The Orchard Christian Church

The Orchard Christian Church__________ "where Fruit of the Spirit grows"____________________________ north Montebello ______________ Matthew & Kumi Perri

Monday, August 24, 2009

Words of Messiah

Jesus the Jewish Messiah quoted the Hebrew Scriptures, (known to Jews as Tanak and to Gentiles as the Old Testament): “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?” [Matthew 19:4-5]

Messiah (Yeshua in Hebrew) also said: “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the Day of Judgment than for that town.” [Matthew 10:14-15]

As more Jews in Israel and the Diaspora see the love of Messiah at work in the lives of Bible believing, Born-again, Spirit-filled Jewish and Gentile Christians, they also will seek to know their Messiah for themselves. Christianity is not a foreign religion for Jews; essentially, it is Judaism personally completed by their living Messiah, and now open to Gentiles also.

Hands raised, feet grounded

Years ago, after my graduation from Dallas Theological Seminary, I was in the library of Christ for the Nations (a Charismatic worship and missions school also in Dallas). I ran across this quote in a magazine: “Evangelicals want to nail down the floor boards when they see the ground shifting, but Charismatics just want to reach for the sky.” Some people may see this as an “either/or” choice, but I would say “both/and” is a better way to go here.

I love to worship God in the name of Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior. So usually, I think of Martha as the “bad sister” and Mary as the “good sister”, because of Jesus’ words to them: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” [Luke 10:38-42] Also at a party later, Mary anointed Jesus with expensive perfume, and wiped His feet with her hair, and Jesus defended Mary and praised her. Extravagant worship, recorded at length in 3 Gospel accounts. When I can, most of the time, I want to worship as Mary did in these 2 cases.

But what about when times are bad? When their brother Lazarus died, and Jesus didn’t show up for 4 days? [John 11:1-45] Did Mary (young, attractive, passionate, emotional, Charismatic “CFNI” Mary) choose what is better then? No. As much as I hate to admit it, she was pouting in her room, and would not go out to meet Jesus. In a time of testing, young Mary flaked out. Jesus didn’t cut Mary off. He patiently waited for her, and accepted her when she finally came out to him. And Mary’s ministry to Jesus was not over. But the sad truth is that, in a moment of immaturity, in spite of all her passion and emotion, Mary cut herself off from Jesus.

It was Martha (older, quiet, conservative, Evangelical “DTS” Martha) who went out to meet Jesus and prove her faith and worship in her own quiet way. When times were hard, Mary was worried and upset about her own hurt feelings, but Martha had the strength to remember God’s Word and choose what is better: Martha chose to be with Jesus anyway. Apart from Jesus, Martha was the hero(ine) of the Lazarus resurrection story. So when times are bad, I want to worship as Martha did here, with my feet on the ground and my hands raised to the sky.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Focus on the good

When we look at the lives of “great men”, like the Apostle Paul or Martin Luther King, we need to carefully examine their lives in light of the Scriptures. We should try to focus on the good that they did. Many times, we can learn from their good example. We can also learn from their mistakes- but first we must acknowledge that they are mistakes. We must not call “good” what is really “evil” just because some “great man” did it. We cannot make a double standard. The teachings of the Bible apply to everyone- no exceptions.

Recently, it was in the news on Google that, after the death of Martin Luther King’s widow, people were showing honor and recognition for his favorite mistress. Yes, he was a great man in many respects. And it’s true that, like all men and women, his mistress too is made in the image of God, and so she has dignity and deserves respect as a person. We should not go looking at people’s past to try to find some “dirt” to accuse them, we should move forward in forgiveness and newness of life. But that is different than saying “wrong” is “right”. No one should ever be publicly honored for committing adultery. This woman can repent of her sins, turn to Jesus Christ, and be forgiven, just as I have. The gospel “is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” [Romans 1:16]. But sin is still sin. Adultery isn’t honorable just because it was Martin Luther King who did it.

