Wednesday, December 30, 2009


I received the following response, disagreeing with a statement I made that true faith acts in love:

Good works are the *end result* of salvation. "We are saved for good works, not by good works" is a common quote.

Matt 7:16-20 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

Meaning, they *will* do good works based on what They are, which is a result of the work of the Spirit.

One of my responses:
The reason it seems that way is because I absolutely insist upon a life that is following Jesus if one is in Jesus, without excuses. However, if you notice in my teaching as a whole, I insist upon the following principles:

1. The Christian life is impossible for any human to live. It must be lived in the Spirit. In fact, I had a whole series just talking about how to connect to the Spirit and intimacy with God as the source of our life.

2. Sin is dealt with in the Christian life by confession and repentance. No one sin destroys us, unless we fail to surrender to God afterwards.

3. But no Christian should excuse their sin as just being "under the blood" or some such thing. Sin can and will kill us. It is perilous. And so we must do all we can to avoid it.

Thus, I see the Christian life as a partnership between us and the Spirit. It is not always natural, because Jesus insists that we do things that are not natural, such as loving our enemies, to live a pure life, submitting to evil authorities and selling our possessions to give to the poor. The Spirit may prompt us to do these things, but the NT calls it a struggle, not a natural process. We fight with ourselves, we fight with "common sense", we fight with others telling us to do wrong.

For this reason, both I and the NT say harsh, stark words about the lifestyle of love we are to live. It sounds as if I'm saying just pick up and do it, and sometimes I am. Anyone in Jesus already has the Spirit, it is now a matter of submitting to the Spirit and living in the Spirit. That's a choice we have to make as well as a fruit we have the opportunity to bear.

And I know this because I see so many people in the Spirit who make unloving choices. Sometimes they just need reminding of what the stakes are. That if they don't act out love, then they don't have true faith. Etc.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Is Suicide Sin?

A question I got via email. Nicely, it was given as a multiple-choice. But, as usual, I answered it with an essay:

Is suicide something that
a. shows that you are actually not a true Christian.
b. makes you lose your salvation.
c. neither.

First, you have to ask whether sin in general can make you lose your salvation. I would say it could, if you have a lifestyle issue that you do not repent of-- that would be Hebrews 10:26-27.

But is suicide a sin? My short answer is: it depends.

Suicide is rarely mentioned in Scripture. First of all, in a sense, Jesus' death was a suicide because he could have prevented his death many times, but refused to do so. To "willingly" go to death, as is mentioned of many martyrs, is a form of suicide.

And suicide is never mentioned in Scripture as a sin.

However, there are lots of issues here. First of all, what is the motivation for suicide? If a person is committing suicide because they "just can't take life anymore" then there are two ways to work it-- either they are a "coward" and so won't enter the kingdom because Rev. 21:8 says they won't, or they are depressed and not thinking clearly and so, ultimately they are sick and perhaps will be forgiven under God's mercy.
I had one friend of mine in high school who committed suicide and she left a note saying, "I just want to be with Jesus." So, rather than giving up faith, she actually committed suicide in faith and because of her faith, as misguided as it was.
Another aspect of suicide is loving others. A suicide is usually convinced that no one cares about them and they are almost always wrong. So their suicide harms a number of people, which goes against the basic law, "Love your neighbor as yourself." But, suppose the suicide is convinced that their death would bring a benefit-- like Jesus' did-- and so they think-- wrongly, usually-- that they are loving people by taking their life? Then wouldn't it be a righteousness on their part instead of a sin?

Is suicide an unpardonable sin? No, there's only one of those and Jesus says it is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Suicide is not that, so it can be forgiven.

So I think suicide depends on the motivation, which is almost impossible for us to guess on this side of eternity. So, for the believer who commits suicide, all we can do is pray for God's mercy on them, and give them to His hands.

One last thing: The early church never declared suicides sinners because they saw the connection between martyrdom and suicide. Augustine, in the fourth century, is the first one to declare suicide a sin, and he said it was because suicide is a sign of despair, which is the opposite of faith. But that isn't always true. The Catholic church, in determining that suicide is an unpardonable sin uses the same logic, but, again I think they're wrong about that.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Conversation on the Homeless

This exchange is in response to my letter to churches in East Multnomah County about the need to open doors to the homeless:

Thanks for sharing your findings, your concerns for the homeless, raising awareness and asking tough questions. Asking churches to open doors to house the homeless is like putting a bandaid on a malignant carcinoma.
I'm not a betting woman, but I bet there are more than 500 churches within an hour drive of Portland.
500 churches to pledge $1,000 dollars a year for 5 years, amounts to a pile of money. Get volunteer labor (habitat for humanity does) and donated materials . . . and build a "hotel" with one, two, and three bedroom suits.
Better yet, why reinvent the wheel . . . ask Habitat for Humanity to spearhead this major project. Instead of building 20 houses during the next 1-2 years, invest in building a major hotel for the homeless.

Sharon L. Angelique Tata, B.S., LPN
Grace Haven Counseling & Rtreat Center

Well, I appreciate your comments. However, life isn't as simple as all that. There are stages.

First of all, there are organizations that are trying to establish shelters, but folks on the street need help NOW. Tonight, specifically. And next week. Not whenever the powers that be see the need, go through all their committees, lawyers, grant applications and city approvals. For that kind of (almost) immediate response, the churches are better equipped to handle it.

Secondly, for the long term, it is a simplistic notion that to "solve" the homeless problem one needs housing. The issues are more complex than that. I propose a think-tank of both the homeless and those who know the homeless and those who know the systems that offer help to take the time to really look at the issues and determine what is the best approach to helping. And my guess would be something less expensive than a "hotel".

Lastly, Habitat for Humanity doesn't help the poorest-of-the-poor in the U.S. They help those who can afford low cost housing. For years, my family lived on donations and we could never afford what Habitat offered. I'm not bitter. I'm just saying that Habitat is working with a different population.

There are actually a thousand churches in the North Willamette Valley. If each church just offered support to one or two homeless folks, it would change the outlook of the whole state. If we would love as Jesus called us to love, the world would be different. If we would understand what the real needs are and simply meet them, then nothing would ever be the same.

Perhaps you are opposed to the "organized church" doing anything of substance. But when I call the church, I call ALL of it-- house churches, church plants, organized churches, denominations, liberal, conservative, whatever. Anyone who desires to obey Jesus has a command to assist the poor and needy, wherever they may be. And in every church, no matter how weak organizationally or theologically, has people who just want to do what Jesus told them to do. That's who I'm speaking to. Those who understand that love requires sacrifice, and loving those who are unlovely requires more sacrifice.

If you know of anyone like this, please pass my email on to them.

Steve K

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Grammer v. Language

This was originally posted at the Filmspotting Forum's Pet Peeves thread. It was in response to a person complaining about people misspelling "door jam(b)" and an ensuing argument about whether the spelling being changed is a good thing or not.

There are two ways of looking at "correct" language: the grammarian's and the linguist's. The grammarian's approach is to say that there are a standard set of rules that everyone needs to follow and any exception to these rules are improper and reasonable to be irritated at.

The linguist's approach recognizes rules, but understands that they are flexible. Language changes all the time, and whatever is most popularly used IS the proper use in that context. That there are different contexts for a particular language and what may be acceptable in an oral context might not be acceptable in written, or what is acceptable in a journal article might not work in a personal essay.

I, and I suppose FLY, take a more linguistic stance. The spelling of "door jamb" could be changing, and "door jam" is neither better nor worse, just different. An older spelling of "door jamb" is "door jambe", but no one complains about that change.

I suppose if the gammarians want to complain about the popular "misuse" of language, that's up to them (my wife is one of those, and it is a common unheated argument we have). But I choose to complain about people who think that the popular notion of language is the wrong one.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind

This was first posted in the Filmspotting Forum, under my own thread, called "The Spirited Away Memorial Kimes Family Thanksgiving Miyazaki Marathon" (go ahead, say that three times fast!)

We kicked off the marathon tonight with Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.

Someone once mentioned that it is a pretty long title, but with Miyazaki one must expect that occasionally, such as Ponyo on the Cliffs By the Sea.

Nausicaa is Miyazaki's second feature film, and the first that begins using the themes that reflect his later films, among which are relationship between humanity and nature, flying machines, and war. It is based on a much longer, more complex manga written and drawn by Miyazaki.

Nausicaa takes place a thousand years after human war has poisoned the soil of earth to such a degree that poisoned jungles grew up, insects became gargantuan and huge protectors of nature were created-- Ohms. There are a number of human kingdoms, but the film deals with only three, Tolmekia-- a war-like kingdom that wants to rule the others; Pejite, the sworn enemies of Tolmekia; and the Valley of the Wind, a struggling utopia that gets caught up in the other kingdom's war.

Nausicaa herself is Miyazaki's saint-- the ultimate peacemaker. She is frankly an ideal Buddhist saint, who communes with all creatures, and seeks to make peace with all. She is especially focused on creating harmony between humanity and nature, trying to heal the 1000 year old rift. Throughout that thousand years, the poisoned jungles and humanity have been warring with each other, each attempting to overthrow the other's rule. Only Nausicaa realizes that humanity would perish without the jungle and that the jungle can flourish under humanity's enlightened guidance. Nausicaa is somehow able to understand the true nature of whatever she is facing. Instead of reacting to a threat, she responds to the fear behind the threat. Instead of seeing the death of the toxic jungle, she sees the beauty of it. She works with the nature of whatever is before her in order to create harmony with all creatures.

