is-calvinism-biblical

A Few Thoughts on Calvinism

Dear reader: the following article was impressive to me, so I decided to pass it on to you. I hope your love for and trust in the Lord increases as you read; that’s the effect it’s had on me. ~ Bill Holdridge

A Few Thoughts on Calvinism

By Pastor Doug Hileman

First Christian Church of Marysville, CA

In the churches I have attended through the years, Calvinism has been viewed with suspicion and even scorned (“Once saved, always saved.”)  Consequently I have never been exposed to more than a brief mention of the subjects of election and predestination in sermons or Bible studies conducted in a non-Calvinistic setting.  As these two doctrines are major recurring themes in the New Testament, I view their virtual dismissal by those of my persuasion as misguided censorship.  I suppose this should come as no surprise—once you have developed a loyalty to a doctrinal point of view you tend to lose a measure of objectivity—viewing any “opposing” texts or concepts through the filter of your own settled convictions.  This tendency cuts both ways, of course. Calvinists exhibit their own reluctance toward thoughtfully considering the other point of view; I think it is fair to say that within their ranks their own conclusions are rarely examined with fresh eyes.

My intention in writing these thoughts out is mostly to help me sort through my own frustration with the knee-jerk responses associated with this area of study.  Obviously, I do not write from a neutral position— I strongly disagree with Calvinistic teaching.  However, I have had good fellowship with a number of Calvinists, and have accepted that we will probably have to agree to disagree.  And so in my musings here, I really only intend to pursue a single question—why would an interpretation of scripture that seems to me to be so unreasonable have such a strong appeal to people who seem to be at least as reasonable as I am?

To begin, I consider the probability that there are motivations on both sides of the issue in addition to simple love of the truth.  From an insider’s point of view, it’s fairly easy to understand the lack of enthusiasm for Calvinism which is held by most non-Calvinists, as well as virtually all non-believers. Calvin’s view of predestination is a maddening thing to consider:  A view that says that in spite of the soul’s desire to be at peace with God, and to enter into a relationship with Him; no matter how willing one might be to fulfill whatever conditions are required of them to draw near to God and believe the gospel and thereby receive mercy; unless they are the object of a divine election that has no reference whatever to anything they might say, do, or believe, they are lost— without remedy, hopelessly and eternally.  Such teaching is acknowledged by Calvinists to be—“hard”.  James Black, a Calvinistic pastor from a previous generation authored a book that is a classic on the subject of preaching.  But along with some wonderful insights regarding the art of creating and delivering sermons, the book also provides some valuable insight into the mental workings of a faithful Calvinist.  I will have occasion to quote from Rev. Black a couple of times in these notes, first of all regarding the hardness of Calvinistic doctrine. 

“Our Scottish Calvinism may have been a hard, unbending, even logically cruel thing: but what gave the Calvinistic church its unfailing dignity and power was its prostrating sense of awe—wonder at the decrees and sovereignty of God and wonder at His unmerited mercy.”  (The Mystery of Preaching, pg. 130)

Again, I can easily understand why the average non-Calvinist shrinks back in apprehension from Calvin’s view of predestination, but I remain mystified by the behavior on the other side of the aisle:  what is it that compels Calvinists to embrace such a “logically cruel” notion, and reject out of hand the idea of full access to a salvation offered freely to all men?  Aside from their obvious answer—“That’s what the Bible teaches” (an answer I would contest)—I am inclined to look further than that.

Certainly there is an appeal to being one of the chosen ones, the “in” crowd so to speak.   But that does not seem to be the motivation behind the attraction, for Calvinists seem to be as humble regarding their own lackings as they are suitably awed by the glory of God. No, I feel the issue is more fundamental than that.   Lately, as strange as it might sound, I have begun to wonder if the awe-stricken worship referred to so often by Calvinists might be where the “hard and unbending” nature of this system has its roots.  I have heard and read professions of fear and awe from Calvinists many times before.  It is striking how much more frequently that type of sentiment is expressed in Calvinistic writings when compared with the works of others.  I had always assumed such statements were the spontaneous, personal expression of their reverence for God, and thought I would do well to learn from their example.  But through the years as I have read more of their material, I have begun to wonder if this is an acquired sensitivity, perceived to be obligatory;  not an affectation, but something along the lines of a theological tradition or culture, passed down from one generation to the next.  This mindset of fear and awe is not improper, of course—far from it.  But along with the teaching in Scripture to relate to God in that particular way, there are other biblical examples of individuals who had a degree of relaxed familiarity with God; not from presumption or disrespect, but of an “Abba Father” nature.  The “Calvinistic Awe” that James Black refers to smacks more of Sinai than of Zion.  The Israelites— including Moses himself— were certainly shaken by fear and awe of God at Sinai.  But that is not the pattern which we have been given to follow in this present age.  (Hebrews 12:18-24)  The view of God at the foot of Sinai contrasts dramatically with the perspective gained on the slopes of Zion.   And needless to say, so do the covenants they represent.

Consider the concept of God for a moment—what is God like?  Christian thinking in the first several centuries after the Apostolic Age leans very heavily on Greek philosophy, especially in regards to the nature of God in His perfection.  The view of God held by virtually all Christian leaders at that time mirrored the Platonic one.  As a perfect being, God was untouched by emotion, passion, or change.  Based on this assumption, one view of Christ developed as having a “compartmentalized” dual nature, because His divine nature would by definition be incapable of suffering.  With this non-Biblical model of divine nature at the headwaters, the understanding of everything downstream became subject to a nagging, polluting influence, which causes confusion to this day.

So what if, in a parallel fashion, Calvin embraced a narrow view of God; while ostensibly based on the Scriptures, it is a view that is inconsistent with the full revelation of God as recorded in the narrative of Scripture. For the picture he draws of God in the exercise of sovereign election seems to be one of unfeeling intellect—His is a merciful intelligence to be sure—but of a cold and detached sort.  For in Calvin’s estimation, all that really matters is God’s sovereignty expressed through His decrees.   The eternal bliss or misery of humanity are not really considered for their own sake, and are viewed only as a means to an end—to glorify God.  Now, when examined as individual components, each of the aforementioned concepts would be considered orthodox to most Christians. There is nothing of higher value than the glory of God, His sovereign will is the ultimate good, both heaven and hell will be used to demonstrate His glory, etc. But something is missing in the overall picture when we view these particular teachings in isolation from the narrative of scripture: the revelation that the Bible gives us of the personality of God. Calvin attempts to give something of the machinery but nothing of the heart; and Calvinism has a very mechanistic feel to it. Could it be that, having embraced a one-dimensional view of God as the whole, (in terms of election and predestination, at least) Calvin’s theology in all its “hard, unbending, cruel logic” is the inevitable outgrowth what seems to me to be theological tunnel vision?

There is much to be said regarding what might be termed “the reasonableness of God” in the Bible.  That emphasis seems to be entirely absent from the Calvinistic perspective.   God demonstrates this side of His nature rather frequently in His dealings with men, and appears to respond to their perceptions of justice, explaining Himself and even reasoning with them on occasion.  Some examples:

  • Cain, and his appeal that his punishment was too hard to bear. (Gen. 4:13-15)
  • Abraham, and his attempt to bargain for the lives of the righteous in Sodom and Gomorrah. (Gen.18:20-33)
  • Moses, interceding for Israel when God wanted to destroy them and start over.  (Ex. 32:9-13) (This case is especially notable, as God exclaims to Moses at one point in the conversation, “Leave Me alone!”)
  • Jonah, pouting about God not destroying Nineveh, and God gently reasoning with him so he would see His perspective on the matter.  (Jonah 4:9-11)
  • And in the New Testament—The Gentile woman who came to Jesus and asked for deliverance for her demon possessed child.  Initially Jesus refused, but she won Him over with her reasoning.  (Matt. 15:22-28)
  • Throughout scripture, God is revealed as possessing a willingness to talk things over and reason things out.  He makes a distinct offer through Isaiah along these lines. (Is. 1:18)

My point is this: much of the “hardness” in Calvinism seems to emanate from the unswerving reliance on the teaching in Romans 9 alone to absolutely define the nature of predestination and election, without reference to other passages of scripture.  This is where Paul is defending God’s right to make one person a vessel of mercy and another a vessel of destruction—any way He sees fit, no questions asked.  (Or no reasoning allowed, if you will.) And so the conclusion is drawn that everyone’s eternal destiny is determined on that basis alone.  Now pause for a moment and consider that there are several examples of biblical teaching that initially appear to be contradictory to other scriptures.  When two such views seem to be at odds with each other, we generally look for the balance between them.  As an example, the doctrine of the Trinity when viewed alongside the submission of the Son to the Father.  Or the view of justification by faith in Romans in conjunction with the same doctrine in James.  I submit that Romans 9 taken alone will give an imbalanced view of the workings of predestination and election.  Let me quote once again from James Black as he instructs his students on the function of isolation in preaching:

