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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

On recent reading

            The last little while, I’ve been at least attempting to read a couple of books.  The first one, I’m not going to mention author and title, because, to my surprise, I wasn’t particularly impressed with it.  I forget whether the author had a masters or doctorate (probably doctorate), and is a respected figure within his flavor of the church.  He was #2 guy to one of the biggest name’s within the church a couple of decades ago.  Somehow, in spite of the branch of the church he’s part of being different from my background, I wound up with this book, and decided to read it one day where I knew I’d be stuck waiting for hours.  The subject he was writing on was the names of God in the Bible.  The book was written in 1991.  The flavor of the church he was in was not a Pentecostal/Charismatic one, which is important, as this subject was one consistently covered in those flavors, and emphasized through the Christian media via the songs “El Shaddai” and “Jehovah Jirah.”  In the introduction to the book, he said that his writing was not to encourage an infatuation with secret knowledge, but to assist those who receive it in prayer.  I found this troubling, for assuredly he knows that the phrase “secret knowledge” in the Bible referred to the early Gnostics (heretics) and not to proper knowledge of the Bible that somehow had been passed over with regard to its teaching, as is the case with this subject.  Further, assisting in prayer, albeit a valid goal, can also be a problem, in that much of what goes on with regard to prayer is never provable outside one’s own spirit. 

            Within a few pages, he states that Yhvh and Adonai are two different names in scripture, even to putting in a graph of qualities of various names of God, with a column being the word in Hebrew, with which there was a definition without a word in the space for Adonai.  Just to explain for anyone reading this who may not know, Yhvh is the main Hebrew word for God, translated The Lord in the KJV and many other English versions.  In ancient Hebrew practice, it came about that Yhvh was considered to be too holy to be pronounced, so Adonai was said in its place, but Adonai was not a separate word in the Old Testament.  This writer had to have known that, and I can’t picture what he was thinking, other than that those people who read his book would be persons who respected him, and would accept what he would write, but were “lay” persons who wouldn’t be all that involved in desiring to know details of God’s Word, which would be a shaky premise indeed in this day and age.  There were a few other more minor things that just weren’t quite factually right, and I quit reading after about 30 pages.  I also wonder what the editor at the publishing house (one of the major Christian publishers) was thinking to allow these ideas to be printed without explanation by means of footnotes, although I don’t believe there is a valid explanation.  Amazingly, a large Christian college now offers the contents of this book on their website.  Let’s just say I was disappointed.

            After that, I found that I was in possession of the book, “Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ” by Jeanne Guyon.  Guyon was a housewife in Grenoble, France in 1685.  One can reasonably conclude, from what we know of history that the area she lived was dominated socially and politically by the Roman Catholic Church, and that she would not have had access to much information behind the Bible other than the Douay Bible.  Since this book was on the subject of prayer, and pretty much all churches, Catholic, Protestant, and other, institutional and not, tend to guide those not in leadership toward personal introspection, and the One who can rightly guide us in that most correctly is when we are in prayer, which we sometimes oversimplify as talking with God.  I find the few writings on prayer to be difficult to read, in that the writer is attempting to explain a thing which in some ways is impossible to put into words.  This everyday housewife from over 300 years ago also has problems with this, and the translator’s notes before and after the text imply that in the French some of what was said was even more difficult to understand.  Nonetheless, as I got near to the end of her writing, she made some conclusions about more mature stages of the life of following Jesus that resonate with me, given that I’ve been on this walk for over 40 years now, and that at least one of these conclusions is one I have never seen written or heard spoken before, but I can say that I have experienced.  I hope to comment on this writing in greater detail soon.

            Part of the reason for getting into reading this was that I accidentally opened the back cover, and saw that this was printed by Seedsowers, the publishing house connected to the writings of Gene Edwards.  Edwards is a controversial person in the house church branch of believers in Jesus, having added some writings at a time when almost no one was saying the teachings connected to this move of God, but has also said other things many disagree with (I am understating the case).  Bizarrely, in this copy, Seedsowers was listed as being based in Auburn, Maine, and I had only seen it as being credited with its being based in Jacksonville, Florida. 

Monday, November 14, 2011


                        One feature of the church I am part of is that of the background difference of the three adult men who take an overly large amount of the discussion of the Bible passage in question any given day.  I say overly large in that I believe that we wish everyone would take an equal share, and would encourage that, but that is something that can’t be forced.  Anyway, one of us has come from a fundamental Baptist background, another (myself) comes from growing up in a mildly Calvinistic background, followed by a couple of decades in Pentecostal/Charismatic “churches”, and another from our modern western secularist/mildly anti-Christian culture.  This variance in background brings into our church’s study of the Bible a variety of streams of thought that bring about greater understanding for all of us, I believe.

