Pornication’s Dirty Little Secret: Addendum

•11/13/2017 • Leave a Comment

In college, for a class called English 370: Advanced Literature, I wrote a paper called Spiritual Ramifications and Explanations for Pornography. In the class, we had four different topics of discussion, and we had to read various forms of literature and then write essays about the topics using the assigned readings (plus other sources).

I re-read that paper (written in 2009) and it reminded me of an earlier Votive Soul blog I had written called Pornication’s Dirty Little Secret. So, after re-reading my college essay, I went back and read the blog post. In re-reading the blog post, I felt inspired to write an addendum. So here it is.

Be forewarned. I am going to delve into a highly uncomfortable topic that most people would never want to talk about openly. So, if you want to continue reading, do the following:

  • Take a deep breath
  • Prepare yourself to be mature about this addendum
  • Pray if you need to
  • Read on

Specifically, in this addendum, I am going to address the sin (yes, I wrote SIN) of masturbation. Uncomfortable yet? Well, don’t be. I won’t be overly graphic or inconsiderate (but I will be direct and honest). Nevertheless, some things need to be said. First, a definition.

Let us define masturbation as: auto-erotic manipulation of the genitalia culminating in sexual gratification (ostensibly an orgasm).

The key to the definition above is the prefix “auto”. Don’t think cars. Rather, think the Greek word for “self”. In this way, an automobile is a “self-moving” vehicle, or, to say it another way, it is not dependent upon an external force to cause it’s motion.

The same with masturbation. It is done by the self to the self for the self. But is it a sin? Yes, as I will show.

Matthew 5:27-28,

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

Let us first realize the principle of the matter. Christ was not saying that women are allowed to look upon a man with lust, or that someone of one gender is allowed to look upon another person of the same gender with lust. It is a universal principle. Looking on another person in any way, if that person is not your Biblical and legal spouse, is a sin. Thou shalt not do it!

And, in case it wasn’t obvious, many, perhaps even most acts of masturbation involve a visual stimulant to arouse the perpetrator. Either an actual item like a video, a DVD, or a magazine is used, or a mental image in the mind is generated, either of a real person or a fake ideal. All are visual, meaning, something, whether external (pornographic materials) or internal (personal fantasies) are being “looked upon” to stir up lustful thoughts in order to capitalize upon them in the act.

1 Corinthians 7:1-5,

Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.

Read this passage carefully. Look for the little details. Notice the context, that is, what it’s about. First, it’s about two people not “touching” each other (verse 1), where “to touch” is the Greek verb haptesthai, meaning to fasten one’s self to another. Haptesthai is in the middle voice (i.e. the action of the verb both redounds unto the actor, i.e. the self, while at the same time, is directed at the the one being touched) of the verb haptomai, meaning “to modify or change by touching/touching that influences” or touching someone in such a way as to influence or bring about change in another person, what HELPS Word-Studies describes as “impact touching[1].

So what’s Paul getting at? Clearly the idea Paul is trying to get across is a form of sensual touching that arouses the body and the genitalia and influences the person toward sexual desire, culminating, of course, in the act itself.[2] So that’s first. People in the church shouldn’t be touching each other in such sensual ways. Only Biblically and legally married people should experience this kind of touching.

The second context was already mentioned: to avoid fornication. We know fornication, or rather, pornication[3], is a sin worthy of God’s judgment in the second death (See for example, Romans 1:29-32, 1 Corinthians 6:9, Galatians 5:19-21, Hebrews 13:4, Revelation 21:8 and Revelation 22:15). Interestingly, the word “avoid” is the Greek preposition dia, and it means the channel of the act, i.e. the means whereby something is accomplished, best translated as “through“.[4]

So, what Paul means in 7:2 is that it’s important that two people, obviously a man and woman only, who love each other and want to express that love through marriage—yes, even physically—must in fact, get married, or else fall into sin and lose their salvation “through fornication“. Said another way, Biblical marriage is the means whereby fornication can be by-passed so that the husband and wife can experience sanctified consummation.

Here’s where masturbation comes in. We know the topic is marriage and avoiding fornication through improper touch (even of self, as I am attempting to show). Now note verse 3. The long phrase “render unto the wife due benevolence” basically means, give to the wife her rights to sexual intercourse, i.e. conjugal rights. And likewise the wife to the husband.

But notice what it does not say to do in order to avoid fornication! It does not say “to avoid fornication (i.e. all Biblically illicit sexual activity), sexually gratify yourself through auto-erotic acts of masturbation“. See, some people think that as long as they aren’t actually engaging in coitus with another person, they aren’t committing fornication. That’s simply not true. The only permissible sex acts in the Bible are those that are experienced BETWEEN TWO PEOPLE, one husband, one wife, as they render unto each other “due benevolence “, in purity, not perversity.

Look closely at the text. See the following indicators:

  • To avoid fornication, people should not touch each other, or themselves, inappropriately (i.e. in any way that arouses lust)
  • To avoid fornication, men and women need to marry
  • To avoid fornication, the man needs to meets his wife’s sexual needs
  • To avoid fornication, the woman needs to meet her husband’s sexual needs
  • To avoid fornication, the wife must realize that she doesn’t have any rights to her own body
  • To avoid fornication, the husband must realize that he doesn’t have any rights to his own body
  • To avoid fornication, the husband and wife must not “defraud” each other (i.e. must not deprive each other)[5]
  • To avoid fornication, the husband and the wife may mutually agree for spiritual reasons, to not engage in sexual activity with each other (for example, to fast)

Where does masturbation fit into any of that? Since masturbation is an act of the self to the self for the self, marriage doesn’t fit into the equation. So, in order for a person to masturbate, they automatically have to commit fornication with their self in order to accomplish the act.

Second, spouses are supposed to meet each other’s needs, not meet their own needs by themselves.

Third, spouses have to recognize that they have no sexual autonomy over their own bodies, meaning that they have no right to perform upon themselves any sexual activity in which the spouse is not involved. Therefore, even masturbation within marriage is a sin, even if there is not an accompanying fantasy or image, or if the fantasy or image is of the spouse.

