Posted by John Klassek in Uncategorized on October 17th, 2009
Finding a church home may not be an issue for some, but for many within the Christian community, a stable church home can sometimes seem remote.
The facts speak for themselves. Churches are great at moving people within the Christian community, when the greatest growth ought instead to come from those in society who don’t yet know God. Still, it’s a reality that must be faced.
So, if you’re looking for a church home, you may want to consider the following three areas:
- Can you generally agree on the basic theological tenets?
- Can you genuinely worship there?
- Does your participation in Church life allow you to effectively serve?
If you can say “yes” to each of these three, then you’ve found your church home. Give it your best, and in humility thank God for a place of nurture, growth and service.
But, if perchance you cannot see eye to eye on core theological underpinnings, then over time this will probably impede your ability to worship or effectively serve.
If your worship of God is hindered, either by form or setting, then think deeply whether the spiritual distraction is worth it.
If you cannot effectively serve or share of your gifts, for whatever reasons, be it culture, legalism or authoritarianism, then you may have to find a place where you can serve.
These unfortunate realities do exist and occur; the above criteria may, however, help you in your walk with God.
Remember, there are no healthy solo Christians. We all need community in Christ. And, of course, in becoming an active member of any Church community, we naturally sacrifice some sovereignty. You are no longer your own, you are now Christ’s.
And, one last tip: there’s no such thing as the perfect church; churches shouldn’t however accept the sinner “just as you are” but cater for the genuinely repentant seeking healing, help and community.
This is not an easy subject to talk about. In fact, nobody really wants to discuss it. Yes, we hear titbits about it in the news media at times. Even our leaders find it “politically incorrect” to really debate. And, you know, many of the clergy today find it “too sensitive” to address.
This is because, it’s a nasty piece of business; it’s one, however, that affects the very heart and core of who and what we are, and it’s something we’re going to be held accountable for.
Hello and welcome to MessageWeek – sharing those words of hope that we all need to hear.
What we’re talking about are the millions and millions of ordinary people like you and me who have been exterminated in recent decades – not to speak of the potential doctors, lawyers, athletes, scientists, artists and musicians who may have been among them – people who never really got a chance at life. Let me explain.
I know how protective we are of our children: for example, paedophiles are adequately dealt with by our criminal justice systems, let alone the adverse media coverage it creates. We’re rightly incensed when we hear of Islamic clerics deluding their youth into becoming suicide bombers. And we’re equally horrified when archeologists find the mummified remains of a fourteen year old Inca girl apparently killed in a ritual sacrifice on a mountain top.
But, did you know that our society today is just as culpable? We call it… abortion, terminating the lives of those who are most vulnerable, those who should instead be the recipients of our greatest care, love and protection. Unfortunately, our society hides behind fallacious legal interpretations and arguments by lawyers and ethicists as to what determines human “life”.
Our school textbooks endorse labels them such as embryos and fetuses – when they should be called for who they are: babies, our own sons and daughters.
Is not this the evolutionary model applied in the worst sense of the phrase: “the survival of the fittest”?
You see, for many years now we’ve taught our children that there is no creator, that there is no God. We’ve proffered them instead the evolutionary model, which is a lying delusion that hides our real identity as the very children of God. We did not just evolve into existence. That’s a lie, a big furphy!
We are created, instead, in God’s image and likeness – to be His children forever. That’s the indisputable truth. It’s not a relative truth. It’s not folklore – God is, and we had better listen to Him.
But, if you take God out of our lives and out of the picture, how easy it is to carelessly believe that those infants are dispensable – and in the worst kind of way.
I’m glad God that is good, and His judgements just, because if, according to the scriptures, we’re going to be held accountable for “every idle word” that we may speak, what’s then the judgement going to be for what we’ve done to millions of our murdered children?
Are we not collectively guilty of the most grievous of crimes? Is there any hope? Is there anything we can still do? Yes, there is.
Turn and repent, says God. He says: “Turn from our sinful ways”, else, in the words of the prophets, utter destruction awaits.
History is a good precedent for the consequences we might expect, when “wickedness” reaches a saturation point that no-one can ignore. Whenever a civilisation’s morals decline, its demise isn’t far off. It’s happened time and time again.
Thankfully, for the sake of those who are faithful to Him, God does intervene. It happened in the days of Noah, and again in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, where God’s judgement was given to a violent and wicked generation.
Jesus told his disciples that the time prior to His return would not be unlike “the days of Noah” – where after 120 years of warning and witness, and no one listened, God finally passed sentence.
The good news is that God alone has the power over life and death. We don’t. Those children were never ours to begin with, they were simply on loan. Thankfully, Jesus says that one day all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out – to stand and tp live again. He can say that on full authority because he paid a terrible price in His own life to account for our sins, our “debts”.
There is a day of resurrection, and there is a day of reckoning. There is hope, hope in turning around, in confessing our sin, individually and collectively.
Can I ask: Are we up to the task?
For the MessageWeek team, I’m John Klassek.
Remember, there is no shame in turning around, no dishonour in repenting. We can’t bring back those children, but we can turn back to God – and find forgiveness, healing and hope.
NO, DO NOT BE SURPRISED – the time is coming when all those who are dead and buried will hear His voice and out they will come – those who have done right will rise again to life, but those who have done wrong will rise to face judgment!
