Martyr Longinus, the Centurion who Stood at the Cross of the Lord

Martyr Longinus, the Centurion who Stood at the Cross of the Lord

Shel – this is a tradition in the Eastern Church (from http://almoutran.com/2011/10/4339#) about the Centurion. Enjoy!

 Martyr Longinus, the Centurion who Stood at the Cross of the Lord

 October 16th 

He stood transfixed at the foot of the Cross, watching and wondering, full of awe and amazement.  And then all at once, something was born in him – a spark of faith, a brand-new beginning.  And his life was changed forever.

The divine Matthew the Evangelist describes the moment of his conversion to Christianity with enormous power:

So when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, “Truly this was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:54).

The centurion’s name was Longinus, and he was in command of the Roman soldiers who presided over the Crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ on Golgotha.  According to some Church traditions, Longinos was also the centurion who pierced Christ’s side with a spear, in order to confirm his death – after which the wound discharged a rush of blood and water that healed an eye infection which had been troubling Longinos greatly.

Soon after the events at Golgotha, St. Longinus would play a major role in helping to establish the veracity of Christ’s Resurrection . . . after the Jewish elders who had ordered the death of the Holy Redeemer bribed several soldiers to spread the false report that the Savior’s disciples had stolen his body under cover of darkness and made off with it.

St. Longinus ruined their devious plan, however.  Refusing to be bribed, he also insisted on telling the world the true story of how Christ’s body had risen into the glory of the Resurrection.  After learning that the Roman soldier wanted no part of their conspiracy or their money, the Jews decided to rely on their usual ploy: They would simply murder this truth-telling centurion in cold blood.  But the solider was a man of courage and integrity – and as soon as he heard about the plot against him, he took off his military garb, underwent baptism with several fellow-soldiers and then hurried off to Cappadocia, where he spent many hours in prayerful devotion and rigorous fasting.

Responding to the former centurion’s compelling piety, many pagans in the region were also converted to the Gospel and underwent Baptism as a result.  St. Longinus lived and moved among them freely for a time, then eventually returned home to live on his father’s estate. But the perfidious Jews were not finished with him – and their lies soon provoked Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea under the emperor Tiberius Caesar, to issue a draconian order to his troops: Find this renegade centurion and behead him immediately!

Once again, however, the resourceful St. Longinus anticipated a plan against his life.  Hurrying out to the roadway, he greeted his adversaries as friends.  Without letting them know who he was, he invited them back to his own residence. He fed them lavishly, and when they fell asleep, he prepared himself for his execution by praying throughout the night and then clothing himself in spotlessly white burial garb.  As dawn approached, he drew his loyal companions to his side and instructed them to bury him at the top of a nearby hill.

The stage was now set.  Moving swiftly, the martyr approached the awakening soldiers and revealed his true identity; “I am Longinus, the man you seek!”

Amazed and mortified by their host’s honesty, the Romans were knocked completely off balance – how could they behead a man of such noble character?  But even as they protested against the execution, this greathearted soldier insisted that they should carry out their orders to end his life.  In the end, St. Longinus and the two fellow-soldiers who had stood with him at the foot of the cross were taken to Jerusalem and beheaded, and the centurion’s destiny as a martyr for Jesus Christ was fulfilled.

Sighing mournfully over the tragedy they had been required to act out, the execution squad carried Longinus head to Pilate, who immediately sent it on to the scheming Jews. They threw it on a dung heap outside Jerusalem.  St. Longinus was dead – but the legends that would follow this valorous warrior had only just been born.

The power of those legends can be seen in another story that has persisted down through the ages.  According to the narrative, a blind woman who was visiting Jerusalem in order to pray at its holy shrines experienced a mysterious dream in which St. Longinus appeared and told her where to find his head, which she should bury.  The blind woman obeyed instantly, and found a guide to lead her to the dung heap.  There she located the saint’s head and reverently transported it back to his native land of Cappadocia for burial.

The story of the Roman soldier who watched Christ die and was then martyred himself lives on as a treasured narrative in the long history of the Holy Land saints.  The life of this revered Christian reminds us that God the Father does not hesitate to award His saving grace to anyone who sincerely asks for it – including even those who were engaged directly in ending the life of His own beloved Son.

The idea that such healing grace is freely available to all has become a central tenet of the Christian faith – thanks in part to the courageous loyalty of the valiant soldier who died for the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone

Thy Martyr, O Lord, in his courageous contest for Thee received as the prize of the crowns of incorruption and life from Thee, our immortal God. For since he possessed Thy strength, he cast down the tyrants and wholly destroyed the demons’ strengthless presumption. O Christ God, by his prayers, save our souls, since Thou art merciful.

 

Kontakion in the Fourth Tone

With great joy the Church of Christ today rejoiceth on the festive memory of blest Longinus, the all-famed and godly prizewinner. And she doth cry out: O Christ, my foundation and might art Thou.

Father Forgive Them

Father in Heaven!
Hold not our sins up against us
but hold us up against our sins,
so that the thought of You when it wakens in our soul,
and each time it wakens,
should not remind us of what we have committed
but of what You have forgiven,
not of how we went astray,
but of how You have saved us.

- Soren Kierkegaard, 1813-55

Why I Believe the Local Church is the Hope of the World

Rambling thoughts on the local church.

