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Snake Oil Salesmen Did it Right

Back in the day, and I mean BACK, small towns would sometimes be graced with the presence of the traveling salesman. Sometimes what was sold would be “snake oil” or something pretty good! These guys made their way across the country, working hard.snake-oil-salesmen Today, we could equate this work to a talented inventor working diligently to get his idea out there to make a difference in their realm of influence. And, on a larger scale, a company advertising hard to let the world know about their products so they could grow and make a living for their employees.

It’s funny to me how snake oil salesman was the first thing I thought of for this post. After all, many people have equated this profession to the world of religion. There is a huge distinction that I will make though and it will make complete sense if you stick with me. First, let’s take a look at the Great Commission again (see last post).

Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and the Holy Spirit… (Matt 28:19)

In today’s church culture, it seems that we stick to our church buildings. We might talk to a neighbor, or do some meaningful work in the city, but for the most part we are not sharing the gospel are we? Think about that. If you are a born again Christian, true Catholic or committed to your denomination, meaning that you have stepped off the podium of life and placed Jesus on it, then how many people have you honestly shared the gospel with this past week, month, year(s)? I have to ask this question of myself too.

Let’s think back to the salesman, or the inventor, or the company looking to sell their goods and ideas. How successful would they have been if they just talked about helping people and served some food, but never talked about the real product they were invested in? What would it look like if they rode into town proclaiming they were a salesman but never explained what they were selling? WOW. Let’s read that again in a slightly different way.

What would it look like to proclaim to be a Christian, but never explain to anyone what that meant?

Hi, I’m a Christian! Yep, my calling is to proclaim the gospel to all nations! Here’s $10, I’ll pray for you! Here, have a meal, the potatoes are great tonight! Oh, you have questions? Here’s my church address…and my pastor’s phone number…

Are you uncomfortable yet? I hope so, since this is the church for the most part in the USA today with a few exceptions. Go and make disciples…this takes effort, commitment and time…of all nations…this means leaving your town, your country and getting the word out if you are able…baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit…this means taking the next step, coming alongside a new believer and bringing them into the Kingdom.

It’s not just the pastor’s job, it’s every Christians’ job. Be like the snake oil salesman, not in the product that they sell, but in the effort in which the work was done. Have you ever considered why God has blessed the USA with so much money? Maybe it was so we would have the means to be able to fulfill the Great Commission, not so we could go out and buy one more thing that we don’t truly need.

Next up: Materialism and why the USA has already lost. Oh, this should be good!

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One God, One Mediator

I’ve been reading the same short chapter over and over this week.  Maybe it was an experiment.  I really felt that God would place something on my heart.  I felt He would make something in this text really stick out.  Well, it worked.  It may be controversial.  I will be obedient and share.  Who do you pray to?

From 1 Timothy Chapter 2 (NIV)

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone–
for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.
This is good, and pleases God our Savior,
who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,
who gave himself as a ransom for all men–the testimony given in its proper time.

Obviously, Paul is discussing prayer here.  He’s writing to Timothy.  It’s actually a great model to remember.  We must pray for our leaders, for everyone, but that is not what is on my heart.

I have long been uncomfortable with some other denominations & Catholic family & friends praying to Mary or to a dead relative to “intercede” or “deliver” a prayer to God.  Jesus was and is the mediator.  We are even told in Romans 8:26 that the Holy Spirit will “intercede” or “correct” our prayers when we don’t know what to say.  So, we have Jesus as the only mediator, we have the Holy Spirit in us, yet some pray to dead humans?  I don’t get it.  We can pray directly to Jesus and the Holy Spirit will help us in our prayers.  Why not pray to The Creator?  Seems like a much better option.  Kind of like if the President actually asked you to call him on his personal cell phone anytime and he would listen.  Would you instead call an aide, or your Congressman?  Actually, that’s probably a bad example as I wouldn’t call our current President, but that’s another issue.

To me, praying to others like Mary has always felt like ignoring your bosses open door policy and instead writing an email to the secretary.  Does that make sense?  I really don’t mean to offend anyone, yet I do challenge you to think about it.  To me it feels like setting an idol up in front of you that you are more comfortable with instead of praying to God who you cannot see.  My thinking says if you ask your dead relative or Mary to help you, then you are replacing God with something else.  That is clearly idolatry to me.  If you argue semantics and try to justify praying to someone other than God/Jesus, then I think you really need to study this subject from a biblical standpoint.  I know I’m not perfect and may be missing something, but I don’t think so.  Again, I challenge you to think about this, that is all I hope to stir up. However, feel free to post a comment for discussion!

