The Transitional Importance of The Lord’s Table

Good Morning Family. I am so grateful to be here with you again. God is indeed merciful.

Intro and Example

It is important, when studying any passage of scripture, to seek to know what the original writer meant, what the context of the passage was, the history and the time, and what the original hearers would have heard. Knowing these things leads to greater understanding, and minimizes the misuse of a passage.

It has been said quite that ‘Text without context, is pretext’. Not having context, and authorial intent can be deadly. Literally. History has shown us that.

This has been particularly meaningful, as I have been for the past 14 months, teaching through The Revelation.  Line by line, verse by verse, we have worked our way through it.  In fact, we are going to be finishing Chapter 13 in our gathering later this afternoon…

One of the things that we have learned, to a person, is that our understanding of this letter, which was framed in the rubric of Dispensational American Evangelicalism, is almost completely wrong. It has been sobering, to say the least.

Why you may ask, has it been wrong? Well, because we are taught John’s words, interpreted outside of John’s time and context.

A quick example: Chapters 2 and 3 are individual letters to 7 churches in Asia Minor. Each of them had issues that plague many churches today. That alone is a great reason to read them. In Chapter 3, which contains the Letter to the church at Laodicea, we find two oft-misquoted passages, occurring in verses, 15, 16, and 20:

Verses 15 & 16 say: 15  I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were cold or hot. 16  So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of My mouth.

I have heard that passages taught many times that Jesus was telling us to decisive, to be hot or cold towards him, and that indecisiveness would cause you to be, (and I am quoting King James here) ‘Spewed out’.  When I was younger, I used to wonder just how far God could ‘spew’?

Was it one of those deals where, if he spit you out, 1000 years later, you’d still be hurtling through the galaxy  at Warp 8, doomed to travel from here to the other side of forever…?

What used to bother me, and I never seemed to get a sufficient answer was, why would God want anyone to be cold towards Him? It made no sense, and I understand today that it made no sense because I had no context.

The statement is most like a reference that the church at Laodicea would have easily understand as an ironic chastisement, specific to their time and place. You see Hieropolis, with its invigorating , medicinal hot springs was a few miles to the north, and Colossae, with its refreshing cold springs was just south.

Laodicea, right in the middle, had neither… In fact, some scholars believe that the water in Laodicea was literally tepid, lukewarm… neither hot nor cold.  As such, it was neither invigorating nor refreshing.

Think about that for a moment: A CHURCH, representatives of the Most High GOD, Bearers of HIS SPIRIT and HIS WORD. SALT AND LIGHT in the world, and Jesus calls them Useless…  It is a terrifying thought, both individually and corporately.

How would we, could we understand that today, without knowing the context.  Doesn’t that make a lot more sense now?

And it is this loving albeit harsh admonition that leads to the Grace-filled offer of verse 20, which we all know…

Revelation 3:20 – Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.

How have you heard that used? In my experience, it was usually in an altar call situation, imploring unsaved people to come to Jesus. Presenting the knocking, waiting, patient, Jesus… Things of that sort…

But now that we know the subject, object and context of the letter it is clear to see that this is not a general offer or invitation of communion, or salvation. It is specific to the church, the people of God, those with whom there already exists a covenant, an oath: Born of Love, sealed in precious, redeeming BLOOD. It is to US that this offer of communion is made…

Gathered to Celebrate

We have gathered today to celebrate one of the most important events, not only in Christendom, but in the history of the world. The Lord’s Table, The Eucharist, Communion…

In fact the word Eucharist itself is based on the Greek word meaning to celebrate.

The Lord’s table then, is a celebration.  A celebration of what?

A celebration of transaction, transition and transformation…

What do I mean?

Listen to this passage in Luke Chapter 22. Starting from verse 14: Reading from the HCSB

 14 When the hour came, He reclined at the table, and the apostles with Him. Then He said to them, “I have fervently desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”

17  Then He took a cup, and after giving thanks, He said, “Take this and share it among yourselves. For I tell you, from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”  And He took bread, gave thanks, broke it, gave it to them, and said, “This is My body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.”

20  In the same way He also took the cup after supper and said, “This cup is the new covenant established by My blood; it is shed for you.

He says to them that for Him, it would be the Last Until… Yet for them, by telling them to repeat this process in remembrance of Him, for them this was a First.

It was Last for Him, first for them, transition for both of them…

You see, He knew what they didn’t know or understand, even though He had said it numerous times… The son of man must be given over, and be killed… He knew what was coming, and that things would never be the same. The table became symbolic then, not only of what had passed, but of what was to come.

As such, it could be argued (and is argued by some) that the Last Supper, was in fact the First Communion and the Last Passover. We’ll get to that in a minute.

From our vantage point we know now what those who first heard it would understand later:

The Communion was preparation for a transaction that would take place a few hours later on the cross.  The Lord’s Table was symbolic of The Process of transition for Jesus, and the Promise of transformation  for the disciples (and for us).

The First Passover

The first Passover itself was a transaction that was both transitional and transformational.

Think about it. The Book of Exodus records that Israel had been in Egypt in bondage for over 400 years. They had been oppressed and enslaved, and God delivered them by the leadership of Moses through a series of plagues.

The final plague was the death of the firstborn. The angel of death came and killed the firstborn in every family, the firstborn of man and animal unless you had sacrificed a lamb and splattered the blood on the doorposts and the side beams. If there was blood shed, then the angel of death passed that house by.

To be delivered then, requires the shedding of blood. In particular, the blood of a spotless lamb…

In short, there is a principle which is: To be delivered from judgment requires death.