I love the local church, I am in the Kingdom of God because of a local church where people served, gathered weekly to worship in a space open to the public (a church building), fought, tithed, gave to missions, evangelized, ran sunday school classes and small groups, prayed wildly. Yet I get burned out now and again.  Usually it means I am over functioning and then over-judging.

Church burnout is real – but also easy to pull out of without ditching the church.  It does require intentional self-assessment and re-alignment within the local body.  If you see it as a family or team – it’s knowing your role and leadership responsibilities in that group which helps overcome burnout.

Jesus promises to be present uniquely when we gather in regular face-to-face community.  1 Corinthians chapter 12, 13, and 14 along with Matthew 16 tell us that there is power, gifts, grace made uniquely available in the gathering of the church.  So in some ways I think burnout occurs when we think the church is simply a restaurant or store instead of a living body.

The local church is first and foremost a living organism.  The organization changes some over time – but it’s to support and sustain to new generations of believers the organism.  Paul also uses the imagery of parts of the body for persons IN a local church.

Parts can burn-out – but they don’t drop off – unless the part itself is totally dead and diseased.  So burn out could mean that a part is over-functioning or someone else is under functioning.

One answer is to help the others become alive and function in their gifts.  Making platforms for all members to function.

If one gets to the point of death – then deep healing may be needed – and some sabbath recovery.

 

Dare Greatly: Encouragement for Monday morning pastors

Dare Greatly: Encouragement for Monday morning pastors

Monday mornings are challenging for pastors. Maybe the sermon tanked yesterday, attendance was down, or a key leader quit. Or it may have been a great Sunday, but now another weekend looms only six days away. The hardest part is the flood of criticism, both internal and external, a pastor feels on Monday morning. Many pastors say they want to quit every Monday morning, sadly about 1500 actually do quit every month.

As I think about and pray for all my pastor friends this Monday morning I’m reminded of this amazing quote from Teddy Roosevelt:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Here are a couple of takeaways:

  • The critic doesn’t count. Regardless if the critic is an elder, a volunteer or the little voice in your head if he isn’t in the arena he doesn’t count. Sure, we all need to get better, but only those engaged in the battle have a voice in the outcome.
  • Being in the arena means being knocked down, getting dirty, making mistakes. If you aren’t making mistakes, striking out, coming short you’re not in the game. The only clean jerseys at the final whistle are worn by players on the bench. “…there is no effort without error and shortcoming”
  • You may succeed or you may fail, but the biggest loss is to sit in the stands.

Regardless of how your weekend went or how you feel this morning, my prayer for you is the final line of Roosevelt’s quote; if you fail, fail daring greatly. Don’t give in to the critics, don’t let discouragement or fear drive your decisions.

What do you believe? What do you feel in your heart? What decision would you make if you weren’t afraid to fail? Don’t let the fear of striking out, fear of criticism, fear of failure keep you from swinging for the fences.

If the Apostle Paul were in your office right now he’d tell you to ask and imagine and see what happens:

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen (Eph 3:20, 21)

If you are a pastor, a church planter, a leader in your church don’t let fear, discouragement or fatigue drive you from the game on Monday. Get up, dust yourself off and get back into the arena.

Executive Decisions: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Executive Decisions: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly by Geoff Surrat http://geoffsurratt.com/

January 10, 2014

The Executive Decision, that moment when a leaders says, “I have all the information I need, I’m making the call.” President Obama sending in Seal Team Six to take down Osama Bin Laden, Edward Snowden calling the Washington Post with secret NSA files, Abraham Lincoln signing the Emancipation Proclamation to free the slaves; these are all Executive Decisions. These kinds of decisions fall into three categories:

The Good

A leader has listened to people on both sides of the issue, studied the research and spent some time soul-searching. It is now time to make a call. These are the loneliest but most necessary moments of leadership. The decisions aren’t always right, but they are always needed.

The Bad

A leader has pre-determined what he wants to do, but he feigns listening to others, he reads articles that agree with his viewpoint and then he makes the decision he could have made days earlier. This type of Executive Decision, right or wrong, is demoralizing to other leaders in the organization.

The opposite is the leader who simply makes decisions without even the appearance of input. Their decisions are often bad and the morale around them is abysmal. The bad Executive Decision is incredibly destructive.

The Ugly

The ugly Executive Decision is the one that is never made. The leader listens, studies, reads, meditates and listens some more. But he never pulls the trigger, or he defers to others to make decisions that only he should make. Sometimes this kind of Executive Decision can be hidden under the covering of collaboration. At the end of the day a decision has to be made and a leader has to make it. When the leader can’t or won’t the results are ugly.

Do you have to make Executive Decisions? Are they good, bad or just plain ugly?

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Six Reasons Comparisons Hurt Churches By Thom Rainer

new-pray-for
15Mar 2014

Six Reasons Comparisons Hurt Churches

March 15, 2014

When I wrote I Am a Church Member, I noted the key role 1 Corinthians 13 plays in defining what should be expected of a church member. Of course, many view this “love chapter” without understanding that Paul wrote it in the context of speaking to church members about their attitudes and behaviors in a local congregation.

So I often propose “What if?” questions to church leaders and members with 1 Corinthians 13 in the background. What if I am patient with members and leaders in my church? What if I am always kind to them? What if I put their needs before my own? What if I viewed my church with all of its imperfections in light of unconditional love?

