Sunday Jan 26, 2020
2.62 - Truth
Sunday Jan 26, 2020
Sunday Jan 26, 2020
Hello and welcome to season 2 episode 62 of The Berean Manifesto, brought to you by The Ekklesian House. This is Pastor Bill and over the next 10 minutes, or so, we are going to be talking about truth. There’s a lot of talk about truth being subjective - that your truth isn’t necessarily my truth, and we all must live our own truth.
My grandfather used to tell me not to accept wooden nickels. The idea there being that a wooden nickel may be the right size, it may be the right shape, it might even have Thomas Jefferson engraved on it, but it’s worthless, it’s not made of nickel – it’s made of wood. Subjective truth is a wooden nickel. It may look like enlightenment, it may sound like enlightenment, it may even feel like enlightenment, but it’s worthless.
What people are calling truth is a combination of opinion and fact. It’s not uncommon to hold an opinion or fact in such high esteem that you convince yourself they are truth. But opinions and even facts aren’t necessarily the truth.
Let’s a minute to talk about elephants. I’ve never raised an elephant, I’ve ridden one in Thailand, but never raised one. There’s this story about raising elephants that goes like this:
“A man was passing a group of elephants when he suddenly stopped, confused by the fact that these huge creatures were being held by only a small rope tied to their front leg. No chains, no cages. It was obvious that the elephants could, at any time, break away from the ropes they were tied to but for some reason, they didn’t. He saw a trainer nearby and asked why these beautiful, magnificent animals just stood there and made no attempt to getaway.
“Well,” the trainer said, “when they are very young and much smaller, we use the same size of rope to tie them and, at that age, it’s enough to hold them. As they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break away. They believe the rope can still hold them, so they never try to break free.” He was amazed that the animals could at any time break free from their bonds but because they believed they couldn’t, they were stuck right where they were.”
What’s going on is that there is a part of the brain in vertebrates (that’s elephants, sheep, humans, anything with a spinal cord) called the reticular formation. One of the major functions of the reticular formation is the reticular activation system. The basic function of this system is to seek information supporting what you believe – then sorting that incoming information into two categories – necessary, and unnecessary. The standard it uses is whether the information can support what you already believe or not. If your brain can’t make sense of how the information could be used or interpreted in a way to support what you already believe, then it marks it as un-necessary. The information it deems as necessary, your brain then proceeds to make any needed alterations so that it supports what you already believe.
For instance, say you believe, as some do, that the Earth is flat. You have facts that support your belief. It’s a fact that when a ship “disappears over the horizon” out on the water, you can still see it with a pair of binoculars. And when the ship disappears from the binoculars view you can zoom in with a telescopic lens and see the ship again. It’s a fact that airplane flight paths are highly inefficient when viewed on a round Earth map, but the same flight paths on a flat Earth map become straight from point of departure to point of destination.
While these facts CAN lend themselves to the belief that the Earth is flat, they don’t undeniably point to that conclusion. However, if you already believe the Earth is flat then your reticular activation system kicks in and uses these facts to support your belief. Your brain in this scenario ignores the reality that, flat or round Earth, water always finds a level. As far as flight paths, isn’t it a more likely conclusion that flying that close to so large an object like a planet negates it being round and that the distortions in popular modern maps just make the flight path appear inefficient?
Isaiah 53:6 CSB says, “We all went astray like sheep; we all have turned to our own way; and the Lord has punished Him for the iniquity of us all.” In 2005 the shepherds for a Turkish village left their herds grazing in a field to eat breakfast. While they were eating one of the sheep decided it needed to jump over a ravine. Miscalculating the distance, the sheep disappeared mid-jump, plummeting forty-nine feet to its death. From where the shepherds sat eating their breakfast, they watched helpless to stop what transpired as one ball of fluff after another followed the example of the first one attempting to leap over the ravine and disappearing. The whole flock, almost one thousand five hundred sheep, ended up in a pile in the ravine. Upon retrieving their sheep, they discovered that the first four hundred and fifty sheep over the edge died on impact while the fall of the next thousand - was cushioned by the ones before.
