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The Church…

Have you considered what the church is?

 

The more I consider the meaning and the significance of what it means to be included in both the invisible church of God and the visible church the more important it has become to belong to church that does church the right way.  As a Protestant, we of course would draw a distinction between the edifice we call the church and the people we call the church.  I remember a conversation I had close to fifteen years ago with a gentleman who had been nearly ordained as a Roman Catholic priest, he said:

“You Christians do not even have a proper church… you don’t even need a building to have a church service, yet you call yourselves a church?  We have churches.  We have the buildings in which we perform the mass.  All you need is a tent and some chairs and you call that a church”.

Even though I was a very young Christian at the time, all that I remember saying was, “Amen”.  

Of course the church is more than building it is the people.  But what is the purpose and the reason to have a church service? Why do we as believers of the one true God need to assemble?  It is now possible to sit at my desk in pajamas with a cup of coffee while listening to the morning service at the mega-church of my choice.  That somehow doesn’t seem to fit in with what the Bible tells us of these assemblies and what they were for.  

I seem to have more questions than answers…

Is the church service only meant for the believer?

Should a non-believer participate in singing worship songs?

Is the service meant to evangelize to the lost or teach the sheep?

How should we dress?

How often to have communion?

How should the pastor present the word of God, through stories and jokes?  

Should the message be dumbed down?

Should offensive or hard passages no longer be read from the pulpit?

Should we have a pulpit?

Should the worship music be about a great performance rather leading the people in the worship of God?

How loud is too loud when it comes to worship?

Can the pastor really know all of his flock?

Is a big church bad for true believer?

Is it really possible for a church to start in the shallow end and more than ten years later be even shallower than when it first started?

All comments and additional questions welcome.

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How many of you are as guilty as me in saying that Christianity is not religion but a relationship?

But is that true?  Is Christianity more about a personal relationship with God than it is about religion?  The more I read my Bible and the more I learn the less I am am inclined to say that Christianity is a relationship rather than religion.  Many times there is a confusion that arises from the direct relationship that the apostles had with Jesus and the “relationship” we have with Jesus.  We do not have the same tangible Jesus that the apostles had.  We are two thousand years separated from the Judea that Jesus walked in.  He doesn’t come to our parties to turn water into wine, he doesn’t go bass fishing with us and he doesn’t go around healing people and getting the people in power at upset at him.  

 

Jesus is Lord…

Not my homeboy.  There is a great chasm between the Jesus of the Bible and the Jesus that is being proclaimed in many churches.  In many churches he is presented as a hippie that is all about flowers and peace & love and carrying a lamb over his shoulders.  Worship songs, or those that pass as worship songs turn Jesus into some sappy boyfriend.  He is not my boyfriend, I don’t love him like that.  He is not the guy I go to the movies with or the guy I sit around and smoke a cigar with while cracking jokes and passing gas.  He is not just my savior but my Lord.  God is not an old bearded grandfatherly figure but the Almighty Lord God, creator of all.  

Living in the US, we do not have a real understanding of what it means to have a sovereign lord.  We are pampered, living in this nation, a constitutional republic.  We have never in our short history ever had a king to rule over us.  We Christians sometimes forget about the lordship of Jesus, the deity of Jesus.  The only we can even have a relationship with God that is not one of wrath is through the penal substitution that Christ accomplished at the cross.  The unrepentant sinner is not without a relationship to God, it’s just that his is a relationship of wrath.  If Christ is truly our Lord than everything we have and are must be in subordination to him that bought us.  We want a savior but how many of us truly want a lord?  Even in our regeneration we impugn the truth.  How many who claim to be saved think they gained their salvation by asking Jesus into their heart?  Jesus does not come into our hearts to make us saved, he sits at the right hand of God, reigning in glory.  

 

The only means by which we can have a relationship with God that does not include his wrath is by the work of Christ on the cross.  Jesus never said to repent because he loved you, the apostles never went around converting the gentiles by saying that God had a wonderful plan for their lives, to believe because God loved them.  We come close to God by the dispensing of his word on Sunday, by the partaking of the sacraments and by the water baptism.  We have a copy of his revelation to us, many of us have more than one!  God has limited the means by which we can have a relationship with him, any other way and we may just be piles of dust.  

Personal relationships tend to make a mockery of the objective truth that is the gospel.  To claim a personal relationship is to create your own religion.  This sort of subjectivity leads to unfalsifiable truth claims about what you believe Jesus to be rather than what the Bible says.

