Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Loin Belt of Truth

The battle we are in is raging. The war has already been won but Satan refuses to surrender, and many believers refuse to get involved and so we continue to do battle with him and his principalities, powers and forces of evil and darkness.

Paul commands us to stand firm in Gods strength and to put on the whole armor of God. We will now look at that armor.
Many people love fashion shows. Project runway is a very popular cable show and every year designers show us their new creations during fashion week in New York City.

If we were to describe these fashions we would tell people about the dresses, or sports jackets and pants. Shoes are a big deal with many people. Just ask my wife. Some like hats and jewelry.
I doubt anyone would describe or spend a lot of time describing a man’s belt. I mean - it’s just a belt. But Paul says

14 Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, 6:14 (NASB)

In military terms the words stand firm, mean to stand bravely or courageously in the face of the enemy. A more literal translation would be to stand up straight or erect, shoulders back and heels dug in. And so here is how you do that.

Make sure you have your belt.

You may be asking Really? A belt? Of all the pieces of armor why would Paul make the belt the first piece he tells us to put on?
Well if I were to remove my belt (and I won’t) there are a few things that could happen. My pants might fall down. My shirt would come untucked, and I would have no place to hang my cell phone.

But as important as I consider my belt, the Roman soldier even more so. This seemingly insignificant piece of the armor held so many of the other pieces in their proper place.

Literally this verse reads “having your loins girded around with truth”.
Have you ever considered this Roman Soldier? It is estimated, that the average Roman soldier carried 100 pounds or more of equipment. A Helmet, shield, spear, sword, dagger, breastplate, leather and metal shoes and even metal shin guards. Try standing upright with all of that on your body.

When I was a younger Christian I always thought this belt must be some ornamental piece with little to do with actual battle. Some have even called it a girdle. But if that were the case Paul would not have given it such prominence.

Just as my belt holds up my pants, keeps my shirt tucked in, carries my cell phone and more. So too this loin belt is more than decoration.
For example when the shield was not being used, it hung on a hook on this belt. The sword was attached to this belt. There was a ring that he rested his spear on. Most importantly it held the breastplate Paul calls righteousness together and in its proper place. This belt held it all together.

Without this belt the soldier could have no confidence in the battle. With it he was assured everything was held tightly together and would stay that way even in the fiercest battle.

But Paul links this belt to what he calls the truth. In all of scripture there is only one thing we are told to rely on as truth. GODS WORD!
Now I know some of you may have jumped ahead to the sword and are saying, but the sword of the Spirit is the word of God, and you would be correct. But slow down so we don’t miss something here.

The Greek word for word there in verse 17 concerning the sword, is the word “rhema”. It means a newly revealed look, an inspiration, a commentary or word of explanation. It has more to do with our thinking then what we can see with our eyes.

But the truth is always associated with Gods written or revealed word. In the upper room prayer Jesus said this 17 "Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. John 17:17 (NASB)

The word Jesus uses there, and I believe is implied here, is the word “logos”. The logos reveals, in a visible way, who and what God is, as he revealed it in His Son to be sure, but also in his written word, scripture, and that is our belt. That is what holds the whole armor together.

You may not always receive a rhema from God, but you can always have the logos with you.
When you ignore or forget the written word of God, the rest of your armor is in jeopardy of failing. No wonder this piece fits in the middle or the center of the man

Now, having a bible may not sound as exciting as receiving a supernatural revelation from God, but keep in mind that Paul says this is what holds everything together.
The loin belt was not exactly pretty, in fact it looked rather drab and extremely ordinary or commonplace. Every soldier had one of those old things.

Sadly this is how many people feel about the bible. They have so many bibles around the house, that they have lost their appreciation for it. They toss it on the book shelf with all those other books and often forget it’s even there. I have already read all of that, even more than once, and so that should be enough.

But if you lay your bible aside, your loin belt of truth, in time you will begin to lose your sense of righteousness. Toss it aside and you find your peace slipping away. Lay it aside and you will feel the joy of your salvation being depleted. Lay aside that bible, that loin belt of truth, that holds it all together and you begin to doubt God, it becomes harder to believe him and to walk in faith.

You absolutely cannot function as a believer in this battle without the word of God having an active and central role in your life. You may run for a while on what little steam you already have, but you won’t run very far before everything begins to come loose and fall apart.

