Question #1: Dear Bob, So, I decided against the ministry opportunity that was available to me. It is easy to think that everything done for or with the church is "good" and everything done in or without the church is "lesser". But, I realized that I am not as mature a believer as I want to be before I become a formal leader. Informally, I have no problem hosting a bible study etc. In declining this opportunity, I sought out the counsel of two of the Pastors at the church I now attend to see if they would help me grow and mature in the faith. One of them, my worship Pastor, continually encouraged disclosure and authenticity in relationships, and wanted to know more about my background. I shared some of my story, including some difficult and painful things, and issues that I am still learning how to apply the blood of Christ consistently. I was horrified when I was told by her that I was no longer able to be on the worship team, and that I need to work on myself before leading others. I was aghast. As I read through the bible, I see stories about David, a giant killer, and adulterer, and king. Then I read about the thorn in Paul's flesh….still there, but still ministering. I am deeply, deeply sorrowful and almost angry at the response I got when I shared my past. I am so disheartened. I have so much to offer if someone will take it! I feel like I have a present to give someone, but they don't want it. Right now, I know that God is working for my good and He can and will make a way for me. He is the one who endowed me with the gifts I have, and I know He wouldn't want to see them atrophy from disuse. I have to believe that. And I know that He uses wounded healers all the time. The sad thing is that it is these kinds of experiences that prevent people from being authentic and honest in the first place! Do you think people should be authentic when they suspect an outcome like mine, or is evasiveness ever a correct approach? Again, I thank you so much for your ministry. It is so nice to have someone to ask questions and to know that the truth matters so much to you. I pray that God will favor your ministry in such a way as to have maximum impact for the kingdom, and that He will bless you for your dedication to learning and teaching His word. Also, thanks for your continuing encouragement. My biggest desire in life is to help others find their God-given purpose. But I think you have already found yours, and that encourages me.
Response #1: Your experience in this incident epitomizes in many ways the reasons why I find almost all of contemporary "church-visible" Christianity so very distasteful. Rather than devoting themselves to the study and teaching of the Word of God, with very, very few exceptions those involved in the professional ministry today are really mostly about money, status, and numbers (with everything else really being only "window-dressing"). I would like to think that there is something that distinguishes them from the Pharisees of Jesus' day, but the comparison is becoming more apt with every passing day. To tell you the truth, I have a hard time regularly attending any church because it makes me absolutely sick to my stomach. Some of my friends from seminary who have likewise declined to get caught up in the style over substance version of consumer "Christianity" that passes today for following Jesus have had exactly the same sort of experiences. There are reasons why this ministry takes place "outside the gate". First, because it is not welcome inside. But I think also importantly because there are so few Christians who are genuinely interested in the Word left inside. It may sound harsh, but I have been testing this hypothesis in one way or another for at least the last forty years, and always get the same result. It also lines up perfectly with what scripture has to say about the nature of the Church and church-visible on the threshold of the Tribulation (see the link: "Laodicea").
So while I would like to be able to say that I am surprised that someone like yourself who, from our correspondence, gives every impression of being not only a genuine Christian in the full sense of that word, but also highly motivated to draw closer to Jesus and help others do the same, finds herself in the process of being shut out. Indeed, I rather expected this when you first told me about it. I don't know anything about your church, but nowadays the name, the denomination, the flavor of the "doctrine" really aren't that informative. All one has to do in most cases is to scratch the surface to find out that a particular church (and increasingly this is true of them all) is really very little concerned with the Word of God. Once a church has cast itself adrift from the moorings of truth (and from any true desire to navigate by the truth), then it becomes in practice little more than a cult. Granted, it may be a very mild form of cult, and it may not entirely ruin a person's life, but involvement in churches where true growth is impossible is always spiritually debilitating at the very least. The best one can say is that for the vast majority of lukewarm Christians and pseudo-Christians who inhabit most local churches today, there isn't really very much spirituality to debilitate in the first place.
I could go on in this vein for some time but I will restrict myself to one observation. Cults are very big on controlling people. That is their bread and butter. You can't get a normal person to "drink the Kool-aid" immediately. First there must be a process of undermining the person's free will. Mind-control is really a fairly easy proposition when you're talking about a person's religion, at least in the case of anyone who truly believes in God, but also for any and all who are seeking security through membership (i.e., "Institutional Security"; please see the link). After that person becomes convinced that the church/group and its leaders really do speak for God, then the sky is the limit. "Respectable" churches have to go slower on this front because 1) they dare not compromise their aura of respectability, and 2) they are usually dealing with a somewhat less emotionally "needy" clientele than is the case in more brazen, out-and-out cults. But one of the best "tricks" that so-called Christian groups and churches have is "spill your guts". The Roman Catholic church has, of course, used this trick to the greatest advantage for centuries (i.e., the confessional). Scripture doesn't tell us to share our innermost thoughts or confide our sins and sinfulness in others (unless we have genuinely wronged somebody else, in which case we are to approach them personally in search of reconciliation — that is the real meaning of James 5:16). There is such a thing as church discipline, but that is to be practiced with much care and circumspection by leadership and involves outrageous behavior currently and unrepentantly underway which constitutes a threat to the congregation at large. There is no way that the leadership of the church needs to know the full "sin-history" and "failure-history" and "temptation-history" of everyone in their congregation (what about the leaders' history!?). Basic Christian common-sense should alert us to the fact that this sort of intrusive practice has bad "written all over it". But, believe me, I understand how difficult it is to resist direct requests along these lines from people in church authority you think you know and think you can trust. On the one hand you want to comply with authority; on the other hand there is something comforting in handing over your all those skeletons in your closet to somebody else. I have seen it. I have experienced it. And it always has the same result eventually, no matter how much time passes: either 1) the person becomes enslaved to the confessor's will, or 2) the person realizes in time they've "been had" and escapes, generally by separating from the "fellowship" entirely. In-between these two ultimate outcomes, things are always very uncomfortable. For once "leaders" of this sort know your secrets, they have power over you. And once they have power over you, you are putty in their hands (as long as you stay in their power-sphere). Now nothing in the Bible tells me as a pastor or teacher or minister of any sort that it is their job to get at those secrets and past sins and failures we all have and universally so. In fact, basic spiritual common-sense tells me that we shouldn't even want to know anything about those sort of secrets in the case of others (any more than we want to "share" ours), and that seek to learn this sort of information is to violate very clear personal boundaries. Intruding on this area of the individual believer's privacy and their relationship to the Lord, can only result in bad things happening.
