Heretic Fridays – Heretic! – New Book by Matthew Distefano – One of the Hosts from Heretic Happy Hour



Most Christians associate heresy with false teaching. Most heresies arise out of rejecting the affirmations found in the major creeds of Christendom being the Nicene and the Apostles Creed which were affirmed by the Ecumenical Councils in 327 AD at the Council of Nicea overseen by Emperor Constantine.  Most of the divisions and heretical teaching pertained mainly to the nature of Christ.   The main question that the church councils addressed is Jesus fully divine and fully human, or neither?   According to the Council of Nicea, Jesus was both fully God and fully man (homeostasis), neither fully divine or fully human.  Those that believed Jesus was not human, fell into the false teaching of Docetism.  Those that believed that Jesus was not fully divine fell into the heresy of Arianism.  The other false teaching that divided the church was Marcion.  Marcionism denied the Old Testament and parts of the New Testament that portrayed God as a ruthless violent tyrant.

Heresy used by Paul in Titus 3:9-11 quoted below deals with people who were divisive and  were causing splits in the church.  Many Christians from Jerusalem would follow Paul on his missionary journeys and try to correct those Gentiles (non-Jews) who were coming to faith in Jesus as their Messiah.  They tried to re-convert these new Jesus followers to Judaism  to be saved.  According to Paul, this had nothing to do with the gospel.

9 But avoid foolish debates, genealogies, quarrels, and disputes about the law, because they are unprofitable and worthless. 10 Reject a divisive person after a first and second warning. 11 For you know that such a person has gone astray and is sinning; he is self-condemned.  (Titus 3:9-11)

Yet, the word heretic used in the New Testament really means a divisive person.  According to Benjamin L. Corey, Youe word heresy actually refers to a strongly held belief that divides or separates.  The true heretics are the ones who hold such rigid beliefs that they divide, separate and exclude– because that’s what the word *actually* means.   To me this sounds more like Conservative Evangelicals than most Christians.  This is also affirmed by Chuck McKnight, “biblically speaking, the word heretic comes from the Greek hairetikon, meaning “divisive” (Titus 3:10).  A heretic is one who purposes to create disunity, fragmenting the church.” According to Chuck, most Protestants would be heretics since there are about 30,000 different sects to Christianity.

You might be a heretic if:

  1. You believe that you have to be baptized to be saved (Churches of Christ);
  2. You believe in the 5 points of Calvinism and believe in the doctrine of predestination as part of the gospel (Presbyterian Churches and Neo-Calvinist Churches)
  3. You believe that women cannot be pastors (Roman Catholic Churches, Complimentarian Churches)
  4. You believe that speaking in tongues is evidenced that you are filled with the Holy Spirit (Cleveland Tennessee -Assemblies of God Churches)
  5. You don’t believe in hell;
  6. You can’t drink or gamble to be in leadership at a given church (Nazarene Churches)
  7. You believe that women should only wear skirts and dresses (Fundamentalist Churches)

The above are a list of a lot of stereotypes some true, some maybe exaggerated that are distinctives of certain denominations.  It doesn’t mean that someone is not a Christian if they believe in free will, nor if they believe a woman can be a minister, and do not speak in tongues.  The above distinctives are what makes one denomination different than others.


Matthew Distefano is one of the hosts of the podcast entitled Heretic Happy Hour that I listen to on a regular basis and is a blogger on with a blog called All Set Free.  Reading his blog and listening to the Heretic Happy Hour with himself, Jamal Jivanjee (a fellow Buckeye) and Keith Giles wrestle with deep theological issues has helped me with my deconstruction away from Evangelical Christianity.  Their discussions help me wrestle with tough questions such as is the Penal Substitutionary Atonement theory I grew up with valid?  Is there a hell?  How does God view the LGBQT+ Community, and are they included in his church?   Who is considered a follower of Jesus and who isn’t?   Matthew Distefano has a new book coming out on April 1, 2018 (Easter Sunday) called Heretic! that answers most of the questions I listed above.

Matthew Distefano is not a false teacher and not a heretic since he holds true the affirmations in the Nicene and Apostles Creed.  However, he is labeled a heretic in many in Conservative Evangelical circles because his doctrines do not line up with theirs, and would not be able to teach in many Evangelical churches such as churches that belong to the Southern Baptist Convention, etc.  He is being divisive because he rejects doctrines that they hold to be true such as penal substitutionary theory of the atonement, holds to an inclusive view of the gospel that affirms all humans regardless of their sexual preferences, rejects the doctrine of hell, rejects biblical inerrancy, the rapture, divine violence.  Now some of us, this is a breath of fresh air from the exclusive, in and out members only club of many Evangelical, Fundamentalist Churches.  It is a more inclusive biblical worldview that accepts all humans as being made in the image of God.

He writes about the purpose of this project:

In spite of these rough edges (referring to his colorful use of language), however, the heart of this project is love.  Love is the reason I do what I do and, in fact, is the reason why any of us exist in the first place.  So, my goal is to spread love and to proclaim, in the words of my wife’s favorite author, Rob Bell, that love wins!  All else is just particulars, which this book attempts to decipher.  Perhaps I am off a bit, but aren’t we all?  Yet, in spite of such error, as Bernard Ramm teaches: “God forgives our theology… just like he forgives our sin!” (Distefano, page 18).

I agree with the above.  Love must overcome fear (1 John 4:18).  So much of evangelical Christianity is about fear and spreading fear instead of God’s love.  Scaring someone into making a decision for Christ is not love, it is manipulation.  Using the doctrine of hell (Eternal Conscious Torment) to win souls is not loving and is also manipulative.  Also the basis for Christ’s atonement redeeming us from God’s wrath is not the reason why Christ came.  Again it perpetuates fear.


I look forward to reading Matthew’s book Heretic! And reviewing each chapter weekly starting in April.  I hope that his book confirms where God is taking me in my deconstruction and shows me a more genuine Jesus from which I learned about when I was growing up in the Lutheran Church.  I hope that God makes me more loving and accepting of other people who believe differently than I do about God whether they are theist or atheist as I process and proclaim what Matt has written in his book Heretic!