On the surface, this film seems weaker than other Miyazaki. Most Miyazaki are amazing in the detail of the world that was created for the film, and Nausicaa is no different in that. But the dialog is less rich and entertaining, the colors seem washed, and the style of animation is not as fluid as other Miyazaki films. Part of this, though not all, is due, I think because Miyazaki is trying to communicate the bleakness of the world in disharmony with nature. War-- both human and natural-- has taken its toll, draining life from everything. At the end of the film, [spoiler]after Nausicaa's messiahship is realized[/spoiler], the colors suddenly are brighter and everything changes.

Despite it's weaknesses (including a truly lame 80s score), this film is one of my favorites of all time. Despite it's bleakness, it is possibly the most joyful and optimistic of Miyazaki's films, and it plots out the general outline of hope for the future. Other Miyazaki films may communicate that war is bad and that bad guys aren't really all that bad, but this film actually lays out what would need to be done to end war, to change people's hearts. It isn't childish in any way, nor simplistic, if perhaps naive. It communicates that self sacrifice, listening to the another's heart, boldness for another's good and some basic reasoning can create a path out of the bleak world.

Perhaps I like this film because it is very much a religious philosophy I agree with. Perhaps it is because Nausicaa is such a strong character that to me she is the perfect moral hero. But with each time I watch it, the higher my estimation of it is.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

An Open Letter To Muslims

Many are doing evil in the name of Jesus to Muslims
We are American Christians, whom many Muslims claim to be an enemy of submission to God. We have lived in the United States all of our lives, but we recognize that our country of birth has done evil against you, against all of Islam. The United States has destroyed the rule of two Islamic states, and is attempting to put in their places governments that have no desire to do the will of God. Some American Christians have tortured Muslims for little or no cause, in opposition to their very own laws. Some American Christians have killed Muslims for little or no cause. Some American Christians have blamed all of Islam for the evil of a few, although most Muslims would not necessarily agree with the death of innocents, and the military laws of Abu Bakr is opposed to such actions. Some, perhaps most, American Christians characterize Islam as a religion of evil, bent on violence and torture, when Islam is simply the attempt to be fully submitted to God in word and deed.

Jesus is not like that
All Christians claim to honor Jesus (whom the Qur’an calls Isa) as their teacher, prophet, Messiah and example. And yet the actions of these Christians do not reflect the life or teaching of Jesus. When Jesus was attacked by his enemies, he submitted to their torture and did not return torture to them. Jesus told his people to do good to those who hate them and to love their enemies. Jesus taught us to rely on God for His vengeance, and that we could depend on His justice.

Most High God, Holy and Beneficant, we ask that you would have mercy on us for our sin. We ask that you would make us like our Master and Teacher, Jesus, able to follow his way. We pray that we would be more attentive to his teachings.

We apologize for evil actions
Our Muslim friends, we have failed in many ways. We did not rebuke those who did evil in the name of Jesus. We did not pray for the Muslim peoples of the world, asking for God’s help for them. We did not love you as Jesus told us to. We oppose those who call themselves “followers of Jesus”, but kill and destroy and torture. We separate ourselves from those who proclaim the God of Jesus and also declare orders to oppress the innocent. We denounce the false prophets who announce that Muslims are killed rightly or that no son of Ishmael will stand right before God.
Most High God, Merciful and Mighty, forgive us for our sins. Forgive us for not acting and speaking like Jesus. We have sinned before you and ask for a way for us to stand before you pure.

Jesus will come to judge
Even as many Muslims teach, Jesus himself declared that he would come to judge his people. He said that when he comes, he will not accept everyone who call themselves “Christian” or who call him “Lord.” Rather, he said that he will judge his people by what they do-- he will look at his people and if they have chosen not to obey his commands, given by God, then he will declare before God, “I never knew you.” We live in this fear, both for ourselves and for our brothers.

Most High God, we do not want to see our brothers hated by Jesus. We do not want to see them destroyed. And so we ask that You would help them change their ways. We pray that You would teach them to stop killing and hating Muslims, but to treat them as friends.

Words of Jesus from the Injeel:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

“Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned.”

“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits. Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.'”

“Do not return evil for evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Monday, November 16, 2009

Warning: This Post May Not Be Suitable for Children

This is a response to a discussion on Filmspotting Forum concerning the use of the term "bitch" in the movie Dear Zachary, which a nice, older man is using to describe the female killer of his son. The discussion begins with a woman who said she was sympathetic with the man until he said that and it made her question his gender politics. Others said that the use didn't have anything to do with gender politics, but with the emotional experience. I pipe in:

Everyone has gender politics, whether they admit it or not. Nevertheless, I don't know that him using that term reflects his gender politics.

His use of that term is certainly uncomfortable, even as his rare uses of CINECAST! are. From his internal perspective, I would hazard to guess that he is using strong language to express his strong emotion. I don't think he usually uses that language, especially in front of his wife, but the situation, he feels, merits it. And that, I think, we can all agree with.

And he is not using the term "bitch" to speak of any other woman than this woman who was so evil. If it were a man, he might use the term "bastard" or something else that was stronger. Would he ever use this term about his wife? We don't know. If he would, then perhaps we could say that he is expressing something about women in general. Instead, all we see is the use of the term against the most evil person he knew, and so he pulled out the strongest language. Could he have been gender neutral in the term he used? I don't know. Could we think of strong language about another evil person that was gender neutral? In the emotional situation? I doubt it.

I think that the instant reaction against the term "bitch" comes from having it used against women in a more casual way. When Kirk Russell uses it in Death Proof, he is clearly indicating his gender politics (as well as his actions). So we relate the use of the term with this kind of sexist pig, who uses the term casually, to indicate all women. But with this tragic figure of a grandfather, I don't think it reflects on him that same way.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Leo and Leo


I'm so happy to have met the artist-- Leo Hartshorn-- who now attends Peace Mennonite in Gresham. It's an honor to know him.

Actually, Leo kinda looks like this Leo above here... At least they both have the long beard.
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An Open Letter to Portland Officials

A letter to the city officials of Portland, sent today:

My name is Steve Kimes and I have been a pastor among the homeless and the mentally ill in Portland and Gresham for 12 years. I have also led community meetings of the homeless communities in East County.

I want to thank you, as a city official, for allowing there to be discussions about homelessness in Portland. There are essential issues being discussed and I have hope that some good conclusions can be reached. I would like to make the following points that perhaps have not been thought of.

The homeless are citizens
Perhaps the homeless do not pay as much in taxes because they have no property, but that does not make them less than any other human being living in Portland. Although they are often labeled as “transients” that is almost always a misnomer. Most of the homeless were born in Portland and Gresham and consider this their home town. The homeless love their city and many of them do what they can to assist, even if all they can do is to clean up the streets of its garbage.

The homeless are dehumanized
Instead of being treated as citizens, the homeless are treated as less than human beings. To be treated as a human being, authorities must recognize that we have the same human needs as any other person. But the homeless are treated as creatures who do not need sleep, do not need honor, do not need nutritious food, and do not need human contact. Within the city, the homeless are treated like dangerous animals.
If any middle class citizen were rousted in the middle of the night, told to leave the home they were borrowing there would be a great outcry. Yet this is a common occurrence for the homeless. And if they dare to speak their anger, then they are threatened, ticketed, tased or arrested.

Homelessness is more complicated than houselessness
To solve the issue of homelessness, it is not enough to get everyone a place to live. Getting a house does not give someone dignity or freedom from the scrutiny of police officers. Nor does it provide a means of income. There are a variety of issues that caused folks to end up on the street in the first place: social disconnection, mental illness, health, addiction, and especially the need for paid labor. The homeless want to care for themselves, they just need the opportunity to do so, on their own terms.

The first step is making homelessness legal
In order for the homeless to receive their rights as citizens and the opportunities for them to help themselves, they need to no longer be criminals. As long as it is illegal to camp near the services they depend on, they will be unable to sleep well, which means that they will never be able to deal with their issues. The medical community, the mental health community and the military all agree that lack of sleep causes a person to become disoriented and make poor decisions. As long as the camping ordinance exists, then the homeless will be treated as criminals because of the tragedy of their lives.

Please allow the homeless to be citizens.
Stop Hobophobia.

Steve Kimes
Pastor of Anawim Christian Community

For more information about the dehumanization of the homeless, please check out:

Friday, October 23, 2009

Denominations and Limiting Jesus

Jeff Long posted: I used to think that Mennonites had a cultural identity problem because their name did not denote meaning, but only connoted it. I now realize that this is just as true for Presbyterians, Lutherans, Methodists, Episcopals and Foursquare. Their names don't denote any meaning either. These titles only have meaning to their members.

I believe that for those who grew up in a denominationally affiliated church it has become a pseudo-ethnic identity for them. I believe that members make adult decisions to be Presbyterian, Methodist and Lutheran because they grew up that way and it is their heritage even though their individual beliefs and practices aren't consistent with Reformed, Wesleyan, or Anglican heritage and theology.

We have followed in the footsteps of Europe and slid into a post-denominational era.