“In this connection may I add—do not be afraid of exaggeration.  Isolation of any kind is exaggeration: and when you isolate a text or subject from the whole coherent body of truth, you exaggerate it in the very process.  State your main truth, in the distinct and even limited aspect you have chosen, and trust to the correcting influence of your whole ministry.  There is nothing so futile as aiming at a foolish completeness.”   (The Mystery of Preaching, pg. 51)

In a nutshell, he says that examining one aspect of a doctrine in isolation may give a false impression of sorts (imbalance or over-emphasis), but you can and should supply the balance over the course of your ministry.  He says it is often quite impossible to give the whole picture within the framework of one solitary sermon.  This wonderful advice for preaching the Bible seems to be overlooked by Calvinists when it comes to interpreting it.  Rather than look for a balance between the teaching in Romans 9 and other portions of scripture that strongly indicate man’s free will and a universal opportunity to come to Christ, it seems to me that Calvinists firmly shut the door of further inquiry with these familiar words—“ But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? ” (Rom. 9:20) In doing so, they believe they contend for the faith, and take a firm stand in defense of God’s sovereignty and glory.  But I contend that Calvin taught a view of God that is not wholly biblical.  As a result he unwittingly ended up with a duality of his own—the God of love revealed to us in the Person of Christ, and the God of ancient mysterious “wisdom”, that predestined some to glory, and the rest to damnation.  This second side of God is not talked about openly, especially to non-believers.  It is a thought too terrible to consider at length. Martin Luther alluded to it, but did not like to ponder it himself. The Calvinists will never state the doctrine of election in all its stark reality to a congregation.  They will focus on hope.  On the “lighter side” of God, if you will.  But in the background, under the surface, in the darker corridors of theological imagination lurks this image of an inscrutable and severe Intelligence in eternity past who determined to cast millions and millions of humans into hell—why?— because it made sense to Him.

Calvinism has an overarching design to it—to “protect” the doctrine of God’s glory and sovereignty.  The urgency and zeal which Calvinists exhibit for this mission remind me of the man named Uzzah who lived in David’s day.  (II Sam. 6:1-19) The Ark of the Covenant was being transported on an oxcart on one occasion, when the cart hit a pothole and the Ark began to tip.  With the best of intentions, Uzzah reached up to steady it, and was struck dead instantly.  David “was afraid of God” that day, and immediately put a safe distance between himself and the Ark.  He later discovered through a study of the scriptures the reason for this God’s behavior—the Ark was being transported contrary to the pattern given by Moses, who taught that it was never to be touched by any man who was not a Levite.  Using the oxcart to transport the ark seemed logical enough, but it was a mimicry of the unbiblical method adopted by the Philistines when they returned the Ark to Israel just prior to this incident.

David’s fear on this occasion was based on what David perceived as unpredictable behavior on God’s part.  It is also significant that David was, “…angry because of the Lord’s outbreak against Uzzah.”   I don’t think it is stretching things to say that at that moment David thought God was unreasonable, and anger is a very logical reaction to unreasonableness. However, once David understood and practiced the teaching of scripture (I Chron. 15:1-15), God wasn’t so scary after all.  He understood God’s actions and intentions and felt safe enough to draw near again.  David began to worship with tremendous joy, and God’s presence at last came to rest in Zion.  One of the many lessons contained in this account is this: every time the church relies on the wisdom of the world to interact with God, it causes problems—in particular, problems with man’s perception of God. It seems to me that most of the difficulties Calvinists have with their interpretation of predestination and election have more to do with logic than with scripture.  They pose questions like, “If God doesn’t control all this absolutely, how can He really be considered sovereign?”  Or, “How could Christ die for someone and that person still end up lost? Wouldn’t that mean His death was in vain? Wouldn’t that mean that the purposes of God are subject to the will of man?”  Nevertheless, the Scripture seems pretty clear on these two points;  that God has given man a free will, and Christ died for the sins of the whole world. Logic notwithstanding.

Having shackled themselves with presuppositions that have no mandate in Scripture, Calvinists have embraced a system of theology that is neat, tidy, marvelously logical, and paradoxically, quite unreasonable.  They have fallen prey to the same temptation as the early Church Fathers—leading with logic rather than scripture.  As a consequence, they have ended up with a similar dilemma.  I must conclude that when Calvinism is embraced there is an unavoidable tendency to compartmentalize God.  He is eternally loving toward us, and eternally not towards the non-elect.  The contemplation of God’s love for the elect is cherished and gratefully viewed from every conceivable angle by Calvinists, as it should be.  His supposed lack of love for the non-elect, however, is stated flatly, and then for all intents and purposes, promptly ignored. This is understandable, because if Calvinistic theology is pursued relentlessly to its logical conclusion, the serious hindrances posed are inescapable (despite the denials of its adherents).  Calvinism produces a sense of hopelessness in potential converts; while seeking to defend the doctrine of God’s sovereignty, it holds forth a twisted, monstrous view of His heart toward mankind.  Christian workers are affected as well, for the good news of the gospel has been replaced with a formula that is fatalistic, logically reducing the efforts of the church for the evangelization of the world to little more than posturing.  All that work is to be done, it seems, to glorify God through obedience, but not really for any actual effect on the eternal destiny of others.  Here is the bottom line: if any effort of individual believers or the church can be said to the slightest degree to have any bearing whatever on the outcome in an individual’s response to God, then the whole system of thought erected to protect the sovereignty of God comes crashing down.  It seems to me therefore that to be a Calvinist one is forced to live in a “pretend” world.  You must pretend that your efforts actually make a difference, and you must pretend (at least in front of others) that everybody has a chance to be saved.  The whole system is so unnecessary, and so unnecessarily complicated, that I wonder why it has gained as much acceptance as it has. No doubt the attraction is “the security of the believer.” But that is a topic for another time.

Response to the Connecticut School Shooting

Just like many of you, I’ve been deeply affected by the tragedies in our country this week. I’m sure that by now, many of you have heard the tragic news of the elementary school shooting in Connecticut. At the time if this writing there are almost 30 dead, gunned down by a young man in his early 20’s. Combined with the recent Clackamas Town Center shooting that hit us so close to home, it’s shocking to consider the complete disregard for human life that we have seen this week. These horrendous happenings, as well as a multitude of other similar kinds of events, can leave us terrified, bewildered and sad. How do we process all of this?

The world is sinful. It is broken. It is full of pain. But brothers and sisters, as Christians, we must never forget that we hold in our hearts the answer to what ails a broken world: the Love of God, through the finished work of Jesus Christ, applied by the Holy Spirit. This is the Gospel…and this is the only real hope of humanity.

When tragedy strikes, we see the world’s need for the life giving message of Jesus. There is much work to be done, and the darkness seems to be more emboldened with each passing year. But we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

Finally, let us pray for the victims family’s of such tragic events. Let us also pray for the perpetrators and their families as well. Pray that God will bring beauty out of ashes. I do not always understand prayer. But I know that it works!! Will you join me now in prayer?

In this Christmas season, when peace on earth and goodwill toward men should reign, let us be an instrument of God’s peace, when the world around us is full of panic and fear.

Let me leave u with a verse from the Apostle Paul, from 1 Corinthians 15:

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

Playing_Cards

Know when to hold em, Know when to fold em

I know that I am Jersey boy. I also know that guys from New Jersey don’t do country music. There is nothing wrong with country. But New Jersey is the home of Bruce Springsteen, Frank Sinatra, Bon Jovi and Skid Row. Not Kenny Rodgers. But everyone knows that classic song, The Gambler. The Gambler needs to know when to hold and when to fold. He needs to know when to walk away and when to run. Never count your money when you’re sitting at the table. The Gambler knows that there will be time enough for counting when the dealings done. You know the song.

This song speaks to me as a minister. In many ways, an aspect of the ministry that I have done is to be a type of a spark plug. I have been blessed to see many things start up. A church in New Brunswick, NJ. A church in Mill valley, CA. A church in San Francisco, CA. I’ve been blessed to see these ministries birthed and transitioned into new leadership. The hardest part of this is wondering what would have happened had you stayed where you were. In some ways, doing ministry is like gambling. You sense a leading from the Lord and you act upon what you understand the confirmations to be. You can see what God has done on your new step. But you often wonder what would have been had you stayed put. Sometimes I wonder if I have ministerial ADD. Sometimes ministers are ministerially catatonic. Either way, the key is to be where God is asking you to be.