If you remove or forget your loin belt – the word of God – it will only be a matter of time before you begin to fall to pieces spiritually. Those demonic forces will break through without its protection and chaos will take over your life.

I talk every week with a lot of pastors and ministers. Many have tried to build strong churches on praise and worship. Praise and worship are wonderful but a person cannot build a strong church on these alone. Praise and worship are not the loin belt.

Some have tried to build their churches on music and even elaborate musical and multimedia productions. Music is a great way of praising God but music is not the loin belt.

Others have tried to build strong churches on social gatherings. Times of fellowship are great and are needed in the local church, but you cannot build a strong church on social gatherings. Fellowship is not the loin belt.
Still others have tried to build strong churches entirely on prayer. Of course prayer is vital. We desperately need a new emphasis on prayer in our day. But prayer is not the loin belt.

Only Gods word, God’s truth, is the loin belt. Both for the individual believer, and the corporate body. It is the only piece of this spiritual armor that is visible with the eye and tangible to the touch. This is the most important piece of our armor. Think about it, we can actually hold something in our hand that God has given us.

In 2 Timothy 3:17, Paul writes his young protégé that this loin belt, Gods inspired word, can actually make a man perfect, thoroughly furnished for every good work.

So what is your goal in this battle? Do you want to succeed and come out on the other side? Do you want to be spiritually equipped? If you want to wear the proper clothing for your spiritual walk, you will take up your bible and make it your own.

God’s written word has the power, as Paul tells Timothy, “to furnish you for every good work”. The word furnish there is “ex art zidzo”. It means to completely outfit or fully supply what is needed. It was a word used to describe a wagon or ship that carried a complete outfit of supplies, fully loaded.

When you affix the loin belt of truth, to the center of your life and faithfully ensure it stays there in place, everything else comes together. For instance, do you want to learn how to enjoy your God given righteousness? The writer of Hebrews says this
12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant.14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. Heb 5:12-14 (NASB)

According to the writer of Hebrews, some have deliberately chosen not to develop their understanding of righteousness when they ignore the word. On the other hand you can reverse this by spending more time in the word of God.

For those who ignore the word of God, it is only a matter of time before they feel condemned in nearly every area of their life. Although declared righteous by God when they were first saved, these weak Christians are not conscience of their God given righteousness, because they haven’t made His word a priority in their lives.

So if you want to enjoy walking through life with the breast plate of righteousness, you must first put on the loin belt of truth so you will have something to hang it on or fasten it to. The word will furnish you with that confidence and assurance.

Would you like to experience more peace in your life?

Paul again tells us how to accomplish this in Colossians 3:15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts

Naturally speaking, very few of us experience God’s peace ruling in our hearts. Because of our hectic schedules and the rushed pace of this modern era, the vast number of us experience inner turmoil, frustration and a host of flip flop emotions.

Emotions mislead, but Gods peace will always keep us on an even keel.
The word rule here, is taken from the word “bra-beuo” and it is used to paint the picture of an umpire or a judge, one who called the shots in the Greek games. The umpire was the governor of those games, the one who decided the winner. So by employing this word, Paul is actually saying “let the peace of God be the umpire that calls the shots in your life”
So how do we come to this place where peace rules in our life. This place where your mind, emotions, fears and frustrations cease to control you? Paul tells us in the next verse in Colossians 3:16 16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you…

There are two key words in this passage, dwell and richly.
The word dwell is taken from the Greek “en oi keo” and literally means to take up residence. It has the idea of settling into a house or making yourself feel at home.

The word richly is “plou sios”. It carries the idea of extreme extravagance and luxurious living.

So to paraphrase Paul, “let the word of Christ take up residence in your life and come to feel comfortable and at home in you. Give it the warmest, most extravagant and luxurious reception possible”
When the loin belt of truth is the center of your armor, Gods peace will begin to rule, umpire and call the shots in your daily life.
Do you want to walk in strong, believing faith? How does this shield of faith become a daily reality in your life? Again Paul tells us in Romans 10:17 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.

Do you want to walk in faith? Then get in God’s word and stay there. Give it the most important place or priority in your life. Only the word of God, the loin belt of truth, can produce consistent, ongoing and legitimate faith.

While the helmet of salvation is not directly attached to this loin belt while in battle, some do believe that many soldiers hung their helmets on this belt when at rest, it cannot be ignored for its relation to Gods word. The word salvation is the Greek word “sodzo” which means deliverance, safety, preservation, soundness of mind and healing.