That is how J. B. Phillips rendered some words of Jesus in St. John’s gospel.1
St. John described a similar scenario of people coming back to life in another book: “Then the sea gave up its dead. Death and the world of the dead also gave up the dead they held. And all were judged according to what they had done.”2
When we read that word we think of every human being, past, present and future; our ancestors, people here and now and those yet to come. But is that “all”? Are human beings only those who are like us, folks we can see, touch and interact with? What about those many of us only hear about, or are vaguely aware of. The little ones who die before they are born. Should they be included in “all”?
In my grandmother’s time, a pregnant woman carried her child under her heart. Yes, that’s how she described her unborn baby. And I believed my grandmother, and I still do.
In the meantime – not all that long ago as history goes – some fellows had come along and told pregnant women that what they had in their wombs was either an embryo or a foetus, depending on what stage of development it was in. Embryo is Greek for “something that swells inside”, and foetus can be traced to the Latin verb feurere, which means “to bring forth”; so it’s “something that is about to be brought forth”, if you like. Almost looks as if they had come up with some Latin and some Greek to get away from the words “baby” and “child”.
You won’t find words like embryo or foetus in the Bible, because worldly fellows didn’t write it. Men who were inspired by God did. And God made people with the ability to multiply, and I believe Him – just as my grandmother did.
St. Luke was a doctor3, and he also wrote what we now call the third gospel. By way of introduction he tells us that he had studied the reports of others and thought it would be good to write an orderly account, and that the full truth about everything would be known.4 Who could be better qualified than a doctor like St. Luke to tell us about pregnancies and babies. First he reported the case of an old lady called Elizabeth becoming pregnant. She was a priest’s wife, and she had been barren, but God wanted her to have a son to serve Him in a unique way, on a special assignment we would say nowadays.
Then we read what happened when Mary, a young woman – who would be the mother of Jesus – visited Elizabeth: the six months old baby in Elizabeth’s womb jumped for joy.5 Yes, the Greek text has the word for “baby”, and ancient as well as modern translators have rendered it as “infant”, “baby” or “child”.
Many pregnant women throughout the ages have told of similar experiences, and many a mother will readily tell us about the capers of the child she carries in her womb. Some of our five children were more lively than the others. Domna and I somehow seemed to know what they might be like long before they were born. Talk about personalities! They were real people already, and we had not had a chance to set eyes on them.
Right from the moment of conception, a baby’s influence on its mother can become evident, some sooner, some later, but it’s there. I always knew when Domna was pregnant. She would do things that she normally wouldn’t do, such as eat raw vegetables straight from her garden.
Come to think of it, we didn’t need a doctor to tell us. Those are all part and parcel of a happy family life.
Then, living in the world we live in, there are the sad moments. An unborn child dies.
What we think at times like that may be less important than what God might think. What if God includes children that die before birth in the number of people to be resurrected, or, as J.B. Phillips put it, will rise again to life?
Look at that sentence again at the beginning of this article: it mentions those who have done right and those who have done wrong. Surely, unborn babies have done neither,6 (SEE FOOTNOTE) just like those who are born – and we call them innocent, don’t we.
Imagine the multiple millions of mums and dads coming up in their resurrection, parents who had lost children before they had a chance to be born. Imagine a loving, caring and merciful God raising back to life those lost children, popping them into the laps of their mums and dads and saying to them: here is your chance to love them and to rear them up.
Neither the parents nor the children had seen justice in this life. At the resurrection they will rise to face judgment. At that time they will know and experience justice, because Jesus is the judge. And you couldn’t get a more compassionate judge than Him.
The Bible is the book that tells us about the resurrection of the dead. It also contains a verse that records Jesus as saying: “With man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”7
And if someone is still in doubt: as I have said to many an atheist, just wait and see.
Better still, as J.B. Phillips worded it: no, do not be surprised!
1. John 5:28-29 (p.211), The Gospels In Modern English
2. Revelation 20:13, Good News Bible
3. Colossians 4:14, Good News Bible
4. Luke 1:1-4, Good News Bible
5. Luke 1:5-45
6. Romans 9:11
7. Matthew 19:26; Mark 10:27, New International Version
EMBRYOLOGY (Encyclopaedia Britannica)
17th – 18th century: descriptive and comparative studies.
19th century: analytical and experimental approach.
Wilhelm Roux (1850 – 1924): first to envisage the scope of analytical embryology. Pioneer studies on frog eggs in 1885.
Hans Spemann: Nobel prize in 1935 for his discovery of embryonic induction
The Church of God — the people of God, that is, the body of Christ – is far more diverse than we may have imagined from our somewhat parochial worldview. And of course that’s quite understandable given that for the most part we operate locally.