Theology Thursdays – Liturgy of the Ordinary – Part II – Brushing Teeth – Worshiping God within Our Bodies



I struggle with my weight, and I obsess over my food intake and meal times.  My emotional security is found in food, not in Christ.  I wish it was in Jesus, and I wish I was more thankful for the food that I eat.  When I am having a bad day, instead of turning to God for comfort, I turn to pizza, junk food, and bacon cheeseburgers.  Food which really will not bless my body.  In 1996 I lost 40 lbs on Jenny Craig to gain it back, and in 2006 I lost 60 lbs and kept it off for a year only to gain it back and then some.  I have started and stopped weight watchers multiple times only to give up in shame.

cravings cafe

Terry Wardle says that we have three God given needs that only he can meet.  They are acceptance and belonging, significance and value, and safety and security.  Any need that is attempted to be met apart from God can become an idol, or a gift that is cherished and worshiped.  Many people look to their careers and their material stuff to find value, many of us turn to our relationships (with our spouses, parents, and children) to find acceptance and belonging, and many of us turn to our checkbook, our 401k and our pensions for security.  All of these things are good things, but they do not have any lasting value.  I think this is summed up by St. Augustine when he has said, “in yourself you rouse us, giving us delight in glorifying you, because you made us with yourself as our goal, and our heart is restless until it rests in you” (Augustine, Confessions, Book 1)

In Tish Harrison Warren’s excellent book entitled, “Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life she writes about brushing her teeth as a sacred practice of honoring our bodies.  She writes that we either worship our bodies, or we despise our bodies which are both wrong views about our body image.  God gave us our bodies to be used to honor him in both sacred ways of kneeling in prayer, raising our arms in praise and adoration, and eating and drinking as part of the communion.  We are also to honor and worship God in our bodies when we wash ourselves, look at ourselves in the mirror, go for hikes, exercise, are intimate with our spouses, and enjoy the hospitality in our homes around a meal.  She writes, “Our lives are taken up with the care and maintenance of our bodies—we have to clean them, feed them, deal with their wastes, exercise them, and give them rest, again and again, every day.” (Warren, pg. 37)

Now, if anyone is enfolded into Christ, he has become an entirely new creation. All that is related to the old order has vanished. Behold, everything is fresh and new. – 2 Corinthians 5:17

A friend of Tish’s blesses people’s houses.  Part of his blessing is to anoint with oil their bathroom mirrors.

He anoints the bathroom mirror with oil and prays that when people look into it, they would see themselves as beloved images of God. He prays that they would not relate to their bodies with the categories the world gives them, but instead according to the truth of who they are in Christ.

It’s easy to look into the mirror and take stock of all that we feel is lacking or wrong about our bodies. Instead we must learn the habit of beholding our bodies as a gift, and learn to delight in the body God has made for us, that God loves, and that God will one day redeem and make whole. Peter told me that when he prays over the bathroom mirror, he has noticed fathers of young girls begin to cry; they long for their daughters to see themselves as God sees them, and for their reflections in their bathroom mirror to be a reflection of their belovedness and freedom in Christ. The bodies we use in our worship service each week are the same bodies we take to our kitchen table, into our bathtubs, and under our covers at night. We carry all of our bodily training in gathered worship—our kneeling, singing, eating, drinking, standing, hand raising, and gesturing—with us into the bathroom on an average day when we look in the mirror. The bodies we use in our worship service each week are the same bodies we take to our kitchen table, into our bathtubs, and under our covers at night. (Warren pg. 47)

The Wrong Perspective of our Bodies

It’s true that our freedom allows us to do anything, but that doesn’t mean that everything we do is good for us. I’m free to do as I choose, but I choose to never be enslaved to anything. Some have said, “I eat to live and I live to eat!” But God will do away with it all. The body was not created for illicit sex, but to serve and worship our Lord Jesus, who can fill the body with himself.  But the one who joins himself to the Lord is mingled into one spirit with him. – 1 Corinthians 6:12-13,17,17&version=TPT

If someone came from the first century and took a trip through Dr. Who’s Tardis into our world, they would probably observe we are obsessed with our bodies.  From our celebrities and advertising, they would conclude that we worship our bodies and our sexuality.  Even from the negative separateness of Christian Fundamentalists, they would conclude the same.  According to Tish:

If the church does not teach us what our bodies are for, our culture certainly will. If we don’t learn to live the Christian life as embodied beings, worshiping God and stewarding the good gift of our bodies, we will learn a false gospel, an alternative liturgy of the body. Instead of temples of the Holy Spirit, we will come to see our bodies primarily as a tool for meeting our needs and desires. Or we might believe that our bodies should be flawless and spend endless amounts of time and money on creams or Botox or surgery to stave off the reality of our frail and aging bodies. Or we may attempt to ignore embodiment altogether, eating and drinking what we will, with no regard for the way our choices violate a call to steward our bodies as gifts. (Warren pg. 44)

As usual, we in the church react to our culture and the solution that we come up with is more Gnostic in nature than honoring God with our bodies.  We tend to try to kill our bodies, our sexuality, and our body image.  We forget we are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God (Ps. 139:13-16; Gen. 1:26-27).  She writes:

Christians are often accused of two wrong-headed views of the body. One is that we ignore the body in favor of a disembodied, spirits-floating-on-clouds spirituality. The other is that we are obsessed with bodies, focusing all our attention on policing sexual conduct and denigrating the body as a dirty source of evil. In certain communities at certain moments in history these accusations may have been legitimate.  (Warren pg. 38)

It’s no wonder that one of the first heresies passionately opposed by the apostles was Gnosticism, which shunned the embodied life to embrace a higher spiritual reality. In Gnosticism, teeth brushing and shower taking and nail clipping would simply be burdensome hindrances to the soul’s pure engagement with the spiritual life. But in Christ, these bodily tasks are a response to God’s creative goodness. (Warren pg. 39)

Yet there is a better way to honor God with our bodies, and it is through the incarnation.

