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Written by: C. W. Booth

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Our Future: The Undiscovered Country

Always out in front of us, the remaining footsteps that take us into what remains of our life and times. Until we take each next step, we cannot see what lies around the next city street corner, over the next meadow hill, or past the wood of trees that blocks our vision. Our future is the country that no explorer has yet discovered, and the unseen land into which we alone have been commissioned by the Lord to go and plant His flag.

Many chose to build walls last year, hoping to block the future from ever being discovered. For example, during the entirety of 2008 Hamas launched 60,000 rockets from Gaza into the civilian homes of Israeli citizens--hoping to bring Israelís future to an end. Odd that almost no mention of Hamasí year of brutal terrorism has been made by the mainstream Western media--for the media, perhaps the undiscovered country is full disclosure of the truth of both sides of an issue? I shudder to think that Hamas has the 1940ís in mind for Israel; the annihilation of the Jewish race and the extinction of the country called Israel. As the government of Israel finally strikes back at the rocket launching complexes of Hamas, they have taken an important next step toward survival and their own undiscovered country.

What does the future hold for our own nation? Will we wander out of the financial malaise that our unbridled corporate greed has brought upon us? Or will we continue to demand something for nothing in the form of government "redistributions of wealth," never ending prosperity at the ultimate price of bankruptcy, and cheap loans that serve to enslave us to a lifetime of crushing debt? And what of our civil liberties? Will we continue to sacrifice our freedom to practice our faith on the altar of political correctness? Will special interests continue to take away our right to own land, conduct public preaching, and to pray in the literal name of Jesus?

More personally, what will we attempt to do for the saints of Christ? What will we endeavor to accomplish for His kingdom while we still have the opportunity? Will we volunteer to teach after having experienced a lifetime of learning? Will we give a helping hand to the next generation before our arms no longer have the strength to extend themselves? Will we encourage the person beside us to use their gifts for the Lord before they become too discouraged to try or to care? Will we repent of our antagonism toward our family members and restore long estranged relationships around the cause and name of Christ? May God give me the strength and will to do as He has already directed, for I know my resolve to do these things so often fails.

What does that undiscovered country look like? I am sure I do not know. But I am also sure that God desires us to walk straight (i.e. to be holy) on the path that takes us into the future. Let us walk straight and tall for Him, and plant that flag so as to claim the undiscovered country in His name.

Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; (Hebrews 12:12-15)


Invitation: Perhaps you might like to leave here a comment as to what you desire to accomplish for God this year? Please feel free to do so. Your goals may greatly encourage and inspire others.



Friday, January 09, 2009

Witch Hunting

Some incidences have been relayed to me over the internet recently, which I can only describe as witch hunting. Witch hunting is born out of a paranoia. Someone begins to fear some possible future event (e.g. a loss of control or weakening of their power base, the possible encroachment of pure evil, or the inability to reach a dearly held goal). As a result of this paranoia, the person begins searching for the human catalyst which they fear will bring this about. Being unable to read the thoughts, heart, mind, and secret motives of other people, the paranoid individual begins "interpreting" the behaviors of others through the filter of paranoia, hoping to spot the subtle clue or turn of a phrase that will reveal who the catalyst (the witch) is before he or she can do any damage.

All witch hunting is rooted in this one false assumption: it is possible to know the motives of another person just by watching them and listening to them. In the Bible, the "heart" is most often represented as being the seat of the human intellect, the thinking mind. Lesser numbers of times the "heart" is used as illustrative of human emotions, secret desires, and even memories. God says of the heart (the thoughts, mind, intellect, memories, motives, and ambitions) that it is a "secret" that God alone knows (Psalm 44:21, 1 Corinthians 14:25), and that only God can read the heart of a person (Revelation 2:23, Romans 8:27, 1 Chronicles 28:9), and only God can judge the thoughts of a manís heart (Romans 2:16).

