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John the Baptist

John the Baptist was the last messenger sent by God in the dispensation of Moses. (John 1:6.) He represents the end of one dispensation and the beginning of another. He overthrew the kingdom of the Jews and wrested all the authority that remained with the Jews from the original commission delivered through Moses.

John the Baptist’s message was to repent, warning that the “kingdom of heaven” was at hand. (Matt. 3:2.) The Jews were concerned at his message and sent representatives to inquire from him about the authority he had to start something new. (John 1:21-25.)

John the Baptist’s authority to baptize was recognized and accepted by Jesus Christ. He came to John and submitted to baptism because only by doing so would Jesus follow the requirements of righteousness. (Matt. 3:14-16.)

John was sent by God (John 1:6) and his right and authority was undisputed by both Jesus and the early Christians. Ignatius wrote about Christ’s baptism: “[He] was baptized by John, that He might ratify the institution committed to that prophet.” (Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians, Chapter XVIII.) And, “was baptized by John, that all righteousness may be fulfilled.” (Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans, Chapter I.)

Jesus posed the question to Jewish leaders of John the Baptist’s authority. He asked, “The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men?” A question that the Jewish leaders knew if they answered would expose the problem of rejecting John. “And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him?” (Matt. 21:25.) They concluded that they could not answer this question. (Id., v. 26.)

Jesus Christ described John the Baptist in these words: “Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist[.]” (Luke 7:28.) Jesus said of him: “He was a burning and a shining light[.]” (John 5:35.)

John was born to a Levite father. (Luke 1:5.) But he was taken into the Judaean wilderness and hidden there to protect him from the authorities. (Luke 1:80.) When he returned from the wilderness, he came dressed in camel hair, wearing a leather girdle, eating locusts and wild honey. (Matt. 3:4.) These details suggest he lived without employment, home, or wealth, surviving on what God provided, as if Christ had John in mind when He taught in the Sermon on the Mount:

And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. (Matt. 6:28-34.)

These things, which describe the life of John the Baptist, seem to us both fanatical and impractical. When cast out of the Garden, mankind was doomed to obtain bread by the sweat of our labor. (Gen. 3:19.) We are commanded to labor for our support (2 Thes. 3:11) and not steal (Eph. 4:28) nor expect another man’s bread to be given to us (2 Thes. 3:8). If a man will not labor, he should not eat what others produce through their labor (2 Thes. 3:10). Yet John seems to have abandoned everything to serve God, and in turn lived only on what God provided for him.

Would we have recognized and accepted John as a messenger sent by God? How would we have determined that this “homeless’ man was “‘sent by God”? If he had no pulpit, how could we know, that for a brief time, he alone could perform an ordinance required for salvation? If he was not part of the established system of religion, why would we give him any heed? If there was an existing temple, a presiding high priest, a governing board in the Sanhedrin, and established synagogues where scripture was recited and messages were delivered each week, why would we expect John to be more relevant to our salvation than the religious system in place? If the entire religious landscape was attributed to Moses, who was known to be a prophet (John 9:29), what makes us think we would choose to believe God sent the outsider, John? Why think salvation today will require anything less of a test than was required when John first appeared and began to preach? Why think we are any different than the Jews who rejected both John and Jesus? If our religion is a comfortable part of our lives, then what is its value?

Christ described what is required to follow Him:

Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. (Luke 12:51-53.)

And again, the Lord taught:

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. (Matt. 5:10-12.)

If our religion does not cause others to revile us, members of our families to be offended, or help us understand the life of Christ and the prophets, it is not Christ’s religion. If religion takes us to a comfortable church each week where we are assured we will be saved in heaven, it is not truly Christian. If it does not require sacrifice, then we have nothing in common with either Christ or the prophets.

It is still possible to practice Christianity, but not in comfortable pews, listening to flattery and praise. The Bible warns that the time will come when God will: “Render the hearts of this people insensitive, Their ears dull, And their eyes dim, Otherwise they might see with their eyes, Hear with their ears, Understand with their hearts, And return and be healed.” (Isa. 6:10; New American Standard version.) This happens every week in most “Christian” churches throughout the world.

