Freedom of Speech & the Gospel

Photo by  Miguel Henriques  on  Unsplash

Photo by Miguel Henriques on Unsplash

Intro.

When Christ arrived it was at a time of post Greek influence of the known world.  How did God use this to spread the Gospel?  I have heard many Bible teachers state the benefit of the commonality of the Greek language that allowed the Gospel to be spoken to a multitude of cultures along with the roads of the Roman Empire that allowed ease of travel to those cultures.  But consider how the Greek culture belief in free speech  made way for the Gospel to be shared, listen to, engaged with and be accepted. 

Paul in Athens 

Acts 17:22 Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; 23 “for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: 24 “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. 25 “Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. 26 “And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 “so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 “for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ 29 “Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. 30 “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 “because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” 32 And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, “We will hear you again on this matter.” 33 So Paul departed from among them. 34 However, some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.

This open venue of sharing thought and giving your personal belief of truth was not a common freedom in all societies of the world.  It was a characteristic of the Greek world.

The ancient Greek word “parrhesia” means “free speech,” or “to speak candidly.” The term first appeared in Greek literature around the end of the fifth century B.C. During the classical period, parrhesia became a fundamental part of the democracy of Athens. Leaders, philosophers, playwrights and everyday Athenians were free to openly discuss politics and religion and to criticize the government in some settings.

With the expansion of the Greek culture and language by Alexander the Great so came parrhesia to the people and was carried over to the Roman Empire.  So when the Gospel was introduced by the apostle Paul at the Greek Areopagus he was welcome to share openly his message and the people were willing to hear and reason if it was true, even make their comments.  Even when his message was opposed violently in others parts of the Roman Empire, Paul was threatened not by government but by groups who’s religious beliefs were offended and threatened.  

Since the influence of the western world with its English language the world was again opened to the Gospel.  It was delivered also with the philosophy of parrhesia.  Missionaries went forth to share their beliefs opening, publicly and to bring the truth of Christ to the hearts of mankind.  It was well as offended those who hold to a particular religious belief.  

The Gospel encourages a freedom of speech to share and reason together with any that disagreement.  The Gospel never seeks to quench the unbelieving thoughts and philosophies but to respond in answer.  Jesus didn’t ban his accusers from his meetings and gatherings.  All were welcome to come and engage.  So lets exercise our parrhesia to share our faith while allowing others the same privilege.  

Blessings

pBob

In what is your identity?  

1Peter 2:9 “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; “

Photo by  Ben White  on  Unsplash

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Ask yourself this question, “In what is your identity?”
Is it in an experience, a tragedy, an upbringing, a culture, the color of your skin or the community you are in? Is it in your achievements or your failures, your name or in your looks? Is your identity in a sports team or your school, a club or the car you drive? Is your identity in your hobby, your work, your friendships? Is your identity attached to your clothing or music style or if you are liked and accepted? Maybe it is one of these or many of these. 
I ask the question because God wants us to see ourselves as he does and identify ourselves as he does. All these earthly identities will vanish when the Lord returns for us or if we were to die before that. When you and I stand before the lord in his glorious presence we will not be dressed in that identifying clothing we wear so proudly nor be attached any more to that group or club or team. We will not enter boasting of our earthly accomplishments or achievements nor our failures and weaknesses we once were labeled as by others. 
No, none of these will be seen on us because none of them are who we are as believers and followers and disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. So why are they so seriously held to while on the earth since they are as temporal as a passing cloud and hold no real value to life?  
Through Peter God has communicated that those who come to him (1Pet 2 vs. 4), are royal, holy, and special. Not because of us but because of him. 
Royal - as in kingly or regal because we have become the the adopted children of God 
Holy - as in set apart as he, our holy God, is from all things and not attached to Him. 
Special - here the Greek refers to that which is possessed or owned. Consider that which you own and how those things are special to you. We are God’s possessions therefore being special to Him. 
These all speak of a new identity attached to Him who saved us. They speak of transformation that is intended by God for us to see and live out. But the verse also communicates purpose and direction. We are royal, holy and his special possession so to proclaim Him and that he has delivered us from darkness, a life absent of his presence, to light, a life eternal with Him. 

So now ask the question again. What is your identity? 

Blessings 
pBob

The Mission Mind “Let this kind be in you...”

photo: Tim Marshall, https://unsplash.com/@timmarshall

photo: Tim Marshall, https://unsplash.com/@timmarshall

A frequently remembered and quoted text is the apostle Paul’s encouragement to have the mind of Christ. But do we grasp the totality of his words? 

