Who Is That??!? Yawheh’s Divine Council (Part 3)

Well the “can of worms” has surely been opened at The Blue Point Bible Church. Lately as we gather for Sunday School we have been talking through the details of Jeff McCormack’s article in Fulfilled! Magazine about the “divine heavenly council”.

I have made no effort to hide my frustration with the article, as I didn’t hide my frustration when I first heard an introductory teaching on the topic done by Pastor Dave Curtis at the Berean Bible Church conference in 2015. Simply put, as I mentioned in Part 1 and 2, this view seems to be out of sync with the Biblical narrative. If we actually understand the Biblical narrative and the context through which it comes.

I am hardly a Hebrew-perspective scholar, or a scholar in any regard, however I do believe my honest studying with a critical eye and a desire to know has led me to some clarity in these matters. Also, this is not an open and shut case for me, as this topic is surely close to the “secret things of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 29:29), therefore I am always furthering my studies, reading new resources, and the like. Actually have the following books sitting on my “Next Read Table”:

The Unseen Realm by Michael Heiser

Confronting the Powers by C. Peter Wagner

Antichrist by Bernard McGinn

Creation & The Persistence of Evil by Jon D. Levenson

The Origins of Evil Spirits by Archie T. Wright

I am constantly reading online materials as well, and who knows what will be sent to me, or I might purchase in the next couple months. Most of this study is being done to be sure of my thoughts as I write my upcoming release, Wicked: The Search for Spirituality & Life, which is hopefully going to be released in or around January 2017.

So I have sort of taken up lamenting the ever popular “understanding” (probably better said “misunderstanding”) of the “spiritual realm”. It seems that most “understandings” miss the powerful language, poetic imagery, as well as the metaphors and details that are brought forth by the Prophets. This is quite detrimental because a faulty of false spirituality will lead you to desperation rather than life- and many are living that reality while falsely cloaked in “being spiritual”.

For most, even most “Christians” the “spiritual realm” is an otherworldly/ imagined world wherein we fill in the blanks with out vain thoughts of what “spiritual” might mean and look like. This is hardly the Hebraic perspective of spirituality that seemingly opens the Bible with the Spirit of God hovering over the waters (cf. Genesis 1:2). It is vital that we understand the spiritual worldview that was being offered through Genesis in contrast to the worldview that seemed to captivate the Ancient Near East, as well as the later Hellenistic mind of the Greeks.

Hebrew Spirituality, which I posit begins at Genesis, seems to offer somewhat of an abstract, more conceptual than otherworldly, view of spirituality. The “spirit world” is not necessarily ‘out there’ or ‘up there’, but rather among us, even evident through us as we live our natural lives. Whereas the ancient pagans had a perspective of the natural being evil and a desire to one day become “otherworldly”or spiritual, the Hebrew perspective saw the natural as worthwhile, wholesome, and beautiful when looked at through the lens of the One True God. True Spirituality is found by living with clarity and obedience to God. We don’t need to go anywhere, we manifest ‘spirituality” whether we know it or not, good fruit or bad fruit.

Just recently we had a guest speaker at Blue Point Bible, and when she mentioned spirituality she said, “We are physical beings trying to be spiritual beings”. I concur. However, how would we explain the reality of becoming “spiritual beings”. Sadly, many would say when we die. This is false spirituality. Instead, we become spiritual when we die to the natural and put on Christ – thus walking in clarity and obedience to the will of God.

Understanding the details of the “spiritual realm” from this perspective, what I would like to call the Biblical perspective, at least for me provides clarity into details such as angels, the “cosmic battle”, Satan, and other “spiritual” things we commonly talk about.

Spirituality is that which contrasts carnality. I can walk in the confusion (darkness) of carnality, or even a pseudo-spirituality, however true life, clarity, and peace is found in true Spirituality. This is essentially the picture you should get from reading Genesis chapters 1-2. It’s not so much “otherworldly” as it is “other-mindedness” (not inclined toward carnality). The “cosmic battle” is between clarity (light) and confusion (darkness) which is between the truth of God and idolatry. Sadly, as John Calvin said, “The human mind is a manufacturer of idols”. So there is the battle.

So I detail all of that to simply point out that the “divine princely leaders” that captivates Mr. Jeff McCormack, Pastor David Curtis, and many others is simply a over-dramatized, otherworldly perspective of spirituality that seems more in line with the confused pagans than the narrative we read in Scripture from Genesis to Revelation.

As I continue to read and analyze the introductory details that Mr. McCormack seeks to bring forth, it seems evident that he is misreading apocalyptic details found in the Books of Daniel and the Psalms. Biblical commentators have long been divided on who the “archangel Michael” is and was, namely because the Book of Daniel is painting an apocalyptic picture (a couple actually). However, with a bit of historical information and a discerning eye one can see how the details of Daniel came to fulfillment, and we hardly need a rather wildly fantastic interpretation to confuse us. Instead, take some time to understand how the Hebrew prophets used “prophetic imagination” and “Hebrew metaphor” to detail natural happenings in rather powerful pictorial ways.

The same goes for the Book of Psalms, which is a “wisdom book” full of songs, imagery, and details that chronicle the ups and downs of David’s kingdom which you read about in the historical books such as 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, as well as 1 and 2 Chronicles. Who would dare take a book of songs and poems and try and make dogmatic doctrine out of the details? Take some time to read through Psalm chapter 82 and Isaiah 24 and find the historical details. You will notice the “spiritual” being made known (the truth and will of God) in the midst of the natural story, no need for added excitement.

