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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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Growing in Self-Control / Shared Wisdom from Walter Mischel

A couple of months ago I shared a study I had done on 2 Peter chapter 1 in regards to being effective and productive in the use of the knowledge of God (which in turn allows us to experience the blessings and fulfilled promises of God (otherwise categorized as “life to the full”, “abundant” and or eternal” life). Namely, the continual growth in 7 specific things. You can go through that study by visiting the following link, https://mianogonewild.wordpress.com/2017/08/04/2-peter-1-growth-chart/
In my personal life I have developed a sort of system of consistent growth (akin to the style of Benjamin Franklin). What I do is, every couple weeks I pick a new growth trait from 2 Peter chapter 1 and challenge myself in to grow in that area. Many times this results in gaining shared knowledge from a book or teaching and prayerfully adding some new principles to my life. Again, as the Scripture emphasizes, these things need to be “ yours and increasing”.

So for the past 8 weeks or so (August), I focused on “self-control”. This led me to reading a book by one who is said to be an expert on the topic, Walter Mischel. The book is titled the Marshmallow Test, which details a test that was done on children and then followed through their lives, and through studies of this test, produced facts about self-control.
“The ability to delay gratification and resist temptation has been a fundamental challenge since the dawn of civilization”. What we believe is that, “….the ability to delay immediate gratification for the sake of future consequences is an acquirable cognitive skill”. Therefore, it is not that surprising to find that in studying through the lives of these students, we can analyze “…how they did or did not manage to delay gratification, unexpectedly turned out to predict much about their future lives”. “The Marshmallow Test became a tool for studying how people go from a choice to delay gratification to actually managing to wait and resist the temptation”. Therefore, in studying this principle we realize, “If the conditions that facilitate self-control, and those that undermine it, could be identified, perhaps they could be harnessed to teach people who have trouble waiting to be better at it”.

What was revealed through the study were various techniques that worked for these students in displaying self-control. Mischel remarks that, “Successful delayers created all sorts of ways to distract themselves and to cool the conflict and stress they were experiencing”. This is all so important because ultimately, What we do, and how well we control our attention in the service of our goals, becomes a part of our environment that we help create and that in turn influences us”.

Mischel goes on to explain the “Executive Function”, which is the part of our brain that which drives self-control. He notes the importance of this function aiding us in developing and keeping in mind a chosen goal, continue with goal -oriented thoughts which is a temptation reducing technique (otherwise known as “psychological distancing”). Furthermore, we must inhibit impulsive responses by what are known as “If-Then” behavior signatures (something like, if I become distracted and desire to watch tv but know I don’t want to be dumbed down by it, I will then grab a book and read outside instead).

Something that was rather encouraging to the work I do with youth, and reminded me of many of the great people I know who work with youth, was how self-control helps in developing a positive and productive youth (otherwise known my me and my co-laborers – an “eXtrmely Different youth”). Mischel notes, “…how the ability to voluntarily exercise self-restraint in pursuit of a hot goal early in life provides children with a powerful advantage that can help them succeed and maximize their potential throughout their lives”. He also noted how important the provoking, developing, and encouraging an “I think I can” mindset in the youth truly is. He noted how by use self-control and rewards, “Students who had been induced into a happy mood formed much higher expectations for their future performance, re-called more of their successful experiences, and made more self-descriptions”. I know I am planning to read a book he recommends in this regard by Carol Dweek called “Mindset”.

In conclusion, I want to end on the rewards factor. Let’s face it, when we consider using self-control it really boils down to whether or not we believe the reward for whatever it is we are exercising self-control in opposition to are attainable, possible, and worth it. As Mischel noted,“…trust is a factor in the willingness to delay gratification”. Consider this, “The emotional brains predisposition over to overvalue immediate rewards and to greatly discount the value of delayed rewards points to what we need to do if we want to take control: we have to reverse the process by cooling the present and heating the future”.
Placing emphasis on “cooling the present and heating the future” should lead us to the challenge of our goals. “Self-control skills are essential for pursuing our goals successfully, but it is the goals themselves that give us direction and motivation”. What do you desire, and what must become of you to attain that desire, is the key. Developing that vision and manifesting that reality are interlocked (sorry to sound so cliché, ha ha). Mischel says it like this, “…if we feel greater continuity with who we will become, we might also be willing to sacrifice more of our own pleasant pleasures for the sake of that future self”.

