[Editor's note - Audio Quality improves at 5m30s] Richard Ritenbaugh, reflecting on the spring cleaning associated with deleavening, reminds us that God is a God of order, sustaining and upholding all things, and encourages us to clean, maintain, dress and keep, improving what He has given us. As God's creation, He works to make improvements in each of us. Though we are sometimes neglectful, Jesus, as the Author and Finisher of our faith, is never neglectful, but is, with Our Heavenly Father, bringing all His called-out ones to spiritual maturity. The Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread rehearse the plan of God, beginning with our justification through Christ's blood, followed by a life-long sanctification process in which we discard sin, at the same time building Godly character by consuming the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. In western culture, we have applied the command to deleaven (put out sin) and put on righteousness as an individual responsibility. In the Middle Eastern culture, people put the command in a communal light, with the patriarchs of each tribe showing a personal responsibility for their family. In the New Testament, Paul also puts the responsibility on the community, with husbands, wives, children, employers, and employees learning their responsibilities toward one another, indicating that our communal behavior can corrupt (symbolized by the fermentation of leaven) one another or provide a good example for one another. Our sphere of influence radiates far beyond ourselves to the entire community. If each of us individually puts out the leaven of malice and consume the Unleavened Bread of sincerity (free from hypocrisy), we would fulfill our community responsibility to our sphere of influence, cementing our relationships with one another, with Jesus Christ, and God the Father.
Martin Collins, reporting the findings of a recent Barna Poll, reveals that many Americans (especially the Millennials) have rejected the concept of moral absolutes and have embraced the treacherous notion that truth is relative, totally a matter of personal experience and cultural preference, similar to the state of affairs in Ancient Israel, as related at the conclusion of the book of Judges. Shockingly, two-thirds of the American populace believe truth is relative, while only one-third believe in absolute standards, mostly from the ranks of the aging baby boomers. Where there are no norms or absolutes, there are no guarantees of salvation, but instead an eradication of Christ's saving power, a misinterpretation of laws, and a sinister erosion of morality. Mainstream Christianity, turning grace into licentiousness, has promoted a narcissistic worship of the self. Those who are wise in their own eyes have less hope than a blatant fool. Paradoxically, the fool rejects the wisdom of God (the Gospel) as foolishness, but the 'foolishness' of God is far above the 'wisdom' of the world. Only those who humbly heed God's counsel are wise.
Richard Ritenbaugh, focusing on Paul's declaration that he would become all things to all men, suggests that Paul had the capability of seeing the truths of the Bible from several different cultural paradigms, namely an honor-shame continuum and a power-fear continuum, familiar to Hebrew and Middle-Eastern cultures, and an innocence-guilt continuum, familiar to those of us in the Western world, influenced by an admixture of Judeo-Christian ethic, Roman law, and Greek philosophy. Without a working knowledge of all three cultural paradigms, we have major blind-spots in interpreting and understanding the scriptures, culturally insulated like a fish out of water. Those of us in the Western world, steeped in the guilt-innocent paradigm, have a keen focus on right and wrong and tend to be highly individualistic, abhorring group-think and collectivist behavior. The language of this paradigm includes justice, pardon, works, wrath, mercy, right actions, doing what is right as measured against an abstract law. Those at home with the honor and shame paradigm define right and wrong in terms of group relationships. Whatever behavior brings shame on the group is to be shunned, as exampled by the shame the older brother felt as a result of the actions of "the prodigal son." In this parable, Christ enlightens us about the paradox that suffering shame for the sake of righteousness is in honor. A profoundly ingrained "pecking order" characterizes a power-fear culture, which is by definition fiercely hierarchical, with a strong man at the top. Each person below must either cower or put himself under the power of a protector. The language of Ephesians 1:15-23, combat language describing Satan as the adversary and Christ putting everything under His feet, resonates with individuals living in a power-fear culture. As we read the Bible, we find that God employs a blend of all three cultural paradigms, encouraging us to free ourselves from the bondage of cultural myopia and ethnocentrism in order to get more out the scriptures.