Likewise from the Bible, we can consider the story of Timothy, the young Christian son of a Gentile from the area of Galatia. “Paul wanted to take him [Timothy] along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.” [Acts 16:3]

The frequent teachings in the Bible on circumcision, coming from Paul and others, are very, very, very clear. Timothy should not have been circumcised. Paul never admitted to doing this. He never gave any explanation for circumcising Timothy, so I don’t need to either- except to say that it was clearly wrong. In this particular case, Paul was teaching one thing, but he did the exact opposite. And Paul was very publicly rebuked for it, all the way in Jerusalem, as noted in a previous post. If anybody else besides Paul had circumcised Timothy, we would all immediately recognize that this was clearly wrong. But the Evangelical Blind Spot makes it hard for us to see. This was not God’s missionary method, it was Paul’s sin, and right away God slammed the doors on Paul, wouldn’t let him preach the Word, and sent him far away from “the Jews who lived in that area”, to Europe, and a group of Gentile women who were praying. There he could preach the Word again.

Yes, Paul was a great man, anointed by God as an apostle to the Gentiles primarily, (although part of God’s method for the Gospel is “first for the Jew, then for the Gentile” [Romans 1:16] and we all are called to carry out God’s plan as He enables us.) In a number of ways Paul is a good example to us, and we should focus on the good and learn some things from his example. But let’s not idolize Paul and justify his mistakes by calling them missionary methods. (When I read Paul’s letter to the Galatians, I’m reminded of a quote from Shakespeare -“Methinks thou doth protest too much”- but maybe I’m wrong.)

God has not changed, and the Bible has not changed. But our infinite Living God may give us new understanding of His Word as he progressively reveals Himself in time. As I wrote more at length in a post last year, in the time of Copernicus and Galileo, the Bible scholars were sure that the Bible taught the earth was flat and at the center of the universe, and the sun revolved around the earth. Most “Protestant” Christians today believe that Paul was right to circumcise Timothy, including most of my pastor friends. It is not worth breaking fellowship over this issue, and this “Paulist” tradition has been part of Western Christianity, perhaps since the Reformation. It’s like the air we breathe, so it’s hard to see. I respect people who don’t see the Bible the way I do on this particular issue, and we don’t have to agree on it. Although I believe it is important, it is a “nonessential”. But in the interest of intellectual honesty, I would like my Christian friends to acknowledge two things. (1) The position I am putting forward is solidly based on the clear teachings of the Bible. (2) Saying that Paul was right to circumcise Timothy is saying that the clear, repeated, specific teachings of Scripture regarding circumcision do not apply to a particular individual (Paul) in this case because of special circumstances. This is what most of us would call “liberal”.

As for application in my own life: If a large Bible-teaching church has an “Evangelism Explosion” program, to go out and share the Gospel in the streets using Scripture verses, I think this is an admirable intention. But if I was arguing with another seminary student who was over me running the program, the associate pastors in the church were locked in a continual power struggle, and the church’s senior pastor was battling the church boss who controlled the board of elders, I don’t think we were really in the will of God. I think that one big root problem was that there were too many people like me- sincere but immature Christians who knew the Bible well and were trying very hard to “be like Paul” and succeeding, rather than trying to be like Jesus. If we are in God’s will, we will see the Fruit of the Spirit in our lives. So as we remember Paul and consider the outcome of his way of life, let’s meditate on his inerrant teachings, and imitate his great faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, which is an inspiration to us all.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Who was right?

When two people who are in close relationship have a big disagreement and their relationship is broken and destroyed, many people ask the question: Who was right?

When Barnabas and Paul started on the “first missionary journey”, the two of them were sent together by the Holy Spirit. [Acts 13-14] (John Mark “went” with them, but he wasn’t “sent” by the Holy Spirit. Personally, I don’t see John Mark’s brief time on this trip as any big deal. I see him as a promising but inexperienced young man who went along on a short summer mission trip with his uncle to check it out and get some experience as a temporary helper. Maybe he bailed out and went home a little early, but he wasn’t really even supposed to be on the trip in the first place, so his absence did not cause any significant hardship or problems. That’s my opinion on John Mark's short trip, but I could be wrong.) Barnabas and Paul had a long successful trip together. In time they returned to Antioch. “Some time later, Paul said to Barnabas ‘let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the Word of the Lord and see how they are doing.’ Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company.” [Acts 15:36-39] Question: Who was right, Paul or Barnabas? Answer: None of the above!

This is not a model of good missionary methods, it’s an example of what NOT to do. Paul and Barnabas did not seek God’s will this second time, in worship, prayer, fasting, and the Word. On what is commonly called the “second missionary journey”, they “went” but they were not “sent” by the Holy Spirit. Was it God’s will to break up the team of Paul and Barnabas and send out 2 teams instead? Were Silas and John Mark the right people to take as new partners? Was this the right time to go? Maybe or maybe not- we don’t know. But one thing is certain- they could have sought God’s clear leading about such an important decision, rather than fighting in a spirit of “discord”, “fits of rage”, “dissensions”, and “factions”. If it was God’s will to split up, they could have parted in an atmosphere of “peace”.

