Category Archives: Books

A Jesus Manifesto

This morning, I read A Jesus Manifesto.  Wow!  It just blew me away.  It synopsizes truth.  I was a little bothered by the plug for certain books that came at the end, but, ultimately, the manifesto makes many of the thoughts I have been having quite clear.  For instance:

It is possible to emphasize a spiritual truth, value, virtue, or gift, yet miss Christ . . . who is the embodiment and incarnation of all spiritual truth, values, virtues, and gifts.

Seek a truth, a value, a virtue, or a spiritual gift, and you have obtained something dead.

Jesus Christ cannot be separated from his teachings. Aristotle says to his disciples, “Follow my teachings.” Socrates says to his disciples, “Follow my teachings.” Buddha says to his disciples, “Follow my meditations.” Confucius says to his disciples, “Follow my sayings.” Muhammad says to his disciples, “Follow my noble pillars.” Jesus says to his disciples, “Follow me.” In all other religions, a follower can follow the teachings of its founder without having a relationship with that founder. Not so with Jesus Christ. The teachings of Jesus cannot be separated from Jesus himself. Jesus Christ is still alive and he embodies his teachings. It is a profound mistake, therefore, to treat Christ as simply the founder of a set of moral, ethical, or social teaching. The Lord Jesus and his teaching are one. The Medium and the Message are One. Christ is the incarnation of the Kingdom of God and the Sermon on the Mount.

Being a follower of Jesus does not involve imitation so much as it does implantation and impartation. Incarnation–the notion that God connects to us in baby form and human touch—is the most shocking doctrine of the Christian religion. The incarnation is both once-and-for-all and ongoing, as the One ―who was and is to come now is and lives his resurrection life in and through us. Incarnation doesn’t just apply to Jesus; it applies to every one of us. Of course, not in the same sacramental way. But close. We have been given God’s “Spirit” which makes Christ “real” in our lives. We have been made, as Peter puts it, “partakers of the divine nature.” How, then, in the face of so great a truth can we ask for toys and trinkets? How can we lust after lesser gifts and itch for religious and spiritual thingys? We’ve been touched from on high by the fires of the Almighty and given divine life. A life that has passed through death – the very resurrection life of the Son of God himself. How can we not be fired up?
To put it in a question: What was the engine, or the accelerator, of the Lord’s amazing life? What was the taproot or the headwaters of his outward behavior? It was this: Jesus lived by an indwelling Father. After his resurrection, the passage has now moved. What God the Father was to Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ is to you and to me. He’s our indwelling Presence, and we share in the life of Jesus’ own relationship with the Father. There is a vast ocean of difference between trying to compel Christians to imitate Jesus and learning how to impart an implanted Christ. The former only ends up in failure and frustration. The latter is the gateway to life and joy in our daying and our dying. We stand with Paul: “Christ lives in me.” Our life is Christ. In him do we live, breathe, and have our being. “What would Jesus do?” is not Christianity. Christianity asks: “What is Christ doing through me … through us? And how is Jesus doing it?” Following Jesus means ―trust and obey (respond), and living by his indwelling life through the power of the Spirit.

Jesus Christ was not a social activist nor a moral philosopher. To pitch him that way is to drain his glory and dilute his excellence. Justice apart from Christ is a dead thing. The only battering ram that can storm the gates of hell is not the cry of Justice, but the name of Jesus. Jesus Christ is the embodiment of Justice, Peace, Holiness, Righteousness. He is the sum of all spiritual things, the “strange attractor” of the cosmos. When Jesus becomes an abstraction, faith loses its reproductive power. Jesus did not come to make bad people good. He came to make dead people live.

