Archive for the ‘The Church’ Category


Easter is my most favorite holiday of all. Often I hear people wondering, “why do Christians celebrate a death?”. The answer is simple, it wasn’t just a death. It was way more than that. As Paul explains it in 1 Corinthians 15 it is about, not only the death, but the burial and bodily resurrection, according to the Scriptures –and on the resurrection, everything we believe as Christians hangs on:

“And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty” 1 Cor 15:14

Among several key awesome reasons that excite me about the cross we have:

  • The sins we all have committed (are committing, and will commit- see here) which put every human being in enmity with God (see here), rendering us as dead in our relationship with God (see here), were fully paid for. It is done! [TETELESTAI]
  • By raising from the dead, Jesus proved he is God in human body (see here), thus validating everything he said, including the authority and veracity of the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures (Old Testament and New Testament). (No more wondering whether the Jonah story is true  🙂 )
  • Not only that, but through the resurrection we get a glimpse of God’s three-persons-in-one-God nature, as scriptures teach that God raised Jesus from the dead (Rom. 10:9, 1 Pet. 1:21), The Father raised Jesus from the dead (Gal. 1:1, Eph. 1:17,20), The Son raised himself from the dead (John 2:19-21), and The Holy Spirit raised Jesus from the dead (Romans 8:11).

 

Nevertheless, there is one particular reason that pumps me up to celebrate Jesus’ dead and resurrection this year.

It all started when I considered verses that describe Jesus as “The only begotten Son” (See John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9), or being begotten [born?] (Hebrews 5:5). That would make sense if related to Jesus’ human birth at Bethlehem, but not as the Son, since as such Jesus is from everlasting to everlasting.

Upon looking up and comparing from the Greek sources, and reading some Greek-beginner-friendly sources, I realized that The Greek term that some Bibles (BLB, NASB, KJV, NKJV) translate into English as “begotten” [g3439 μονογενής monogenēs]   does not mean “only born” but “unique”, as seen used in other passages such as Hebrews 11:17, where Isaac is called ‘monogenēs’ –not only “born”, as Abraham did have other children besides Isaac, but “unique”. Other modern translations render this term more properly “the one and only” (NIV, NLT, ESV etc).

 

So far so good, but we still have the issue with Psalm 2:7 Hebrews 1:5 and 5:5 in which we have God telling Jesus “You are My Son, Today I have begotten You” (KJV, NKJV). Since the Greek word used here [g1080 γεννάω gennaō] means to be born,  one would assume it refers to Jesus –as man, being born in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago. But that would mean that at some point, he wasn’t, contradicting John 1:1 and other passages. So I searched more.

First, I discovered through searching for what “begotten” may have meant in Jewish culture, that in most of ancient cultures, kings were considered sons of god or sons of heaven, or in some cultures, gods themselves (Romans, Egyptians, Assyrians). However, they were not considered ‘gods’ from birth, but from the moment they were enthroned as kings. It was at that time that they were “begotten” as gods. The term “begotten: was customary of meaning “enthronement as king” (see here)

 

Second, we have Psalm 2, as understood by Jewish traditions as a Messianic Psalm –that is, a prophecy about the coming Messiah (Jesus Christ). Evidently, a poem about the Messiah’s enthronement as king.

Fast forward about a thousand years to Antioch somewhere around year 47AD, when Paul and his companions went to a synagogue on the Sabbath day, and Paul was invited to speak (Acts 13:14-41). As Paul began to speak, he gave a summary of Israel’s history starting with Egypt (v17), the wilderness (v18), the judges (v20), David (v22), and how from king David’s seed, the Savior Jesus would come (v23). Then he continued with John the Baptist introduction of Jesus (v24-25), all the way to Jesus’ death (v28), burial (v29), and resurrection (v30 “…But God raised Him from the dead”). He continues on:

“31 He was seen for many days by those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are His witnesses to the people.
32 And we declare to you glad tidings—that promise which was made to the fathers.
33 God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus” Acts 13:31-33

And then he gives what by inspiration of the Holy Spirit is the one prophecy –of kingly enthronement, being fulfilled at the resurrection:

As it is also written in the second Psalm: ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.’” Acts 13:33

Ending with “34 And that He raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption…”.