How many of us would not like to walk habitually in Christ purchased deliverance, safety, soundness of mind and healing? If so - then we must put on this helmet.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:8 and here in Ephesians 6:17 the helmet is associated with salvation. We are commanded to put it on, to take it as our own. So what is the connection between the concepts of the mind and salvation?
Paul tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:15 15 and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation

God’s word has the power to make us mentally alert and receptive and wise unto salvation.

As we give our minds, and the things we think about, over to the scriptures, the word itself begins to build a measure of deliverance, safety, preservation, soundness of mind and healing in our lives on every level.

This tells us that it is scripture, God’s word, that puts this salvation helmet on our heads. As you renew your mind to the word of God, the truth contained in that word becomes your spiritual helmet.

We then are told to take up a mighty and powerful sword called the sword of the spirit. How many of us would love to wield this sword of the spirit at some of our demons on a more consistent basis? But how can it be developed and where do I find it?

Well where did the Roman soldier find his sword when he needed it? It was hanging in a scabbard on his side, attached to a clip that hung from his YOU GUESSED IT loin belt of truth.

And so he had to keep his loin belt on in order to keep his sword nearby.
If the loin belt of truth represents the logos, the written word of God, then this sword of the spirit which is the word of God must be the rhema or revelation from God.

What this tells us is that the rhema sword, the whispered word of God spoken to us in times of need, will come directly out of the logos, the written word of God, already given to us to be carried always in our person.
How many times have we heard people pray, “lord I need a word”. God, I need you to talk to me in some special way. I am facing this crisis and I need a word from you about it.

These folks spend all their time hoping to have a dream or a vision from God or trying to find someone who will prophecy their answer to them. When they go to church they are always hoping someone will give them some special answer that will direct them in the way they should go.
There is, according to Paul, something far more dependable then someone’s word of knowledge, or a word of wisdom or some message of prophecy from men. As the apostle Peter tells us in 2 Peter 1:19 So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.

So do you need a special word from the Lord? Do you need a rhema? Well here is how you get it. Reach to the loin belt of truth, the written word of God and there God will reveal what is needed or what must be done.
What you need to know is right there and has been all along, but at times of need, God underlines or highlights certain passage for us to see more clearly.

These rhema words then become our powerful sword of the moment. The author of Hebrews tells us 12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

When you carry the word of God centrally in your life, it is far easier for God to reveal the sharp parts needed in the battle of the day.
So why is this the most important piece of armor? Try battling without it.
Soon you will reach for your sword and it won’t be there. Your shield of faith will get heavy and you will have no place to rest it and the temptation will be to just let it go. Your breastplate of righteousness will begin flapping in the wind and leave you exposed.

There will be nothing to hold you spiritually together. The written word of God, our scriptures, the bible, supports everything else in our walk with God.

Next time we will look at the Breast plate of righteousness

The Breastplate of Righteousness

In my last blog we began looking at the armor of God we are commanded to take up and put on. We looked at the most important piece, called the loin belt of truth, the word of God, that is to be central in our lives. Let’s continue from there

We do not often think of the breastplate as a weapon or even as a defense. But here it is pictured as righteousness. Jesus was seen as righteous because He came and lived in all truth, and so righteousness follows truth here in our armor.

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 6:7 7 in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left.
Here Paul talks of righteousness as a weapon.

This is not a new concept only in the Church age. Isaiah spoke of this hundreds of years before 17 He put on righteousness like a breastplate, And a helmet of salvation on His head; Isaiah 59:17 (NASB)

In order to understand why Paul called righteousness the breastplate in our armor, we must understand what Paul thought of this Roman soldier’s breastplate.

The breastplate was the shiniest, most beautiful and most glamorous piece of armor the Roman soldier possessed.
When someone walked up to a Roman soldier, he could not help but notice the breastplate, especially on a bright sunny day. It went from the soldiers neck all the way down to his thighs.

It was made up of two different pieces of metal. One went down and covered the front and the other covered his back. The two pieces were held together by two solid brass rings on top of the shoulders. Sometimes the breastplate was one solid piece of metal and at other times comprised of many smaller pieces that resembled fish scales. And this was attached all around to the loin belt.

