Wednesday, December 2, 2015


Which is it?  It can't be both.

It was a Sunday morning worship service at an average congregation of Restoration Movement heritage.  We were the visitors from out of town.  The "regular" preacher was gone, so the youth minister, a recent college graduate, delivered the sermon.  It was an average to good sermon about Saul and Jonathan against the Philistines as recorded in 1 Sam. 14.  While Saul was in a defensive posture sitting under a pomegranate tree, Jonathan and his armor-bearer slipped away and, discerning a sign that the Lord was with them, attacked and killed a regiment of about 20 Philistines.  The commotion, together with a little earth-shaking from the Lord, confused the Philistines enough that they began killing one another, and they were routed by Saul and his men.  In the course of telling this story, the young minister made a statement of profundity - the application of which was quite possibly beyond his intention or recognition.  

"Saul was fighting to keep from losing; Jonathan was fighting to win."  

The mysterious profundity of this application became evident to the discerning eye during the following part of the service involving "the observance of the Lord's Supper."  It was a traditional observation - reading, songs, prayers, emblems (in the scripturally correct sequence) -- yes, all in decency and in order according to the "authorized pattern."  Nothing remarkable happened to particularly take note of, except in the shadow of contrast from the above statement.

The service continued:  There was a dramatic reading from the "Last Supper" (Matt. 26:26-30), a song ("Come To the Table"), the bread, a song ("Nothing But the Blood"), the cup, prayers.

Everything was handled within the range of "doctrinal acceptability."  The song: "Come to the table of mercy...." - mercy because we don't receive the condemnation we deserve; Jesus carried that burden in our place.  (NoteBut why did Jesus do that?)  Another song: "What can wash away my sin, nothing but the blood of Jesus; what can make me whole again, ...." The thought:  Except for the blood of Jesus, we would be nothing but sinners bound for hell.  The grace provided by Jesus' shed blood cleanses us from sin and saves us from condemnation.  (Again, why did Jesus do that?)  A prayer:  Do this in remembrance of me - remember Jesus hanging on the cross for you, in your place; you should be grateful by remembering and not forgetting.  (Again, why did Jesus do that?)  

Next, sing "Celebrate Jesus," wrap up, dismiss, and head for the restaurant.   

Okay, so, what is your problem with that?  Jesus died for your sins so you wouldn't go to hell, and you need to remember that and be grateful He did that.  Do you think something's wrong with that, or what?

No, it's not a matter of what's wrong with that service (and thousands of thousands of others essentially like it); it's a matter of what's missing -- what is incomplete about it.  

Did Jesus die so that we would not lose, or did Jesus die so that we will win? 

What did God predestine before the world began that we would do -- not go to hell, or go to live with Him in eternity?  What does the foreordained plan of God say is His will for us -- to continue to celebrate the historical events giving forgiveness of sin or to be transformed into the character of Jesus Christ (the image of the invisible God, Col. 1:15)?  Will we lose our forgiveness if we don't continually regenerate human gratitude for it.  Is that the regeneration of the Holy Spirit (Tit. 3:5)?  Do we meet together to spur one another to remember a historical occurrence or to accomplish the purpose of that event with a view to the future?  (hint: answer in Heb. 10:25) 

The foreordained plan of God was that we would be transformed into His likeness (2 Cor. 3:18), into the image of the Creator (Col. 3:10), which has been our destiny before time began (1 Cor. 2:7).  Jesus died, and our sins have been forgiven so that we can be free from the grip of the guilt of sin and death, so that we can do what -- escape punishment or become like Him (Eph. 4:24)?   This is a fear vs. love battle.  Centering on escape from punishment is not being perfected in love, and perfected = maturity (1 John 4:16-18).

