What is Your Foundation?

What if you came to the conclusion that the Bible is unreliable? How would such knowledge impact your relationship with God? The way you answer that question may identify the foundation of your faith. Although most Christians would agree that Jesus is their foundation, the faith of many has suffered when they’ve been confronted with questions they couldn’t answer regarding the authenticity of the scriptures.

For some who are not theologians, discovering that parts of the scripture have been mistranslated can be unsettling. Inaccurate translation has also led to harmful practices, especially in the area of church leadership. But perhaps the most disturbing consideration for one whose faith is based on the Bible being holy, inerrant and complete in its revelation would involve the process by which it was compiled.

There was disagreement and varied opinions among those who made up the group that determined canonization. When the final vote was cast it appears doubtful that the result was suitable for a book in which every word is thought to be God breathed. For instance, from the birth of the Church to 397AD, the church at Antioch accepted and used The Didache and 1st Clement as “scripture” while rejecting 2 Peter, 2 & 3 John, Jude, and Revelation. At Alexandria, the church also rejected most of those books, but accepted Jude and Barnabus. When the canon was finally settled, a number of books that the first century fathers and apostles considered scripture were excluded by the Protestant Bible we use today.

Much more could be said about the learning curve the apostles were in when they penned their various contributions to the New Testament. Apparent contradictions in scripture and uncertainty about who actually wrote several of the gospels can also be included on a long list of challenges to the authenticity of the scriptures.

Yet even if one is convinced that the final result that produced the Protestant Bible was orchestrated by the Holy Spirit, there’s the matter of correct doctrine. How is one to know what to believe when there are two to four conflicting views of every major doctrine among evangelicals? Furthermore, supporting scriptures and logical argument allow for a strong case to be made for each one!
One of the first songs I was taught as a child in Sunday school went like this:
The B-I-B-L-E,
Yes that’s the book for me!
I stand alone on the Word of God,
The B-I-B-L-E!
Of course nowhere in scripture is it written that we stand on the Bible. But for the average Christian raised up in a religion with Protestant Reformation theology at its roots, the little ditty makes an appropriate theme song. It also serves as a disastrous foundation.

Jesus scolded the Pharisees for diligently searching the scriptures thinking that in them they would have eternal life. He went on to say that the scriptures testified of him, yet they refused to come to him to have life. (John 5:39,40) So Jesus spoke in parables to them. He would not be misrepresented by would-be followers of those who lived by their own understanding and wisdom. It’s the same today.

The Bible has no life in and of itself. It is not a holy book. It is a book that points to Christ who is the fulfillment of the scriptures for all those who receive him by faith. If the Bible contains all the answers and can be perfectly understood by our intellect, we need neither faith nor the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the living word, and the scriptures have value for life in him ONLY as they are made alive by the Spirit of Christ within us. They are interpreted through the filter of God’s love and translated into practical living through our relationship with Christ and one another as we offer ourselves a living sacrifice on a daily basis. Being joined with others whose primary motivation is to please God will help to keep us in the way of love and avoid “private” interpretations of scripture.

What then, does it matter if parts of the Bible are mistranslated, left out or if books by spurious authors were included? It’s only that which reveals God in Christ by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that gives life. Yet theologians continue to search the scriptures finding themes that support their particular prejudices. They pour over an imperfect book looking for answers that are not there, that can only be lived out in an experimental relationship with Christ. Some of the greatest minds still live in Sunday school. They stand alone on the Bible while Jesus walks on.

Jesus is the Solid Rock on which we stand. Our faith rests on Christ alone who is the full revelation of God the Father. We are not slaves to our limited knowledge, nor must everything that the Holy Spirit makes life to us pass the Bible litmus test. Our loyalty is to the Living Word who is the same yesterday, today and forever. If our security rests in anything or anyone else, we’re standing on sinking sand.

David Fredrickson

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Financial Support for Ministers Part 4

Here, at long last, is the fourth and final video in the “Supporting the Equippers” series. Who are the genuine apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers in the Body of Christ? What are they like? What makes them tick? And why did Jesus set up His church so that the genuine equippers are supported by His body? These are the topics covered in this video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GHTEoar9SLQ

Loren Rosser

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ISIS, Martys and Western Christianity

In several nations of the world, Christians are facing persecution on an escalating scale. At the forefront in the news are those who have been executed by ISIS. How does this reality impact Western Christians? There are those who take up arms to fight the enemy. Members of the Christian Militia are to be admired for their passion and willingness to risk their own lives to save the lives of others. But for Christ’s church to take up the sword is neither in line with what Jesus taught nor with the example he gave us by dying on the cross for those who murdered him.