But by Jesus’ time judging by the behaviors recorded in scripture, Passover was for many a mere formality. It was a thing that the people did on a ritual basis that commemorated a long done event, too far removed from the people’s understanding to have any real meaning.

Sadly, it is the same now. The Lord’s table is, for many, merely a ritual exercise, a ritual devoid of meaning. We do not fully grasp that the elements are symbols of Great Love, great cost, great weight, great promise and great value. Let us never forget that.

Jesus Elevates the Passover

So what do we know about The Last Supper? It was a Passover dinner. But what else do we know?

Luke and Paul both speak of Bread being broken, and ‘The Cup’ being drunk. Can we get some more context on this? I believe so… What does current scholarship have to say?

“Near the beginning of a traditional Passover Seder, a piece of matzah is broken in half. The larger of the two pieces is hidden away in linen cloth until the end of the meal. When it is brought back from concealment it is shared by everyone at the table as their final morsel. This broken and hidden piece of matzah is called the afikoman.

None of it is explained in the Haggadah for Passover. Nor is it mentioned in Scripture. The term afikoman appears first in the Mishnah (the earliest collection of rabbinic legal rulings, codified around 200 CE/AD) Although afikoman is written in Hebrew letters, it is actually a Greek word…

Jewish historians disagree why a Greek term entered the Passover liturgical tradition or what it means.

In 1925 an Austrian scholar named Robert Eisler argued that at the time of Jesus,  the afikoman was originally part of an established messianic ritual observed during the Passover. He said the whole piece of matzah held up at the beginning of the meal represented all Israel, while the broken-off portion stood for the longed-for Messiah. When the hidden afikoman emerged from concealment at the end of the Seder, it symbolized the coming of the Messiah in the midst of his people.”

Could it be that it is THIS piece of Bread that Jesus gave to His disciples declaring that this was His Body?

As for ‘The Cup’. What cup is this?

“The Mishnah states that there are 4 cups of wine drunk during the Passover feast. Each time the cup is filled, it has a different name. Opinions vary as to what certain cups actually symbolize. Most agree that the first cup is the Kiddush, which means sanctification. With this cup, the Passover seder begins.

The second cup is called the cup of plagues. The third cup is referred to as either the cup of redemption or the cup of blessing. The fourth cup is often called hallel which means praise, though some traditions call it the cup of acceptance while still others use it as the cup of Elijah.

The New Testament names one of the cups—the cup taken after supper, which is traditionally the third cup. Jesus calls this cup “the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 22:20). The Apostle Paul calls it, “the cup of blessing which we bless,” as well as “the cup of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 10:16,21).

Both Jesus and Paul draw on something from Jewish tradition to provide insights not previously understood. By calling the cup “the new covenant in my blood,” Jesus makes a direct reference to the promise of Jeremiah 31. God had declared that He would make a new covenant because the previous covenant had become “broken” (Jeremiah 31:32). To violate a covenant agreement with God would surely incur His wrath and judgment—a terrible cup! But instead, God promised a new covenant of grace and salvation.” – source jews for jesus

Think about how this must have sounded to those at the Table…

It is apparent then, that Jesus was fundamentally and eternally elevating the nature and purpose of this meal. By elevating the Passover, Jesus makes it clear that it is the blood of the lamb that seals one’s destiny, and not by anyone’s planning, skill or merit, neither by tradition or remembrance, but by grace. What is the principle again? To be delivered from judgment requires death.

 The Communion table then, is a reminder that to be a Christian is:

  • Transactional (there was a cost, the shedding of innocent blood), That it is
  • Transitional (that as John said, we have been given power to become the children of God. Contrary to popular preaching today, everyone is NOT God’s child, and John 1 is clear about that. If you have to become something, then you are not that thing until you become it) and it is
  • Transformational (John later describes the fact that though we have become the children of God , it does not yet appear what we shall be. Shall is future, it is not now. For those of you who are Christians, take a moment to look back over your life… Can you see that you have changed? Right, you are in the midst of a transformation, a process that will continue until He calls you home.

 

Hymns

The Revelation has several hymns in it, and I’d like to quickly share a passage where a couple of them can be found. Chapter Five starting at verse 8, again from the HCSB

8  When He took the scroll, the four living creatures and the 24 elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song:

You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because You were slaughtered, and You redeemed people for God by Your blood from every tribe and language and people and nation. You made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they will reign on the earth.

11  Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels around the throne, and also of the living creatures and of the elders. Their number was countless thousands, plus thousands of thousands. They said with a loud voice:

The Lamb who was slaughtered is worthy to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing!

13  I heard every creature in heaven, on earth, under the earth, on the sea, and everything in them say: Blessing and honor and glory and dominion to the One seated on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever! The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

THE LAMB (The spotless, sinless, sacrificed One) is the Only One worthy to open the scrolls of judgment (the events contained in the scrolls mark transition points) , His Blood redeemed a people for God, (to redeem something is a transaction) and these people, by having become God’s people have undergone a transformation.

When the people of God drink the cup and eat the bread, we understand , just as the earliest followers though culturally Jewish, understood,  that by interaction with the Messiah we are transformed, individually and corporately into something different.

 

Only for the believer

This is why Communion is not for everyone. It is only for those who believe.

Consider the Apostle Paul’s words again: from 1 Corinthians 11:26-29  

Verse 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.

The Apostle is saying what? That this event, this supper, this communion, is a proclamation,  a statement.

A statement of what? The truth of Jesus’ claims, His Death, His Resurrection, His substitutionary atonement, and much more. It is a proclamation of the reality of your Faith.