So, how does a focus on Jesus dying (to keep us from losing) promote  spiritual maturity?  How well does concentrating on the historical sacrifice of Jesus cause us to go out in gratitude and proclaim Him without also saying "I have to do this?"  Aren't we to show our gratitude by glorifying Him as we become like Him and as we build up the body into Him (Eph. 4:12-16)? Into what are we being transformed - ever-increasing glory or ever-increasing gratitude (2 Cor. 3:18)?  Glory supersedes gratitude; focusing on gratitude doesn't necessarily produce glory.  We can leave gratitude at the altar; glory comes from within (2 Cor. 3:18).

Heb. 12:1-2 says that we are to keep eyes on Jesus as we are transformed into the glory of God, not to keep eyes on our encumbrances that we have (supposedly) gotten rid of.  We can't focus on two opposites at the same time.  It doesn't work, and it isn't working.  

So, what spiritual value does the church's "traditional observance of the Lord's Supper" promote?  Has anyone thought, "He suffered and died, so I really do need to try harder to be pleasing to God."

The problem is not the Lord's Supper, itself; it is the form into which we have shaped that liturgy.  Christianity has developed a tradition of interpretation of a few verses about the Last Supper to mean that Jesus intends that we continue to honor what He did in the flesh instead of honoring Him at the right hand of God by being transformed by the Spirit (Heb. 12:1-2).

And, yes, I've got a problem with that.

Jesus made a choice to go to the cross so we would be free to make a choice to become like Him.  So, what would He have us to do - statically remember the historical choice He made or dynamically become like Him?  The Corinthian church separated the formality of the historical remembrance of Jesus from the present reality of how their lives should be shaped because of what He did.   They separated static liturgy from dynamic transformation.  Paul said - don't call what you are doing the Lord's Supper, because it's not.  That, and a few other wake-up slaps to the head, are in 1 Cor. 11:17-34.

What about recycling of sin, of forgiveness, and of a relief that we are escaping condemnation (as long as we continue to "remember")?

Focusing on sins and encumbrances - on either doing the sin or being forgiven of it - retains spiritual immaturity.  The church to whom the book of Hebrews was written was not growing into maturity - too many followers were staying in the milk of the word and not getting past the elementary teachings.  They were not moving into the meat of the word -- the maturity of righteousness (Heb. 5:11-14).  The writer gets more specific and lists in Heb. 6:1-3 some of these elementary teachings that were being recycled.  Some of these subjects sound like sermon material.
"Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.  And God permitting, we will do so." (NIV)
Did Jesus command that a liturgy be performed so that we would be continually reminded that we are sinners deserving death and eternal judgment, that the reason Jesus came to earth died was to take care of that (if we continue to fearfully repent), and that if we have enough faith, God will (barely) save us from the torment to which we are otherwise verily headed?  Does this message need to be repeated over and over because we would otherwise forget?

Why do we find the need to refresh our memories that our sins have been forgiven?  Is it because we always need to be forgiven over and over because we continue to drag our sins with us, and we even point out and remind others that they have sins attached. Jesus gave the plank vs splinter in the eye analogy (Matt. 7:3-5) under the Old Covenant to people who only knew the Old Law of Moses, when the foreordained plan of God was still an unrevealed mystery.  Now, under the New Covenant, instead of saying "Take the plank out of your own eye so you can more clearly see the speck in your brother's eye," Jesus would say, "I have removed the plank and speck from both of your eyes so you can clearly see ME.  I died that you would focus on Me, not so that you could keep from losing to 'the attack of the planks.'  Is it "Identify those splinters and planks; don't let them impale you."  No, it is "Leave the planks and splinters behind and look forward, because the architect of your faith has a spiritual temple for you to build - the foundation of which has already been laid."  We can't be looking in our brother's eye for either planks OR splinters and keep our own eyes on Jesus.

How really Christ-centered is our traditional observance of the Lord's Supper?  Are we to celebrate "the New Covenant in His blood" by thanking Jesus for continuing to remove our planks because the devil keeps putting them back in?  If we actually believe that He died once for all (Rom. 6:10), why do we continue to recycle His death over and over by the Lord's Supper as though we aren't really sure about that?  Why isn't that like crucifying Christ all over again and subjecting Him to public shame (Heb. 6:6)?