Jesus is not your buddy, he is the almighty sovereign LORD.  When we come near to him in prayer or worship we need to be reverent of the work that he willingly accomplished.  He took upon himself the wrath and punishment that he himself demanded in order for us to be in communion with him.  The closer we draw to him, the greater our sin is magnified, the more we should treat our savior and our lord with proper reverence. 

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Soul deSaenz: Update

It has been quite a while since last I posted something. I have been a little busy and have spent some time trying to get used to my new job and new schedule.  I enjoy writing late at night and my new position doesn’t really offer me the opportunity to stay up writing until one or two in the morning, but as I get used to my new job I may be more inclined to staying up late.  Or I can just get used to writing earlier in the evening.

 

As I’ve stated already I have a new job.  I also have a new camera, a Nikon D80.  I liked my friend’s D300 so much I had to have a new camera.  A lot of the nice pics that I have posted here have been taken with Mario’s D300.  It is my first digital camera as I have been a film purist for many years.  I still think my TLR Rolleiflex is better than most cameras available today.  Look for new pics!

 

I have three Bibles at Abba Bible Designs in Mexico for rebinding. If you are not familiar with Abba, take a look at some of their work at Mark Bertrand’s blog, here, here, here, and here.  From these articles and pictures, I am waiting like a kid at Christmas for my Bibles to arrive.  I am pretty sure they are done binding them, now I just have to wait for the transit time.  In case you are curious in what is being rebound I sent my PSR ESV, USB GNT 4th Edition with Dictionary and a NASB LArge Print Thinline.  All of these Bibles started with a sewn binding.  They are all being done in calfskin.  The ESV will be in red, the GNT in burgundy and the NASB will be in a dark brown… at least thats what I had requested.  Look for a review and pics at Mark Bertrand’s Bible Design Blog.  As soon as I get them in, of course.

 

The “Is Smoking A Sin?” entry doesn’t seem to die, sadly the comments have been a lot of the same emotionality without any real substance.

 

I have two new coffees in.  One is a Harar from Ethiopia and the other is Mokha Mattari from Yemen.  I will be reviewing them soon and I also plan to start a series on home roasting coffee.

 

I do have several ideas for entries and as soon as I have a little more time I will be posting more.  I need to finish my work on Romans 9 as well as my intended work on the atonement.

 

Until next time, may God be merciful upon us all.

 

jesus saenz

P.S.

I want to thank those who have emailed me to ask how I was doing!  Thank you for your concern.

 

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It appears as though Pope Benedict XVI, in an effort to be more ecumenical,  is going to rehabilitate Martin Luther.

What is going on in Rome?  In September of 2006, Pope Benedict made comments about Islam that, not surprisingly, angered the Muslim community.  He later took it all back, visited Turkey and bowed in the direction of Mecca and offered prayer.  In July on 2007 the Vatican released a brief which basically said that the Roman Catholic church was the one true church, in so doing they alienated all others including the Eastern Orthodox and Protestant churches.

Martin Luther was branded a heretic and excommunicated from the church.  Now they want to say that he didn’t really mean to split up the church?  For what purpose?  If Rome is the one true church, why would they need to reach out to false believers?

Are you still infallible after you say, “Ooops! My bad, Dog.”

Here is what Dr. White had to say

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In his letter to the church in Rome, the apostle Paul tells us how to treat our enemies. In the twelfth chapter he writes:

17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

This is a pretty easy instruction, we are not to repay the bad things that one may do to us but rather we are to “do the right thing.” On our parts, we are not to look for any strife.

19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

Not only are we to not repay an evil deed with another, we are to avoid any conflict but also we must not seek to avenge ourselves when we are afflicted by others. What then should we do?

20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”

We are to be pious and benevolent, meek and mild. Let God handle the matter because they are lost and they have a God sized hole in their hearts and they need Jesus, you just gotta pray for them… NO! We are told to be nice to our enemies not because we are floor mats for the unbeliever to walk all over us because we are to turn the other cheek but because in being nice to our enemies we will increase their punishment when God brings His wrath upon them! The next time you offer your enemy food or water, you are heaping burning coals on their head.

