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Jesus is our tithe June 23, 2014

Posted by Henry in Contending for the Faith, Tithing.
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Here is an interesting take on the tithe by a Pastor Amos Ortiz.

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Lessons from Ahab for an Undiscerning Church December 9, 2013

Posted by Henry in Contending for the Faith.
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In the book of 2 Chronicles 18 the story is told of how Ahab the king of Israel wanted to go to Ramothgilead to make war with Syria. Ahab had made an alliance with Jehoshaphat the king of Judah and he invited him to go up to Ramothgilead with him. However, though Jehoshaphat agreed in principle he asked Ahab to first inquire what the word of the Lord said concerning the matter. So what did Ahab do? Ahab gathered together no less than 400 prophets to ask them if he should go to do battle. Everyone of them agreed that he should go up to Ramothgilead and that he would prevail as the Lord would deliver it into his hands. Not satisfied however, Jehoshaphat asked Ahab if there weren’t any other prophets of the Lord aside from the 400. Ahab replied that there was another prophet by the name of Micaiah but that he hated him because he never prophesied anything good to him except evil.

To cut a long story short we see in verse 11 where the 400 prophets declared that the Lord said Ahab should go to the war and that he would prosper. The messenger who when to fetch Micaiah told him that all the other prophets had prophesied good to the two kings and that he should prophesy good tidings likewise. However, being a true prophet of God, Micaiah prophesied the truth to Ahab that Israel would be defeated if they went to battle. Ahab would not listen however because he did not like what he was hearing especially when he had the backing of the 400 other prophets so he threw Micaiah in jail. Needless to say he went to battle and met his destruction because he refused to heed the truth from the true prophet of God. Instead he yielded to the message that appealed to his flesh, a message from lying spirits that deceived the 400 prophets.

This story of Ahab is an important lesson for the church today. Today the church, like Ahab, fails to discern the true voice of the Lord but instead yield to a message that appeals to their flesh – word of Faith, seed faith, prosperity doctrines and the like. They measure truth by the number of people speaking the same message instead of applying themselves to the study and application of the Word. Afterall if 400 prophets on TV or in the mega churches are speaking the same message then it must be true, right? But like Ahab this message with lead many to destruction. Many church folk don’t want to hear the message of the local church anymore even if it is the true word of God. Instead they want to hear a message that appeals to their flesh. Today the church heap to themselves teachers (prophets) that tell them what their itching ears want to ear instead of hearing the truth of God’s Word coming from a seemingly unlikely source.

The demise of Ahab however should serve as a warning that we should seek to listen to the solitary voice of the Lord even if the message is tough to hear instead of the 400 prophets who tell us the things we want to hear.

Should we have female Bishops? November 28, 2012

Posted by Henry in Contending for the Faith.
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One of the great controversies affecting the Anglican Church today is the issue of whether or not female bishops should be appointed in the church. Recent proposals supporting this was put to a vote at the General Synod but was voted down not by the clergy, interestingly enough, but rather by the laity. The surprising thing is not that this was voted against by the laity, creating as some say a dilemma for the incoming Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, but rather it is the huge media focus that has been drawn, which has turned the subject into a political debate, with the Prime Minister David Cameron, no less, wading into the debate. Likewise many non-Christians have jumped unto the bandwagon to vent criticism at the Church expressing the view that it needs to change to reflect the changing times. In their view the church should embrace the principles of equality and appoint female bishops alongside men. The overarching question here though is whether the Christian faith should conform to the attitudes and views of society or whether this should be the other way around. It is not surprising of course that non-Christians should be advocating to make changes within church particularly from the standpoint that it is seen as a registered body who’s ministers and bishops are employees. Within this construct the argument can be levied that the church as a recruiting body should comply with the equality laws of the state.

The main point that non-Christians are missing however is that the church is not and should not be equated with other social organisations whose directives are handed down by their supervisory bodies or by the state in terms of function and governance. Indeed the church as with any members of society must observe the laws of the state but the church is subjected to a Higher Authority on ecclesiastical and doctrinal matters and that Authority is God’s Word. The state should therefore not interfere with this authority otherwise the church will cease to be a church.

