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Sanctuary Cities and Free Stuff

Credit: Jeff Wallace/Flickr/Creative Commons

Credit: Jeff Wallace/Flickr/Creative Commons

We went for a walk the other day, and I was amazed. I live in the city that still has American Elm trees, the Dutch Elm Disease hasn’t reached here, and many trees are almost a hundred years old. As a result, a walk in an older neighborhood is like a walk in a park.

So, we went for a walk, close to where I grew up, and I was shocked to see that most of the houses were gone. I saw many construction sites and large new “infill” mansions, and some expensive cars. People with money want a piece of the older generation, before it’s all gone.

The next day, I read a front-page newspaper article demanding that we become a “sanctuary city.” The details are, we must give free services to people who here illegally, and possibly hiding from the immigration police who want to deport them. This is a huge argument and I don’t want to argue right now, so let’s call them “undocumented migrants.” These people now want driver’s licenses, cheap university tuition, medical insurance, library cards; all the things that make this city comfortable. Again, people want a piece of the older generation, before it’s all gone.

https://edmonton.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=1191911

I grew up in one an old community with tall elm trees, built by an older generation. The city was designed as a full-service community, and costs were always low. I remember when houses started costing more than one hundred thousand dollars, and we were appalled. Our world was coming to an end. Now those infill houses are around a million and prices are rising. I have a friend who can retire comfortably, just by selling his house.

If you are wondering about the sanctuary city idea, there are two possibilities. The voters will just say no, if they are asked; but the administrators might say yes, and then boost the prices for those “free” services. For example, university tuition used to be $1200.00 a year and graduate students didn’t pay. They taught classes and the university payed them.

Now, I think tuition has multiplied by about twenty times, more for foreign students, and one textbook can cost a thousand dollars. To me, the demand for a sanctuary city means that people are begging for library cards, but they will receive the benign accounting term “cost recovery.” That means, the promised land with a happy new life no longer exists. I have never heard any discussion about the undocumented paying taxes, so I know, the money will be collected in other ways. The money people did not miss this one.

It’s all a scam, there is no free stuff.

I don’t want to grumble about money and how things were better in the old days; we had many issues and problems back then. What I see is a huge population bulge of young adults who are scrambling for a lifestyle that is disappearing before they can grasp it. My young neighbors borrow too much money and search for elusive careers, and people from poor countries cross borders and live illegally. Those “undocumented” who get through hide in misery, and that is their long-term future.

And they all want the same thing; the Bible belt, without the Bible.

An older generation built a prosperous and stable society with schools and hospitals, and stable jobs, and affordable houses. I knew my old neighbors, and most of them claimed to be Christian, and went to church every week. Long ago, the city scheduled extra street cars on Sunday evenings because of the Christian revival services. I have heard many stories of how God moved among those people. Those who were less devout still had respect for God, and every family had a Bible in the house.

That generation built the things that we are desperately trying to catch now, before it’s all gone. We want everything on the menu, except for the cheque, and we are missing the point. There is no gift without a giver. In the Bible we were warned “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me …” (Revelation 3: 17 and 18)

If we say “no God” and then demand the blessings from God that an older generation found, we are demanding something that evaporated long ago. Good things always have a source.

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is none who does good.

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

They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.

Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers who eat up my people as they eat bread and do not call upon the Lord?

There they are in great terror, for God is with the generation of the righteous. You would shame the plans of the poor, but the Lord is his refuge.

Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When the Lord restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad. (Psalm 14)

Open your heart again

Credit: quimby/Flickr/Creative Commons

Credit: quimby/Flickr/Creative Commons

Sometimes jealousy strikes me when I least expect it. It could be a Facebook post where someone shared a great thought or perception of their life. I am ashamed to say that I find myself closing my heart to that person.

And then I must do the brave and honest thing if I want my light to keep shining out into my world and open my heart to that person once again.

Maybe you are like me and find your heart opening and closing many times in a day. Open to the prospects of a new day and then closed again because someone said something hurtful or jealousy crossed your path.

Whatever it is closing our hearts and leaving them shut is hurtful to us and not anyone else. That person on Facebook has no idea what happened, so you haven’t hurt them. Good on them for showing up and making a good point or posting a great photo.

Yet, for years I was afraid to show up and allow my true self to be seen —  the bright, sometimes loud and over-the-top me. I remember telling myself to “tone it down” you don’t want to attract attention to yourself.

Jesus emphasized that we are His light to a dying world.

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15. Nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket but on a lampstand and it gives light to all who are in the house.” 16. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-26)

Christ said He would draw all men through His light shining in us. Hiding under a barrel and holding onto traumas and past wounding blocks the light of God’s love. It is God’s presence in us that draws men and women to Him.

I think many women are afraid to show up too much especially when we attend a gathering. We want to dim our light. Basically, hide it under a barrel.

Our tendency is to tone ourselves down even before we leave the house. Many times I put on an outfit that was fun, and maybe a bit over- the- top, but just before leaving the house I would change my mind and put something more subdued on.

Over a year ago, I attended a ladies gathering with about 30 women in attendance. After sitting down and taking a look around, I realized that over half the women were wearing black and many of them wore all black from head to toe.

I remember asking myself “am I at a fun ladies event or a funeral?”

When that many women show up in black it indicates there is the underlying fear of “showing up too much.”  We want to fit in and not appear outside the box in any way, shape or form.

There are many women who days before an event struggle with what to wear and how to present themselves to the world.

In John 13:32 , God reminds us that He wants His light to shine through us so that He can draw people to Him.

This is how the world is saved because people are drawn to the light of God’s truth in us. Saved by graced, redeemed by the blood of Christ and loved for who we are. No darkness shines on us from the face of the Father only the light of His love. Our sins are forgiven and we walk in freedom because we embrace our value as a child of God. We are meant to shine!

It can be our own pettiness that blocks God’s light in us, like a Facebook post, or maybe we need to forgive someone. Forgiveness allows us to open our hearts once again to those who misunderstood or wounded us.

Peter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive his brother or sister, seven times?

“Jesus answered, I tell you,not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18:22)

Forgiveness is boundless and we are to open our hearts again and again to our offenders.

The world will be drawn to Christ through us as we bravely do the work needed to unveil our true selves and let the light of His love shine forth.

Chris Pratt’s nine rules for life?

Chris Pratt at the San Diego Comic Con in 2016 Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr/Creative Commons

Chris Pratt at the San Diego Comic Con in 2016 Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr/Creative Commons

At this year’s MTV Movie and TV Awards held on Monday, June 18, 2018, actor Chris Pratt won the “Generations” award handed out to actors who have displayed their unique personality in a variety of roles.

Pratt, 38, has starred in several major hit movies including the Guardians of the Galaxy and Jurassic Park and its sequels.

While receiving this year’s award, Pratt took the opportunity to present his nine rules for life ranging from how to properly use the bathroom facilities while at a friend’s place to feeding  a dog medicine (hide it in a piece of hamburger.)

But scattered within these nine pieces of wisdom, Pratt provided some spiritual advice to the next generation as the MTV crowd is typically millennials and younger.

In earlier interviews, Pratt recounted when he became a Christian a man gave Chris a prophetic word that he would become famous. A short time later while working as a waiter in a Hawaii restaurant, Pratt served a movie director and in a matter of days was flying to California for a part in a movie.

As a man who is not shy about his faith, Chris has displayed a tremendous amount of courage speaking about Christ in a Hollywood culture that is so anti God.

So what were his four pieces of spiritual advice?

Rule #2: You have a soul. Be careful with it.

Rule #6: God is real. God loves you. God wants the best for you. Believe that; I do.

Rule #8:Learn to pray. It’s easy and it is so good for your soul.

Rule #9: Nobody is perfect. People will tell you that you are perfect just the way you are, you are not! You are imperfect. You always will be, but there is a powerful force that designed you that way and if you are willing to accept that, you will have grace. And grace is a gift and like that freedom we enjoy in this country, that grace was paid for by somebody’s else’s blood. Don’t forget that. Do not take that for granted.

I very much appreciated Rule #6, because he got to the core of the Christian faith. The Apostle Paul states that we are transformed, not by salvation, but through the renewing of our minds:

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2 NASV)

The way we think needs to be radically transformed. We need to start believing what God says about us.

When we question whether God loves us and has the best for use, like Chris Pratt we must choose to believe that God does. And sometimes it can be a struggle as we try to clean our minds of our old ways of thinking.

The last rule, Rule #9, also needs to be emphasized today. None of us are perfect and we will all make mistakes. I think he even subtly referenced one of the biggest challenges that famous people face because they have people around them who only pat them on the back and tell them how good they are. Maybe this is one of the things that Jesus was referring to when he said it is difficult for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God (Matthew 19:23).

But Chris has his feet on the ground and acknowledges his true humanity. He goes on to say that we can only receive God’s grace when we understand our imperfection.  Then he subtly refers to the need for Christ’s redeeming grace.

Hotair’s Ed Morrisey writes:

“It’s clear that Pratt is a man of faith (which we already know), but it’s unusual to see it presented so clearly and yet so subtly. Pratt notes that ‘grace is a gift … paid for with someone else’s blood,’ as deeply Christian a statement as one will ever see on MTV, or for that matter any other awards show without attaching it to a political hobby-horse. … For the entertainment industry, Pratt gave quite a subversive acceptance speech.”

Chris Pratt’s nine rules for life

Transcribed by Redstate’s Andrea Ruth:

No. 1: Breathe. If you don’t, you will suffocate.

No. 2: You have a soul. Be careful with it.

No. 3: Don’t be a turd. If you are strong, be a protector. If you are smart, be a humble influencer. Strength and intelligence can be weapons, so do not wield them against the weak. That makes you a bully. Be bigger than that.

No. 4: When giving a dog medicine, put the medicine in a little piece of hamburger and they won’t even know they’re eating medicine.

No. 5: It doesn’t matter what it is. Earn it. A good deed. Reach out to someone in pain. Be of service. It feels good and it’s good for your soul.

No. 6: God is real. God loves you. God wants the best for you. Believe that; I do.

No. 7: If you have to poop at a party, but you’re embarrassed because you’re going to stink up the bathroom, just do what I do. Lock the door, sit down, get all of the pee out first. And then, once all the pee is done, poop, flush, boom! You minimize the amount of time that the poop’s touching the air. Because if you poop first, it takes you longer to pee and then you’re peeing on top of it, stirring up the poop particles, create a cloud, goes out, then everyone at the party will know that you pooped. Just trust me, it’s science.

No. 8: Learn to pray. It’s easy, and it is so good for your soul.

No. 9: Nobody is perfect. People will tell you that you are perfect just the way that you are, you are not! You are imperfect. You always will be, but there is a powerful force that designed you that way, and if you are willing to accept that, you will have grace. And grace is a gift, and like the freedom that we enjoy in this country that grace was paid for with somebody else’s blood. Do not forget that. Don’t take that for granted.

Sources:

La Danza de la Vida

baile flamenco, Sevilla, España Crédito: Laurence Vagner / Flickr / Creative Commonsbaile flamenco, Sevilla, España Crédito: Laurence Vagner / Flickr / Creative Commons

English: The Dance of Life

Estas últimas semanas mis ojos se han abierto a mi necesidad de amor, respeto y aceptación de los demás. Tiendo a acusar a otros de ser indiferente cuando se descartan mis planes e ideas.

Exijo de otros lo que me falta en mí misma y hago que los demás sean responsables de lo que siento.

Cuando deje de culpar a otros por la forma en que me siento (enojada, herida, rechazada ), sólo entonces puedo ver cuál es el problema real y me doy cuenta que en su mayoria es mi falta de autoestima.

Tengo  que preguntarme ‘por qué’ estoy yo culpando a alguien más por mi falta de autoestima y mis inseguridades. ¿Por qué siempre quiero tener la razón?

El resentimiento y la ira nos quitan todo poder. Nos debilitan y nos paralizan, sin embargo, sin saberlo, nos apoyamos en ellos como muletas para obtener el apoyo emocional y el amor que tanto necesitamos.

Cuando buscamos amor sin darnos ese amor a nosotros mismos primero ( el amor y el valor que vienen  de Dios ), Nos vamos siempre a encontrar buscando que otros llenen esas inseguridades.

Asumir la responsabilidad de cómo respondo a mí mismo está alineado con la manera en que Dios quiere que viva.

Yo lo llamo el ‘Baile de la Vida “.

Si como una ola menguando lejos de la orilla,  liberamos nuestra necesidad de tener la razón, de dominar o de controlar una situación,  esa ola caerá en el océano del amor y el control de Dios. Y un ritmo y una fuerza suave se construyen a medida que crecemos en el conocimiento del intenso amor de Dios por nosotros. Las olas de la verdad y la afirmacion del amor de Dios hacen un lavado sobre nosotros. Refrescan nuestra mente y nuestro espíritu y hay un barrido limpio y nos movemos y hacia el exterior y hacia adelante de nuevo en los propósitos de Dios.

La ‘Danza de la Vida’ es el perdón, es dejar ir en las olas las tumultuosas emociones de la necesesidad de controlar. Se trata de aprender a perdonar y dejar ir y dar de regreso con amor.

Hay una fuerza poderosa en dejar ir y permitir que el Espíritu Santo fluya a través de nosotros. Necesitamos más fuerza espiritual para dejar ir de nuestras vidas la terquedad y fortalecernos en el poder de Su fuerza.

A veces nos centramos en lo que Dios quiere de nosotros encontrandonos en una linea muy fina en lo “yo” realmente quiero y lo que ” Dios” quiere de mi.

Tenemos que someternos a Dios y someter nuestros planes y decisiones. Nuestro Padre Celestial sabe que es lo mejor para nosotros.

Tiene que haber un momento de entrega, donde estamos dispuestos a ofrecer a nuestros planes,  y deseos a un amoroso Padre Celestial que nos conoce mejor.

Aprendamos a beber de las aguas que restauran el alma y al igual que los hombres y mujeres de Dios en la Biblia que aprendieron a esperar a Dios. Estoy agradecida por los pesos y contrapesos que me protegen de ser consumido por las cosas malas o las cosas buenas en el momento equivocado.

Autor Lysa Terkeurst de Proverbios 31 escribe:

“Tal vez, Dios está hablando a través de nuestra situación de una manera extraña. Vamos a escuchar? Vamos a obedecer? Incluso cuando no tiene sentido. Sabemos que Dios puede hacer algo, pero queremos que se haga de la manera que tenga sentido para nosotros. Y cuando no tiene sentido – cuando se siente extraña – la obediencia es difícil. A veces los milagros nos aguardan en la extraña forma de obediencia. Pero la obediencia es algo de lo que nunca nos arrepentiremos “.

¿Es aquí donde ocurren milagros? A través de nuestra extraña obediencia y dejar de lado los planes, justo cuando pensamos que estamos avanzando y la respuesta esta a la vuelta de la esquina?

Nunca estaremos satisfechos con la aprobación de los demás hasta que primero nos aprobamos nosotros mismos en el amor de Dios.

De nuevo te edificaré, y serás reedificada,
Virgen de Israel;
De nuevo tomarás[a] tus panderos,
Y saldrás a las danzas con[b] los que se divierten. (Jeremías 31: 4 NBLH)

-EZ

Restoring the Tabernacle of David worship in the Church

Redcliffe City Church worship service at the beach Credit: Leonard J Matthews/Flickr/Creative Commons

Redcliffe City Church worship service at the beach Credit: Leonard J Matthews/Flickr/Creative Commons

I have written articles in the past about the Tabernacle that David set up in Jerusalem to house the Ark of the Covenant (2 Samuel 16:17).

This tabernacle or tent existed for less than 40 years and was taken down shortly after the Ark of the covenant was transferred from David’s tabernacle to Solomon’s temple.

31 Now these are those whom David appointed over the service of song in the house of the Lord, after the ark rested there. 32 They ministered with song before the tabernacle of the tent of meeting, until Solomon had built the house of the Lord in Jerusalem; and they [a]served in their office according to their order. (1 Chronicles 6: 31-32 NASV)

It needs to be pointed out that God did not want David or his son to build a temple, God preferred to stay in the Tabernacle of David.

But because of its brief existence, it seems that David’s Tabernacle played a minor role in Israel’s religious life.

But that isn’t true.

The Book of Psalms, one of the most prominent books in the Bible, was dedicated almost exclusively to the Tabernacle of David where it’s mentioned several times:

Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle?
Who may dwell in Your holy hill? (Psalm 15:1 NKJV)

And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me;
Therefore I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle;
I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord. (Psalm 27:6 NKJV)

Oh, send out Your light and Your truth!
Let them lead me;
Let them bring me to Your holy hill
And to Your tabernacle.
Then I will go to the altar of God,
To God my exceeding joy;
And on the harp I will praise You,
O God, my God. (Psalm 43:3-4 NKJV)

In Judah God is known;
His name is great in Israel.
2 In Salem also is His tabernacle,
And His dwelling place in Zion. (Psalm 76:1-2 NKJV)

Almost all of Psalms, written by a variety of composers including King David, were songs and proclamations for worship in the Tabernacle of David. We could call Psalms the Tabernacle of David hymn book.

Though the Tabernacle of David was eventually dismantled after it was replaced by King Solomon’s temple, the prophets began to utter prophecies about a future when God would rebuild the Tabernacle of David.

Amos prophesied that when God restored the Tabernacle of David, it would be used to usher the gentiles into the Kingdom of God:

“On that day I will raise up
The tabernacle of David, which has fallen down,
And repair its damages;
I will raise up its ruins,
And rebuild it as in the days of old;
12 That they may possess the remnant of Edom,[c]
And all the Gentiles who are called by My name,”
Says the Lord who does this thing. (Amos 9:11-12 NKJV)

And the prophet Isaiah stated that one day the Messiah would rule from the Tabernacle of David:

In mercy the throne will be established;
And One will sit on it in truth, in the tabernacle of David,
Judging and seeking justice and hastening righteousness.” (Isaiah 16:5 NKJV)

Both these promises were fulfilled in the Church. After the Holy Spirit fell upon the gentiles, James quotes the passage in Amos at the council held in Jerusalem to explain that the Church needed to embrace the gentiles as equals in what was largely a Jewish church (Acts 15:13-19).

And as Jesus was lifted up and now rules the world as head of the church (Ephesians 1:20-22), we see Isaiah’s prophecy being fulfilled as well.

God’s promised restoration of the Tabernacle of David was being fulfilled in the Church.

The Tabernacle of David was unique compared to its predecessor the Tabernacle of Moses and the Temple of Solomon that followed. Similar to the other two, David’s tent housed  the Ark of the Covenant, Israel’s most important piece of furniture, on which the presence of God rested (2 Chronicles 1:4).

However, it differed in one important respect.  In both the Tabernacle of Moses and Solomon’s Temple, the Ark of the Covenant was hidden in a secure area called the Holy of Holies, that could only be accessed by the High Priest. There were even restrictions on who could visit these two facilities. Gentiles, women and even Jewish men all had their special areas. People who were illegitimate were not allowed to visit at all.

However, this all changed with the Tabernacle of David. Everyone, Jew, gentile, women and illegitimate, had full access to the Ark of the Covenant and the presence of God. This meant even King David who was illegitimate could come before God’s presence (2 Samuel 7:18).

