ARROW_SIGNS

This thought seems to be a common one about religion and runs throughout much of society. Maybe you have heard one of the following statements:

“All paths eventually lead to the same God.”

“All religions teach the same basic principles so it really does not matter which religion you follow.”

“It does not matter what you believe as longs as you are sincere.”

“We are all God’s children and it is not important what we believe.”

“There is no one ultimate truth. Everyone is entitled to believe whatever they want.”

Some of the world’s religions lean more towards this way of thinking than others. Hinduism, for example, has close to one billion followers. This religion worships many different gods. The gods and goddesses of Hinduism amount to thousands or even millions of different deities.

While there are common themes running throughout Hinduism, it is a very tolerant religion. It is not uncommon for a Hindu to consider themselves a “Christian Hindu” because they have added Jesus as one of their many deities. For most Hindus, the ideas of being a “good person” and doing good works are more important that what someone’s religious beliefs are. In fact, most of the world’s religions could be referred to as works-based religions.

Christianity is another of the world’s great religions and has over two billion followers. While Christians would agree that there are probably elements of truth in every religion, traditional Christianity would take exception to the idea that all paths will eventually lead to God. I realize this is not popular and leaves Christians looking intolerant. At the same time, however, this has been what Christians have believed for around 2000 years.

Why is it that traditional Christianity sees itself as the only true way to God? Islam says that the prophet Mohammad had the correct path to God. Judaism also believes that they have the eternal truth and the promises of God. Is there anything about Christianity that might elevate their claim to providing the only way to God?

First of all, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father (GOD) except through me.” (John 14:6) This is a pretty bold claim and the religious leaders of Jesus’ day took offense at statements like this. Just because Jesus made this claim does not automatically make it so. Anyone can say that they are the only way to God. Is there any way to substantiate this claim?

The New Testament teaches that Jesus was eventually put to death by the Romans at the instigation of the Jewish religious leaders. A dead messiah equals no messiah. Jesus was not the first Jewish rabbi to attract a following and be thought of as the messiah. He was not the first messiah that the Romans had executed.

What sets Jesus apart, however, is the idea of resurrection. The New Testament teaches that Jesus physically rose from the dead. This is what the Easter Holiday is all about. The Apostle Paul wrote, “I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me – that Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter and then by the twelve apostles. After that, he was seen by more than five hundred of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died by now. Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles.” (1 Corinthians 15: 3-7)

If Jesus rose from the dead, never to die again, this seems to be a pretty clear substantiation of His claim to be the only way to God. Obviously, everyone will not agree on this and many adherents to other faiths would argue that Jesus was not raised from the dead. This question of the resurrection has been argued and debated since the days of the early Church. This debate will likely not be resolved anytime soon.

Another reason that Christians do not believe that all paths lead to God has to do with Jesus’ crucifixion. If Jesus was merely crucified as a failed revolutionary, there is little significance in His death. Christians believer, however, there was some type of atoning work that took place through His death. In the passage above, Paul says that, “Christ died for our sins…” If all religions are true but just different paths to God, why did Jesus have to die? If God’s plan all along was that every religion would lead people to Him, did Jesus die in vain?

A last question that is worth considering is this, “Why would God only make one way to get to Him?” This is a legitimate question. If God is love and wants to save the world, why would He make it so hard for people to find Him? One answer to this is that if Jesus was who He said He was, at least there is a way to God. God is not one of us. He decides how people can approach Him.

God has created us with a free will. We can go down whatever path we choose. We can believe whatever we want to believe. If every path really does lead to God, though, is our will really free? It sounds like we are being forced to go somewhere we might not want to go.

What do you think?

If you would like to be a part of what God is doing Brazil, just click here. We would love to have you on our team! Obrigado!

 

angel

The theology and doctrine of angels is an often neglected area of Christian theology and study. Most systematic theologies list angelology as one of the major categories of study, yet it is often overlooked. A theological definition of angels is that they “are spiritual beings created by God to serve Him, though created higher than man. Some, the good angels, have remained obedient to Him and carry out His will, while others, fallen angels, disobeyed, fell from their holy position, and now stand in active opposition to the work and plan of God.”

A common idea in many segments of Christianity and even in some non-Christian New Age teaching is that everyone has a guardian angel assigned to them for life. The Roman Catholic Church, for example, has taught the doctrine of guardian angels since its earliest days. Catholic theologians acknowledge, though, that this belief is not overtly spelled out in Scripture.