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Philippians 2:5-8

Likely when reading this verse you raise up praise for what he did to make possible your salvation.  This would be a just response.  However, the words are not written to induce praise but a change of mind following the servant character of Jesus.  

So the question must follow, “How did Jesus demonstrate what a servant is?  Paul answers, “...humbled himself (though equal to God) and became obedient (to God his Father), so much so that he was willing to sacrifice himself , even to the point of death.  Humility was the mind of Christ and the manifestation of this mind was his leaving his home in heaven and coming to this world as a man to give himself for the undeserving. Jesus the great missionary fulfilled the great commandment to love God and love others (Matt.  22:37-40). 

So to have his mind is to have his ministry of service to sacrifice for the spiritual benefit of others.  This is the foundation of all ministry and missions. Our life given for the lives of others.  You can’t have his mind without the other. 

I pray that you would give yourself to Paul’s encouragement to join our Lord in service and perpetuate his mission. 

Blessings 

Pastor Bob 

Greater, a surprise find of a film for the family.

GreaterTrailer.jpg

Christian based movies are regularly hitting our theaters these days and often the producers send information and flyers to our church to support by encouraging the congregation to buy a ticket.  Those I appreciate the most and am more likely to go see, are about real Christians living out their real faith.  The first such film I saw was the Hiding Place, the story of Corrie and Betsie ten Boom, two women who with their father hide Jews during WW2, are caught by Nazis and sent to a death camp.  Wonderfully filmed and acted this true story of faith and perseverance  became the bench mark of Christian films for me and impacted me immensely as a young Christian.

While buzzing around Netflix I came across the movie Greater (2016), the story of Brandon Burlsworth, an Arkansas Razorback walk-on who trusted God as he filled his dream to attend and play for the University of Arkansas.  He earned a scholarship and became an All-America offensive lineman during the late 1990s.  His Christian faith not only filled his life but impacted many fellow players and coaches until his life was taken in a car accident before he started his first year in the NFL.  Although it did not rise to the story and quality of Hiding Place it was very inspiring and moving. 

While Greater was a surprise find what was even a greater surprise was discovering the faith of actor Neal McDonough.  Holding major roles in many Hollywood films you will know him as the partner of Tom Cruise in Minority Report and as Lieutenant Lynn "Buck" Compton in the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers.  I have always admired his acting and was happy to find him playing Marty Burlsworth, Brandon Burlsworth's older brother who is Brandon's biggest fan and has filled the gap where their alcoholic father has failed.  But what even more rocked my boots was to learn of Neal McDonough's personal faith and his honest conviction "not to use God's name in vain or kiss another woman on screen."  His true commitment to God with his quality of acting caries the movie as a man struggling and questioning God after the tragic death of his brother.  In fact, though the movie was centered on the life of Brandon Burlsworth I'd say McDonough's character nearly takes the spotlight and fills the movie with emotion every believer can relate to. 

Greater is a great find and worth watching with your family.  Be sue to have your tissue ready.

Blessings

Pastor Bob

 

Its Time: Read the Bible in a Year

photo by:  Savio Sebastian

photo by: Savio Sebastian

Ever read through the whole Bible?  Surprising many Christians have never done so.  What better time to start your journey through God's Word than January 1st.  You may think that the major benefit of reading through the whole Bible is having a better perspective of the Books of the Bible, You would be right, but I believe the first time you accomplish this it is the personal satisfaction that you did it that is the benefit.  Sadly many Christians seldom even read the Bible, according to this LifeWay study.   I also seem to recall a report of the benefits to a congregation when they corporately read through the Bible. 

So how do you go about this?  You could just start with Genesis and push through as fast as you can to reach the end of Revelation by December 31.  Honestly, not a good way to go about it.  There are actually other helpful methods to do this. 

Buy a One - Year Bible.  It’s a Bible that is arranged with a portion of New Testament, Old Testament, Psalms and Proverbs for you to read each day. One problem, today is January 1st so may be problem finding one to start today.  But you may find one at your local Wal-Mart.  You can also order online.

Bible Reading chart.  This is a simple download from the internet that you can print out and follow.  It simply gives you a regular reading plan for each day that you can check off as you go. 

Online One Year Bible service.  Yes, thanks again to the internet you can go to http://oneyearbibleonline.com and begin reading today from their website.  They have it in a every version and translation possible and in multiple languages. 

Your Bible App is a third option.  Many of the mobile apps today provide you with a Daily Reading Plan.  I use the Olive Tree Bible app that provides over a dozen different One-Year plans.  Usually these Bible apps are free with the King James Version only.  So, if you desire to read with a particular translation you may have to purchase the version.

Here is the important point ... read God's word and read through it all. Not just once but regularly.  You can do it, even in a year.  You really have no excuse and its needed to see your way.