This was by far the heaviest piece of armor that the Roman soldier wore. At times it weighed in excess of 40 pounds. If you remember Goliath’s breastplate, it weighed about 125 pounds. The boy David could not even wear King Saul’s breastplate. It was just too big and too heavy for him.
One of the amazing things about this breastplate is that as the two pieces rubbed up against the outer clothing, while shinny at first, they now take on an even brighter appearance. This is our righteousness. The longer we wear it the brighter it becomes.

So what we see, is that the breastplate becomes even more beautiful the more we use it. Had it been stored in a dark room for safety, it would have tarnished and lost all its shine.

Have you ever been driving in your car and the sun hits the rear window of the car in front of you, or some other reflective object? The result is blinding. The glare is so bright that you have to turn your head or close your eyes. This is the same for our righteousness to the world.
Imagine a whole army of soldiers wearing these breastplates. The entire mountainside or valley would begin to shine and everything would be magnificently illuminated. Jesus said we are the light of this world and we are to shine in it.

If we were not engaged in battle there would be no need for this armor piece. But we are in battle, and someone out there really wants to hurt us.

Paul tells us that by putting on the whole armor of God we will be able to stand against the wiles or schemes of the devil. The devil wants to hurt us, assault us. He wants us to think we are not righteous and that we are of no value to God.

The word devil, can mean he who attacks, but the Greek tense means he attacks again, and again, and again, until he breaks through.
He desires to penetrate and immobilize a person’s mind and emotions. He especially delights in finding believers who do not know that they are righteous. They are easy prey.

He sneers as he whispers, “you are the worst Christian who has ever lived. Do you think God is going to do anything with you? God can’t use a believer like you”.
If you do not have on your breastplate of righteousness firmly fixed in place by the loin belt of truth, which are the scriptures, you may begin to believe those slanderous accusations.

Those believers, who do not know that they have been made righteous in Christ, tend to habitually walk in condemnation. Why? Because the devil never misses an opportunity to insert a condemning thought in their minds.
Sadly, too many believers walk around with their shoulders slumped and their heads hanging low. The devil has made such inroads that even their prayers lack confidence. He has convinced them that they will never be good enough.

God’s word, on the other hand, tells us to stand firm, stand upright, head high and shoulders back and walk confidently and victoriously in the righteousness of the Lord.

Satan’s favorite place of battle is in man’s mind. He can make all sorts of accusations that the weak believer begins to believe because he has forgotten what God’s word says or has never read it. Peter tells us in 1 Peter 1:13 “therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober and hope to the end…”

The picture is of a Greek runner in the games. In order to run faster and better, he takes hold of his tunic and tucks it into his belt (the loin belt). By doing this he has girded up his tunic and ridding himself of anything that would trip him up.
In the same way Peter tells us to wrap up any loose ends in our thinking, to pull them up and tuck them into Gods word, the loin belt. If we are to successfully run our Christian race and fight this fight of faith, we must prepare our minds against the devils attacks.

In order to establish the fact of your God given righteousness, let’s quickly look at several verses on the subject
21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Cor 5:21 (NASB)

You are righteous in Christ. Once you become convinced of this and dwell on this, it really begins to penetrate your thinking and behavior.
21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; Romans 3:21-22 (NASB)

According to Paul, this God given righteousness fully belongs to all who believe in Jesus Christ and continue in His ways. Even more amazing is that we are told there is no distinction or difference between the righteousness of Christ and our righteousness. They are now one and the same in God’s eyes.

17 For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. Romans 5:17 (NASB)

Once we finally grab hold of the truth that God has graciously imparted righteousness to us, that knowledge changes us. We no longer view ourselves as little, unimportant, defeated believers. We begin to move with assurance from a life of chronic defeat to a life of reigning with the king.
There is no doubt, that when this knowledge gets planted deep in your heart, it changes you, and the breastplate then protects you from ever doubting it again.

Talk about a new source of confidence.

In 1 John 5:13-14 the apostle tells us 13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.14 This is the confidence which we have before Him
This word confidence is from a Greek word that means great boldness or assurance.
It is a picture of a person who enters a room and approaches the host as if he belongs there himself.

John continues that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.15 And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.

An attitude of righteousness will greatly affect your prayer life. If you are not convinced you are right with God, how can you ever approach Him? On the other hand when you are convinced that in Christ you are right before God, you begin to pray with power and authority just as Jesus did.
Let me close with the difference between powerless faith and powerful faith.