Most teaching on guardian angels comes from just a couple of passages of Scripture. In Matthew 18:10 Jesus says, “Beware that you don’t despise a single one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels are always in the presence of my heavenly Father.” This verse does seem to imply that children have angels assigned to them. It is difficult to create a doctrine out of this verse, however, because it just is not that clear.

A second passage of Scripture that is often used to create a theology of guardian angels is from Psalm 91:9-12. “If you make the LORD your refuge, if you make the Most High your shelter, no evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your dwelling. For he orders his angels to protect you wherever you go. They will hold you with their hands to keep you from striking your foot on a stone.” While these verses clearly imply angelic protection, they do not say that we are assigned a guardian angel.

One of the best passages in all of the Bible that discusses angelic ministry is found in The Letter to the Hebrews. In the first part of this letter, actually a written sermon, the author seeks to establish the supremacy of Christ. This passage also clearly seeks to define the deity of Jesus as opposed to Him just being merely another prophet. The writer goes on to say that Christ is also superior to the angels since He was the One who created them.

While the angels are powerful spiritual beings, the author to the Hebrews makes clear that they are created beings that God has given tasks to. One of these tasks has to do with serving those who have put their trust in Christ. “But angels are only servants. They are spirits sent from God to care for those who will receive salvation.” (Hebrews 1:14) While this verse acknowledges angelic ministry in the lives of Christians, it stops short of saying that every believer has an angel assigned to them.

There are many other passages in the Bible that discuss angels and their ministry. There are none that explicitly define a doctrine that every Christian or every person has a guardian angel. This does not mean that angels do not have a place in the world or that they are not active. Indeed, as the pages of Scripture show over and over again, God’s angels are working behind the scenes protecting and serving God’s people. Only eternity will reveal the important role that God’s angels have played in all of our lives.

Looking for a good place to invest in the building God’s Kingdom? My wife, Annie, and I are helping build the Church in Brazil. We would love to have you on our team! Just click here. Obrigado!

 

employee-training

Many companies and businesses provide in-service training for their staff. This training can cover a variety of topics such as customer service, communication skills, computer skills, safety, ethics, and many other topics. There can also be specific skills taught to a sub-set of the organization. If a factory installed a new piece of equipment on the production line, for example, there would need to be training designed to educate those who would be using that particular machine.

Providing training and development opportunities to the employees at your company is very important for several reasons. First of all, it communicates that the administration and management team cares enough about their workers to provide additional opportunities for them to develop. This shows that company leadership understands the importance of investing in their people. Most companies offer training for their employees during regular business hours. The workers are on the clock but not doing their regular job. This conveys the message that production can slow down for a few hours as the employees attend class. In some companies, the workers might be sent to the class over a period of a couple of days so that the business does not have to completely shut down. When employees see that their management cares enough to send them to some type of class, motivation is often improved throughout the company. Increased motivation leads to greater morale and job satisfaction.

A second reason that training and development opportunities are important is that it keeps the team sharp. On-going training provides them with the latest technical, legal, and specialized skills that they need to do their jobs. This will increase efficiency and productivity in workers. If management is serious about productivity, periodic classes will ensure that employees have the most up-to-date information to do their jobs effectively.

In-service training also serves to keep the team sharp in another way. By giving workers a break from their regular duties, even if it is only for a day or a few hours, they are allowing them to recalibrate and rest. Many people have jobs that are monotonous and tedious. When these workers attend a class, they are able to unwind and use a different part of their brain for a little while.

A third reason that on-going training opportunities are important is that they have been shown to reduce employee turnover by as much as 70%. While training is an investment by the company into its employees, regular training opportunities also serve to help the workers invest back into the company. Training often stimulates new ideas and creativity and give the employees a greater sense of ownership.

One last reason why it is so important for a company to provide training and development opportunities for their people is that it is an investment in the organization’s future. Training opportunities will often be a way that management can identify those employees who appear to be leaders. Identifying people that could possibly fill supervisory and management roles down the road is important for any business. The worst time to start looking for qualified people to promote is when you need them. It is much better to start the process of training and developing potential leaders before there is a need. Having an active list of candidates for promotion is something that any large business should maintain.