Richard Ritenbaugh, reflecting on the horrendous prospect of surrendering our control to a driverless vehicle, maintains that Americans treasure their freedom of movement despite the "Nanny State's" insincere protestations about safety as it attempts to camouflage seizing power. The number of actual "on-the-road" situations which can occur is so high that no amount of programming can enable the driverless vehicle to be safe, even when it utilizes artificial intelligence, the fastest computers and the highest level of sensor sophistication and redundancy. The highly resilient and flexible human brain—under the control of a responsible person—remains the best facilitator of safe driving. While politicians desire to control everything, Christianity wants to instill self-control. Paradoxically, when we yield to God's sovereignty, He wants to cede control over to us, teaching us to develop self-control as a habit, enabling us to have dominion over the earth , handling it responsibly. On the night of Passover, Jesus taught the disciples to avoid imitating the narcissistic Gentile leaders who love to lord it over other people, demanding their obedience and service. Our Savior's leadership style emulated the servant, esteeming all others over self. Agape love dispenses with the way of control and selfish ambition. God's way consists of self-discipline and rigorous self-mastery, as exemplified by Jesus Christ, who never relaxed His self-control—even in the prospect of His impending crucifixion. Those who aspire to follow Jesus Christ must emulate His example of rigorous restraint.
David Grabbe, engagin in a futile exercise of estimating the total value of the creation, and a Creator, worth infinitely more than all the phenomena we can possibly see or comprehend, ponders how such a Creator would divest Himself of all His power, becoming flesh and blood like us, laying down His life. Nothing in existence has the relative worth of the Being Who has called us. When we consider the value of our calling, we must look at Paul's warning about discerning the Body of Christ more soberly, maintaining our loyalty to the body of believers, future fellow-heirs Christ has called. We are admonished to keep, not create, the unity of the Spirit. Whatever we do to the 'least' in Christ's body, we do to Christ. In our culture of rugged individualism, we need to learn that what we do and say can have a positive or negative effect on others at different levels of spiritual maturity. Some things that we know to be entirely lawful may not be expedient or edifying. We must be ready to set our own interests aside for the good of the whole, practicing the same values as our Heavenly Father and Elder Brother, Jesus Christ.
Richard Ritenbaugh, examining Thomas Seeley's analysis of the swarm instinct of bee cultures, and sociologists' attempt to link that wired-in animal instinct to human behavior (opting usually for collective groupthink), suggests that there is a balanced approach to applying community behavior to Christian living, especially when we apply Paul's body analogies in Romans 12 and I Corinthians 12 God's admonition that we learn from the ant does not teach us to yield to a hierarchical system but, rather, to unselfishly participate in a community, the final goal being its edification. Swarm behavior, flock behavior, and herd behavior, according to Tom Seeley is more democratic than authoritarian (as assumed in previous models). In the Body of Christ, we similarly work as an interdependent body of believers, serving one another, laboring for a common goal, as is rehearsed annually through God's appointed feasts and Holy days, all of which have unique qualities and lessons. On Pentecost, the priests baked loaves with leavening, representing those set apart before Christ's earthly ministry and those set apart after His ministry. We are obligated to be team players, looking after the needs of the entire body. Our rugged individualism must be tempered with the knowledge that we are part of a larger, interdependent body. Though God called us all individually, we need to think of ourselves as a part of the community, being just as protective of the flock as is our Elder Brother. Whether we are branches of a vine, God's field, God's building, God's flock, or the very bride of Christ, the common denominator is that God has designed us to serve one another. If we, as servants and fellow family members, all do our part, God will give the increase. There ought not be schisms in the Body; we will be living together eternally.
John Ritenbaugh, reminding us that Transcendentalism (a tributary of Pantheism, championed by William Wordsworth) flourished and died out the second half of the Nineteenth Century, attributes the popularity of Transcendentalism to Ralph Waldo Emerson. In one of his early writings, Emerson reacts with anger, adamantly rejecting any force, custom, or tradition which threatened to put his intellect in chains, declaring himself free to shape his own destiny. To his emerging Pantheistic concept, the entirety of the material universe is a manifestation of God. Transcendentalism (Pantheism) is a worship of nature and is surprisingly a precursor of Darwinism. The cardinal doctrine of Transcendentalism is that people are at their best when they are self-reliant, independent, and totally unencumbered by religion or the traditions of society. Many of these views on self-reliance and rugged individualism, derived from the influence of Transcendentalism, are regarded as sacrosanct by many Americans. Jerome Bradley suggests that the principles of Transcendentalism are active in Jurisprudence in the 21st Century. Believing in one's own genius ( as prescribed by Emerson) has significant limitations, especially when one assesses the genius of Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, or Mao Tse Tung, Nebuchadnezzar, the Pharaoh of Egypt, or Nimrod. One could say that President Bill Clinton's serpentine equivocation with the word 'is' (during the Monica Lewinsky affair) reflected a strain of Transcendentalism. Trusting in the genius of self apparently obviates the need for a sovereign Creator and a steadfast relationship with Him. To do what comes natural to us often militates against our God-ordained best interests.