What then should be our response? Too often apathy is the prevailing attitude in Western cultures. It seems that the comparative luxury and safety we enjoy has dulled our hearts. Our comfortable lifestyle and “bless me” theology has left many of us feeling unconcerned and disconnected from the majority of the world’s population that struggles to survive from day to day.

Yet if you are a member of Christ’s body, you are intrinsically joined to every other member on the planet. Of course we know only a few of our brothers and sisters on a face to face basis. Yet even the millions we don’t know are more meaningfully connected to us by Christ’s shed blood and through one Spirit than hereditary bloodlines connect us to our natural family. If one suffers, we all suffer. (1 Co. 12:26) We are exhorted to “bear one another’s burdens and in so doing, fulfill the law of Christ. (Gal. 6:2) If our identity is rooted in Western culture and lifestyle these exhortations will mean little or nothing to us in relationship to our brothers and sisters in other nations. Nor will we know Jesus Christ in the fellowship of his sufferings that he endured for their sake.

A few years ago Egyptian Muslims surrounded Christian churches all over the country to protect them from the threat of militant groups. They offered their bodies as human shields in accordance with their slogan stating that “We either live together, or we die together.” Some question there motives, but what can not be ignored is the fact these Muslims were far from aloof regarding the plight of their fellow countrymen. How much more can we identify with our blood sisters and brothers in Christ who share with us a common citizenship in the kingdom of God?

Perhaps we should consider news of what’s happening to followers of Christ in other lands as a wake-up call. The day may soon be upon us when we will experience first hand what it means to come under persecution for our faith. Those who are being killed for Christ’s sake have said they consider it an honor to be a martyr for him. They understand that Jesus never promised that bad things would not happen to people who follow him. They live and die understanding his promise that “if they persecuted me, they will persecute you.” (John 15:20) And Paul wrote that “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2Tim 3:12) Both Jesus and Paul apparently forgot to add “except for those living in Western nations.”

We would do well to ask God how we might respond to news of our family members being persecuted over seas. Many of us may need to repent from being self absorbed and apathetic. He will show us where our faith fails to move our hearts, hands and feet. We can ask for his burden to become ours and take it on in prayer and intercession. “Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” (He. 13:3) We can also pray that the glory of God will be seen by members of ISIS on the countenance of those facing death at their hands. God can use the testimony of these martyrs to bring revelation of Jesus and the conviction of the Spirit to their persecutors. He may lead us to fast in one or several ways. Praying for those abroad may awaken some of us to the needs of people in our neighborhood or at our places of employment. There are always those in our own sphere of life who are suffering emotionally and/or physically from abuse or disease.

However individual and varied our responses may be, to fail to respond at all is unthinkable for one who lives and moves and has his/her being in Christ. His sheep hear his voice, and there is one thing he is definitely saying to his flock today:
“Wake up, oh sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (Eph. 4:14)

David Fredrickson

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Worship

We’re back! A new Untangled Podcast is up! What is worship? Is worship an event we attend? Is it something we do on Sundays to get our “God fix” so we can make it through another week? Is worship how we usher in God’s presence? In this podcast Loren and David discuss the beauty and lies surrounding worship.

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The Last Church Strategy

Among the many and varied forms of the Christian religion, three are fairly common, though most brands include some aspects of the following generalizations.

One group is skillful at turning descriptive narratives from the scriptures into prescriptions for effective ways to build the church. They’ve come up with “apostolic” wisdom to create templates for every area of ministry from nursery to overseas missions. Deeper truth, discipleship and world evangelism are priorities in this system.

Another brand places the focus on the prophetic and supernatural manifestations. They realize that the world can’t be changed without the power of the Holy Spirit moving through each believer. They teach methods on how to operate in the Spirit. The gatherings feature miracle meetings where great things are prophesied and declarations are made. Men and women with “special giftings” are held in awe.

Finally, there are those who believe that correct doctrine is the only thing that counts. Their foundation is based on what they believe to be an accurate interpretation of the Bible. They stand on the “Word” and shall not be moved. Attending church and listening to sermons by the main man up front is the bread and butter of their Christian life.

