Why the Bad News?

One can’t help but notice that a large portion of my Facebook profile seems to be dedicated to bad news.  I understand that the onslaught of this information can be more than a little depressing, and perhaps it even appears as though I don’t have enough faith that God is in control and will work things out according to His purposes.

This is not so; but then why does my social networking billboard present itself as the harbinger of doom?

Unlike some, (I promise that I am not thinking of any of my Facebook friends in particular) I believe that we are called to be involved with the affairs of the world; this is why we are called the Body of Christ.  Here is a mystery for those who can understand it:  just as Christ is the ‘body’ of God, so we are the ‘body’ of Christ.  As Christ is the Word of God made flesh, the Tangible One of God, Emmanuel—God with us, so we, in ‘marriage’ to Christ as the Bride, have become one flesh with Him—the physical representative of Christ—and by extension, God—on earth.  In Him we have become a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.  This is the heaviest of all responsibilities; and yet, it is a simple task when one views it as it should be.  Just as Christ did nothing on His own, but only that which He received from the Father, so we should do nothing on our own that we have not received from the Father through Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Through us God expands the establishment of His kingdom:  He heals the sick, gives sight to the blind, makes the lame walk, reconciles the irreconcilable, raises the dead to life—both physically and spiritually, and most miraculously of all, changes hatred to absolute unconditional love. 

However, we have to be engaged in order to be a part of what He is doing, and make the choice to step into it.  This requires that we see that which there is to see; and unfortunately, what we see is a war.  This has always been true from the Garden of Eden until today; but what we are seeing now is unprecedented.  The world with one voice has turned against both Judaism and Christianity in ways that have not been witnessed since the days of post-Hadrian pagan Rome—only this time, there is increasingly nowhere on earth in which one can find relief.  Groups that otherwise would be deadly enemies are working together in concert to stamp out the followers of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—and to remove the memory of Him altogether.  Not that this is a surprise:  Jesus Himself told us that “…in this world you will have trouble…”  (John 16:33)

If you do not understand what I’m talking about or agree with this perspective, I would urge you to do a self-check of where you stand with regard to the dividing line that is becoming more sharply drawn among us (this is not a judgment or condemnation, but a plea).  We no longer have the luxury of living in the paradigm of the ruggedly individualistic American dream (nor, in fact, have we ever—but this is a separate discussion); now is the time to orient our lives on the Father’s business.  We (myself in the foremost) have a tendency to stick our heads in the sand and go about our lives, letting the world look after its own mess; and so we need a reminder of the job that continually faces us.

Furthermore, under the control of the world system, the majority of today’s media is lying to us, slanting their stories sometimes to the exact opposite of the truth.  Sadly, many Christians and Jews alike buy into the distorted information they receive, which lulls them into a sense of complacency or even drives them to agree with the message of our enemy (here I am thinking of some of my Facebook friends, but I won’t name them).

It is for these reasons (among a few others) that I present the grim litany of events unfolding in our current view.  I cannot in good conscience allow the atrocities of our age to be swept unnoticed under the carpet of willful ignorance, whether by those who have set themselves against us or by those purporting to be brothers in the faith.  And so, by re-sharing what I see, I am helping to spread the Judeo-Christian side of the story, one which will most likely never be seen or heard elsewhere, except by those who know where to look and who have the desire to do so.

For those who agree with my sentiments, but don’t exactly know what to do as they see the tsunami of evil unfolding:

1.       Reconcile yourself to God.  If you have never been in a friendship with our Almighty God, or if you have stepped away from Him, rest assured that He loves you beyond measure, and is willing to embrace and forgive you no matter what you’ve done.  Be forewarned, however, that the life God calls us to is one of self-sacrifice, and transformation from self-worship to God-worship; and so this will require more adjustment to your life and way of thinking than you can possibly imagine right now.

2.       Pray.  Once we are members of God’s family in right relationship with Him, this is the first and most powerful thing we can do.  YHVH God, the King of the Universe, is everything to us:  our life, our breath, our strength, our wisdom, our power, our love, our joy, etc.  The list never ends.  Prayer is our direct connection to God; while I may not be able to touch someone directly in their circumstance, I touch the God who touches them, and there is no limit to what He can do.