Fourth, spouses aren’t allowed to deprive each other of their sexual needs, meaning neither a husband or a wife is allowed to have a sexual experience apart from the spouse.

And last of all, if a married couple agrees to abstain from having sex with each other for a time for spiritual reasons, no where is it allowed that they can have a sexual experience with themselves through masturbation until the duration of the agreement comes to a close.

But some will argue that the marriage bed is undefiled, meaning anything goes between the husband and wife, as long as it’s agreed upon. Not so. Look again at Hebrews 13:4.

Hebrew 13:4,

Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.

An unmarried person, even if a member of a church, who masturbates, is a whoremonger, that is, they are committing an act of self-pornication. A married person, even if a member of a church, who masturbates, is an adulterer, that is, they are committing an act of self-adultery. They are depriving their spouse of the conjugal duty, meeting their own sexual needs apart from and without the spouse, and are asserting their right over their own body against the rights of the spouse, in order to sexually gratify themselves. This isn’t being done for spiritual reasons; rather it’s being done out of lust, i.e. a desire to selfishly experience a physical climax of the stimulated sex organ without the spouse.

Now, if you’ve been reading to this point, you might be wondering why I would take the time to single out masturbation as a sin and write a polemic against it. That’s a valid question with a valid answer.

Remember that this is an addendum to a previously written blog, one that directly engages and condemns the use of pornography in all its forms. So ask yourself, what is the one thing, more than any other thing, a person does when they view pornography?

They masturbate. Granted, some couples, married or otherwise, use pornographic materials together, but for the most part, the use of pornography and the sin of masturbation that accompanies the use is done privately by one’s self.

And as a final proof that masturbation is a sin, just think of the public’s view. If it was an acceptable sexual experience, people would talk about it openly. Masturbation wouldn’t just be the punch-line in a joke or a running gag in some raucous, raunchy comedy. It would be an acceptable norm. But it’s not.

Most adults in the world today can talk about their sex lives (at least adults in the world). But almost no one but perverts will talk about, let alone boast about, their self-sex lives.

Same with pornography. Yes, it’s out there, just like masturbation, and millions upon millions of people engage in both on a daily basis. But the following conversation never happens at the office:

“Hey, Bob. What did you do over the weekend?”

“I downloaded a few porno’s and masturbated. How about you?”

“Well, I didn’t download any movies, but I masturbated once or twice in the shower. The wife was away at her sister’s for a visit, so, you know, I had to get my fix one way or another.”

“I hear you. Well, if you ever want to download a pornographic movie, I have several I’d be happy to recommend.”

“Thanks, Bob. I appreciate that. You know, my wife is going away over the holidays, so I might check in with you then about what ones you recommend.”

“Sounds good. Just give me a call and I’ll bring them over.”

As ridiculous as the above scenario may seem, it makes the point because it’s so ridiculous. People everywhere know, even those who engage in pornography and masturbation, that it’s wrong, that it must be kept hidden from the public and that no one must know about it, or else terrible shame, disappointment, and/or ridicule will result.[6]

And that’s the very definition of what it means for something to be dirty, i.e. unclean or sexually perverse. Pornography and the secret pornication that pornography causes, up to and especially including masturbation, is dirty, and it is sin.

_________________________________________________________________________________________

[1] See: http://biblehub.com/greek/680.htm.

[2] The impact upon a person’s body when they are consensually touched by a lover literally modifies or changes the state of the body, that is, for example, the brain sends signals to the heart which causes blood to flow into the genitalia and prepares the person for sexual engagement. Other changes occur as well: quickened pulse, heightened tactile sensitivity, involuntary vocal sounds, and etc.

[3] For an explanation of why I change the “f” in fornication to a “p” see: https://votivesoul.wordpress.com/2014/01/18/pornications-dirty-little-secret

[4] See: https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?strongs=g1223

[5] For “deprive” in place of “default”, see: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Corinthians+7%3A5&version=ESV

[6] This is of course a bell curve scenario. There are those who care not for public opinion and readily engage in both and are open about it. But the majority of people who engage in both, one way or another, will never openly discuss their engagement due to the shame, hurt, and embarrassment it would cause.

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You Might Be A Gentile…

•09/08/2017 • Leave a Comment

For tonight’s blog entry, I give you a variation on the famous Jeff Foxworthy comedy bit called You Might Be a Redneck…. However, where as he intended everything he said in the bit to be funny, nothing I write here is intended to be comical. So, without further ado:

You Might Be A Gentile:

If you sacrifice to devils, you might be a Gentile (1 Corinthians 10:20).

If you are carried away by “dumb idols”, you might be a Gentile (1 Corinthians 12:2).

If you are by nature a sinner, you might be a Gentile (Galatians 2:15).

If you are without Christ, you might be a Gentile (Ephesians 2:11-12).

If you are an alien to the commonwealth of Israel, you might be a Gentile (Ephesians 2:11-12).

If you are a stranger to the covenants of promise, you might be a Gentile (Ephesians 2:11-12).

If you are without hope, you might be a Gentile (Ephesians 2:11-12).

If you walk in the vanity of your mind, you might be a Gentile (Ephesians 4:17-19).

If you have your understanding darkened, you might be a Gentile (Ephesians 4:17-19).

If you are alienated from the life of God through ignorance because of your blindness of heart, you might be a Gentile (Ephesians 4:17-19).

If you are past feeling because you’ve given yourself over to lasciviousness to work all uncleanness with greediness, you might be a Gentile (Ephesians 4:17-19).

If you possess your vessel in the lust of concupiscence you might be a Gentile (1 Thessalonians 4:4-5).

If don’t know God, you might be a Gentile (1 Thessalonians 4:4-5).

If you walk in lasciviousness, you might be a Gentile (1 Peter 4:3).

If you walk in lusts, you might be a Gentile (1 Peter 4:3).

If you walk in excessive wine, you might be a Gentile (1 Peter 4:3).

