Ask The Chaplain

Ask The Chaplain

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Is Jesus the Only Truth?

Imagine that you are trapped inside a large building, where people are arguing about various opinions about if there is a door and how to get out. Some believe that this wall has a door in it, others that wall. Groups are formed to encourage belief in which phantom door is best. One group asserts that the way out is up through ladders that extend into the sky. And here is a group trying to tunnel out using dark, secret, ancient maps. Another group is sure that any wall will have a door if you "just believe" that there is one (this group is famous for big lumps on their heads). And yet another group insists that "the door" and "outside" are merely a state of mind. Some have seen through all this nonsense and given up the search entirely.

Enter one who says: "I have some good news! There is a way out, but only one. It's a narrow, low door. I will prove it. Give up your deep, sophisticated, or silly notions and follow me!" But the various groups are so enamored with their own ideas that few pay much attention. The "phantom door" group thinks it unsporting to assert that there is only one door. The "sky exit" types complain that this "good news" lacks sophistication or intellectual appeal. The "deep ones" go to inspect the door, collect facts about it, even "hang out" around it, but never go through it. They become experts at door trivia. The "just believe" types are always happy to hear of a new door and are emboldened by this news to try ever harder to walk through doors that don't exist. More lumps on the head. In the end, for various reasons, very few make it out through the revealed door.

One Way?
John 10:7, 9a-10 (NIV) Jesus said again, "I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever come before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.... The thief comes only to steal and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."

Acts 4:12 (Phi) "In no one else can salvation be found. For in all the world no other name has been given to men but this, and it is by this name that we must be saved!"

Many find this aspect of Christianity offensive. "How arrogant! What an insult to the other great world religions!" But consider this: If God ever did desire to express what He was like, wouldn't He also make sure to say: "This is it--the true version" to differentiate His revelation from contradictory, man-made religions? If God ever has really revealed Himself, that religion would "stick out" by claiming to be exclusively true. Some are likely to be upset by this, but if there is any truth to be had, it must be packaged like this.

God Decides To Communicate With Man
John 1:1-2,14 (Phi) At the beginning God expressed himself. That personal expression, that Word, was with God, and was God, and he existed with God from the beginning.... So the Word of God became a human being and lived among us.

John 1:14b (NIV) We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

1 Tim 2:5-7 (Phi) For there is only one God, and only one intermediary between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus. He gave himself as a ransom for all men--an act of redemption which stands at all times as a witness to what he is... (I speak the sober truth; I do not lie)....

Fact Or Fiction?

Christianity has claimed to be true from the very beginning. These events really happened.
1 Cor 15:1-7 (NEB) And now, my brothers, I must remind you of the Gospel that I preached to you; the Gospel which you received, on which you have taken your stand, and which is now bringing you salvation. Do you still hold fast the Gospel as I preached it to you? If not, your conversion was in vain. First and foremost, I handed on to you the facts which had been imparted to me: that Christ died for our sins, in accordance with the Scriptures; that he was buried; that he was raised to life on the third day, according to the Scriptures; and that he appeared to Cephas, and afterwards to the Twelve. Then he appeared to over 500 of our brothers at once, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, and afterwards to all the Apostles.

1 John 1:1-4 (Phi) We are writing to you about something which has always existed yet which we ourselves actually heard and saw with our own eyes: something which we had the opportunity to observe closely and even to hold in our own hands, something of the Word of life! For it was LIFE which appeared before us: we saw it, we are eyewitnesses of it, and are now writing to you about it. It was the very life of all ages, the life that has always existed with the Father, which actually became visible in person to us. We repeat, we really saw and heard what we are now writing to you about. We want you to be with us in this--in this fellowship with the Father, and Jesus Christ his Son. We write and tell you about it, so our joy may be complete.

Acts 3:15 (NIV) "You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this."

Acts 2:32 (NIV) "God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact."

The Gospel Truth
Acts 13:30-31 (NIV) "But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he was seen by those who had traveled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to our people."

Acts 10:39-42 (Phi) "Now we are eyewitnesses of everything that he did, both in the Judaean country and in Jerusalem itself, and they murdered him by hanging him on a cross. But on the third day God raised that same Jesus and let him be clearly seen, not indeed by the whole people, but by witnesses whom God had previously chosen. We are those witnesses, we who ate and drank with him after he had risen from the dead! Moreover, we are the men whom he commanded to preach to the people and solemnly witness to the fact that he is the one appointed by God to be the judge of both the living and the dead."