You get the picture.

Unhealthy churches have numbers of leaders and/or members who do not practice 1 Corinthians 13 in their local congregations. These persons tend to seek their picture of an ideal church rather than loving their current church, her leaders, and her members. They are thus constantly comparing some aspect of the church with some other church or members or leaders. As a result, six unhealthy consequences unfold when these comparisons take place.

  1. Comparison creates dissatisfaction among members with the pastors and staff. “The current pastor does not preach like the pastor at some other church.” “Our student pastor is not as dynamic as the other guy at the other church.” “If only our pastor would keep his sermons as brief as my former pastor.” “I know that the pastor at the other church visits the members more than our pastor.”
  2. Pastors and church staff can have the “green grass” syndrome when they compare their churches and its members with some other church. I once asked a friend to name his favorite church of the several he had served as pastor. His response was both amusing and sad: “The next one.” He would move from one church to another seeking that perfect congregation. Of course, that place does not exist.
  3. Comparisons create unhealthy expectations. Being a church member is somewhat akin to being married. How many of us have thought our marriage could be so much better if our spouse could become something he or she is not? No church is perfect. All struggle in some way or another. When we compare our church to some other congregation, we may be creating an expectation that is neither realistic nor healthy.
  4. When we compare, we become consumer members instead of serving members. The role of church members and leaders is to serve. We are to serve God first, and our fellow members next. When we compare churches, we are putting our self-interests and perceived needs ahead of others. We engage in “church shopping,” a phrase you will find nowhere in the Bible.
  5. Comparing creates a culture of criticism. Leaders and members constantly note where the church and its members fall short. They regularly assess the pastor and other leaders as to ways they don’t meet expectations. The natural outflow of such a mindset is unholy dissatisfaction and criticisms.
  6. When we compare, we don’t take time to “look in the mirror.” In my first church where I served as pastor, I became irritated and frustrated with the members. My experience was nothing like I had anticipated or hoped. When I started complaining to God about “those people,” God convicted me of my own inadequacies, my own sins, and my own problems. I had spent too much time looking at the splinter in others’ eyes rather than the log in my eye.

I have been guilty of comparisons in local congregations, both as a church member and as a pastor. But I have found the greatest joy when I stop comparing and start serving. I’ve got plenty for God to fix without spending an inordinate amount of time worrying about how other church members, pastors, and staff can become better from my own imperfect perspective.

Pain and Ministry – for my pastor friends.

I’ve had some wicked awful shoulder pain from a lifting injury the last week and half. Pain has a way of drawing our focus. One wrong move with the arm and the pain shoots and stops me.

The trouble is there are some pains that do not go away. The pain of saying more than you should have (yes of course seeking grace and forgiveness or at least get to an ‘agree and disagree in love’ is a goal – but often only possible to release disagreements to God).

The pain of people who refuse to understand another’s point of view.

The pain of people who refuse humility or refuse to act in the best interests of others.

This is the pain of ministry.  Below is a nice article on the pain of ministry.  I never understood it until I became a lead pastor.

The Secret Pain of Pastors

Peter Drucker, the late leadership guru, said that the four hardest jobs in America (and not necessarily in order, he added) are:

  • The President of the United States
  • A university president
  • A CEO of a hospital and
  • A pastor

Is that true? Pastors love God and love people. They get to pray for people, lead people to a faith in Jesus Christ, and teach the Word about God.

That’s the dream job. You can read the Bible all day, pray, play a little golf, and preach. I want to do that!

Here is the secret. Being a pastor is hard work. It’s not for wimps.

This is the reality—the job of a pastor can be 24/7 and carry unique challenges.

Some pastors wear themselves out trying to help people. Some wound their family because they are so involved in ministry. Others flourish in their ministry and personal life.

Approximately 85% of churches in America have less than 200 people. Sixty percent of churches are under 100 people. The average size congregation in the U.S. is 89 people, according to The Barna Group. Staffs are small, and needs are great. In many situations, the pastor needs to be a Bible teacher, accountant, strategist, visionary, computer tech, counselor, public speaker, worship director, prayer warrior, mentor, leadership trainer, and fundraiser.

Who can be all of that?

  • 90% of pastors said the ministry was completely different than what they
    thought it would be like before they entered the ministry.
  • 70% say they have a lower self-image now than when they first started.

Personally, I love being a pastor. I have a great staff. We have great people in our church; I am content whether going through good times or difficult seasons. Of course, it’s a lot easier to be “content” when things are good. I have great friends who are pastors. My marriage is strong. I am a better man because of my time in ministry.

Some of the unique problems that pastors’ face are:

1.  Criticism. 

Pastors can be criticized by a lot of people for a multitude of things.

“Music is too loud. Worship is not long enough. It’s too long.”

“Sermon is not deep enough. It’s too long.” 

“Pastor thinks he’s too important. It took me 3 weeks to get an appointment.”

“You talk too much about money.”

“…can I talk to you for a minute, Pastor?” This simple question can cause a pastor to think: “Oy vey.  Now what?”

We pastors need to find a way to not take criticism so personally and learn from truths that could be hidden in the criticism.

2. Rejection.

Members leave, leaders leave, and pastors’ friends leave. The reality is—people leave.