Though the Tabernacle of Moses no longer contained the Ark of the Covenant, it continued to function with the priests offering sacrifices (2 Chronicles 1:1-4).  Other than animal sacrifices during the inaugural service for the Tabernacle of David (2 Samuel 6:17), no more animal sacrifices took place at David’s tent.

Instead it became home to a new form of sacrifice, where people offered sacrifices of praise (Psalm 27:6; Hebrews 13:15), joy (Psalm 27:6), thanksgiving (Psalm 50:23) and a contrite spirit (Psalm 51:17).

And this sacrifice of praise was expressed in a variety forms of worship referenced throughout the Psalms:

Singing

Though singing was previously part of worship in the Tabernacle of Moses, it took on a new dimension in the Tabernacle of David as all people were able to express their praise before the Ark of the Covenant (Psalm 150:1).

In 1 Chronicles 15:16-24, David set up choirs that would worship God day and night every day.

A new creative flow came out of this with God bringing forth new songs created by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit:

Sing to the Lord a new song;
Sing to the Lord, all the earth. (Psalm 96:1 NASV)

With the Tabernacle of David being fulfilled in the birthing of the church, singing was a big part of  its sacrifices of praise. Paul exhorts us to sing Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16).

Psalms involved the singing of scripture, but what is the difference between hymns and spiritual songs? I believe that “spiritual songs” are songs that God gives all believers not just those with creative ability. No matter how tone-deaf you are God wants you to sing your own creatively-inspired songs to the Lord.

Clapping

Another form of worship that appears in the Psalms is clapping. While we clap today in rhythm with the music, in the Tabernacle of David clapping was an expression of joy of  triumph over the enemy:

Oh, clap your hands, all you peoples!
Shout to God with the voice of triumph!  (Psalm 47:1 NKJV).

This is no more true than the New Testament church where because of Christ’s death and resurrection, He has triumphed over Satan (1 John 3:8).

But there was one more reason to clap. In the Old Testament, people clapped when proclaiming a king:

12 And he brought out the king’s son, put the crown on him, and gave him the Testimony; they made him king and anointed him, and they clapped their hands and said, “Long live the king!” (2 Kings 11:12 NASV)

With Jesus proclaimed the King of kings and Lord of lords (1 Timothy 6:15) clapping should take on the form of applause as we honor Christ.

Dancing before the Lord

Dancing was listed as an expression of worship in connection with David’s tabernacle:

Let them praise His name with the dance;
Let them sing praises to Him with the timbrel and harp. (Psalm 149:3 NKJ)

Praise Him with the timbrel and dance;
Praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes! (Psalm 150:4 NKJ)

Through the very act of dancing, we can praise God. And through the Old Testament, we see dancing mentioned several times as a form of victory celebration over the enemy. The women, led by Miriam danced after Israel’s deliverance at the Red Sea (Exodus 15:20-21). The women also danced as they celebrated David’s victory over the Philistines (1 Samuel 18:6).

David danced when he brought the Ark of the Covenant to be installed in the tent David had set up in Jerusalem. It was an expression of joy and celebration (2 Samuel 6:14-16).

And if you think dancing as worship is limited to just women, we read that after David’s men recaptured their families taken captive by the Philistines they celebrated with dance (1 Samuel 30:16).

Musical instruments

Musical instruments will also play an active role in worship and it is not that they will be accompanying singers, the playing of musical instruments is also an act of worship:

Praise Him with Trumpet sound; Praise Him with harp and lyre. Praise Him with timbrel and dancing. (Psalm 150:1 NKJ).

And in this verse we see the three basic forms of instruments, wind, string and percussion that will manifest itself in different forms today from guitars to drums.

In fact, musical instruments as worship were not only required by King David, but also commanded by God through the prophet Nathan and Gad the seer:

25 And he stationed the Levites in the house of the Lord with cymbals, with stringed instruments, and with harps, according to the commandment of David, of Gad the king’s seer, and of Nathan the prophet; for thus was the commandment of the Lord by His prophets. 26 The Levites stood with the instruments of David, and the priests with the trumpets. 27 Then Hezekiah commanded them to offer the burnt offering on the altar. And when the burnt offering began, the song of the Lord also began, with the trumpets and with the instruments of David king of Israel. 28 So all the assembly worshiped, the singers sang, and the trumpeters sounded; all this continued until the burnt offering was finished. (2 Chronicles 29:25-28 NASV)

Not only will musical instruments be a form of worship, they will also be used to accompany singing that will enhance the worship with voice.

As we move into the New Testament we see the church singing in Psalms in worship (Ephesians 5:19). The Greek word translated singing, psallo, means literally to “sing with accompaniment of mechanical musical instruments.”  Some lexicons go as far to translate the word “to pluck a bow string.”

Lifting hands in worship/bowing down

Raising hands (Psalm 63:4; Psalm 134:2) and bowing (Psalm 95:6) are mentioned several times as an expression of worship in the Psalms.

It is a way of honoring God and acknowledging His supremacy. The Psalmist also compares raising of hands to the evening offering performed in the Tabernacle of Moses:

Let my prayer be set before You as incense,
The lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice (Psalm 141:2 NKJ)

Both these expressions of worship are ways of humbling ourselves before the Lord.

Shouting

In a Psalm written by Kind David, he writes that shouting before God was another way of worshiping God in the Tabernacle of David:

And now my head will be lifted up above my enemies around me,
And I will offer in His tent sacrifices [a]with shouts of joy;
I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord. (Psalm 27:6 NASV)

David writes that shouting was a way of lifting his head above his enemy.

But the verse suggests that David had not yet achieved the victory he was seeking, but he was thanking God for the victory that was yet to come.

David’s choir director writes:

Oh, clap your hands, all you peoples!
Shout to God with the voice of triumph!
(Psalm 47:1 NKJ)

Banners

Banners were also used as a form of worship in the Tabernacle of David:

We will sing for joy over your victory,
And in the name of our God we will set up our banners.
May the Lord fulfill all your petitions. (Psalm 20:5 NASV)

You have given a banner to those who fear You,
That it may be displayed because of the truth. Selah (Psalm 60:4 NKV)

And the Song of Solomon speaks of an army filled with men and women waving banners (Song of Solomon 6:4) and the enemies of God will be terrified when they see the banners waving in the wind (Isaiah 31:9).

Banners were instruments of war and were so important that it is also one of the names of God — Jehovah Nissi, Lord of the Banner:

15 And Moses built an altar and called its name, [a]The-Lord-Is-My-Banner; 16 for he said, “Because [b]the Lord has sworn: the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.” (Exodus 17:15-16 NKJ)

With the church being the prophetic fulfillment of the restoration of the Tabernacle of David, these are the expressions of worship that God wants to see in our assemblies.

More in the Tabernacle of David series:

 

Apostles and prophets Part I: Five or three

Calling of the Apostles by Domenico Ghirlandaio (1448 - 1494) Credit: Perledarte/Flickr/Creative Commons

Calling of the Apostles by Domenico Ghirlandaio (1448 – 1494) Credit:
Perledarte/Flickr/Creative Commons

[by Keith Hazell] Some of us have lived through days of exciting change in the Body of Christ.  We have seen God bringing the Church into her own; equipping her in ways that had not been seen for many years in the past.

In particular God has been giving us the opportunity to see the resurgence of men and women who carry the Ministry of the Apostle and the Prophet in their lives. Many have had to pioneer the modeling of these ministries without themselves having good role models to follow.

In my lifetime I have seen the return and recognition of both the Apostle and the Prophet by New Testament Churches; although it has not come without much confusion and controversy.

In 1948 God began to bring a revelation to the church in North America through the Latter Rain Revival which broke out in North Battleford in Northern Canada. The principles released in those days to the Church were to reverberate around the earth and to be catalyst for the release of these ministries into the Church once more. Some chose to ignore these truths on the ground that they were restored through men who then perverted some of the truths  they discovered. But the Biblical standard and walking the truths out with a servant attitude has been acted on by many.

Through the 1960’s and the 1970’s there was a resurgence of the teaching concerning Apostles as the Charismatic movement broke out around the world, drawing people back to the search for New Testament Church patterns.

In the 1980’s and 1990’s, Apostolic and Prophetic ministries were birthed and nurtured, and began to grow and operate effectively.
 Toward the end of the decade, a group of people who are generally called the “New Apostolic Movement” began to propagate similar teachings. Unfortunately, their  teaching was tainted with attempts to use the revelation as a way of building personal “kingdoms”.

Networking with one another and using a specific vocabulary to try justifying their own elitism, they caused confusion between themselves and genuine Apostolic Ministries. In addition to this, they tended to give the impression that they were actually the people who had restored this understanding to the Body of Christ when they were in fact latecomers in the restoration of these truths.

As well, some self-proclaimed Apostles brought the Office into disrepute. However, in spite of these confusions, God continues to draw us to the Biblical standard in these days.

In this series, we will look particularly at how the Apostle and Prophet can work together in a team along with the other Gift ministries (Pastor, Evangelist and Teacher) to build up and equip the Body of Christ.

Five or Three

What oversight and leadership structure does the Bible expect to be operating in the church?

Ephesians 4:11 tells us that God gave the Church five ministry Gifts which include both the Prophet and the Apostle.

The next verse (verse 12) says the purpose of these ministry Gifts is “to prepare Gods people for works of service,  so that the body of Christ may be built up  until we all reach  unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God, and become mature attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”

It stands to reason that without the ongoing presence and participation of each of the five ministry Gifts we will always have an immature and incomplete church; undeveloped to its full potential and unable to fulfill the purpose of Jesus on the earth.

For many years the Church has existed and limped along with a three gifted ministry of Pastors, Evangelists and Teachers.  She rejected the provision of Jesus due to not understanding the significance of each of the Offices.  The reasons for this rejection of the whole provision of God are many, but tend to revolve around an unwillingness to accept the ongoing role and call of those involved.

In the past, we had “missionary pioneers”; we had “pastors of pastors”; and some went as far as to call them “spiritual fathers”. But, it was not accepted to simply call them Apostles the way the Bible does. Was it because of our “vain tradition”?

Biblical Scholars had known for Centuries that the term “Apostle” was used in the New Testament many more times than might be apparent to the average person. And there has been some attempt to craft a view that only the original twelve Apostles of the Lamb should have that title. However, the New Testament is clear that Paul, Barnabas and others were recognized as apostles, giving a clear pattern that the church should expect God to continuously be calling people into the Apostolic gifting.

In these days, we again have those who are recognized Apostles and who are doing the work that God has given them and their impact is being felt in restoring a church in the earth that is fully functional to train, direct and build the Body of Christ in the Nations.

As well, we have seen the recognition of Prophets.  The seedbed of this change can be traced both to the Welsh Revival in Penygroes and the Azusa Street Revival in the early 1900’s. The Welsh Apostolic Church was born out of the revival in Penygroes. This group of believers saw both the Apostle and the Prophet as a part of their experience and Government.

Out of the crucible of their own movement they clearly saw that Prophets existed and could have an ongoing part in the life of local churches. Some of these men, who were certainly Prophets, traveled to North America and sowed seeds into the fertile ground which would later be called the Latter Rain Revival in North Battleford in Canada.

There was less controversy concerning the Prophetic perhaps because there were no Prophets chosen by Jesus and few could name the New Testament Prophets like Agabus, Judas and Silas, and there was less resistance to the label being applied to living people.

Sadly, much damage has been caused by those with Prophetic Office who modeled the harsh attributes of Old Testament Prophets, as opposed to the building attributes of effective New Testament Prophets. Often isolated, angry with the Church, and unable to find a place, these prophetic pioneers caused a backlash in the Body of Christ, and made people resistant to the Prophetic Ministry.

In spite of all these things the Apostolic and Prophetic Ministries have made a strong come back in the life and government of New Testament Churches around the world. I trust that we are again in a time when the church looks for people, called of God, in all five of the Ministry Gifts.

_____________________________

Copyright Keith Hazell — Used by permission

Keith, now deceased, traveled internationally as a prophet and teaching ministry. For more than 35 years he has traveled among the nations demonstrating the Prophetic and teaching and raising up new generation prophets. He was one of the most accurate prophets that I have personally known.

More in this series on the Ministry of Apostles:

Study shows that religious people live longer

Credit: Kamyta/Flickr/Creative Commons

Credit: Kamyta/Flickr/Creative Commons

According to the Daily Mail, a study undertaken by researchers from Ohio State University in the US concluded that religious people live on average four years longer than atheists or non religious. The results of their study were published in the Social Psychological and Personality Science Journal.

The group of psychology researchers came to this conclusion after studying the obituaries of over 1,000 people.

This included 505 recorded n the Des Moines Register in Iowa in January and February 2012. The study led by doctoral student Laura Wallace concluded that church goers outlived non-religious people by 9.45 years. However, once they factored out other elements that can contribute to longer life including marriage and gender, that difference shrunk to 6.48 years.

A second study of 1,096 obituaries published in 42 cites between August 2010 and August 2011 showed religious people lived an average of 5.64 years longer than those who weren’t. Once gender and marital status were factored out that difference dropped to 3.82 years.

The researchers said there were several factors that may contribute to longevity for religious people and this includes a more active social life such as volunteerism found in churches.  Other studies have shown that an active social life is a significant contributor to better health and longer-life spans.

However, in the case of the Ohio study, the research team estimated that increased social life contributed less than a year to the longer life spans of the religious people they studied.

The researchers suspected that other factors also came into play including lower usage of drugs and alcohol, fewer sex partners and the use of tools to deal with stress including prayer and meditation.

In an interview with the Daily Mail, Wallace said their results are not surprising as several studies have concluded religious faith contributes to a healthier life. However, she noted that in many of the other studies, the person’s religious life was self-reported, in their study of obituaries another observer was commenting on a person’s lifestyle.

Aside from those mentioned by the Ohio study, other factors may be contributing to longer life. In Ephesians, the Apostle Paul comments on the unique nature of one of the ten commandments:

Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth. ( Ephesians 6:2-3 NASV)

The fifth commandment was the only one that came with a promise. If we honored our mother and father, we would live longer.

But Paul was well also aware of the problems families can run into and in the fourth verse he warns fathers of not provoking their children to anger (Ephesians 6:4).

Parents are not perfect. They will make mistakes. They will exasperate and anger their children. And in those instances before we can honor them, we must first forgive them.

Forgiving others was one of the major teachings of Jesus and it no more holds true than for families. When the Apostle Peter asked Christ how many times a person should forgive his brother (a family member) and threw out the number seven times, Jesus countered:

“I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. (Matthew 18: 22 NASV)

While Peter was trying to keep track of how many times he had forgiven his brother, Jesus countered that we need to forgive our brother seventy-time seven or 490 times, a number that would be almost impossible to track. Most commentators conclude that Jesus was saying that we must forgive indefinitely.

Certainly families give more opportunities for offense and we must forgive them and keep on forgiving and this is no more true than for our parents.

Sources:

Jobs for Christians

Credit: jon watts/Flickr/Creative Commons

Credit: jon watts/Flickr/Creative Commons

Are you a Christian? Do you believe that God will provide? Do you know any Christian who is struggling to find a job? I know someone who is struggling right now and I have been there myself.

I have worked in places where I never mentioned that I was a Christian and that I didn’t tell people that I went to church on Sunday. That information could have cost me my job, or I would have missed some promotions. A comedian in England, Tracey Ullman, has published a video comedy skit about a Christian in a job interview. The joke isn’t very funny, but sometimes comedians make serious statements behind the laughter. Getting and keeping a job can be a problem for a Christian.

Most of my career work has been training people so they can qualify for employment, or getting them into schools where they could train for a job. At the same time, I had to get and keep my own job, and maybe get promoted. I also have good friends who work in HR and as career counsellors. I know that it’s a jungle out there, and Christians are usually the losers in political games. We just don’t have enough killer instinct.

It is very clear to me now, that God is my helper. I don’t remember any time when I sat around and did nothing and an invisible hand dropped good things on me. In my experience, God blesses my busyness.

So, for busy people who trust God and need an income, here is my advice:

  • Worship God: A career can be a demanding thing, and some stressful jobs are not worth having. A good job will pay your bills so you can have a good life. Real satisfaction in life comes from our creator and not from our brilliant careers. Choose your God carefully: The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers so they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:4)
  • Don’t push for promotion: Promotion increases stress, and it must include a big pay raise, or it’s not worth the effort. I have received some big promotions, including the corner office with the big desk, and if I had a do-over, I would refuse most of them. We are naturally vain and conceited, with active egos: Let us not be ambitious for our own reputations [vainglory], for that only means making each other jealous. (Galatians 5:26)
  • Do a little, know a lot: Did you ever feel like you were not appreciated at your job? Be glad when that happens. I have many friends who had no more skills to offer “imposter syndrome” and when they lost their jobs, they had nothing extra for the job market. Be really good at what you do, better than you need to be: Do you see someone skilled in their work? They will serve before kings; they will not serve before officials of low rank. (Proverbs 22: 29)
  • Manage your money: So, how is your bank account doing? If we don’t manage our money, we become stressed out slaves to our employer, when maybe we should leave a job and find something better. I kept my old car for three more years once, and when I lost my job, I had the resources for retraining and for a slow and careful job search, without a car loan. Your money is important: Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds; for riches do not endure forever. (Proverbs 27:23)
  • Maybe start a business: I don’t recommend quitting your secure job and committing your whole family to a radical new idea, but I do recommend a side business. Small things can grow into one big thing. I own a small business and it started, years ago, from some small things on the side. I believe God likes it when we build new things: Then he will bring out the capstone to shouts of ‘God bless it! God bless it! … [and] Who dares despise the day of small things, since the seven eyes of the Lord that range throughout the earth will rejoice when they see … (Zechariah 4: 7 and 10)

If you need employment, I hope you find something good for you, and soon. I also hope you come out of the between-jobs experience as a better person, someone who knows themselves better, and someone who is closer to God.

The millennial challenge

Credit: Natalie Downe/Flickr/Creative Commons

Credit: Natalie Downe/Flickr/Creative Commons

We often joke with our daughter about being a “millennial” because she and her generation have a strong sense of entitlement. I realize now we are actually demeaning them and putting them in a shame position that makes it harder for them to move into adulthood.

Several nights ago, I saw a young boy running with his teammates during a football practice and he couldn’t keep up. He was embarrassed. It broke my heart to see him caught in the throes of obvious comparison and failure in the eyes of his team mates. I wondered if this was what he wanted to do? Or was he playing football because that is what his parents’ wanted?

On our journey through the child and teenage years, my husband and I realized that many times we were living our hopes and unmet dreams through our children.

This was a harsh reality for us. It took time to undo the damage in their lives, our son in particular. We had to apologize and say “sorry” more than once. Many times after a game or a tough term of school, we would admit that our perception of them was through our own eyes as a child.

The Apostle Paul gave some parenting advice when he wrote:

21 Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart. (Colossians 3:21 NASV)

We frustrate our kids by placing our unmet expectations on them. They have enough trouble living their own lives without having to live their parents’ as well.

It grieves us that we placed unrealistic expectations on our children to fulfill the mental picture we had of them. Our intentions, like most parents, were well-meaning but most of the time we were operating from a place of fear.

Our children our trying to discover their identity and who they are. They have varied personalities and giftings within them. Some like sports, some don’t. Some find school easy, some don’t.

Some have an outward forward energy and others have a quiet, more methodical approach to life. When our children show up with a quiet methodical personality, it often doesn’t line up with the forward-pushing energy we would like to see.