I have also seen some great ministries started. The Calvary Church Planting Network has a project of mine. Wanting to church planters not have to recreate the wheel but have simple mentorship in the process. Just last month, CCPN had their first large conference and God is using it in a major way. I got the thing going and then others took it to the next level. What a joy for me to see God at work. Since being here at Crossroads in the last 11 months I have gotten to launch both a School of Ministry and a Married’s Ministry and handed them off to other pastors to run with. So awesome!

The CrossConnection Network blog is another one of those ministries. What began as a few conversations with my good friend Miles DeBenedicis about starting a collaborative blog turned into this site. We wanted a blog where people were free to explore ideas about life in Christ and ministry. We wanted contributors who had unique voices. Sure the masses enjoy the same old trumpeted sounds but innovation happens where people cringe and get upset. We are good with that. While some aren’t. We are okay with that too. What is awesome is that over last few years, we have watched CrossConnection blossom into a significant site with a really large audience. And a continuing growing audience. We have seen some of our contributors begin to blog for other sites. Awesome! We’ve seen some of our contributors quit blogging altogether. Again, God’s will be done. It is time for me to step away though. Not because I do not love CrossConnection. I do. But because, at this time, my work here is done. Starting it up was part of my roll and now it is time for others to take it to the next level. I will be watching with joy. But this will be my final article.

As for me, I will be focusing on the next set of things that God has in front of me. So if you think of me, please pray for me. I want to be the best husband and father in the world. We are finishing up the leadership transition here at Crossroads in Vancouver, WA in the coming months. God is doing amazing things here. God has tremendous things in store for Crossroads and we are just beginning to understand what the future will hold. Wild and exciting. We are seeking to reach out to the next generation with the Viral Movement with our first warehouse concert/crusade this Friday. I am working with an amazing literary agent and working on the manuscript for my next book (and am humbled by the interest from some big publishing houses). If you have ever written a longer work, you know the energy and diligence that that takes. On top of that, I have been blessed to be invited to do a bunch of conference teaching in the upcoming year. My own website has been growing as well. So I need to focus on all of this.

I wanted to thank you all for letting me add my ideas to this blog. I have been assured that I can submit articles from time to time. But at this time, I guess it is time for me to pull back from the table and let the dealing be done. Blessings!

israel

Barriers to a Jewish Witness Part II

Note:  Please refer to Part I

We see in the New Testament that the apostles used many of the Old Testament prophecies to prove that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah.  In the book of Acts, from beginning to end, we witness the apostles again and again quoting the Old Testament scriptures to a Jewish audience to affirm Jesus was the Messiah.  (Reference Acts 2:25-34, 3:21-23, 4:25-26, 8:32-35, 13:27, 17:1-3, 18:28, 24:14, 26:6-22 and 28:23).  So here is something essential; we need to believe in the POWER of the WORD and remember how JESUS witnessed to the Jewish people.  He showed them in the WORD where the law and the prophets of the Old Testament foretold His coming and His purpose here.  Three powerful examples are in Luke 4:16-21, Luke 24:27, and Luke 24:44-45.  We should consider using the same method.  Every Jew will have an interest in the Old Testament (even secular Jews) because they regard this scripture as theirs; it shows that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah.

A common response from young Jewish people is “show me in the Old Testament where the Son of God is mentioned and I will believe it”.  I have in the past shown just one verse to the amazement of a young Jewish person.  Look at all these verses for more power in sharing:

  • Proverbs 30:4
  • Isaiah 7:14
  • Isaiah 9:6-7
  • Psalm 2:7
  • Zachariah 12:9-10

In additional let me speak about some verses which provide a clear view in the Old Testament of Jesus as the Messiah:

In Psalm 2:7, it clearly says that all the nations of the world will be subject to this Son.  This was never true of David’s son Solomon, so it cannot be referring to him.  In addition the classical interpretation of this verse is of the Messiah also.

In Daniel 9:25-26, we read the TIME OF THE MESSIAH’S COMING; verse 26 reads that the Messiah had to come before the second temple was destroyed.  Note that Titus and the Roman soldiers destroyed it in 70 A.D.   I have heard or read of several prominent Jewish men who have accepted Jesus as Messiah just through this prophecy.  Some Hebrew scholars have suggested that King Agrippa was the one referred to by the Hebrew word “Mashiach” (Messiah).  Note that King Agrippa died before 70 A.D.  Although Hebrew scholars were correct about requiring this to be fulfilled before the second temple’s destruction in 70 A.D., the Messiah spoken about could not be King Agrippa since Agrippa was not even from David’s seed nor was he a benevolent ruler.  It could never be considered that Agrippa would be the Messiah.

Micah 5:2 speaks about the birthplace of the Messiah.  This is weighty evidence to present to a Jewish person.  Most Jewish people, as I said in Part I, have no idea that this verse and other prophecies like it exist.

Isaiah 35:1,5-6 speaks about the messiah healing the sick. Jesus truly fulfilled this.  See Luke 4:16-21.

Isaiah 42:6 and Isaiah 49:6 speak about the Messiah as “a light to the gentiles”.  This is such an important fact to present to Jewish people.  What was it that made millions of gentiles come to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?  This was predicted of the Messiah, that He would be “a light to the Gentiles”.

Zachariah 9:9 speaks about the Messiah coming as a lowly king, yet bringing salvation.  The ancient rabbis say, “if the people are worthy when Messiah comes, he will come riding a white horse.  If they are not worthy, he will come riding on a donkey”.

Isaiah 53 contains the wonderful prophecy of Jesus.  More Jewish people have come to faith reading this prophecy than any other in the Old Testament.  It could be called the “John 3:16 of Messianic prophesy”.  Often I ask Jewish people to read it carefully, and then I ask them who is it speaking about.  The reply most of the time is “Jesus”.  I have heard from scholars who say it was the sufferings of Israel spoken of and not the Messiah.  This is a modern day rabbinical answer.  The idea or application that this refers to the suffering of Israel is unfounded.  Israel, it is true, is called the “servant of the Lord” in places like Isaiah 49:3, but NEVER the “righteous servant” as spoken about in Isaiah 53:11.   Contrary, Isaiah speaks of the people of Israel as a people of “unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5) and that their sins have “made a separation between you and God.”  (Isaiah 59:2).

Another very strong point worth mentioning comes from Isaiah 52:4 and Isaiah 53:8. In Isaiah 52:4, “my people” is without a doubt referring to Israel in the phrase “my people went down at first into Egypt to reside there.”  In Isaiah 53:8, the “my people” term appears again with reference to Israel, alongside of the promised “He”.  Jewish scholars attempt to define the term “He” as Israel.  If this is the case, the question can be asked (as it has been asked of me on numerous occasions):  “If the “MY people” in verse 8 is Israel, who is the “He” in the same verse?”  Both cannot refer to Israel. It would be impossible to say  “for the sins of my people (Israel), was He (Israel) stricken” This would make “my people” (Israel) stricken for “my people” (He).  The term “He” must refer to the Messiah.

It is interesting to also note that the three main Hebrew words for sin are used in this famous chapter.  “Iniquity” (Hebrew = “Avone”) “transgression” (Hebrew – “Pesha”), and sin (Hebrew – “Het”, which means missing the mark’).  In each instance, this righteous servant takes our sins.  “He was pierced through (wounded) for our transgressions”.  (Verse 5).  “The Lord has caused the inequity of us all to fall upon Him”.  (Verse 6),  “He bore the sin on many” (Verse 12).  If we try to put the word “Israel” instead of the pronoun “He” and “Him” in each instance, we will see that it just doesn’t work.

Also notable is the fact that all ancient rabbinic authorities apply Isaiah 53 to Messiah.  You can see many of these comments in a booklet entitled “Challenge of the Ages” which is available at the AEBM office.

Psalm 22:1, 6-18 gives us a description of the Messiah’s death in our behalf.  I have heard of many secular and even atheistic Jewish people becoming believers after reading this prophecy.

Psalm 16:10: This verse clearly defines the Messiah’s Resurrection.

Zechariah 12:9-10:  Here, Messiah’s first and second comings are alluded to in one verse.  (This passage is very valuable because it does just that!)  Verse 9 sets the time for verse 10, that is, when Jerusalem is surrounded by armies and God will “seek to destroy all the nations that come up against Jerusalem”.  This is a future day.  When this occurs then “they will look upon Me whom they have pierced.”