3.       Consider giving to organizations that are providing relief.  God has undoubtedly called people to be on the front lines of every battle that is being waged on this planet, and you can give of the resources you have been given to help them do what God has called them to do.  Like prayer, your resources can go to where you may not be able.  God will direct you as to how to give; just be obedient to what He tells you.

4.       God may call you to go physically to minister somewhere; be open to whatever assignments the LORD may hand you.  You never know who you may impact.

5.       Share the truth with everyone you know in every way you know how.  Be ready to defend yourself; some will accept what you say, but many others will hate you for it.

6.       Concentrate your fellowship—build lasting friendships with like-minded people who can encourage you.  You will need support.

7.       Above all, love everybody—especially those who hate you.  This is a testimony to them of God’s work in your life, and if they never change, it will be a testimony against them when they stand before YHVH on the final Yom Kippur (the Great White Throne Judgment).  Let God deal with the consequences—in every case where I have been wronged, the LORD has been faithful to vindicate me as I have placed my trust in Him.

I cannot be completely certain as to how the current events of our world will impact us personally; but I believe we are on the edge of cataclysmic change.  The Bible predicts that the world will grow darker and darker while God’s people will shine brighter and brighter.  I believe this distinction is getting clearer every day.  So, while I may present a parade of horrors perpetrated by the world in an attempt to stir up a cry to God from His people, I have hope that His people shall rise in Christ to accept the challenge.  “—To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.”  (Jesus, speaking in Revelation 2:7)

Reading Jesus Wars

Special book review:  Jesus Wars by John Philip Jenkins

Reading Jesus Wars is like going back to school.  The rough digestion of each and every page is confirming everything I knew and feared about the history of the church, yet revealing more about the depths to which the late classical and early medieval Christian monolith sank as the patriarchs threw their arms in deadly embrace around despotic politics.  It is tedious reading, not because of the language, but because the author repeatedly details the stories of who did what to whom ad nauseam, all for the same reason:  the preservation of political power.  The list of evidence for his position is overwhelming; I certainly better understand why those in academia have a tendency to dismiss the claims of Christianity when looking at it from a surface perspective.  The world of state-owned Christianity is completely alien to Christ's admonition to His disciples:  "by this will all men know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.  --John 13:35

I would not recommend this book to anyone who is not absolutely solid in their devotion to Christ; it is my personal friendship with our God that keeps me from rejecting the whole kit and caboodle.  I know Whom I have believed, and He is not the god of Constantine!  While it is excruciating to peel back the flesh of this issue to remove the tumors of idolatry, compromise, and a whole host of other methods of self-worship, the action is paramount if any real healing is to occur. The demons of our past must be encountered and exposed; we must relate them to our current environment and be willing to neutralize their presence wherever they make their mark.  If we refuse, the cancer will spread to other systems and become uncontrollable, resulting in great loss for the kingdom of God; while we know our LORD's triumph is inevitable, a blight makes for a far less successful harvest.  This is the enemy's goal, and why he continues to make war even though he is aware he eventually lose.

A hope that I maintain is that God is always doing something new; somewhere, whether we are in its midst or not, rays of sunlight are making their way to the earth.  Though the prophet's cry over Constantinople during this period was, "Ichabod" (the glory of the LORD has departed), at the same time God was mightily using a young man named Patrick in a far away corner of the world called Ireland.  The stone and mortar of Patrick's work would be built into a fortress that would preserve the Christian faith beyond even that which the pounding waves of the Islamic caliphates could reach; indeed, its foundation would even be translated across the sea to become part of the base from which American missionaries would re-launch the Gospel across the globe. 

Will we be part of the 'something new'?  This will partially depend on our desire and ability to let go of the 'something old'...

The Black Magic Bullet

Here’s one for all of my friends who study church history or theology:  as you may (or may not) know, I’m somewhat on a quest to find a seemingly lost or unexplored event in church history.  Christianity began with the forging of the great rings—no, wait, wrong story.  It began completely within the structure of Judaism:  Jesus was the Jewish Messiah sent to redeem the lost house of Israel, restore the kingdom of God and the nation of Israel to its former glory through the establishment of the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Ezekiel 36:22-38).  Even Jesus’ status as the Light to the Gentiles was a First Covenant idea—it was always in the plan.  None of the earliest followers of Jesus ever thought of themselves as anything but devout Jews—even Paul (he was perhaps the closest, as he proclaimed that his status as a ‘Jew’s Jew’ was rubbish compared to the knowledge of Christ, but never did Paul renounce his Judaism).

