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Commentary On The Apostle Andrew.

cropped-12301412301.jpg“One of the two  which heard John speak, and followed him , was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.”  (John 1:40).

He was a disciple of John the Baptist before his encounter with Jesus of Nazareth. He was a native of the Galilean region in Bethsaida and would later live by the sea at Capernaum in the trade of fisherman. Andrew was the first disciple of John the Baptist chosen by Jesus after His baptism, “And the next day  after John stood, and two of his disciples. And looking upon Jesus as He walked by, Behold the Lamb of God! And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. The Jesus turned, and saw them following , and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto Him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master), where dwelleth thou? He saith unto them, Come, and see. They came and saw where He dwelt, and abode with Him that day; for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.” (John 1:35-40).

Why was Andrew even there and not at the Sea of Galilee with his brother Peter? What drove this fisherman to seek out the voice crying in the wilderness? All we know for sure about Andrew was that he was with the Baptist when Jesus appeared for His baptism, (Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11). Andrew was there at this moment, tradition also states that maybe even the Apostle John, but both men were eye witnesses to the events on the Jordan River as recorded in Scripture, “Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad Him, saying, I have need to be baptiszed of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness. Then he suffered Him. And Jesus when He was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and lo, the heavens opened unto Him. and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and it lightening upon Him, And lo a voice from heaven saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:13-17). Andrew was there for this historical moment in the interaction between God and His creation. This was God in human flesh standing before His own creation and they missed it. John the Baptist preached and told the people he was simply a voice crying in the wilderness that the Messiah was coming; he stated he was not the Messiah but was sent to prepare the way for His coming and they still missed it. Andrew heard the preaching of the Baptist and followed him until the moment Jesus came and the Baptist made his declaration about Jesus. So why was Andrew there? Was he a Jew simply tired of the ritualistic state of what his faith had become? What did he hope to find when he set out to listen to the Baptist? What was it about the message he heard that appealed to this fisherman? What lead Andrew to seek the Baptist and his message of repentance? Something in the Baptist’s message stirred the young fisherman from Galilee to forsake his brother Peter and the fishing trade. Maybe John’s simple message of repentance appealed to the young fisherman of Galilee. Whatever his motives were he encountered the Baptist and was introduced to Jesus.

“And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. The Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto Him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted , Master,), where dwellest thou? He saith unto them, Come and see. They came and saw where He swelt, and abode with Him that day: for it was about the tenth hour.” (John 1:37-39). What was Jesus thinking as He turned and faced these two future apostles of His Gospel message? Did He see their future missionary activities and even their deaths for His name? Did He see Jon as an old man imprisoned on the island of Patmos? Did He see Andrew’s final days tied to a X-shaped cross in Greece for His name and message? What did Jesus see when He saw these two men following Him and asking where He dwelt? What did the two future apostles see in this man pointed out by the Baptist who proclaimed Jesus as the Lamb of God? What did that mean to these two men from Galilee? The Baptist told them who Jesus was and that they must follow Jesus now, so they did. One wonders if they spoke among each other about who this Jesus was and what it meant for them? So they followed and asked where did Jesus live, and Jesus said come and see.

But first, Andrew wanted to find his brother, “One of the two which heard John speak, and followed, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first findeth his own brother, Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messiah, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, He said, Thou art Simon, the son of Jonah; thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.” (John 1:40-42). What did Simon Peter think of this introduction by his brother Andrew of Jesus let alone that Jesus was the Messiah? Simon Peter’s reaction is not recorded so we do not know his reaction to this news of his brother that Jesus was the Messiah. Yet, it’s obvious that Simon Peter followed for a bit. Andrew was there when Jesus called Philip and Nathanael to follow Him, (John 1:43-51). Andrew and the other future apostles where with Jesus and the wedding at Cana, (John 2:1-10). What was the outcome of this brief following of Jesus? “This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth His glory; and His disciples believed on Him.” (John 2:11). But what about Jesus where they believing in? Certainly they believed Jesus spoke as one who could be the Messiah spoken of by the prophets, He performed miracles which testified that God was with this man spoken of by the Baptist and His meeting with Nathanael. But something was holding these men to the man from Nazareth. Andrew and other men who followed followed Jesus for a reason within their own hearts and minds. “After this He went down to Capernaum, He, and His mother, and His brethren, and His disciples, and they continued there not many days.” (John 2:12). Andrew and the other disciples met Jesus’s mother and His brothers-James, Jude, Jose, Simon and probably His sister’s were there; James and Jude future authors of epistles in the Scriptures. What questions were asked of His family; what were His brother’s thinking of Jesus and these disciples of His. James would eventually come to believe in Jesus as Messiah; Jude would as well became a believer in his brother as Messiah.

What did each group of those involved in that gathering think of the other? Did they really grasp the true impact that this Jesus would have on their lives? Doubtful as for the moment they were merely interested and curious of Jesus and who He was or might actually be; His own family was more concerned about Jesus and His mental state. Read Matthew 13:55, read John 7:3-5, and see His own brethren’s view of their older brother. This was the family that Andrew and the other disciples were encountering and yet they stayed with Jesus, “And the Jews’ Passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.” (John 2:13).  They went with Jesus to Jerusalem. Why did Andrew and the others remain with Jesus? Sure they saw the miracles, they heard His words, and they followed. They were with Jesus when He entered the Temple and threw out the money changers and drove our the oxen and sheep and those who sold them, (John 2;14-15). Andrew and the other disciples watched as Jesus drove out of the Temple the worldliness that had invaded His Temple; it was the House of God after all and Jesus was God in flesh. They heard Him proclaim, “And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.” (John 2:16). Andrew and the other’s were there and heard the words of Jesus. Was this man who was throwing people out of the Temple the actual Messiah spoken of? They believed in Him as a messiah probably; someone who was to come and restore Israel to it’s former glory but was He that Messiah who was promised via the line of King David and a son of Abraham? I am sure these are questions they had with themselves and quit possibly pondered between each other in private. Andrew and the disciples heard the discussion between Jesus and the present religious leaders of the Temple and His answer to their questions. They too must have pondered His meaning and what He was saying. Their understanding of the Messiah had a long way to go before they fully understood the full reason for His coming and eventual death and resurrection, (John 2:18-22). They understood enough to realize that Jesus was different than the religious leaders of the Temple. Jesus spoke with an authority that drew many to Him and they began to believe in Him, (John 2:23). Except what exactly were they believing in? Was it the Messiah of the Scriptures or was it their version of what and who the Messiah was going to be let alone who the Messiah better be? I think in some ways that Andrew and the other disciples might have been leaning more toward their version of who the Messiah was going to be and not the one of the Scriptures. (The tragedy of the Jews was that the Messiah that came was not the one they wanted as Jesus wasn’t interested in freeing them from Rome but from a greater power called sin). And Jesus knew what the real reason was with these claiming to believe on Him. “But Jesus did not commit Himself unto them, because he knew all men. And needed not that any should testify of man; for He knew what was in man.” (John 2: 24-25). Jesus knew why Andrew and the other disciples were following Him, He knew why crowds were following Him, and He knew full well who truly was following Him because they understood His being there; though the last one was very small. He knew what was in man? Read Romans 1:27-32.

Andrew one must remember was there the night the Pharisee Nicodemus came and talked with Jesus, (John 3:1-22); he was with Jesus when the events with the Samaritan woman occurred, (John 4:1-42); he was there when the nobleman’s son was healed in Capernaum, (John 4:46-54); he was there at the healing of the lame man at the pool in Jerusalem, (John 5:1-9); Andrew was there when Jesus preached to the crowds along with the other disciples and we should remember that whenever the term disciple is used who it is talking about-Andrew and the other men who followed Jesus. Those twelve men who walked and heard and saw the life and ministry of this man from Nazareth were the disciples and would eventually die for that very same Jesus of Nazareth. Andrew and Philip are mentioned at the feeding of the five thousand, (John 6:1-13). Andrew was witness to Jesus walking on the Sea of Galilee, (John 6:15-21). Andrew was there when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, (John 11:5-45). He was there when Jesus entered Jerusalem, (John 12:12-36). Andrew was there at that last Passover of Jesus’s earthly life, (John 13:1-17:26). He was in the Garden of Gethsemane with Jesus and the other disciples, and ran away from Jesus as well, (John 18:1-12). Maybe Andrew even at some point ventured to the actual cross that Jesus hung on; he might have. Andrew was with the other disciples on the third day of Jesus’s burial and witnessed the resurrected Christ and the incident with the Apostle Thomas, (John 20:19-31). Andrew may have been present at the incident on the Sea of Galilee after His resurrection, (John 21:1-22). He was most certainly with the other disciples at Jesus being taken up in the clouds, (Acts 1:4-11). He is named in the list of those present in the upper room during their prayer for the replacement of Judas with Mathias, (Acts 1:13-26). He was present at the Day of Pentecost and his brother’s sermon on that day, (Acts 2:1-41). He was one of the apostles who stayed in Jerusalem during the reign of terror created by the then still Saul of Tarsus, (Acts 8:1). He was part of the apostles who sent Peter and John to Samaria after the preaching of the Apostle Philip in the region and many believed the Gospel, (Acts 8:5-25). It is quit possible that it was during the reign of terror unleashed by Saul of Tarsus that Andrew went on his own missionary travels. He could have still been in Jerusalem when James, the bother of John, was killed by King Herod, and the imprisonment of Peter by the same king, (Acts 12:1-19). Andrew may have even been at the First Jerusalem Council where the then now Apostle Paul defended his preaching to the gentiles and his message of grace and grace alone, (Acts 15:1-30). Maybe it was then that the Apostle Andrew went on his own missionary travels preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Apostle Andrew had to have gone at some point and gone somewhere to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ as lead by the Holy Spirit. So where did this former fisherman of Galilee go and what became of him? There are several stories and legends of the Apostle Andrew and his later ministries. Eusebius in his Ecclesiastical History of the Church records that the Apostle Andrew he traveled as far as Scythia, (Southern Russia in the region of the Black Sea. The legends, the stories, the idea that he preached in that region of the Black Sea created the idea that he should be the patron saint of Russia was born and grew. Other legends of the Apostle Andrew were written in the “The Acts Of St. Andrew And St. Bartholomew” gives an account of their missionary preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ among the Parthians; they were Persians of the Arsacid Empire. According to the “Martyrdom Of St. Andrew” he was stoned and crucified in Scythia. According to Biblical scholar, Edgar J. Goodspeed, (1871-1962), that to the Apostle Andrew Scythia was given to Andrew as his mission field along the Black sea region recorded in the “Acts Of Andrew” written probably sometime around 260 A. D. where eventually he traveled to Greece through Macedonia where his martyrdom occurred in Patras, Greece by being tied to an X-shaped cross.

Another tradition. Andrew the Apostle of Christ went north till he reached Scythia and preached Christ and then traveled through the region of Byzantium. Then he traveled through Greece and finally reached the city of Patrae, a city of Achaia, where he was killed for preaching Christ by being tied to an X-shaped cross by the proconsul Aaegaas. One debated that Andrew forsake his faith or be tortured where Andrew pleaded with the proconsul to not lose his soul. But neither gave into the other. Andrew was scourged and then finally tied to the cross and not nailed. From the cross he preached Christ for the two days he endured the agony of dying for the one he followed from that day the Baptist pointed Jesus out to him.

Another tradition. The Apostle Andrew went as far as the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains; modern day Georgia, Russia, and he preached and spread the Gospel to the Scythians as far as the Caspian Sea. Andrew was imprisoned, stoned, and suffered as his Master said he would for the cause of Christ. Then from his travels through Byzantium he traveled to Greece. He traveled to Thrace, through Macadonia and down the Corinthian Gulf to Patros where he was killed for the cause of the Gospel of Christ. It is said that Aigeatis, the governor of Patros became enraged at the Apostle’s preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and ordered him to stand before him and denounce his faith in Christ which the Apostle Andrew refused to do and was finally ordered crucified. After bring tied there for two days and upon his death uttered from his own cross for Christ, “Accept me, O Christ Jesus, Whom I saw, Whom I love, and in Whom I am, Accept my spirit in peace in Your Eternal Realm.”

The Apostle Andrew started with John The Baptist until the Baptist pointed out the One Andrew was to truly follow and come to believe in as the long awaited Messiah. He walked with Jesus and his fellow future Apostle’s of Christ and saw and heard all that Jesus did and said and was there at His miracles and the resurrection! He preached in Jerusalem as the other’s did and went out to the rest of the world and probably motivated to do so by the success of the Apostle Paul’s missionary efforts. He traveled as far north as the Caspian Sea and preached to the pagans and lost souls for which Christ died for. He traveled through the southern regions of Russia according to traditions that all have a core of truth to them as the Apostle Andrew had to have gone somewhere. He preached in Byzantium through Macadonia through Greece and finally to the cross that his Lord and Messiah Himself carried to prove God’s great love and mercy and redemption for all the world. He debated and preached before his accusers and they lost because they tried to kill the message by tying the Apostle Andrew to a X-shaped cross to silence his message of salvation. What did he preached from his own cross? The Apostle Andrew, the once fisher of fish became a fisher of men upon even the cross he hung upon. He preached the life and message and works of Jesus and he preached the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ from the dead. Imagine the debate between the Apostle Andrew and the Governor of Patros. One demanding the Andrew forsake his faith in Christ and embrace the gods of the Empire and stop with this preaching of only one God and of this Christ while Andrew preached Christ and Christ crucified. God and Christ was preached against the gods and philosophies of the Roman Empire and those who ruled it. One argued to save himself to enjoy the world and all it’s pleasures, while another preached to not lose his soul for all eternity because of those worldly pleasures.

REFERENCES/RECOMMENDATIONS

The Bible. (KJV).

Foxe’s Book Of Martyrs. By. John Foxe.

Ecclesiastical History. By. Eusebius

The Search For The Twelve Apostles. By. William Steuart McBirnie.

Contendings Of The Apostles. By. E. A. Budge.

The Martyrdom Of St. Andrew. By. E. A. Budge.

The Message Of Acts. By. John R. W. Stott.

The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Acts 1-12.

The MacArthur New Testament Commentary:Acts 13-28.

12 Ordinary Mn: How The Master Shaped His Disciples For Greatness. By. John M. MacArthur.

The Acts Of Andrew And the Acts Of Andrew And Matthias In The City Of The Cannibals. By. Dennis MacDonald. (Gnostic).

The Twelve. By. Edgar J. Goodspeed.

The Lives And Deaths Of The Holy Apostles. By. Dorman Newman.

Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: Acts. By. L. Howard Marshall.

John, Son Of Thunder. By. Ellen G. Traylor. (Novel).

 

 

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It’s A Sin Issue? (Short Story).

cropped-12301412301.jpgThe Church parking lot was slowly emptying as the light snow fell in early February.

Eli was listening patiently as the other guy was still talking; in the back of his mind he was hoping Stephanie was doing better, getting the rest she needed, feeling a little better than she had lately.

“It was unscientific gibberish, Eli, and this was simply a waste of my time…” It went on like that for a while noted Eli since he picked the guy up at his condo. “Evolution is a scientific fact. It’s not some materialistic or naturalistic human philosophy, Eli…” The finger pointed at him, the face was of course angry with Mark Wilson. “I agreed, Eli, to come to this to humor you and your beliefs. You actually thought I would like to listen to that wacko nut-job for two hours while he rambled on and on about the false science of evolution! Evolution is a fact, Eli. A scientific fact…” Adding with a look, “I was almost going to get up and simply walk out of that room…”

Still in good humor, “I am sure you were, Mark.” He pushed the key into the ignition, “But you did come…”

Interrupting, “Why did you even think I’d even like this in the first place?” The tone was of course demanding as if there was no other way to talk to anyone was Eli’s thought on the subject, “Good grief, Eli. Two hours of religious prattle and pseudo-science and trying to tell me that there is no evidence of evolution anywhere…” He was now staring out the front windshield with that same look Eli knew well; did the guy ever look like he wasn’t looking for a fight with someone? “I stayed to be polite but it was pointless.”

“Well, Mark, he did make a few valid points to me.” He watched a car pull of out its place and navigate out of the church parking lot he was still sitting in. “I think he made a valid point about why most people don’t believe in God or want to. People really don’t like being told how to live their lives…” He could see the interruption coming a mile away, “I am just saying Mark that the guy had some valid points about why people believe or don’t believe in God or any religious belief. People don’t like being told how to live their lives. It’s understandable, we live in the age of the me first generation….”

Another car pulled out and left.

“I agree with that aspect of his message. Human’s don’t like to be told how to live or what is right or wrong. He’s correct, human nature does not like the idea that we are responsible to some higher power or in his case a God. If we are simply facts of evolutionary processes then we owe nothing to anyone but ourselves let alone a God or gods of any kind.”

It finally came.

“There is no God or gods or heaven or hell, Eli. Points! He made no points at all. It was gibberish!” The voice of course rose as he looked at Eli, “What points? He didn’t prove a damn thing. This is what happens when religious mythology is taken for fact let alone for real science. Many mythologies have stories of floods. It proves nothing that the Bible says it was…” He studied the young man a second before returning to looking out the front window, “It was religious gibberish what he said about billions of dead things buried all over the earth is proof of a global flood called Noah’s Flood. There was no Noah, he didn’t build a big boat, and rescue all the animals on the earth…

He had to say it, “Well, Mark, most of those dead animals do look as if they drowned…”

Grunting annoyed at the comment, “He proved bloody nothing, Eli. Not a damn thing. Humanity is the result of evolution, Eli, not religious wishful thinking or pie in the sky mythology. It’s not some unscientific  act of some god who doesn’t exist in the first place…”

Eli wondered why it was that atheist’s always sounded so angry at someone who they claimed wasn’t there in the first place to be angry at.

“I liked hearing his views on the subject of origins…”

Interrupting with a slam of his open hand on his thigh, “He proved nothing and had even less to say on the origins of life. The origin of life is billions of years old, not a few thousand years.” His tone said it all, “Six thousand years! What absolute gibberish and too many people believe that unscientific crap….There is no evidence that God or any god did anything. Claiming that the night sky declares the handiwork of his God and is enough proof of creation. Bull crap! I deal with scientific facts of evolution. Him  and his kind need to create their own sciences and leave real science to those actually interested in facts and not religious wishful thinking bullshit! Keep religion out of my life, I don’t need it nor do I want it…”

Eli noted all the cliches with a slight smile.

