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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Christian Persecution in LAOS

Seven Families Expelled From Their Homes - VOM Sources

On May 15, government authorities expelled seven of 10 Christian families from their village in Laos, and transported them to another village 12 hours away. According to The Voice of the Martyrs' contacts, the authorities told the families, "If you want to continue believing in Jesus' religion, you need to leave this village and go live in a village where there are Christians." The husbands were forced into vehicles while the wives were working in the rice paddies and this has resulted in chaos. The families are separated and are having difficulties adjusting at the new village because their tools, utensils and belongings are at the old village. Pray God gives the families grace and protection as they deal with these hardships.

Psalm 91:14-16

14 "Because he loves me," says the LORD, "I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.

15 He will call upon me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.

16 With long life will I satisfy him
and show him my salvation."

Every month The Voice of the Martyrs reports on what is really happening around the world where our brothers and sisters are persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ. Now you can receive a free subscription to The Voice of the Martyrs award winning monthly newsletter. You will be inspired, and even discover practical ways to get involved.

Sign up today.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

John 20:19-31

John 20:19-31

On the evening of that first day of the week,
when the doors were locked, where the disciples were,
for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came and stood in their midst
and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve,
was not with them when Jesus came.
So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”
But he said to them,
“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands
and put my finger into the nail marks
and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

Now a week later his disciples were again inside
and Thomas was with them.
Jesus came, although the doors were locked,
and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands,
and bring your hand and put it into my side,
and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”
Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?
Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples
that are not written in this book.
But these are written that you may come to believe
that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,
and that through this belief you may have life in his name.


John records the appearance of Jesus after the resurrection. The first appearance is on Easter evening and the second appearance being after eight days or "a week later". Jesus speaks to the disciples three times after His resurrection. The Gospel of John tells us that the disciples are gathered but does not tell us which disciples are gathered. In Luke, this testimony speaks of "the Eleven and their companions" but we know that Thomas is absent, so in Luke's gospel, it is really the "Ten and their companions".

What strikes me about this weeks reading is the loss of faith and then the strengthening of faith within Thomas. Thomas is referred to as "the doubter" because he would not believe the testimony of the disciples when they indeed just spoke with the Lord and Thomas would not believe until he actually placed his own hands into the wounds of Jesus. This reading also tells us a little about how we become believers in Christ; the beloved disciple believes that Jesus has resurrected upon seeing the empty tomb (v8), Mary believes when the Lord calls her name (v16), some disciples must see the risen Jesus (v20), and then there are those like Thomas, who must touch Jesus...they must feel for themselves. This reading tells us that the Believers in Christ find faith through various channels according to what they need in order to believe. Different routes to faith through different needs. Thomas is the most unique and informative; here is an individual who believed, lost faith, and then returned to greater faith.

Let's break the verses down and discuss them:

"When it was evening on that day" (v 19a)
This is the same day that the disciples saw the empty tomb. This is Easter evening.

"the first day of the week"
Notice that this happens on the first day of the week and this is for a reason. The first day of the week is Day 8. The resurrection of Jesus, the fulfillment and beginning of the New Covenant, actually begins on the EIGHTH day. Not the seventh day, and not the sixth day. The verse that I relate this to is:

                       Psalm 90:4
4. For a thousand in Your sight are like yesterday when it is past,
and like a watch in the night.
In the sight of the Lord God, 1,000 years is equivalent to: 
                       A) A DAY 
                       B) A WATCH 
6 days of work = 6,000 years with Satan’s rule 
1 day of rest = 1,000 years without Satan and Jesus returns
The history of this world will be 7 days- or 1 week...

and the 8Th day will bring a New Beginning (a New Heaven and a New earth)
or a new week.
Adam to Abraham = 2,000 years (Approximate) 
Abraham to Jesus = 2,000 years (Approximate) 
Jesus to Today   = 2,000 years (Approximate) 

2,000 + 2,000 + 2,000 = 6,000
Behold, Jesus’ Return is close! 