Somewhere along the way, however, Christianity changed into a Greek religion, borrowing from the philosophers and pagan religious forms of the Greek-influenced Roman Empire, which in turn were borrowed from Babylonian and Persian pagan archetypes (The Father is Ba’al/Nimrod/Osiris/Zeus; Mary is Ashtoreth/Semiramis/Isis/Alcmene-Hera—this is why Catholics/Orthodox call her 'the Mother of God' and 'the Queen of Heaven'; Jesus is Ba’al (reborn)/Tammuz/Horus/Hercules; the saints are the Greco-Roman pantheon).  The names were Christianized to apply the real New Testament events to the pagan story.  This paganization of the faith has influenced our behavior beyond what we even realize—down to the ways we pray and worship.  As a rough estimate of percentage, one could say modern Christianity is 25% New Covenant Judaism, 25% out-of-context attempts to explain Bible passages using Greek thought, and 50% Christianized paganism.

When I embarked on my study of church history to see where this change began, I first ran into Constantine the Great, whose influence as the first ‘Christian Emperor’ changed Christianity more than any other.  As the son of a pagan father and Christian mother, he forced a syncretism between Christianity and Roman sun-god worship most likely as a political device in an attempt to rekindle the glory of Rome, which was a natural fit for him as he truly believed Jesus was the embodiment of the Roman sun god.  The result of his beliefs were the mandate that Christian worship should only take place on ‘the venerable day of the sun’; that the celebration of Jesus’ death and resurrection should be reckoned by the pagan festival of Easter (Ashtoreth) rather than celebrating the Jewish Passover; and his puppet-pope Julius I determined that Jesus’ birth should be celebrated on December 25th, the pagan festival of Saturnalia and the ‘rebirth of the sun’ from the ‘death’ of the winter solstice.

The centuries following Constantine were filled with violent debates over the nature of the Trinity and Christology, all arguments being based in a Greek philosophical understanding of divine vs. human nature rather than a simple study of the Bible from the original Hebrew context; and the final papers of divorce from Judaism were signed with the Council of Laodicea in 364.  But Constantine was not the beginning of the metamorphosis; as early as Ignatius of Antioch (d. 107) we find evidences of Western Christianity becoming a largely Gentile affair.  By the time of Origen of Alexandria (d. 254) we see open criticism of Jewish thinking and Jews in general, and finally, by Constantine’s day, there are calls for open slavery, eternal damnation, and even eradication of Jews by the likes of John Chrysostom (d. 407). 

Some obvious factors one must certainly take into account when deducing the reasons for the development of a Greco-centric Christianity are:

1.       The virulent persecution of Christians by the Jews of the first century; certainly Saul of Tarsus was not the only one dragging Christians from their homes and accusing them of crimes.

2.       Even the Judaism of this time had been Hellenized sufficiently to be influenced by Greek philosophy and culture, so the fact that these pop up particularly in the Western Church should not be a surprise.

3.       The vehemence with which Paul debated the Judaizers and the subsequent failed compromise at the Council of Jerusalem involving the Noahide Laws led Gentile Christians to believe that Jewish observances were not important.

4.       While there certainly were Jewish communities in diaspora, Jerusalem was by far the largest concentration of Jews on the planet until the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 A.D.  Therefore, as Christianity spread outward, it makes sense that more Gentiles would be converted than Jews, simply because of culture and geography.

5.       The destruction of the Second Jewish Temple was seen by Gentile Christians particularly in the West as God’s rejection of the Jews as His people.

However true, none of these reasons—separately or even combined—are sufficient enough to definitively explain how Christianity broke away from its Jewish Biblical moorings so completely in the West.  This is particularly illustrated by the fact that this did not happen in the Oriental Eastern part of the Roman Empire; Judeo-centric Christianity was practiced and survived in this region until Islam nearly destroyed it in the 7th century.  In the West, something was lost in translation from the time of the original apostles to the third generation of Christians to the point where even the identity of God was changed (no, I’m not talking about the Trinity here, but rather (YHVH, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob vs. a universal, interchangeable god).  I’m still looking for the ‘black magic bullet.’  Any thoughts?