Incarnational Reality

And so the Living Expression became a man and lived among us! And we gazed upon the splendor of his glory, the glory of the One and Only who came from the Father overflowing with tender mercy and truth! – John 1:14

He existed in the form of God, yet he gave no thought to seizing equality with God as his supreme prize.Instead he emptied himself of his outward glory by reducing himself to the form of a lowly servant. He became human! – Philippians 2:6-7

As Christians, we believe that God became incarnate through Jesus Christ.  God became flesh and dwelt (literally pitched his tent) among us. The incarnation is an important element of the gospel.  Jesus was both fully God and fully man (homeostasis).  He was an expression and had the divine essence of God, and at the same time was fully human.  According to Warren:

But the Christianity we find in Scripture values and honors the body. At root, Christianity is a thoroughly embodied faith. We believe in the incarnation—Christ came in a body. And while he may not have brushed his teeth with a pink Colgate brush like mine, he spent his days in the same kind of bodily maintenance that we do. He slept. He ate. He groomed. He took naps, got his feet dirty and had them washed, and likely enjoyed a good, long dinner since he was derided by his more ascetic critics as a drunkard and a glutton. (Warren pg. 38)

In the incarnation, God entered not just the beauty and wonder of embodiment but also its shame. Jesus had bad breath. He may have wet the bed. His nose may have been lumpy or his teeth crooked. He stank. He covered his nakedness. But because of the embodied life, death, and resurrection of Christ, we who are in Christ are “clothed in Christ.” The shame of embodiment—and ultimately the shame of sin—that Adam and Eve could not cover with fig leaves is resolved, permanently, in Christ himself.  (Warren pg. 40)

Part of Gospel living is allowing Christ’s Cruciform Divine Essence to permeate through our bodies.  As we empty ourselves and put on our true self, we can then participate through kenosis in Christ’s incarnation.  This incarnational reality of Christ’s divine essence through the Holy Spirit living within me helps me see that I am truly an image bearer being transformed and transfigured into his image.  Thus, out of a response to what Christ has done for me through his death and resurrection is to honor and worship God in my body.  In Romans 12:1, it says, “therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God.  I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship” (Rom. 12:1 CSB).  Whether, I am worshiping God in a more sacred practice with my body at church during corporate worship, or in my daily life in how I eat, sleep, exercise, and interact with my family, the incarnational reality through kenosis, I get to practice his presence.


Through the incarnation, God became a human being through the virgin birth, and just like you and me and lived in the body.  He did not just appear to be human as some Gnostics and other worldly religions believe, he was limited in his body like you and I are.  He was nursed as a baby, needed his diapers changed, needed to be taken care of by both of his parents Joseph and Mary, had the same pubescent sexual urges that most adolescent boys deal with, had runny noses, played sports, worked and sweated with his father as a carpenter, hence a child of earth.  Like us, he suffered in the body and was tempted as we are, yet did not sin (Heb. 2:17-18).  At the same time, he was intimately connected to his heavenly father as God’s essence abided in him.  He knew he was a Son of God, and was used by God to reveal to us that we are his children through his ministry (life, death and resurrection) (Gal. 4:6-7).  He is our example of what it means to walk with God, practice God’s presence, and be transformed into his image.

We do not worship our bodies like our culture does and use it just to meet our bodily, sexual, and worldly needs as a tool for our worldly conquests, nor do we despise our bodies like the Gnostic’s by practicing rigid aestheticism attempting to eradicate bodily temptation.  Both of which falls short of the glory of God.

Thus, part of gospel living and sharing the gospel is by honoring God within our bodies.  Taking care of ourselves through daily washing and cleansing, brushing our teeth, exercise, and eating right (1 Cor. 10:31).  Also, we witness to the gospel by accepting our bodies as being image bearers of our God and King, Jesus Christ.  We do not despise what God has made.  We regularly clothe ourselves with Christ as we abide in him and practice his presence moment by moment (Rom. 13:14).  We love people through our bodies as Christ loved us.  We serve others through our bodies as well as we help people with projects around the house, physically serve others at food pantries, soup kitchens, visit people in prison, and open our houses up to the body of Christ through divine hospitality. We relate to our brothers and sisters with purity being peacemakers in our violent, chaotic, and oversexualized culture.


Book Review Wednesdays – A More Christlike God – Bradley Jersak – Kenosis as Cruciform Love

A more beautiful gospel


In recent years many pastor/theologians such as Greg Boyd, Bradley Jersak, and Brian Zahnd have been redefining the atonement going away from the traditional view of the Penal Substitutionary Theory to a more humane theory such as the Christus Victor Model or Moral Influence theory which minimizes the gore and violence attributed to Christ’s death and resurrection. In many different streams of Orthodox theology such as Calvinism and Lutheranism (which I grew up in), Penal Substitutionary Theory (“PSA”) was central to the gospel message presented in those systems. Progressives have labeled as cosmic child abuse and being no better than other world religions that practiced human sacrifice such as what was practiced by the Aztecs, the Canaanites with their worship of Molech, and other pagan religions.


Greg Boyd and Bradley Jersak discuss that all of Christianity can be viewed through the cross of Christ. They call this cruciform theology. Greg Boyd writes, “everything we are to trust God for is found in the cross.” In other blog post, he writes that “God is love (1 John 4:8) while defining “love by pointing us to the cross (1 John 3:16).” In his Christology, according to Boyd, “the world was created by Christ and for Christ (Col. 1:16). At the center of God’s purpose for creation is his plan to unite himself to us in Christ (theosis), reveal himself through Christ, and share his life with us by incorporating us into Christ.”

This is different than what mostly is taught on the atonement. The atonement is viewed as a sacrifice and payment for sin to placate God’s wrath and holiness, thus a supernatural transaction that has nothing to do with a intimate relationship with God. The setting for the atonement is in a courtroom rather than a hospital room. All of scripture, and the meta-narrative taught in the bible about God’s relationship with humankind from Adam and Eve, to Noah, to Abraham, and later through the Law given by Moses can be viewed through the cross of Christ. This is radically different from what I learned in my systematic theology classes taught at Trinity. Nevertheless, PSA can be proven biblically just as Christus Victor, and Cruciform theology.