Richard Ritenbaugh, reminding us that the ninth of Av, occurring at sundown tonight, July 25,2015, a time when the Jewish community will commence the fast of Tisha b'Av, recounts the horrific disasters which have embroiled Judah/Levi over the years, including the destruction of both Solomon's Temple and Herod's Temple, the first Crusade, in which Jews and Muslims were slaughtered by "Christians," Germany's declaration of war on Russia, unleashing a virulent strain of anti-Semitism there, and the mass deportation of the Warsaw Ghetto to Treblinka. Book Three of the Psalms addresses the compulsion to fast and to mourn. In Zechariah 7, God reminds Judah that their faithlessness and disobedience brought about the horrific destruction of Jerusalem, and if they would get with the program He has outlined for them, curtailing their pity parties, their fasts would be more productive and actually would transform into periods of rejoicing and praising God. If we keep God's Commandments, He promises to help us. If we sin, having the knowledge of His Commandments, we are asking to be crushed more than anyone else, because we should have known better. We should fast for the right reason-to get closer to God—and not to "get Him to do something for us." If we seek God's Kingdom first (life is more than the fulfilment of physical things which will not last for eternity), we will have no need to weep and mourn. If we repent and draw close to God, all of these fasts could be turned into periods of thanksgiving. After we beseech God, we must discipline ourselves to wait for Him to act.
John Ritenbaugh, citing a statement made by FDR to his son-in-law that nothing happens in Washington that isn't planned, assures us that NOTHING escapes God's observation and that God's ultimate sovereignty guarantees that nothing occurs in history that hasn't been under God's control. What is now, and what has always happened is under God's control and has been guided continually from on high, even though man in his ridiculously pompous arrogance cannot see His purpose and design. Mankind has, from the time of Adam and Eve, attempted to drive a solid wedge between spiritual knowledge and physical knowledge, not understanding that they are all on one continuum. Well-meaning philosophers such as Aquinas, Descartes, and Locke, attempted to elevate humanism to the ultimate arbiter of truth and reason, pushing the Creator of all things out of the picture. John Locke , probably in an attempt to liberate western man from the tyranny of organized religion, rejected all contact with any influence of the will of God, promoting secular liberty and human reason as the final arbiter of all truth. The western democracies such as America, England, France, etc. derive their championing of rugged individualism and fierce hatred of any kind of coercion outside of human reason from the writings of John Locke.
Martin Collins, maintaining that American culture prides itself on rugged individualism and independence, cautions that in spiritual matters, dependence upon God gives us the resolve, firmness, and tenacity for our spiritual journey. None of the heroes or heroines of faith faced their challenges by themselves, but were aware of God's protection and power, a power much greater than themselves. Without God, we are incomplete. We do not stand alone; we stand on the shoulders of all the faithful people who came before us, passing the baton to us, running a race that will culminate at our death.We stand with the patriarchs who have come before us. We will fall if we do not learn from their examples. If they can do it, we can too. Our race is a marathon, not a quick sprint. Consequently, we must discard the weight of useless emotional baggage, leaving behind old resentments and frustrations. We cannot afford to look only after number one, but must consider ourselves cooperating with a great cloud of witnesses, who had to jettison the weights that encumbered them, making them less vulnerable to sin which clings like vines around us. Our temptations bubble up from the interior of our minds. Even though the race seems to go on endlessly, the model set for us by our Elder Brother, and the motivation of God's Holy Spirit, will help us finish the race.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh: The Bible tells us that, far from being the unconcerned and inattentive Creator that the Deists envisioned, God is a micro-manager of His universe. Jesus, who knows the Father best, says of Him: "Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father's will" (Matthew 10:29). ...