He continues, in verse 27:

27  Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy way will be guilty of sin against the body and blood of the Lord. 28  So a man should examine himself; in this way he should eat the bread and drink from the cup.

In what way? In a self examining, humble way. In a way that is aware of yourself, your relationship with God, and your place in the community of believers.

Think back to the parable of the tax collector and the Pharisee… What did Jesus say? He said that the Pharisee who came boldly to pray, trusting in his own righteousness… ‘I thank you that I am not like other men, etc.’  went away just as he approached; unchanged, unjustified, far away from God.

But the tax collector, despised among the people, the man who stood afar off, clearly aware of his own sin and unrighteousness, and begging for mercy, went away justified. It is the same here.  And here is the Apostle’s warning…

29  For whoever eats and drinks without recognizing the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself.

Growing up around the way, we used to say, ‘Check yourself, before you Wreck yourself.’

Examine Yourself

So today family, as we prepare to partake of this table; this symbol of transaction, take a moment to examine yourself.

As we come to celebrate this transformational event, especially on this day, that is symbolic  of transition and for transformation, for this Pastor, for this church, for each of us individually, and as a corporate body;  Take the time to examine yourself, honestly, truthfully.

Take time to contemplate, to consider, to look back, to look forward. Take a hard look at you, right now. Consider what you see…

Take time as we sing the Hymn ‘Be Thou My Vision’,  to ask God by His Spirit to show you what you need to see, what needs to change, what needs to be transformed in you, and ask Him for the strength and courage to allow Him to do what He wills be done.

To God Be the Glory. Amen.

Thoughts on recent events II

I am coming to understand that many people’s blind trust in the police narrative of any incident is not totally rooted in unfeeling arrogance, but in a basic primal need to trust. (I mean they MUST have deserved it, right? See, he had a rap sheet! I knew it!)
They view Police Officers as benevolent peace keepers, entrusted with the safety and care, protection and service of the citizenry. (Thankfully, most police officers are exactly that.)

It is a need to trust that is rooted in a (correct) innate sense that order is essential to well-being and the survival of their understanding of community. (Everybody wants to feel/be safe in their homes and communities)

The problem is that this environment has long been disordered, the system long broken, the weights imbalanced to prefer a certain segment, and contain another, and it is only now that the ubiquitous recording devices, internet and social media bring the every day lives of many in our culture live and in living color to their computers, phones and TV’s, that their fragile-as-tissue paper sensibilities are being assaulted…

But this is some people’s every day, and for those people, they are APPALLED and OUTRAGED that there are people who did NOT know… (How could you not know? Seriously, how could you NOT KNOW)
These people have no reason to trust the narrative, due to what they have experienced, so the narrative is almost always suspect, and for them, the peace keepers are actually a militarized force.
It is difficult to reach across the divide of experience, to come to a place of mutual understanding, forbearance and trust, but we must try.
We Must…

Thoughts on recent events I

I’m only posting this because it occurred to me today, that perhaps this story will help those of my social media friends that do not seem to grasp the angst, understand what it’s all about.

April 4, 1968 – When I was almost (12 days shy of) 6 years old, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. It was (literally) a life changing experience. My parents, (and probably ALL of the adults that I knew) were devastated… Completely devastated… My parents (an immigrant, and the daughter of immigrants) had hope, you see, hope in Dr. King’s dream. They stood on the mall in DC and heard him say those words, me in the stroller, and my sister in my Mom’s womb…They had Hope that the very words that he spoke that day could come true. Hope for their children, hope for America, hope for themselves…
I was sad, as only little kids can be sad… Not fully intellectually aware, but sensorially acute.
I remember I had been given an American flag, probably by my Dad, (the proudest to be an American immigrant that I know) and in my anger, I snapped the little wooden stick that it was stapled to… and a splinter went in my eyeball. A quick trip to Brooklyn eye and ear hospital (long closed) took care of that, and I was back in business…

November 2008 -40 years later, we were on the phone together, as the 44th President of these United States was elected, and stood with his family in a park in Chicago, in the rain, and spoke words of Hope. My parents wept, as did I. We had our disagreements, (and I was/am not a fan of the man), but his election MEANT something, for my parents it meant that there was still Hope

August 2016– 8 years later, I’m driving my Dad’s car in Brooklyn, NY with its Georgia license plates, two American flags on the dashboard, and the flag of Aruba (his birthplace) on the back window… Turning onto Eastern Parkway, I get pulled over by the police, who approach the car from either side, one (passenger side) has his gun drawn. They look in the car, see me, my wife next to me, and my Dad, Daughter and Mom across the back seat… I was polite, kept both hands on the wheel, and was polite to a fault.
The P.O. literally tells me that they pulled me over for a non-working signal light, but that as they approached the car, the signal light began to work, so they were letting me go.
(This is of course a complete lie, as once you complete a turn, the signal light automatically turns back off, but who am I to argue)
They wished me a nice day… I drove off, and minutes later, my 84 year old Dad began to cry… PTSD, you see…

He’s been called “NIGGER” so very many times since coming to this country that he loves so much… He was proud to serve in the US Army (even before he was a citizen) taking untold abuse from racist fellow soldiers, superiors, etc because of his beautiful (still at almost 85) richly melanated brown skin…

He’s been pulled over, verbally assaulted, baited and threatened in the middle of the night by police officers while driving alone in the deep south, he’s been bypassed for advancement in employment, he’s seen his wife and children hassled… It was all too much…
For him to see that this still goes on, In 2016 , and now impacts his grandchildren, was too much.