The fact that neither these nor countless other brands of Christian religion have changed the world does not serve as new information unless one has been living on Mars. What is amazing is that some never seem to learn what the scriptures make crystal clear: that nothing built on man’s wisdom or giftedness will ever amount to a hill of beans in the kingdom of God.

“Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

While celebrated preachers pace back and forth confidently proclaiming “special revelation” to crowds awed and mesmerized by their eloquent delivery, Paul wrote that he came to the church at Corinth in weakness and fear, without eloquence or superior wisdom, resolving to know nothing while he was with them except Christ and him crucified. Although his preaching was not with wise and persuasive words, it came with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power.

According to the context of this passage, the power Paul spoke of was not a display of special miracles to convince the Corinthians of God’s affirmation of his message, but rather the power of the Spirit working a miracle of grace in the hearts of the hearers. And for what reason did he refrain from eloquence using wise and persuasive words? “..Not with words of human wisdom less the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” (1Cor. 1:17b,22,24,2:2-5)

The Christian religion is built on man’s wisdom and is devoid of the saving and transforming power of the cross of Christ. Millions of hours are spent by would-be world changers introducing formulas for “successful” living and fruitful ministry– preaching, teaching, and strategizing yet never coming to the knowledge of the truth.

Millions more abandoned the religious systems built on man-made plans and rules when they came to realize the futility of human wisdom applied to spiritual reality. Yet many, even among these, have created their own little systems, or they are still trying to figure out what church should look like. Perhaps we have forgotten or overlooked the fact that the true church is perfect, spotless, and indescribably beautiful in God’s eyes, for she has been made holy in Christ.

So maybe we should ask ourselves this question; why do we need to know what the church should look like from an earthly point of view? It seems that our focus should be on Jesus as we yield to the work of the Spirit within to shape us into God’s design for her. Christ’s church is not a predetermined static community. From an earthly standpoint, she can only look like the people from which she is built and can function only as those people are able to function. God intended the church to look and act like Jesus. And the only way that can happen is if you and I look and act like Jesus. So there’s no use searching for or trying to create something that we can only find together at the cross.

The Church looks like Christ crucified, dying for those who killed him. She is found in her perfect expression wherever people have ceased to worship man’s wisdom and have followed Christ to the cross. There we are reduced to love and find resurrection life. We will discover the church in all her beauty and power when we live in sacrificial love. We’ll see that that she functions perfectly in a variety of ways determined by culture, circumstance, need, etc., but her fundamental nature and transforming power will never change.

Christ’s church can never fit into any man devised construct. She can never be managed, will always function contrary to the world’s ways, rules and methods, and will never be understood by worldly-wise purveyors of religion. Her influence touches every facet of society. Unlike the Constantinian imposter called church today, she accomplishes her mission as invisible leaven more often than through public demonstration.

So why don’t we stop analyzing, philosophizing, speculating, and searching for a phantom and begin building up one another in love as we are exhorted to do in the 59 “one anothers” listed in the New Testament? How about being the church to our next-door neighbor by mowing his lawn or baby sitting his dog when he’s on vacation? There are always lonely prisoners and senior citizens that would love to be visited and the poor that need to be fed. If we get out of our head and into our heart, our hands can be used to rescue the dying, and our lives become a celebration of the indescribably wonderful goodness of God. Meanwhile the Head of the church will mold and shape us into what only He can build.

David Fredrickson

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Is Jesus Enough?

A dear friend whose life reflects many years of devotion to Christ sent me an excellent article he wrote expressing his deep concern for the tendency of so many Christians today to run after frivolous diversions and ridiculous “revelations” toted by alleged prophets.
I could not be more in agreement with him in his words of caution to those who would be so distracted.

The article was aimed primarily at those who are drawn to prophetic sensationalism and tend to follow after signs and wonders. But it provoked me to consider the unfortunate fact that “Jesus plus”…is a plague that has infected much of the body of Christ at large. Man centered religion can never satisfy spiritual hunger, so the hirelings become desperate in their efforts to quiet the restless and quickly scattering clientele. Just about anything goes now days in their attempt to attract a following or to keep the “sheep” pens full.