If you walk in revellings, you might be a Gentile (1 Peter 4:3).

If you walk in banquetings, you might be a Gentile (1 Peter 4:3).

If you walk in abominable idolatries, you might be a Gentile (1 Peter 4:3).

And, finally…

If you rule over and exercise lordship, dominion, and authority over and/or upon others and are considered their benefactor for doing so, you might be a Gentile (Matthew 20:25, Mark 10:14, Luke 22:5).

The Word Of The Lord Came Unto Me, Saying…

•07/03/2017 • Leave a Comment

It is July 3rd, 2017, 12:46 A.M.

I have recently returned from a walk to a nearby gas station in search of a few late night snacks. This is something I have done before and will likely continue to do, as life and time march on into the future.

Part of the reason why I walk, instead of drive, to this nearby gas station, is so that I may take a few extra minutes to seek the Lord through prayer and petition. With one exception, tonight was no different. I did just as I have always done: seek the Lord, pray to Him, petition Him, worship Him, and etc.

The difference this time, however, is God spoke back. This new entry into the Votive Soul blog is therefore dedicated to sharing with other believers the words that the Father shared with me. Therefore, without any further ado…

The Word of the Lord came unto me, saying…

Diplomacy. Negotiation. Reconciliation. Consolation. Unity.

For far too long, we believers have operated under a deception that we can divide off of or from other believers and each other in order to go and do our own thing, presumably minding our own business, and not reach out to one another while reaching up to God, to fulfill the Great Commission.

It is a pretense. We can no longer sit around meeting with our local version of the Body of the Anointed One while ignoring other nearby members, treating them as if they do not exist, and somehow expect that the invitation and commissioning given to God’s people as saints will be achieved.

Sure, we may think we are doing our part, that our assembly is in the will of the Father, and all is right in the world, especially if or when we see results. Have a visitor come to a meeting, nail down the Bible study you’ve been trying for months to get, perform a baptism, or whatever, and watch as we puff ourselves up with delusions about how God is so pleased with everything we are or are doing.

One of the greatest dangers a believer or group of believers can ever find themselves in, is when they presume to feel vindicated about all that they are or do simply because God has granted them some gift, anointing, level of understanding, revelation, or revival.

It is not to say that we ought to deride and condemn ourselves just to make the point; rather, we ought to continually search out our hearts and desire that the Spirit of Truth prove us, making no assumptions, or provisions for the flesh.

If your assembly meets or gets together in a particular city that has true brothers and sisters in it, that are not welcome or are not a part of what you are doing, then something is amiss.

I know the arguments. They go something like this:

• We don’t see eye to eye on some things
• There are problems that exist between us
• They’ve allowed sin in the camp
• There are too many disagreements about x, y, or z
• Their standards are x, y, or z
• They just don’t want to work together
• Their leadership is corrupt
• They practice un-Biblical x, y, or z
• We tried to work together before, but it just didn’t work out
• They’re out of the will of God
• They’re backslidden
• There is no love of the truth there

Am I right? The days of trying to follow the Lord the best we know how, while excluding fellow believers who are doing the exact same thing must come to an end. As long as disunity, animosity, and excuses flourish, the Dragon and his minions will always win.

This is where the Word of the Lord comes into play. I was, as I often do, praying in general, for the Body. Sometimes I pray for specific people I know. Sometimes I pray for myself as a member of the Body. But usually, I pray for the entire membership, the very Church of the Living God.

And as I prayed for Her, pondering and meditating about where we are as believers and what’s happening in and among us, I realized the sense of failure many of us are consistently experiencing. We try to the best of our ability to serve God and do what we’re supposed to be doing as believers, but finding little or no success in much of anything we do. We pray, and not much happens. We evangelize, and not too many seem interested. We immerse in the name of Jesus Christ, but the promise of the Father never comes. On and on it seems. The wheels are most assuredly spinning, but the car isn’t going anywhere.

And in that realization, God found an opening to confide His private counsel, just as I shared above. For the rest of this entry then, I will attempt to give meaning and understanding regarding the things the Lord said, so that you, the Reader, may be blessed and challenged, even provoked in your spirit to stand up and do something about what has been revealed.

1.) Diplomacy

Very plainly, diplomacy is the art of working with various individuals or groups of people in order to bring them together, get them talking, help them see the commonalities that exist between them, so that the benefit of joining together can be discovered.

It is not always easy to be diplomatic. Some are stubborn, angry, selfish, foolhardy, or full of pride, and want no part in it. That doesn’t mean, however, that diplomacy should not be attempted. All diplomatic endeavors must be offered and exhausted before believers ever give up on each other. To quickly quit the table is to demonstrate hardness of heart and lack of love, not just for the brethren, but also for the Head of the brethren.

2.) Negotiation

Negotiating is the communication of needs and desires, or priorities and information, so that two parties currently not on board together, can find a way to both fit in the same boat. Sometimes conditions need to be met. Other times, concessions must be offered. And even occasionally, someone is going to have to submit or compromise.

As long as people continue to talk and discuss, there is hope for coming together as one. The Body must be willing to stick it out, no matter what.

3.) Reconciliation

To be reconciled, simply put, is the ability to suffer wrong, relinquish control, forego the desire for satisfaction, forgive, move on and then forge ahead as allies, regardless of the past. Reconciliation sees and cares more about the future, especially what will not be, if no attempts at coming together are made.

Let bygones become bygones. Soon enough, you’ll find you can be reconciled to just about anyone. A little bit of mercy goes a long way.

4.) Consolation

Oh, to be healed! To be made well! Consolation is the tears of sorrow and regret that soon enough turn into tears of joy unspeakable, full of glory. The Body of the Anointed One can be cleansed and cured of all manner of problems, if we could learn how to console one another the way God consoles us.

If we will but try to see the pain in others before we complain about the pain in ourselves, holy compassion will win the day.