“…All life began billions of years ago and we have the fossil records to show it.”

He had to say something as a couple and their three kids walked to their car next to his; he nodded at the woman who smiled at him as she shuffled her three young daughter’s into the minivan, “Well, Mark, I thought the guy had some valid and good points about why there is a conflict between creation and evolution and why people do not like the idea of the fact that if God is their creator He does get to call and make the rules about life….” He again could see the anger and interruption starting up in the other man’s older features, even the vein on his temple wasn’t happy, “I’m just saying I can follow his thought process on his belief that if God is the creator then He is also has sovereignty over His creation…”

The snow was still falling and to fall heavily; he flipped on the window wipers to removed the snow. Ah, Eli thought, Minnesota in February.

The grunt came with a vulgar remark.

Eli ignored his comment as the car next to him slowly left it space; he turned the key in the ignition of his truck.

“The point, Mark, is that I agree with some of what he said. It’s either a humanistic world view of life and people or it’s a God-centered world view. There is really only two world views to what life is or isn’t in this universe and it’s purpose. We are either a evolutionary product of billions and billions of years of life and death and change and even more life and death as the speaker said or simply put, Mark, God created man and woman as stated in the Bible. We either go somewhere after death or we die into nothingness and oblivion….”

Angry of course, “Which it is.”  Adding somewhat calmer, “The snows really coming down. Typical Minnesota before Valentine’s Day of course…”  Looking at Eli with that same look, “Look, I don’t believe in life after death anymore than I believe in God. Once you are dead you are dead. Nothing after and no one there to help you understand death. Death is just a fact. People die…”

More cliches thought Eli; the guy certainly had quit a few of them.

“…I fought in the Vietnam War, Eli. I saw plenty of death and dying….”

Interesting he thought, “I didn’t know that about you.” And he knew the guy for five years. Though he could have guessed he supposed but it never dawned on him to do so.

“I don’t talk about it too much, Eli.” He shifted a bit in the seat, “I was a medic during the Battle of Hue in 1968. I saw plenty of death and never once saw God there or His so called Son. I saw a few religious guys when they first arrived, the war cured them of their beliefs about God and the after-life. I saw Vietnamese people simply being killed on both sides because they were in the wrong place….”

He was listening as this was a rare moment of the guy telling anything about his life.

“I saw the injustice of war and the horror’s inflicted on people by humanity. Little kids homeless and some were simply dead with coal black dead eyes lying in the rice paddies….”

He wanted to ask questions but refrained from doing so.

“I never saw God in any of that war or His Son. I saw human’s killing humans in the name of some country or ideology or for the simple reason they liked to kill people….” He sighed but it was also angry, “I was trying to save a young Vietnamese girl who had stepped on a mine, I had an officer order me to leave her and let her die.” Looking at Eli with a look that said much, “I remember protesting that I should at least try and do something. He still ordered me to leave her to die and let her and I quote, ‘let her damn commie god take care of her.’ He even threatened to shoot her if I didn’t walk away…” He studied the snow falling, “I left her and I walked away. He was a good Catholic boy as I recall he never missed the Chaplin’s call for Mass to be said…” Looking at Eli was a cold look, “I saw God walk away from that poor child dying from loss of blood and simple descent humanity…” Adding, “I sometimes can still see those little dark eyes staring at me begging for me to take away her suffering…she might have been eight years old; she’ll always be eight years old and dying…you don’t forget something like that, Eli, and you certainly don’t believe in some loving or merciful God after that…”

Eli simply listened.

“Eli, I saw hell in that war. I saw enough of what people will do to each other all in the name of something real or imagined. I saw the value that humans place on each other…none!”

“I don’t know if I completely agree with that. Life is important. Where we came form is just as important, Mark, and I think that was the speakers point…”

The snow was letting up a bit; it wouldn’t last long and the heavy stuff was coming.

“…I was nineteen when I went off to war, Eli, I bet that speaker never saw a day of death or dying…” He was certain of it, “He can preach all he wants about his so-called God and anything else he wants to babble about but keep it to himself…” He seemed lost in a thought for a few seconds, “I saw plenty of guys with Bibles and I don’t remember a single guy having it still after their tour of duty was up. Somewhere throughout Vietnam Bibles have rotted into the landscape and are long forgotten, Eli…”

Eli wasn’t sure if he was really expected to answer, so he simply listened. He did notice the man’s features seemed to show signs of actually wanting to forget what he was telling Eli. Softness thought Eli? Was that the word he was thinking of the brief moment of possible softness? Eli wasn’t sure it was but at least it showed there was a soft side to the gruff fellow.

Another car pulled out of its space and heading out of the parking lot.

Mark was still talking, “…Life has no real purpose but to be born, live a bit, and then die the best we can. I don’t make life more than it is anymore than death. Death just is the end. The physical world is it, nothing more or less about it. I saw way too much death of guys being shot or blown apart to believe that there is a purpose to it that your speaker babbled about….” Looking at him calmly, but there was something else about his look that said something else to Eli, “I’m fine with just living and then oblivion. I have had no need of religion up to this point so I don’t need it now.”

Eli spoke up, measuring his comments, “I think the speaker would have said as well that religion isn’t his answer or his point, Mark. In fact he seemed to make it a clear and a direct point that religion isn’t the answer either. He seemed to imply that religion is indeed a human construction and not a personal relationship with God…”

The hand sharply went up, “It’s all religious bull crap, Eli. It’s still all a bunch of religious nonsense to help people cope with life’s realities and that is we die in the end. We simply die and simply have nothing after. People are afraid to die, Eli. It’s that simple. Fear of the unknown, fear of death, fear of simply being forgotten as we slip into oblivion. Sounds very realistic to me to simply view life as I do.”

“What about the spiritual?”

“You can’t use the senses to see the spiritual, Eli.” The gruff Mark returned, “The spiritual world is for fiction writer’s not the real world where the senses can see it, touch it, taste it, hear it. That’s the real world….”

“So, Mark, unless the senses can be involved it’s not real?”

“The scientific method works for me just fine, Eli. I live my life with the idea that there is no God, no spiritual world, or after-life. I saw too much in Vietnam to believe that anything good comes from spiritual people…”

“Nothing came from spiritual people, Mark? History is full of spiritual people accomplishing great things…”

He ignored the comment for the most part with a hard look, “Look, Eli, I am an atheist. Been one my whole life even before my little tour of Vietnam. I see no real reason to change anything about my life now. The speaker proved nothing to me except his religious anti-scientific wishful thinking about God and the after-life. That wasn’t even closer to real science that he was talking about. That was called ignoring and misrepresenting the facts of Darwin and evolution.”

Had to ask, “Ever read Darwin? Huxley? Even Stephen Jay Gould?” But he probably knew the answer.

The annoyance came into his voice of course, “I don’t have to, Eli. I have read enough to see that Darwin was correct and the creationists are idiots. I listened to that guy and heard nothing but very bad science being spoken and real science being labeled wishful thinking? Evolution is a fact of science and has been proven over and over that it’s based on fact. Look, Eli, religious people simply don’t like it when their God or gods is reduced to scientific facts and not some spiritual mythology about their favorite deity….”

Eli wondered what books on the subject the guy had ever read; he knew that Mark liked Stephen King of all authors, played a little golf, and not much else of relevance.

“…Look, Eli, evolution is a fact. The fossil evidence alone proves that point…”

“Well, Mark, he did make some good points about the fossil evidence and he made a good point about human evolution particularly about the Piltdown Man…” He could see the interruption coming a mile away, but he kept on talking, “It was a hoax, Mark. It was bad science to prove a theory that still has not been completely proven…” He could see the volcano starting to rumble beneath the features of the older man, “It was hoax from the very beginning, Mark. It was created to prove human evolution because they needed something to prove the theory of evolution was true. That’s not science, Mark. That’s a lot of wishful thinking and hopeful thinking that went into the belief in the Piltdown Man. Those scientists went out of their way to see evidence that wasn’t there and ignored the evidence of the fraud that was there. So, Mark, the speaker made some good points.”

Grunting in disgust before interrupting, “Eli, the guy proved nothing.” He looked outside at a few falling snowflakes, he seemed lost in thought as he noticed the road across the parking lot with the cars driving as if it had never snowed in Minnesota before. He seemed lost in thought a long few seconds before he started up again, “What he proved is that people will believe in whatever it takes to deny the realities of life let alone the evidence. Science is a fact, Eli, not a bunch of picking and choosing of what one wants to believe to make one’s life more bearable…” He looked over at Eli with the same hard look, “Human’s evolved from some unknown ancient ancestor. That’s a scientific fact proven by the fossil evidence. Look at all the fossils they find and all the proof they are discovering through those bones their finding…” He coughed a bit, “Damn cold, going to catch something. Always do every winter….” Looking out the window at the family walking up to their van, pointing at them, “Do you know that family?”

Eli had noted the Edgers, “Yes. Why?”

“Do you think they ever question what they are taught in this place?”

“I’m not them, but I am sure Mike does, maybe even Oona does…”

Frowning, “Oona? Her name is actually Oona?”

“Yes, Mark, her names Oona Edgers, married to Mike, those three kids are their’s as well….” Adding, “What’s wrong with her name?”

“Never heard it outside the daughter of Eugene O’Neil.”

He had to lightly laugh, “We were talking about the speaker, Mark.”

Still watching the Edger’s get their three son’s in the car, “Look at them, Eli. Do you think once that those kids get to ask questions about their so-called religious beliefs? Look at them, all smiles, all look alike on some level….” Again gesturing with his hand, “Look at the oldest kid…”

“That’s Geoff, good kid. Play’s the cello in kid’s choir.”

“He may be a good kid, Eli, but has he ever been allowed to question his parent’s beliefs or even doubt them? What do you think they would do if he dared to question their beliefs let alone stop in believing in them. What do you think would happen to him?…” The voice grew a little agitated, “I listened to that speaker, I heard his prattle and psuedo-science trying to prove in creationism and that the Flood of Noah was a world-wide event. I’ve heard it all before…” He grunted again, “Look at them, Eli, a simple-minded life they live and not once are they going to question anything they are taught. Look at them, Eli…”

“I see them every Sunday, Mark. I don’t appreciate your evaluation of their lives as you don’t know them. You’ve looked at them one time and summed up their lives…”

“I recognize the type of life they are living…”

“I don’t understand, Mark, explain.”

Still observing the Edger’s as their van pulled out from the space in front of them.

“I don’t mean to be rude or insult your friends lives, but I stand by my statement, I know the type of life their probably living…”

“How would you know?”

Frowning at an unpleasant thought, his tone angry, “My father, my parent’s actually, were missionary’s…”

Taken back, “A missionary? Your parent’s were missionaries?”

“Ya, we were in Japan for a few years as I remember…” The fist’s clenched a bit, he didn’t want to talk about it was obvious to Eli, “I think it was ten years of wasting time and life, Eli…” Looking at him, “I was a missionary kid for a bit. I hated it but I put on the fake smile and did as it was required of me as the kid of the pastor….”

Eli wanted to interrupted but didn’t.

“…I started disliking it pretty early, Eli…”

“Hold old were you? You were born in Japan?” Something seemed off thought Eli.

“No, no, I was born here in Minnesota. I think I was seven when we first arrived in Japan. This was his first time on the missionary field. It was too long ago for me to remember everything and I don’t want to….I turned eighteen and the Vietnam War solved another problem.”

“Okay.”

“I simply started having doubts about their strange religious beliefs. I began to find them fanatical, they seemed pushy to me, Eli.”

“Fanatical? In what way? And how were they strange?”

The snow was starting up again; most of the cars in the parking lot were gone; a few stragglers here and there.

“Look, Eli, I simply saw what they were doing as fanatical. Leave it at that. I didn’t see what was so wrong with the religious beliefs of the Japanese. I never quit understood the point of changing from one religion to another, Eli. All I could see them really doing was forcing their religion on others and scaring them to so it as well…”

“Scaring them?”

“Hellfire and damnation, Eli. Believe on our god or be damned.”

Uncertain of the subject itself really, “Well, Mark, they were missionaries, that was the point of being in Japan.” He sounded so damn lame, “It’s not a subject I am well-versed on, Mark. But that is the point of being a missionary was to preach the Gospel…”

The hand went up, “The people in Japan were fine in their own religious beliefs without my dad ramming his beliefs down their throat. Scaring them into believing in some God of hell and damnation all because they don’t believe as they did…” The anger was there, “I don’t remember them being any better or worse in their religious beliefs than the Japanese praying at their shrines. I thought it all a waste of time…”

“And this turned you against their faith?” As for Eli it was only recently that he and Stephanie had started their own Christian life so he honestly felt unable to defend much; so why did he feel guilty? Maybe he should feel somewhat guilty not really being able to explain anything? “You lost your faith…” But wasn’t there more it than just not being able to defend his beliefs he asked himself? But then again this wasn’t really the time or place to discuss his or Steph’s reasons for returning to church.

“I never had any faith, let’s be blunt about that. I never really felt any inclination to believe in their Jesus or god or their way of life. I may have been young, Eli, but I noticed things. I start actually reading other books…”

“Awfully young to start reading books that turned you against their faith?” He was beginning to suspect this was all a story he repeated to not talk about the real reasons; he was sure the Vietnam part was real and he wasn’t sure why but that part of it sounded factual. But there was something just too much a story to the way Mark was talking about the Japan part. Maybe the location wasn’t as important as the actual reasons for his loss of faith as a missionary kid? “What books?”

“It doesn’t matter, Eli, I simply did. It all seemed like a game of some kind. A numbers game just like your speaker tonight.” He rubbed his eyes, “I simply stopped believing and I am fine with that. My parent’s aren’t of course and neither are my sisters or brother…”

“Didn’t know you had siblings?”

A slight softness came over him but only briefly, “My brother is older by three years, Jason works for the church of course, teaching kids I think. We don’t talk much and we don’t say much when we do. He has his beliefs, I have mine.”

“Your sisters?”

“Abby’s a nurse at St. John’s Hospital, Allie’s teaches second grade at the church my family still attends. We also don’t talk much.”

“Not close to any of them?”

Looking out the window at the thickly falling snow, slowly answers back, “I live alone, Eli, been married and divorced twice, so I live alone for a reason.” Adding with the same tone, “I simply don’t have the time to see them, I’m busy and I don’t need to be around them knowing they think I am some kind of atheist monster on the way too hell. I stopped showing up for those occasions that required family to meet…”

He noted the look in the older man’s eyes, “Sounds lonely, Mark.”

Looking out the side window again, the shoulders shrugged, “Your speaker proved nothing, Eli. All a bunch of religious prattle to scare people into a belief that has very little to do with reality. I learned that a long time ago in Japan…”

“What happened really in Japan, Mark, make you reject your faith?”

He took a bit took look over at him, the look was cold, hard, angry, slowly he responded, “Her name was Kimiko, me and her were about the same age…pretty girl of course. She had started attending our little church and for a while she seemed to like it, even started believing in it.”

“What happened?”

“Kimiko seemed always sad about something, Eli. Took her a long time to start talking about herself…”

So far he was following more so than he wanted to admit at the moment.

“I think she suffered from depression.” Correcting himself, “Kimiko did suffer from depression.”

“Still following.” Ah, yes, depression he understood.

“I made the mistake of telling my father about her feelings of depression. I thought he would help, I thought I was doing the right thing for her, and got her to talk with him…” He looked away briefly then returned to Eli, “My father, the preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the preacher of John 3:16, told her that depression was a sin problem, that she was simply suffering under the conviction of the Holy Spirit and if she gave her life to Christ, she would no longer feel depressed. He blamed her beliefs in Shinto, her beliefs in her culture and it went from there, Eli.” Adding, “I sat there watching her being crushed under him blaming her depression, her sadness, even her tears, on some mythological sin problem!”

He nodded in understanding as he had no idea what else he was suppose to do or say. He did understand some of the aspects of what the guy was saying; painfully aware.

“He sat there behind his big desk pontificating on his belief and certainty that her real problem was a sin problem and only a sin problem best cured by believing on Jesus Christ….” Looking at his hands, “I wanted to punch that man right then and there. There she sat literally being berated for feeling depressed and being accused of being some terrible wicked sinner before some angry God of his. She needed help, she needed someone to simply help her through this unhappiness but instead she was attacked and blamed for her feelings she seemed to have no say in having or not having.”

Not sure what to really say, “I am sorry.”

“I remember Kimiko finally sobbing and looking at me. I will never forget that look of complete loss and pain; I saw her die inside, Eli. I saw the destruction of a human being because she was depressed and a sin problem was blamed on it….” He opened the car door violently, he wanted to get out was obvious to Eli, looking at him over his shoulder, “A fourteen year old girl killed herself because of a sin problem, instead a man of some god preached at her that it was all her fault and a few days later she hung herself…” He got out of the truck and turned and looked at Eli, “Your speaker was no different than my father as far as I am concerned. It’s all about numbers, all about making a point, all about being more religious than the next person but never actually being a human being…” He stood rigid, trying to regain himself, “Look, Eli, I have my reasons for not liking religious people let alone your speaker tonight. My father sat in his office that day blaming a fourteen year old girl for her depression. He did nothing else but blame her and then had the idea that she needed to be preached at as well….”

He looked ridiculous standing there with the snow falling around him and unto his shoulders and bare bald head but Eli simply listened as it seemed the best course of action. What was bothering him was his own hesitation in being far more blunt than he was being at the moment.

“…I can still see her sitting there, dark eyes tearing up and him, my father, the pastor of his religious beliefs held this girl responsible for feeling unhappy as if it was within her unhappy frame of mind to stop feeling like crap. She sat there alone, depressed, defeat and there the old man sat like the God he preached about blaming the victim for something beyond their ability to help or fight against…” He stopped abruptly, wiped the falling snow off his dark blue trench coat, “There’s a reason I don’t have much to do with him, Eli or their religious lives or beliefs. My father was very good at saying things he didn’t like or want to deal with as the other person’s sin issue…” He shoved his hands into his pockets; Eli thought he looked very tired all of a sudden. “Kimiko killed herself, Eli, because of a sin issue? No, she died of a religious man afraid of his own shadow and unable to deal with depression outside of it being some damn sin issue because he couldn’t stop the girl from crying in his office….” He could still see him standing over her demanding she stop this crying and repent. Repent of what?

