Walking Among Us (ATP)

Question: Never thought of this until now, but when God created Adam & Eve, was he physically with them in the garden? Stemming from Genesis 3:8 “And they heard the sound of the LORD walking in the garden in the cool of day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.”

This is an interesting question and unfortunately I can’t answer it definitively because the Bible doesn’t speak more about this specifically. Many Bible scholars have addressed this same question, however. There are a few different interpretations I have heard. 

Some scholars suggest that the text uses language that attributes human characteristics to God to make the divine more relatable to human readers but that He didn’t need to be in actual physical form. They believe it’s representative of God’s presence and relationship with Adam and Eve. Another interpretation is that God appears in a physical form to interact directly with humans, implying that God took on a temporary, physical form to walk in the garden. Of course there’s also scholars who say it’s metaphorical, symbolizing God’s intimate and close presence with humanity. Yet another scholarly interpretation is narrative in order to set the scene and create a vivid story that shows God’s relation to humanity. 

I cannot say which interpretation I would lean towards, but other scriptures discuss God appearing to mankind in different ways. Remember Moses could not look unto the face of God but only to His back because His glory was too strong for a human to behold. (Exodus 33) And of course we also know that Jesus came to earth as a man and walked among humanity. Throughout scripture God also appears in visions and is heard as well.  

While the interpretations vary greatly, there is not proof to which if any are accurate. This leads me to the conclusion that it was less important to have that spelled out specifically and more important to understand why it’s included in scripture. The Bible is clear that God wants to have relationship with humanity. He  interacts with humanity, communicates in various ways, manifests His glory and presence, and wants to live among His people. 

Look at Jeremiah 31:3, “The LORD appeared to him (Israel) from afar, saying, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.” James 4:8 also gives us good understanding of God’s heart to be near His people. It says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.“ This is principle and truth we can be sure of. 

There’s nothing wrong with pondering these things, but remember to always keep an open heart about them. Interpretation can be exciting and worthwhile, but always look for the heart behind the scripture and what it teaches us about God and our relationship to Him. 

Be Blessed,

Pastor Renée 

Bound To Be Loose Pt 2 (ATP)

Matthew 18:18-20 states, “Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in Heaven and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven. Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in Heaven. For where 2 or 3 have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst”.  In context, this passage is discussing church discipline. Is this passage teaching a prayer of agreement and a spiritual principle of authority called binding and loosing? What is an accurate interpretation of these scriptures? 

You said it best when you said, “in context.” As you may notice this is a two part discussion because last week’s Faith Fix was about the idea of binding and loosing a few chapters earlier. And here we see the words come up again and the question would be, why?

As you already said, in context these scriptures have to do with church discipline. That is verifiably (by reading more than just the few verses) exactly what these scriptures are about. This is not about a prayer of agreement (I’ll come back to that). Now some people may get mad at me for saying that, but I would ask, why? Read the verses for yourself. Read them in context. What are they talking about? Jesus was finishing a thought on a subject that he was talking about. We cannot take scripture out of its context and make it mean whatever we want it to mean. If we do this, we are absolutely no different than any cult that manipulates scripture for its own use.

So why would the Lord have repeated this here? I think this is the better question. I want to refer you back to last week’s Faith Fix. If you did not read it, I would suggest that you do. Repeating what I said last week, this phrase is better understood as “shall have been bound/loosed.” We can see this more clearly getting into the next part, “where two agree I am there in the midst.” Many try and say that if more than two gather He is there. I used to say things like this as well, “this is why you need to be in church.”  If we think about this, however, we will see its flaw. 

Deuteronomy 31:6 (NIV) tells us, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” You don’t need two for God’s presence, He’s there for one! What Jesus was saying in this place was that if several righteous people can agree on a judgment against one rightfully accused, His agreement is there with them. In accord with binding and loosing, His point is that the judgement has been already placed. This is how we keep the church clean against people who are unclean that would fight back with words like, “Who are you to judge me?” Again, for Him to say, “I am there in the midst,” means that His judgment is there in the midst. 

Something that I would like to add at this point is a practical application that has helped me so many times. When I apply this, I don’t even have to mean when other people are teaching, but when I am reading the Scripture for myself. Have you ever been reading the Scripture and see a verse that just doesn’t seem to fit in the context of the passages around it? That’s a good indicator that you are probably reading it wrong. I have found in those times, if I stop and do a study and ask questions, I often get to a place where I realize I was seeing it wrong. I think that often times the Christian habit of isolating a scripture and using it as an inspiration can sometimes cause problems with misunderstanding. I’m not saying it’s wrong to use a single scripture to inspire you occasionally, but we should only do so in the greater context.

Finally, I want to talk about what I said I’d get back to with the idea of a prayer of agreement. I think it’s pretty obvious as we read through the New Testament that God desires us to pray together on things. There is something about Christians coming together and praying in agreement. I don’t think it’s as much about rule as it is about God‘s desire for us to be like-minded. I don’t think it’s wrong to ask a brother or sister in the faith, “Will you pray for me or with me? Will you agree with me on this?” I believe that the Lord finds this to be a beautiful thing because our God loves relationship and He loves agreement with and in His children.

Don’t ever pray based on rules pray only based from the place of relationship! Rules were not what pleased the Lord anyway but instead relationship based in love. 

Hosea 6:6 (NIV)

For I desire mercy, not sacrifice,

and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.

Be Blessed,

Pastor Jeff 

Bound To Be Loose Pt 1 (ATP)

Will you please break down Matthew 16:19 where it says I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven? 

I can say one thing we don’t want, and that’s to be bound by loose translations of scripture! See what I did there?

I am not a biblical scholar. I was not designed that way, my mind does not function the way that a scholar’s does. However, I have learned to rely on scholars when I want to know what the Scripture is actually saying. Some people try to discern the Scripture in their spirit. I think this is a very dangerous thing because our spirit was not meant to discern truth by itself. 1 John 4:1 (NIV) is a smoking gun scripture for what I just said. “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” This is specifically dealing with teaching people. The Word of God is what we learn to test the spirits with, not the other way around. Your spirit may indicate to you that something is off in a teaching, but you have to be diligent to study it out to see if what you are actually sensing is truth. I am very leery of one who interprets Scripture with their spirit and not the Word of God. They will be deceived! 

I am also an advocate of reading multiple accurate and accepted Bible translations. What most fail to recognize is that a reliable translation is the work of teams of well-studied scholars who are the top in their fields. These are the ones who do all the work that we glean from when we read our bibles or commentaries. They are linguists, archeologists, and ancient culture historians. I have found that too many times people have built doctrine based on a translation rather than the true understanding of what was written. In fact, I have a long list of scriptures (which is still growing) that people misinterpret from the way it is written and think it means something it just does not. I say this, because when we go to understand what the text says, we need to take care to understand what it is actually saying, not what we think it says!

This above scripture in Matthew is one that sometimes gets pulled out of context and this can be because of difficulty in translating. There are some things in scripture that even experts cannot perfectly translate. This truth shouldn’t scare us, but humble us. It should keep us open to possibilities that don’t line up with our theology. Now, let me also say, main biblical truths are well established. However, anyone who presents themself as one who knows it all is almost certainly deceived.

Your Bible understanding also depends on how you read the words that are present. For example, “I saw her duck.” One person can read this thinking of a girl’s pet, another reads this thinking of a girl avoiding a head injury. I have seen this happen in scripture many times. This is one of those examples. In the notes of several bibles it says that the phrase “Whatever you bind (loose) on earth shall have been bound (loosed) in heaven,” can be read “will have been bound or loosed.” In other words, that which can be bound here has already been bound there. Without the decree of the Lord, there will be no binding and loosing.

I default to practical application of this. I can’t tell you how many times throughout my Christian walk I have “bound and loosed” things with my words. Fully convinced that this was my right, I went about binding and loosing whatever I felt I needed to. The problem is it didn’t always work! I was faced with a conundrum. Why were my words not working? To my knowledge I didn’t use any less faith. In fact, I’ve had times when I’ve had such little faith and I was surprised when it worked! What do we do with this?

Our job is to have a relationship with the Heavenly Father. Our job is to take the time and learn from Him what He wants us to do in any and every situation. Certainly there are things that we know we have right to. Yet we have to understand, that sometimes things we would bind or loose are things that God would do just the opposite. In these cases, we have no power. Some of these things we will learn over time and some of them will be situational. We do the best we can, and we seek to learn when we fail. This life for us is a trial of learning how to rule with Him. It is a practice so to speak. However, as with any good mentor, He is not far from us, and He’s eager to teach us if we are willing to listen. 

Should we bind and loose? Sure, but we should not do so flippantly as if we have say in running the universe. Remember, God permitted the serpent in the garden, He permitted the accuser with Job, He led Jesus to the wilderness to be tempted of the devil, and though it was unrighteous of Joseph’s brothers to sell him into slavery, what they meant for bad, God MEANT for good. Don’t just accept every situation but allow His Spirit to show you what to do. If something is to be bound, it has been purposed so by God. If it’s to be loosed, His purpose will remain! 

Be Blessed,

Pastor Jeff 

Do I Have To? (ATP)

What is the sabbath meant to be as God commanded as opposed to how the Jewish leaders saw it in Jesus’ time? Are we still to keep the sabbath as Christians? How would we do this now? 

Mark 2:24 (NIV)

The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”

Mark 2:27 (NIV)

Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”

These two verses give the contrast between how the religious leaders look at the things of God and how God looks at the things of God. This is a very clear and stark contradiction, one we would do well to thoughtfully consider.

Man, since the beginning of time, has been looking for the easy way out of doing what they should. We have become experts at looking for ways around what is best for us to do. The law, although God’s intent was good, ended up being used as a tool for the enemy to bind us once again. The law’s main purpose was to expose sin and show us what righteousness truly is.

When we get to this part of the gospel we see all things beautifully played out. I want you to keep in mind as we go forward, (consider all thoughts of this Faith Fix through this) how one views religion is how they will view God. When you understand that, why the enemy desires to utilize religion becomes woefully obvious. If God’s rules can be seen in a light that creates bondage, then people will view God in this same light.

I have seen this way too much! Even well-meaning Christian leaders, left to their own devices, can get off course. When people embrace rules above relationship, they lose sight of the fundamental attributes of our Heavenly Father. Holiness, for us, is about being in God’s presence. 1 Peter 1:16 (NIV) says, “For it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’” This is not an arbitrary rule, just because God sees it this way. We were created in His image. Therefore, the sinful nature is not what God designed us for. It, because of its essence, separates us from Him. Sin makes us lose our imaging quality of our Heavenly Father. 

When they tried to trap Jesus here Jesus explained through a rebuke, “Man was not made for the sabbath!” God’s purposes for the law and specifically here the Sabbath, had nothing to do with following certain rules, but for the blessing of humanity. Yet, humans don’t always like to listen and so God makes it a law. Why? Because man’s obedience to God’s directions and as well as to natural processes is necessary to fulfill His plan for using humanity. Long life will not be had by someone who never learns to rest. Effective service will not be done by one who doesn’t learn to rest. Have you ever tried doing something strenuous or important on very little sleep? 

To take this idea of rest further is something we see that we should be doing in this New Testament era. In a busy life, we need time to rest in God’s presence. We need to reflect on both what He’s done and what He’s doing. Rest makes us slow down to hear that still small voice. Yet, people seem to have a very hard time with doing this. 

We see the Sabbath differently in the New Testament because we have light on it that they didn’t have. We see that it isn’t about following a certain set of rules, but that it can be more flexible as long as we understand and embrace the heart of it. The Sabbath, though observed on a certain day, was not about a certain day. It was about the heart of separating a day. Devotion to God is a sacrifice. It is in part about giving that time (significant to most) its proper place in our lives so that we remember God, remember His people, and endeavor to grow in relation to them both. 

So is a believer required to keep the Sabbath? It depends on what you mean by that. If you mean a specific day of the week where you can’t do anything, my answer would be no. Should a Christian maintain the heart of the Sabbath? Absolutely yes! I love what a pastor friend of mine said to me once in a conversation. I don’t go to church because I have to. I go because I am blessed to do it!” I will take this further. We aren’t blessed to do it because we expect some sort of gift. We are blessed to do it because God made His people and allowed us to do it. If we get too overly concerned with following the rules we will miss God’s heart on it.

I’m going to sum up my views on the law of God with a silly and simple illustration. Have you ever been bowling? If you have then you’re probably aware of the bumpers that they sometimes put in the gutters for the little kids when they’re bowling. These bumpers keep the ball on the right course down the alley. Though they are there to keep the ball out of the gutter, if the child is to learn to bowl accurately they will need to be taught to try and do that anyway. The sure strike doesn’t come because the ball can’t go in the gutter, it comes when one learns the principles of where to roll the ball. Though the bumpers are fine when children are having fun, notice they are never used in a professional bowling game.

Some people choose to stay infants in the things of God. These are certainly those who will perpetually need rules to guide them. God’s heart is that we would be governed by our conscience, renewed in His truth and by His Spirit. To grow in maturity means that one learns to not just look at the rule, but the heart of the rule. One thing is clear in scripture, the heart of man cannot be governed by rules. If that’s our goal, we will always miss His.

Be Blessed,

Pastor Jeff 

My Husband’s Tithe (ATP)

Question: I’m a mom and I stay home with my kids. I don’t “work” enough to really make a significant contribution to our family. When we tithe or give monetary donations to others I often feel I am not. It’s an area of serving and doing the Lord’s work where I feel as though I’m not doing it.

The truth is, the Bible doesn’t give a one size fits all plan for how to run a household. The Bible talks about man having a wife, i.e. Adam and Eve, as a helper comparable to him. There’s scripture about the importance of being pure and loyal towards one another, and of course many scriptures about mutual love and submission to one another, but the closest scriptures I’m aware of that even address what the daily life of a wife might look like are Proverbs 31:10-31. This being said, we have to remember that even those are more about character and righteousness, really those scriptures are expressing the value of a wife who is of utmost character. Even this wasn’t a prescription for your daily “to do” list. Why do I mention all of this? Well, because there are many things that a husband and wife have to figure out between themselves and the Lord. 

This is an area where we really have to understand the scriptures about two becoming one. (Genesis 2:24, Mathew 19:4-6) We don’t live and count our lives separately when we’re married. If the way your household runs is with your husband working and earning a paycheck while you work to care for your home and children, then that’s how it runs. If you and your spouse are in agreement about this, that’s a perfectly good option for families. If not, then getting in agreement is key. Besides this, if you’re home so the paycheck can be in his name, then you’re earning that paycheck as well so to speak. It’s not “his” tithe or “his” offering but it’s your joint tithe and offering. This might change in the event that you or your spouse were perfectly able to earn a paycheck having no other obligations like child-rearing, but refused. It’s not to say there’s only ever a need for one person to earn and income, but that’s between you, your spouse, and God. 

It’s important to keep in mind that God isn’t concerned about the paycheck you don’t have, He’s concerned about you doing right with what you do have. So if money isn’t what you as an individual have to offer the Lord because motherhood doesn’t pay, what do you have to bring as an offering of sacrifice to the Lord? Bring that. Whatever it is that your family has peace doing, that’s what you do and do that confidently before the Lord knowing you’ve sought His best in your life.  I love the reminder we get in Colossians 3:23-24, that says, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” As you care for your family, do it for the Lord and be confident that He sees and values your heart and your efforts. 

Be Blessed,

Pastor Renée 

What’s The Point? (ATP) 

In the Bible there are instances where Jesus healed people and afterwards He said “Go and Sin no more.” If we are by our very nature sinful how can we do this and why would He say this? It seems impossible. 

This is a great example of why, as people of faith, we must study the Bible, not just read it. Reading is fine to start, to become acquainted with the text, however we must graduate and move on. 2 Timothy 2:15 (NASB) tells us, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” To be approved is to make sure one understands, not just accepts on hearsay.

The Bible is simple enough for babes and difficult for the most astute scholar. However, one cannot assume that they can just read and understand it all. What am I saying? Let me explain it like this: you can learn the basics about driving and get most places just fine. But it’s another thing completely to know why a car works the way it does and what to do in every scenario. I worked in a factory many years ago and once I was getting trained on a machine to make parts. There were these older men who had been working on these same machines for 30 to 40 years. These guys knew these machines so well that if they needed some kind of adjustment they could just bump it a certain way and make it do what they wanted. I could barely operate them by specific instructions! This can explain the scriptures too! The more we know about God’s character, the more we will understand what He is saying. If our understanding of God is distorted, so will our understanding of His word be. 

There is a universal truth about sin. Then there is the reality of it. Some people will say, “sin is sin, it’s all disgusting in God’s eyes.” While this statement is technically true, there IS a difference, for instance such as harming a child verses something like spiritual jay walking. When Jesus said, “Go and sin no more,” there are a few things we must understand. Firstly, this statement was made situationally. Though we have the account in scripture, we certainly don’t have every minute of the conversation nor do we have the fullness of Jesus’s knowledge of it, either naturally or supernaturally. There are at least a few ways we can understand this.

While all sickness is not necessarily a result of a specific sin, some certainly are. So for starters, this could be referring to that. When He said to sin no more He may have been addressing a specific sin that He and the hearer knew of. It may have been an open sin (that all the hearers would know, like the woman caught in adultery) or it could have been spoken in a way that only that person would know. We don’t know for sure, and honestly that doesn’t matter. We can be sure of this, when the Lord gives instructions, they will be clear to us. 

The statement we know could not possibly mean never sin again. 1 John 1:8 (NASB) tells us, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.” However there is also another angle to this. Though we will sin, we ARE to be diligent to try not to sin. This also could be His meaning. Too many people justify sin, claiming that they will sin because it’s inevitable. This is a crazy way of thinking but since I have seen it too many times, it is clearly an issue with humans.

So where should we stand in all this? We should endeavor first not to sin. 1 John 2:1-2 (NASB) says, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.” We try not to sin, but if we do we can be sure we have an advocate who covers us. We must realize that Jesus died for us to give us hope. See without Him, if we sin there was no hope of redemption. Now we are freed because if we do sin, it doesn’t completely ruin our path to God. We have hope! It is this very hope that helps us get back on track and not sin in the future. 

In closing, sin is never something we should just be ok with. How we respond to it matters, whether it’s our own or sin we see in someone else. The love of Christ sets us free from the bondage of sin. Romans 6:1-2 (NASB) asks us, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” The principle is that we should endeavor to not live in sin, essentially, to go forward in God not purposing to sin. Christians who endeavor not to live in sin understand the greatness of what Christ has done. Not in their perfection, but as they live out their perfecting.

Be Blessed,

Pastor Jeff