For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. (1 Corinthians 2:11)

Witch hunting, attempting to read the thoughts and heart of a man by observing outward behavior, is a futile thing. It is this practice that has caused so much abuse by powerful individuals, from the burning of professing Christians in Salem to the strangulation of sincere believers in Christ by the Inquisition. In more recent years, excommunication of those who disagree about strategies for winning the unsaved to Christ has become a common form of witch hunting.

On the flip side of witch hunting is the equally impossible super-saint hunting. Super-saint hunting is trying to find the super holy among us so that they might lead us. This person is usually identified by his soft-spoken mannerisms, his handsome form, and his happy demeanor. Once again, only God really knows the heart of the man.

When they entered, he looked at Eliab and thought, "Surely the LORD'S anointed is before Him." But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16:6-7)

As fallible corporeal humans, we are restricted to observing the behaviors of others, but not for the purpose of trying to read their minds or identify their behaviors. Rather we see that a person is behaving as Scripture describes they should behave, and we pass no further judgment. We believe of them the best--we assume their motives are focused on love of God and love of neighbor. Only when their actual behavior betrays this trust do we act by offering them loving rebuke so as to cause them to repent and behave again as God has directed in His Word. Matthew 7:16 informs us that this is the practice of fruit inspecting. Godís people will produce godly fruit by their actions, however, pretenders are incapable of producing any good fruit. There is no subtlety here, no tiny clues to interpret. Evil men act badly, and go from bad to worse (2 Timothy 3:13). Wolves will always act in their own best interest, tearing and devouring the sheep to get their fill, butchering the Word of God along with the lambs. This is the meaning of watching the fruit of their behavior.

Much of Proverbs is written about wise and unwise behavior and thinking. Note well that it is not a manual of how to label other people as wise or fools, but is a manual for exposing wise and foolish attitudes within ourselves. As soon as a person picks up the Proverbs, hands it to another person, and tells them, "Read this Proverb, it calls you a fool," they have missed the value of the book. It is true, specific actions can be labeled "foolish" (as Paul did about the Galatians when they turned from Christ to works by which to gain salvation--Galatians 3:1-3), but it is wrong to label another Christianís life as being entirely foolish, useless, and that their whole existence is good for nothing (Matthew 5:22). Nothing in Proverbs permits us to think we know the secret heart or motives of someone else. It is hard enough to know our own heart, much less that of another.

For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord. Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men's hearts; and then each man's praise will come to him from God. (1 Corinthians 4:4-5)

When we stop witch hunting and end our super-saint hunting, it is then that we will begin building up the church and edifying our brethren. For then we will stop judging them and begin serving them.



Monday, January 12, 2009

Spiritually Healed

What is "healing"? In the Bible, when it refers to our "hearts" it is describing all that makes us individuals: our memories, our thoughts, our desires, our mind, our intellect, our spiritual gifts, and even our emotions.

When we have gone through bad situations, whether we were partly responsible for them or not, we desire to forget them, we want the pain to go away, we want to move on. But those experiences become part of who we are now. The pain, or the memory of the pain, becomes a part of our hearts.

Healing is not forgetting that the experience or the pain was there. Healing is the admission it happened while also acknowledging that God is sovereign and is using all this to conform us to Christ's image while continuing to build His kingdom and to vanquish evil. Healing is not forgetting the past, but acknowledging it, and then moving on with life and with service to Christ. Healing is confessing any small role we MAY have played in our own pain and accepting Christ's forgiveness. Healing is knowing that pain is the result of the curse on earth and that as a human we are not exempt from it. Healing is remembering that Christ promised us human suffering as part of discipleship. Healing is remembering always that Christ loves us always.

Healing is the ability to cry over the past and to rejoice that a better future awaits. Healing is hope. And we have the best hope that humans could desire. When our hearts are filled with hope (even as they remember the pain) we are being healed.




Thursday, January 22, 2009

What Riches Should We Store Up in Heaven?

