God is NOT Dead (pt. 2)

In a previous article entitled “God is Dead,” I pointed out how the church is in decline in North America, and all but dead in Europe. People often get upset whenever numbers are presented about the decline of religion in our country.

I ended the article with an allusion to the title stating: “The church is not God.”

I also said that the decline in religion, or church attendance is good news. Not only is it good news, it is something that God is happy about, because He is causing it.

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God is DEAD

The April 8, 1966, cover of Time magazine was the first cover in the magazine’s history to feature only type, and no photo.[4] The cover – with the traditional, red border – was all black, with the words “Is God Dead?” in large, red text. The question was a reference to Friedrich Nietzsche‘s much-quoted postulate “God is dead” (German: “Gott ist tot“),[5] which he first proposed in his 1882 book The Gay Science.
(quoted from Wikipedia)

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Replacement Theology

“Replacement Theology” is a relatively new term for me. I first heard of  it while listening to Kenneth Copeland about a year ago. Then, a couple of months ago, I had opportunity to be reunited with friends from my bible college days.

They are strong on emphasizing our Jewish roots. (See their website at http://www.foundationministriesinternational.org/) While in conversation with them about what they were doing these days, I was asked whether I believed the Church had replaced Israel in God’s economy.

Without taking time to fully define what I believe, nor to define the finer nuances of the question, I replied in the affirmative. “That’s replacement theology.” I was summarily brushed aside with that remark as if I had committed some grievous social faux pas.

A couple of weeks ago, I was following a thread on Facebook where this same friend was espousing more of an “inclusion theology.” (As I understand it, Christians are “included” in the promises of God to Israel.) The post was getting high marks from fans. This has potential for moving in the right direction, but does little to ameliorate the problem of divisiveness I see arising.

So, as is my tendency when faced with something that may lead me astray, I have researched (though only online; and certainly not thoroughly) the supposed error of Replacement Theology.

One of the arguments is that replacement theology is blamed for most anti-Semitic behavior among Christians. It is said that Hitler held to a replacement theology. This is akin to the so-called “gateway” argument that most (male) rapists read Playboy–therefore reading Playboy leads to rape. Or, the “gateway” argument that most hard-core drug addicts began with marijuana. Simply because many anti-Semites espouse Replacement Theology is not proof that the theology is wrong.

These same people also espouse other doctrines including the necessity that one be born again. Should I then assume that being born again leads to anti-Semitism? Of course not!

The other arguments are against the Scriptures that are used to prove replacement theology. This is merely an argument arising from one’s basis for understanding the Word of God–Dispensationalist or Covenantal. This is not the place for me to discuss these two views of Scripture. However, for the sake of full disclosure, I am more Covenantal than I am Dispensationalist. These differing views have profoundly differing interpretations of the Bible and God’s plan for man.

So, now, I am bothered.

I am bothered, for here I see yet another attempt to take people away from the plain and pure Word of God, and move them toward that which ultimately denies the simplicity that is in Christ.

Some–most assuredly not all–of those who are against replacement theology are also moving toward becoming more Jewish–at least in their approach to worship. This does not bode well for the Church.

Paul dealt with this problem when he penned the letter to the Galatians. He dealt with this problem when he went to Jerusalem to check his gospel against that of the Jewish disciples who had personally walked with Jesus.

There is a powerful move among Messianic Jews that is bringing many to the Lord. I love that. I love their music. But, as is true for the negative “gateway” argument, it is also true that just because Jews are reaching Jews for Christ is not an indication that Christians should become Jews–or Jewish Christians.

The danger lies not in that some are espousing a return to Jewish laws, but in that there are certain things we can do that will make us more pleasing to the Lord. “We should remember that Jesus was a Jew!” I am often told.

God tells us plainly through Paul that neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but only faith working through love (Gal. 5:6).

No one (to my knowledge) is teaching the necessity of being circumcised in order to be right with the Lord. That is simply the summation of Paul’s argument about the whole Jewish controversy in which the Galatian churches were embroiled.

The main point of Paul’s argument is that there is no necessity for the Gentiles to become like their Jewish brethren in any way.

And today there is no need to wear a talith (prayer shawl) when preaching, or to refer to Jesus as “Yeshua”, or to keep a Saturday Sabbath, or to use Jewish terms of greeting.

My reluctance to do any of the above in no way makes me a hater of the Jewish people, nor excludes me from the promises of God.

And my belief that “a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter” is taken straight from the Scripture (Rom.2:29).

Church Growth

Acts 14:23 When they had appointed elders for them in the various churches, with prayer and fasting they entrusted them to the protection of the Lord in whom they had believed.

“They entrusted them to the protection of the Lord in whom they had believed.”

Wow!!

Really?!?

They actually ‘entrusted’ them? They didn’t give them any reading materials? No “Next Steps” booklets?

Surely they at least put them on their mailing list?!? Because the context indicates that they left them almost immediately.

Paul obviously had a lot to learn about church planting and growth.

This is That!

