There are a lot of “firsts” in the Bible, particularly in books like Genesis and Acts as they are books of beginnings. Bible scholars speak of the Law of First Mention to refer to the importance of paying close attention to the first mention of something in the Bible. The reason being, the very first time something is mentioned in the Bible we are usually given God’s original intention or pattern for it.

For example, in Genesis we find the first marriage– one man, one woman, for one life –as God’s pattern for that institution. We also find the first murder and God’s first punishment for that crime.

It’s interesting that God didn’t order Cain killed. In fact, his punishment was to be banished from society to spend his life away from the place of life God gave Adam and Eve.

It’s also interesting Cain replied: “My punishment is more than I can bear”  Genesis 4:13). Putting our worst offenders out of their misery is less excruciating than decades of life in a small cell.

It’s also interesting that God marked Cain. He wasn’t allowed to blend back in but he’d forever bear stigma and separation because of his horrific deed.

It’s also interesting how God basically said to the rest of society… don’t anyone lay a finger on him: “...if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over” (Genesis 4:15).

Apparently God wants us to leave the vengeance up to Him.

[See also: Romans 13:4, The Death Penalty and the Ethics of Nero]

In my current efforts to lead a repeal of the death penalty in South Dakota, Christian friends quickly bring up Romans 13:4 to make a case that God is pro-death penalty. (I’ve laid out a larger Biblical and theological case against the death penalty here.)

Romans 13:1-4 has long caused Christians to squirm because it teaches that God is the one who sets guys like Nero and Hitler in power. However, it doesn’t say God agrees with their governing philosophies. And, it does not say God agrees with the death penalty, only that he gives secular governments the authority to use it.

In Romans 13:4 Paul was writing to believers in Rome saying they need to revere Roman authority as God gives governments even the authority of the sword. He was not telling Christians that they are justified to forsake the mercy path when they one day get in power. Why then are so many Christians today defending the values of the Romans and the ethics of Nero?

Shouldn’t governments in the Christian corners of the world be based on the ethics of Jesus instead of the ethics of Nero? It’s amazing to me how much weight Christians today give Romans 13:4. Somehow it outweighs fifty verses from Jesus on showing mercy. Even so, these verses are not in conflict.

I’m for a government that is more like Christ than Rome. Whichever government we happen to live under we are to live in submission to it, that’s the point of Romans 13:4. The leaven of the kingdom (the ethics of Jesus) should permeate society and government eventually and if we don’t contend for that now, when will we start?

We know what incarceration looks like under the value system of Islam and Sharia Law. However, what should incarceration look like in the Christian corners of the world?

Real prison reform happens when we view prisons as places of reform (and redemption) not retribution. Once behind bars what if we did more than punish their depravity? What if we introduced them to their dignity?

[See also: Cain, the Death Penalty and the Law of First Mention]

2013storm1

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such a precise devastation. No people dead*, no homes destroyed, just cattle. And, lots of them…. an estimated 25,000. To our neighbors out west it must feel like the plague on livestock all over again.

I know God loves cows:  Jonah 4:11 – “But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their left hand from their right, AND MANY CATTLE AS WELL. Should I not be concerned about that great city?

Here is taste of prairie spirituality as it relates to what we are facing right now in Western South Dakota. I share it to help you pray for our neighbors just west… Broken Dreams and Hearts on the Western Dakota Prairie.

You don’t just simply go “buy new cows” and start over. The foundation is removed. The legacy.  The years.  The work.  The love. The faith. It takes years of work and faith to grow a herd . . . to raise healthy, quality cattle. It takes decades.

We look for bits of hope. The news of a family who has found live cattle brings rejoicing. Freeing live tree branches from snow banks to reach toward the sky again, feels life-giving. Finding life.

You can read here what I wrote about neighborliness as a response to this crisis. Hopefully there will be some Federal relief, but here we are in a shutdown and government is broke and it’s not the governments job take care of a neighbor in need. That’s where you and I come in and we are accountable.

Neighborliness is America at it’s best.

I hope you will make a significant donation to the Rancher Relief fund the governor has set up.  Here are additional suggested ways you can help.

2013storm3We’ve now learned that four South Dakotans did lose their lives in accidents or misfortunes related to the storm in western South Dakota.