This raises serious questions about the roles that identity, historical heritage and denominational affiliation will play in church planting, evangelizing and discipleship.

What will it take for us to be faithful to the Anabaptist and more specifically Mennonite tradition now that our denominational names are societally meaningless and not useful in naming our congregations.

My response:
We should never have been about being "Mennonite" or "Anabaptist". We should have always been followers of Jesus as Lord. This means, in a sense, re-inventing the wheel with every baptism. What following Jesus in my context will look different than yours, and a homeless follower's life will look differently than a doctor's. Why limit ourselves to denominational titles? That actually limits conversation, rather than encouraging it. We should have more discussions about how we specifically follow Jesus rather than putting ourselves in a denominational box that limits our following Jesus to a stereotype.

Yes, it is good to work together, and it is good to be in community. But should that community be limited along denominational lines? Denominational support has borders. Mennonite money is limited to Mennonite groups, even if solid Anabaptist work is being done among the Presbyterians, the Methodists or, God forbid, non-denominational groups. Why should we narrow our focus to only one group of followers of Jesus? Are we not ALL one?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Tithe is Too Little

Steve received an email, asking, "Should we tithe or not?"

Here's my response:
My views are complicated because I've been thinking about this for a long time, but I'll summarize:

1. Jesus does not require a tithe, but everything-- Luke 14:33 "No one can be my disciple without surrendering all of their possessions."

2. Jesus doesn't request that money goes to churches but to the poor-- Luke 12:33-- "Sell your possessions and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven."

3. The early church received generous donations, which were distributed to the poor-- Acts 2:43-44, Acts 4:34-35

4. Some of the poor are teachers of God's word, and they deserve their livelihood for their work received-- Matthew 10:10; Galatians 6:6

5. Some of the poor are our own family, whom we have a responsibility to care for-- Mark 7; I Timothy 5:8

Thus, the Scripture seems to teach:
We should give money to the poor, first to our families, then to provide our teaching pastors a livelihood, then to the poor in the church, then to the poor out of the church. In reality, if we really hold to this, then we should have little money left over for unnecessary things.

I hope that helps.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Will You Not Listen?

Hey man, would you please send me biblical proof that we need to listen other as part of our spiritual growth...assuming its true. -Gordon

Listening to other believers is not only part of our spiritual growth, in a general way, but actually a part of our salvation--
Matthew 18:15-17-- The one who does not listen to a brother or the church is to be counted as a gentile and a tax collector-- one who is no longer a part of God's kingdom.
Matthew 10:14-15-- Whoever does not listen to prophets will be treated as Sodom
James 5:19-20-- The one who speaks to a sinner, helping them to repent, saves that person.

Also, forgiveness is not just between us and God, but is a process that includes the church--
John 20:23; Luke 17:3-4-- We are to be part of the process of forgiveness

I Cor. 6:1-5-- The church is supposed to be mediating between brothers

I John 3:15-18; Galatians 6:10; Matthew 25:31-46-- We are to be assisiting each other in need; If we don't we don't love God, and we will be punished on the final day

John 13:34-35; John 15:12-13-- We are supposed to love one another-- and this love is to be reflected in giving up our lives to each other

All of this is to prove that the Christian life is life in community. We can't ignore each other, we have to pay attention, we have to connect, we have to love. Our very salvation depends on it.

However, we do not just listen, but we also discern what each other is saying-- I John 4:1; I Thessalonians 5:21-22. Thus we need to check what others say by the word and by other believers.

So, in summary, we are to listen to other believers, it is a part of our salvation. If we refuse to listen, we will be judged by God. And yet, we need to have discernment in listening, taking care that what believers tell us is really God's word.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Abortion and Mediation

I have two comments on the abortion discussion in general:

I am often disturbed by the lack of understanding between the two main viewpoints. They are each based on a philsophical (NOT religious, unless you are Catholic) answer to the question: When does human life begin? One viewpoint says that human life begins at conception, and that such a human being deserves all the rights and privleges of humans. The other point of view realistically says that human life– as far as rights and privliges go– begins at birth. In the ancient pagan world, human rights didn’t exist until much later in the human development. So, philosophically, there are different points of view. For the first point of view, it makes sense that the fetus has equal rights– not more than– to the mother, and so both should be treated with respect. The second point of view, while honoring all life, gives preference to the mother, and all points follow from that.

The main issue is to understand that the point of view opposed to the one we hold is not evil incarnate, but simply a different point of view. If we react harshly to those who disagree with us, then we will never come to agreement, or even compromise.

And this leads me to my second point. The responses in the abortion debate in society in large has been so dramatic and extreme, that it makes discussion about the subject almost impossible.

Could it not be that Anabaptists, with concern for mediation and peacemaking, could open up this discussion to all, trying to understand the other point of view, even while disagreeing with it, setting aside the propoganda and seeing the true human feeling and compassion on both sides?

I have hope in some of the present discussions about public policy, seeing possibilites that both sides might agree to having abortions reduced by reducing poverty, and increasing opportunities for well rounded education about sex and contraception.

Judging the Culture of Oppression

Joe responds to Top Ten Acts of Oppression:
It seems to me that it is fairly obvious these are at the very heart of the things that offends God. I’m not too bothered about arguing over the other stuff - which seem to me like straining a gnat to catch an elephant.

For me the problem is that by existing I am deeply entrenched in a lifestyle which oppresses. Like it or not, people exist in terrible conditions so that I can enjoy a lifestyle characterised by the pursuit of leisure.

I can’t speak for God, but I honestly can’t see him blaming people for being within a structure they didn’t create. But I think he will blame us for knowing that our lives are oppressive and not doing much about it.

It is one thing to identify an evil institutional structure and quite another to work out what to do about it. This seems to me to be the great question of our time - if we claim to have something to do with Jesus of Nazareth, how can we continue to live like we do?

I understand your perspective, and I deeply appreciate it. It is one the main focuses of my life since as a teen I spend time in Kolikut (Calcutta) and Bangladesh. I am a part of a wealthy, oppressive nation, and what is my response to it.

I personally don’t feel that God is so much judging us for being a part of our culture, but is calling us to be free of it. Jesus isn’t in the judging business, but in the deliverance business. So when he told the rich young ruler, “Sell your possessions and give to the poor,” he was calling him to be free of what was oppressing him.

So, for me, the response I have to God is less in speaking out against injustice– although I do that– but in living a lifestyle that frees me from being oppressive, a lifestyle that sets me apart from a culture of leisure and spiritual and cultural narrowness.

Killing the Innocent in War

Regina responds to Top Ten Acts of Oppression:
Perhaps the reason a liberal democracy was such a wonderful idea was because people helping people was alway the best and most Biblical way.

If you were oppressed by Saddam Hussein would you be wishing America would not have spent billions of dollars to free you? That seems like it goes along with your social liberal philosophy. EVERY war kills innocent people, read about WWII but that doesn’t make it a waste….. Read Romans 13.

My response:
Every human is not only an individual, but a whole society, of thoughts, cultures and endeavours. Every human is a little piece of God. Should any society or group decide that a number of innocents are worthy to be killed, not by their own choice, then it is not only a tragedy, but a travisty. It is a disaster for a whole culture, if the death of innocents is so casually accepted then justice is turned upside down and we have accepted the Big Brother who tells us that the lie is truth.

I have read Romans 13. It says that a government holds the sword, not to harm innocents, but to strike fear in those who do evil. I have also read Romans 12 that says that we, who believe in Jesus, need not take vengeance, because that is God’s job, not our own. God himself will judge those who determine that the life of the innocent is unimportant.

Read Psalm 82.

The OT and the NT

Top Ten Acts of Oppression as quoted in Young Anabaptist Radicals:
All references are from the ancient Hebrew prophets:

1. Refusing to defend the needy- Isaiah 1:17, 23; Jeremiah 5:28
2. Stealing from the poor- Isaiah 3:14-15
3. Unjust judgments against the poor- Isaiah 10:1-2
4. Not assisting the needy- Ezekiel 16:49
5. Taking interest for loans- Ezekiel 18:15-17
6. Enslaving a people- Amos 1:6
7. Excessive violence in war, especially against innocents- Amos 1:13
8. Excessive rent against the poor- Amos 5:11
9. Accepting bribes- Amos 5:12
10. Turning away those who need shelter for a night- Amos 5:12

Daylight replies:
You are absolutely right in your scriptural basis against acts of oppression. I wonder though. If I posted a list of Old Testament scriptures to build a case against homosexuality, abortion, or to support such things as the death penalty and war, you might reject my list under the notion that we are New Testament people now. Why do liberal Christians have one list of favorite Bible causes and conservative Christians have different list? Both lists have a common source. Just asking.

My response:
I have to admit, that while I am deeply interested in the Hebrew Scriptures, I don’t often use it as a source of moral truth, except when it explains what Jesus was saying. Jesus (and especially his brother James) spoke against the oppression of the poor. However, the definition of this, he depended on the Hebrew Scriptures, just as he depended on the Hebrew Scriptures for the defninition of “porneia” or sexual immorality. So this list is in the way of a definition.

Also, although I know that there are “liberal” and “conservative” Christians, I don’t find that divide to be helpful. There are people who use the Scriptures for their own ideologies. I have no interest in them. I think that kind of interpretation of the Scripture is not only wrong-headed, but boring. I find truth in Jesus, and so Jesus is the way to interpret the rest of the canon. We understand him first, and then the rest of Scripture makes sense.