Companies should make training opportunities available throughout the year. Their people will benefit from it and the company will benefit from it. Some successful businesses have quarterly training sessions in which employees receive an hour or two of training. Other companies will set up classes twice a year, requiring workers to attend half day sessions. Besides required training, many organizations also offer optional training that employees can request to attend. There is no doubt that training workers can be expensive. At the same time, successful organizations realize that they cannot afford not to train and develop their people.

Would you consider supporting Annie and I as we serve in Brazil? We are developing leaders and helping build the Church. Just click here. Obrigado! 

 

policecarinmirror

Every year, close to one and a half million drivers are arrested for DUI in the United States. It is never a good idea to get into the car with a driver that is impaired. The reality, however, is that it happens every single day. There are several different scenarios that can play out for the passenger in a car in which the driver is arrested for Driving Under the Influence. During my thirty year Law Enforcement career I saw, and dealt with, each of these situations while arresting hundreds of drivers for DUI.

1. The Passenger is the Car Owner
If the passenger is the car owner, they have probably allowed the arrestee to drive because the passenger has been drinking as well, and it was assumed that the driver was the less impaired. Whether or not the passenger is impaired really does not matter, though. The bigger issue is that the owner of the vehicle has allowed an impaired driver to operate their car. In most states, the passenger can be arrested along with the driver. In Georgia, for example, the charge is Allowing Unlawful Operation of a Motor Vehicle. This is section 40-1-3 of the Georgia Traffic Code. This charge holds the owner of a vehicle responsible for letting someone drive their car unlawfully. In this example, the owner/passenger is allowing someone who is under the influence of alcohol of drugs to drive their car. Under this charge, the owner/passenger can be arrested along with the driver. The owner/passenger’s bond and fines could be the same as the driver’s.

2. There are Other Criminal Charges on the Passenger
In this scenario, the passenger is found to be in violation of some other law. They might have an open container of alcohol with them in the car. They might be found to have drugs on them. They might have outstanding warrants for their arrest. In this situation, the passenger is also arrested. It is also not uncommon for an intoxicated passenger to “talk their way” into going to jail. Depending on their level of intoxication, they might take exception to their friend/driver being arrested and end up becoming abusive or belligerent towards the police. Most jurisdictions have a Public Drunk or Disorderly Conduct charge that works well with this type of person.

3. The Passenger is Not the Owner of the Vehicle and is Not Impaired
If the driver is the owner of the vehicle and is arrested for DUI, they can, if they choose, have the police release the car to the passenger. This keeps from having the car impounded. This scenario will not work if the driver is not the owner of the vehicle. If the driver is not the owner, they do not have the authority to release the vehicle to someone else. In that case, the car will probably get impounded.

4. The Car Cannot be Released to the Passenger
In the vast majority of cases, the passenger of a DUI arrest is allowed to call someone to come and pick them up. This is only a viable option, however, when the passenger’s ride is coming from nearby. It is unrealistic to expect the police to sit on the side of the road with someone for an extended period of time waiting for their ride. In many situations, the police will transport the passenger to a convenience store or other safe location where they can wait for their ride. If the passenger lives close by, it would also be acceptable for an officer to drive the passenger home.

5. Serious Injury or Death
Every year in the United States, over ten thousand people die in alcohol related motor vehicle accidents. In many of these cases, it is not just the drivers that are dying, but also their passengers. It is very dangerous to get into a car with someone who has been drinking.

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, it is never a good idea to get in the car with someone who has been drinking. In a perfect world, a sober person would be the driver and the person who has been drinking would be the pasenger. If both subjects have been drinking, a taxi ride home is a good way to go. While a taxi ride might be expensive, the repercussions for driving under the influence or being their passenger are much more expensive.

Since retiring from the police department, I have been serving the Lord with my wife in Brazil. We are working with a couple of churches here, developing leaders and helping grow these churches. Would you consider joining our support team? Just click here. Obrigado!

treadmill

There are several factors that need to be considered when buying a gym membership. Selecting a place to workout is a big decision. It is a financial investment but it is also a place in which the user is going to be spending several hours a week. By having a check list of what is important, the individual will have a much easier time picking the fitness club that is going to fit them the best.