I’ll conclude this Part 3 at this point.

Prayerfully in this blog I was able to exhort you to find the “spiritual” in the midst of the natural, that is the Hebraic understanding, in contrast to the pagan otherworldly concept. There is no need for us to add fantastic notions and interpretations to the Scripture, rather when we do so we end up in confusion and depression, the exact opposite of what God brings forth in true spirituality.

In Service to Him,

Pastor Michael Miano

P.S. – In the next and final part, we will explore the “cosmic battle” of the New Testament and what exactly was being “revealed”.

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Genesis 1 – Detailed

I began a LIVE Facebook video series yesterday taking about 15 minutes each weekday to go through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. The series is titled “3-Pi (pronounced “Trippy) and is geared toward reforming/ renewing the mind with the Word of God in contrast to our leaning on our own understanding. You can now watch the first video on Youtube at the following link, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PZp_T-U3lYM

I want to first and foremost thank those of you who “Liked” the video, those who watched and commented, and especially those who wrote to me asking questions and even offering some “critical review”. I awoke this morning thinking through these details and that alone is God-glorifying, isn’t it?
What I want to do is offer a short explanation of how I have arrived at my current understanding of Genesis chapter 1 as an Ancient Near Eastern temple text. I believe this will immediately clarifying some of the issues posed toward my video.

I come to the Christian faith by understand understanding of the Gospel, the atoning work of Jesus Christ (which at that time was limited to His death, burial and resurrection), as literal historical events which bring amazing Spiritual realities. At least that is my honest human way of explaining. I studied the Bible honestly seeking to know all I could about what God has revealed, since it is these words we believe to be inspired (2 Timothy 2:15; 2 Timothy 3:16-17), in contrast to what man can come up with (Proverbs 3:5-6; Matthew 15:9).
I went through various classes in my courses at seminary to bolster the Creationism, I have attended various Creationism vs. Evolution debates, and have interviewed guests and blogged about the topic of Genesis and Creation myself. I have read various books. I have studied the articles, writings, and DVD’s of men like Ken Ham (whom I have met), Dr. Del Tackett, among many others. I never really held solid to any of the teachings of Old Earth, New, Earth, Gap Theory,.. as well as all the other concordant and nonconcordant interpretations of Genesis. What sure did and does remain clear is that “Orthodox Christianity” is surely divided and should not be all that dogmatic in those regards. Surely enough, if you look into Church History, and the Church Fathers, you will find this confusion there as well . Better yet, look back to the Rabbi’s and the various understandings of Genesis that had, accepted, and understood.
In my quest to share my knowledge with others this has often led me back to the mass chaos within Christian Orthodoxy on Creation, and I always seek to study honestly through to only come out with more questions than answers.

Oddly enough, that’s more than the study most Christians, not to mention pastors have done.

\In the past couple years, I have been blessed with studying among a group of Christians who as a hermeneutic (style of interpretation) seek out what it called “audience relevance” to understanding the details of the Bible. Not to mention, highlighting the necessity of understanding the storyline and narrative of the Bible, rather than doctrines and verses that seemingly support our favorite teaching.

It is there that my understanding of Genesis has arisen.

In my being honest with my studies and wanting to learn more from the audience relevance perspective I have read through books such as Beyond Creation Science by Tim Martin (an Elder at Covenant Community Church in Whitehall, Montana) and Jeff Vaughn (a scientist and Bible student), which proposed a view called “covenant creation”. I have since studied the book, even taught a class going through the details. I have looked into the various perspectives, especially last year as I taught through a sermon series from Genesis to Revelation called “Returning to our First Love”. You can listen to all of my sermons at the following link, www.buzzsprout.com/11630
Why do I mention all of that? The view I have detailed in my video above is hardly “novel” or new. Instead it is simply now being given more recognition because of more recent findings in regards to the Ancient Near East (it has only been since the 1950’s that Christian scholarship began to take ANE concepts and literature all that series, especially in regards to “interpretation”).
In looking back, and myself seeking out commentaries and scholarly articles (usually through Academia.edu, or other search engines), and other “learned men”(Professors of the Old Testament like John Walton and Walter Bruggerman readily come to mind), that I have come to my understanding of Genesis as a “covenant-based” Temple text declaring the authority and Sovereignty of the One and True Elohiym.
The term “bara” when properly applied means “to fill”, and it is awefully hard to fill something that is not in existence already. When coupled with “tohu vabohu” it becomes evident that this is speaking about something that had already been created however went to waste .Also, when studying with an “audience relevance perspective”, we come to realize that ANE “creation texts” focused on the sovereignty and solution to the ills of their creations, and when we consider Genesis as a polemic (argument against) the confusion of the ANE polytheism, cultism, etc…we truly see the inspiration of the text. We hardly do justice to Scripture when we try to bend it to our our wills and whims to answer the questions of the 21st century.
Here a “short” list of some resources I have collected and compiled over time regarding Genesis:

Bara    http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/emagazine/008.html

Tohu vabohu    https://www.academia.edu/4255454/Tohu_Wabohu_The_Opposite_of_Gods_Creational_Intent