Recycling immaturity presents a bad witness

We recycle the old, old, story of forgiveness of sin instead of becoming the new, new Creation - made to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.  Our liturgical, traditional, legalistic, and "check it off" observance of the Lord's Supper that focuses attention back to Calvary does not follow the foreordained plan of God that calls for us to look forward to being transformed into God's glory.  

This retrograde focus is also what the church presents to the world, and what is called "evangelism," or, more recently, "missional."  (Note:  Need to get a new word = "transformational.")  What is that incomplete message?  We are telling the world, "Jesus saved us from hell, and He will save you, too, if you just say this and do this and that, because if you don't, you will have the same fate we barely escaped from.  So, we invite you to join us in as we continue to fear that we might still be consumed by that which we have been delivered from."  What??

If we have to continue to recycle a remembrance that our sins have been forgiven, doesn't it show a lack of faith that we have been delivered?  If we live without the confidence that our sins have been forgiven along with the shame and guilt of the past, have we really escaped from anything, or do we drag the spirit of condemnation with us like the tablets of stone from the Old Law?

Did Jesus die so that the world would not lose (be condemned) or that the world would win through Him?  What does our favorite Billy Graham Crusade passage say (John 3:16-17)?  Instead of preaching escape from condemnation, the church needs to show the manifold wisdom of God in His eternal plan for us to become like Him (Eph. 3:10).  

There are doctrines that have been designed to justify this approach.  Calvinism presents a straw man of inherent condemnation to set up the necessity of Jesus for the escape from hell.  That is not the foreordained plan of God, and the doctrine of universal depravity is fraudulent for that and other reasons.  Calvinistic thinking began as a response to Catholicism and has pervaded just about all parts of Christianity, especially in denomination-derived groups.

Our attitudes within the church need to change - they need to be renewed by the Holy Spirit instead of protected by competitive maneuvers from primitive tribal fiefdoms.  The church, with its doctrine, needs to be baptized within the Holy Spirit by Jesus.  Basically, the church needs to repent and be saved.  

Recycling immaturity leads to apostasy (falling away)

Hebrews (5:11-6:12) discusses classifications of immaturity (milk of the word) and maturity (meat of the word).  "Mature" is usually defined as "us," and "immature" is defined as "them."  But the passages give characteristics of both.  Those who are mature are "acquainted with the teaching about righteousness" and those "who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil" (5:13-14).  This is the transformation process.  But, the immature stay in the elementary foundational teachings about Christ - repentance from acts that lead to death (or useless rituals), foundational faith in God, water washings, laying on of hands, resurrection, and eternal judgment.  The immature stay in their immaturity by recycling fundamental elementary teachings about Christ (6:1-3).  Like a liturgy performed according to accepted code every week or every month?  

The verses following Heb. 6:4 are not encouraging about recycling immaturities.  Those who are supposed to know of the goodness of the word of God and the power of the coming age fall away and crucify the Son of God all over again and subject Him to public disgrace.  Was the Last Supper given so that we would remind ourselves each week that our sins really have been forgiven - as though we are going to forget?  If we need to be reminded that our sins are forgiven, isn't this like crucifying the human Jesus all over again when we "remember the suffering Savior hanging on the cross?"  Where does "proclaim" and "blood of the Covenant" and "drink it with you" fit into this?  

We are the future, not the past

We do not serve an historical Jesus; we serve a risen Savior, victorious over sin and death, who is seated at the right hand of God.  We are not transformed into history, but into an eternal future.
Heb. 12:2, "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."
Phil. 2:8-11, "And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death -- even death on a cross!  Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
Col. 1:17-18, "He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy."
How has this been working for us?