At some point, the sheep, like the elephant, had been conditioned to believe something. The elephant that it was a slave to something that couldn’t possibly keep it, and the sheep that what was good for the boldest of them was good for the rest without evidence. So, my question for you is this. What have you convinced yourself is the truth that isn’t? How would you even know? With so many lies swirling around you every day, by what standard do you define what the truth is?
Here’s my policy – The Bible is truth, anything that raises itself up against the Bible is not truth. It’s an adaptation of 2 Corinthians 10 the end of verse 4 and verse 5 CSB, “ We demolish arguments  and every proud thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ.” I apply that standard against the news media, social media, my own fears and insecurities even the sermons that I hear. If what’s being presented, whether fact or opinion, I can’t find or confirm it in the Bible then it’s not truth. If I do find it in the Bible, even if I didn’t previously believe it, then I change what I believe.
Too many Christians are wandering around like the elephant trapped by what the world tells them to believe, bad religious teaching, and erroneous theology because like the sheep some emboldened voice led them astray and they followed. My encouragement to you all then is to challenge the “truth” till you can prove it yourself. If it’s actually the truth then your challenge won’t hurt it. It will only make it richer.
This is Pastor Bill saying, “Until next time…
Sunday Jan 19, 2020
2.61 - Tithing
Sunday Jan 19, 2020
Sunday Jan 19, 2020
Hello and welcome to season 2 episode 61 of The Berean Manifesto, brought to you by The Ekklesian House. This is Pastor Bill and over the next 10 minutes, or so, we are going to be talking about tithing. We’re going to cover a fair amount of scripture in this episode, so if you have trouble focusing while I’m reading you scripture then get to a place where you can block out distractions, pour a cup of coffee, or crack open an energy drink and let’s get going.
For the most part, I don’t directly choose what topics we cover in this podcast. I pray, listen to The Holy Spirit, and try my best to follow the unction that I get from The Lord. I’m not oblivious to the fact that this process can be, and is, influenced by my theology and worldview. I also believe that The Holy Spirit inspires us, all of us, to ministry that is in line with growth: our own personal growth, and those within our sphere of influence. All of that to say that we haven’t committed a lot of time on this podcast to talking about money, and we’ve never used this ministry platform to solicit donations. If you’re going to donate money to us or some other ministry or church then it should be because you’ve decided between you and God in your heart that you’re going to give, and not because we talked about giving.
So, tithing, if you’re not aware, it’s this concept that believers give the first ten percent of their increase to God through their church. You get a paycheck, your bank account increases and you give ten percent to God through The Church. Historically, when this was instituted in the Old Testament, the entire tithe given, minus the offerings burnt to the Lord, went to supporting the priests serving in the temple so they could focus on ministry. The priests then would give ten percent of what they received back into the temple to be used to support ministry. Today things look very different. Despite it being the biblical standard, if your church tried to use all of the tithes it received on paying its staff and then the tithe of the staff on the work of the church, it would get shut down by the government or at the very least lose its nonprofit status, assuming it survived public opinion long enough to get to that point.
With only ten to twenty-five percent of the average church congregation tithing, it clearly isn’t a popular thing to do. It doesn’t likely constitute the whole statistic, but from millennials forward, the idea of donating money to a church is almost a foreign concept. In defense of tithing let’s first turn to Matthew 22:17-22, it says, “ Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?"  Perceiving their malicious intent, Jesus said, "Why are you testing me, hypocrites?  Show me the coin used for the tax." They brought him a denarius.  "Whose image and inscription is this?" he asked them.  "Caesar's," they said to him. Then he said to them, "Give, then, to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's."  When they heard this, they were amazed. So, they left him and went away.” On its face, this looks like an endorsement of paying your taxes, which it is. But, it’s also an endorsement of paying your tithes. Malachi 3:8 CSB, it says, “ "Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing me!" "How do we rob you?" you ask. "By not making the payments of the tenth and the contributions.” The tenth, or tithe, belongs to God. What did Jesus say, “Give, then, to Caesar the things that are Ceasar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
Malachi 3 starting in verse 10 goes on to say, Malachi 3:10-12 CSB “ Bring the full tenth into the storehouse so that there may be food in my house. (That’s The Church, His house.) Test me in this way," says the LORD of Armies. "See if I will not open the floodgates of heaven and pour out a blessing for you without measure.  I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not ruin the produce of your land and your vine in your field will not fail to produce fruit," says the LORD of Armies.  "Then all the nations will consider you fortunate, for you will be a delightful land," says the LORD of Armies.” I don’t know about you, but having the floodgates of heaven opened, the devourer rebuked for my sake, and my work to be guaranteed to produce fruit sounds like quite the tradeoff for giving God His ten cents on the dollar. Even if that is an over personalized reading of that scripture, anywhere between that and if the intent was one of nationwide effect, I benefit from the tithes that I pay.
