Tag Archives: Christ

Conceptual Realities: Giving Thanks to God

“Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise; be thankful unto Him and bless His name (Psalm 100:4)”.

As we look to all that God has provided for those who love Him, namely all things pertaining to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3), and prayerfully are continuing to relish the time we spent with family and the great food we ate yesterday, it is customary to offer up a “thanksgiving offering”. I spent some of my day yesterday not only digesting Thanksgiving food and enjoying fellowship with those I love, but also digesting some study about how the Bible speaks of thanksgiving.
Surely there are plenty of Bible verses that speak of giving thanks, expressing thankfulness, and thanksgiving is mentioned specifically in 28 verses of the King James Version. However, in my searching out some God-breathed words from God, I desired to go a bit deeper into understanding my thankfulness to God and the grace we have through Jesus Christ, just looking up the words and verses would not suffice.
Believe it or not the American tradition of “Thanksgiving” is not too far from the Old Testament tradition of a “thanksgiving offering”. The Hebrew word for thanksgiving is todah, which is derived from the Hebrew word yadah meaning “praise”. To be a bit more specific, the praise this speaks of is the type of awe that leads one to fall on the floor and lay prostrate. In Leviticus 7:11-21, we read about the offering that is given with an “expression of thankfulness”, which is an “aroma pleasing to God”, and is commenced with a sharing of the meat from the sacrifice in a communal manner (something that makes it different than the other offerings which were not to be eaten by the offerer or others). This is seen as a sort of divine meal.
Many feel that talking through and understanding the sacrifices of the Old Testament are irrelevant to us today. I will readily admit we are well past the culture and demand for such sacrifices, however the shadows of such sacrifices are cast into the realities we know in and through Jesus Christ. Interestingly enough, a Jewish midrash (rabbinic teaching) that comes from the 9th century AD notes “In the coming Messianic age, all sacrifices will cease except the todah sacrifice (thanksgiving). This will never cease in all eternity” (Peshiqta part 1). When we cross-reference this thought with the God-inspired truth of Hebrews 13:15-16, we gain an amazing understanding of how this applies to a life in Jesus Christ. The passage reads:

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased”.

As one of my favorite Bible teachers Dr. Don K. Preston would note, “Catch the power of that!”.
What we learn from this is that the fulfillment of the thanksgiving offering that was required of God’s people under the Old Covenant has been and is accomplished through thankfulness toward all that Jesus Christ has offered. The response to this is to do good and share with others. As simple as that may seem the implications have potential to change the world. This is what the prophets continually told Israel of, namely their role in the world to serve God by serving others (cf. Psalm 51:16; Hosea 6:6; Isaiah 1:11-17).
Let us say, thank God in and through the mighty name of Jesus Christ.
That brings me to the focal point of my giving thanks and what I want to share with you today.
What are you thanking God for giving? Thanks-For-Giving. Praise Him for it right now!

 

In my desire to carry this thankfulness for what I have in and through Jesus Christ forward, I want to highlight the blessing of serving and fellowshipping with The Blue Point Bible Church. Our motto is #AThinkingFaith. The hashtag at the beginning represents our desire to share and make known the truth regarding the gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ, which is exemplified through a searched out, well studied, discussed, and proven faith (in short – A Thinking Faith). This is vital because ultimately this is what God was developing in and through His people from the very beginning (The Genesis).
The Biblical understanding of God’s solution to the world’s ills, is that instead of causing us to obsess about life elsewhere or causing us to fantasize about life outside of the existence we already know (being human), the One True God breathes life into His creation by “renewing their minds” according to His truth and standard (i.e., conceptual realities). This stands in contrast to “otherworld spirituality” which obsesses about things of an otherworld, something it would seem a proper reading and understanding of Scripture stands against. An otherworld mighty very well exist, as I often say that “Heaven is a dimension incompatible with this very natural, present realm”, yet the whole of Scripture does not point to understanding of these things, nor a focus on these things as the source of healing. Rather, what the Scriptures reveal is that the Hebrew people were called to have a Spirituality marked by mental/conceptual realities that defined reality based on faith in the will of God, rather than trusting in and defining the world by their own wicked understandings, or the idolatrous thoughts of the otherworld. I explain much of this in chapters 4-5 of my recently published book Wicked.

“God gave the Hebrew people (later to be called Israel), the oracles of God/ mental concepts to provide them with a God-led worldview/narrative in contrast to the narrative that they would make up or come to be led captive to due to surrounding cultures/ idol worshippers”.

I primarily thank God, of course, for being able to discern these things in accordance with diligent study and His Spirit. However, I believe it to be imperative to offer this “thanksgiving praise” for The Blue Point Bible Church. The grace and open, honest Bible discussions that have been happening there since the early 90’s demonstrates the church’s being on the brink of a reformation which has been and is happening within the entire Christian church worldwide. As I have said many times before, local churches stand as outposts of the Kingdom, collectively we represent Him!
Unfortunately, a large majority of the Christian Church, which has been called and equipped to make known the truth of God, has more often than not allowed man’s wisdom based upon personal interpretation or traditions to lead the way, thus confusion continues to run rampant. The common arguments/debates that take place within Christian circles displays our ignorance in understanding these things. Not only that, but, the world watches and thus develops attitudes that reflect a distaste for the Truth by regarding it as irrelevant or noting the variety of confused applications. Thanks be to God that He has given us everything pertaining to life and godliness which I believe is summed up in understanding the “conceptual realities” understood through “rightly dividing the word of truth (cf. 2 Timothy 2:15-16).
I will close with providing an example of a “conceptual reality” that is often misunderstood. However, I also encourage you to get a copy of Wicked (www.wickedthingsexplained.wordpress.com) , as well as continue to pay attention to resources from The Blue Point Bible Church (www.bluepointbiblechurch.org) as we seek to gain a clear understanding of “Thinking Through Scripture” in 2018.
Famed “Prince of Preachers”, Charles Spurgeon, once noted, “I may know all the doctrines of the Bible, but unless I know Christ, not one of them can save me”. This is a statement all Christians should be able to stand upon and advocate for, especially since knowing Christ is essentially, eternal life (cf. John 17:3).

“This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent”.

Knowing Jesus Christ and possessing eternal life has little to nothing to do with where we will go when we biologically die, nor obsession with or influence over the “supernatural realm” (unfortunately many Christians misunderstand it in this manner). Rather, “knowing Christ” and eternal life has everything to do with how we mentally acknowledge and thus act out our understanding of God and His will for the world (i.e., conceptual realities), which leads us to be a blessed people indeed!

As we come to study these details further and demonstrate #AThinkingFaith, I pray you will experience all that the Apostle Paul prayed for the church as Ephesus:

“…that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God”

Thank God for Eternal Life!

Your brother in Christ,
Pastor Michael Miano

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Rendering You Neither Useless nor Unfruitful in the Knowledge of God – MAKE DISCIPLES!!

Rendering You Neither Useless nor Unfruitful in the Knowledge of God”

As of June 2015, I (Pastor Michael Miano) have begun leading a discipleship program that I have developed through years of learning from other discipleship programs. We are calling this “Immersed Discipleship”.

The name says it all. I am endeavoring to disciple others the way I myself was discipled- by being immersed into the knowledge of God. Keeping in mind the concept of ‘milk & meat’, I seek to bring together those who want to be discipled and show them with the ‘things of God’ -whether it be deep doctrinal stuff, life application, or challenging ourselves in regards to outreach and evangelism- the goal is to help those coming into the faith to be “neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:8)”.

There is really no limit or boundary in regards to what we discuss at ‘Immersed Discipleship’. For example, last week in one of our classes, some of our discussion was based around the historical controversy of the Donatists. Here is an interesting article on those details for your studying pleasure:

http://gregsvoboda.com/2013/01/the-donatist-controversy-the-most-important-heresy-youve-never-heard-of/

Surely, as persecution of Christians continues, we can find some relevancy for ourselves in that historic conversation.

All of those details noted, a point that I made at our recent class was that 2,000 years after Christ first instructed His Apostles to preach the Gospel, we find ourselves sitting in a local church class room endeavoring to be His disciples. I regularly have the opportunity to proclaim the Gospel and see people become interested in what Jesus offers.

*Keep on the ‘lookout’ for an upcoming video I will release, “The Fulfilled Gospel in 6 Minutes” on YouTube in days to come.

After we heed the Gospel (namely the truth of Matthew 7:24-29), we then should be seeking to “walk worthy of 2 Peter 1:8.

For the remainder of this blog, I want to share with you a couple of ways I believe discipleship should be worked out in your life. God willing, I will provide you with a basic knowledge of how you can apply 2 Peter 1 to your life.

Missiologist and Theologian, David Bosch noted “For the disciple of Jesus, the stage of discipleship is not the first step toward a promising career. It is itself the fulfillment of his or her destiny”.

As a disciple your priority should be to gather with other saints to exhort and encourage each other to be accountable in personal discipleship, as well be the ‘healing of the nations’ as a community. At the Blue Point Bible Church (which I pastor) we have the following ‘mission statement’:

The purpose of this church shall be to make disciples, that is to produce mature believers, by carrying out God’s objectives for His Church in the world, evangelizing the lost and edifying the people of God”.

I call this the COLLECTIVE part of your discipleship.

The “collective church community” should further serve to build you up as a member of the Body, essentially the ‘purpose’ and ‘unity’ of the faith as preached by the Apostle Paul brings us in this direction. If 2 Peter chapter 1 is not an exhortation enough (which we will be dealing with as we conclude this blog), then let’s turn to 2 Corinthians 12:1-0. Go ahead and read the text.

Reading through 2 Corinthians 12:1-10, not only do you get a glimpse of the Apostle Paul’s concerns, you also see that God’s strength is shown in our weaknesses. The goal of gathering “collectively” is for us to not only see, but come to realize it is not about us- it’s about Him. The “collective church community” should seek to exhort and encourage the believer through the knowledge of God, bringing about a “strength” that only comes from God, and could never be exemplified through man. Again remember, it’s all about His glory! That should be your INDIVIDUAL focus.