2 Pet 1:16-19 (NIV) We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, "this is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain. And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

2 Cor 4:2b-4 (Phi) We speak the plain truth and so commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. If our gospel is "veiled", the veil must be in the minds of those who are spiritually dying. The god of this world has blinded the minds of those who do not believe, and prevents the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, the image of God, from shining on them.

The Truth Has Nothing To Fear From Scrutiny
1 Thes 5:21 (NIV) Test everything. Hold onto the good.

Acts 17:11 (NIV) Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

2 Cor 13:8 (NIV) For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for it.

The Whole Truth And...
1 Tim 4:1-2,6-7 (Phi) God's Spirit specifically tells us that in latter days there will be men who abandon the true faith and allow themselves to be spiritually seduced by teachings of demons, teachings given by men who are lying hypocrites, whose consciences are as dead as seared flesh.... You will be a faithful minister of Christ Jesus if you remind your church members of these things. You will show yourself as a man nourished by the message of the true faith and the sound teaching he has followed. But steer clear of all these heathen old-wives' tales.

An Open Mind is A Cesspool of Thought. Rather:
2 Cor 10:5 (NIV) We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Mat 7:13-14 (NIV) "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."

Truth As Trivia?

A.W. Tozer: "Truth in Scripture is more than a fact. A fact may be detached, impersonal, cold and totally disassociated from life. Truth, on the other hand, is warm, living, and spiritual.... At what point, then, does a theological fact become for the one that holds it a life-giving truth? At that point where obedience begins.... Truth that is not experienced is no better than error, and may be fully as dangerous. The scribes who sat in Moses' seat were not the victims of error; they were the victims of their failure to experience the truth they taught."

The Responsibility of Knowing The Truth
Jam 4:17b (Phi) If a man knows what is right and fails to do it, his failure is a real sin.

Heb 10:26 (NIV) If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.

Phil 3:16 (Phi) It is important that we go forward in the light of such truth as we have already learned.

Do We Really Love The Truth or Do We Pick and Choose?

A.W. Tozer: "We can hold a correct view of the truth only by daring to believe everything God has said about Himself. It is a grave responsibility that a man takes upon himself when he seeks to edit out of God's self-revelation such features as he in his ignorance deems objectionable."
2 Thes 2:10b-12 (NIV) They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.

2 Tim 4:2-5 (Phi) Preach the word... Reprove, correct and encourage, using the utmost patience in your teaching. For the time is coming when men will not tolerate wholesome teaching. They will want something to tickle their own fancies, and they will collect teachers who will speak what they want to hear. They will no longer listen to the truth, but will wander off after man-made myths. For yourself, keep your mind sane and balanced, meeting whatever suffering this may involve. Go on steadily preaching the gospel....

The Spirit Of Truth
1 Jn 2:20-21,24a,26-27 (TEB) But you have had the Holy Spirit poured out on you by Christ, and so all of you know the truth. I write you, then, not because you do not know the truth; instead, it is because you do know it, and also know that no lie ever comes from the truth.... Be sure, then, to keep in your hearts the message you heard from the beginning.... I write you this about those who are trying to deceive you. But as for you, Christ has poured his Spirit on you.... For his Spirit teaches you about everything, and what he teaches is true, not false....

John 16:12-13 (NIV) "I [Jesus] have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth."

The Truth Is Worth Repeating
2 Pet 1:12-15 (Jer) That is why I am continually recalling the same truths to you, even though you already know them and firmly hold them. I am sure it is my duty, as long as I am in this tent, to keep stirring you up with reminders, since I know the time for taking off this tent is coming soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ foretold to me. And I shall take great care that after my own departure you will still have a means to recall these things to memory.

John 8:31b-32 (NIV) "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

John 8:31b-32 (NEB) "If you dwell within the revelation I have brought, you are indeed my disciples; you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free."

Does God Want Us to be RICH???

When I saw the cover story in Time Magazine I was mentally transported back to the late 1980’s. The lead article posed the question, “Does God Want You to Be Rich?” I thought that question had been answered already as we watched Jim Baker hustled off to jail and Robert Tilton trying to rebuild his fallen empire. I do know this; if God wants you to be rich it will be a very scary thing. Jesus said, "How hard it is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God" (Luke 18:24-25).