5.) Unity

Unity is loving your neighbor as yourself. When someone else besides you is as precious as, or is even more precious than, yourself, unity will exist. Unity is more important than just about anything else. It’s not about being superficially and/or artificially bonded to another believer; rather, it’s confronting the differences and disagreements, the hurts and offenses, head on, with one goal in mind: becoming one.

Think of all the problems, the spiritual aches and pains, faults and flubs, sins and iniquity that the Anointed One overcame in order to become one with you, through the Holy Spirit that is in Him and in you. Allow that same Spirit of Grace to overflow your heart and soul, just as our Savior did, and you’ll be as willing as He was, to unify Himself with all those the Father has given Him.

To summarize:

• Diplomacy: working with and managing people to bring them together for a common benefit
• Negotiation: Communicating, dealing with, and finding a way through the problems that exist simply by not giving up on the dialogue
• Reconciliation: Being merciful and thus, receiving mercy, so that forgiveness and compassion can heal the wounded souls in our midst
• Consolation: Finding peace of mind and joy of heart, despite the pain and regret of yesterday
• Unity: Oneness in all its purity and power

Dear Brother or Sister,

I submit to you that God is after the above, so that we may all come together in and walk in love, sowing to the Spirit. If strife, discord, discomfort, or rancor exists, it must be dealt with. Enmity in the family of God disrupts His plan and purpose for why He called us out in the first place.

I know it can seem daunting. It can be easy to quit before ever trying. The magnitude of what needs to be done to bring about change can be staggering. But there is a way forward, Beloved.

In the next entry, I will attempt to show how the Word of the Lord can be fulfilled. There really is a solution to the most difficult of problems. Until then, may whoever reads this, enjoy peace and prosperity, favor and grace, from God the Father and the Lord, Yeshua the Anointed One.

The Votive Soul

Conformity Is Not Unity

•04/24/2017 • Leave a Comment

I strongly believe that people crave unity. They want to know and feel like they are moving as one in the Body of Christ. Many have caught temporary glimpses of it before, and it was unmistakable when experienced, but it never seemed to last. Something always ended up in the way, and then they’d have to start from scratch, possibly in a new assembly or with a new fellowship of believers, and hope and dream for the prize promised to us by Christ: that we could be one with Him in the same way He was one with His Father (See John 17:21).

I am writing this blog to tell you that conformity is not unity. This is where it always falls apart. It will always come short of the glory of God when someone gets it into their head that the other believers of their assembly or fellowship have to conform to something they believe or teach requires conformity.

Someone thinks you have to dress like them, talk like them, entertain yourselves like them, minister like them, agree with them doctrinally or otherwise, like them, and on down the list it goes.

Unity is not achieved by agreeing to conform to someone else’s vision and understanding of everything they think God wants and wills for His people. Unity is allowing Christ to be Head, to allow Him the opportunity to express Himself according to His Word, through His Body, as He deems fit, without interference, but with acceptance and obedience, from us as His People.

And while I realize most would “amen” that statement, where the issues exist is when we try to define and comprehend the manner in which Christ, as Head, operates in His Body. We often don’t agree.

But note! Not agreeing does not have to destroy our unity! Unity is destroyed when, after a disagreement arises, someone attempts to squash it as rebellion without so much as taking enough time to seek the Lord with prayer and fasting, to really try to figure out what the truth of the matter is.

If we are genuinely motivated by love of the brethren, we ought to easily and earnestly be able to share our thoughts and ideas on any number of things, and recognize we have each other as a safety net, to do so, without fearing reprisals of judgment and/or condemnation from our peers.[1]

Now, before anyone thinks such an environment breeds or will breed heresy and false doctrine, let’s all just stop posturing and freely admit, that at one time or another, we’ve ALL had very strange and wonderful ideas run through our heads, that often didn’t make much sense, but nagged at us, to explore and search out to really see if they are of God, or not.[2]

If we would grant ourselves the personal liberty to ponder such things in the corners of our own minds, then we ought to be able to grant the same liberty to our beloved brothers and sisters, without freaking out if or when they ask us our opinion on what may seem to be an otherwise strange idea.[3]

We may listen, and make remarks, and, if we are humble, and if our spirit is right, when we think the idea we’ve just heard is wrong, we can say so in a way that affirms the person who shared it without supporting the idea, without making the person feel like they’ve been ostracized or rebuked for daring to wonder aloud something running through their minds (See 2 Timothy 2:24-26).

But conformity doctrine doesn’t allow for this. In conformity doctrine, whoever feels he or she has the sway in an assembly or fellowship, to pull rank due to office or whatever, comes to believe it is their divine mission in life to control what others think and believe, and to make sure that everyone conforms to their understanding of all matters related to the Christian life, meaning essentially, they aren’t to be questioned.

But that is a disaster waiting to happen! No one controls someone else’s mind like that, unless they’ve successfully found a way to assert “mind-control” over one of God’s kids.

Think about that for a moment. Christian headship is mind-ship, if you will, and when someone makes an attempt at controlling someone else’s mind on some matter or another, they are effectively admitting that they are attempting to be or become that person’s head, and are making a de facto admission of guilt as it pertains to manipulation and brain-washing.[4]

Psychopaths and sociopaths do this, but what about someone in the church you attend?

Why can’t we handle diversity of thought and conviction in those we call saints? Why must we seek to enforce a standard of life, thought, and conviction?[5] So you convince someone to not celebrate Christmas because it’s pagan? Whoop-Dee-Do! So now, someone in your assembly isn’t celebrating Christmas because it’s pagan because you said so, not because inwardly the Holy Spirit brought conviction and understanding of how he or she, and his or her family, ought to approach the holidays, and now, all of their unsaved loved ones look at them askance and take one HUGE step away from coming to the Son of God.