Finally,  Hosea 3:5  shows that Israel would remain many days without a ruler, then be restored in the last days.  (“David their King” in verse 5 refers to Messiah, the seed of David.)

In closing, let me share a few words about the current Jewish mentality, which can range anywhere from the practicing Orthodox Jewish person wearing his skull cap (yarmulke) to the person who says he is an atheist.   Do not be surprised if most Jewish people you talk with do not believe the Bible.  He or she has never been taught to consider it as the inspired Word of God.  In question are all Messianic passages from the Old Testament; we must always let them know that it is in THEIR Old Testament that we find these passages.  Most Jewish people do not know that Isaiah, Micah and Zechariah are in the Old Testament or even that they are Biblical books.  When asking a Jewish person to read an Old Testament prophecy, for instance Isaiah 53, I will emphasize three things in introducing it; this is from Isaiah in the Hebrew Old Testament scriptures written 750 B.C. Hence, they will know for sure that it is from their scriptures and certainly written before Jesus was born.  Our Old Testament differs from theirs only in that some of the prophets are in a little different order, a minor variation to be sure.  If you give them a tract and a book with the abbreviations for different books such as Isa. Or Jer. etc. make sure you explain what they stand for; I can assure you most would never have a clue.

It is essential that we show any Jewish person the fulfilled prophecy in Jesus the Messiah.  This of course is our goal, to show that Jesus is their Messiah and Savior.  He is the same Messiah that thousands of Jewish people embraced in the early church and through the last twenty centuries.  This goal is reached primarily through developing relationships. I have so many friends who have wonderful relationships with Jewish people but don’t have a clue how to go to the next step.   This two-part article hopefully offers a beginning, just a beginning, in taking these relationships further.   I can assure you that the most skeptical Jew has been won to the Savior through considering Jesus in Old Testament prophecy.  And I think it is so important to point out the impeccable life of Jesus and how he lived as convincing evidence for his being the Messiah and the Son of God.  We will find no other man who has lived a life comparable  to that of Jesus in recorded history.

Next month I will talk about the different Jewish translations, Jewish cults and Jewish sects.  Please feel free to call me anytime for more information and materials.

 

Jim Stretchberry has been the executive director of the American European Bethel Mission (AEBM) for the last 9 years.  Prior to his tenure with AEBM Jim served as a Pastor with Pastor Rickey Ryan at Calvary Chapel Santa Barbara.  Jim’s passion for the lost is evident in his commitment to missions for much of his Christian walk.  He regularly travels throughout Europe and the Middle East ministering both humanitarian aid and the glorious gospel of Christ.  His Jewish heritage has given him a passion to see his Jewish brothers come to recognize their long-awaited Messiah in Jesus of Nazareth.

examine self

Do I Pass the Test?

This is an entry from a dear friend of mine, Pastor Dale Lewis of Calvary Chapel Bitterroot Valley in Montana. Dale’s a passionate “new covenant” guy. He and I share something special in common: we both love Ray Stedman’s commentary on 2 Corinthians, entitled “Authentic Christianity.”

I was impressed and challenged by this post when I first read it. The more I think about what he shares here, the more I believe it to be a prophetic word to today’s ministers. 


I’m finishing up 2nd Corinthians this weekend and came upon a verse that resonates in my heart as I look out upon the vista that is the Westernized Church.

Paul closes this letter to his critics by saying in 13:5 “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?–unless indeed you are disqualified.

R. Kent Hughes makes this observation: “Today the warning stands over the church, and especially those who have transmitted the present cultural values into the church, so that church is little more than a Christianized version of modern culture. The warning stands where leadership is built on the cult of personality—where image is everything. The warning looms where worship is show time—where preaching is entertainment—where God’s Word is muzzled and the pulpit panders to itching ears. The warning echoes where we are the focus of worship—our feelings, our comfort, our health, our wealth—where super apostles are preferred over Paul.”

I find it easy to gaze out my Church window at those “other denominations” as I examine them putting them to the “test.” But Paul didn’t say “examine others,” he said “examine yourself”!

I’ve had the blessing of being saved in a Calvary Chapel 31 years ago, and also going to a Calvary Chapel school. I’ve had the incredible privilege of being a part of two wonderful fellowships. Clearly there needs to be no examination, no test given to my incredible history!

Why we have “balance,” we have authentic work, right doctrine. Our success is evident, as some among us are numerically the largest fellowships in the country, with some of the most popular speakers around.

Yet I cannot escape my own reflection as I look out my Church window at others. Paul’s words speak to my face in the glass, “Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?” Would my examination reveal that “my church history” has replaced Jesus on the throne of my heart? Would I fail the test, as now I’m more excited about what I’m doing for God instead what He has done and continues to do for me? Where is my humility and brokenness? Where is my invisibility that He may be all that people look upon? Would I pass the test as Paul before me—who held onto a vision of paradise for 14 years, seeing and hearing things that he no doubt didn’t even know were a mystery.

Paul never published a book, or produced a video of that experience. Would I, like Paul, not mention the five things that Jesus said would authenticate apostolic ministry in Mark 16 even though they were clearly evident everywhere I went? Is what I would speak most about in my Christian experience be my biggest failure: the day when as a minister all I thought about: how gifted, educated, and special I am was flushed down the toilet—kicked to the curb in Damascus (2 Corinthians 12:30-33). Would I, like Paul, commit to prayer for blessings for those false teachers who prayed for my failure?

Looming in Paul’s closing words of 2nd Corinthians is the thrice repeated word “disqualified,” but with it is also the exhortation of becoming complete, mature, or perfect. He wrote those words of personal examination not for destruction but rather for edification. I believe it is high time that I stop looking out my window and start looking in my mirror!

Blessings!

Pastor Dale Lewis,

Calvary Chapel Bitterroot Valley, MT

israel

Barriers To Jewish Witness

During the forty centuries of its existence, the Jewish nation has been repeatedly exposed to complete annihilation.  The history of Israel is a living “message” of GOD to the nations to “behold the goodness and severity of God.”

Many Gentile Christians say “How can I witness to Jewish people, I am not Jewish?”  However, more Jewish people have been brought into the kingdom, receiving Jesus as their Messiah, through Gentile believers than through Jewish believers.  So many people respond, “I don’t know the Old Testament well enough to witness to Jewish people.”  It might amaze you to know that Jews know very little about the Old Testament.  The average believer knows more about the Old Testament than 99% of the Jewish people you meet.  Most Jewish young people, and even older Jewish people, I have spoken with have never heard of Isaiah 7:14 (the virgin birth of Jesus predicted), Isaiah 9:6 or Isaiah 53 (which predict Jesus’ death), or, as a matter of fact, any Old Testament prophecy predicting Jesus as the Messiah.  Many are not even aware that Isaiah is even in the Old Testament.

In addition to this lack of knowledge of the prophetic scriptures, the gentile persecution against the Jews in the name of Christianity have formed a further veil over their eyes.  They do not get a true picture of who Jesus is.  They have heard tales from their fathers, grandfathers, great-grandfathers, who have passed them on from generation to generation.  The words “CHRISTIAN – CHRIST & CROSS” can cause very negative reactions to most Jewish people.  These words to the Jewish mind often are personally connected to family histories and bring up images of PERSECTION, INTOLERANCE, HATRED, TORTURE, and MASS KILLING.  Why is this the case?  Because of a real Gentile persecution against them in the name of Christianity.  Consider the following, so you understand the Jewish view of Christianity.  A short history tour:

Saint John Chrysotrom (344-407 AD), often referred to as the bishop with the golden tongue, stated  “The Jews are the odious assassins of Christ, and for killing God, there is no expiation possible, no indulgence or pardon.  Christians may never cease vengeance, and the Jews must live in servitude forever.  God has always hated the Jews, and whoever has intercourse with the Jews will be rejected on Judgment day.  It is incumbent upon all Christians to hate Jews.”

Saint Zeno (380 AD), Bishop of Verona, Italy, bewailed the fact that when inspired monks invaded Jewish homes to save Holy Scripture and in this process killed resisting Jews, only the bones of the dead ones were burned to ashes while there were still many Jews living who could have been burned for the glory of the Lord.

Saint Augustine (354 – 430 AD) said that the Jews called upon themselves for all eternity the divine malediction and must serve in no other capacity than as slaves.

Saint Athanasius (296 -373 AD), the Bishop of Alexandria, insisted that Rome deal with the Jews by use of the sword, tolerance was no better than treason against Christ.

Martin Luther (1483 – 1586 AD), once favorable toward the Jewish people, later said, “set the Synagogues on fire… in order that God can see that we are Christians… their homes should likewise be broken down and destroyed.”