It is possible to confuse an academic knowledge or theology about Jesus with a personal knowledge of the living Christ himself. These two stand as far apart as do the hundred thousand million galaxies. The fullness of Christ can never be accessed through the frontal lobe alone. Christian faith claims to be rational, but also to reach out to touch ultimate mysteries. The cure for a big head is a big heart.
Jesus does not leave his disciples with CliffsNotes for a systematic theology. He leaves his disciples with breath and body.
Jesus does not leave his disciples with a coherent and clear belief system by which to love God and others. Jesus gives his disciples wounds to touch and hands to heal.
Jesus does not leave his disciples with intellectual belief or a “Christian worldview.” He leaves his disciples with a relational faith.
Christians don’t follow a book. Christians follow a person, and this library of divinely inspired books we call “The Holy Bible” best help us follow that person. The Written Word is a map that leads us to The Living Word. Or as Jesus himself put it, “All Scripture testifies of me.” The Bible is not the destination; it’s a compass that points to Christ, heaven’s North Star.
The Bible does not offer a plan or a blueprint for living. The “good news” was not a new set of laws, or a new set of ethical injunctions, or a new and better PLAN. The “good news” was the story of a person’s life, as reflected in The Apostle’s Creed. The Mystery of Faith proclaims this narrative: “Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.” The meaning of Christianity does not come from allegiance to complex theological doctrines, but a passionate love for a way of living in the world that revolves around following Jesus, who taught that love is what makes life a success . . . not wealth or health or anything else: but love. And God is love.

Okay, so I quoted alot of it.  I really found it profound.  It spoke to me.  Read it.  Maybe it will speak to you.

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The Name of God

The most popular search term that finds this blog is, unbelievably, ‘Floyd Nolen Jones.’  Floyd Nolen Jones is the author of Which Version is the Bible?, a book I reviewed a few years ago.  I read the book because I had recently been exposed to “King-James-only” types (otherwise known as “King James or else”).  Dr. Jones’ book appears to me to be one of the top books explaining this King-James-only view.

Interestingly enough, Dr. Jones starts his book with a section labeled, “To the Reader — the Sounding of an Alarm.”  Following is its text:

In the King James Bible, Isaiah 14:12, 15 reads:

How are thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!
… Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell.

However, the New International Version pens:

How you are fallen from heaven O morning star, son of the dawn
but you are brought down to the grave.

Indeed, the New American Standard and all the modern versions read almost exactly like the NIV (except the NKJV).  Yet historically Isaiah 14 has been cited throughout the Church as the singular biography and identification of Lucifer [citation omitted].  In verse twelve of the King James, Lucifer is in heaven;  in verse fifteen Satan is in hell, and the continuing context establishes that Lucifer and Satan are one and the same being.  The new versions have removed the name “Lucifer” thereby eliminating the only reference to his true identity in the entire Bible — yet the change in these versions is not the result of translation from the Hebrew language.

The Hebrew here is helel, ben shachar, which translates, “Lucifer, son of the morning” (as is found in all the old English translations written before 1611 when teh KJB was published).  The NIV, NASB et al. read as though the Hebrew was kokab shachar, ben shachar or “morning star, son of the dawn” (or “son of the morning”).  But not only is the Hebrew word for star (kokab) nowhere to be found in the text, “morning” appears only once as given in the KJB — not twice as the modern translations indicate.  Moreover, the word kokab is translated as “star” dozens of other times by the translators of these new “bibles”.  Their editors also know that kokab boqer is “morning star” for it appears in plural form in Job 38:7 (i.e., morning stars).  Had the Lord intended “morning star” in Isaiah 14, He could have eliminated any confusion by repeating kokab boqer there.  God’s selection of helel (Hebrew for Lucifer) is unique as it appears nowhere else in the Old Testament.

Moreover, Revelation 22:16 (also 2:28 and II Pet. 1:19) declares unequivocally that Jesus Christ is the “morning star” or “day star” (II Pet. 1:19, cp. Luk. 1:78; Mal. 4:2), meaning the sun — not the planet Venus.

I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches.  I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.

Thus it must be understood that the identification of Lucifer as being the morning star does not find its roots in the Hebrew O.T., but from classical mythology and witchcraft where he is connected with the planet Venus (the morning “star”).

The wording in the modern versions reads such that it appears the fall recorded in Isaiah 14 is speaking of Jesus rather than Lucifer the Devil!  The rendering of “morning star” in place of “Lucifer” in this passage must be seen by the Church as nothing less than the ultimate blasphemy.  The NASV compounds its role as malefactor by placing II Peter 1:19 in the reference next to Isaiah 14 thereby solidifying the impression that the passage refers to Christ Jesus rather than Satan.  But Lucifer (helel) does not mean “morning star”.  It is Latin (from lux or lucis = light, plus fero = to bring) meaning “bright one”, “light bearer” or “light bringer”.  Due to the brightness of the planet Venus, from ancient times the word “Lucifer” (helel) has been associated in secular and/or pagan works with that heavenly body.