Teenagers want their lives to run as smoothly and happily as we do. They want to be loved, accepted, and understood, just like the rest of us.

Discovering their identity is the main mission of teens and the emotions and frustrations they express are not less valid because of their age. Your teen might be acting out because of woundedness, insecurity and not feeling totally comfortable in situations they find themselves in.

Like many parents we found the year-end awards at school stressful because it put our kids in a position of comparing themselves with the accomplishments of other students. This comparing attitude creates a “not good enough” mindset not only in our sons and daughters but even the parents.

I like Dr. Wayne Dyer’s perception of raising children:

“Rather, we wanted our children to value themselves, to become risk takers, to be self-reliant, to be free from stress and anxiety, to be able to celebrate their present moments, to experience a lifetime of wellness, to fulfill their own spiritual callings, to be creative – and most significantly, to live with a sense of inner peace, regardless of any and all external circumstances.”

We want to blame technology and the media for our teen’s behavior, but operating from a place of fear prevents us from teaching them to make appropriate and supportive choices with the media.

Can we throw out comparison and its partner shame. Look for the best in your teenager and they will come to see the best in themselves.

You want your children to know that you honor them for who they are, and you support them individually. We want them to follow their own music not ours.

As parents we try to help guide them but we must allow them to take risks, make mistakes, change their minds and move in a different direction if they feel so inclined. The goal of every parent is to empower their children to be healthy responsible adults in all areas of their lives.

Oops, that wasn’t supposed to happen: genetic study unravels evolutionary theory

Malaysia Credit: Juha Riissanen/Flickr/Creative Commons

Malaysian cave Credit: Juha Riissanen/Flickr/Creative Commons

A study produced by two geneticists Mark Stoeckle from New York’s Rockefeller University and David Thaler from Switzerland’s University of Baler concluded that 90% of animals came into existence at the same time as humans and relatively recently.

This conclusion seriously challenges the theory of evolution that requires millions of years for animals to slowly evolve, with man being the climax of the evolutionary cycle.

In their study published in the Human Evolution journal, the two geneticists examined the “DNA barcodes” of 100,000 species of animals stored in GenBank, a genetic data base operated by the American government. Based on this study, the two concluded that animals appeared at the same time as humans about 100,000 to 200,000 years ago.

Though there may be some dispute on the dating, their study nevertheless confirms the Biblical account that says humans and animals were created at the same time on the fifth day.

In an interview with Christian Headlines, Ken Ham founder of the creationist organization Answers in Genesis suggested the age numbers were inflated by evolutionary assumptions, but said the study nevertheless challenges the foundational beliefs of evolutionary theory.

The two geneticists were also well aware of the waves their conclusions would cause in evolutionary circles. Thaler stated almost apologetically:

“This conclusion is very surprising and I fought against it as hard as I could.”

It was kind of a puzzling remark because why would you fight against the science, just because it disagreed with strongly held positions on how humans supposedly evolved?

But their conclusion is also supported by the fossil record, that shows the sudden appearance of animals with no evolutionary trail behind them as they gradually evolved from simpler to more complex life forms. This trail is not only expected, but demanded by evolutionary theory.

Referred to as the Cambridge Explosion, it is a problem that evolutionists have never successfully dealt with. Writing for American Scientist, authors Osorio, Bacon and Whitington discussed the problematic Cambrian Explosion in their article “The Evolution of Anthropod Nervous Systems” stating:

“As Darwin noted in the Origin of Species, the abrupt emergence of arthropods in the fossil record during the Cambrian presents a problem for evolutionary biology. There are no obvious simpler or intermediate forms—either living or in the fossil record—that show convincingly how modern arthropods evolved from worm-like ancestors. Consequently there has been a wealth of speculation and contention.”

There is more.

Last year scientists found ancient human footprints embedded in sedimentary sand in Crete. From every analysis these were human foot prints, but there was one major problem. They were embedded in rock that was older than the animals that humans supposedly evolved from.

The National Post wryly pointed out the problem writing, “human ancestors may have existed in Crete at the same time as they evolved in Africa.”

There are so many recent discoveries challenging the basic tenets of evolution, some scientists are now suggesting we need a better explanation of how humans and animal life came into existence.

Sources:

If you want to know God’s will, start moving

Credit: Ben Freeman/Flickr/Creative Commons

Credit: Ben Freeman/Flickr/Creative Commons

Many of us can struggle trying to decide what God wants us to do. It is clear from Scripture that God has a purpose for each of us. The Prophet Jeremiah wrote:

11 ‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’ (Jeremiah 29:11 NASV)

God has a plan for each of us. He has a future destiny laid out for you. But knowing God’s purpose for our lives can be a struggle and many times we find ourselves sitting and doing nothing waiting for a messenger from heaven to hand deliver our instructions.

I think that is a mistake. If you want to know God’s will for your life, get out of your chair and start moving. This is exactly the advice that King Solomon gave:

The mind of man plans his way,
But the Lord directs his steps. (Proverbs 16:9 NASV)

We are told that we can make our plans, but God directs our steps. But the key to God guiding our steps is those plans we make. In fact for God to supervise our steps, we have to be walking, moving forward. If you are sitting in your chair wondering what God wants you to do, how can God direct your steps?

So what are your plans? What do you want to do? The Bible says that God will give us the desires of  our heart (Psalm 37:4).

What skills do you have?

Do you like writing? Then start a blog.

Do you want to teach the Bible? Then get involved in a home group or start a Bible study.

Start moving so God can direct your steps. This applies to secular as well as spiritual.

Even if you are not absolutely sure this is what your supposed to be doing, do it. I felt God wanted me to start OpentheWord.org, but if someone had asked, “Are you absolutely certain this is what God wants you to do?” — I couldn’t have answered that question with an unequivocal yes. But I did it anyway.

This is basically how we ended up with OpentheWord. I had a desire to write and provide Biblical teaching, so I started the site in 2007.  In its early years, we were basically republishing articles, with permission, from other Christian websites.

I was moving.

But then God began to direct my steps and it wasn’t fun.

In 2012, we started having major issues on the site. Due to problems on the server that was hosting OpentheWord, we were unable to update our software resulting in major technical problems. This combined with the decision by our hosting company to close down its service, I was forced to completely shutdown OpentheWord.

It was a frustrating time and I started thinking that perhaps God was telling me to close down the website. But looking back I see this trouble was very much part of God’s way of directing my steps.

Sometimes when God is guiding our steps it is not a fun time.  We can lose our job and look upon it as failure, but during this time of confusion we should be asking is God directing my steps?

As I wrestled with the decision on whether to permanently close, I sensed the Holy Spirit saying something completely different. He wanted to change how we ran the site.

Instead of republishing other people’s article, the Lord wanted us write our own articles. This was a major shift in direction.

Yet, without the trouble, I don’t think I would have made that change.

The difficulty we ran into was a large sign on the road reading: “Change of direction. Go this way.”

After being closed for several months, we relaunched OpentheWord in July 2013. Since we had not been operational for several months, I wasn’t sure how many people would return to the site and if they did would they appreciate the change in direction?

During the last six months of 2013 we had 4,022 people visit the site or just over 650 people a month. This was considerably down from the number of visitors we had before our closure.

But in recent months, we have seen a dramatic increase in visits. And today we can have nearly as many people visiting OpentheWord on a daily basis as we did in a month in 2013. Those these are not huge numbers in Internet terms, they are big for us.

But here is the key because I was moving forward, God could direct my steps.

Where is Mt. Sinai?

Visitors descending what is traditionally considered to be Mt. Sinai located in Egypt. (This is not the mountain that Richardson considers to be Mt. Sinai). Credit: Patrick M/Flickr/Creative Commons

Visitors descending what is traditionally considered to be Mt. Sinai located in Egypt. (This is not the mountain that Richardson considers to be Mt. Sinai). Credit: Patrick M/Flickr/Creative Commons

We don’t know for sure where Mt Sinai is located. The mountain, also called Horeb (Deuteronomy 4:10), was the location where Moses received the Ten Commandments.

St. Catherine's Monastery located at the foot of the tradition site of Mt. Sinai in Egypt. Credit: Nick Leonard/Flickr/Creative Commons

St. Catherine’s Monastery located at the foot of the tradition site of Mt. Sinai in Egypt. Credit: Nick Leonard/Flickr/Creative Commons

It’s traditionally believed that Mt. Sinai is Jebel Musa located in Egypt on the Sinai Peninsula. Jews held this belief as early as 100 AD and people were making pilgrimages to the site. Christians accepted this and several monasteries were later built near the mountain.

However, in an interview with WND, Pastor Joel Richardson is bucking the trend by suggesting Mt Sinai is actually located in Saudi Arabia. He believes a mountain called Jabal al-Lawz is actually Mt Sinai.

In fact, the Apostle Paul describes Mt Sinai as being in Arabia, but it is uncertain what he meant by Arabia. At that time, this vague description could have easily included the Sinai Peninsula:

25 Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. (Galatians 4:25 NASV)

After personally visiting Jabal al-Lawz, Richardson gave several reasons why he believes it is Mt Sinai.

Near the site there is actually a split rock, that Richardson believes was a rock that Moses hit to cause water to flow at Horeb (Exodus 17:5, 6).

In the book of Psalms, the writer says that the rocks were actually split:

He split the rocks in the wilderness
And gave them abundant drink like the ocean depths.” (Psalm 78:15 NASV).

Since there is no mention of the rock splitting apart in Exodus (though it is could be implied), does this suggest the writer knew of the split rock’s existence when he wrote the Psalm?

The split rock which has gained some notoriety is certainly curious. According to Richardson, it was first discovered by Jim and Penny Caldwell. Richardson adds that the area around the split rock shows evidence of water erosion and certainly a substantial amount of water would be needed to supply the Israelis and their livestock.

The split rock at Mt Jabal al-Lawtz Credit: Joel Richardson/Wnd.com

The split rock at Mt Jabal al-Lawtz Credit: Joel Richardson/Wnd.com

The second thing that Richardson points to is the remains of two ancient altars at the site one of which has a series of Egyptian oxen drawings on it. He believes this is the altar that Aaron created to worship the golden calf demanded by the Israelis while Moses was up the mountain receiving the Ten Commandments.

The second altar was also discovered at the base of the mountain and may be the altar that Moses built to worship Jehovah (Exodus 20:24).

Richardson points out that there is also a cave on the mountain. This is significant because while being pursued by Jezebel, Elijah hid in a cave on Horeb which indicates at this time the mountain’s location was known:

So he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God. Then he came there to a cave and lodged there; (1 Kings 19:8-9a NASV)

The mountain traditionally believed to be Mt. Sinai does not have a known cave on it, though it may have since been covered by erosion or rock slides.

Archer petroglyph at Jabal al-Lawtz Credit: Joel Richardson/Wnd

Archer petroglyph at Jabal al-Lawtz Credit: Joel Richardson/Wnd

The final evidence for Richardson is the more recent discovery of ancient drawings of archers at Jabal al-Lawtz. This is significant because Moses warned the Israelis to stay off the mountain or they would be killed by stones or arrows.

12 Put limits for the people around the mountain and tell them, ‘Be careful that you do not approach the mountain or touch the foot of it. Whoever touches the mountain is to be put to death. 13 They are to be stoned or shot with arrows; not a hand is to be laid on them. (Exodus 19: 12-13a NIV)

Richardson believes these ancient drawings may have served as a visible warning sign not to climb the mountain.

Sources:

China’s communist revival: Is Satan rearing his head again?

Yanghu, Anhui, China Credit: Ted McGrath/Flickr/Creative Commons

Yanghu, Anhui, China Credit: Ted McGrath/Flickr/Creative Commons

There is a communist revival taking place in the world today. We see cultural Marxism rearing its ugly head in universities with the extreme left trying to shut down, sometimes violently, any conservatives who dare to disagree with their extreme left-wing opinions.

Put perhaps the clearest example of this swing can be seen in the communist resurgence taking place in China. In an article in the Washington Times, Bob Fu, President of ChinaAid a Christian organization that monitors human right abuses in China, said persecution of Christians in China has reached levels unseen since the days of Mao Tse Tung’s Cultural Revolution (1966-1976).

In 2016, ChinaAid reported the persecution of 762 Churches and 48,000 people and by 2017 that had risen to 1,265 churches and 223,000 people.

The persecution trend is veering upwards again in 2018 since the passing of a law on Feb. 1 requiring all churches to register with the state.  Earlier this year, the government dynamited the largest church in Shanxi province — the Golden Lampstand Church.  The government has also burned crosses, seized Bibles, censored Biblical passages and even set up cameras to monitor Church services.

But perhaps the most disturbing trend is the establishment of “re-education” camps for Christians and other religious groups popularized by Mao to brainwash China’s citizens.

Communism’s sudden resurgence was initiated by China’s ruling emperor for life Xi Jinping who is not only President of China, but is ruler of China’s communist party and commander of its military. Before 2018, China limited ruling presidents to two terms, but earlier this year Jinping changed the rules so he could rule indefinitely.

Similar to other tyrants, image of China's current president Xi Jinping are starting to appear across the country. Credit: Voice of America/Wikipedia

Similar to other tyrants, images of China’s current president Xi Jinping are starting to appear across the country. Credit: Voice of America/Wikipedia

And since he became leader, China has taken a radical turn towards communism.

May 5, 2018, marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx the founder of communism who was born in 1818 in the German town of Trier. In a speech commemorating Marx’s birthday, Jinping said:

“Today, we commemorate Marx in order to pay tribute to the greatest thinker in the history of mankind and also to declare our firm belief in the scientific truth of Marxism.”

The communist state also released a slick video honoring Karl Marx. The ad has Karl Marx in his white beard telling people in China to say “Say Hi to Marx.”  With Marx’s hand pictured with a “V” for victory salute, the ad goes on to say “Marx was correct.”

In April, the Chinese government also sent a 14-foot bronze statue of Karl Marx to the German town of Trier to commemorate Marx’s birth. Incredibly the town council not only accepted the statue but proudly installed it in the city.

How anyone could honor the man responsible for the murder and oppression of hundreds of millions of people reveals the deception in the world today.

The Black Book of Communism written in 1997 by various European academics sought to compile the number of people brutally murdered by Communists (in its various renditions) in the past century and put the number close to 100 million. The bulk of the genocides took place in the old Soviet Union under Stalin and in China under Mao:

  • China (Chairman Mao Tse Tung) — 65 million murdered during the Cultural Revolution
  • Soviet Union (Josef Stalin)/Eastern Bloc — 21 million

But aside from the politics is there a spiritual root to communism? From the outset, you would think no.

Marx was an atheist and in the introduction to his book entitled A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, Marx referred to religion as “the opium of the people.” He hated religion.

But aside from his prolific writings that called for a world-wide revolution, Marx also wrote poetry and it reveals a dark side of the founder of communism.

In several poems, we see Marx blatantly referring to the Satanic. Marx writes in The Player:

“The hellish vapours rise and fill the brain, till I go mad and my heart is utterly changed.

See this sword? The prince of darkness sold it to me.

The poem, downplayed by his supporters, talks about a satanic violence associated with communism. Is it just a coincidence that this is exactly what happened?

But it doesn’t stop there. In a poem called Invocation of One in Despair, Marx writes:

So a god has snatched from me my all
In the curse and rack of destiny,
All his worlds are gone beyond recall, nothing but revenge is left in me.

I shall build my throne high overhead.
Cold, tremendous shall its summit be
For its bulwark — superstitious dread.
For its marshal — blackest agony.

When you combine the worlds “I shall build my throne high overhead” with words from a second poem where Marx declares himself equal with God:

Then I will be able to walk triumphantly
Like a god, through the rains of their kingdom
Every word of mine is fire and action.
My breast is equal to that of the Creator.

You see an unmistakable parallel with words of the prophet Isaiah who described the fall of Satan:

“But you (Satan) said in your heart,
‘I will ascend to heaven;
I will raise my throne above the stars of God,
And I will sit on the mount of assembly
In the recesses of the north. (Isaiah 14:13-14 NASV)

Sources:

Just Don’t Drink the Poison

Credit: arbyreed/Flickr/Creative Commons

Credit: arbyreed/Flickr/Creative Commons

“We teach people how to treat us.” (Dr Phil)

Toxic people are everywhere, and one of them will find you if you give them a chance. They range from overbearing parents or others in the family who know how we should live our lives, to addicts and alcoholics, and sometimes to violent abusers. You might have heard words like this “You make me like this, it’s your fault.” or “I drink because of you.” or “I only lose my temper when you …”

In my extended family, I have a cousin who came under the control of an abusive man. She tells this story in churches, and this is my summary. As a young woman, I think a teenager, she met an older man and then moved in with him. They never did marry and she was a Christian. After some time, she realized that the man was controlling and abusive, and she needed to get out. One day they had a conversation, probably an argument, and she started walking to the door. That’s when he stood in front of her and blocked her exit. He was stronger than her and he could have beaten her, or worse. She was trapped by a toxic abuser in a prison that he built for her, and there was no way out.

But she was a Christian, and he looked past her, as if something was behind her, and got a look of fear on his face. He meekly let her walk past him and out the door. She never went back, and some time later she met a good man and married him, and now they have a life with their family, on the west coast. I remember that their kids were cute. Now they have their own business and possibly also grandchildren. I haven’t seen them for a few years, but all the news is good.

I call that walking in the sunshine, after stepping out of the darkness. My cousin is convinced that God sent an angel into that room, to guard her from that dangerous man and that angel scared him. God has many resources, but they were no used until she exercised her executive function, or in Christian language, she did the walk of faith. Left foot, right foot, and God opened a way.

Whatever disturbing issues made that man toxic, she did not drink the poison with him.

When I was a boy, we had some neighbors that I liked, except that the husband and father was an abusive drunk. He seemed nice when he was sober and I was friends with some of the kids in the family, but I think he was an alcoholic. He was a huge man and his wife was thin and frail.

One night he came home drunk and collapsed on the front lawn. He was safe there, and he just couldn’t crawl up the stairs to the front door. This was a big embarrassment to the family, and his tiny wife went outside and somehow got him off the ground and into the house. She could have injured herself, and obviously, over many years, she gave up the happiness in her life to compensate for his drinking.

Enabling is really nurturing and protecting a demon. Over years, that man destroyed his life, surrounded by his protective family, and he ruined their lives. They supported his sickness, not him, and he might have searched for help, but they made sure he didn’t feel the need. He never had to confront the consequences of his sick behaviour, his family took the consequences for him.

They agreed to drink his poison. She should have left him lying on the lawn and possibly called the police. He might be alive today without her enabling.

The problem is always with us, the victims of toxic people. Misery needs a support team.

Jesus gave us the way out of these prisons: “As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. Come, follow Me, Jesus said, and I will make you fishers of men. And at once they left their nets and followed Him”

I now realize that Jesus never called us to go to boring church services and have no fun. He told us to stop drinking the poison, and to be free. If we get busy following Him, we have less time in our schedule for controlling and toxic people, and they will lose interest in us. We won’t be useful to them.