In 1096, the first of four crusades was instigated by the established Church of Rome.  Thousands of Jewish people were drowned, butchered and killed under the banner of the cross.

In 1099, the first crusaders finally reached Jerusalem, they assembled all the Jews in the great Synagogue and burned them alive while marching around the burning structure singing, “O Christ We Adore Thee.”  (From the book, “The Jew and the Cross” page 59).

In the year 1262, in London, 1500 Jewish people were killed by enraged mobs led by cross-bearing clergy.  From 1290-1659 AD, no Jew was allowed to live in England.

In 1550,  Pope Paul IV said Jews must be servants, wear yellow badges, and be restricted to their ghetto without permission to speak to a Christian.

In the 15th Century, the Spanish Inquisition swept across Spain.  It was designed to do away with any Jewish religious allegiance on the part of the Spanish Jewish converts to Catholicism  (these converts were called “Marranos”). Fifty thousand Jewish people died in a three-month period under the sign of the cross.

In 1654, Peter Stuvyscent requested permission to expel the Jews from New Amsterdam (New York), saying the Jewish people are “the deceitful race – such hateful enemies and blasphemers of Christ – they should not be allowed  to further infect and trouble this new colony.”

In 1881, the Pogroms (a Russian word meaning “devastation”) began to be carried out in Russia and Poland.  A head clergyman devised a plan to destroy the Jewish people.  One-third would be starved to death, one-third would be forced to emigrate and one-third would be converted by force if necessary.  The Russian Orthodox priests would come out in the village squares during these pogroms and “bless” the Russian Cossacks and peasants who would carry out these pogroms “In the name of the blessed Jesus and the holy Madonna.”  They would then proceed to murder hundreds of Jewish people by torture, fire and sword.

Note the above quotes on Jewish persecutions were taken from the book “The Jew and the Cross”.

All of these persecutions continued into the 19th century, and we are all familiar with our recent history.  All of these named in this article attempted to annihilate Jewish people in the name of Christianity.  It is no wonder one Jewish writer wrote, “To some, the Roman cross is a symbol of charity, and supreme devotion.   To the Jew, it is a reminder of perennial persecution.  The cross to the Jew is a symbol of pogrom (devastation).”

Jewish people need to know the difference between a Gentile who is not a believer and a Christian.  We must tell them the difference.  As one person has said “to them Hitler, the Pope, Mary Baker Eddy, Billy Graham are all Christians.”

A well-known Jewish Christian professor said that his former understanding was that all Gentiles were Christians; this kept him from accepting Jesus for a long time.  He would see a drunk stumble out of a bar and often think, “if that is Christianity, I don’t want it.”  I am so convinced, and often say while explaining the difference between Gentile and Christian, that to be a Christian, one must have a SPIRITUAL BIRTH FROM THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, ISAAC AND JACOB.  That’s what the founder of Christianity, Jesus, said (John 3:3).  To show Jews the difference between Christians and Gentiles, we must show them that we believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

So what response can you give a Jewish person to whom the above persecutions are a stumbling block?  The Word is the ultimate response, as it truly is a light for our feet and creates a very delicate path.

In Matthew 7:22-23, Jesus said that many would claim His name, and therefore claim to be Christians, who weren’t.  They would even say they had done many wonderful works in His name… and yet had never known Him.  Likewise, Jeremiah in the Old Testament (Jeremiah 23:14, 15, 25, 34, 39), states that false Jewish prophets from Jerusalem would come in the name of the God of Israel and presume to speak in His name, yet they would be speaking lies.  It is interesting that in Jeremiah 23:39 and in Matthew 23:7, a similar fate awaits both false teachers and/or prophets “being cast away from His presence”.

Because of these persecutions against Jewish people in the name of Christianity for eighteen centuries, we might understand why some common terms should be avoided and others considered in their place.  A few suggestions:

[one_half]Christian[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Believer[/one_half_last]

[divider_padding]

[one_half]Christ[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Messiah – After they use the name “Jesus” in the conversation, then feel free to use it.[/one_half_last]

[divider_padding]

[one_half]Convert or Converted Jew[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Completed Jew or Jewish Believer in Messiah.[/one_half_last]

[divider_padding]

[one_half]Cross[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Messiah’s death for us.[/one_half_last]

[divider_padding]

[one_half]Jew[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Jewish, Jewish person, or Jewish People. The word “Jew” by itself is harsh to Jewish ears because Gentiles have used it as a curse for centuries.[/one_half_last]

[divider_padding]

[one_half]Blood[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Always use this term in connection with Lev. 17:11 or a related verse.   Do not use just the word by itself because the word “blood” is again a reminder of the blood shed by their people as a result of Gentile persecutions.[/one_half_last]

Some additional ideas:

Never, never argue, even if you know you are right.  It will only serve to turn the other person off.  The Holy Spirit does not argue.

Never become angry or take offense if a Jewish person uses the name of “Jesus” in a derogatory manner.  They don’t think it’s wrong because they have been taught all their lives that “Jesus” was only a man.  It is interesting that most Jewish people will admit that He was a good man- one of the best men who ever lived.

Do not laugh at “Jewish jokes”. They might assume you are ridiculing them and are anti-Semitic.  Remember, Jewish people are highly sensitive to the slightest hint of anti-Semitism and rightfully so.

Don’t make the common mistake of saying “some of my best friends are Jewish.”  They will immediately think, “what about the rest of us.”

Be led by the Spirit.  Always ask the Holy Spirit for guidance, depending upon on the Spirit to direct your words .  Jesus said in Matthew 10:19-20 “…it shall be given to you in that hour what you are to speak.  For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.”

Be in an attitude of prayer.  The Holy Spirit knows exactly what the person’s need is and what He wants to tell them.

Know your Messianic prophecies. “Study to show yourselves approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

Listen to your friend’s point of view.  This will help you to know where he stands and also help you in dealing with any future Jewish contacts.

Substitute words that they will understand, especially for terms such as ‘saved’, ‘born again’ etc.

Speak with a Jewish frame of reference.  For instance, you might consider saying  “All I learned about God, I learned through reading a Jewish book- the Bible” or the statement “The Old and New Testaments were written by Jewish people.”  (Note:  Luke was the only possible exception.)  The fact that the New Testament was written by Jewish people will be startling to them.  They naturally assume it was written by Gentiles.

These are my thoughts on how to approach Jewish people with the Gospel, considering their history and their unique perspective on Christianity.  In part two of this article, I will address how to more specifically minister to Jewish people.

 

End Part 1 – Continued June 2012

Part 2 “Ministering To Jewish People”

Jim Stretchberry has been the executive director of the American European Bethel Mission (AEBM) for the last 9 years.  Prior to his tenure with AEBM Jim served as a Pastor with Pastor Rickey Ryan at Calvary Chapel Santa Barbara.  Jim’s passion for the lost is evident in his commitment to missions for much of his Christian walk.  He regularly travels throughout Europe and the Middle East ministering both humanitarian aid and the glorious gospel of Christ.  His Jewish heritage has given him a passion to see his Jewish brothers come to recognize their long-awaited Messiah in Jesus of Nazareth.

Inner Struggle

The Lie of the “Good Girl”

“She’s too innocent . . . she doesn’t do that. I don’t think she even knows what that is.”

“She’s a good girl and that’s not like her to do that.”

I believe these can be some of the most harmful words overheard by young girls. I was that oh-so-put-together, organized, on every academic team in school, over achiever, got good grades girl. I overheard as others labeled me by saying things like, “She’s so mature.” “She knows that’s wrong, so she won’t do that.” “Look at that godly girl and everything she’s balancing in her life.” “She doesn’t struggle with that.”

Again, these were some of the worst things for me to have heard growing up and in high school. Since I knew others didn’t recognize me as the struggling sinner that I was, trying to figure out this life and what it means to be sanctified and justified by Christ’s blood, I was not able to be open and honest with my struggles, and seek the help I needed. I was overburdened with my sin: sexual temptation and lust of the mind. I was everything but mature in my walk with Christ, put together, being sanctified, and seeking after God, and hearing that people thought highly of me only added to the façade I had to keep up, and the guilt and shame I was carrying. I was identifying myself more with the list of those who won’t inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-11) than I was with Jesus and my new life in Him.