"and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews"
It may seem surprising to us that the disciples are frightened. Here are men who have seen the Messiah in the flesh, witnessed countless miracles, knew Him personally, and yet are acting like their leader died. They are probably traumatized from witnessing the crucifixion but have already seen the empty tomb. Yet they are in a state of fear. How can we blame them? If this event frightened the Apostles themselves, will not some of us also be frightened or afraid as we walk with the Lord 2,000 years later? Yes. There may be times when we encounter evil or events in our lives that frighten us. Hearing the words from the very mouth of Jesus Himself didn't stop the Apostles from being afraid. Christian's endure hardship in order to gain faith. That is the cross you bear, but is the only way. The Apostles endured it, countless faith"ers" in Christ have endured it and so will you.

"Jesus came and stood among them"
Notice that the tomb with a 20 ton rock if front of it could not hold Jesus and neither will a locked door. He goes where He wishes through anything and to anyone.

"and said, Peace be with you."
He promised the disciples peace and grants them this peace with His appearance. Yes, the prophecy has come true and the impossible has been accomplished. Death and the grave cannot hold the Son of God, for Jesus was not a "human" in a human body, Jesus was the Son of God inhabiting a human body. No man or woman can ever conquer the grave. Jesus did. The disciples will have peace in spite of the persecution they will endure by a world that will hate them as it hated Jesus. Peace will be granted to you also. Take up your cross and walk the life of faith. No material objects nor anything this world can try to give you will even come close to what the believers in Christ are granted!

"After He said this, He showed them His hands and His side"
Jesus enters through the closed door through whatever means He did so. The fact is that the resurrected Jesus is standing before them PHYSICALLY. There is no question, for this is the reason why He shows them the wounds inflicted on the cross which all of them saw done at the crucifxion. The wounds on His hands were from the nails driven through in order to nail Him on the cross, and the MORTAL wound on His side was inflicted by a Roman soldier to guarantee that the crucified was indeed dead. You might have miraculously survived the crucifixion for a while, but you would not survive being stabbed in the liver or the heart by a sword or dagger! The disciples were shown these wounds in order to remove any and all doubt about the events that have transpired for their sake and for the sake of the future generations of the faith"ers" in Christ.

It is an interesting historical note to make here that Satan can attack the Truth through the logic of man. At the time that this Gospel was COMPILED, a mere 70 years after the crucifixion, the early Christan's were combating men and their ideas. The Docetist's and Gnostic's had this twisted belief that all physical matter was evil and thus Jesus could not have appeared physically and in human form. The difference between fact and Truth is that one comes from the finite minds of men and the other from the Creator. Steer clear of the deceptions. There is a reason why Jesus had to die and resurrect. The TESTIMONY serves to combat the wailing of the Devil and the philosophies of men that spring forth from man's "imagination" and logic. Think it through...matter is evil? Makes no sense and has no basis in any part of Scripture. Matter is not evil, the Devil is evil and some follow the Devil's deceptions. Satan has a reason for this too! Who is to blame? Men, for they actually DO the evil act! The Creator and the creation is not to blame, the created are to blame for they act (faith is the opposite of this type of wrong "action") and do the very acts that are wrong! Who goes to jail for a crime? Those who think of the crime or those that do the crime? Is the object the thief steals in fact the source of this wrong? Like I said, the Docetist's and Gnostic's believe in many twisted philosophies that are just rambling nonsense.