The smaller the church, the more obvious it is when people leave. Some leave for reasonable decisions; many leave ‘ungracefully.’ They leave the big churches, too—by the thousands.

People leave TD Jakes’ church, and they leave Andy Stanley’s church.

When our church had about 150 people and some would leave, it was so disappointing. I tried to console myself by thinking, “They may be leaving by the dozens here at Oasis, but thousands have left Jack Hayford’s church, and he’s a great pastor.”…That only helped for a minute.

“I’m leaving.”

“We want something deeper.”

“My needs aren’t getting met.”

These comments can feel like a personal rejection.

Every pastor has heard, “I’m not getting fed here.” Bill Hybels has heard it. Wayne Cordero, Dino Rizzo, Ed Young, Craig Groeschel, Steven Furtick, and Matthew Barnett have heard it.

Really?  Not getting fed? In those churches? How is that possible?

One of the most difficult conditions to achieve is to have a “tough skin and a soft heart.” Love people, hold them lightly, and don’t take it personally.

“…uhhh, OK.  Lord, help us.”

3.  Betrayal.

Trusting church members with personal burdens can backfire. They may end up telling the pastor’s personal issues to others. Staff leaders can take church members away. The pastor trusts a person with the platform or title, and that person uses the influence given to them to take people away.  The Judas kiss.

Church staff causing problems is a betrayal. Pastors rightfully think, “I’m paying you to solve problems. I can get new problems for free. I don’t need to pay someone a salary to create them.”

  • 40% report a conflict with a church member at least once a month.
  • 85% of pastors said their greatest problem is they are tired of dealing with problem people, such as disgruntled elders, deacons, worship leaders, worship teams, board members, and associate pastors.
  • The #1 reason pastors leave the ministry is that church people are not willing to go the same direction and goal of the pastor. Pastors believe God wants them to go in one direction, but the people are not willing to follow or change.
  • 40% of pastors say they have considered leaving their pastorates in the last three months.

We pastors have to find a way, with God’s grace, to love people as if we have never been hurt before.

4.  Loneliness.

Who’s my friend?  Who can I trust? If I tell another pastor my problems, will he criticize me, tell others, or just treat me differently?

  • 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend.

Are my friends really my friends or a church member who is a temporary friend who may leave any day now?

Healthy friendships are crucial to a fulfilling life, especially to the well being of a pastor. Put special effort in this area.

5.  Weariness.

50% of the ministers starting out will not last 5 years.

70% felt God called them to pastoral ministry before their ministry began, but after three years of ministry, only 50% still felt called.

Keeping personally refreshed is an art and a science…and extremely important.

When fatigue comes in, you not only look ½ empty, but also dirty, contaminated, and undrinkable.

6.  Frustrations & Disappointments.

Disappointments come in many ways.

Because of smaller congregations, the average compensation package for pastors is between $35,000 – $40,000. There are many things pastors in this salary range are not able to do for their family that other people around them can do.

There are many areas of ministry that judging “success” is difficult. Pastors can be hard on themselves. We work in an area that good work and good effort does not always guarantee success.

Many pastors work hard but are missing some kind of “X-factor.” They are good people, sincere believers, love God, know the Word, have great content in their sermons, but somehow it’s not clicking.  It’s frustrating.

It’s like a worship leader who loves Jesus and has a great singing voice but somehow cannot lead people in an effective worship experience.

Some days, leaders feel like they can’t seem to do anything right. The ministry finally gets momentum, and then a leader in the church falls. Things are going well, and then a couple of your biggest givers leave.

The church needs money, but the pastor doesn’t want to put too much focus on money. It’s not about the money—but it becomes about the money.

All of this can be overwhelming.

  • 4,000 new churches begin each year and 7,000 churches close.
  • Over 1,700 pastors left the ministry every month last year.
  • Over 3,500 people a day left the church last year. 
  • 50% of pastors feel so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if
    they could, but have no other way of making a living.
  • 45.5 % of pastors say that they’ve experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence from ministry. 

This is not the case for all pastors. In fact, many that I know have managed to handle these issues well. 

How Christians and church members can help:  

Pray for your pastor.

Pray for guidance, protection, healthy friends, their marriage, and family. Pray for inspiration, anointing, the leadership team, unity, and clarity.

Protect your pastor.

As best as you can, don’t allow or participate in gossip and criticism. How can you serve and problem solve to prevent overload?

Encourage your pastor.

Thank him for his or her work and ministry. Thank them for their sacrifice. Tell them a specific time in which you or someone you know experienced a life change in their church. Honor them to others.  Let your pastors know you are praying for them. According to the Barna report—the profession of “Pastor” is near the bottom of a survey of the most-respected professions, just above “car salesman.”

To Pastors.

Don’t give up, pastor! Persistence is powerful.

Keep on. Really! Your work, your labor of love, and your sacrifice matters.

I realize the last thing a pastor needs is another sermon. But these verses have helped me. Hold on to God’s Word with your life.

So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised. Hebrews 10:35-36 NLT

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time, we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Gal. 6:9 NLT

Be careful of the comparison trap.

Looking at other ministries can be inspiring. Comparing yourself to other churches can be destructive and discouraging.

Make new pastor friends. Expose yourself to new influences, new leaders, churches, or ministries that are doing some things differently.

Discover to some fresh views and ideas. Sometimes, it just takes one or two new ideas that can change momentum around.