We are told to confess our sins – to the Lord (1Jn.1:9). He is the One we are here to please, and He is the One who will discipline us when we and if we fail (see the link: "The fact and purpose of divine discipline"). He is the One who trains us; He is the One who forgives us, having died for our sins. Since He is our High Priest and we share that priesthood, we have no need of some other human intermediary (1Pet.2:4-10; Rev.1:5-6; cf. Heb. chap.1-9; and see the link: "Access and Intercession"). And there is no one, absolutely no one, who has not sinned, has not failed, does not have "skeletons in the closet" of one sort or another. I cannot think of anything more outrageous or more likely to call down divine disapproval than a person setting themselves up as "perfect" (or nearly so for all intents and purposes as the one passing judgment) while casting everyone else into the ranks of "those who need my help" in terms of addressing personal behaviors, past, present, and future.
And it is not as if this un-biblical and invasive process will even help us. To really change, we have to change from the inside out for that change to be legitimate, meaningful and real, for the change to "take". It requires spiritual growth through the time-tested process of hearing, learning, believing and applying the truth of the Word of God, which in turn requires some source of solid, orthodox teaching. Emotional manipulation addresses symptoms at best. At worst, it isn't really even designed to straighten people out in truth (although if a patina of righteousness can be worked up by the one being counseled that may be useful to the manipulator). Really, such activities are designed to control sheep for the purpose of fleecing them. A controlled sheep will keep coming, keep giving, keep applauding, keep doing anything and everything the manipulator wants – until they are used up. Then they are easy to discard. After being emotionally (and often financially) destroyed, they won't be much of a threat when and if they finally come to their senses.
No doubt your church is not so obviously involved in the extremes of the activity I outline above so as to be anything more than mildly dangerous. No doubt the people who are in leadership are not "consciously" plotting to control people. No doubt it is just that they have little regard for scripture, little regard for the Lord (despite conspicuous displays of emotion – almost always a sign of little true regard), and are just caught up in "building the church" (numbers, money, status, etc.). But in the end, it really is only a matter of degrees if we are being influenced by Satan a little or a lot (especially if we are playing his game either way). It is all the same troubling problem whether we know we are working for the devil or are only doing so out of a large measure of spiritual ignorance.
I think it is clear that you have a good heart and genuinely want to serve the Lord. The fact that you are not perfect and that you past is not pristine merely makes you the same as absolutely everyone else. The fact that you admit it only makes you honest.
I would encourage you to see this as an opportunity rather than a setback. I am very reluctant to give specific advice because I don't believe in that in principle, and because I could never know all the facts. But it could be that the Lord is using this extreme conflict between what you thought you knew about your church and what the reality might be to make you reevaluate at least. It is very easy to get sucked into organizations, and more so for some than others. We make friends. We become familiar. We find it easy to coast on their momentum rather than trying to generate our own. But if that momentum is taking us to a bad place rather than a good one, we need to get off the bus. For in the end, we are here to please and serve our Lord, and that is often not the same things as pleasing and serving a man-made organization. And we should never make the horrible mistake of coming to believe that our salvation or spiritual welfare depends on some organization. When we buy that bill of goods (and plenty are aggressively selling it), we are in jeopardy of losing both.
Before we can save others, we have to see to our own salvation. Before we can help others, we have to get the help we need to grow spiritually ourselves. Whatever answers you need are all out there – in God – accessed through Bible reading, Bible study, prayer, application of the truth to life, and service when ready to serve.
Keep fighting the good fight of faith. The evil one will continue to resist every positive step you make, but, as in this case, God has a way of taking what seem to be defeats and turning them into the most incredible victories.
In the dear Lord we love and are here to serve, our Savior Jesus Christ.
Wow. I really appreciate your clear and powerful understanding. Unconsciously, I feel the same. But I never allowed my thoughts to become fully conscious because it led to such extremes levels of cognitive dissonance that I didn't know what to do. I took the easy way out, and searched the Bible for a scripture I could (mis) apply to make myself feel better. It was something like God gave them the authority so submit…..
Sadly, I just caught my worship Pastor in a big lie, telling one thing to me and another to someone else who repeated the different story to me. I am finding more and more that my trust needs to rest solely in Jesus and the word, because as you so eloquently said, whether a little or a lot, all humans are influenced by the evil one.