"The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord"
Jesus told the disciples that they would weep and experience pain at the time of crucifixion BUT that their pain would turn to joy. (John 16:20-21). It is similar to the process that a woman goes through after childbirth. The birth is extremely painful, but immense joy comes shortly after the birth and this joy overcomes the pain experienced earlier. The disciples weep and mourned for the King of kings but now they have joy, just as Jesus said they would. Never again will the disciples be fearful or weak in faith, they will put their lives on the line for the testimony of Jesus, and will pay the price of death for this testimony. The world hates Jesus, the world hates what is good...for men desire darkness and not the light. There is nothing you can say to convince someone who is a faith"er" in Christ that they are believing in a "fantasy" by being a Christian. Those who are the believers have enough fact, evidence, and experience, to gladly face persecution for the sake of spreading the Gospel message. The Apostles did it and the persecution for the sake of the Gospel message still continues 2000 years later.

"Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you"
Again, peace is granted to those who are with Christ, peace may come upon you through different practices and traditions, but everlasting peace is granted for faith"ers" in Christ. Try it. Momentary periods of peace may come, but actual peace that lasts comes from walking with Christ, and that is my personal experience and testimony. The Father sent the Son who sits on the Throne at the Right hand of the Father into the world as our Redeemer. The movie, Passion of the Christ did not fully detail the horrible suffering our Lord made for us. The Father sent the Son as a final once and for all sacrifice. "IT IS FINISHED!" as Jesus exclaimed on the cross. All of the sins of this world was paid for by the only Begotten Son of God being murdered for no reason. This world owes Jesus His life back, and the created cannot give life to the Creator, only the Creator can give life. It is a catch-22 on sin fulfilled by the crucifixion. The Law was fulfilled, sin was overcome, and death conquered. Now the King has instructed those who follow Him to carry the Gospel message to serve as testifiers to the Truth, which is Jesus, who IS the Christ. Jesus is the King of kings, and we are His emissaries. We are instructed to carry the message as His emissaries. The Apostles started this Good Work, and we continue it today 2000 years later. If you work for the King, you speak on behalf of the King per His instructions. The Father is present in the work of Jesus and Jesus is present in the work of His disciples.

"When He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit"
Notice that two things has happened with the Apostles BEFORE they received the Holy Spirit.
They went from mourning to joy, from wavering faith to strong faith. Second, they were sent by the King to do His Works. Only then does Jesus "Breathe" on them and they receive the Holy Spirit. Another important point...Who breathes on them? Answer: Jesus. Remember that John the Baptist said that he would baptize with water but One who was greater than John the Baptist would come and baptize with fire. It is interesting to note that when we hear someone speak who seems to possess unusual amounts of charisma and stage presence we say that they are "on fire". These speakers can draw the attention of a large audience for some "unseen" reason. Someone who has been "breathed" on by the Holy Spirit, are "on fire". The disciples must have the power and protection of the Holy Spirit in order to carry the Good Work of the King by spreading their testimony and the Gospel message. Just like the Creator, the "I AM" breathed life into man (Genesis 2:7) and just like the bones of the dead were "breathed" on and given new life in Ezekiel 37:9, the Apostles and those who carry the message 2000 years later are "breathed" on and given a new life in the Spirit. The sinful man dies in the water of the baptism and the new spiritual man rises. Not everyone receives the baptism of fire (the Holy Spirit) for no man, nor no prayer can attain it. It must be given by Jesus and it starts by asking Him for it. As the verse says; "Many are invited but few are chosen" (Matthew 22:14). Being a faith"er" in Christ grants eternal life, but receiving the baptism of fire makes one a disciple who spreads the Good News and is protected by the Holy Spirit. Through this we find strength to stand up, unlock the door, go outside, and begin the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ.

