Posts Tagged ‘Institutional Christianity’

So I guess today was Theology Discussion Day. I friend asked me to lunch in order to pick my brain about ghosts and demons. Another friend asked if he could give my email or phone number to a friend who had some serious Bible questions (again demonology and generational curses). And another friend and I kicked around some eschatology and apologetics—(If you doubt the historical and textual integrity of the Bible—you basically have to reach the conclusion that Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great did not exist, because the historical and textual evidence for their existence is considered unquestionable and yet their historical and textual integrity is infinitesimally small by comparison to that of the Bible.)

During these discussions, a similar theme kept popping up… “When are you going to start a Bible study?” Or, “Why don’t you start a YouTube channel and do 5-minute videos of Bible questions?” Not to mention the fact that just the other day a fellow “minister” encouraged me to expand my blogging.

These are ideas that have come up many times before, and some reasons why I have never started such an endeavor are obvious—the most obvious being the time commitment. I already work 40+ hours a week, plus the other aspects of just living life, etc., etc. As much as I enjoy these discussions, I do not want to get locked into a weekly commitment. But then there’s the flip side…

I’m a pretty smart guy (humble too)—I know a fair amount about the Bible and related topics—and not just the run-of-the-mill stuff—I have a pretty good grasp of the lunatic fringe stuff as well. And as one friend put it… “There is a need to ‘get this stuff out there’.”

Plus, this is something I have genuinely wanted to do, so I would like to pose a question to those who might be interested…

If I were to do such a thing—the YouTube channel in particular—what are some questions you would like to see answered? Please feel free to post your questions below or send them to me in a private message if that makes you more comfortable.

More to come…

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I would like to introduce a new subject to my blog–the birth of Jesus Christ.

Many years ago I was introduced to a provocative theory regarding the accurate birth date for Jesus Christ—and you guessed it—it is not December 25th. This theory fascinated me because it was based on real biblical, historical, and scientific evidence, and not on tradition. Because of this, I have been investigating the historical events leading up to and surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ for over 30 years.

It may come as a surprise that it has been widely known for several centuries, that not only was Jesus of Nazareth not born on December 25th, but in fact could not have been born on December 25th. In over 30 years of researching the birth of Christ, I have yet to discover a single serious biblical or historical scholar who defends a December 25 birth date for Jesus of Nazareth with enough significant reliable evidence to even put a dent in the mountain of evidence that suggests an alternative date.

Given the fact that it is widely known that Jesus could not have been born on December 25th and that no serious biblical scholar has suggested such for several centuries, it is frankly rather astonishing how often people are surprised when informed that Jesus of Nazareth was not born on Christmas Day.

This fact is accompanied by the tragic and ironic fact that the sources for most of what we think we know about the birth of Christ tend to be Christmas cards, Christmas carols, Christmas pageants, and nativity scenes—most of which are built on the false assumption that Jesus was born on December 25th. When it comes to an accurate knowledge of Christ’s birth, and even to a significant degree, who Jesus was and what he was like when he walked the Earth—the “Christmas” sources have done more harm than good.

This is doubly ironic when we consider the fact, that I will share in detail in a later segment, that we have known for several hundred years that Jesus was not born on December 25th—which means that most, if not all, of the “Christmas” related sources that presume a December 25th birth date were developed within a time frame when this fact was already well-known.

The holiday we now celebrate (“Christmas”) is an invention that occurred primarily in America starting in the late 18th century and developing into its current form through the 19th and early 20th centuries. Any association with the birth of Christ is based, although frequently unknowingly, on incorrect facts.

More to come…

This article is a quick cut and paste of a much larger article, but instead of posting the whole article, I want to introduce it in segments…

What is a “Sacred Space”?

All religions have a sacred space. Sacred spaces can be very large, such as an entire country, a city, a mountain, or a river. But sacred spaces can also be very small, such as a very specific point within a grove of trees, or in the desert. Sometimes sacred spaces are identified by markers such as sacred stones or totem poles.

Probably the most common sacred space however, is a building specifically set apart and dedicated for religious purposes. These buildings are known by various names—temples, shrines, synagogues, mosques, churches, etc. Oftentimes the sacred space is subdivided into increasingly “holier” spaces, with access to these spaces limited to only certain religious officials. This is where we get the idea of the inner sanctum—sanctum being the Latin word for holy, and the inner sanctum therefore being the “most holy place.” The primary point of the sacred space is that regardless of whether it is a mountain, a city, or a sanctuary, this space is somehow special and set apart from other spaces for God’s use or God’s work. The sacred space is exactly that—sacred. All other spaces are “non-sacred”—in other words, “not set apart” for God’s use or work—they are secular, profane, or simply ordinary or common.