Many consider the Lord's Supper (Eucharist) to be the most important part of a worship service.  What testimony are we giving in this ceremonial performance?  Does it testify into Whom we are being transformed?  Jesus died so that we could be transformed into the likeness of God.  This was a necessary part of the foreordained plan of God - a plan that included Christ before time began (2 Tim. 1:9-10).  We honor the sacrifice of Jesus when we are transformed by the Holy Spirit, not when we continually reinforce the human aspects of His death.

We say that we understand that the foreordained plan of God is important; we say that we understand that transformation is important, but apparently we don't comprehend the relation between the two and that there is nothing more important in the universe.  If the church can't proclaim that (Eph.3:10), who will?

The liturgy of the Lord's Supper isn't the problem, but the way it is handled is a prime example of the incompleteness of understanding that has been maintained and protected for nearly 2000 years.  Changing the songs and reading some different scriptures and telling people to remember Jesus on the throne in addition to Jesus on the cross would make little to no difference.  It is the attitude of our minds that must first change.  

Finally, what about "recognizing the body" (1 Cor. 11:29)?  Doesn't this necessitate thinking about Jesus hanging on the cross?
1 Cor. 11:27-32, "Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.  A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.  For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.  That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.  But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment.  When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world."
The Corinthians had a problem understanding the link between the body of Jesus on the cross and the body of Christ, the church.  They were separating the two events and performing the ritual of the Lord's Supper while discriminating against poorer brethren by eating in front of them when they had nothing.  Paul said (somewhat expanded interpretation), "You can't separate these events -- historical vs. what you do now.  Jesus died so that you could be transformed by serving one another in love -- becoming like Jesus by showing the love of Jesus to one another.  Don't call your liturgy the Lord's Supper, because it is not.  You demonstrate the history of Jesus' body on the cross, not by repetitive motions, but through present attitudes about his body, the church, and by your transformation into your eternal future."

When the history of Jesus' death is separated from the reason for His death - our transformation - what is the result?  Paul said the result to the Corinthians was God's judgment and discipline, which included weakness, sickness, and death of some of the members.  

Examine yourselves to see if you are recognizing the foreordained will of God for the church when you take the Lord's Supper, because that is why Jesus died. 

Straining to win or trying not to lose?

Paul and the writer of Hebrews used the analogy of transformation as being like a race that is marked out (Heb. 12:1), that one trains for and runs to win (1 Cor. 9:24), and that is being run while straining toward the finish tape (Phil. 3:14).  We are not transformed into God's likeness by looking over our shoulder at history, like Lot's wife (Gen. 19:26).  We are transformed by moving forward in perseverance and the power of the Spirit.

So, what is the foreordained plan of God and the necessary mission of Christ on earth intended to do?  Is it God's will that His people (the elect) not lose or that they win?  How then should we live - as ones who barely escaped being lost and exist in fear of God's wrath, or as ones who are destined to become like God and live in His perfect love?

So, what do our actions reveal: Are we winners through Jesus Christ or just barely not losers?  It can't be both - the attitudes don't mix.  Jesus said you cannot serve both a worldly master and also God (Matt. 6:24).  Paul said it is the fleshly nature or the Spirit in control (Rom. 7:21-25).  "Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things" (Col.3:2).

Let us keep eyes only on Jesus and pray for renewal of the mind within the body of Christ, before we call the judgment of God down upon us because of our poor choices. 

Note added in edit, February 26, 2016:
The "observance of the Lord's Supper" needs to be understood in light of the meaning of "created in the image of God" (Gen 1:26-27), which is theme of scripture and part of the foreordained plan of God.  A new web site has been started to explore this topic.

The Imago Dei Research Initiative

Monday, February 2, 2015



The foreordained plan of God predestined before the world began that we would grow into the image of the Creator, into the true righteousness and holiness of God.