In Acts 3 Peter and John were going to the temple at the hour of prayer, when suddenly they saw a man who had been crippled for many years.
1 Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the ninth hour, the hour of prayer.2 And a man who had been lame from his mother's womb was being carried along, whom they used to set down every day at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, in order to beg alms of those who were entering the temple. Acts 3:1-2 (NASB)

Notice he was laid at the gate called beautiful. Now there was never a gate officially called beautiful. It was called this by the common people because of its ornate columns and other architectural details. Yet as beautiful as this gate was, as sacred as the temple itself was, this man never found healing there. All he could do was lie there and beg.
So when this man sees Peter and John he does what beggars do, he begged. But this was the entrance most people used to enter the temple area for the hour of prayer. It was supposed to be a quiet time. A time of reflection. Still this man begged.
.3 When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he began asking to receive alms.4 But Peter, along with John, fixed his gaze on him and said, "Look at us Acts 3:2-4 (NASB)

At first glance this seems a rude encounter. The man was asking for some pennies so he could eat and Peter and John just stare at him. But there was a reason. For as soon as they had this man’s attention, Peter says, look at us!

Why did Peter say this?

Because he knew he had something life changing to offer this man. The next verse explains
5 And he began to give them his attention, expecting to receive something from them.6 But Peter said, "I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: Acts 3:5-6 (NASB)

Peter and John had no money. Nothing of any worth as the world counts worth. But they did have something

That word “what” in the last part of verse 5, “what” I do have I give to you, is a terrible translation. The Greek word there is “hos” and it is a proper pronoun. And so literally, I have no silver or God but “WHO” I have I give to you, Jesus Christ.

Immediately the power of the Holy Spirit poured into this man and he was completely healed.
Peter and John could move with such confidence because they knew, they were assured, of their righteousness in Christ. They were wearing their breastplate of righteousness.

How many people passed by this man every day? These were God’s people Israel, but they had long ago lost their breastplate. It was either covered, or so tarnished, it no longer gleamed in the sun, but sat there like a rusted out car in a junk yard.

Powerful faith or powerless faith. Which category do you fall into?
How many believers try to face the enemy with less than the whole armor of God? Please, remember that this enemy will try to slander you, accuse you. He will try to tell you that you are good for nothing. He will try to convince you that God won’t or can’t use you and that no one will ever listen to you or take you seriously.

As a result they fall on the battle field. Discouraged and down trodden. Having not an ounce of confidence or assurance as to who they really are and what they can really accomplish in Christ.
This is why it is so vital for you to know that God has already given you a breastplate of righteousness. And when you put it on and walk through life wearing that breastplate, everything changes for the better.

Righteousness is a defensive weapon. It is one of those pieces of armor that help us deflect the fiery darts of the devil. Listen to Isaiah:
10 I will rejoice greatly in the LORD, My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. Isaiah 61:10 (NASB)

This robe of Isaiah was meant to cover a man from head to toe for adornment. It makes us beautiful in the sight of those who see us displaying this righteousness. But Isaiah had something else to say earlier
7 "Listen to Me, you who know righteousness, A people in whose heart is My law; Do not fear the reproach of man, Nor be dismayed at their revilings.8 "For the moth will eat them like a garment, And the grub will eat them like wool. But My righteousness will be forever, And My salvation to all generations." Isaiah 51:7-8 (NASB)

When you wear Gods righteousness you do not have to fear either man or the devil. Your righteousness will protect you and sustain you, while your enemies are eaten as a moth eats cloth or a worm eats wool.

But righteousness is also an offensive weapon.

Yes the breastplate of the Roman soldier was beautiful to look at and effectively protected him during an attack, but the breastplate did something else that was very important.
Remember that this breastplate was made of especially bright and shining golden brass. When that soldier threw back his shoulders and the afternoon sunshine hit that metal, it cast a blinding glare into the eyes of all who were approaching.

This glare was so bright, that the enemy could not see his opponent in order to fight. In this way it was offensive as well as defensive.

In the same way, when you begin to walk in righteousness, all you have to do is walk into dark circumstances and that darkness will flee from you. That is what darkness does when exposed to light. It flees.
Every Roman soldier was equipped with a beautiful breastplate. However, if that breastplate was going to be beneficial to the soldier, he had to take it up and put it on and maintain it.

Remember the more he wore it, the more he walked in it, the shinier the breastplate got.