The Sacred Space in the Old Testament Was a Literal Geo/Physical Space-

Under the Mosaic Covenant, the sacred space included the Promised Land, the city of Jerusalem, the Temple Mount, the Outer Court, Holy Place and Holy of Holies, and the Ark of the Covenant/Mercy Seat.

Look What Can Happen to a Literal Geo-Physical Sacred Space-

If you utilize a literal geo-physical sacred space, look what can happen. In the Old Testament, what if an invading army destroyed the Temple, and/or took the population captive and relocated them outside the land, or occupied the land and prohibited access to the Temple precincts? Wouldn’t this compromise your system of worship/atonement?

Did We Miss the Point?

The primary purpose of the Tabernacle of Moses, the Temple of Solomon, and even the Tabernacle of David, under the Old Covenant was to point to the person of Jesus Christ as their archetype. Jesus is the Temple of God.

(19) Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (21) But He was speaking of the temple of His body. [John 2:19, 21 NAS]

For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. [Colossians 2:9 KJV]

But There’s More…

The Old Covenant tabernacles and temples were models of Christ, and as we are in Christ, so now we are the temple of God. Think of it this way—the tabernacle of Moses was a mobile dwelling covered in skins, and therefore a pre-figure of God indwelling human beings. Although contemporary buildings utilized for religious purposes may still have a certain practical usefulness, they are not “sacred spaces,” and they are certainly not God’s dwelling place. No longer are certain “spaces” set apart from other spaces for God use or God’s work—every believer is the dwelling place of God, prepared by the Master Builder Himself.

Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands. [Acts 7:48 NKJ]

Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and {that} the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? [1 Corinthians 3:16 KJV]

The “Church” Building: Christianity’s Sacred Space-

“Church” buildings are simply the Christianized version of the sacred space. This is despite the fact that the New Testament never commands, authorizes, or even encourages “Christian” buildings or the collection of money to pay for them. Furthermore, we have the audacity to call these buildings “churches” despite the fact that the Bible never uses the word church (Greek ekklesia; Strong’s #1577) to describe a building utilized in this fashion. Calling a building a “church” is so mind bogglingly biblically inaccurate, that it would be laughable if the consequences were not so devastating.

All Believers Individually and Collectively Are the Temple of God-

As members of the body of Christ and partakers of the New Covenant, all believers are living stones in the temple of God (1 Peter 2:5, 1 Corinthians 3:16, et al). Once again, we are reminded that, “The most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands” (Acts 7:48 KJV). The temple of God is people—not buildings! And yet Christians worldwide dump literally billions of dollars annually into ever larger and more lavish buildings without the slightest New Covenant authorization. Under the New Covenant there is no geographic space that is more holy (or more “anointed”) than any other. Every believer is the sacred space where God lives in his or her heart—the true Holy of Holies.

Ask Yourself This Question?

Do you and/or your local assembly, both individually and corporately have a heart-felt, intellectually established, life-changing, practically applicable revelation of…?

  • All believers are living stones in the temple of God. The most High does not dwell in temples made by human hands.

If you can honestly, objectively, and with a clear conscience declare that you and your local assembly devote more time, energy, and money to teaching and practicing that people are the temple of God, than to “church” buildings, then you are well along the road from religion to relationship.

There is a huge difference between utilizing a building because we need a functional place to meet, and believing a building is special because it is set aside for God’s work, or that “God lives there.” In other words treating a building as a kind of validation of our spirituality because we mistakenly or unknowingly believe in a sacred space.

When Christianity is practiced properly—taking life as it comes and interpreting (or reinterpreting) each moment or each event in the reality of an indwelling relationship with the Lord of Life—each and every individual believer, is the sacred space where God dwells.

“The real trouble is not in fact that the Church is too rich, but that it has become heavily institutionalized, with a crushing investment in maintenance. It has the characteristics of the dinosaur and the battleship. It is saddled with a plant and programme beyond its means, so that it is absorbed in problems of supply and preoccupied with survival. The inertia of the machine is such that the financial allocations, the legalities, the channels of organization, the attitudes of mind, are all set in the direction of continuing and enhancing the status quo. If one wants to pursue a course which cuts across these channels, then most of one’s energies are exhausted before one ever reaches the enemy lines.” [John A.T. Robinson]

The New Testament plainly teaches us that, “The most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands” (Acts 7:48 KJV). The temple of God is people—not buildings! The church at large desperately needs a heart-rending revelation of this fact. The New Testament never commands, encourages, or even authorizes “Christian” buildings or the collection of money to pay for them. Furthermore, we have the audacity to call these buildings “churches” despite the fact that the Bible never uses the word church to describe a building. There is no geographic space that is more holy (or more “anointed”) than any other. Every believer is the sacred space where God lives in his or her heart.