Also interesting, we are in the beginning of a campaign right now to raise millions for a new expansive worship center, a camp for kids and a recovery house. But I want to send my money to an orphanage in Africa that cares for infants with aids. You would not believe the pressure I got to instead give my money to the church for its specific goals. I really feel that God is giving me the desire of my heart in helping me to serve children, either through my own direct involvement or through providing resources. I was uncomfortable with the pressure, but was able to withstand it fine, as my sense of rightness in this specific situation was strong. God has given me so much when I needed him, and have extra. I love being a friend to the friendless, especially kids and the elderly. How is it better (in God's economy) for me to refrain from ministry the 95% of the time if I am able to do it? It can't possibly be true!
I am sorry, I don't yet know the bible as well as I should, but the verse "confess your sins one to another that you may be healed", is that one of the ones you referenced below? What exactly did you mean about confessing our sins to each other only when we sin against them? All I know Bob, is that I don't want this situation to lead me to cynicism. One of the things I like best about myself is my child-like enthusiasm for life and an innocence that is uncommon today at my age (I'm 36). I will continue to serve the Lord where planted in every possible opportunity and pray for those in leadership of my church to see what it is they do. Can you imagine how Jesus must feel watching our world? Even those who make it their life work mess it up. If nothing else, this is surely more proof that we need Him more than ever. I know that God will use this to increase my knowledge and strengthen my dependence on Him and Him alone. Thank you for your time and insight. God bless you today.
You're very welcome. I very much appreciate your enthusiasm for the Lord and would also not wish to see it dampened by people. It is a very common phenomenon for Christians to get burned by other "Christians" and blame it on God (in effect, since such experiences often result in them turning away from Him to one degree or another). This is especially common when the fault or perceived fault lies with someone in ministry.
Yes, the James 5 passage is the passage I was referring to. It is often taken to mean that we are supposed to regularly confess our sins to other Christians, but this disregards the context of a person who is under the sin unto death and the audience composed of elders. James 5:16 would agree in substance with what Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:23-24 about "getting right" with our fellow believers who have something legitimate against us before we come to worship God (please the see the link: "Public Confession of Sins").
I know the Lord is leading you into something good in terms of ministry. Just keep growing, wait on Him, and He will surely bring it to pass.
In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Will the Jews go to heaven who denied that Jesus was the son of God although they were his chosen people and still today look for his first coming?
Two things we can say about this up front are
1) Jesus is the only way to salvation (Jn.14:6a); no one can get to heaven without faith in Him (Jn.14:6b); therefore since His first advent and death on the cross for us, salvation is in no one else and His is the only Name by which salvation can be had (Acts 4:12; cf. Jn.6:40).
2) only God can know the heart of anyone; the rest of us can only guess (cf. 1Sam.16:7).
The second principle above is particularly important in light of the present state of events in God's working out of human history. We find ourselves on the threshold of the end times, and that has very definite implications for your question. During the Tribulation there will be a large number of Jews who respond to the ministry of the 144,000 Jewish evangelists (see the links: "The Sealing of the 144,000" in Coming Tribulation 2B; and "The Two Witnesses" in Coming Tribulation part 3A); and at the end of the Tribulation, when Christ returns, a large number of Jews who are at that point unbelievers will indeed put their faith in Christ as they witness with their own eyes the return of the true Messiah (e.g., Zech.12:10-14; Rev.1:7; cf. Ezek.20:34-38).
So to apply this directly to your question, zeal for God without knowledge may be admirable (cf. Rom.10:2), but it does not satisfy the need to honor the Father through accepting the gift of His Son through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ (cf. Jn.5:22-23). However, one should not count out anyone while they are still alive - our God is a God of mercy and miracles. And this reservation of judgment is especially important in our time, since it is more than possible that, no matter what else might happen in the course of a normal life, any unbelieving Jew may yet live to experience and respond to the tribulational revival of the 144,000 led by Moses and Elijah, and, barring that, the return of Jesus Himself.
Hope this helps to answer your question. Please feel free to write me back about any of this.
In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the only way to eternal life.
Just thought of dropping you one after a long while. How has been the ministry going? We continue to pray for you and we have been hard in 'The Coming Tribulation'. On another note a section from our study have been reading some anti-Jewish literature. This is wrong and anti-Christ. They have a theory that the current Jews are not Israel. For the sake of our studies I asked them not to come and cause confusion. They have however been giving out some material by a John Standring and I quote:
We know that Saul was the first king of Israel and that John
was the first man called Baptist, but who was the first Jew?
Neither Adam, Seth or Noah are called Jew. Nor were Abraham,
Isaac or Jacob. Moses was not called a Jew and neither were
Saul, David or Solomon called Jew. In fact you will not find the
word Jew in the first eleven books of the Bible. The first time
Jews are mentioned in the Bible, is in II Kings 16:6 (and then
only in translations revised in the eighteenth century) where we
find Israel was at war with the Jews and drave the Jews from
Elath. Isn't it interesting that we can read over five hundred
pages of the Bible before we find a Jew anywhere, yet those who
call themselves Jew today claim the first five books of the
bible and call it their Torah. Do you not find it rather strange
that those who claim to have written the first five books of the
Bible and call themselves Jew, can't find the word Jew written
anywhere in the book they call their own bible, and claim to
have written? Jesus Christ tells John in Revelation 2:9 "I know
the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews and are not, but
are the SYNAGOGUE OF SATAN". We know that God changed the name
of Abram to Abraham in Genesis 17:5, and that He changed the
name of Jacob to Israel in Genesis 32:28, but nowhere in the
Bible do we find where God changed the name of Israel to Jew!