Would we have recognized John the Baptist as a burning and shining light? How?

Opposing Christian Sects

Today, the best estimate is that there are over 40,000 different “Christian” denominations or sects. No one knows for sure because there is no organized data-base that identifies them all. Many are as small as a single congregation. The total number of “Christians” is estimated at over 2.2 billion.

Jesus Christ is “the same yesterday, today and forever.” (Heb. 13:8.) God has made a point of explaining that He does not change. (Mal. 3:6.)

The pace at which “Christian” sects are dividing appears to be accelerating. The disagreements between “Christian” sects are pronounced enough that many of them claim they alone are “true” and only they can save your soul. They denounce other denominations as false, their followers unsaved, or worse, damned and followers of the devil.

The scriptures claim there is “one Lord, one faith, and one baptism.” (Eph. 4:5.) Christians should compare what they see in “Christianity” of today with what the scriptures teach. How can messages from the various sects conflict so greatly that the Christian world is divided into more than 40,000 different bodies?

Christianity was never to be “preached” by just anybody willing to make a claim to be preaching the truth. A true messenger must be “sent” by God. (Rom. 10:14-15.) That does not mean they have some sentimental inclination to proclaim a message. It means that God sent them.

Paul was sent by God, and he explained the criteria. The qualifications have never changed, been rescinded or superseded. The unchangeable God requires the same today as anciently.

How can an unchangeable God, who is the same yesterday, today and forever, be guiding these conflicting and contentious Christian denominations? The answer is simple: He is not.

The Christian sects are led by hireling priests who stir up conflict that prevents Christian believers from agreeing with one another. They flatter their congregations and keep them content. “Christians” are fed a weekly dose of vanity and lies by men and women expecting to be paid (by their followers) for their preaching. If you removed the profits from Christian churches, you would quickly see the pulpits abandoned by the hucksters employed there. If no one were paid to preach, conflicts would quickly end between the rank-and-file Christian.

I will be giving three talks later this year in California, Texas and Atlanta. I have been sent to give these three messages. I do know God. I have been ministered to by Him and He has prepared me to minister to others. Like Paul, who was sent by God, I will also tell you of an unchangeable God, who is the same yesterday, today and forever. His message requires the same from you today as it did when Jesus Christ first taught in Galilee and Judea.

Anyone who claims to be a “Christian” may be interested in hearing these three talks. They are free and no donations will be solicited. Charity is wasted on hireling clergy. It should be used for the poor. Clergy ought to labor for their support as do other Christians. The sooner we stop paying a professional clergy, the sooner Christianity will lose its animosity and improve in spirit, function and value.

Baptism is Required

Christ’s simple command to “follow me” was given repeatedly. (See, Matt; 8:22; Matt. 9:9; Matt. 16:24; Mark 2:14; Mark 10:21; Luke 9:23; John 1:43; John 12:26; among many others.)

Christ showed the way, and as part of that He was baptized to “fulfill all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15). It was only after Christ was baptized that the Father commended Jesus and said He was “well pleased.” (Matt. 3:13-17.)

Christ also had His disciples baptize His followers. (John 4:1.)

Christ spoke to Saul of Tarsus on the Road to Damascus and converted him by that contact. (Acts 9:1-6.) Following his conversion, Saul was healed of blindness, renamed Paul, and immediately baptized. (Acts 9:11-18.)

Paul tied baptism to resurrection. (Rom. 6:3-4.) He declared that to be baptized is to “put on Christ.” (Gal. 3:27.) There is only “one faith” and it is in the “one Lord” whom we worship, and it requires “one baptism” to be included in the body of believers. (Eph. 4:5.)

Peter explained that baptism saves us. (1 Peter. 3:21.)

Christians who follow Christ will all be baptized.

If you have not been baptized, there are those who have authority to administer the ordinance who will travel to you. The ordinance is free, and the service is provided without any charge or expectation of any gift or donation. If you are interested you can make a request at this site:

Born of Water (bornofwater.org)

John Wycliffe  1330-1384

Two hundred years before the Protestant Reformation there was a reformer who foreshadowed what was coming. Although the world’s circumstances were then not developed to permit the Reformation, many of Wycliffe’s criticisms of Catholicism and his translation of the Bible would prefigure the coming Reformation.