It’s not wrong to interpret that in a personal way though. In Luke 6:38 CSB, Jesus is recorded as saying, “ Give, and it will be given to you; a good measure-pressed down, shaken together, and running over-will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you." With Paul in 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 CSB reinforcing this personal benefit, “ The point is this: The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously.  Each person should do as he has decided in his heart-not reluctantly or out of compulsion, since God loves a cheerful giver.  And God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work.”
There’s the old adage, “put your money where your mouth is.” If you’re a Christian then you should be putting your money where your mouth is, you should be tithing. Not only does your tithe support the church, but Proverbs 3:9 CSB says to, “ Honor the LORD with your possessions and with the first produce of your entire harvest;” If you claim to love God and follow Jesus, then honor the Lord with your tithe.
The modern church is hobbling along trying to fulfill its calling while missing seventy-five to ninety percent of the support its biblically supposed to have from believers. Meanwhile, those with the responsibility of carrying the mantle of those churches are splitting their time between ministry and working one or more jobs outside the church to survive. When we turn to the first part of 1 Corinthians 16:2a CSB, we read, “ On the first day of the week, each of you is to set something aside and save in keeping with how he is prospering,” In context, that verse comes about in the instructions to a church concerning donations from a specific situation where Paul was planning on traveling for ministry, but it reinforces the biblical precedence that as Christians we have a personal and community-driven duty to be tithing.
This is Pastor Bill saying, “Until next time…”
Sunday Jan 12, 2020
2.60 - Of Sacrilege and Stewardship
Sunday Jan 12, 2020
Sunday Jan 12, 2020
Hello and welcome to season 2 episode 60 of The Berean Manifesto, brought to you by The Ekklesian House. This is Pastor Bill and over the next 10 minutes, or so, we are going to be talking about sacrilege and stewardship. This isn’t going to be quite as bad as it sounds, but it might sting a bit.
Like you’ve probably heard about fear and faith being two sides of the same coin, similar is the relationship between sacrilege and stewardship. Sacrilege is commonly divided into two designations; verbal, known as blasphemy, and physical, known as desecration. Stewardship isn’t so easily broken down since as humans we tend to spend more time on defining and naming things that are negative, but the similar breakdown of verbal and physical would be benison and conservacy. Like I said, not so easy. If you’ve never heard either of those words before. Then you’re in good company, neither had I before this week, and Microsoft Word wasn’t even sure they were words that existed either. Benison is best defined as a blessing and conservacy as preservation under law.
As we continue forward, I want to remind everyone that the purpose of this podcast is never to use scripture to browbeat, nor is it intended to give you license to use scripture against others. As we head into the meat of this episode, I want you to take a deep breath, and clear your mind. If I bring up something that you’ve done or struggled with, it’s not to make you feel guilty. My only goal here is to illuminate areas of potential growth and point the way forward.
Let’s go ahead and rip off that Band-Aid.
It would be benison to embrace that the Bible says in Psalms 139:13 that God created your inward parts and knit you together in your mother’s womb. Blasphemy would be to then claim that a fetus is “just a clump of cells,” and desecration to get an abortion. Conservacy cries out for better solutions before abortion even becomes an option. We need more support for women who find themselves pregnant, and greater responsibility placed on the shoulders of the other person who helped create that life. Because it most definitely takes two to tango.
It would be benison to daily remind yourself that the Bible says in Romans 8:35 that neither affliction nor distress, persecution or famine, nakedness, danger or sword can separate you from the Love of Christ. Blasphemy would be to then say that any of these are proof that Christ doesn’t love you, and desecration to cut or commit suicide. Conservacy would have believers joining hand in hand with organizations that “walk people off the ledge” so to speak, even if those organizations may not believe exactly like we do in theological terms.