There is therefore no authority by which those who say they are
Jews can claim to be Israel! By the time of Jesus the word Edom
or Edomite had been translated by Greek and Latin into Ioudaios
and Iudaeus meaning a Judean or person living in Judea. The
original King James version of the Bible, 1611, translated
Idumaean-Judean into Iewes. It wasn't until the revised editions
of the King James Bible, that the word Jew appeared. The word
Jew does not mean Israel or Israelite! We must conclude
therefore that the first "Jews" were Canaanite-Edomite-Hittite.
It is certain, according to the Bible, that Jews are not Israel.
What are the true facts of this allegation?
Your instincts in the Holy Spirit are good and true. Hatred of the Jews is a sure way to bring down God's wrath (see the link: "Anti-Semitism"). It is true that "not all Israel is Israel" (Rom.9:6) in that there is yet today a "hardness in part" (Rom.11:25) whereby many of God's chosen people do not acknowledge Him in truth because they refuse to acknowledge His Son as Savior (and there is no separating the two: 14:6-7; 14:23-24; 15:23; 16:27-28; 17:10-21). This will not always be the case, and in the final days, which are growing very close, scripture tells us that Israel will turn back to the Lord in great numbers (as you know from Coming Tribulation 2B and the discussion of the 144,000)
The attempt to exclude Jews from the legacy of Israel is non-scriptural and dangerous in the extreme. Case in point is the passage from Revelation quoted by your correspondent wherein it says "those who say they are Jews but are not". Stop to think for a second. The people being castigated in this passage are "not Jews" and one of things they are being reprimanded for is the false claim of being Jewish. Therefore "being Jewish" must be a good thing, whereas it is only falsely claiming to be so that is satanic. Yet that is exactly what most if not all of the people who advance this sort of argument are doing! Because inevitably down the road in such arguments one hears the ridiculous claim that __________ are the "real" Jews. Usually the group claimed by fringe elements of this sort as "true Jews" are the Anglo-Saxons, but I have heard the argument made for the "Celtic peoples" as well, and it would not surprise me if some of these people are dreaming up other groups as candidates for the "real Jews". It is not a little ironic that then that the very people who want to say "we are really the Jews" begin every argument just like this by implying there is something wrong with being Jewish! It makes no rational sense, but it is very appealing to people who are more inclined to believe conspiracy theories than they are the Bible.
As to the word "Jew", it is true that it does not appear until the time of the captivity, but there is good reason for this. The "Jews" as we now call them and they call themselves, were of course originally known as the "sons of Israel". Times and circumstances change, and it would be a mistake to read too much into this change of name. After all, very few of our founding fathers on this side of the pond would have thought to have referred to themselves as "Americans" before the Revolutionary War, but now we all take this name with pride, and few of us would now describe ourselves as "Virginians" or "Californians" when asked our nationality. This is quite parallel to what happened in Israel. After all, following Solomon's death the nation of Israel was split into two parts, and the Northern Kingdom was destroyed in the 8th century B.C. by the Assyrians. This left the nation of "Judah", named after the predominant tribe of the Southern Kingdom, as the only surviving Israelite political entity, and thus the name became more widely applied as time went on and tribal affiliation grew more and more remote (analogous to our waning state affiliation in the USA). The word "Jew" comes from Judah, and that is the long and short of it – anything more is merely a "smoke-screen". For example, Paul claims to be a Jew (Acts 21:9; 22:3), and he also claims to be of Israel of the tribe of Benjamin (Rom.11:1; Phil.3:5). For the greatest apostle, therefore, there is no distinction whatsoever between being Jewish and being of Israel.
For more information on this particular heresy please see the following links:
Who is true Israel?
Are the Celts the lost ten tribes?
Who are the lost ten tribes?
Hope this helps you in your work. You are fighting the good fight of faith in the service of our Lord and Master Jesus Christ. In that there is great reward Stand fast in the Lord and stay faithful to the truth of scripture.
In Him who is the way, the truth and the life, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
What are your views on the reported "conversion" of those two reporters to Islam while they were captured a couple of years back? Does this not harken back to earlier dates in Church history? Is a verbal "conversion" without the demand to also renounce your present faith the same as a denial? What if you do deny to preserve you life or the life of your children? After you get out of the situation, can you renounce your renunciation?
If you convert to Islam and then later deny your conversion, you are subject to death by any irate Moslem. The news guys, who are probably real secular, may not have appreciated the future potential danger they were putting themselves in.
The Bible seems clear that you have to love the faith more than your own life or the lives of your children or relatives. I think there's no question that in the Tribulation that to accept the mark of the beast is automatic condemnation to hell. Why is that also not true in our age? If it is not, what value is there in our honoring the Church's martyrs? Were they just uneducated fools? If Christianity is not worth dying for, what good is it? If there's no penalty for denial, what good is asserting belief? No doubt that in today's world such "fanaticism" by a Christian would be viewed as foolish in the press and by many of those who attend church services every Sunday. However, this gets into the "cheap grace" idea that Dietrich Bonhoeffer describes. It also explains why so many in the West can not understand the internal drive that propels a Moslem.