Contextual Details within Genesis   http://www.dstoner.net/Genesis_Context/Context.html
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fR82a-iueWw 
http://biologos.org/resources/videos/john-walton-on-understanding-genesis 
http://beyondcreationscience.com
https://www.firstthings.com/blogs/leithart/2014/06/genesis-1-in-ancient-perspective 
https://mianogonewild.wordpress.com/2013/08/02/the-creation-question-that-needs-to-be-answered-review-of-john-waltons-book-the-lost-world-of-genesis-one/
https://mianogonewild.wordpress.com/2014/09/09/bennett-washington-creationism-verses-evolution-debate-review/ 
https://mianogonewild.wordpress.com/2014/02/13/making-sense-of-the-creation-account/ 

I firmly believe Genesis to be inspired by God, and to be the truth in contrast to the myths of that time, as well as able to give us a foundation against the myths of our day. I do not believe Genesis to be a “myth”, instead I believe it was a polemic against the myths of the ancient near east. I also do not believe Genesis to be a text teaching us about the creation of the physical planet, I simply do not believe that would have been a concern of that primary audience, and every time I have seen any view that demands it be speaking “scientifically” forced upon Scripture, it fails when studied out.
We need not force any interpretation upon Genesis, nor any part of Scripture to seek to bolster claims. I simply believe God is clear enough, and has made things clear enough, so we have no need other than honest study to find clarity on God’s Word.

A great study we have begun more recently at the Blue Point Bible Church is a series called “Origins” by the BioLogos group on Saturdays at 9AM (open to anyone). I do not necessarily stand in agreement with the organization on all things, nor do any of the people within the group necessarily agree with all the views of one another, however there is something God-glorifying about honest critique, especially among the brethren (see, 1 Thessalonians 5:21).

I pray I have further offered clarity, and look forward to further producing short videos, very basic and practical to stimulate further studies like these.
In Service to Him,
Pastor Michael Miano

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Maximizing our Living Experience PT. 3 (Eternal Life & Discipleship)

*This is a bit of a long read, 3 part series, however please trust me that it is worth it.

I have compiled two parts to this series, here are the link:
https://mianogonewild.wordpress.com/2016/08/10/maximizing-our-living-experience-pt-1-eternal-life-prayer/
https://mianogonewild.wordpress.com/2016/08/10/maximizing-our-living-experience-pt-2-eternal-life-readingobserving-scripture/

We are finally in the last part of the series, and to be honest, this is not only my favorite topic, but also what I see as the most important. How do we maximize our experience as a disciple of Christ?

Jesus Christ seemingly brought His disciples through “exercises”. For example, telling Peter to get out of the boat and walk on water. I imagine that situation challenged and changed him a bit. Another aspect about discipleship that immediately stands out to me is being covered in the dust of the rabbi. In ancient Judaism, the disciple would follow the rabbi so closely (both physically and metaphorically) that it was said the goal would be to be covered in the dust of the rabbi from wherever he walked (both metaphorically and physically).

So for this blog, I want to take you through about 10 years of “exercises” I participated in, and have benefited from, in an effort to be covered by the “dust” of my Rabbi Jesus Christ.
I am going to say this now, and surely exhort you with the same point at the end of this blog. Begin making a journal of your discipleship “exercises”, your prayers, your studies, and your thoughts. I cannot stress the importance of this in your Christian walk. The review that I have been able to do again and again is truly priceless.

One aspect of discipleship that always seems to come to the forefront for me is “facing our fears”. I have read many Christian authors on this topic and have challenged myself in various ways. For example, Live On The Edge is a exercise to challenge you with the two following questions:

“What would I do if I knew I wouldn’t fail?”
“What could I do right now that would maximize my life completely?”

Living as if you truly will “live forever” was an early on obsession of mine as I grew in Christ. The website to to that exercise has since been taken down, however if you spend some time reading the blogs I wrote early on you get invited into this concept and how it blessed me, and how it can potentially bless you. Here is one, http://newsfromthetribe.blogspot.com/2009/06/dont-wanna-waste-my-life.html

It was thinking along these lines that I read through and watched various clips that encouraged me to created B-HAD’s (Big Hairy Audacious Dreams) and to write up my “bucket list”. Again, you should know that ‘eternal life’ has everything to do with you finding fulfillment in this life. As John Piper remarked, “God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him”. I strongly urge you to work on those things, I would love to go through the details with you (Give me a call @ 631-363-6111 or email me at ChristianityGoneWild@yahoo.com)

Here are a couple of other sites that really encouraged me to challenge myself and live fully, dare I say getting out of the boat to truly walk on water:

www.Wrecked.Org
www.ModernReformation.Org

If you were to ask me, what encouraged you to live so fully, my response would be the knowledge of God. We read in 2 Peter chapter 1, “By His divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a Godly life. We have received this by coming to know Him, the One who called us to Himself by means of His marvelous glory and excellence”.
What this knowledge has done in my life is give me what I refer to as a “zeal empowered by knowledge”, an intense focus that contrasts what we read about in Romans chapter 10. I love the way Charles Spurgeon detailed the importance of this, “Give me a man not only with great object in his soul, but thoroughly possessed by it, his powers all concentrated and himself on fire with vehement zeal for his supreme object, and you have put before me one of the greatest sources of power the world can provide”.

All of this led to my beginning a ministry called “Freaked Out Fellowship” wherein we issued discipleship challenges each week. We developed “mission sheets” that included but were not limited to wacky evangelism, going to the highest point of our land to pray (as Elijah did to seek the Lord), practice kundalini yoga (well, at least some of us), and continually inviting others to join us in Christian activity. Two main concepts were studying the message and the expressions of the Old Testament prophets and “Acting Out Acts” (reading through details in the Book of Acts and finding creative ways to bring them into modern expression).