The work of the “collective church community” and the “individual” is to seek out, understand, and live in proper doctrine. Reading through the Apostle Paul’s letter to Timothy shows this very clearly. Go ahead and read through 1 Timothy chapters 2-4. Bad doctrine, or a messed up understanding of the things of God is compared to “dirty water” in Scripture. Who wants to drink “dirty water”? Worst yet, how does one feel after drinking “dirty water”?

In matters of discipleship we have noted that not only are ‘eschatological doctrines’ among many other areas in need of “study to show ourselves approved”, sadly even the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ (or what we might refer to as the ‘practical applications’ of our faith are distorted as well. Some have referred to this as “The Crisis of the Sermon on the Mount”. A great article on that topic can be found here:

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/1995/july17/5t8038.html

As we contemplate the ‘true knowledge of God’, what should become clear beyond anything else is that without Christ, we will never “walk worthy” of the things of God. God offering covenant to us without Jesus is essentially “bad news”. We cannot and will not walk worthy- thus demonstrating the need for Jesus Christ. In these regards I enjoy this quote by Leo Tolstoy:

The test of observance of Christ’s teachings is our consciousness of our failure to attain to an ideal perfection. To the degree which we draw near, this perfection cannot be seen, all we see is the extent of our deviation”.

If you can come to that conclusion each and every time you study the doctrines of God, your DOCTRINAL understanding is in a healthy place.

That brings us to the final point, some may argue the most important- How to apply these things to my life? I have come to refer to this type of questioning as “diligent discipleship”.

I am fond of reading and learning from others, even to the extent that I recently accused myself of “following man”. However, praise-fully, I was rebuked by the Word. As the Apostle Paul himself admonishes the saints to be followers of him in 1 Corinthians 4:16 as well as in 11:1. Timothy was told in the letters to him to be mindful of who he received the faith from, and live like them.

Surely that brings together- collective, individual, doctrinal, and application discipleship. It must be done in community, it must be done diligently, and ultimately for the glory of God.

In our Wednesday Bible Study (just another way we walk worthy of our purpose at B.P.B.C.), we have been reviewing a series done by a man named Ray Vander Laan, and he details much of what I detailed in this blog- yet he refers to our lives in discipleship as “a well watered garden”. Author Vera Nazarian has noted, “The master of the garden is the one who waters it, trims the branches, plants the seeds, and pulls the weeds. If you merely stroll through the garden, you are but an acolyte. “. I pray this blog has further exhorted you to become a ‘mater of the garden’ as it pertains to your discipleship.

In keeping with that line of thinking, here is a list of things to do in the Garden. Let’s start calling it our “Gardening List” (cf. 2 Peter 1)

  1. applying all diligence” – do this with a concentrated and constant effort
  2. in your faith supply moral excellence” – remembering that “faith” cannot be seen (Hebrews 11:1), the excellent morals we live by can be seen (read Philippians 2:1-11)
  3. add knowledge” – awareness, facts, information, and skill about the “things of God”
  4. add self-control” – ability to control one’s emotions, behavior, and desires in the face of external demands
  5. add perseverance” – be steadfast in what your doing despite possible trying circumstances
  6. add godliness” – Desire to bring glory to God
  7. add brotherly kindness” – do good to others, especially those of the household of faith
  8. love- love God with all your mind, heart, soul, and strength as well as love your neighbor as yourself – Matthew 22:37; Luke 10:27

For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about his calling and choosing you: for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you (2 Peter 1:8-11)”.

Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you (2 Peter 1:12)”.

In His Service,

Pastor Michael Miano

Blue Point Bible Church

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Man of Dust – Genesis & Ancient Near Eastern Origins

Recently, I have been in discussion with someone regarding the “dust” and “death” found in the beginning of Genesis, specifically Adam (man) being made of the “dust” of the ground and thus returning to it. What is this saying?

Before I start, please allow me to assert that I believe in a honest handling of God’s Word, and the need to “study to show ourselves approved RIGHTLY DIVIDING THE WORLD OF TRUTH” (2 Timothy 2:15). That being noted, I do not want to impose an understanding that is not there, and I want to find the most “literal” understanding of the text possible, what is known as ‘sensus literalis’.

The words of Mr. R.C. Sproul, a well known Bible teacher, fit rightly here:

There is much confusion regarding the “literal” sense of Scripture…To interpret the Bible “literally” in the classic sense requires that we learn to recognize in Scripture different genres of literature. Poetry is to be interpreted as poetry, and didactic passages are to be interpreted according to the grammar of the didactic. Historical narrative must not be treated as parable, nor parable as strict historical narrative. Much of Bible prophecy is cast in an apocalyptic genre that employs graphic imaginative language and often mixes elements of common historical narrative with the figurative language.” (1)

This is where we must do the proper legwork. Sure, we can just pick up Genesis as 21st century Westerners and demand that the Scriptures make the points we want them to make about the things we want them to detail, as many do. Or….we can be honest and humble in our reading and studying and realize the ancient world is vastly different than ours. The concerns of those times are different than ours, and therefore the details of writing are as well.

Coming to an agreement concerning what type of genre the book of Genesis comes to us as is an rather intriguing study. The book ‘Beyond Creation Science’ by Tim Martin and Jeff Vaughn, first opened my eyes to taking a step back and really looking at the culture from which Genesis comes and the details it notes- finding Genesis to be more prophetic and apocalyptic than I had initially thought. Then reading through Dr. John Walton’s lectures on Youtube surely opened my eyes to understanding the concept of Genesis as a ‘temple text’ and it’s details in that environment rather than what I initially thought they meant.

Again….we must decide…do we really want the truth out of the text, essentially what it “literally” says, or are we content with just making things up and keeping our own view? That is exactly what has spurned by studies, and led me to the views I hold today.

Author Robert Gundry exhorts us in this regard:

…we must presume that the text as it stands had a meaning for the author and his first readers. We want to discover that meaning. The path to discovery lies along the line of historical- grammatical interpretation, which assumes that the language of the Biblical text, including its symbolic language, grows out of and speaks to the historical situation of the writer and his readers. To take a non-referential view of language, may open up possibilities of contemporary interest and deconstruction play, but it blocks the path of historical understanding.”

So…in my honest study, I have begun to look at the world of the Ancient Near East. Most within ‘critical scholarship’ have now begun to point those who want to understand the Book of Genesis in this direction. Granted I have made these remarks before, have written about understanding the Bible “literally”, (2) and defended these positions in debates- yet herein I want to show the proper understanding of the creation of man and the story that tells- from the Ancient Near East to the overly Hellenistic Western world.

The ANE audience hardly was concerned nor would have attempted to explain in graphic detail how God had made man, save for understanding the function of man in the world. Genesis serves as a ‘polemic’, or argument against the cultures of the Ancient Near East, as blog writer T.E. Hanna notes,

Rather than adopting the mythologies of the surrounding Ancient Near East, the Hebrew cosmologies were written as a criticism of them. As theological education for an emerging Israelite nation, the purpose of these narratives was to emphasize the nature of the God of Israel in contrast to the surrounding polytheism, while also conveying His superiority over competing religions.”

Now that we have made ourselves somewhat aware of the context of the Book of Genesis, let’s begin to take a look.

Please turn in your Bibles to Genesis 1:24-31.

Here we read that God made all the animals and then goes about to create man – In His Image, and to have dominion over all of that which God created.

As one becomes familiar with the Ancient Near East, we would see that this Genesis story runs contrary to the contemporary understanding of that culture. As Wheaton proffessor, Dr. John Walton has noted, “In Mesopotamia the cosmos functions for the gods and in relation to them. People are an afterthought, seen as just another part of the cosmos that helps the gods to function. In Israel the cosmos functions for people and in relation to them. God does not need the cosmos, but it is his temple. It functions for people.” (3)

I have a writing on this called ‘The Ancestral Story of the ‘Image of God'(4) which can be found on the internet, and I would be remiss if I did not mention the work of Mrs. Rebekkah Devine (or Giffone as I note in my article). When I came to understand how in Genesis man was set up as the ‘image of God’ in contrast to the way the ANE viewed man, I was amazed. Man is created to display the glory of God, not the idols, nor the “created things” that man turns into idols.

Now let’s take a look at Genesis 2:4-9.

Studying out the details of “heaven and earth” in Scripture is a praiseworthy study. Verse 4 here gives us a beginning of understanding the way this phraseology was used by the ancient Hebrews, and essentially was was being ‘made’ by God in this account. Surely you don’t believe that what God is saying here is that the ‘heaven and earth’ has a genealogy, do you? Oddly some have made some strange interpretations, yet if you study out the term in its context and usage- you find this term simply applies to God’s people.

What we are reading in Genesis chapters 1-3 is the “creation story” of the one True God and how He formed His “heaven and earth”.

In Genesis 2:7 we have, God ‘forming’ man (adam) out of the ground. The text reads: ‘v’yyitzer YHWH ‘Elohim ‘et ha’adam ‘aphar min ha’adamah’ – or in the English – “The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground.”

There are some who simply would rather avoid dealing with the historicity of the writing and would assert that this is talking about God materialistically forming man out of ‘dust’, just as they would say that this text is talking about the material creation of Heaven and Earth. If you are ok with imposing a foreign interpretation on the text, that would have hardly been understood by the ancients, then there is nothing I can show you. However, after searching for the definition of the term ‘dust’ (which in Hebrew is ‘aphar’ meaning ground, earth, ashes, or powder), then reading all the passages in Scripture that apply that term, I did not find much clarity as to what is saying. Therefore I turned to historical context for clarity.