It would be benison to remind others that the Bible says in Psalms 139:14 that we are remarkably and wonderfully made. Blasphemy would be to then say that we evolved by mere chance without the hand of God involved, and desecration to teach that to the young as fact instead of theory. Conservacy shows up at school board meetings to ensure that those in charge of your children understand that we don’t expect teaching of religious concepts at secular schools, and have no problem with science and teaching our children how to think, but that fact should be taught as fact with fact-less theory being taught as theory.
It would be benison to encourage others that the bible says in Psalms 139:17 that God thinks so many precious thoughts about you that if they were counted, they would outnumber the grains of sand. Blasphemy would be to then say that God hates sinners (in the modern definition of the word), and desecration to teach that from a pulpit or yell it in the face of the lost on the street. Conservacy heads out with open arms loving others whether they believe or not and lets the Holy Spirit draw those in who are ready to believe.
It would be benison to take to heart that the bible says in Psalms 139:12 that even the darkness can’t hide you from God. Blasphemy would be to then say that you can’t speak freely inside a church building like you would out in the parking lot, and desecration to teach others to be two-faced like that. Conservacy recognizes that no one is perfect, we're all on our own path of growth with the Lord and comes alongside others to walk that path towards the Lord together.
Honestly, we could go on and on with scriptures that talk about how precious and wonderful you are, the blasphemies that have become rote amongst us as believers, and the desecrations that have become culturally commonplace. Here’s the thing though, if you take stock of your life (past, present, and future) or at your reflection in the mirror you have a choice to make. One, only one choice, stewardship or sacrilege. Are you going to let blasphemies pour out of your mouth and then starve, cut, or end yourself? Are you going to embrace benison and let the truth of God wash over you and move forward in conservacy? I implore you to believe the truth about yourself, and when you see or think of something you don’t like, or think you can’t handle, phone a friend, choose growth and forward momentum.
As heavy as all that is, I’d like to pivot to a different aspect of the same topic with our remaining time. Genesis 1:28-30 CSB says, “ God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth.”  God also said, “Look, I have given you every seed-bearing plant on the surface of the entire earth and every tree whose fruit contains seed. This will be food for you,  for all the wildlife of the earth, for every bird of the sky, and for every creature that crawls on the earth—everything having the breath of life in it—I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.”
Have you ever been to the house of a smoker with “white” walls? You never really know exactly what shade of yellow those walls really are until you move a picture frame or something else that’s right up against the wall. For years, little by little, they’ve polluted their home and you don’t see the results all at once. It’s a build-up over time and one day the results are suddenly noticed.
Like it or not our species was given the Earth by the Lord and it’s our duty to be good stewards of it. I know there have been those that have gone overboard with the whole don’t use plastic straws and save the turtles thing. But seriously, we only have this one planet and it’s ours to take care of or poison. We owe it to our children and our children’s, children to be benison and practice conservacy in our day to day lives where our home is concerned. We may not all agree on the extent to which humanity is impacting the planet, but if we all do our part to reduce our waste, reuse what we can, and learn to recycle properly then we can at least say that we’re being good stewards of the home that was given to us by the Lord.
This is Pastor Bill saying, “Until next time…”
Sunday Jan 05, 2020
2.59 - Wait On The Lord
Sunday Jan 05, 2020
Sunday Jan 05, 2020
Hello and welcome to season 2 episode 59 of The Berean Manifesto, brought to you by The Ekklesian House. This is Pastor Bill and over the next 10 minutes, or so, we are going to be talking about waiting on The Lord.
There was this time in the life of Elijah the prophet where he sat down under a tree and prayed to die. God sent an angel with some bread and a jug of water. He ate and slept and ate again then headed out on a journey of forty days and forty nights to Mount Horeb. Then starting in verse 9 of chapter nineteen, of 1 Kings, 1 Kings 19:9-14 CSB, “ He entered a cave there and spent the night. Suddenly, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"  He replied, "I have been very zealous for the LORD God of Armies, but the Israelites have abandoned your covenant, torn down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are looking for me to take my life."  Then he said, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the LORD's presence." At that moment, the LORD passed by. A great and mighty wind was tearing at the mountains and was shattering cliffs before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake there was a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire there was a voice, a soft whisper.  When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Suddenly, a voice came to him and said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"
God wasn’t in the mighty wind, God wasn’t in the earthquake, God wasn’t in the fire. God was in the soft whisper. Now, this account may be literal, but even if it’s poetic instead of literal, the message is the same. The world is competing for your attention, but all that noise is just distraction. You may never hear an audible whisper, but God speaks to us with many voices using several languages and through lots of mediums.