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If you are not currently a subscriber to The Dividing Line, a webcast done twice a week by Dr. James White of Alpha & Omega Ministries then you should or have to explain you didn’t on the day of judgment. Well, that may not be the case but I can’t recommend his show or articles enough. Although the focus of his ministry is that of apologetics and it is about as good as it gets, he is also an elder at his church and his ability to convey the truth that is the Gospel is truly inspiring. He clearly holds the Bible in high regard and has been gifted with a love of, and for the preaching of the Gospel.

Here are some of his videos on YouTube from his series, Theology Matters. As much as I enjoy learning apologetics/theology from Dr. White, it’s his reverence for the Bible that always impresses me more.

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You really must read this post by my Homie, Dustin Segers at the Triablogue.Here is his opening paragraph:It is my humble opinion that many of the problems that plague our modern evangelical churches are simply due to the fact that they are absolutely full of false converts. I have spent some significant time counseling people in various churches since I began pastoral ministry in 2000, and I am convinced after several years of experience with nouthetic counseling, that the single-greatest problem with the many professing Christians is that they profess and do not actually possess Christ. They do not possess the new heart (Ezekiel 36:25-27) and their lives show it. Instead of being characterized by Christian love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control; their lives are continually patterned by the following characteristics:

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I want to give my final thoughts regarding whether or not smoking cigars, drinking beer or having tattoos is a sin.  I only mention beer because I am not a wine drinker, except for an occasional glass of port after dinner while smoking a cigar.

The one notion that was impressed upon me from the replies was that many were based on emotion rather than scripture.  The notion that a church leader should not partake of any of these actions because he should be beyond reproach.  This was taken from 1Timothy 3, but no where does it mention anything about not drinking, verse 3 states that he should not be addicted to wine or a drunkard but does not say that he shouldn’t drink wine.  From the passage, Paul is writing to Timothy and giving him a list of what to look for.  In verse 2, he says that a man must be above reproach then he lists the things that will keep that man above reproach.  If one holds to the idea that the portion that states “above reproach” includes not drinking at all, on what basis can you reproach the leader?  It is circular reasoning.

Cigars, obviously are not mentioned specifically in the Bible so there is no single verse that one one can point to and call it a sin.  It then may be a sin by secondary means such as addiction or the harm that it causes to the one smoking.  If it is a sin because of it’s adverse health effects, to this point in my life football and skateboarding have been much more detrimental to my physical health.  I have had so many ankle injuries that I have scar tissue that makes it painful to walk.  If its not my ankles than my knees act up from my left knee that has a ruptured meniscus to my right knee which has a slightly torn MCL.  My cigar/pipe smoking is limited to once a week, I do not crave it the rest of the week.  If it is a sin then because of the health effects, then sitting in traffic during the summer months in L.A. may be sinful as well.

As for the proper response to the question of tattoos, I will display what what my brother Mark wrote:

As with all of the scriptures, there is a context here (content plus context equals meaning!). This scripture is talking specifically about the practice of tattooing oneself in accordance with cultic religious worship… the kind that the surrounding people groups of the day were involved in. The word that we translate “tattoo” is also only kind of a “best fit” word as the original text implies that it may have meant more of a “branding” or “scarring” as well as the inlaying of ink into the skin, although we can’t be sure as there is no direct translation. This is just another instance of God protecting his people and keeping them sacred from the rest of the world in order to preserve them (and through them, the Messiah). When I hear this question asked (”Is it a sin to get a tattoo?”) or others like it, I always think of this:

The Law was given in 4 parts:

1. Moral Law: To preserve the soul
2. Cultural Law: To preserve the message
3. Dietary Law: To preserve the promise
4. Levitical Law: To preserve the calling

Jesus’ first coming fulfilled the Cultural, Dietary and Levitical laws (as they were put in place to preserve the people so that the Messiah could come out of the Nation of Israel), but we are still bound by the Moral law. There is a ton that could be said about this, but as with most things of God, the answer of the question ultimately lies with the intent of the Heart of the one asking it.

Here’s a great study where Waxer talks about this verse:

http://onelove.org/podcast/view/56/mp3

He talks specifically about this around 56 minutes in. I wish I could find the study where he talks about the four types of law, but I’ll have to dig around for it.

 

 

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Smile, God Hates You

How often do we consider the attributes of God? For the most part, it seems as though love is the only one that is mentioned or that love is somehow superior to the others. How many times have you heard someone say that God loves the sinner but hates the sin? Have you ever wondered where that saying comes from? because I have yet to see it in scripture.