I share his name, his melanin, and his pain. It is consistent, and it is something that causes me stress regularly. But I have to continue to push forward, believing that the land of my birth, the land that I love does in fact love me, even if many in it don’t, and many others find me threatening and fear inducing simply because of the melanin.

I have to have Hope, you see, because I have progeny, deeply melanated, deeply opinionated, beautiful, eloquent, progeny, and she deserves better than what’s she’s presented with. So, I cannot give up, neither can my Dad.

“With the rhythm it takes to dance through what we have to live through, we can walk on the water and not get wet..” – George Clinton

3 Questions from a seeking youth…

A young sister sent me three questions after spending time with family members who are Jehovah’s Witnesses. Here are her questions, and my responses…

1) If Jesus is God why did he call God his father when he was on the cross?

Let us be clear, Jesus (Yeshuah is his Jewish name, and this will be important in a few moments) consistently referred to YHWH (GOD) as his Father. Throughout the Gospels, we see this. What we have to seek to do first in order to properly understand any time we read the Bible, is to try to hear what the original hearers heard. This is important here, since to the Jews, Fathers and Sons had the same attributes. Here is an example: Read Matthew 13:54-56, and its parallel passage Mark 6:1-5. Note that in Matthew’s account, he (Jesus/Yeshuah) is referred to as ‘The Carpenter’s son’. That is his identity in the community, and that is why they could not hear him or receive from him. Carpenters were just that carpenters, and nothing else. Mark parallels this, referring to him in this same event as ‘the carpenter’. Two things to note here: 1) You are identified with your Father, and 2) You do what your Father does.

I hope you’re with me so far. Here’s why: Jesus identifies himself as being ‘one’ with God in John Chapter 10. Please read verses 22-39, focusing on verses 30-33 in particular. Did you notice WHY they are picking up stones to stone him? Then look at what he says to them in verses 37-38. Whose works is he doing?

Now thinking back on what we read earlier in Matthew, knowing that for the Jew, you did the works of , and had equality with, your Father, what is he then saying to them? He is identifying Himself by His Works, to the ONLY one who could do those works, YHWH (GOD). Better yet, what did they understand? That He was proclaiming Himself to be equal with God. Knowing that to the Jew, GOD has no equal , the implication here is clear. Jesus is calling Himself GOD.

There are many other times that this type of thing occurs, another good one is when He declares to them EGO EIMI (I AM)

Most Jews is Jesus’ time read their Bibles (The Old Testament, as at the time there was no New Testament) in Greek, the document was called ‘The Septuagint’

(… from the Latin word septuaginta (meaning seventy). It is a translation of the Hebrew Bible and some related texts into Koine Greek. The title and its Roman numeral acronym LXX refer to the legendary seventy Jewish scholars who completed the translation as early as the late 2nd century BCE. As the primary Greek translation of the Old Testament, it is also called the Greek Old Testament (Ἡ μετάφρασις τῶν Ἑβδομήκοντα). This translation is quoted in the New Testament, particularly in the Pauline epistles, and also by the Apostolic Fathers and later Greek Church Fathers.. – source Wikipedia)

In the Septuagint, when Moses asks God Who should he say is sending him, God responds ‘I Am’ – Exodus 3:14 –  “And God spoke to Moses, saying, I AM (ego eimi); and he said, Thus shall ye say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM’(ego eimi) has sent me to you.”

Now turn to John Chapter 8, and read from verse 48 to 59. Note that he says, before Abraham was ‘I AM’, and can you guess what Greek phrase is used there? You got it, EGO EIME the same name that GOD/YHWH uses with Moses.

Do you see what happened next? They picked up stones (to try to kill him) Why? Because of WHO he was saying that He was/is…

With the preceding point in mind now, (that for Jews, there was equality between Father and Son) let’s take a look specifically at Luke 23:33-3433 When they arrived at the place called The Skull, they crucified Him there, along with the criminals, one on the right and one on the left. [34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.” ] And they divided His clothes and cast lots.

Knowing what you now know about the context in which Jesus spoke, what is so unusual about this? Nothing. He was doing as He always had, declaring Himself one with/equal to, GOD

Please note that the disciples identified him as God as well. Here are a couple of examples:

2 Peter 1:1  – “Simon Peter, a slave and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:”

He is not, as some might claim, referring to two beings, He is referring to only ONE Jesus Christ (Yeshuah Ha Maschiach) who he calls ‘our God and Savior.’ As in one being both attributes… How do we know this? It is a reference to the doctrine of imputation. The righteousness of the Messiah, was imputed to men, and their sin was imputed to him.  Imputation means to replace missing data/information/elements with substituted values. It is what the Jews clearly understood from Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. The sin of the family is imputed to the animal that is to be sacrificed, and that animal’s blood is then shed in atonement of sin. The animal in effect, becomes/takes on the sin of the person, and the animal pays the price for the sin, with its blood (its life). Sound familiar? It should, It is the point of the cross. As Paul said: ‘He who did not have any sin, became sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God.’  – 2 Corinthians 5:21

That is imputation.

Paul says of the Jews (his brothers ethnically), in his letter to the Roman church:

Romans 9:1  I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience is testifying to me with the Holy Spirit— 2 that I have intense sorrow and continual anguish in my heart. 3 For I could almost wish to be cursed and cut off from the  Messiah for the benefit of my  brothers , my own flesh and blood. 4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the temple service, and the promises. 5 The ancestors are theirs, and from them, by physical descent, came the Messiah, who is God over all, praised forever.  Amen .