I think it is interesting that when a major news source wanted to know about God’s attitude toward rich people, they asked the wealthy folks. Why didn’t they talk to the poor? A more interesting question would be, “Does God Want You to Be Poor?” Honestly, I think God wants me to be middle-class. At least, that is where He has placed me at the moment. If He wants me to be rich, one of us is not doing a very good job.

The problem with the “Prosperity Gospel” is that it is based on two (at least) misunderstandings. The first is a problem defining success. If you were to ask people for the names of those who are financially successful, you would hear names like Gates, Buffett, and Dell. We immediately think of wealth when we define financial success. Since we all want to be successful, and we are confident that God wants us to be successful; the goal is to become wealthy.

However, a simple review of Scripture will help us redefine our concept of success. The only person Jesus ever commended for giving an offering was the poor widow who had very little to give and nothing left over after giving. The Apostle Paul might have been wealthy at one time, but most of his life was spent in and out of prison. He had very little money. Even Jesus died without as much as a change of clothes.

Some of God’s finest were also extremely rich. Abraham, David, Solomon, Barnabas, and many others prove that God is not opposed to wealth. The point is that God does not define success in monetary terms. It is possible to be rich and be a failure, or to be poor and be a failure. It is just as possible to be rich and be a success, or to be poor and be a success. The amount of money in our hands has no bearing on our standing with God.

A second flaw in the doctrine of the “Prosperity Gospel” is ignoring the close kinship between desiring money and loving money. Perhaps the most familiar verse of Scripture concerning money is 1 Timothy 6:10 - For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many a pang.

In order to understand this verse completely, perhaps it would be wise to comprehend the words of the preceding verse - But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction (1 Timothy 6:9).

It seems incomprehensible to me that God’s desire for me is that I desire those things that will plunge me into ruin and destruction and cause me to wander away from the faith. It is a warning to be careful around those who promise wealth and prosperity. They are not doing me any favors by tempting me to strive after things that bring such despair. Many very promising followers of Jesus have fallen because of a desire for money. The problems caused by loving money did not end when Jim Baker went to prison. A well-known pastor in our city recently lost his ministry because of financial tomfoolery caused by the desire to be rich. It appears that his longed for prosperity was not from God after all.

Does God want you to be rich? Probably not! However, it is safe to say that He wants you to be a good steward of whatever comes your way.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Why So Much Disunity in The Church?

When Yeshua of Nazareth (Jesus Christ) was executed, in approximately 30 CE, his message continued to be spread by some of his followers. They formed the Jewish Christian movement -- a reform Judaism group -- which was centered in Jerusalem. A few years later, Paul founded a competing Pauline Christian group, which was aimed primarily at converting Gentiles. Finally, a Gnostic Christian movement was formed.
Jewish Christians were killed or scattered by the Roman Army when they destroyed Jerusalem in 70 CE. Pauline Christianity was legalized in the 313 CE and became the official religion of the Empire circa 380 CE. The Gnostics were exterminated by or absorbed into the Church -- the successor to Pauline Christianity.
Strains between the surviving eastern and western regions of the Church reached the breaking point in 1054 CE when the leaders of the two groups excommunicated each other. This formally separated the Roman Catholic church and the Eastern Orthodox churches. Although discussions are currently underway to bring them into unity, little progress has being made.
In 1517, Martin Luther, a Roman Catholic monk, set out to reform the Roman Catholic church by eliminating some of its abuses -- largely involving the church sacraments and the sale of indulgences. A split followed, producing the Protestant Reformation and a series of religious wars which decimated Western Europe. Protestantism subsequently split into many movements which themselves split into families of denominations. The result was the the thousands of individual Protestant denominations and sects that we observe today.
In 1534, the British Parliament passed an Act of Supremacy which declared the country independent of foreign powers, including the pope. This separated the English Church from the pope's authority. The Church of England was created under Edward VI when the Book of Common Prayer was authorized in 1549. Mary I restored the connection to Rome in 1553. But during the reign of Elizabeth I, her successor, a second Act of Supremacy was passed and the Book of Common Prayer reissued. The Church of England has since evolved into a worldwide movement, composed of the Anglican Communion divided int Provinces, Dioceses, and individual congregations.
In 1830 CE. Joseph Smith taught that the true Christian church died out early in the 2nd Century CE, when he believed that religious leaders abandoned many of the original teachings of Jesus Christ, Paul, and the other apostles. Smith founded The Church of Christ. This faith group subsequently divided into over 100 separate denominations and sects which form the LDS Restorationist movement.
Christianity remains in a state of flux today, with new faith groups being created, ceasing to exist, and merging with others. Other denominations have difficulty adapting to change. They have experienced schism over matters like literal interpretation of the Bible, inerrancy of the Bible, criteria for salvation, the morality of human slavery, the roles of women within the family and church, etc. More schisms are expected in the future over equal rights for gays and lesbians, including same-sex marriage.