... Instead of Rand and her radical individualism, the Bible is the most important source for understanding who we are and what our responsibilities are. How, then, does God view the individual? ...
Richard Ritenbaugh observes that the self-indulgent, immoral culture of Corinth parallels today's America and the current fractured state of the church. Paul, before he gives the Corinthians a corrective message on factions and party spirit, reminds them that they are sanctified members of Christ's body, which should not be divided by schism. He pleads with them to present a united front, all adhering to the same doctrines. Getting rid of pride and selfish ambition makes attaining unity as genuine Christians very difficult. Ironically, fractures or schisms in the church serve as a litmus test, distinguishing those faithful who really belong to Christ. Our ultimate responsibility is to zig and zag with Christ in faith, and not become deceived or distracted by human reason. A true, godly minister does not draw people to himself, but instead to Jesus Christ and the Father. Not placing Christ at the forefront will lead to carnal-mindedness and retardation of spiritual growth and maturity.
Sadly, our culture has deteriorated into one of cold, unloving silence on the subject of the dysfunctional famility and the frequent delinquency of its children. Charles Whitaker proposes what many social scientists might consider a 'novel' solution: speaking the truth.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh: How many of us—Christians, disciples of our Savior Jesus Christ, begotten children of God—lead lives based on the principle the apostle Paul presents in Romans 14:7-8?
Charles Whitaker: The Failure of the American Left and Right—and the Responsibility of God’s People Sociologists often point to the decline of the twin institutions of marriage and the family as the fount of most American cultural ills. ...
With populations around the world in decline, how will governments and businesses maintain the present standard of living? Charles Whitaker reveals that their solution, hinted at in the sudden surge in biotechnology, resides in technology discovering a brave new world.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh: Sixty years ago, June 6, 1944, thousands of Allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy, France, to establish a foothold on the European continent and to begin to roll back the Nazi army toward the Fatherland. ...
Charles Whitaker expresses alarm about liberal education's drive to destroy the faith once delivered by introducing a mode of questioning they sometimes refer to as 'critical thinking,' an obsessive drive to bring every value and assumption held by society and parents under question. The ultimate effects of this practice has led to: (1) a disengagement from the past, (2) a state of lethargy, and (3) an abandonment of the traditions that have bound us together as a culture- leading to isolation and fragmentation of society. We need to guard against forces that would systematically undermine the faith once delivered to the saints, and learn not to denigrate the 'old stories' passed down from our forebears.
In this message on God's promises of protection and healing, Richard Ritenbaugh identifies several conditions for receiving them, including God's sovereignty, God's purpose, and one's level of growth. A way to see things "God's way" involves replacing our carnal, egocentric viewpoint with outgoing concern. We must transpose our "me first" attitude with a "you first" one. Nonetheless, God's promises stand, and He is very willing to fulfill them for us.
In this sermon, Charles Whitaker focuses on the marvelous opportunities for young people in God's church who find themselves on the threshold of God's Millennium, a time population growth will take place in abundant prosperity brought about by creative God-inspired technology, refashioning and terraforming the entire eco-system. In this Edenic setting, the family of God and the family of man will be collaborating on preparing the world for billions of additional human beings in the Great White Throne Period. Abundance, growth, and an expanding population of animals and people will characterize the New Eden, constructed out of the tohu and bohu or wreckage of the previous era. Young people need to prepare themselves now, envisioning themselves as architects, civil engineers, transportation engineers, explorers, teachers, replacing today's inefficient and misdirected technologies with God's perfect and efficient technology.
John Ritenbaugh reiterates that the calculated Hebrew calendar reflects God's faithfulness in providing His Spiritual offspring a reliable calendar. To concoct one's own calendar with errant human reason and assumptions equates with the presumptuous way of Cain. Some of the bedrock American values such as competition and individualism, when applied to changing established doctrine and established ordinances, bring an automatic curse of scattering and a seared conscience upon those who do these things. We cannot take the community's laws into our own hands, tweaking them for our own advantage, and still be a good Christian. Challenging the calendar is tantamount to challenging the laws of the Commonwealth of Israel (including its calendar) and challenging the sovereignty of Almighty God.
