogether these very important contextual questions.
The overall theme of the book of Malachi is a call to repentance. God had made a covenant with His people, and they had failed to live up to it. Blemished sacrifices (1:8), abominable priests (2:1), an unfaithful Judah (2:11), corrupt employers, injustice, oppression (3:5) and a general failure to keep the whole of the law and fulfill the covenant. Despite all of this, God was faithful to His people. He was calling them back as He says, “Return to me, and I will return to you…” (3:6) For this breach of contract they had been cursed. (Deut27:16 )
The “when” question is critical to the understanding of the passage. The book was written while the old covenant was still in effect. More on this critical point when I tie it all together.
To whom was it written:
Malachi was written to the nation of Israel. Another important point. Most teachers as they preach the verses preach it as though it was written with the individual believer in mind. Clearly we can see that this is not the case. God is speaking at this point to a nation. (3:9) Another important distinction that I will expand on.
What is the problem, the blessing and the store-house?
Many commentators agree that Malachi likely wrote during a time of drought, and if that was not bad enough, what little crops they did have were being destroyed by insects. (3:10-11) This is likely one of the reasons they were withholding a portion of the tithe as the conditions required them to give from the flesh as opposed to fat, an admittedly difficult thing to do.
Considering the conditions that they were facing, the blessings that the Israelites were being promised was not likely a general blessing but a specific blessing. The blessing was most likely rain -- “I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need ” -- and removal of the crop-destroying insects -- "I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear.”
I have heard it preached that if you as a Christian bring your whole tithe to the local church, that God will overflow your “store-house.” However, the “store-house” in the passage does not refer to the barn of an individual. It refers to the Temple store-house where the crop offerings were kept. “"Bring the full tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.” (3:10)
Tying it all together :
With that basic background information in mind, let’s tie it all together and find out what God was getting at.
1: God’s promise was to a nation under a specific covenant, not an individual. The nation of Israel had turned their back on what they had promised God, namely that they would keep the whole of the law which included tithing, in effect turning their back on God himself. Do not miss this point: God was dealing with a nation according to the terms of the old covenant contract that was still in effect. It is critical that we understand that as Christians we are not in that covenant.
2: As the command and the promise was to a nation, it was the nation as a whole that must bring the full tithe and the nation as a whole would receive the blessing. Even if this passage was to be brought forward for our time, to stay consistent the correct teaching would be that the entire body of Christ would have to tithe in order to be blessed.
3: A major problem with trying to cash in on the promise of this passage is that it requires you to be in the old covenant, under the law to receive the actual blessing promised to Israel. Implicit in the text is a return to keeping the whole of the law. God had just rebuked them for many different infractions. He was in no way making a deal that says “forget all the other stuff, fulfill this one requirement and all will be well.” Due to the crop failure, this was perhaps one of the hardest commands for them to keep, requiring the most faith, implying that if they did this they would uphold the rest of the law as well. God ends Malachi saying, “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel.” (4:4) He is in no way instructing the hearers that one rule or one statute would suffice. Let us also not forget the words of Paul to the Galatians where in chapter 3 verse 10 he quotes Deuteronomy 27:16, "For as many as are of the works of the law are under a curse: for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone that continues not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them."
3: Some may argue reasonably that the single act of tithing was a sign of repentance; therefore, God could bless them for it. And that very well may be true. However, we still must acknowledge that:
A: They were repenting for not keeping the laws of the old covenant, so giving their tithe was an indication of their intent to return to the law.
B: The promise then becomes, in effect, keep the laws of the old covenant and you will be blessed.
4: Contextually then, the intended result that God desired from the promised “promise” was a return to the terms of the old covenant, a covenant that God no longer desires to draw us to as he has instituted a new and better one. The desired effect of the promise is no longer desirable, making the promise in itself counterproductive. (More on that point in part 2)
5: At the time this promise was made, if one did not tithe he would be under a curse. Mal 3:9 and Deut 27:16) If one is to preach the “blessing” to those who do tithe, to remain consistent he must also preach the “curse” to those who do not. This then becomes very convoluted in the Christian context because when the non-tither begins to tithe he is blessed, but how? The blessing is the removal of the curse. Are we seriously to believe that new covenant Christians are cursed for neglecting an old covenant requirement?
6: Even if one did tithe 10% faithfully, week in and week out, that in and of itself would not fulfill the requirement to tithe. Why? Because to fulfill the requirement to tithe one must include the “third year tithe.”