According to Jersak:

God is Love. We know who God is and what love is as we behold the Cross of Christ. The God who is living love defines that love as cruciform, which means he is continually giving himself, emptying himself and laying down his life for us. Jesus came to show us who God is and what God’s glory is. He reveals and even (re)defines God. The Trinity revealed in Jesus is cruciform. (Jersak, pg. 101)



In his book, A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful Gospel, Jersak writes that the means and motivation for Christ’s work and character is found in kenosis. Kenosis is not merely God emptying himself and becoming incarnate as generally viewed as Kenosis (Phil. 2:6-7) , but “kenosis as I conceive it is the same idea we get from the Beatitudes, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matt. 5:3). In other words, not ‘full of ourselves,’ emptied of egotism, void of willfulness, bankrupt of selfishness. Humble, generous, effusive in his love. That’s kenosis.” (Jersak, pg. 100)

Jersak defines kenosis further as: So when I say kenosis, I am talking about love. Cruciform love, as revealed through Christ’s Passion, is none other than authentic, willing consent to ‘otherness.’ The Cross reveals and defines God’s kingdom reign-and God’s very nature as kenotic love. He rules and reigns through our consent, our yieldedness, our surrender-through our willingness to mediate his self-giving love into the world. (Jersak, pg. 101)

In the cross of Christ, is the fullest expression of Kenosis according to Jersak. Also through Kenosis, we become participants in Christ’s death and resurrection (Rom. 6:3-4), and within his nature (Gal. 2:20-21).

That message may sound familiar, but take note: he partners with us so we can partner with him. His consent to his Father and to the Cross calls us to consent to his love. He participates in our human nature so we can participate in his divine nature. And his divine nature is what? Kenosis! So on the one hand, he empties himself to fill us. But on the other hand, he fills us so we can empty ourselves! And we empty ourselves to be filled with him! Filled with his world-transforming, life-giving, supernatural love. Why? So we can perpetuate his ministry of reconciliation in this mess of a world wracked by the collateral damage of necessity. As Christ laid down his life for us, we too can lay down our lives for others (1 John 3:16). (Theosis) (Jersak pg. 143)

Christ’s example as partake in his nature through kenosis, as he empties himself into us, we can then be emptied into the world around us. The Apostle Paul writes:

2 Timothy 4:6 – For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.

Romans 5:5 – and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Rather, by grace, Christ empowers us with love, bidding us to take up the Cross and follow him. So Paul can even say, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). Look closely at that verse: ‘crucified’ is equated with loving and self-giving. To be ‘crucified with Christ’ and ‘to live by faith’ is to have Christ live in us and through us. He loves and gives himself through us. Christ participates in the world and fulfills his mission through us, his partners, by love. (Theosis through the cross and cruciform living) (Jersak, pg. 144)


In his book, A More Chrislike God: A More Beautiful Gospel, Jersak explains cruciform theology through Kenosis. Kenosis is the means by which God loves us. It is through emptying himself and laying down his life for us. All of the meta-narrative of the story of God’s relationship with humankind contained in the Holy Canon is cruciform. The lens by which the bible is read is through the cross of Christ. In Kenosis, we as human beings can become participants in God’s divine nature by partnering with his love and being his agents of reconciliation to the world around us. (2 Cor. 5:19) Through Kenosis, we can truly love others as Christ has loved us (1 John 3:16), and through kenosis our life is hidden in the cross of Christ (Gal. 2:20).

Richard Rohr Tuesdays – Life in the Spirit and Father Richard’s Birthday

Today, Father Rohr turned 75. He was born on March 20, 1943. He grew up and was ordained in Topeka Kansas. Topeka Kansas is known for being one of the birth places of the Pentecostal movement. He writes:
I was ordained in 1970 in my home parish in Topeka. The church was built on the spot where the Pentecostal movement began in 1900; the first recorded modern phenomenon of speaking in tongues was heard there on New Year’s Eve of 1901.

The old mansion was soon called “Stone’s Folly” and the Pentecostals left Kansas for Azusa Street in Los Angeles, where folks were more accustomed to other languages than English. Images from the first Pentecost (fire, which no one controls, and wind, whichseems to come from nowhere) reveal the wildness of the Spirit that has guided and driven my life—with plenty of resistance on my part—all of these wonderful years.

According to St. Paul, where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (2 Cor 3:17). The wind blows where it pleases, and you hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8 CSB)

In Celtic Christianity, the Holy Spirit is personified by a “Wild Goose”. I think it is fitting since the Holy Spirit does what it pleases. The Holy Spirit is always guiding and directing, prodding and nagging, convicting and comforting and always keeping us connected to Jesus.

Father Rohr continues:

Spirit has always persisted in drawing and pushing me, despite my many personal limitations, my unfaithfulness.
with what was given to me, and the many times I passionately believed my own message while also denying it in practice. ..This one Holy Spirit has moved through all of us over time—creating the Franciscans and the Second Vatican Council for Catholics, the Baptism in the Spirit for many Protestants, deep mystical movements in all faith traditions, and a growing recognition, as St. Thomas Aquinas often wrote, “If something is true, no matter who said it, it is always from the Holy Spirit.” [1] In time, I could not help but see the many faces of Christ and the Spirit in serene Hindus, native peoples in love with the natural world, my socially conscious Jewish friends, profound Buddhist wisdom, Sufi God-lovers, and, of course, in loving Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants of every stripe, often in spite of their denomination or theology rather than because of it.

In his book “The Shack”, the Holy Spirit was personified by an Asian woman who was an artist. The woman was always creating, free spirited, independent, always willing to help. The Spirit is always present. The Spirit cannot be manipulated, controlled, or coerced. In Hebrew, the word for Spirit is the same as wind which is ruach.