"If you forgive sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained"
As the disciples spread the Good News of the Gospels, there will be those who accept it and those who will not. Those that accept it are to repent and be baptized by water. Then through faith we may be baptized by the fire of the Holy Spirit. It is the first act of repentance that begins the process of salvation. It is the new creature born of Spirit that rises from the symbolic waters of baptism. Then we are beginning the journey of faith"ing". Those that believe are forgiven at the time of repentance per the Kings authority through the disciples and the sins of the new believer from the past, present, and future are forgiven. The disciples serve as witnesses for the King about those names who believe, repent, and become part of His flock. The baptism of fire follows when the King (Jesus) grants it. You will know when this happens and is the true mark of a Born Again believer. Those who do not believe are sinners and will die in their sin...for their soul stays with the sins of the body. No one forces any one to repent, you either understand why and do it or turn your back to it. Your choice. The disciples that walk within this world are there to speak the Truth of the Gospel message. The Gospel message is that a solution to sin has been found and a Redeemer is available. The Redeemer who is Jesus, grants eternal life for the sinner (which is the Good News) and the disciples witness this choice or the disciple witnesses the retention of sin within the person who will never come to the Truth. Rabbis have the authority to "bind" or "loose" in the sense that they interpret the Law to determine what is and is not allowed, but they do not forgive sins. Jesus breaks open new territory and gives the disciples the authority to declare the guilt or innocence of those who are brought before them and they either "bind" or "loose" the charges of sin (damnation) made against them. Repent and become "loosened" and rise from the baptismal waters as a new Spiritual being. Those who refuse to acknowledge, think, or listen are to be "bound" to the sins which they alone have committed and that carry a penalty. Keep in mind that as a believer, you were granted a pardon by the Son of God and are now part of His flock. How then can you not forgive the sins that others may do to you? If the Son of God has given you this gift of Grace and Salvation then how are you able to sit there and hold a person responsible for the wrong they have committed to you? The Son of God has the power alone to forgive sins, but think about how angry and wrapped in emotion we can get when someone trespasses against us!

This is a good time to discuss what this verse isn't implying. No where does this verse state that the disciples will be acting as priests for repetitive confession. Let's look at this. When one comes to Christ, there is an act of repentance. The sinner acknowledges their sins and asks for forgiveness. They proclaim the need for a Redeemer. This redeemer is Jesus Christ. Then the person is baptized by water. They go into the water as a symbolic act of dying and rise a new person, a person of Spirit. Only when a person is born into the Spirit can they begin to worship in Spirit. Jesus sends the Holy Spirit through the second baptism, the baptism of fire, and only then does that person become truly Born Again. One can touch water, but one cannot touch fire. John the Baptist tells of this in:
Matthew 3:11
"I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

Isn't it ironic that when we listen to someone who strikes us as "zealous" but we are suddenly and mysteriously able to hear the truth in the words they are speaking, we say that the person is "on fire"?!

No one can give you the baptism of fire, it only comes from Jesus. The Truth is that Jesus paid for all of the sins of the world and that includes all of your past, present, and future sins. Repentance is done before the act of water baptism. To continually repent means that one does not understand that Jesus has paid for all of their sins and has not received the baptism of fire. Seriously, if repetitive confession is a continual discipline of cleansing sin, then one should be baptized again by water after each confession and then they should wait for the Holy Spirit! Let the person do this process every time until they understand the Truth! Either Jesus died for your sins and is your Redeemer or not. The body will continue to sin and the body dies in sin just as it should. The Spirit does not sin. Test this. If you go to confession, confess, and do whatever the priest told you, ask yourself if you will you break one of the Commandments again. The answer is undoubtedly yes. When you do break one of the Commandments, ask yourself if your soul committed the sin or your body committed the sin. Does the Spirit desire another man's wife? No, but the body does. One may become 96% perfect, but God will see the 4% you are short. Jesus is the one who makes up for the 4%, so that the person may come to God 100% perfect. If Salvation can be revoked, taken away, or somehow weakened, then why did the Son of God have to come here in a tent of flesh, suffer, and die? Wouldn't the way of the Law be sufficient? Why would the Creator go through all of this trouble? It is because He loves us and paid the ultimate price for us. This world killed the Only Begotten Son of God and the world owes the Creator who is the Son of God His life back. The created cannot give the Creator life! Only the Creator can give life! Again, either you accept Jesus as your Redeemer and become Born Again in Spirit or you don't. When one becomes truly baptized by the fire, the person has changed from a life of sin with the soul bound to that sin to a life of Spirit loosened from the sins but still lives with a sinning body. The person is guided and instructed by Jesus through the Holy Spirit. This can take time as we learn and grow in faith, but it happens. Just like the process in the creation of a pearl, it takes the Holy Spirit time to coat the sand until it becomes a treasured pearl. Jesus is the One who brings the baptism of fire. Repetitive confession is an acknowledgment that the baptism of fire has not occurred and that person is still "trying" to live a perfect life in the body. It is the first sin that has brought the death of the body AND the soul and only Jesus can grant the forgiveness of sins, past, present, and future and bless us with eternal life.
John 1:29
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