God designed a girl’s heart, mind, and body to be protected and pure. When she hears others talking about how well she’s doing at that, even though they are really only referring to the outside, then her only fleshly worry is keeping up with appearances, despite addictions hiding in the closet, in old relationships, on her computer, on her bookshelf, or in any other area of life where idolatry is an issue. It doesn’t matter how filthy her eyes are from the porn she’s watching but can’t tell anyone about, or how disgusting she feels from the boys she’s blamed herself for sleeping with, or how unclean her mind and thoughts are from the unstoppable, lustful thoughts she has, or how broken hearted she is from male after male that can’t fulfill her in her life. Her flesh craves to maintain the perfect image that has been being portrayed to others, despite the common knowledge provided from the Bible that all have sinned and fallen short of God’s level of perfection (Romans 3:23).

I feel like sexual sin is also harder for girls to admit to because of this idea of them always being pristine and holy. In an article on helping women with addictions, author Rob Jackson put is very well when he said, “Female addicts often suffer a greater social stigma and inner shame than do male addicts. Society promotes the stereotypes of ‘boys will be boys’ and “’good girls don’t,’”[1]. The Bible tells us that there is neither male nor female before the Lord (Galatians 3:28), so there is no sin common to just man, or just women (1 Corinthians 10:13). Sin is a human struggle, and a girl is going to feel even guiltier when she’s struggling with something that no other girl seems to admit to struggling with. I saw this in my experience, but I also see it the more and more I talk with girls who are willing to be open about their struggles, and the more I see this as being a barrier to their honesty about their struggles, and their willingness to seek help.

So, how do we fix this problem? Parents, I think it starts with you and your most powerful tool: the gospel. The parents in the church youth group where I serve are no longer surprised to hear me tell them, “Don’t be surprised that your children are sinners.” The shock parents sometimes exert to their children for not upholding Jesus’ level of perfection only breeds more hypocrites into the church. Let your kids be real with you and don’t shame them for their struggles with sin. When your children are sharing their sins and struggles with you, you should view that as a God ordained opportunity for you to actively share the gospel with them, through your words and actions. Shame is not the gospel. There is no condemnation in Christ (Romans 8:1), so don’t be a tool in the enemy’s hand to burden your kids with more guilt. Share with them the freedom found in Christ’s love displayed for us on the cross. Their sin is horrific, bad, ugly, and it’s why Jesus had to die, but He also rose again to defeat sin, so that your children can be sanctified in Christ, having access to God’s power living in them, to help them have victory over their sins.

We also need to be warned and aware that girls do actually struggle with porn.  It may start in a more subtle way with women. Virtually every young adult novel these days includes very explicit sex scenes, which is nothing but straight up porn, or erotic literature. In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal which shares about the rise in women reading erotica on EReaders due to its easy access, one reader admitted that, “. . . the digital format helped her get over the embarrassment[2].” The Bible says to think on things that are pure and lovely (Philippians 4:8), and I know from experience that reading those things only add to the embarrassment and weight of sin, and the lustful, evil thoughts. It is not lovely and pure to gaze into a fictional vampire’s love life, I don’t care if they waited until they were married. It’s not lovely and pure to worship and idolize the marriage relationship between two characters in your book, even if it has the genre title “Christian fiction” on the side of it. It is not lovely and pure to read pornographic literature, even if nobody else knows that’s what you’re doing because they can’t see the book cover on your new EReader. It’s only lovely to worship the one true God.

The more I talk to girls about the dangers of reading literature that is not only too mature for their age, but also downright pornographic and sinful, the more girls I am finding who admit to struggling with this. For some reason this form of pornography is more tolerated than visual pornography, which girls struggle with as well. Parents need to be aware of this and closely monitor what their young girls are reading. And older girls and women, you need to take it upon yourself to decide if what you’re reading leads to pure and lovely thoughts, or if it feeds your flesh with lustful, adulterous, disgusting thoughts. You need to be able to recognize your responsibility to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called (Ephesians 4:1), in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

About the Author

Lexy Sauvé grew up on C.S. Lewis, Shakespeare, and Hans Christian Anderson, pursuing her love of literature and writing since kindergarten. Her love of poetry grew through middle school and is still her genre of choice. Lexy rededicated her life to Christ at the age of 13, and has since been growing to understand and walk in the ministry of reconciliation that she has been entrusted with. In the summer of 2011 she married her high school lovebird, whom she occasionally collaborates with artistically. They enjoy reading, espresso, and old book shops together. In 2012 she graduated from Weber State University, in Ogden, Utah, with a degree in Creative Writing.

Lexy also has some background in journalism. She wrote for Weber State’s newspaper, The Signpost, in the area of Arts and Entertainment, as well as serving as a student editor of poetry for their literary magazine, The Metaphor. She is currently working with Calvary Chapel Magazine, as well as pursuing side projects in editing, publishing, and teaching workshops.

 


[1] Pure Intimacy.org, 2004, “Help for Female Sex Addicts,” http://www.pureintimacy.org/piArticles/A000000574.cfm

[2] “Books Women Read When No One Can See the Cover,” Katherine Rosman, March 12, 2012, The Wall Street Journal

wire

Remember The Holocaust – Pastor Jim Stretchberry

Today is April 19, 2012; it is Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel.  Today in Israel you can hear the sound of sirens all over the land, as everyone stops everything (banks, policemen, cars, buses, trains) It is a moment for remembrance and contemplation.  Every year on this day, I think of my mother, a 91 year old living survivor, and so many of our extended family who perished.  And I remember being a young man, becoming aware of our Jewish roots and our family’s long and rich history. I remember how my mother would tell me, “Never speak about being Jewish. Be silent, never tell anyone about us and, especially, about our Jewish family history. It will happen again.  It happened to my father, his father, and his father’s father. It will happen again.  Let me tell you, Jimmy, what has happened to us Jews. It has happened for as long as anyone can remember, to all of us.”  My thoughts were always the same, such a scared, silly old woman. Never again would man bring such horror upon fellow human beings.  Even as I became a believer and studied the Word in depth, I thought, surely the western world has learned a great lesson from the horror of so much human tragedy brought on by the Holocaust.  Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Today, let’s consider this for a moment. Let’s go back just 70 years. In 1939, before WWII, radio listeners in America heard reenacted on the ‘March of Time’ radio program, a scene that took place in Nuremberg, Germany. Jules Stretcher was the speaker, and he proposed in a speech broadcast to the world that all nations join Germany in exterminating the Jews. In 1941, another spokesman for the Nazi government, Joseph Goebbels, speaking at the Nazi Party Congress held in the same city, declared that Germany would only be satisfied  when its war against the Jews was taken up by all other nations.  Let me say here that I have the highest regard for the German people.  I have had four German interns in the past eight years, and we minister in Germany.  Germany has given us many valuable gifts, and there are some wonderful believers in Germany today, as there were during the entire war.  Dietrich Bonheoffer, a WWII German martyr, is one of my favorite authors.

Psalm 83:1-8 offers something important for us to consider today.  As we remember the horror of 70 years ago, there seems to be another horror quickly coming upon the Jews.  I suggest that Psalm 83 is a relevant commentary on our current situation:

O God, do not keep silent; be not quiet, O God, be not still. See how your enemies are astir, how your foes rear their heads. With cunning they conspire against your people; they plot against those you cherish.  “Come,” they say, “let us destroy them as a nation, that the name of Israel be remembered no more.”

Is this language out of today’s headlines?  Are these the countries mentioned later in this Psalm, lined up against Israel?  Are these the inhabited lands of Israel’s current neighbors? Edom and the Ishmaelites were in land occupied by southern Jordan today, while the territories of Moab and Ammon make up the rest of that country. Ahman, the modern spelling of Ammon, is the capital of Jordan.  It all speaks of modern day Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Saudi Arabia.  So here we have all of Israel’s next-door neighbors, all of them sworn to Jewish destruction, and all of them being whipped into frenzy by Syria and Iran.
The Jews have been persecuted, scattered, scorned, rejected, outraged, murdered, hated and legislated against; the Jews have been without a nation, without a home, without a capitol, without a government, without a temple or priesthood.  They have been the subject of every republic, kingdom, empire and monarchy- and even now are citizens of most nations in the world.

So to Iran, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, to name a few… I would say to you, this Remembrance Day, if you want to destroy the Jews here is what you must do:  Blot away the sun, the heavens, the moon and the stars.  The Apostle Paul very clearly shows us that if the Jew is totally and finally rejected, exterminated, the very foundations upon which our salvation began and rests are obscured and in danger, for the covenant made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was an unconditional covenant.