We have the same context of resurrection and enthronement in Hebrews 1:5 and similarly, but connected to his role as priest, in Hebrews 5:5.

Therefore, what we celebrate on Easter is not just a death –a horrible death of an innocent man, or our sins forgiven by God made man, but the enthronement of our King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ!! (see also here). That ladies and gentlemen, is a far glorious reason to celebrate and rejoice!

 

Long… Eternally live the King!!


As our men’s group dives into the book of Colossians, we’ve come across the end of chapter 1 where the preeminence of Jesus Christ is declared over all creation, and over the church. This prompted me to look into what the Bible says about the church. Of course, the whole New Testament is about the church in a great sense. Nevertheless, this article focuses particularly in all the instances in which the original Greek word ‘ekklesia –which is translated into English “church”, is used in the New Testament. (click here to see the list of verses)

First of all, I found that that word ‘ekklesia is used about 112 times, of which only 4 times it refers to a civil assembly of people other than a church or body of believers. (see: Acts 7:38; 19:32; 19:39; 19:41).

The local church.

UntitledSecond, I found that of the 112 appearances of ‘ekklesia’, about 85 of them refer to a local church (understood as a body of believers that meet in a home or city, much like saying First Baptist Somewhereville or Nowhereville Community Church). Of those 85 instances, many are historical recounts, or directed to specific local churches of that time –some may argue, with some application perhaps to the local churches today. Nevertheless, of those 85, there are only about 28 occasions that clearly are instructions to local churches today, we find topics addressed such as dealing with Christians who refuse to repent, giving, proper exercise of gifts of the Spirit,   male-female roles, enduring in the faith, conduct, dealing with differences of opinion, prayer, and leadership and feeding the Word of God to the believers, (see verses here). Consider what these 28 verses are about and -especially, what they are NOT about.

The global church

On the other hand, we find 36 instances where the Greek word ‘ekklesia’ is used as it relates to the global church, or sometimes called by theologians, the invisible church, not a local organization, but the combination of all true believers in the world. Here I am defining true Christians as those who accept and believe the core doctrines of orthodox historical Christianity (that Jesus is God in a human body, that He lived, died to pay for the penalty of sin of those who believe by grace alone through faith alone; and rose again bodily, ascended to the father, and will comeback one day). Those who believe in this gospel would be the global church –the body of Christ. When we look at these 36 passages about the church as the global body of believers, we find that they discuss issues such as the unity of all believers as one, our identity as holy, separated unto God, the respect, care and proper attitude towards the global church as the body of Christ, the centrality and preeminence of Christ as the head, the glory honor, faithfulness and subjection that believers owe to Christ, the love, priority and supreme concern of God for His people’s well being, and the importance of ‘membership’ into the global church. (see verses here)

Now, perhaps a side to side comparison may help us to see more clearly the differences between the focus and emphasis of the local church, vs the global church:

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Perhaps you noticed the same thing I did. When it comes to the local church, most of the emphasis seems to be in conduct and organization. On the contrary, the verses that deal with the global church focus more on identity, respect, loyalty, and the supremacy of Christ over all.

Conclusions

The principle that this seems to show concerns me and convicts me greatly, as it seems to me that more often than not we seem to be more concerned and more militant for our local church’s identity, respect to, loyalty, and ‘supremacy’. Conversely, we sometimes seem to care more for the proper conduct and organization of other Christians, as opposed to our local church. In reality, maybe we should be more militant for identity, respect towards, loyalty to, and the ‘supremacy’ of the global church -the body of Christ, and less dogmatic about a church brand, church name or church denomination. Likewise, we might want to look more into the conduct and organization of our own local church.

Indeed, we seem to pay more attention to what are good reasons to leave,  and what are bad reasons to leave a local church (to go to another one), and not so much if someone may be leaving the faith altogether.

Often, although we say our ‘mission’ is to “make disciples [of Jesus]”, we actually seem to demonstrate with our actions, time and money, that we care more for our particular brand of Christianity or church name –what I often call ‘church franchising’. When a local church ‘vision’ (which is often and wrongly justified by Prov 29:18)  is taken to the level that hurts the people -the body of Christ, for the sake of human strategies, we may be getting away from accomplishing God’s mission to make disciples of Christ.