Sorting Christian denominations today:
Today, there are over 30,000 separate Christian groups in the world. 1

There is a small but growing Gnostic Christian movement who trace their beliefs back to the early Gnostics. They believe that salvation comes from possessing esoteric knowledge.

The vast majority of Christian groups trace their ancestry back to Pauline Christianity as founded by Paul in the 1st century CE and refined through various early church councils and creeds. Most regard Yeshua as a man-god, a member of the Trinity along with God the Father and the Holy Spirit. A few Christians in the liberal wing of the religion view Yeshua as a prophet, not a deity, and definitely not conceived by a virgin.

One way of sorting them is into eight "meta-groups."

Roman Catholicism, This has the largest membership of any meta-group in Christianity. It is headed by the Pope in Rome, whose rulings are considered infallible in certain cases. The church is coordinated by the Curia, which is composed of one Secretariat, and 27 agencies, each headed by a Cardinal. Local administration is by Bishops and Archbishops who control activity in their Dioceses and Archdioceses.

Eastern Orthodox Churches: a communion of autocephalous, (ecclesiastically independent) Christian faith groups which forms the dominant religious bodies in Bulgaria, Belarus, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece, Romania, Russia, Serbia, and Ukraine. They play a significant role in ten other countries, including the U.S. and Canada, and have a scattered presence elsewhere in the world. They and the Roman Catholic Church formally separated from each other in 1054 CE, although they had been functioning nearly independently long before that date.

Oriental Orthodox and Assyrian Churches: This grouping consists of five churches in the Middle East and South India. The Catholic Assyrian Church of the East and the Roman Catholic church separated from each other after the Council of Ephesus in 431 CE. The four Oriental Orthodox churches and the Roman Catholic Church separated from each other after the Fourth Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon in 451 CE, when the Oriental Orthodox churches rejected the Council's concept of Christ as one person "in two natures." The four Oriental Orthodox churches are:

The Armenian Apostolic Church in Armenia and Lebanon;

The Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt;

The Ethiopian Orthodox Church; and

The Syrian Orthodox Churches which include the See of Antioch and the Syrian Thomas Christians of South India.
A fifth church is often grouped with the Oriental Orthodox churches:

The Catholic Assyrian Church of the East 4

Protestantism: This is composed of a group of independent denominations, sects, and independent churches numbering in excess of 30,000 worldwide. They trace their history back to the Reformation which was triggered when Martin Luther circulated 95 theses in which he listed what he considered to be faults in the Roman Catholic Church -- both theological and in its policies. Protestant denominations have been grouped into 13 families, according to their historical roots. There are over 1,000 Protestant denominations in North America, ranging from extreme Fundamentalist to very Liberal. Included are such diverse groups as Quakers, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses and Christian Scientists. 2 Most are democratically organized.

The Anglican Communion: This consists of 38 Provinces and a small number of extra-provincial dioceses. It includes the Episcopal Church in the US, the Anglican Church in Canada, and the Church of England in the UK. As noted above, the Church of England was created under Edward VI when the Book of Common Prayer was authorized in 1549. Its bishops meet in the Lambeth Conference every ten years, at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury who is considered “first among equals.” The Communion is "bound together not by a central legislative and executive authority, but by mutual loyalty sustained through common counsel of the Bishops in conference" 3 Ultimate decision making power in a given province is controlled by three groups, consisting of the Bishops, the Priests, and a group of laity. Individual Anglicans range from very conservative to very liberal in beliefs.

Pentecostals: One source lists 177 separate Pentecostal denominations. In the early 1900s CE, it grew out of the Holiness movement which in turn had roots in Methodism, a Protestant denomination. A major defining feature of Pentecostalism is their belief in Glossolalia, or the ability to speak "in tongues". Another is the unusual freedom and spontaneity exhibited during their religious services. They are theologically very conservative.

