If your response to crimes against humanity in Palestine is, "Well, that's unfortunate, but the Bible demands it.", your beliefs aren't truly Christian. While your understanding of the Bible demands horrific acts against God's children, Jesus never has and never will.
Anytime you place an Old Testament writer's experiences and understanding of God (not to mention Darby and Scofield's diabolical teachings) on the same plane as Jesus, Who is the Perfect Revelation of our Father, you end up with lots of beliefs that are inhumane, unjustifiable, and unconscionable, regardless of how many times you scream, "The Bible says!".
For a much more detailed explanation, check out the following video:
An excerpt from something I'm writing on "The Radical Nearness of God"...
Matthew 18:20 "For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst."
I would love to have a dollar for every time I’ve heard this verse recited out of context by people with more degrees than thermometers!
It’s too often used by well-meaning, yet horribly misguided, Christians who are trying to convince others that their low church attendance or small prayer gathering isn’t completely irrelevant and that God actually “steps down from heaven” into their lackluster environment to sit with them for a spell.
The notion that the “two or three rule” is a prerequisite for God’s Presence also strongly suggests that personal prayer is a huge waste of time and walking in the Spirit is an impossibility!
Here’s one for the literalists. Does God disappear when a fourth person arrives? Jesus did specifically say, “two or three”!
I humbly submit that God is present everywhere before anyone enters any room.
What happens when we actually look at that verse in its context?
Mat 18:15 "If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.
Mat 18:16 "But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED.
Mat 18:17 "If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
Mat 18:18 "Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.
Mat 18:19 "Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven.
Mat 18:20 "For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst."
What if that passage has nothing to do with the possibility of Jesus ever being absent and everything to do with Him understanding the human condition and reassuring us that He’s an active participant whenever we are correcting a brother or sister in Love? What if two or three witnesses are simply there to avoid a "he said, she said" conundrum when someone resists one-on-one correction? I believe that’s exactly what’s happening there. Please read that passage again, meditate on it, ask for Holy Spirit’s guidance, and see if you don’t come to the same conclusion.
1. God is Love!
2. God/Love is Perfectly Represented through Jesus Christ.
3. Jesus came to experience our pain and Love us in, through, and out of our pain. He never put a disease on anyone to teach them a lesson, draw them closer to Himself, or seal their death and/or a place in Dante's underworld of eternal conscious torment. Truth is, He never put a disease on anyone. Full Stop. That has not changed. He's our comforter, not our tormentor.
4. You are not perfect like God, Who Christians call "Father"...and you certainly wouldn't put a disease or plague on your children. Would you? Is human, parental love greater than God's Perfect Love?
5. Many of today's Christians, like many people in the Old Testament, interpret current events through a flawed theological lens that attributes their pain to a monster god instead of evil (which, in many cases is combined with human wickedness, hatred, fear mongering, abuse...and the effects of human sovereignty).
6. Jesus is God's ONLY Perfect Selfie! He alone is the Brightness of the Father's Glory and the Express Image of His Person...Who alone could claim "He Who has seen Me has seen the Father". ALL who came before Him were THIEVES and ROBBERS in one dimension or another!
7. The Coronavirus is NOT from God, but we can learn to Love one another more through it.
8. The Coronavirus is affecting professing Christians along with the people that many professing Christians think God is "judging" or should "judge". We have a COMMON enemy...and it isn't GOD!
9. God is our Healer and one of His primary means of healing is through humans loving other humans; whether that happens supernaturally or through so many precious, loving, compassionate medical professionals.
10. God couldn't possibly Love you any more or less than He does right now. God IS Love! His Perfect Love casts out ALL fear and transcends sickness, pain, and even death!
Regardless of your Religious or Political Affiliation (or any other affiliation), God Loves You and so do I!
Yours In Human Joy & Suffering,
Some people experience a lot more pain and tragedy in life than most. Religious cliches, flippant anecdotes, and lectures on how to process extreme hurt that you've never felt could very well do them more harm than good. Approaching such people with non-judgmental Love, humility, kindness, and holy silence will go much further than the "sage wisdom" of Job's comforters.
What's depicted in the picture above is NOT THE MESSAGE OF THE CROSS!
Here's how I see it: God Loved us so much that He became one of us to show us what humanity was created to look like (Love). We rejected Him and killed Him. Nevertheless, The Power of Love and forgiveness triumphed over the power of hate, sin, and death. This forever incarnate, glorified, risen, and ascended representative of all mankind shall forever be one of us. God Himself formed this union to totally identify with us so that we could forever totally identify with Him. His Life is now our Life through His Spirit. We are now free to receive Love, be Love, and give Love! The message of the cross is one of pure Love...not anger, bloodlust, vengeance, and appeasement.
I don't have to wait for God to "show up" and I never have to "enter His Presence" or pull Him through the roof. He's always HERE...in me, above me, below me, and beside me...extending beyond what the universe can contain.
I don't need to take a pilgrimage or worry about special buildings. I worship Him in Spirit and in Truth! My body is His Temple! I'm also a precious, lively stone in His corporate Temple...not made with hands!
I don't have to get Him to Love, Value, Cherish, or Accept me. He always has and always will.
I don't have to get Him to speak.
