Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Identifying Pharisaic Leaven

This is the lesson outline of what I will teach Thursday night.

Mark 8:14-21
First look at Jesus feeding the 4000.  What is wrong with the picture in verse 4?
In verses 11-13, do any of the Pharisees surprise you?  Why?  Does Jesus give them what they ask for?  What does he give them?
What do both the disciples and Pharisees have in common in this chapter?
What is leaven, btw?  What does he mean by leaven of the Pharisees in verse 15?
How does he rebuke them in vs. 17-18?  How does this describe the leaven of the Pharisees?
Have you seen miracles and signs and still needed proof for Christ? 
In my life: I woke up today.  I’ve had some ding-ups with my cars but have never been killed or sued.  How God led me at just the right time to Trinity to lead the children, then led me to a few volunteer jobs in schools, making me realize I love teaching children the truth but hate public school and don’t want to be a teacher, and how he led me to Clayton State and subsequent friends, which led to testing of my faith, which led to God showing his love in other people who I least expected.  With all that, I still question God and he has to hit me with a 2x4 and show me all he’s done in the past 3 years.  You have any similar stories?

How do we recognize Pharisees and their yeast?  Or false prophets or false teachers?  Let’s go on a rabbit trail to Luke 16:1-13, the dishonest steward.
What did he do to get the people to invite him into his house?  Do you think the boss is going to give him his job back?  Why or why not?
How was he dishonest with his Lord’s treasure?  What did we owe the master?  The debt for our sins will never be satisfied as we are poor and can never pay it.  How was it paid?  Could we pay it?  The price was an infinite punishment by God’s wrath.  It could never end because we’ve sinned even once.  So when you hear people talking about things you need to do to be a saved or to stay saved, what are those people doing?  What if they say no one is going to hell?  They're still cheapening the gift because they’re saying we have no punishment to endure, thus calling God a liar.  You will know Pharisaic leaven by their emphasis on good works, almsgiving, and sometimes even the insistence that people can figure out their own salvation.  Sometimes they will emphasize asceticism, which means…, and forsaking all people and friends.

Now, I do many volunteer things in Conyers, does that mean I’m working to earn salvation?  I often spend time alone studying the things of God?  Am I trying to earn salvation?  No, God does call us to spend time with him and to do good things for people, but he wants us to also love people, love our friends, and give to them without expecting anything, and this is all because we are saved.  And this is all things we do together as a church body, not alone.

So false leaven cares way too much about trying to accomplish good deeds on our own.  And that's pretty much it.

Monday, July 30, 2012

the Shepherd of Hermas: Alas

This reminds me way too much of Alice in Wonderland, or the Shack, or maybe both.  I'm very glad it did not end up in the New Testament, yet very sad how Shepherd of Hermas has influenced the Church.  I could not bring myself to even finish reading the visions, but what I read was appalling.

Vision 1: Hermas sees a woman bathing and desires her.  Then he falls asleep and the same woman appears in heaven and yells at him for sinning against her.  I think in the end, he is forgiven, but she says, “Be a man, Hermas.”  Also, an older woman talked to him.

Vision 2: The older woman returns, gives him a book to translate, and when he does, it is snatched from his hands in an utter Joseph Smith moment.  Then, they come back in a Howler to Hermas saying his wife and sons have blasphemed God and he just sat there and let them do so without chastising them.  And there’s some tribulation coming.  Hermas has been careless and wicked but he didn’t leave God so he was saved.  But now he must lead his children and wife/sister in the coming tribulation.  The idiot thought the old lady was Sybil, from a completely different religion, but no, she was the Church.

Me: This is way too Old Testament and written by someone who does not understand Christ’s grace.  Though it is good that God saved Hermas when he did not leave God.  However, his simplicity and self-control saved him, not God’s grace.  I agree, God created the Church first and she is old, but we are all the Church who believe and love Christ.  We are the Bride of Christ, the new Eve, and dare I say, Christ-bearers.  So, Hermas should be part of this woman.