Follow Jesus or feed a demon, that is the stark choice for many of us. I am happy that my cousin made the right choice, and if you need it, I hope you can find the same escape. If this does not apply to you, someone in your life fits the profile. It’s a common human condition.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones. (Proverbs 3:5 to 8)

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. For through wisdom your days will be many, and years will be added to your life. If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you; if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer. (Proverbs 9:10 to 12)

Pushing through our fears to victory

Credit: Jessica Meckmann/Flickr/Creative Commons

Credit: Jessica Meckmann/Flickr/Creative Commons

Choosing to push through our fear often means not knowing what lies on the other side of it. We waver wondering if we are doing the ‘right’ thing or if we’re going to end up making another mistake.

It is always the ‘right’ decision to push through your fear.  Many times we won’t know what the outcome will be, but we do know that God is with us in the good and bad decisions of our lives.

The Lord will work it out because we did the ‘right’ thing trusting Him in our decision to move beyond our uncertainty. The great men and women of faith had a deep understanding that God was always with them:

“King David said this about him: ‘I see that the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.” (Acts 2:25)

It is the same belief that all of us need.

When we push through our fear God honors our choice and walks with us. The whole weight of God’s presence, power and authority is in every step we take towards claiming new territory in our lives.

I may find myself shaken and trembling in my decision to move forward, but I know that the mountains in my life will crumble as I choose to be brave and honest, acknowledge my fears and continue to move ahead.

When Joshua took over the leadership of Israel from Moses, God promised to be with him in every step he made:

“Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised Moses.” (Joshua 1:3)

But in this journey, we will make mistakes. We may even face defeat. We must treat them as minor setbacks, not as road blocks.

Israel had just taken Jericho and Joshua sent his men to capture Ai, a small outpost, where the Israeli army faced a crushing defeat. When Joshua met his men retreating from the battle, he fell on his face full of fear.  But look at what God said to Joshua:

The Lord said to Joshua, “Get up! Why have you fallen on your face “ (Joshua 7:10)

When we face defeat, God wants us to immediately get back up on our feet and press ahead.

By getting back up, we have made a decision to step on the what if’s (what if I make a mistake, what if I fail, what if it’s not what I hoped for) and we begin to crush the lies that say we aren’t strong enough to do this.

We carry the weight of Christ’s presence and authority in every step we take out of the old land into our promised land, our inheritance.

So get back up when you fall or slip and slide in the mud of your trek through the darkness. Push through your fear again and again and then shout like Joshua did:

16 “Shout! For the Lord has given you the city. (Joshua 7:16)

In his commentary, Matthew Henry writes, “God never makes any provision for the Christian’s retreat. He clears the path to Canaan if we go ahead; if we go back, we die. Victory ahead!”

A ‘light’ does not judge

Credit: Anna Ghislaine/Flickr/Creative Commons

Credit: Anna Ghislaine/Flickr/Creative Commons

Some of you may be familiar with Jordan Peterson. He is a Canadian psychologist from the University of Toronto who has become famous in recent months for being a voice of reason in a world careening towards Marxism, totalitarianism and political correctness.

In his many lectures available on YouTube, he made this curious statement that has stuck with me. When people look at Nazi Germany, we want to judge the Germans for falling under the spell of the megalomaniac Adolf Hitler and his utter hatred for the Jews.

Somehow we have convinced ourselves that we are different and would never have been taken in by Hitler’s lies.

Peterson disagrees.

He says that if we had grown up in Germany when Hitler was coming to power, we (meaning you and I) would have become Nazis and embraced antisemitism just like the Germans did.

Certainly, there were a handful of people in Germany, like Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who opposed Hitler and died because of it. We can try to convince ourselves we would have been Bonhoeffer, but according to Peterson the reality is most of us would have embraced Adolf Hitler and the Nazis cause.

We can judge the Germans all we want, but most of us would have acted no different.

And this is at the root of a story found in the Gospel of John.

Trying to trap Christ, the pharisees and scribes brought a woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11). They asked Jesus if she should be stoned according to the law of Moses. In doing so they misinterpreted the law, but that is another story.

The poor woman was probably huddling on the ground as the Pharisees and scribes discussed her fate.

Jesus answered their accusation by saying the man who was without sin should cast the first stone. Christ then began writing words in the dirt and one by one the woman’s accusers left from the oldest first to the youngest.

It is not certain what Jesus wrote but some speculated it may have been a list of sins committed by those judging the woman.

Jesus then turned to the woman and asked where her accusers were:

10 Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.” and Jesus said to her neither do I condemn you. (John 8:10-11 NASV)

Christ ended the discussion by saying He was not there to condemn her, but it is the very next verse that should catch our attention when Christ said:

12 “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” (John 8:12 NASV)

Is the fact Jesus did not come to judge this woman linked to the Lord being the “Light of the world?”

We see in the story the pharisees were wanting to judge the woman for her sin. Having been caught in the very act, even the woman did not question her guilt.

But the issue here is judging and condemnation. Somehow the Pharisees had convinced themselves that they were different. They were a cut above this woman and could judge her. But when Jesus uttered the words “he who is without sin,” the Lord cut through this lie. As Jesus exposed their sins by the words written on the ground, they slowly slunk away.

Some Christians, myself included, believe we are called to judge, yet Christ says that His disciples are also to be a light to the world:

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; (Matthew 5:14 NASV)

If this is true, can we also judge?

This is point of judging. We are sinners. We are all capable of making the same mistakes. This is exactly the point Jesus made when He said that when we judge others we will be judged for exactly the same thing:

For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? (Matthew 7:2-3 NASV)

Anyone who thinks they are different has deluded themselves. As sinners, we are all capable of becoming Nazis.

Discovery of three small coins confirms the Jews ancient connection to the Temple Mount

The Temple Mount Credit: Ben and Ash/Flickr/Creative Commons

The Temple Mount Credit: Ben and Ash/Flickr/Creative Commons

Archaeologists working on the remains from the Temple Mount have discovered five small coins that speak of an incredible time of religious freedom in Israel’s history.

Though only three of the coins are legible, they are dated to the fourth century. This puts them at the time when King Cyrus of Persia allowed the Jews to return their homeland from their Babylonian captivity and rebuild Jerusalem and the Jewish temple in 538 BC. The archaeologists believe the other two similarly sized undecipherable coins are from the same set.

Seven millimeters wide, the coins have an image of a barn owl on one side. The Jews basically copied the Athenian Abol, a Greek coin used in ancient times. It is curious that they used the owl because it was considered unclean under Jewish law and it also represented the goddess Athena to the Greeks.

Instead of having the Greek letters ΑΘΕ used to signify Athens, the three legible coins had the Aramaic word YHD. According to an article on ynetnews, this is the shortened version of Yehud which was the name of the Persian province that basically covered the territory of ancient Judah. Jerusalem was the capital of this province.

It showed that Israel was still subject to the Persian empire.

The archaeological team believes these coins were probably minted at the Temple and would have been among the first coins minted by the Jews. People would bring their tithes and donations to the temple during the Feast of Shavout where they were then converted to coins.

It probably wasn’t the only coin minted at that time. It seems the Jews also began producing a third of a shekel that was specifically used to fund the Temple.

32 We also placed ourselves under obligation to contribute yearly one-third of a shekel for the service of the house of our God: (Nehemiah 10:32 NASV)

It was a voluntary contribution. It is possible these five small coins may have been the “third of a shekel” mentioned in Nehemiah, but this is unlikely.

We know throughout history the Jewish priests minted coins that were not considered legal tender in Israel, but were used for donations at the Temple. It was a practice used in Jesus’s day which is why they had money changers at the Temple.

People would bring in their Roman and Greek coins that would be exchanged for Temple currency used for donations. These secular coins often had images of the emperors or gods on them and were considered unsuitable for donations to the temple.

However, in Jesus’s day the money changers were corrupt and were widely believed to be ripping off the Jewish citizens in the financial exchange. This is why Jesus overturned their tables when He cleansed the Temple:

12 And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. (Matthew 21:12 NASV)

In Ezra’s day, it is possible a coin with an image of an unclean animal representing the goddess Athena was also considered unsuitable for donations, but was still used as currency in regular day-to-day dealings in the market place and business.

Unlike today, the value of a coin in ancient times was based on the amount of silver or gold used to create it with larger coins obviously worth more.

This find reveals that the Jewish Temple was a major administration center in ancient Israel.

These coins were found in the hundred of tons of dirt thrown into Kidron Stream during unauthorized work by the Muslims on the Temple Mount in 1999. Some believe the Jordanian Waqf purposely dumped this dirt without proper excavation to hide the Jewish connection and claim to the Temple Mount as the dirt contained tens of thousands of ancient Jewish relics.

The Temple Mount Sifting Project was set up to sift through this dumped material to re-discover the  site’s ancient Jewish heritage.

Sources:

Victory for religious freedom in US as Supreme Court rules in favor of Colorado baker

US Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. Credit: Keith Survell/Flickr/Creative Commons

US Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. Credit: Keith Survell/Flickr/Creative Commons

In 2012, Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Denver Colorado, was approached by a homosexual couple who wanted Phillips to make a custom wedding cake for their gay wedding. Phillips said no stating that it contravened his beliefs as a Christian.

However, Phillips was willing to make them a birthday cake or any cake for that matter, but was unwilling to decorate it with a message supporting gay marriage.

Citing discrimination, the gay couple took Phillips before the Colorado Civil Rights Commission (CCRC) that eventually ordered Phillips to make the cake and as well required his staff to undergo re-education training.

However, Phillips decided to take the case to the courts. Initially, he lost his cases in the Colorado courts who ruled in favor of the CCRC’s decision.

After the Colorado Supreme Court refused to hear Phillips’ appeal, with the help of the Alliance Defending Freedom, Phillips petitioned the US Supreme Court in July 2016, the highest court in the US.

In June 2017, the court agreed to hear the case in and in an overwhelming 7-2 decision in June 2018, the US Supreme Court ruled in Phillips’ favor saying that under the constitution he was not required to make a cake supporting gay marriage if it violated his sincerely held religious beliefs.

The court understood the complexities of the issue. How do you balance conflicting rights? Does an individual under the constitution have freedom of religion in the US? This had to be balanced with the gay couple who insisted they were facing discrimination because Phillips would not make their wedding cake, even though he was willing to make them other cakes.

In coming to its conclusion, the Supreme Court ruled that Phillips had not only been treated unfairly but even with hostility because of his religious beliefs:

“The commission’s treatment of Phillips’ case … showed elements of a clear and permissible hostility towards the sincere religious beliefs motivating his objection. As the records show, some of the commissioners at the commission’s formal, public hearings endorsed the view that religious beliefs cannot legitimately be carried into the public sphere or commercial domain, disparaged Phillips’ faith as despicable and characterize it as merely rehtorical, and compared his invocation of his sincerely held religious beliefs to defenses of slavery and the Holocaust.”

The court also noted that in three earlier cases, the CCRC had ruled in favor of bakers who had refused to decorate cakes with themes they disagreed with. But then ruled against Phillips for similarly disagreeing to decorate a cake because of his sincerely held religious beliefs.

The Supreme Court stated that Phillips was “entitled to a neutral and respectful consideration of his claims in all the circumstances of this case.”

When asked on the Today Show after the victory if he now had the right to discriminate against gays, Jack Phillips said:

“I serve everybody. I don’t discriminate against anybody. It’s just that I don’t create cakes for every occasion that people ask me to create … a wedding is just an inherently religious event and the cake is definitely a specific message that goes with that.

“I wouldn’t create a cake that would be anti-American or disparaging against anybody for any reason. Even cakes that would disparage people who identify as LGBT. Cakes have a message”

Phillips’ story reminds me of the account involving Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, three Jewish men living in Babylonian captivity along with Daniel. After Daniel gained a prominent role in Nebuchadnezzar’s court after successfully interpreting a dream, Daniel appointed the three Jewish men to serve as administrators.

The three got into trouble after Nebuchadnezzar produced a giant, golden idol and passed an edict requiring everyone to bow down and worship it. When the three Jewish men refused, Babylonians who were obviously in the court of Nebuchadnezzar, told the Babylonian king what had happened.

For this reason at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and brought charges against the Jews. (Daniel 3:8 NASV)

However, when Nebuchadnezzar tried to execute them, God intervened sparing their lives.

The three Jewish men were wanting the freedom to worship the way they wanted, but the state was requiring them to violate their conscience. It is curious to note that Daniel had previously been granted the religious freedom to follow Jewish dietary laws (Daniel 1:8) while serving in Nebuchadnezzar’s court.

Jack Phillips was wanting the same freedom to practice his religion. In this case, his religious rights are supposedly protected under the US Constitution and not by the fickle whims of some despot.

Though Phillips won the court battle, he lost his cake shop in the process. He and his family also received death threats. There was a cost to winning this battle.

Paul encourages us to pray for Kings and all those in authority (this includes judges) “that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Timothy 2:2 NASV).

Sources:

Bavaria requires a cross be displayed in all government offices

Church steeples in Wurzburg, Bavaria Credit: Gertrude K./Flickr/Creative Commons

Church steeples in Würzburg, Bavaria Credit: Gertrude K./Flickr/Creative Commons

Officially called the Free State of Bavaria, Bavaria is Germany’s largest state making up 20% of Germany’s land mass. With a population of 13 million it is Germany’s second largest state. With its state capital in Munich, Bavaria also has Germany’s second largest economy.

Bavarians are very conscious of their identity with many considering themselves Bavarian first and Germans second. With 75% of Bavarians calling themselves Christian (over 50% Catholic), many consider it Germany’s most conservative state.

And recently, the Bavarian government passed legislation mandating that all state offices prominently display a cross in their public areas. Before this law was passed, crosses were required in court rooms and schools. The new legislation will not affect municipal governments or Germany’s federal government buildings in the state.

It even has an official name “Kreuzpflicht or “cross duty.” According to Christian Social Unions (CSU), the state’s ruling party, the law is intended to recognize the Bavaria’s cultural heritage.

Premier Markus Soder said these crosses should not be looked upon as a religious symbol, but a recognition of the Christian heritage that helped build Germany and western civilization.

Soder leads the state version of the same party that rules Germany under Chancellor Angela Merkel.

CSU has ruled Bavaria for 50 years. However, its dominance is now being threatened by political parties, such as the Alternative for Germany (AfD), that are rapidly gaining strength opposing Chancellor Merkel’s immigration policy that has resulted in over one million immigrants, largely Muslim, coming into Germany since 2015.

With Bavaria being Germany’s southern most state, it has faced the brunt of this immigration.

With AfD’s growing popularity in Bavaria, Soder has even began separating himself from Merkel’s immigration policies. With state elections this fall, many believe Soder’s cross policy is trying to regain votes. In response, AfD accused Soder of using the cross as a “political accessory.”

The churches in Bavaria have come down on both sides of the issue. According to CBN, Bavarian Archbishop Ludwig Schick responded positively to the decision on Twitter stating:

“Christians are happy when they see the cross. In the cross is healing, in the cross is life, in the cross is hope.”

However, the Daily Mail said that some Christian leaders are not happy about the move. They called it lip service because CSU refuses to protect conservative values in the state.

Burhand Moser, a priest working at Wuerzburg University, expressed his opposition in an “open letter” to Soder stating:

“Many see as a provocation and a hypocrisy the way you speak of Christianity. Stop this misuse of Christianity and its symbols as a supposed bulwark against Islam.”

Sources:

What’s happening in Turkey?

Istanbul, Turkey Credit: Mehmet Aktugan/Flickr/Creative Commons

Istanbul, Turkey Credit: Mehmet Aktugan/Flickr/Creative Commons

My family church, when I was a boy, was famous for talks about Bible prophecy. The pastor had giant charts the size of curtains, to explain what the Bible said about the future of the world. I remember that he could fill the church with his Sunday evening talks, and I vaguely remember pictures of animals with several heads, on those enormous sheets. This was before computers and projectors, and those wall-sized pictures were famous. Years later, as an adult, I met strangers in far away places who wanted to talk about those huge pictures.

Our pastor was a good man, and his ideas were conservative. He just wanted us to know what the Bible said about the future of the world, and he made a sincere effort to teach us. I may have been the only kid in my school who knew about Gog and Magog in the land of the north.

One thing I remember clearly from those talks was the advice to look north. From the Bible’s perspective, that means north from the land of Israel. The north is where the armies will come from to destroy Israel. They will fail because God will intervene to save Israel, which will bring the end of this time in history. In the north of Israel is the valley of Megiddo, “Hor Megiddo” in Hebrew, and that is Armageddon to us. According to the Bible, the final battle will happen there.

I also knew, as a boy, that the nations north of Israel could not threaten that Jewish nation. Syria was north of Israel, but that nation had fought to a stalemate with Israel and agreed to a cease fire. The Syrians had bigger problems and they are not really in the far north. North of Syria was Turkey, and north of that was the Soviet Union, now Russia. Possibly the Soviets might attack Israel, but they could never get there with their armies because Turkey was a NATO ally and a friend of Israel. The Bible story could not happen when I was a boy.

Things are different today.

Syria is in a terrible civil war, and the government side is winning because the Russians have sent in their army, navy, and air force. With that massive support, the rebels are retreating and the government in Damascus is regaining territory. Just about the time I write this, the Syrian army is occupying rebel territory on the northern border of Israel, and they are doing this with Russian military support. The impossible idea of an army from the far north traveling to the borders of Israel could happen any day now. The border is a few miles from the valley of Megiddo which means the armies can almost see Armageddon with their binoculars.

And then there is Turkey. This friend of Israel has become an angry critic of the Jewish nation recently, under the Islamic government of President Tayyip Erdogan. This has been mostly expressed through angry words, and Turkey is still a liberal democracy with opposition parties that want to replace President Erdogan’s conservative Islamic government.

Two things are happening at this time that might cause changes:

  1. The Turkish currency is losing value and possibly causing an economic crisis which could lead to radical decisions. The economy: Europe on ALERT: Turkish lira continues to FALL sparking fears of Euro CRISIS: The Express
  2. Also, on June 24, the voters of Turkey will probably replace their parliamentary democracy with a centralized state. The plan is to concentrate power in the office of the President with a new constitution; and at this time, the President is very unhappy with Israel. The nation of Turkey is being shaken and the election is a few days away. The election: The Desperation to Keep Turkey Different: Bloomberg

The new order that is emerging will make the impossible quite likely. The Bible prophecy stories that I learned as a boy could easily happen now. It’s as if an invisible hand is arranging the pieces on a chess board so the game can start.

I won’t pretend that I know when God will intervene in human history but I am sure that will happen someday. Our old pastor taught us well. I don’t even know if the end will come during my lifetime, but the pieces are now in place for the action to start, and they were not in place a few months ago, or even a few weeks ago.

We are living in interesting times.

Jesus said:

“Look at the fig tree and all the trees. When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.” (Luke 21: 29 to 31)

As for you, O son of man, prophesy against Gog and tell him that this is what the Lord GOD says: ‘Behold, I am against you, O Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. I will turn you around, drive you along, bring you up from the far north, and send you against the mountains of Israel. Then I will strike the bow from your left hand and dash down the arrows from your right. On the mountains of Israel, you will fall, you and all your troops and the nations with you.” (Ezekiel 39: 1 to 4)

Stubbornness: The inner-child monster

Stubborn donkey on a Mediterranean beach Credit: vad_levin/Flickr/Creative Commons

Stubborn donkey on a Mediterranean beach Credit: vad_levin/Flickr/Creative Commons

Many psychologists today talk about our “inner child.”  And often the way we respond to people and the circumstances of everyday life has to do with our “inner child” desperately seeking and needing the approval of our peers.