Among the modern versions, only the King James (and NKJV) gives proof that Lucifer is Satan.  Without its testimony this central vital truth would soon be lost.  This fact alone sets the King James Bible apart from and far above all modern would-be rivals.  Truly, it is an achievement sui generis.  Indeed, the older English versions (the 1560 Geneva etc.) also read “Lucifer”.

The clarion has been faithfully and clearly sounded (I Cor. 14:8).  If the reader is not greatly alarmed by the above, it is pointless for him to continue reading.  However, if concern has been aroused as to how this deception has been foisted not only upon the Christian Church, but on the general public as well — read on.  The story lies before you.

Well, I have to say, these first two pages did not greatly alarm me.  Perhaps they should have, but they didn’t.

What I find interesting today is that with all the alarm Dr. Jones expresses over the omission of this singular occurrence of the name of Lucifer, there is not one single mention in the entire text of the repeated and deliberate omission of the Name of God, not just in the NIV and NASB, but in his beloved King James Authorized Version as well.  Go ahead, read your Bible through time and again.  It says quite plainly that those who call upon the Name of the LORD shall be saved.  So, what is His Name?  The God of the Hebrews makes a very big deal about names in general, but makes an especially big deal about His Name.  But what is it?  Just to be clear, is name is not LORD, although that is how it is typically translated.  Sometimes, your Bible probably says Lord and other times it says LORD.  There is a difference, but you wouldn’t know it from reading your Bible from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22.  You won’t find it in your Bible, but His Name can be transliterated “Yahweh.”

The translator’s notes admit to what they have done in the NIV and the NASB.  The NASB notes are particularly interesting:

In the scriptures, the name of God is most significant and understandably so.  It is inconceivable to think of spiritual matters without a proper designation for the Supreme Deity.  Thus the most common name for the Deity is God, a translation of the original Elohim.  One of the titles for God is Lord, a translation of Adonai.  There is yet another name which is particularly assigned to God as His special or proper name, that is, the four letters YHWH (Exodus 3:14 and Isaiah 42:8).  This name has not been pronounced by the Jews because of reverence for the great sacredness of the divine name.  Therefore, it has been consistently translated LORD.  The only exception to this translation of YHWH is when it occurs in immediate proximity to the word Lord, that is, Adonai.  In that case it is regularly translated GOD in order to avoid confusion.

It is known that for many years YHWH has been transliterated as Yahweh, however no complete certainty attaches to this pronunciation.

So, in summary, the Name of God is incredibly important, or essential, so we have left it out.  Instead, we have translated His Name as the title LORD, which is, incidentally, how we translate one of his titles, so to avoid confusion, rather than translating His Name as Yahweh and his title as Lord and the two together as Lord Yahweh, we will translate His Name as LORD, his title as Lord, and the two together as GOD.  Just to avoid confusion.

Deleting the Name of Yahweh from the Bible is far more offensive to me than deleting the name of Lucifer.

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How the Pastoral Role Damages Body Life

I have been reading the book Pagan Christianity? by Frank Viola and George Barna.  The subtitle to the book is “Exploring the Roots of our Church Practices.”  The basic premise of the book is that most of the practices that modern churches engage in are traditions that are rooted in pagan culture, not the Bible.  The inside dust cover states:

Many Christians take for granted that their church’s practices are rooted in Scripture.  Yet those practices look very different from those of the first-century church.  The New Testament is not silent on how the early church freely expressed the reality of Christ’s indwelling in ways that rocked the first-century world.

Times have changed.  Pagan Christianity? leads us on a fascinating tour through church history, revealing this startling and unsettling truth:  Many cherished church traditions embraced today originated not out of the New Testament, but out of pagan practices.  One of the most troubling outcomes has been the effect on average believers:  turning them from living expressions of Christ’s glory and power to passive observers.  If you want to see that trend reversed, turn to Pagan Christianity? . . . a book that examines and challenges every aspect of our present-day church experience.