Pastors that are struggling or are no longer in ministry may have unresolved hurts. I encourage you to find healing. Seek counseling; find a local Celebrate Recovery group; equip yourself with resources on healing (some examples are Safe People or Boundaries) and share your secrets with safe people.  Remember you’re only as sick as your secrets.

*The Fuller Institute, George Barna, and Pastoral Care Inc. provide the statistics I have used in this post.

 

Hebrew Roots makes a good study or a bad cult

Shel: Over the years I’ve had several friends who think that they must take on the practices of Torah to be good followers of Messiah.  Note: That also includes calling all things outside of Jewish roots “pagan”.  So obviously worship (moved in the NT immediately) must go back to OT. The name Jesus is often suspect.  And the legalistic (often twisting the law) list goes on.

They cannot figure out Paul nor the fact this battle was fought in NT and it was declared gentile DOES NOT automatically = pagan in the condemned sense under Christ. Moreover aspects of the law were the shadow and the substance is Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit.  Which was not possible for all people under the law. Only unique empowerment for a few for special tasks.

The reality is that most of the more cultic expressions are not applying torah as it was nor can they! Moveover the 1st Church Council in Acts 15 made the decision settlement on this issue. If you disagree with that, then you are also throwing out Messiah and His living body.  Oh foolish Galatians who has bewitched you!?

 

So here are some good (I do not endorse all these authors say or believe BTW just good summaries of THIS ISSUE) thoughts on when the interest in Hebrew roots becomes a cult:

http://www.simplechurch.com/profiles/blogs/hebrew-roots-cults

http://www.cyshift.com/hebrew_roots.html

The Hebrew Roots Cult

4/1/2006

Titus 1:10-11, 13-14 For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach…For this reason reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith, not paying attention to Jewish myths and commandments of men who turn away from the truth.

What an insidious and devious Enemy we have! The ability to take devout men and women of God who are zealous for good works and twist their desires so as to put them back into bondage to the Law illustrates the truly evil nature of Satan.

I had the recent misfortune of encountering a cult which is growing in influence within Christianity. It is not to be confused with Messianic Judaism or simply seeking to explore the Jewish culture within which most of the Bible was written. Although there are many organizations which are promoting this general view and their specific doctrines often vary, it is generally known as the Hebrew Roots Movement.

Why Haven’t I Heard About This?

As a rule, this spreading wave of false doctrine is not being addressed by the church. This is due to several reasons:

  • There is a fear of appearing anti-Semitic
  • The depth of the movement’s doctrinal heresies is not generally known
  • There is within the church in general a reluctance to address false doctrine
  • The movement usually hides their beliefs and presents itself as simply seeking to educate Christians concerning their Jewish heritage. As they become acclimated to the Jewish orientation the more aberrant doctrines are slowly introduced.

The influence of this movement is working its way into our churches and our seminaries. The longer we refuse to address it directly and publicly the greater the damage will be to our brothers and sisters and to the core doctrines of our faith. If it is not the responsibility of the clergy to correct issues of doctrine, then whose responsibility is it?

A Few Symptoms

Allow me to delineate some of their more common symptomatic doctrinal heresies:

  • All Christians should adhere to a kosher diet
  • The Sabbath can only be observed on Saturdays
  • The Jewish festivals and holidays should still be observed today

I addressed in a previous article why these are not sound doctrinal stances so I will not reiterate them here.

The Cause

The root of their symptomatic heresies is hermeneutic (having to do with the methodology used to interpret scripture) in nature. The Protestant Reformers used a grammatical-literal hermeneutic when interpreting scripture. In other words, it means what it says unless there is a significant reason to believe otherwise. This movement uses a grammatical-historical hermeneutic with a twist. Their underlying assumptions when approaching any scripture are:

  • Whatever God has ever commanded of those who seek Him (i.e., the Jews, their ancestors, their descendents, and Christians) is still in effect today (including the Levitical law)
  • Gentile followers of Christ were “grafted into” the Jews which they interpret to mean that Gentiles must assume Jewish customs if they really want to mature and please God

Based on those unquestionable assumptions, they then decide how they can best interpret a given scripture to support those beliefs.

The farther down this rabbit hole they go, the more bizarre their doctrines become. Many see the New Testament as inferior to the Old (or a conspiracy by the Catholic church). More still say that Paul’s teachings are contrary to Christ (since they have trouble with his obvious statements against their beliefs) and, therefore, reject his epistles as scripture. Some say that the only reason we aren’t still sacrificing animals and stoning people for their sins is because there is no Temple and no Sanhedrin. But when they are restored then these will resume. Others go so far as to eventually reject Jesus as the Messiah and simply say that He was just a Rabbi. The inevitable outcome of following this train of thought is to put people back into bondage to the Law.

The Truth

These heresies are so fundamentally and obviously wrong that I hesitate to even address them. However, it is apparently not obvious to the adherents of this cult so I will briefly spell out a few.

We (as Gentile believers) were not grafted into the Law and Judaism but into the faith of Abraham which preceded the Law and Jewish customs (Romans 4, Romans 11:17-24, Galatians 3:15-18). The law was given because of transgressions and to be our tutor to lead us to Christ (Galatians 3:19,24,25). Jesus fulfilled all of the requirements of the law (Matthew 5:17-20) for all time (John 19:30, Romans 5:12-21). We were “made to die to the Law through the body of Christ” so that we might be joined to Him (Romans 7:1-6, Galatians 2:19,21) because Christ is “the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4). You mature in Christ and please Him by the same means by which you were saved…by faith…not by following the Law.