The Seas Furthest Side
Based on Psalm 139:7-12
 
On my left, on my right
Four directions in your sight
Ever-present, Wind of Heaven
 
Senseless to hide
Futile to flee
Jesus, Great in pursuit of me
 
Encountered in heaven
Settled on earth
Abba you’re everywhere, there
 
Risen on dawns wings
On the seas furthest side
Ever-present Friend in heaven.
 
Dark isn’t dark
Day trumps night
Ever-present Light.

- Steve Hickey

Under an Open Heaven
 (Based on Genesis 28:11-17 with antiphonal responses from Zephaniah 4:18. Unison responses and readings in bold. Stanzas alternatively read by various readers.)

Burdens ascending
Down come mercies without delays
Bumper to bumper angels
Like rush hour both ways

           The Lord your God is with you. He is mighty to save.

Jesus high and majestic
Everyman Jacob bent low, below
Floor to ceiling goodness
And grace head to toe

            He will take great delight in you.

The veil is rent,
The thin membrane frays
Heaven and earth made one
Full-color, brilliant arrays

            He will quiet you with his love

Lay under the portal
Rest your head on hard stones
Weary ones encountering him here
Praying only sighs and groans.

            He will rejoice over you with singing.

Glorious and terrifying
Astounding and holy
Behold the House of God
The Gate of Heaven

- Steve Hickey

1374117_10151753042728087_1680157132_n

In a Dry and Weary Land
from Psalm 63:1

O God, you are my God
Earnestly I seek you,
My soul thirsts for you,
My body longs for you,
In a dry and weary land
Where there is no water.

In a dry and weary land
Fill me, El Shaddai, my cup is half empty
In a dry and weary land
Fill me, El Shaddai, my cup is half full
In a dry and weary land
Fill me, El Shaddai, til my cup runs over
In a dry and weary land
You are the God of more than enough.

Never meager, never grudging, never skimpy, never scant.
Never miserly, never stingy, never paltry, never can’t.
Never rationing, never trace, never any lack.
Nothing in your nature pinches pennies, you fill my pack.
 
In a dry and weary land,
Abundance is you.
In a dry and weary land,
Soaking Rain, come.

- Steve Hickey

Using one of Richard Foster’s categories, I wrote the following short a Prayer of Examen. You’ll recognize these to be additional stanzas that develop David’s “search me O God” prayer from Psalm 139:23-24.

 

Search me, God, know my heart; 
try me, know my thoughts. 
See if there is a wicked path in me; 
lead me along an ancient path. 
Psalm 139 

Interrupt me, O God, and get my attention.
Nudge me, and tell me the truth.
Make certain I don’t miss the point
And encourage me to take it to heart.

Interview me, O God, and ask hard questions
Corner me and don’t let me off.
Challenge me if I seem vague or evasive
And bring every hidden thing to light.

Investigate me, O God, and expose my guilt
Bust me and I’ll quickly confess.
Insist I be completely honest
And the truth will set me free.

My in-box last night contained notes from friends alerting me to a matter Glenn Beck is presently underscoring in his media world. I’m delighted this is all getting revisited. Below I decided to paste a redacted chapter section from my forthcoming book The Fall Away Factor. In chapter three I listed not standing with Israel as a significant factor in the Great Apostasy foretold in 1 Timothy 4:1 and elsewhere. Most of the chapter is a denouncement of Replacement Theology. The part I’m pasting below is the latter third of the chapter where I introduce the reader to what I dub Recognition Theology, which is what Glenn Beck is basically putting forth. Another recent book on the topic is Timothy Ballard’s book: The Covenant: America’s Sacred and Immutable Connection to Ancient Israel. You can also read a related post from me on this topic here and here. The best source are the four books by my friend Steven M. Collins which I cite in the footnotes below. His books are available here.

_______________________________________________________________________________

Out with Replacement Theology, in with Recognition Theology

In my view, Israel issue is the greatest oversight in the history of Christianity. Hosea 1 is a passage on a previous list I mentioned of one hundred fifty chapters in the Bible relating to the end of the age. Hosea 1:10 tells us the Israelites will be innumerable at the end of the age. “Yet the Israelites will be like the sand on the seashore, which cannot be measured or counted.”

We know God made promises to both Isaac and Ishmael regarding their descendants. We also know that today there are nearly 400 million Arab people in the various Arab tribes (Ishmaelites). Yet, it’s commonly stated that there are somewhere between 12-14 million Jews today (only .002% of the present population of the world). The math here is straight forward and stunning actually: 400 million Ishmaelites today and only 14 million descendants of Isaac. Did God keep his promise to Ishmael but not Isaac or could it be God did keep his promise and the descendants of Isaac are a far larger group today than those we presently recognize as Jews.