Vision 3: “And touching me she said, Hermas, ‘cease praying continually for your sins; pray for righteousness, that you may have a portion of it immediately in your house.’” 
From what I can read, six young men built a tower and then it fell, scattered all over the world. 
“The tower which you see building is myself, the Church, who have appeared to you now and on the former occasion. Ask, then, whatever you like in regard to the tower, and I will reveal it to you, that you may rejoice with the saints.”  Also, you will be saved through water which equals God’s Name and power. 
“In reply I said to her, This is magnificent and marvelous. But who are the six young men who are engaged in building? And she said, These are the holy angels of God, who were first created, and to whom the Lord handed over His whole creation, that they might increase and build up and rule over the whole creation.
“Those square white stones which fitted exactly into each other, are apostles, bishops, teachers, and deacons, who have lived in godly purity, and have acted as bishops and teachers and deacons chastely and reverently to the elect of God.”
“Who then are those whom they rejected and cast away? These are they who have sinned, and wish to repent. On this account they have not been thrown far from the tower, because they will yet be useful in the building, if they repent.  She then describes the stones in a similar manner to the way Jesus describes the four soils.
“Repentance, said she, is yet possible, but in this tower they cannot find a suitable place. But in another and much inferior place they will be laid, and that, too, only when they have been tortured and completed the days of their sins. And on this account will they be transferred, because they have partaken of the righteous Word. And then only will they be removed from their punishments when the thought of repenting of the evil deeds which they have done has come into their hearts. But if it does not come into their hearts, they will not be saved, on account of the hardness of their heart.
And then, seven ladies have names.  One is Faith, and the rest are her daughters: Self-Restraint, Simplicity, Guilelessness, Chastity, Intelligence, and Love.  The lady then says she will pray to the Father for the people on earth.

My commentary, mostly line by line: I can’t disagree with that saying.  Don’t dwell on your sins but focus on righteousness.  It’s also notable that he believes in the elect and reprobate.  I really wish there was more commentary on this.  In this vision, I mostly read “blah, blah, blah.”  Again, I can’t really disagree with what the lady says, but once again, it’s a lady giving a vision and not an approved Apostle or Prophet of God.  So far, I think Hermas wrote an allegory about the church that’s okay, but he write as a false prophet who received a revelation that no one else received.  While it does not necessarily contradict the Bible, this does not happen after the Apostles have died.  If God sends revelation, he sends it indiscreetly and by many eyewitnesses, not some guy walking out of the woods.  And then, God started building a tower/the Church, but now these angels have to finish it?  Did Christ not say, “It is finished”?  I don’t think this guy even has a concept of who Christ is.  Basically, this woman says you can only have salvation if you belong to the Church.  I do agree, but, again, this is because Christ draws us in.  We are the Church, not this woman.  I repeat, this man has no concept of Christ.  And now the rejected stones must perform penance and even then, placed on the inferior parts of the tower.  Ugh.  Hello, Purgatory doctrine.  And the seven ladies – more ugh.  I’m sure Faith does produce all those qualities in a believer, but again, they all come from God.  Love is what defines God, and through faith we can have that kind of love and possibly other areas of discipline and self-control.  To Hermas’s credit, these are a result of faith, not a way to be saved.  Even further to his credit, God gives this qualities to the believer out of his mercy, not out of the believer’s actions.  Then the lady says she’ll intercede before the Father instead of Christ, who God sent to be our intercessor.  By definition, this lady is an anti-Christ, and we do not need to listen to her.  I don’t think I can read any more; I’m starting to tremble with anger.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Cairns 5: ECF recap

So Earle Cairns did a whole chapter on describing some early church fathers and their writings.  That wasn't enough for me.  I decided to read all the men he mentioned.  So let's recap.

Clement of Rome: this was such an encouraging letter to Corinth.  At this point, Jerusalem is in the destruction process, the whole world these Christians knew was falling apart, and Clement encouraged them.  This is encouraging for us average Americans who see America falling apart by the seams.  What we see can fall apart, but nobody can take away Christ's love for us.

Ignatius of Antioch: I read his seven letters.  He anticipated martyrdom at some point in writing them, so I guess he was giving them final words.  He seems to take an extreme view of martyrdom being a great honor and privilege.  It is.  It is a great honor and humility to love Christ so much that the state takes your life over it.  Again, I can see this happening in America.  It happens all over the world.  Again, you can take my money, freedom, and life, but you can never take my religious freedom or my freedom in Christ.

Polycarp: He is known for the government taking his life.  He truly loved the Lord, and when asked to recant at an old age he said, "I've served him 86 and he has done me no wrong.  I'm not going to leave him now."  The people who chronicled his death added some supernatural details, like him not burning and emitting a smell of incense.  I don't know if that's all true or not, but we do know that life was not more important to him than his status with Jesus.