Much of my life today is lived out as a reality of all of these things mentioned. I cannot even begin to express the joy I had in reading through and reviewing my journey. And…I would love to invite you into the same joy.

If you are looking for some good reading and want to be further challenged in these regards of “spiritual disciplines” and living life to the full, here are some of my older blogs:
http://newsfromthetribe.blogspot.com/2009/06/dont-wanna-waste-my-life.html
http://newsfromthetribe.blogspot.com/2010/03/month-of-monasticism.html
https://mianogonewild.wordpress.com/2016/01/21/actsprayer/
https://mianogonewild.wordpress.com/2015/03/03/lent-birthdays-jesus-and-the-future/

Also, here are a couple of my sermons that allude to the same points.
http://www.buzzsprout.com/11630/93097-preterist-monasticism
http://www.buzzsprout.com/11630/188528-iwitness-the-importance-of-spiritual-disciplines

Be blessed. Continue to seek, search, study and live a life that is satisfying, truly satisfying, which brings glory to our Mighty God.

In His Service,
Pastor Michael Miano

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Maximizing our Living Experience PT. 2 (Eternal Life & Reading/Observing Scripture)

*This is a bit of a long read, 3 part series, however please trust me that it is worth it.

Ok, so I produced Part 1, and I pray you found time to read it. If not, visit the following link, https://mianogonewild.wordpress.com/2016/08/10/maximizing-our-living-experience-pt-1-eternal-life-prayer/

I want to move us forward in this Part 2, now taking a look at “spiritual disciplines” in regards to study and observation of the Scriptures. Hopefully, the concept of “Being Berean” is one you hold dear (cf. Acts 17:11), as well as the admonishment found in 2 Timothy 2:15:

“Study to show thyself approved, rightly dividing the Word of Truth, the worker who does so, need not be ashamed”.

So….what sort of “disciplines” can you take a look at to not only enhance your understanding of Scripture, but also your life? Well, if you know me, you may know I am a strong advocate of the Narrative reading of the Scriptures (understanding the storyline from Genesis to Revelation). Sadly, that is not as popular as it should be.
Most people, dare we say most Christians, are not disciplined in regards to their reading of Scripture. This is to our detriment as the Church. Therefore, it is my sincere hope and pray that you may be encouraged to implement either one of the disciplines I mention, or another you may have come across into your life.
Let’s start with the more ancient style, what is known as Lectio Divina, which is an ancient Benedictine monk practice of Scripture reading, meditation, and prayer. The term itself means “sacred reading”, and instead of being geared toward you having an understanding of Scripture, the goal is more so to bring you into communion with God. All you have to do is “Google” the term, however here is one link that I found to be rather beneficial, http://lectio-divina.org/

I used to attend a “contempary-style” congregation called Next Level Church and I found their contempary-style Bible reading program to be rather simple and helpful. It was called S.O.A.P. The concept was just as you need soap to wash your body, you need to S.O.A.P. to wash your mind and heart. Scripture, Application, Observation, and Prayer. You can do this with a study guide, or just simply going through your own reading and journaling everyday (or as often as you use soap :)).
As we are talking more about meditating on the Word, I want to be sure to to mention the Ignation Workouts that I have been going through on Miano Gone Wild.com. Ignatius of Loyola invites us to examine Scripture and meditate on our own well-being. Here are the latest links to listen to those podcasts:
http://www.mianogonewild.com/audios/23/ignatian-workout–part-1.html
http://www.mianogonewild.com/audios/25/ignatian-workout–part-2.html
http://www.mianogonewild.com/audios/27/ignatian-workout–part-3.html
http://www.mianogonewild.com/audios/28/ignatian-workout–part-3-.html

Now, if your more like me and can handle some lengthy reading, or are looking to better understand the Scriptures, I would recommend 2 concepts I have utilized – B90X & the E100 Bible Reading Plan.
B90X is borrowed from the work-out plan, P90X, and is just as strenuous. Whereas P90X is a 90 day challenge to see drastic changes in your physical appearance, B90X is a plan where you read the entire Bible in 90 days. It’s tough, however very possible. We had a couple people go through it at our church a couple years ago. You can get the plan, and start working out, at the following link, http://www.b90x.org/

Also, the E100 Bible Reading Plan focuses on 100 essential Bible passages that Christians should understand, and which help you better understand the Biblical Narrative. You can get the plan and get to work by visiting the following website, http://e100challenge.com/
I pray that these resources will give you a more solid Scriptural foundation. Surely, searching the Scriptures and knowing the Word of God is beneficial in our finding life to the full.

Be blessed.
In His Service,
Pastor Michael Miano

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Maximizing our Living Experience PT. 1 (Eternal Life& Prayer)

*This is a bit of a long read, a 3 part series, however please trust me that it is worth it.

On July 31st, 2016 – I preached sermon at Blue Point Bible Church (www.bluepointbiblechurch.org) about living an “eternal fulfilled life”. You can listen to that podcast at the following link, http://www.buzzsprout.com/11630/406513-beingchristian-eternal-life-in-jesus-christ

In that message my point was that “eternal life” as provided through Jesus Christ (John 17:3) is more about living a fulfilled life now, than it is about obsession over what will happen when we biologically die. Now, that is not based on an ignorance or an avoidance of the death, despair, and devastation that we see running rampant in our world. Instead, by the renewing of our minds (cf. Romans 12:1-2), and the use of Spiritual disciplines we can truly maximize our experience of this life, and that according to my understanding is truly living life. This is based on two points I regularly bring up:

Jesus Christ said, “The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy. I come that you may have life, and life to the full”.