Wycliffe lived through the Black Death, when 25 million people died in Europe. That catastrophe delayed his completion of a doctorate at Oxford until 1372. He became a dissident, and although sanctioned and opposed by the Pope (five edicts from Pope Gregory XI condemned him for 18 errors and called him “the master of errors”), but he believed and taught that the Pope and the church were second in authority to scripture. He conceived of an invisible church of the elect who were recognized by heaven, rather than an organization on earth that controlled salvation. Many of his ideas would later be advanced by the Reformation Fathers.

His arguments with Rome were first political (1366-1378), and later theological (1378-1384). During his last six years of life he provided a continuing written campaign against the Pope and the entire church hierarchy of the time. By the end he came to equate the Pope to the Antichrist.

Among his issues, he disputed transubstantiation: “The bread while becoming by virtue of Christ’s words the body of Christ does not cease to be bread.” He condemned indulgences: “It is plain to me that our prelates in granting indulgences do commonly blaspheme the wisdom of God.” He repudiated confession to the priests: “Private confession … was not ordered by Christ and was not used by the apostles.” He viewed faith as saving: “Trust wholly in Christ; rely altogether on his sufferings; beware of seeking to be justified in any other way than by his righteousness.”

He believed every Christian ought to be able to read scripture. At a time when only Latin Bibles existed in England, he began translating it into the common English language. He was assisted in this by John Purvey, and, when Wycliffe died before it was completed Purvey finished the translation. Rome condemned this as an act of rebellion: “By this translation, the Scriptures have become vulgar, and they are more available to lay, and even to women who can read, than they were to learned scholars, who have a high intelligence. So the pearl of the gospel is scattered and trodden underfoot by swine.” Wycliffe responded with this explanation: “Englishmen learn Christ’s law best in English. Moses heard God’s law in his own tongue; so did Christ’s apostles.”

Wycliffe believed church officials ought not to live in wealth, but instead sacrifice to serve. Church wealth should be directed to help the poor. He encouraged English leaders of both church and state to stop sending wealth to Rome, and instead use it to help those locally in need.

Wycliffe died before authorities convicted him of heresy. After his death the Council of Constance declared him a heretic, ordered his remains to be removed from consecrated ground, burned, and his ashes thrown into the river Swift. Pope Martin V confirmed the edict and it was carried out. However, Wycliffe’s influence could not be suppressed, and as one writer observed,   “Thus the brook hath conveyed his ashes into Avon; Avon into Severn; Severn into the narrow seas; and they into the main ocean. And thus the ashes of Wycliffe are the emblem of his doctrine which now is dispersed the world over.”

New Website

A new website dedicated to the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation is now live. The link is:

www.christianreformation500years.info

In addition to the written information, there are a series of videos linked on this new website that are also posted on YouTube. Three videos are available immediately, but others will be added as time permits. If you subscribe to the YouTube channel, you will be notified of the new videos as they are made available.

The YouTube channel link is:

 www.youtube.com/channel/UC6cEtBt6U_A0oDKfQCGoCjA

The new site is intended for a Christian audience. If there is anyone you believe would be interested in learning more about the Protestant Reformation, please refer them to the site.

Christians Should Study Mormonism

Between the death of Christ’s apostles and the Council of Nicaea, Christianity changed dramatically. It is impossible to account for all that happened to cause the changes. Although some of the writings of the Ante-Nicene Fathers (Christian leaders before Nicaea) have been preserved, the records are wholly inadequate to understand everything that happened, and why it happened.

A new religion rarely appears in history. When one does, it presents a unique opportunity for us to study the process.

Religions begin with an inspired leader whose confident vision opens new light and truth into the world. If there is no new vision then the religion won’t survive. But an original, inspired leader is difficult to replicate. Within a short time, the founder’s work is overtaken by others. Their insecurities and fears leave them without the confidence once present at the foundation. Believers donate, and contributions aggregate. A new generation of believers begin to notice the wealth of their movement, and aspiring leaders who would never sacrifice their name, reputation, security and lives are drawn to management, seeking personal benefit from the institution. Bold claims become hollow echoes, and leaders’ insecurity results in defensive and protective steps. Instead of moving forward with inspired new light and truth, the established religion fears and fights against threatened losses.