Best apologetic I've heard on this. The silence on this matter in the media was deafening. In my view, one of the key failings of everyone dealing with the present threat is the complete misunderstanding of the passion of fanaticism, and just how central Islam is to the identity of anyone who is seriously connected to it. This failure of appreciation is strange. We understand immediately if someone says "Catholic vs. Protestant" in the context of Northern Ireland, but somehow we think that Muslims should be intellectualizing what is essentially a warrior religion whose essential credo is conquest, personal and national. It is certainly not an Arab thing. The Iranians, after all, are not Arab at all. Their country was the most modern and progressive in the region when almost overnight so many "normal" western-looking and sounding people began behaving like medieval Jihadists (I certainly understand that it's not everyone – just as in Northern Ireland it only takes a small minority to produce horrendous activity). We see a similar sort of thing in western cults, pseudo-Christian groups, and even in some churches where the underlying theme is all or nothing obedience. No doubt a majority of those who would check a census box with that religion are not overly committed to it. But the problem is, as in the case with anyone who is looking to any religious group for their eternal security (as opposed to looking to Jesus), that you can't separate the essential internal identity of thosewho closely and emotionally identifying with such a religion or group from the ideology that underlies it or the leaders who seek to manipulate it.
I didn't follow the story closely. When I heard about this I wanted not to hear any more. On the mark of the beast, you are dead-on (I'm even in print on this of course in CT 4: "The Mark of the Beast"). I would say in the case of present day denials of Christ that the best one could say is that this incident is akin to the seed falling among the weeds and becoming unproductive: it is possible that some of these people leave life with their faith intact – but no one should want to be in this category. Likewise here, it is possible that someone could do something like this and still truly believe in Jesus (however weak that faith might be), but the remembrance of the event before the judgment seat of Christ is unlikely to be a pleasant one. People do take wrong turns and turn back. Peter denied our Lord three times, yet he was the one Jesus charged with rallying the disciples later (Lk.22:32). And in keeping with what you observed, what a missed opportunity!
So I think what you say is exactly right, and shows what you imply to be true as well. Christianity is becoming exactly what Revelation predicts: a mostly lukewarm faith in the hearts of most who profess it today (see the link: Laodicea). And that is for those who really do believe in Jesus. Probably at no time in the history of the Church has there been such a large percentage of Christians in name only, and with very little genuine, fervent faith to balance the equation on the other side.
As you say, this is no doubt why we in the West just cannot understand what we are dealing with.
I want to thank you for the information on water baptism, I have been struggling with it, in as much as when I witness to others I want to be clear on scriptures, in the area of water baptism during this dispensation. The Apostle Paul is considered a second rate apostle and is hardly given much credence in most catholic churches. What a shame, for he IS the apostle to the gentiles.
You are certainly welcome. Yes it is amazing how the R.C. church diminishes Paul, even though of course Peter himself did not (2Pet.3:15-16). But then, for the R.C. church, the Bible is very low on the list of authorities they recognize, being inferior to the pope, canon law, church councils, and the church fathers – to the point that the Bible only is considered to have any authority to the extent that it can be made to agree with all their human authorities.
In our dear Lord Jesus,
First I want to thank you for your web site and it's materials. I have both been looking for on-line material to further my spiritual growth, and to minister to a catholic friend of mine who lives in another state. I was hoping to find a Bible Basic study program that would focus on what the bible actually says and was fortunate to find you web site. However, I noticed that not all of the Bible Basic Series are available at this time. Can you tell me what the schedule is to complete the series? Additionally, can you refer me to a bible study that may have been developed to help catholic's understand what the bible actually teaches, and how what they may have been taught conflicts with the word of God?
Again, thank you for your hard work.
Good to make your acquaintance. It is true that the Bible Basics series is as yet not complete. A quick look at the sections which are will show that the title "Basics" is a bit of a misnomer. Part 3B Hamartiology alone, for example, is over 140 pages long, single-spaced. Since this series will essentially be a complete systematic theology when it is done, I am approaching it with care. It is likely to be many years before it is finished. What I would suggest and do suggest is to begin (or encourage others to begin) with the Peter series which serves at present as the introductory material for this ministry (see the link). Many of the basic doctrines necessary for initial orientation to the Christian way of life are addressed therein. Additionally, I highly recommend the short offering "Read Your Bible: Protection against Cults. A Basic Christian Right and Responsibility." After reading these materials, in addition to beginning to work one's way through the extensive collection of e-mail responses, I would recommend beginning with those parts of the Basics Series which are currently available (through 4A, excepting 2B), in addition to the Satanic Rebellion Series, and finally the Coming Tribulation Series. You can find out more about the recommended procedure and sequence at the following links:
7. Recommended Use: How can I best benefit from these studies?
8. Recommended Sequence: Which of these studies should I read first?
I hope (and believe) you will find that all of these materials do focus upon what the Bible actually says and that all of them will prove helpful for anyone who is truly interested in learning about the Word of God and growing closer to Jesus through His truth.
As far as ministering to those who are not necessarily positively disposed to the scripture or who are more inclined to follow the teachings of their groups regardless of what the Bible clearly teaches, this is really the stuff of apologetics rather than Bible teaching strictly construed. While there are some things on the site which deal with apologetics, that is not its prime focus. Please see the following links which are subject specific in this regard:
Apologetics and the Trinity
Apologetics regarding memory without eternal life
Proving the existence of God
The so-called gospel of Thomas
Trinity in the Old Testament
Where does the Bible teach that Jesus is God?
The notion of "institutional security", i.e., that one is "saved" or at least "safe" on account of the organization, group, church, or religion they embrace is one of the devil's most effective lies for steering people away from the truth. This idea that spiritual security is to be found in one's allegiance to a particular church organization is central to R.C. thought, and you will find that refuted at the following link: "The False Doctrine of Institutional Security".