John Piper, a famous preached remarked, “God is most glorified when you are most satisfied in Him”.

It’s fair to say that my “Christian walk” has been a search for the life that Christ promised, and the satisfaction in Him that brings the utmost glory to a glorious God. So…..

This past week, I did about 10 years review, in looking back at “spiritual disciplines” I worked through to better maximize on my life in Christ. The rest of this blog will be my sharing those details with you.

It’s been said, “Our character is a composite of our habits”. So I ask you at the outset of this blog, what are your habits? God willing, you will look through some of these details and turn them into habits.

First and foremost, without being “legalistic” I want to share with you a system I have put into my life. I make sure that my waking thoughts belong to God (I will share my favorite Bonhoeffer quote in that regard in a moment), and many times this is fostered by going through the Book of Common Prayer. I like the radical one put together by Shane Claiborne and some others. You can either purchase it, or use it online at your own convenience. Here is a link, http://commonprayer.net/

Also, ever since I became a Christian I have written down most, almost all, of my thoughts and studies throughout time. This was taught to me early on in my walk, as one brother encouraged me with the following quote to record my dreams:

“The Father gave men dreams to help them see the door to His dwelling place. He will only dwell in the hearts of His people, and dreams can be a door to the heart…that is why His angels so often appear to men in their dreams – they can bypass the fallen mind of man and go straight to the heart”.

So yes, I have collected some of the strangest dreams, however also I have collected topical as well as contextual studies, reviews of books I have read, and so much more. I cannot stress enough the value of this, and would love to encourage you to do the same.
Being somewhat inquisitive and curious has surely blessed me. I am of the belief that not every type of “spiritual exercise” is beneficial to all, therefore you must mine the traditions and be a bit creative to see what works best for you. Again remember, this is about you finding satisfaction so that God can be glorified through your life. That being so, I have obsessed over traditions that others have done, disciplines that have worked for the few, etc.

Let’s consider some aspects of prayer.

I have currently been working getting “fit for the summer” by going through an Ignatian Workout on my podcasted radio show – Miano Gone Wild. Visit the following link to access the 4-5 podcasts on Ignatian Spirituality – www.mianogonewild.com

Fixed -hour prayer has always been something I have obsessed about. They sometimes call it “praying the divine hours”. John Calvin said it best, “Unless we fix certain hours in the day for prayer, it easily slips our memory”. Two aspects of Jewish prayer, which seems to be evident in the life of Christ, that stand out to me are the fact that they prayed toward the Temple, utilizing various postures, and they had times (cf. Daniel 6:10; Psalm 55:17). The early Christians developed the following prayer schedule:

Lauds – 3AM
Prime – 6AM
Terce – 9AM
Sext – 12PM
None – 3PM
Vespers – 6PM
Compline – 9PM
Vigil – 12AM

Whenever I think of praying at 12AM, I am reminded of the ‘night watchers’ who took literally the words of Psalms 63:6 and 119:148. Also, concerning posture, I am a “bow before my King” type of prayer warrior, and for those of you who know me, you know I can become quite “charismatic” in my prayer life. Isaac the Syrian seems to have said it best, “Someone who shows a reverential posture during prayer, by stretching our his hands to heaven as he stands, or by falling on his face toward the ground will be accounted worthy of much grace from on high as a result of these lowly actions”.

Every Sunday I invite our congregation at Blue Point Bible Church to participate in a time of “Corporate Praise & Prayer”, and I always mention how this is your personal time with God, to be expressed in a manner you feel edified. Consider the traditions of the ancients, from the Vigil of the Cross (where Catholics get the sign of the cross from), to pacing and praying, pilgrimage, to praying Scriptures or sitting in utter solitude and silence. Some other favorites I have picked up on are Theology of Tears, which was a method of Isaac the Syrian. He said, “The fruits of the inner man begin with the shedding of tears” and he based this on Psalm 126:5. Also the famous “Jesus Prayer” which is constantly recited by the Greek Orthodox believers, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner” based on Luke 18:30 and 1 Corinthians 14:19. And of course, Cyprian of Carthage would have us understand that every good Christian prays the Lord’s Prayer (Our Father) atleast 3 times a day.🙂

A couple years back I participated in an exercise in which I immersed myself into 4 different traditions to see what I could glean – Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Amish, and Monasticism. I have many blogs, and I could go on and on regarding all that I learned during that time, however I would rather urge you to be creative in these regards.
Some last thoughts I would share would be the importance of Contemplative prayer, which simply means to meditate on God’s Word as often as possible, and give is primacy in your day. Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer said it in this manner, “Therefore, at the beginning of the day let all distraction and empty talk be silenced and first words belong to Him who our whole life belongs (Psalm 127:2)”. Also, recording your prayers has so much value – you can truly see answered prayer, and find further appreciation for all that God has done in your life. I cannot stress that value enough.

Keep your eye out for Part 2, in which we will detail “Eternal Life” and the study as well as observation of the Scriptures.

May you find satisfaction in prayer, and may He be glorified through your prayer life.