This is exactly what happens when you begin to walk in Righteousness. You will find, as the Roman soldier did, that the more you walk in it, the more beautiful it gets.
So throw back your shoulders, and stand firm with your head raised high. You are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus!
You are not a beggar at the gate but a son of the King!
You have the breastplate already, all you need to do is put it on and begin to walk in it.

Keep walking, keep marching, keep moving forward – and don’t let the enemy talk you out of your joy and the benefits of your right standing with God.
And with every step you take in righteousness, you will become more beautiful in the eyes of God and His people and more and more blinding in the eyes of the enemy.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Battle! What battle?

Too many believers are in a battle and under equipped

It has been quite some time since I posted a new blog and I apologize. Things have been hectic, but I hope to get things up and moving now.

How many of us really consider the fact that we are indeed in a battle? Paul in Ephesians 6 tells us as much and even tells us who we are battling with. No, its not our neighbor, or that grumpy person in the next pew. No its not the folks from that "other" denomination. Its not even that person that seems to just make our life miserable. It is Satan, the devil and he is not alone. Under his leadership we are told there are principalities. This is an old word meaning ancient or ancient times. This is a well seasoned army we are at battle with. another group are called powers. here the word is arche. We get our word arch from the same root. There are bishops and then there are archbishops of a higher position. these arche's or powers are lower than principalities but higher than the foot soldiers that come after them.

The world forces of this darkness and the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenlies. Demons would be the best way to describe these soldiers. They are called falen angels by many. We see throughout Scripture what just one angel can do, so we have to ask just what match am I for such a well seasoned and enormous army? Well to put it plainly, you are toast. Or at least you are if you try to enter this battle alone and without the right equipment. As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ we are already assured that we are not alone. He has even provided the equipment we need to come out victorious. Sadly many believers simply either refuse or are ignorent as to picking up and putting on this equipment.

I remember a few years ago there were a few scandals that really got people hot under the collar. One was that because of bi-partisen bickering over money, many of our young children fighting in the middle east had less than adequate supplies and equipment. People were furious and we called for heads to roll. Another was about a company that supplied bullet proof vests that had been found to be less than sufficient. again the cry for heads changed the situations. But where are the cries and where is the concern for so many believers walking through this battle field unequipped or under equipped. Most churches do not even talk about this subject. I mean folks might get uncomfortable if we challenge them. think on this for a day or two and I will talk more on this equipment the Apostle Paul calls Armor.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Virtual Friendship?

Let’s begin with a reasonable and safe prediction: you are not likely to finish reading this blog. That is not merely because of the content (though I concede it doesn’t help). It is based on reliable statistics that indicate how attention spans have shortened.

It may be an exaggeration to suggest, as the “Atlantic Monthly” provocatively proposed a few months ago, that Google is making America stupid. But the internet giant and it’s coconspirators, are rendering us more restless and as in the tile of Maggie Jackson’s recent book, distracted. Multitasking has fragmented our thinking, and moments of reflection are punctured by the urgent text message. Concentration drifts after a few paragraphs (or sentences), and we have lost the art of deep and thoughtful reading.

I have a “friend” who has 1,035 Facebook friends. By Facebook standards, that is probably unremarkable. At the same time of course, it is also a lie! Friendship is humanly impossible on such a mass scale. Those who are really close to you wonder why they learned of your mothers death or some other serious event from your Twitter that instantly informed untold masses.

I myself have accumulated more than I can handle, a quarter of whom I have never met. On at least a couple of occasions I have confirmed a friendship with a perfect stranger fully convinced the person was somebody else. We call them friends but lets be honest, the friends on Facebook are not people we would be ready to donate a kidney to. The paradox is that it links us to people far away while it separates us from whom we are the closest. We are increasingly isolated even when we make the false boast that we have overcome time and distance and “reconnected”.

Even some churches have reached out on Facebook, recording their services, people log on and watch the videos and somehow convince themselves that they are attending a church. but church, to the surprise of some, is not someplace you go or even someplace you watch. The church is God’s assembled people in reality and not in some virtual world where we are more often than not disconnected with reality.

Even the more popular today than it ever was “e mail” has become at times “e conflict”. Hardly anyone who has ever used e mail has escaped someone taking something you wrote the wrong way because there was no facial expression or verbal coaching of the comment into its proper context. Is it any wonder, that our Lord in Matthew 18 commands reconciliation through direct, face to face engagement?