It is interesting to further note that in Ancient Near Eastern literature not only is man debased, but the creation of man is usually of the clay of the ground and the blood or spit of the gods- both good and evil. In the Biblical text, man is created of the earth and then God breath’s life into him- giving man a dignity above all other created things. Surely a radical thought in the Ancient Near East that most modern people miss the point of.

A writing that further helped provide clarity pertaining to Genesis :4-7 was an internet writing by Don Stoner. You can access that writing by visiting this link: http://www.dstoner.net/Genesis_Context/Context.html

So in Genesis chapter 2, man is created by God forming him of the dust of the ground, earthy, and is animated as a ‘living soul’ once God breathes into him.

In Genesis 3:14 as well as 3:19, we read that the serpent will go on his belly and eat “dust’ all the days of his life, and Adam after the fall is told he shall return to the dust.

First of all this is where you should begin to notice that this book is a foreign text and not intended to be taken literal. If you hold to a literal walking/ talking serpent that is cursed by God to travel on the ground, then you need to consult the local psychologist.

After noting that simply point, we can begin to search out what the text means in its proper context.

‘Dust’ as used through Scripture and historical context also carries the thought of humility and desperation. When Adam and Eve sin and suffer “the death” due to sin, they are ashamed and hide themselves from God- no longer freely roaming in the blessedness of God’s garden as He provided to them. This will later be the story of fleshly Israel as well- they violate the command God gives them and thus suffer shame.

Adam and Eve are now “dead”, as God told them the day they eat of the tree they shall surely die. God provides them with a covering and removes them from the Garden where they enjoyed God’s presence and possible “immortality” through the Tree of Life. From dust they were created, to dust they shall return.

It is when we study out the “resurrection of the dead” that these things get hopeful. The “resurrection of the dead” will undue the damage of the garden.

Adam and Eve had a beautiful & free relationship with God- based on the “covenant” of one law- don’t eat of that tree- be His image- they failed and died in that covenant relationship- thus returning to dust.

Israel inherited that story, and was provided a covering. They do the same as Adam (Hosea 6:7) and get worse and worse- suffering the fate of returning to the dust and face future judgment (Daniel chapter 12). One writer noted that the “futility” spoken about in Romans 8 is detailing the same “futility” to which creation was subjected in Genesis 3 – it has to do with the idea that it would not do that for which it was designed or intended.

All of this is to note that Genesis chapters 1-3 are not talking about the material creation of the cosmos nor of man, but rather are covenant claims. Genesis is the creation of God’s people- heaven and earth- and how that Old Covenant people were subjected to futility- being of the dust and earthy.

One poet noted, “The sons of Adam are formed from dust; if not humble as the dust, they fall short of being men.

In conclusion, let us praise God for the ‘Second Adam’ as revealed through the New Testament. We, in Christ, do not bear that “dusty” semblance and “death is defeated”! After all as 2nd century Church Father Irenaeus noted, ““The glory of God is a human being fully alive.”

This is the goal of our faith- to note that which happened “in the beginning”, the death that comes because of sin, and then rest and proclaim praise in regards Christ’s sacrifice and righteousness. To provide to who would attest to the power of this as the “Christian faith” I will use quotes from 7th century Church bishop Maximus who said, “Christianity is an entirely new way of being human”, and 20th century century German theologian and martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer who remarked, “Christianity is not about religion- it’s about humanity, and making it as God intended it to be.”

Below I will provide a short list of Works Cited. As well as a list of Scriptures that mention “dust” for further study, and of course a host of links that further inform on the context of the Ancient Near East.

Works Cited

  1. R.C. Sproul, The Last Days According to Jesus
  2. https://mianogonewild.wordpress.com/2014/05/14/how-do-we-literally-understand-the-scriptures/
  3. Dr. John Walton, The Lost World of Adam and Eve
  4. http://www.academia.edu/9695120/A_Must_Read-_The_Ancestral_Story_of_the_Image_of_God_

Scriptures Pertaining to Dust:

Genesis 2:7; 3:19 – dust; Genesis 3:14; Genesis 13:16; 28:13; 1 Chron 1:9; Genesis 18:27; Genesis 26:15 – translated as earth; 1 Kings 16:2; 2 Kings 13:7 ; Num 19:17; 2 Kings 23:4 – ashes ; Job 4:19; Job 7:21; Job 10:9; Job 14:8 – ground; Job 17:16; Job 21:26; Job 30:19; Psalm 22:15, 29; Psalm 44:25; Psalm 113:17; Lev 14:42, 45 – mortar;2 kings 23:6, 15- powder; Job 42:6; Ecc 3:20; 12:7; psalm 103:14; Neh 4:2, 10 – rubbish; Isaiah 25:12; Isaiah 26:19; Isaiah 47:1; Lamentation 2:10; Nahum 3:18

Websites about the Ancient Near Eastern context of Genesis:

http://www.theologymatters.com/Novdec97.PDF

http://www.newfoundationspubl.org/dust.htm

http://questions.veritas.org/science-faith/origins/what-genre-is-genesis-1-2/

http://tehanna.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/OfDustAndKings_HebrewCosmology.pdf

http://www.indiana.edu/~jsp/docs/2013_14/Bern_Essay_winner_Bloom,%20D.pdf

https://biologos.org/blogs/jim-stump-faith-and-science-seeking-understanding/interpreting-adam-an-interview-with-john-walton

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0825439272/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0825439272&linkCode=as2&tag=michsheiscom-20&linkId=LVYPNGNYCGRJSJSD

http://davidjohnstone.net/blog/2009/12/notes-lost-world-genesis-one-john-walton

http://oyc.yale.edu/transcript/945/rlst-145

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2 Thessalonians chapter 2 – A Response to Matthew Henry’s Commentary

In the last issue of Fulfilled Magazine you were offered the opportunity to examine for yourself views that spoke of “moving beyond full preterism” and full preterism being the “Hymenean heresy”. As Brian Martin so rightly said, I feel that Truth has nothing to fear from opposing or differing views. If full preterism is the true, Biblical interpretation of eschatology, then it will prevail against all challenges”.

In this article I desire to show you the “Berean spirit” (Acts 17:11) alive and well in the Full Preterist community. I personally have approached those who speak ill of Full Preterism and asked for “reasons” (1 Peter 3:15) for their view- only to be given apathetic responses and or ostracized for my “critical mind”. In contrast, many times I am offered the opportunity to answer questions which I more than welcome, I encourage it.

Recently, a friend of a member of my congregation offered the commentary of 2 Thessalonians chapter 2 as a rebuke of the Full Preterist position. I would like to take some time to respond and deal with the issue that arise from a proper understanding of the text. Here is the link to the commentary offered by Matthew Henry:

http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/matthew-henry-complete/2-thessalonians/2.html

2 Thessalonians chapter 2 is an interesting passage for someone to use “against” Full Preterism . Bible teacher Kurt Simmons writes:

“One of the chief eschatological passages of the New Testament is II Thess. 2, which speaks of the “man of sin” whom the Lord would consume at his coming. (II Thess. 2:3, 8) Tradition among primitive Christians identified St. Paul’s “man of sin” with St. John’s “antichrist” and Revelation’s “beast,” many holding that these were references to Nero. In his fourth homily on II Thessalonians, St. Chrysostom (A.D. 347 to 407) states,

“For the mystery of lawlessness doth already work.” He speaks here of Nero… But he did not also wish to point him out plainly: and this not from cowardice, but instructing us not to bring upon ourselves unnecessary enmities, when there is nothing to call for it.”

So what I hope to provide you with in this “response” is information pertaining to the “eschatological confusion” that has been shown in regards to 2 Thessalonians chapter 2, the culture and background of the confusion in different periods of time through church history (especially pertaining to Matthew Henry’s generation), and a contextual understanding of 2 Thessalonians chapter 2- with provided resources.

In his commentary, Matthew Henry notes that the purpose and opening of 2 Thessalonians chapter 2 is a refutation of the error regarding the “coming of the Lord”. Apparently, the Thessalonians thought the coming of the Lord had come and gone. That alone should come many to PAUSE.

If the “coming of the Lord” or the 2nd Coming as referred to by many, is this big cataclysmic event which involves stars falling to earth, a physical body of a 1st century Jewish man floating out of the sky on a horse, attended by the resurrection of biological bodies and the planet being destroyed- HOW IN THE WORLD COULD THESE PEOPLE HAVE MISSED IT?!?! This alone should cause many to reexamine their view and position of the “coming of the Lord”.

Matthew Henry lived during the 1700’s. This was a time when “end times interpretation” was greatly influenced by what is called the “Continuous Historical Approach”. This approach finds in the imagery of Revelation a continuous, chronologically sequential panorama of history reaching until the world’s end. The first to use this approach was Nicolas of Lyra (A.D. 1329) in his Postilla. Nicolas of Lyra was a Franciscan who rejected the apocalypticism of his fellow Franciscans. Instead, Nicolas offered a continuous-historical interpretation of Revelation beginning in the first century and reaching to his own time. This approach found its way into what we might call “mainstream though” through the Reformation initiated by Martin Luther, the German reformer. Luther equated his times and struggles with the fight against the Antichrist whom he deemed was the Pope. The continuous-historical method has few modern proponents. Its traditional interpretation equating the beast and harlot with papal Rome has not withstood serious scrutiny; no reputable scholars embrace it today. In some “cultish” crowds such as Ellis Scoffield and 7th Day Adventists one is likely to find these interpretation.

A proper understanding of “interpretation principles” enhances our understanding of the Bible. Many ‘Christians’ are content with a ‘face value’ or a 21st century influenced understanding of the ancient Scriptures which is dismaying to say the least. The ‘Continuous-Historical Approach’ is void of audience relevance, consideration of time statements, and the narrative-context of the Scriptures.