The Restorationist faith groups share the belief that the "true" Christian church died out as the church abandoned many of the teachings of Yeshua of Nazareth (Jesus Christ), Paul, and other apostles -- perhaps early in the 2nd Century CE. This group includes the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as founded by Joseph Smith in 1830. Almost a hundred denominations trace their history back to that faith group. Other restorationist groups include the Christadelphians, Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh-day Adventists, etc. Their beliefs and practices differ greatly. However, all believe that their group, alone, has restored the original beliefs and practices of Yeshua and the apostles. Most regard themselves as the true Christian church. Most or all are obviously wrong.

Other groups: There are probably many hundreds of faith groups which do not neatly fit into any of the above five classifications. Three of the more interesting are:

Progressive Christianity, a very liberal Christian group which does not look upon itself as a denomination. Rather they are building a network of affiliated congregations, informal groups and individual members.

A group called the Two by Twos, The Black Stockings, The Church Without a Name, Cooneyites, etc. teach that their group has been in continuous but secret existence since the 1st century. They believe that their faith group was founded by Jesus, and is the only "true" Christian church.

Gnostic Christians This movement and its literature were essentially wiped out by the end of the 5th century CE by heresy hunters from mainline Christianity. They believe that salvation comes through Gnosis (knowledge.) They are currently experiencing a rebirth throughout the world.

Disagreements over classification of faith groups:

Many theologians combine the Anglican Communion and Protestant faith groups as a single grouping.

Others consider Pentecostalism as being part of Protestantism.

Some in the anti-cult movement and counter-cult movement classify some of the smaller denominations as "cults," "sub-Christians," or "none-Christian." and not as a part of Christianity.

Some Fundamentalists and other Evangelicals do not consider liberal Christian denominations to be part of Christianity.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (a.k.a. LDS & The Mormons) and other LDS restorationist denominations are not considered to be Christian by most conservative and some mainline denominations.
There are probably other disagreements not listed above. From the extensive Emails that we receive, it is obvious that many individuals and groups regard their own classification of faith groups to be the only valid one.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

What if I Become Sick?

If you are a Christian and you are suffering with an illness (Mental or Physical) of some kind be encouraged. God has not forsaken you. I know it may feel like it but He hasn’t. I have received great comfort from Psalm 13, a Psalm of David. This Psalm has taught me that one of the major problems with suffering is dealing with anger and bitter feelings towards God Himself. We have been taught the new wave message of “positive confession”, but what God really desires from us is an honest confession. Out of all the books in the Bible, the one that has delivered me the most is the Psalms. To many believers Psalms is just a collection of praise song. Many theologians look at Psalms, Proverbs, and especially Ecclesiastes as books without much doctrinal weight or value. How wrong they are! Through all of my trials and tribulations, I have been able to find a point of contact and understanding by reading Psalms. My favorite Psalm is Psalm 13.

After you read it you may wonder, “How can this depressing psalm be someone’s favorite?” This is the most honest prayer in the scriptures. David asked God a question, “How long will you forget me Lord?” This honesty in prayer helped me realize that God wants to hear everything we have to say, the good and the bad. David felt abandoned by God. I can identify with this feeling. For the last three years I have been battling sickness. I have been poked, prodded, and examined. I have had Scarlet Fever. I have been misdiagnosed with Osteomylitis (bone infection). I was on an IV for 8 weeks; my lungs were scanned and X-rayed to find growths. I have granulomas (lesions) in different parts of my body that causes severe pain in my joints and my eyes, and the cause of all of this is an incurable illness called Sarcoidosis. I began to recite Psalm 13 as though I wrote it. The good news is found in the 5th and 6th verses. David obviously recalled how the Lord had been merciful and kind to him in the past. David’s was to continue to trust in the mercy of God and hope in the loving-kindness of the Lord. I feel that many of our prayers go unanswered because we are not honest with God. However David felt, that what he expressed to the Master. This is one of the keys to being a man after God’s own heart.”