Considering a world population now exceeding six billion people, we are either still a millennium or longer away from the end of the age or God’s covenant promise did not come true. Or, more likely, God considers “Israelites” to be a far broader group than merely the Tribe of Judah. Either we are still many, many generations from the end of the age, or there are more blood descendants of Abraham than are presently recognized right now. In fact, that is what we read next in Hosea 1:10. “In the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’” For reasons known to God, the true identity of masses of people at the end of the age is presently veiled.

The next verse speaks of an end-time reunification of the people of Judah and the people of Israel. “The people of Judah and the people of Israel will be reunited…” From the time of the divided kingdom, the designations Judah and Israel ceased to be synonyms either in Scripture or in historical records. These verses in Hosea suggest the identity of the House of Israel will be veiled and not recognized until that latter time when the tribes are reunited.

During the reigns of Jeroboam and Rehoboam, the twelve tribes (thirteen counting Joseph as Ephraim and Manasseh) divided into two kingdoms. Two/three tribes made up the southern kingdom of Judah, ten tribes made up the northern kingdom of Israel. Soon after that we find passages in the Bible that speak of the “Jews” going to war against “Israel.”[1] They were separate peoples from this point forward and this is a critical point in correctly understanding Biblical prophecy.

Recognition Theology[2] is a term I coined a few years ago to refer to the unveiling of the identity of millions of the blood descendants of Abraham who presently do not even know who they are. The reason I call this Recognition Theology is because in the providence of God, he has kept this veiled until its forecast recognition or unveiling at the end of the age.

Recognition Theology contends that numerous nations and peoples, including America, are absolutely identifiable and recognizable in Bible Prophecy[3], archeology, genographic migration studies and haplotype studies.[4] The promise to the descendants of Abraham was that they would grow into “a nation and company of nations.”[5] No doubt the nation Israel is that nation. However, as that verse clearly indicates, the descendants of Abraham were not limited to that nation. We know that Israel today is by and large made up of descendants of the tribe of Judah and Benjamin, as those were the two tribes that returned from the exile. Interestingly there is a company of approximately one hundred “Christian” nations today, most of whom support Israel.

In 586 B.C., when the First Temple was destroyed and twelve tribes were exiled from the Holy Land, it is estimated that they numbered around ten million. During the time of Nehemiah and Ezra, only a remnant returned (43,000 families which may number approximately 250,000 people). The remnant was mainly, though not exclusively, from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. Millions of blood descendants of Abraham, almost entirely from the other ten tribes, assimilated into the surrounding pagan nations. Over the last twenty-five hundred years these covenant people migrated and literally populated a number of the nations on earth today. At present, only God knows exactly who and where they are, but we are certain that his promise for those people is irrevocable.

Imagine that millions of the blood descendants of Abraham, those we now consider the lost ten tribes, assimilated into pagan nations and migrated far from home. They did not vanish or disappear from the face of the earth, nor did the unconditional and irrevocable (Abrahamic Covenant) promises of God for their future get forfeited or canceled. God knows their identity in him even though they have no recognition of it. Jesus and his disciples were sent to the lost sheep of Israel.[6] Their whereabouts were not unknown. They were lost in a spiritual sense. These tribes and people groups have since increased into many large nations—innumerable, exactly as prophesied —increasing even more by adopting many “foreigners” into their national (covenant) family. And precisely as the Bible predicted, the descendants of David still sit on the thrones of nations[7] and possess the gates of their enemies.[8]

God’s promises to the descendants of David came true. They did and still do sit on the thrones of nations and historically they have and still do control the main geo-political gates of the world; Gibraltar, the Suez Canal, Singapore, and Hong Kong to name a few. In the fifteenth century, Mary Queen of Scots traced her royal lineage back to King David and this was made plainly evident in the Scottish Declaration of Independence, also called the Declaration of Arbroath, which expressly states:

Most Holy Father and Lord, we know and from the chronicles and books of the ancients we find that… the Scots… journeyed from Greater Scythia by way of the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Pillars of Hercules, and dwelt for a long time in Spain… Thence they came, twelve hundred years after the people of Israel crossed the Red Sea, to their home in the west where they live today…[9]

It is apparent that five centuries ago the Scots considered themselves blood descendants of Abraham and were aware of the specific migration routes that brought them to their new homeland.