William James explained the process:

A genuine first-hand experience like this is bound to be a heterodoxy to its witnesses, the prophet appearing as a mere lonely madman. If his doctrine prove contagious enough to spread to any others, it becomes a definite and labeled heresy. But if it then still prove contagious enough to triumph over persecution, it becomes itself an orthodoxy; and when a religion has become an orthodoxy, its day of inwardness is over: the spring is dry; the faithful live at second hand exclusively and stone the prophets in their turn. The new church, in spite of whatever human goodness it may foster, can be henceforth counted on as a staunch ally in every attempt to stifle the spontaneous religious spirit, and to stop all later bubblings of the fountain from which in purer days it drew its own supply of inspiration. Unless, indeed, by adopting new movements of the spirit it can make capital out of them and use them for its selfish corporate designs!” (The Varieties of Religious Experience, being the Gifford Lectures on Natural Religion Delivered at Edinburgh in 1901-1902, Lectures XIV and XV: The Value of Saintlessness.)

Mormonism was founded in 1830 by Joseph Smith who claimed that ten years prior to founding a church he had been visited by God the Father and Jesus Christ. In the intervening years between the first visit and the time a church was organized, Joseph claimed to have been visited by an angelic messenger who delivered to him a new volume of scripture, the Book of Mormon. He claimed to have received revelations before founding the church, and then many more after its organization.

Whether you believe Joseph Smith’s claims or not, he and his followers give a unique opportunity to witness how founding a religion sets in motion a series of predictable events that happen every time a new religion begins. Perhaps the best way to decipher the transition of Christianity from the original Primitive Christianity to its replacement, Historic Christianity, is to study Mormonism. Similar to the way the Primitive Christian church passed away after the death of the apostles, Mormonism has passed away following the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum Smith. The same process was at work in both.

Primitive Christianity and Mormonism set out to change the world, and after some initial success, both enjoyed worldly success. Their success diverted attention from saving souls to managing people and property. Paul observed, “the love of money is the root of all evil.” (1 Tim. 6:10.) A new religion is not profitable for the first believers. They are persecuted. They sacrifice their lives and property to follow what they believe to be God’s burden laid on them. Because of their sacrifices, they have faith and know they please God. Without sacrifice, it is impossible to obtain the faith required for salvation. Founders make sacrifices, successors enjoy the fruit of those sacrifices.

In time, the founding gives way to popular approval. John Wesley observed the price that is paid for popular acceptance is the loss of the Spirit.

“It does not appear that these extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost were common in the Church for more than two or three centuries. We seldom hear of them after that fatal period when the Emperor Constantine called himself a Christian;…From this time they almost totally ceased;…The Christians had no more of the Spirit of Christ than the other heathens….This was the real cause why the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost were no longer to be found in the Christian Church; because the Christians were turned Heathens again, and had only a dead form left.Churches all come to depend on money for survival.”

Churches, like the men who belong to them, are just as vulnerable to the “love of money” which leads to “all evil.” People can have the gifts of the Spirit, or they can acquire riches in this world, but cannot have both.

Catholicism grew wealthy from the offerings of its members. When it owned most of the European lands and ruled over all people within Roman Catholic boundaries, it was cold, corrupt, violent and cruel. The transition from persecuted minority to dangerous majority took three centuries. With that status the original was lost.

Mormonism has followed the same path and achieved the same end in less than half the time. If a Christian wants to know how Primitive Christianity was lost to apostasy, the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is where it can be found. Mormon beliefs are so unstable that they now “unequivocally condemn” 10 of the first 11 of their church presidents, including Brigham Young, John Taylor and David O. McKay.

In order to progress forward, we must go back. Since we have no way to recover enough information to understand Christianity’s trek from Jerusalem to Rome, Mormonism allows Christians a view into the transition from Nauvoo to Salt Lake. Both paths followed the same tragic topography.