In reading the latest edition of the Bible Advocate, I took heart at the comments of the late Richard Wiedenheft who wrote in an ecumenical spirit:
“Today, we have those who are vegetarians and those who eat meat, those who drink wine and those who abstain, those who wear makeup and jewelry and those who don’t, those who observe annual feasts and those who don’t, those who observe non-biblical holidays and those who refuse, those who use the ‘sacred names’ instead of God and Jesus and those who don’t. On and on we could go! Yet in the face of all the differences of belief and practice among Christians, we are exhorted by Scripture to have unity of spirit (Ephesians 4:3)…”
The diversity within the Christian community is honourable and enriching while it exists within the commandments and will of God. After all, Jesus said that “you are my friends if you do what I command”. I suppose we all want to be known as “friends of God”. So, what are the terms for such friendship? Is it not based essentially on what God has done for us, and then in turn what we do? Perhaps we’ll need to re-evaluate what the term “friend” really means, for was it not Abraham who was known as being God’s friend? If we dig a little deeper, we’ll discover something quite remarkable, by God’s own testimony when He said to Isaac:
“…because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.” (Genesis 26:5)
Did you catch that? The commandments, statutes and laws of God were in effect a long time before the Sinai experience! And so Abraham apparently lived by every word that came from God. We can begin to see that friendship with God isn’t just a casual relationship, but more based on covenant — much, in many respects, like a marriage agreement/covenant.
Anyway, we are working on a new short film, that explores these thoughts and asks what does it take to walk as a friend of God?
By John Klassek
PS We really appreciate the diversity and freedom in Christ to worship and celebrate all God is doing through Jesus, and so it is within the framework of this Biblical diversity I was also inspired by the excellent coverage given by CESA to one such annual Christian celebration, the Feast of Tabernaces, to be held later this year.
Did you remember God today?
I mean, in the busyness and blur of daily life, has God somehow, albeit inadvertently, been sidelined?
I mean, did you begin today in prayer? In fact, I suppose we could ask, what were our first, waking thoughts this morning: did God cross our mind at all?
There’s a constant thread running through the scriptures that remind us of who God is, and for that matter, who we are — reminders, for those who will listen and take to heart, of what the covenant relationship we’ve been called into is all about.
The fourth commandment here comes to mind. God begins with, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy…” (Exodus 20:8) — reminding us to take some much needed rest.
Now we could ask: Does God really have to remind us to rest, and perhaps more importantly, at His appointed times? It would seem so.
Jesus reminded His followers that they were to love God with all their heart, and all their mind, and all their soul and all their strength! How easy do you think this is? Do you remember when you first “fell in love”. You couldn’t stop thinking about the new love in your life! In fact, at the mere mention of your beloved’s name, your heart skipped a beat.
That’s the kind of ongoing commitment God has called and invited us into.
God says to a people who have all but forgotten: “But I have this against you, that you left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent, and do the first works…” (Revelation 2:4-5)
There’s really no excuse. Saying “there is no God” is one thing; but to treat Him with indifference, or apathy, and then perhaps to finally dismiss or deny His Word, may well be a sin of omission that’s simply inexcusable.
So, where is the line of accountability in our relationship to God drawn? Did you know that God remembers us? We’ve often heard about the Book of Life in the Bible, but apparently there’s another book in heaven worth noting. It’s called the Book of Remembrance.
We read from Malachi: “So a book of remembrance was written before Him For those who fear the LORD And who meditate on His name.” (Malachi 3:16)
Does that mean that God has a specific book that remembers those who treat Him with awe and respect, and who constantly think on Him? It certainly sounds like it.
So, the question really is: What does God remember about us? You know, the answer isn’t all that much a surprise: we are largely the ones responsible for determining that record.
Everything we say and do that’s holy forms the “ink” (if you like) in God’s Book of Remembrance.
May God grant us all a heart that loves and a mind that truly remembers Him.
Who is the God of our imagination? I mean, how do we think of God? Who or what comes to mind?
It’s a question worth exploring.
You see, a lot of people say they believe in a sort of “higher intelligence”, a God who is said to have made everything, and yet when you ask them specifically about this God, you’re likely to get a whole range of answers.
Some people say they tend to see the God of the Old Testament as a bit too patriarchal and jealous at times. He seems, well, a bit mean, and ever ready with retribution.
On the extreme, a renowned atheist recently described God as: “a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” (Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, 2006)
Yet, many believers prefer what they seem to see as the gentler Jesus of the New Testament – someone who loved little children.
So, how do you see God?
Well, to begin with, what we have is the Bible as a testimony, the most printed and published book ever in history! It’s a witness; the only testimony we have that tells us about God – who He is and what He is doing. And, it is important to note what is called “the Christology” of this unique book. Simply put, the God “of the Old Testament” was none other than Jesus Christ Himself! Jesus was God who came from the Father to live among us, to reveal God the Father, and when His work was done, to then return.
The writings of Jesus’ friend John, and as found in the Book of Hebrews, plainly state that it was Jesus who made the world; it was Jesus who spoke everything into existence.
John described Jesus as: “God is love.” He went on to write that “in God there is no darkness at all”! (1 John 1:5)
The problem exists where some casual Bible readers argue that: wasn’t it God who sent a flood and drowned humanity in the days of Noah? Wasn’t it God who destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah with fire and brimstone?
Wasn’t it God who sent devastating plagues on ancient Egypt? And, wasn’t it God who told the ancient Israelites to utterly destroy the peoples in Canaan?
How could He be the same God in Jesus, they ask, who willingly suffered and paid for the sins of the world?
Well, to begin with, we must understand the depravation and wickedness of some of the ancient peoples, who allowed their children, for example, to pass through the fire to their god Molech.