So what is the position of the Word of God on the matter of female bishops? The qualifications of a Bishop is defined in 1 Tim 3 as follows:

1This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. 2A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; 3Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; 4One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; 5(For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)</strong> 6Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. [Emphasis Added]

We see from the verses of scripture here that such an office does NOT extend to women. Some will say here that these are sexist and outmoded views but if we are the church then the church should be standing on the word of God however uncomfortable the truth makes us feel. We need to be uncompromising on the Word of God and that is why I say well done to the laity for voting against the proposals to allow women to become bishops.

Does the Bible contain contradictions? October 6, 2012

Posted by Henry in Contending for the Faith.
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Sometimes in spreading the Word of God it is necessary to ask some of the hard questions that many Christians might not want to touch. The title of this post is just one example which I felt moved to devote attention to given previous discussions on other topics here. The importance of the question resides in the fact that many people have rejected the Bible and consequently the gospel on the basis that the Bible contains contradictions. Some say 101 contradictions to be exact. I first encountered this supposed 101 contradictions in the Bible during a discussion with a Muslim colleague about faith some 10 years ago. How can you share your faith with someone who has already made up their mind as they are convinced that the Bible contains 101 contradictions? What is even more striking is that some Christians are prepared to accept that there are contradictions in the Bible? Does this position not undermine the faith and provides ammunition to those who seek to refute the Bible’s claims? So what do you think? Does the Bible really contain contradictions and if so what are the examples?

I thought I would freshen up this post by stating my personal view on the subject matter. Personally I do not believe that the scriptures are contradictory. However, people’s interpretation may very well render the scriptures contradictory but this is not a fault of the scriptures themselves but a fault with the interpreter. When we neglect to apply proper exegisis and discernment then this will very well lead to contradictions being reflected upon the text of scripture. The Bible says that every scripture is God breathed (2 Tim 3:16) and that God is not the author of confusion (1 Cor 14:33) so there can therefore be no contradictions in the scriptures. The unbelieving and those who have a vested interest in destroying Christianity will continue to argue however that the scriptures are contradictory even without substantiating their claim with any proof. If we are to proclaim the gospel effectively therefore then we must be prepared to challenge headon any arguments which seeks to pervert the Christian faith by declaring that the scriptures are contradictory. This is a very important area in contending for the Christain faith (Jud 1:3) though some may very well argue that this topic by it’s nature is divisive and should not be open to public discussion.

Pure Religion and undefiled March 6, 2012

Posted by Henry in Contending for the Faith.
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Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. (Jam 1:27) KJV

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (NIV)

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. (NLT)

Recently I have written a series of posts addressing “tithing” (amongst other things) and this started with the post “Unravelling the tithing dilemma”. Some reading this blog may think that my sole focus has simply been on “tithing” and may even think I sound like a broken record repeating myself but there is a central theme and purpose to each post and in this post I aim to tie up all that I previously stated. Hopefully the point of all these posts may therefore come to the fore through reading this post.

I opened this post with a quote from James 1:27 as this sits at the heart of the tithing equation today and which sits at the very heart of our Gospel. The two other translations I gave, more fully expresses what the KJV version intended to say. What sits at the heart of the tithing equation therefore is the question of what is acceptable religion before God?