In Service to Him,
Pastor Michael Miano

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Who is That?!? Yahweh’s Divine Council (Part 2)

For the past month of so, I have continually obsessed and examined the “Divine Heavenly Council” teachings that are coming into the Church, especially pertaining to those in the Preterist view.

In part 1, we examined the phrase “ben elohim” which can mean either “sons of God” or “sons of the gods” depending on the context in which we find it being used. Neither time does the phrase speak of “otherworld being” or what we often erroneously refer to as “spirit beings”, instead some times the “sons of God” is a reference to Israel, and other times it is a reference to pagan believers (“sons of the gods”).

Let me be clear. I do believe in a “Spiritual Realm” (while I will readily admit this is an area I am willing to learn and do some study). I do believe in “spirit beings” – however I am cautious not to allow my mind to create figments of my imagination and then impose them on Scripture. As I put the Scriptural Narrative at the forefront and examine ANE literature, what I like to call taking a Biblical look at the ANE, I find the story of a God who is Spirit who is inviting His people to become like Him. The whole narrative of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation is painting this picture. Our understanding of the “Spiritual realm” must start there.

With that said, I wanted to take you through some of points in the “Divine Heavenly Council” that seem to be out of sync with the rest of the Biblical narrative. In this examination I will focus on passages provided in the article by Jeffrey McCormack in Fulfilled! Magazine called “Yahweh’s Divine Council” .

Again let me reiterate the focus of this part 2, namely to show that the Scriptures and phrases used to support this teaching of “Yahweh’s Divine Council” are not being demonstrated in line with the context of the Biblical narrative from Genesis to Revelation.

Below we will look at some of the verses Mr. McCormack uses to propagate his view of the “watchers” being an assembling hierarchy of “little g” gods. A view in which he further states “Thus, when we read of gods such as Baal and Molech, we are reading of these angelic leaders.”

The book of Psalms is a noted as a poetic book, one of the “books of wisdom” in Scripture, which use highlight poetic/allegoric details to bring us into the Wisdom of the Father. It is important to consider what style of literature you are reading when seeking to use verses to make a point. I would hardly use the poetic language in Psalms to prove doctrinal points. In reading through the Psalms, I have found I tend to agree with the simple readings offered by translations such as NIV and NLT rather than the more dogmatic KJV or NASB. Read through the Psalms in different translations and see for yourself.

OK so, Psalm chapter 82 it seems to be a rant against the rampant idolatry in Israel. If you study through the historic context in the days of King David you will find how this fits. Israel was continually judged for their failure to heed the Wisdom of the Father by their being enticed to wickedness and idolatry. This Psalm speaks against that. The one true God, when put in a courtroom setting with the other so-called “gods” he is the true Judge, the one who lasts forever, and in due time He will bring forth judgment. Pretty much the continual cry of the righteous in Israel against the rampant idolatry.

In Psalm chapter 89, we are reading a praise of God’s sovereignty. In this praise we are reading a polemic against the other false narratives of the gods. The mention of the chaos and the serpent-creature Rahab alludes to the myths and lies of the pagan beliefs. Again, this is all done in poetic prose not to assert the validity of the pagan “gods”, simply to exclaim praise for the One True God.

Failure to understand the poetic style of these statements seems to be the issue with McCormack’s using these verses to try to validate his “Heavenly Council” stuff. Simply put, when we understand and pay attention to the genre of the Psalms, and the historical context of what was happening during the time of King David and the writing of the Psalms, the “poems” seem rather clear in depicting the sovereignty of God. Bringing strange teachings about otherworldly beings does not fit within the historic narrative and audience relevance.

In his article, Mr. McCormack writes, “Space does not permit discussing it here, but read 1 Kings 22:19-22 to see this divine council at work”. In that passage we read the prophetic words of Micaiah against King Ahab. He speaks prophetically about the sovereignty of God and how a false spirit was within the king’s prophets who told him to go to war against Ramoth-Gilead.

Mr. McCormack would have us to believe that this prophetic picture is a real event happening in the heavens, wherein a one of the “divine council” have decided to falsely lead King Ahab’s prophets. His perspective seems to illustrate confusion in reading through the prophetic versus what actually happened. Consider how prophets talked about wars and calamities that occurred.

He further details that within the historic narrative of people becoming disobedient to Yawweh, He finally gave them over to the leadership of lesser gods. Not only does that sound ludicrous, Mr. McCormack even tries to utilize Scripture in the midst of his confusion. Consider his citation of Dueteronomy 4:19; 29:26; and 32:8-9.

And lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the Lord thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven. (Deuteronomy 4:19)”

If you do an honest reading through the Law of Moses, and ultimately understand the reason for it (to set His people, Israel, apart from the nations and the rampant idolatry), you will see clearly what this verse is saying. Whereas all the pagans looked into the sky and made “gods” of all that they saw, Moses herein is instructing God’s people not to look into the sky (shamayim in the Hebrew) and worship anything – not the sun, not the moon, not the stars, nothing of the group of things they see in the sky.

For they went and served other gods, and worshipped them, gods whom they knew not, and whom he had not given unto them..(Dueteronomy 29:26)”.

I can see how a cursory reading of this verse can lend us to the idea that God gave Israel over to false gods, a reading very similar to what we read by the Apostle Paul in Romans chapter 1. However, I believe God gave His truth to His people and they forsook it, and God is speaking in contrast to that. His people began to worship gods who they made up, as the Prophets say again and again, whom He had not given them – in contrast to His giving of Himself and His truth. There is no need to go on and read strange details our reading.