Two Jesus'

Folknotions asks on Young Radical Anabaptists: “the Jesus of the gospels, not the Jesus of theology” Could you clarify this distinction? Thanks.

The Jesus of theology is the Jesus discussed conceptually in intellectual circles, churches and Bible studies. This is the many “historical Jesus’” (although there have been many honest attempts to find the “real” Jesus), the Jesus of orthodox doctrine, the Jesus of deity alone, the Jesus who rules and who only loves in the abstract. The Jesus of theology has been developed over two thousand years, and has increasingly made Jesus, as a person, more philosophical and able to put in a box. Although this Jesus is arguably greater than the Jesus of the gospels, he is less “touchable” and more moldable by whatever concepts we find most dear within our own worldview.

Perhaps the Jesus of the gospels is more static, but he is more touchable, more realistic, and more difficult to conform to our notions of morality and reality. The Jesus of the gospels always challenges our thoughts and who we are. The Jesus of the gospels never panders to us, or tells us what we want to hear.

But the Jesus of the gospels is the one who looked with compassion at the rich young ruler. The Jesus of the gospels is the one who drew in the sand when asked for judgement. The Jesus of the gospels yelled at his disciples. The Jesus of the gospels insulted the Pharisees. The Jesus of the gospels cried to God to change the plan they had determined upon already. The Jesus of the gospels didn’t know everything. It isn’t just that this Jesus is human– he is real.

Jesus and the Bible

Posted by Tim N, on Facebook:
My awareness of how I read the bible has been strongly shaped by my experience of British Anabaptism through working Anabaptist Network. The second of the Anabaptist Network's seven core convictions is: Jesus is the focal point of God’s revelation. We are committed to a Jesus-centred approach to the Bible, and to the community of faith as the primary context in which we read the Bible and discern and apply its implications for discipleship.(read more from the AN) Naming an Anabaptist value as a "Jesus-centred approach to the bible" helped me to understand some distinctive of my own Mennonite tradition

I just read a book that talked about this approach to the Bible, but the Jesus he was speaking of is a theological Jesus-- the Jesus of the creeds. This isn't exactly an Anabaptist approach. The theological Jesus can just as well be a construct in our minds. The Jesus of the gospel is a real Jesus, one that we can disagree with at times, but one that is worthy to be acknowledged as Lord of our lives, not just the world.

Discussion on Death to Self

“The outflow of the Spirit depends upon death to self.” -Donald Gee

Phil replies on Facebook:
I usually know when the Spirit is at work because it's the direct opposite of what I think I would want or desire. It also speaks to me when the message is in opposition to the things of this world like money, security, luxury, etc.

Julie replies:
Oh yeah...whenever I have a knee-jerk reaction to something I know it is time to re-think my position...

Emmet replies:
Rather than "death to self," "life to self" - that is, the self choosing G-d's life. G-d does not want us merely to vacate and become a finger-puppet for the divine; G-d wants us to become better us's, in communion with him. This takes more than pulling the trigger. This takes ongoing active investment of our selves. Let the self live to receive the spirit.

Cat replies:
I am inclined to agree with you, Emmet (hi, nice ta meetcha!)Death to self-will, not self itself. I hear in Christian teaching and lyrics all the time the prayer to "disappear." But I wonder if that is really God's heart. God wanted us to be ourselves enough to give us the gift of free will. That suggests to me that there is a wholesome, holy self we are to lay hold of. I wonder if we are afraid of the freedom to be ourselves?

Apathy and Hatred

Apathy is the bedfellow of hatred. Both are equally the enemy of love.

Phil replies on Facebook:
Yes and apathy can sometimes be worse than hatred. I think God would rather have us hate Him than not care at all... or be lukewarm.

I reply:
Not to disagree with your basic notion, but the basis for the idea that God would rather have us hate him, Revelation 3:16, when it speaks about the church being either "cold or hot" means that either cold water or hot water is useful-- good for drinking or cooking. But lukewarm water is the only one not useful at all. The apathetic Christian is like lukewarm water, as is the hating Christian-- neither does the will of God, which is love.

Death and Suffering

My original post on Facebook:
“The outflow of the Spirit depends upon death to self.” -Donald Gee

John Johnson comments on Facebook:
I was teaching Romans a couple of years back and was taken with the theme that Christianity is about death. I love the quote, "When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die" (Bonhoffer). The "secret" to my progressive freedom in Christ seems to be tied to my acceptance of and submission to the reality that I am crucified with Christ. This leaps on into the radical doctrine that I am already righteous, not positionally, but factually. Unfortunately, the conscience "I" is rarely in step with the righteous "I." As this earthly "I" is killed off more and more, the "I" Christ has made me will show through more and more. When talking with religious people I love to point out that God doesn't want us "good," He wants us dead; and that is a much tuffer standard.

I reply:
Speaking of death of self, I'm beginning to realize that the main way Scripture talks about this is the embrace of suffering-- whether that be suffering for refusing sin, suffering from persecution or suffering for being in a place to preach the gospel. I'm still studying this.

John replies:
I'm working on suffering. One discovery is that I tend to avoid the emotional effects of suffering through "masking" so I won't feel the pain. It's a cop survival thing. But Jesus did nothing to mask the pain. He suffered the sufferings both outside and inside. Hence, under the heading of Things I Learned since Bible School in my FB Notes you read "Suffering hurts." Pretty profound discovery, huh?

Jesus, Not Religion

Gordon asks: When some says they dont want religion, they want Jesus. What are they really saying?

They mean they don't want organization-- they don't want anyone telling them what to believe about Jesus.

I can appreciate that, but I think that we all should at least be in conversation with the main traditions of Christianity. For example, anyone who denies the Catholic tradition without looking at it is poorer in their understanding of Jesus. Not because they should agree with the Catholic tradition, but because the tradition has been working through what Jesus means to them and what it means that He is Lord for 1700 years. That's a voice that should be heard. So "religion" is important, tradition is an important voice, even if it issn't the only one.

Basic Definitions

Gordon asks: What does it mean to be a christian?? What does it mean to be a God fearing person? What does mean to be truly devoted to Him?

Those are three different questions:
A. A Christian is one who has Jesus as his or her Lord. A cultural "christian" is one who claims some connection to God in the guise of a Christian worldview, even though that person may have no real spiritual life at all.

B. A God fearing person, literally, is one who's actions are changed due to a recognition of judgment. It is a person who is afraid of what God will do to them if they don't change their actions.

C. To be truly devoted to God is defined differently, even in different places in the Bible. Right now, my best understanding is: Treat God as the Lord of all, in worship, obedience, and belief and to treat other people as God's creation in His image-- with respect and care for their needs.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Should Pastors Plan Sermons?

A discussion under "Are Sermons Scriptural?" in MennoDiscuss:
a. Is there a NT basis for a single teaching elder in a church?
b. Were NT sermons extemporaneous or planned?

Of course, my opinions follow:
a. No. There is a basis for elders of a church-- whether one or more than one-- being able to teach (I Tim. 3:2). This might imply that the lion's share of teaching would fall on them, but not exclusively them. However, it is clear that within the church there were many different giftings and many people using those giftings in the church and many people had the same giftings and they all used them in public (I Cor. 14:26ff).
However, in order to prove that a church shouldn't have one pastor who does all the teaching, it should be asked if there is anywhere in scripture where this is not right. The only place I have is I Cor 14 again, which seems to indicate that everyone participates in the service who has something to say, but I don't know if this is proscriptive or descriptive. In general, I think that there isn't anything wrong with the practice, as long as the gifts of each individual are being used in the church.

b. They were both. Most sermons we have in the NT are extemporaneous, such as almost every example in Acts. However, Jesus had a set group of teachings that he presented in different ways in different occasions, but they were pretty standard. We have pretty much the same outline of teaching in Matt 5-7 and in Luke 6, in clearly different locations (unless you think that Matt and Luke invented the locations). Yes, there are differences, but the similarities are striking. Of course, Jesus also preached extemporaneously, but this wasn't his typical teaching style. When it says in Mark or Matthew "he taught" without any description of the teaching, we might assume that the teaching he gave in that location is presented elsewhere. It also says "he taught in parables in every place" in connection with the set of parables we have in Mark 4, which is almost the same as the expanded set in matt 13-- this set of parables he probably taught more than once.

The Wheat and the Tares (Matt 13)

Response to a discussion on this in MennoDiscuss.

I have heard it argued that this parable does not apply to the church, because the field is the "world". However, Jesus often uses the term "world" to mean the broader congregation of Israel (as we see clearly in John 15:19, that "the world" will hate disciples and in 16:2 "the world" casts them from synagogues). Thus, I consider Jesus' use of "the world" to mean the broader people of God, which would today include the church. So I think that today this parable is speaking of the mixed church.

This has an important application for church discipline. The owner tells the workers NOT to pull out the weeds, because they might, by accident, pull out the good plants as well. It seems that Jesus is saying that it is not for us to pull out those who do wrong from our churches. We teach, we train, we make efforts to mature and we protect the immature by showing and doing what is right, warning against the wrong. But who knows when the "evil" one in our midst might not become the one to repent?