            Yesterday, we were continuing to study the book of James.  Somehow, as various persons came into the study, we wound up back on the subject of tithing, which I think a couple of us (myself being one) have had to go over so often over the past couple of years, I, personally, am sick of it, but is totally necessary for my brothers and sisters who have only heard our western status quo teaching which has no basis in the New Covenant.

            To that effect, my brother sent out a Facebook post, which I imagine included those who came in yesterday who had not heard this discussion before.  As I glanced over it, this writer brings up some historical points that I had not heard expressed in the manner he does.  Therefore, this is written to point out this writing: Other than this writing, I know nothing about this writer other than what is on this site.

Friday, November 11, 2011

On James and wrongdoing in this life

            Last week, I had an afternoon in which I volunteered to cover a position knowing that, in all likelihood, I would be doing nothing.  The next Sunday at church, I knew that we would be beginning to look at the book of James.  Therefore, to begin studying it, I brought with me a commentary that I have found useful in the past, the IVP Bible Background Commentary—New Testament, edited by Keener.  As the name implies, it specializes in explaining the background of the writing, which is important in that that time and place is so different than the one we live in.  Specifically to this writing, we in North America live in participatory democracies; James and the believers of Jewish ancestry which were believers in Jesus lived in a dictatorship in which what they believed was technically illegal.  The government didn’t trust them because the Jews had rebelled against the government before, and would again soon after James finished this writing.  The Jewish religious establishment didn’t trust them because, in accepting Jesus as their Savior, they had effectively rejected their leadership.  Further, the Saducees, who had the ear of the Roman Empire, for that same reason, were not respected by the average Jew.  In Jerusalem, James, by the time he wrote this book, had the respect not just of the believers in the city, but also among average Jews because he was known to care for the poor and was willing to speak out against the abuses of the wealthy.

            The Jewish Law called for treating others fairly, but Roman Law had in it that the upper status persons could take legal action against those of lower statuses, but those of lower status could not take legal action of someone of higher status.  Those of higher status had come to a point of taking advantage of the poor, knowing that they would not be punished.  The Zealots, the Jewish political revolutionary group, was more and more being seen as being reasonable in calling for revolt against Rome and the rich.  Some rich were Romans, but among those who were Jewish, it was still seen as reasonable, as such persons, even in the time of Jesus, were seen as traitors to their people.  James speaks to the feeling that was coming into the believers in Jesus that the Zealots were right to urge revolt.

            In our day and age, James is oftentimes seen as a book somewhat of a New Testament likeness to Proverbs.  In the context above, the way James goes from one thought to the next, and connects back to a thought after a chapter or more makes sense, and seems less disjointed.  The ultimate conclusion James makes is that it is right to speak up against wrongdoing, but condemns being involved in armed revolt against the government.  Given the history of the U.S., that this country gained its independence by armed revolt from a country treating us at the time as a source of raw materials, a place to give land to political favorites, and a place to send criminals, the correct cultural context is not going to be popular. Today, the leaders of too many churches (in this case used in the traditional sense of the term) wish to promote, albeit between the lines usually and overtly in some instances, economic prosperity as a key to a church’s plans. 

            How do I reasonably speak up about wrongdoing?  In the first three drafts of this writing, I enumerated wrongdoings which have particularly affected me, given that none of them are points which our society (or is it the media?) currently considers important.  There are a lot of pieces of wrongdoing that go under the radar.  As a sports fan, I’ve gotten a pile of reporting about the Penn State scandal, the acts of which go back to 1998.  As a former college football player, I know that little wrongdoings go on all the time, albeit not of the degree of the current news.  For instance, I would imagine that all college football teams have a grad assistant who has assigned to him walk-ons in which the coaching staff have determined are insufficiently talented to help them, and the grad assistant’s job is to make those players lives and practices as miserable as possible, so as to give incentive to such players to quit.  As having worked for various companies at bottom level jobs for all my life, I know that little wrongdoings go on all the time; its almost an idiom that any rich person, knowingly or unknowingly, “stomped on” some little persons (economically and politically, not the abnormally short) on their way to wealth.  Further, if an employee has been determined to be a good enough worker that a company doesn’t want to fire them, but wants them gone, a manager can always find some personal imperfection such as to give the employee a first, then second, then third, write up, with the last being sufficient reason to fire a person and not be liable to some state department of labor penalties.  The world considers this normal.  It is sufficiently distasteful that the world doesn’t want to talk about it unless it crosses the line to illegal, or something that should be. 