Musings from the First Pope

I’m not Catholic, but I have a little experience with this large division of Christianity, as I suppose most of us do.  If you haven’t heard of the term pope, then you’ve been hanging out in the mountains of Afghanistan too many years.  The biblical Peter, is considered to be the first pope by Roman Catholics.  Jesus described Peter as (arguably), “the rock on which His church would be built.”  Or Jesus affirmed Peter’s answer to His question (see Matt 16:15-18).  Either way Jesus thought highly of Peter.  With all that said, I have found it of interest to study the letters Peter himself wrote.  They are recorded in the New Testament as 1 & 2 Peter.

The reason I bring up all this dialogue is that several weeks ago, I was a part of a challenge to study the first few verses of 2 Peter with a large group of men.  From that instant, it seems, verses from 2 Peter have popped up in many studies and everyday scenarios in which I’m involved.  We even had a sermon last Sunday that was specifically pinpointing verses 3-15 of which I use below.  Over and over, I’ve run into this text, so I think I’m supposed to share a bit about what has come to mind.

So, with that exceedingly long introduction out of the way, let’s dig into my ruminations on 2 Peter 1:1-15.  I’ve interjected my thoughts and emphasis throughout the scripture:

2 Peter 1:1-15 (NIV)

Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours:

Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

Here is the introduction…many skim over this part and they miss a truly deep statement in verse 2,  “in abundance”.  What are we to have in abundance, or multiplied immeasurably?  Grace & Peace!  How do we get this grace and peace?  Through the knowledge of God and of Jesus…our Lord!  If we read it backwards we easily see:

1)       Jesus has to be Our Lord (also see the first sentence vs. 1 “have received Christ, have received faith”)

2)      We must have knowledge of “1) Jesus has to be Our Lord” (experience, wisdom from study, etc)

3)      We get grace & peace from 1) and 2)

4)      We get grace & peace in great amounts, in abundance!

Reading this passage made me ask the question….Do I have grace & peace in exceedingly great amounts?  Do you?  If not, which step 1-4 are you stuck on?  This study thing is GREAT stuff!

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

Oh man, isn’t this just chock full of deep and revealing statements?  “Given us everything”, really?  “Through our knowledge”, here we are getting hit with item 2) above again.  “Promises”, sweet, I want to know these promises!  “Divine nature”, I can be “like” Christ through accepting His promises!  So, how in the world do we “escape the corruption in the world”?

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.

A-ha!  Peter outlines it well here.  We escape the corruption through a multi-step program, if you will.  First we must have faith.  That’s where it all starts, remember item 1) above.  We also grow in our knowledge, but this occurs at the same time we exhibit “goodness”, and I must say that goodness here means a lot more…it’s moral excellence if we look more deeply at the original language.  This self-control thing is great too.  I can personally vouch that knowledge helps me to rein myself in and make a better decision.  Through knowledge of God’s word I CAN turn and make a better choice and be self-controlled.  Do you see the steps?  With experience, we persevere; we become godlier, readily act with brotherly kindness, and learn to love wholeheartedly.  It all starts with faith, and grows with knowledge, period.  Gosh, there is so much “meat” in this paragraph I had to split it up…

For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.

What’s “increasing measure” mean?  It means growth and here it points to A LOT of growth.  The original language even hints at the term, “Superabound” = to be too numerous or abundant…!  We must be growing and not complacent.  Being complacent does not lead to success.   We will naturally be growing with little effort if we are true believers because Grace and Peace will be given us in abundance, right?  We will not be ineffective or unproductive (Hey! That’s a promise!).  If this doesn’t make sense, maybe you have “forgotten that Jesus cleansed you or your sins”?  Start over, rebuild that foundation and grow!

Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

In laymen’s terms, make sure you know what you want and do it.  Do you want salvation?  Are you truly on the side of desiring to be morally excellent?  Do you want God to elect you to live eternally?  Be sure.  Why might I ask this question?  Simple.  God promises that an affirmative answer will stop you from EVER truly falling (viewed from an eternal perspective).

So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.

Peter isn’t stupid, he knows we will question and lose our way at times.  We will be running on the road with a flat tire per se.  Peter reminds us.  Peter refreshes our memory.  Peter knows his body is but a “tent” for God’s Spirit and soon he will leave it behind.  Peter cares and wants to leave a legacy.  I think he did a fine job since all these years later he is teaching me.  God’s plan worked.

Thanks to my brothers in Christ, to my fellow teachers, to my pastor and to my God for providing all this insight in such a short set of verses.