It might seem that my interpretation here is in opposition to standard discipline passages such as matt 18, I cor 5, etc. It is not, however. We must discipline those who claim to be full disciples, making it clear to all the congregation what actions are acceptable and what not. However, this discipline is not supposed to be toward ultimate rejection, but ultimate re-acceptance. We need to take Jesus' and Paul's warnings about when we discipline those in the churches that in so doing we do not be judged ourselves. We must be gentle, we must be patient and we must seek the best for the one being disciplined. And, most of all, we must accept them at the first sign of repentance. After all, it is what God does for us.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

God's Economics of Charity

A response to the article, "Prosperity in Community"

Great article by the way. In it, you mention that "stewardship is frequently seen as increasing wealth for later distribution rather than distributing wealth for present increase of all."

How do you think that relates to the Wesleyan principle of "make the most money so that you can give the most money away." Or, put another way, "Gain all you can, save all you can, give all you can." And if we are go go against Wesley’s method, then who is to be the distributor of this wealth for the present increase of all. It seems the government, and sadly even the Church, is pretty poor at doing this.

Finally, how does this apply to those who find themselves in a position of service that also make a decent income (e.g. physicians)? It appears that one can have empathy, live in community, and have a strong income. However, the words of I John 3:16-18 still apply, and the prerogative then becomes "live modestly and give the rest away." Is there a better way?

Thanks for your response, J.

Honestly, I think that the number one thing that destroys ministry opportunities is th concern for a "decent income" or the attempt to "make the most money."

In Anawim, I have worked as a pastor and leader for 10 years without a regular income of any sort. My family had to begin as homeless so we could minister to the homeless. God is my boss and He is the one who provides us with everything we need. And He has. Abundantly. The more we worry about what money we will "make" then the less we are doing things for the Lord and we are actually serving Mammon, which Jesus said we cannot do both at the same time.

I believe that Scritpure teaches that if we have resources, then it is our just duty to give them to those who have need. (I John 3:16-18, as you quoted) And, if we do so faithfully, then God will provide all of our needs (Psalm 41:1-3; Luke 12:22-34 -read the whole thing!). So the economy of God is that of charity-- continually giving and receiving, and the more you give, the more you will end up receiving.

I am not saying that having a strong income is a sin. But the focus cannot be the income-- that is just feeding into the world’s unjust, uncharitable economy. We should never consider what one "deserves" as people who follow Jesus. If Jesus thought that way, he would never have sacrificed himself for our sins. Instead, we should think of the need and how, with our meger resources, we can meet the need. And then, out of heaven, God provides out of his abundant resources.

You are right, though. The Church, sadly, is terrible at distributing resources. Because, like the rest of the world, they want to build themselves up rather than meet needs. So who should distribute? The cheerful, generous giver who considers what the other needs, rather than seeing giving as an arduous task that must be done out of duty. Distribution should never be handed to the judge who surrenders a small amount based on a moral measure, however.

Of course, this brings up as many quesitons as answers. But I suspect this forum is too short to really discuss it at length.

One last thing, J, and this may apply better to your query at the end.

I believe that Scripturally, there are three models of giving that are all radical, and loving.

1. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. This is the model of live modestly and give the rest away that you mention. I think that it is the basic model you have presented by Jesus.

2. Live without possessions This is the model of the disciples. They didn’t give to the poor, really, but lived as the poor to give the gospel to the poor. They completely depended on God’s resources.

3. Shared use. This is the model of the early Gentile church. The early church, rather than selling everything they had, used it in community. Thus, if someone had a house, that house was to be used for the Christian community and had people in need staying there. If someone had food, they brought it to the community for all to share. We see this frequently in Acts and in Paul’s letters (I Timothy 6, e.g.)

So, although I think that the first model should be normative, all three models could easily be used together.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

God Is The Same

Question put forward on Facebook: "How do we reconcile the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament?"

The God of the OT is the God described as "merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness" (Exodus 34, Psalm 103).

The God of the NT is the God who killed Ananias and Saphira.

The God of the OT is the God who had mercy on Ahab-- the worst king of the northern tribe of Israel-- and didn't judge him when he repented. (I Kings 21)

The God of the NT is the God who does not forgive the one who has all of Jesus and rejects him (Hebrews 6; Hebrews 10:26ff)

God is merciful throughout the Bible.
God is judging throughout the Bible.
God is love throughout the Bible.
God is vengeful throughout the Bible.

Even as it is said of Jesus, so is God the Father: The same, yesterday, today and forever. He never changes.

Only our ability to respond to Him changes. Praise God that He sent His Son, so that we longer have to respond in legalism and judgement, but can now rest in repentance and His forgiveness!

Christian Pacifism 101

The strongest argument for Christian pacifism is the New Testament. The simplist argument is Jesus said "love your enemies" and then described that loving includes not harming, not killing. To love someone is to do good to them; to kill someone is the opposite of doing good (See Mark 3:4).

The reason why Jesus and the others didn't get preach against soldier's killing is because, for the most part, they didn't. They acted as a police force in Judea, not a military killing machine-- the Romans who did that work were sent elsewhere.

The NT as a whole argues against the whole miltary machine. Revelation-- getting back to topic-- is an excellent example. The whole book glorifies martyrs-- those who submit to death rather than have their faith be compromised-- and assumes that those in the military machine are those who kill the martyrs. It's a pretty fair assumption. But even if one disagrees with that assumption, we have to admit that those who participate in the society of the Beast-- the military empire-- and those who participate in Babylon-- the commercial support of empire-- are condemned. If we accept this as Scripture, we have to take it seriously and not just dismiss its radical notions.

BTW, the basis for saying that the early church was anti-military isn't based on Roman records but on Christian documents. We have martyrologies of soldiers becoming Christians and then were killed because they refused to participate in warfare. We have early Christian authors saying that participating in the military in unacceptable for a Christian. To see these sources, you can find them in Eberhard Arnold's excellent book, "The Early Christians."

Strength And the Christian Life

Discussion on MennoDiscuss: What do you think evangelicals mean by the sin of "trying to live the Christian life on one's own strength."

I think what evangelicals mean by this second esoteric phrase is trying to live the Christian life without the Spirit is wrong. The fact of the matter is that it isn't so much wrong as impossible. If a person tried to love their enemies, sell their possessions and give to the poor, do religious acts only for God's reward not man's, etc, it's just not human. So we have to have God's strength to help us do as Jesus asks.

The problem comes in when they say that we are doing something wrong by doing what we can. Look, if I can, on my own, not say hateful things about my brother or sister, then why shouldn't I? Is that a sin? We should admit that we can't do it on our own, that we need God's help, but to not do what we can... of course we should.

Evangelicals On Legalism

A post on legalism originally here:
And then posted on MennoDiscuss here:

The text from the article first, and then my response:

Few subjects have as much variation among believers as our interpretations of personal holiness. Many Christians interpret the freedom we have in Christ very liberally. They tend to run with their freedom and often pay little heed to Christ’s commands. These people focus on the love of Christ and the community of the Church rather than God’s holiness and doctrine.
At a deeper level, it is very easy for us to have a simple view of holiness because it requires little of us - if all we understand of the Christian life is freedom, our view is likely informed more by the world than by Christ. The sacrifices to which He calls us do not resonate with a “freewheeling” Christianity. A low view of sin and righteousness can mar our witness by blurring the distinctions between the Church and the world and open us up to the temptations of the enemy.
The opposite extreme is represented by legalism - the view in which personal holiness is of paramount importance. These folks go to great lengths to avoid the appearance of worldliness and take very seriously God’s call to “Come out from their midst and be separate. . .” Very little in their lives is free from rules and traditions, and they often spend a great deal of time and effort to follow them strictly.
Legalism becomes grievous sin when we believe that we have within ourselves the ability to attain God’s favor. Even when well intentioned, we cannot live up to the required standard. This leads us to judge others and ourselves by the “severity” of our wrongs rather than by God’s standard (that all sin is equally offensive to Him and destructive to our relationship).
A strong devotion to holiness does not have to be legalistic, however. Just as we dishonor God in pursuing righteousness on our own, we honor Him when this pursuit is borne out of love for Him. Jesus’ statement, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments,” sets personal holiness as an outcome rather than a condition of belief. His concern is not with individual sins but with sin (that is, whether we pursue Him or pursue ourselves).
Does the Lord want us to live in righteousness? Absolutely. Did He fulfill the law and set us free? Completely. But His command was neither “keep the Law” nor “be free”—He confronts us with something much simpler and yet so difficult that we can’t hope to live up to it outside of the Spirit’s enabling: “Follow Me.”
Spirit-led holiness motivated by love is perhaps the most distinctive marker of the faith; it is a picture to a dying world of the hope of forgiveness. Such an attitude is vital if we are to have the impact God desires.

Sincerely in HOPE of the Gospel,

J. Mark Horst, President

This is reflective of a common evangelical viewpoint, and I think it's really confused. Perhaps the author knew better, but didn't write well, I'm not sure.

He certainly starts out well-- focusing on obedience to Jesus' commands, saying that there is a place between complete freedom and a law based on tradition. And he ends okay as well-- talking about following Jesus and obedience as being Spirit-led.

But in the middle he certainly sounds anti-nomian (in opposition to any regulations). As if any individual sin we do doesn't matter at all in God's eyes-- God is ready to overlook that-- as long as we have prayed the right prayer or whatever that gets us into Jesus.