 Under the Old Covenant Israel was called to give a tithe of the produce of the Promised Land to the Levites, the poor, the fatherless, the widows who were all in NEED that they may eat and be satisfied (Deut 14:29). Today the church seeks to recapture the practice of collecting a tithe but what does the church do with it? In contrast to ancient Israel where the tithe went to meet immediate and pressing needs, today we use the tithe to maintain lofty and expensive church buildings and pay a salary to the priests or pastors (and perhaps the organist). Today we talk about giving to God, and equate our giving to maintaining these structures as giving to God (this is seen as furthering the Gospel). Yet in the early church giving to God was tantamount to meeting the needs of the poor, the fatherless and the widows. If the tithe is God’s then let us start giving it to God via the poor and stop talking about it. In Matt 25:35-46 we see Jesus saying that if we feed the hungry, visit the sick, clothe the naked etc we have done it to Him but if we did none of those things we did not do it to Him. There are those who will argue of course that when we give money to church that the church will in turn use some of this money to send missionaries abroad and to give to the poor and other charitable causes. In my experiences, some churches remit a portion of the takings to the umbrella body and this may help to support missionaries in the field. However, for others the main church takings (tithes and offerings) are normally treated as sacrosanct – by this I mean that most of it is used up on the administrative overheads (including salaries) and the rest kept in a bank account but very little or none of it goes to meet the needs of the poor. Instead, after the main tithes and offerings are collected we are then asked to “dig deep” into our pockets for extra funds or “love offerings” that will go to missions and fund charitable works. This was not so in the early church however. Do we for a minute think that God is pleased with great and grand buildings we have elevated in His name, and maintain with vast sums of money year by year, whilst millions of people throughout the world go hungry each day? Perhaps the church cannot solve the poverty problem across the world but we can certainly do more even in our immediate communities.

In the early church all of the church takings were redistributed to meeting the needs of the whole church, including the elders who ministered over the church. This is aptly demonstrated in Acts 2:42-47 and Acts 4:32-35. What a contrast to today’s church where the poor and the needy who come in go home empty-handed with the promise that God will bless them if they tithe faithfully even if they have to borrow to pay that tithe (as in the example of some churches)? The early church did not consider their possessions as their own but had all things in common – and they laid what they had to give at the apostles’ feet who in turn redistributed so that no one lacked. Other examples of this practice are evidenced in 2 Cor 8:12-15 and 2 Cor 9:1-8 where Paul collected gifts from other churches to give to the poor Christians in Jerusalem. The early church was acting out the very commands/teachings that Jesus Christ imparted to us such as in Matt 19:21 where He instructed the rich young ruler to sell his possessions and give it to the poor. We also see another example in Luke 16:9 where Christ says we should make to ourselves friends with the mammon (worldly wealth) of unrighteousness. In meeting the needs of the general poor we are also encouraged to give to the elders, especially those who minister in the word and doctrine (1 Tim 5:17).

 Today we have reassigned the purpose of the tithe (not that we are under the Law), as the principle of it as demonstrated under the Law is not borne out in how we utilise it in the church today. In contrast to the early church also, faithful stewardship is now exemplified by our giving of tithes and offerings to God to maintain lavish buildings and large administrative budgets in the place of directly redistributing the funds to meet the needs of the poor. Is our religion as practiced in this way by the church today acceptable to God when pure religion and undefiled, which God accepts is defined in scripture as caring for the fatherless and the widows and keeping oneself spotless from the world?

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Which Jesus have you received? February 9, 2010

Posted by Henry in Contending for the Faith.
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You have heard the “message”, responded to the altar call and you have said the sinner’s prayer. After repeating the prayer the pastor tells you to thank God you are saved. But which message have you heard and which Jesus have you received and invited into your heart? Is it the Jesus who had to go to hell and fight Satan there, who Satan bound with chains and dragged down in to hell so that he had to overcome the battle there in order that he could gain redemption? Is it the Jesus who was so rich that he had his own Rolls Royce car, big house and fancy clothes? The one who could not perceive that Judas was stealing from “the bag” for three years because there was so much money in it? Is it the Jesus that was no different to ordinary men because anyone other man could have taken his place in order to perform the work of redemption? Is it the Jesus they say wasn’t God and that He didn’t claim to be God? These are just some of the striking claims made about the Jesus that is promoted in Word of Faith circles. A close examination of scriptures however will reveal who the true Jesus is and show that the aforementioned claims are false.