In his commentary, Matthew Henry says:

“From these words it appears that some among the Thessalonians had mistaken the apostle’s meaning, in what he had written in his former epistle about the coming of Christ, by thinking that it was near at hand,—that Christ was just ready to appear and come to judgment….and hereupon the apostle is careful to rectify this mistake, and to prevent the spreading of this error. Observe, If errors and mistakes arise among Christians, we should take the first opportunity to rectify them, and hinder the spreading thereof; and good men will be especially careful to suppress errors that may arise from a mistake of their words and actions, though that which was spoken or done was ever so innocent or well”.

Yes, the Apostle Paul was strongly speaking against “eschatological error” in the church at Thessalonica concerning the “coming of the Lord”. This is a work I have engaged in for the past 2-3 years now and it seems many in the Church want to “lessen” the importance of rectifying this error.

Why does it matter? This chapter of 2 Thessalonians clearly shows us the Apostles thought this was a serious issue and had the potential to distort the gospel (something I believe is being done in many churches across the world today). Therefore in writing this article and reproving errors I endeavor to follow the same logic in which Mr. Henry operated in taking ‘the first opportunity to rectify them”, even if that means showing that Matthew Henry’s interpretation of 2 Thessalonians 2 was indeed in error.

Ok..So open up your Bibles to 2 Thessalonians. I urge you before this study to take a minute to read through 2 Thessalonians chapters 1-3, that way you can get the “full force” of the letter the Apostle wrote to the Thessalonians church in A.D. 51-52. Understanding that alone is important and gives credit to the historical reliability of Scripture.

At the beginning of this letter from Paul, Timothy, and Silvanus they are encouraging the Church at Thessalonica through persecution. Notice what is said:

“…in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure. This is a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so that you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering. For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thessalonians 1:4-8)”.

So if this letter was penned in the first century and dropped off at the doorstep of the Thessalonians church which was undergoing persecution and is promising them relief when the “Lord comes”- isn’t it only right to question is the Lord was faithful to this promise and gave them relief? After all, this letter is set forth to clear the confusion and not confuse more- yet the words of Christ Himself to the Apostles alive in that time was that some of them would not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming with His angels on the clouds of heaven to bring judgment (Matthew 16:27-28).

As we move into chapter 2, we now can understand why the Thessalonians would “lose composure” or be disturbed by a message that the coming had already occurred- they were still experiencing persecution- where was this RELIEF?!?!

Speaking about the “gathering together to him” should remind us of Matthew 24:31. In an article in which Dr. Don K. Preston goes in depth about the ‘gathering together’ he writes this:

“An examination of Matthew 24-25 with II Thessalonians 1-2 is especially revealing. In Matthew you have the threat of persecution with the promise of the Parousia for vindication and judgment on the persecutors–the city of Jerusalem. In II Thessalonians 1 you have the church being persecuted, and that persecution is instigated by the Jews, Acts 17. Those being persecuted are promised vindication at the coming of the Lord in fire and vengeance. The Thessalonians were suffering the persecution promised and foreseen by Jesus. Why then is the coming of the Lord in vindication in Thessalonians not the same coming of Jesus in vindication and judgment as that of Matthew 24:29-31?”.

So this gathering would be done after the tribulation which Jesus Christ speaks about in Matthew chapter 24, which a proper historical study can offer is fulfilled through the events of the Roman-Jewish War of AD 70.

“Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exhalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4)”.

Now I personally believe the proof of this passage being in the past is what I posted above about the “gathering together” which was to occur in AD 70. I believe the saints were “raised up” along with “the dead ones” and brought into the presence of God- which until every jot and tittle of the Law was fulfilled could not happen. However, let’s analyze the 2 things the Apostle Paul lists here that must occur prior to the “coming of the Lord” and the “gathering together”. Could these have happened about 20 years after the Apostle Paul penned the second letter to the Thessalonians?

“APOSTASY COMES”.... Dr. Don K. Preston again weighs in on this and says:

“In Matthew 24:12 Jesus said that in the days prior to his coming in the destruction of Jerusalem, “because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold.” In the previous verse he warned that false prophets would “mislead many.” In verse 10 he had stated that due to persecution “many will fall away.”

Can you see the comparison? In Matthew 24 the disciples asked when the Lord was going to come. Jesus said before he returned there would be a time when “many will fall away;” false prophets would “mislead many;” and “most people’s love will grow cold.” He then told them he would come after that apostasy but in that generation, vss. 29-34.

In II Thessalonians the brethren were believing the Lord had already come. To correct their chronological error Paul reminded them that before the Lord could come “the apostasy” had to happen.

He was reminding them of the apostasy the Lord himself had said must happen!”.

BUT…who is this MAN OF LAWLESSNESS? 

Clearly from the words of the Apostle Paul this ‘man’ was alive in his time (2 Thessalonians 2:6-8).

Something was holding him back. There seems to be quite the controversy surrounding “he who know retrains” but with proper context I believe it is quite clear who this ‘man’ was.

Dr. Kenneth Gentry, who is NOT A FULL PRETERIST has some good details to share about identifying this man of lawlessness:

“The “man of lawlessness” is Nero Caesar, who also is the beast of Revelation, as a number of Church Fathers believe. This passage’s difficulty lies in the fact that Paul “describes the Man of Sin with a certain reserve” (Origen, Celsus 6:45) for fear of incurring “the charge of calumny for having spoken evil of the Roman emperor” (Augustine, City of God 20:19). Paul and his associates had already suffered at the hands of the Thessalonican Jews for “acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king – Jesus” (Ac 17:7). Wisdom demands discreetness when referring to imperial authority; his recent (1Th 2:17) personal ministry among them allows it: they were to “remember” that while with them he “told [them] these things” (2:5).

Paul clearly implies that something is presently (ca.AD 52) “restraining” (present participle) the man of sin “that he may be revealed in his own time” (2Th 2:6). The man of lawlessness is alive and waiting to be “revealed.” This implies that for the time being, Christians could expect at least some protection from the Roman government: the Roman laws regardingreligio licita  are currently in Christianity’s favor, while it remains a sect of Judaism. This begins to end after the malevolent Nero ascends the throne, for he begins persecuting Christianity in AD 64. Paul certainly enjoys the protection of Roman law (Ac 18:12ff) and makes important use of it in AD 59 (Ac 25:11–12; 28:19), when he seeks protection from the malignancy of the Jews”.

Or as author James Stuart Russel noted:

“But how striking are the indications that point to Nero in the year when this epistle was written, say A.D.52 or 53. At that time Nero was not yet ‘manifested;’ his true character was not discovered; he had not yet succeeded to the Empire. Claudius, his step-father, lived, and stood in the way of the son of Agrippina. But that hindrance was soon removed. In less than a year, probably, after this epistle was received by the Thessalonians, Claudius was ‘taken out of the way,’ a victim to the deadly practice of the infamous Agrippina; her son also, according to Suetonius, being accessory to the deed. But ‘the mystery of lawlessness was already working;’ the influence of Nero must have been powerful in the last days of the wretched Claudius; the very plots were probably being hatched that paved the way for the accession of the son of the murderess. A few months more would witness the advent to the throne of the world of a miscreant whose name is gibbeted in everlasting infamy as the most brutal of tyrants and the vilest of men”.

Bible Teacher Kurt Simmons would be inclined to historically explain that it was Claudius Caesar and the restraining power of the religio licita that kept the man of lawelessness from being revealed. 

Although being consistent with what is called “intellectual honesty” I must admit there are some who agree that this passage was fulfilled in the 1st century yet they would explain the details a bit different. For example, Bible teacher Ed Stevens would offer the high priest as the ‘lawless one”. He explains:

“The Jewish persecutors, the Judaizers, and the Zealots all show that this was fulfilled in the first century. The falling away was in progress as the last few NT books were written. One only needs to read things like the books of Hebrews, James, 1 & 2 Peter and 1-3 John to see this. The falling away coincided with the great persecution and tribulation that descended on the church just before the Jewish revolt (A.D. 63-66). During this persecution James, Peter and others (such as Paul) were killed (A.D. 63). And it was probably about this same time that John was exiled to Patmos. The NT writers during this time of persecution were bravely challenging their fellow-saints to persevere. The faithful remnant did. But many others forsook the “better things” in Christ and returned to Judaism’s things that were “fading away” and about to be destroyed. The “falling away” and “the coming of the man of sin” were first century events. They occurred in connection with the persecution of the church just before the Jewish revolt in A.D. 66. The destruction and defilement of the temple at Jerusalem is explained in great detail by Josephus. While 2 Thess. 2:1-4 is usually associated with “THE” Antichrist, we need to remember that the anti-Christian spirit was already at work in the first century. The Jewish persecution was already underway when Paul wrote these words. The Holy Spirit was restraining its effect until the church reached a mature-enough condition to persevere. There was a close connection indeed between the tribulation and the apostasy. The anti-Christian forces were persecuting the church to get them to fall away.

There are many passages which indicate that the “anti-Christ” was actually the anti-Christian spirit which motivated the Jewish persecutors who worked against the church in the period before AD 70. Notice these passages in particular: 1 Jn. 4:3; cf. 1 Jn. 2:17, 18; and 2 Thess. 2:7. Whatever this “man of lawlessness” was, it was already at work during the time Paul wrote, and was evidently at its worst when John wrote, since he says, “Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have arisen; from this we KNOW it is THE LAST HOUR.” (emphasis mine, ES). And, it is not just preterists who suggest the “man of lawlessness” was something other than an individual. Several of the amillennial and post-millennial theories suggest the same. As far as individual “antichrists” are concerned, some have suggested the various messianic contenders during the war with Rome (John of Gischala, Simon ben Giora, or Eleazar ben Ananias, Eleazar ben Yair — the leader at Masada, or the High Priest). The Judaizers could easily qualify as “antichrists” as well. As I explain in my article elsewhere on this website, I believe the “beast” was Jewish. Whether it was the Jewish Zealots as a group, or individual leader as a figurehead, is not of real big concern to me. If I had to choose an individual who fits all the criteria mentioned here in 2 Thess. 2 and Revelation, I would probably focus on Eleazar ben Yair who resurrected his cause at Masada”.