Queen Victoria, the Duke and Duchess of Kent, the abdicated King Edward the 8th, the Duke of Windsor, and notably, Winston Churchill recognized vast populations of Israelites (blood descendants of Abraham) as distinguished from those presently identified as Jews or Judahites. Of the various other notable examples, my favorite is President Harry S. Truman. That historic afternoon of May 14, 1948, State Department officials informed President Truman the new nation would be called Israel, which surprised him, as he noted that he thought they would name it Judea after the people, not Israel after the land.[10] Obviously he was aware that what we call Israel today is mainly populated by the tribe of Judah.

This is an enormous and fascinating study, potentially permanently changing how we read the Bible. However, to continue on this will detract from the point of this chapter. Many will fall away at the end of the age because of an animosity toward Israel, fed by a total lack of awareness as to how this nation and company of nations fit into God’s end-time plan.


[1] 1 Kings 12:21, 2 Chronicles 11:1

[2] Recognition Theology has several related but not-identical sub-streams including Two-House Messianics, British Israelism, Israelite Identity and various others who have interest in the identity of the so-called ten lost tribes of Israel. Recognition Theology vigorously rejects Replacement Theology, Mormon Theology, anti-Semitic or racial supremacy and Aryan race movements and other aberrant racialized theology variations. Recognition Theology celebrates the God who grafts the foreigner into his family and keeps every promise to raise up children of Abraham to be innumerable, a nation and a company of nations, blessing them to be a blessing to all nations.

[3] If this interests you please read a superb article by my friend Steven M. Collins called The United States of America in Biblical Prophecy available here – http://stevenmcollins.com/html/usa_in_prophecy.html I also highly recommend his four books which deal exhaustively with this topic – Volume One: The Origins and Empires of Ancient Israel; Volume Two: Israel’s Lost Empires; Volume Three: Parthia – The Forgotten Ancient Superpower and It’s Role In Biblical History and Volume Four: Israel’s Tribes Today.

[4] Entrine, Jon. Abraham’s Children: Race, Identity, and the DNA of the Chosen People. Grand Central Publishing, 2007.

[5] Genesis 35:11

[6] Matthew 10:6, 15:24.

[7] Jeremiah 33:17.

[8] Genesis 24:60.

[9] The Scottish Declaration of Independence reprinted in The Declaration of Arbroath, The National Trust for Scotland, 1970.

[10] The May 14, 2007 issue a Newsweek included an exclusive book excerpt entitled; “A Case for Courage.” The excerpt was from a chapter called “I Am Cyrus” about Truman and the birth of Israel from leading presidential historian Michael Beschloss’s book, Presidential Courage: Brave Leaders and How They Changed America 1789-1989.

My friend Bob Smietana wrote this article in USA Today called Pastors Seek To End War On Drugs By Decriminalizing Use. Basically, Rev. Edwin Sanders pastor of Metropolitan Interdenominational Church in Nashville and other clergy are wanting to decriminalize drug use. The article ends with this comment from Pastor Sanders:

God does not care if you smoke weed…. God is not that petty.”

The comment raises an interesting question: Is God petty?

Well,,, if he’s not, then he’s not HOLY. I know what God says about obeying laws. I know he knows better than we do that there are more negatives for society than positives with pot. For sure what’s best for society comes before what’s best for any individual. We know what God would say about coming under the influence of anything but the Holy Spirit. I can’t imagine God saying it’s ok to get high. If that makes him petty, sorry.

My sense is that a glimpse at the holiness of God would reveal many things we presently think are no big deal. It’s a false grace message to say God only cares about the big sins and that you are ok with him as you are. The Cross was too severe and unnecessary if God isn’t petty. Is your wife being petty because she won’t let you whistle at other women?

vatican_black_smoke_161486868_900x675There is black smoke coming out the chimney of Pastor John MacArthur’s church again. It’s not the pure white plume that tells us they’ve heard the heart of God on a matter. The black smoke is rising from the believers MacArthur continues to burn at the stake because they don’t fit his version of doctrinal correctness. MacArthur’s Bible does not contain Romans 14:1 which we all can easily find in our Bibles. This missing verse in his Bible says don’t pass judgment on disputable matters.

Rather than reach the lost world with the Good News, he’s spending the widow’s mite on a Strange Fire Conference to call out those in the charismatic movement who are having experiences with the Holy Spirit that are different from his own. As the self-appointed arbiter of all that is true, MacArthur continues to base his theology on his experience or the lack there of.