Father Richard concludes his short memoir:

Like the wind, the Spirit blows where it will (John 3:8). There has been more than enough wind at my back—and more than enough seeing and encountering of Love—for all of these 75 years. All of it was given, never acquired, merited, or even fully understood. I just stumbled into Love again and again. And was held by it.

This is entirely true for you, too. I know you are part of this same windstorm, this same seeing, or you would not have bothered to read this short memoir. I am so glad that we have been on this same earth at this same wonderful and terrible time. I humbly thank you for your trust.


In the bible it says that we are always to be continually filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18), live in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16), and keep in step with the Spirit (Gal. 5:24). Father Richard allows the wind to take him where it wants him to be and go. I think we need to do the same. That willingness and being open to the Spirit always leads to Jesus and having the mind of Christ. And that is why we are celebrating his birthday today.

Monday Morning Sermon Recap – Oasis City Church – Power of Agreement – Pastor Bill & Lynne Themelaras



My fiancee and I are still looking for a church.  I have friends that go to the Oasis City Church in Westerville, Ohio which used to go to the Columbus Vineyard.  Oasis City Church is a Pentecostal Church where the spoken word of God (Rhema) is emphasized more than the written word (Logos).  According to the churches website, their mission statement reads, “A multiracial community who embraces god’s presence and empowers people to live supernatural Christian lives”.  The whole service from the worship, the preaching, and the ministry time at the end was a Kingdom Invasion bringing God’s favor (shalom) and light against the Kingdom of Darkness.  Their theology and dogma was similar to what I learned at the Vineyard.  Needless to say the Holy Spirit was present during all three phases of the church service.  My fiancee felt uncomfortable due to the warfare motif being present during the service.  She being a child of peace, anything dealing with warfare, violence, and conflict bursts her proverbial bubble. Unfortunately, the cosmic warfare motif was distracting for her to be able to feel the presence of the Holy Spirit, yet she didn’t deny it wasn’t present seeing how people worshipped.

Preaching Style – Prophetic Preaching

Bill’s preaching style was what I call “prophetic preaching”.  In most Pentecostal churches, they emphasize the spoken word of God (the Rhema – Heb. 4:12), over the written word of God (Logos – John 1:1).  The classic example is God speaking forth creation in the six day creation account (Gen. 1:1-2).   Bill’s preaching style was a mix between prophetic utterances, and being a spiritual cheerleader.  According to Conservative Evangelical, John MacArthur a form of the prophetic is preaching.  He writes in his study bible:

Prophecy. The meaning is simply that of “speaking forth,” or “proclaiming publicly,” to which the connotation of prediction was added sometime in the Middle Ages. Since the completion of Scripture, prophecy has not been a means of new revelation, but is limited to proclaiming what has already been revealed in the written word. Even the biblical prophets were preachers, proclaimers of God’s truth both by revelation and reiteration. Old Testament prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel spent lifetimes proclaiming God’s word.   From <>

Now, John MacArthur does not believe in the sign gifts and is very critical of any type of Pentecostal churches, yet I do believe them and have attended charismatic churches that are genuine and spirit filled.  Signs and wonders are just as evident today as they were in the first century.  The Vineyard believes in the third-wave of the Holy Spirit.  The third wave of the Holy Spirit is the sign gifts being present when the gospel message is preached, taught, proclaimed, and received (Heb. 2:4).  According to C. Peter Waggoner, Wagner explained the Third Wave as “a gradual opening of straightline evangelical churches to the supernatural ministry of the Holy Spirit without the participants becoming either Pentecostals or Charismatics.”  Ed Stetzer writes,  the key to the Third Wave is to understand the belief in the working of all the gifts without necessarily  a second experience called the Baptism of the Holy Spirit From

As a sidebar, personally,  I have been a recipient of deliverance from unclean spirits, and have been used by God to pray for healing of those that are sick, for deliverance and for God’s Kingdom Authority (exousia) to be present in their life.  The sign gifts such as prophesy, discernment, speaking words of knowledge, healing, speaking in tongues and having a prayer language, are all evidence of God’s Kingdom Authority in a person’s life.

The Message – The Power of Agreement


6 “If you have faith the size of[fn] a mustard seed,” the Lord said, “you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you. From <>

The Power of Agreement – Bill’s overall theme of his message was the Power of Agreement.  According to the verse above, the faith that Jesus is speaking about, is a corporate faith.  The you is plural.  Thus, there is more power when the faith is in agreement and united with other believers.  When two or more are gathered together in God’s name the Kingdom of God’s authority is present and powerful over the Kingdom of Darkness, and God’s presence is in the midst of his people when many are gathered together to worship in his name.   Biblically this is evidenced in when Jesus said when two or more are gathered in his name, he is among them (Matt. 18:20), Jesus sent out the disciples two-by-two to do the Kingdom work (Luke 10:1), the disciples were called to be witnesses to the work of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8), and when the disciples worshiped together in the temple during the first months of infancy of the church (Acts 2:42-47).

To demonstrate the power of agreement, Bill’s main text which he preached from was found in 1 Samuel 30:1-8

David’s Defeat of the Amalekites

1 David and his men arrived in Ziklag on the third day. The Amalekites had raided the Negev and attacked and burned Ziklag. 2 They also had kidnapped the women and everyone[fn] in it from youngest to oldest. They had killed no one but had carried them off as they went on their way.

3 When David and his men arrived at the town, they found it burned. Their wives, sons, and daughters had been kidnapped. 4 David and the troops with him wept loudly until they had no strength left to weep. 5 David’s two wives, Ahinoam the Jezreelite and Abigail the widow of Nabal the Carmelite, had also been kidnapped. 6 David was in an extremely difficult position because the troops talked about stoning him, for they were all very bitter over the loss of their sons and daughters. But David found strength in the LORD his God.

