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September 2015 entries

The Length People Go to Deny Jesus


James ossuaryThe lengths people will go to ignore Jesus, or even deny His existence, is obvious in the case of the much debated and examined ossuary with the inscription, "James, son of Joseph,brother of Jesus.".

An ossuary is a stone box with lid used in Israel for centuries to collect the bones of the deceased. After the body was buried and decomposed the bones were gathered and placed in an ossuary. The inscription of the name of the person was engraved on the outside. This was necessary because often these boxed were kept with the bone boxes of other members of the extended family.

 Genesis 50:25 (NKJV)
25  Then Joseph took an oath from the children of Israel, saying, "God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here." 

1 Kings 13:31 (NKJV)
31  So it was, after he had buried him, that he spoke to his sons, saying, "When I am dead, then bury me in the tomb where the man of God is buried; lay my bones beside his bones. 

This particular bone box was first reported in the Biblical Archaeology Review in 2002. Immediately detractors began to claim it was a forgery. In 2005 forgery charges were brought against the owner. The trial lasted 7 years. If it were found to be genuine, it is the oldest written reference to Jesus. The trial ended with the acquittal of the owner. Case over. Right?

Those who still wish to deny the ossuary's authenticity have formed a committee of their own. They have assembled a committee of "experts" to determine its authenticity for themselves. The committee's report admitted that it had chosen some members who had "expressed an opinion on the subject." Closer scrutiny reveals that these members had already expressed outspoken opinions to the effect that the inscription was a forgery.

Why such aggressive attacks against the "realness" of the box. In my opinion the answer is simple enough; to remove another evidence of the most important and controversial person in history: Jesus Christ, the Son of God. How adamant would the opposition have been if the name were some obscure first century politician or wealthy citizen? What if it were a Roman senator? Would there be such an effort to discredit it or it's owner? I don't think so. When the name of Jesus is mentioned there is always controversy. The truth is those who hide in the disciplines of science have free reign to obscure and deny the existence of God in the publications of their own making. However, when God makes an unannounced visit into their own well guarded world, they rush to discredit His reality.

So what did the biased committee determine concerning the authenticity of the limestone box containing the name of Jesus, His brother and earthly father? In the end, the committee members unanimously agreed that the ossuary inscription is a forgery. To quote Gomer Pyle, USMC, "Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!" The length the world will go to deny Jesus has no limitations. However, they may take heed to the words of the One they wish to ignore:

 Luke 12:8-9 (NKJV)
8  "Also I say to you, whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God.
9  But he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God.      

Enough said. We'll talk again soon.  

A New Vision for Dallas Bay

I like to think of myself as creative and innovative. The truth is I'm often just a first adopter in our community. Leading a church in a suburb of a mid-sized American city in the south it isn't hard to look creative. A one-eyed man in the land of the blind is king. So several years we were one of the first to open a satellite church a few miles from our main campus. We weren't the first to do this in our city, but there weren't many others. So it was exciting and new for many of our people. Just like any church, however, we had a few who were against it from the start.

Too make a painfully long story surprisingly short; it didn't work out. Today it is in the hands of a commercial realtor waiting for the right buyer. Just because others were doing it didn't make it right for us. We had some great things happen there. There were people saved and baptized. We ministered to the homeless. I know of even one couple who met there and today they are married. The Lord knows I hate to fail at anything but the experience, for the most part, just didn't work.

Randy Pope had bigger dreams for church expansion than I did. Randy is the pastor of Perimeter Church in North Atlanta. He had plans to plant hundreds of campuses in Atlanta. After successfully starting 4 in the city he invited an expert to speak to his staff. This expert gave an overall plan that would help them begin more than a hundred new sites in Atlanta. While the staff became energized by the vision Randy had a check in his spirit. Speaking to the advisor after the presentation he said: "Carl, what you have described is way ahead of its time. I predict it will be widely used one day. But not at Perimeter."  The pastor went on to say: "I could see where this vision would lead us, and I came to a sudden realization: we couldn't let that happen to our church."

Here are a couple of reasons Pastor Pope chose not to continue the multisite approach.

1. We are called pastor-teachers because we pastor in a significant way through our teaching. If the leader isn't preaching, and the preacher isn't leading, there's a serious disconnect. 

2. God calls each congregation in each specific location to engage the gates of hell in specific ways. When the message doesn't address the specific needs of the local congregation a lot of the impact of the spoken word is lost. As a pastor of a multi-campus ministry, dispensing a message from a distance to outlying congregations that need to engage their specific gates of hell, I am absent. My leadership is not available as needed in each local site. 

Randy doesn't criticize those who have chosen this model, but warns of the dangers stated above. He advises : I certainly wouldn't ask pastors of multi-campus churches to dismantle their structures. Instead, I'd ask them to consider why they're using that model and what is being produced."

I have come to conclude that our objective isn't to increase the numbers of our congregations, but to enlarge the number of inductees into the kingdom of heaven. We should encourage kingdom growth whether it swells the membership of our local churches or not. Soon I will be introducing a strategy at Dallas Bay to grow the kingdom through the formation of house churches in Chattanooga. Attendees at these gatherings may never grace the campus of our church. They may never grow larger than someone's home can contain. The make-up of these churches will probably be different than the homogenous look of the church I attend and serve. They may reflect people from Asia, Europe, South America and beyond. My prayer is that the result will be groups of believers that will reflect more the way we will spend eternity than the brief time we have here to be His witnesses.

I'll let you know as soon as I have a clearer vision of what God is laying on my heart. Until then pray with me that God will lay this burden on the hearts of others and the the Lord of the harvest will send forth workers. Talk to you soon!