You convinced a woman that cutting her hair was a sin and that her salvation was on the line? Great, now she looks to you and not Christ, and certainly not to her husband, to decide what she should do with her split-ends.[6]

You order a man to quit his part-time, Saturday only or Sunday only job because it violates the Sabbath, or because he misses “church” and what have you done? Are you going to pay his bills when they come due because he hurried to conform to your order, thinking he had to because you scared him into thinking his soul was on the line for “forsaking the assembly”?[7]

You tell someone they have to stop teaching their view of church structure and organization because it’s causing doubt and confusion among some members of the church, because it doesn’t jive with your view, and you think it was your right to silence a brother or sister? Maybe with the gag order you just issued, you and the rest of your church just lost a chance to be led into all truth? Ever think about that?[8]

Listen, it’s not that there isn’t true and false doctrine. It’s not that there are no standards of righteous conduct, or of holiness, or of modesty, as found in the Holy Scriptures. This isn’t a throw your Bible out and do what you want approach to unity.

Rather it’s admitting that demanding someone conform to what you think the church is supposed to look like is missing the point. We aren’t supposed to be conformed to the image of the church! We are supposed to be conformed to the image of the Son of God (See Romans 8:29)!

Do you want unity in your church, dear saint? Do you really? I mean, really? Then listen up:

Stop exhorting people to see things your way, and start exhorting them to see things God’s way (without confusing the two) by seeking the Lord with their whole heart and by being in constant submission to His will as revealed day by day through the Holy Spirit.

This just comes down to faith, which is merely another way of talking about trust. Do you really trust Jesus to work out in His people the things He wants worked out, according to His timetable, in the manner of His choosing? If an assembly of 40 people daily submitted themselves to the will of God in Christ Jesus, and by so doing, sowed to the Holy Spirit, and therefore, walked in love, do you think there would be any issue with unity among that group of men and women?

Me, neither. But do you suppose for even one second, that all 40 of those people all believe exactly the same? Have the same moral convictions? That they uphold identical standards in every aspect of their lives? That they have the same exact understanding of basic or advanced Biblical doctrine? Do you suppose they all see and experience God the same exact way?

Maybe. Maybe they do. But I will let you in on a little secret: it doesn’t matter if they do or don’t, because they don’t have to, in order to maintain unity. Unity is oneness. And here’s how I define oneness: I love you as my neighbor the same way I love myself. It is the same love for you as it is for me. It is one love (See Philippians 2:2).[9]

Love does not demand conformity. Love permits, and even enjoys diversity. And if the talking-heads in our midst could stand to listen for a change, they might realize getting us to be more like them all too often causes us to be less like Jesus.

A sinner on the outside of grace likely doesn’t care what you believe, or if your fellow saints believe the same exact things, but rather, that sinner desperately wants to know if you love them, and if you can prove it, by how you treat them, how you respond to them, what respect you give them, if you honor them, and whether or not you offer genuine friendship to them.[10]

It’s the same, or ought to be the same, in the Body of Christ. I don’t care what you believe nearly as much as I care about whether or not you love me as you love yourself.[11] Everybody’s trying to be some un-Biblical version of the watchman on the walls a la Ezekiel 33, that they’ve forgotten how to come down from their  dare I say it, super-spiritual perch long enough to be normal enough to have real relationships “not based on ownership”, which is conformist.[12]

As I come to the end of this blog entry, I can’t help but wonder that perhaps this is just coming across as an overly emotional rant, and maybe if you’ve been reading all the way to this very point in the blog, you’re thinking ‘it’s a mighty nice soapbox to be standing on, but you’re wasting it on me’. Probably it is, in a manner of speaking. But I would leave you with this thought:

Conformist doctrine is “strings-attached” Christianity. That means someone somewhere is “pulling the strings”, as the saying goes. And whoever is pulling the strings to get you, me, him, her, them, to conform, is most certainly attempting to be the marionettest over me, you, him, her, them, and the life we are living. They are attempting to make us their puppet, even if they supposedly mean us well by doing so. When it comes right down to it, that’s just another word for slavery, friend of mine. You are not a slave to the church, to the ministry, to the pastor/leader/reverend/rabbi, to an organization, or even to your brother or sister in the Lord, or to anyone or anything else, but to Christ Alone. He owns your soul. It is His blood that saves. We conform ourselves, with the help of the Comforter, to Jesus, Son of God and Man.

Therefore, in unity there are no strings attached. Love is not a string that anyone can just come along and pull to make us move. Love is a command from above, and if we would actually find out how to properly walk and talk, move, and minister, in love, we’d have all the unity we’d ever hoped and dreamed to find. We’d be conformed to the image of God’s dear Son, our precious Jesus of Nazareth, instead of to someone else, and none the worse off for it.

Until next time,

Peace and God bless,

The Votive Soul

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[1] First and foremost, the church should be able to insulate itself from internal errors, being the ground and pillar of the truth, without having to sacrifice the person or persons who has/have erred. Jesus came not to destroy but to save. We who rescue those who have erred save souls from certain death (See Luke 9:56 with John 3:17, then 1 Timothy 3:15, and finally James 5:19-20).

[2] For me personally, there have been times when an idea came to mind, and I began to earnestly search the Holy Scriptures for hours at a time, only to come up empty, wondering if the Lord sent me on a snipe hunt just to help me dig into His Word and learn It better.

[3] I can’t think of a single, sincere (as opposed to “foolish and unlearned”) question about God, the Bible, the Christian faith, or etc. that ought to scandalize a single saint into dis-fellowshipping the person who asked the question, no matter the content. Remember Pilate. He asked Jesus “What is truth?”, not realizing he was staring Truth in the face. And yet, Jesus didn’t condemn him for asking, or for not recognizing who Jesus was and what He represented. This was immediately before Pilate had Him beaten, scourged and crowned with thorns (See John 18:38 and John 14:6). If Christ had desired an opportunity to impugn Pilate for asking such a ridiculous question, it would have been the perfect time. Yet, He did no such thing (See 1 Peter 2:23 and 1 Timothy 6:13). So ask yourself: why do so many of the saints of God impugn one another for raising any manner of sincere questions? In light of Christ’s confession before Pontius Pilate, it’s clear doing so is not very Christ-like.