I must simply rest and listen to what He's saying vs. trying to conjure up what I want to hear. If the melody that I'm hearing isn't accompanied by a harmony that screams, "Abba (DADDY), Father!", "You Belong!", "You, My Beloved son, are Deeply and Infinitely Loved, Perfectly Accepted, and Highly Favored!", I'm either not hearing Him or my partial hearing has tuned out the most important frequency.
He can't possibly Love me any more or less than He does at this moment. God is Love!
While I desire to be sensitive to His guidance, I don't have to be paranoid about being at the right place at the right time with the right people. The right Person dwells in me and Loves every person in every place. I have simply been given the privilege to let Him Love them through me as He directs.
My prayers have nothing to do with conjuring up a distant deity and begging Him for stuff or to do stuff. I simply get to participate in the perpetual conversation of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
I don't have to worry about titles or the praises of men. He calls me His son! His delight and affirmation are more than enough!
The Virgin Birth shall forever convey the truth that the womb is far greater than the publishing house and the Son is far greater than a book that is filled with accounts of humanity's contradictions and misunderstandings of the Father while masterfully pointing us directly to Him through the Son. Jesus is not ink on paper. He is Divinity wrapped in Humanity!
I'm reminded that Jesus is greater than the Law and the Prophets whenever I think of the Mount of Transfiguration. Like Peter, men are bent on building three co-equal tabernacles for Moses and Elijah but the Father will have none of it. In that Biblical account, the two disappear and only THE LOGOS (The Word of God/God's Perfect Logic) remains, and His Name is Jesus! We can appreciate the Law and the Prophets, but the Father commands us to HEAR THE SON while assuring us that His Voice is all-sufficient and far greater than the Law and the Prophets who were groping in the dark while longing for Him Who ALONE is the Brightness of the Father's Glory and the Express Image of His Person. Jesus is the only One Who could say, "He who has seen me has seen the Father".
The Bible is like a series of love letters that invite us to the marriage bed. We should deeply appreciate our Bibles and be lifelong students of its texts, but not at the expense of behaving like a newlywed bride who is more obsessed with a book that whets her appetite for intimacy than intimacy itself.
When I look back on my life, I find that the seasons of greatest spiritual and intellectual growth have occurred when "believing to belong" was not a mandate or condition for receiving Love and enjoying fellowship. That "season" is now a perpetual way of life for me, and has been for quite some time.
Conforming to any organization's dogmatic doctrinal demands (many of which are highly contested in other spheres of Orthodox Christendom) in order to maintain a position, a paycheck, and prestige never brought me true freedom and kept me within the constraints of the understanding of the highest man on the denominational totem pole, whether he was dead or alive.
Jesus never shuns those who approach Him and the Scriptures with doubts and serious questions that are not welcomed in much of the Western "Christian" world.
Refusing to be conformed to "this world" (systems...See Romans 12:1,2) includes a refusal to be conformed to religious systems which will not allow for personal and collective transformation (i.e.- Growing in Grace) through the ongoing renewal of the mind.
I can tell you from experience that coming to God with serious doubts, fears, admitted ignorance, and tough questions regarding the Scriptures hasn't destroyed my faith (I understand that it is His Faith. Nevertheless, I am speaking in terms of personal growth in His Faith to the best of my understanding...along with what the English language will allow). It has only solidified it and made it stronger.
I have also learned that all of the answers to my questions don't come directly from God. He has designed his Ekklesia/Body in such a way that we must rely heavily upon inter-dependence. An understanding of that has brought me greater experiential Joy and caused me to find great treasures outside of my own formal Theological training and limited ecclesiastical, and personal experience and studies.
Another important lesson that I have learned is to be wary of environments where Monologue is King, Entertainment is Queen, and Meaningful Dialogue is the Neglected Peasant.
While I may expound upon this topic in a more lengthy writing or video, these are my brief thoughts for today.
1. There were no buildings called "churches".
2. "Preaching" was synonymous with dialogue, not Greco-Roman, "Sage on the Stage Sermons". EVERY member of the family was welcomed as an active "joint of supply".
3. Overseers/Bishops/Elders didn't "control the show" and were not necessarily synonymous with the "five-fold" equipping ministry of "pastor".
4. The role of "pastor" (Mentioned only once in the entire New Testament, where it is plural and listed 4th among 5 equipping ministries...and also LEFT OUT of the list in 1 Corinthians 12) looked nothing like what it does in most churches today. The Bible promises no one the "one-man show" Grace that is needed to fulfill what is expected of Post-Constantinian, 21st Century "pastors". The modern-day role simply can't be defended Biblically or with First Century History.
5. There were no altars or altar calls.
6. There was no "sinner's prayer". The church multiplied through God's Love functioning through His people and by the organic work of the Holy Spirit awakening people to the Truth and joining them through meaningful, family relationships.
7. Denominationalism ("I'm of Peter!", "I'm of Paul!", etc) was synonymous with CARNALITY. This obviously included "Non-Denominational" Denominations.
God is Love. Love/God can't be humanly manufactured. Our union with Love, through Christ, is the only way that we can Love Love and enjoy Love Loving through us. We discover the highest expressions of Love when we reckon ourselves dead and our lives hid with Christ in Love! The key to Loving God, Neighbor, and Enemy is to stop trying to Love and to just let Love in us and all around us Love through us!