Jesus never did the same thing in exactly the same way twice. When He healed blind Bartimaeus He merely spoke the word, “Go thy way, thy faith hath made thee whole,” and he received his sight. But when He healed the two blind men in the house He touched their eyes in addition to speaking a word. And when He healed the man born blind from birth He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, and commanded him to go wash in the pool of Siloam. So what is the best way, the right way, the sonship way to heal a blind man? No one can tell you! What is the best way to preach the Gospel? No one can tell you, although the seminaries think they can! What is the best way to hold a meeting? Again no one can tell you. Jesus never had a song leader or worship director, never by singing, clapping, or worshipping “created an environment” for the Father to manifest Himself in their midst. Yet, if you were to ask me what the right way is, I would have to say that I do not know. I really do not know what is the right way to do anything. I do not know the right way to meet humanity’s needs, or solve the saint’s problems, or bring people into the present truth. In the Bible you cannot find THE RIGHT WAY to minister or to do the work of the Kingdom. This is because the Kingdom of God comes by the dispensation of the Spirit. It does not come by outward observation — by forms, methods, or techniques. What ever you do in the Kingdom, what ever way you use, wherever you go, it must be by the Spirit. The Spirit is never traditional, predictable, or static — He is always original, always fresh, new, and transcendental. He may never repeat what He did yesterday, or the way He did it. In these last years, wherever I have gone, I have never paid any attention to the way. Regardless of the way people meet, or don’t meet, or minister, or serve the Lord, or walk with God, it does not mean anything. The real question is: Are they led by the Spirit? Is there the flow of His Life? Is there the manifestation and quickening of Himself? What is GOD doing? And HOW is HE doing it? I look to see what God IS DOING, rather than trying to introduce some “order” for God to move in.

The above quote was lifted from a forum I participate in which is sponsored by our home church in Missouri. The subject was around differing types of evangelism and what ‘works’ or doesn’t–what is of God or what is not.

This brother’s response has been churning within my being for a couple of weeks now as God uses it to change some things within me.

The first thing, and perhaps most importantly, is that it no longer matters to me HOW church is done. That was a big deal to me for a long time. I’ve studied the Bible and read the books and gone to the seminars. Because I’ve never been one to feed myself only on what I already know, I’ve been exposed to the wild, the woolly, the wacky, and the wonderful–all in the name of ‘getting it right.’

How did I become such a legalist in the things of God?  Oh, I have an answer to that, but it is quite vapid now upon the reflection caused by this brother’s insight. (Those who know me would not apply the term legalist to my approach; but I now see how easily I could have simply stepped over the line into that realm.)

Another area that has changed for me is that I am no longer asking God to bless my efforts to serve Him. (If I had known this one a year ago, I might still be in SW Missouri.) Now, all I want to know, all that I ask, is “What are You doing?” and, “Can I tag along?”

I need to become more like Peter on the day of Pentecost rather than like the pharisees in their day of visitation. The pharisees had it all figured out how it was supposed to happen. So they completely missed the Lord’s visitation, because His style was not in accord with their handbook on how it was done.

Peter, on the other hand, was familiar enough with the prophet Joel that he was able to say, “This is that!” He hadn’t tried to work out every little detail about what it was supposed to look like. He just knew it when it happened.

I want to be so familiar with what it feels like to be in the presence of God, that I can say, “This is that!” no matter where I find it. I do not want my preconceived notions about what God will or will not do prevent me from being a part of His outpouring of blessing. His presence and His blessing is the first thing I look for, and once I find that there is nothing else to look for or at.

What freedom.

Obituary–Common Sense

Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as: Knowing when to come in out of the rain; Why the early bird gets the worm; Life isn’t always fair; and maybe it was my fault.

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don’t spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge).

His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.

Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.

It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or an Aspirin to a student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.

Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims.

Common Sense took a beating when you couldn’t defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault.

Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge financial settlement.

Common Sense was preceded in death, by his parents, Truth and Trust, by his wife, Discretion, by his daughter, Responsibility, and by his son, Reason.

He is survived by his 4 stepbrothers;
I Know My Rights
I Want It Now
Someone Else Is To Blame
I’m A Victim

Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone.

The Socialization of Loneliness

NOTE: This post was lifted from a comment posted under “Church Repair.” I have known this writer for more than 40 years; before I was a Christian. I think her statements reflect the feelings and experiences of many of our readers.
By Charlotte McCann
I would also like to comment on loneliness, but don’t see a category to put it in. 🙂 However, I feel it is a direct result of the church not being what it should be, so will put it here.
I struggled with loneliness most of my growing up years. Then I met Jesus. And for the next 17 years loneliness simply was not a part of my life. We always had believers as friends and meaningful involvement in each others lives, even if we were only in a given geographical location for a short time.

And then, 20 years ago, we returned to the Bible Belt and moved into a small town, knowing no one.

I have struggled with guilt over the tremendous loneliness I have experienced over these past 20 years, though I guess I finally accepted it as part of life around 6 or 7 years ago. However, just lately I have heard of 3 instances that just about cover the gamut of experiences and all my guilt has finally left me. I finally truly see that I am not the problem; rather our modern church/culture is.

The 3 instances:

A 30’ish married couple with young children who have been part of a church for over a year in a new community they moved into. Lonely. Are wanting to move somewhere where they might have friends. Great people. Not weird or strange or shallow. Fun loving and interesting fellow believers. Lonely.

A 24 year old son on the edges of our culture who has never even pretended to attend church or have a serious relationship with our Lord since getting out of school and out on his own. Just admitted to not having a single friend (though he “socializes” a lot). But he sees the shallowness of his social life and realizes how lonely he is.

A very sweet 80 year old woman who has been widowed many years and been a part of an established church for probably over 20 years, going about doing good. Not self-righteous or pious or full of pity. But lonely.

And so I realize truly I am not alone. And how sad it is. And cry out, “Church, where are you???!!!) It is certainly not what is out there now.

I am interested to see what Mr. Viola and his friend have to say as to what the church truly should be. I understand that first we must lift up our Lord and that our goal is a relationship with Him — not friendships. I am on board with this. Yet He walked this earth and died for us — for others. Can we do less?

 

Editor’s Note: I remember reading of an exercise a researcher did. He visited many churches over the course of a year paying close attention to whether he was noticed or not. More often than not, he got out without anyone having ever spoken to him. Today, that is not the case. We have plenty of people designated to interact with anyone and everyone who comes through the doors of the church building. Sadly, though, the continuing testimony that I hear is either “I don’t feel welcome,” or “I’m lonely.”