Does God truly hate the sinner and not just the sin?

Psalms 5
5 The boastful shall not stand before your eyes;
you hate all evildoers.
6 You destroy those who speak lies;
the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.

The subject of the two verses is God. Hate, destroy and abhor are the predicates. Thus from Psalms 5 we can see that God is the one who is hating, destroying and abhorring. To whom or what then is God doing these things to? Is God hating the evil that is done by the doer, or is God hating the doer of the evil? In verse six, it is the man who is bloodthirsty and deceitful, clearly it is the man that God hates and not just his actions.

God hatred is not arbitrary, it is focused upon those that are in rebellion against Him. His wrath is righteous and it is demanded by His holiness and justice. His holiness would be lessened if He did not hate or demonstrate His wrath upon the wicked. A lack of hatred and wrath would be a blemish on a perfectly holy, just and loving God. It is that He has been and continues to be merciful and shows grace on some that He likewise demonstrates hatred toward those that are outside His grace.

It is God’s holiness that demands retribution and it is His holiness that demanded for the substitutionary work of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ death and punishment on the cross wasn’t just one of the many ways in which God could’ve saved His people, it was the only way. God hates sin so much, he cannot bare to look upon it that He sent the God the Son as the sacrifice that would be a satisfaction to God the Father, in our place. The only means by which we can have communion with God is through the intercessory work of Jesus. The hate and wrath that we deserve, has been poured out on Jesus Christ, though He knew no sin He became sin in our place.

It is not a mean god that hates but rather a loving all powerful God that is so holy and just that he hates that which contrary to Him. It is that He delights in that which is lovely that He likewise hates that which is ugly. The sooner we realize just how ugly and vile our sin is and how much God hates it, than we can truly understand and appreciate His love for us.

edit: I found this video by Dr. Bob Morey after writing the above.

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Tag, I’m It

Gary Zimmerli of the A Friend of Christ blog recently tagged me with a ‘meme’. As a chubby kid, I was never good at tag. I could out run just about anybody for about ten yards then after that I was toast, a fact that made me a pretty good football player but not good at tag. So here I am now… Tag! I’m it.

Here’s the list.

1. What translation of the Bible do you like best? ESV

2. Old or New Testament? New, I like how it ends.

3. Favorite book of the Bible? Romans

4. Favorite Chapter? John 6

5. Favorite verse? Ephesians 1:4-5

6. Bible character you think you are most like? Nebuchadnezzer

7. One thing from the Bible that confuses you? What is Paul saying about the law in Romans 7??????

8. Moses or Paul? Hmmmm, Moses…. No, Paul. Wait… Moses was typological of Christ, Paul was the best theologian. Ask me tomorrow.

9. A teaching from the Bible that you struggle with or don’t get? Eschatology. Although I am Amill and a Preterist(partial) I have come to these view points not because they are perfect but because they have the least holes.

10. Coolest name in the Bible? Aside from Jesus? Jethro

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Is Drinking a Sin?

I am not asking if getting drunk is a sin. I want to know if any of you think it’s a sin for a Christian to have a drink or even several as long as it doesn’t lead to drunkenness?

What about for a pastor or church leader?

Please provide scriptural evidence for your answer.

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Lev. 19:28(ESV)

28 You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the Lord.

I have three tattoos, all three were gotten after having been a Christian for many years.

Does this verse apply to me? If so, in what manner? If not, why?

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Is Smoking a Sin?

I was listening to John Piper’s podcast called Ask Pastor John. It is a brief Q&A usually no more than ten minutes long. Recently the question of smoking and fast food was brought up in regards to sin. John Piper seems to think that smoking is a sin.

It is hard for me to totally agree with Pastor John on this issue. The Bible says nothing about smoking so we have to make inferences with what is said about what is sin and what is the proper behavior of a Christian. Although I may be accused of equivocation, I see a huge difference between smoking cigarettes and smoking cigars or even pipe smoking. The sole purpose of smoking cigarettes is to ingest nicotine to satisfy the addiction. I have not seen any cigar smokers who smoke their cigars in the same manner as a cigarette smoker smokes his cigarettes.

Yes, I do smoke cigars(and drink beer and I have tattoos.) I know of a few pastors who do as well, including the Prince of Preachers Charles Hadden Spurgeon.

What do you think?

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