Condemned?

I read an article just a second ago where the guy was condemning Nancy Pelosi for her crazy Abortion / Catholic beliefs. I found it more intriguing that he noted that performing an abortion “can put a person in hell for eternity.” All I would add would be, “Don’t condemn someone when you yourself don’t understand the implications of the Christian faith.” We are all condemned to hell, for we have all sinned. One lie, one stolen pen from work, one lustful thought…it doesn’t take killing a baby…we all need saved from hell through the only source that has been made available – Jesus Christ. Place your faith in Him.

Here’s the article.

Christian “Secrets”!

12-daysThe 12 Days of Christmas was one of the first songs I learned as child, but I didn’t learn it for the same reasons that it was originally written.  I came upon this bit of history several years ago, but thought I would share it now.

[This is disputed as I learned from a nice comment below – Thanks!!  Either way, I like how whoever created this explanation put it together regarding the meanings of the days] During the period 1558 to 1829 in England, Christians were prohibited by law to practice their faith either in public or private. It was illegal to be Catholic until Parliament finally emancipated Catholics in England in 1829, hence, why we have this wonderful “encrypted” song that teaches the basics of the faith.  Enjoy!

1st Day: The partridge in a pear tree is Christ Jesus upon the Cross. In the song, Christ is symbolically presented as a mother partridge because she would feign injury to decoy a predator away from her nestlings. She was even willing to die for them.
The tree is the symbol of the fall of the human race through the sin of Adam and Eve. It is also the symbol of its redemption by Jesus Christ on the tree of the Cross.

2nd Day: The “two turtle doves” refers to the Old and New Testaments.

3rd Day: The “three French hens” stand for faith, hope and love-the three gifts of the Spirit that abide (1 Corinthians 13).

4th Day: The “four calling birds” refers to the four evangelists who wrote the Gospels-Matthew, Mark, Luke and John-which sing the song of salvation through Jesus Christ.

5th Day: The “five golden rings” represents the first five books of the Bible, also called the Jewish Torah: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.

6th Day: The “six geese a-laying” is the six days of creation.

7th Day: The “seven swans a-swimming” refers to the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord.

8th Day: The “eight maids a milking ” reminded children of the eight beatitudes listed in the Sermon on the Mount.

9th Day: The “nine ladies dancing” were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.

10th Day: The “ten lords a-leaping” represents the Ten Commandments

11th Day: The “eleven pipers piping” refers to the eleven faithful apostles.

12th Day: The ‘twelve drummers drumming” were the twelve points of belief expressed in the Apostles’ Creed: belief in God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, that Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, made man, crucified, died and arose on the third day, that he sits at the right hand of the father and will come again, and the resurrection of the dead and life everlasting.

Why all the confusion about baptism?

[Updated Aug 18, 2009] The book of Acts has all sorts of confusing stories about baptism and the Holy Spirit, but to me they are all easily reconciled.  Here’s why:

Well, it seems that there are two major ideas about baptism that get debated regularly.

1.  When should one be baptized?

2.  How should one be baptized?

In reading the Bible there is ample text to show that baptism is something that you are to allow happen to yourself.  It’s not a work.  The need of baptism in conjunction with belief is a clear directive upon salvation.  (See links below for references)  Baptism represents washing away our sins, it represents a burial and rebirth when performed, especially via immersion.  Baptism AND belief are an indicator that you are ready to receive the Holy Spirit.  [See comments for some clarification] This can happen at various times, just read the book of Acts.  The Spirit came before baptism in a few recorded instances.  Although, even if the Spirit came before baptism, the believers were STILL baptized!  Now, there are some interesting points that get made regarding the baptism of infants, or waiting until a time of decision (coming of age or age of accountability).  In the links below, both claims are fairly and scripturally backed up in a logical manner in my opinion.  So, in fairness, I see an easy resolution.  Baptize as an infant AND baptize at the time of decision.  (I don’t agree with this idea, but if it brings a bit more unity, maybe it’s a good idea. ) In this manner, everyone can be happy and we are not “missing” some important point from the Bible, nor praying that God will be merciful if one way is wrong.  How can two water baptisms be bad for a soul?    Just remember to think about these points that I take to heart….All through Acts, we see BELIEF and then BAPTISM, over and over.  Tell me, does a baby BELIEVE?  We see REPENT and be BAPTIZED all through scripture.  Tell me, does a baby REPENT?  That’s my take on the “when”.