            It is hard for us in this culture to absorb the idea that we have no more right to expect fairness from the world than we can be grateful that, thanks to Jesus, we don’t expect what we deserve from God.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Paradox of Free

            For those of us who are believers in Jesus, we are aware of the paradox of the concept of “free.”  The salvation we have been given by Jesus is the most valuable thing in the universe, but it was His free gift to us.  Conversely, to the person who chooses to not believe, or at the least has not chosen so far, it is worthless.  It our culture where there are so many offering things, those things that are offered free in this world are easily treated as worthless, be it the tidal wave of blogs of which this is one more drop of, or the weekly wad of advertising that I get in my mailbox each Wednesday.  Part of the reason that beer advertising is the most humorous is that, to stand out from all the free offerings, more money and talent is spent to make it special.  Way too often, the message of Jesus in this culture is ignored not just because it is free, but if sampled is less than special in the eyes of the beholder.  Fortunately, in my opinion (and I cannot prove this to be anything higher than my opinion), most who have not overtly examined the truth of Jesus and have gone another direction are going another way because they are either deceived or self-deceived.

            We live in a day where, in the world, free is giving one thing to sell another.  In the 1800’s, King Gillette gave away razors to sell blades, and that eventually built a large company.  Today, internet companies give storage space, blog accounts, games, etc. so they can sell advertising for you to see.  Google gives 411 service so as to hear a variety of dialects and accents in words to improve their voice recognition technology, which is more valuable to them than any price they could charge for the service, assuredly to the irritation of competitors or non-competitors attempting to sell the same service.

            The information in the last paragraph comes from Chris Anderson, “Free—Why $0.00 is the Future of Business,” Wired, March, 2008.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

On quoting Jim Rutz

            Previously, in one of the five minute commentaries, I quoted the 30 dichotomies between western traditional church and what the author, Jim Rutz, called “open church” in his book, Megashift, which appears extremely similar to what I and many other writers have called simple or organic church.  I thought I’d take a moment to say that, while I believe that what he has said in the 30 dichotomies is valid, it in no way implies my agreement with what Rutz has said about society and politics.

            At this point, I was about to quote the humanist/atheist philosopher Voltaire’s famous quotation, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” when, in proper fashion, I decided to fact check my memory.  First, without fact checking, I would have said “disagree” instead of “disapprove”, although that is trivial.  Second, according to, while the above statement contains a summation of Voltaire’s opinion, and was written as a quote in a book in 1906, there is no evidence that he actually ever said or wrote these exact words, although he wrote something quite similar.  I am really not in a position today to fact check that website.  That said, and with the recognition that I probably agree with far more of what Rutz has written than Voltaire, I must point out that the quote doesn’t align me with much of Rutz’ modern day prophecying, in a secular, opposed to Christian, sense of the word.

            Particularly, I ran across Rutz’ prediction that we will discover how to run cars on water, and from that, the economies of Middle Eastern countries will collapse, and from that, so will the structure of Islam.  My training is not in the natural sciences, so I cannot say whether there is good science to back up the first prediction, although I have seen on tv or read little blips that imply that there might.  If such a thing were to happen, and global warming might begin to reverse, and I believe that there is good recent history that creator God has made this world in a way that is to a degree self-healing in a way that science is only beginning to attempt to understand, all that would be nice.  Could the two conclusions come from the first premise?  I can picture it in my mind, but in and of itself, the premise would need many other occurrances to bring about the economic collapse, and even that would be dubious as to bringing about the second, without many other occurrances.  Of course, there is nothing in the prediction that is ruling out the many other things happening. 

            Even if I believed that, I am not sure that saying so publicly is advisable.  I think of the prophecy of Agabus recorded in Acts 11:28 about a coming famine.  Since Acts was recorded years later, I am certain Luke included it due to Agabus’ having heard the Spirit correctly, as proven by intervening history.  Rutz has shown a penchant for including some ultra-conservative political ideas.    At this time, in this culture, even if I was in agreement with them (and I have not taken the time to read and consider most of them, one way or another), personally I see such as interfering with communicating the message to a lost and dying world.  I also recognize that not doing so is part of what the Spirit has put on my heart to do and not do, and (at best) another person seeking to live for Jesus can have some opposite aspect of life upon their personal calling.  Also, neither you nor I can judge whether any person other than oneself is following, at one’s best, the Spirit’s personal direction upon their unique giftings (by this, I mean that one is first called to accept Jesus’ gift of salvation, then we are called to learn how Jesus taught us to live for Him, as shown in the Bible and by the Spirit in our spirits, and, if we have been faithful to that, and unfortunately many believers appear to live their lives without pursuing the second, then the Spirit can place a part of God’s work upon one’s heart, which is, in some way, connected to what He has given us, maybe physically and mentally, which includes a genetic part and also includes our life experiences and the spiritual aspect, and as spiritual gifts, which may be greater than the 25 or 26 enumerated in the Bible).