2) Was Jesus an Arch Angel?

No, Jesus is not a created being, He is the Creator. This is especially hard for people who are Unitarians (as Jehovah’s witnesses are). To grasp the idea that one being can exist in three persons is unfathomable, and yet the Bible clearly maintains this truth.

Here is what the Apostle Paul says to the church at Colossae (where a similar debate was going on as to whether or not Jesus was deity or a created being.)

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For everything was created by Him, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities— all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and by Him all things hold together. 18 He is also the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He might come to have first place in everything.– Colossians 1:15-18

If he is the image of that which is invisible, he is that thing in representation. For example, if you look in the mirror, the reflection that you see is who? You. If everything was created by him, (that includes angels) He cannot have created himself, as such he is THE CREATOR, HE is GOD. All things have been created through and for Him. He is before ALL things, as such if he was a created being something/someone would have to have been before him, and by him all things (notice it says ALL THINGS) hold together. All clearly means ALL so there is nothing before Him, as such he MUST be GOD.

Compare this to: “Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, and the one who formed you from the womb, “I, the Lord, am the maker of all things, stretching out the heavens by Myself, and spreading out the earth all alone.“ – Isaiah 44:24

The Apostle John, at the beginning of his Gospel, declares:

The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15  John (the Baptist)  testified concerning Him and exclaimed, “This was the One of whom I said, ‘The One coming after me has surpassed me, because He existed before me.’”) 16 Indeed, we have all received grace after grace from His fullness, 17 for the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. The One and Only Son— the One who is at the Father’s side— He has revealed Him. – John 1:14-18

Notice that John the Baptist is quoted as saying that Yeshuah is pre-existent. Chronologically, John was older than his cousin Jesus/Yeshuah (see Luke 1:26-45) yet he says that Yeshuah existed before him… This comment from John lends weight to the contention made at the beginning of the Gospel of John which we will discuss later in this tome.

See also Revelation 3:14-22 written to the church at Laodicea, a city quite close to Colossae,  in fact mentioned 3 times in the letter to the Colossian church, and a place where clearly the same heresy concerning Yeshuah’s Deity was active,  wherein Yeshuah identifies Himself as: ““The  Amen , the faithful and true Witness, the Originator of God’s creation” – Rev. 3:14

This is a very big issue, and here is one reason why I prefer that you not use the NWT.

Consider what EVERY OTHER BIBLE EVER TRANSLATED has to say re: John 1:1-3: 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created.

Now this is what the NWT says: In [the] beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god. This one was in [the] beginning with God. All things came into existence through him, and apart from him not even one thing came into existence (John 1:1–3 NWT).

Not only is this translation inaccurate, it is deceitful, and dishonest, because it seeks to intentionally change the writer’s statement re: the Deity of Christ (Yeshuah) by calling him a ‘god’ (note the small g’)

3) Is Jesus’ name Jehovah?

In a Word NO. But GOD’s name is not ‘Jehovah’ either. Why do I say that? First off, because there is no ‘J’ or j sound in Hebrew. So Jesus’ name isn’t Jesus either. So where did ‘Jehovah’ come from?

“The word “Jehovah is a hybrid, arising from a misunderstanding. The word “Yahweh,” which more nearly corresponds to the original Hebrew name, is preferable;” –  Bade The Old Testament in the Light of Today (Boston, 1915), pp. 313 f.

And this from the 1911 – Encyclopedia Britannica: “JEHOVAH (YAHWEH 2), in the Bible, the God of Israel.

“Jehovah” is a modern mispronunciation of the Hebrew name, resulting from combining the consonants of that name, Jhvh, with the vowels of the word Adonay, ” Lord,” which the Jews substituted for the proper name in reading the scriptures. In such cases of substitution the vowels of the word which is to be read are written in the Hebrew text with the consonants of the word which is not to be read.”

BritannicaJehovah

 

As such the better question is: Is Jesus/Yeshuah YHWH (Yahweh)?

The answer is YES! Let’s look at Philippians 2:9-11— The Apostle Paul says: Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

Once again, we have to, when reading the Bible try to understand what the original hearers/readers would have understood. Paul’s readers (remember there was no new testament at the time of this letter’s writing) would have immediately identified that Paul was calling Jesus GOD, specifically YHWH. Why? Because he is drawing directly from Isaiah 45:20-25 –

20 “Come, gather together, and draw near, you fugitives of the nations. Those who carry their wooden idols, and pray to a god who cannot save, have no knowledge. 21 Speak up and present your case— yes, let them take counsel together. Who predicted this long ago? Who announced it from ancient times? Was it not I, Yahweh?* There is no other God but Me, a righteous God and Savior; there is no one except Me. 22 Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth. For I am God, and there is no other. 23 By Myself I have sworn; Truth has gone from My mouth, a word that will not be revoked: Every knee will bow to Me, every tongue will swear allegiance. 24 It will be said to Me: Righteousness and strength is only in the Lord.” All who are enraged against Him will come to Him and be put to shame. 25 All the descendants of Israel will be justified and find glory through the Lord .

*If the translation that you are using says ‘The LORD’ or something close, here is why:

Whenever the name LORD is printed in small caps in some English translation, it means the NAME: YAHWEH. For ancient Jews (and conservative modern ones), YAHWEH was the Name of names; so sacred that they would not speak it nor would they write it in full (they left out the vowels: YHWH). YAHWEH was the Holy One of Israel. Here is what it looks like:

yhwh-in-english

 

So let’s consider this:

As a Pharisee, (one of the most learned and trained Jews) Paul knew this text very well. He knew exactly what he was saying: Jesus of Nazareth is YAHWEH.