 Scripture says in Acts 4:12 that there is no other name under heaven by which men can be saved except the name of Jesus. But who is this Jesus? In order to know Him we need to look at the scriptures (the Bible) which speaks of Him. Jesus was spoken of by the Prophets of old and whose coming was fulfilled when he was born over 2000 years ago, of the virgin Mary (Matt 1:22-23). He was later crucified on the cross at Calvary and ascended into heaven to sit on the right hand of the Father and who shall return again to take His saints to be with Him. This was the redemptive work that God purposed before the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8). So much for the false claim that anyone else could have performed the redemptive work of Christ. When Jesus was on the cross He said, “It is finished” (John 19:30), meaning the work He came to fulfil was finished. How then can a supposed minister of Christ claim that actually He had to enter hell in order to fight with Satan and win in order to redeem Himself and mankind? Jesus committed no sin so why would He need to redeem Himself (2 Cor 1:25)?

  Jesus is the heir of all things, and was before the world and the world was made by Him. But Jesus, though He was rich became poor that through His poverty we might become rich (2 Cor 8:9). This is another point of confusion amongst the WOF crowd. Jesus most certainly did not come so that we would become physically rich but spiritually rich in heavenly things. Hence, Jesus in His own life on earth did not have these displays of wealth as WOF ministers claim. In Matt 8:20 Jesus made it clear that He didn’t even have anywhere to lay His. Again in regards to the claim there was so much money in “the bag”, we see from scripture that this is a complete fabrication because Jesus did not even have money to pay the tribute. He then sent Peter to go and catch a fish and the coin that was to be found in the fish’s mouth was to be used to pay the tribute (Matt 17:27). Imagine Jesus was able to perceive that a fish in the sea, the first one that Peter would catch, would have a coin in its mouth yet He couldn’t perceive that Judas was stealing from the bag? This is obviously one way in which they deny His divinity.  

  The book of John and chapter 1 explains fully who Jesus was and testifies of his divinity. Here we read that, “1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…….14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us”. This is Jesus the Christ, the saviour of the world who was both man as much as he was God. This is the Jesus whom you should believe for your salvation and not a fabric of someone’s imagination.

Contending for the Faith but the truth is hard to “sell” January 28, 2010

Posted by Henry in Contending for the Faith.
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The road of apologetics and biblical discernment can be a very lonely one because often times the truth (i.e., the truth of the Gospel) will be offensive even to professing Christians. In spite of that true Christians have a responsibility to be uncompromising about their faith even if we are going to be ostracized and rejected for doing so. The scriptures say in Jude 1:3 that we should contend earnestly for the faith which was once delivered to the saints. Why? One of the primary reasons for doing so can be found in verse 4 of the said passage:

 4 For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.

 Whilst the “church” was sleeping certain men crept in without notice, men who were ungodly but who cloaked themselves in righteousness with the primary goal of deceiving the flock. These men have created a poison cocktail of biblical truths and half-truths, mixed in with lies and false doctrines which they feed to their undiscerning flock. This is why the work of Christian apologetics and applying biblical discernment is done.

 The reality however is that this work is usually opposed by the very people, the deceived undiscerning masses, it was set out to help to come out of deception. This is not surprising however since Jesus said in Matt 7:13-14 that broad is the way that leads to destruction and many there be that fall there in but narrow is the way that leads to Life but few there be that find it. There are some interesting parallels between Jesus’ own ministry and the work of apologetics and discernment today however.  At the time of Jesus’ ministry on earth the Pharisees and Sadducees were the self-proclaimed spiritual leaders who had replaced the by now defunct Levitical priesthood. But these supposedly righteous holy-men opposed Jesus at every turn. For example, in Mat 9:34 we see the Pharisees accusing Him of casting out demons by the prince of devils without discerning who He really was.

 An even more remarkable example can be found in John 5:38-39 where we see that the Jews did not believe Jesus’ testimony and sought to kill Him. Jesus said to them that they searched the scriptures thinking that in them they would find life but that the said scriptures testify of Himself. In verse 43 Jesus said that if He came in the Father’s name the Jews would not believe Him but if someone else came in their own name him they would believe. Jesus went further to say in verse 46 that if the Jews believed Moses that they would believe Him because Moses wrote of Him. This is no different to what is happening in the church today however. The point though is that if Jesus, the Son of God, who came in the flesh to deliver the Word from the Father, was rejected by those who studied the scriptures, how much more can we lesser mortals expect to be opposed and rejected by professing Christians for seeking to uphold the truth of Christ?

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