Recently I was encouraged to create a vision board. This was and has been one of the most encouraging techniques I developed to have that “greater continuity with who” I will become as I grow in the grace and knowledge of God. Prayerfully, through this blog I have encouraged you to consider some of these things and implement some new growth strategies into your life and maybe some new books to read. 😊

To God be the glory!
– 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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Your Invitation to “The Normal Christian Life”

Your Invitation to “The Normal Christian Life”

For the past couple weeks, the sermons at the Blue Point Bible Church have been focused on what the privileges of being a Christian and having the presence of God in your life means. I, Pastor Michael Miano, felt convicted after a month long journey talking about the wicked and all that entails- annihilation or eternal conscious torment. After spending a month dealing with all the intellectual and emotional aspects of understanding what exactly the final state of the wicked is, and what the “death” of being outside the ‘Kingdom of God’ is, I felt it necessarily for us as saints to spend some time knowing and living in the privileges of a “Christian life”.

Persecution has an interest effect on Believers. Men of God like Alan Hirsch and Shane Claiborne had spent time bringing out the details of how the persecuted church seems to grow and take the call of being “Christian” much more serious that those who live in comfort. It’s commonly understood that when you have no “creature comforts” you are more liable to give you all for the cause. I believe this is what effected men like Watchman Nee, who not only learned from the persecution of the Boxer Rebellion, but he also offered great exposition on what Christianity should look like in our world. It’s been said that, “Watchman Nee realized that being a Christian is altogether a matter of knowing and experiencing God’s divine life in Christ”.

That is exactly it. As I “continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of God (2 Peter 3:18), which alone reveals that this “life” is intended to be a growth process of learning of His grace and His knowledge, which comes from being “Spiritual discerned (1 Corinthians chapter 2 speaks of this), I desire to know all the more the simple yet complex truth of “knowing and experiencing God’s divine life in Christ”. We endeavor to “die to self” and allow Christ to live through us- Galatians 2:20, and sure enough I am in agreement with Watchman Nee that is is the “normal Christian life”, this and nothing else.

If you are not living a life that is continually offering you reason to praise God for all that you have in Christ, then you might not be living the “Christian life”. I know this might be a harsh exhortation, however the imagery of Revelation chapters 21-22, and the host of other passages in Scripture where we see the ‘requirements’ for living a “Christian life”, do not offer an apathetic approach. This would have been foreign to the Hebrew mind of what it meant to “follow the rabbi”.

Christian martyr Jim Elliot had few things to say about living a Christ-centered life:

“Forgive me for being so ordinary while claiming to know so extraordinary a God.”

“Lord, make my way prosperous not that I achieve high station, but that my life be an exhibit to the value of knowing God.”

“I seek not a long life, but a full one, like you Lord Jesus.”

“Wherever you are – be all there.”

Wow! Those are some power-packed statements, amen? One of the things I have been harping on in my messages at B.P.B.C. Is how we are called to “make known the manifold wisdom of God (Ephesians 3:10)” and how we should view that as an immense privilege. The “value of knowing God” surely isn’t an “ordinary” thing. A “full life” is shown through living for the glory of God, as the prophet Daniel says, “…the people that know their God shall be strong, and do exploits (Daniel 11:32)”.

Sadly, so many Christians are still questioning and in doubt as to whether or not they are “living in the Light”. Watchman Nee speaks to us about the trouble of trying to sense the value of God working through our life:

“…the trouble with us is that we are trying to sense it; we are trying to feel its value to estimate subjectively what the blood is for us, we cannot do it. It does not work that way. The blood is first for God to see. We then have to accept God’s valuation of it. In doing so we shall find our salvation. If instead we try to come to a valuation by way of our feelings we get nothing; we remain in darkness. No, it’s a matter of faith in God’s word”.

He goes on to explain how important it is to be “born again”, and to be “found in Christ”:

“Are you a man? If your life is on a lower plane than that of God’s life, then you cannot belong to the Divine family…Our only hope as men is to receive the Son of God, and when we do so, His life in us will constitute us as Sons of God”.

Yes, you read that right. No Jesus, No life. Know Jesus, know life!

I invite you right now to live that type of life. If your on Long Island, you can join us on Sundays at 11am, at The Blue Point Bible Church – www.bluepointbiblechurch.org, as we continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of Him. As we say on our “church card”- Get a life, and visit The Blue Point Bible Church.

Blessings in Christ,

Pastor Michael Miano

You can listen to our Sunday Sermon podcasts by visiting:

www.buzzsprout.com/11630

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