MacArthur says he’ll call out distorted worship and false worship in the charismatic movement. I’m not God, but if I was I’d be more inclined to accept the worship of people who break a sweat and cry out in desperation more than I would the icy cold intellectual stoicism MacArthur thinks God wants. But who am I to judge?

MacArthur should dub his conference “Friendly Fire” instead of “Strange Fire” because that name is more fitting. On the list of things Christians should be doing today, near the very murky bottom is this: beating up the Bride of Christ and exposing her inadequacies and blemishes. Here’s what I know about grooms and brides: if you want to release the wrath of the groom, take after his Bride, rip off her garments and expose her inadequacies to the world. If you want to release the favor of the Groom, I’d suggest to you bless his Bride and serve her and keep no record of wrongs.

A few years ago the church of a pastor friend of mine was picketed on Easter Sunday morning by another pastor in town who dubbed my friend a heretic. We talked about it and my friends comment was: Easter is such a huge opportunity for the Kingdom of God, I can’t imagine punting my Easter service to point fingers at anyone but Jesus.

My sentiments exactly. That MacArthur’s church is called Grace Community Church is humorous to me – - he has zero grace for others in the Christian community. God bless him.

One hundred and twenty men at Church at the Gate have committed to a year long process we are calling Tailgate Jesus!!  More on all that here, and here.  You can follow it here on Facebook, and Twitter.

The basic idea is that we are called to follow him and many guys today are having trouble following him closely – we let many things get between us. It’s not too late to jump on board, we start book one now. The next segment starts mid-July and that is another on-ramp for men wanting to join in. Every 5-6 weeks we will open the door to additional guys.

I’ve been in Greece these last three weeks and was bummed to have missed the Tailgate Jesus kickoff last Saturday. However, I did a little eleven minute video message for the guys back home. Here it is:

Tailgate Jesus

One hundred men, nine books, three track options, one year, no excuses.

Jesus picked some men and said “Follow me.” This is exactly what we intend to do as men this next year at Church at the Gate and that is what TAILGATE JESUS is all about… following him more closely. Manhood and Christlikeness are synonymous. Too many men today are not following Christ very closely. They are letting many things cut in and get between them and the Lord.

Men, we know you’re busy. We also know you’re up for a challenge. We know we need to be Godly men who are mature in the Lord.

Three Track Options to Fit Your Schedule:

☐ WEEKLY huddles: Thursdays from 7-8:30 PM starting June 6

☐ Bi-Weekly huddles: Every other Saturday from 8-9:30 AM starting June 8

☐ Monthly Rally: Actually every 5-6 weeks on a Sunday night 5-6:30 PM

The monthly rally track is a self-study track and you’ll miss out on a key aspect of the process, connecting with other men and being accountable. However, we know schedules will only permit some guys to meet up once during each book study.

The guys in the weekly and bi-weekly huddle tracks will also participate in the monthly rallies.

There are nine books and nine corresponding workbooks by Ed Cole. The cost is $155 and that is 30% off available only if you buy all nine and sign up now. Do not let money be a reason you don’t participate as we have options for those who need time and help to pay for it. It will be the best investment you ever make. And your commitment to nine books and one year is critical and that is why we are not giving the option to just buy one book at a time. We don’t want to be men who don’t follow through to the finish line. Though all books are paid for up front, we will only give out one book at a time. Fill-in-the-blank completion of the workbook is required to move into the next book. The stack of nine books and workbooks is daunting but one at a time is easier lifting.

We will complete a book and corresponding workbook every five or six weeks and celebrate that at the monthly rally. Rallies will include guest speakers and food to follow.

The course concludes May 2014 with an anointing and  commissioning ceremony where each man is presented an engraved sword.

Every six weeks with each new book, new men visiting our church can join the program as we expect it to be ongoing.

We have secured tailgatejesus.com and @tailgateJC on both twitter and facebook and we will launch a blog later this month. Also later this month we will put out order forms for some shirt options.

LEAD TEAM: Our point man is Bill Boyd (cell 496-3978). Our lead team will certainly expand but presently Brad Bomhoff, Spence Kittelson and Pastors Dennis and Steve are hands-on involved in TAILGATE JESUS.

We need you to sign up immediately so materials can be ordered.

You can sign up at the Information Center or by calling the church office or sending an email to bill@billboydministries.com Checks for $155 payable to CATG: Tailgate Jesus. Please indicate which track you will commit to attend.

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