It is an issue with evangelicals that as long as you've done the right entrance exam ("sinner's prayer", baptism, four spiritual laws, whatever) and you're in the right club (name church here) then it's all going to be okay because salvation is based on "grace" not "works". What evangelicals are scared of is the accusation that they are saying that unless a person DOES something they can't be saved, which is the original Lutheran idea of "works"-- salvation by doing something. This has been taken more broadly as meaning salvation by NOT doing something as well. As if we could murder someone without repentance and not be saved (no one actually believes this, but you could put almost any other sin in place of "murder" and it would work).

The fact is, the NT does demand of us a certain lifestyle. Jesus is, in some ways, more strict about how we should live than Moses-- we can't look at another woman, not just not have sex with her. If we have a habitual lifestyle of sin, then we do not enter God's kingdom (I Cor 5-6). So to help other brothers and sisters not live that way, and to stricly avoid sin is not legalism, it is a part of our salvation.

The problem of "grace/faith not works" is the problem with just about any one line theological statements: The definitions of the words change over time and people don't remember what the original idea was. So theology becomes as much as a fad as music.

Biblical Legalism

A question was posed on a forum in MennoDiscuss about what the Bible says about legalism:

Biblically, that which we call legalism I think is discussed in the following ways:

a. Enforcing a law without regard to the needs of the other person. "I require mercy not sacrifice" Matthew 12

b. Insisting that one become a part of the law of Moses in order to be a follower of Jesus. This was the main discussion in the book of Galatians.

c. In matters not determined by Jesus, enforcing one's opinion or interpretation as legally binding. Romans 14

However, Biblical legalism is not a matter of not having a code to live by, because Jesus affirmed that we were not to murder, commit adultery, defraud, dishonor one's parents, etc. As well, he gave more laws such as to love one's enemies, to not be a hypocrite, to not judge, etc. There is a code for us to live by, and to say that all followers of Jesus obey Jesus is not legalism in a biblical sense.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Lust For God?

Is it possible to take sexual energy and direct it toward God? In other words, instead of using the sexual energy on masturbation, etc, is it possible to focus it on God?

Okay, a tricky one.

Sexual energy comes from a combination of hormones and brain activity that we can call lust. This lust is focused on a physical being and is tied into the sights, smells, actions and personality of that being. I don't think it can really be focused on God. It can be used for God-- in a marriage, of course. But the energy and the build up of pleasure hormones in the brain can be redirected-- with difficulty-- to act for God's kingdom, especially service.

There are three biochemical aspects to love: lust, "falling in love", and affection. While sexual energy can't be focused directly on God, the second two can. I have experienced this myself, but "falling in love" with God didn't last, just like it doesn't with a human being. But when it did, I was more focused on God and ready to worship Him than ever in my life. The important thing, however, is to not focus on the feeling but on God himself. Otherwise, when the feeling goes away, you feel emptied of God. But God is always there, always loving, always supporting, even if we don't feel Him.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Common Foundations of Isalm and Christianity

This is a summary of the main letter from Muslims to Christians. I highly recommend you read the whole thing at:

From 138 Prominant Muslims to Christians around the world:

Muslims and Christians together make up well over half of the world’s population. Without peace and justice between these two religious communities, there can be no meaningful peace in the world. The future of the world depends on peace between Muslims and Christians.

The basis for this peace and understanding already exists. It is part of the very foundational principles of both faiths: love of the One God, and love of the neighbour. These principles are found over and over again in the sacred texts of Islam and Christianity. The Unity of God, the necessity of love for Him, and the necessity of love of the neighbour is thus the common ground between Islam and Christianity. The following are only a few examples:

Of God’s Unity, God says in the Holy Qur’an: Say: He is God, the One! / God, the Self-Sufficient Besought of all! (Al-Ikhlas, 112:1-2). Of the necessity of love for God, God says in the Holy Qur’an: So invoke the Name of thy Lord and devote thyself to Him with a complete devotion (Al-Muzzammil, 73:8). Of the necessity of love for the neighbour, the Prophet Muhammad r said: “None of you has faith until you love for your neighbour what you love for yourself.”

In the New Testament, Jesus Christ u said: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One. / And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. / And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)

In the Holy Qur’an, God Most High enjoins Muslims to issue the following call to Christians (and Jews—the People of the Scripture):

Say: O People of the Scripture! Come to a common word between us and you: that we shall worship none but God, and that we shall ascribe no partner unto Him, and that none of us shall take others for lords beside God. And if they turn away, then say: Bear witness that we are they who have surrendered (unto Him). (Aal ‘Imran 3:64)

The words: we shall ascribe no partner unto Him relate to the Unity of God, and the words: worship none but God, relate to being totally devoted to God. Hence they all relate to the First and Greatest Commandment. According to one of the oldest and most authoritative commentaries on the Holy Qur’an the words: that none of us shall take others for lords beside God, mean ‘that none of us should obey the other in disobedience to what God has commanded’. This relates to the Second Commandment because justice and freedom of religion are a crucial part of love of the neighbour.

Thus in obedience to the Holy Qur’an, we as Muslims invite Christians to come together with us on the basis of what is common to us, which is also what is most essential to our faith and practice: the Two Commandments of love.

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful,

And may peace and blessings be upon the Prophet Muhammad

Responses to the Recession

I think it is time for the church to reconsider its politics.. I'm not advocating that we all try to get elected or take over the government necessarily. But I do think we might be entering a 1930's scenario where if we think things have been bad for the middle-class and poor through the 1970's, 80's and 90's, you ain't seen nothing yet. I know I'm going to hear it from those who like to keep Jesus out of politics (and I do still harbor many healthy anabaptist political hesitations myself) but I'm becoming equally angry with a church that seems more interested in building new administrative centers and benefiting from our MMA retirement portfolios (well, up until 6mo. ago at least), but seems less interested in walking the neighborhood, asking how people are doing and searching for real ways to bring hope and healing to those who know first hand what it feels like to search for scraps beneath the "master's" table. I've recently been inspired by reading about church leaders of the 1930s who searched for ways to move beyond insular spiritualism to both care for the poor AND passionately advocate for significant social change. I wonder if the coming revolt might need some committed nonviolent Mennonites who can help keep it nonviolent.
-Matt F.

I think, Matt, that you're barking up the wrong tree. I feel I can say this as a person who is deeply involved in my communities here in Portland. I personally think that the governments and corporations and banks are so full of their own self interest, especially in maintaining whatever status quo there is, that the system itself is unreliable. I believe that if we as Christians took over the system, then we would do no better than those who hold it now (or previously). Part of the problem is the structure of the system itself, whether that be the U.S. government, capitalism, the banking system, or modern labor being controlled by large corporations. What is needed is a complete breakdown of the systems-- which we will get when Jesus returns.

However, in the meantime, we need to do SOMETHING. I think the best option is to create alternative communities that can provide both an economic safety zone as well as an example to others as to how to act in God's economy. I am not advocating dropping out of the world, but rather calling on believers to have an economic change of heart. This would look like this:
a. Our economic insentive would not be to obtain more income or property ourselves, but to invest into the community. This investment would include money, but not be limited to that. It would also include property, time and labor. Thus, we could encourage others to think about every economic decision to be about the community rather than about individual gain. Each decision would still be made by the individual, but the incentive of the individual would be different. (Acts 2:44-45)

b.The economic gain would not be on the basis of reciprocity, but on a broad concept of meeting other's needs without obtaining anything back. A broad concept of need would include survival issues, but it would also include issues of respect, entertainment and inner peace. But, again, it is focused on what can give the community these things instead of individuals or nuclear family units. (Luke 6:30-31)

c. The focus of this economic return would be to provide the greatest amount of economic resourcing, not to those who have the most resources, but to those with the greatest needs. Thus, should all else fail, the basic needs of all the community-- including the poor and outcast of society-- would be met. (Luke 12:33; Luke 14:12-14; Acts 4:34-35)

d. Because all people's needs are met, the community will draw those who are poor and outcast, who are the most economically vulnerable. While this seems unsustainable, in a cash poor society, this means that the community will be wealth in a viable economic resource-- namely those able to do labor and time and who have the insentive to act in resiprocity for what they have received even if reciprocity is not demanded. Namely, a work force will be available for the community, which will make them a viable self-sustaining community. (Luke 16:1-9)

This is what we do in Anawim, with minimal assistance from our (more) wealthy friends in other churches. And, actually, I just read of a similar report in the latest issue of the MMN publication (forgot the title). In Argentina, many were losing their jobs. Since they didn't want to just be sitting around waiting for their next opporunity, many in the Mennonite church decided to create a food co-op, which provided for the entire community.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Asking for Money

If you were called to be a missionary today, would you ask for money? -Jake Ray on Facebook

My wife and I have been "missionaries" among the homeless for 15 years now, with my wife working one day a week on minimum wage. But we NEVER asked anyone for money. The Lord is our employer and so He pays our wages. We do not ask the government or the church to pay that which is His responsibility. When we get donations, it is because the Lord stirs people's hearts through the Spirit and He provides abundantly.