Eli could see the man’s fists were balling up in the trench coat. “I’m not sure I can say anything that would…” Was that really true? No, it was not but he wasn’t sure if saying anything would help the guy see what Eli was or would try to tell him.

Cutting him off, “Don’t try, Eli. I don’t think you or your beliefs have any help to offer not when people are attacked for being unhappy as if a sin was being committed. He sat in that office, unsmiling, fingers pointing, prattling verse after verse on the human condition being sinful and fallen and a deserving of hell…but not one moment of basic human compassion for a hurting girl.”

He felt ashamed of his lack of knowing what to say or anything at all to say; why was he hesitating? He understood the man’s pain all too well so why was he struggling with saying anything helpful? He felt stupid.  “Mark, look, I’ve only been going to this church a couple of months, I don’t have any answers, but I am understanding what you are saying the best I can…”

He cut him off again sharply, angry, “Save it, Eli. There is nothing you can say to me to see any value in what your speaker said or what you could say if you knew what it was.”

He spoke softly, “I wish I did, I should know…” He sounded stupid and knew it, “I am not good at this…” Maybe that was the problem?

“Well, you don’t, and I wouldn’t care anyway because all I hear is the sobbing of a young girl who killed herself when you or any of you religious types start preaching about the love of God. There is no God and there is no God of John 3:16 that my father loved to preached about. My father preached about the love of God the very next sermon that Sunday; I sat in the pew glaring at him. He paid no attention to me as usual.”

He had to say it, “Why don’t you get out of the snow…”

He frowned, “I’ll take the bus, their still running this late in Roseville I am sure. If not, I’ll walk home.”

“You don’t have to, Mark.”

To make his point, “Yes, I do….”

To argue was pointless and Eli knew it.

“I once asked him if he ever thought about Kimiko and her death. Do you know what he told me with a complete cold face? He spoke with that edge I knew so well.”

“What?”

“The conviction of the Holy Spirit was so powerful that she simply refused to listen and killed herself thinking she could escape that conviction of the Holy Spirit. She was only depressed because of the conviction of God’s hand on her heart he said with that same steady unmoved look of the self-righteous condemning the innocent…I will never forget the look he was giving me as he spoke….I will never forget that look of someone who  never believes they were wrong about anything and believe me, Eli, he doesn’t. He still doesn’t…”

Interrupting as best he could, “I don’t believe that depression is a sin issue, Mark.Depression itself is not a sin.” He knew more than he was saying but he wanted the guy to talk so he could figure him out and where he was going, “Depression is caused by the Fall, I am certain of that…”

Grunting angry, “Don’t care what you believe, Eli. I simply don’t want to hear the excuses for condemning people for being depressed and unable to fight it as you people seemed to think is best for them. Blaming their condition on some outdated sin problem!”

He had to say it because it was bothering him, “Well, sin is the problem because it’s caused the human condition into the mess that it is…” Adding before Mark could really interrupt, “Mark, hear me out, I’ve listened to everything you said and I didn’t interrupt. Hear me out.”

Mark stood rigid, “Fine, I’m listening.”

Eli really wished Mark would get back in the truck, but he knew the guy was going to walk home no matter what he told the man, “Listen, depression exists because sin entered the world and corrupted everything and I do mean everything and one of it’s fruits is depression…” He added softly but not sure it would do any good to mention it or that the guy would care, “I know this because my wife suffers terrible bouts of it, I understand depression just fine…” He saw no real reaction in the dark eyes that stared back with it’s own anger, “She’s been fighting it for a while now.”

“Didn’t know that, Eli.”

“Most people here don’t. One or two people know. Pastor Nelson does and he’s been very helpful in helping me deal with it and certainly helping Steph with a support group in the church…” He wasn’t sure he if Mark was really listening or simply humoring him, “I’m one who is living with someone who suffers depression…”

“You have kids?”

Softly, sadly, “no, sadly, Steph can’t have children…”

He frowned a bit, still annoyed, “Well, I’m sorry for what you are dealing with but it changes nothing in my opinion. Religious people like to blame people for their lives on some imaginary sin issue as the problem. Depression is real, not some damn sin issue that needs the help from some God to fix.”

“I agree, but depression is real because of the sin issue. Sin has destroyed true mental good health, Mark. That is how Pastor Nelson explained it. One of the fruits of sin is depression. Depression is not normal, Mark…Sin causes depression because it corrupts the human life…”

“What corrupts the human life is religious people blaming depression on some kind of sin issue that the person has no control over, Eli. I refuse to see that some imaginary eating of an apple in a garden somewhere is the cause of depression….”

“It started there, Mark.”

Slamming a hand on the hood of the truck, “Bullshit it is. It’s depression, not some sin issue created by anything other than chemicals in the brain, Eli.”

“Corrupted by sin.”

He glared, angry, “This is religious bullshit because you refuse to see that my father’s God was too busy to help a fourteen year old girl from killing herself…” He again slammed his open palm on the hood of the truck, “She needed compassion, not to be preached at, Eli! He preached at her and you should have seen the look in her face….” Looking down at his feet buried in the falling snow, “I saw a devastated young girl die right then and there before she ever tied that rope around her fourteen year old neck. That look….that terrible lost look, Eli, I will not forget it….I can’t. Have you ever seen that look?”

“I have. I’ve seen something like it in the face of my wife more often than I wish, but I have seen it.” He struggled to know how much was safe to tell and what was best kept personal. He could understand the guys pain and anger very well but would he care to know that Eli understood? He hoped Steph was getting some rest.

“Damn it, Eli, he sat at his damn desk and preached at her. He might as well have leaned over his desk and slapped her for feeling sad and having no idea why she was sad…He preached at her when what she needed was an act of compassion, not a damn sermon on sin issues!” He slammed the truck door shut and simply walked stiffly through the snow toward what Mark was sure a bus stop; it was obvious he was an angry man.

“Sorry, Mark….” He studied the falling snow briefly, took notice of the Cedarholm Golf course completely covered with thick snow, and watched as cars fought to drive down the snow clogged road; one lone walker on the side walk struggled against the falling snow. Life went on he thought.

The cell phone buzzed him with a jolt; he softly, sadly smiled at the caller ID.

He spoke softly, calmly, “Yes, Steph?…..Yes, I know, running a little late…….well, it didn’t go very well….” He watched the lone figure slowing vanish down the street and turn the corner toward a bus stop, “No, I’ll be at the hospital in a couple of minutes….yes, it’s snowing pretty bad, I’ll be fine….yes, I love you too…” He turned off the phone and headed toward St. Johns Hospital where his wife lay in a bed after another attempt to kill herself, “Yes, Mark, I understand the sin issue….it kills people you jackass…”

 

The F Word. (Short Story).

cropped-12301412301.jpgHe had always liked Pastor Elberg; he wished it wasn’t about to change but it was.

“Why don’t you come to church anymore, Aaron?” The voice was its usual soft tone of a man who was what he claimed to be. “It’s been a while since we’ve seen you around?”

Aaron Sisler smiled as he studied the man who hadn’t changed all that much since he last saw him. What he did remember for the most part was the little over seven years he worked at the church and Pastor Bob Elberg wasn’t a bad guy and had appreciated all that he had done for Aaron.

“It’s been about two years almost three I guess since I have been here, Pastor Elberg.” The office looked freshly painted he noted as he took stock of the bookshelves and all the man’s books; certainly liked his books.

“You seemed to have simply left without telling anyone, Aaron…” The man seemed honestly hurt by his sudden disappearance from the church. “One minute you seemed there for a long time and then people noticed you had not shown up at all…”

Actually he thought it was a little more gradual than that but remained silent on that point. It had taken a few months of coming and going and then coming even less and then just not going, but that too he kept to himself for the moment.

“…Why did you leave like you did, Aaron?” The man seemed to have a genuine concern for the answer he was going to give, “I mean you were liked by so many, we liked your job you did here, Aaron…”

Aaron had a slightly different opinion on all this but he had decided to be diplomatic about it, “Well, Pastor Elberg, the job itself was just fine and it was. I didn’t mind my job…” He knew he was being slightly repetitive, “The job wasn’t so bad.” For a janitorial job it wasn’t too bad.

The older man smiled a bit at that news, “We’re sorry we lost you as an employee, Aaron. It was quite a surprise when you quit when you did.”

Aaron wondered about that statement.

He was still talking, “It seemed rather sudden that you walked into my office and announced you were to stop working for us. It was rather unpleasant and sudden that you announced to me you no longer wanted to work for us, Aaron. Excuse my repeating myself, but it was sudden and I am still not sure I understand the reasons….” The jovial mood slipped a bit, “I excepted your reasons because at the time I felt it wasn’t worth pressing the issue too much. You had your reasons as you said then and I respected them, but I didn’t expect you to also suddenly and simply leave the church all together, Aaron.”

Aaron had run into the man while wasting time at the bookstore a week or so ago. It was a friendly meeting as they chatted a bit at the cafe’s upper level. They eventually agreed to have this present meeting in the man’s office. He had been in the used book section of the large bookstore when he heard a voice say hello and found himself in small talk with his ex-pastor from Grace Evangelical Church in Maplewood. He could tell the man was surprised and pleased to have run into their ex-janitor but refrained from asking too many pointed questions. They sat about thirty minutes at one of the tables talking, not actually asking what one wanted to ask, and Aaron wondering when Pastor Elberg was going to ask questions he didn’t want to answer. The older man seemed to want to respect the silence of those years he stopped going to his church but did eventually ask for a nice chat at his office the following week; Aaron agreed to come. No reason to be rude about it Aaron thought, no reason at all to not at least talk to the man. Well, he hoped so he thought as he continued to look about the used books once the man had left. He returned to his table and started reading his book wondering if it had been a good idea after all. He did wonder what the man would have thought if he had seen the book title he found to read, ‘The Book Of Enoch.” Well, it was mentioned in the Book of Jude he would have told the man. Did it matter? He sipped his hot chocolate in relative peace and quiet as he read his book.

Pastor Elberg was still commenting, “It’s been a few years since our last real talk, so please, Aaron, tell me the real reason you stopped working for us and why you left?” The lightly trimmed bearded face was still friendly, but the eyes seemed to speak a different tone of thought, “You said it was just time to move on. To find a new job you said. Hope you found one?”

“I did. I work at the bookstore.”

He smiled, “Good, good, but I really want a truthful answer to why you really left? Why you quit? You seemed to simply stop coming to church over-night…”

Aaron of course remembered it differently; very differently. “I told you, Pastor Elberg, it was time to move on and find something else to do with my life. I needed a change….”

The hand waved dismissively, “No, Aaron, I think there was more to it than that.” He leaned back in the high back chair, “I want the real story, Aaron.”

He took notice of the tone, “Pastor Elberg, I did tell you the main reason I left the custodial job here at church. Isn’t that enough?” Sure there was more too it thought Aaron as there generally is when you simply quit a job. But was this really the right time to discuss it? Well, it wasn’t like he didn’t know it was going to be brought up when he agreed to meet up with the man.

Pastor Elberg was still talking with the same tone, “To be blunt and honest with you, Aaron, I always got the impression you were protecting someone here at church. Am I correct?”

He was briefly taken back but regained himself, “Who? Whom would I be protecting?”

“That’s what I am asking of you, why did you really leave so suddenly?” The voice seemed to ignore the jovial look he was giving Aaron, “I’m not expecting you to confess some sin if there be any but I do and some others as well have wondered if maybe you left to protect someone. It’s a fair question, Aaron.” He tapped his pen he was holding on the book that lay open next to his well-read Bible. He seemed to also notice that his tone was not helping the moment, “I am simply trying to understand something that I am not the only one who didn’t understand when it happened. You say you left because it was time to find another job. Okay, Aaron, I believe that is part of the story, but one must remember that people talk and you know what that generally creates.”

“Yes, I am aware.” but adding again, “But I did tell you the main reason I quit, Pastor Elberg, I really did. I needed a break, I needed a change of job…” It was too obvious the pastor was still having his doubts but Aaron continued, “I’ve told you all there is to know, Pastor Elberg, I left because it was time to move on. It was simply time to go do something else…” He was of course repeating himself as it seemed he had too with the way the fifty-seven year old pastor was looking at him. The man was fishing for an answer that didn’t exist as far as Aaron was concerned. Well, he was looking for an answer to the wrong question? Yes, that may be more accurate thought Aaron as he continued, Pastor Elberg was asking the wrong question. “I simply felt it was time to move on and find a different job…”

Pastor Elberg leaned back a bit in his high back chair with a gentle patient smile, he softly tapped the open Bible on his desk with the pen he was still holding, “Let me be blunt then and please except this question as a pastor concerned for someone who was once a member of good standing in this church…”

Aaron nodded.

“….Does any of your reasons for leaving this church have anything to do with Grace Larsen…” The look changed a bit, “Not even her mother?”

He forced himself to not react just because laughing might have been taken wrong, “Is that the gossip that’s still going around?”  He wanted to laugh he really did and he wanted to make a joke of it but the man across from him was being serious. He was about to continue when he could see the man about to continue his own questions?

The features remained patient, “You leaving and the Larsen’s leaving about the same time, Aaron, gave a few a moment of questioning if there was a like to you two. You can’t really blame people thinking they were linked somehow as it is common knowledge you and Grace’s mother…”

“Lydia.” He said it because he felt the man didn’t want to say it.

Pastor Elberg was still talking, “…Yes, Lydia Larsen and her daughter left about the same time you left. It just seems that much can or could be made of that by some in this church…”

“Gossip, Pastor Elberg, is unhealthy for a church.”

The hand went up, the smile remained, “I am not saying I listened to the gossip. This is why I am asking the questions one on one, Aaron. I am simply trying to find the truth of the matter of even the gossip that did go about the church. But you must admit you and her were rather close friends with them and her daughter…”

“Grace Marie Larsen, yes” He said the whole name for a reason.

“Yes, the young girl was how old?”

He wanted to ask the obvious but he figured it would come up eventually, “I guess we did leave about the same time, I really never thought too much about that, Pastor Elberg…” That was mostly true Aaron told himself but true enough for the moment, “I told you my major reasons for leaving and that has not changed all that much.”

The pen had been tapping the Bible for a while and finally stopped, “I think there is a lot more to it than what you are telling me, Aaron…” The look never changed, “Aaron, I have not ceased being your friend. You have done nothing that I am aware of to make me question your Christian faith or integrity…”

Grace Marie had just turned fourteen last month; he had been invited to the party at Grace’s request to her mom. He wasn’t going to say no to the pretty blonde girl who had on Wednesday’s helped him clean up the building while she waited for her older sister, Sophie, to be done with her junior youth group. But somewhere early on he and the future ballerina prima donna became friends. Her tagging along while he busied himself cleaning the building and letting her help when the mood struck her to be helpful and not be a typical nine or ten year old girl wanting to have fun more often than not. But the friendship developed that when they did leave the church he felt the vacuum of her obscence. So of course he noticed when the Larsen’s left. One gets use to certain routines and people being part of those routines; certainly on Wednesday. He got very use to  all that blonde hair, light blues eyes, and smile of a cheerful kid having a good time somehow while mopping a floor in the wrong direction; mop in front while she walked forward? Or spraying so much window cleaner it became apparent it was more fun to spray the windows than clean them or write one’s name on the glass doors with the cleaner; not a lot of cleaning was really accomplished but she had fun. Maybe that was the point of why he didn’t mind her constant presence. Grace was never dull and she simply wanted to create memories as she once said as he pushed her speeding down the hallway downstairs while she sat in the empty trash can laughing as they went. Yes, he missed her, the job had lost a chunk of why it was worth doing let alone putting up with. He knew for the most part he had been ignoring the man sitting across from him still talking about the rumors he had heard and Aaron had eventually heard about from others. Oh, he heard some of the rumors even before he left; he hoped the man sitting across from him didn’t believe in them.

Pastor Elberg was almost finished, “…Aaron, I am just stating what has been going around since you left and I am giving you the opportunity to set the record straight. I am being fair I believe to all involved…”

“I appreciate that.” Which he did even if it was based on nothing. He studied the man’s expression of friendship because it was obvious he was trying to be just that, fair to Aaron. The man had always been fair thought Aaron.

“…So I will ask again, does any of your leaving have to do with the larsen’s at all?”

“Again, Pastor Elberg, it has nothing to do with them. It really doesn’t…”

Aaron excepted the fact that the man was stuck on the question, “Her daughter…”

“Grace.”

He smiled politely, “It was seen quit often that she was hanging around with you…”

“She liked to help me on Wednesdays. It gave her something to do while waiting for her older sister to be done with her youth group….”

“Where was her mother?”

He wanted to laugh, he really did, “Generally, Lydia was sitting near the gym. It has chairs so she sat there reading mostly…” One or more of the parent’s sat there as well. “It’s where the youth rooms are located so she sat there reading her Bible…”

“And her daughter? How old was she?”

“Not sure, about ten I think, maybe nine. You’d have ask her as she claims it was eight but I am not even sure I was here yet, but, Grace remembers it that way.” He continued to be polite, “She was generally with me or if one of her friends were about with them…” He could see the interruption coming in those eyes staring back at him, “It was usually Melissa…” The interruption came as predicted.

“Melissa, my niece Melissa?”

The tone seemed to change a bit thought Aaron and not pleasantly, “That would be her as they were the same age and in the same class if I remember correctly. They always seemed to be together so they hung around each other. I actually had both of them at times doing something with helping me…” Two very different personalities if he remembered correctly. “….One wanting to mop more than the other, mostly Grace enjoyed the mopping, I think she enjoyed making a mess so she could clean up the mess with the mop she just made…” He really wanted to smile at the pleasant memory but the look the man was slowly giving him was too bothersome, “But they enjoyed themselves and that was all that mattered to me. I didn’t mind having to go back over the same floor again once they left and did something else. Which they usually did after a few minutes of helping…” He took notice of the photo’s on his desk; one of a smiling about ten year old Melissa. “They seemed to get along quit well.”