[4] The Christian faith is one of persuasion. It’s the very root of the Greek word for “faith”. We read many times in many verses, that we need to be persuaded, of this or of that. But persuasion is not the same as coercion. Persuasion involves the presenting of accurate facts—why they are true and how they go together—and why accepting such facts is beneficial to the one being persuaded. When successful, it brings about spiritual conviction, as it’s really the Holy Spirit of Truth doing the heavy lifting through the anointing resting upon a person to engender faith in the hearer. Coercion, on the other hand, is a fear doctrine, stemming from a Mafioso mentality, as it attempts to break someone’s will down through force, instead of righteously engaging the heart and leading someone to submit himself or herself willingly, not to the speaker who attempts persuasion, but to the Author of the Word Who commands obedience. Coercion, therefore, is abusive and unjustly damages everyone involved.

[5] Before it even comes up, please allow me at this point to address 1 Corinthians 1:10. Some argue this means Paul demanded everyone in Corinth believe and teach the exact same doctrine across the board. But that wasn’t Paul’s goal, in my estimation. Paul was addressing divisions in the church, such that members there were claiming to be “of Paul, of Apollos, of Cephas, and of Christ” (v. 12). Factions were being created over who was looked at as the leader of the church. They were breaking off into splinter groups, and claiming their group was the right group to be a part of. Paul urged them to drop that nonsense, and to all affirm that they are only “of Christ”. Verse 13 proves this, as Paul asks rhetorically “Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were you baptized in the name of Paul?”. He wanted them to all say the same thing about who they really belonged to. They were bought with the price Christ paid for them; therefore they were not “of Paul”, or “of Apollos” or “of Cephas”, and it wasn’t just some in Corinth who were “of Christ”. They ALL were of Him. We see therefore that Paul wasn’t expecting doctrinal tape recorders who could only confess what they were programmed and mandated to believe. He merely wanted them to stop exalting the minister over the Lord who had died for them.

[6] How many wives are you planning on having, anyways?

[7] While Hebrews 10:25 needs its own article, the short version is this: it doesn’t have anything to do with “missing church”. It means giving up on trying to figure out how the Body of Christ ought to come together in order to properly represent Him to the rest of the world in light of carnal and spiritual forces coming against them for doing so. Essentially, Hebrews is a warning to Jewish Christians who were on the edge of the knife, so to speak, in abandoning their salvation due to persecution, and how going back to a subservient existence under the Law, instead of continuing on steadfastly as believers in Christ Jesus, was not from God. Seen from that angle, it becomes clear Hebrews 10:25 isn’t about not being physically present in some building somewhere on some designated day at some designated time.

[8] Maybe it’s not polity, but some other major New Covenant doctrine. Are you really that keen on creating a schism in the Body because you don’t like what someone else believes? Maybe you should sit down with him or her for a few weeks and let him or her explain how he or she came to see what he or she believes he or she sees, and hey, you never know…It might end up being bogus, but you had better be fully prepared to patiently show him or her how and why instead of just cutting him or her off because you think he or she is underneath you in whatever capacity.

[9] The phrase “…being of one accord…” is only one word in Greek, namely: sunpsuchoi, and it means “harmonious in soul” (See: http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/robertsons-word-pictures/philippians/philippians-2.html) and/or “with united souls” (See: http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/jamieson-fausset-brown/philippians/philippians-2.html). We see therefore having the same “love” means being united/having unity at the spiritual level of the soul.

[10] As opposed to you merely being a salesperson for Jesus trying to earn another soul-winning badge back at the lodge to impress all your Christian friends.

[11] And might I suggest Jesus feels the same way?

[12] The quote is from a Lauryn Hill song called “I Gotta Find Peace of Mind”. You can listen to it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pb7KjMTgK-Q

Nehushtan: An Unfortunate Source Of Division

•04/07/2017 • Leave a Comment

In my 14+ years as a Christian, I have had the opportunity to serve and minister in many various ways. From preaching and teaching from a pulpit, to teaching countless Bible studies at home or in the homes of others, to hundreds of hours in both Sunday School and in outreach, not to mention being a member of a church board, to being a greeter and usher, working as a youth leader, to leading and overseeing various departments and ministries, up to and including a Spanish ministry, while also beginning and overseeing a campus ministry that led to a church planting, I can say without remorse that none of the awesome and amazing things that happened throughout each ministry compare to the simple times when I’ve been alone at the Lord’s feet, feeling His presence, His power, His healing, and His touch.

After about 10 years in the Apostolic Church, I resigned from every ministry and department in which I was involved, except being a board member (although I was going to, I was personally asked by the pastor to stay on, so I did, as a favor to him). There were various reasons, but the real reason, after all was said and done, was because, after the birth of my first child, my wife, with my consent but not my insistence, stepped away from her involvement in ministry to care for our daughter.

But how did my wife stepping away cause me to step away a couple of years later?

It’s simple.

When my wife and I had to make a choice on how we were going to raise our family, including the division of labor and the assigning of parental roles, my wife graciously indicated to me that between the two of us, I had the more important ministries, so that, when in service, between the two of us, she would care for our firstborn so I could serve and bless the people of God to the best of my ability.

This didn’t mean that my wife did everything while I did nothing. I changed diapers, dressed and carried and cared for our daughter, just not as much as my wife did, especially when there was a meeting of the church.

My wife saw her place in the home, following the edicts of Holy Scripture. She saw it her responsibility to be “discreet, chaste, [a] keeper at home, good, obedient to [her] own husband…that the word of God be not blasphemed” (Titus 2:5).

Additionally, since Paul clearly indicated to Timothy that a woman shouldn’t usurp the authority invested into men by Christ (1 Timothy 2:12), my wife realized that in order to continue to serve in ministry meant I would have to be the one to take a backseat in the church in order to perform the predominant care for our daughter. She felt like this was a usurpation of her place as sub-ordinate to me as her head (1 Corinthians 11:3). I understood her reasons, and with my permission, she withdrew.

Jump forward a couple of years. My wife and I had had our second child, a son, who was a baby around the time I resigned.