Do you know what this was? This was nothing less than child sacrifice in the name of religion! It was this, among other abominable practices, that caused God to intervene at various times in history.
Yes, we may read about the gentle Jesus who blessed the little children who came to Him. But let’s think carefully then how this same Jesus might feel about the killing of innocent, little children?
Could a just God have remained silent on, for example, the horrific time of ethnic killing of all baby boys – thrown into the Nile to be eaten by crocodiles – by the Egyptians? There are other records in the Bible and in history, too, where the killing of children occurred.
Certainly such acts, in individual cases or widespread throughout society, are an indicator of just how depraved and wicked people can become.
Now, God is a God of justice. Nothing escapes His attention. He is a passionate God; a God with feeling.
Listen to what He says as recorded in the Book of Jeremiah, “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.” (Jeremiah 31:3)
That term “loving kindness”: There’s really no singular English word that can convey the Hebrew “khesed” (a word that is used some 240 times in the Old Testament) – the nearest we have in English that describes God is “loving kindness” or even translated elsewhere in the Bible as “mercy”.
So, the question remains, how does God deal with the “wicked”?
Did you know that God gave Noah 120 years to preach a message of repentance before the flood came?
Did you know that God visited Abraham to discuss the outcome of the “exceedingly wicked” citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah?
Of course, we may ask: How is all this relevant to us in our times?
Naturally, we want “God” to be good and gentle and kind, but we don’t really want Him meddling in our private affairs, do we? By that I mean, haven’t our own sins in this world piled high to heaven?
May I ask: What is abortion but the condoned killing of baby children?
Millions of children are being killed each year in our world. The ancients at least claimed some sort of religious overlay, but are not ours killings of convenience? Sadly, we don’t even call them babies anymore – that would be too personal. We instead label them as embryos or fetuses.
How do you think God feels about those we kill – those who are being formed “in His image and His likeness”? Now, of course, if we don’t believe in God (and therefore our accountability to Him), then the “survival of the fittest” mode means nothing less than a dark and deadly world.
There are few of us, however, believe it or not, whose work is to witness that there is a God, an awesome, powerful, righteous, loving God – a God, however, Who may not necessarily fit “the God of our imagination”.
This God is real, and personal, and He tells those of us willing to listen that He’s coming “quickly”.
If we turn to the last book of the Bible, Revelation, where we’re given a glimpse of the world at a time of economic upheaval, war and suffering, we would do well to also note the condition of this society:
“For her sins [the sins of this society] have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.” (Revelation 18:5)
God doesn’t hide from us what He’s going to do. He is a God of Justice, as much as He a God of mercy and compassion, and the pages of scripture testify to: Who He is; what He has done in the past; what He’s doing now, and, what His plans are for the future.
You know, we really have only one recourse: we need to genuinely turn and seek God, and come to know Him. Can we turn from our sinful ways? Are we able to ask His forgiveness? Do we doubt the extent of His grace?
For the MessageWeek team, I’m John Klassek.
One thing is certain: an encounter with the real God is bound to change us forever; but, persisting with “the God of our imagination” is a convenient risk too great to contemplate.
What does it take to come to know God – the God who created everything there is and who knows you personally?
There’s more to this question than we may at first think. Are there things and circumstances that can prevent or dissuade us from finding God?
Let me explain: the western world has enjoyed some 50 or so years of relative peace with unprecedented prosperity. Never before have so many people been so well off. Yes, I know property prices today are inflated, but it seems that we have more of everything available to us now than ever before.
The “resources boom” where I live in Western Australia has made the past decade one of the most prosperous ever. Gold, copper, iron, nickel, gas and oil are in abundant supply. Unemployment is virtually non-existent. An increasing turnover in our annual Christmas shopping sprees reflects this ever growing wealth. Our social security services have afforded the poorest among us a reasonable, if not enviable, standard of living.
And, in case you haven’t noticed, our country’s outlook has shifted. No longer do our school assemblies feature the Lord’s Prayer; in contrast, our high schools now no longer teach the “theory of evolution” – it is taught as fact. In this equation, there is no room for God.
A few years ago, when discussing the high school course outlines for one of my daughters at an orientation meeting, I explained to the interviewing teacher that because we’re followers of Jesus, [ie. Christians,] the underlying premises for her biology classes, being evolution, would not apply – and politely asked how we might best negotiate around it. The teacher responded rather abruptly, and made what I felt a somewhat scornful remark to one of her peers – all within earshot.
I had expected an empathetic hearing, thinking that our national multiculturalism and expanding tolerance for ethnic and multi-faiths would have been incorporated into the state education system. Instead, I learned quite differently – and that the decades of change on so many fronts bring with it results we don’t always anticipate.
No one can deny that our society is changing. Have you noticed, for example, that the rated content on our televisions has, over time, changed? Nudity, explicit crime scenes and other “simulated” scenes feature daily as the centrepiece of our prime time lounge room viewing. It seems that our accepted levels of tolerance have, over time, imperceptibly changed. Even more surreptitious, however, has been the influence media has had on us. Our references to wisdom no longer emanate from Christian terms of reference [as they used to]; have you noticed how many popular movies nowadays feature wise Buddhist sayings?