Finally, one ministry I would highly recommend which may be able to help with your particular challenge is CARM (Christian Apologetic Resources Ministry). See especially their page of links on Roman Catholicism.
Best wishes in your efforts to spread the truth of God's Word.
In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I have a friend who lost his father over the weekend to cancer; I had met his father several times before; he possessed a great sense of humor. I went to the funeral Wednesday; I had not been to an RC funeral for many years. I rode up together with another friend and after the funeral I told him, also an RC, that his church might have the Protestants beat on liturgy but their music was
awful boring and monotone. He agreed. The service reminded once again why I'm not an RC, besides the fact my ancestors were Scottish Presbyterians and French Huguenots so it is in my blood; this Mary the perpetual virgin and veneration of the saints stuff is something I could never in good conscience buy. I've discussed this at length at different times in the past with both of these men; our differences never bothered the first one much (he's ex-army so he'd learned to put up with us Protestants long ago) but the other one used to go over the edge at times in the first few years of our acquaintance until he realized I was sometimes baiting him just to watch his reaction. He finally accepted the fact I'd never be an RC; the other friend also told me he always knew I was a lost cause. He once remarked that he accepted the Reformation as a done deal but that our other friend was one of those RC's still hoping it would reverse itself. When the opportunity arises I still mention the grace approach verses works. I continue to believe that if someone is seeking the truth, it will be made available to them. The question then will be if they accept it or if they will allow culture and tradition to remain a stumbling block. I have learned to leave that in God's hands.
You're a good man! I'm afraid I'm not that persistent or patient. But it's very important that these friends of yours have the witness (whatever they eventually end up doing with it).
From what I see in many of the more popular churches nowadays, the Reformation may be on its last legs. Many protestant groups don't really know what they stand for (or even if they do) apart from ritual and tradition, and on that score the RC's have it hands down. They started with an attractive model, having appropriated and modified the temple rite, and having salted in enough pagan ritual to make what many have found a tasty brew. Makes my skin crawl, personally, and always has, even when I didn't know why I basically disliked this whole ritual element in church, even the much milder Presbyterian version. Even as this trend to mimic the RC's is gaining momentum in protestant churches, it seems as if many are deciding just to go join "the real thing". Even somebody with half a brain like Newt Gingrich is apparently not immune from being sucked in. Just goes to show, if you stick with your "big lie" long enough, people with no real convictions are going to be impressed.
Keep fighting the fight!
I am afraid you're probably getting tired of my emails at this point but I just wanted to add something, or rather, clarify something. I do understand that no angel compares to Christ. What I meant (and I probably should have been more specific) was that I was under the impression that Michael was the most powerful angel in heaven, even more powerful than Lucifer before he was cast down. I am not able to take the time to look this up now but it seems as though I recall reading something a little different on your site. I do understand that there is only one son of God (son of man) and that no angel even comes close. I know people who have claimed they've seen angels and they very well may be telling the truth but I also know that their power comes from God/Christ. Anyway, after reading your section about angels, I came under the impression that Lucifer was the most powerful angel in heaven before he was cast down by God. My aunt claims she saw my grandfather after he died (he was also a staunch Christian who was an alcoholic before he was born again). This doesn't seem possible though as there are no "ghosts." However, I've never known my pious aunt to make things up!
I don't believe in the Catholic Church because of the pagan rituals that are used and because it goes against what's written in the Bible. Priests, Bishops, Cardinals, Popes and the especially the Virgin Mary (who no doubt was a wonderful woman) are put on a pedestal and the latter is prayed to in the rosary. As I said, through my limited knowledge I know that Mary must have been a very special woman but to pray to her is not right. I do feel a bit guilty calling it Satan's church (as some have said) but I do know one thing, it's certainly not (and never will be) my church. I was baptized Catholic but I've only attended Mass once and that was not my decision as I was only 12. You don't need to share your views if you don't wish to (I totally understand and respect that) but I wanted you to know where I stood. When you have the time (and please don't feel obligated) do you feel like it's extremely important to find a physical church to attend? I love reading on-line ministries but somehow I feel something is missing without church. Perhaps it's because I'm getting older and still single. If I do meet a woman, she would have to be a strong Christian with no exceptions. I am way past the days of bar hopping and could not possibly justify that while attempting to live by the gospel. It's not possible to be a true Christian and spend time chasing women at bars! But even more important, if the Lord wants me to actually attend a physical church than I will do so, meeting someone special would be a gift from God but not something I would demand or expect.
Thanks for your prayers, God Bless and I will pray for you and your family (don't know if you're married with kids or not). Perhaps your site has some info, I'll take another look tonight. Either way, I will keep you and your ministry in my prayers. I try to keep my prayers very humble, I can't say I've never asked for material things but it's been many years. Usually I say the Lords Prayer followed by a special prayer asking Jesus to forgive me for individual sins and that his will be done and I end with "in Jesus name I pray." That's it in a nutshell. I usually pray for my family, friends and are leaders as well, that they may find Christ and remain in good health.
Always good to hear from you. Like you, I try to keep things on a biblical basis. You wouldn't believe the things that I have heard people claim over the years, and many if not most of those making the unbelievable claims have been believers whom I would be loath to disbelieve, apart from scripture. I think the lesson is that what we know from the Bible has to take precedent even over what our own eyes may see – let alone what other people report, no matter how much we may love or otherwise trust them.