Sure enough….the “coming of the Lord” occurred when the Romans surrounded the city of Jerusalem (Luke 21:20). This event destroyed the persecutors of the saints (Galatians 4:23-31). The temple was destroyed and it was clear as day as the 1st century historian Josephus noted:

“And this seems to me to have been the reason why God, out of his hatred of these men’s wickedness, rejected our city; and as for the temple, he no longer esteemed it sufficiently pure for him to inhabit therein, but brought the Romans upon us, and threw a fire upon the city to purge it; and brought upon us, our wives, and children, slavery, as desirous to make us wiser by our calamities”.

The rise of Full Preterism can be quite intimidating to many people who want to hold to certain “traditional” teachings. What needs to be known that within the Full Preterist community there are Christians who seek simply to know, understand, and to be obedient to the teachings of Jesus Christ- ALL THE TEACHINGS. I hope I have shown the ‘intellectual honesty’ in this response to the critics who may utilize Matthew Henry’s commentary and I hope that I have shown Mr. Henry’s thoughts on 2 Thessalonians chapter 2 to be flawed.

The fact remains- the letter of 2 Thessalonians was a first century writing to the Thessalonian church to encourage them to withstand persecution having hope in the “coming of the Lord” which would be judgement upon those who persecuted them. This judgment/ “coming of the Lord” occurred right on time as judgment came upon the city of Jerusalem and its inhabitants. Those whom were santified in Christ were ‘gathered to the Lord’ as they heeded His teachings and sure enough as the 1st century historian Josephus accounts- NOT ONE CHRISTIAN DIED IN THE CITY!

 

Reference:

http://www.preteristcentral.com/The%20Road%20Back%20to%20Preterism.html

http://www.preteristarchive.com/Hyper/0000_preston_second-thess.html

http://www.preteristarchive.com/Hyper/0000_preston_how-possible.html

http://torreygazette.com/austinpreterism/2013/07/23/gentry-theology-man-of-lawlessness-identified

http://kloposmasm.com/2009/08/16/pp15-the-man-of-lawlessness-ii-thess-2-part-1/

http://www.preterist.org/preteristQA.asp

 

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DANCING ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS: Bonhoeffer Files

I have recently finished reading through Eric Metaxas biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and have preached an entire series to celebrate his birthday for the month of February. The podcasted sermons can be found at this link:

http://www.buzzsprout.com/11630 

I have said it again and again that I believe Dietrich Bonhoeffer to be an excellent example of a well-lived Christian life, therefore I am taking this opportunity to share what I have learned about him through this rather lengthy blog.

“…He grew up in a family that believed the essence of learning lay not in a formal education but in a deeply rooted obligation to be guardians of a great historical heritage”. – Eberhard Bethke

Imagine if Christians truly started to understanding “the essence of learning” in that manner. It is not about obtaining knowledge, but about living out the heritage and being “guardians” of the truth contained in the gospel, and what we as kingdom ambassadors know through Jesus Christ…. ahh just imagine. I believe we are living on the threshold of this realization in the Church. It’s high time we begin taking this seriously.

In was said that in Bonhoeffer’s family, “Each had his special trait, but common to them all was an idealistic streak, with a fearless readiness to act on their convictions”.

As G.K. Beale noted about Bonhoeffer:

“He was crystal clear in his convictions; and young as he was, and humble-minded as he was, he saw the truth, and spoke it with a complete absence of fear”.

Reading through Metaxas biography was enlightening to say the least. I have the opportunity to learn about Bonhoeffer’s family life, which clearly led to many of his convictions regarding truth. Bonhoeffer’s father was devoted to Empirical Science, which builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe. It would be the contention of Bonhoeffer that: “The validity of Christianity lies within the realm of rational inquiry”. I am inclined to agree. Below are some links to help you understand an Empiricist way of looking at Christianity.

http://faculty.som.yale.edu/jameschoi/whychrist-empiric.html

http://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2012/04/christianity-knowledge-and-empiricism/

Many who know me personally can attest to my contant plea for Christians to truly understand, teach, and preach a TRUE AND REASONABLE GOSPEL. As Bonhoeffer said:

“One must consider every possibility and avoid predisposing oneself to where it would all lead. During his lifetime, Bonhoeffer brought this critical and “scientific” attitude to all questions of faith and theology”.

In the Bonhoeffer home it was said that there was no place for “false piety” or “any kind of bogus religiousity”, and those are direct statements from his sister Sabine. The rising generation of Christians can surely find appreciation for that. We call that “being real”.

Bonhoeffer knew we must find God and not allow our presuppositions create an “idol god” of our own. As goes the cliche saying, “God created man in his image, and man returned the favor”. No instead as Bonhoeffer rightly notes:

If it is I who determine where God is to be found, then I shall always find a God who corresponds to me in some way, who is obliging, who is connected with my own nature. But if God determines where he is to be found, then it will be in a place which is not immediately pleasing to my nature and which is not at all congenial to me”.

I totally love the fact that Bonhoeffer saw the need for theology to leak into the practical aspects of living as a Christian. Our understanding of God and His kingdom should place us in a sort of “holy rebellion” to this world. Dietrich Bonhoeffer would have called this a “religion-less Christianity” which compared and contrasted “cheap grace” and “costly grace”.

Again Bonhoeffer’s upbringing would have led him to understand this in this fashion because he was raised to not only live out his convictions but to also think before you speak, aswell as the self-deception of being led by emotions. Sadly, many who refer to themselves as “Christians” today, have adopted an emotional attraction to to a gospel they have made up.

For example, recently I was listening to a Christian rap song by Andy Mineo called “Where the Wild Things Are” and he quotes this:

“When I talk about Jesus, all the Christians love me. But if I try to walk like Jesus, all the Christians judge me”.

The “secularization of Christianity” (something Bonhoeffer continually spoke out against) had led many to create a sort of ‘moralistic deism” and call it Christianity. What I mean by “moralistic deism” is that Christianity is all about rules and regulations on how to live your life with a spinkle of belief in God. That IS NOT CHRISTIANITY.

“Christianity is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God’s will. The essence of chastity is not the suppression of lust, but the total orientation of one’s life towards a goal. Without such a goal, chastity is bound to become ridiculous”. – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

This is so important because another aspect of Christianity that Bonhoeffer was so passionate about was the fact that it must be made real to the man in the street.

So Christian, I now ask you….. Are you walking worthy? Please take this admonishment and example given to us through the life of Christ seriously.

Even my asking you this question is in the fashion of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who made the point that we need more Christians who are willing to do “suprise visits” and ask other brothers and sisters in the faith- “How goes it with your soul?”.

As Bonhoeffer was arrested he took his Bible with him. This reminded me of my recent agreement to “treat my Bible like my cellphone”. In other words just as I would make sure I have my cellphone on me at all times, I will do the same with my Bible- no matter where I go (anywhere I would naturally bring my cellphone).

FAST FACT: Did you know Martin Luther introduced the idea of Congregational singing?

Congregational singing had been halted since the close of the fourth century, when the church leaders decreed: “If laymen are not to interpret the Scriptures for themselves, so they are not to sing the songs of the church”. Martin Luther declared, “Let God speak directly to His people through the Scriptures, and let His people respond with grateful songs of praise”.

You can read more about this by visiting the following link:

http://ctl.cedarville.edu/musicology/wordpress/?p=62

“It wasn’t until 1920, when Dietrich turned fourteen, that he was ready to tell anyone he had decided to become a theologian”.

In Bonhoeffer’s time, much like the time we are living in, the Church seemed weak, oppressive, and more like a business than ‘the light of the world’, but when God calls men like Bonhoeffer, He leads them to say:

“In that case, I shall have to reform it”.

Bonhoeffer understood:

Revival of church life always brings in its train a richer understanding of the Scriptures”.

The real trouble is that the pure Word of Jesus has been overlaid with so much human ballast- burdensome rules and regulations, false hopes and consolations- that it has become extremely difficult to make a genuine decision for Christ”.

As a Christian, the health of the ‘body of Christ’ stays at the forefront of my mind, therefore I fully recieve this admonishment that Bonhoeffer gave to himself as my own:

Paul writes that he thinks of his congregation “without ceasing” in his prayers and yet at the same time he devoted himself completely to the task at hand. I must learn to do that. It will probably only come with prayer. God, grant me in the next few weeks clarity about my future and keep me in the communion of prayer with the brethren”.

It cannot be reiterated enough the need for us to ask ourselves, WHAT IS THE CHURCH? This is what Dietrich Bonhoeffer sought to explain in his writings, Sanctorum Communio & Act and Being. Both of which I look forward to reading myself fairly soon.

Due to the apathy that was alive and well in the church in Bonhoeffer’s time, he helped initiate the rise of what was called THE CONFESSING CHURCH. You can learn more of the details of that by visiting the following link:

https://www.biblicaltraining.org/library/confessing-church

Bonhoeffer knew it was important that the Church was exhibited as “Christ existing as church-community”. He would go on to say,

“The body of Christ is the spiritual temple built out of living stones (1 Peter 2:5). Christ is its sole foundation and cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20; 1 Corinthians 3:11) but at the same time He is in His person the temple (Ephesians 2:21), in whom the Holy Spirit dwells, replenishing and sactifying the hearts of the faithful (1 Corinthians 3:10; 6:19). The Temple of God is the holy people in Jesus Christ. The body of Christ is the living temple of God and the new humanity”.

Since the ascension, Christ’s place on earth has been His body, the Church. The Church is the real presence of Christ. Once we have realized this truth we are well on the way to recovering an aspect of the Church’s being which has been sadly neglected in the past. We should think of the Church not as an institution but as a person, through of course a person in a unique sense”.

One student of Bonhoeffer’s noted that:

He pointed out that nowadays we often ask ourselves whether we still need the Church, whether we still need God. But this question, he said, is wrong. We are the ones who are questioned. The Church exists and God exists, and we are asked whether we are willing to be of service, for God needs us”.