But would-be shepherds and false prophets are generally not a distraction for those who have abandoned the religious system. Our problems often lie within. Whenever I’ve felt empty inside, it’s because I’ve tried to satisfy my hunger with something or someone other than Jesus. Perhaps some deep disappointment has caused me to become disillusioned. When that happens it’s easy to try to create an illusion of happiness by substituting something secondary in importance for what’s lacking in my relationship with Father. At the end of the day he always brings me to realize that there’s something about his love I don’t yet understand. And in his arms the illusions evaporate and my hunger is resolved with a love feast. My friend included the following quote in his article.

“There is a small amount of amazement in my heart as to why believers can’t be
satisfied with the Lord in His person – in union with our hearts – living and loving
Him there, and (loving) others by His grace. Jesus – revealed and in our hearts
by the Spirit – is the last Word of God to humanity.

David Fredrickson

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Motive Check

As I reflect back through the years since I first entered into “full time ministry” I am forced to admit that my motives were often not pure. I gave up a good job and stepped out in faith to serve God with no guaranteed income. I took food to the poor, visited the prisoners, took the homeless in, comforted the sick, preached the gospel in developing nations, counseled and preached my heart out every Sunday and often woke up with a nervous stomach on Monday morning with the previous day on my mind.

Much of my activity was motivated from a sincere desire to obey God by being faithful to the call he had given me. But very little of it was generated by love for others. I was often moved by a sense of duty or the desire to be approved. I had high expectations for myself and performing well held off the fear of failure. I had small interest in people who
offered little that would further my ministry goals. As a pioneering visionary, I looked beyond the local community to the city, the nation and the world, so it was important to be strategic in everything I did. Even being a good pastor was a stepping stone to a “higher calling.” God had given me a burden for unity, so I began reaching out to local pastors and initiated a regular gathering that eventually grew into a unity movement in the city. Some of us began to really like one another. But the important thing was to “reach the city for God.”

There’s nothing wrong with a sincere desire to obey God or to be awakened to a burden he’s given. But if love is not the underlying and overriding motive that carries the desire and burden, we’re building on sand. Yet if we’re serious about knowing him, he will be faithful to lead us gently down a path where everything that once defined and validated our “ministry” and sense of worth is stripped away. We’ll lose our false identity and enter no man’s land where we’ve lost control of our destiny, haven’t a clue as to what the future holds and are not sure what else beside Jesus we’re sure of. We realize that somewhere in the past we must have asked him to reduce us to love, even if we didn’t use those exact words.

I wonder what impact on the world the church would have today if everyone feeling called to “ministry” believed and practiced the one commandment Jesus left us with before he was crucified. What if all visions, strategies and attempts to build something were put aside until one learned to love well? I think we’d find that building up one another in love is the strategy and the only way to build. I saw God do some amazing things in those too rare times when I let him fill me with his love and put my own plans aside. Whatever is done in love will remain forever. All else is wasted effort.

We don’t need to die to self; that already took place at the cross. We don’t need to get closer to God, we’re already one spirit with Christ and seated next to God in heaven. It won’t work to try harder, Jesus finished working for us. We only need to trust him that he loves us with an unsurpassed love exactly the way we are and let that love overflow to everyone around us.

David Fredrickson

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Real Church

Stephen Crosby posted a blog awhile ago which included the following:
Dr. Alexander set up a scientific experiment in the 1970s which involved a lone rat in a rat cage with two water bottles. One was laced with cocaine and the other just water. In this well-known experiment, it was allegedly proven that nine out of ten rats in the rat cage will go back, again and again, to the cocaine bottle until they killed themselves. The conclusion taken from this experiment was that the rats were hopelessly chemically addicted to the point of suicide.

However, in a later alternative experiment he called Rat Park, many rats were together in a habitat of relationships, food, tunnels and exercise. The previously addicted rats stopped taking the deadly drug without coaxing, withdrawal, or removal of the drug from their environment. The chemical hook was not strong enough to stand against the bonds of relationship that were introduced in Rat Park.

Recently I saw a nature program on TV that dealt with animals that formed relationships with other animals of a different species. One example involved an old goat that became a guide and constant companion to a horse that lost its eyesight. With no human prompting and receiving no reward he guided the blind horse to grazing and resting places for years until the horse died.
In another instance, a lonely gibbon monkey tagged along with a troop of monkeys of a different species. Although he adopted the tribe, they never fully adopted him, yet he would do whatever it took to attract their presence. Even without any significant interaction with them, he stuck with them rather than be alone.