13:1 To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. How long wilt thou forget me, O LORD? for ever? how long wilt thou hide thy face from me? (David felt like the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had forsaken him. At times if we are honest, we feel the same way.)
2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? how long shall mine enemy be exalted over me? (David was going through extreme emotional distress. Chronic illness can cause this kind of emotional trauma in ones life.)
3 Consider and hear me, O LORD my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death; (David is not afraid to let the Lord know how distraught he is, and at the same time he makes his supplications known to God. I believe God honors an honest confession more than a positive one.)
4 Lest mine enemy say, I have prevailed against him; and those that trouble me rejoice when I am moved.
5 But I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation. (David was able to trust in the Lord’s mercy because he had a relationship with Him. David although discouraged was able to rebound because of his love for the Lord)
2 I will sing unto the LORD, because he hath dealt bountifully with me. (One of the keys to getting through a stressful season is to give God praise through it all)

This Psalm has helped me get through my most painful moments because it reminds me that God has and will continue to deliver me. We must trust in God’s sovereignty as well as His power. Trusting in His ability to know what is best for us takes more faith than running around “naming and claiming” everything. I was at a revival and someone asked me, “Have I claimed my healing yet?” I was really disturbed at this question; I realized that this person really did not know the Lord or me very well. If they knew me they would know I love the Lord with all my heart and whether I am healed or not I still love Him. If they really knew me they would know that I believe in the healing power of God but I also trust in His timetable and sovereignty. Don’t be discouraged saints of God; the Lord is on your case. The grace of God can keep us through all of our trials and tribulations no matter how severe they might be. One of the beautiful things about the Bible is that the characters were just like us. Men and women in the Bible suffered sickness, loss of life, and abuses. I believe God allowed every story in the Bible to be graphic and uncut because we need to see the hand of God in every situation, both good and bad. I love the rawness of the Old Testament, people were not all good and everyone wasn’t blessed all the time. People that were good suffered and people that were bad received mercy. God is sovereign and in control even when it looks like He isn’t.

9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. (II Cor.12)

About five years I visited a woman from my church in the hospital, she suffered from Lupus and Cancer. Just one of these diseases is enough to destroy someone’s life. I asked her how she was feeling and the usual small talk. Before I left she looked at me and said something that made me well up with tears. She said, “The thing that hurts to most is that the saints of God think I did something wrong because of my condition.” This is what I call the “Spirit of Job’s Friends”; it is wrecking havoc in the Body of Christ. It is causing those that need love, a hug, and understanding to be shunned by the ones that should minister to them. The only time Job’s friends did any good was when they silently sat with him while he suffered. As soon as they opened their mouth, they hurt him. Telling someone that is sick things like, “You need faith!”, “Repent”, or “Stop claiming the sickness” is cold and insensitive. There are times when God renders His judgment on sinful ways, but in many cases the illness has nothing to do with sin. Let’s examine the Word.

15 The Lord then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering?
16 And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?
12 And when he had said these things, all his adversaries were ashamed: and all the people rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by him. (Luke 18)

This woman was identified as a daughter of Abraham, meaning she was a believer! Jesus did not mention any of her sins. Was she sinless? Is anyone? Of course not, Jesus healed this woman for two reasons, 1. She was a daughter of Abraham 2. That He might be glorified. What does this mean? If you are a child of God suffering, Jesus sees your pain and will do something about it. Jesus understands pain because he felt it too!

2 And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
3 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.
4 I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
3 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. (John 9)

The disciples were just as dense as we are today! They ask the question, “Who sinned?” Well if he was born blind, what sin did he commit? Did he kick his mother in the womb? Truthfully all of us are born sinners! (Psalm 51). Why would God punish him for his parent’s sin? I’m glad Jesus answered their question. Jesus said “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents.” I am a firm believer that many today are not healed because those that minister forget that the glory belongs to the Lord of Host. If you watch the so-called great men and women of God today, they act like they are the healers and not Christ alone. God was very angry with Job’s friends! Why? Because they falsely accused Job and misrepresented God, They were also self-righteous as they bombarded Job with innuendo and accusation. The best thing you can do for someone that suffering is pray for them and keep you mouth shut. A hug goes a lot further in most cases than a lecture.

15 Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.
16 Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. (Romans 12)

These two verses say it all! But focus on verse 16, “condescend to men of low estate.” This means stay meek and humble in your character, because the same calamity could happen to you.

23 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)
22 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: (Heb.10)

6:1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.
2 Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Is Oral Sex Permissible According to The Bible?

The Bible makes no clear mention of oral sex at all. Therefore, it is difficult to produce an official biblical position. Nevertheless, based on the information that follows oral sex is not sinful and that it is permissible only within the bonds of marriage between a husband and wife.
The book Song of Solomon is a love poem between a husband and wife. This book is seen in two senses: physical love and a description of God's love for His church. Either way, the book definitely encourages a husband and wife to enjoy the sexual pleasures of one another. It is in this beautiful book that two scriptures appear which may shed light on the issue of oral sex. Let's take a look.

