Monthly Archives: July 2016

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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Who Is That?!? Yahweh’s Divine Counsel (Part 1)

I have to say….when I first heard Pastor David Curtis preach on the “bene-elohim”, “giants” and “watchers” from his perspective on Genesis chapter six, at the 2015 Berean Bible Conference, I was frustrated. Not only did it sound ludicrous, it is out of line with the Biblical narrative. I have heard various people express frustration with these teachings, all the while surely commending Pastor Curtis on his willingness and boldness to even begin to look into these things.

At the forefront of this review series I want to express humility in regards to this topic. Far too much confusion has crept into contemporary Christendom regarding spirituality and spiritual things. This confusion is found all throughout church history – simple for a lack of Hebraic understanding. The Book of Enoch, which is not found in the current Bible we know and appreciate, was once a writing accepted by the historic church. This is a writing that seeks to express the prophecies that were uttered and know by Enoch and is even mentioned in the book of Jude (see, Jude 1:14). This writing was eventually rejected as an essential within the Biblical books, and also noted as possibly leading to confusion (historical accuracy, understanding, and so forth).

Is their value in studying the ‘Book of Enoch’? Sure! However, it should be approached with caution and an extreme intellectual humility and desire to study out Ancient Near Eastern literature. It’s important to note that we as a contemporary culture only unearthed Ancient Near Eastern literature and understanding around the time of 1950’s (along with discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls).

Another important point to start with is stressing the value of a basic understanding of the ‘Biblical Narrative’. What is the Bible detailing from Genesis to Revelation, as would have been understood by the original writer and the original audience? Keeping that in mind when entertaining different teachings is important.

It was with all of this in mind that I was baffled to see and read the most recent Fulfilled! Magazine wherein ‘Yahweh’s Heavenly Council’ written and detailed by Mr. Jeffrey T. McCormack was on the cover! Yikes!

For the remainder of demonstrating my understanding on this topic and prayerfully bringing some clarity with Scriptural context, I will focus on Jeff’s article. I do have a couple articles available on the internet about “Satan”, and am looking to publish a book with a more detailed look at ‘Spiritual things’ both “of above” and those things deemed “wicked” in or by 2017. Look for the book titled, “Wicked: A Biblical Look at Life Outside the Kingdom”. Email me at ChristianityGoneWild@Yahoo.com for more information on the articles and the book.

In this “Introductory Look”, Jeff says “For those with eyes to see it, the divine council is also clearly present in Scripture…”. I would agree, and I believe I will demonstrate that, however my position will clearly stand in contrast to Mr. McCormack’s perspective as outlined in the article. I also invited my church into this “review” this past Sunday, and we began a small group discussion around Jeff’s article – just to make sure I am not alone in my “seeing clearly”, however differently, than what Mr. McCormack puts forth as ‘clear’.

GOVERNING CORPORATE BODY

Jeff writes, “While Scripture is clear that God is one (Deuteronomy 6:4), it also speaks in terms of a cosmic worldview that includes a body of divine beings. This body comprises a sort of governmental bueracracy that works alongside of and in counsel with Yawheh. The idea of Yahweh having a governing body around Him may sound strange to us today, but it was not so to the ancient Hebrews, nor the early Church who gave us the Scriptures”.

Well, he was surely right about how strange this would sound to many Christians today. Right at the beginning of our church discussion on Sunday about the article, many congregants expressed confusion in regards to why Yahweh would need or take counsel from His created beings. Seems to run against His Sovereignty and the whole “what can the clay creation say to the potter” analogy.

In some respect, and again expressing my humility, I see validity to what Jeff is proposing with the ‘governing body’ details. However…I would see this as what we understand to to be the Trinity (noting and disagreeing with Jeff’s statement regarding the Hebrews understanding it, rather they understood it better than us). The ‘Scriptural Narrative’ from Old Covenant to New Covenant seems to highlight how God desired to live among His people who would manifest His kingdom – these would be His ‘bodily government’. Let’s take a look.

BENE-ELOHIM

Jeff says that this ‘governing body’ or ‘heavenly council’ is composed of “angelic beings” which “are referred to by different names”. ‘Sons’ of God’ or in the Hebrew, ‘Bene-Elohim’ being one of those names. He goes on to cite Job 1:6 & 2:1, as well as Genesis 6:1-2.

