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]