Additionally,the New Testament clearly teaches us that all believers are priests (1 Peter 2:9). So how is it then, that some “priests” have staffs, salaries, and expenses paid for by the other priests? I guess they must be the high priest… but wait asecond, I thought Jesus was our high priest [sic]. One of the purposes of the tithes (yes, tithes, plural), under the Old Covenant was to pay the Levites and Aaronic priests for doing their jobs—officiating in the tabernacle, Temple and Levitical cities. But if we are all priests, and we are all the Temple, again, how is it that some priests get paid by the others? Once again, the church at large needs a heart-rending revelation of this fact.

I could go on and on. The institution is not the church. The church is people, and we waste billions of dollars every year on buildings, maintenance, staffs, salaries, programs, and other expenses that are utterly foreign to the NewTestament.

Does this mean we can never utilize a building or that those who minister the gospel should not live of the gospel? Of course not. But as I have already said, the church needs a deep revelation of the true Temple of God, the priesthood of every believer, and that our ordinary everyday lives are our sacrifice. Building on this foundation (pun intended) would put many things in a better perspective.

Imagine, just imagine, if all the money we waste financing the institution actually went to genuinely helping people how massive of a difference it would make.

So you’re sitting in a really boring church service and all of a sudden the pastor totally changes gears and prays, “Holy Spirit come!” Instantly the whole atmosphere of the meeting changes and there is excitement and many “outward”demonstrations and manifestations of the Holy Spirit’s “presence.”

So here are my questions…

· Where was the Holy Spirit before the pastor prayed, “Holy Spirit come?” What was He doing and why didn’t He respond earlier?

· Is the God of the Bible a deity that needs to be reached out to before He reaches out or responds to us?

· Does God just show up randomly when He feels like it? Is God aloof or capricious?

· Is God separate from us, and “out there” (pointing upward or outward) somewhere?

· Is God so transcendent that He is difficult to reach?

But now the real kicker—how do our answers to these questions correspond and harmonize with the clear teachings of the New Covenant/Testament?

· God loves us passionately.

· The Holy Spirit (the whole Godhead for that matter) is an indwelling presence.

· Where two or three are gathered in my name there am I (not there I might be if you pray hard enough) in the midst.

· God is for us (not against us or even neutral or impartial).

· Nothing can separate us from Him or His love.

· He does not leave us or forsake us.

Which leads me to my final question:

· Do significant numbers of Christians and significant portions of so-called mainstream Christianity actually live within an Old Covenant paradigm camouflaged in New Covenant terminology and labels?

Join The Sacred Cow Tipping Team!

Just a little humor to introduce what can be a very uncomfortable subject.

Are we really prepared to do what it takes to allow God to deconstruct religion and cultivate relationship in our lives? Because to genuinely do so will require a level of objectivity and introspection that is highly likely to go far beyond anything we have ever experienced before. Will you join the Sacred Cow Tipping Team and be prepared to laugh (and probably cry) at your own religiosity when the Holy Spirit digs you in the ribs and says, “Yes, you actually think and do that.” Or are you already setting out the barbed wire and sandbags and getting ready to defend your favorite pet bovine to the death?

Because frankly, facing religion means facing the fact that we have been complicit in our own slavery, which is neither easy nor pleasant.

I believe the British novelist Donald Wheal (pseudonym Dresden James) summarized religion brilliantly when he wrote:

“The ideal tyranny is that which is ignorantly self-administered by its victims. The most perfect slaves are, therefore, those which [who] blissfully and unawaredly enslave themselves.”

The journey from religion to relationship is not for the faint of heart. We must always remember that God really has only one method by which he engages our personal transformation and advances his kingdom—death and resurrection. And as much as we might like to think so, we don’t get to skip over the death part and go straight to resurrection. As a matter of fact it is religion that teaches us to try to do exactly that—to minimize the reality of the cross—to treat it strictly as a metaphor with no practical or experiential reality in our day-to-day lives. In order to experience the power of his resurrection, we must also share in the fellowship of his sufferings. The road from religion to relationship is the way of the cross. And the death of religion can be excruciating (pun intended) indeed.

Whenever Jesus encountered your standard issue sinner, he always demonstrated extraordinary compassion. And yet there was one particular group of people, that when he encountered them, didn’t seem to engender much compassion—you guessed it—the Pharisees.

Time and time again, Jesus called it like he saw it—“hypocrites,” “generation of vipers,” “whited sepulchres.”