Although I recognize that this is not an exhaustive study and that the issue may not be very easily identified, we might do well in considering whether or not there may be some truth to it, even if in the slightest sense. I could be completely wrong… But what if…

Maybe we need to get back to finding out what the Bible teaches about local church dealings and abide to it, and give less credence to human and brand-marketing business-like strategies. Church might deal with people and money, but church is not a business, at least I don’t think God thinks that way.

Maybe we need to rethink how we view the local church in light of what is said and especially what is not said about it in the scriptures.

No local church is perfect, and as they say “if you find it, don’t join it or you will ruin it”. Nevertheless, maybe we need to rethink how we view the global church -the body of believers, and give to it the preeminence, respect and allegiance it demands and deserves. Likewise, maybe we need to rethink and refocus how we see, and almost worship, local churches and church brands. After all, among local churches, there is more that we have in common than what we differ. It is noteworthy to realize that historically, it has been when those walls of separation between denominations and local names have come down, that God has brought revival to communities across the land.


We just came back from an amazing mission trip to Brazil. We (the team) enjoyed and saw God’s hand working –often very miraculously, in the lives of the children, volunteers and our team. As usual coming back from these type of activities, we are on a high. We came from battle victorious, we won the cup, we made it!!.

Nevertheless, it would be an incomplete picture to enjoy the victory and blessings of the trip without sharing the spoils with the rest of the troops.

In the book of 1 Samuel 30, we read of a battle that David fought and won, and he shares the victory  -not only with those who fought alongside him, but with those who stayed behind ‘holding the fort’, those who couldn’t go, those who supported his campaign in other ways.

 .. The share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle. All will share alike.”

– 1 Samuel 30:24

So, HUGE THANK YOU to all of those who, without coming to Brazil, were just as much part of the team, and of the victory.

  • Thank you to those who gave financially and contributed to our trip.
  • Thank you to all of you who supported us in prayer –believe me, God showed up!
  • Thank you to all of those who stay home watching kids, baby-sitting, grandparents, friends, roommates and husbands/wives who held the fort while their spouses were out in the front mission lines. We could not have possibly made it without you.
  • Thank you to all who suffered being away from their parents, kids and friends, your moral support gave us the strength to go on.
  • Thank you to all who helped to prepare the logistics of the trip beforehand. That in my opinion, was a huge contributor to the overall success.
  • Thank you to all who faithfully give to Graystone Church.

Because of all your support, many orphans kids were loved in tangible ways, the Gospel of salvation was preached, physical, emotional and financial needs were met, volunteers were encouraged, hope was raised, policies were changed, local missionaries were recharged, team members were challenged to serve more and with higher levels of commitment

It was a victorious campaign, and you all who helped, were just as much part of it.

Thank you!!

If you would like to read a detailed day-by-day of what happened in Curitiba, the mission trip blog  might be a great resource.

fwsvvvv


Some people claim to believe in Jesus, His life and teachings, but condense it to just “love thy neighbor”.

They portrait Jesus a softy ‘get-all-you-want-magic-genie’, ‘on-steroids-medic-on-demand’, ‘anti-religion’, ‘anti-theology’, ‘all-forgiving-no-matter-what’, and ‘live-as-you-please-D.Phil.’-type of character.

But, is that what the Bible shows us?

Jesus loved, and showed what love is in God’s eyes:

He was announced as one who’s mercy is on those who fear Him.
Jesus loved as He claimed the prophecy that described Him both as a preacher to the poor, a healer, a liberator, and the executor of God’s vengeance, one who loves justice.
Jesus loved, since early years, as He showed himself to be a remarkable theologian and Scriptures student.
Jesus loved by resisting sin and temptation standing on God’s commands.
Jesus loved through preaching and teaching; although for three years He went around teaching, preaching, healing, giving and being an example of kindness, one of His close friends summarized the purpose of Jesus’ whole ministry as “repent and believe in the gospel”.
Jesus showed love by being angry with those who made God’s temple of their own profit.
Jesus loved by having open arms, and narrow mind about how to experience God’s kingdom.
Jesus loved by speaking of men’s evil deeds and people being condemned for not believing in Him.
Some say He forgave the woman found in sin, but told her to sin no more.
Jesus loved the man at Bethesda by healing him and also telling him to sin no more.
Jesus loved the leper by healing him and then asking him to fulfill the religious requirements of the time.
Jesus loved us by upholding the validity and reliability of the Old Testament scriptures.
Jesus loved by affirming God’s protective boundaries for life.
Jesus fed physically thousands in two days, but provided himself as the spiritual eternal bread for millions upon millions –if they would believe in Him.
Jesus lovingly exposed one man’s heart problem by asking him to give all he had, but seemed to suggest to most other men to work hard, make wise investments and use them for God’s purposes.

Jesus loved so much that He gave Himself so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Nevertheless, Jesus is so much love, that He won’t force anyone to be with Him who does not want to. Therefore, anyone who does not believe, is by his own choice condemned already.

Jesus is love, apparently not in our own narrow selective definition, but in God’s supreme big-plan and perfect definition.


The Problem: I was kind of saddened as I watched last night the first episode of Preachers of L.A.” (Don’t judge me, I was just curious). My problem was not with the show necessarily; Is this what non-believers think all Christians and ministers are like? Is this supposed to somehow help others to positively consider what God has to offer? Maybe for some it will. The hardest part happened as I read some blogs and news forums that showed how one pastor criticized the t.v. show, another defended his position, and little-by-little, all parties (all of them Christians, mind you) became more and more hostile towards each other… as the world quietly but attentively observed the quarrel.

Earlier that day, I was saddened when reading a Facebook post from Mark Driscoll that read: “When it comes to abortion, the issue is not choice. The issue is murder. #10Commandments”. The status was not the problem, but the comments and arguments amongst participants (not Mark Driscoll himself). The harsh words between defenders of abortion, opponents of abortion, and anything in between; hard attacks and words from Christians to Christians. It made me wonder, how many people would come to Christ because of this back-and-forth ‘conversation’, and how many more would grow even more disillusioned of Christianity –and Jesus Christ, because of it

Similarly, last week I was heartbroken as I saw, on the one hand, a group of prominent Christian leaders to put together a conference called “Strange Fire”, aimed to “evaluates the doctrines, claims, and practices of the modern charismatic movement, and affirm the true Person and ministry of the Holy Spirit.” –in many people’s words, to attack charismatic/Pentecostal beliefs. Of course, on the other hand, you had the Pentecostal/charismatics, who felt the need to defend themselves creating a blogosphere and cyber war camp where Christians of all angles met to lash out at each other…. And the world still carefully watching from their computer screens.

In fact, Just as I was writing this rant, I read a story about a Christian who didn’t tip the waiter, because of the waiter’s sexual orientation; “Thank you for your service, it was excellent. That being said, we cannot in good conscience tip you, for your homosexual lifestyle is an affront to GOD. [Slur] do not share in the wealth of GOD, and you will not share in ours,” the customer wrote.”

REALLY?? And that’s supposed to get the waiter to repent? I am sick and tired of Christians being Jesus’ mission’s worst enemy. Honestly, sometimes we seem to be ‘gifted’ in messing things up. Fighting, on TV, blogs, news forums and the media in general, as the world stares in disappointment and hopelessness. Isn’t there another way to work through our differences?…

What should we all do? What would Jesus want?

I understand we feel very passionately about what we believe –and we believe it to be a matter of life or death –spiritually and otherwise. However, aren’t we lacking a bit of wisdom and love in the way we approach public expression? Are we ‘judging‘ in a Biblical way?

I am not advocating for a watering down of the gospel message or condoning sinful behavior; sin is sin. If your conclusion is that homosexuality, divorce, unbelief, abortion, and preaching a false gospel/doctrine is a sin, fine! Believe it, preach it, and most important, live by it. However, let’s not ignore that lying, deceiving, hating, exaggerating to make others look bad, stealing, making ourselves God and taking His glory as ours, speaking harsh words to others, insulting, calling names, presumption and thinking we know it all, and are always right, thinking we understand the Bible better than others, and assuming others don’t read their Bibles or are not as serious scholars as we are, or are not honest seekers of the truth –or that they are not even saved true Christians because of how they act, it might be just as much a sin and damaging, as the ones we denounce. (I’ve been guilty of this myself).