Here is the reason, now that the back-story is filled in. I was told in no uncertain terms that I wasn’t going to be allowed to be in leadership and serve in the church unless my wife stepped up and got (re)involved in ministry. I was told that my wife’s care for our children bordered on idolatry.[1]

So I had a decision to make. Force my wife to put our kids into nursery/hand them off to someone else to watch during service, and so, be allowed to stay on the church staff as an elder and leader/minister, or say no to the demand and get the boot.

After talking with my wife and agreeing that it wasn’t anyone else’s responsibility to supervise OUR children just so my wife could sing or do whatever little bit of public, visible ministry, I decided to resign.[2]

I wrote a letter explaining my intentions and handed it off. The next week I announced my resignation to the whole church (without going into all of the reasons, just some).[3]

The reason I felt it was ABSOLUTELY OKAY WITH GOD to do so was not because of the unfortunate things that were said to me about my wife, or because of our decision to raise our children the way we wanted, but because after praying about what to do, the Lord spoke to me a word, which, once heard, sealed the deal and let me know I had HIS PERMISSION (I didn’t need anyone else’s) to resign from ministry.

The word was: Nehushtan.

2 Kings 18:4,

He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan.

In this verse, we have King Hezekiah instigating spiritual and religious reforms to help bring the nation of Judah back into the will and fellowship of God. So here, among other things, he destroyed the brazen serpent Moses made back in Numbers 21 as a response to a divinely introduced plague as a punishment upon the people of God for murmuring against both Him and also against Moses (Numbers 21:4-5).

In some uncertain way, in the ensuing years, the people of Judah began worshipping the serpent like it was some holy relic of old. Hezekiah smashed it to break the people free from their idolatry towards it, calling it, as it translates from Hebrew “a piece of brass“. Hezekiah’s point in calling the brazen serpent Nehushtan was to remind the people that, as just a piece of brass, it had no innate worth and so, there was no innate need to assign it religious or spiritual value, meaning there was no innate reason for it to be worshipped.

And this is what the Lord used to confirm to me that resigning from ministry was acceptable to Him. He told me all that I was doing and had been doing in ministry was Nehushtan. This doesn’t mean that I was out of the will of God or that I was a failure as a minister—God used me greatly in many different ways and at many different times—but rather, that the ministries in which I was mainly involved in at the time were and are (now don’t get offended) completely man-made and un-Biblical.

Let’s look at a list of various ministries and departments that exist in the modern Apostolic Church and see if any of them are found in the Holy Scriptures.

  • Pulpit Sermonizing
  • Music Ministry
  • Audio/Visual Ministry
  • Greeter and Usher Ministry
  • Outreach Ministry
  • Spanish Ministry
  • Sunday School
  • Nursery and Family Ministry
  • Church Board
  • Altar Call Working
  • Building Maintenance

Did I miss any? I was involved in and in many instances, in charge of all of the above, and yet, not a one is found anywhere in the Bible. To be sure, preaching and teaching is, but not from within a church-owned building from a pulpit. And yes, we are to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16), but not using a praise team leading while everyone else passively sings along. Reaching out to the lost is a key component of the faith, but not in a systematic, door to door, hand out a flyer and hope someone comes to church way. And while the Bible has much to say about the deaconate, it doesn’t have anything to say about church boards created by by-laws to manage the funds of a limited liability company and 501(c)3 tax exempt entity. Parents, and not Sunday School teachers, are expected to raise their own children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:1-4). There never were any such things as altar calls in the Book of Acts. Rather, men of God, i.e. the Apostles, preached the Gospel to an audience and the Holy Spirit fell or It didn’t. People believed the preaching and responded in faith and so, were saved, or they didn’t. No one was given an overly emotional, manipulative verbal pull to step out into the aisle and come down to the front of the church’s building and kneel before the pulpit so the preacher and other ministers could lay hands on them. In fact, the early church didn’t even own buildings in which a pulpit could be constructed!

This being so, then what is all of this “stuff”? Simple. This “stuff” is just a piece of brass. It’s Nehushtan. And this Nehushtan, unfortunately, is a major source of division in the church. So many brothers and sisters are jockeying for position and platform, to build spiritual resumes and impress each other, it’s as political as any race for office.

I’ve had so many people, upon meeting me, want to know, first thing, whether or not I’m “licensed”. No one wants to know if I’m filled with the Holy Spirit, walking in the Spirit, living by faith and not by sight, honest in my dealings, upright and faithful to God and His call on my life. Nope, none of that. Just whether or not I have a piece of paper with some signatures on it.

And while I’m not knocking anyone for being licensed with any organization—if that’s what God wants for them, or if they need it for their ministry, then so be it—but let us also admit that such things are not Scriptural, either. Are they Nehushtan? I’m not going to say. That’s for another blog.[4]

But let’s face it. We judge each other based on how much WE DO for the Lord, as opposed to who WE ARE in Christ. And when someone thinks another someone isn’t doing enough for the Lord in terms of the Nehushtan of un-Biblical ministries, they say all kinds of dumb, hurtful things. And if they are in a position to do so, they do a lot of spiritual damage and ruin a lot of reputations when they open their mouths and get their way because they’re the only ones who get to have their say.[5]

Luke 10:38-42,

Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

Much could be said about this passage, but I want to focus on only a few things.

1.) Luke’s use of the word “cumbered“. In Greek, the word is perispao. It is a compound word made up of two parts: peri– meaning all around or through, and spao meaning to draw, i.e. pull along (as opposed to the art form). The literal meaning is to drag all around. Figuratively it means to be distracted.

This inspired text is trying to tell us that Martha was, to use a colloquialism, running around like a chicken with her head cut off. If ever you’ve hosted a party or large dinner, and you were in charge of the provisions of food and drink, you know just how busy you can get. Martha was drawn this way and that, all over the house, trying her best to take care of everyone. And in the process she became distracted (from what? from whom?).

2.) Luke’s use of the word “serving“. In Greek, it’s the word diakonia, and is the main word used in the Bible to mean or indicate ministry, or to minister. Do I need to say more? Martha was insistent that in order to take care of the Lord and His students, she had to minister much, just to please Him and His students, even though doing so caused her to be distracted (Again, from what or who?).