Evolutionary processes are associated with relatively slow and progressive changes over time that result in an increase in complexity and capacity for function that is favorable for survival and future positive development.  Evolution describes only a mechanism, which Christians search beyond.  Christians believe that the developmental goal of the universe, including our goal in particular, is to be perfect and complete -- like God in true righteousness and holiness (Eph. 4:24).  Those who do not believe in God are left with randomness and aimless chance.

God's plan, for the creation to grow into Himself, was why the universe was made.  Evolution simply describes the process of change that God directed at the beginning.

The universe was made and set in motion (physical change with respect to time) to fulfill that plan.  These changes occur according to a preset order which we call "laws of nature."

God executes His will so that the plan has been, is being, and will be accomplished in His good pleasure and in accordance with His timing.  The changes can be described as evolutionary.  Note that evolution does not define God or His plan.  God defines evolution, because the plan of God came first.

The foreordained plan of God is His revelation to the universe.  There is nothing more important.  The plan of God is as important to us as God, Himself.  The foreordained plan is the Foundational and Unifying Law of the Universe.

Even though physical change may appear indistinguishable from a random process, it was created that way by design.  The foreordained plan of God is why the universe was created, why the physical substrate was formed, why humankind exists, why God interacted with people to the time of Christ, the coming and work of Christ, the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, what we are supposed to doing, and what the single most important job of the church should be.

When the church follows the will of God as laid out in His plan (Eph. 3:10) and is growing in love and unity into the full knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 4:12-16), the church will fulfill its role for existing, will beat down the gates of Hell, and will overcome evil with good. 

The extent to which the church does not follow the will of God as laid out in His plan, the church is on the wrong path, operating out of the flesh, pursuing idolatry, and destined to suffer the consequences of entropy by the discipline of God. 

Execution of the foreordained plan of God must be the most important doctrine in the church and more important than any doctrine, interpretation, tradition, or institutional religion of human origin.  It is more important than human titles, positions, or names., buildings, measures of human physical accomplishment, cash flow, or any assurance of future earthly security.  Just verbal acknowledgement means nothing.

If we are within the will of God, our focus is only heavenward in Christ Jesus.  We only look forward, not backward.  We are becoming, not escaping from.  We are headed for, not leaving. We identify as saints headed for perfection in Christ, not sinners who are trying to do better. 

We run the race with eyes on Jesus, casting off the entanglements of sin and leaving them behind.  We help one another to realize our freedom in Christ, not reattach more rules to ourselves or others from our human interpretations.  This includes interpreted necessities of correct behavior for salvation or to maintain salvation.  This reestablishes the Old Covenant and crucifies Christ all over again, and those who do this return like a dog to its vomit.  Understand, this is very serious. 

When legalisms are imposed by the church, the church does not have eyes on Jesus for transformation into the likeness of God.

"Legalisms" include: anything that elevates what one person or group does and diminishes what another does based on a humanly contrived differentiation; anything that returns to a law of "have to" in order to avoid punishment; anything that establishes guilt and sin to set up the need for forgiveness and grace; any established protocol, steps, or rules to obtain salvation.

Grace is the freedom to become like God, not the assumed freedom to choose to sin -- as if the consequences were prevented by the grace of God. Holiness is not something to be pursued in itself -- it is Jesus Christ who is pursued, and it is we who are consequentially transformed by the Holy Spirit into the holiness of God. 

God has revealed Himself in Christ, but that revelation is incompletely known by us.  We have to continue to search, ask, seek, and knock so that we might discover the riches of Christ.  We do not stop and protect what we have discovered or copyright how our private interpretation of what has been discovered.  We do not compare between ourselves.  In unity of mind and purpose, we help one another become more like God.

The church does not preach sin, or preach against sin, or place anyone under judgment or condemnation.  It is a particular affront to use intrinsic condemnation (i.e., the doctrine of depravity) as a "straw man" to set up the need for redemption in Christ.  That doctrine results from a lack of understanding of the foreordained plan of God.  The church's job is to live and show the image of Jesus Christ so that people will also want to become like Christ. 