Then there’s the issue of infanticide. The altar of abortion as acceptable to our society today would horrify our forefathers. A few generations ago, families placing greater value on human life would have stilled any notion that abortion may even be touted as acceptable in some circumstances. But, every year, for whatever reason, we sacrifice 42 million humans worldwide.
The moral compass that used to guide our lawmakers, politicians and religious leaders, such as “You shall not kill,” isn’t so relevant nowadays. Even Christian theologians tout that the Ten Commandments were “nailed to the cross” – that is, their relevance only applying to an ancient people and not to us.
So, the issue we’re really getting at, is God, or a faith in God, really all that relevant to us any more? Do we need God in today’s society? Or, have we slowly weaned ourselves “off that crutch”; are we sufficiently enlightened for the better?
When I say “God”, I’m referring to the God in the Bible, revealed through the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.
Because, far from being dead, religion and superstition is well and truly alive. In the past few years you may have noticed new shops offering products never seen before in Australia. We’re not talking about new and amazing technological innovations. Rather, I’m referring to the gods and deities that originate from neighbouring Asian countries. Last month I came across two new shops in prime suburban locations offering hundreds of Buddhas, Hindu gods and other eastern statues of varying sizes and shapes. I remarked to my friends that it’s a wonder those businesses are able to make a living selling those things, and they responded saying, “You’d be surprised at how many people buy them!”
So who in Australia buys Buddha statues? Are they mere decorations, items of exquisite artwork, or do they convey some of the intrigue, power and mystery they possess in Asian homelands?
I think our problem with the God of the Bible is that He tells us things we don’t want to hear. He tells us how to live; and warns us of the consequences if we don’t listen to Him. God asks us for all our attention. He tells us that He made us, and that we’re prosperous because He has blessed us.
The gods we have substituted, however, whether a statue of Buddha or the sports car we shine every weekend, remain pleasingly silent on those issues.
God also frequently warns us about the danger of riches. Jesus said that it was impossible for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Wealth it seems obscures our understanding of how needful we really are; it gives us a false sense of security.
A wise man once prayed, “Don’t let me be so poor that I would steal for food, or let me become so rich that I would forget you.” (Proverb 30:8-9)
There’s something in that prayer that we have neglected. In becoming affluent, we have forgotten the very core values that set us on this journey.
Think about it. We have failed to be thankful for all that we have, and what I mean by this is that we have neglected to “join the dots” between our prosperity and our successes to the providence of God. (Instead, we boast that it’s technological innovation that has made us better off).
A few years ago, the Australian Government endorsed and promoted National Thanksgiving Day, with the motto on their website reflecting the words: Say thanks to God and say thanks to each other.
I was particularly touched by the frankness of including God in our national Thanksgiving statement. Because Australians don’t necessarily see themselves as a Christian-based society any longer, a direct attribution to “God” seemed almost “out of touch” with mainstream thinking.
When the Government recently awarded pensioners a once-off large sum payment, the first response we heard from the media, pensioners and others was to criticise it. Some complained it was a waste of tax payer funds. Others felt it would hurt the economy. Still others said it wasn’t enough to really help.
Are we becoming more ungrateful the richer we become?
Now, if you were privy to what God’s thoughts might be on our emerging national ethos, how would you respond? I mean, what are God’s thoughts and intentions to a people like us?
Thankfully, history speaks for itself of a people not so dissimilar to ourselves. Throughout the experience of the prophets of old, as recorded in the Bible, was the warning that if people moved away from the one and only God to “worship things made with hands” the consequences would be dire.
From prosperity to poverty, freedom to captivity, health to diseases, was the warning the prophets echoed again and again. And, in due course, those people of old learned some painful lessons over and over; no wonder so many of the prophets were killed or imprisoned.
Despite our failings, however, there is a silver lining running concurrent to the trends of emerging affluence.
No matter how decadent a society becomes, it seems that historically, there has always been a God-loving and faithful remnant; a percentage of people who have not traded their faith for, for example, the lie of evolution or superstition in other eastern gods. People who genuinely seek God, and live changed lives; in Jesus’ words, who are “in the world but not of the world” – people who “keep the commandments of God and the testimony of Jesus”.
Their lives of faith are all the more accentuated in an “educated” society that at best says, “We evolved. There is no God.”
So if faith is preserved and nurtured in the righteous in the midst of a wicked and perverse generation, and that God is the centre of their life compass, what are the odds of anyone finding this God?
It’s a good question. The good news message proclaiming the heritage and promises of God have been there for us in a book called the Bible, and it is to those who “hear” it that it applies.
“He that has an ear, let him hear,” said Jesus on numerous occasions.
Jesus also explained the miracle of someone coming to genuine faith; it is something that can’t be achieved by reasoning or intellect alone.
Jesus explained it this way, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who has sent Me draw him, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:44)
It comes down to calling, a specific calling by God, coupled then with the willingness to listen. The good message has always been proclaimed and taught; today the Bible holds the position as the world’s most printed and published book! No other text compares.
Yet, despite its Divine authorship, riches and wealth make it so much harder to hear and understand the message. We become distracted and comfortable, and simply fail to perceive just how needy we are.