"But Thomas (who was called the Twin [didymous], one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came"
Remember that Thomas earlier in this Gospel thought that going to Bethany would mean certain death for the disciples and for Jesus. (John 11:16) We are not told specifically in this chapter why Thomas was not there, but it is probably due to the fact that he does not want to die and is fearful. With all of the events leading up to the crucifixion, I can understand why. However, this also serves as evidence of Thomas' lack of faith...in times of trial we may feel that we are losing faith, but we know that later Thomas comes to greater faith and we shall also.

A quick aside:
Why is Thomas called the "Twin"? This is a difficult answer. In my library of books and searches on the Internet, I could not find a definite answer on why Thomas is called the "Twin" with a captial "T".
His name in Aramaic is (Te'oma) and Greek (Didymos) which both means “twin”; and John 11:16 identifies him as “Thomas, called the Twin.” He is called Judas Thomas (i.e., Judas the Twin) by the Syrians. Again, the Gnostics have created through the wild imagination of the mind that this word "twin" implied that Thomas was the twin brother of Jesus physically and spiritually. There is no evidence of such a claim and this claim is quite absurd. If you believe in the heretical nonsense of Gnosticism which is not supported by Scripture that Jesus was just a man and ignore all of the miracles of Jesus and the testimony of the disciples and were murdered for this testimony, then I can see where the logic of the human mind can lead to such fantasy.

I believe that Thomas either had a twin brother who was not an Apostle, or this was a nickname or title given to him by the Apostles. Thomas is Aramaic for twin, so it is a title just like the name John means teacher. I am surprised that this is often overlooked by other writers of Bible verse and it almost seems that this question is ignored. I will have to do more research to find a solid answer.

"So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord."
The first person to see the Risen Christ was Mary Magdalene and possibly Mary the mother of James (Matthew 28:1-10, John 20:10-16). When they ran to tell the disciples, the disciples did not believe. Then the disciples saw the risen Christ with their own eyes. Now they have come to tell Thomas who was not there that they have indeed seen the risen Jesus and Thomas does not believe.

"But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in His hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in His side, I will not believe"
Thomas' demand is absurd, but I can personally relate to it. How many times do we put demands on God? How many of us have said, "Lord, why can't you appear to me and talk to me face to face?" "Lord, I want you to..." "Lord, I need you to..." "Lord, why can't you just...."
We have to keep in mind that Thomas and the disciples have just been traumatized by the torture and crucifixion of Jesus. They are afraid and doubt what Jesus prophesied until Jesus appears to them. Thomas has not seen the crucifixion nor the risen Christ but is shaken to the core over the events that have just transpired during the crucifixion. Thomas is not the only one who doubted, but he will not remain a doubter either. It is a lesson for us as we learn and grow in faith. We may feel defeated and disillusioned at times, but remember that the disciples were too and Jesus brought them to greater faith! Thomas must think that the disciples are crazy. How could Jesus (putting aside the claim that Jesus was the Messiah) rise from the grave after being crucified and stabbed in the heart? It seems like lunacy, and Thomas states his demands and criteria for his faith. This serves as a reality check for future generations. Here was a disciple who followed Jesus and lost faith because of the crucifixion and demands physical proof. Thomas receives the physical proof.