Galatians 3:1-4 You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain–if indeed it was in vain?

No where in the Bible do we find Gentile believers being instructed to follow Levitical laws or Jewish customs. In fact, just the opposite (see my previous article). However, we do find several examples where Jewish Christians are reprimanded for trying to convince Gentile Christians to follow the Law (Acts 15, Galatians, Romans 14, Titus 1).

Those in the Hebrew Roots cult have stumbled over the Great Stumbling Block (1 Corinthians 1:23,24, Galatians 5:11). This heresy goes all the way back to the first century but like a bad penny it keeps turning up every few centuries. Beware of those who come to you professing to educate you about your Hebrew roots in order to “make you a better Christian” or to “restore your Biblical Hebrew heritage.” Question them closely concerning these heresies to prevent them from being introduced into your churches and families (as they have been introduced into mine).

Below are some websites with more information concerning the Hebrew Roots Movement as well as relevant scriptures for you to consider. Test the spirits, my brothers and sisters and refute unsound doctrine (Titus 1:9).

Jews for Jesus warn of the dangers of the Hebrew Roots Movement
http://www.jfjonline.org/witness/faq_bt_hebraicroots.htm
http://www.jewsforjesus.org/publications/havurah/4_1/jewishroots

Critical explorations of the Hebrew Roots Movement
http://www.seekgod.ca/topichr.htm
http://watch.pair.com/HRM.html

Galatians 3:28,29 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.Romans 2:17-21 But if you bear the name “Jew” and rely upon the Law and boast in God, and know His will and approve the things that are essential, being instructed out of the Law, and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of the immature, having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth, you, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself?

1 Timothy 1:3, 6-10 As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines…For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions. But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching

2 Peter 2:1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.

http://www.jewsforjesus.org/publications/havurah/v04-n01/jewishroots

 

call me a pente-anabaptist…revivals are dirt AND Divinity

Shel – I am not anti-revival.  Today I am more than ever pentecostal and anabaptist – Spirit and Jesus.  (I guess that’s why I like AB Simpson ;-) ). This article I am sharing was wonderfully encouraging.  I believe that God will send a very unique move of the Spirit to Sioux Falls because there are many of us hungry for the Holy Spirit/Jesus-Magnifying church to grow in our city.

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2014/march-web-only/enduring-revival.html?paging=off

The Enduring Revival

The ‘Toronto Blessing’ in 1994 was odd and controversial—but its benefits have lasted.
Lorna Dueck/ March 7, 2014
The Enduring Revival

Image: Courtesy of From Here to the Nations

Early in 1994, a small church in a strip mall near Toronto Pearson International Airport had thousands of people waiting at its doors night after night—50,000 unique visitors, as we’d say today, in the first six months of the year, enough to make it “Toronto’s top tourist attraction of 1994,” according to Toronto Life magazine. The Toronto Blessing was falling.

Laughing, falling over, shaking, roaring like a lion, and being “drunk in the Holy Spirit”—the Toronto Blessing was a charismatic revival featuring manifestations of spiritual power more commonly associated with the Great Awakenings of the 18th and 19th centuries. Thousands registered first-time conversions to Christianity at the services. Every evening people lined up to stand or fall under shouts of “More, Lord!” while hands were laid on them in prayer.

The atmosphere felt just the same as it did 20 years ago as I made my way through a crowd that had turned up two hours early to celebrate the revival’s anniversary on January 20, 2014. The services were held at Catch the Fire, formerly known as the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship, which was the Toronto Airport Vineyard at the revival’s inception. The church has grown from its storefront to a 3,200-seat auditorium, 8 satellite campuses, 23 church plants, and a global Catch the Fire church network.

I hadn’t been back to the church for a long while, but I was drawn to this celebration. I was grateful for what I had received there 20 years before. As a side task, I had taken CT up on its invitation to write about my reunion experience.

A Mixed Blessing?

In 1994, I was a young reporter assigned to cover the Toronto Blessing. I was significantly discouraged aboutChristian ministry at the time. In spite of my angst, I was curious about the bizarre stories of spiritual manifestations coming from the airport church pastored by John and Carol Arnott. I remember going to the back of the church, phoning my sister, and complaining, “Everyone is getting this ‘Father’s blessing’ here but me.” My charismatic sister told me to put down my notepad, stop being a reporter, and just receive. What I experienced was so significant that I divide my own spiritual journey into pre- and post-Toronto Blessing eras.

My sister’s advice still applies. It’s hard to rationally account for the results of the Toronto Blessing over the past two decades. A few themes, though, are consistent. This revival attracted people who wanted their spiritual condition to change, and it commissioned people to live for God’s service and glory. Such spiritually charged events often devolve into massive scandals—like the one that enveloped evangelist Todd Bentley in the wake of Florida’s “Lakeland Revival” of 2008. Not so with the Toronto revival, which has had a remarkably scandal-free track record.