The church has a huge number of resources, both financially and otherwise. And I don't believe the NT teaches tithing, and even if tithing were great (50% or more) I think that most churches don't have their priorities correct. Jesus commands us to give to those in need, especially those doing His work (Luke 12:33; Matt 10:10; Galatians 6:6-10). But the churches seem to think that their main responsibility is a huge salary for their pastor and a huge building. God's people need to re-prioritize toward those in need, without judging, without hoops.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Homelessness in Gresham

Anabeth asked how homelessness in Gresham differs from Portland and who is involved in helping them. "I am wondering about the situation in Gresham regarding people living outdoors as I am only more familiar with what is going on in Portland. Can you please tell me a little more about it? Do we know approximately how many people are living outdoors in Gresham- have the numbers increased the past couple of years b/c of Mayor Potter's ordinances? I know that Eastside Foursquare Church there has done some things- are they empowering people?? Is it My Father's House that was just built for housing people living outdoors in Gresham- though I know that obviously not everyone is helped in a situation like that, people are still left out and my question for them is still about how their services are being played out- are they empowering or patronizing?"

There are basically three services for street folks in Gresham: Zaraphath Kitchen which has a meal six days a week, Anawim (showers, clothes and a meal one day a week) and My Father's House for homeless families. EastHill has been out of the loop for a number of years, but they are trying to re-organize their assistance. Right now, they are filling out Zaraphath so that there are meals every Sunday, and they want to provide socks-- which is what Anawim has done for years. But maybe this means that we can provide socks for the SE group instead.

Gresham is a different street experience than Portland. There is a lot more room for camping in tents and there is less dependence on services. The police are more consistantly active in kicking the homeless out of the city and there are people hired by the city to throw away people's tents and gear if left behind. So the homeless are more hidden. The only place they are alowed to hang out is Gresham Main Park, but even there they are carefully monitored by the police. Sometimes the police are abusive and in fact at least four homeless I know have successfully sued the city of Gresham for police brutality. Many more have been abused without suing. For all of these reasons, not very many people have moved from Portland to Gresham.

Homelessness has grown in Gresham, but mostly it is young people who have increased the numbers. When we talk about the homeless, the numbers are all guess work, but I'd say there's about 200 chronic homeless and someone has quoted to me a statistic of 200 young people on the street (That number might be a bit high-- they might be including those who hang out with the "gutter punks" but still sleep at home). A large number of these people live on the Springwater Corridor bike trail.

Recently there have been three groups wanting to advocate for the poor in Gresham. But I noted that all three of these groups were full of middle class churches and leaders who wanted to help the homeless but who weren't interested in having the homeless own the services. That is the kind of system we don't need in Gresham. We have a lot of strong, ready-to-work folk who would do work to support a service as long as it was a service they asked for. This was one of the main purposes of this community meeting-- to get the homeless involved in the conversation of how to serve the homeless. To get them to own the service from the ground level so they would own it and participate.

I'd say that My Father's House does empower, but they aren't dealing with the chronic homeless at all. They help families in crisis, which is great. But I note that Gresham-- East Hill in particular-- is willing to spend literally millions of dollars for My Father's House, but the chronic homeless get nothing but tickets and abuse. I think it is long overdue to have some services for all the homeless in Gresham, but I also think that to do it rightly, we need to draw upon the willing help and resources of the homeless.

Okay, you asked a lot of questions and got a long answer. Hope that's okay!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Hermeneutics (I Had To Look It Up)

Kim is confused....aren't the Supremes supposed to rule per the law/Constitution and NOT per the social and cultural mores of the times? Does NPR know this???!!!

The Supremes' job is to interpret the Constitution. ALL interpretation, whether the Constitution or the Bible or whatever, is based on one's worldview and cultural norms. This is why appointing the Supremes is so significant, because that indicates what cultural norms are going to be used. And the recent effort by appointees to say that they are "objective" and don't use cultural norms to interpret are just being disingenuous.

I thought the idea was to interpret based on the Constitution as per the original intent. But, apparently many think that the document was written with "wiggle room" for the ages to come.
As for Biblical interpretation, it's supposed to be done with a SOUND hermeneutic basis. But I don't even know if i spelled that correctly. Thing is, we are human and we sin, so there is human error, even with the most steadfast folks. No matter how much integrity I bring to Scripture, I am sure that I goof it up at times. That's one of the places His grace coems into play.
But getting back to the Constitution, if you want Supremes that interpret according to the way the wind is blowing at that time, you would definitely want a new crop in on a regular and more constant basis...they were talking about every 10 years...

The fact is, the term "sound" (and that other word which I use often enough but I also don't know how to spell) is also interpreted. Thus, our method of interpretation is interpretation. I want to use the interpretation of the apostles in studying the Bible, but that's hard to do, and even that is disagreed about. What about a secular document like the constitution? Every form of interpretation is just a form of cultural values

What is Fruit About?

just read gospel of john chapter 15, verse 8. it says when you bear much fruit then you are my disciples. i was wondering what is meant by "fruit"? i know the evangelicals think it means that we must bring many to making a decision for Jesus. i was wondering if it could mean other things in your opinion. i realize that the fruit of the Holy Spirit are fruit, but can we bear fruit of the Holy Spirit. i thought it was the Spirit in us that did that. not coming from us, but a work done through us, as we are willing vessels in him.

"Fruit" really means doing what Jesus said. We can see this clearly in Matthew 7 where it says "You shall know them" meaning false teachers "by their fruit." And he goes on to talk about good and bad fruit. The passage ends with two warnings of judgment-- one against false teachers who were "lawless", meaning disobedient and another warning about hearing and doing what Jesus says.

In John it's the same. Do the teachers who say that "fruit" is getting converts also think that people who don't make converts get burned in hell?
"I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.

6 "If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.

(John 15:5-6)

It's saying that all who live in Jesus has "fruit". If you don't have "fruit" you don't live in Jesus. And then you are separated from Jesus and get "burned"-- punished. All that for not having converts? I don't think so.

As far as the Holy Spirit "fruit" goes, love is borne is us as a result of having the Spirit. If a person doesn't partner with the Holy Spirit in having love-- in refusing the Spirit's influence to love and gentleness-- then the Spirit doesn't hang around. We see this in Romans 8--

"and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him."

Also in Galatians 5--

"If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit."

The fruit of the Spirit isn't just something that happens to us, although we might be surpized at the changes that occur when we begin living in the Spirit. Love is something that the Spirit gives us the ability to do and we, in agreement to be followers of Jesus, partner with the Spirit to act that way.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Mennonites and Anabaptists

LeeAnne asked if the Mennonite church supports Anawim and she gave her general support of Anabaptists:

I replied:

Some Mennonites do get involved, and Anawim has been an inspiration to the Mennonite church. I've just been asked by Urban Connections-- a Mennonite publication-- to write an article about our response to the recession. A local Mennonite church serves a meal once a month and sings hymns. And Mennonites have sent us socks, etc.

Mennonites are different than Anabaptists, really. The Mennonite church is the denominational descendent of the historical Anabaptists. Modern Anabaptists are those who are directly influenced by the historical Anabaptists. There are a lot of Anabaptists in the Mennonite church (I'm one of them), but not all Mennonites are Anabaptists and not all Anabaptists are Mennonite.

Friday, February 13, 2009

12 Values

I also received yesterday from the same person 12 values to live by. I had already made my own, but I revised it:

Freedom: To grant everyone the God-given freedom they have to make their own choices, even if poor

Tolerance: Accepting that others believe differently than I, while still standing firm in Jesus.

Responsibility: Whatever results from our actions, we resolve to deal with the negative ones

Community: In whatever community we live in, we resolve to live by those principles, even if uncomfortable

Faithfulness: To keep our word and our loyalties in relationship

Do No Harm: To never, under any circumstances, damage another unless for their benefit by their will

Golden Rule: Treat others with the same amount of respect, love, care, compassion, and consideration that we would be treated

Compassion: Putting myself in the other person’s need, and trying to meet it

Generosity: Never keeping anything for myself that someone else needs more

Self-Sacrifice: Meeting other’s needs even if it means to not meet my own

Courage: Standing up for Jesus and His gospel in all situations, especially with other believers

Hope: Trusting in my actions that Jesus is returning to rule the world

Nine Principles

I received yesterday "9 principles" that someone lives by. I didnt' care for them, so I made my own:

9 Principles:
1. The only nation without compromise is the Kingdom of God

2. Jesus is my chosen Lord over that Kingdom

3. Jesus is my Lord and I will obey Him over all other principles or laws.

4. God is my allegiance and I will work for and serve Him.

5. Those who love God will obey, work for and serve the Kingdom of God over the nations of men.

6. The people of the Kingdom of God are the poor and persecuted who live in Jesus, and those who unequivocally support them.

7. Service to the Kingdom of God is using whatever resources we have for those who have greater needs than ourselves

8. All true power rests in God, so to make real change we must pray.

9. No one has the right, in the name of God, to damage anyone.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Martin Luther

I also got a question about Martin Luther. The question is of the type which says: "What about Martin Luther?"