We must understand that Rom. 8:1 - "there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus" - applies to everyone who will accept and begin transformation into the likeness of God.  The church models what that transformation process looks like; the church does not condemn those who do not conform to church rules for salvation.  That is not the plan of God. 

Everything in scripture is first interpreted in the context of the foreordained plan of God.  Each verse and event and story must be viewed in light of how much the people understood of the plan of God at that particular point in time and where God was taking them toward their future fulfillment of that plan.  This also applies to the New Testament - the mystery of the plan was revealed and explained so that the church could progressively implement the plan in the future.  What has been accomplished in 2000 years? 

The entire book of Ephesians seems to be related to explaining the foreordained plan of God.  Eph. 2:19-22 illustrates how we are to always look ahead and not behind - not behind to the Old Testament, when the plan was still a mystery, and not behind to the New Testament, in which the plan was completely revealed, but in foundational form, for the church to continue to discover and apply the revelation of God and plan for creation.  The New Testament provides a living foundation upon which the church should grow.  It does not describe a bunch of dead rocks upon which the church should camp out, maintain itself in controlled environmental comfort, and protect itself from doctrinal contamination.

Eph. 2:19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

Since the correct interpretation of the Old Testament is not an isolated goal within itself, completely understanding its exact academic textual interpretation is immaterial as long as it points forward to fulfilling the plan of God.  That means a great number of subjects that Christians and other scholars debate about is of little real consequence to our purpose on earth and can waste time to the point of sin.  The importance of the subject of contention can become elevated by ambitious human competitiveness to an idol status.

Examples: Interpretations of Gen 1-3; creation and evolution (they are the same); origins; meaning of the Garden story, Adam and Eve being literal people; the Great Flood of Noah; Job; Jonah and the great fish, and many more.  We must understand first that it doesn't matter compared to what is really important.  The search for intellectual knowledge is not an end in itself - it must point toward a purpose.  It is a part of, but does not take the place of, becoming like God in accordance with His plan. 

Therefore, during the period before Christ, the foreordained plan of God was a mystery known only to God, until the time had fully come for the plan to go into the next phase (Gal. 4:4).  The physical substrate of the human body and brain had evolved until an overlay of social, political, and religious knowledge could evolve.  The plan of God can be recognized in the Old Testament through retrospective analysis, since after the plan was revealed, we know what to look for.  Jesus Christ provided the transition to the next phase of spiritual evolution, when the conditions of the previous phase of the plan had been met and the last age could begin.  Jesus revealed the plan by His life and through His teaching, although He had to speak in "code."  The power for the last phase of spiritual evolution came on the day of Pentecost, and the revelation of the plan was made known to the apostles.  This was the foundational teaching of the plan, revealed from God through Jesus Christ and then through His selected apostles.  The foundation of the plan was written in the New Testament, and the church is supposed to take the building process from there on into the future until Jesus comes again.

How does the church today compare to that described in Eph. 4:12-16 -- 2000 years after the foundation was completed for the fulfillment of the plan of God?  What kind of stewardship of the power of the Holy Spirit does God require of the church after 2000 years?  What kind of manager has the church been of God's resources?  Would Jesus give His church today a commendation or a reproof, based on the parables about the Kingdom of God?  

One of the messages from Gen. 1-3 is that God placed humankind as His representative in stewardship over the earth.  The creation groans for the sons of God to be revealed (Rom. 8:18-23).  The creation was subjected to frustration (Rom. 8:20), and it is likely getting inpatient for the sons of God to quit arguing among themselves about how God make the universe in order to fulfill His plan and to get busy about being revealed in the glory of the Lord (2 Cor. 3:18).  How is God glorified when humans argue over their imperfect opinions instead of keeping their eyes on Jesus?  Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12:2), not of our human arguments for the correctness of our doctrine.