Many times we get knocked of our feet by our own perception of ourselves. In the end, it’s not really about what anyone said or did, it’s our childhood woundings and insecurities holding on to the past.

And for many the trauma and woundings were real and the love and attention needed was not there to support the wounded child.

It helps me to picture the “child within” still wanting the love and support that was needed at crucial times in our lives. Many of us have had a good family life but no parent or family is perfect. Some wounds go deeper for one child while another sibling may not have been affected in the same way.

Later as adults, we find ourselves stuck in the same old patterns of seeking approval and attention. Sometimes, we will go out of our way for people we barely know and ignore a present need in our own lives. We will deny our bodies and minds the attention and rest they need in order to feed our need for approval.

I found myself living this way and it has take me a long time to break this repetitive, stupor-like behavior. Often when loved ones try to talk to us about these destructive, people-pleasing patterns we just dig our heels in.  We become stubborn and the stubbornness creates a blindness to reality.

That “little child” within turns into a stubborn monster.  That monster says we are not good enough because we never were and never will be.

The monster feeds on the self-hatred we throw at it through our acts of pleasing others and pushing ourselves beyond the borders of giving. Sacrificing ourselves daily to that monster within who in the end only demands more.

We live in defeat immobilized by our own inner fears and hurts. These are our blind spots and they keep us in denial. Blinded we live in stubborn resistance.

So how do we deal with this?

We do it in many ways by living our lack through our children and pushing them through hoops and activities that may leave them bitter and angry about not having a voice or say in what they wanted.

Many Christians including myself have stubbornly served and given beyond our capacity. We made sacrifices but for the wrong reasons. We were not helping others because we were really serving the monster within that hounds us with the words “‘we are not enough.”

We get trapped in our need to be needed. And it literally takes a number of  “cosmic 2 x 4s” for us to stop, pay attention and begin to break out of these destructive patterns.

Stubbornness can sometimes be a telltale sign of a monster lurking beneath the surface.

Dictionary.com defines stubbornness this way:

Stubborn: having or showing dogged determination not to change one’s attitude or position on something, esp. in spite of good arguments or reasons to do so. Difficult to move, remove, or cure.

Stubbornness manifests in many ways: arrogance, inflexibility, acting all-knowing, sarcasm, always being right, arguing, debating and unwillingness to engage.

Christian counselor Kegan Mosier says when we become stubborn, we are using it as a defense mechanism to avoid or cope with conscious conflict or anxiety and when we do that it creates “hardness of heart.”

Mosier says:

“I have seen stubbornness emanate from people from all walks of life and from myself at times. If I’m being honest, this is an issue that stops growth, and can cause a bitterness that will destroy our quality of life and relationships with others.” (Kegan Mosier Cornerstone Christian Counseling)

In the animal world, creatures often use defense mechanisms to mask their fear such as the quills of a porcupine or the spray released by a skunk.

We use similar protective mechanisms like stubbornness to protect ourselves from perceived harm. We protect, defend, shield, and fortify in an aim to preserve our inner-child monster from danger.

But God wants to change us. He wants to heal our hearts of those past wounding and remove the stubbornness that controls us. God gave this promise to Ezekiel:

“I will give them singleness of heart (or an ‘undivided heart’) and put a new spirit within the. I will take away their stony, stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart (or a “heart of flesh”) (Ezekiel 11:19)

The tender responsive “heart of flesh” that God wants to put inside of us is soft, malleable, shape-able, fertile soil – in contrast to the stony, rocky, stubborn one that we can develop.

The first step in healing is recognizing there is a monster lurking inside us and then asking God for help.

Source:

A 2,000 year old skeleton discovered showing evidence of crucifixion

Raising of the cross by Peter Paul Ruben (1577-1640) Credit: Wikipedia

Raising of the cross by Peter Paul Ruben (1577-1640) Credit: Wikipedia

Though the Bible and several other ancient historical documents talk about crucifixion as a brutal form of Roman execution, there has been very little archaeological evidence found of this ancient practice.

However, a group of Italian researchers discovered that a skeleton of man uncovered in Northern Italy in 2007 was probably crucified.

If this proves correct, it will be only the second example found revealing the brutal form of punishment used by the Romans to execute criminals.

The first one was found in 1968 while excavating a Jerusalem cemetery connected  with the second Jewish temple (2 BC t0 70 Ad). In an ossuary used to store the bones of the deceased, they discovered a man with a nail in his heel. There was also a fragment from the olive tree used for the cross attached to the nail.

Because the metal nails were so valuable, the Roman typically pulled them out after the person had died. This is part of the reason, it is difficult to determine if a person was crucified. In this case, the nail bent making it difficult to remove.

A family member had scratched the man’s name, Jehohanan, the son of Hagakol, on the outside of the ossuary. He was between 20-24 years of age and both of his legs were broken.

If the Romans typically used Olive trees for crucifixion, the crosses would not have been very high off the ground. Most would have been eye level.

According to the study reported in Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, during an 2007 infrastructure construction in the municipality of Gavello, workers discovered the remains of a 30-34 year old male.

The research team examined the skeleton using a 3D scanner at the University of Siena and found a hole that passed completely through the right heel indicating crucifixion.

Contrary to many paintings, the nails were not pounded through the front of the feet. They were twisted sideways so the side of the heel was flat to the wood. They then placed one heel on top of the other and pounded a nail through the back heel bones of both feet into the wood.

The other method was having both of the person’s feet twisted outward so the sides of both heels were similarly flat to the wood and then nailed to the cross individually or they nailed the feet on the out sides of the cross. Historical documents show the Romans used a variety of methods.

The hands were either nailed to the cross through the wrists or tied by rope. In ancient times, people considered the wrists as part of the hands. We know in Jesus’s case nails were used for the feet and hands.

In the case of the Italian man, he was not buried in a cemetery or with grave goods suggesting he was rejected in death as he was in life. There was also evidence of torture before execution. Based on the pottery shards found during the excavation, the man was executed 2,000 years ago.

The crucifixion was a torturous form of punishment and it could take up to four days for a person to die, often from asphyxiation. When the person was hung with his arms stretched out, it would eventually result in a paralysis in the chest muscles making it impossible to breathe.

The only way a person could get air was to push down with his feet on the bottom nail to lift his body up resulting in excruciating pain. Having breathed, the person would slump down, and hang from the nails in his wrists. Sleep would be almost impossible under these circumstances.

This process would repeat itself until the person no longer had the strength to push himself up with his legs. When the Romans wanted to hasten death they would break the legs of the person being crucified:

31 Then the Jews, because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. 32 So the soldiers came, and broke the legs of the first man and of the other who was crucified with Him; (John 19:31-32 NIV)

If the Romans were in a particularly brutal mood they would fashion a seat so the person could sit, prolonging the death. Sometimes the seats were shaped in the form of a horn so they would eventually cut into the lower part of the body.

The Romans were not the first to invent crucifixion, both the Assyrians and the Phoenicians used it. Records were also found of King Darius I of Persia executing 3,000 political opponents in 519 BC. The Romans used crucifixion as a way of executing its worst or most marginalized criminals. It was used until Rome’s first Christian emperor Constantine (306 t0 337 AD) banned it.

Sources:

Sometimes Christian heroes die: The story of Christian ‘Riley’ Garcia and the Santa Fe shooting

“Be still and know I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10 NIV)

This powerful verse talks about the sovereignty of God in the midst of utter chaos and destruction.

This was the verse that high school student Christian “Riley” Garcia, 15, wrote on a two by four of the house his family was constructing just days before he died. He took a selfie of himself beside the verse.

Credit: Crosby Church/Christian News

Christian Riley Garcia Credit: Crosby Church/Christian News

A few days later on May 18, 2018, fellow-student Dimitrios Pagourtzis, 17, allegedly armed with a shotgun and hand gun walked into Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas, 30 miles Southwest of Houston, and began shooting. By the time it was over 10 people were dead and 10 others injured.

Riley Garcia was one of those brutally murdered. But according to students at the school, Riley died a hero.

When the shooting started several students ran into a nearby closet that connected to the arts classroom. When the killer came to the door, Riley grabbed the handle stopping the gunman from entering giving more time for people to escape through the closet’s connecting door.

However, the shooter unloaded his gun into the door killing Riley. Courteny Marshall, Riley’s close friend, and a substitute arts teacher Ann Perkins were still in the large closet when the killer entered.

They tried to make a run for it as the killer reloaded his gun, however while Marshal escaped, Perkins was fatally shot.

At the funeral service, Keenan Smith, pastor of Crosby Church where Riley attended with his family, said:

“He lost his life when a gunshot came through the door. Took his life, but in the sacrifice of his own life, others were allowed to escape and some had time to get away. We know there were several lives lost, but his story is a story of true heroism. He gave himself so others would have a chance.”

According to reports, Riley, who was wanting to go into the military had been reading that verse in Psalms with his mother the night before the shooting.

There have been several stories recently of Christian heroes including Tammy Jo Shults, the pilot who safely landed a Southwest Jet after its engine exploded.

But sometimes brave Christian heroes die and in the midst of this the Bible states that God is still sovereign.

It is uncertain what caused the alleged killer to go to such a dark place. According to Wikipedia, two newspapers reported that Pagourtzis’s Facebook page, since taken down, had several disturbing images. It included a photo of a shirt with the words “Born to Kill” printed on it and an image of his trench coat with the caption:

“Hammer and Sickle=Rebellion. Rising Sun=Kamikaze Tactics. Iron Cross=Bravery. Baphomet=Evil. Cthulu=Power.”

The hammer and sickle was emblematic of communism. Baphomet was a satanic-looking goat, representing evil. In the 1400s, the Knights Templar were falsely accused of worshiping this idol.

And there may even be more to this Bible verse that Riley cited. It may be a message for our time. Psalm 46 starts with:

God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging. (Psalm 46:1-3 NIV)

It almost has apocalyptic overtones. It speaks of the earth giving way, mountains falling into the sea, earthquakes that cause even mountains to quake and oceans to surge and roar (tsunamis).

Both earthquakes and volcanoes are signs of the end times. As I watched the recent volcanic eruptions on Hawaii I saw lava pouring into the Pacific ocean.

If we are entering the end times, the world will be shaken and the Bible tells that God is still sovereign. Don’t fight and fear these evil, chaotic times:

“Be still and know that I am God.”

Sources:

The Ministry of an Apostle — Part 2

The 12 Apostles is a collection of 12 limestone stacks jutting out of the ocean on the southern coast of Australia Credit: Pablo Fernandez/Flickr/Creative Commons

The 12 Apostles is a collection of 12 limestone stacks jutting out of the ocean on the southern coast of Australia Credit: Pablo Fernandez/Flickr/Creative Commons

[by David Wells] In the first section of this teaching on the ministry of the Apostle, I taught on the need for church structure to return to the pattern described in the New Testament, including the restoration and full functioning of the apostolic ministry.

I examined the purposes, foundational nature and vital necessity of apostolic ministry in church life, as well as the different realms of apostleship and the qualifications of apostles.

In this section, we will explore the role and function of apostles more fully, as well as address questions concerning the nature of apostolic authority, with an understanding of the interdependent cooperation between apostles and churches.

Function of an Apostle

An apostle is one who takes the gospel to unreached areas:

“And thus I aspired to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named, that I might not build upon another man’s foundation”. (Romans 15:20)

A true apostle is a traveler not a settler. In Scripture, we see that apostles traveled and planted churches. A sense of timing is important, and we need to remember that planting is a seasonal thing.

1. Apostles oversee and strengthen churches

In 1 Corinthians 3:10-11 Paul says:

“According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it.

But let each man be careful how he builds upon it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

There has to be a careful nourishing and sustaining of that which was planted. Paul stayed at Antioch for one year, at Corinth for eighteen months, and at Ephesus for three years. Paul again refers to this in 2 Corinthians 11:28. “Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure upon me of concern for all the churches.”

An apostle ought to relate to the elders and the congregation as well as to the senior pastor. Having personal relationships with the leaders and the body creates an atmosphere of love and trust that is necessary for problem solving later on. The stronger the relationship, the easier it is for truth to be spoken and received. It does take time to forge these relationships but in the long run it pays big dividends. The apostle’s relationship to the pastor ought to be the strongest of all. In a real sense, the apostle ought to be the pastor’s pastor.

An apostolic relationship should not be a matter of secrecy but rather be known in the church and the community. It may seem strange at first to say your church relates to an apostle but why not call it what it is before God? Acts 15:36 says:

“And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brethren in every city in which we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.”

An apostle meets with the pastor and elders for mutual sharing, praying, problem solving and strategizing.

Instructing, exhorting and encouraging the local leaders will always be a major thrust of an apostolic visit. As the leadership goes, so goes the church.

Normally an apostle ought to visit at least once a year. Working with a brand new congregation or with one that has gone through a major split or trauma may require several visits during the first couple of years. The length of any particular visit would be determined by the need in the church, the sovereign timing of the Holy Spirit, and the schedule of the apostle.

Sometimes there are delays in visiting a congregation (Romans 1:11-13; 1 Corinthians 16:5-9).

2. Apostles train up leaders and establish elders

In Scripture, the apostles were responsible to raise up and set the original elders in place. There are several examples in Scripture of the apostles doing this (Acts 14:21-23; Titus 1:5). This involved ordaining people as elders and deacons. When elders were ordained the apostle’s direct authority diminished in that church.

3. Apostles supervise and coordinate ministries

They fill the role of ministry manager, administrating ministry teams going out and coordinating ministry to various places. If the apostles could not personally visit the churches, they sent representatives. In other words, more than one apostle can relate to a local church at the same time.

Nowhere did Paul exercise any exclusive claim over even the churches he personally founded. Usually, however, there is a primary apostle and other “uncle” apostles. In 1 Corinthians 4:17, we see that Paul sent Timothy:

“For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church.”

As well, Paul sent Titus to Crete to put things in order (Titus 1:5).

4. Apostles need certain areas of spiritual gifting to handle these responsibilities

A grace for structure and administration is required to handle the needs of a growing assembly and apostolic network. Pastoral ability helps lead and protect sheep. The gift of teaching is vital for teaching proper doctrine and truth. Skills related to oversight, delegation, and proper accountability are needed as well.

5. Apostles are problem solvers

An apostle is responsible for solving problems and dealing with false doctrines and sins in churches for which he has apostolic oversight.

Apostles spend a lot of their time as problem solvers. A classic example of this is Paul using his apostolic authority to deal with all the many problems at Corinth, the churches at Galatia, etc. This may involve a doctrinal matter, a relational difficulty between the leaders and the people, a moral failure in the leadership, problems over facilities, expansion, etc. A godly mediator, who has the trust of all parties involved and who is immediately available, can spell the difference between the church dying or surviving!

6. Apostles impart vision

Another area of function for an apostle involves imparting vision. As wise master builders, apostles should be able to impart and clarify vision for a local church. They should be able to confirm what has been done so far, what the next steps are and what is yet to come.

7. Apostles promote unity in the Body of Christ

Paul taught extensively on unity and dealt with unity problems in the various churches.

I believe that the rising apostolic wave will be crucial to bringing unity to the body of Christ. Apostles, along with other ministry gifts, were given by Christ to edify the church and bring it to the “unity of the faith” (Ephesians 4:11-13).

George Hatwin said:

“There shall never be any unity of the faith until the ministry of the true apostle is recognized and obeyed as strictly in the last days as it was obeyed in the days of the apostle Paul.” He went on to say, “Any attempts to pray, organize, reconcile, or repent will be inadequate to produce church unity unless the apostles emerge, for apostolic ministry is the very essence of unity.”

8. Apostles function as spiritual fathers

Fathering is essential to success at every level of society. Fatherlessness is the most destructive trend of our generation. Fathers bring strength and stability. Spiritual fatherlessness is a weakness to the body of Christ today. Young men and women are looking desperately for spiritual fathers and mentors.

Apostles are the spiritual fathers in the body of Christ. Some pastors can fill this role also, but this is a function of the apostle. Spiritual fathers care for their family in the same way natural fathers do. Paul writes:

nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, even though as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority. But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own [g]lives, because you had become very dear to us.

For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10 You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers; 11 just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, 12 so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory. (1 Thessalonians 2: 6-12 NASV)

Fathering involves love, training, discipline, provision, reproduction, blessing, and impartation.

The apostle has the pastoral care for all the churches he oversees. He carries his pastors and churches upon his heart (2 Corinthians 11:28; Philippians 1:8).  When the apostle is absent from the churches he still needs to keep up-to-date with what is happening in the churches. This is now easier with increased means of communication. He needs to stay in contact with the pastor and the congregation.

The apostle needs to regularly pray for the pastor, elders and congregation and do spiritual warfare on their behalf according to specific problems and needs. He needs to call each pastor periodically to offer council, encouragement and prayer.

Apostolic Authority

1. How much authority do apostles have? How much should they use?

The source of authority is servanthood. Authority only comes by being under authority. Paul and Barnabas didn’t leave Antioch until they were sent by the local elders. They understood submission to a local church. They submitted to one another.

Authority among the apostles was fluid, relational, and subject to change. Peter started out as the most prominent authority figure among the apostles but there was some change regarding that. Paul did not shrink from rebuking Peter for his religious prejudice. It seemed that Paul rose to overshadow Peter in authority and prominence. Barnabas and Paul changed places as team leaders. James ended up replacing Peter as the leading apostle and authority in Jerusalem.

2. Principles of Interdependent Cooperation

It is not the role of the apostle to lord it over the people. In 2 Corinthians 1:23-24 Paul says:

“But I call God as witness to my soul, that to spare you I came no more to Corinth. Not that we lord it over your faith, but are workers with you for your joy; for in your faith you are standing firm.”

The apostles were not into controlling the lives of those who submitted to them. Wherever people and leaders exist there must be cooperation rather than domination. In Revelation 2: 6 and 15 the word “Nicolaitans” means “to conquer the people”.

True apostles would never commit that sin. Yet at the same time, the people were not to become recklessly independent of apostolic authority either. There is to be interdependence between the people, local leadership, and apostolic leadership. None of the three is complete without the other. This kind of relationship produces strength, balance, and growth.

3. There was voluntary submission to leaders and apostles

When apostles, elders and sheep are in proper relationship with each other there is genuine respect and humility. Apostles like Paul regularly exercised leadership and influence over believers and churches in their roles as leaders and spiritual fathers. For example, the decrees decided upon by the elders and apostles at the Jerusalem council (Acts 15) were given to the various local churches and they obeyed them. This was not excessive control!

The people prospered as they obeyed. Relational submission is voluntary.

A leader cannot lead unless people willingly follow. An apostle cannot demand a response just because he is an apostle. Apostles are servants who minister to those who will freely receive their authority. Receiving the authority of the apostle is a result of relationship and trust.

Each church had local autonomy, governed by elders. The apostles had a translocal authority. There was a wonderful balance between the two. The leaders of various churches all cooperated with each other and with the valid translocal authorities. In all of this cooperation, the apostle’s translocal authority never overrode local authority. The apostle has to be received by the local church or he can do nothing about it.

4. There was mutual accountability

This existed between the apostles themselves. There was also an accountability structure that existed between the elders of the local church and the apostles and spiritual fathers that they related to. An apostle ought to make some kind of commitment to a local church in order to give content to the relationship. This might include the kinds of services he would render and the frequency of his visits.

Such a commitment could be reviewed and renegotiated from time to time to make sure the relationship is bearing fruit.