7 David said to the priest Abiathar son of Ahimelech, “Bring me the ephod.” So Abiathar brought it to him, 8 and David asked the LORD: “Should I pursue these raiders? Will I overtake them? ”

The LORD replied to him, “Pursue them, for you will certainly overtake them and rescue the people.” 9 So David and the six hundred men with him went. They came to the Wadi Besor, where some stayed behind. 10 David and four hundred of the men continued the pursuit, while two hundred stopped because they were too exhausted to cross the Wadi Besor.

From <>

Bill’s main points from the above text are the following:

  1. Even in the midst of great victory, the enemy can attack us at home (1 Sam. 30:1-3)
  2. We need to be fully obedient in eradicating sin from our life (1 Sam. 30:1)
  3. We can blame God or others in the midst of our grief (1 Sam. 30:6)
  4. God can use the dark night of the soul to reveal himself, his plan and purpose for our recovery (1 Sam 30:6-8)
  5. There is pain in recovery, and power in numbers (1 Sam. 30:9)


We are in a war on a cosmic scale.  Even though Jesus defeated Satan and the forces of darkness on the cross and overcame death through his resurrection (Christus Victor)(Col. 2:15), the enemy is going to do everything in his power to disrupt and disqualify believers for their affective witness of the gospel (John 10:10).  Saul was supposed to wipeout the Amalekites, and he didn’t do it, and was disobedient.  Consequently, he lost the kingship to David (1 Sam. 15)  The Amalekites raided David’s safe haven of Ziklag destroying the town and kidnapping the women, children, and everyone that was in it.  After God cleans our house and brings deliverance from unclean spirits, we cannot give the Devil and his minions a foothold.  This is what happened with Saul.  Pastor Bill said that many of us, may see victory in some areas of our life or experience God’s blessing, but suffer loss and pain in other areas.

Second, in the midst of our grief, it is easy to blame others for our pain and suffering.  This was evidenced by the 600 men feeling the loss of their families being taken from them after coming back from the battlefield.  They wanted to stone David for not having their families protected (1 Sam. 30:6).  Instead of blaming others, we need to go to the Lord in prayer which is what David did (1 Sam. 30:6)

Third, there is pain in recovery.  The Lord gave David a promise that they will recover what has been lost (1 Sam. 30:6).  Pastor Bill gave an example of having shoulder surgery.  The doctors fixed his shoulder during surgery and gave him pain meds.  In order to have use of 100% of his shoulder, he had to go through regular check-ups with his doctors and go through the pain of physical therapy.  Spiritually, we need to go through to have a breakthrough.

This then led to ministry time where prophetically he called up many people to have their losses uprooted and moved into recovery.  The Holy Spirit fell in a powerful way where many people were touched by the Spirit as people were being prayed for and ministered to.  Gifts of prophesy, and healing was happening among us due to the power of agreement.  I even got caught up in the zeal during ministry time, and prayed in tongues and was calling forth joy as ministry was going on.  The bible says that the joy of the Lord is our strength (Neh. 8:10), and that our joy comes in the morning (Ps. 30:5).


My fiancee noticed that her daughter really liked the service, and we will be back next week to experience more of what God will have in store for us. We need to at least go for a month to see if this church will be a right fit for us.  The Holy Spirit was present, and it was good seeing old friends of mine from Columbus Vineyard many of which are gifted in the sign gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Not only being a place to receive, we need to see if this is a place where we can serve using the gifts and talents that God has given to both myself and my fiancee.

Concerning the presence of God and the ministry of the Holy Spirit, a person can experience the Holy Spirit in the liturgy in the high Church such as the Roman Catholic Church, The Eastern Orthodox Church, and Episcopal Church, in the preaching and teaching of a bible based church such as Southern Baptist Church, in the healing touch in ministry time in a third-wave Holy Spirit Church (Calvary Chapels and Vineyards) and in the worship of a Bethel Community Church.  We all experience God in different ways.  For my fiancee, she is experiences the presence of God in meditation and in nature.  So an on fire Charismatic church may not be right for her where it may be right for someone else.  However, she is open to continuing to go to Oasis and see what God has for her and her family there.

Heretic Fridays – Her Gates Will Never Be Shut Part II – God’s All Consuming Fire




My fiancée’s late husband found peace watching a campfire illuminate and provide warmth to those around it. She said that he was the most connected to God watching a flame dance in the air as it burned. This kind of fire brings truth and righteousness as it illuminates, it also brings warmth to our bodies on a cold winter’s night. In its warmth, it wraps us in its peace, love, and joy. The Holy Spirit is called a consuming fire. Even John the Baptist said with Jesus baptism, he will baptize with the Holy Spirit and Fire.


Luke 3:16 CSB

John answered them all, “I baptize you with water, but one who is more powerful than I am is coming. I am not worthy to untie the strap of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

My friends and I used to toss empty beer bottles into the fire to watch them burn and melt. This is the case with us as well. Fire exposes and refines. Fire also exposes the imperfections of a material object that is poorly made.

1 Corinthians 3:12-15 CSB

If anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or straw, [13] each one’s work will become obvious. For the day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire; the fire will test the quality of each one’s work. [14] If anyone’s work that he has built survives, he will receive a reward. [15] If anyone’s work is burned up, he will experience loss, but he himself will be saved-but only as through fire.

God’s Love as a Consuming Fire

Bradley Jersak agrees with this belief about Fire and the Holy Spirit which he writes in his book,  “Her Gates Will Never Be Shut: Hope, Hell, and the New Jerusalem

Meanwhile, the Eastern Orthodox Church has long regarded hell subjectively, as an existential experience. But rather than a question of inclusion and exclusion, they conceive of heaven and/ or hell as two experiences of the same fire. To their way of thinking, God is the fire that we experience as either a blessing or a torment, depending on our spiritual state (Cf. Gen 19: 24; Exod 3: 2; 9: 23; 13: 21–22; 19: 18; Num 11: 1–3; 4: 24; Neh 9: 12; Ps 66: 10; 104: 4; Isa 66: 15). Heb 12: 29—Our God is the consuming fire. Isa 33: 10–16—Who can dwell with the consuming fire? Not sinners, only the righteous. Exod 24: 16–18—The glory of God was a cloud to Moses but a consuming fire to Israel. Mal 3: 2–3; 4: 1–2—God is a furnace. In him, the righteous are purified as gold and sinners are burned up as stubble. Matt 3: 11; Luke 3: 16—John the forerunner announces the coming of one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