But although not as immediately inflammatory, the phrase Jesus used regarding the Pharisees that I believe should arrest our attention more than any other is this…

“The traditions of men”

Jesus’ accusation against the Pharisees is absolutely stunning—that they valued their man-made (human) traditions over the commandments of God—and that in doing so they actually transgressed the very commandments they thought they were upholding.

The Pharisees were the masters of religion—using human traditions posing as the commandments of God to attempt to stand approved before God—and teaching and requiring others to do the same.

So time for a new shade of meaning…

Religion is: Attempting to use human tradition, effort, engineering, ingenuity, initiative, ability, and/or ambition to try to stand approved before God, accomplish God’s work, gain God’s acceptance, earn God’s approval, obtain God’s affection, etc, etc.

Plus, these traditions, efforts, etc, are often disguised or camouflaged as being mandated by God. After all, what better way to be approved of by God than to utilize an “approved” method?

But unfortunately, when we read about the Pharisees, our reaction more often than not tends to be, “Oh those silly Pharisees, when were they ever going to learn? I sure am glad I’m not like them.” Not realizing that records such as these are actually insights to ourselves.

In order to allow God to deconstruct religion in our lives, we must be prepared to allow him to dissect our “harmless” traditions at the cellular level, and to acknowledge that we have been complicit in our own slavery—that we too have been Pharisees. Please repeat after me…

Hello, my name is _____________________, and I am a recovering Pharisee.

Welcome to the Sacred Cow Tipping Team.

The distinction between religion and relationship is are not just about new or different ways to “do church,” or learning new techniques or principles for “advancing the kingdom.”

While the role of external religious structures plays a significant role in unraveling the distinctions between religion and relationship, ultimately it is our religious attitudes and behaviors, and whether we will allow God to dismantle and dispose of them from our lives, that tells the tale. And this is not entirely unfamiliar territory. Many of us at one time or another have heard a preacher say, “It only took 24 hours for God to get the children of Israel out of Egypt—but it took him 40 years to get Egypt out of the children of Israel.” And this illustration is exactly accurate. One can walk away from institutionalized Christianity overnight, and yet continue to be a prisoner to religion in one’s heart and mind for the rest of their life.

Jesus did not come to start a new religion or even to perfect an existing one. Frankly, Jesus came to put and end to religion in favor of relationship with him and the Father. Jesus has invited us to a new life—to live in him by the power of the cross that frees us from sin, frees us from shame, and teaches us again how to trust him, so that he can shape our lives as we journey forward.

So what does religion look like? How do we define it? Where do we start?

Well first off, we don’t start with the dictionary definition of the word religion (See What Is Religion?)—That’s not the definition of religion we’re talking about. We’re talking about the definition of the word religion as it is being used in the context of our quote—religion as an antithesis of relationship.

As we continue on this journey, we will discover that “religion” has many interconnected shades of meaning. To share them all at once would be too technical and over burdensome, so I will simply add a new shade from time to time. But as a starting point, let’s begin with this.

Religion is: Attempting to use human effort (engineering, ingenuity, initiative, ability, ambition, etc.) to try to stand approved before God.

The redundancy is deliberate because I want to emphasize the shades of meaning. Although similar, effort is not the same as ability, or is ambition the same as initiative.

Additionally, we can also reveal some of the various shades of meaning by exchanging the phrase “stand approved of God,” with:

• Accomplish God’s work
• Gain God’s acceptance
• Earn God’s approval
• Obtain God’s affection

So now we have…

Religion is: Attempting to use human effort, engineering, ingenuity, initiative, ability, and/or ambition to try to stand approved before God, accomplish God’s work, gain God’s acceptance, earn God’s approval, obtain God’s affection, etc, etc.

I think you get the idea.

In short, religion is substituting human effort (engineering, ingenuity, initiative, ability, ambition, etc) for God’ s ability to carry out his purposes and intentions. (And as I said, I will keep adding and revealing shades of meaning to this definition as we go along.)

Yet Jesus spent almost the totality of his earthly ministry teaching his disciples how to live in relationship with him (and therefore each other) as he lived in relationship with his father. But this is in direct contrast to how they had all been raised in the Hebrew religious tradition. Under the Mosaic covenant, they were all obligated to keep certain rules—eat this, don’t eat that—dress like this, not like that—worship in this place, at this time, in this way, etc, etc.

As a matter of fact, if there could be such a thing as a perfect religion it would be the Law of Moses—it was, after all, written by God. All you need to do is keep all 613 ordinances, and you’re right with God. But therein lies the rub. Although written by God, keeping the 613 ordinances was accomplished by…

… wait for it…

… human effort.

And this of course is the primary point hammered on repeatedly throughout the New Testament. The irony is that we should already know this, but maybe it never really sunk in.

More to come…