Who was right? God is always right. But Paul, Barnabas, me, and you fall short of the glory of God. When we are in God’s will, we will lift up the name of Jesus Christ above all others and put Him in the center, we will live by the 66 inerrant books of His Word, the Bible, and we will demonstrate in our lives the Fruit of the Spirit that Paul taught us about: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control”. [Galatians 5:19-26]

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Growing in the image of Christ

The nursery school version of the Bible often divides the characters into three groups - the heroes (Paul, King David, Moses), the well-meaning fools (Peter, King Solomon, Jonah), and the villains (Judas, King Saul, Pharaoh). The unspoken underlying idea that is hammered into the heads of Christian children is that we should “be like the heroes.” Some older people make lists categorizing all the Kings of Israel and Judah into “good kings” and “bad kings”. And scholars continue with this unspoken idea.

I’ve heard of a book (but never read it) entitled “Missionary methods: The Apostle Paul’s or ours?” The answer to the question in that title is “none of the above.” I don’t doubt the sincerity, scholarship, or salvation of the author of such a book, and it probably has some useful insights. But the underlying premise is that that “Paul was our perfect model" and that can tend to take the focus off Jesus. Years after becoming a Christian leader, Paul wrote this to Timothy:

"Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. [1 Timothy 1:15-17]

Paul circumcised Timothy in direct disobedience to what he was repeatedly teaching, and Paul was very publicly rebuked for it, in front of Timothy, Luke, and many other leaders. [Acts 21:25] Paul spoke to Timothy in the present tense- he did not say "I was", he said “I am" the worst of sinners. As a Pharisee, Paul may have had trouble being real about his own sin in a more public setting. But Timothy knew very personally and intimately about Paul's sin, and so in this letter to Timothy, Paul drops all pretense, and he just gives all the glory to God- and we should do the same. God uses imperfect messengers (to deliver his perfect message), like Paul, and me, and you. When we are born again, we have newness of life, but none of us instantly become sinless "supermen"- we have to work out our salvation, with fear and trembling sometimes, but we can trust and rely 100% on our heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us.

Missionary methods- God’s or man’s? That is the question we must ask ourselves, and as Christians, the answer clearly should be GOD’S. We want to know Christ and be conformed to His image by the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us. We want to be like Jesus- all others fall far short in comparison. We want God’s way, not our own human way. We want to bring glory to God, not ourselves or any other mortal man who ever lived, not even imperfect “heroes” like King David or the Apostle Paul, even though the scriptures written by their hands are inerrant and apply to everyone including them. Our frequent daily readings and prayerful meditations on the inerrant 66 Books of the Word of God should connect us to the living Word made Flesh, our model for life, Jesus Christ.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Satan can quote the Bible

When Satan tempted Jesus, he quoted Scripture. Satan said to Jesus “If you are the Son of God,” he said “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command His angles concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” [Psalm 91:11-12] [Matthew 4:5-6]

Satan was calling into question the unique character of Jesus Christ, the perfect sinless Son of God. Likewise, in ignorance, Peter did the same thing with Jesus at the Mount of Transfiguration, wanting to put up “three shelters, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” God the Father was merciful to Peter, because he acted in ignorance, but He interrupted Peter with a voice from heaven. “This is my Son, whom I love. With him I am well pleased. Listen to Him!” [Matthew 17:1-8]

Even sincere religious people have a tendency to raise other religious figures to the level of Jesus, and that is often how cults are formed. But God says NO! Not Moses or Elijah (for Jews), David (for Branch Davidians), Mohammed (for Muslims), Mary (for Catholics), Paul (for Evangelicals), “Saints”, angels, Joseph Smith (for Mormons), Mary Baker Eddy (for Christian Scientists), Charles Taze Russell (for Jehovah’s Witnesses), or any other gods or people.

Jesus Christ is Lord. No other man or woman in history is even close to His level, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” [Romans 3:23], even the authors of the inerrant 66 Books of Scripture, who sometimes didn’t practice what they preached.