John Ritenbaugh emphasizes that having an objective orientation (other centered approach) rather than a subjective orientation (self-centered apprach) leads to unity and reconciliation. As members of Christ's collective body, we must exercise those self-restraining and self-controlling godly attributes of walking worthy, having lowliness of mind, meekness, patience, and forbearance- all elements of love demonstrating a practical application for guarding the unity of the spirit.In the present scattering, permitted by Almighty God, the group that one fellowships with is less important than the understanding that there is one true church, bound by a spiritual, not a physical unity.
John Ritenbaugh asserts that because of our collective lack of self-discipine and our lack of willingness to guard the truth, we have allowed our theological, philosophical, and attitudinal base to deteriorate under the persuasion of the the world, hopelessly scattering us into myriad fragments and splinters. Liberty without self discipline has produced this chaos. In order to regain the unity we have lost, Paul lists four elements of character we must all exercise: humility, meekness (or lowliness of spirit) patience, and forbearance, counteracting the pernicious pride, vanity, and competitiveness which have driven us apart.
Human civilization has experienced two major sociological ages since the beginning of its appearance on the earth. Currently we are in transition to the third age or Third Wave, which has frightening prophetic consequences. However, it's the Fourth Wave, God's soon-coming Kingdom, we need to catch!
Richard Ritenbaugh, citing the African Proverb, 'It takes a village' asserts that this principle more aptly applies to the church, specifically designed to serve as a support for those in need. In this era of 'going it alone' or 'cocooning,' we as a people like to be self-sufficient without any support from others. Consequently we become self-centered, self-absorbed, showing little concern for others. As Christians, especially in our current scattered condition, we need to fight this pervasive trend, forming warm, productive, quality relationships with our brethren, actively ministering to the needs of one another. The ministry functions to equip members to become other centered (or family centered), serving one another and applying righteousness for the good of others. If we refuse to apply this practical knowledge, actively serving one another as interdependent joints, we miss the mark of coming to the unity of Christ.
Ron Sellers, a religious trend watcher, sees great instability in world religion, and it is mirrored in God's church. Richard Ritenbaugh shows how this dovetails with Bible prophecy of the end time.
Love is the first of the fruit of the Spirit, the one trait of God that exemplifies His character. John Ritenbaugh explains what love is and what love does.
John Ritenbaugh focuses on the consequences of the reorientation of culture from family or group concerns to individual rights, pleasure seeking, or the elusive drive toward equality. If everyone seeks his own gratification at the expense of the general welfare (family, church, society) conflict is inevitable (James 4:1). Because God sanctions all authority (Romans 13:1, I Peter 2:13), the only way a society can work (family, church, civil) is for everyone to submit to one another in the fear of Christ. Biblical submission is the respecting of divinely appointed authority out of respect for Christ. Our model of submission should be after the manner of our Elder Brother (Philippians 2:6-8). Submission is an act of faith in God, and an act of love for all concerned.
The world really hasn't the foggiest idea of what love really is. Of all God's spiritual gifts, love is the preserving agent preventing any of the other gifts such as prophecy, knowledge, or tongues to become corrupted. Love, an attribute of God Almighty, needs to be the driving force of everything we do. Without love, some normally positive attributes like drive, courage, and determination become brittle and self-seeking. God is the sole source of love; mankind by nature does not have it. It is only by knowing God that we can have this love. Love can be described as a cycle, which God initiates. As we give it back to Him, He gives more to us because we are growing and our love must be perfected. Love is not feeling but action. As God loves us, He expects us to reciprocate back to Him and out to our fellowman, and by so doing we become credible witnesses for God.
John Ritenbaugh focuses upon the superiority of Christ and the Melchizedek priesthood, pointing out that in every way it is superior to the Aaronic priesthood because Christ tenure is eternal rather than temporal, guaranteeing both continuity and quality. Hebrews 7 is the only portion of scripture that carefully examines Christ's credentials as High Priest, giving us concrete hope of our salvation. His blameless and undefiled life made Him an appropriate guarantor or co-signer covering our imperfections. After establishing the need for a change of the priesthood, Paul describes the details as to how the new priesthood will administer the New Covenant, amplifying and bringing into stark reality what had been only seen in shadowy outline in the Old Covenant. The New Covenant is established on better promises, not law changes.
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