Pseudo-Barnabas:  I like this one this best.  It seems to be another Galatians: calling people to trust in Christ and not in works to either earn or keep salvation.  There is a bit of over-allegorizing.  Some is good.  Some is too much.  I don't disagree with any of it, but you gotta be careful in making allegories of everything.

Letter to Diognetus:  I thought this letter had a good presentation of the bad news and the good news.  Sin, Law, and the Gospel. 

2 Clement: since nobody believes Clement wrote this, I can safely say that his letter is a shambles.  It promotes working to keep your status with the Lord instead of trusting him to make you holy.  This is a baby form of Pelagianism.

Papias: I don't know what happened to this, but most of it is missing.  It has cool background info on the apostles, but I'm not sure if most of it is true.  Both 2 Clement and Papias were written in the middle of the 2nd century and would not really prove any of this info the people Jesus knew. 

We also have Shepherd of Hermas, which almost made it into the Bible and the Didiche.  I did not get to read those and probably won't, but the disciples used the Didiche for much of church organization, and it still influences the Church today.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Hodge Podge

So I mentioned this sign I saw not for the first time last night on a church: No Perfect People Allowed.

Granted, I assure you, I'm not a perfect person, and I don't know anyone who is, but I do know one person who is perfect: Jesus.  Is he not allowed at that church?  Because if they're that desperate to attract crowds, then he probably is not allowed there except in name only.

But alas, I got caught complaining about it in a similar fashion of telling someone in AA to do something about their alcohol problem.  Yes, I know I complain.  But I've been happy all week.  I've said mostly funny stuff all week.  If I complain, I actually do something about it.

So instead of complaining, I propose we suggest alternative church signs.

How about: Blue Jeans Welcome, just make sure they're your best.

Or: If you just got in from working 3rd shift, why don't you just come on in and rest a bit.

I'd love more suggestions.  What I don't want is people acting like they're satisfied with not being perfect.  No, we can never be perfect on our own, but we do need the one perfect Person in our church if we want anything good in our lives.  In fact, he needs to be the center of the show with his Word that isn't always comfortable, truth that isn't always comfortable.

Another line: come as you are, leave a different person. 

That sounds good to me.

In other news: I finally figured out why I've been so depressed all year.  It feels so good to know what that is so I can know how to deal with that again.  So yay, it's been a happy week and I hope it never ends.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Papias Fritas

Papias confused me.  What few strips of his writings there are to not constitute any substantial, um, substance to the faith.  You'll notice my quote from the intro.  I'm actually glad we can only find fragments of his works.  His works and 2 Clement, being written in the middle of the 2nd century, do not have the inspiration that the works before them had.

Intro: “It seems unjust to the holy man of whose comparatively large contributions to early Christian literature such mere relics have been preserved, to set them forth in these versions, unaccompanied by the copious annotations of Dr. Routh.”  “Irenæus makes mention of these as the only works written by him, in the following words: “Now testimony is borne to these things in writing by Papias, an ancient man, who was a hearer of John, and a friend of Polycarp, in the fourth of his books; for five books were composed by him.””

6. It seems that if Papias had all his manuscripts, he would have good background on the Apostles.  But then, would it all be accurate.  He mentions Philip, Peter, Matthew, and especially Mark, who he goes into detail about.  “Mark having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately whatsoever he remembered. It was not, however, in exact order that he related the sayings or deeds of Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor accompanied Him. But afterwards, as I said, he accompanied Peter, who accommodated his instructions to the necessities [of his hearers], but with no intention of giving a regular narrative of the Lord’s sayings.”

8. “With regard to the inspiration of the book (Revelation), we deem it superfluous to add another word; for the blessed Gregory Theologus and Cyril, and even men of still older date, Papias, Irenæus, Methodius, and Hippolytus, bore entirely satisfactory testimony to it.”

9. Is he allegorizing the six days of creation?  Please don’t do that.

10.  The origin of the legend that Jesus’s brothers were adopted cousins, which is never hinted at in Scripture.  People think this was actually written by a Medieval Papias, not the one of antiquity.