God established a tithe for the poor, the widow and the orphans, etc., but it was only every third year in the Sabbatical cycle. (A sabbatical cycle is a seven-year cycle revolving around the Sabbath rest for the land.)
Deut. 14:28: 'At the end of every third year you must bring out all the tithe of your produce in that year, and shall deposit it in your town.' Deut. 14:29: 'The Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance among you, and the stranger, the orphan and the widow who are in your town, shall come and eat and be satisfied, in order that Yahweh your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.'
The third year tithe came twice every seven years and would refresh with each new Sabbatical cycle. This tithe would be for the poor, the widow, the orphan, etc., and God commanded that it would be placed in the town or city to come and take as they needed. This was God’s way of providing for the poor to His glory and honor.
But remember What God says one must do to receive the blessing, "Bring the FULL tithe into the storehouse…” (3:10) You cannot bring the full tithe without the “third year tithe.” Interestingly, but not surprisingly, I have never heard the third tithe preached by those who use God’s promise to Israel as a means of promised blessing to the faithful tither.. If God requires the “full” tithe in order to receive the blessing, that is no small detail to leave out.
7: Jesus talked about money a lot; however, in all of his talking about giving never did he link the giving activities of the believer to the passage under discussion. Not only Jesus, not a single New Testament writer does either.
Inevitably one cannot escape the fact that this is a specific promise, given to a specific people, under a specific covenant, due to a breaking of that specific covenant, during a specific time of specific hardship, with a specific remedy.
To be continued…
Thursday, July 2, 2009
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
I always seem to have, you know, one of those passages of scripture that just gets stuck in your head for a while. Sometimes it's a couple of days or a couple of weeks. Once in a while I'll even have one linger for a couple of months.
As far as the present verse, it's been with me about a week, and I have been using it to do a bit of self-examination.
So what's the verse? 2nd Corinthians 12: 10
"For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
I have to say that I find myself more than a little challenged by the word "content" in that passage. I wonder how many of us can honestly say that if we were to go through, or are presently going through, the trials listed in that verse that "content" would be the word that we would use to describe our emotional state. After all, these are all bad things, aren't they? Are not all these thing to be considered enemies of contentment? Do not all these things cause nothing but pain and problems?
I can think of a lot of other words other than "content" that describe the emotions that so many of us feel in in the eye of the storm:
How about you? If you were faced with these trials, how would you fill in the blank?
In weaknesses I am __________
When the insults come I am __________
When hardship comes knocking I am __________
When I feel persecuted I am __________
When calamity strikes I am __________
I don't know how you did, but it didn't take long for me to realize that I need to make a few changes. And to help me get to and stay where I desire to be -- "content" despite my circumstances -- I have three truths from God's word to cling to:
1. God Knows. God is not ignorant of our troubles, nor has he lost control. "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. " (Mathew 10:29)
2. God's is glorified. Every single trial we face is an opportunity to bring glory to God. If we suffer, let us suffer well, not as those who have no hope. "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed to us." (Romans 8:18)
3. God has a purpose. God doesn't want you to waste your suffering. There is a lesson to be learned with every trial; be a diligent student. Paul, speaking of the hardships he and others had suffered in Asia, said, "....but this happened that we might not rely on ourselves, but on God." (2nd Corinthians 1:9)
.... for when I am weak I am strong
Sunday, January 11, 2009
Ten Reasons Why it is Wrong to Take the Life of Unborn Children:
1. God commanded, "Thou shalt not murder" (Exodus 20:13).
2. The destruction of conceived human life – whether embryonic, fetal, or viable – is an assault on the unique person-forming work of God.
3. Aborting unborn humans falls under the repeated biblical ban against "shedding innocent blood."
5. By judging difficult and even tragic human life as a worse evil than taking life, abortionists contradict the widespread biblical teaching that God loves to show His gracious power through suffering and not just by helping people avoid suffering.
6. It is a sin of presumption to justify abortion by taking comfort in the fact that all these little children will go to heaven or even be given full adult life in the resurrection.
7. The Bible commands us to rescue our neighbor who is being unjustly led away to death.
8. Aborting unborn children falls under Jesus' rebuke of those who spurned children as inconvenient and unworthy of the Savior's attention.