Now, the “how”… This one has been the easiest for me personally.  Do it like Jesus did it.  Get dunked if at all possible.  If you are in the desert, they dig a hole, place a tarp in it, fill it with water and immerse the believer.  If they can do it in a desert, then they can do it just about anywhere.  Before 1311, baptism was immersion.  Sprinkling came about due to the difficulties in immersing infants (for those choosing to baptize an infant).  Now, correct me if I am wrong, but don’t families take babies swimming when they are very young?  Don’t they go under the water and have a natural reflex to hold their breath (usually)?  I could be misinformed on that, but sure seems I’ve heard that many times before.  So, to me Sprinkling is a “man-inspired”, “choice of convenience” method of baptism, no disrespect intended.

So, the “how” comes down to immersion or some other method, sprinkling or pouring etc.  I choose immersion and I feel this method is the most biblical.  It is the method described in the bible, arguably, as some feel the translation of “baptizo” is not always “immerse/submerse”.  Again, the argument about the translation of baptizo seems heated.  I will point to one argument in link 3 that I failed to grasp, and that was that “if baptizo meant ‘wash off’ in some instances (i.e. hand washing) aren’t the hands immersed in the water and not just sprinkled?  Again, see the links below for some intriguing arguments regarding baptism.  One last thought to make you think, when the Bible was written, there were words for sprinkle (rantizo) and pour (cheo), as well as plunge (baptizo).  Guess what word in consistently used?

I hope you find these links as interesting as I did.

Links:

1. http://www.clarifyingchristianity.com/get_wet.shtml

2. http://www.catholic.com/library/infant_baptism.asp

3. http://www.catholic.com/library/baptism_immersion_only.asp

In Christ,

Jeff

We shall be one

This blog is not a slam on organized religion although I do mention a few segments to make a point.  I do hope it encourages constructive thoughts.

Throughout chapter 17 in the book of John, Jesus makes it clear he desires his followers to be “one”.  He wants us to be united.  This is a common prayer in many denominations, although I think Catholicism gets most of the credit since this was the first official church sect.  Catholicism can be traced back to Peter, even if it wasn’t called that.  The common statements of faith (Protestant, Catholic and others) includes the phrase “holy catholic church” which you will notice catholic is not capitalized.  The definition of catholic in this sentence is best described by the following two definitions:

  • universal in extent; involving all; of interest to all. 
  • pertaining to the whole Christian body or church.

I used to incorrectly think it pertained to the “C”atholic church.  So, in essence, many Christian religious denominations hope for the union of all believers.  That being said, I have some concerns as to where we have come over the years, and where we seem to be regarding any type of “union” amongst believers.

In my view, looking back at the New Testament, the Pharisee’s and some other Jewish groups were the “church”.  They did the best they could, but their humanness kind of got many of them into trouble.  Many became money hungry, power hungry and status hungry.  They in effect became self-righteous.  They made new laws that did not quite coincide with the Old Testament (some involved payments for offerings as well as the buying and selling of “sacrificial” animals in the temples etc).  Does any of this sound familiar?  Again, just to make people think, here are a few “laws/rules” that have come around that just don’t seem to coincide with the Old and New Testament.

  • Acceptance of sin in the church (rampant divorce, homosexuality, and yes, abortion)
  • Purgatory, a place where the dead go and can be prayed into heaven as I understand it
  • The book of Genesis is just an allegory or poetic (this wasn’t ever accepted by many until the last few hundred years, even Jesus did not accept this teaching considering the number of times he quoted and spoke about the first 3 chapters of Genesis literally)
  • Communion is not to be served to non-believers (this is not made clear to church visitors enough etc)
  • The ten commandments are not held up to a high standard as truth.  Do we rest one day a week, dedicate a day of the week as HOLY, strive not to LUST (which is adultery), keep God #1 in our lives etc?

These are just a few well documented “beliefs” that various denominations have accepted, created or ignored on various levels.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not perfect by any means, I’m just pointing some things out to make us think a bit.  So how in the world can we be “one” body with so much “division”?

Well, Jesus is clear in his teaching that HE is the way, the truth and the life.  Jesus is THE WORD OF GOD.  We are to know HIM, seek HIM, believe in HIM, thus believe in the WORD OF GOD.  The book of John makes it so clear I am amazed.  In order for us to have a holy catholic church, we must look to Jesus and not to human desire, human rules or human ideas.  We must look to the Word (Jesus) and go from there.  That doesn’t mean we will still all agree, but it might just be a better starting point than looking at the current laws that are on the books.  Maybe we just need to REWIND back to the WORD OF GOD and forget about the word of man.

Hope this encourages some new ideas!

Jeff