Song 2:3, "Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved among the young men. In his shade I took great delight and sat down, and his fruit was sweet to my taste."
Song 4:16, "Awake, O north wind, and come, wind of the south; make my garden breathe out fragrance. Let its spices be wafted abroad. May my beloved come into his garden and eat its choice fruits!”
Notice in Song 2:3 that it says, "...and his fruit was sweet to my taste." Obviously this involves very intimate experience. Tasting one another can have a wide variety of applications. It appears that this is a veiled way of alluding to oral sex. Furthermore, if we look at Song 7:7 we read, “I said, ‘I will climb the palm tree. I will take hold of its fruit stalks.’ Oh, may your breasts be like clusters of the vine." Apparently, fondling of the breasts is meant here. If such enjoyment of the body is intended, and since tasting (which involves the mouth) is part of that expression, it would seem safe to say that oral sex is permissible.
What does it mean to eat the choice fruits of his garden in 4:16? She is saying that she is "his garden" and that she desires that he eat of her fruit.
The poetic use of metaphors in describing the physical relationship is sometimes hard to fully apprehend, but it seems obvious from the context that intimate sexual union is implied.

"The beloved’s request that the winds blow on her garden, that is, herself (cf. vv. 12, 15) was a delicate, poetically beautiful invitation to her lover to fully possess her (come into her). She wished to be his with her charms as available as fruit on a tree."1

Therefore, oral sex is permissible between a husband and wife.

Bible Training

Ministers Manna

New Jersey Institute of Theological Studies

P.O. BOX 342, Camden, NJ 08101



The Correspondence School of Ministry is a new spiritual, educational training track of the New Jersey Institute of Theological Studies. This condensed, correspondence format will allow many of the basic courses of NJITS to be offered in a time frame better suited to the demands and time constraints of busy adults; particularly many of whom are already actively involved in ministry.

The Correspondence Manual is to be read and the test at the end of the lesson book is to be taken and mailed back to the School for grading. The test can be taken with an open Bible. Some answers to the questions are NOT found in the manual but require the taker to study the scriptures for the answer.

Challenging studies
The goal of this course is to challenge the student to study the Word with intensity and diligence. There will be other study books coming out in the near future.

Affordable and bible based
Practical, anointed, and insightful spiritual training at an extremely reasonable amount.

· The total cost for the manual and the certificate after completion is only $50.00

· The material is packed with Bible based doctrine that will enable you're the student to be the man or woman of God you need to be. This is NOT a replacement for the training you SHOULD receive in your local church BUT it WILL enhance it greatly.

The Dean of the New Jersey Institute of Theological Studies

Elder Mark H. Stevens is an ordained Elder in the COGIC. He is the Dean of the Charles Harrison Mason Bible Institutes of New Jersey and the founder of The New Jersey Institute of Theological Studies. As a Chaplain he ministers at Cooper Trauma Center in Camden. He is also a staff Chaplain at Ancora Psychiatric Hospital. Elder Stevens graduated from the Institute of Jewish Studies, a School of the Philadelphia Bible University. He is an ETA (Evangelical Training Association) certified Bible Teacher. He holds a BA in Theology from Freedom Bible College and Seminary, and a Masters in Ministry from Freedom. His calling is that of Teacher. His classroom and pulpit is wherever the Lord leads him. This course is the first of many. Service men, hospital patients, and the incarcerated need training just like everyone else and THIS is a great start!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Is Hell Eternal?

The teaching that there is an eternal hell in which hordes of mankind will suffer eternal punishment can be a difficult doctrine to accept. We hear so much about God's infinite love and how He desires that all men be saved (1 Tim. 2:4). However, those who develop their theologies based upon the "gentle" side of God do so with an incomplete picture. Not only is God loving (1 John 4:8-10), gracious (Exo. 33:19; 1 Pet. 2:3), and merciful (Exodus 34:6; Psalm 67:1; James 5:11), but He is also holy (Isaiah 6:3; Rev. 4:8), just ( Neh. 9:32-33; 2 Thess. 1:6), and hates sin (Psalm 5:5-6; Hab. 1:13). God punishes the sinner (Jer. 50:31; Ez. 44:12; Matt. 25:46; 2 Thess. 1:9; 2 Pet. 2:9; Heb. 10:29).
The Bible teaches that there is a fiery hell, a place that Jesus warned people about.