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. Psalm 119:105

 

My discussion with an Iranian doctor 

Me - I heard someone say you are Armenian? ( I had an Armenian professor in college I really liked).

Dr - Oh no (chuckled), I'm Iranian

Me - I'm sorry (spoken nervously for the mistake).  I heard someone speaking to another commenting you were Armenian. There are differences.

Dr -  Oh, but there are really similarities, in features

Me - Yes, but big differences in cultures. 

Dr - That is true. Did you know that there is a very large population of Armenians in Iran? 

Me - I didn't realize that. 

Dr - Yes, centuries ago they migrated south to Iran and today there are over 150,000 in Iran. They are Christian and are a happy people. They follow the Muslim requirements publicly, their women cover with the hijab. But when they are together or have their own events they don't.  Their events,  likeweddings, are so wonderful, so happy. You know, young Iranian people always want to know the Armenians because they enjoy life and are so happy.  

Our discussion was then interrupted and I was not able to continue my inquiry or to interject my faith. But consider the simple witness of these Armenian Christians. "They are happy people." Even in Iran.  

Reminds me of the words of the psalmist, "Happy are the people who are in such a state; Happy are the people whose God is the Lord!"  Psalms 144:15

Jesus also said: "These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full."  John 15:11

Be happy, be joyful, for your God is the LORD! You just don't know who is watching.

pastor Bob

Mama Maggie - Living like Christ

Every once in a while I am surprisingly informed by secular radio programs.  Today I heard a doctor share about Mama Maggie on a KFI radio program.  The doctor was a surgeon that travel to Egypt with a medical team as he has done in many countries before.  There he met Mamma Maggie who has for many years ministered to the pour or the pour who live among the garbage. God is truly glorified by her testimony.  

Her ministry is called Stephen's Children. I'll let her speak for herself in the attached video from 2011. 

The following are interviews with Doctor Marty Makary, author of a book on Mama Maggie just broadcast today, 4/29/15.

Iron Sharpens Iron - Sparks that are Good

Photo credited to Charlie Kellog https://www.flickr.com/photos/papa_charliegeorge/

Photo credited to Charlie Kellog https://www.flickr.com/photos/papa_charliegeorge/

Proverbs 27:17 As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.

When hearing this proverb what may be envisioned are two swords clashing with sparks flying.  But the author likely was imagining the local farmer sharpening his tools.  It didn't cause sparks as that would heat the metal to much but there would be friction as the sharpening wheel turns and the tool is methodically and purposefully held against the sharpening wheel.

Why the need to be sharpened?  The tool has become dull, the edge is uneven or worse damaged.  This hinders the tool's ability to do its job well.  So the sharpening is favorable and for the benefit of the tool.  It is a slow caring process meant to improve the tool to be its best.  The final result is a tool ready for service and to fulfill its purpose.

So how does this pertain to you and I as believers, as members of the Body of Christ, as disciples of Christ?  When we engage with one another, get close to one another, joining arms in service with one another, it is inevitable that we will have opportunity and circumstances that will cause friction between one another.  Sound uncomfortable?  of course.  Is this a bad thing?  Not at all.  It is an needed thing?  Yes it is.  But is it for the better?  You bet ya.  For end result is a stronger character, a spiritual maturing, an improved servant and a more perfected tool for the Lord.

The sad thing I find is that many are afraid of experiencing sharpening. It's actually seen as a negative, something to avoid, even an offense. The love of the friend is somehow forgotten and an adverse response follows.  The result?  No strengthening of character, no growth in maturity and the servant goes no further in his service for the Lord.  There may occur a ending of the friendship.  Maybe even a resentment and turning from the faith.  I believe you can not strengthen, mature or better what isn't there in the first place. Just like the tool being flawed beyond repair or sharpening because the metal wasn't well made in the first place. So it is that the person who's life does not rest on the Lord, or his truth, or his spirit, will not respond well to the sharpening.

I have come to appreciate those who have been instruments of the Lord to sharpen me.  Those dear friends that have shown me grace like an ocean breeze but  have also played the sharpening wheel in my life to produce a better me.  Because I know their love an commitment to the Lord and to me I assured they intend good and not evil and know they are God's instrument.  May we receive the sharpening wheel of the Lord as easily and openly  as we receive his generous blessings and kind touch.  May we see its benefits and respond with anticipation of being better than we were and ready for service.