9. It is the right of God the Maker to give and to take human life. It is not our individual right to make this choice.
10. Finally, saving faith in Jesus Christ brings forgiveness of sins and cleansing of conscience and help through life and hope for eternity. Surrounded by such omnipotent love, every follower of Jesus is free from the greed and fear that might lure a person to forsake these truths in order to gain money or avoid reproach.
John PiperTen Reasons Why it is Wrong to Take the Life of Unborn Children, Sermon: April 7, 1989 desiringGod.com
Saturday, January 10, 2009
Anyone who has spent any amount of time discussing the Bible with a Jehovah's Witness knows just how difficult and taxing it can be. Dealing with the constant barrage of out-of-context passages, mistranslations and contradictions often leads to a level of frustration that either makes you want to snap or just quit.
In order to ease the level of frustration that I often feel, I have, over time, given myself a set of basic "rules of engagement" that I do my best (that's code for I often fail) to follow. This list is by no means exhaustive. As a matter of fact, it started at five, grew to ten, bloated to twelve, and I can still think of another dozen or so more. But I will resist the urge to go on and on. (not to mention twelve is a very relevant number..... at least I think it is)
- Clearly defining your role and your goal is the key to success. Unless you are the Holy Spirit, neither your role nor your goal should be to convert the person you're speaking to. True conviction and true conversion can only come through the Spirit of God. Remember that if they are "your" converts, they are not any better off than when they started. Your role is simply to faithfully proclaim the truth, and your goal is simply to bring Glory to God in the manner in which you do so.
- Remember that although Jehovah's Witnesses use much of the same terminology that we as Christians use, oftentimes the meanings of these words take on a very different flavor as they are run through their Watchtower doctrinal filters . Unless terms are clearly defined, there is a good chance that there will be many times that you may be talking past each other. During your conversations, make sure that you take the time to carefully define terms.
- Remain civil, ( not to be confused with passionless and wimpy) at all times. It is very easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment and let things spin out of control. Remember who it is that you represent and bring honor to His name. They are watching your words and your actions with a critical eye. It would be wise for you to do the same.
- If you don't know something or you don't have an answer to a specific question, don't just "wing it." More often a bad answer will do more harm than good as it puts your knowledge and credibility into question. It is much better to say, "Let me think about that for a while and get back to you." Most Jehovah's Witnesses will respect you for that.
- Stay away from the "rabbit trails." Oftentimes when talking with Jehovah's Witnesses they will quickly bounce from one subject to another. For instance, you may be talking about salvation, and they will respond with, "Well, real Christians don't go to war." If you want to hold on to your sanity, resist the temptation you feel to respond to everything that they say. Be polite, but firm and do your best to remain on a specific topic.
- Remember there is no "silver bullet." While there are many good arguments and many good presentation styles, there is no single method or point that will bring all Jehovah's Witnesses to the truth. So don't be disappointed if your sure-fire argument bounces off the listener like a super ball; just move on to the next.
- Because it is true that most Jehovah's Witnesses "appear" to know the Bible very well, it is only natural that we tend to want to throw meat their way. But I have found the reality is this: most Jehovah's Witnesses either reject the meat or choke on it. Even though they may in some way "know" the Bible, they still require the milk of the gospel just like every other unsaved person.
- Don't underestimate the illusion. The Watchtower spends a great deal of time and money creating the boogie man that they call "Christendom," and the one thing that they know for sure is that you are a part of this fictional, unloving, war mongering, doctrinally insane and hypocritical Christendom. Take every chance you can get to destroy this illusion.
- Never let them see you sweat! Just kidding... Fill their shoes with pebbles. In almost every conversion story from Jehovah's Witness to Christian you will at some point hear them say something like, "And that verse just got stuck in my head" or "When I heard that, I couldn't stop thinking about it." It is not likely you will ever be told by an active Jehovah's Witness that something you have said has shaken them, but never lose heart, while they may be able to hide the limp, that does not mean that it isn't there.
- If you do find them lost for words, stumbled, or contradicting themselves, point it out but don't rub it in. Rubbing it in will likely cause them to become defensive and your "teaching moment" will quickly fade away.
- Pray up. Pray before the encounter, pray during the encounter, and pray after the encounter. Pray for listening ears and tender hearts. Pray for words to speak and the wisdom to know when it is better to remain silent and listen. Pray that they will be saved and that you will not be stumbled.
- Above all, and I cannot stress this enough, don't forget to share the gospel. This is especially important if this is the first time you meet because it may be your only chance. Faith comes by hearing. Don't let the opportunity pass.