"And if your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the eternal fire," (Matt. 18:8).

Eternal fire is real. Jesus said it was. In fact, Jesus spoke a great deal about hell. It is what Jesus came here to save us from.
There will be a Day of Judgment when all people will face God. Those who are not covered by the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross will be cast out into hell where they will undergo eternal punishment. "And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life" (Matt. 25:46). In this verse, the same word "eternal" is used to describe the punishment of the wicked as well as the eternal life of the believer. The punishment is endless as is the eternal life of the believer. That is why the gospel (1 Cor. 15:1-4) is so important, because it saves people from eternal damnation:

Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life, (John 5:24).

Following are a few verses that show the eternality of the hell and punishment. God uses different phrases to describe the same thing.

"And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power," (2 Thess. 1:9).
"Just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example, in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire" (Jude 7).
These men are those who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; 13 wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever," (Jude12-13).
Is "forever and ever" without end?

The phrase "forever and ever" is used both of describing God's eternal worth and the duration of eternal damnation. The exact same Greek phrase is used in each of the verses in the table below.

forever and ever

aionas ton aionon
"ages of the ages"
Eternal - without end Eternal Damnation
"Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen," (1 Tim. 1:17).
". . . To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever" (Rev. 5:13).

"And a second time they said, "Hallelujah! Her smoke rises up forever and ever" (Rev. 19:3).

"And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever," (Rev. 20:10).

The Greek phrase "aionas ton aionon," which is translated "forever and ever," occurs 18 times in the Greek New Testament. In 17 of them, the phrase means without end, extending into infinity. In Rev. 19:3, the phrase is used to describe the destruction of the great whore of Babylon (Rev. 17:1,4) whose smoke ascends forever and ever. It too is eternal and it signifies the beginning of the eternal judgment that comes upon her.
Also worth examining is Rev. 14:11: "And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; and they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name."
The Greek in Rev. 14:11 is only slightly different. In the table above, "forever and ever" is translated from the Greek, "aionas ton aionon," which is literally "ages of the of ages." In Rev. 14:11, the Greek is "aionas aionon" which is literally, "ages of ages." In the latter, the single Greek word "of the" is missing. But it is not necessary and does not change the meaning of the text. Therefore, the scripture teaches the smoke of their torment goes up forever, without end.

Unquenchable Fire

Some believe that the fires of hell are symbolic and/or temporal. But the following verses show that they are not.
Matt. 3:12 says, "And His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." (See also Luke 3:17.)
Mark 9:43 says, "And if your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire." The word "unquenchable" is "asbestos" in the Greek. According to the enhanced Strong's lexicon, it means "unquenchable, the eternal hell fire to punish the damned."
The following citations are from Greek dictionaries and Lexicons. They show that the word "unquenchable," which is "asbestos" in the Greek, (which occurs only in Matt. 3:12, Luke 3:17, and Mark 9:43) means unquenchable, without end.

"unquenchable, inextinguishable" - Liddell, H. G., and Scott, Abridged Greek-English Lexicon, (Oxford: Oxford University Press) 1992, [Online] Available: Logos Library System.
"not quenched" - Vine, W. E., Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, (Grand Rapids, MI: Fleming H. Revell) 1981, [Online] Available: Logos Library System.
"pertaining to a fire that cannot be put out" - "unquenchable." - Louw, Johannes P. and Nida, Eugene A., Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament based on Semantic Domains, (New York: United Bible Societies) 1988, 1989, [Online] Available: Logos Library System
"unquenched, unquenchable" - Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1995, [Online] Available: Logos Library System.
"that cannot be put out" - Wigram-Green, The New Englishman's Greek Concordance and Lexicon, (Peabody Mass: Hendrikson Publishers, 1982, p. 771.
"inextinguishable" - William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, 2nd ed. (Chicago, Ill: The University of Chicago Press), 1979, p. 114.
Is hell eternal? Yes it is. Are its fires without end? Yes they are. Is it a pleasant doctrine to discuss? Not really. But, hell is real. This is all the more reason to preach the gospel. Jesus said,

"And if your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the eternal fire," (Matt. 18:8).

All scripture quotes are from the NASB.