"A week later his disciples were again in the house and Thomas was with them"
Again this second appearance happens on the eighth day. Not the sixth or the seventh. The first day of the week is the eighth day. Whenever Jesus appears in this world, it is on the eighth day. This is a repetition from the week before when Jesus first appears to the disciples in the house. This time Thomas is with them.

"Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them"
The gates of hell cannot stop Jesus nor can a locked door or a closed door. He comes through as He wills. Notice that this verse is different from the first appearance. This time the door is not locked and there is no mention that the disciples are fearful. The disciples will never be afraid again and as they spread the Gospel message, they will die for their testimony.

"and said, "Peace be with you"
What is the first act of Christ when He appears? He grants peace....real peace. It is not fleeting nor weak. We come from a period of fear, to faith, and that faith brings lasting peace.

"Then He said to Thomas, "put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side"
Yes, Jesus heard the demands of Thomas. Jesus knows what you say before you say it. He hears everything. Thomas said it, and now Jesus has come to fulfill the request. Thomas needed to experience this in order to come to greater faith. Notice that Jesus does not condemn Thomas for his lack of faith but provides Thomas with what he needs in order to believe. There is no mention that Thomas actually touch the wounds of Jesus, seeing Him before his very eyes was probably enough.

"Do not doubt but believe"
We have all experienced thoughts of doubt in our lives. We are to discover for ourselves with the direction of Jesus anything and everything we need in order to believe. What is it that you need in order to believe? For the unbeliever, I wonder how many requests sound similar to Thomas' demands. I am sure a majority of them are demanding in nature.

"Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!"
The disciple who has a serious lack of faith has now come to uttering the most important proclamation after the resurrection. Yes, Jesus is our Lord and He is God! All paths of faith come to the point of this climax. Just like Thomas, if we sincerely want the Truth and seek Him, there will come a time when we have no problem shouting from the mountaintops this great pronouncement!

"Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me?"
Due to the nature of the torment, torture, and crucifixion of Jesus, this statement seems to be a silent reminder of where Thomas' new faith has come from. Yes, Jesus heard his demands and provided the means for him to touch His wounds. Thomas has become one of great faith only by the act of Jesus' appearance. Those of future generations will not have this opportunity.

"Blessed are those who have not seen and yet come to believe"
Notice that Jesus does not say that those who have not seen His resurrected body will have greater faith. This is a blessing for those faith"ers" of the future generations who might feel cheated that they were not born in the times of Jesus to see Him in the flesh. We are provided all the necessary facts, guidance, and protection needed to have the same faith as the disciples. Now this is a great opportunity to just repeat the last part of this weeks reading:

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples
that are not written in this book.
But these are written that you may come to believe
that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,
and that through this belief you may have life in his name.



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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Christian Persecution in the PHILIPPINES


Seven Christian Workers Beheaded - VOM Sources

The bodies of seven Christian workers were recovered in Parang town where they were kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf Muslim extremists. VOM sources report that the Christian workers' bodies were found in the jungles of Jolo by soldiers, days after they were seized while heading to a government road project. Pray for comfort for these families and ask God to use the testimony of the slain believers to bring non-believers into the knowledge of Him.

2 Corinthians 1:3-7

The God of All Comfort
3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 5For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. 6If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

Every month The Voice of the Martyrs reports on what is really happening around the world where our brothers and sisters are persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ. Now you can receive a free subscription to The Voice of the Martyrs award winning monthly newsletter. You will be inspired, and even discover practical ways to get involved.

Sign up today.