In The Psalms, we find this: “Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Yahweh, faithful God.” Psalm 31:5

The Apostle Stephen as he was being killed, said what? – Acts 7:59-60 “And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ And when he had said this, he fell asleep.’”  What did Stephen believe abiout Jesus/Yeshuah, even to his death? That He is YAHWEH

The Prophet Joel says: “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of Yahweh shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as Yahweh has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom Yahweh calls.” Joel 2:32

The Apostle Paul says:

8  On the contrary, what does it say? ‘The message is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’ (he is quoting Deuteronomy 30:14). This is the message of faith that we proclaim: 9 If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation. 11 Now the Scripture says, Everyone who believes on Him will not be put to shame, 12 for there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, since the same Lord of all is rich to all who call on Him. 13 For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” – Romans 10:8-13

The Lord who? Who does Paul say is Lord? What scripture is he clearly referencing? So what is He saying about Jesus/Yeshuah? Right, that HE IS YAHWEH

I hope that at least gets you started.

God Bless You, sister.

Please let me know what other questions you have

Much Love to you,

Pastor J

Debate with a Pro-‘Choice’ person

Recently, I was involved in an online debate with a person who is a Liberal Democrat, and vehemently Pro-‘choice’. In response to one of their posts, I wrote this, and thought I’d share. SDG…

Xxxxxx, please do not be sorry, and though I did not mean to ‘fire you up’, I am glad that you commented. I am sure that there are many other people who frequent my page who feel as you do, but will not comment. You are a surrogate for them today. On their behalf, I thank you.

I want to take a few moments to examine your post, as it covers most of the main Pro-Choice argumentation. Please note that I will use the words baby and fetus, not ‘clump of cells’, not ‘products of conception’

1)    “Pro choice is about a woman’s right to choose what to do with her own body.”

This presupposes that the body (the life) growing inside the woman is not in and of itself a person, has no body of their own, as such has no rights, which I get is the main argument. (One woman I read recently straight up called the baby a parasite) but does this then not deprive the female unborn child (never mind the male) the right to decide what to do with her body? If this is fundamentally a women’s rights issue, what of the rights of these women?

2)    “Men have been making decisions for women for most of history.”

This is ‘The War on women’ argument, which is usually paired with the proposed notion that abortion (aka reproductive rights) is the way to cure this. (For clarity’s sake, I am aware that the term ‘reproductive rights’ encompasses a variety of things, however, most often when I see/read/hear the term used, it centers around abortion)

I respectfully disagree. In fact, I would propose to you that the real war on women is gendercide, in that the majority of abortions done in places like India & China for example, are sex selection abortions, and it is the female babies that are killed.

http://qed.econ.queensu.ca/pub/faculty/sumon/sexabortions_india.pdf

http://www.allgirlsallowed.org/gendercide-china-statistics

This argument, (much like the completely fallacious and incendiary ‘College rape culture’ claim) is used to make the claim that today in America women are patriarchally besieged, unable to decide who to sleep with and when, and what methods of contraception to use. Is that what is really being said?

3)    “So if you don’t get pregnant, then please don’t weigh in on this issue.”

This is equivalent to: ‘If you’re not X, you can’t have an opinion on X involved issues.’  It is a tactic used to silence any opposing viewpoints, thereby killing conversation and/or debate. It assumes that people cannot show/have empathy, and it is extremely unfair and problematic. We see this very mindset working division and strife in our country right now, when it comes to matters of epidermis, melanin, and the associated difficulties… There are many good people afraid to speak on issues that they care deeply about because they are afraid of being labeled, bullied, etc. It is sad and ridiculous.

So, as the son of a woman, the husband of a woman, the brother of a woman, the father of a woman, the uncle of a woman, cousin to many women, heck, as a person, I think that I am entitled both to a) Have an opinion and b) voice it. Just as everyone else is free to either agree or disagree. Why would anyone think otherwise?

4)    “You have no idea what it means to have to make that choice.”

Actually, you’d be surprised.

5)     “And what happens to an unwanted child once they are born? Do We think about that? Does the government care about whether they are housed, fed, clothed, educated, sent to prison, sick? I think not.”

This is the ‘It’s better to kill it now than to have it suffer later’ argument. On the surface, it sounds almost empathetic, even caring, but in reality, is it? This is the logic that causes 90% of babies with Down’s syndrome to be aborted. It is akin to theAktion T4 program. Which was started in 1939 to euthanize “incurably ill, physically or mentally disabled, emotionally distraught, and elderly people.” From 1939 to 1945 some 200,000 people met their end in this way.

Is it right to deprive a human being of life, on the chance that they may suffer later? Do you think that, given the choice, the nearly 60 million children aborted in the US since 1973 would have voted to be killed? I think not.

6)     “Respectfully, men have no right to decide or to legislate what a woman chooses to do with her body.”

It’s not an issue of legislation Xxxxxx. As Mrs. Clinton rightly says: These are the laws in our country (like them or not).  I would note though, that 38 states have fetal homicide laws, in those states, the law also says that if someone kills a pregnant woman they have killed two persons. Why is that? It is the undeniable fact of the personhood of the fetus, the personhood of the baby…

7)    “It’s her body AND for that matter, her soul to do what she wishes. I’m a social worker and I’ve seen what happens to these kids and overburdened and under resourced families.”