The Church is called to stand with those who suffer”. We read in Galatians 6:2 – Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ”.

It is high time we broke with our theologically based restraint towards the state’s actions- which after all, is only fear. “Speak out for those who cannot speak”. Who in the church today realizes that this is the very least that the Bible requires of us”. – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Here is how Bonhoeffer saw CHURCH REFORM:

“I think I am right in saying that I would only achieve true inner clarity and honesty by really starting to take the Sermon on the Mount seriously. Here alone lies the force that can blow all this idiocy sky-high- like fireworks, leaving only a few burnt-out shells behind. The restoration of the church must surely depend on a new kind of monasticism, which has nothing in common with the old but a life of uncompromising discipleship, following Christ according to the Sermon on the Mount”.

In regard to living out the necessary reforms in the body of Christ, “he knew that to act freely could mean inadvertently doing wrong and incurring guilt. In fact, he felt that living this way meant that is was impossible to avoid incurring guilt, but if one wished to live responsibly and fully, one would be willing to do so”.

I call this “living lightly”. I seek to live out the teachings of Jesus Christ by conviction therefore ‘free from condemnation’, yet I just live, I don’t focus on not sinner. If indeed during my efforts to glorify God, I offend, then repentance is necessary.

Yet again in regards to CHURCH REFORM. Bonhoeffer would have it stated that one church could have differences with another church, but engage in dialogue for further mutual understanding. This is what we NEED in the body of Christ today. I am actually in the middle of writing up a letter/ document to give local leadership in my region to further stimulate mutual edification and understanding among churches in our area.

I plead with my brothers and sisters in the faith to begin the “leg work” of reform because ideas and beliefs are nothing if they do not relate to the world of reality outside of one’s own mind.

As I learn from Dietrich Bonhoeffer as a pastor, I desire to preach sermons that stimulate the congregation both Spiritually and intellectually. It’s said that His style as a lecturer was “very concentrated, quite unsentimental, almost disspassionate, clear as crystal, with a certain rational coldness, like a reporter”. It was this combination of an adamantine faith with a logician’s sparkling intellect that was so compelling”.

“A truly evangelical sermon must be like offering a child a fine red apple or offering a thirsty man a cool glass of water and then saying: Do you want it?”. -Bonhoeffer

It was Ruth von Kleist-Retzow who said the following statement about Bonhoeffer:

“When you saw him (Bonhoeffer) preaching you saw a young man who was entirely in God’s grasp”.

Bonhoeffer’s notice for the necessity of the Psalms being alive and well in the Church is interesting and an understanding I desire to come close to. Bonhoeffer said:

“The Psalter filled the life of early Christians. But more important than this is that Jesus died on the cross with words from the Psalms on His lips. Whenever the Psalter is abandoned, an incomparable treasure is lost to the Christian church. With its recovery will come unexpected power”.

A prominent Preterist writer, David Chilton has noted:

There is a very important connection between the Church’s worldview and the Church’s hymns. If your heart and mouth are filled with songs of victory, you will tend to have an eschatology of dominion; if, instead, your songs are fearful, expressing a longing for escape-or if they are weak, childish ditties-your worldview and expectations will be escapist and childish. Historically, the basic hymnbook for the Church has been the Book of Psalms. The largest book of the Bible is the Book of Psalms, and God providentially placed it right in the middle of the Bible, so that we couldn’t miss it! Yet how many churches use the Psalms in musical worship? It is noteworthy that the Church’s abandonment of dominion eschatology coincided with the Church’s abandonment of the Psalms.”

WE MUST OFFER “INCARNATIONAL MINISTRY”.

The following link is a good “primer” on what exactly ‘incarnational ministry’ is:

http://www.releasetheape.com/two-blocks-to-incarnational-ministry/

It’s important that we recognize the truth in what Bonhoeffer has said:

“In Jesus Christ the reality of God has entered into the reality of this world”.

We are the ‘body’ of Christ in this world. We are His hands and feet. His work is done through us. When ‘the many’ want a physical form of Jesus- we offer them the Church. It is our duty to show the world what ‘life in Christ’ means. We are resurrecting the world to life in Christ.

When the Bible speaks of following Jesus, it is proclaiming a discipleship which will liberate mankind from all man-made dogmas, from every burden and oppression, from every anxiety and torture which afflicts the conscience. If they follow Jesus, men escape from the hard yoke of their own laws, and submit to the kindly yoke of Jesus Christ”.

“And if we answer the call to discipleship, where will it lead us? What decisions and partings will it demand? To answer this question we shall have to go to Him, for only He knows the answer. Only Jesus Christ, who bids us to follow Him, knows the journeys end. But we do know it will be a road of boundless mercy. Discipleship means joy”.

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome (1 John 5:3)”.

MEN’S GROUP

Recently, forming a sort of “men’s group” had been on my mind. The conviction of making this happen was enhanced when I read that Bonhoeffer led a discussion group of young men which covered many topics called The Thursday Circle.

I think a good platform has been created through The Good Men Project (goodmenproject.com).

It was no aimless gabfest, but a controlled, serious exploration of questions. It consisted of “pure, abstract theorizing, in the attempt to grasp a problem in its fullness”.

A good start would be learning from inspiring men that have blazed these trails before us. Men like Karl Barth who had a great take on “dead religion”.

How about Martin Niemoller who famously said: “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out- because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out- because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out- because I was not a Jew. And then they came for me- and there was no one left to speak for me”.

Or Fabian von Schlabrendorff who wrote, ‘They Almost Killed Hitler’ & ‘I Knew Dietrich Bonhoeffer’.

I love the example of Dietrich Bonhoeffer though. It was said that he lived a full-life. He continually attended operas, movies, concerts, art exhibits, plays, spent alot of time with friendsfamilycolleagues, and was constantly traveling. He had a complete disregard for idle nonsense that fills most of our days. Bonhoeffer knew the importance of meeting all kinda of people:

“…here I meet people as they are, far from the masquerade of ‘the Christian world”, people with passions, criminal types, small people with small aims, small wages, and small sins- all in all they are people who feel homeless in both senses, and who begin to thaw when one speaks to them with kindness- real people, I can only say that i have gained the impression that it is just these people who are much more under grace than under wrath, and that it is the Christian world which is more under wrath than grace”.

Again that reminds me of a quote by the Christian rapper, Andy Mineo when he said:

I’ve chosen this lifestyle, you ever met my friends? Porn stars, dope dealers, they like, “Why you chill with them? I thought you was a Christian?” Yeah I’m on that team, but I’m with them cause my life’s the only bible that they’ve ever seen”.

Convicting, isn’t it?

Eric Metaxas notes that “Bonhoeffer strove to see what God wanted to show and then to do what God asked in response. That was the obedient Christian life, the call of a disciple. And it came with a cost, which explained why so many were so afraid to open their eyes in the first place. It was the antithesis of the “cheap grace” that required nothing more than an easy mental assent, which he wrote about in the Cost of Discipleship”. One of Bonhoeffer’s students speaking about Bonhoeffer said that he was truly“a man who believes in what he thinks and does what he believes in”.

While Bonhoeffer surely advocated “death to self”, he did not shun “earthly pleasure”. Instead as Metaxas noted in his book, “the “desire for earthly bliss” is not something we steal from behind God’s back, but is something that He has desired that we should desire”. I think John Piper in regards to “Christian Hedonism” said it quite well:

“God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him”.

“The religion of Christ is not a tidbit after one’s bread, on the contrary, it is the bread or it is nothing. People should atleast understand and concede this if they call themselves Christian”.

Is it understandable yet why this man is such a great example to follow?

I am starting a new idea called 3rd Sunday lectures this month. My motivation comes from Bonhoeffer taking intitiative to give lectures at another time besides Sundays, which I believe is important.

Why? Well, let’s consider Bonhoeffer’s remarks about New York:

“In New York they preach about virtually everything, only one thing is not addressed, or is addressed so rarely that I have as yet been unable to hear it, namely, the gospel of Jesus Christ, the cross, sin, and forgiveness, death and life”

“There is no theology here…They become intoxicated with liberal and humanistic phrases, laugh at the fundamentalists, and yet are not even up to their level”.

They seemed to know what the answer was supposed to be and weren’t much concerned with how to get there. They knew only that whatever answer the fundamentalists came up with must be wrong”.

Even going as far as saying, “Tomorrow is Sunday. I wonder if I shall hear a sermon”. He noted that what he heard from the pulpit was a “very forced application of the text” and “too much analysis, too little gospel”.

All of that being said, it is high time we have plenty of the gospel being preached in New York, amen? As a pastor, I don’t believe I can “preach too much”, plus Ms. Vicki Chua, an amazing woman of God in my congregation recently brought up the idea and reading about Bonhoeffer doing so just convinced me that such an idea is “of God”.

I am also inspired to start an apprenticeship. This will be modeled after the illegal seminary that Bonhoeffer ran. Shh…it’s illegal 🙂

The first and foremost requirement will be to understand that “When Christ calls a man, He bids him- come and die”. We will foster understanding this by requiring that every student read ‘The Cost of Discipleship’.

Many Christians question their calling. My usual advice is to take a “five fold survey” as a beginning step. Bonhoeffer notes:

But how is the disciple to know what kind of cross is meant for him? He will find out as soon as he begins to follow his Lord and share his life”.

This is all demonstrated through“life together” .

‘Living together day by day produces a strong spirit of comradeship, of mutual readiness to help. The thousandfold “hullo” which sounds through the corridors of the hostel in the course of the day and which is not omitted even when someone is rushing past is not as meaningless as one might suppose…No one remains alone in the dormitory. The unreservedness of life together makes one person open to another, in the conflict between determination for truth with all of its consequences and the will for community, the latter prevails..”.

The entire education of the younger generation of theologians belongs today in church cloister-like schools, in which pure doctrine, the Sermon on the Mount and worship are taken seriously- as they never are (and in present circumstances couldn’t be) at the university”.