As to Catholicism, I try to stay as non-judgmental as possible when it comes to any group upon which one might want to put a name. The reason for this is that there may be believers in many groups and denominations that are at various points along the scale to perdition who don't hold with many or most of the false teachings their groups espoused. Jesus said if they're not against us they are for us (Mk.9:40), and He also said "He who is not with Me is against Me" (Matt.12:30). This means to me that on the one hand we should welcome whatever good a person may be getting while at the same time standing solid for the actual truth whenever it is questioned. My application is to rejoice over all those who truly are believers in Jesus Christ while at the same time I try to make it clear what the scriptures say on any given subject even when they contradict essential tenets of various denominations (without getting personal). Clearly, there is so much that the Catholic church believes that is contrary to scripture that it is pointless to catalog it here except to say that the R.C. church is on the record as putting its own doctrinal pronouncements ahead of scripture. If a group by its own admission doesn't believe in the primacy of the Bible as its standard of faith and practice, there is little I or anyone else can do to combat their beliefs. They believe what they believe totally apart from what the scriptures say so that any dialogue along these lines is pointless. The idea that one has to be a "communicant" of that or any other earthly organization to be saved is especially wrong-headed, and you will find that point addressed at the following link: "The false doctrine of 'Institutional Security'".
There is no question but that finding a life-partner is a difficult issue. Paul advised us to stay single if possible, but also allowed that is was not a practical possibility for the vast majority of us (1Cor.7). I think that perhaps no other issue has proved to be so destructive of personal spirituality and so distracting from it. But as in all other things, I have to believe that if you trust God, put your faith in Him to solve this problem, have confidence that He will answer your prayers, and wait patiently for His deliverance, that as He does in the case of all of our other needs He will fulfill this one as well. Trouble comes when we put our own agendas in front of His and start making our own choices even in the face of good evidence that we are not following His first best will for our lives (and I can back this one up with personal experience). It's hard to wait – for anything. We are not a particularly patient culture, but patience is at the heart of answered prayer, because faith is built over time in a way that would never happen if we got "immediate results" whenever we truly commit a problem to Him.
As to church attendance, I know exactly how you feel, and I frequently have this conversation with various seminary buddies who are currently without "brick and mortar" churches. On the one hand, as we should, we all do long for genuine Christian fellowship and genuine Christian worship. However, as we should not, we do not wish to support or expose ourselves to groups, organizations, or institutions where doctrinal abuses (or worse) are taking place. The most common complaint I receive from those who are truly trying to grow closer to Jesus Christ the right way, through the study, belief, and application of His Word (and the ministry of it to others), is a sort of "nausea of the conscience" that occurs whenever one attends a church where this entire biblical focus has been relegated to mere lip service. And it is really quite difficult to participate in a meaningful way in such fellowships, because, ultimately, if one tries to do so, then it will become very evident that one's own commitment to the Bible is so strikingly different and even opposed to the modus operandi of the church that serious friction is inevitable (or, alternatively, the person may become lukewarm in order to fit in – exactly the danger that induced the "nausea" in the first place). It is very, very difficult to find a church where the truth is being taught. However, I know for a fact through faith that God supplies everything we need if we but put our trust in Him and patiently wait for Him. We cannot know before the fact exactly how He is going to supply the need of Christian fellowship and genuine spiritual food for spiritual growth, but He will most definitely do so, and we will "know it when we see it", even if that provision does not come in a traditional "box". If we keep knocking, He will open up a door for us.
Finally, sorry for any misunderstanding on the issue of angels. What can I say? It's the pedagogue in me.
Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Hello Brother Bob,
Wanted you to know your last reply on Islam was used at our men's group. Had great discussions.
New question: Are the Jews still a chosen people? How does salvation come to the Jewish nation? What about the 144,000. Another topic for our group-
Thanks and God Bless,
Glad the former response was helpful. On this new question I have written a fair amount, but am happy to give you a short synopsis here (please see the links below for more detailed info). As to the question of the "Chosen People", God's promises never fail (Josh.21:45; Rom.9:6), and that is especially true where Israel is concerned (Rom.11:1-6). But all the promises of God are based upon Jesus Christ and our response to Him (2Cor.1:20). Therefore if we reject God, we reject ipso facto His promises, for He cannot deny Himself (2Tim.2:11-13). This is the dilemma in which many who are "Israel according to the flesh" find themselves, for it is not the children of physical birth who are heirs to the promises of God, but the "children of promise" (Rom.9:6-9), those who by believing in Jesus Christ obtain the righteousness that comes by faith (Rom.9:30-31; cf. Rom.4:13). This subject is treated extensively by Paul throughout the book of Romans (and especially chapters 9-11). But the "hardness in part" (Rom.11:25) which is evident today in most of those of Jewish descent will not abide forever, for when "the Deliverer" comes, "He will turn godlessness away from Zion" (Rom.11:26). In short, there are two future revivals of the Jewish people prophesied to come: 1) in response to the 144,000's ministry during the Tribulation's first half (these will escape the worst of the Tribulation; see the link in CT4: "The Dragon's Persecution of Believing Israel"); 2) at the Second Advent, when the sign of Messiah appears in the heavens and the resurrection begins, at that time "they will look upon Him whom they pierced" (Zech.12:10-14; Rev.1:7), and a vast multitude of previously unbelieving Jews will turn to Jesus – too late for the post-Tribulation "rapture", but in time to be regathered to Israel to enjoy the millennial bliss under the rule of David's greater Son, our Lord Jesus Christ – but only those who believe will enter the land (cf. Ezek.20:32-38). So it is that "not all who are of Israel are [true] Israel" (Rom.9:6), for only in Jesus Christ is the veil lifted unto eternal life (2Cor.3:15). Our Lord dearly wants all people to be saved (1Tim.2:3-4; 2Pet.3:9) – how much more then those who enjoy all the special blessings and promises of Israel (Rom.9:3-5)! But their salvation like ours and like that of every human being who has ever or will ever live is dependent upon God's grace (and that is a given available to all) and our response to that grace in faith (and, sadly, "faith is not of all": 2Thes.3:2).