3.) Distraught at the amount of ministering she was doing, she became angry, even jealous of her sister, who didn’t appear to be doing anything but sitting at the Lord’s feet hearing His Word.

4.) In her anger and jealousy, she even dared accuse Jesus of not caring. Very literally, she challenged the Lord with the following: Doesn’t it matter to you? Who was Martha to challenge Jesus about anything?[6]

5.) Jesus politely and gently reminded Martha of what was more important, something her sister already knew: Spending time with the Lord at His feet hearing His Word matters more than ministering. Martha was running around trying to serve Jesus and His students so much, she allowed her “ministering” to distract her from the One (and ones) she was supposed to be serving. In fact, she got so worked up, she became “careful” and “troubled“.

In sum, Martha wasn’t really ministering to the Lord and His students; it wasn’t Christ or the Church she was serving. She was serving herself, thinking that her great efforts to minister would please the Lord and make Him appreciate her more, when just the opposite was true. Yes, Jesus loved her. Make no mistake. But being “cumbered about much serving” or becomingcareful” and “troubled” didn’t make Jesus love her more. Not serving at all didn’t make Jesus love Mary less.

The whole point of the story is to teach us to stop trying to “serve” the Lord with our ideas of how to minister, and just sit at His feet. To do otherwise is to become encumbered, i.e. dragged around and distracted, to become careful, i.e. anxious, and troubled, i.e. disturbed.

About a year before I resigned, and then about a year after I resigned, two different times, once before and once afterward, a man in the church, the same man each time, became offended at me and my wife for not living up to his expectations in regards to ministry. He felt like we weren’t pulling our own weight when it came to the success of the church (i.e. we weren’t doing as much as him and his wife).[7] The first time he went through the pastor, who, after realizing he couldn’t disagree with our Scriptural reasons for why my wife stepped down, calmed the man down, presumably explaining things to him. The second time, the man reached out to me personally, again with the same judgmental gripe. But at least, as before, so again, he apologized and repented and asked for my forgiveness. I readily forgave both times, taking no personal offense.

But after the second time, as I prayed about it on the way home, the Lord made it plain to me that this man should have known better, but allowed himself to fall victim to something He had already dealt with him about. During the drive home, I felt the Lord impress upon me that this man was going to suffer some things as a form of chastisement—not because of how he had judged me and my wife—but because he had offended the Lord. The next month, something major did happen with him and his family, health related, that I won’t relate here, but suffice it to say, but for the Lord’s mercy, it could have been devastating. As it was, it was still pretty bad, intense, scary, and etc.

Jump forward from then. A couple of years after I resigned from my ministries, I had a conversation with someone who accused me of being a “super-spiritual Pharisee who sits in the back row pretending like he doesn’t need anything, like he’s arrived…(I don’t remember the quote word for exact word) during worship and song service.[8]

Afterward, I calmly explained to this person that I sit in the back row with my family, with my children on my lap or in my arms and I quietly sing the songs we sing together as a church, to THEM, and talk to THEM about the Lord, and that’s the reason why I’m not out in the aisle, running and jumping and dancing and shouting during worship and song service.

We are no longer members of that assembly. My wife and I chose to sit at the feet of the Lord Jesus. We chose the “one thing” that was “needed“. We decided the “good part” (i.e. the best portion) on the table we call the Christian faith can’t be experienced if we’re not sitting down to eat.

We chose against distraction and anxiety and perturbation. Like King Hezekiah before us, we took that piece of brass, that Nehushtan the modern church calls ministry, and smashed it.

And the sad fact of it is, since I resigned, even before ever departing from that assembly, as should be obvious, it’s caused nothing but division. But God wants us where we are at, and so, we sit at the Master’s feet, even though “Martha” is still out there berating and angry with us, as it were. I just wish “she” knew and understood that it’s not us “she’s” challenging, it’s “her” Lord and Savior, “her” Immanuel, Jesus of Nazareth, she’s challenging. It’s the Son of God, and not this son of God, with whom “she” is upset and annoyed.

Perhaps someday, if He has not already done so, Jesus will politely and gently remind “her” of what is more important, something my wife and I and our family already know: Spending time with the Lord at His feet hearing His Word matters more than “ministering”.

Everything else is just a piece of brass.

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[1] Many other things were said but I’m not going to go into them here in this blog.

[2] Before that happened, I sent off an email explaining just how much my wife did in and for the church and for me as a husband, even though much of it was unseen since it was done in our home in the form of hospitality and in the hosting of Bible studies. That email was never addressed.

[3] Additional reasons included my work schedule and health concerns, which while playing important roles in my decision, weren’t the only reasons, as I’ve indicated in the body of this blog.

[4] Since I was not and am not a “licensed” minister at the time of my resigning, the word the Lord gave me, i.e. Nehushtan, doesn’t cover something I was not.

[5] A senior pastor once complained to me about one of his assistant pastors, who, even though he and his wife had two young children, nevertheless were not doing enough for the church as assistant pastors, that they needed to step up and do more, despite having children, even as the pastor and his wife didn’t have any children to speak of (at the time). This is the kind of real life story that for me, helps prove the overall assertion I am making in this blog: that these un-Biblical ministries can cause division in the church.

[6] Martha was one of Jesus’ closest friends. In fact, we read in John 11:5 that Jesus loved Martha (along with her sister Mary and brother Lazarus). Perhaps it was this closeness which caused her to think she had the right to be indignant at Him for not making Mary get up and help her? I suppose we’ll never know this side of heaven.

[7] By the way, this “man” was the assistant pastor mentioned in footnote #5, who, along with his wife, wasn’t doing enough for the church according to the pastor who opined to me about him. Do you see what happened there?

[8] I am thankful to say that my explanation caused the man to receive understanding, and he backed off. We ended the chat with a great big, teary eyed hug, which is to say, we reconciled!

 
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