We all Christians need to understand that just as damaging as sin is to humans eternal fate, so can be our unwise words and actions. You may think you are fighting or ‘exposing’ a false doctrine or erred teaching (call it baptism of the Holy Spirit, the end of the worldgiving to the poor, or even politics). Nevertheless, what if your interpretations are wrong? Hopefully being wrong wouldn’t make you any less of a Christian than the other person, just a confused one. So it may work the other way.

Remember that Paul wrote to the church of Corinth addressing problems of all kinds. Some were coming drunk to the Lord’s Supper, other was sleeping with his step-mother, others were suing each other, others had bad doctrine, abuses in the practice of gifts and all kinds of bad behavior. Although Paul didn’t condone their behavior, but rebuked it promptly, steering them to repentance, still Paul called them “Saints”. He didn’t seem to doubt their salvation. Their behavior was perhaps considered by Paul a result of ignorance and spiritual in-maturity, rather than evidence of ill intentions or false faith.

My hope: May we all extend the same grace to our fellow Christians (that is, whoever believes the scriptures are the Word of God and that anyone can be saved by grace through faith, by the resurrected Jesus who paid for our sins and gave us eternal life) independently of how different our views are in various secondary topics. May we all learn,  not to avoid controversy necessarily, but to be able to argue and interchange opinions in a way the outside world looking in says, “wow!, even when they disagree, they love each other in respect and kindness” (click for an example)That would get some positive attention! Exactly what Jesus would want.


Thought provoking encouraging facts about one of my favorite theo-historical topics: Revival.

Some historical facts about revivals in the last centuries (‘revival’ meaning not the special week long series of meetings at a local church but as the unusual awakening of interest in the things of God by believers and non-believers with effects that transcend local churches, communities, cities and even nations)

1. The First Great Awakening (1727 onwards) – Herrnhut, Wesley, Whitefield, Brainerd

  • 150 new Congregational churches began in a 20-year period
  • 30,000 were added to the church between 1740-1742
  • Moral results and changes were equably noticeable in society
  • Nine university colleges were established in the colonies
  • Early missionary desire began to emerge

2. The Second Great Awakening (1792 onwards) – Jonathan Edwards, James McGready, Camp Meetings

  • Began in a time of great spiritual and moral decline after the American Revolution and French Revolution, with the spread of Rationalism
  • The Methodists alone grew from around 72,000 at Wesley’s death in 1791 to almost 250,000 within 25 years
  • Missionary Societies and great missionary interest
  • Great movements among colleges in the USA
  • Up to 25,000 people at single camp meetings on the frontier

3. The Resurgence of 1830-1842 – Finney, Darby, Mueller, Moody, Student Movements, Missionary Outreach

  • Finney has a huge influence in the USA
  • Darby and Mueller have a large influence in Great Britain and Europe
  • Impact in Scandinavia, central Europe, South Africa, the Pacific Islands, India, Malabar, and Ceylon
  • D.L. Moody and the beginning of Crusade Evangelism
  • Thousands of volunteers for missionary work, especially among university students
  • Revival hit Japan in the early 1880’s, increasing the adult membership from 4,000 to 30,000 in five years (1883-1888). Also revivals reported in India, Africa, South Africa, Madagascar, Australia, Central and South America

4. Third Great Awakening (1857-1862) – Prayer Meetings, William Booth, Spurgeon

  • Businessmen’s Prayer meeting in New York with Jeremiah Lanphier
  • “Prayer Meeting Revival” – no great “names” leading it
  • 1 million converted in USA in one year
  • 1 million converted in Great Britain in one year
  • Worldwide impact

6. The Welsh and Worldwide Revival (1904-1910) Evan Roberts, Pentecostal Movement

  • Beginnings in South Africa, Australia, Japan; Spread worldwide with approximately 5 million converts
  • 100,000 converted in Wales in 6 months; crime rates brought down to almost nothing; police and law enforcement ‘out of work

Most historians and scholars agree about the two  common activities that seemingly sparked these outstanding waves of Christianity with tangible effects in society: Deep commitment to prayer across ages, denominations and interests, and systematic study of the Bible.