I have been reading this book whenever I get a chance (which isn’t very often), but I just finished chapter 5.  Speaking of which, check out these chapter titles:

  1. Have We Really Been Doing It by the Book?
  2. The Church Building:  Inheriting the Edifice Complex
  3. The Order of Worship:  Sunday Mornings Set in Concrete
  4. The Sermon:  Protestantism’s Most Sacred Cow
  5. The Pastor:  Obstacle to Every-Member Functioning
  6. Sunday Morning Costumes:  Covering Up the Problem
  7. Ministers of Music:  Clergy Set to Music
  8. Tithing and Clergy Salaries:  Sore Spots on the Wallet
  9. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper:  Diluting the Sacraments
  10. Christian Education:  Swelling the Cranium
  11. Reapproaching the New Testament:  The Bible is not a Jigsaw Puzzle
  12. A Second Glance at the Savior:  Jesus, the Revolutionary

This whole book has been fascinating to read as I try to discern what God intends for His Church.  I believe firmly that God did not call some to be pastors as we see them today.  I am also firmly convicted that God did not call us as believers to build buildings or temples.  He called us to gather whenever and wherever we can and to live lives of service.

The unscriptural clergy/laity distinction has done untold harm to the body of Christ.  It has divided the believing community into first- and second-class Christians.  The clergy/laity dichotomy perpetuates an awful falsehood — namely, that some Christians are more privileged than others to serve the Lord.

Permit us to get personal.  We believe the pastoral office has stolen your right to function as a full member of Christ’s body.  It has distorted the reality of the body, making the pastor a giant mouth and transforming you into a tiny ear.  It has rendered you a mute spectator who is proficient at taking sermon notes and passing an offering plate.

But that is not all.  The modern-day pastoral office has overthrown the main thrust of the letter to the Hebrews — the ending of the old priesthood.  It has made ineffectual the teaching of 1 Corinthians 12-14, that every member has both the right and the privilege to minister in a church meeting.  It has voided the message of 1 Peter 2 that every brother and sister is a functioning priest.

Being a functioning priest does not mean that you may only perform highly restrictive forms of ministry like singing songs in your pew, raising your hands during worship, setting up the PowerPoint presentation, or teaching a Sunday school class.  That is not the New Testament idea of ministry!  These are mere aids for the pastor’s ministry.  As one scholar put it, “Much Protestant worship, up to the present day, has also been infected by an overwhelming tendency to regard worship as the work of the pastor (and perhaps the choir) with the majority of the laity having very little to do but sing a few hymns and listen in a prayerful and attentive way.”

But there is something more.  The contemporary pastorate rivals the functional headship of Christ in His church.  It illegitimately holds the unique place of centrality and headship among God’s people, a place that is reserved for only one Person — the Lord Jesus.  Jesus Christ is the only head over a church and the final word to it.  By his office, the pastor displaces and supplants Christ’s headship by setting himself up as the church’s human head.

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A Book I Am Very Excited About

Apparently there is a new book that has been published by Tyndale House called Pagan Christianity.  I cannot begin to express how exciting this book sounds to me.  You can read one review of it here.  Although I am now a poor man, this is a book that I will make a priority to purchase and read.

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Reading List 2007

The reading list worked relatively well last Spring, as it helped me get organized and pursue one book at a time.  But once we got to the farm, the wheels came off and I stopped reading one book, started going back over older books, and generally not having any time to read much of anything with work and garage-building and baby-birthing, and kitchen-remodeling.  However, following is the list of books I read or started reading in 2007:

Immigration Law and Procedure in a Nutshell (being read because I want a job with USCIS in Lincoln, NE) – completed 6 Mar 07

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig (borrowed from my brother-in-law) – completed 19 Mar 07

Greener Pastures on Your Side of the Fence by Bill Murphy – completed 3 Apr 07

Life of Pi by Yann Martel (borrowed from a co-worker) – completed 22 May 07

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (borrowed from my brother-in-law) – completed 12 Jun 07

Which Version is the Bible? by Floyd Nolen Jones – abandoned after 62 pages on 21 Jun 07

Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian by Herrick Kimball – completed 3 Jul 07

Earthly Pleasures by Roger B. Swain (borrowed from a friend)

Root Cellaring by Mike & Nancy Bubel – completed 10 Aug 07

Chickens in Your Backyard by Rick & Gail Luttmann – completed 4 Aug 07

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien – completed 4 Aug 07

The Birth Book by Dr. & Mrs. Sears – completed 12 Sep 07

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