“But why wasn’t she with her mother?”

“Her mom didn’t mind her hanging around me and I kept her out of trouble by letting her help. Grace liked to help in her own way….”

The fishing continued, “I’m simply trying to get all the facts…”

“What facts? Nothing happened to search out. Grace simply liked hanging around me while I worked, she liked to help out, and her mom didn’t mind. She wasn’t concerned and told me as much…”

“People just seemed to notice the relationship between you and her mother and her daughter, it troubled people, Aaron. That is what I am trying to get across with this meeting….”

Aaron was trying to remain polite, was there a reason not to be? He wasn’t clueless of what the man was implying; he had of course heard it before. Kids for the most part always seemed to gravitate being around him he had noticed from the last church he worked at some odd twenty years ago; he never understood why. Well, he partly didn’t understand why. He could feel the man’s eyes trying to read his thoughts. “I understand full well, Pastor Elberg, was you’re implying, but you and those who spread those rumors are wrong and should be ashamed of themselves for thinking it. I get along with kids because I simply chose to get along with them and in due course I get along with their parents. Which is how it’s suppose to work in a church environment last time I checked my Bible.” He wanted to so badly to get up but not to leave but to vent, “I’m sure some parent’s went to Lydia and asked about it. She told me so. She also told me that she trusted me far more than some of the people in this church and I have never let her down in that trust. Grace was not a kid who hide her emotions well, if she was happy she was happy and didn’t hide it. Same thing with being unhappy, she would have made a terrible poker player…” He could again see the interruption coming, “I told you why I left the first time we had this conversation. To be blunt, I heard the rumors as well that were being spread and I simply went about my job and life at this church. I didn’t change toward anyone…” He noted that the man was tapping lightly his Bible with his pen, “I liked the Larsen’s. They were my friends from day one of showing up here. They went out of their way to befriend me…”

“Well, we are the Church family….”

He smiled softly in frustration he didn’t hide well, “Would you like to know why the Larsen’s left, Pastor Elberg?”

The facial expression tightened a bit at that comment, the pen stopped tapping the open Bible, he pushed the dark rimmed glasses up his nose, “Continue, please.”

Well, thought Aaron, let’s enter the circus maximus, “You said the Church was family?”

The smile came, “Well, it’s true, the Church of Christ is family…”

“No, it’s not really.”

He responded as Aaron knew he would, “What do you mean no it’s not?” He was defensive of course, “The Church of Jesus Christ is family. It’s not just another family for believers, it’s the only real family that all believers belong to, Aaron…”

His tone wasn’t going to change, “That is not what what Mrs. Larsen felt or saw…” He had to say it, if it had to said Aaron and it might as well be now, “And neither did I, Pastor Elberg, neither did I after a while.” He wasn’t sure if the man was shocked and offended, “I after a while took notice that the idea that we are a family that simply that acted more like distant relatives that met once or twice a week and that was about it…”

The hand went up, “Explain that statement please, Aaron.”

The tone was there he thought as he knew it would be once the real conversation began, “Pastor Elberg, not to offend you or this church in general, but the Church of Jesus Christ is not a family…”

Again the hand went up, “Hold on, Aaron, I strongly disagree with you. Since I have been in this church the membership rolls have gone up quit well. We’ve increased in programs…”

“That’s not family, Pastor Elberg, that’s the signs of a business. The church is and has become a business…” Adding as he noted the look in the mans face, “It’s a word that means nothing when you say that the church is family. It’s not.”

The friendly look was completely gone, “Aaron, did you ever really give this church a chance, did you?”

He knew it was coming at some point, “I gave this church seven years of my life, Pastor Elberg, seven years of my life I involved myself in this church. I worked here for seven years… I was part of ministries…”

“I repeat, did you give this church a real chance, Aaron? It sounds like to me that you didn’t really give it a chance to prove just how much we are a family in Christ…”

He wanted to respond with some diplomacy, “I gave it seven years.” Sounded very Biblical to Aaron. Didn’t Jacob work seven years for something but at least he got what he wanted; the second time anyway. He could see the man was getting somewhat frustrated, “I suppose and to simply state it, I simply stopped believing that we were family. What we are is a bunch of people agreeing to get along for a couple of hours on one or two days out of the week and not much else….”

“I don’t understand.”

He probably didn’t thought Aaron, “Once we leave this building we seem to act as if what happens outside this building is not any business of the Church family and know one has any business asking or even coming over unless invited and even then they better not even think about being part of life outside this building.” Looking at the man with all seriousness, “That is what I started realizing and encountering more and more…”

The hand went up again, the other hand tapped the open Bible, “I think you are being very harsh and a little judgmental of the Church family here, Aaron. Very judgmental.” The look never stopped looking at him as if he simply wanted Aaron to agree with him, “Don’t you think you are being a little harsh on us…”

“Am I?”

Still defensive, “Yes, we did give you a job when you needed one, Aaron, did we not?”

Nodding slightly, “Very true and I have always been grateful.” Which he was grateful as it got him out of being stuck at Bethel House for over 645 days of homelessness and frustration. They gave him a job and he didn’t mind the job though he had once sworn rather unpleasantly and to be honest rather blasphemously that he would never work for a church again or even attend one. Well, a lot happened between that church and where he was sitting at the moment.

“….This church has been nothing but friendly and welcoming to you, Aaron. We gave you a job…”

He said it several times thought Aaron, “Yes, you gave me a job that got me out of Bethel House, and I was and am still grateful. But, Pastor Elberg, it still doesn’t change the fact that the Church of Christ has become a business and not much else…” The interruption was coming again, the pen was tapping the Bible, “I left as I said for the reason I gave, I needed to move on because the job was getting, well, getting old….as I said, I needed something else to do.” Which was true.

“I still think you are leaving a lot out, Aaron.”

He wanted to smile, “I am but it’s for the best I think.” He wanted to stand up, he felt cramped in the chair, another headache was beginning, “Pastor Elberg, I left for my reasons and I told you the important one. And the Larsen’s have nothing to do with it.”

“I simply am not understanding any of this, Aaron. You blame the church for what? Not measuring up to some standard you think it owes you?”

He knew the defensiveness was going to come, human nature was predictable Aaron thought as he rubbed his growing aching head; another migraine on the way. “I started realizing I was trying awfully hard to simply be part of people’s life. It was becoming a chore, a simple chore not worth attempting after a while to simply be part of people’s lives when not in this building, Pastor Elberg. One shouldn’t have to work that hard to simply be part of a family, should it?”

Slowly responding with a nod, “True, Aaron.”

“That’s one reason why the Larsen’s left. One reason I finally left. The church has become a business or worse yet a community center where no one actually knows anyone except within it’s walls because it’s the only place we allow anyone into our lives…” He could see the protest coming, “We are no more family than any other family of non-believers, Pastor Elberg, we are just a collection of people agreeing to meet up every couple of days and then move on with our separate lives. We have all these programs, I know because I was part of some of them, but it never really meant a connection except in this building but outside it? We might as well be strangers to each other…”

“I think you’re being unfair, Aaron.” He didn’t even sound like he agreed with his own statement, “We the Church of Jesus Christ are a family. We are here for each other, we are to love and support and pray for one another. We are brothers and sisters in Christ as a family….”

“It’s the F word that means nothing, Pastor Elberg, it means nothing at all.”

“I disagree with that statement, Aaron. This church is doing very well and growing. Our ministries are growing and doing well. I have seen no sign of what you are describing.”

He forced a slight smile, “Pastor Elberg, it may be growing but is anyone really getting to know anyone outside this building?”

The man frowned a bit, “I think we are doing just fine, Aaron. I think you are being unfair to this church.”

“You asked me why I left, I gave you the other answer.” The pounding was getting worse, “You asked me for another answer to your question, I gave it to you. It wasn’t what you wanted to hear….”

“I just think there is more to it than what you are telling me.”

“I left for a new start, I left because I got tired of having to try and connect to people in the Church of Christ who keep telling me that we are a family. We’re not a family, we are better described as distant relatives who agree to get along when visiting each other…”

The pen snapped at the Bible, “Aaron, I think you expected too much of the church, you were disappointed, you blame the church that tried to help you, and simply are venting at God for something you didn’t find here…”

He stood up with a pounding head, he forced a tired smile, “Pastor Elberg, do you know what I have been doing since I left?”

“No, of course I don’t know.”

“No, you wouldn’t because since I left not one person has sough me out to see what became of me. Not one. I didn’t realize or maybe I did that I would be so easily forgotten and simply people would move on with their all important church lives…” He felt a bit dizzy for a second, but it passed, “Pastor Elberg, was it that easy?”

Uneasy, not liking his tone, “I am busy, Aaron, I have a church to run….”

“Yes, a church to run. That’s my point, its been my whole point. The Church of Jesus Christ has become a business model for the Christian life. Work stays at work and the rest of our lives are our own without other Christians getting involved behind our closed doors…”

“You’re being unfair to me and this body of the church that opened it’s doors to you, Aaron. We gave you a job…”

“And as I said, I am and was grateful. But that doesn’t change my view that I seemed to have to work awfully hard to be part of people’s lives outside this building. I noticed that I really knew a lot of people in this church, Pastor Elberg, but I wasn’t really part of their lives outside  of it at all….” He was leaning heavily on the chair, he knew he didn’t look well as his headed pounded, “I began to realize that in fact I really didn’t know anyone outside this place and those I did know the interaction was far and in-between where no real connection seemed to have been made at all really…” He could see the man trying to remain polite, trying to understand but failing, “I am simply stating why I left, one reason I left anyway…”

The voice was calm as he took notice of the pained look in the man’s face, “You don’t look well, Aaron, sit back down, please…”

“I’ll be fine, Pastor Elberg, it’s just a minor headache, been getting them a lot lately. I should go to the doctor I know, I’m a lousy patient and just haven’t found the time to go…”

“Then at least sit back down, please, can I get you something?”

He forced a smile, “My faith back.” He sat back down but of course felt no better, “Can you give me back my faith in the Church of Christ, Pastor Elberg?”

He was taken back a bit, “You’re faith should be in Christ, Aaron, not people in the church…”

He studied the man as his head pounded away, “Yes, of course, which absolves the church of it’s duty and responsibility to each other? Is that how it works? Because I am beginning to believe that the Church of Christ is a failed and lost cause…” Maybe it was the pounding in his damn head that was now talking but he felt it was better to say it now than later; there may not be a later? He was also not going to let the man interrupt him again, “Pastor Elberg, let me finish, please, let me finish what I have to said. You can either agree or disagree all you want, but I am trying to tell you the problem as I have seen it..”

He nodded in agreement.

“I am simply telling you that I have lost my faith in the church.” He forced himself to be kind in the remark because he really wanted to scream it through his headache. But that would accomplish nothing and he wanted to accomplish what he came to do. “Pastor Elberg, I simply left as I told you because it was time to move on to another job. That was true…” At least he wasn’t throwing up yet he forced a bad joke on himself; last time he threw up at work when the migraine attack occurred, “I lost faith in the church when it seemed to me that I had to work very hard to simply be part of people’s lives outside this building…”

“Did not church members invite you to their homes at all?”

“I admit people did but it was so infrequent it might as well been not at all to my thinking. If we claim to be family, we should be fellowshipping more than just on Christmas and Easter. Shouldn’t we?” He didn’t wait for an answer, “I am not trying to sound like I am attacking anyone let alone the entire church, but I simply got tired of trying so hard to simply be part of people’s lives who in the same breath sing that we are all one in Christ and we are a family.”

“I simply think you are being a little harsh with people here. People do have lives outside this church and do have families to take care of…”

He ran a hand through his hair, rubbed his hurting eyes, “Is that also how we absolve each other from what Christ commanded us to do toward one another. Sorry, we are all busy so get as much out of knowing me while at church but don’t interject yourself into my non-church life? Is that how it works? Because that’s why the Larsen’s left. That’s why I left….” He could see the expression in the features changing to impatience again, “I simply got tired of trying, Pastor Elberg, and realized that it this building is a business or at worse a community center and not much more….” The pounding was simply being a steady thump in his head, he really needed to go lie down, he could see the man was uncomfortable with everything he was saying, “I know this church gave me a job, gave me a new start on life after I lost everything and ended up in Bethel House. And I do appreciate it, I really do. I spent 645 days in that place and working here got me out of that place. I appreciate that. But it doesn’t change the fact I simply lost faith that the church is anything but a business model for the Christian life. I simply got tired of trying…”

The interruption came with a blunt tone, “Maybe you expected too much of the church, Aaron. What did you expect from the church? Sounds like you had too many expectations of the church and what the church can and will do for you…”

He rubbed his eyes, he needed to lie down, but he was determined to get through this conversation, “I simply expected the church to be the church that Christ commanded to love, pray, be there for one another…”

“You sound like you wanted the church to take care of you, Aaron. You wanted us to cuddle you?”

He sensed the change of tone,  he got up again, studied the man who looked back unmoved, “I simply wanted to feel part of the Church of Christ as the Bible states…I simply wanted the church to be the people they claim to be…What I expected from the church was that the church when it preaches, teaches, and proclaims that we are family didn’t act as if the request was sinful if it involved anything outside the life of this building…” He noted the pen tapping the open Bible again, “I simply wanted the church to be and act what He, Jesus Christ, taught…”

“I preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Aaron, and I think you simply had too high of expectations of the church. People have lives and families and jobs outside this church, what did you expect people to do? Simply shut down their lives so you can what?”

He rubbed his eyes again more out of habit than pain that was a steady pain behind his eyes, he looked about the room full of shelves with books on them, pictures of kids and grand kids, a few diplomas dotted the wall behind the man staring back, it was the office of a busy man with a busy church.

“I think you simply had too high of expectations of people at church, Aaron. People have lives outside this building as you call it. Do you really expect people to put their lives on hold just for you? We have Christ-loving people in this church, Aaron, and you seem to be judging them and condemning them and I feel that is unfair of you.”

Softly, knowing he really needed to go and lie down, “I simply wanted to feel that we were family as you like to preach, Pastor Elberg, not an afterthought as it seems to be the philosophy of the church…” He leaned again against the chair, “I simply wanted the church to be the church that it claimed to be…”

“We are, Aaron.”

He forced a awkward smile in painful defeat, “Okay, I had too high of expectations, Pastor Elberg…” He headed toward the door, opened it and stood there a bit looking at the man fighting the headache and the urge to say anything more and the man stared back with a look that deeply troubled Aaron, “I promise to never have them again…” He wanted to add something kind or at least not leave in such a state of unpleasantness but he felt he might say something else he might regret or not regret. He left the room as he noted the conflict in the man as well.

He walked away and never went back.

Commentary On The Book Of Jude.

cropped-12301412301.jpg“Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called: mercy unto you, and peace, and love, be multiplied.” (Jude 1:1).

The basic’s is this for the writing of this very short epistle to believers in Jesus Christ, the defense of the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Always remember thought the author as he penned the letter, God’s people may at times forget the value and importance of truth and it’s defense, the Devil never forgets. The Devil is the constant enemy of the truth of the Scriptures from Genesis 3:1-7 to the very day Jude penned his short letter. As the Apostle Peter penned in his own first epistle, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” (I Peter 5:8). The enemy is never asleep not does he ignore the spreading of the truth of the Word of God. The story of the Fall of humanity into sin and rebellion is the story of the beginning of the devil’s war on and against the truth; he is the father of lies and corruption. The devil is not here to point to the best way to live a godly life. He’s here to destroy, corrupt, twist, and simply lie to the very core of his being about God’s Word. This was the purpose of this short epistle to the Christians he wrote for and was encouraging to defend the truth. The disciples of the devil and his doctrine had infiltrated the church, they were showing themselves to be shepherds of the truth and preachers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But the truth of their hearts and motives were becoming known by their words and actions. They were wolves in the Church of Christ and preaching heresy, they were truly apostates in all meaning of that word and action. They confessed Christ, but it was not the Christ who walked the Earth and preached and taught the Word of God as the absolute truth.

The false teachers were nothing new for the Church of Christ to deal with. They began the moment Jesus showed up and announced His message. His name was Judas Iscariot. The other names to remember on that long list down through the history of Church of Christ, Simon Magus, (Acts 8:9-24), Elymas, (Acts 12:6-12), Hymenaeus, (I Timothy 1:20, II Timothy 2:17), Alexander, (I Timothy 1:20, II Timothy 4:14), and Diotrephes, (III John I:9). These are just a few names that are recorded for our benefit to understand that truth will always be under attack. The story of Ananias and Sapphira, (Acts 5: 1-11), is a good case for what happens when you threatened the truth and unity of the Gospel in Christ. These corruptors and twisters of truth were as recorded by the Apostle Paul, “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause  divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and  by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.” (Romans 16:17-18). The Apostle Paul continued in the same defense to the Church at Corinth, “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And marvel not: for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.” (II Corinthians 11: 13-14). The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy in Ephesus, “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness. He is  proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questioning and strife’s of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmising’s, Perverse disputing’s of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness; from such withdraw thyself.” (I Timothy 6:3-5). The Apostle Peter spoke on the threat, “And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceiving’s while they feast with you. Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children. Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness.” (II Peter 2: 13-15). Jesus warned the Church via the twelve, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then I profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6: 46). Strong language from the very Word of God who brought the universe into being. (John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:15-18; II Corinthians 4:4).

The New Testament throughout it’s pages from the beginning to the end warns about the threat and corruptive influence of false and apostate teachers in the Church of Christ. The Apostle’s Peter, John and Paul warned over and over in their letters of the threat of the false teacher’s and their doctrines of devils and worldly philosophies. This was the reason for Jude to sit down and pen his own warning against false teachers who had entered the church and spread their false and corruptive influence upon the Church of Christ. Jude condemns all false and compromising teaching. He pleads his case for doctrinal purity and defending the faith given to them by Jesus Christ and the Apostles. In our Postmodern world and cultures where truth is only your truth and not for everyone is highly praised as being tolerant and open-minded, Jude condemns it as a threat to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Word of God. The Apostle Paul warned his young pastor Timothy in Ephesus, “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the later times, some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron.” (I Timothy 4:1-2). The Apostles Peter and John warned about such false teachers in II Peter 2: I John 4:1-3, 2 John 1:7; Revelations 2:14-15, 20-24). Jude’s letter is a direct and forceful condemnation of the false teachers and leaders who had infiltrated the Church with their Gospel of some of Jesus Christ that was not the Gospel that was preached by the Apostles let alone by Christ Himself.