5. Financial responsibility

Just as the apostle needs to make a commitment to the local church so the local church needs to make a commitment to the apostle. Besides commitment in relationship, this would also include financial support of some kind. If we believe in apostles, then we have to financially support them or they will never exist (1 Corinthians 9).

Various churches supported Paul in his ministry. Financial support could include giving the apostle a regular amount of money monthly, as well as travel and housing arrangements when the apostle visits, with continued prayer support for financial provision. There are different ways of financially supporting apostles. The main thing is that the apostle gets enough support to be able to fully carry on his ministry.

Concluding thoughts

As God moves His church forward into His purposes and destiny, we need to respond to being conformed to the pattern we see described in the New Testament, which includes the development and recognition of the ministry and office of the apostle. The church needs apostles who fulfill scriptural qualifications to found and oversee local churches, equipping and building up the leaders and elders and members of each local church.

We need to be apostolic people who support and participate in apostolic ministry, working with apostles to reach the lost through dynamic outreach, church planting and nurturing.

Our churches need to be apostolic churches that recognize and relate to modern-day apostles, and are active in varying forms of apostolic ministry.

_______________________

Based in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada Dave Wells serves as a team leader of LifeLinks International, giving apostolic input to a number of churches around the world. He has ministered in such countries as Guatemala, Ireland, England, Austria, Holland, China, Philippines, Vietnam, Marshall Islands, Zambia, Uganda, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, India and Spain.

More in this series on the Ministry of Apostles:

Is the Spirit of Jezebel rearing its painted face again?

Credit: Timo Luege/Flickr/Creative Commons

Credit: Timo Luege/Flickr/Creative Commons

Evan Vickers, a Republican senator from Utah, was staying at a hotel in Washington, DC, when there was a knock on his door. When he opened it, he found a young woman standing in front of him.

In an interview with KSTU-TV, Vickers told what happened next:

“I opened the door and there was a young lady standing there and she said ‘Hi,’ and I said, ‘Hi,’ who are you?” And she said, ‘I’m your date.’ I said, ‘No, you’re not.’ She said, ‘Yes, I’m your date.'”

The woman would not leave and insisted several times she was his date. When Vickers refused to go along with it, the young woman eventually walked to the elevator still claiming she was his date.

Vickers returned to his room, locked the door, and called for an associate to accompany him.  It is uncertain what was going on but there is speculation that the woman was trying to entrap the senator. He warned other politicians to be careful.

Several years ago a prominent pastor of a very large church in a neighboring city told of an incident that happened to him. He had just finished preaching a sermon one Sunday morning and at the end of the service a woman approached him asking for a pastoral home visit.

He hadn’t seen her before, but since it was a large church, that wasn’t unusual. He told the woman to call his office the next week to arrange a visit.

The arrangement was made but something began to gnaw on the pastor that things weren’t completely right and as was his typical practice he asked one of his associates to join him. When they arrived at the woman’s home, she answered the door completely naked.

We have seen many stories in the media recently of political, business and spiritual leaders being accused of unwanted sexual advances. In the majority of the cases, the men are the instigators and in some instances the predators, but to say it is all one-sided is completely wrong.

A good friend of mine told me of a conversation she had with a female friend who traveled in government circles. She was actually bragging how she had enticed a married cabinet minister into bed. She was treating the sexual escapade like a notch on her holster.

Sex and women are an area of vulnerability for men. The porn industry earns billions of dollars each year because of it.

In the Book of Revelation, a vision the Apostle John had of the end times, he delivers a message to seven churches. Now the churches existed in John’s day, but because much of what John records in the Book of Revelation has not taken place, many Bible teachers believe that the warnings to the seven church are a prophetic vision of what will be happening to churches in the end times.

In his letter to the church of Thyatira, the apostle warns about a woman named Jezebel who would entice bond servants:

20 But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.” (John 2:20 NASV)

Bond-servant was a term used to describe leadership positions as the Apostle Paul referred to himself as a bond-servant of Christ (Romans 1:1). This woman called Jezebel seems to have had some type of leadership/teaching position and even functioned in the area of the prophetic. She was using sex to compromise church leaders.

Though it seems the Apostle John was referring to an actual woman named Jezebel, this may not have been the case. Because this was also the name of an infamous Phoenician princess mentioned in the Old Testament who married Israel’s King Ahab and used sex to entice Ahab away from serving Jehovah.

25 Surely there was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do evil in the sight of the Lord, because Jezebel his wife incited him. (1 Kings 21: 25 NASV)

In 2 Kings 10:1, we are told that Ahab had seventy sons in Samaria. He may even had more sons living elsewhere. He probably had as many, if not more, daughters. Known for her good looks and painted face (2 Kings 9:30), the Bible implies that Jezebel seduced and gained control of Ahab using sex.

By speaking of Jezebel in Revelation, the Apostle John was probably not referring to a specific woman, but most suspect a demonic spirit that was enticing leaders into sexual sin.  The Apostle Paul refers to this demonic connection to sexual temptation, when he encouraged married couples to have sex, “so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control” (1 Corinthians 7:5 NASV).

When John says Jezebel called herself a prophetess, he is also implying this satanic spirit would try to compromise the prophetic ministry in the end-times church.

Satan will use sexual temptation to cripple and manipulate men and even women in leadership positions and if the Apostle John is right, it will become one of satan’s major playing cards in his attack on the end-times church.

Sources:

The Truth and Havre, Montana

Canada and US Friendship Center in Havre, Montana Credit: James. G. Howes/Wikipedia/Creative Commons

Canada and US Friendship Center in Havre, Montana Credit: James. G. Howes/Wikipedia/Creative Commons

Recently, an US border patrol agent stopped two women at a convenience store in Havre, Montana and asked for their IDs. The women were not happy about this and made a video of their conversation with a cell phone. The officer was polite and explained that he stopped the women because they were speaking Spanish, and the Spanish language was almost never spoken in the region.

This story went viral for a few days, and the women are still angry and they are talking about legal action.

In the articles by journalists, there have been many comments about the lack of ethnic diversity in Montana and that everyone speaks English, as if that is offensive. There are also hints that Havre is a small backwater where police stop people, in an offensive way, because they are “different” from the natives. The word “redneck” fits that narrative.

The story is popular because it fits a popular narrative about left and right-wing politics and illegal immigration or undocumented migration. The choice of words shows what side of the argument we are on, and the name of Donald Trump is included in most news stories about the incident, which is another clue.

The actual story has become a small illustration for a huge political debate. I don’t think anyone really cares that two women had to show their IDs in a parking lot. They were delayed for a few minutes, but they produced a video with a cell phone, and that will stay with us for many years. People care about the propaganda value of the video.

The truth is, we all speak our native language and no-one consulted us about our skin color before we were born. People in Montana are not bad or racist just because they act like everyone else in the world, and Havre has a population of about 9,000; it’s not really a small town. And this is important; Havre, Montana is located just south of the Canadian border, on the prairies, near Alberta and Saskatchewan. Do I need to tell you that the prairies stretch out for many miles in all directions there and the Canada-US border is long and empty on the prairies.

I live north of Montana, in Alberta, and I like dry places with cows. That may not be your taste, but did you know that the border between Canada and the US is the longest undefended border in the world, and this is becoming a problem? We might need to start defending. In my employment and in my neighborhood, I often meet people who probably don’t have visas or residence papers. It’s not my business to question them, but we know that there is a high volume of smuggling and human trafficking through that enormous undefended border. Apparently, the traffic flows in both directions. “tourists” on one side often become illegal residents on the other side, and sometimes truck drivers get caught with drugs and other contraband. This might be described as organized crime.

If you are wondering, I sympathize with the two women who were stopped. I would be annoyed if that happened to me. On second thought, I have been questioned near the border and my ID has been checked, and I didn’t mind at all. For me, that comes with the territory, but I understand if they were annoyed. I also understand that a border agent in Havre Montana would carefully check unknown visitors who speak a foreign language. That’s his job, within a hundred miles of the border.

So why am I writing about this? Why is immigration an issue for a religious article? Possibly immigration is not important here, but telling the truth is. Along with my neighbors and friends, I know that a small incident in this part of the world is only news if it supports some larger propaganda theme. Also, we know about smuggling across the border, it’s an obvious fact of life for us.

The people who claim to tell us the truth often just tell us carefully twisted stories to support their favorite political position. This story is a classic example of ‘news’ from ‘journalists.’ Where I live, we can see the obvious omissions and the distorted story that fits a propaganda line.

This is serious. Jesus told us “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32) Untruth will lead us in the opposite direction and make us slaves. That is a piece of truth that we all need to know. Propaganda-journalism might promote a cause that people believe in sincerely, but only the truth can make us free.

This is not an option to consider, it is God’s way for humans to be free.

There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers. (Proverbs 6: 16 to 19)

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8 to 9)

Stepping into Christ’s authority

Peter healing the lame man by Raphael (1483-1520) Credit: Wikipedia/Creative Commons/{{PD-US}}

Peter healing the lame man by Raphael (1483-1520) Credit: Wikipedia/Creative Commons/{{PD-US}}

I remember standing with my sister-in-law around the counter in my niece’s kitchen. My niece who was fighting a rare form of cancer was worn out from the many rounds of chemotherapy and treatments to help battle this disease. These were desperate times, and her life was literally hanging in the balance.

She had made a commitment to God when she was fourteen at a Bible Camp. And now, with the diagnoses of cancer she had renewed her commitment once again.

I asked if I could pray for her adding that I wanted put my hands on her shoulders and her head as I did so.   There was no argument from her and I could see that her heart was prepared to receive from God.

I was nervous about it and had sensed a few days earlier that I would pray for her. It was what God was asking of me and I knew it.

But still there were questions. Who was I to lay my hands on her and pray boldly for her healing from head to toe?

As I moved towards her to pray, it seemed in that moment I stepped out and away from my fears and doubts into a presence and authority in Christ that filled me with confidence.

I laid my hands on her bald head and shoulder and prayed for her. With the Holy Spirit’s power, all three of us were engaged in this moment of prayer. I can’t remember exactly what I prayed but it was sincere and we were all in agreement. It was a moment none of us will forget.

It was also a moment of authority. I appreciate noted Bible teacher Andrew Wommack’s perception of our authority as a believer.

“There needs to be a radical renewing of our thinking on this issue. God has already provided His healing power and placed it on the inside of every born-again believer. It is up to us to release it.”

He talks about the “beggar versus commander” mentality.

“Understanding and using our authority is the key to seeing miracles happen. If we don’t take our authority and become commanders instead of beggars, God’s power will not be released.”

We do not need to beg or plead with God to heal someone. We must acknowledge the God-given authority He has given each one of us and release it as Peter declared:

“Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” (Acts 3:6)

Peter didn’t pray for this man. He also didn’t ask God to heal him, the Apostle simply said:

“What I do have I give you.”

Peter understood the authority he had in Christ. This was the source of this healing power and as the Jews who witnessed this miracle stood in amazement, Peter explained:

“Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?”

It was not personal godliness and power, Peter understood his authority. We need to claim healing in the same way.

My niece spent a few more months doing chemotherapy and then surgery. It was a journey that required, faith and perseverance. And, despite the terrible odds this rare type of cancer held for her, she has been given a good report concerning her health.

Was it the prayer or was it the chemotherapy and surgery that produced this wonderful answer to prayer?  Yes, it was all of it!

Through it, I watched this young woman face every obstacle and treatment with hope and faith.

The Ministry of the Apostle — Part 1

St Bartholomew's Church in Berchtesgadener Land, in Bavaria, Germany. As one of the 12 Apostles, Bartholomew is considered the Apostle to Germany as it is believed he was the first to bring the gospel to that country. Credit: Nuno Vilela/Flickr/Creative Commons

St Bartholomew’s Church in Berchtesgadener Land, in Bavaria, Germany. As one of the 12 Apostles, Bartholomew is considered the Apostle to Germany as it is believed he was the first to bring the gospel to that country. Credit: Nuno Vilela/Flickr/Creative Commons

[by Dave Wells] The days in which we are living are not normal times. We are beginning to move into a season of the greatest outpouring of the power of the Holy Spirit and the greatest harvest of souls in all of Christian history. The beginning of the last century was characterized by great moves of God. This century will be the same. In light of this, the church of Jesus Christ cannot just continue with “business as usual”.

If our church structure does not conform to a New Testament model, we will be blown out of the water by what is coming. “Repent therefore and return, that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time.” (Acts 3:19-21)

We have experienced times of refreshing that have swept around the world. There are other names for this: revival, renewal, awakening, etc. The purpose of these outpourings of God’s Holy Spirit is to revive His church and move it forward into His purposes and destiny. In the last 400 years we have seen many times of refreshing being poured out on the Body of Christ. Each of these refreshings has moved the church forward and resulted in a restoring of truth and ministry to the Body of Christ that were formerly lost. We have seen truths like justification by faith, holiness, divine healing, praise and worship, gifts of the Spirit and offices of ministry restored to practical function in the church. Much of this has happened in the latter part of the twentieth century. These last 40 years have been incredible, with God moving at an ever-increasing rate. It takes your breath away to see how quickly the church is returning to New Testament dynamism.

As God pours out His Spirit, there are the usual manifestations including people being saved, worship and devotion to God, etc. But when you look back historically you see that something very significant has also being taking place. The structure of the church has been changing radically and returning to the pattern we see described in the New Testament. The question we need to ask is: Does not the structure of the church still have to change?

We know that the first century church functioned in incredible power and turned the known world of that day upside-down in one generation. I believe that the glory of the latter house will be greater than the former. I believe the last century church will be more powerful and dynamic than the first. An end-time move is coming and may even be upon us that will eclipse all other revivals in history. I believe we are already tasting of the first fruits of this revival.

One of the things that has been happening structurally in the church in the last 40-50 years through repeated outpourings is a process of restoration where the Ephesians 4:11 gift ministries have been returned to the church (apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists). In the 1950’s, the body of Christ was flooded with evangelists. In the 1960’s and 1970’s, pastors and teachers began to come into their own. In the 1980’s and 1990’s, prophets began to arise and be accepted on a wide basis.

The only office left to be fully developed and recognized is the ministry and office of the apostle. It is beginning to happen now! I believe a mighty apostolic wave is rising and beginning to roll through the church.

There is an “apostolic movement” taking place.

With this movement already upon us some very important fundamental questions arise: 1. What is an apostle? 2. How does an apostle function in the church? 3. What part do they play in this end time move of God and how important are they to it?

I do not believe that apostles are more important than any other ministry offices such as pastors or teachers, but I believe that they are as important. Without the restoration and full functioning of the apostolic ministry we will not have a full-blown five-fold ministry functioning in our midst. I do not believe that we can fulfill the mandate of Ephesians 4:11-16 without the apostle. Recognizing the apostle will shake the structure of the body of Christ like nothing else.

Let’s explore the concept of the “Church in the city”. The word “church” (“Ekklesia”) is mentioned 114 times in the Greek New Testament.

Once it applies to Israel as the church in the wilderness (Acts 7:38). Three times it refers to a secular city meeting in Ephesus. Fourteen times it refers to a local church in a home, for example, that of Priscilla and Aquila. Fifteen times it refers to believers in all ages, Jew or Gentile living or in heaven, in other words, the universal body of Christ. Eighty-one times it refers to the believers of the city church. New Testament references to the church are primarily city and not local. The church of Jerusalem had seven deacons for the entire city church, which consisted of perhaps 300 to 1000 local churches in the home. Plurality of eldership was, in the beginning, not local but city.

Concepts of the Apostle

ver the last several centuries much of the body of Christ has not recognized the existence of apostles. Much of the church accepted the teaching that apostles disappeared in the first century or at least with the completion and recognition of the canon of Scripture. This view assumes that the task of the apostles was limited solely to writing the inspired witness of the gospel. However, the Scriptures teach nothing of the sort. Others would be a little more open-minded but would limit the role of apostolic ministry today to missionary work in areas of the world where the gospel had never yet been preached. In fact the word “missionary” comes from a Latin word meaning the same as the Greek word for apostle, “apostolos” – one sent forth.

In many ways it is hard to understand why we are so reluctant to recognize men as apostles. We have readily recognized pastors, teachers and evangelists but not prophets and apostles. I think one of the reasons is that we perceive the offices of prophet and apostle to be lofty ones, and therefore think it is prideful for anyone to call himself a prophet or apostle. I think another reason is that Satan fears the establishment of the ministry of the apostle like nothing else, and will do all he can to make sure it doesn’t function.

God Has Appointed First Apostles

“And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.” (1 Corinthians 12:28)

f the Lord promised to give the church apostles in every generation from Pentecost until His second coming, then we need to ask the question: Why has He set apostles in the church as the first among the five-fold ministry gifts?

One reason is that apostles have the primary duty to extend the borders of the kingdom of Christ by preaching the gospel to all nations. They are gifted to be the most effective church planters. Yet in much of the literature on church planting these days, the impression is often given that anybody can plant a church and in many ways. Paul said of himself as an apostle, “By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder…” (1 Corinthians 3:10 – NIV)

A second reason is that apostles, by virtue of their calling and anointing, have the fullest revelation of what the Lord desires the church to be, as was true of Moses and the tabernacle in the wilderness. It was not Aaron or Joshua who oversaw the building of the tabernacle but rather Moses to whom God gave detailed blueprints by revelation. (Hebrews 8:5)

Finally, apostles have the greatest responsibility among the five-fold ministers to see that the church on earth conforms to God’s own standards.

Apostles are the wise master builders God has given so the church can be properly built. To this end, they are sent from the Throne, not just to get individuals saved, but to build these individuals into functioning bodies, and to build functioning bodies into a worldwide expression of Jesus.

We think of five-fold ministry gifts or ascension gifts to be ranked in order of importance (“First apostles, second prophets, third teachers…”). This is not true. They are not built on top of each other but ranked in order of the process of building the church. An apostle is the concrete man who builds the foundation. This is a dirty, messy job. The teacher and pastor frame up the building. Without the apostle we will never see the church built up and functioning the way it should.

There are many of us who have for years acknowledged — in our heads — that apostles were valid for today. But we have been fuzzy around the edges for some time in this area. We have lacked definition in this area for several years but I believe that the time has come for us to define several aspects of the ministry of an apostle, to begin to clearly recognize those in our midst who are apostles, to receive their ministry, and to support the ministry of an apostle so that it can actually function.

Failure to do this will result in stagnation and confusion, and will cripple individual churches. They will never develop properly according to Ephesians 4: 11-16. They will never be in a position to fully participate in the great move of God that is to come and may even now be in the beginning stages.

Absence of Apostolic Ministry

In the absence of apostolic ministry, most congregations usually choose one of two options: either they remain entirely independent with no outside oversight whatsoever, or they join up with some kind of denominational organization, be it highly structured or loosely knit.

Denominational structures are a natural growth out of the need of churches for supervision, protection and fellowship. They have served a good purpose. They effectively coordinate the efforts of local churches in missionary enterprises as well as other worthwhile projects. Good denominational supervision is better than total independence.