I am well aware that nearly 40% of the abortions performed nationally are women who are in or close to poverty. This is true, and lamentable. I am also aware that in NYC, black people are 25% of the population, but have 61% of the abortions. How is this explainable when free birth control and all kinds of sex education materials are readily available for free, abundant in schools, pharmacies, etc.?  How is it at all explainable that once again (as of the most recent data, 2014) More black children are aborted (27,367) than born( 23,680)  in NYC?  – https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/doh/downloads/pdf/vs/2014sum.pdf

What this means is that abortion is being used as ‘birth control’, but I would argue that feticide is not birth control, it is population control.

Interesting that you would mention the soul. In my ‘line of work’, I have also had to deal with broken women unable to forgive themselves sometimes decades after abortions, (sometimes multiple ones) some of whom mark the days annually because they were unable escape the reality of the abortion: At the end of every abortion, someone is dead. Not a clump, not by-products, but a person. A person, innocent, full of potential and purpose, is dead. We all know this, no matter how hard we try to redefine, or change the terminology.

Or what of the women who had safe, legal abortions but were unable to carry to term later (there are more than you think, and no one talks about them, because of the ‘safe legal and rare’ narrative.) What of these completely preventable tragedies?

8)    “Are you willing to adopt some of these kids? Sorry. This fires me up.”

I’ve already been informed that I did not make enough to adopt, and then when I did, that we were too old.  We talked about this very thing last week, and at this point, have given up.Let me say this, and then I’ll stop:

This issue is not simply a women’s rights issue. It is a people issue. It is a human rights issue, and it is one that impacts most people very strongly. Why? Because again, we know what we’re really talking about: The taking of a life. Abortion is the purposed, intentional, taking of a human life.

In order to make the truth of this fact less repulsive, less fundamentally disquieting, we must dehumanize the baby. This is not an uncommon methodology; we do it all the time. Human beings know that others are human, just like dogs can spot eachother a block away, in a rainstorm at midnight. We just KNOW. So we have to make the person an ‘other’. In order to hate, enslave, fear, kill, we have to seek out the ‘otherness’ of that person. It temporarily assuages our primal discomfort…

Life is chock full of situations, circumstances and issues. That is the reality, and if you live long enough, you’ll have trouble. I just cannot ever agree, that imposing the death penalty on a person, especially an innocent one, ever solves the problem.

Looking forward to your response…

(I did eventually get a response. A response that bypassed all of my points and went right to feelings. There is no way to reason past that, so it ended.)

 

A ‘lose lose’ situation…

Several years ago, I was in negotiations to become the ‘worship pastor’ of a local denominational church. I had served there previously in several capacities (choir director, worship leader, and more) in two previous spans.

The situation seemed really good; The church,suffering numerically and financially, was seeing dwindling numbers especially in the key 25-40, and 40-59 demographics, (Key of course since these are the two groups who normally bring both energy and steady income to the church)  and was looking for a way to turn the situation around…

Per the negotiations that I had with the pastor, I would work directly with him on worship planning, service structure, and have responsibility over the music and arts ministries. In that capacity, I was to:

1) Implement training (Biblical, Musical, Theological) for both the adults and children, re: Worship, the use of music, etc.

2) Create/develop a band and choir from among existing membership so that the church would not have to hire outside musicians, (especially those of a different faith as they were doing, which is another post in itself).

Additionally, the pastor told me that he was looking to build what amounted to a ‘two-winged’ system (aka the cell-celebration model) where leaders were trained and empowered, and the cells met and sought to experience/manifest their faith in a much more intimate way, and that he needed my help to do it. I was hooked…

I even agreed to commit to the work for less than one half of what I knew the work was worth in terms of time, effort and value.

Keep in mind that I was going to take this on in addition to my other duties, including pastoring/teaching the Repairer’s Fellowship. (What was I thinking? In retrospect, I’m not sure)

As we went into the process however, things began to change subtly. After a while it became clear that the pastor’s aims/goals and mine were not in alignment.

He wanted Immediate results, performance and pomp, (especially since he was aware of my prior work with a very large ministry of which he is enamored), while I was looking for steady growth, community development, and long-term success.

Additionally, I began to see during meetings that what we had discussed privately was clearly not being communicated to the board members of the church, in particular those whose support would be key, if the endeavor would be successful.

Most importantly  however, I began to see (in these same meetings) that the Theological positions which we seemed to share on key issues must have been figments of my imagination. In short, we were at an impasse.

The last straw was a meeting which I was invited to, which took place a mere 3 days before my scheduled ‘official’ start date. I had been attending events, getting familiar with the people with whom I’d be working closely, some of whom were new to me, some were not. Several things took place at the meeting which did nothing to assuage my growing discomfort with the formerly idyllic enterprise, in fact it was looking more and more like an elaborate gimmick-filled program designed to bolster/rally support for the pastor, at the expense of the people… Then, the coup de grace. I was asked to stay behind after the meeting, and I was told by the pastor and a key board member, that they then wanted me to come in and work for the first couple of months gratis, and then at the beginning of the third month, they would ‘by faith’ be able to pay me…

I told them that I would pray and think about it, and what emerged was the following (edited for names etc.)

Date: —-

To: Rev. ——, and committee

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

I am writing to you because there is much that needs to be said, and it is my desire to be thorough and concise, neither do I wish to be misunderstood, therefore, I ask that you read completely what follows, and then if you’d like to discuss any part of it, I will be happy to at a time that is mutually convenient.

I came out of the meeting that I attended on March xxth, conflicted and concerned for several reasons which I will, if you will indulge me, make clear below. I will first lay out the various situations as I see them, followed by a conclusion…

The liturgical situation:

Clearly we are on different trajectories in terms or our understanding of what it means to be, and function as the church.  As we are all aware, I am not (denomination), and there are many reasons for that. I thought however,  that we could surmount those differences and try to come to a middle ground, but I am now no longer so sure that this can happen successfully.

