As Jesus is the cornerstone upon which the Church is built, so are his teachings the unifying cornerstone of Christian doctrine.

Yeast Attack

I love rich, heavy, nutritious manly bread and am repulsed by wimpy white, tasteless, empty, junk bread. But, no matter what our preference, bread can teach us plenty. In communion, we partake of Christ. The unleavened bread of Passover pictured a sinless life. Yet, leaven can also picture the kingdom of heaven multiplying. on the other hand, the leaven of false teaching also propagates dangerously.

In Matthew 16:5-12 Jesus warned his disciples sternly about the yeast of two very different groups of ancient religious leaders. What was it about their teaching that was such a problem, when they actually taught opposing doctrines? Certainly, neither of them acknowledged Jesus and his teachings. We may have a similar problem today. Many Christians give lip service to Christ, but ignore what he taught. It is so easy to be diverted from digesting Christ to something else. The Christian market place is full of tangents and side tracks for those who are bored with Christ and have itching ears.

Many Christians who want to stay faithful are concerned that they do not have enough depth of knowledge, wisdom or discernment to know what is a false teaching and what is not. How do we sort through the incessant variety of Christian publications and media available to us today, and not get led astray? We do not have to become professional theologians in order to sort out the mess.

In Jesus' teaching to the disciples about avoiding the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees, he gave a simple key: remember the feeding of the two large crowds, the 5,000 and the 4,000. That was only physical food, but symbolic of the source of our true food, Jesus. When we get misled and confused, the best thing to do is to have faith that Jesus will also supply our spiritual food when we ask. That means that we also regularly digest the spiritual food that he has supplied. The more fully immersed we are in the life and teachings of the Master, the more easily we can discern between what is significant and what is an irrelevant distraction.

The Trusted, Empowered, Enterprising Woman

Set-Apart Femininity: God's Sacred Intent for Every Young Woman
Set-Apart Femininity
We hear two caricatures of our great grandmother's life. Feminists (gender-biased towards women) picture her as a "kept woman" trapped in housework. On the other hand, there are shall we say for equality's sake "masculists" (gender-biased towards men) who depict her as a woman of leisure sipping tea with the ladies' guild, while great grandpa slaved away to provide the physical necessities of life. An egalitarian approach is needed, where both sexes are truly treated equally. Neither distortion is an honest picture yet they are readily promoted by a world anxious to dishonor and abandon the wisdom of our ancestors.

In Proverbs 31, we find a woman who is neither extreme. She is neither the brainless bond-slave to a dictatorial husband, nor the lazy woman of leisure, living off her husband's blood, sweat and tears. The first rather impressive description is that her husband safely trusts her. Now what does that mean? Trust is a two way street. You don't earn trust if you also can't give it. So, reading between the lines, I perceive that this is a relationship of mutual trust.

What does trust entail? He trusts her enough to make a decision on buying a field. Now how much money is that? In most of our countries today, that is perhaps worth an annual income or maybe even more. In my retail experience, I have found very few couples who would make a decision over a week's wages in value without the other's input. For a husband to safely trust his wife over something that would entail such a huge cost means to me that this is an extra-ordinary woman in an exceptional marriage.

Another rather remarkable description is that this woman is not constrained by her home duties, but is very enterprising. She not only makes an income from the field that she bought, but also imports goods from afar, and has a rather successful cottage industry which swells the family's income abundantly. Remarkably, she also has employees, but is not the "career woman" who neglects her family, farms the kids out to babysitters or daycare, while she is off gallivanting all over creation, but she manages to personally attend to her family's needs. Granted, there are times when we cannot avoid babysitters or daycare and they become a necessity of circumstances. The Proverbs 31 woman is not however, the absentee wife and mother. She has found a way to richly blend all of these things together.

Some people are offended by such an intelligent and capable home-centered women. In a self-centered world, where family is allowed to rot for the sake of a career, or selfish ambition, the Proverbs 31 woman stands as an example, shining the way for today's citizens that have the highest divorce and family breakdown rates in history. She is not a brainless Hausfrau, nor a selfish, man-hating, family-destroying feminist, but an exceptionally intelligent and graciously dependable woman who is able to preserve and blend family and business life into one seamless, healthy whole. Wow!

Signs of the Times

What if you woke up one day to find that your church was totally wrong on a major issue? What would you do? Would you vigorously defend the old ways, closed minded and stubborn, ignoring perhaps even the obvious? Would you explore the deeper truth with an open mind and willingness to change? Would you change willingly and quickly or slowly and begrudgingly? Would you demand more evidence than is required?

In Matthew 16:1-4 Jesus was confronted by a coalition of religious leaders. They tested him asking for miraculous evidence of his Messiahship, a sign from heaven. Jesus' reply was terse and dismissive. He simply reminded them of their own intelligence, how smart they were at predicting weather signs, and yet could not even see the signs that these were momentous times, times of decision.

So what is the difference? Why were these highly intelligent people unable to see the obvious? People are often more interested in defending their religious traditions than what God wants. Yet, Christianity is a growth process. We need to change from milk to meat and ever deeper maturity. So, what about our Christianity? Is our faith stuck in an rut, or are we open to deeper revelations of God in our lives? Can we discern the signs of God in these times?

The Commandments of Men

The Pharisees often criticized Jesus for ignoring their traditions. One such time was when he and the disciples did not wash their hands before eating, ignoring the religious tradition of the Pharisees. Jesus' response was to lash out at them for their commandments of men which caused people to violate the commandments of God. He gave an example. The Pharisees were so greedy for money that they regarded financial support of parents less important than giving to their ministry.

Some ministries today ask people to give what they have not got, or offer false promises of financial blessing for giving, much like the financial scandal of indulgences that precipitated the Protestant Reformation. Some traditions diminish the commandments of God, by eclipsing the teachings of Christ, with the traditions of men. We read of Jesus' classic confrontation with the religious traditions of men in Matthew 15:1-9.

As Protestants, we naturally compare this with the two most ancient Christian traditions and they certainly contain many commandments of men which Jesus could criticize if he were with us in the flesh today. However, before we look elsewhere, let's look in our own traditions first.

There are two kinds of traditions, those which the original apostles taught as doctrine, and later traditions which crept into Christianity, which may or may not be helpful to our faith. One reason why we Protestants believe in the Reformation teaching of sola scriptura, is that Christianity is a continual weeding out process. As layers of tradition creep into the church, we need to constantly compare those doctrines to original Christianity, otherwise our religion becomes like the game of Chinese whispers, constantly changing from generation to generation, until it no longer resembles the Christianity of Christ.

What that means to Protestants is that we must be continually reforming. Every teaching needs to be re-evaluated, re-examined in the light of the teachings of Christ and the apostles. Do Protestant churches have teachings of men that need to be reformed? There is probably not a single church that does not need to have some teachings of men weeded out. That will always be the case until Christ returns. The criteria are still the same today as then. We worship in vain when we teach as doctrines the commandments of men.