On the other hand, there have been some negative results for the local church. Some denominations have taken unnecessary control of the internal affairs of churches. This amounts to a usurpation of local church autonomy. Also, at times, instead of protecting the local church from doctrinal deviation, they have led their churches into liberalism and skepticism. As well, local churches have sometimes been obliged to support programs that are contrary to the Word of God. Another drawback to this structure is that due to a lack of relationship, denominational overseers often make damaging decisions regarding the internal affairs of local churches. For example, they sometimes will erroneously side with the congregation against the pastor, or with the pastor against the congregation. In addition, the methods by which denominational leadership is selected have often produced carnal power struggles. As well, there is the danger of the policies and practices of denominations, over time, being elevated above the Word of God.

The New Testament shows us a better way: not large organizational structures but apostolic oversight. In studying first century local churches we find three principles governing their relationships. 1. Every local church was independent (self-governing). 2. All local churches were interdependent. 3. All local churches had apostolic supervision.

Charismatic Churches

An independent local church is a contradiction in terms because the very nature of the body of Christ is interdependency. While it is true that local churches are autonomous, that is, self-governing, they dare not live out their autonomy in isolation or they will encounter great difficulties. Every local church needs contact with all five expressions of the Ascension gifts and particularly the ministry of apostle.

Many who form new congregations in the name of being free to follow the Holy Spirit do not anticipate or understand the problems that arise when you leave the denominational structure. The old system may appear to be bondage but it is also a blessing in that it helps to maintain some sense of order and predictability. If trouble develops you can always call the denominational headquarters for counsel or intervention. Once outside the denomination, it is like being on the Western frontier where there was no established law and order. The man with the fastest gun survived!

Many independent charismatic churches that flourished five or ten years ago no longer exist. Some have split several times and hang by a thread. Others have gotten off on doctrinal tangents and resemble cults. Still others have been taken over by dictatorial pastors whose word is law. Well-intentioned charismatics with great hope and zeal have flitted from group to group looking for order, and finding none, have reluctantly returned to their former denominational churches or have settled for a “lively” evangelical church which suppresses the manifestations of the Holy Spirit.

I have witnessed this destruction and confusion for more than 25 years and wondered how this could possibly be the plan of God. Surely there must be a way in which new congregations can be formed so that Jesus’ body can come forth in life, power and balance.

Into this vacuum the Lord Jesus is sending forth modern-day apostles to lay solid foundations in local churches. Over the past decade several new networks, each involving hundreds of churches, have come into being. In such groups, depending upon the maturity of the apostolic leadership, God’s saints have found a better place to live out their faith and see their ministries blossom.

Different Realms of Apostleship

Apostle: [def] – Gk. – “apostolos” – means “the sent one”. The word “apostle” was used of men who were naval officers or merchant mariners responsible for an entire fleet of ships. It was also used to refer to an emissary or ambassador.

First realm of Apostle

The first realm of Apostleship is The First Apostle, Jesus Christ, who is referred to as “The Apostle” in Hebrews 3:1: “Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession.” He was “the sent One” from God the Father. Jesus often referred to the Father as the “the One who sent me”. There is absolutely no one who can take His place. Jesus not only laid the foundation, but also is the foundation to the universal church. This realm of apostleship is a sealed realm given only to our Lord and Savior.

Second realm of Apostle

The second realm of Apostleship is that of The Twelve Apostles of the Lamb, the original twelve disciples, recorded in Matthew 10:2-4, “Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax-gatherer; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him.” Matthias replaced Judas Iscariot. Acts 1:21-26 tells us that he was numbered with the eleven. In Acts 2:14, the Holy Spirit numbered him with the eleven that stood up with Peter. This realm of the twelve apostles is also sealed. This realm carried the qualification of having walked with Jesus while He lived in the flesh. They were not just called “apostles”, they were called “the twelve apostles”. Our Lord told Peter that one day they should “sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Luke 22:30).

The number of these apostles is fixed — no more or less than twelve.

Revelation 21:14 says, “And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.”

Third realm of Apostle

The third realm of Apostles includes those appointed after the ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Father appointed Jesus Christ to be “The Apostle”. The Son while on earth appointed “The Twelve” to be apostles. Then we had the Holy Spirit who appointed the other apostles we read about in the book of Acts and the Epistles.

1 Corinthians 15:5-7 mentions that after the resurrection Jesus appeared to the “twelve” and then also to “all the apostles”, indicating that there were apostles other than the twelve. There were warnings against “false apostles” in 2 Corinthians 11:13 and Revelation 2:2. These warnings would be nonsense if apostles were limited to the twelve.

Paul was by far the most prominent of all the apostles in this category.

He almost seems to be a transition to the other apostles. The Lord gives him special honor in that he penned a good portion of the New Testament. However, we find others in the New Testament who also walked in this realm of apostleship such as: Barnabas (Acts 14:14), Silas and Timothy (1 Thessalonians 1:1), James the Lord’s brother (Galatians 1:19), and Andronicus and Junias [Romans 16:7], Apollos (1 Corinthians 4:6-9), Titus (2 Corinthians 8:23), etc.

This type of apostleship is still open and functioning today. There is absolutely no hint that any of the five-fold ministries has ceased. Quite to the contrary — the Scriptures say that these ministries will be with us until we come to the unity of the faith and into the full stature of Jesus Christ.

A practical definition of this five-fold ministry apostle is: One who is called and sent by Christ to have spiritual authority, character, gifts and abilities to successfully reach and establish people in Kingdom truth and order, especially through founding and overseeing local churches.

The next question would be: What makes an apostle? How is it determined who is or is not an apostle?

Qualifications of Apostles

Apostles are commissioned.

Before they are commissioned, they need to have an inner witness of their call. In Paul’s case, God had shown it to him personally. Galatians 1:15-17 says, “But when He who had set me apart, even from my mother’s womb, and called me through His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus.” Paul also had it confirmed prophetically — Ananias confirmed Paul’s call even though he didn’t mention specifically the term apostle (Acts 9:10-19).

Apostles do not appoint themselves. 1 Timothy 2:7 says, “And for this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying) as a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.” 2 Timothy 1:10-11 says, “but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher.”

Apostles are appointed and sent out by the Holy Spirit, being recognized and confirmed by human agency. In this process, apostles are unshakably aware of their calling through the Holy Spirit.

One of the clearest examples of this is the commissioning of Saul and Barnabas, found in Acts 13:1-4. “Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers: Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. And while they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia and from there they sailed to Cyprus.”

The best scriptural pattern we have for the process of selecting, ordaining and setting legitimate apostles into office is this account of the prophetic gathering at Antioch. This tells us that the appointment of apostles is a Spirit-led activity, that is done publicly and in a context of prayer and worship, and that several proven leaders need to agree. They laid hands on them to impart blessing and anointing. It was the final seal upon their calling.

To proceed in apostolic ministry without having this process take place would be out of order in the emerging apostolic movement. This helps to eliminate abuses and errors. This process should happen before an apostle pursues the fullness of his apostolic call.

Note: it was the local church that did the commissioning in this case.

As a result, in the earlier years of their apostolic ministry, Paul and Barnabas reported back to the local church that had laid hands on them and sent them out.

It is important to note that apostleship is an office, not a gift. An office is that which someone receives as a result of a commission. A gift is something that a person receives on the basis of grace. Therefore an apostle will have varying gifts and strengths. An apostle may be a prophet or a teacher. An apostle is one who is sent out to exercise the various gifts of ministry he has received and developed under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. For example, Paul and Barnabas were listed as being prophets and teachers at Antioch, but after they were sent out, they were referred to as apostles. A gift of government is common in many apostles for obvious reasons, which we will see when we look at their function. There is no gift of “apostleship” listed among the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Therefore different apostles can vary widely in their gifting and types of ministry.

It is important to note that when the apostles returned to the local church they functioned as elders, not as apostles to that church.

Apostles are recognized by other apostles.

Other apostles must recognize a person as an apostle before apostolic ministry can be entirely legitimized. Galatians 2:7-9 says, “But on the contrary, seeing that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter with the gospel to the circumcised (for He who effectually worked for Peter in his apostleship to the circumcised effectually worked for me also to the Gentiles), and recognizing the grace that had been given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we might go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised.”

Apostles must have fruit that demonstrates their apostleship

In 1 Corinthians 9:1-2, Paul says, “Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord? If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you; for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.” Fruit of Paul’s ministry was clearly seen to include planting churches, establishing foundations in churches, and being received by churches as an apostle. The Corinthian church is clear proof of Paul’s apostolic ministry.

What about the “qualification of seeing the Lord”? Paul in this passage of Scripture is simply stating four facts. He is not trying to prove his apostleship by stating that he “had seen Jesus the Lord” any more than saying he was an apostle because he was “free”. It is vital to understand that the context of what he is saying is in the previous verse, 1 Corinthians 8:13, “Therefore, if food causes my bother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, that I might not cause my brother to stumble.” In 1 Corinthians 9:1-2, he is giving an illustration from his own life of the principle of 8:13. Just because he was free, an apostle, had seen Jesus, had established the church at Corinth did not make him an exception to the principle in 8:13. He did not take advantage of the rightful privileges he had.

Is having witnessed the resurrection of Jesus a requirement for being an apostle? Is that what 1 Corinthians 15-5-9 indicates? “and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as it were to one untimely born, he appeared to me also. For I am the least of the apostles, who am not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” Again, the context of this Scripture portion is to prove the resurrection, not to validate those who were apostles.

The 500 who saw the resurrection were not apostles.

Apostles must have perseverance

In 2 Corinthians 12:12, Paul says, “The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles.” Perseverance or endurance is the greatest proof of spiritual strength and power. It is the ability to endure steadfastly under continuous pressure that tests the reality of an apostolic call.

From God’s perspective, character comes first in apostolic ministry. Signs and wonders without character would prove to be dangerous and destructive in the long run. Apostleship is a matter of character over and above any other single quality. The tendency, though, is for us to look at the external signs as more important than the internal.

Perseverance or endurance embodies the concept of proven character more than any other quality because perseverance implies a character that has been tested in difficulty, and has been proven over a period of time.

Romans 5:3-4 says, “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;”

Endurance and persistence are important for standing in the face of opposition. Endurance is required in suffering. From reading the Scriptures, it is clear that the apostles suffered greatly. They were threatened, falsely accused, beaten, imprisoned, martyred, etc. All of the twelve apostles met violent deaths except John. They tried to kill him by boiling him in oil but he was miraculously spared and died a natural death. Barnabas was stoned to death; Paul was beheaded in Rome. The description of Paul’s sufferings is incredible.

Apostolic ministry and suffering are inseparably entwined, and those who answer the call must be prepared to face it. Without this ingredient in place, the ministry of the apostle and the whole apostolic movement will not endure.

Signs and wonders follow the ministry of the apostle

The apostles of the New Testament experienced the power of God in their lives because they were intimate with God. They gave themselves continually to prayer and the ministry of the Word. Being in the presence of Jesus was the key to the power the apostles experienced. The key to power in the emerging apostolic movement will be prayer, praise, and worship.

The ministry of the apostle is a very public ministry. In Scripture, we see that their ministries attracted people and crowds. Apostles imparted gifts and the Holy Spirit through the “laying on of hands” (Romans 1:11). People were healed through the “laying on of hands”. They supernaturally heard from God regarding their ministry. They had visions, words of knowledge, moved in the prophetic, etc. They were involved in casting out demons and in raising the dead.

We need to be careful to note that there is a lot of diversity in the apostolic call. We don’t want to squeeze people into a mold that says if you don’t do every one of these things you are not an apostle. If someone who is an apostle has not yet raised the dead we need to be careful not to imply that that person is not an apostle.

What needs to happen is that those who have an apostolic call on their lives need to call on the Lord to increase their faith. (Luke 17:5). I believe that as God raises up apostles in this hour He will also begin to release His supernatural power through them. We also need to understand that apostles are developed through time just as other ministries are. We need to allow that to happen.

In the second section I would like to take a look at the role and function of the Apostolic ministry.

_______________________

Based in Regina, Saskatchewan, Dave Wells serves as a team leader of LifeLinks International, giving apostolic input to a number of churches around the world. He has ministered in such countries as Guatemala, Ireland, England, Austria, Holland, China, Philippines, Vietnam, Marshall Islands, Zambia, Uganda, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, India and Spain.

More in this series on the Ministry of Apostles:

Who belongs in Palestine — Jews or Muslims?

Palestine Credit: rainwiz/Flickr/Creative Commons

Palestine Credit: rainwiz/Flickr/Creative Commons

When we talk of Palestine, we immediately think of the Palestinians, a group of Muslims, who are fighting to be recognized as a separate nation.

Israel has basically opposed this initiative for one simple reason — one of the leading political groups in Palestine, Hamas, stated in its 1988 covenant that one of its goals is the annihilation of Israel:

“Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it” (The Martyr, Imam Hassan al-Banna, of blessed memory).”

Israel is unwilling to accept Palestine as nation until they are willing to accept Israel as a nation.

But what does the word Palestine refer to?

Most believe it was a word the Roman developed to describe the ancient Philistines who have have since disappeared. Based on this belief, modern Palestinians have claimed this area as their homeland.

However, modern scholarship is challenging this notion.

There is strong evidence that the word Palestine was originally used to refer to Israel, not the Philistines.

In an article published in Biblical Archaeological Review in 2001, David Jacobsen presents his case.

First as a cultural group and nation, the Philistines disappeared over four centuries before the Roman empire formed. The Philistines were taken into captivity by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar around 617 BC. He took Israel into captivity 20 years later (597 BC), but there was one huge difference, while the Israelis returned to their homeland in 537 BC, the Philistines never did.

After defeating the Babylonians, King Cyrus of Persia issued an edict allowing all nations in captivity to return to their homeland. For some unknown reason, the Philistines were content to stay where they were. So it would be a bit unusual to name the area after a people who had not lived in the region for nearly five centuries.

So when later writers started talking about Palestine who were they referring to?

According to Jacobsen, Israel.

He cites the writing of the Greek historian Herodotus who lived between 484 BC and 425 BC. Though he did not describe those living in Palestine as Jews, he referred to them a circumcised. Since no other culture, including the Philistines, in the region practiced circumcision, who else could Herodotus being referred to other than Jews.

Then the Greek philosopher Aristotle (384-322 BC) adds to the discussion when he refers to the dead sea as being in Palestine.

So what is so significant about that? It is this: the Philistine nation was located north of Israel and since the Dead Sea is in the traditional homeland of Israel, Aristotle was using the term to describe the territory of the Jews, not the Philistines.

After the Romans conquered Israel in 135 BC, they began to refer to the area as Palestine. Though some believe Emperor Hadrian was trying to insult the Jews, historical references suggest this wasn’t the case. By this time, Palestine was the accepted name of the Jewish homeland.

So why did the word Palestine become the name for the Jewish homeland instead of Israel?

Jacobsen provides this interesting theory on why it took place and it centers around the Biblical story of how Jacob wrestled with an angel of God in Genesis 32:25-32.

Because the patriarch wrestle with God all night, the angel changed Jacob’s name to Israel which literally means “he who strives with God”:

28 He said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but [a]Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.” (Genesis 32:28 NASV)

This is the first reference to the word Israel that would become the name of the Jewish nation.

So how do we get the word Palestine out of this story? To do that we have to turn to the Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, where we find a word very similar to Palestine.

The Greek word for wrestle is “Palaistes” and the Greek word for Palestine is “Palaistine.” Considering this is the passage where we find the first reference to Israel, it seems the Greeks used the Palaistine to describe the Jewish territory.

So why did the Greeks do this?

Jacobsen says the Greeks loved their ancient heroes such as Hercules and Achilles and Israel’s story of man wrestling with an angel of God immediately catch their attention. Secondly, wrestling was also one of the favorite sports of the ancient Greeks where famous wrestlers had rock star status.

The Greeks started to use the word “Palaistine” to describe the land of the man (Israel) who wrestled with God.

Though the word Palestine is today used to solidify the Palestinians claim to the area, in fact the word describes Israel’s historical connection to the land that goes back thousands of years.

Sources:

Unlocking your future

Credit: Tamara Leaver/Flickr/Creative Commons

Credit: Tamara Leaver/Flickr/Creative Commons

In his letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul wrote:

10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:19 NIV)

It is a powerful verse when we understand that we are God’s handiwork, literally God’s work of art. But the kicker here is that there are things, good works, that God has prepared and called you to do.

The tense of the Greek word prepared (proetoimasen) means that the decision about what God wants you to do was made long before (well in advance of)  your salvation. God has a long-term plan for your life.

When you look in the Old Testament, you see examples of this. The prophet Isaiah understood that God had called him to a prophetic ministry while Isaiah was still in the womb:

Listen to me, you islands;
    hear this, you distant nations:
Before I was born the Lord called me;
    from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name.
He made my mouth like a sharpened sword,
    in the shadow of his hand he hid me;
he made me into a polished arrow
    and concealed me in his quiver. (Isaiah 49:1-2 NIV)

But notice that in addition to the calling God had also made his mouth like a “sharpened sword.” He was gifted with the natural ability to speak. So we see the spiritual prophetic gifting working in hand with the natural.

Joseph received a dream that one day his brothers would be bowing before him:

Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. He said to them, “Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.”

His brothers said to him, “Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?” (Genesis 37:5-8 NASV)

God gave Joseph a natural ability to lead men. But Joseph’s calling was well in advance of its fulfillment.  At this point, Joseph was clearly not able to lead his brothers, who threw him in a dry well and sold him to passing slave traders.

But God had a job for Joseph to do and this natural leadership ability began to express itself and eventually Joseph became second in charge in Egypt. He brought his family to Egypt where the nation of Israel was birthed.

So what does it mean to be prepared?

I think it means two things. God has not only prepared a job for you to do, but will prepare you to do it. God will equip us for the job we are called to do (Hebrews 13:20-21).

You have been created with certain interests and natural abilities. It is not enough that you have an interest, you must also have the ability to do it.

Sing to him a new song;
    play skillfully, and shout for joy. (Psalm 33:3 NASV)

Notice how the psalmist says that we are to play skillfully. I remember years ago, a young woman had an interest in singing, but clearly did not have a natural ability to do it. She wanted lead worship and had pull with her father who was also the pastor.

It was frustrating particularly for those who listened to her. Her worship services invariably fell flat. She was not gifted or called to lead worship. She was a talented young woman, but it wasn’t musical and wanting it does not make it so.

We have to be honest about our natural abilities, because God takes these abilities and anoints them. King David was a natural leader. God then anointed David to use this natural leadership ability for the Kingdom of God:

13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him [David] in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward. (I Samuel 16:13 NASV)

We read how God anointed Israel’s craftsmen Bezaliel and Oholiab to work on the Tabernacle of Moses. They not only had natural artistic ability, but God filled Bezaliel with the “spirit of God” enhancing his natural abilities to fulfill God’s purpose:

I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of [a]craftsmanship, (Exodus 31:3 NASV).

He along with Oholiab were anointed and appointed for the job:

Moreover, I have appointed Oholiab son of Ahisamak, of the tribe of Dan, to help him. Also I have given ability to all the skilled workers to make everything I have commanded you: (Exodus 31:6 NASV)

But God will not only prepare you, He will also prepare good works for you to do.  The Greek word translated “to do” is “peripateo” which means literally to “walk in,” and “walk up and down.”

God will give you opportunities to express your calling and gifting. Here is the key, we need to walk in them. We need to grab these opportunities when they show up. Sometimes they are just small steps in the general direction God wants you to go, but not the end destination.