To a people of old, God said, “Because you say, I am rich and increased with goods and have need of nothing, and do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked…” (Revelation 3:17)
Has anything changed today? Affluence takes its toll, unfortunately, in ways that are more harmful than beneficial. The signature of human nature is exactly the same as it has been from old; greed and ingratitude.
That is, however, as history confirms, until calamity strikes. Some insurance policies include the somewhat ironic “act of God” clause, referring to events beyond human control, such as hurricanes, earthquakes or volcanic eruptions.
It is often in times of calamity, or war, or profound suffering that people in desperation “turn to God”. It’s happened in the past, and if history is any precedence, it will happen again.
When stripped of those material things that give us a false sense of security and power, we only somehow then perceive our own inadequacies.
Jesus Christ gave John a vision of the future, where he saw “an innumerable multitude” from every nation and language, singing songs to God. In learning their identity, the angel told John, “These are the ones who came out of the great tribulation…” (Revelation 17:14)
The Great Tribulation is a term that encapsulates a time yet future, just prior to Jesus’ return, when the world is at war. Suffering is so vast and incomprehensible, and global warming so intense, that it seems many [more than what is humanly possible to enumerate] will finally “turn to God”.
And as tragic as is the reality that only through suffering will human hearts turn to God, the silver lining is that they do turn!
You see, God doesn’t force His will and way on us. He simply asks us to choose, and in doing so, we also choose the consequences.
To an ancient people, not unlike ourselves [in the western world], God spoke:
“I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. Therefore, choose life, so that both you and your children may live, so that you may love Jehovah your God…” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)
The choice is ours. Will we hear, today? Can we recognise that the abundance we have isn’t ours because we’re smarter; but because God is, that He loves us and has blessed us – not because we deserve it, but because He is faithful?
By John Klassek
Did Jesus recommend the eating of unclean meats?
[Or: Did Jesus tell His disciples they could eat anything and everything?]
Jesus was of the tribe of Judah,1 and He grew up as a Jew, and hence He would only eat the meat of animals which God had declared clean in His law.2
For Him to eat the meat of any other animals would have meant that He was breaking God’s law, and to do so meant He would have sinned, because sin is lawlessness,3 and Jesus never sinned.4
As Jesus knew that it was sin to eat unclean meats, He would not have wanted others to sin in that way either. That’s the short answer to our question, but there is more.
The disciples of Jesus were Jews, too, and while they were sinners like every other human being,5 they would not have eaten unclean meats. If they had, we would know about it, because fellows who didn’t like Jesus – such as Pharisees and others from the Jewish establishment – would have kicked up such a racket we would be reading about it in one of the four Gospels at least. Those fellows seemed to be watching Jesus and His disciples wherever or whenever they could, and we do read about an occasion when they picked on Jesus’ disciples for not washing their hands before a meal. That incident must have been important, because God inspired Mark to record it in detail.
The Pharisees and their comrades followed all kinds of customs that you wouldn’t find anywhere in God’s law, and washing their hands before a meal was one of them, so they asked Jesus why His disciples didn’t go along with what they called ‘the tradition of the elders’, and ate bread with dirty hands. Jesus didn’t pull any punches and told them what a bunch of hypocrites they were, and how they followed their own rules rather than the commandments of God. Then He spoke to the crowd that was there, and later to His disciples, and explained that it didn’t matter what went into your mouth – obviously referring to any dirt on your hands when you don’t wash them before a meal, because that’s what it was all about – and that of itself wouldn’t make you dirty, because it goes into your digestive system which gets rid of all the dirt.
He went on to explain what really makes a man dirty, namely that which comes out of his heart, things like evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.
When you read Mark 7:1-19 in the New International Version, you will notice eight words in brackets at the end of verse 19, (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods “clean.”), trying to tell the reader that it’s ok by Jesus to eat anything and everything.
The first five words in brackets, (In saying this, Jesus declared) are not in any Greek text of the New Testament; what may be rendered ‘all foods’ is there, but instead of ‘clean’, the Greek has ‘purging’,6 all of which means that the translators, rather than doing what they are expected to do, namely to translate, have put their own interpretative slant on the end of verse 19.
So, if the translators’ interpretation of the end of verse 19 were correct, do we read that the disciples of Jesus – or any other Jews for that matter – began to eat unclean meats, either during Jesus’ time on earth, or after?
Let the New Testament answer our question.
One of Jesus’ disciples, Simon Peter, comes across as being a leader, and God gives us valuable clues concerning Peter’s encounter with unclean meats many years after the incident described in Mark 7.
In Acts 10 we read about him going up to a roof to pray; many houses in that part of the world had flat roofs, ideal for getting away on your own for a while. Continuing with verses 10 to 14: ‘He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”
“Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”
There we have it, straight from the inspired word: Simon Peter had never eaten unclean meats – and we could safely add – all his life, because he was a Jew, and Jesus had never told him that he could, or that it was alright for anyone to eat the meat of animals which the LORD had declared unfit for human consumption since the giving of the law to Moses, and, as far as he knew, all the way back in the days of Noah.7
Now verses 15 to 22: ‘The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven. While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon’s house was and stopped at the gate. They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there. While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.” Peter went down and said to the men, “I’m the one you’re looking for. Why have you come?” The men replied, “We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to have you come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say.”