This is reasonably vague enough that I can pretty much post what I want to about the man. Below is a brief summary I wrote about him in my Biographical Church History, which can be read in The Faithful, a blog I created to talk about 20 followers of Jesus who changed the world:

But about Martin Luther: He was a great man, a hothead, a stubborn mule, a Bible student, a prolific writer, a professor of theology, but not a really great thinker. He really did change the world by insisting that church tradition be based on Scripture instead of money or power. He stood firm when the church wanted him to change his views on the book of Romans and the basis of salvation. And in trying to escape the inquisition, he inadvertantly created a new church and a new political map of Europe, especially Germany. He also wrote the first modern translation of the Bible into German, which is still used as an important translation today. But by the end of his life, he got kinda strange. Because Zwingli didn't agree with him on an interpretation of the Lord's supper, he agreed to a war between his principality and Zwingli's. Because the Anabaptists were opposed to his views on baptism and the state, he agreed to have his government persecute and kill them off. Because the Jewish people didn't listen to him any more than the Catholics, he preached the worst anti-Semitic sermons you could think of.

So, while he truly changed the world, I wish he had been a better follower of Jesus.

My chapter on Luther:
Martin Luther—1500s
No Salvation Through Money

Background Check:
In the late Middle Ages (1300-1500) much of the Roman church, which ruled over Western Europe, was corrupt. The Romans church was controlled by rich people, who taxed the poor so that they could live luxurious lives. The priests and the monks were the only ones who could preach, but they often did not know the Bible at all, only the theology they were taught by other priests and monks. And then came a practice known as “indulgences”—The church requesting money from people so that their loved ones would not suffer harm from God. In the early 1500’s this became a popular form of devotion, and a way for rich people to feel that they were “saving” their dead loved ones from harm.

His Story:
Martin Luther was a young man riding his horse when a lightning storm struck suddenly. He was scared out of his mind, and so pleaded to God for deliverance. After not being harmed by the storm, Luther decided to live with a community of monks in Wittenberg, Germany (The “W” is pronounced like a “V”). Although he lived by himself, his task was to teach the Bible and theology to the young monks.
In 1517, it became known that a caravan of the Roman church was coming to Wittenberg to encourage people to give indulgences. Luther became angry and wrote out 95 points (or “theses”) against indulgences and then nailed them to the Wittenberg church door (which was the community bulletin board). These points were well presented, written in German and they became printed on a new machine called a printing press. Soon the 95 Theses were all over Germany, and the church leaders were not happy about it.

The church leaders called Luther to a trial in another part of Germany, called Worms (Remember, the “W” is pronounced like a “v”). There, they accused Luther of teaching heresy, but Luther simply stood by the word of God and challenged them to correct him by the Bible. They could not, so they let him go. On his way back home, Luther heard that some of the church leaders were going to try to kill him, so he ran away and hid with some friends.

Soon, an important political leader called Fredrick the Wise decided to assist Luther and he kept him in his home and Luther was free to give Fredrick advice and to write his books—all of which were printed in German and were very popular in Germany. Luther also translated the Bible in German so that all the people could read the Bible. All of these acts together caused what was called “the Reformation,” or the worldwide challenge to the Roman church. Luther wanted to cause a change in the Roman church, but when the leader of the Roman church, the Pope, rejected Luther, then Luther began a new church, called the Lutheran Church.
Later in his life, Luther did not continue to follow the ways of Jesus, but advised Fredrick and other Lutheran leaders to kill Roman Catholics, Anabaptists (also called Mennonites) and Jews. This immediately caused horrible wars and persecutions to erupt between Christians in Europe for more than a hundred years.

Jesus also spoke out against the hypocrisy of people. He constantly said that the leaders of God’s people could not be trusting in money, but in God. And he was rejected and persecuted for this opinion, just like Martin Luther. However, Jesus never affirmed the killing of others. He recognized that people would be judged for their sins, but he held that God would do such punishment himself, and not support the killing of others. Thus, while Jesus might have supported Luther’s ideals, he would not have supported Luther’s ways of achieving God’s righteousness

Final Word (of men)
Martin Luther began a church named the Lutherans, and he actually changed the world upside-down. Because of his writings and teachings the Bible was focused on more by all Western churches and a new kind of Christianity was supported, generally named the Protestants (so called because they broke away from the Catholic church). Most Western Christians honor Martin Luther and his stand against hypocrisy.

A Word From Our Sponsor:
He who is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and he who is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, which will entrust you to true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? No slave can be enslaved by two masters; either he will hate the one and love the other or he will love the hone and hate the other. No one can be enslaved by both God and Mammon.
Luke 16:10-13

Beware of scribes, who like to go about in long robes, and to have salutations in the market places and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.
Mark 12:38-40

Helpful Hint: Getting To The Heart of the Matter
In every age, the church had a weakness in following Jesus—and often more than one! The Faithful saw that weakness and spoke boldly to correct it. They were never interested in dividing the church, but only to make the church more faithful to Jesus and His teaching. Anthony saw the worldliness in the church and sought to correct it. Luther saw the demand to live by unfruitful deeds. As we will see, Martin Luther King saw the favoritism and spoke against it. The church was never happy to hear this message—instead, the Christians of these days fought against the message of Jesus! But the Faithful never failed to bring the message their church needed to hear.

What About Prophets?

Someone wrote me: What does the Bible say about prophetic gifts (Bill Johnson style)?
Below is my basic teaching on prophetic gifts and discerning prophecy. Just to summarize, I need to say that prophets are real, that they hear God's voice and speaks to God's people. However, it is easy to dismiss all prophets because some false prophets get all the publicity. We need to listen to Scripture (I Thess. 5:19-20) , "Do not quench the Spirit" in other words, let the prophets speak, "but discern all spirits", determine what spirit the prophet is speaking with-- the Holy One or a false one.

What is Prophecy?
There are these people out there and they are obnoxious. They get in your face, and say things you aren’t comfortable with and often they claim to be speaking for God. Those who want to say something positive would typically say, “Oh, he’s a prophet” (inevitably, the prophet is a “he”). But just because a person has a “hard message” does that make them a prophet?
Not necessarily. A “prophet” in Scripture is specifically someone who has a message directly from God through God’s Spirit. This isn’t just a message from the Bible or a rewriting of a Bible text. It is something one hears from God directly. Not everyone hears God’s voice in the church, nor does everyone who hears God’s voice necessarily have to speak his messages to others. But a prophet receives a message from God and then he or she must go and speak it to the ones God commanded them to tell. Prophecies could be in dreams, visions, voices or just listening to a silent voice. But it is clear, and it is clearly from God.

Do We Need Prophecies?
The Bible says we do. God often spoke to prophets in the past, and Moses exclaimed, “I wish that all of God’s people would be prophets!” (Numbers 11:29). All of Jesus’ followers receive God’s spirit and all of them have something from God’s spirit to share with others (I Corinthians 12:3-4). Some people are led by the Spirit to serve, others to give, others to teach. Prophecy is one of those “gifts” that some have received from the Spirit.
While prophecies are uncomfortable for many, Paul says that prophecy is essential. He calls it the most essential work of the Spirit for the community of believers. Why? Prophecy, more than any other service to the church, can point out the weaknesses and the issues the Lord wants a particular congregation to work on. The Lord can speak both encouragement and rebuke clearly and immediately without confusion or as many interpretation problems.

How should we respond to a prophet?
If a prophet has a message to give to a church, they should be allowed to do so. This may not be comfortable for many, but Scripture tells us clearly not to “quench the Spirit or despise prophetic utterances.” (I Thessalonians 5:19-20). Prophecy may be a hard pill to swallow, but it is necessary from the Spirit. Such a prophecy should be shared at an appropriate time determined by the leader of the worship time, so any prophet should ask for an opportunity to speak and not be upset if they are asked to wait. Only two or three prophecies per service so that others may share what they have from the Lord as well (I Corinthians 14:29-33). The prophet should speak the exact words of the prophecy and allow the people to test and interpret the prophecy. “No prophecy is of private interpretation” says the Scripture, so the prophet should not interpret the prophecy themselves before they give it to the congregation (I Peter 1:20).

Testing the spirits
After a prophecy has been given, then the spirit of the prophet must be tested. There are many spirits, and not all are the Holy Spirit come from God. We must test every word we receive from a spirit.
We can know if a message is not from the Spirit of God if:
• It encourages people to sin
• It encourages people away from the God of Jesus (Deuteronomy 13)
• It slanders someone with an evil act that is not already publicly known. (Matthew 18:15)
• It serves the personal interests of the prophet.
• It is a message to the whole people of God, but only one group of God’s people has received it. (I Corinthians 14:36)
Another indication that a prophet is sent from God is if they speak a prophecy about a future event, and the prophecy does not come true as stated. If a prophet is inaccurate about the future, then Scripture says “You need not fear that one.” This means that they are not a true prophet from God (Deuteronomy 18:22)
However, a prophecy is more likely true if:
a. The prophet is humble before the Lord and God’s people, and shares with love and gentleness. (Galatians 5:22-23)
b. The message the prophet shares is accurate with the Bible. It does not have to be accurate with popular theology, but it must be accurate with the message of Jesus in the New Testament. (John 14:26)
c. The message leads people to godly repentance, drawing them closer to a relationship with the Lord.

How should we respond to Prophecy?
If a prophecy and the prophet has been tested and has passed, then the word of the Lord is to “fear that prophet”. We must do as the prophecy says. We do not need to tell other people to obey the prophecy, unless they were given it personally. But we need to do it, for it is the word of the Lord for us. If we do not listen to the prophet who spoke truly, the Lord will judge us for not listening to Him. (Deuteronomy 18:18-19; Ezekiel 3:19)