(Originally published on February 2, 2015; revised on February 16, 2015)

(Some previous posts on this general subject)
    Friday, September 5, 2014

YOUR INNER JESUS  - (Contrasted To "Your Inner Fish")
   Monday, April 14, 2014

    Thursday, December 5, 2013

    Monday, November 18, 2013

    Saturday, August 31, 2013

    Tuessday, June 18, 2013

    Friday, April 5, 2013 

GOD (by Intelligent Design) CREATED (by supernatural power) THE UNIVERSE (and the earth and all life) THROUGH AN EVOLUTIONARY (so-called “natural”) MECHANISM
Thursday, April 26, 2012

Monday, April 30, 2012

Friday, May 4, 2012   

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. (John 14:27)

If there would be a geographical area on earth where the highest density of human conflict, violence, and bloodshed has occurred - in ancient history, in more modern history, and continuing today -- what might that area be? This is the same general area where the above words were spoken. What happened?

The region of the Golan Heights has been, is now, and likely always will be the epitome of conflict between people and nations over political control, rights, and ownership. Nations have attempted to work out treaties, agreements, promises, whatever seemingly with one hand holding a pen and the other a hidden knife. Why does conflict and chaos seem so entrenched in this region? Perhaps it is because it was prophesied to happen (Gen. 16:11-12) and because the answer, that had been provided to change the outcome, Jesus, was rejected and asked to leave - go away - get outta town - leave us alone - we don't want you around here; you mess everything up.

Mark 5:1-20 relates an event in Jesus' ministry of the healing of a man possessed by a legion of demons. The demons had made the man powerful and fearsome, and he was uncontrollable. Jesus cast the demons out of the man and allowed them to enter a herd of pigs. The possessed pigs ran down the hill, over the cliff, and into the sea where they perished. The people who lived in the area came out to investigate, and, upon seeing the healed man, who had been possessed, and the deviled ham in the water, they were afraid.

"Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region." (vs. 17).

And He did. He got back into the boat and left. (vs. 18)

This region to the east side of the Sea of Galilee is the Golan Heights. About 2000 years ago, the people of that region wanted the Prince of Peace to go away and leave them alone. "We don't want your kind around here." Jesus did leave, physically and symbolically, and it doesn't seem like He has ever been invited to return. The words of Jesus give peace, but in the world there will be trouble (John 16:33).

So, what about the region called the Golan Heights? What rules - the peace of Christ or the trouble of the world? What filled the vacuum created when Jesus was asked to get out? Could those spirits of 2000 years ago still inhabit the area? By what power could the influence of demonic elements be driven out?

So, what other regions or territories could the Golan Heights symbolically represent? How about where we live?

How many families have virtually nothing but a consistent generational conflict produced by the consequences of self-perpetuating bad decisions? Alcohol, drugs, crime, prison, abuse - just one stupid thing after another. Jesus is not the Prince of Peace in their lives. And, if asked, it's certainly never their fault - they're the victims. On the other hand, many families have had generations of blessings after a key family patriarch allowed Jesus to enter their life, thereby introducing peace and changing the future course for those who would follow.

What about a society that can determine its future destiny by present choices? What about a society that decides for itself whether Jesus is invited to stay or told to leave? What about a society that increasingly tells Jesus to "make like a tree and get outta here?"

The President of the United States said "American is no longer a Christian nation," and some people got upset. Why? It's not true because he said it; he said it because it's true.

It's promoted like an agenda. Let's get Jesus out of the schools; let's get Jesus out of the books; let's get it forbidden to pray publicly in Jesus' name; let's get rid of prayer altogether (unless it's addressed to some other deity, or non-deity). Let's get Jesus out of our vocabulary, unless it's used as profanity in the media. Let's get nativity scenes off any public property - certainly governmental, but also schools, libraries, and firehouses. Let's get Jesus out of Christmas and have a "Holiday Season." Now, the "reason for the season" is consumer debt. Let's get Jesus out of any consideration of people for public office - elected or appointed. Let's make it offensive to someone to have to hear the name of Jesus uttered in their presence, unless it's embedded in a curse word. Let's complain about Jesus represented in name, in appearance in paintings, pictures, or statues; let's complain about God being on our coins and in our pledge. Let's wonder why our government is so functionless and why greed and pride and self-idolatry prevail. Let's promote anything anti-religious in the media and put an evil slant even on good things that might be related to Christianity.