Monday, May 07, 2007

Twisting Scripture PART 4

How often have you encountered some bizarre doctrine only to be stunned to hear a Bible verse quoted to support it? With new religious cults springing up almost daily and old ones growing rapidly, this is more and more common. How are they seemingly able to twist Scripture to mean something Christians have never believed it to mean in two thousand years?
James Sire, author of the Universe Next Door and How to Read Slowly, has isolated twenty separate kinds of reading errors which are characteristically made by cultists as they interpret the Bible. He covers the full range form simple misquotation to complex argumentation which links one slightly eccentric interpretation to another, mixes in a few orthodox readings and ends with a conclusion totally foreign to the biblical world view. Sire also handles twisted translation, over specification, virtue by association, ignoring the context and others. Scripture Twisting is a great book to pick up and read. I highly recommend this book!

Either (1) a cult writer associates his or her teaching with those of figures accepted as authoritative by traditional Christians; (2) cult writings are likened to the Bible; or (3) cult literature imitates the form of the Bible writings such that it sounds like the Bible. Example of (1): Rick Chapman list 21 gurus, including Jesus Christ, St. Francis and St. Theresa, that "you can't go wrong with." Example of (2): Juan Mascaro in his introduction to the Upanishads cites the New Testament, the Gospels, Ecclesiastes and the Psalms, from which he quotes passages supposedly paralleling the Upanishads. Example of (3): The Mormon DOCTRINE AND COVENANTS interweaves phrases from the Gospel of John and maintains a superficial similarity to the Gospel such that it seems to be like the Bible.

Under the assumption that the Bible contains hidden, esoteric, meaning which is open only to those who are initiated into its secrets, the interpreter declares the significance of biblical passages without giving much, if any, explanation for his or her interpretation. Example: Mary Baker Eddy gives the meaning of the first phrase in the Lord's Prayer, "Our Father which art in heaven," as "Our Father-Mother God, all harmonious."

New revelation from post biblical prophets either replaces or is added to the Bible as authority. Example: The Mormons supplement the Bible with the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price.

Either the Bible as a whole or texts from the Bible are examined and rejected because they do not square with other authorities - such as reason or revelation = do not appear to agree with them. Example:Archie Matson holds that the Bible contains contradictions and that Jesus himself rejected the authority of the Old Testament when he contrasted His own views with it on the Sermon on the Mount.

Scriptural statements, stories, commands or symbols which have a particular meaning or set of meanings when taken within the intellectual and broadly cultural framework of the Bible itself are lifted out of that context, placed within the frame of reference of another system and thus given a meaning that markedly differs from their intended meaning. Example: The Maharishi Mahesh Yogi interprets "Be still, and know that I am God" as meaning that each person should meditate and come to the realization that he is essentially Godhood itself.

Again, these are very short summaries of the material covered in James Sire's book. These summaries alone should illuminate the insightful analysis Sire gives in his book, Scripture Twisting. Pick up a copy today!!



Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Seven Sacraments --Holy Matrimony PODCAST

The Seven Sacraments---Holy Matrimony
43.7 MB Run Time: 77 minutes

In this podcast we discuss the sacrament of marriage. We also discuss various topics within marriage which include: the first marriage, pseudepigraphic works discussing Cain and Abel, soul mates, the biblical basis for marriage, the problem of promiscuity, the role of the husband and wife, discrepancies between church doctrine and scripture, Jesus' role in marriage, advice on marital problems, and the problems with the Western worlds conception of divorce and how divorce is not in accordance with God's plan for marriage. This is one of five sacraments that is not based in Scripture, and we share our own personal experience, biblical knowledge and common sense while exploring this sacrament. If you plan on getting married or are married, this podcast will help focus on the true meaning of marriage and help avoid problems within marriages.



Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Parable of the Pearl (Matthew 13:44-46)

The Parable of the Pearl in Mat.13:44-46

44"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

45"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

44"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure"
Heaven is not some high plane of existence or foreign land, it will be a "new heaven and a new earth" (2 Peter 3:13, Revelation 21:1). Heaven is already here but not fulfilled in its entirety. The NEW earth will be paradise restored as it should have been in the beginning.