As Thomas R. Schreiner notes, ‘(Jude’s) message of judgment is especially relevant to people today, for our churches are prone to sentimentality, suffer from moral breakdown, and too often fail to pronounce a definitive word of judgment because of an inadequate definition of love. Jude’s letter reminds us that errant teaching and dissolute living have dire consequences.’ (1, 2 Peter, Jude, The New American Commentary, Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2003, pg 403-404).

Jude 1:3, “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ya should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” Questions arise then what was this faith once delivered to the saints? What is the common salvation? What and how do we contend for this faith? What is the faith of the Christian grounded upon and in whom are we to have faith in? The answer of course is in Jesus Christ and the Gospel He proclaimed and the Apostles preached and the Apostle Paul preached and wrote about. The common salvation was and is and will always be faith in Christ and Christ alone. What was delivered to the saints but the Gospel of Jesus Christ and Him crucified and His resurrection  from the dead. What did the Apostle Paul write to the Galatians, “I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20). He also wrote, “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed that henceforth we should not serve sin.” (Romans 6:6). He also wrote, “For I am determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” (I Corinthians 2:2). The preaching of the cross of Christ is the message of the Gospel that Christ was crucified for the sins of the world and His resurrection proclaimed who He was. Jesus Christ, the Jewish Messiah, was crucified for the sins of the world. That was why He came and why He was sent to the cross and the reason why the Apostle Paul preached so strongly on the subject and what Jude was warning his fellow Christians against forgetting.

The faith once delivered to the saints? Simply put, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast. For me are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:8-10). The faith received and contended for is Christ and Christ alone. As the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy at Ephesus, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (II Timothy 2:15). Timothy would eventually be killed for contending for the faith as Paul preached by an angry mob in Ephesus. Timothy would give his life for preaching Christ and Him crucified by showing himself a true and faithful servant unto death. Why so much pushing and pointing to the cross and the death of Jesus Christ? Again the Apostle Paul answers the question, “The preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness, but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” (I Corinthians 1:18). Why such strong language about the cross of Christ? Paul’s letter to the Church at Rome, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ; for it is power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16). The cross of Christ is the central message of the Book of Jude. He reminded those hie wrote to the power of the faith and testimony that the apostles preached among them and what they must defend as those who heard the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The foundation of the Christian faith stands or falls on the message of the cross and Christ crucified.

Jude 1:4-8. “For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterwards destroyed them that believed not. And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, He hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the day of judgment of the great day. Even as Sodom and Gomorha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominions, and speak evil of dignitaries.”

To quote from John MacArthur’s own commentary on Jude, “Sound doctrine is under siege. In fact, it always has been.” (The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: 2Peter & Jude, Pg. 157). From the Garden of Eden truth has been under attack, (Genesis 3:1-6). The Devil has been at war with truth since he uttered the first lie in the universe; he is after all the father of lies, (John 8:44). He is constantly attacking the truth of God and of His very word, (Acts 20:29-30; Ephesians 6:10-18). His tactics is distortion, deluding, destruction, and questioning the very idea that God meant what He said or will do. He is never not about his own business of corrupting the truth. As the Apostle Peter wrote, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” (I Peter 5:8).  That is the enemy that the Christian is fighting and is to be always fighting on a daily basis for the truth. The truth is all important; the devil likes compromise. The Christian is mandated to stand up for the truth and defend the truth against the attacks of the devil and those in league with him and his desires to destroy all truth. Jude certainly and completely knew and saw what was at stake with his call for the defense of the Gospel given to them via the apostles. The letter he wrote was a battle cry to stand up and stand firm in the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His Word. He understood what the Apostle Paul understood and wrote about to the Church at Ephesus, “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” (Ephesians 6:11-13).

Both men understood the enemy. Both men spent their lives defending and declaring the truth and who the enemy was of that truth. Jude wrote about the false teachers who were already in the church and preaching a different Gospel than the one he or the other Apostles preached. The Apostle Paul warned the churches of Galatia, “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from Him that called you unto the grace of Christ unto another gospel. Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the Gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before , I say now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:6-9). Very strong language from the Apostle Paul against those who would preach any other Gospel of Jesus Christ other than the one he preached and proclaimed at the threat of his own life. That is how important the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ was to the early church preachers and teachers. The letter Jude wrote was a call to defense against the early stages of the Gnostic doctrines of these false teachers and a call to defend against the teachings of Nicolaitanism which perverted grace and advocated immoral behavior, (Revelations 2: 6, 15). The New Testament author’s repeatedly throughout the Gospels, Epistles, and Pastoral letters warnings and the dangers from within and without to the faith given to them by the apostles, (Acts 20:28-32; II Corinthians 11:12-15; Galatians 1:6-9, 3:1-3; Colossians 2:8, 18-19; II Peter 2; I John 2:9-11, 18-22, 4:1-6; II John 7-11).

Jude 1:9-13. “Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee. But these speak evil of those things which they know not; but what they naturally as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves. Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core. These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without water; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots. Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame, wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.”

Jude fully saw and realized the great and coming danger that the apostates posed to the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ let alone the truth of Scripture. Jude wrote to shout a warning and a battle cry to the true followers of the Gospel to ‘contend earnestly for the faith,’ (Jude 1:3a), he pointed out to battle for the pure and holy doctrine of ‘our common salvation’ against those who changed or distorted the Gospel and ‘crept in unnoticed’ (Jude 1:4), and a battle cry to see and recognize their false teaching before they cause the true Gospel of Jesus Christ turned into another heretical religion of gnostic thought. The short letter was to reveal and expose the face of the apostasy in the church. These apostates were so ungodly and so spiritually corrupts that the author used the most direct and condemnatory use of language he could use to explain the purpose of his letter. Jude in his short but to the Gospel defense point of the Gospel of Jesus Christ listed three characteristics of the heresy of the apostates in the church and three examples to past apostates, and to five comparisons to natural events. Let’s go back to Jude 1:8. This is a transitional point of the letter of Jude. The rule of thumb for apostates is their typical in ungodly behavior and character traits; just like the apostate Israelite’s, the fallen angels, and the perversions of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. The vile and evil nature, works, and teachings of these men are often from their dreaming; this term that the author uses to identify the apostates as phony visionaries let alone teachers of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. These are teachers of false dreams and visions that puff up the teacher and corrupt the understanding of the listener. They were the preachers of the itching ears and willing to believe whatever doctrine that allowed them to not have to repent or change their lives. The heresy of the preachers of a corrupt version of the Gospel of Jesus Christ was the warning of this very short epistle.

Jude 1:8-10. Let me repeat a point of this letter of Jude. It’s a transitional moment in this letter. False teachers will always show their true lives by their ungodly traits. They follow the traits of all those who corrupt the truth of Scripture as shown by the history of the Israelite’s who abandoned God’s word, of the fallen angels who rebelled against the sovereignty of their Creator, and of the corrupting of the natural flesh of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. These men that Jude writes about have corrupted their lives via their wicked dreaming. Jude is pointing out who these ungodly and false visionaries are to his readers that they are dealing with false teachers who are claiming that their authority is the truth from God. These false teachers claim ‘new’ divine truths and revelations but in fact they are preaching against the truth of Christ. Stand up and against these false and wicked preachers and teachers of a truth they have rejected for their own glorification. Stand up against these false teachers of lies and distortions of the message of Christ and His message. False and heretical teachers such as Joseph Smith, (1805-1844), founder of the false and corrupted religion of Mormonism would fall under this epistles attack against ungodliness. The Book of Mormon claims to be another Gospel of Jesus Christ, what did the Apostle Paul write about such preaching, writing to the church’s in Galatia, “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another Gospel. Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the Gospel of Christ. But though, we or an angel from heaven, preach any other Gospel unto you that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so I say I now again, If any man preach any other Gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:6-9).

Joseph Smith fits the very definition of apostate and corrupter of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. Read the story of Joseph Smith, see what his theology of corruption has created in a church that is not the truth of the message that Jesus Christ taught the early church let alone what the apostles taught; certainly not what the Apostle Paul preached and wrote. The entire Book of Galatians condemns the entire Book of Mormon let alone it’s theology of works for salvation, and their teaching against the Godhood of Jesus Christ. This is what Jude was warning about. This is the warning that the Apostle Paul warned about to the Colossians,, “Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshiping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind.” (Colossians 2:18). What is Paul’s admonition to the Church of Jesus Christ, “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom. Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” (I Timothy 4:1-2). Also to Timothy, “Study to thew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (I Timothy 2:15). What are these men of the Gospel of Jesus Christ admonishing us to do but to defend against error and false teaching. What are we defending but the truth of Scripture, what is Scripture? The Apostle Paul answers the question via the Holy Spirit, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” (I Timothy 3:16-17).

Jude 14-16. “And Enoch also the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousand of his saints. To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him. These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts, and their mouths speaketh great swelling words, having men’s person in admiration because of advantage.”

Modern Western Culture and Society has no room anymore for the concept of judgement and of the doctrine of hell as the final place for the ungodly. It’s the new age of tolerance and complete acceptance of whatever lifestyle one wants. Eternal and final punishment for the ungodly is a taboo subject even in some church’s. The Post-Modern worldview and lifestyle is that everything and everyone is good and no such thing as right  and wrong really and that there is no fear of an after-life because it’s either there or it’s not there. Live today and enjoy life for tomorrow we die and enjoy some vague after-life or rot in the grave. The Post-Modern Society philosophy is that life is your own and no one is going to judge you about anything. Tragically the political correctness of Post-Modern thought and doctrinal corruption of even the Church has caused godliness to grow and corrupt the very core of it’s beliefs; the corruption even has and is within the Evangelical Church even to the point where hell is a theological embarrassment. The Church in areas of the defense of the Scriptures have watered down basic truths such as eternal punishment in hell. God is love and they stop their with their message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the point that the message of the Bible and God’s view of judgment has been changed and altered to make Society feel better about dying and death. God’s judgement upon sin has become a secondary concern to many Church’s and it shows in the way Society behaves.

God’s Word is direct and too the point on the coming reality and truth of the judgement of the ungodly in society and their eternal future. Enoch was not the only one proclaiming and preaching against the ungodly and their possible future. Just a few verses to make the point, Genesis 6-8, 18:1-33, Deuteronomy 28:15-68, Isaiah 1:3, 5:13-23, Jeremiah 2-9, 46-51, Ezekiel 20:33-44, 25-32, Joel 3:12-16, Zechariah 12:2, 9, 14:2, Malachi 3:2-6.Matthew 12:36, 25:31-46, Luke 12:48, Acts 5:1-11, Romans 14:10-12, I Corithians 3:12-15, 5:5, II Corinthians 5:10, Galatians 6:7, Colossians 3:24-25, Revelations 6-20. The history of both kingdom’s of Judah and Israel show God and His judgement upon ungodly behavior. Sounds like judgement to me and anyone who reads scripture with eyes open and listening to the Holy Spirit. God is and will always be the final judge of human affairs. He judges with death and He judges with eternal judgement with separation from Him for all eternity. The writer’s of the New Testament is quit clear and straightforward about future judgement of the ungodly.

God is just and His justice does have a time limit. His eventual justice upon the earth does relate and pinpoint to future events. Certainly the Second Coming of Jesus Christ being a future event that should be not forgotten by the Church; though one gets the impression it is being regulated to the tail end of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Read and the Apostle Paul’s message to those hearing him at Athens, Acts 17:31, “Because He hath appointed a day in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom He hath ordained; whereof He hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead.” Other verses, Matthew 24:29-30, Romans 2:5-8, 16:2, II Peter 2:9b. God will judge the world in justice and righteousness also very public; Christ will call to account all the nations of the earth, “When the Son of Man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory. And before Him shall be gathered all nations; and He shall separate them one from another; as a shepherd divideth His sheep from the goats.” (Matthew 25:31-32). This is a judgement where no one’s sins will go unpunished who are not of His sheep. God will judge justly and impartially, Romans 2:11, Galatians 2:6. The Apostle Paul wrote much on the coming judgement of the unrepentant to the Church at Rome, Romans 1:21-31, 2:1-3. Judgement is coming for the ungodly by God who has given to His Son Jesus Christ the full authority to judge, John 5:22, 27). His warnings about judgement are just that for sinful humanity, warnings of coming eternal punishment, Exodus 20:20, II Corinthians 7:1, Hebrews 10:27, 11:7, John 19:8, Acts 24:25. The Lord Jesus Christ warned people, Matthew 10:28, “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” God’s judgement is also based on His Law, Deuteronomy 27:26, Romans 2:12, 3:19, Galatians 3:10, James 2:10. The human heart is sinful and deceitful and wicked at it’s core, Jeremiah 17:9, Romans 3:10-18, Galatians 5:19-21, Ephesians 2:1-3. We are not able to keep His perfect Law no matter how hard we try, Ecclesiastes 7:20, Romans 7:5, 8:7. We are rebellious by nature, Psalms 78:10, Isaiah 30:9, Jeremiah 9:13. Everyone violates His perfect Law, Romans 3:23, James 2:10. Basically despite what Post Modern man wants to think about himself, we are deserving of judgment, II Thessalonians 1:6-8, and the ungodly will get it. Jude wrote about the Post Modern Man as much as he did for his audience he addressed the letter to.

The Book of Enoch. The disciple and brother Jesus knew about the Book of Enoch and probably read and studied it; maybe even at the suggestion of his older brother. But the book was known for about two other years before the Epistle of Jude was penned and read and eventually placed into the canon of Scripture. This quotation from the Book of Enoch by Jude underscores the basic fact that there was an ancient prophecy from this seventh generation from Adam and makes its point that God’s final judgement was going to come upon sinful man one day. The Lord will indeed come in judgement, He will not come alone in that judgement, and He will come to execute and make known His judgement on those who deserve judgement because of their wickedness. The sinful and prideful wickedness of man was going to be judged and not allowed to continue forever. These sinful and wicked people refers to the apostates whom Jude in his epistle writes about in great condemnation. These are false visionaries , they boast about their spiritual authority as if God were impressed with them, their men of wicked ways they have no shame of, brute beasts of no morality completely ruled by their fleshy instincts and desires, Basically these are wicked and unrepentant humanity. This was Enoch’s prophecy even before the Flood of Noah. The prophecy of Enoch is not recorded in the Book of Genesis but the Holy Spirit of God who was there inspired and lead this brother of the Lord to use it in his letter, (II Timothy 3:16, II Peter 1:20-21). Jude had read Enoch somewhere within his education. (Jude used Enoch as the message of Enoch was passed down through stories and oral teaching until it was finally put into a book form to be read. Book of Enoch was not the only book Jude had knowledge of that was not part of the Old Testament canon and that he used would be ‘The Assumption Of Moses’ which is were  Jude 1:9 is quoted from).

Jude 17-23. “But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who would walk after their own ungodly lusts. These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit. But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost. Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And of some have compassion, making a difference. And others save with fear , pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.”

Jude’s short epistle comes to the point that there is one important question and stand for the believer in Jesus Christ living in the world and contending for the faith. How can the believer in Christ fight for and defend the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the age of great persecution and false teachers and those who simply corrupt the Scriptures for their own benefit. The statement is simple, how do they like ourselves apply Jude’s warning to the raging apostasy of today’s Post-Modern world view that has penetrated the even the Church? The Lord Jesus Christ’s preaching and even warnings were spoken with the full force of God’s Word, we as believers are at war with the World and it’s rulers in and of darkness. We are at war with a philosophy that preaches that broad is the way of truth and life and salvation whereas Christ preached a narrow way, “Enter ye in at the strait gate; for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat. Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14). He preached and pointed to eternal damnation and eternal life. Jesus taught His followers were at war with the kingdom of Satan as they belonged to the kingdom of God, (Matthew 13:38), we are at war with love and hate, we are at war with the worlds wisdom and philosophy of what truth and life are about. He preached absolutes, where the Post-Modern World’s philosophy is there are no absolutes in anything let alone ways to heaven; if you believe in one anyway. The modern church has become less and less about the Gospel and it’s preaching let alone defense and more about tolerance of the creeping influence of the society it’s suppose to be preaching against and fighting the war of spiritual darkness that seeks the Church’s destruction. The power of Scripture has been placed behind the all important image of the Church as being all welcoming and tolerant of those who literally wish it to change it’s faith and doctrines to make the world comfortable and feel less judged. The church is suppose to change the culture with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not with the idea that it can be changed by tolerating the worldly and carnal nature of the world and a little of the Gospel sprinkled into the message when it suits the believer and the world is not offended. The modern church seems to have forgotten what James, the other brother of the Lord, wrote in his own epistle, “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” (James 4:4). You cannot mix the Gospel with the philosophy of the world which will always be contrary to God’s Word.

To think that the modern church can be part of the worlds idea of truth let alone be part of the world’s philosophy of who and what God has written is the warning of James’s epistle let alone his younger brother Jude’s epistle. The Church’s current lack of real and in-depth discernment stems from a true failure to properly study and interpret the Scriptures as the Word of God that it is. Lazy and half-hearted, half-believed, exegetical sloppiness-carelessness-laziness, and the general belief and attitude of indifference to the God of Scripture let alone the Scriptures of God have corrupted and dragged the believer into countless errors. The church has become lazy and practically ignorant of Scripture and knows just enough to sound like they read something. What happened to the idea of searching the Scriptures like the Church at Berea in the Book of Acts, (Acts 17:11). What happened to the admonishment of the Apostle Paul that he wrote to Timothy, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (II Timothy 2:15). What happened to the idea of searching the Scriptures and finding the truth of things and defending it? What happened was that the Church simply became lazy and indifferent to defending the Gospel and the Scriptures for listening to someone else telling them what something means and should be applied to the Christian life. Spiritual maturity has become far and in-between in the modern church and replaced with listening to someone else and their thoughts and opinions on Scripture and it’s application in daily life. The Church has too many people writing books on Scripture and too many treating those books as if they were in the Bible. They know more about the books of popular Christian authors than the letters of Paul, Peter, James, and even Jude. The Church of Christ has created popular author’s from writer’s who have taken from the original authors, Jesus-Paul-Peter-James-Jude-John, their ideas and made them their own. The modern author is not Scripture but an opinion on Scripture. Jude has more to say about the modern church than any modern author will ever pen because it was inspired and written via the Holy Spirit of God to warn the Church of Christ of the dangers from the worldly corruption and ungodly influence of the Post-Modern World view that too many modern Christians think can be part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and some act as if even better than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jude’s warning is still in effect for the modern Christian.