Maybe the latter is why this is now in fragments.  Although it still would have been good to have background on the apostles if it was accurate.  Notice, he also mentioned a third way that Judas Iscariot died.  Both this and 2 Clement were written in the middle of the second century, so there is not much chance of them knowing the apostles.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

2 Clement: He would not have written this

It has Clement’s name on it, but nobody thinks he wrote it.  After reading it, I quite agree.

1. “And we ought not to think mean things of our Salvation: for when we think mean things of Him, we expect also to receive mean things. And they that listen as concerning mean things do wrong; and we ourselves do wrong, not knowing whence and by whom and unto what place we were called, and how many things Jesus Christ endured to suffer for our sakes.”

2. The barren woman should rejoice in the hope of children, the poor in status, the lost in Christ Jesus who came not for the righteous but for sinners.

4. “Let us therefore not only call Him Lord, for this will not save us:for He saith, Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, shall be saved, but he that doeth righteousness.”

5. Do not be afraid of the world even though you will be like sheep among wolves.

6. Line of trouble: “Or who shall be our advocate, unless we be found having holy and righteous works?”  This is why Clement would not have written this.  He knew Paul.  He knew about salvation by grace alone, how Jesus is our defense attorney, our advocate.  That position has nothing to do with us being found holy and righteous in works because they all mean nothing.  Our only holiness and righteousness comes from God, and only then can are works be remotely good.

7. Contending for a crown.  If your crown is not Christ himself, then you are not going to heaven.  He must be your delight and your whole life.  This is so Pelagian.

9. I guess I do agree with this chapter.  Jesus came to save both body and soul, to renew them when he comes again, and we must care for our flesh.  However, we need to dedicate it to Christ, surrendering it, not trying to do our own thing in guarding it.

12. So, Christ will come back when we all unite.  He’s not going to unite us on our own.  Umm, I think I found another Rob Bell spirit.

13. If we do bad works, then the Gentiles will blaspheme.  Which is true, but also account that we will struggle with sin our whole lives and must submit to Christ and give him glory, not draw attention to ourselves.

15. Praising of continence/virginity

16. Exhortation to almsgiving

18. “Clement” calls himself a great sinner who is diligent for righteousness.  Sometimes I wonder if this is a bad translation.  He pleads for his readers to live in such a way that they retain their salvation, yet he himself can’t even do this.  There is no hope in a belief like this where nothing you do impresses God.  We are already not worthy of salvation due to sinning one time.  No compensation will suffice for our holy God.  We can only take the offer he has given and praise him for sending Jesus who lived a perfect life for us and offered the perfect sacrifice that lasts for all time.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Thankful time

1. I just had the best trip in Buffalo, NY with my best friend from college.  The only downside is I had to go home.

2. The good side to coming home, is my cats missed me.

3. I'm not worrying about my friends!  I've finally grown content and I'm not checking my email or facebook every two seconds.

4. Still thankful that I'm finally reading the Early Church Fathers.

5. I'm starting to make friends at the RPCUS church.

6. Thankful that I get to volunteer for a lawyer in Conyers.  I think I did some good work today.

7. I'm thankful that I'm planning on disc golfing again tomorrow.

8. I probably should take my new sunblock.  I'm thankful that was the only thing confiscated at the airport.  I did not get pat down.

9. I think I'm starting a new life soon.  Same place still, but going to stop looking inward for a while.

That Letter to Diognetus

Schaff decides that the author’s name is Mathetes since he calls himself that, meaning “disciple,” in the letter.  His style is apostolic in nature, so they assume he wrote his letter sometime toward the end of the apostolic age.
1. Diognetus asks how to best worship the Christian God.
2. Mat urges him to get rid of his Greek idols that can’t see, hear, smell, talk, etc.  They must be gone before he can worship God.
3. The Jews are right to worship one God, but they are wrong to worship him the same way that the Greeks worship their idols, in ways God did not prescribe.
6. “To sum up all in one word— what the soul is in the body, that are Christians in the world. The soul is dispersed through all the members of the body, and Christians are scattered through all the cities of the world. The soul dwells in the body, yet is not of the body; and Christians dwell in the world, yet are not of the world.”

12 Chapters, and this is probably the most uneventful letter I’ve read from the Patristic period.  After chapter 6, he does into an exposition of sin, the fall, and our need for Jesus.  I think I was mostly just tired and needing a nap.  If anything, this letter is short.  I'm also hoping that his separation of the soul from the body is not a plug for Neo-Platonism, because those things do go together.