Many of the Toronto Blessing’s critics have moderated their concerns in the last two decades. Dr. James Beverley, professor of Christian thought and ethics at Toronto-based Tyndale Seminary, published one of the most detailed examinations of the revival, Holy Laughter and the Toronto Blessing, in 1995. At the time he concluded that the revival was at best a “mixed blessing,” with an undue emphasis on extreme and bizarre manifestations and a tendency to exaggerate claims of signs, wonders, and prophecies.

Nearly 20 years later, Beverley strikes a more appreciative tone, emphasizing the positive and lasting impacts of the revival. “Whatever the weaknesses are, they are more than compensated for by thousands and thousands of people having had tremendous encounters with God, receiving inner healings, and being renewed.”

Beverley is still reluctant to identify the more extreme phenomena of laughing, crying, “birthing,” or roaring as straightforward manifestations of the Spirit of Christ. He interprets them as signs of deep pain and a need for emotional and spiritual comfort. “The whole thing is an indication of how much people want to feel close to God and have a sense of his presence. This does not excuse or explain everything…. To know it in detail, you would have to inspect story after story, but there is no doubt that the vast majority of people have been helped, and there have been radical conversion experiences and radical renewal in many lives.”

That renewal has had far-reaching and long-lasting effects. One of many famous visitors to the revival was Nicky Gumbel, best known as the leader of Alpha. The Guardian reported in 2000 that “a quarter of a million agnostics have found God through Gumbel.” And they reported that “the Toronto Blessing was the kick-start Alpha needed.”

“I don’t talk about it now,” Gumbel told The Guardian. “It divides people. It splits churches. It is very controversial. But I’ll tell you—I think the Toronto Blessing was a wonderful, wonderful thing.”

Beverley thinks the harshest criticisms of the movement were always overblown. “This has largely been a great movement because it has led people to Jesus. There are dangers, and the revival could have been even better than it has been if its leaders had controlled some of the movement’s weaker elements. But overall, I have never worried about the Toronto Blessing as a dangerous cult-like movement. I am happy that the renewal has lasted two decades.”

His remarks hint at something of a shift in his own evaluation of the movement. “My concerns have changed a bit. I regret saying that they did not give enough attention to Jesus. I think that was too hard. The leaders and the people—they love Jesus. We all do not give enough attention to Jesus.”

Carpet Time

I ended up attending for a week in the Toronto revival’s early days. On those nights I was prayed for I spent a few hours of my own in “carpet time,” the Catch the Fire term for what happens when people are knocked down, “slain in the Spirit,” and leave mysteriously strengthened and renewed in their love for God.

The 20th anniversary contained all those same elements. Not much has changed in the Arnotts’ attitude and approach. The love of John, now 73, and Carol, 71, for their staff, congregation, and visitors seems unforced and unfeigned. They still see themselves as “stewarding what God is doing.”

During the anniversary meetings, the Arnotts welcomed international Vineyard Church leader Blaine Cook to the reunion stage. In 1996, the American Vineyard Board and Council decided to cut the association’s ties with the Canadian congregation. At the time, John Wimber stated that the Toronto revival needed more emphasis on “the main and plain things in Scripture.”

At this reunion, the two distinct churches apologized for any hurt the separation may have caused, emphasizing their shared love and respect for God’s work in their organizations. Vineyard pastors around the world now engage with the “Revival Alliance,” a group that includes the Arnotts, Bill and Benni Johnson, Randy and DeAnne Clark, Georgian and Winnie Banov, Che and Sue Ahn, and Rolland and Heidi Baker—all global charismatic leaders of movements that expanded as a result of the Toronto Blessing.

To some critics, the Revival Alliance extends beyond the boundaries of mainstream Christianity. Beverley notes the connection between several Revival Alliance members and the New Apostolic Reformation, which tends to grant extraordinary amounts of power to particular “apostolic” leaders. Beverley sees Catch the Fire as largely distinct from these more radical movements, but the relationships and mutual endorsement remain.

One figure who links the Revival Alliance with the New Apostolic Reformation is Randy Clark, a former Southern Baptist pastor who preached for 42 of the first 60 consecutive days of the revival in 1994. His preaching opened the 20th-anniversary revival conference, with his familiar text (John 7:37–38) and familiar theme of developing a “thirst for more” of God.

When asked about unorthodox elements or exaggerated claims of spiritual power among members of the Revival Alliance, Clark responded, “Our unity is not based on doctrinal agreement. Our unity is based on the experienced presence of God and how it renewed us and our commitment to a gospel of the kingdom.”

“Our legitimate critics would say we are weak on a theology of suffering, and I think it’s an appropriate critique,” said Clark. “But I am convinced we have a solid biblical basis for what we teach. I believe my critics have an under-utilized eschatology. They’re putting off into the millennium what God has made available for the present.”

I have nothing but admiration for the leadership and members of Catch the Fire, and their ministry in our metropolis. But I do wonder how they manage the expectations encouraged by the style of prayer practiced at Catch the Fire and by Revival Alliance leaders. Hoping for a “magic touch” in prayer can manipulate people into yearning for a particular style of “anointing.” They start to hunger for the visible manifestations of bodies fallen, resting peacefully, or shaking uncontrollably as if by a mysterious voltage. Their hope for physical healing is often disappointed.

And what do you do during the long seasons when you walk with little sense of experiential “anointing”? Those years of normal life when the Word made flesh, the enduring truth of the Resurrection, is all you have to go on?