Virtual pet stores, virtual zoos, virtual farms and flower shops. The virtual sending of hearts and kisses. It all tends to alienate us from what is really going on in the real world with real people. The time that we spend on such things leaves far less time for us to interact and engage genuine friends who are few and far between and extremely rare to come by. When one is spending more time in the virtual world than say in Gods word we can see the effect this will eventually have on the church at large.

I do not wish to imply that there are not legitimate uses of social networking. I recently started a Facebook page for my church, I have one of my own and of course I have this blog. I think that actually goes to prove my point. As with everything, moderation is the key. Our challenge is to reckon the multitasking, split screen, ring tone culture we are immersed in and “reconnect” with flesh and blood “friends”. You’ve already made a small step by getting through this blog. Now go and call someone, invite someone to dinner, or just drop by for a visit. Oh, and remember the sunglasses and sun screen. It’s probably been a while since you’ve been outside.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The King James only controversy

The King James controversy has been raging for years I am told. Frankly I never noticed. Probably because it has never been an issue with me or the church I pastor. A little over a year ago a close friend and his family switched churches because of distance restrictions and his new church only uses the KJV and frankly teaches this is the only inspired interpretation/translation. On their web site, even before you get to anything they believe about the Lord you will see a statement that their church adheres only to the King James bible. I felt I had to do some digging and would like to post just a few things I found.

Lets assume for the moment that the KJV is in fact an inspired translation of the original languages. I say ‘an” rather than the only here because I have yet to hear anyone else ever make this claim. If it is an or the only inspired translation, than we can expect one sure thing. It would be perfect in every way of interpretation. We know this because The Holy Spirit does not make mistakes. So lets see if this holds true.

At last count some have come up with just a little over 5,000 inaccuracies. Granted some are spelling and others grammatical so we will just look at what I see as genuine translation errors. First, where ever the words baptizo and baptisma appear, the words are transliterated as baptize and baptism respectively. Why not translate these words literally as immerse and immersion? Well, it was to avoid any controversy over the Anglican practice of effusion which is a pouring and not an immersion. Here was have the translation being influenced by church practice and not the church being influenced by what the word actually says. Basically what we have is an Anglican translation that was very much an answer to the newly translated Douay-Reims bible of the Catholic church. But lest continue.

The original 1611 version included the Apocryphal books most non catholic assemblies reject as uninspired. This can only be attributed to the fact that King James I was at the time a baptized Catholic. The 1611 KJV was translated from one ancient Greek MSS called the Textus Recepticus, assembled by the scholar Erasmus to translate a more current Latin Bible than the Vulgate. However the Textus Recepticus compares no more than six (6) Greek manuscripts from the 11th through 15th centuries. One of these manuscripts, the Miniscule 2 is noted for having a lot of errors.

The dedicatory note prefacing the 1611 version states that it compared the English translations of the time. in fact the Bishop’s Bible (an updated Tyndale) was a baseline English translation used for careful comparison as the translating panel of 56 scholars worked their way through the foreign text. Tyndale’s text is credited for effecting about 85% of the King James text. Basically it is a revised Tyndale version at best.

Have you ever noticed the difference between Old Testament and New Testament naming of the same character? I suppose the translators of the KJV did not recognize that the Hebrew and Greek names might regard the same persons. Jacob becomes James (more likely to honor the current King), Zechariah becomes Zecharias, Jonah becomes John, Elijah becomes Elias and Joshua becomes Jesus.

Then there is the “ghost” haunting the pages of the New Testament. How or why the translators used the Germanic “Ghost” so often rather than the more accurate “Spirit” baffles most scholars. The Germanic word Ghost means a guest, but that is not what the original Greek word meant. Then there is the appearance of the word “Easter” in Acts 12:4 in reference to the Passover of the Jews. The term itself is of pagan origin and at its best refers to a Christian celebration. How could it ever be confused with the Jewish Passover, which would have been the legitimate translation.

To repeat my original thought, if this were in fact an inspired translation we would expect not to find such errors. I personally like listening to someone read the King James. It’s poetic language just seems natural when quoting scripture. But to demand that this is the only translation anyone use, or to say all other translations are either faulty or inadequate smacks of ignorance. As one biased fellow once actually said, “if it was good enough for the apostle Paul, it’s good enough for me”. Let me know what you think.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Traditions

I love Christmas and I love the traditions that go along with it. however never let us fall into the trap of thinking that our traditions are either true or even scriptural.