1. Location- Is the gym close to the user’s home? It might be the nicest, cleanest, most modern facility on the planet, but if it is not close and convenient to get to, the user is probably not going to get to it that often. Most people will not drive more than fifteen minutes to get to a gym. Obviously, if someone lives in a rural setting, this might be unrealistic. In most urban environments, however, the fifteen minute rule is a good measure to go by.

For some users, however, the location might not be as important a consideration. It is not uncommon for someone to join a gym that is nowhere near where they live but is on their way home from work. They can stop and workout on their way into the office or on their way home. This is especially common in larger cities where rush hour traffic can be tedious. Instead of sitting in traffic, the commuter can stop at their gym, work out, and then continue home after the traffic has died down.

2. Child Care- Does the gym provide a safe, fun place for the user’s children? If the potential member is going to be bringing their children to the gym with them, this is a very important consideration. It is always a good idea to ask to see the child care area when there are actually children there. Do they look like they are having a good time? Is the child care worker interacting with the children or sitting in a corner texting? Is the room clean and well lit? When dealing with the issue of child care, the question of cost also comes up. Is the cost of child care included in the membership dues? In most cases it is, but it is best not to assume anything.

3. Classes- What classes does the fitness club provide? Many users join a gym just to take advantage of the different classes. Health clubs offer many different types such as Spin, Zumba, Pilates, Yoga, Body Pump, Kickboxing, and many others. If classes are important to the user, then this should be one of the first questions asked. It is also important to know what classes are included in their gym membership and which ones require an additional cost.

4. Personal Trainers- How much do the sessions with a personal trainer cost? For someone who is new to working out, buying a few sessions with a personal trainer is a great idea. The trainer can work with the individual to help them achieve their fitness goals. The price for these sessions can range, in most cases, from thirty five to seventy five dollars a session. Many gyms offer a free session with a personal trainer to a new member. This is an excellent perk that the new member should take advantage of.

5. Test Drive- Does the health club offer a free trial membership? This is a great opportunity for the potential member to use the facility for a few days and see if they are going to be happy there. These free trial memberships usually are from one to seven days. A longer trial is preferred because it gives the potential client a better view of the gym.

6. Cost- How much are the monthly dues? Does the health club require a long-term contract? Signing a long-term gym contract is never a good idea. In most cases, a gym will require a initiation/set up fee and monthly dues. The best situation is when a health club deducts a client’s dues monthly. To cancel a membership usually requires a thirty day notice. Monthly gym dues normally run from twenty five to seventy five dollars a month, depending on what they offer. In some cases, one can get even better deals by paying for a year or two in advance.

By following these simple guidelines, the potential member will be able to pick the health club that is right for them. A gym membership can help someone get into shape, maintain a healthy lifestyle, and make new friends. Don’t rush into a gym membership, but don’t put off joining a gym.

Can you think of anything else someone should look for in a health club?

Annie and I are seeing God do some incredible things in Brazil. Would you consider joining our team? Just click here. Obrigado! 

 

 

God's_Globe- No border by SirKado

God’s_Globe- No border by SirKado

As we move deeper into the new Millennium, many Christians are wondering what God is doing in the world today. Does God have a new strategy to reach people with the message of His love? Is the Holy Spirit working in new ways in a new millennium?

A better question that we might ask is, “How are we ministering in the new millennium?” God’s strategy and plan has not changed since the time of Christ. His commission to His disciples was, “I have been given complete authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28: 18-20)

The Lord Jesus entrusted His work to those He left behind. They in turn would preach the Gospel and train other disciples to continue the cycle. The message of Christianity has not changed in two thousand years. People still must respond to Christ by faith and begin a relationship with Him. Just as the early disciples followed Jesus and called Him, “Lord,” so all of His followers have done the same throughout history.

While the message of Christ has not changed, the methods used to deliver that message change regularly. The Apostle Paul, for example, endured many hardships as he traveled throughout the Roman Empire. He says in 2 Corinthians 11 that he was shipwrecked three times and endured many dangers and trials during his missionary journeys.

Today, someone can leave their home and be on the other side of the world within twenty-four hours. A personal example of the relative ease of missionary travel was several years ago when I was invited to preach in India. I conducted Pastoral Training Courses for a week with almost two hundred indigenous pastors. These classes took place in the morning. My afternoons were devoted to speaking at a number of rural house churches. In the evening, I was preaching in open-air evangelistic meetings. All in all, I preached or taught almost twenty five times in a week and a half before I got back on a plane to come back to my day job.