The anniversary was a good time for me to reflect on these questions. I know I received a profound inner healing at the revival. We have been given beautiful gifts in the Toronto Blessing, and beautiful gifts too in those who critique it. I’m thankful that in God’s wide family we have both—servants who steward Word and Spirit.

Lorna Dueck is the host and executive producer of Context with Lorna Dueck. Context’s Stephen Lazarus provided additional research for this article.

 

An Open Apology to the Local Church

An Open Apology to the Local Church

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2014/april/open-apology-to-local-church.html?paging=off

Though much have I attended you, late have I loved you.
Katelyn Beaty/ March 7, 2014
An Open Apology to the Local Church

Image: iStock

Dear Church,

I trust this letter finds you sustained by your Groom as you face bombings and threats on one side of the hemisphere, and attacks of a more offhand sort on the other. By now you have likely received word of a popular blogger confessing his boredom with your recent Protestant iterations, noting that he instead connects with God by building his company. At the least, I was heartened to see it spark a lively discussion about who you are and what exactly the Spirit had in mind when he showed up in Jerusalem 1,980 years ago to kick off this whole crazy thing. (I imagine those are sweet memories for you, seeing your people giving their things away with abandon, like it was the end of the world.) As you near your 2,000th birthday, we rugged individuals in the land of a thousand denominations are wise to get reacquainted with you.

Outside your walls, of course, you continue to be derided for all manner of intolerance, backwards thinking, and political apathy. But inside your walls, at least from my narrow vantage of Christendom, you are quite the hot ticket these days. A whole generation of evangelical Christians has grown impatient with inherited ways of gathering together.

From pastors like Eugene Peterson, we have learned to question modes of worship that mimic the mall and the stadium. From theologians like Robert Webber, we have discovered a much longer and richer history than our Sunday school teachers ever mentioned. We bandy about words like ecclesiology and sacramentality to demonstrate our new, sophisticated ways of thinking about you. Just this week, we wore our ashes proud. And when the popular blogger confessed to finding you a bit hard to get through, we were quite ready to pounce with charges of individualism and narcissism, and proclaim our love for you, the institution.

You might think I’m writing to throw my lot in with your strongest defenders. After all, I’ve faithfully attended one of your high-church Anglican iterations for seven years, watching with disdain as peers hop from building to building, seeking an “awesome” and “powerful” worship experience (and attractive members of the opposite sex). Instead, I’m writing to apologize. While claiming publicly to have loved you as Christ does—like a spouse—in spirit I have loved you like an on-again, off-again fling. My faithful attendance suggests a radical commitment to gathering with your people. But many Sundays, my heart is still in it for me. And while I think the blogger is ultimately misguided about his relationship (or lack thereof) with you, I can appreciate his honesty. At least he’s not leading you on.

Here’s where I need to confess my true feelings about you, Church: The romance of our earlier days has faded. The longer I have known you, the more I weary of your quirks and trying character traits. Here’s one: You draw people to yourself whom I would never choose to spend time with. Every Sunday, it seems, you put me in contact with the older woman who thinks that angels and dead pets are everywhere around us. You insist on filling my coffee hour with idle talk of golf, the weather, and grandchildren. As much as I wax on about the value of intergenerational worship, a lot of Sundays I dodge these members like they’re lepers. (This is of course my flesh talking, to borrow a phrase from one of your earliest members.) Many Sundays I long to worship alongside likeminded Christians who really get me, with whom I can have enlightening, invigorating conversations, whom I’m not embarrassed to be seen with in public. I confess to many times lusting over one of your sexier locations, wondering if I would be happier and more fulfilled there.

It hasn’t helped that you have made growing demands of me, something I also confess to resenting. Truth be told, it strikes me as a bit clingy. I’ve now served on the church board, played piano at Friday night worship services, taught Sunday school. You also want me to give you money every week—when I still have student loans to pay off? I am there not to be served but to serve, of course. But I do wonder when these investments of time and energy will pay off. A bit of appreciation from fellow members would help.

While we’re at it, let me make one more confession: I resent how much you want to go out these days. I don’t understand why we can’t stay inside and reconnect over a cup of wine. After a stressful workweek, I want to be renewed and refreshed, to feel myself falling in love again with the Groom. I want the kind of connective mornings we had when I first met you. I admit to finding our morning routine a bit snoozy as of late, especially on Sundays led by a guest preacher. (Another sports metaphor?) And you think going out and mixing it up with refugees and orphans and homeless people is what we need? Granted, their needs are a bit more tangible than mine, but I’m starting to think mine are being ignored entirely.

Well, this letter turned out to be more negative than I wanted. But with all the conversations about your central place in the life of God’s people, I needed to put all my cards on the table. And to apologize. Because even though in practice the aforementioned blogger and I are worlds apart, in spirit we are more similar than might be assumed. The difference is that I mask my Sunday morning self-centeredness with a “nuanced” theology of worship.

I believe your Head would have choice words to describe me. Make no mistake: Until he changes my heart from the inside out, stoking in it an ever increasing flame of sacrificial love for you, I’m no better than a whitewashed tomb—or, to put more fine a point on it, a worshiper who in truth longs to get back under the covers.

In remorse—and hope,

KRB

Katelyn Beaty is managing editor of CT magazine.