L.I.F.E. – Learning Institute of Fulfilled Eschatology/ Living In the Fulfilled Eschaton

I think I am right in saying that I would only achieve true inner clarity and honesty by really starting to take the Sermon on the Mount seriously. Here alone lies the force that can blow all this idiocy sky-high- like fireworks, leaving only a few burnt-out shells behind. The restoration of the church must surely depend on a new kind of monasticism, which has nothing in common with the old but a life of uncompromising discipleship, following Christ according to the Sermon on the Mount”.

I had the opportunity of visiting Reba Place Fellowship located in Evanston, Ill. It was such a blessing to experience “intentional community” in that fashion, and I aspire to see it all the more in the future.

Here on the outer fringe of the Church was a place where the older vision was kept alive. Here men still remembered that grace costs, that grace means following Christ….Thus monasticism became a living protest against the secularization of Christianity and the cheapening of grace”.

I remember a while back reading through Church History and being in awe of the seeming structure that the ‘body of Christ’ had and wondered where it went. Through this understanding of a “new monasticism” I see a sort of structure returning to the body of Christ.

Confirmands today are like young soldiers marching to war, the war of Jesus Christ against the gods of this world. It is a war that demands the comittment of one’s whole life. Is not God, our Lord, worthy of this struggle? Idolatry and cowardice confront us on all sides, but the direst foe not confront us, he is within us. ‘Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief”.

Theological work and real pastoral fellowship can only grow in a life which is governed by gathering around the Word morning and evening and by fixed times of prayer”.

Hey, that’s Bonhoeffer’s advice. Maybe, I need to more firmly advocate “fixed times of prayer”? There sure is power in knowing that your brother or sister is reading through Scripture and/or praying at the same time as you.

I have endeavored to create a daily routine that will be for me and any visiting guests. I will pretty much open my home for anyone who would want to experience a “life in fellowship” in this manner. This is modeled after the way Bonhoeffer’s community was organized:

Morning Prayer: “O God, early in the morning do I cry unto thee. Help me to pray, and to think only of thee. I cannot pray alone. In me there is darkness, but with thee there is light. I am lonely, but thou leavest me not. I am feeble in heart, but thou leavest me not. I am restless, but with thee there is peace. In me there is bitterness, but with thee there is patience, thy ways are past understanding, but thou knowest the way for me”. – Bonhoeffer

-Forty-five minute service before breakfast, and ended with a service just before bed

Bonhoeffer requested us not to say a single word to each other before the (morning) service. The first word to come was supposed to be God’s Word”. – student, Albrecht Schoner

These services did not take place in a chapel, but instead each man gathered humbly around a dining room table.

Then came breakfast, which was very modest. Then came half an hour of meditation. Then everybody went to his room and thought about the Scripture until he knew what it meant for him today, on that day. During that time there had to be absolute quite…we were suppose to concentrate completely on whatever it was that God had to say to us”.

One meditated on the same verse for an entire week, a half hour each day.

Prayed the Psalms everyday

Confession to one another…Luther’s idea that Christians should confess to one another..

Afternoons set aside for recreation or whatever one might want to do.

After dinner and recreation, around 10pm, there was another service of 3/4 of an hour, “as the last note of a day with God. After that, silence and sleep. That was how the day went”.

SPEAKING ABOUT DEATH

As I was reading through Eric Metaxas book, I had the unfortunate circumstance of losing a friend. As I contemplated what the right things to think and say were I found these inspiring words of Bonhoeffer:

“Where God tears great gaps we should not try to fill them with human words. They should remain open”.

“Who can comprehend how those whom God takes so early are chosen? Does not the early death of Christians always appear to us as if God were plundering his own best instruments in a time in which they are most needed? Yet the Lord makes no mistakes. Might God need our brothers for some hidden service on our behalf in the heavenly world? We should put an end to our human thoughts, which always wish to know more than they can, and cling to that which is certain. Whomever God calls home is someone God loved. “For their souls were pleasing to the Lord, therefore He took them quickly from the midist of wickedness (Wisdom of Solomon 4)”.

After reading that last quote, I thought that Enoch and Elijah should immediately come to mind. John Bray wrote an awesome article about the “catching away” of these men of God, and I would encourage all to read it. Link:

http://www.worldwithoutend.info/wwe321wp/were-elijah-and-enoch-raptured-to-haven-evangelist-john-l-bray/

I have determined that I must watch the film “All Quiet on the Western Front”. It’s been said that “…it was the movie more than the book that would change Bonhoeffer’s life”.

The major issue in the Church during Bonhoeffer’s time is what I will call a “Misplaced Nationailism” On the Sunday before President’s Day, I preached a sermon in light of what Bonhoeffer would have taught about this topic. You can listen to that sermon by clicking on the following link:

http://www.buzzsprout.com/11630/150930-misplaced-nationalism-bonhoeffer-series

The church has only one altar, the altar of the Almighty…before which all creatures must kneel. Whoever seeks something other than this must keep away, he cannot join us in the house of God…The church has only one pulpit, and from that pulpit, faith in God will be preached, and no other faith, and no other will than the will of God, however well intentioned”. – Bonhoeffer

This example from history should be a strong admonishment for Christians to “study to show thyself approved, rightly dividing the Word of Truth” or “Search the Scriptures”, since it clearly shows the danger of a false faith, a false assurance, and a false hope.

Lacking Biblical context, the German Christians – “preached Christianity as the polar opposite of Judaism, Jesus as the arch anti-Semite, and the cross as the symbol of the war against the Jews’.

In 1937, a group of them stated that the written word of Scripture was the problem. “Whereas the Jews were the first to write out their faith”, they said, “Jesus never did so”. They even forced an understanding that A demon always resides in the written word”.

Astonishing, isn’t it? How can one completely ignore what the Bible says yet still pass that off a Christianity? Sadly because many ‘Christians’ are content not knowing anything about Scripture or having any contextual understanding. I am so glad that there is a rising tide happening within Christian scholarship regarding understanding the Jewish context of the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments.

Now that this has turned into a short novel, I want to end with some strong admonshments regarding living the Christian life. Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s sister once said this to him, “You Christians are glad when someone else does what you know must be done but it seems that somehow you are unwilling to get your own hands dirty and do it”.

I can only imagine the dilemma that was ever present for men and women of God during the Third Reich. I am sure glad that “a major theme for Bonhoeffer was that every Christian must be “fully human” by bringing God into his whole life, not merely into some “spiritual” realm. To be an ethereal figure who merely talked who merely talked about God, but somehow refused to get his hands dirty in the real world in which God had placed him, was bad theology”.

Bonhoeffer knew it was required that he as a Christian- suffer faithfully”. It is fitting to quote that, “A human being’s moral integrity begins when he is prepared to sacrifice his life for his convictions”.

I am bewildered by the humbling fact that Bonhoeffer was brought to safety in the United States and then left because he stated:

“I shall have no right to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if I do not share the trials of this time with my people”.

Wow. I can only hope I would have courage like that is any given situation.

“Who stands fast? Only the man whose final standard is not his reason, his principles, his conscience, his freedom, or his virtue, but who is ready to sacrifice all this when he is called to be obedient and responsible action in faith and in exclusive allegiance to God- the responsible man, who tries to make his whole life an answer to the question and call of God”.

“That requires faith, and may God grant it to us daily. I don’t mean faith that flees the world, but the faith that endures in the world and loves and remains true to that world in spite of all the hardships it brings us….I fear the Christians who venture to stand on earth on only one leg will stand in heaven on only one leg too”. -Bonhoeffer

Eric Metaxas notes that “the Christian life as something active, not reactive. It had nothing to do with avoiding sin or with merely talking or teaching or believing theological notions or principles or rules or tenets. It has everything to do with living one’s whole life in obedience to God’s call through action. It did not merely require a mind, but a body too. It was God’s call to be fully human, to live as human beings obedient to the One who had made us, which was the fulfillment of our destiny. It was not a cramped, compromised, circumspect life, but a life lived in a kind of wild, joyful, full-throated freedom- what is what it was to obey God”.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a living monument of that life described above- lived out!

It was said that Bonhoeffer never tired of repeating that the only fight which is lost is that which we give up. This is because he knew that God is not interested in success, but obedience. If one is willing to obey God and willing to suffer defeat and whatever else may come one’s way, God will show a kind of success that the world cannot imagine. But this is the narrow path, and few consider taking it.

Will you walk worthy?

Blessings in Christ,

Pastor Michael Miano

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Marked by Reformation-Blue Point Bible Church

A couple years back when I planted The Fellowship C.H.U.R.C.H. in Fort Myers, Florida, I was influenced by Pastor Matt Keller’s book, Up the Middle Church. In his book, Pastor Matt speaks about the importance of every church knowing its “purple cow”. What makes it different from the rest of the cows, so to speak. This marketing term helps pastors know what it is that their Church is providing that maybe other churches do not. 

The other night I heard a pastor of another local church ask, “How is our church called to make a difference on Long Island?”.
Many the members and attendees at The Blue Point Bible Church have heard me speak about how I believe our church has ample opportunity to be a church marked by “wisdom and understanding” offering a true and reasonable expression of the gospel to the nations. I believe this will be “the healing of the nations”.

Many scholars, Bible teachers, and so forth notice the need for a better expression of the gospel truths in our day and age. A.W. Tozer spoke some amazing insights dealing with this topic:

“The church has lost her testimony. She has no longer anything to say to the world. Her once robust shout of assurance has faded away to an apologetic whisper. She who one time went out to declare now goes out to inquire. Her dogmatic declaration has become a respectful suggestion, a word of religious advice, given with the understanding that it is after all only an opinion and not meant to sound bigoted”.