Parables and illustrations are often difficult to understand. And when the interpretation goes wrong, they really go very wrong. The illustration that follows has obviously caused people more concern and confusion that it need have if people had properly interpreted it.

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;" (Matthew 6:19-20)

Illustrations, like the one above, are generally meant to be simplistic comparisons or contrasts to draw unusual attention to one or two obvious points. Rather than taking it that way, philosophers begin analyzing the human condition and asking questions not begged by the illustration. One philosopher, consumed with finding the whatís-in-it-for-me (WIIFM) aspect that he imagines to be hiding below the surface of every Bible passage, uses this passage to show that those who hoard up treasures in heaven will be happier in heaven than those who do not hoard as much. Really? And what riches are hoarded? How will heaven-happiness be measured? Will we take our heavens-riches to the heavenly Walmart and cash them in for happiness units?

Sweep all that from your mind. Ask, "What did Jesus want to illustrate to the people who stood in front of Him when He used that analogy?"

Look to the analogy itself. It is a contrast between earth (now) and heaven (later). Heaven is more important than earth from an eternal perspective. But Jesus wanted to illustrate that we ought to be living as if this were heaven, that everything we are doing is kingdom work. It is a mental attitude He was evoking through the illustration.

Those who think that Jesus was teaching us to literally hoard heavenly riches are improperly attempting to make this into a comparison of being happy in heaven versus being happier in heaven. That type of hair-splitting is not what this illustration is exploring. This illustration is an attempt to get us to focus on the reality that in heaven we will value doing all things for God and for the kingdom, we will work from love without thought of saving up resources for a rainy day. Jesus wants us to live that way NOW, on earth.

And while living for the kingdom now will not literally store up riches FOR US, or for our exclusive use, in heaven, it will enrich the kingdom. There will be people there who God brought into eternity through your efforts. There will be people there who turned their lives and relationships from ungodly to godly because of the efforts you made to live as if the kingdom of God were now. Those are riches that moth and rust do not ruin and thieves cannot steal.

This point, that Jesus wanted us to know that eternity is more important than earth, and that we ought to live like we had heaven in our very grasp now, is even more obvious when seen in the context of a similar illustration as it is presented in Luke.

"But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?' So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God." And He said to His disciples, "For this reason I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing." (Luke 12:20-23)

That phrase is the key. We must live now in a way that is "rich toward God," and not in a way by which we attempt to hoard up riches to ourselves. Live generously and lavishly toward God, that is, live godly lives, compassionately, humbly, lovingly toward others: encouraging, rebuking, instructing, edifying, and strengthening others. For in the way we treat others we demonstrate our love and richness toward God.




Saturday, January 31, 2009

Do You Meet the Qualifications for Apostleship?

Today, many teachers have taken our eyes off the Bible accounts and created an entire mythology about apostleship that never existed. How does one combat religious mythology? By returning to the truth of the Word.

At the heart of any discussion on whether there are apostles today, one must grapple with this fundamental: How were apostles "made"? As we all know, Jesus, while He was a human, personally appointed the Twelve and sent them on their first preaching "mission" (Luke 9:1-5). What we often forget is that when Jesus was a human He appointed 70 other apostles and sent them out on the same preaching mission as He had just done with the Twelve (Luke 10:1-24). There are no more accounts anywhere in Scripture of Jesus appointing any more men as apostles, except for that one man born as if in the wrong time, Paul.

When the Eleven apostles were gathered (Acts 1:1-25), they determined that Judasí ministry office should be filled by someone. But Jesus was no longer appointing new apostles since He was no longer on Earth. So the Eleven cited what they understood to be the three qualifications of apostleship: 1) having been with Jesus (presumably this refers to being involved in hearing His teachings day in and day out) for the three years that He ministered and taught on Earth, 2) being an eyewitness that Jesus rose bodily from the grave and was still alive, and, 3) that the twelfth man should ALREADY have been chosen by Jesus as an apostle (see Acts 1:24, Greek tense indicates a choosing that has already occurred in the past). At least two men "qualified," Matthias and Justus, though possibly many more qualified.