An important note about the term ‘Elohim’ is that it is a plural term, what many understand as a clear indication of the Trinitarian Godhead, however the same phrase would be used to speak of plural gods. I will make the case for a different use of ‘bene-elohim’ in Job as in Genesis herein.

The ‘Book of Job’ is said to be the oldest writing contained within our Bible. These Ancient Near Eastern story depicts the struggles of a man who aims to live appreciate, worshipful and faithful to God. The seemingly parabolic tale starts with a scene of accusation – the sons of God along with Satan come into the presence of the Lord and desire to put Job to the test.

So…who are the “sons of God”? In Deuteronomy 14:1, Moses is continuing his discourse of the Law and refers to the Israelites as “sons of the Lord”. In Isaiah 43:6 we are reading about the restoration of Israel wherein the Lord calls those being called back His sons and daughters. And if it is not yet clear, in Hosea 1:10 when the Lord is giving Hosea this prophecy to “number the sons of Israel” He speaks of the restoration as calling them “sons of the living God”.

Ok, so “the sons of God” are coming to present themselves to the Lord? How was this done? And why? Turn to Deuteronomy 19:15-20. “If a malicious witness rises up AGAINST  a man to ACCUSE him of wrong doing, then both the men who have a dispute shall STAND BEFORE THE LORD, before the priests and the judges who will be in office in those days….purge the EVIL from among you”.

… we see EVIL spoken of in regards to accusations and wrongdoing, right? In this text- what did it mean to stand before the Lord? To stand before the priests and judges, right? Interesting, right?

This might blow your mind right here…The Hebrew term  שָׂטָן which is translated as Satan means “acccuser, one who stands against, an adversary”. So in the text of Deuteronomy 19:15-20 the “Satan” would have been that person who brought a charge of wrongdoing against you….An accuser was coming with the sons of God (whatever people group those who came before the Lord as ‘priests’ were called during the time of Job) as they were entering into the presence of the priests- now that makes sense as to why God began to explain to this accuser about Job being righteous.” (1)

Nothing in the context of Job’s story points to a story about ‘angelic beings’ existing on another plane of reality. Rather….the ‘sons of God’ here seem to be the people who were honoring the one true God and coming into His presence.

The ‘Book of Genesis’ has always created controversy and stir, surely nothing different about our generation. Beginning with the creation of all things, and then placing Adam and Eve in His presence, we read the downward-spirally narrative of Adam’s lineage up to the point of Jacob/ Israel blessing his sons, the tribes of Israel regarding the “last days”.

In the midst of that narrative we come upon Genesis 6:1-4, which is precipitated with a detailing of the lineage of Adam (making the text much akin to the ancient toledoth cuneiforms of the Ancient Near East) and followed by Noah’s flood. Again, as I demonstrated with the ‘Book of Job’, nowhere in the text, unless one has a highly proactive imagination (which admittedly the people of that time did), do we find the need to read into this story a tale of ‘angelic beings’ on another plane of reality.

Rather…the context of these ‘sons of the gods’ (noting a different demonstration of the term ‘elohim’ here similar to its’ usage in Deuteronomy 32:17) intermingling with the daughters of Adam (which in our translations is often translated ‘men’) is a continuation of the sins of Adam’s lineage. The descendants of Adam (women) began to mate with the idol-worshiping pagans and in and before this time – the Nephilim (giant like people, a description of the people of the land of Canaan) were in the land.

I’ll end this ‘part-one’ of this review noting the importance of the knowing and understanding the Biblical Narrative from Genesis to Revelation. Once we grasp that story – many of the details become clear. I like to call that ‘clarity with context’. Nothing in the Biblical narrative invites the need for a rather confusing and silly look at Hebraic Spirituality to be inserted into our Bibles, instead we find a long drawn-out narrative of man’s innate idolatry demonstrated through Israel.

In Service to Him,

Pastor Michael Miano

  1. http://www.worldwithoutend.info/wwe321wp/the-devil-who-name-that-satan-part-2/

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