What a glorious opportunity we have as we remember the Holocaust!  If we reach out first to our Jewish believing friends, encouraging them to share our precious Jesus as Messiah to the many Jews all around the world, then the Holy Spirit will move to change hearts and minds.  Jewish believers will turn to others of their nations and say “Arise shine, for thy light is come.” (Zach. 8:22-23)

So, we must strive to bear witness to the claims of our precious Jesus Christ.  We should remember that it is our witness first, for we will never urge any Jew to consider Christ unless our own life reveals Jesus to him.  The end of Psalm 83 clearly states that those who would attempt to crush God’s covenant people will be destroyed and wiped off the face of the earth.  God’s truth is clearly evident.  Let us all consider our attitude toward God’s chosen covenant people.

 

 

 Jim Stretchberry has been the executive director of the American European Bethel Mission (AEBM) for the last 9 years.  Prior to his tenure with AEBM Jim served as a Pastor with Pastor Rickey Ryan at Calvary Chapel Santa Barbara.  Jim’s passion for the lost is evident in his commitment to missions for much of his Christian walk.  He regularly travels throughout Europe and the Middle East ministering both humanitarian aid and the glorious gospel of Christ.  His Jewish heritage has given him a passion to see his Jewish brothers come to recognize their long-awaited Messiah in Jesus of Nazareth.
pastorwife

For Church Planter or Pastor’s Wife – By Lynn Fusco

Hey everyone, Daniel here. So about a week ago, I walked into our bedroom and my wife, Lynn, was furiously typing on her computer. When she finally looked up, she said, “I am writing an article for the wives of church planters.” Then she proceeded to return to her furious typing. Lynn has been involved in the three churches that I have had the pleasure of seeing launched. We got married when Calvary New Brunswick was very young. She was integral to the launching of both Calvary North Bay and Calvary San Francisco. In both plants, she first started the children’s ministry and then after turning them over to capable leaders proceeded to start the women’s ministry (which she also started in New Brunswick). She did all this while we had small children. Not to mention that we got married not for her ministry prowess but to be companions in this life (which she has excelled at). It is fascinating for me to read about these things from her perspective. There’s a lot of road-tried wisdom here from my beloved bride.

Hello Ladies, if you are reading this than you are among the many that the Lord has placed warmly on my heart. Over the years I have watched my husbands joy at encouraging men with hearts to serve the Lord in church planting. I have rejoiced in my own heart at his articles knowing that any information and encouragement goes a long way. Recently, it has been coming to my spirit the brave women who stand beside their men. YOU. Some of you out of obedience to the Lords calling, some with the same heart as your husbands for the area and some because they married into an early church plant like I did. My desire is to share with you things from my personal flight over the last 8 years as a church planters wife with the heart that you will be strengthened and encouraged.

1. Plow hard, reap later

In a church plant, you generally have to start from nothing. You find a building to hold services, if you are lucky you find someone to lead worship, and you make sure you purchase your own coffee pots :) Starting from nothing generally means that there is A LOT of hard work involved that may last for a couple of years, so get ready! My role has always been to get the children’s ministry up and running and then later the women’s ministry. That generally means teaching every Sunday, or doing nursery every Sunday. I remember here in California I did the nursery and kids church at the same time for a year as my son was the only child nursery-age there. I remember balancing the two simultaneously. As I taught the lesson, frequently, I would hear one of the children from kids church say, “OBADIAH!! Lynn, he’s at it again!” as Obadiah (my active two year old) joyfully dug in the large potted plant in the room we were renting.

As I look back over all those years and then again more recently with our church plant in San Francisco, I can see how the seasons change. In the beginning years you have to work really, really hard. This may mean that you are in charge of teaching Sunday school every week even when you are sick, it may mean that you are trying to find the balance of leading 2 ministries at the same time, it may mean that you “feel” like you are doing everything except preaching the message! IT WON’T ALWAYS be this way!! A season will come when God will bring nursery workers, a team of kids church teachers so you aren’t teaching every Sunday. Men and women who feel called to those very positions that you were working so hard in. You must plow through the hard ground before the seed can be sprung!

2. Show up! Show up! Show up!

One of the many exciting things about a church plant is that you NEVER know what God is going to do! You may have Sundays where its just you and your husband having church together in a big empty room. Or, you may have Sundays where the room is full. In church plants there is usually an ebb and flow in the congregation.

There will also be mornings where you just don’t want to go. Your mind, or body will say, “no one will really miss me today”. I have found from experience that on the days that you show up when you don’t feel like showing up, God generally has “something special” planned. It could be a conversation with a woman who just had a really bad week and just needed someone who cared to share God’s love on her or it could be that you bless your husband’s heart with out even knowing it because he just needed the support of knowing that his wife was in this just as much as he is.

Commit yourself to going and lean on God’s amazing GRACE when you are weary.

3. Be a Servant First

I will never forget the experience I had on our 2nd church plant here in Mill Valley. We had moved to California leaving our New Jersey church family behind. The NJ folks had adored my 2 year old son Obadiah. They had watched my tummy grow round with child and then came and celebrated his arrival. It was the usual custom after church for Obadiah to take turns asking some one in the church family to pick him up, so that he could reach the donut holes that everyone always brought. We left our NJ church as “the beloved” pastors family. I didn’t realize how much I took that for granted, nor how much I expected that to be the same in our next church-plant family. I was surprised and hurt when several of the ladies of the church did not like my son because he was so active. Many made a point to tell me how to mother and then went on to talk about his “behavior” to others. My heart was bruised. I went to the Lord and said “OUCH!! HELP!!!” (among other things in that conversation!)

The verse the Lord ministered to me was, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. (phil 2:5-8)”

What He was sharing with me was to be a servant first. Our family had a beloved reputation in NJ. Here in this church plant, I was to look at any area that needed help and then I was to jump in and work at it with all my heart and not expect anyone to love me, or my sweet family because of it. I was to do it all to please God’s heart for He saw me and was well pleased. Knowing this was my greatest reward.

4. Check it at the Door

I had to learn this lesson very early in our New Jersey ministry. As a pastor’s wife your role is to be there for people to talk with, rejoice with, cry with and encourage. In order to be available to the public YOU MUST check your own emotions at the door. What this means is that any un-resolved conversation, conflict, situation that you had at home or on your way to church, you need to give it to GOD. You need to “leave it at the door” before you walk into church so that you can be available to others. I remember countless times in New Jersey where Daniel and I would get into an argument right before we left for church and I would be FUMING inside when we reached church. Often times replaying the argument or conversation in my mind. I would “smile” at those around me but inside I felt down, angry or whatever the emotion inside me was. At those times I saw I was unavailable to minister because I was too consumed with my own thoughts or feelings than to engage with others.

You must leave your own “stuff” behind and trust that GOD will give you the grace you need to be available to others and the grace to resolve the issue that you are bothered with. He cares and loves you.

God understands the weight of the role He has called you to and wants to fill you with grace to move in it. But first you must leave it with HIM.

5. Obedience first, Heart later

The year and half spent on the San Francisco church plant was a tough year. I remember a couple of months before we opened the church to the public, the Lord had given me a vision. He revealed to me kind of warfare that we were going to encounter by planting a church in San Francisco, He did this to prepare my heart. The months to follow were rugged with personal warefare. Feeling beaten up by life, and having just handed the childrens minstry coordinator postion over to a young woman in the church, I was tired and my spirit run down with the battle.

That month the Lord started to gently speak to me about starting the women’s minstry. He was gentle. A loving poke here. Another loving poke, poke there. I ignored it. “I can’t Lord” I said. “I’m struggling as it is, let alone leading another ministry, I just can’t”.

The women who had approached me with the desire to start a ladies ministry, bonded together and hosted the first women’s ministry event. The attendance and joy in the air was abundant. On my way home from the event my heart burned with this desire. I kept crying out to the Lord “if there is going to be a ladies minsitry, it has to have MEAT for the girls to chew on!!” Again I felt the “POKE!”. “ALRIGHT!!!” I said. Was it easy? NO. Did I want to always show up? NO. But I KNEW I was called. I KNEW that I was doing what God had asked me to do, and I had my husband’s support. Even though I was in a rough season personally, the Lord gave me a heart for the ladies. I loved them and when it was time to turn the ministry over, I was sad to say goodbye to their hearts.

At times God is going to ask you to do something, maybe lead a minstry, maybe support your husband in the ministry even though you don’t feel ready for it, or something else….but you will find that if you obey and do what you know He is asking, He will eventually give you His love for the service HE has called you to.

There is nothing greater in my heart than knowing I did what I knew I was called to do, even if I didn’t think I did the greatest job of accomplishing it. I obeyed my FATHER.