Unfortunately, some of us fail to grasp the importance of community to the degree that these animals have. Today most Christians think church is a group of folks sitting in pews staring past the back of a stranger’s head at a man they don’t know who is delivering a sermon to people he may never interact with. Afterward they leave the building, also called a church, and may travel considerable distances to their homes where some have never met their neighbors. They will not see the strangers at “church” for another week.

What the New Testament designates as church has absolutely no relationship to the scenario described above. The local expression of church involved a community of believers who were joined to one another in love and lived out that love during the week as they instructed, taught, served, encouraged, built up, sang songs to and confessed their sins to one another. They were instructed to know those who labored among them and beside them, for how could anyone be an example to those around him/her if their lives were not open books?

They understood that when they came together, Christ was in their midst in way that they could not experience individually. But whether physically together or apart, being joined by one Spirit, they were moved by sacrificial love such as Jesus demonstrated at the cross. It meant putting aside one’s own agenda, needs and expectations to serve others in what ever way was needed.

Paul exhorted the Colossian believers to be “united in love, SO THAT they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ, in whom are hidden all treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” But he makes an even more amazing statement when he told them; “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you (corporately) have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.” It’s by this authority that strongholds are broken and through this unity that Jesus is revealed to a lost world. It is this love that moves us to reach out to the poor and dying, welcoming them into community where they will find unconditional love, help and healing.

This is what real church will always look like, for the Kingdom of God is not compromised by the weakness of man and his tendency to reduce heavenly reality to something earthly he can control. As seldom as we see community as described above, it is not an empty ideal, for nothing less can be called normal for the Church of Jesus Christ.

David Fredrickson

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Worm or Wonderful

A new episode of our podcast “Untangled” is up. “You’re just a worthless sinner!” is the way the gospel is often shared. Is that true? How does God view us? How much value does He place on us? And just how finished was Jesus work on the cross when He said, “It is finished!” David and Loren discuss in this podcast God’s perspective of us and the only real labor that remains for us to do: to believe Him.

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Jesudamilare’s Song

I have a friend in Nigeria with whom I’ve been communicating via email for a couple years now. Most of the folks who’ve emailed me from Africa and India are looking for funds, but this young man has sought advice and counsel only. Having left the religious system not long before he first contacted me, he has been on a journey familiar to most of us who have taken the road less traveled. Though he is now beginning to see some fruit from his labors, the he’s taken is no less difficult. I think many of those reading this will be able to identify with the prose he wrote.

And days when the heart’s thoughts
Are scribbles that shame even a toddler…
The jumbles are criss-crosses of pain
And despair and a settling futility
For the outstretched hands thought
To have grasped the “elusive” reality.
Is this a game of hide-and-seek?
The fiery dart painted with “Yes”
Flies like a heat-seeking missile, strikes
Hard, draws blood, spurts poison
But a resounding “No”, the voice of a
Trumpet from within, blasts and yet whispers…
My heart is held in this place of agony
Is it weak to be weak? To say, I don’t know
And not have all the answers?
Is a smile pasted on the best solution
To a throbbing, bleeding heart?
Must people see one who has it all together
Every time they look at me?
Am I scared to be perplexed?
Averse to the silence of questioning in the heart?
Where is the place of faith?
Is this the phase of revival as of the
Bed-strapped patient who’s just coming
Out of a coma? In & out of the dark…off & on?

Oh for ten thousand tongues
To sing of His grace
Oh for ten thousand songs
To lift up His praise!

I don’t have answers, pat & trite
He’s weaning me from them
Not all questions need have answers
That do only the hearer good but drives
Deeper the nails on the speaker’s coffin-lid
The word is “On the third day…Oh
On the third day, He would raise us up!
That we may live in His sight…
The taste, the foretaste lingers
The only thing that perplexes is the suddenness
Of an high going to a low
How does one manage the transitions
From exultations to the drawn faces of
“Father, why hideth Thy face from us?”

But this is the terrain
Of attaining unto sonship
Son though He was, yet learned He obedience
By the things that He suffered and…
AND being made perfect…
And so we cling to the Anchor
That holds within the veil—
The Resurrected Life of Jesus
That holds true in spite of changing seasons
That whether living or dying, dry or on fire,
High or low,
WE LIVE SOLELY BY HIS LIFE!

How True!

David Fredrickson

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