Technology has created wonderful opportunities for the Church to spread the Good New of Christ. Many Churches and Christian organizations are using television, radio, and the Internet to send the Christian message into hard to reach countries. Closed countries, such as North Korea, might keep missionaries from coming into their country, but they cannot keep Christian television and Christian radio signals from crossing the border.

Modern technology also allows the gospel to be preached in other parts of the world in cost-saving ways. I have had the privilege of preaching to churches in Australia and Brazil, via Skype, while sitting in my office in the United States. While there is nothing like being there in person, travel costs and time constraints make mediums like Skype very attractive.

The Church is still God’s primary vehicle of bringing salvation to the world. A vibrant local church is the best tool for reaching communities. In this new millennium, there seems to be a growing awareness of the need to plant more churches. Better methods and systems are constantly being developed to make church planting more effective. No matter how good our methods, though, the bottom line is that the church must be filled with the Holy Spirit. God expects us to do the work. He has entrusted the Kingdom Message to us.

At the same time, however, we must not forget what Jesus told His followers just before His ascension, “But when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power and will tell people about me everywhere – in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) A Spirit-filled Church is going to be the tool that God uses to reach this generation.

How do you see God moving in our generation?

My wife, Annie, and I are serving the Lord in Brazil. Would you consider joining our support team? Just click here. Obrigado!

Passing Away?

July 7, 2014 — 1 Comment

Open-Door

A dear friend’s mother recently passed away. She had courageously battled cancer for several years and the end had come. Passed away. We use that phrase when a loved one dies. Passed away?

A summer storm passes away. One season passes away to another. Childhood passes away to adolescence. Eventually, our youth passes away to old age. But does a person really pass away?

For those of us who are followers of Christ, we should know better than anyone, no one really just passes away. The Bible teaches and most of us sense intrinsically that are spirits are eternal beings that are temporarily housed in a human body that is going to stop working one day.

Of course, we would all like to know why God did not heal her while she was still with us. It was wasn’t for a lack of prayers or faith. We do know, though, that she is now healed and whole and basking in the Presence of her Savior.

We also always keep our loved ones in our hearts after they have died. We reminisce and tell stories about them. We remember the good and minimize the bad. When we see a photo of them, it stirs something within us of good times that we enjoyed with them.

And while this collective memory that we have of a loved one is important, let us never forget the reality of the resurrection of Jesus. He was raised from the dead so that one day, those who love Him, would be resurrected as well. This is much more important than us just trying to hold onto memories of a loved one. It is understanding that our loved one is merely waiting for us to join them one day. On the day of Christ’s return, we will all enjoy the resurrection together.

Maybe we need to find a better phrase to refer to death. For a Christian, death is…

Passing from one realm to another.

Passing from pain and suffering to complete and eternal healing.

Passing from dreaming to being fully awake.

Passing from life to real life.

Passed away? Not hardly. She has just passed on ahead of us to the reward that God has promised for all those who love Him.

How does this resonate with you? 

*God is doing some incredible things in Brazil! Why don’t you join our support team and be part of it? Just click here. Obrigado! 

 

2cor11greektext

There are other early writings that have been referred to as “gospels.” An excellent resource is Bart Ehrman’s book, Lost Scriptures : Books that Did Not Make It into the New Testament. This book is a collection of early Christian and gnostic writings. The book is Ehrman’s own, very readable, translation of these works. In most cases, a casual reading of these works makes it pretty clear why they are not in the New Testament.

In The Infancy Gospel of Thomas (no relation to the Gospel of Thomas), the writer undertakes to give an account of Jesus’ missing childhood years. Jesus is portrayed more like a character from a Harry Potter novel than as a normal child. He uses His power to kill another child who bumps into Him (He raises him from the dead when the boy’s parents complain), He fashions some birds out of clay and then brings them to life, and He lengthens a board when His father cuts it too short.

But what about the texts that did make it into the New Testament? Are they complete? The earliest Gospel is commonly accepted to be the Gospel of Mark. Of the four, it has generated the most controversy in regards to its ending. The earliest manuscripts end at chapter sixteen, verse eight, “The women fled from the tomb, trembling and bewildered, saying nothing to anyone because they were too frightened to talk.” Was this the original ending of Mark’s story? Scholars have debated this for years. Helpful scribes added two endings to Mark, one of which adds another twelve verses.