Thomas Merton concurred, Our God also is a consuming fire. And if we, by love, become transformed into Him and burn as He burns, His fire will be our everlasting joy. But if we refuse his love and remain in the coldness of sin and opposition to Him and to other men then will His fire (by our choice rather than His) become our everlasting enemy, and Love, instead of being our joy, will become our torment and our destruction. (Jersak 77)

To me, this sounds like the annihilationist position about God’s merciful judgement for those that choose to be separated from God and his love.  In Romans 6:23 the Apostle Paul writes:

 For sin’s meager wages is death,[j] but God’s lavish gift is life eternal, found in your union with our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One.  From <>

I would translated the word for sin as separation, and translate it as the wages of separation is death.  I like David Bentley Hart’s translation for the above because eternal life is found in our union with Christ (theosis).  The Annihilationist position makes sense and the Orthodox position of the Lake of Fire being both the fire that consumes and the fire that illuminates also is true.  For those that choose death, this fire will consume, for those that choose life, it will illuminate and reveal their union with God.

According to those that believe in Christian Universalism (Apokatastasis), God’s fire is a purifying fire.

14 If his work stands the test of fire, he will be rewarded. 15 If his work is consumed by the fire, he will suffer great loss. Yet he himself will barely escape destruction, like one being rescued out of a burning house. (1 Cor. 3:14 TPT) From <>

According to Jersak, the early church fathers, especially Gregory of Nyssa believed that:

“God is the consuming fire of pure spirit, not literal flames. God cleanses our hearts of impurity to prepare a suitable temple for his glory in each of us, both now and for the next life.

But let us reflect that God does indeed consume and utterly destroy; that He consumes evil thoughts, wicked actions, and sinful desires, when they find their way into the minds of believers; and that, inhabiting along with His Son those souls which are rendered capable of receiving His word and wisdom, according to His own declaration, “I and the Father shall come, and We shall make our abode with him.” He makes them, after all their vices and passions have been consumed, a holy temple, worthy of Himself.  (Jersak, pages 125)

Thus the only thing that is left after all of the impurities are burned away is the image of God which is then ready to be reunited with God in the final judgment.  Both Gregory of Nyssa and Origen believe that all humans must go through the Lake of Fire like the Israelites crossing the Red Sea.

Ironically, given the charge of Universalism, neither man denied the existence of hell or the necessity that some should enter its gates.  In fact, unlike the infernalists (Eternal Conscious Torment), they saw that all who would enter paradise must pass through the river or lake of fire as the Israelites had to pass through the Red Sea.  They warned of the possibility that once the righteous passed through the waters, the unrepentant, like Pharoah’s armies, would be engulfed  therein.  (Jersak 119-120)

To me the above sounds more like the Annihilationist position rather than the Universalist position on eternity.  However according to Gregory of Nyssa:

“As Macrina and Gregory mourn the death of their brother Basil and anticipate her own passing, their thoughts turn to life beyond the veil. Her confidence in God’s relentless grace, even if it takes eons, is powerful: His end is one, and one only; it is this: when the complete whole of our race shall have been perfected from the first man to the last,—some having at once in this life been cleansed from evil, others having afterwards in the necessary periods been healed by the Fire, others having in their life here been unconscious equally of good and of evil,—to offer to every one of us participation in the blessings which are in Him, which, the Scripture tells us, “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard,”nor thought ever reached. But this is nothing else . . . but to be in God Himself. 17″  (Jersak, 125)

Again, according to Jersak, Gregory of Nyssa displays incredible patience and grace, believing even if repentance takes a lifetime or aeon, that many will be healed by fire to become one with God.  This also reflects the above Romans passage translated by David Bentley Hart as eternal life being union with our Lord Jesus. 


Fire is used by God to baptize and connect us with his Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit’s nature is a fire characterized by tongues of fire resting on the Apostles and disciples of Jesus on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:3).  Also, God uses the fire of the Holy Spirit to expose, purge, and heal anything that is impure both in this life and the next.  It isn’t used as a sign of judgment, but as a means of healing and restoration.  If God does abide by our free will, then those that choose separation from God will be annihilated by the same fire that heals, restores, illuminates and brings love and joy.  Like the Eastern Orthodox, they will be burned in the Lake of Fire.  For those that believe that all souls will be reunited and connected to God in eternity at the final judgment, thru the fires of purgation as something that restores, heals, and burns away impurities of those parts of us that are not part of God.  The only thing that remains is the image of God transformed to be like God in the end so that he can be all in all. (1 Cor. 15:28).  As a Hopeful Universalist, I hope the latter is true. But as a person that also strongly believes in free will, Annihilationism is also very possible.  Yet, the only way I will know is to go through that same Lake of Fire myself at the end of the age.


Theology Thursdays – Liturgy of the Ordinary – Making the Bed



If anyone knows me, they know that I am not the neatest guy in the world, and that I do not like to clean.  One of my co-workers loves cleaning, and finds peace in serenity in keeping her house clean, and desk clean at work.  My sister-in-law has a low immune system with horrible allergies and she keeps an immaculate house because for her it is a matter of life and death.  She has my brother well trained when it comes to keeping things neat and tidy.   My father used to say to me when I was younger, Scott, “you leave a trail”.  My mom calls him Peter Perfect because he is constantly cleaning up everyone else’s messes.  My father is also a creature habit, and thrives on a routine.  Mike Golic from the popular ESPN show Mike and Mike, would often comment how athletes thrive on routine.  This would be true of my father since he used to be an ex-coach.

Living a neat, tidy, mundane, routine based life does bring order and serenity to our hectic, fast paced, out of control life.  Most of us have a life or lifestyle that is either out of control, or we are running from one activity to the next with not a moment to stop and breathe.  The demands of life from our family, places of employment, friends, and neighbors can be overwhelming.   On the other hand some of us are coasting through life without a plan or purpose for something greater than the present moment.