Peter knew full well all along that the voice from heaven was trying to tell him something with the threefold appearance of unclean animals in the sheet, and when he saw the three men – obviously Gentiles whom the Jews regarded as equally unclean – he began to see the significance of the vision, all of which was reinforced by what the Spirit had said to him.
Have you ever wondered why God used such dramatically elaborate imagery to get through to Peter that Gentiles were acceptable to Him? You would think God could just as easily have said to Peter something like: “I am sending three men to take you to the house of a centurion, because I am about to give My Spirit to the Gentiles also.”
Well, with Peter’s steadfast refusal to ‘get up, kill and eat’ when he saw the great variety of unclean creatures, God seems to be telling us loud and clear that unclean animals are not on the menu of the followers of Jesus, be they Jews or Gentiles, and when the three Gentile men came looking for Peter, He shows us that He is calling people of other races besides Jews to become His disciples, and that Peter was not to call Gentiles impure whom God had made clean.
God is also a great one for augmenting something He wants us to understand through repetition. Acts 11:1-12 is a wonderful example:
‘The apostles and the brothers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticised him and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.” Peter began and explained everything to them precisely as it had happened: “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. I saw something like a large sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to where I was. I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles, and birds of the air. Then I heard a voice telling me, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’
“I replied, ‘Surely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’
“The voice spoke from heaven a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’ This happened three times, and then it was all pulled up to heaven again. “Right then three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea stopped at the house where I was staying. The Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going with them. The six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man’s house.”
God makes sure we are reading Peter’s point blank refusal to kill and eat unclean animals a second time. It bears repeating: nothing impure or unclean had ever entered his mouth – and it wasn’t going to now! There had to be an explanation. So when the Spirit told him to have no hesitation about going with the three men, he knew what the vision had been all about.
We can also be certain that there was no unclean meat served up at the house of Cornelius.
‘He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly.’ (Acts 10:2) A perfect description of Gentiles who lived like Jews in as many ways as they could.
A few years later, Peter was at what we would call a ministerial conference in Jerusalem. It was all about the question: should Gentiles be circumcised to be saved.
After some lengthy discussion and reports from Peter, Barnabas and Paul, James spoke up:
“It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.” (Acts 15:19-20)
Again, God wants us to read it a second time, namely in the excerpt from a letter they decided to send to the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia:
‘It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell.’ (Acts 15:28-29)
The mention of food sacrificed to idols should tell us that much of it would have been the meat of unclean animals8 which their neighbours would have had for sale following pagan sacrificial rites.
To this day, in addition to unclean meats, many people, including Christians, eat blood in the form of what they call Black Pudding, or prepared in many different ways, as well as the meat of strangled animals,9 which means that the apostles’ teachings (Acts 2:42) have not been passed on by many denominations.
Indeed, we read about the early stages of their development in the book of Revelation.
Jesus Christ inspired the apostle John to write to the seven churches in the province of Asia, with Jesus Himself speaking to them, as it were, directly. Addressing the church in Pergamum, Jesus begins by mentioning their good points, and then continues:
“Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality.” (Revelation 2:14)
Isn’t it amazing, Jesus says it was a sin in the days of ancient Israel to eat food sacrificed to idols, and it is still a sin in one of the early New Testament churches. And eating food sacrificed to idols seems to go hand in hand with sexual immorality, as we again read in the church in Thyatira:
“Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teachings she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols.” (Revelation 2:20)
In a letter to the church in Corinth, the apostle Paul sheds some more light on what sacrifices offered to idols are all about:
‘Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons.’ (I Corinthians 10:19-20)
You bet he wouldn’t, and it should serve as a warning for all Christians, whether we live in an idol-worshipping society or not.
After all, God’s rules about clean and unclean meats are part and parcel of His law, and Jesus tells us in no uncertain terms, recorded for us in Matthew 5:17-19:
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law and the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”
That’s right. When He came to live among people, He did not abolish the law concerning clean and unclean meats, but He fulfilled it by setting an example of abiding by that law.
Jesus goes on:
“I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”
Have you ever thought about what Jesus is saying here? Not even what many Christians call a small, insignificant matter like what we might eat will disappear until heaven and earth disappear. And when Jesus adds, “until everything is accomplished”, He may well be saying until He has taught every human being that ever lived what is good for them to eat and what is not. Paul was inspired to write along these lines about God our Saviour, ‘who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.’ (I Timothy 2:4)
Jesus also knew there would be some who would not like His teachings, because He continues:
“Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven,”
Then there are always those who respect and live by the rules in the law laid down in Leviticus 11, and look what Jesus has to say about them:
“But whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
Simon Peter was one of them. He practised and by his example taught the commands God gave about clean and unclean meats. When he was on that flat roof in Joppa, he full well knew that the voice from heaven was not urging him to sin by killing unclean animals and eating them. He may have been a sinner in other ways, but he called out that he had never sinned by breaking that particular law: “Surely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.”
And don’t forget, Jesus has had just that kind of people throughout history, and He still has – Jews as well as Christians of all races10 – and He will have until heaven and earth disappear.