I make the case in my book, Miracles in Mark, that Mark actually did intend to finish his gospel at verse eight. His entire story has been one of the disciples and others struggling to understand Who Jesus actually was. Even here at Jesus’ resurrection, the women were scared and did not fully understand what was happening. Mark seems to end his story like he does to allow the reader to decide what to do with with what they have just read.

The letters that the Apostle Paul wrote bring up the question of gaps in the Scriptures. The Corinthian correspondence, for example, refers to other letters that were not preserved. In First Corinthians seven, verse one, Paul refers to a letter that the Christians in Corinth wrote him, “Now regarding the questions you asked in your letter.” It would be interesting to read a letter written to the Apostle Paul from one of his churches.

In Second Corinthians, chapter two, Paul refers to another letter that he wrote to the church in Corinth to bring some correction. He is saying, in essence, that he is sorry that he had to be so heavy-handed in the letter and is sorry to have caused them such sorrow. This is obviously a letter that was not preserved because First Corinthians is not heavy-handed and would not have caused sorrow. It is a letter of teaching and answering questions from the letter that they sent Paul.

Another letter of Paul’s that does not seem to have been preserved was his letter to the Laodiceans, mentioned in Colossians four, verse sixteen. Some scholars have thought this might possibly be referring to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Ephesians is one of Paul’s least personal letters and appears to be written as a circular letter to be shared among different churches. It is possible that this was the Laodicean letter that Paul mentioned.

While there are some areas of controversy within the field of New Testament studies, this should never muddy the water of the importance of studying the Scriptures. The New Testament canon was formally acknowledged in the mid 300′s AD. For over one hundred years before that, however, almost all of the books that would later make up our New Testament were already accepted as Scripture. The early Christians felt that the New Testament was complete. There is no good reasom for us to feel otherwise.

What other questions do you have about the reliability of the New Testament?

Would you consider investing in our work in Brazil? My wife, Annie, and I are developing leaders and working with our C3 Churches here. This the link to join our team! Obrigado!

 

greek-text

Is the New Testament complete? Are there missing passages or books? This post will focus on a few issues in the New Testament that have created questions among scholars over the centuries.

Since the Gospels come first in the New Testament, it might be good to ask whether or not there were other credible gospel accounts that should be included. The first one that comes to most people’s minds is The Gospel According to Thomas. This manuscript first came to light in the late 1800′s and is dated around 200 AD.

The Gospel of Thomas became well known in the last thirty five years due to the efforts of Princeton scholar, Elaine Pagels. Her books, The Gnostic Gospels (Modern Library 100 Best Nonfiction Books) and Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas (Vintage)brought this manuscript to the public’s attention. Pagels argues that the Gospel of Thomas should be taken seriously, even discussing some of the reasons that it was not included in the New Testament canon.

Is the Gospel of Thomas a “missing Scripture?” Should it be included in the New Testament? While there will always will be a few scholars like Elaine Pagels who argue that Thomas should be included as Scripture, there are several reasons that the church has not accepted this manuscript as Scripture. First of all, Thomas is not a gospel at all. The four cannonical Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John provide examples of what gospels are. They are narrative accounts of the life of Jesus. They provide (albeit incomplete) a historical framework of His life, some of Jesus’ teaching, some of His miracles, and a detailed account of His crucifixion and resurrection.

The Gospel of Thomas, on the other hand, does not follow this pattern at all. It does not tell a story or provide any type of narrative. Thomas is merely a collection of sayings and teachings that are attributed to Jesus. Some of these are in the form of conversations with His disciples.

Another reason that Thomas was not included in the New Testament canon is that the authorship is unknown. This fact alone would not exclude it from the New Testament but its late date clearly precludes the fact that Thomas the apostle was the author. Even though the authorship of some New Testament writings is debated, there are clear historical pathes leading back to an apostolic source or someone (Luke, for example) who was closely linked with an apostle.