But Jude also knew to write encouragement to those who were standing fast to the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Scriptures. He knew that most of the Church of Christ, like the Church at Berea, was studying the Scriptures for the truth of his statements like they did for the Apostle Paul. The Church of Christ is commanded to contend for the faith once delivered unto the church by the apostles and James in his letter and Jude in his. Study to shew thyself approved unto God! Study! Study! Study! Search the Scriptures and search them completely and without fear. Get to know the author of the Scriptures who will not led you into error! Jesus told the Pharisees to search the Scriptures for the truth of His own statements, “Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life; and they are they which testify of me.” (John 5:39). Jesus Himself told those who wanted to believe in Him and or His words to search the Scriptures and see for themselves the truth of His life and message. Jude, James, Peter, and the Apostle Paul constantly commanded that one be ready for a defense of what the faith given to the Church of Jesus Christ. The Church of Christ has fallen very far from this commandment and simply study just enough to get by. The Church of Christ needs to return to the study of Scripture not the works of those debating and commenting on the written Word of God. The Holy Spirit of God inspired Jude’s warning to the church of his time and the modern church of the Post-Modern Philosophy that there is no one truth, no one way, and no one life! For the Church in Jude’s time and our own, the Christian today must be ready and willing to discern and defend and even guard themselves from believing in heresy and going astray and continue walking down the path of sanctification in and by Christ alone.

Jude 1:24-25. “Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy. To the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.”

The Gospel of Jesus Christ and the very Scriptures themselves are absolutely essential, important, and building blocks of the foundation of and for the redeemed. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the doctrine of the believer’s eternal security; also known as the perseverance of the saints of Christ. The acts of the glory of the Gospel of Jesus Christ-justification, regeneration, conversion, adoption-could never be fully understood or appreciated or eternally thankful for if the idea of the complete and absolute security of salvation in Christ and Christ alone was not forever. The belief and standing firm on the foundation of the Christian life as the sole road to salvation in and by the sacrifice of Christ. The point, Christ and Christ alone is our salvation and in no other name. If our salvation was up to our own works or abilities on any level we would fail every time. If our righteousness was enough then Christ died for nothing. If our righteousness was without enough sin then Christ was crucified for nothing. If we are saved by anything that we can or could do then the entire Gospel of Jesus Christ was a lie and utterly useless for anything. We are saved by His righteousness and His alone. The Apostle Paul said it well, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death.” (Romans 7:24). The Apostle Paul understood all to well the utter useless and pitiful showing of our lives if our salvation was up to us in any way. Complete salvation is not based on our works as believers and we as believers should be very thankful that we have nothing to do with our salvation.

Our salvation is the foundation of the unchanging person of and in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” (Hebrews 13:8). What was the plan for our salvation? “For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover who He did predstinate, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified: and who He justified, them He also glorified.” (Romans 8:29-30). He promised, “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for He is faithful that promised.) What is this power of this salvation by grace, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16). What is the provision given to the believer in Christ, “For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” (II Corinthians 5:21). The Apostle Peter wrote, “Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness; by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going stray, but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.” (I Peter 2:24-25). Our salvation is in Christ and only in Christ and His righteousness and that was the warning that Jude wrote about in his short letter to the churches. The final authority of your salvation is Christ’s righteousness and He and He alone is your foundation to stand on. As the Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and not of yourselves; it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Again the Apostle Paul, For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (I Corinthians 3:11). Again to the Ephesians, “And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone.” (Ephesians 2:20). Your works has no part in the foundation of your salvation in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In conclusion. Our salvation is not ours to obtain by our own labors but by the labors of Christ on the cross. This was the Gospel of Jesus Christ that Jude was proclaiming and making it known that it was the Churches duty to defend and proclaim. The Epistle of Jude is a call to study, to defend, to preach the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Word of God; not sit around and wait for others to do it. The Scriptures are under attack and being corrupted by the enemies of the truth from the very beginning this war has been going on and it will continue until Christ returns. The Church is at war and it better understand that it’s at war without and even from within. This is what the whole point of the Epistle is about-defend the truth! Defend the true message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as preached by the apostles, by the Apostle Paul, by those who followed and those who gave their lives for that Gospel preached by Jesus Christ Himself. The modern Church seems to have forgotten it’s mission and part of that mission is to study and defend the Scriptures as given to us by the Holy Spirit for the reason of living a godly life. The Epistle of Jude is a trumpet call to the modern Church of Christ that it is forgetting it’s Great Commission and who it is that is the reason the Church is in the world. The modern Church is forgetting that’s job is to change the culture toward Christ and not think it can change the culture via the same culture it is trying to change. It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ that Jude was reminding the Church that it’s sole duty and purpose in why it is here. The history of the Church of Christ entering a very dangerous time in human history where truth is only relevant to the individual and there is no absolute truth to anything. That is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ that the apostles died for nor the Apostle Paul was beheaded over. The Epistle of Jude is a warning to the modern church that it is in danger of allowing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be corrupted beyond meaning anything let alone absolute truth. Our children’s eternal future are at stake. What have we left them to believe in or defend? What will they say to us this future generation when they have very little or nothing of the Gospel of Jesus Christ left to study let alone defend when we are not defending it now? Are we defending the Gospel of Jesus Christ once delivered to the early Church? Is it?

“We must seek the truth, love it, defend it, and hand it down uncorrupted to our posterity.” Philip Melanchthon.

REFERENCES/RECOMMENDATIONS

The Bible.(KJV).

The Cross Of Christ. By. John R. W. Stott.

The Message Of Acts. By. John R. W. Stott.

The Message Of Ephesians. By. John R. W. Stott.

Paul: A Man Of Grace And Grit. By. Charles Swindoll.

Paul. By. Gunther Bornkamm.

Paul. By. Edgar Goodspeed.

William Tyndale: A Biography. By. David Daniel.

William Tyndale: The Man Who Gave God An English Voice. By. David Teems.

John Knox: Fearless Faith. By. Steven J. Lawson.

Early Christian Writings. (Penguin Classics).

Early Christian Doctrines. By. J. N. D. Kelly.

Theology: The Basics. By. Alister E. McGrath.

Christianity’s Dangerous Idea. By. Alister E. McGrath.

Learning Theology With The Church Fathers. By. Christopher A. Hall.

Reading Scripture With The Church Fathers. By. Christopher A. Hall.

The Search For the Twelve Apostles. By. William Steuart McBirnie.

The MacArthur New Testament 2 Peter & Jude. By. John MacArthur.

Saved Without A Doubt: Being Sure Of Your Salvation. By. John MacArthur.

A New Handbook Of Christian Theology. By. Donald W. Musser, Joseph L. Price.

The Books Of Enoch: The First Book Of Enoch, The Second Book Of Enoch, The Third Book Of Enoch, The Book Of Fallen Angels, The Watchers, And The Origins Of Evil. By. Joseph B. Lumpkin.

“Of God And Aliens?” (Short Story).

cropped-12301412301.jpg“Why does it matter?” The tone was sarcastic, almost to the point of wanting to get into an argument on the subject of evolution versus creation.

“I’m just stating that either God did it as recorded in the Bible or it didn’t happen in six literal days as described in the Scriptures, George.”

George wasn’t buying any of it, “Six literal days as in twenty-four day into six straight days long?”

Josh agreed with a nod, “Yes. that’s what Torah says…”

Frowning, “Torah?”

He had to smile, “Sorry, you none Jew types call it the Old Testament in the Bible.”

“Oh, ya, that book,” George sipped his coffee, “I’d rather believe we’re just a alien experiment gone very wrong, Josh, than believe that some God of some kind created all that there is.” He leaned back a bit, stretched his legs a bit and slide his shoes off, “The idea of alien’s being the real starters of humanity or at least in a better direction sounds far more agreeable than the story of the Bible. I can see some ancient alien race coming upon this old planet and seeing these half monkey, half human things slowly evolving but not fast enough for the aliens so they helped a bit. They gave humanity a boost in the right direction for surviving.”

Josh knew the guy was serious, “You’re very serious about that belief? Aliens did it? Aliens set into motion human evolution and helped build civilization?” Of course George was serious, “So you really believe in aliens from other worlds?” Josh Freeman studied the shaggy bearded face of the man across from him, “I’ve read the books of Erich Von Daniken, like his ‘Chariots of the Gods’ and ‘Gold of the Gods.’ I found them good but I wasn’t really convinced by his books.” The author tried to hard to be convincing and tried to hard to make evidence fit into the author’s beliefs. He could see the interruption coming, “I’ve even watched the History Channel program ‘Ancient Aliens.’ and I am sorry, they are trying too hard to make everything into something alien related or created. They are making so much about and by aliens that by the time their done talking I am more convinced that the gods existed than aliens did anything…”

The beefy hand went up as he interrupted as George Le May spoke up, “Josh, I’d sooner believe in little green men from Mars or beings from mythology than the stories from the Bible written by ignorant desert dwellers staring too long at the sun.” Leaning forward a bit, “You’re a Jew aren’t you?”

“Yes.”

“Do you actually believe what is written in that Bible of yours?”

He decided to not correct him, “I believe the pattern for the week can be explained in the Torah’s story of creation. Exodus 20:11…I believe in the Torah because I grew up on it. My family attend synagogue, I do not see anything that indicates aliens had anything to do with our creation, George…” He could see the thoughts being formulated, “I have read the accounts in Genesis, I see no room for aliens in the creation of the world let alone mankind…the Torah is clear on creation.”

George interrupted again,  “Then you believe in the Bible as some God’s inspired word, Freeman? You believe in the fairy stories in that book? Humans made from dirt, talking snakes, and somehow it rained for forty days and covering the whole planet in water? You actually believe in that as written?” He sipped again the coffee he actually didn’t like; he complained at times enough about the job coffee but nothing changed. “So, you think some old guy in the Arabian desert heard a voice telling him that God had a plan for his life?”

“Abraham heard God tell him to get out of Ur and head toward a land He was giving his descendants as an ever lasting covenant…” He could see the mind working in the guy again, “Abraham heard God and obeyed and the rest is history.”

“History, huh?” Le May’s expression said it all, “So, some desert dweller in the ancient past heard a voice coming from the sky telling him to head to Palestine and claim it as his own?”

“There was no Palestine even in the ancient past, George…” He knew that the guy was just saying it to agitate Josh, “What I am saying is that in the Book of Exodus that God Himself told Moses how He made everything and how long it took and why He choice to create as He did. It’s why the Sabbath is so important…” He took notice of the book on the table that the other professor was reading, ‘Of Gods And Aliens.’ By. Tobias Finley; never heard of him thought Josh. He felt the need to quote Exodus but he knew Professor George Le May wouldn’t have tolerated it as he didn’t tolerate much he didn’t agree with. But Josh would at least try, “George, the Book of Exodus explains how and why God created as He did. Exodus 20:11….” He could see the interruption coming, “Look, George, I believe that God laid out how and why He created as He did in Genesis. It’s were we get our week from. God created in six days and rested on one….”

“Seriously? You believe this fairy tale?” Tapping the book a few seconds, “Look, if you want to believe that some tribal deity spoke to some old guy in the desert staring at the sun too long…” The hand went up as Josh was about to say something, “Let me finish. I don’t believe in any God or gods or anything else that my senses can’t explain rationally and using my brain, Josh…” Actually pointing to his thick but grey hair, “See this thing, it’s called the human mind. Religious people for the most part don’t use it much…” Tapping the book again, “Been reading this book lately. He’s a new author I just discovered and I like what he had to say on the subject of the so-called gods of mythology and the evidence for the existence of aliens out there visiting us in the past. Makes more sense than some old book that they have keep making new translations of every few years to get it right…”

He so badly wanted to interrupt.

“….I have nothing against religious people, Josh. I really don’t. If they want to believe the earth is damn flat then I don’t care all that much if they wish to be ignorant about science…” Again the brief tapping on the book, “The author of this book says that the gods were probably aliens and those ancient people just simply misunderstood what they were seeing and called them gods….” He leaned back a bit, “He simply makes the point that those ancient people were ignorant of the universe and assumed what they were seeing were gods and their flying machines were just chariots of one kind or another. They simply called these alien beings gods because they had no word for extraterrestrial so they called them gods and mythology was born….”

“So, the gods like Zues, Odin, and Osiris were nothing but aliens?” He wanted to at least smile but knew the man was serious, “So all the stories of Greek, Roman, Norse and so forth where nothing but misunderstandings of the aliens and their technology?” He studied the man he had known only for the last three years, “So all those stories of the gods and human is nothing more than alien encounters that the humans simply didn’t understand?” He felt the need to repeat himself on some level, “Everything can’t be alien related, George, just can’t be…it just sounds too weird that somehow all those great stories of mythology are nothing more than ancient people thinking that the gods they were seeing were in fact aliens they just didn’t understand it…”

The hand went up, “It’s no more weird than the believe that we are nothing but the dirt of the ground created by some god, Josh. It’s no stranger to believe in some god who created everything in six actual days…” He tapped the table again, “Evolution via alien intervention makes more sense than some god there’s no proof of. The book I am reading clearly makes his point that even our DNA was probably tampered with and they gave it a little push toward evolving into modern man…”

“You’ve turned us into a science experiment then?”

“No, they did according to the author. He makes the claim that the aliens saw potential in the strange looking creatures they found here and simply altered their DNA; possible with their own….”

“So, what of the spiritual aspect of human beings?”

“Not needed by the aliens who came and altered our DNA. I also see no reason for such a belief in the spiritual anymore than they did. The ancient peoples simply mistook the aliens for gods of some kind and created legends and stories to explain it all.” Adding, “I believe that a naturalistic view of life is a logical view of life. The aliens simply gave human evolution a little boost in the right direction.”

“So, a naturalistic world view?”

“I don’t believe in what I can’t see and I believe that the normal processes of evolution explain the origins of everything to be seen or sensed by all the other senses. The aliens came, they tinkered a bit with the human like apes on this planet and left at some point. I don’t need a book of fairy tales to explain life to me or it’s origins….”

He had to interrupt, “Humanity is God’s crowning creation. He made man in His own image. It’s His crowning creation because God…”

The hand went up, the scowl never left, he was blunt, “I have no use for anything spiritual, religious, or anything else I can’t see. Evolution works for me just fine. I like the author’s explanation for  the religious stories that have been created. These ignorant people of the past simply mistook these visitors from the cosmos as gods…”

“God was not a alien race tampering with human genetics, George. Did you say you grew up in a church?” He was sure the guy had mentioned it before during one of their lunchtime conversations. He was glad at the moment the break room was empty except for him and George; it wouldn’t be empty much longer. “What kind of church?”

The expression didn’t change, but he did answer, “Yes, a Baptist Church.” The tone did indeed say it all and none of it was a good thought, “We lived in a small town called Tama in Iowa. It was a place of about three thousand people surrounded by cornfields.” Making a joke badly, “It would have made Stephen King proud. The place always struck me as something between his ‘Salem’s Lot’ and ‘Children of the Corn’…”

Someone walked into the large employee’s break room; May Her entered the room and slightly waved in  their direction.

“It’s cold outside…”

George spoke Bluntly, “Well, it’s Minnesota in December…”

“What happened to Fall?” The young girl replied as she stood at the vending machine contemplating a soda, “I need a warm drink not a soda…”

Josh laughed at that; the reflection in the plastic of the vending machine showed her smile a bit, “I should have stopped off at the gas station for a coffee…” She walked toward the small table where the store supplied it’s employees coffee, “This will have to do…”

“Better than nothing, May.” Josh replied as he watched the young girl; he wondered where Erin was as she was scheduled to work this cold December 6th day in the Rosedale Mall.

May responded with a chirping voice, “Ya, ya, Josh. I’m such a freeze baby in this weather…” She made her coffee, turned around and faced the two of them with her usual smile, “I don’t like this weather…” Sipping her self-made coffee, she made a face, “It’s awful of course….I mean the coffee and weather is just as bad…”

“So move?” That came from George, “You don’t have to stay in Minnesota.” He turned a bit to get a better look at the nineteen year old Hmong girl. “I’ve lived here a huge chunk of my life. I like it here, I suppose Asian girls just don’t like the cold…”

May smiled politely to the remark, “I’ve been here my whole life, I just don’t like the cold days like today sometimes, George.”

“Then don’t complain about the cold. It gets cold in Minnesota, May. If you don’t like the cold move back to Nam…”

Still being polite; noting the uncomfortable look on Josh’s uncomfortable face. “My family is from Thailand, well, a refugee camp in Thailand really. Maybe actually from Laos really. I’d have to ask my grandfather…” Adding with a polite smile, “He fought in the Vietnam War…” Sipping more of the coffee, “Tastes too bitter, but I am running late for my department….” She tossed the empty cup into the trash can, “Talk at you later, Josh…”

George frowned at the statement; Josh tried to not look amused as he watched her leave the room; she had great butt he thought. He knew George was looking at him.

“Nice ass.” George commented as he sipped his own coffee he brought with him, “It’s a shame it’s not a real Minnesotan one…”

Ignoring the comment, “So, you went to church?”

Noting Josh’s mood, “Yes, I went to a small town church in Iowa. Tama was a small town…”

“Where is this?” He liked the uncomfortable look in the man’s eyes. Idiot.

“Central Iowa. Des Moines is 62 miles west of Tama.”

“Never been there except through it via Grey Hound.”

“You’re not missing much, Josh. Small towns aren’t worth remembering. But we went every Sunday and Wednesday to a church in Marshalltown. It’s twenty odd miles from Tama going north I believe…” Sipping his coffee, “Me, my parents, and my brother James, my two sisters Lydia and Brin, all locked up in that small car and headed off to church against my will anyway.” Sharply, “I hated it all anyway.”

“Your siblings still go?” He suspected he knew the answer but they still had twenty odd minutes left on their lunch break.