Blessings

pBob

 

Emerson Fittapaldi Man of Faith & a Champion

You may or may not know that I am an auto racing enthusiast.  Primarily open wheel like Formula 1 or Indy Car.  Emerson Fittapaldi is a 2 times Formula 1 champion and a 2 time Indy 500 winner.  Incredible driver to watch.  But what I love and admire about the man is not his being a winner on the race track or his having what it takes to drive all out  but more his sincere faith in Jesus Christ.  Here is a wonderful video and encouraging words to believe and follow Jesus.

Be encourage.

pBob

Does Hebrews 6:1-8 teach that Believers can Lose their Salvation?

Hebrews 1:1-8

Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this will we do, if God permit. For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.

The common approach to this text is with a presupposed question, "Does Hebrews 6 teach that a believer can lose their salvation?"  The best way to answer this is to first recall how one receives salvation.  Salvation is a deliverance from sin and death (the judgment of God).  The very message of Jesus was to "repent and believe."  In Acts 2, according to Peter, all who call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.  He also added that repentance was needed.  In Romans 10 Paul teaches that it is a belief of the heart and a confession of that belief acknowledging that Jesus is Lord and Savior.  

Next, lets read the text from a Jewish perspective for the author is giving argument for why Jesus is the capstone of all they held to and trusted in as Jews.  They had the prophets but God sent his son, they had Moses who delivered them from Egypt and gave them the Law, but Jesus delivered them from sin, fulfilled the law and delivered a the Law of grace, etc, etc, etc.  

Then turn your attention to Hebrews 5:12 where he reveals that his readers are immature and behind in their spiritual growth.

For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.  

Moving on to Hebrews 6:1 he begins to exhort them to move on from what he calls "the principles of the doctrine of Christ." or more literal, "leaving the first sayings (logos) of Christ." But with this exhortation comes a warning starting at verse 4 that if they are not "going on onto perfection" or growing in Christ, then they are in danger of falling away.  Now this is where it gets controversial.    

The phrase, "For it is impossible," does not mean "never possible," but literally means, "without strength" as in an inability.  What is unable for those?  "To renew them again unto repentance," if they "fall away," after experiencing the Lord in all the ways mentioned (which is all the ways every believer experiences the Lord when they believe).  But "fall away" from what? Well, since they are exhorted to grow in Christ then to fall away is a falling from Christ. Its going the other direction back to what they were. If they fall away after having experienced Christ and after failing to grow and mature in Christ then they are unable or without the strength to (hear comes some more important words) "renew them again onto repentance,"  or "renew them anew into repentance."  Remember that repentance was what led to salvation and simply means "change of mind."

So, "there is no strength or an inability for those. . . if they fall away, to re-new them anew into a change of mind."  Why?  (The author at this point adds the ????.)  Because those who have fallen away "crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame."   To understand what the author means by this we simply need to recall why Jesus Christ was crucified in the first place.  He was accused of blasphemy, insulting God, by saying he was the Son of God and so claiming equality with God (John 5:17).  Therefore, to "crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh," tells us that those he refers to that "fall away" have returned to the same belief that put Christ on the cross in the first place and that they regard him as guilty of blaspheming God and deserves to be crucified and put to an open same.  

Now the author is not warning of becoming a carnal believer who has gotten caught up in some kind of sin or false doctrine as did the Corinthians, though this is a real danger as well for Christians not growing, but more directly of those who potentially would return to a denial that Christ is the Son of God and so in themselves and in their mind crucify him.   it is a return to disbelief.

So does this answer the question, "Can a believer lose his salvation?"  Let me answer with a question.  Can a person be called a believer if they don't believe that Jesus is the Son of God?  No, so then a believer can not lose their salvation, but for the one who returns to disbelief, well that is a different story.  They have not lost their salvation but fell away from it and are turned against Christ. 

The real answer is, just keep growing and you have nothing to worry about.

Blessings

pBob

I will miss pastor Steve Mays

stevemays.jpg

"And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God." 1Cor 2:3-4

Steve Mays 1950 - 2014

Pastor Steve Mays went home to Jesus today after complications following major back surgery.  He will be dearly missed.  

I met pastor Steve when I became pastor of CC Perris Valley.  He oversaw the the community of Calvary Chapels and was the connection for new pastors at that time.  Our discussion was short and to the point but I will always remember his simple but profound exhortation, "Bob, just love the sheep."  Sounds too simple?  Not at all as I have learned that this endeavor to love the sheep encompasses all that is ministry.  

I had many opportunities to hear him teach at pastor conferences but at one pastor luncheon at CC Pasadena he share one of the most incredibly honest and personally revealing messages I have heard a pastor share.  Again, I was forever impacted.  

Thanks pastor Steve for your wisdom and continual influence in my life and ministry. 

Heartfelt prayers for his wife and family.

pastor Bob