What if?
What would this type of revival look like here and today?
What would it take?

Imagine revival…


Sometimes Christianity is easier said than done. The ‘rubber’ is easy when we tweet the Bible verse, or propose to do this, or “from now on” not to do that, in order to please God. However the ‘meeting the road’ becomes a bit more complicated when it comes to applying those intentions to real practical daily life. Telling the truth is one of those areas I’ve been struggling with.

See, we know as Christians that we are to tell the truth always. In fact, we know that lying is an abomination and hated by God. It’s been said that there are “white lies” –mind you, this is said by people, never by God. But what to do when the hard truth can be, too hard? Too difficult to handle? Too politically incorrect?

With my kids: There are easy truthful answers to easy questions:

Q: “do you love me?; A:“yes”
Q: “does God still love me”; A: “Yes!”

But what about the questions to which answers I don’t know, or know to be completely, likely, or at least remotely, hard?:

Q: “Is it going to rain?”
Q: “will a tornado hit our neighborhood?”
Q: “will our sick pet survive the accident?
Q: “is my uncle Ben going to heaven?”

Do I give the ‘hopeful’ nice answer? (“yes, he is in heaven in spite of rejecting Christ”), or do I give the truth?: “the statistical chances of a tornado hitting our neighborhood –or our house, are so remote, that we don’t need to worry about it”. You may thing its funny or pathetic. However, this answer about the tornadoes is what I gave to my kids –perhaps in a moment of lack of judgment, and ever since, they freak out every time there is a little bit of rain in the forecast. Now I wonder if perhaps I should have said: “a tornado will never hit our neighborhood!”. And what if it does? What if the sick pet ends up dying? Will I then lose credibility in their eyes and doubt therefore that God loves them? What would the right answer be?

With adults and other believers: Let’s say that a friend of mine posts a Facebook status about a stranger making comments about how bad of a parent he is because he is feeding his kids with chips and soda and letting them run wild. He states, “Am I that bad of a parent?, I’m doing the best I can with all the stress of losing my house and all” To this, friends start commenting: “don’t listen to them, you are doing a great job”, or “you are a great parent!”, “you lost your house because we live in an unjust society”.

Do I go with the flow and say “you’re great, keep on doing what you’re doing!” or, do I address the fact that from my point of view, his overweight kids maybe at risk eating so unhealthy; that his kids are indeed out of control and need some boundaries and discipline; and that losing his house may have less to do with an unjust society and more to do with his unwise investments and decisions in the past? As a friend, I would want to help in his situation. In fact, I would hope my friends would call me up on areas they see I am failing and help me by pointing out my mistakes. It has happened, and I have and still appreciate that honesty. What would the right answer be?

With non-believers: A typical scenario would be when a very good person who happens to be a relative, a great friend, nice neighbor, involved citizen and concerned for the poor, is engaged and resolved to live a lifestyle that shows disobedience to clear Biblical principles and commands. Then they ask: “why can you accept, respect and support my lifestyle and personal decisions? Doesn’t God love me? Why not you?”. As Christians, do we do better by giving them a hug, inviting them to lunch and agreeing that God loves them (which is true) and expressing support for their lifestyles, and keeping “the relationship door open”? Or do we tell what we think to be the Biblical stand; that although God loves them, as He does anybody else, there are guidelines and consequences, and whatever else maybe appropriate to the situation? (along with the hug and lunch). Do we risk losing the relationship and being labeled as hater or judgmental or intolerant? If whatever words I utter, somehow misguide his perception and God’s view of the situation, and gives him a false confidence that ultimately can drive him to an eternal mistake –and painful consequences on earth, wouldn’t I be acting selfishly in not telling the truth? What would the right answer be?

Is telling the truth a relative subjective concept to be handled on a case-by-case basis?
Am I missing something?