We can become frustrated but it is part of the process. Joseph was called to lead his family, but ended up in jail after being falsely accused of sexual assault. But Joseph did what came naturally for him and organized and ran the prison on behalf of the jailer:

21 But the Lord was with Joseph and extended kindness to him, and gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer. 22 The chief jailer committed to Joseph’s [w]charge all the prisoners who were in the jail; so that whatever was done there, he was [x]responsible for it. (Genesis 39:21-21 NASV)

This was clearly not what Joseph had in mind when it came to ruling his brothers and Bible says that the prophetic word God gave Joseph “tested him” (Psalm 105:19).  Despite his circumstances would Joseph continue to believe the word God gave him about his future calling?

This is all part of the preparation process. It was an important part of Joseph’s journey to what God had prepared for him to do.

Is God beginning to move in the music industry?

Credit: Joe Bustillos/Flickr/Creative Commons

Credit: Joe Bustillos/Flickr/Creative Commons

A couple of different stories caught my attention this past week, though unrelated, they both have a God connection. The first involved an article on Christian Post (CP) about this year’s American Idol where the final five performers in the singing competition are all Christians.

And they are anointed as well and this is not just my opinion, but that of the American Idol judges. Though Michael Woodward did not move on to the final three, his song “Still I Arise” very much affected the judges.

Pop superstar Katy Perry who was in tears before Woodward’s song was finished said, “I mean, you’re anointed. I thought I had my emotions removed. It’s so beautiful what I just saw between you and your mother.”

Fellow judge Lionel Ritchie echoed the comments added, “You are anointed, my friend.”

Woodward comes from a Christian home where his grandmother and mother both impacted him spiritually. According to CP, his mother, Wanda, has a Christian program that she broadcasts weekly live on Facebook.  And his grandmother raised Michael on Gospel Music.

As for Katy Perry, her parents are both Pentecostal pastors and she started off in Gospel music before moving into secular. Though she has wandered from her faith, there are indications in recent months that God may be moving on the singer’s life.

Which leads me to the second article, that I had earlier written on about the testimony of Pattie Mallette, the mother of pop star Justin Bieber.  She gave it at the 2018 Light the Fire conference in Toronto sponsored by the same church pastored by Jim Arnott where the Toronto Revival broke out in 1993.

Pattie shared how she became a Christian during that revival. But three things happened to her that suggest God will move on the music industry:

  1. After becoming a Christian and unmarried, Pattie became pregnant with Justin. But the Church did not reject her. Pattie said while still pregnant she received a prophetic word that her birth would spark a revival.
  2. When Justin was 12, Pattie said a group of 20-year-olds performed a prophetic act grabbing Justin and carried him around the auditorium as “a sign upholding the next generation.”
  3. Then during a time of travailing in the spirit (a form of intercessory prayer), God guided her prayer to “take back the arts.”

I have written several articles about the remarkable spiritual changes taking place in Justin Bieber’s life. He regularly sends out spiritual messages to millions of his followers. This includes  99.8 million followers on Instagram and 107 million followers on Twitter.

At the conference John Arnott said:

“I believe young guys like Justin Bieber are going to bring this generation back to God like never before … I think the church missed it with Elvis. He loved Jesus, bu the pressures of the music industry are formidable. We need to get behind these guys, even when they make mistakes. We must welcome them back with open hearts.”

He believes that God could have used Elvis, but the church was so legalistic it rejected the mega star and as well the profound influence Elvis would have had in the world if the church would have accepted and mentored him.

We need to quit judging and rejecting these stars. Pray for them and allow God to move in their lives. Yes, they are going to make mistakes, but if we had paparazzi following us every moment of our lives, I wonder what they would uncover?

Patti added that God told her that He was going to move on the music industry and she added, “and now He’s put all these people (Christians) at the top and He is saying, ‘Shine for Me!'”

I don’t know who these Christians stars are, but for the top five finalists in American Idol to all be Christian is very unusual. Another star that Pattie might be referring to is popular singer, Selena Gomez, also a Christian, who leads the pack in terms of Instagram followers with over 130 million.

A passage in the Book of Ezekiel also plays into what is happening in the music industry. It provides an interesting description of Satan before his catastrophic fall into sin. There are indications he had unique musical abilities:

You were in Eden, the garden of God;
Every precious stone was your covering:
The sardius, topaz, and diamond,
Beryl, onyx, and jasper,
Sapphire, turquoise, and emerald with gold.
The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes
Was prepared for you on the day you were created.

“You were the anointed cherub who covers;
I established you;
You were on the holy mountain of God;
You walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones.
15 You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created,
Till iniquity was found in you. (Ezekiel 28: 13-15a NKJV)

Satan was created with timbrels (percussion instruments) and pipes (wind instruments). Note: Revelation 5:8 also mentions harps in heaven (string).  Because of these references to musical instruments, some believe that Satan was in charge of worship in heaven. But pride came into his life and he fell (Ezekiel 28:2).

When Satan rebelled, those musical abilities didn’t suddenly just disappear. He still has this talent and now uses it in an evil way as I explained in my article How the spiritual realm interacts with our physical world.

For too long Satan has had a profound negative influence in music and it seems that God wants to change that. We need to start praying for Christian performing artists instead of judging them.

Sources:

Your Money and the Church – Part 3

Credit: EBCanon/Flickr/Creative Commons

Credit: EBCanon/Flickr/Creative Commons

Here is one of the best secrets for managing your generosity and giving of money: Don’t.

If you spend any time among religious people, you will be asked for money. When I go to church on Sunday, there is always an offering, a time when all other business stops and the ushers collect money from us. I have lived with this all my life and I have an acquired immunity, but some people who come with me are offended and disoriented. What will God think about them if they don’t give enough?

So, don’t give. The exercise will be good for you.

Yesterday I was walking in the mall. It’s not really my place but I had a meeting with someone. At an intersection in the walkways, I saw a display booth with two young women looking hopeful. They represented one of those Christian charities that sponsor children and they were looking for sponsors. I won’t name the organization, but there are several and they do very good work.

What bothered me was all the busy shoppers who hurried by and ignored them. The women seemed a bit forlorn, so I walked over and told them I appreciated what they were doing, even if other people didn’t. They smiled and thanked me, and then they tried very hard to get me to sponsor a child. I thought about it, and then I remembered my decision. I had walked over to encourage them, and that was my only reason for being there. As a family, we might decide to sponsor a child, but the decision could not come from a quick conversation in the mall. I think it’s a serious long-term commitment, but the young women tried hard to aggressively upsell me.

Do you remember Jim and Tammy Bakker? I believe they began as sincere Christian workers and I think God gave them important things to do. But then it all went wrong, and in the world, they are one reason people roll their eyes and accuse us of being greedy and dishonest with money. The Bakkers had gold-plated faucets and a large bronze giraffe in their home, or in one of their expensive homes, and there were rumors of an air-conditioned dog house. Tammy defended herself by saying the doghouse was not air-conditioned, just heated.

If you have a stomach for it, Tammy had a wedding for dogs, with a “minister” officiating. I just can’t believe that was a good way to spend money that was dedicated to God.

It is easy to criticize the Jim and Tammy now, but it is also easy to miss their partners. A large number of Christians poured their money into the Bakker “ministry” and made all the excess possible. That was a good time to say “no” and not give, and the tragedy is that many churches and deserving charities could have done great things with those resources.

Your money must have boundaries, and you must direct your finances by your own decisions. There must be a “no” boundary so that you have a “yes” option. In the Bible, giving to a worthy cause was always a choice, there was no guilt or manipulation or aggressive selling; the “no” boundary was never removed.

“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)

The worthy cause was a famine where other Christians really suffered, and still there was no aggressive promotion. Just do what you decide with resources that belong to you. I believe every Christian should know the cost of operating their church, including staff salaries. We have important decisions to make, on the yes and no sides.

In the Bible story, once the decision to be generous was made, the leaders gave clear directions for simple project management:

Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable for me to go also, they will accompany me. (1 Corinthians 16: 1 to 4)

More in this series:

Seeing our reflection in others

Youth Park, Bucharest, Romania Credit: Sorin Mutu/Flickr/Creative Commons

Youth Park, Bucharest, Romania Credit: Sorin Mutu/Flickr/Creative Commons

Just before we shut the TV off a few nights ago, we watched a few minutes of Les Miserables, the story of Jean Valjean. In the last scene as he enters heaven, Jean, reminded of the mercy shown him by an old priest, sings:

“to love another person is to see the face of God.”

Those words challenged me to look further into what this means and in my mind I have tied this to judging.  God commands us to not judge others or we will be judged. In His sermon on the mount, Jesus said:

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. (Matthew 7:1-2 NASV)

The message Jesus was delivering is that we are all the same.  We are all created in the image of God, but after the fall of man we all have that same ugly, sinful nature. We are no different from the person we are judging.

And when I look into the eyes of another person I must recognize this. Any of their quirks, annoying behaviors or offensive words are to remind me that I come from the same source.

A verse in Proverbs says:

“As a face is reflected in water, so the heart reflects the real person.” (Proverbs 27:19)

The Pulpit Commentary connects this verse with the words that Jesus spoke on judging when it says:

“As in clear water the face of the gazer is reflected, so man finds in his fellow man the same feelings, sentiments, passions, which he has himself. He sees in others the likeness of himself; whatever he knows himself to be, he will see others presenting the same character.”

The reality is until we see the likeness of ourselves in the other person we will continue to judge them.  We all have the same ‘seeds of sin’ inside, but when we judge we somehow think we are better, when we are not.

The other person is your reflection in the water, so when we judge them, we judge ourselves.

Jean Valjean says when we love the other person we will see the face of God in them. We need to see them as God now sees you because of Christ’s work. Because the blood of Jesus covers us and offers forgiveness, God no longer looks at us with anger, but with compassion.

One 18th century scholar explained that Christ is to be our mediator in every encounter and interaction. Christ stands between us and others.

Holding this perspective helps us look at others the same way.  What we find offensive in another is merely a reflection of what is in our own heart.  It is through Christ we can love our neighbor and see the face of God in our fellow-man. It is my opportunity to have a god-like perception of others.

Because God’s mercy towards us is boundless, we must extend mercy to others. We must forgive as we are forgiven.

“Above all things have intense an unfailing love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins (forgives and disregards the offense of others.” (1 Peter 4:8)

Justin Bieber’s mom Pattie Mallette ‘Travailing in the Spirit’?

Freshwind Band at Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in March 2008 where the Toronto Revival broke out. Source: andrewgazaneo artwork by Sarah M Gazeno/Wikipedia/Creative Commons

Freshwind Band playing at Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in March 2008 where the Toronto Revival broke out. Source: andrewgazaneo artwork by Sarah M Gazeno/Wikipedia/Creative Commons

Pattie Mallette may not be a familiar name to most of us, but her pop star son, Justin Bieber, is a household name in many parts of the world. In earlier articles, I have written about the remarkable spiritual transformation taking place in Justin’s life.

Dale Hurd writing for Christ for All Nations tells the story about Pattie’s spiritual journey. Incredibly, it started at the Toronto revival, also called the Toronto Blessing, that broke out in a Vineyard Church in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in January 1994. The church originally called Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship has since been renamed Catch the Fire Toronto and is pastored by John and Carol Arnott.

Pattie shared her journey to faith at the 2018 Light the Fire Again conference held at the same building, the Attwell Center, where the Toronto revival broke out.

In the early 1990s, Pattie became a Christian in a hospital room shortly after a failed suicide attempt. She was led to the Lord and mentored by a couple who attended the Vineyard church where the revival broke out.

Shortly after becoming a Christian, Pattie became pregnant with Justin. Unmarried she was concerned that she would be rejected by her Christian family. However, instead of rejection the church fully accepted her.

Speaking of the Arnotts, Pattie said:

“You taught them to love me where I was at. I remember coming back here in 1994 when I was staying in a pregnancy home. I remember the church leaders praying over me and prophesying that it was going to birth revival.”

Not only was her birth prophetically connected to a revival, Patti also recalled an incident that took place a few years later at the church when Justin was 12, before gaining fame through his YouTube videos. A group grabbed Justin and carried him around the room as a prophetic sign:

“The 20-somethings picked him up as a sign to upholding the next generation and they marched him around the room. And they had no idea what God was going to do.”

I don’t believe this is a reference to the Toronto revival, but a revival that is yet to take place.

Later while travailing in prayer, Pattie sensed God asking her to “take back the arts.” With the remarkable spiritual turn around taking place in Justin’s life, Pattie’s family is now heavily involved in the music industry, where God has significantly placed several other Christians as well.

Members of our congregation attended the Toronto Blessing shortly after it broke out and when they came back, revival broke out in our church and one of the manifestations that came with it was travailing in the spirit.

The Apostle Paul actually refers to this experience. He does it in an odd way by talking about it without explaining what was actually going on. This suggests that Paul believed the Romans would completely understand what he was referring to:

26 In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; 27 and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27 NASV)

The best way to explain it is the Holy Spirit, who knows God’s will, begins to pray or intercede through us.

I remember when it first happened to me. You literally feel physical heavings inside you and it is something that is so intense that you and others can actually see it happening. The physical heaving often leads to groaning (called groaning in the Spirit) and at times I have felt a soreness after because of how intense it was. Some liken it to birthing.

These Holy Spirit heavings can become so intense that it is impossible to stand and people often find themselves lying on the floor rolling as the Holy Spirit prays through them.

My wife, who is an intercessor, has experienced this several times. She would be thinking about something and would suddenly feel the Holy Spirit welling up insider her wanting to pray about it.

I remember one time we were in the kitchen getting coffee and the Holy Spirit began moving on her. I grabbed her coffee cup just before she hit the floor. In retrospect, I probably should have grabbed her instead, but it was happening so often back then, we just got used to it.

This plus other physical manifestations such as uncontrollable laughing, spiritual drunkeness (Ephesians 5:18) and being slain in the spirit were probably the most controversial part of the Toronto Blessing and gave people reasons to reject it if they wanted to.

Though we look at these manifestations as being very odd, they were similar to what happened in other great revivals such as Azusa Street that took place in Los Angeles in 1906.

Aside from these unusual manifestations, the Toronto Blessing provided significant emotional healing for many including myself as God desired to heal people from the emotional scars of living life. I believe in some ways prophecy was taken to a heightened level during the revival as well.

The Toronto Blessing also became somewhat controversial because of its connection to the 1948 North Battleford Revival and the latter rain movement.

Because of its location in Toronto near the airport, it provided easy access. Hundreds of thousands of people from around the world visited the revival. In December 1994, the Toronto Blessing was declared the city’s greatest tourist attraction.

A year after it started, Charisma Magazine estimated that 11,000 churches (4,000 in England and 7,000 in the US) had already been impacted by the revival.

Sources:

A near asteroid hit and volcanic eruption on Hawaii: Apocalyptic shots across the bow?

Volcanic column of smoke on Hawaii's Big Island taken May 7, 2018 Credit: macprohawaii/US Geological Survey/Flickr/Public Domain

Volcanic column of smoke on Hawaii’s Big Island taken May 7, 2018 Credit: macprohawaii/US Geological Survey/Flickr/Public Domain

During the 18th century, if a naval ship was unable to recognize an oncoming vessel it would fire a warning shot in the general direction of the ship. Under the law of the sea, the ship receiving the shot was expected to hoist its flag so it could be recognized and respond with a shot of its own. It was form of rudimentary communication between ships.

With modern communications equipment, the shot across the bow has taken on a more ominous tone. When naval vessels, such as the coast guard, are pursuing another vessel, they will perform a shot across the bow typically in front of the ship telling it to stop. The shot demonstrates that the fleeing ship is within range, sighted and more importantly the pursuing ship is willing to go the next step if it does not come to heel.

One has to ask if the world just received a shot across the bow. According to the Bible’s apocalyptic literature, the end times will be marked by massive asteroids slamming into the earth causing catastrophic damage and volcanic eruptions.

Last night, a large asteroid whizzed by earth. According to NASA’s Dr Erin Ryan it was “as big across as a city block” ranging in size from 197 feet to 417 feet.

The asteroid passed half way between the moon and earth  (126,500 miles out) which in astronomical terms is a hair like miss remembering that if it gets to close, the earth’s gravity could potentially draw it in.

What is disturbing is how close it came. Guy Wells from England’s Northholt Branch Observatories told Newsweek:

“There are many close approaches from asteroids,. Most are very small. Only very few of this size have ever been seen coming closer than the moon.”

This is not the first time that the asteroid known as “2010 WC9” has passed by earth. The last time it appeared was 300 years ago. Over the years, astronomers have been aware of its presence and have been tracking the asteroid as it made its way back to earth.

Arizona’s Catalina Sky Survey picked up the comet in 2010, but then lost it and picked it up again in early May as it whizzed by earth on May 15th.

The Bible’s apocalyptic literature has made repeated warnings of asteroid hits that will cause immense damage on Earth during the end times:

Hitting the sea:

The second angel sounded, and something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea; and a third of the sea became blood, and a third of the creatures which were in the sea [f]and had life, died; and a third of the ships were destroyed. (Revelation 8:8-9 NASV)

And hitting land:

10 The third angel sounded, and a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of waters. 11 The name of the star is called Wormwood; and a third of the waters became wormwood, and many men died from the waters, because they were made bitter. (Revelation 8:10-11 NASV)

Thankfully, 2010 WC9 missed. Though not mountain-sized as described in the Book of Revelation, it is considerably bigger than the bus-sized asteroid that exploded high in the atmosphere over Chelyabinsk, Russia in 2013 shattering glass and injuring 1,500 people.

If this warning shot wasn’t enough, anyone viewing online media has seen photos and videos of the eruption of Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano on the Big Island. The eruption hasn’t been explosive but vents are appearing all over the island spewing out lava and toxic smoke.

So far it has resulted in the evacuation of 2,000 residents and destruction of 26 homes, 10 buildings and damaged several roads. Many believe this is just the start and is expected that the lava flows could continue for weeks.

In an article in USA Today, Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim said “I’ve been around a very long time and I know this is different.”

Again the Bible says that volcanoes are also signpost of the end times. The prophet Joel talks about giant columns of smoke on the earth, that are typical of volcanic eruptions:

“I will display wonders in the sky and on the earth,
Blood, fire and columns of smoke.
31 “The sun will be turned into darkness
And the moon into blood
Before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. (Joel 2:30-31 NASV)

Note how Joel said columns (plural) as in more than one.

The Book of Revelation was probably speaking of volcanic eruptions when it spoke of hail and fire mixed with blood falling on the earth resulting in plants and trees dying off:

The first sounded, and there came hail and fire, mixed with blood, and they were thrown to the earth; and a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up. (Revelation 8:7 NASV)

In an article on the Hawaii eruption for USA Today, Trevor Hughes described a similar event when he wrote, “Plumes of poisonous gases accompanying the flows are killing off trees and grasses left untouched by the lava, and health officials warn the gases pose a significant health risk to anyone in the area.”

And there is concern that the eruption on Hawaii’s Big Island could result in more eruptions in the Pacific’s volcanic Ring of Fire, that Hawaii is part of.

The Ring of Fire is made up of 450 volcanoes scattered across the US, South America, Asia, New Zealand and Australia. This includes 13 volcanoes along the US West Coat, but does not include the Super Volcano underneath Yellowstone Park, that heats Old Faithful.

Volcanoes and asteroids are considered end-times sign posts from a Biblical perspective, however, could they be more accurately described as “shots across the bow?”

Sources: