Burn the ships
So light a match, leave the past, burn the ships, And don't you look back
~ For King And Country
Our family has been studying the book of Judges. More broadly, we have been studying the history of the church. It is mind bending to see how strongly culture has impacted God's people since the beginning of time. God's word is clear as to how He instructs us to live, but there is always another voice. One seeks to save, love and protect us, but the other is unrelenting in it's desire to corrupt us, destroy us and ultimately separate us from God. We saw the first example of this in Eden with the serpent. Evil will always vie for our attention and is very creative in how to grab it. This week we have been looking at Gideon. Judges 6 is a really inspiring account. It opens with Gideon threshing wheat in a wine press in hopes of avoiding conflict. Israel had come under attack from the people of Midyan for seven years because they were chasing other Gods. Judges 6:10 and I said to you, “I am the LORD your God; you shall not fear the gods of the Amorites in whose land you live.” But you have not obeyed Me." The Israelites lived in Egypt for hundreds of years. The worship of Baal caught fire there around 1400 B.C. which gave the Israelites a very long time to steep in this practice before the exodus. They adopted many of the Egyptian's customs, of which it seems Baal was one. As for Gideon, because of the persecution from Midyan, the Israelites were living in caves, mountains and other safe places. It seems he was just trying to do his job and stay safe as a wine press likely would have been somewhat out of sight. As he was working, an angel appeared to him and called him to save Israel from the hands of Midyan to which he informs the angel that he is the youngest person in the weakest clan in Manasseh. A.K.A. I am nothing, I have nothing, you have the wrong guy. I think many of us can relate to Gideon here. It would be a rare person who has never come up against a situation that felt bigger than their ability and resources. The encouragement? God has a habit of using ordinary people to do extraordinary things. Fast forward, after the angel's encouraging words that they will come out from under their oppression and physical proof of the authenticity of the angel, Gideon is in. Wasting no time The Lord spoke to him that night. He instructs him to destroy his father's alter for Baal and the Ashera pole beside it. Baal was considered the god of fertility and Ashera was the goddess of fertility. They were kind of peanut butter and jelly as far as paganism goes and as such were often worshiped together. What did Baal/Ashera worship look like??? Orgies, bisexuality, infant sacrifice by burning them alive and more performed at the alters to get good crops... Everything about this is an offense to God. Offense meaning, He hates it. Yet, it is prolific throughout the Bible. God keeps stamping it out and Israel keeps bringing it back. Sex sells and Baal worship offered every and any type of depravity, even to the priests who were very involved in the rituals. It is shocking to me that they were head scratching as to why God would not save them from their distress, but back to Gideon. Under cover of darkness Gideon does what God instructed him to do. He destroyed the alter to Baal, cut down the Ashera, built a proper alter to God, and offered a burnt offering to God using the Ashera as firewood. The next morning when the men of the city got up and found their shrine of debauchery destroyed, they sought out the culprit. After investigating they realized it was Gideon and gathered at his house to demand his father Joash hand him over to be killed. Joash refused saying let Baal revenge himself. "After all, somebody destroyed his alter." As you have likely guessed, Baal is silent. Gideon lives and goes on to do some pretty terrific things. Not surprising considering who was with him. Between 800 & 900 B.C. much of the influence of Baal was successfully rooted out from Israel by Jehu who tore down his temple and made a latrine of the remains. 2 Kings 10:27. Seems a fitting end-ish, as it does rear it's head again and continues around 70 years, but is then stamped out again under the rule of Josiah 2 Kings 22->. He rooted it out and "broke down the houses of the male cult prostitutes which were in the house of the Lord." 2 Kings 23:7 In essence they had whore houses in God's Church.... In case you wondered what happens when sin goes unchecked. Idol worship and the way it upsets God is throughout the Bible and predates the Israelite's stint in Egypt. Genesis 31 is a great example of this. It is however stunning how they incorporated paganism into their worship of God. It is a slippery slope. You see growth from a set of ideas and ways of being, to a carved pole, to an alter, to a temple alongside, to alters, Ashera poles and whore houses inside of God's temple. Are we immune? Are we worshiping the God of the Bible or our own ideals. What forms our expectation of the "church experience?" Is it God's Holy Word or the surrounding culture? I am sure Christ's disciples are glad for Gideon, Jehu and Josiah's efforts to bring purity back to the worship of God. This tugging of peoples hearts back to the word has occurred since the beginning of time. As humans we get distracted and God says over here! Keep your eyes on my word. Why was Israel told in Deut 6 that the Lord is One and we are to love Him with all of our hearts, soul and strength. They were also told to tie these words on their hands, heads and write them on their door frames. God knew what was coming. He is God. His words would have safeguarded them, if they listened and thought about them. As Christians we are given a similar reminder from Christ. Like His Father He used simple elements. When ever you break this bread. Whenever you drink of this cup. Remember me. 1 Corinthians 11:24-25 Christ went through torment, a savage death and lived a selfless life to reform a very corrupt and broken church and make a way for everyone to be saved. One of the most powerful parts of the crucifixion story to me is when the temple curtain was torn in two. Guesstimates are that it was 60 feet long. Can you imagine what that looked like? The reactions of those there as it tore by an unseen force? At Christ's crucifixion the sky darkens for hours and upon His death the earth shakes and an enormous curtain meant to separate the people from God is torn in two...Mat 27:45-54 Checkmate. Judaism's tyrannical hold on God's people was no more for those who accepted Christ. You would imagine this would be met with reverence and fear, but instead they attempt the biggest cover up in the history of the world including, but not limited to, paying off the guards to say Christ's body was stolen. Mat 28:12-13 So, How are we doing? If you look at the first century church, does it seem in step with your worship? Out of respect for His sacrifice, let's take a large step back. What does this new church God established look like? First, the church is not a building, it is God's people wherever they gather. A building, though handy, does not designate a people of God. 1 Corinthians 3:9-17 Second, they should meet on the Sabbath. That is the seventh day, which is Saturday. The Catholic church changed it to Sunday. This is a historical fact and a place where culture has strongly impacted the church. God blessed and sanctified the seventh day. Gen 2:3 It was set aside for rest, fellowship and coming together as a church to worship God. The Catholic church states that they transferred that solemnity to Sunday. If you are Catholic you will be glad to roll with that, for those that are not ... Why adhere to a perversion of God's word established hundreds of years ago by a corrupt church? Third, the first church was not eating wafers and thimbles of juice at fellowship. That's communion for mice. They broke bread together. They spent hours together being taught, eating and talking. They were in each others lives. They were a family of believers, not just congregants. Fourth, men are pastors and deacons. 1 Tim 3 Deaconesses and female pastors do not exist in the Bible. They should not exist in churches. Women are a great blessing in God's church and there are many roles appropriate for them, but leading church is not one. Additionally, money corrupts. This has become abundantly evident in the church. A pastor wrote the other day on social media about a corrupt pastor saying "when will corruption in ministry end?" To which I wrote, "take away the salaries and I assure you that many of these corrupt teachers will fall away." Christ was a carpenter and Paul was a tent maker. 1 Thes 2:9 I am not saying that people should not give to those in ministry as they feel led to. We have given and continue to give, as we feel called, be it to missionaries, churches, people wanting to attend events geared at spiritual growth but finding themselves without means, or just brothers or sisters falling on challenging times. It is good and right to support God's work on this earth and care for His children. I do however believe a person becoming a pastor with "expectation" of compensation is a breeding ground for insincere people to take a job rather than a person following a sincere calling from the Lord to serve His people. This is in no way meant to discredit Pastors who love the Lord are truly following God's calling and are in full time ministry. We have been blessed to know some. It is just a recognition that pastoring for pay is a broken system and leaves a lot of room for corruption. It has let many wolves into the sheep pen. 2 Cor 2:17 So, what does a first century church look like? In the words of a great pastor, "it is easy to say what it didn't look like right?" It didn't look like smoke and lights worship with paid worship pastors. It didn't have a bookstore in the lobby or concession stand. I have sadly seen both. To our thoughts, it was and should be Col 3:16. Followers of God united in their love for Him. It should look like families gathering together on the Sabbath to "break bread" ie bagels, cinnamon rolls, etc, worship with song, the reading of scripture and exchanging of ideas... Additionally, it is a community in and of itself that purposes to find opportunities throughout the week to get together and encourage one another with prayer time, women's studies, men's studies and for us it also includes thoughtfully planned children's activities that demonstrate to children that they are treasured by God and a very special part of His Kingdom. It is a place where awesome Christ honoring friendships are commonplace. It is a place where God's word is looked to as the standard and not simply a guidebook. Does this describe your fellowship? If yes, huzzah for you, yours and the kingdom of God. That is a tremendous gift. If not, perhaps it is time to burn those poles. As a family, we have done this. A common military practice of long ago was burning the ships as an army disembarked giving them no hope of returning without victory. We have done that as we searched for a New Testament church and were found wanting. We found a church that had most on straight but a few things very off. The closer we got the more clear it became. We did the responsible thing and brought our observations up to the church leaders. A few acknowledged the dysfunction and inappropriateness of things that we drew attention to, but also stated this is how it has been done for many years and now was essentially ecclesiastical polity and so would not likely be changed. Wow. Yes, it is against the Bible. No we will not change it as it has been like this a very long time. I want to encourage anyone reading this to choose God. You may be in France and we may never meet on this side of eternity, but at some point, as a people of God, we need to stand up and say enough. Almost is not good enough. As for me and my house we will serve the Lord! Even if it is just my family. Maybe wherever you are it is just you. Seek out other believers. Use social media, meet up platforms, etc... Burn your ships, pray in earnest and find your tribe. God is faithful. If you need an ear to bend, we are here. Please reach out. We look forward to hearing from you. :)
But if it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served, which were beyond the Euphrates River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
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