A third reason that Thomas was not included in the New Testament is its teaching. To be fair, much of Thomas seems to be a quoting of some of Jesus’ more popular sayings. Even Pagels, however, acknowledges that much of Thomas is gnostic in its teaching and outlook. A couple of examples from the Gospel of Thomas might shed some light on what gnosticism taught. In verse seven it says, “Jesus said, “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.” This verse seems to indicate that people have the ability to save themselves. In other words, the truth is within everyone and all they have to do is let it out so that they can find salvation. This thought is at odds with traditional Christian doctrine which teaches that salvation comes from God, through Christ, and not from within ourselves.

One of the most controversial passages from Thomas is the very last one, “Simon Peter said to Him, “Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of Life.” Jesus said, “I myself shall lead her in order to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who will make herself male will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”

This verse is disturbing on two levels. First of all, Simon Peter, the most emminent of the apostles and one of the leaders of the early church, states that women are not worthy of life. It is likely that here he is referring to eternal life, but whether Peter is talking about natural life or eternal life, he is not portrayed in a very positive light.

The other disturbing element in this verse is Jesus’ answer. He seems to be saying that the only way that women can enter the Kingdom of Heaven is by becoming male. What does this mean? Do women have to become male in their outlook? In the text, Jesus refers to women making themselves male. How do they do that? In some sects of gnosticism, men took vows of celibacy in an attempt to keep their spirits pure and undefiled. Women were not always welcome in every gnostic church or group. They were considered distracting to the men who were trying to purify their spirits. Scripture, however, shows high regard for women.

To be continued…

Would you considering investing in our work in Brazil? My wife, Annie, and I are serving here developing leaders and helping our C3 Churches. Just click here to be a part! Obrigado!

 

 

 

 

policetrainingexercise

As a retired police officer, I get this question a lot: “Why are there so many different kinds of police departments and agencies?” Here is an attempt to clarify why there are so many agencies.

In the United States, there are a variety of different types of Law Enforcement agencies. First of all, there are municipal or city police departments. These can range in size from two or three officers in a small, rural town to close to thirty-five thousand officers in the New York City Police Department. City police departments are responsible for law enforcement activities within the city limits.

Moving out of the city into the unincorporated areas, the responsibility shifts to county police or sheriff’s departments. County police departments do not exist in every region or area. They tend to be more prevalent in larger, metropolitan areas. County police departments handle police services in the unincorporated areas and in cities that do not have their own police department.

In these counties that have a county police department, the sheriff’s department is usually limited in it’s scope of responsibility. In these areas the sheriff’s office tends to focus on serving civil papers and arrest warrants, court security, and prisoner transport. In counties, especially rural counties, that do not have a county police department, the sheriff’s office is the primary law enforcement agency for that area. They will handle all of the above mentioned responsibilities, as well as answering citizen requests for police services.

Every state also has some type of state law enforcement agency. In some states these are true state police organizations. These agencies handle large cases that might require investigation throughout the entire state. These agencies also could be called in to investigate local police agencies for corruption or use of force complaints. State police departments are also responsible for traffic enforcement on interstates and state highways.

Other states, such as Georgia, for example, have a different system. The Georgia State Patrol provides traffic enforcement throughout the state. They conduct speed enforcement, DUI enforcement, and investigate motor vehicle accidents. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is the agency that conducts large criminal investigations that might involve multiple cities or counties. The GBI also assists small agencies in investigating serious crimes such as rapes, murders, and large drug investigations.

Federal Agencies are the next major type of law enforcement agencies. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are the three that most people are familiar with. These agencies and others are under the control of the Department of Justice.

The United States Marshals Service, the United States Customs and Border Protection, and the United States Secret Service are other agencies that are also part of the federal law enforcement system. The agencies and others are under the control of the Department of Homeland Security.

Each federal agency has a specific mission. Federal agencies are prohibited from exercising general police powers. They do enforce federal laws and work closely with local agencies on large, long-term cases. Federal law enforcement agencies are able to bring in resources that city and county agencies might not have. These multi-jurisdiction cases often bring federal, state, and local police departments together to conduct investigations that a single police agency would have difficulty handling.

In theory, every law enforcement agency should be focused on serving the citizens of their respective jurisdictions. And in the vast majority of cases, this is exactly what they do. A simple perusal of current news headlines, however, also shows that police agencies can also be used for political ends. Their powers can be restricted or they can be used as a weapon to go after one’s political foes. This puts the officers and agents in a very precarious position and makes me very glad that I am retired!

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