Let's wonder why there are school shootings and political calls to confiscate guns and beheadings that are called "workplace violence." Let's make peace by not offending anybody no matter what they might say or do - as long as it doesn't promote anything like that Jesus person. Let's wonder why the destruction of the home continues - until it begins to become the "norm."

Let's allow and even promote Satan worship because we don't want to appear like fundamentalists or bigots. Let's live in fear because someone might call us that name or another one.

So, as a society, let's just purge ourselves of this Jesus person. We're afraid of Him (capitals are mine); He interferes with our lifestyle, economics, and choices; we are smarter than that. So, we don't plead with Him to get outta here; we tell Him. Oh, yeah, and we're sweeping out our church buildings, too.

What fills the vacuum that is created when Jesus is told to leave? What happens when Jesus is not recognized as the Prince of Peace ... but maybe more like Beelzebub? (Mark 3:20-30). Uh, oh, better read verse 29.

Well, one could say, "The world is doing it to itself. At least the church isn't saying 'Jesus be gone.'"

And just what makes that statement correct? Who has been called to be the presence of Jesus on earth? Who is supposed to make up the body of Christ?  Is the body of Christ shaped like a million parcels of real estate?

The church doesn't create the vacuum, like saying, "Let there be vacuum." The church allows the vacuum to happen because the church does not fulfill its mission to be the presence of Jesus - the body of Christ - the temple for the Spirit of God - the kingdom of God on earth.  Vacuum exists when the influence of the Spirit of God in the church is not present.

Pigs, arise?

This could be a horror movie. Instead of "Lord of the Flies" it could be "Spirits of the Pigs" or "When Pigs Fly." See the moonlit shapes of the ugly demonic critters as they claw their way back over the cliff and slither around looking for someone to possess who has removed Jesus from their life. The demons of the region had ruled until Jesus arrived and exercised His authority over them. What did the demons do when the people in the city asked Jesus to leave? The demons asked Jesus to not send them out of the region, so did the demons return after they finished the bacon?  Speculation - has peace ever come to that region or not?  Maybe the demons stayed in the region.  Maybe they came back.  Maybe the influence is still there.

What do we want for ourselves and for our children and their children? Order, peace, justice, righteousness, and true freedom, or chaos, conflict, discrimination, and bondage? What is on the increase; what is trending up? Is it peace or conflict?

On Friday, September 26, 2014, the Wall Street Journal published an article "Mass Shootings On the Rise," describing casualties in active-shooter incidents increasing 1-2 orders of magnitude since 2000. "The FBI said more gunmen have tried to kill large numbers of people in recent years, with shooters seeking 'an act of catastrophic violence.'" And those data didn't count violence using knives or bombs.

We still have choices, but it is the beneficial and positive outcomes of our choices that are becoming less probable. A choice to continue good will have a high probably of producing a good outcome. However, a choice requiring a turnaround and recovery from a history of bad choices expends a lot of energy trying to correct things, and the remaining benefit quality is reduced.

"Keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." (Eph. 4:3). Any unity in the Golan Heights? Any bond of peace? Any unity in the church? First Church of the Golan Heights? Has the church headed toward unity or toward creating more division over that last 100 years? 200 years? 2000 years?

"If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear." Mark 4:23

Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

(Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:3; 2 Cor. 1:2; Gal. 1:3; Eph. 1:2; Phil. 1:2; Col. 1:2; 1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:2; 1 Tim. 1:2; 2 Tim. 1:2; Tit. 1:4; Philemon 1:3; 2 John 1:3; Rev. 1:4-5)