Christian Talks in 2017

This year I will be speaking to Christians about the Christian Reformation. I will give three lectures in three different venues over the next year. The talks will be recorded and available online for anyone interested in the history and destiny of Christianity.

Christ originally sent twelve messengers to spread the news about Him. They organized congregations of believers throughout the Mediterranean World, the Indian sub-continent and beyond. These were diverse bodies of believers, and depending on which of the twelve organized them, reflected different priorities. But they were all “Christian” and all followed Christ’s teachings.

Early Christianity included diverse and sometimes conflicting groups, all calling themselves “Christian.” But conflicts grew in intensity over the centuries that followed. When the Roman Emperor Constantine saw the value in adopting Christianity, he did not realize Christianity was internally fighting over fundamental beliefs. Accordingly, in 324 a.d. Constantine forced an agreement among Christian leaders in Nicaea. The result was the Nicene Creed. This creed marked the beginning of a new era referred to as Historic Christianity.

Historic Christianity divided at about 1,000 a.d. between Rome (Catholic) and Constantinople (Orthodox). That division remains today, more than a millennium later.

Rome’s dominion over Western Europe was further broken up beginning in 1517 when the Protestant Reformation began. What began with Martin Luther, has continued to divide and multiply Christian denominations with different groups placing different emphases on parts of the New Testament.

Coming up on the half-millennium anniversary of the Reformation, I will deliver three talks. There are a number of volunteers working to help arrange venues and spread word about these talks. They will be free to the public and all are invited to come and consider the history and destiny of Christianity.

As soon as each talk is finished, it will be made available on-line. Next Saturday a new website devoted to the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation will be on-line. Work on that site, also by volunteers, has been underway for months. The link will be provided.

Arriving at a “unity of the faith,” which Paul hoped could be achieved by Christians (Eph. 4:11-13) is a ways off. Christianity has instead become the handmaiden of ambitious men who have diverted resources from the poor to serve themselves. The present state of Christianity is not markedly different from Jerusalem at the time of Christ. The Christian leaders today, like the Sadducees and Pharisees, shear the sheep, consume them, but fail to serve them as Christ did.

Christianity began with personal worship and devotion in the homes of believers. Christ and His twelve built no cathedrals, chapels or church structures, but did give aid to the poor. Isaiah prophesied that only one kind of building would be built for God by His followers:  A Temple or House of God, to be built on the mountaintop in Zion, and another in Jerusalem. (Isa. 2:2-3.) Beyond those two structures, all other resources should help the poor, as was once done by early Christians.

Although the website and lectures planned for 2017 are intended for a Christian audience, anyone who is interested in the history and the future of Christianity will find the material useful and interesting.

Temple Fund Website

The three women I mentioned during the Boise Conference who have been working to establish the means to aggregate funds dedicated to building a temple now have a website established with two available methods where fellow believers may donate to this cause.  The website can be found at www.theTempleFund.net.
 
The women continue to look for ways to improve donating, as their website explains. God’s people are always required to build a temple. Therefore, there needs to be preparation for the coming commandment. When the Nauvoo Temple was commanded to be built, the resulting struggle lasted for nearly six years before it was abandoned. It was never completed. That repeated failure will not please the Lord. I have met with the women who have done this work and they have my confidence. I trust that any proceeds donated will be used for a temple and not for any other purpose. In my view all donations belong to God alone, and must be directed toward His House to keep faith with Him. The women share this view. 

Temple Fund

The work of three women (volunteers) to provide a means for raising funds for a temple has taken many months. They have consulted with lawyers and accountants to advise them. Many dead-ends have been explored in their attempt to find the means to raise funds for a temple.

There are numerous laws, both state and federal, which regulate fund raising by an organization. But they do not want a regulated business or charitable entity, nor do they intend to invite legal supervision that may permit fund raising today, but regulate and control by force what is built tomorrow. This is intended as God’s house, and His authority alone is to be respected there.

After months of work, I met with the women this morning. Tomorrow an announcement will be available from them, and I will post it on this website.