By nature, due to experience and years of study, I am antagonistic towards doctrines and practices foisted on the church (the people of God) that I do not see Biblical support for. Things that are in my view, destructive to the simple clarity of the Gospel and what it means to be the Ekklesia. Things like Paedo-Baptism, tithing, and consubstantiation to name a few.

I realize also that we have very different ideas about, and definitions of, words like ‘Worship’,’ church’, and ‘service’. I was in error because I thought that we could find a place of agreement, especially when in conversation with Rev. —, I was told that he envisioned eventually the (cell groups) functioning almost like individual house churches. As a house church Pastor, trainer and planter, this appealed to me greatly. But this, like a few other things that we have discussed during this process, I heard (I realize now) through the filter of my definitions and therefore did not hear what was really being said. Again, this is my error.  

That said, I am very concerned about the shape that the (leadership training unit) is taking. I see now that I did not understand the purpose as it has been defined. I thought, (better yet, I assumed) from our discussions that you (church name) were seeking to develop a group of servant leaders, who would, as the Aposle Peter commanded, shepherd the flock which is ‘among them’ (1 Peter 5:2). What I saw the other night instead, was the institution of another level of religious bureaucracy and separation. Another level set in place between the congregation and God, and I am not in agreement with this at all.

Using Exodus 28, Rev. — set up the premise of a level of priests among priests. While this is clearly the way that Israel functioned, it is clear that we are not Israel, we are the body of Christ, a body fitly joined together, where everyone is equally important, with differing gifts which edify the whole. As I say to our group consistently, Pastor is my gift, not my rank.

The spiritual situation:

The essential message of Jesus’ interactions with the Pharisees was that they had put so many things (practices, systems, dogmas, doctrines) in between the people and the Lord that the people’s vision of the true God was obscured, and they were being destroyed because of it.

The ultimate end of what I teach regarding Worship is paradoxical:

  1. The truth that the blood bought believer is a slave. Completely captive to Christ, His will and desire. This understanding shapes everything else in life.
  2. That there is freedom in Christ of the individual, who having come to a place of true liberty can function freely, fully and passionately in the community of believers.

In short, in Christ we are both slave and free simultaneously.

That is what I see in the New Testament, people being set free, as they come into the knowledge of the truth. Simply and sincerely. And those same people becoming willing slaves to the will and purpose of their Master. Utterly and completely…

Instead, in churches all over, we add pomp and circumstance, extra-biblical rituals and forms, and the clever plans of men, which now as then, obscure God from the people, this is why members that I have spoken to recently, identify themselves as (denomination) before they are Christian, if they identify in a meaningful way as Christian at all.

The solution to most all of the issues in the body of Christ (including factionalism, church growth struggles, marital issues, the so-called ‘worship wars’, etc) is quite simple. “Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Jesus”.  Not on our terms but on His. It is not about professional presentation, more complexity in our rituals, new levels of hierarchical structure or worship planning that focuses on entertainment or experience. Rather it is about education and edification.

In John 4, Jesus makes clear that true worship is accomplished not in location, ritual, or tradition, but rather in spirit and truth. Teaching before practice, and holiness unto the Lord which comes from within…

Regarding my ‘rigidity’: I have been at various and sundry times been called that and much worse, because I regard the Worship and things of God as holy, and His people as precious. It is clear that the holiness of God is the primary focus of our Worship, it is clear that worship is for God’s glory and for our benefit. I regard Worship (and its associated events) the same why that you, brother (Rev—) , guard the pulpit.Why? Because God does.

This is the same God who killed his own priests, denied his own chosen man the promised land, killed people in the church gathering, and will deny many who profess belief, access to heaven and his throne. Why? Because He is Holy.

This is the same God who admonishes the shepherds to follow His example and lay down their lives for the sheep, the same one who says that a fate worse than death awaits those who Abuse his children, and promises a harsher judgment for those who claim this gift of Pastor/Teacher. Why? Because His people are precious.. His Bride is precious.

As Paul Washer says, ‘If I knew that someone had assaulted my wife, and that people had seen it but did not help, I would first hunt down and destroy the ones who had assaulted my Bride, but then I would hunt down the ones who saw and did nothing. How do you think that Jesus will deal with those who abuse His bride, and those who see and do nothing?’

I refuse to be on either list…

You see brothers and sisters, for us to think that it is ok to bring people in, or put people up to minister who are at best unregenerate, have doctrinal positions which are not Biblically supported, or at worse, do not follow Christ at all, is dangerously errant, and is ‘strange fire’ (see Leviticus 10) .  For us to have ecumenical services with those who follow different gods or hold heretical beliefs about Christ, claiming that they are ‘brothers’ is ‘strange fire’.

This seems not to be an issue for the folks at (church name), and though I am concerned, I understand why. They have not been taught, and many do not have a clear understanding of the depth of it. Clear Biblical teaching will easily fix that, and those who are given grace to hear, will. That is your task, brother (Rev—), and I pray that you will be up to the challenge by God’s grace.

(discussion of the financial situation redacted)

As such, I hereby remove my name from consideration for the position or Worship Pastor/Director of Worship Arts at (Church name) . It is my prayer that in the coming months,  the Lord will guide you towards the best candidate, even as He prepares you in every way to accommodate he or she at that time

In His Service, by His Grace,

Pastor CT. Jermin