6. Understand the Ministry that you are called to

I remember when I began the Ladies Ministry in Mill Valley, the Lord had given me a picture in my heart of the kind of women’s minstry he wanted. For this season He wanted a time where younger women and the older women study the Word and pray together. Through this example the younger women would learn by being surrounded by the older women of the church. My heart had such peace at this picture. However, I had one lady who did not like this “type” of ladies ministry. She used to call me often and tell me her strong opinions. Being younger than her I questioned myself, some times stressed that I wasn’t doing the right thing, etc. However this is what I learned: When God has called you to lead a ministry, ask Him for his vision and upon receiving it, stick to it.

You will have MANY women come to you with “great ideas” of how you “should” lead the ministry, and “great ideas” of the kinds of events you should host, but with an open heart you always need to go back to the Lord, and ask if these support HIS vision for the ministry He has called you to.

7. Know your Personal Weakness and put your armor on

We ALL have a personal weakness(es) in our characters that if left un-checked can be harmful to the minstry. Examine your heart and know what they are!! These areas will be the first areas that Satan will go after and try to use to derail your minstry and your husband’s mininstry. Whatever your weakness is, you must find a way to put your armor on so that it’s put into check.

8. Your Children

Church planting with young children can be very challenging. Obadiah was 2 years old when we started the Mill Valley church plant, and 5 and a half with the San Fransicsco church plant. Maranatha was 2 and a half years old. I would find I would come home from the church day tired and worn out, just wanting to put on a video on and not think which can not be the case when you are a mommy. You are on til they go to bed :) Give yourself and your children grace. Acknowlege often that its a season in life just like having a baby. Takes time for the baby to grow before it needs you less.

One practical solution that we found was to hire a babysitter to watch our children during the fellowship time at church. This way our children could do laps around the hall under a watchful eye, freeing me up to minister to the body uninterrupted.

9. Find a “Seasoned” Pastors Wife and ask her to mentor you

As wives we want to share everything with our husbands. We want to ask them for their opinions, their thoughts, their ideas. This isn’t a bad thing. We are their wives after all! However, the enormity and weight of responsibilty that your husband carries in a church plant is unfathomable. I believe the Lord is the only one who truly understands this enormity.

Our husbands don’t want to spend extra brain space having to come up with ideas for another ministry. He has asked you to lead this particular ministry so that he doesn’t have to think about it. This is why it is so important that we seek out another pastors wife, who has been there “before”. Someone who you can run ideas with, someone who will teach you what has worked for them, someone who will encourage you in the new rode that you are on. Ask God to lead you to this woman. Remember God WANTS to help us!

10. Find a Prayer Partner

Whether its once a week, or once a month, find another woman whom you can share your heart with. Someone who is NOT in the church body. A woman who you can be yourself with and feel the freedom to be raw with when you feel down or discouaged. This special friend needs to be someone who has a heart for the Lord and will commit to pray with you. I know that these friends are SO hard to find. Ask God to reveal the right person for you. Some times this person will be the LORD HIMSELF until the time he brings you another.

11. You are in a Spiritual Battle

Its soooo easy in the midst of plowing hard, for your mind and heart to get discouraged,and apathetic. We forget to look at the whole picture. The picture being that we are doing is work for THE KINGDOM through faith. The enemy doesn’t like KINGDOM work. He HATES it and will try to detrail you, discourage you, give you a spiirt of apathy, anything to have you stop showing up for God. Saturday afternoons and nights in our home are generally not too much fun. Its the day of the week where marital fights brew, the car breaks down, the children won’t stop aruguing or you get sick. Do you get the picture?? And if your husband teaches a mid-week, its the same the day of the midweek. WE MUST LEARN how to wear our armor properly and to put it on every day.

12. Cast your cares on God for HE cares for you!!

Most importantly, guard your private time with HIM. A dear friend of mine recently shared something with me that the Lord shared with her. God told her to “measure the worth of her day by how much time she spent with Him in prayer and in His Word”. WOW right?! We NEED GOD!! We are NOTHING without Him. HE sooo much wants to fill us, help us, love us, make us laugh and smile, give us gems to give to others. He wants us to bring and lay down our burdens at HIS feet so that He can make us whole. He wants to impart HIS wisdom and His nature to us. Give Him that chance ladies! MAKE TIME for your Savior!!

dangerous

Becoming Dangerous

Reposted from Peyton Jones @ New Breed Church Planting

Why is it that when a guy graduates seminary the one thing that he’s ill equipped to do is most of the stuff that Paul did in the book of Acts?

Think about it.

If there was one thing that you’d want to train guys to do…

If there was one thing that you’d want guys to be able to do…

Wouldn’t you want to be releasing dangerous delta force teams, or the spiritual equivalent of Navy Seal deployment platoons that were able to infiltrate, accomplish their mission, and then spread out to the next assignment?

Instead, we have generations of guys who can navigate church politics, write blogs, drink coffee, and discuss the finer points of theology.

Our problem is that for too long the church has been content to hold ground instead of take ground. We’ve been content being the army when we should have been rushing the No Man’s Land as bullet stopping Marines. The churches command from Jesus was not to “hold till I return” but to “secure the beachhead” of every distant shore.

The fact is, every time that God has sent His Spirit in power, a wave of pioneering daredevils has charged the gates of hell. The Lollards, Luther’s missionary monks, Zinzendorf and the Moravians, Wesley and Whitefield, the Cambridge Seven, J. Hudson Taylor and the China Inland Mission, Bill Bright and Campus Crusade for Christ?

By the time that Paul lost his head on the Appian Way, he’d set in place a posse of at least 32 pioneering missionaries who were ready to take his place as “sent out ones”. The fact is, they had been trained to pick up where Paul had left off, and they were already doing it when he was sitting in a Roman prison.

Paul’s methodology was not to lock a bunch of guys in a classroom. Paul studied and it did him good. Don’t get me wrong, attending a seminary can have great benefit. I’ve been, and I survived. I learned a bunch. I’m grateful. However, it didn’t prepare, or equip me to plant churches, perform an exorcism, or pray in faith that somebody might actually get healed in the name of Jesus (instead of just praying that the Doctor is given great skill). It didn’t prepare me to help those dealing with heroin addiction, or pornography. It didn’t prepare me to enter a city and spearhead the gospel with covert or public strategy to crash the mainframe of the enemy? Don’t you think it strange that we’re “preparing” guys for ministry, and when they’re done, they’re terrified to leave their offices and take risks for the Kingdom.

The former Archbishop of Canterbury once remarked, “Where ever Paul went, they threw a riot. Where ever I go, they throw a tea party.”

The equivalent would be to ship a handful of commandos to a weapons depot for a couple of years and assign them with memorizing the weapons specs and counting the ammunition. Upon their release from “training” you wouldn’t expect them to storm any terrorist bunkers with any degree of success. The fact is, our men aren’t dangerous.

How then did Paul train train his “sent out ones” in the First Century?

Simple. Paul took them with him. All throughout Asia Minor, Paul planted churches and used them as training grounds to train up future planters like Timothy, Titus, Silvanus, and the other dangerous hombres that Paul tooled around with.

Paul’s methodology was

  1. I do, you watch
  2. You do, I watch
  3. I do, You do

Rinse and repeat with every one of the 32 “fellow workers” that Paul mentions in his epistles, and you’ll see that Paul’s OTJT (On The Job Training) was the most effective practice of preparing guys for ministry.

At least Jesus seemed to think so. He did it with 12 guys for 3 years.

At New Breed Church Planting, we equip guys “on the job” and train up dangerous ministers for the gospel. The stuff that you read about in the book of Acts can only be learnt on the front lines, not behind the desk in an air conditioned office where you hope that nobody will come in and interrupt you from your studies. As we plant a church in one area, we invite you to train with us. Don’t worry about the payback…when you plant, you’ll be training our guys on your turf. It worked in the First Century so much, that Paul was able to say that the Gospel had spread throughout the known world…in one generation!

So, what’ll it be…beat cop, or desk job?

 

 “Peyton Jones was born in Washington D.C. in 1973.  Raised in Huntington Beach California, he went into the ministry at Refuge Huntington Beach at the age of 19 years old.  After serving on staff for 6 years, Peyton obeyed the call as a missionary to Wales, UK, where he served for 12 years.  During that time he founded and established NEW BREED Church Planting and planted Pillar Community Church, Swansea.  In addition, he served as an evangelist at Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’s legendary Bethlehem “Sandfields” in Port Talbot, served on the executive committee for the Evangelical Movement, and was a Contributing Editor to the Evangelical Magazine.  Peyton received his MA Theology: Pastoral Studies from W.E.S.T. (Wales Evangelical School of Theology) in 2011.”