For you have been saved by [God's] grace through faith [in
Christ]; and this did not come from you - it is God's gift. Nor
did it come from what you have done, lest anyone should boast.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for [the
purpose of accomplishing] good works, which [very works] God has
prepared ahead of time for us, that we might walk in them (i.e.,
live our Christian lives in the accomplishment of them).
Please also consult these links:
The Uniqueness and Priority of Israel (in SR#5)
Israel the Ultimate Measure (etc.; in SR #5)
The Present "Hardness in Part" (in. SR #5)
The Restoration Ministry of Moses and Elijah during the Tribulation (in CT 3A)
The 144,000 and their Ministry to Israel (in CT 2B)
Yours in Him in whom we have believed, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
What do these verses mean to you? this has been asked of me many times and I don't know the exact context.
Titus 3:9 But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.
Titus 3:10 A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject;
Titus 3:11 Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.
Thanks in advance!
In terms of content, satanic opposition to the gospel during the age of the apostles followed two general tracks as is obvious from apostolic complaints directed against them (like this one): 1) philosophical Gnosticism (mostly but not exclusively in vogue amongst gentile apostates; cf. "Greeks seek wisdom" in 1Cor.1:22b); and 2) Pharisaical observance of the Law (mostly but not exclusively in vogue amongst Jewish apostates; cf. "Jews ask for signs" in 1Cor.1:22a). Both of these movements had in common 1) the fact they offered "alternative" ways to salvation which they proclaimed as superior and necessary (but which of course deleted Jesus Christ from the equation), and 2) an underlying motivation for attention and money coming from an ever growing number of followers, coupled with a willingness to do just about anything to deceive their victims to accomplish this goal (not unlike most cults today, and of course even many mega-churches follow along with the same method even if we may be less critical of their motives).
What we have here in Titus chapter three is a short-hand diatribe against both of these threats to true doctrine and safe spiritual growth, and we can see in Paul's remarks some of the key characteristics of these movements which in a number of cases appear to have originated in or at least to have been strengthened by splinter groups breaking off from legitimate churches. "Foolish inquiries and genealogies" refers to Gnostic teachings which trace all sorts of genealogical lines for the "aeons" or demigods of the Gnostic system (and which are all tripe of course, but were given a biblical patina as Gnostic groups allured their victim with claims of transcending the mortal and earthly plain and explaining Jesus in these false terms), while "strife and battles over legal issues" refers to pointless applications of the Law about which the Judaizers debated endlessly and equally to no purpose (most of whom taught salvation by works as in the case of circumcision).
We should not underestimate the pseudo-intellectual appeal of these heresies, especially when one adds to the mix that these groups and individuals were putting it out that theirs was "the only true way of salvation". Just as "secret wisdom leading to 'enlightened' behavior" in the case of the Gnostics or "learned wisdom leading to 'righteous' behavior" in the case of the Judaizers are popular today in their own right and in a variety of latter-day cults which are involved in nearly the same identical sorts of teachings, so we should not underestimate their appeal then or now. Once people begin to look for their spiritual safety in a group or organization (rather than in Jesus Christ) they are ripe for Satan's picking (see the link: "The False Doctrine of Institutional Security").
Scientology and Kabbalah today are movements that are intensely popular but which likewise only serve to distract those involved from the truth of Jesus Christ as the only way of salvation. That is why Paul is so adamant about the matter: it is permissible to attempt to persuade a believer who falls into such an obvious anti-Christ cult or movement to come back to the fold – once. But what is not permissible is to allow someone who has bought into such a destructive lie to hang around the church and pervert the spiritual walk and endanger the spiritual lives of others. It is the job of the pastor/teacher (Titus and those he appoints) to protect the flock from such dangers by teaching them the truth (including showing up the lies of such deceivers) and by separating the flock from such people and such people from the flock. It is sad to lose anyone from the Body to the path of destruction, but such people who whole-heartedly embrace such obviously anti-truth causes are "self-condemned" since it is impossible to follow such a course and still believe the truth. These people have clearly chosen against what they once believed (especially if one attempt has been made to help them see the error of their ways and to warn them of the consequences), so that they are without excuse, having turned back to all the pointless things that they valued as unbelievers.
But at that time [when you were unbelievers], not knowing
God, you were slaves to those things which are by nature not
[truly] gods. But now, having recognized God, or, as it really
is, having been recognized by God, how is it that you are
turning back to these weak and impoverished false principles
which you wish to serve as slaves all over again? You observe
days and months and seasons and years. I fear for you, that I
may perhaps have spent my labor on you in vain.
Praise God that we are not those who are turning back, but of advancing up the high road to Zion in the cause of Jesus Christ!
In the One who is the Truth, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.