When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when He separated the sons of man,
He set the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the sons of Israel.“For the Lord’s portion is His people; Jacob is the allotment of His inheritance (Deuteronomy 32:8-9)”.

I have read through Deuteronomy chapter 32 again and again, even using the text in my own apologetics regarding Preterism, and I have never read this in the text. As I looked into commentaries on the text I realized most commentators are in line with the natural understanding I would have gathered from the text. You can see for yourself by visiting this link which provides various commentaries, http://biblehub.com/commentaries/deuteronomy/32-8.htm

All in all, as I explained this morning in Bible study, we must develop an understanding of Spirituality that is in line with the narrative and details we find in Scripture. The Prophets spoke to give ‘spiritual clarity’ in regards to historic events that were happening. Hebraic Spirituality in contrast to pagan or later developed Hellenistic Spirituality was abstract and not necessarily “otherworldly”. That offers a shameless plug to my upcoming book release, Wicked: The Search for Spirituality and Life, wherein I will further explain the distinction of Hebraic spirituality and it’s God-ordained inspiration from other versions of “spirituality” which sum up to be the wild thoughts of man’s imagination.

I pray I have offer clarity in these regards.

Blessings in Christ Jesus,

Pastor Michael Miano

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Insights From & For The ‘Gospel Preacher’

This write up will be my notes and thoughts from reading ‘The Design for Preaching’ by Henry Grady Davis. I found his book to be rather hard to read (simply because it was more of a textbook), however much of his insight surely speaks to me, and I felt obliged to share.

“The aim of preaching is to win from men a response to the gospel, a response of attitude and impulse and feeling no less than of thought”.

It would seem that all to often we hear rather empty preaching, or a “3 point sermon” that highlights life values, however this is not the preaching that we read in Scripture by the Apostles, nor does in demonstrate the power of the Gospel.

Christian leaders in Europe have reported that in times of supreme testing the church had to learn again something it had forgotten; how to read, preach, and hear the Word as God’s Word”.

If you were born after 1930, it will not be easy for you to realize the change in theological climate since 1930”.

Sadly, in our day we see the fruition of what 16th century reformer, Martin Luther noted, “Unless spiritual knowledge and the Spirit himself speak through the preachers…the final result will be that everyone preaches his own whims, and instead of the gospel and its exposition we shall again have sermons on blue ducks”.

Sermons that sound great, filled with ‘fantastic information’ yet lack any truth or reason-ability. We must get back to teaching the radical message of Biblical Christianity, not settle for common-day religious idealism.

  • The Gospel 

Mr. Davis makes quite a few poignant points regarding the gospel:

We who preach and those who hear us are far removed from the Bible times and the Bible’s world of thought. The texts and incidents of the Gospels frequently have to be explained by means of historical and textual studies before their real meaning can be understood. Our task is not to extract “permanent values” from outdated material, but rather to discover what the Bible’s message meant to it’s contemporaries”. (Demonstrating our need for ‘audience relevance’)

The Gospel is meant for everybody, but it cannot become what everybody would like it to be”.

The Word reveals what we could never discover or guess. It affirms God’s uncaused and unconditional love for every man, while the world of nature and culture seems indifferent. It discloses our condition as so wrong and desperate that God must take its deadly consequences upon Himself, while our instinct is to vindicate our condition. The Word of God calls us to a way we would not choose to go. It tells us the self we are must die that the self God wills may be born. Yet all the time we are struggling to preserve at any cost the self that is. The Word calls us to a life by trust in Him, when we can reasonably expect success only through our own wisdom and power”.

The Gospel is the news of God’s redemptive action in Jesus Christ our Lord, revealing God’s love toward men and His purpose in history, manifesting at once His judgment and His mercy, furnishing a new basis for the relationship between men and God – compassion, forgiveness, unmerited favor and help -and calling into being a reconstituted humanity joined with Christ and living no longer by its biological possibilities but by participation in Christ’s life”.

If the gospel is not preached, it cannot be heard. If the gospel is not heard, we cannot expect our so-called churches to be more than human institutions, clubs of religious-minded people; we cannot hope that they will contain a reconstituted humanity, the community of Christ’s love”.

And sadly, is that not the case?

  • Gospel Reality – One New Man

The entrance on this new existence took place when one heard and believed the gospel”.

I just finished preaching an entire series at the Blue Point Bible Church (www.bluepointbiblechurch.org) that detailed the Gospel as the formation of the ‘new body’ – the One New Man. I love what Mr. Davis had to say in that regard- something the common ‘Evangelical gospel’ is all to often missing is an understanding of this ‘one new man’.

Being in this new existence, however, the Christian needed to understand it as far as he is able. Teaching is needed in order to understand the meaning and the basis of his new existence, to explicate the content of the faith, to make his life conform to his faith”.

It is hard for a modern person to feel the revolutionary character of the gospel as the early church felt it. The early Christians knew themselves to be living – jointly with one another and with Christ, in God – as completely changed and reconstituted humanity, in an existence on an entirely knew basis, in a new age which was at the same time a fulfillment of God’s ancient purpose and promise…. it was that they were newly created persons in a newly created world”.