How could Justus and Matthias have been previously chosen by Jesus as apostles if they were not part of the Twelve already? Jesus appointed 70 other apostles from that group of between 200 and 500 that were constantly with Him. If we had the name list, we would not be surprised to read that Barnabas, Andronicus, and others were possibly among them. All these men, the Eleven, Justus, Matthias, the 70, and between 200 and 500 more heard all that Jesus had to teach for three years and were eyewitnesses that He arose from the grave.

Since the Eleven felt these three criteria (hearing Jesus teach for 3 years, being an eyewitness of the resurrection, and having been previously appointed as an apostle by Jesus) were the necessary elements to take on the title of apostle, we should be silly to dismiss them.

Paul, of course, tells us twice (using the Greek term for "to commission as an apostle") that Jesus appeared to Him and "sent" him (Greek: apostello) as an apostle to the Gentiles (Acts 22:21, 26:15-18). Thus Paul fulfilled qualifications 2 and 3. But what about qualification 1? Did Paul get three years of training by Jesus? That is exactly what Paul claims for himself in Galatians 1:11, 12, 16-18, and 2 Corinthians 12:1-4, 7.

To my knowledge, there is no man alive who can fulfill the three criteria / qualifications that the Twelve, the 70, and Paul all fulfilled to be allowed to be called an apostle. And these three criteria were identified by the very band of apostles that everyone wishes to join. Well, join them if you can, but you better join up by meeting the criteria they themselves established, else you are a hollow and false claimant, in fact, a false apostle.

For more study, particularly of Acts 13, please read the following online book: http://thefaithfulword.org/apostlepageone.html


[Note: the above essay was originally posted as a blog entry which I wrote and put online January 31, 2009. As such, it was subject to public commentary as is customary with blogging. As a practical matter, I normally delete the comments entered on the blog site when building this essay archive. If you wish to read the comments posted by others about the essays, you are invited to go online, read them, or post your own comments.

However, on a few occasions the comments and perhaps my own responses to the comments are so core to understanding the essay, or the implications of the essay, that I have chosen to incorporate them, as I have done below.]

Comments to the January 31, 2009 post entitled: Do You Meet the Qualifications for Apostleship?

Begin Comment 1 from Commenter One:

"So dude, are you saying the RC Pope is not qualified to be the church's apostle?"

End Comment 1

Begin C. W. Boothís Response to Comment 1:

There are a number of assumptions that need to be addressed before answering that question.  First, the Roman Catholic Church (RC) is not THE church, but is a segment of people who have organized and given themselves a name (Roman Catholic) to differentiate their organization from other religious organizations (Greek Orthodox, Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist, etc.).  THE church is everyone (regardless of what religious organization they may hold membership in) who believe in Christ and names Him as Lord and Savior--these people collectively are THE church, THE body of Christ on Earth, and THE bride of Christ.

It is indisputable that the Pope is the head of the Roman Catholic organizational structure.  It is equally indisputable that only Christ is the head of His own body, THE church.  The Pope is not the head of the Methodist organizational structure, nor is he over the Baptists.

Is the Roman Catholic Pope an apostle?  Well, does the Pope meet the three criteria for apostleship that the apostles erected?  Was the Pope appointed as an apostle by Jesus when Jesus was living on or visiting Earth?  Was the Pope an eyewitness of the resurrection and able to testify that he has seen Jesus alive with his own eyes and has held a conversation with Him?  And was the Pope taught all the doctrines of the New Testament in the same manner as Paul, through three years of surpassing revelations?  If any of these answers is, "No," then the Pope is not an apostle.  He is still head of the Roman Catholic organizational structure, but he has no apostolic authority over the body of Christ, the bride of Christ, THE church of Christ.

Posted 1/31/2009 4:33 PM

End of Response




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