“Oh, yes, of course they still go to church. It’s all important to them…”

“Do you visit them at all?”

“My parents? I do on on the holidays when I am able to do so. As for James, well, he’s living in Las Vegas now. Who knows what he’s doing there in Sin City. He lives there with his wife Cindy, so I don’t see him too much either…”

“I see my sister all the time, don’t have a brother. My sister Cora lives in Maplewood, is a teacher at Century College.” He could see that George wasn’t really listening too much nor did he really care but what else was knew. “She teaches creative writing and basic English….”

“Married?”

“She was for a few years, had my niece…”

“Both of my sister’s are still married, have kids of course, they live in Des Moines now. Their welcomed to it….”

“Don’t like Iowa I take it?”

Sharply, “No, no I do not. It’s a small town state and thinking. I avoid visiting Iowa as much as possible. My sister’s like it there and will probably always live there. Their welcomed to it and their church lives as well….”

“So, nothing at all good to say about Iowa?” He was partly joking. “It couldn’t have been that bad?”

He leaned back a bit, “I got out of Iowa as soon as I could. I enjoyed the part where I saw it in my rear view mirror is the one and only time I really liked the scenery of Iowa as it went by and vanished behind me….” A thought seemed to come to him, “It’s like religion, Josh, it’s like spiritual beliefs. I don’t need it, I don’t want it and I don’t want to be part of it….” He took notice of someone entering the room, he seemed to study the person with dislike.

The guy spoke up, “Hey guys, I need something to eat….didn’t have breakfast this morning…”

Josh looked over at the guy from the suit department; everyone knew that Tom was gay.

“Breakfast is overrated, Tom.” Josh replied as he noticed the guy get something from the candy machine.

George Le May said nothing but; Josh wanted to laughed at the man; Tom left the room feeling better.

“Later, Tom.” Josh replied to the wave of the man.

“I don’t like him.” George replied with no attempt to hide his dislike of the friendly guy, too Josh, “As I was saying, religion is fine but not for me because I deal with facts and reality. Evolution is a reality, Aliens tampering, tinkering, whatever else they did is fine for me to believe in. Better than believing in some god of some desert dweller staring into the sun thinking his god spoke to him…”

Back to that are we thought Josh.

“I made it very clear at the age of fifteen to my parents that I was an atheist and I didn’t believe as they did nor was I going to. I stopped going to church, Josh…”

“They just let you stop going to church?”

He frowned a bit, “Oh, there was some unpleasant yelling and such religious accusations that I was now going to go to hell for disbelieving in God of their religion…”

“When did you decide you no longer believed as they did?”

Pleased about something, “I was fifteen.”

“Fifteen?”

“I was sitting in the front pew as all preacher’s families do for some reason…”

Josh frowned this time more puzzled than anything, “Your dad was the pastor?”

The expression said it all, mostly disgust with the information, “He was preaching about the Deity of Jesus. Going on and on about how John the Apostle in his Gospel account of Jesus declared the Godhood of Jesus…”

“I’m Jewish, so…”

Not listening, “….I sat there listening to his sermon about how the early church taught this message and how and why it had to be true that Jesus was a Jewish God…”

Josh frowned but listened.

“….Jesus was God because only God could save through His sinless life and death on the cross. Forty-five minutes of such non-sense I was embarrassed by the sermon…” He sipped some coffee, “Jesus was God, Jesus was the only Way, the only Life, the Truth…and I sat there thinking that this was absolutely ridiculous….”

“So you believed aliens did it all?” He wasn’t sure about George’s theology having that Josh had taken a religion class many years ago and where he met his Cora in the Art History class he took as well.

“I would rather believe that aliens came to this planet and off and on has helped humanity evolve and grow as a species than believe that somehow a god turned himself into a man who walked the earth in that backwater called Palestine and probably never said or did anything that is written in that Bible my dad preaches from. I’d rather believe that Jesus was an alien and Jesus simply was misquoted and had made up stories about Him by ignorant fishermen than believe that my dad was preaching the truth…” He clenched his fist a bit, “I simply stopped believing in this Jesus of the Incarnation because it sounds absurd and like a story made up…”

“And aliens make more sense than what Christians claim as who Jesus was?”

“Look, you’re not a Christian are you?”

“No, still very Jewish. Not practicing but….”

“Christians have to believe some very strange and weird things to believe Jesus was anything but some homeless Jew preaching something that no one at the time thought to record. I sat there listening to absolute nonsense that Jesus was God in human flesh….I’d rather believe in little green men from Mars…”

“Well, there we will have to agree to disagree. I may not be a practicing Jew but I am a Jew who believes in God…”

“There is no God, Josh, hate to shatter your beliefs but God or any god for that matter is a mythology created by ignorant people encountering something they couldn’t explain so they created gods from these cosmic visitors. Maybe as that author said, Jesus was a normal Jew from Palestine with some help from the cosmic visitors and was simply misunderstood and arrested for His message and nailed to a cross and is still dead and buried somewhere in Palestine…” Looking at his phone, “Breaks almost over, but I am telling you, Josh, I like what this author is writing and I agree with him. The great leaps in evolutionary life could only have happened with help from some outside force and I agree with him that it was probably ancient visitors from outer space….”

“I think I will stick to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, George. I find nothing in the Torah or Scriptures as a whole that indicates that aliens had anything to do with God creating…” He could see the guy getting already impatient with his comments, “I’ve listened to everything you said and then some,  George. I simply do not agree that God’s crowning creation was actually a scientific experiment by cosmic beings with too much free time on their hands. I believe the Torah and that God alone created, God alone set into motion all that came forth from creation…” He could see the man struggling to not interrupt, “I believe that God spoke to Abraham and not because he was starring into the sun all day long but because he sought God and God found him faithful…”

He had to say something, “You can’t even proof Abraham even existed, Josh, let alone God…”

“Well, even the Christians believe Abraham existed, George, and their not completely wrong about everything in the Bible.”

“Not really an answer, Josh.” The smirk said it all, “You really take all that crap in the Bible as literal history?” He leaned back a bit, looked at his watch again, frowned at something, “Josh, you believe what you want, believe in invisible gods but I want nothing to do with it. My father only proved to me that people will believe anything that answers questions with answers they want to hear and not what they should hear or need to hear. There is no god, there is nothing but evolution in action and I see no reason to not believe that the author is correct that our evolution from simple apes to man sounds far more believable to me than some book of fairy tales and wishful thinking and simply bad theology…”

He wanted to interrupt more than he was, “I believe in God, George, because the universe is far to wonderful with creation and far too complicated to have just happened by chance…”

“Alien technology, Josh. The evidence is very much there if one reads that book with an open mind and not one of a closed religious mind that refuses to see the evidence. Ancient man simply didn’t understand the technology they were encountering. They simply didn’t understand what they were seeing or who they were encountering as primitive peoples….”

“Not sure they were that primitive, George.” He wondered if the guy had ever read the extra-Biblical writings but he doubted he even heard of the Book of Enoch.

“You going to tell me that you believe man-kind was highly technological in the remote past? Sounds very Christian doctrine of the pre-flood world, Josh. You’re not a Christian remember…”

“It’s still a Jewish book despite the Christians reading it, George. It was our book before they decided to try and take it as their own and only their own…”

“Religious people and their wars over a book of fairy tales….”

“I’m just saying that maybe they were not as primitive as you think they were, George….” The guy was getting bored with the conversation, “I’m just saying the technology of those people may not have been as primitive as you or I think it was. The Book of Enoch for example…”

Standing up, “I’d rather believe in aliens coming here and boosting human evolution than give the Bible one second of credit for anything, Josh….” Adding, “That includes the Book of Enoch which I wouldn’t bother reading anyway.”

“So, it’s a choice between God and aliens and you’ve chosen something there is less evidence for than there is for the evidence of God?”

Anger came, “I don’t care if there is a God, Josh.”

“I gathered that.”

“There is no evidence of a God or gods or anything else beyond the five senses. I don’t have time for spiritual matters nor do I feel that I am missing out on something. I don’t care what you believe, but keep it too yourself. I simply believe that we are not alone in the universe and their not angels or demons or gods or devils….there is just the universe with other civilizations we have yet to discover or they are voiding us like they probably should.” He wanted to leave but he seemed to have a lot more to say but wasn’t sure it was worth saying, “Josh, believe what you want…I think it’s ignorant, but it’s your life….”

“Yes, it is.” The guy so badly wanted to walk away, “I simply believe in God and the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and everything else that followed. I see the hand of God in the universe and everything in it. I don’t see alien technology or anything else that point to aliens tampering with human anything let alone evolution..”

He interrupted impatiently, “Does it damn matter who’s right or wrong? Why does it matter?” He so badly wanted to walk away but didn’t and it sounded it in the sharp reply, “Look, Josh, seriously, why does any of what you or I believe matters except to ourselves?”

Josh thought about that before answering.

Commentary On The Political Christian: The Gospel Or Social Justice?

cropped-12301412301.jpg“Don’t preach to me about your belief in the sovereignty of God and then preach to me your  political views are just as important to God.”

The social justice dogma penetrating the Church of Christ is strangling the point of the Church and that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the answer to all social justice problems not just one of many solutions. The solution to the world’s ill is either via human effort through government and social activism or it’s the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There is no other answer to the issue of what is wrong with society as a whole. It comes down to either it one or the other not both. You as a Christian cannot have both no matter how hard you try. One will eventually devour and swallow the one and take over all together. You cannot promote one and still think the other will help as well. It is either going to be fixed via human effort or the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is neither a political ideology or a justification to have a political stance. Once the Church of Christ’s Great commission became a political commission it became a secondary notion in the Church of Christ. The Church became political the moment it thought a Roman Emperor had favored them above the pagans around them. They simply committed the same sin that the Jews did when they demanded from the Prophet Samuel to give them a king to rule over them. As recorded in I Samuel 8:6-8, “But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge over us. And Samuel prayed unto the Lord. And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee; for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them, According to all the works which they have done since the day I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so they also unto thee.” The Church of Christ became the Church of the Roman Empire and it’s rulers. It seemed to replace the Great Commission with a worldly ideology that politics was now part of that Great Commission of Christ to the early Church of the Apostles and those that followed. The Jews of the Prophet Samuel wanted to be ruled by a worldly king as they sought that would be easier and less demanded on their lives. They rejected God’s perfect rule with a worldly one. The Church of Christ simply saw politics as the better great commission than the one given to them by their founder.

Politics corrupts everything it touches and come not to help but to control and change one way or the other to it’s will. Politics doesn’t share power or influence with any other ideology let alone with a theology that places God above government. The Church of Christ sacrificed it’s first love for the Halls of Roman power and influence that October in 312 A. D when a Roman and still pagan Roman General defeated his rival for power at Milvain Bridge that October 28th 312 outside of Rome itself against Maxentius his rival for power. It was all about power. It was all about ruling the greatest empire known; the Church Father’s should have known better than to simply hail this ‘converted’ Roman Emperor as a Christian just because he said the right words. They should have found their own Prophet Samuel and ask of the Lord what exactly what was true. But instead they choice to ignore the obvious and simply embrace the so-called vision in the sky spoken of by this Roman soldier who still and would still worship the sun! The Emperor Constantine was not a Christian, didn’t convert from anything but from being a Caesar to the Roman Emperor of the Roman Empire he coveted desire to rule. The tragedy was that the Church Fathers simply allowed their wishful thinking that this would end the persecution and maybe even help the church grow. It was politics that governed their motives because they believed they had converted an emperor and choice to ignore his life after the fact let alone rationalize their own conduct. The Church of Jesus Christ became the Church of Rome and the apostasy began in greater influence and destruction of the foundation of the Scriptures as the true and only source of change in the human condition and heart. The modern political Christian is no different; in fact the modern verse might be worse.

Until the present day political Christians stop with his favorite slogan, “God is on our side,” non-sense the Church of Christ will eventually compromise every single doctrine and stance it’s had for about two thousand years of church history. Politics is about compromise and going in whatever the wind direction is for that moment will get someone the vote. God nor Christ nor the Gospel of Jesus Christ is an arm of any political party; King of Kings don’t have political parties as they are their own party and they rule with absolute sovereignty. Yet somewhere along the last two thousand year long road of history Jesus Christ the King and Lord became Jesus the Right or Left political advocate of one party over the other. Politics and the Church of Christ have no common ground except in their opposite goals for humanity. Today’s modern Milvain Bridge moment is now called Social Justice. The Church of Christ has decided that again the Great Commission needs more than Christ to work let alone change the human condition and society. The Gospel of Social Justice of the political Christian seems to me a lot of social justice but very little Gospel of Jesus Christ.

What is social justice to the Christian anyway? When did the Gospel of Jesus Christ not become enough to solve and change the human condition? It’s not that one can truly escape the realm and influence of politics in this age of politisizing everything under the sun but a Christian should know better than to place so much hope in the political process. The trouble with our modern society is that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been either replaced by politics or forced to co-exist with it by the Church. The problem arises when the Church thinks it can convert the worldly idea of government into the Kingdom of God ruled government. The issue is that for some reason too much of the church has become involved in the social justice movement as if God  Himself has ordained it as part or even a replacement for the Gospel of Jesus Christ! I am serious when I state that. I maintain the modern Christian has and is making the same mistake those early Christians did upon hearing of the conversion of Emperor Constantine. They think they have converted the worldly idea of politics to their way of thinking. They were wrong on all accounts and so is the modern version of the Church. What makes a Christian think they can convert the very system at war with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His Word? Politics and it’s off-shoots has no intention of sharing power with anything not completely sold out to the worldly thoughts and desires of humanity and that is political power. Did the early church really believe they had converted an Roman emperor? Or was it a lot of wishful thinking hoping that it would end the persecution started by the Emperor Diocletian? It was true that Constantine ended the persecution but that was because of political motives not conversion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Why do Christians get involved in politics? What is the reason or lure of the halls of the political life? One would think they would remember without being reminded by history that the Gospel of Jesus Christ had and has nothing to do with politics as an answer to the ills of society. The simple answer id that politics feeds the human need and ego to be important to society and not useful for a better society where the Gospel of Jesus Christ humbles humanity to be useful and not think too hightly of one’s activities on the earth. There is the problem of balance of course in the act and art of civil service and duty to one’s country. Where does this balance exist in the first place? Should it exist at all? Should a Christian have any part in the political process let alone halls of government? The followers of Christ have indeed an obligation to be involved in society not avoid it. The idea that a Christian can avoid the political struggles of their nation or state or local government is non-sense. It’s the balancing act of the modern world for a Christian to be involved in civil discourse and duty for their society and not be corrupted by the lure of political prestige and power that come with it. Because politics corrupts everything it touches.  The history of the church once it became part of the Roman Empire should be a warning to the modern church. The Roman Emperor Constantine was not a Christian and never converted to the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. The church sought peace via compromise with an pagan government and corrupted itself in the process.

REFERENCES/RECOMMENDATIONS

The Bible (KJV).

The Early Church. By. Henry Chadwick. (The Penquin History Of The Church, #1).

The Middle Ages. By. E. W. Southern. (The Penquin History Of The Church, #2).

Medieval Europe. By. Maurice Keen.

The Reformation. By. Owen Chadwick. (The Penquin History Of The Church, #3).

The Orthodox Church. By. Timothy Ware.

Constantine The Great. By. Micheal Grant.

Church History. By. Eusebius.

Jewishness. (Short Story).

cropped-12301412301.jpgEli was being patient with the guy; well what does one do with someone you know dislikes Jews like Eli and was in charge of the Church Planting Committee; that and a few other things was still talking.

He wasn’t smiling of course, “I’m simply saying you carry your Jewishness way too far, Eli.” Nathan studied the young man across from him in the Barnes-Noble cafe table, “Some people think you’re taking things too far…”

Eli spoke up at the comment, “Too far? How?” The large bookstore was not very bust at the moment for a Thursday morning thought Eli and he was grateful for it. They both sat at one of the larger cafe tables that they had agreed to meet at earlier that week; and even now Eli wasn’t sure why the thirty-something guy wanted the meeting. “In what way am I going too far” Though to be honest at least with himself he suspected where all this talking was going to go. He was glad though that for the most part the place was not very busy; but at least he now knew where a new bookstore was located in Roseville; ten miles from their church. That was another odd thing about the meeting thought Eli as he took note of the look of the guy sitting across from him in the casual clothes. Nathan Brentson also sat stiffly and as if it was with great effort to be polite. Eli was sure the guy dislike him and not just because his last name was Wiess. This was personal? He got that impression a while back when he made a comment about the biography Eli was reading on the life of Maimonides. It was a unpleasant comment about wasting Eli’s time on a dead burning in hell Jew. Eli waited for the guy to go away and let him read in peace and quiet. It was a war declared; it was stupid.

Nathan spoke up, “Look, Eli, It’s making people uncomfortable all this Jewish talk of the Torah and Israel…” He finally spoke his mind thought Eli on what was really personally bugging Nathan, “And you seem to forget you’re just the custodian, Eli, at the church. That’s what you were hired to do and only do…” The look said much about his attitude. “You’re the custodian, Eli, you seem to forget that little part of your employment…” The voice of authority that came from his sense that he had more to say and Eli better listen was always there; Eli and him never really got along from day one.

“I’m just the custodian…”

He cut him off, “We’ve been down this conversation before, Eli. More than once we’ve had to talk to you about your attitude at work…” He pushed his glasses back a little up his short stubby nose, “Your attitude…”

“My attitude at work? I do my job, Nathan…”

Again he cut Eli off, “Look, Eli, people are complaining that you’re not doing a very good job at cleaning the building…”

He so badly wanted to interrupt but thought he might learn something with his silence but as he thought about it he couldn’t, “I do my job…”

He folded his arms, “I am sure you think that, Eli, but some also think you are taking this Jewishness of yours too far.” He studied the guy he simply didn’t like, “There are some who feel and think you are taking your own Jewishness too far at church and around other people. It’s making people uncomfortable…”

“Uncomfortable?” He wasn’t that surprised by the statement. “My Jewishness?” He forced his normal impulse to talk quickly when annoyed, “You mean I take it seriously. I do take it seriously, Nathan, as it’s important to me…” The guy across from him hated being called Nate; call him Nathan or experience the anger of the man and his name.  “It’s important to me to keep that part of my life part of my life, Nathan. It’s still part of my life…” He could see the interruption coming, “I’m still a Jew, Nathan…”

“Not at church, Eli.” The response was sharp, “We are the church, not a synagogue. You keep treating the church as if its lost something by your attitude as well in your class you teach on Sunday mornings…”

Eli was also trying to take the rabbit trail of complaints in stride as it was true he had heard it before. “We are talking about the one I  teach, Nathan?”