Treasure is defined as a precious possession. We strive as believers in Christ to obtain eternal life. Is a precious pearl worth more than eternal life? Absolutely not. But the fact is that pearls are a treasure here on this earth. Jesus is teaching future generations using a pearl symbolically, for mankind will always treasure pearls. A pearl is precious here on this earth presently and this earth is not the "new heaven" YET. What is precious here is not precious in heaven. YOU are precious in heaven. Precious gold here in today's world is but pavement on the roads in heaven. Eternal life is everlasting and does not become a commodity for other material items (e.g. pearls are sold and traded for other material objects) which will die with the new earth and the new heaven. However, the "new heaven and new earth" has not happened yet, and pearls will always be a treasured item of THIS present world. True treasure is eternal life, and eternal life is a transformation from what is finite into what is infinite... physical life ending to spiritual life everlasting. There is only one way to heaven and that is...

"hidden in a field"
The field is the earth. We are hidden in a finite world. The children of the Kingdom here on the earth are treated no differently than slaves. The present state of this earth is temporary just as the body has a temporary existence. We live in this temporary world as slaves but must fulfill the true meaning of life. The meaning of life is to utilize the time that we are given in these temporary shells of flesh into finding and maintaining a relationship with our Creator. The Creator is the One Who has come down here as the way to heaven and He came here in a tent of flesh with the name Jesus.

"When a man found it"
Jesus is the man here. What Jesus found/finds are His sheep. His sheep are the body of believers who are His treasure.
What is the symbolism used in this parable? A pearl. We now will explain the core of this parable...

Sand is an irritant, all men are sand, and all of mankind is an irritant.
"For all men have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God" [Romans 3:23]

Some of the sand found its way into an oyster.
The sand irritated the oyster [ by their sin ] and the oyster coated the sand changing/transforming it into a pearl.
The making of a pearl is done during the grain of sand's "lifetime".
However, pearls do not go to heaven during their lifetime.

"he hid it again",
Upon their death, they are hidden again in the earth [burial].

"and then in his joy went and sold all he had"
Jesus left heaven, came to earth in a tent of flesh and never became an "irritant" because Jesus never committed one sin. Jesus lived a perfect life. He had to live as a grain of sand "in joy" or out of love for us. In doing so He left His Father in heaven.

"and bought that field."
Jesus lived a perfect life and died undeservedly and without justification [for He had no sin]. He paid the price of those grains of sand who irritated the Father with their sin. The earth owes Jesus His life back, but the world cannot pay this debt. Because of this, the world owes and cannot pay. Jesus will take payment in the form of His sheep. For the life the sheep forfeited by sin is paid for by the righteousness of the life of Jesus and the unrighteous death He received.

45"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like"
How are we getting into heaven?

"a merchant looking for fine pearls. "
A merchant buys, sells, or trades. A merchant can buy or sell with money or credit. In this case, Jesus buys the pearls with the credit[s] owed to Him.
What credit[s] is Jesus owed? Anything [any life] He wants. Obviously, this will be the pearls and the pearls represent His sheep/the children of the Kingdom.

46"When he found one of great value,"
The other merchant knew the price would be high.

"he went away and sold everything he had"
Jesus lived a perfect life, never sinned, never owed anybody anything.

"and bought it."
He traded His life for death on the cross as the high cost of the pearls.

Final thought:
Sand is an irritant, all of mankind are irritants.
Some sand [some people] find their way into an oyster.
An oyster has a soft, silky, inside that coats the sand/irritant.
An oyster has a hard shell.
The inside of the oyster is symbolic of the Gospel teaching / teaching of the Holy Spirit. As the sand is exposed to more and more of the Teaching, the layers grow and polish the sand until the sand is encased and becomes a pearl.
The outer shell of the oyster is symbolic of the protection of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit shields the whole process, shields the whole person from the distractions, deviations, and deceptions of the other "merchants" who are Satan, and his followers.

God bless you this week.