I believe the Church has “faded” because of the lack of Biblical literacy within its ranks. As A.W. Tozer continued:

“Men who have been used of God in any generation from Calvary down to this hour have not invented and preached new truths. They have simply had the anointed vision to discover truths that had been obscured by the overemphasis of certain other truths”.

I must admit I was rather encouraged when I read a blog that included these quotes by Mr. Tozer since this is something I have been saying for a while. A couple years ago, I remember reading an article about how the Evangelical Church has rejected reason- this saddened me. I constantly see the lack of emphasis on Biblical truth in the Church and the dumbing down of the salvific message (another topic I have blogged about extensively). Recently, I read an article which spoke about how many people view becoming a Christian as committing “intellectual suicide” and I can surely say I have seen the “intellectual dishonesty” within the church leadership firsthand.

So….I accepted the call to come and pastor on Long Island, a place where churches are stuck in ‘dead tradition’ (someone recently said that “this is a place where pastors come to die”- Yikes!), a young generation stuck in drugs and gangs (dare I say “stuck on stupid”), and a careless attitude about the things necessary to finding “life to the full”. What do we do?
I firmly believe that ANSWERS are needed. Blue Point Bible Church is committed to knowing, exhibiting, and explaining the “knowledge of God” to a world that so desperately needs it. We place emphasis on the fact that the grace, peace, and abundant life filled with blessed are found through “the knowledge of God” (2 Peter chapter 1) and therefore seek to be diligent students and teachers of TRUTH! This is what I call “zeal empowered by knowledge”.

According to Galatians chapter 5 verse 6, “the only thing that counts in faith expressing itself through love”. I agree! We must realize that faith is a verb. Faith is acting out on what we KNOW to be objectively true- kinda like Simon Peter walking on water because He knew who “the Christ” was. If the Church is called to make known the manifold wisdom of God (Ephesians 3:10-11), we must walk worthy of this calling by expressing and explaining these truths reasonably- thereby empowering people to put faith in those teachings. THIS IS WHAT YOU WILL FIND AT THE BLUE POINT BIBLE CHURCH! LIFE AND LIFE TO THE FULL!

J.I. Packer spoke about the importance of doctrinal preaching when he said:

“Doctrinal preaching certainly bores the hypocrites; but it is only doctrinal preaching that will save Christ’s sheep.”

Amen!

A PERSONAL STATEMENT

A.W. Tozer said this:

“Great saints have always been dogmatic.We need right now a return to a gentle dogmatism that smiles while it stands stubborn and firm on the Word of God that liveth and abideth forever”.

I have been known for the past couple years within some circles for my forceful preaching, willingness to debate, and firm stance upon Biblical truths – a.k.a. being quite dogmatic (especially in regards to Preterism).

I feel as thought God has been doing quite the work on my recently, challenging my in regards to “preaching the truth IN LOVE”. Have I been humble in my approach? I would honestly say “not so much”. The past couple weeks I have really been challenged in these regards, especially after listening to Apostle Ronald Price speak about Walking in the Greater Light at the Defiance conference. Apostle Price spoke about the need for love and humility in our approach toward those in the “lesser light”. Similar to the words of the book of Ephesians:

“Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:1-3)”.

While I agree with this sentiment spoken by A.W. Tozer:

“Another kind of religious leader must arise among us…When he comes (and I pray God there will be not one but many) he will stand in flat contradiction to everything our smirking, smooth civilization holds dear. He will contradict, denounce and protest in the name of God and will earn the hatred and opposition of a large segment of Christendom”.

I couldn’t have said it better. I am sure that there are those of you who know me personally who may have read that quote and felt like Mr. Tozer was speaking about me, ha ha ha. I find it very important that as a man of God, a Christian leader that I “encourage in sound doctrine and rebuke those who oppose it (Titus chapter 1)” and I will surely continue to walk in that calling.

So in light of that please allow me to share what you can expect of me ( MIANO GONE WILD) is time to come….I believe firmly in the principles of reformation. I believe reformation and revival have come to Long Island and are surely LONG ISLANDS NEXT BIG THING (visit http://www.longislandsnextbigthing.com). All of that said, while I believe this does need to be moved forward aggressively, I will be praying to move forward in a Spirit of humility, gentleness, patience, and ultimately love. I believe this to be the proper “strategical approach” to ‘demolishing strongholds and bringing all thoughts captive to Christ’, or in other words, helping others walk in and better understand TRUTH!

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor Michael Miano

REFERENCES

http://blog.engagingtheculture.org/2010/05/is-becoming-a-christian-committing-intellectual-suicide-2/

http://newsfromthetribe.blogspot.com/2011/10/my-ny-times-response-babys-bathwater.html

http://www.mianogonewild.wordpress.com

http://Christhascome.org

http://www.generationcedar.com/main/2011/02/where-are-all-the-saints-tozer-part-2.html

http://www.buzzsprout.com/11630/91973-kingdom-now

http://www.buzzsprout.com/11630/92194-reformation-now

http://www.buzzsprout.com/11630/93097-preterist-monasticism

http://www.buzzsprout.com/11630/94214-living-abundantly

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“What will people do if they believe they have complete freedom as a Christ-follower?”

“What will people do  if they believe  they have complete freedom as a Christ-follower?”

Recently I read “Free Book” by Brian Tome. The fact that the word “fanatic” on the cover was enough to intrigue me enough to read through this book. I loved how blunt Pastor Brian was throughout the book.

         I love the fact that he mentioned that there are millions of books about religion and self-control but so very few about freedom. Jesus Christ talked about freedom so much- why does this seem to be the missing link in Christianity?

In 2009 I seemed to be bent on “living life to the max” and have a couple blogs that one could go back and read. (Disclaimer- remember I have grown Spiritually and mentally quite a bit since 2009). I have come to love the term “hedonist” which John Piper brought into the Christian realm. A hedonist is someone who lives for the pursuit of pleasure. I believe that Kingdom-life through Jesus Christ is the pursuit of the ultimate pleasure, or life to the full (John 10:10).

The man that led me to Christ (Paul Curran) was very big on “embracing your vulnerabilities” in an effort to “access the power of Christ” ( a writing of his about this topic is in the appendix of my book, Freaked Out by the New Covenant). Embracing your vulnerabilities is allowing yourself to die, so to speak, or be weak that way Christ is your strength.  I believe this to be quite the liberating experience.

I remember brother Paul aways citing 1 John 4:8, “perfect love casts out fear”, as a primary thought to challenge people to live without fear. Pastor Brian says this in the book:

“Fear  might keep you  from going places you could enjoy, talking with people who could expand your thinking,  and trying things that will grow you”.

LET YOUR LOVE FOR LIVING YOUR GOD-GIVEN LIFE TO THE FULL CAST OUT FEAR. Make the pledge today to live fearlessly. “Freedom is being who God designed you to be”.

“Instead of being so concerned about what might happen if you get too close to the proverbial line- because there are plenty of those messages out there- we need more voices saying, “You are free, and don’t allow anyone to bum you out by judging you”.

Let me make sure you know something upfront. The minute you decide to take control of your own life and live free- there are always those who will “judge you” and try and bring you back into bondage. I would say this is one of the “universal truths” we can derive from the 1st century gospel message (the contrast between the persecuting “Hagar” and the free “Sarah” – read Galatians 4:21-31).  As Saul Alinsky once said:

“Change means movement. Movement means friction”.

“If you are focused on maintaining balance- trying to satisfy all the people in every area of your life and just skating by with a little energy here and there- you probably aren’t moving, and you probably aren’t experiencing  the blessings that come from a life lived in freedom”.

Another disclaimer is the fact that freedom is kinda scary. It’s the unknown. A favorite author of mine, Shane Claiborne, talks about this is his book- The Irresistible Revolution. He speaks about how perhaps the most dangerous place to be is in the hands of God. A God who challenges men to trust Him and walk on water- Yes, God will bring you to some interesting places.  Sadly, as was said in the book:

“…when a new way of living is introduced, we are hardwired to think it is in our best interest to eliminate in and not change”.

So I want to initiate something here. Let’s call it the Caleb Project. If you read about Caleb in the book of Numbers and the book of Joshua you learn about his steadfast faith in God- willing to have what is called “risky faith”. I am asking you to consider that today. Let’s put this freedom thing to the test.

Have you ever written your bucket list? Write down those things you want to do and get started. Here are a couple of things I ready to start within the next couple weeks and it would be awesome to hear that you are involved.

The LIAR LIAR EXERCISE which is dedicating a day to being “brutally honest” with anyone and everyone you meet. This is quite the daring experience but I imagine it will be quite liberating, and yes- fun. Ha Ha, I just have to include this clip from the movie Liar Liar:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DP2PlE41wpE

Pay It Forward is another liberating experience wherein you do a good deed for someone, or pay for their food, in the effort that they will do the same thing. Let’s start a chain reaction. I can give you story after story of how that looked on the Starbucks Drive-Thu line.

         In the next week or two, I will begin the 3 Day Challenge of Living on the Edge. I will be trying to get as many people as possible to participate. Let me know if you are willing to try it out. Learn more by visiting this website:

http://www.liveontheedge.com/3day.html

Some other ideas I am going to try out are living off the land for a week or so and being a freegan. Yeah Google that term it’s quite interesting.

       I know this is not exactly my usual “intellectual” style blog. I pride myself on not taking life too serious, living radically and loving Jesus-m demolishing strongholds and enabling others to find abundant life in Christ. I call this “living lightly”- something I look to get tattoed and start a chain reaction too. Are you willing to try out FREEDOM?

“Because Caleb has different fuel in his tank- a fire burning in his belly- he followed God full-on, and God decided to bless him remarkably through his life and his lineage”.

   I look forward to your responses. Blessings in Christ.

        -Pastor Michael Miano

Here are links to the blogs I had written back in 2009:

 

http://www.newsfromthetribe.blogspot.com/2009/06/dont-wanna-waste-my-life.html

http://www.newsfromthetribe.blogspot.com/2009/06/its-like-being-born-again.html

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