We can talk about waiting on The Lord and enduring till we’re blue in the face, but until we talk about practical application, we’re just spinning our wheels. It’s not just the world throwing distractions at you, you’ve also got your own mind with its doubts and insecurities to deal with, and the challenges brought by others. Both non-believers, and other Christians. So, for the rest of this episode will be devoting our time to addressing one specific doubt that challenges the modern Christian.
The enigma in question is this, “If Jesus is the only salvation, then Christians believe that everyone who was born before Jesus was damned to Hell.” Despite the fact that no one is damned to Hell until after The Judgement, so ultimately that call is above our pay grade, it’s a question that I’ve pondered in the past and one that I recently heard put forth by an atheist in an attempt to confound Christians. What I’ve found is that the answer was a common part of Christian theology that faded from belief over the last thousand years or so. For this, we're going to turn to Psalm 16, and 1 Peter 3 & 4.
But first, let’s look at Romans 8:2 CSB, “ because the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.” Before Christ, everyone was subject to the law, first the law of Noah that anyone or thing that kills a human will be put to death by a human, and then the law of Moses that Paul commonly refers to as the law of sin and death. It was by these standards that everyone who died was weighed against at the moment of death and then taken to the place of the dead, known as Sheol, and then either deposited on one side of a chasm reserved for lawbreakers or the other side reserved for the innocent.
It was here, Sheol, that Christ went upon His death. King David prophesied about it in Psalm 16:9-11 CSB, “ Therefore my heart is glad and my whole being rejoices; my body also rests securely.  For you will not abandon me to Sheol; you will not allow your faithful one to see decay.  You reveal the path of life to me; in your presence is abundant joy; at your right hand are eternal pleasures.”
Peter writes about this too 1 Peter 3:18-20a CSB, “ For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit,  in which he also went and made proclamation to the spirits in prison  who in the past were disobedient,” this proclamation to the “spirits in prison” Peter goes on to clarify in 1 Peter 4:6 CSB, “ For this reason the gospel was also preached to those who are now dead, so that, although they might be judged in the flesh according to human standards, they might live in the spirit according to God's standards.”
So, no, everyone who lived before Christ isn’t damned to Hell. To get a little bit more clarity and have this make a little more sense of it we can also turn to Romans 5:13 CSB, “ In fact, sin was in the world before the law, but sin is not charged to a person's account when there is no law.” The law of the Spirit that Paul speaks of in Romans 8 that salvation through faith in Christ wasn’t given before Christ lived. Therefore, no one who lived before Jesus could be held accountable to that law or receive its benefits. We talked in the last episode that everyone who surnames the name of the Lord. Everyone who takes on that name of the Lord will be saved. This salvation, this spiritual salvation of eternal dwelling with the Lord. If that law didn’t exist for those people, then they couldn’t take advantage of it while they were alive. The couldn’t until after they were presented the Gospel, and no one could do that except for the one who had conquered sin and death. He submitted Himself to death and then conquered death because He had done no wrong, took the keys to death, Hell, and the grave, so on and so forth. We now see it tying back into what we still hold as common solid theology.
Along the same lines the question of whether someone born after Christ who lived their whole life in seclusion. They’re in some country where the Gospel hasn’t reached, they never heard the Gospel, it was never preached, they were never told about Jesus, they were never visited by Jesus. They never had this revelation of the Gospel. Are those people damned to Hell or not? Once again, that is above our pay grade to say and will be sorted by The Judge, at The Judgement. God is a just judge who will rightly decide the eternal fate of those in question. Until then it’s our duty to love the Lord, love ourselves, love others wait on The Lord and endure until He comes.
This is Pastor Bill saying, “Until next time…”