But if the church is a reconstituted humanity, a newly created community of Christ’s love, then its continuance on earth depends on a constant miracle of grace, a person-by-person recreation by the power of God at work in the gospel. The church is where the gospel is preached: and that is the first sign of its presence. Where the gospel is not preached, there may still be a flourishing institution. Only one thing cannot possibly be where the gospel is not preached: the church cannot be there”.

As I observe all that is going on in the world, and watch pastor after pastor remark how the gospel is needed – I find myself convicted. I desire to grow in the grace and knowledge of God to the extend that I walk worthy of my calling and explain the Gospel in a clear, concise manner. Not to mention, also that I demonstrate in a true and reasonable fashion how the Gospel is the solution to our contemporary ills.

For the remainder of this ‘write-up’, I will share thoughts from Mr. David that exhorted, edified, and convicted me in regards to my preaching of the gospel.

At the outset, two points that really stood out to me in regards to the ‘Design for Preaching”were:

No sermon is ready for preaching, nor ready for writing out, until we can express the theme in a short, pregnant sentence as clear as a crystal”. – John Henry Jowett

If the preacher tries to cover too broad a subject, he will say too much, too many good things, and will not share even one of them with his hearers”.

  • Preparations for Preaching –

If a man is called to preach, then, he is called to work in the great art of oral communication, and is called to cultivate all the sense and skill he can”.

A well-prepared sermon is the embodiment, the development, the full statement of a significant thought”.

The minister much preach out of a busy life, full of hard work”.

Those three points mark out the growth of my call. Being that I know I am called to preach I do what I can to learn and grow how to be a better oral communicator. Also, knowing how to formulate my ideas into a fully developed thought has been a progressive journey for me.

An honest tension that I have had, and an area where I am growing is in taking my billions of notes (that’s hardly an exaggeration) and working through them, not to get lost in the details, but rather to bring out a point that the human heart identifies with. It’s my role to make sense of the details, speak to the lives of the congregation, and illuminate the truth of God as an “interpretation of life”.

To learn to preach, a man must develop his sense of form, his feeling for the shape and organic structure of a thought”. – “He must stop getting lost in the details and study the essential structure of sermons”.

The preacher may be so interested in the antique world or in the methods of research that he never gets beyond them, never gets down to the here and now”.

A preacher of the gospel should learn to approach his text from a point of view in keeping with the universality of the human heart, with the identity of the human condition before God, and with the presence and the lordship of Christ.”

A man who mounts a pulpit and speaks to his fellows cannot choose whether or not to be an interpreter of life”. – “The only question is what kind of a picture he will draw”.

For the preacher of the gospel, however he sees the dark state of man, must see no less clearly man’s possibilities under the grace of God”.

In a sense all serious discussion of the preacher’s relationship the to society in which he lives, and of what he has to say to it, involve assumptions with regard to the interpretation of life”.

…no other preparation whatever can be so valuable to the preacher and to his hearers as the idea clearly thought out and brought to scrupulous expression”.

Quite the calling, huh?

Thank God for the simple pieces of wisdom that Mr. David shares. I know I will be putting some of this advice to practice this Sunday. Consider some of the following advice in putting together “clearly thought out” messages that are “brought to a scrupulous expression”.

First one studies his text and amasses his notes. Next he discovers his true subject, what he should talk about. Next he decides what is the all important, the all-inclusive thing the sermon ought to say about it. This is the idea or theme in substance. But now, at this point, he does the hard but rewarding work of thinking it through and saying it in the fewest and truest words possible”.

A fully written manuscript is no guarantee of a prepared sermon”.

No. Instead a prepared sermon should be the product of prayer, thinking, wrestling, and honesty in regards to what this truth means for us today. Also, a prepared sermon will not leave a rather confused crowd, rather a prepared sermon will offer clarity with context.

Mr. David provided some forms and formats that would allow a preacher to challenge the clarity of his message, Also, I found maybe printing out these question formats to allow listeners of my sermons the opportunity to seek out the details as they listen might be a good idea.

As trees are not all of like organic structure, so sermons are not of all like structure”.

First, we consider Different Organic Forms of Sermon

X – Subject Discussed

X- Thesis Supported

X- Message Illuminated

X- Question Propounded

X- Story Told

After we know what style of form we are taking we allow the congregation to consider the following:

What is the man talking about?

What is he saying about it?

What does he mean?

Is it true? Do I believe it?

So what? What difference does it make?

These are the questions a good reader intuitively asks when studying a book, an author, or a system of thought. An intelligent listener, almost any listener, is consciously or unconsciously asking about any sermon he/she hears”.

In a sermon is well designed these questions can be all answered satisfactorily”.

A preacher might consider the following format:

What am I to talk about?

What must be said about it?

What does this idea mean?

Do I, my hearers believe it?

Why or why not?

What difference does it make if its true?

What are its consequences to me and my listeners?

And finally, if we have not been too hard on the preacher yet, here are some last points that should be considered.

  1. The preacher should learn to express himself in as few words as possible.

  2. He should learn to use words that sound well together.

  3. He should cultivate a preference for short, strong, clear, familiar words.

  4. He should cultivate a preference for sensuous rather than abstract, and specific rather than general words.

  5. He should rely on strong nouns and verbs to carry the weight of his thought.

As I endeavor to “walk worthy” of my calling to preach, by the power and grace of God,I pray that those listening to me preach will be edified by my work, and continual growth.

In Service to Him,

Pastor Michael Miano

Blue Point Bible Church

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