Take Mary riding on a donkey? I rather doubt that any nine month pregnant woman would submit to such a painful experience. it is also rather doubtful that she always dressed in a color that came to be known as blessed mother blue.

Look at the manger. we so often see a barn like structure made of wood (as well as the trough Jesus was laid in) but this is also a tradition from western thinking. excavations from the area show most were either built with stone or cut from stone and many were attached to the main house. this might explain how God could tell Israel to keep their chosen Passover lamb close by

We often hear and sing about choirs of angels at the announcement to the shepherds but scripture never tells us this. In fact Luke 2:12-14 tells us the heavenly host appeared and "SAID" "glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased". notice it says nothing of singing.

we often call the visitors to the stable "wise men" but we are never told this. they may well have been wise, we just are never told. scripture calls them Magi (magos) where we get our word magician like the man Simon Magus that Peter encountered. we are never told what country they came from although tradition suggests either Persia or Babylonia. this would support the tradition that they got their information about a future Messiah from Daniel's writings during the exile. all we are told is that they were from the East. We are also never told their number or their names (Casper, Mecheor, Beltshazzar). not in scripture or extra-biblical literature do we find their name or number. The number most likely comes from the number of gifts (Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh) but if Persian or Babylonian their number could have been dozens or greater. Almost every manger scene I have had or seen has the Magi present but this is also not scriptural. Matthew 2:11 says they came after the birth and visited the family in a house.

All of this is fun and tends to set the scene for the Christmas story we all love and think we know. Let us however keep the main thing the main thing. God became flesh and dwelt among us. that baby Jesus would one day be the savior of the world by His death and shed blood. Let no "Happy Holiday" or 'Seasons Greeting" ever detract from that truth. by the way, those who would separate Jesus from Christmas by saying "Happy Holiday" obviously don't know that the word Holiday comes from the Churches religious calendar for Holy Days of obligation where all Gods people were to assemble for worship so in fact they are wishing us "Happy Holy Days" and we thank them for this.

May this CHRISTmas find you in His Grace and Mercy and may the promise of His return always be the gift we share with others. Merry CHRISTmas and Happy Holy Days to you and your families

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

When are we?

I used to be a big fan of the Television show "Lost" until it got really strange. There was in the beginning a question the survivors of that fatal plane crash asked, "Where are we". As the show progressed however it became obvious that the island where they crashed was not only a geographical place that moved making it impossible to find, but also that it moved through time making it even more impossible to locate. What began as "where are we" soon became "when are we"? and Christians find themselves asking this same question, "When are we"? Are we in a fixed geographical location in the 21st century or as Ephesians tells us, already seated in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus?

Ephesians 2:1-7 (NASB)
1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins,
2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.
3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.
4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,
5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

The idea of our dual citizenship has not only geographical ramifications but chronological ones as well. Are we living as prisoners in a world fallen and in rebellion with God or are we already seated with our Lord at the right hand of God? The answer to that question comes when we truly grab the promises made to us in scripture. We were dead but are now made alive. We were separated from Christ and the covenant promises but now are now brought near. A look at Ephesians shows the reason for all of the benefits we enjoy and they are summed up in the word "But God’ or "But Jesus" as the authors of our current state.

How we live says a lot about us. 2 Timothy 4:3-4 tells us this:
3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires,
4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.
When Paul told Timothy to be aware of such times, we today seem to have forgotten the warning. Sound doctrine seems intolerance, and truth is subjective and relative. We prefer entertainment rather then doctrinal edification. We seek for what we can get, rather then what we can give as worship. We want a gospel of good things for everyone rather then a conviction of sin and error. To use Pauls words, we want our ears tickled.

I find it amazing that of all the names God could have chosen for His people, He chose the name Israel. And while different opinions exist as to what the name Israel actually means, it seems that the context in which the name is given in Genesis 32 favors the literal meaning of "he who struggles with God", over every other option. It seems that God in His wisdom chose to call His people "strugglers". As we consider what it means for the Christian to live in between the times, let us consider that as the true Israel of God (Rom 2:28-29; 4:11-12; Gal 6:12-16) Christians are heirs to the name that was originally given to Jacob; we are strugglers. And isn’t that what it means to live between times and kingdoms? Is there any better description than this of what Christians lives look like in light of the already and not yet? We are called like Jacob, "Strugglers", to wrestle with God and with man and in the end overcome that which binds us.