The mark of a growing Christian is not how many Bible verses he can quote- it’s the Fruit of the Spirit that the Apostle (“I am a Pharisee the son of a Pharisee” [Acts 23:6] ) Paul wrote about in his inerrant teachings: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” [Galatians 5:22-23]

Monday, July 13, 2009

Voice of the Jesus People

“Love Song” 1973 (some called it heresy). “My image of Jesus was that he was way up here and then Saint Paul was down here- and here was I. And how was I ever going to get there with those guys. And a Saint was something that I thought was this person who went around never doing anything wrong, just living this perfect sinless life. Then I found out later on, it really blew my mind to read in the Bible you know, when I first really read the Bible, I realized that these people had frailties, that they blew it once in a while. And it was right there in Scripture. I thought that everybody that was ever mentioned in the Bible was some holy person. And then you read about all the guys that blew it.” Quoted from “Jesus People Live Concert, Love Song 73 (DVD video), Bonus: Includes a reprint of the original Living Water Tract by Greg Laurie.” By The Word For Today, (The group “Love Song” ministered directly under the personal discipleship of Chuck Smith at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa on and off between 1970 and July 10, 2009.)

“Love Song” is in agreement here with the exhortation of the humble author of Hebrews, who intentionally chose to remain anonymous but was a contemporary of the Apostle Paul the Pharisee. “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” [Hebrews 13:7-8]

Some Christians are fighting each other these days, even as the wicked spirit of Sodom and Gomorrah is advancing into the mainstream of our society. It’s a good thing that Calvary Chapel pastors are like-minded, one in the Spirit, united in agape love, and in agreement on key points like the inerrancy of Scripture and the unique perfect character of Jesus Christ, “The only guiltless man in all of history” in the words of Brenton Brown ("Jesus you are worthy"- it was a blessing to see him lead worship at Calvary Chapel Montebello.) The Calvary Chapel Statement of Faith proudly declares “Our supreme desire is to know Christ and to be conformed into His image by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Not the image of anyone else, living or dead. All the inerrant teachings of the Bible apply to everyone who ever lived. We can’t pick and choose and make exceptions for certain people because of their position.

Personally, I had never even heard of the group “Love Song” until last week. I had never heard their music either, except in retrospect I remember hearing “Welcome back” when I visited Calvary Chapel Golden Springs. Somehow, the closing words of the Old Testament come to mind, from the Book of (the Italian prophet -Yes I respect and revere God’s inerrant Word and I tremble at His voice, but I also believe that God has a sense of humor) Malachi. “He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.” [Malachi 4:6]

Monday, June 29, 2009

Model for ministry ??

The apostle Paul wrote: “When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong.” [Galatians 2:11] I agree with other Evangelical Christians that Peter was clearly in the wrong. However, does that have to mean that Paul was 100% clearly in the right, and we should “be like Paul” and model ourselves after Paul’s action here? Should we automatically assume that Paul’s method of handling this situation was 100% correct, without examining him in the light of his own inerrant teachings and the inerrant teachings of Jesus? Are we saying that we should rebuke an older man harshly, publicly bringing an accusation against an elder without any other witnesses and without talking to him privately first, and then brag and boast that we were victorious in a fight with a famous man and we proved him wrong? Or is it possible that, like all Christians, Paul was a work in progress, and he had some room for improvement in his walk to become more like Jesus?

Paul wrote: “Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father.” [1 Timothy 5:1] and “Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses.” [1 Timothy 5:19]

Jesus said: “ If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” [Matthew 18:15-17]

Pastor Tony Evans, who founded Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas Texas, has been quoted as saying “Where the Bible bumps up against blackness, blackness has got to go.” Building on this concept, I would say that where Jesus and the inerrant teachings of the 66 books of the Bible bump up against the imperfect life and ministry of Paul the Pharisee, Paulism has got to go.

Personally, I have blind spots when it comes to the Bible. What are they? If I knew that, they would not be blind spots! I can almost surely guarantee you that if you take any Born Again, Spirit-filled Christian who believes in the inerrancy of Scripture, and sit me in a room with him, I will agree with him on all the major points. But if we talk long enough, there will be at least a few minor points of interpretation and application, where, in the eyes of God, he is right and I am wrong. And you know what? That is OK!

I’ll close with the words of our only perfect model for ministry, Jesus Christ. “I have spoken openly to the world” … “If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong.” [John 18:20-23]