By Ernie Klassek
1. For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah, (Hebrews 7:14)
See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, has triumphed. (Revelation 5:5)
3. Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. (I John 3:4)
4. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” (Hebrews 2:22)
5. for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23)
6. καθαριζων παντα τα βρωματα
purging all the foods
or: removing all the dirt
The verb καθαριζω also has the meaning “remove”, A POCKET LEXICON TO THE GREEK NEW TESTAMENT by Alexander Souter, M.A. Matthew 8:3, “And immediately his leprosy was removed” (εκαθαρισθη), Walter Bauer’s GREEK-ENGLISH LEXICON OF THE NEW TESTAMENT and Other Early Christian Literature.
J.B. Phillips: “And at once he was clear of the leprosy”.
The noun βρωμα, in the plural βρωματα, occurs once in Matthew 14:15, “Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.” It occurs once in Mark (see above), and many translators have rendered it here as “food” or “foods”also.
However, βρωμα occurs with two distinct genders, one neuter το βρωμα which means “the food”, the other one feminine η βρωμα which means “the dirt”. Matthew does not feature the article, and Mark has the article in the plural τα βρωματα, so it’s up to the translator to render it in line with the context. In Matthew the context is obvious: food for the crowds. In Mark it’s all about the dirt.
7. Genesis 7:1-3 The LORD then said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation. Take with you seven of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and two of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, and also seven of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth.”
8. The Knox Translation, I Machabees 1:46-50, “Both in Jerusalem and in all the cities of Juda the king’s envoys published this edict; men must live by the law of the heathen round about, burnt sacrifice, offering and atonement in God’s temple should be none, nor sabbath kept, nor feast-day. And, for the more profanation of the sanctuary, and of Israel’s holy people, altar and shrine and idol must be set up, swine’s flesh offered, and all manner of unhallowed meat;”
Josephus, THE WARS OF THE JEWS, Book I, Chapter I, 2. “Now Antiochus . . . compelled the Jews to dissolve the laws of their country, and to keep their infants uncircumcised, and to sacrifice swine’s flesh upon the altar;”
Walter Bauer’s GREEK-ENGLISH LEXICON OF THE NEW TESTAMENT and Other Early Christian Literature: το ειδωλοθυτον meat offered to an idol, an expression, which was possible only among Jews and Christians. It refers to sacrificial meat, part of which was burned on the altar, part was eaten at a solemn meal in the temple, and part was sold in the market for home use. From the Jewish viewpoint it was unclean and therefore forbidden. Acts 15:29; 21:25; I Corinthians 8:1, 4, 7, 10; 10:19, 28; Revelation 2:14, 20.
9. Every year during what Tasmanians call the mutton bird season, people – including Christians – go to the islands off the North-West tip of Tasmania to drag the plump Shearwater chicks out of their burrows, kill them by strangulation, and take them home to eat them.
10. Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring – those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus. (Revelation 12:17)
This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus. (Revelation 14:12)
Scripture quotations are from the NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, unless noted otherwise.
Attempts to smuggle a Trinity (three persons) into the Greek New Testament
THREE VERSES in the text of the Greek New Testament where insertions or replacements of words supporting a concept of “Three Persons” have been made:
- Matthew 6:13
- 1 Corinthians 8:6
- and, 1 John 5:7-8
First, in Matthew 6, the insertion follows the ending of verse 13:
For yours is the kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit forever (to the ages). Amen 1
Second, in I Corinthians 8, the insertion follows the ending of verse 6:
and one Holy Spirit, in whom (are) all and we in him (or it)2
The third one – having since become known as the Comma Johanneum – may be traced to Desiderius Erasmus, a Dutch scholar, who published a Greek New Testament in 1516, with a second edition in 1519. Publishers of other editions of the time criticised Erasmus’ work because it lacked the Trinitarian statement in I John 5:7-8 (which eventually found its way into the King James Version).
in heaven, the Father, the Word and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one
Erasmus told his critics that he would add the statement if they could show him at least one Greek text containing those words. They eventually did, and that’s how they did it: it seems that in 1520 they commissioned a monk by the name of Roy to produce a Greek manuscript to suit. Apparently it took him a year, and he translated the additional passage from a Latin text. Erasmus then inserted it in his edition of 1522, with a footnote expressing his suspicion that the manuscript had been specifically prepared to confound him. Today it is in the library of Trinity College, Dublin, and it is said that it has long been the most consulted of all.3
For all three verses, the insertions and replacements of words are in the apparatus of the NESTLE-ALAND NOVUM TESTAMENTUM GRAECE.
No reputable recent translations into modern languages that we know of contain those insertions or replacements.
By Ernie Klassek
One of my friends recently wrote to me, asking for further information regarding the Trinity doctrine. He seemed to be in two minds as to how conclusively you can prove it from the scriptures. The Trinity is often the primary doctrine in many Christian Statement of Beliefs, which teaches that God is three, co-equal persons consisting of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
We have presented articles as well as a film on this some years ago, but because we’ve had several requests over the years to again revisit it, we’d like to again present a series of short films that looks at just what Jesus did say and do, as well as the testimony of the apostles who pioneered the early Christian church. We can do no more and no less, and hopefully you’ll find the series thought provoking and encouraging.
If you have any thoughts, or questions, or something you would like to contribute, feel free to register at this site and share.