Nathan’s expression simply didn’t change much, “I have heard from Mrs. Hanson in the class you teach that you’re teaching that Israel is still very important in God’s eternal plan, that prophecies about Israel’s future is still part of God’s plan…That the promises made to Israel are still in effect for Israel, that the Church has it’s own promises…”

Ah, yes, Mrs. Hanson, explains much. “Well, it does, Nathan, it just does.” The woman didn’t like his comments and it was obvious by the scowl she maintained in his class the entire time she sat in the front room with her hands tightly clasping her opened Bible; it looked well used he thought but apparently not well understood. “The God of Abraham hasn’t forgotten His promises to Israel…”

The face clenched under the short trimmed red beard, “You’re voicing your own personal interpretation, Eli, on Scripture and teaching it as Biblical fact, as church doctrine. That is what people are having a problem with…”

He knew he wouldn’t get far, “Well, Jeremiah thirty-one…”

The attitude was there, “Don’t quote Scripture at me, Eli…” The voice was of course annoyed and it slightly carried in the large store, “I will not be preached at by you or anyone else. I didn’t come here to be preached at by the custodian. I will not be told by an employee who cleans toilets and picks up trash outside anything about the Bible or what to believe…” Pointing a stubby finger at Eli to make his point, “What Bible college have you ever attended?”

Eli had an answer he knew wouldn’t go far with this guy, “I did take an interesting course called the Institute of Jewish-Christian Studies…”

He sharply interrupted, “Taking a few correspondence courses means nothing, Eli. Not a real class or college class of any kind…”

“I enjoyed those classes, Nathan. I learned much. I even took a few Moody Bible classes….”

The look of course said it all, “So, no real Bible education, Eli? None, because none of those count for a degree in anything in the church.” He said it with a good sense of pride, “I went to Dallas Theological Seminary and then transferred to Northwestern and I have a degree in theology and know what I am talking about with far more authority than you…”

Eli let the guy talk. He knew better to get into any real debate with the guy who didn’t need much of a push to go on these ranting comments. In fact he once got into an argument because Eli, who had an interest in cryptozoology, commented that their might be places where prehistoric creatures might still roam. The fellows reaction was priceless as he launched and even got up and towered over Eli to make his point how absurd Eli was; mentioning the Coelacanth was a waste of time. Nathan didn’t approve of being proven wrong about anything. He left the room in a huff. Nathan was still talking.

“…I have a degree in theology, Eli. I don’t teach personal views or opinions of the Scriptures as some divine truth that only I know about…”

Eli was beginning to wonder who’s idea this meeting really was from. Pastor Dahl maybe as he had only been in charge a year and of late his preaching seemed to be hinting at something that at first Eli took no notice of but of late he had noticed something unpleasant entering his sermons. There was a hint of Jewish criticism of history, heritage and even life in his sermons lately. At first he thought maybe he was just mistaking his point in the sermon but there was last weeks sermon? What did the guy say about Israel and the covenants being more for the church than Israel? What did he do to Pastor Dahl to make him have this guy bring him ten miles away from the church for this dressing down? He kept his thoughts to himself for a bit; he only told one person of his concerns. And apparently that one person was the wrong person to talk to. The church he was a member of the last seven years was splintering into factions and it was becoming apparent other families wanted to leave. He had already lost a few friends do to them leaving the church.

Nathan was still pontificating, “I am now going again to Northwestern to get my pastoral degree. I don’t see you doing that. I don’t see you going anywhere near a Christian college anytime soon…

Eli wasn’t really sure where all this ranting was coming from let alone where it was going because it seemed a long list of complaints to complain about Eli Wiess and his refusal to not be Jewish in the church his fellow Jews founded; let alone that Jesus was a Jew. He studied Nathan carefully before he interrupted. He wondered what books this guy read and if he actually learned anything useful or important. Probably not was his final opinion on that subject as he interrupted this time.

“Nathan, Israel is still part of God’s plan, I know my prophets and I know my Messiah has not forsaken the Jews because the Apostle Paul, a Jewish rabbi, certainly preached for the salvation of the Jews and the restoration of Israel under the kingship of the Messiah…” He liked the reaction of the guy every time he said Messiah instead of Christ; petty yes, oh yes very petty, but needful very much so. Would he continue, hell yes! “The Apostle Paul preached the salvation of the Jew first at every town and city he reached and stayed in, Nathan…God has not forsaken Israel let alone given the church the promises He gave Abraham…” He shouldn’t have told Dave Olsen anything but he thought he knew the guy better than he did. He voiced his concerns and it was apparent it was not kept between them. “…Nathan, The Prophet Jeremiah said God would never forsake Israel…” He could see the interruption coming again, “God said He would keep His word to Abraham and the covenant He made with Abraham was an everlasting one…” Well, apparently Pastor Dahl wasn’t going to confront Eli personally so he sent Nathan to do it for him? It was still confusing thought Eli on a few details but he was getting the general idea it was time to move on from this changing church.

“You can believe whatever you want, Eli, but you will stop teaching your own personal views or opinions as Biblical doctrine. This is not the first time we have had to correct your behavior and teaching in the church. You were allowed to teach a class because you promised to stay with the church teachings on the subject of the church and God’s plan for the church…”

“I did.” Well, he kept his promise as long as it didn’t violate what he knew was true. And he told them that was what he would do; they apparently were not listening.

“You did not, Eli!” His voice rose enough for one young lady to look over at them, frown a bit, and then turn back to her book she was reading. “You directly ignored our leading on this matter….”

Eli was getting the impression that Nathan was trying very hard to get everything out that he was told to say and doing it badly. It was a disjointed bunch of words he thought but he decided to let him continue. He was piecing together some of the puzzle he was being forced to put together. Pastor Dahl upon being informed by Dave of Eli’s comments about his sermon dispatched Nathan to deal with the problem instead of a one on one talk like a normal person would do; let alone a Biblical one. Okay, that made somewhat sense. As for Mrs. Hanson? Nathan was still going on.

“…This church doesn’t need someone sowing discord, Eli…”

Eli studied the man with a look that should have said enough. That was already a problem and apparently Pastor Dahl was choosing to ignore it as long as possible. A worse thought came to him, or was he doing it on purpose to get rid of those who disagreed with Pastor Dahl’s preaching? He knew that one family had confronted the man in his office and it was not a pleasant discussion ending up a shouting match where it was apparent to any Christian listening that no one won. It was ugly.

“You are sowing discord within the church and toward the leadership of the church by your what your teaching…” Nathan stared at him as if that alone should have changed Eli’s attitude. “You’re teaching your own opinion as the truth of the Bible and not making it clear you are giving your opinion…”

“I’m teaching from the Scriptures, Nathan. I am simply quoting from the books of the prophets, mostly Jeremiah. They preached a new covenant between the Kingdom of Judah and the Kingdom of Israel…” He could see the expression growing more annoyed, “I teach from the Scriptures, Nathan, I don’t preach from any other book for the final authority in matters of faith…” He wondered what Mrs. Hanson had added to her apparent report to the Jewish heretic known as Eli? He could see the interruption coming, “Nathan, I have been teaching on Israel in the End Times and Israel has a place and a eternal destiny in God’s plan…”

The voice broke in sharp, impatient, “Look, it’s been reported that you even quoted as scripture from the Book of Enoch and even defended it’s usefulness as even helping in understanding Scripture. That’s un-biblical doctrine you’re quoting as the real words of the Bible…”

He had to say something, “I quoted from Jude and he quoted from the Book of Enoch. The Book of Enoch had been around for a few hundred years before Jude and apparently Jude read it in the same home as his older brother, Jesus…” He saw the nerve he hit and felt oddly at peace with the comment, “Apparently Jude knew of the Book of Enoch, quoted from the same book, and it’s in the Bible as the Epistle of Jude.” He did notice the same look in Mrs. Hanson’s eyes as well; but then again she didn’t smile much anyway. “Do I think Enoch belongs in the Bible, I don’t know nor is it going to be added anytime soon. But it’s an interesting book none the less and Jude did quote from it.”

“Not your place to add anything to Scripture, Eli.” The arms folded across the chest again, he sat back a bit, and studied and stared at Eli, “And certainly not your place to use material in your class that we as the church leadership deem inappropriate for teaching in any of our classes…”

“Even when quoted by an epistle in the Bible?” He knew to say it was going to cause problems but at the moment he didn’t care, “There are quit a number of books mentioned in the Bible we don’t have in our canon of Scripture, Nathan. They are there to be at least studied and researched and see what they say about the actual canon of Scripture.” Could the man look any more uptight thought Eli, “It’s a Jewish thing to study, to research, to explore the many sides of Torah, of Scripture…”

“Not your place, Eli!” The fist wanted to so badly to hit the table, “It’s your place to simply teach what the leadership of this church has authorized everyone to teach and from what materials. It isn’t your job to add to our teaching materials…”

“Sounds awfully boring for those in the class, Nathan. People want more than a routine Bible Study. In fact I was told by a few they enjoy my teaching and the extra materials I use to teach with…”

“You will teach as you are told to teach, Eli.”

“As I am told to teach? You’re serious about that? Is Pastor Dahl also that serious?” He knew the guy was serious because he was always serious. In fact ever since the new Pastor James Dahl entered the picture of the church things had been changing and even some people had already left already. “I’m to simply follow the guidelines of the material and bore my class. I don’t know how to do that, Nathan. I like what I am teaching and so do others. They like me bringing up extra Biblical writings and discussing them in relationship to the actual canon of the Bible….” Adding knowing the outcome, “It’s a Jewish thing, it’s how the Apostle Paul taught when he was at Athens. He quoted and spoke of other writings than weren’t even part of Jewish tradition or literature…He quoted pagan authors, Nathan…”

“Comparing yourself to the Apostle Paul, Eli? He was a learned Rabbi and had a education you don’t have…” He studied the guy across from him with a look that said it all, “Pastor Dahl is a fine man of God and a great teacher of the Bible. He knows far more than you do about the prophets and their prophicies about the Church and the Israel in prophecy. You have your personal view and it should stay as your personal view and not taught in a class. You were allowed to teach another class because you said you would stay within the courses material…”

He had to say it, “The class was getting bored, I could see them getting bored because they had hear it all before and taught the same way before. So, I changed it a bit to make it interesting…”

“It’s not your problem is they get bored. Maybe the real issue is a sin issue with some of them….”

“A sin issue? The class was getting bored…” He knew the guy wasn’t really listening and was simply repeating what the was told to say; that was obvious by the way he was talking. It came across as rehearsed. “I don’t see it as a sin issue, Nathan, it was a keeping them awake issue. And once I abandoned the material and spoke about other writings and materials the class got interested again…” Adding with a smile, “It’s a Jewish way of learning, we take a look at everything and go from there. Which is why the old saying is true, two Jews-three opinions…” Not a smile crossed the man’s unsmiling cold features, “It’s a way we Jews have been studying the Torah and scripture and everything else…”

“If that were true why did the Jews miss Jesus as Messiah?” It was spoken cold, almost with hostility.

Eli suspected it was coming to this point, “It was mostly the religious leaders rejected Jesus as Messiah. At the day of Pentecost before the Apostle Peter preached his sermon there were already 120 believers in Messiah. At the end of his sermon their was three thousand saved; good start for the fledgling Church of the Messiah. Their should have been more but the entire nation of Israel did not reject Jesus as Messiah…there were converts…”

He didn’t like being preached at of course, “I will not have the history of the church used to justify your causing division in this church. It will stop or we will find someone else to reach the rest of the class, Eli. You will cease from teaching anything but what you are told and you will do a better job at being an employee of the church…” He lowered his tone, “Or we can find ourselves another custodian.”

He also knew that was coming, “Have you ever read the Book of Enoch, Nathan?” Nathan was growing weary of the conversation or lack of whatever he was told to say thought Eli. “I’ve spent my life studying, as it’s called in Hebrew, Doresh, to study. It’s a Jewish thing, Nathan. It’s called seeking the truth of things and to seek what truths can be found in other places. The Apostle Paul certainly studied other books to be able to preach the sermon he did at Athens and to quote from their own playwrights and philosophers which he did and they recognized what he was preaching and saying to them…”

“You also need to stop pushing this Jewish nonsense of yours, you’re a Christian and no longer a Jew…”

“I will always be a Jew, Nathan. That’s not going to change.” He smiled a bit at the annoyed guy, “We started the Church and the Church is as Jewish as the Torah is….” He leaned a bit forward, he lowered his voice as it was apparent more people had come into the bookstore, “The Apostle Paul was a Jew and preached as a Jew and used as you like to call it the Old Testament as his Bible. He had only the Torah and the history and prophets to preach from and he preached the Messiah just fine….” He knew he was talking to a blank wall, “I’m a Jew, going to stay a Jew, and will teach as a Jew, Nathan. I will teach Doresh as that is the Jewish way to studying, exploring, and reading the Bible…”

He stood up annoyed, “You Jews are a stubborn people…”

“Yes, it’s how we’ve survived so long and why you still have a Bible in the first place because we sat down and wrote it all down and studied it and researched it and cherished it to the point that we would die for it to keep it alive.” He looked up at the man who really did look like he was going to give himself a stroke, “Nathan, God has not forsaken Israel, He will never forsake Israel and no about of replacement theology is going to change that fact of Scripture…”

“We will find a replacement for your class, Eli, as it is apparent you are not going to listen to the church correct you…”

“I don’t need correcting, Nathan. I haven’t replaced the promises to Israel by God to the Church like you and apparently Pastor Dahl has in your replacement theology….” Standing up, “The church has not replaced Israel in the promises or covenants made by God to Abraham…” He wondered why the guy wasn’t simply walking away, so he continued, “God has a special place in His heart for us stubborn Jews who have survived the last two thousand years of Christian love and preaching and then we survived the nightmare called the Holocaust to forge a nation in 1948. We are not going anywhere because God said so…”

He looked at Eli with a disgusted look, “I really dislike Jews, so damn sure that their God hasn’t moved unto someone else far more worthy of His promises than them…” And walked away with another comment under his breath.

Eli watched him leave and sat back down with his private tired thoughts; maybe he really should go back to the synagogue? He got up, drained the last of his hot chocolate, and walked out into the cold late November day and wondered what his dad was doing for the upcoming Hanukkah and wondered if the old man would mind if his son came for a visit?  This moment was a long time in coming he thought as he entered his beat up truck. Maybe it was time to simply go back to being a synagogue Jew? The church was no place for a Jew his dad once told him upon hearing of his son’s conversion some years ago. Maybe the old rabbi was correct, time to go home. He started up the truck and heading in that direction. He sat there a bit thinking of the mess that the church he was a member of for seven or so years was turning into. Even the guy who helped him to see Jesus as the Messiah was long gone; one of the first to leave. He had moved off to Iowa of all places with his wife and four daughters and became a pastor at a small church in Tama, Iowa. He had not heard from the guy in a long time; he lost touch or forgot about Eli? He was thinking in no particular order and he knew it. He simply just didn’t want to deal with it head on because he still had friends at the church. He would of course have to leave and do what? Really go back to a synagogue Jewish life and walk away from the truth of the Messiah? Could he even do that with a clear or clean conscious? His last close friend had also just recently left the church and was attending a smaller one. He did miss the synagogue and his father probably wouldn’t mind a visit from his son the Messiah believer. It would be Hanukkah next Sunday and he was now unemployed apparently, so what was stopping him? He looked at his cell phone, thought about calling the old man and asking but certainly he wouldn’t say no to his son celebrating with the family? He started up the cold engine, it sputtered and coughed into life, and he still sat there with his jumbled thoughts that solved nothing, lead nowhere, and accomplished even less. He was thinking too much and it wasn’t helping. He should just call the old man and talk to him about what to do next. But he of course knew the man’s answer. Get! Out! The problem really was that he had friends still there but how long would that last under Pastor Dahl? You’re thinking too much, Eli, his thoughts told him and making no sense. Maybe it was a mistake going to church in the first place? Did he not believe in Jesus the Messiah as the Messiah? What changed that? Did he really lose his faith in the Messiah? The church? But of late he had been having doubts or questions of what he believed? He felt stupid thinking this way but to he had to agree that of late the church he had once been part of was changing under the leadership of Pastor Dahl and not for the good or better for those who still wonder why their last pastor had resigned in the first place. Pastor Jeremy Johnson simply resigned and was gone. No answers, no explanations, no reason given but one day he was there and the next Sunday he announced he was resigning and then Assistant Pastor James Dahl was the new head of the church. The inner voice came up again, you’re thinking too much and none of it is going to be answered anytime soon. Could he walk away so easily from the faith he had in Jesus the Messiah? He hated the answer. He could always call his father? Despite his belief in Jesus his father didn’t avoid speaking to his one and only son. They simply didn’t discuss the issue of Jesus or the church. And Hanukkah was coming up in a few days and the family would expect him to show up. He would show up.

He started down Snelling Ave toward his dad’s synagogue near the Mississippi River area of St. Paul; his cell phone buzzed.

“Hey, Dad, what’s up…”

To the point, “Son, you sound unhappy. What’s wrong?”

He smiled a bit, “I’m heading in your direction, Dad….” He removed the L. A. Dodger cap and straightened a bit the kippah that of late he had been wearing even at church which really annoyed some people. Some people like it and told him so but that was becoming less and less lately. Factions were getting worse and the wrong one was taking over?

“Good…” The voice said joyfully, “Don’t look forward to five females in the house on Hanukkah and just me….I love your sisters and mother, but again, I need an ally…” Joking, “I know how Teyve felt…”

“Okay, Dad, okay…you know I will be there.”

The laugh said much, the serious tone said much as well, “So, tell me, what is the matter?”

He wanted to laugh just out of frustration but didn’t. “Dad….I’m too Jewish for my own good…”