The smartphone has become more of a leash and tool of enslavement to our employers with a constant flow of emails that need to be answered, and the overstimuli of social media that can put our senses on overload.

According to Tish Harrison Warren, she writes this about her enslavement to her smartphone:

“At that time, my typical morning routine was that shortly after waking, I’d grab my smartphone. Like digital caffeine, it would prod my foggy brain into coherence and activity. Before getting out of bed, I’d check my email, scroll through the news, glance at Facebook or Twitter.” Technology began to fill every empty moment in the day. Just before breakfast, I’d quickly scroll through email, Facebook, Twitter, a blog. And then again an hour later. I’d ignore my kids’ persistent calls for milk and snacks with a distracted “hold on” as I vaguely skimmed an article. I’d sneak in five minutes online as they ate lunch. (Warren, pg. 26)

I believe her enslavement to her smartphone, prodded her to write a book about making space for God in our ordinary activities.  In Chapter one of her book, Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life“, she writes this about making the bed:

“The thing that most annoyed me about bed making—the fact that it must be done over and over again—reflects the very rhythm of faith. Our hearts and our loves are shaped by what we do again and again and again. On Sunday in gathered worship, we learn together to sit in repetition and in predictability. We learn the repetitive, slow rhythms of a life of faith.”   The crucible of our formation is in the monotony of our daily routines.


The Routines of Daily Life

Luke 19:17 CSB

“‘Well done, good servant!’ he told him. ‘Because you have been faithful in a very small matter, have authority over ten towns.’

My friend, Eric is one of the pastors of the Columbus Vineyard and was a successful church planter in Amsterdam, Netherlands.  He always used to say that stacking chairs after the service built more character and brought more transformation in a person’s life than leading a small group, leading worship, and leading others to Christ.  He called it ministry of the mundane.  Tish writes about this as well:

A sign hangs on the wall in a New Monastic Christian community house: “Everyone wants a revolution. No one wants to do the dishes.” I was, and remain, a Christian who longs for revolution, for things to be made new and whole in beautiful and big ways. But what I am slowly seeing is that you can’t get to the revolution without learning to do the dishes. The kind of spiritual life and disciplines needed to sustain the Christian life are quiet, repetitive, and ordinary. I often want to skip the boring, daily stuff to get to the thrill of an edgy faith. But it’s in the dailiness of the Christian faith—the making the bed, the doing the dishes, the praying for our enemies, the reading the Bible, the quiet, the small—that God’s transformation takes root and grows. (Warren, pg. 35)

We need to learn the slow habits of loving God and those around us. Our addiction to stimulation, input, and entertainment empties us out and makes us boring—unable to embrace the ordinary wonders of life in Christ. Kathleen Norris writes, Like liturgy, the work of cleaning draws much of its meaning and value from repetition, from the fact that it is never completed, but only set aside until the next day. Both liturgy and what is euphemistically termed “domestic” work also have an intense relation with the present moment, a kind of faith in the present that fosters hope and makes life seem possible in the day-to-day.

Luke said the same thing when someone is faithful in small things, they then can have authority in greater things.  It is true with young Christians who have lots of zeal.  They would rather be a sprinter than train for a marathon. I have a friend that does marathons.  Her training regimen is intense where in order to complete a marathon, she has to run every day.  For her she uses her training time running as an opportunity to spend time with God and pray to him over different concerns that she may have.

Daily life, dishes in the sink, children that ask the same questions and want the same stories again and again and again, the long doldrums of the afternoon—these things are filled with repetition. And much of the Christian life is returning over and over to the same work and the same habits of worship. We must contend with the same spiritual struggles again and again. The work of repentance and faith is daily and repetitive. Again and again, we repent and believe. (Warren, pg. 34)

The Apostle Paul writes:

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 CSB

Don’t you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way to win the prize. [25] Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. They do it to receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable crown. [26] So I do not run like one who runs aimlessly or box like one beating the air. [27] Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified.

Put on the new self, the one created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of truth. (Eph. 4:24 CSB)

I remember when I was a swimmer, we had swim practice twice a day.  The best coach I had, the late John Bruce, his specialty was stroke mechanics.  We used to do lots of drills. One arm freestryle drills, two arm backstroke, touch and go, etc.  His big thing was teaching us proper stroke technique.  Thus a lot of repetition.  Yet, a lot of his athletes received scholarships from some of the best Division 1 schools in the country such as University of Florida, University of Texas, and Stanford University.  There is an old saying that practice makes perfect.


According to Summer Sanders, the pool was the best baby-sitter her parents had.  They would drop her off for morning practice at 6:00 AM, and then pick her up after her afternoon practice at 5:30.  She would then eat dinner and do homework and be in bed by 9:00.  She would do this all over again the next day.

The Apostle Paul also writes to Timothy: Be diligent to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed (2 Tim. 2:15).

When a person, does the dailies, just as I went to swim practice every day to prepare for my races in swim meets, so does a Christian go to practice by spending time reading, studying and meditating on scripture, spending time with other Christians in fellowship, spending time in prayer and reflection, and being a witness to what they believe about God.  All of these practices keep Jesus at the center of their life.  Below is the Navigator Wheel which illustrates the above:



Sometimes, like Gnostics of the past, when we think of the spiritual disciplines or doing the dailies, like the Navigator wheel above, we see spiritual exercises as something spiritual and metaphysical such as spending time in prayer, reading and memorizing scripture, spending time with other Christians in fellowship, and evangelizing.  Knowing God is so much more than spending time with him spiritually.  It is also important to incorporate some of our spiritual disciplines into our physical activities.  I can be praying and listening to God while I am doing the dishes, doing the laundry, writing an email, driving, and mowing the lawn.  I can meditate and pray on scripture that I have memorized by doing the above activities.  I can worship God while working or exercising.  I can also spend time in fellowship with other believers while eating together, working out together, and working on a home improvement project together.  Repetition and practice will bring transformation in my life.