The Real Reason Why There are so Many Different Christian Denominations

Al Lopez Park

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I have heard it said, there are many different Christian denominations because the Bible can be interpreted many different ways. This simply is not true, and an insult to God, making it look like He is not smart enough to provide a Book that can be understood, or has trouble explaining Himself. After the cross, there were many home churches and synagogues, but there were no denominations. It was all one church. This church was severely persecuted after the cross. But then something worse than persecution met the church, and that was compromise!

The great adversary now endeavored to gain by artifice what he had failed to secure by force. Persecution ceased, and in its stead were substituted the dangerous allurements of temporal prosperity and worldly honor. Idolaters were led to receive a part of the Christian faith, while they rejected other essential truths. They professed to accept Jesus as the Son of God and to believe in His death and resurrection, but they had no conviction of sin and felt no need of repentance or of a change of heart. With some concessions on their part they proposed that Christians should make concessions, that all might unite on the platform of belief in Christ. Now the church was in fearful peril. Prison, torture, fire, and sword were blessings in comparison with this. Some of the Christians stood firm, declaring that they could make no compromise. Others were in favor of yielding or modifying some features of their faith and uniting with those who had accepted a part of Christianity, urging that this might be the means of their full conversion. That was a time of deep anguish to the faithful followers of Christ. Under a cloak of pretended Christianity, Satan was insinuating himself into the church, to corrupt their faith and turn their minds from the word of truth.
Most of the Christians at last consented to lower their standard, and a union was formed between Christianity and paganism. Although the worshipers of idols professed to be converted, and united with the church, they still clung to their idolatry, only changing the objects of their worship to images of Jesus, and even of Mary and the saints. The foul leaven of idolatry, thus brought into the church, continued its baleful work. Unsound doctrines, superstitious rites, and idolatrous ceremonies were incorporated into her faith and worship. As the followers of Christ united with idolaters, the Christian religion became corrupted, and the church lost her purity and power. There were some, however, who were not misled by these delusions. They still maintained their fidelity to the Author of truth and worshiped God alone. -Ellen White, Great Controversy, Pages 42-43 

The problem was not that the Bible was not plain enough to understand. The problem was that superstition and sin were welcomed into the church to make the church vogue and world friendly.

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. 2 Timothy 4:3-4 NKJV 

The problem Paul is describing to Timothy does not have anything to do with the Bible being contradictory or too hard to understand. It has to do with people not wanting to know the plain truths of the Bible and wanting to believe lies and fables instead.

This happened in the very beginning. God clearly told Adam and Eve that if they ate the forbidden fruit they would die. Satan told a simple lie, “Ye shall not surely die” and without any evidence or further ado Eve bought it because it sounded good! See Genesis 3:4. Today Satan’s lie is being taught from pulpits even though the Bible is very clear that the dead are resting in their graves right now, waiting on the resurrection, while  1 Timothy 6:16  tells us plainly that only God is immortal.

Now not everyone has chosen to believe a lie. Some have actually been deceived because of things they were sincerely taught wrong. This is the fault of those who were spreading lies intentionally, and not the fault of the Bible authors not being able to write clear enough to be understood. Of course preconceived ideas, that originated from these lies  hinder our understanding of the Bible. Revelation describes a 1260 year period of spiritual darkness, when Bibles were replaced with superstition. However a reformation came, bringing the light of God’s Word. In Revelation 18:4 God calls His people out of the darkness of Babylon’s false teachings and into the light found in the Bible. So, with so many lies and preconceived ideas, how can we find Bible truth?

Lets be open minded or “fair minded” when studying Scripture, putting all preconceived ideas away, and search (searching and casually reading are two different things!) the Scriptures to see if what we are being told is true.

These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. Acts 17:11 NKJV

Let’s compare Scripture with Scripture letting the Bible interpret itself so that we get the big picture. We can’t draw conclusions from one simple verse. We must compare verses to let the Bible interpret itself. For example, in Ecclesiastes 12:7 it says when man dies his spirit returns to God who gave it. That alone sounds like we go to heaven when we die, only because of our preconceived ideas we have heard from the father of lies.  When we compare Scripture we read in Job 27:3 that the spirit is simply our breath. So all Ecclesiastes 12:7 is saying, is that when we die God takes away His breath. That is all. Isaiah tells us to study by comparing multiple texts.

For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, Line upon line, line upon line,

Here a little, there a little.” Isaiah 28:10 NKJV 

Fortunately we don’t have to try to do all this on our own. We can pray when we study our Bibles, and if we are studying with an open mind, comparing Scripture with Scripture, the Holy Spirit will lead us into ALL truth! Thank God for the various Christian denominations, who have exposed various Satanic lies, and have helped us recover various Bible truths. As we continue studying the Bible we will be led into all of God’s truth, instead of just various truths.

However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth…John 16:13 NKJV

Yes Satan’s lies, and the church replacing God’s Word with fables and superstition took the church into the dark ages. But God’s Word is victorious (Of course God always had His people in every age who went by the Bible instead of superstition) in bringing us out of the darkness and into the light of God’s love!

You may study more Bible teachings in the light of God’s love here. 

When You Just Need to Talk to Jesus Face to Face

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

When we go through Job-like experiences and trials, we sometimes wish that Jesus was right here with us, so we could talk to Him face to face instead of just reading the Scriptures. We think Jesus would have something new to say to us outside of Scriptures, that would fit our unique experience. However, let’s see what often happened when people in Scripture talked to Jesus personally.

Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ Matthew 4:3-4 NKJV

The tempter tries to get into a theological debate with Jesus, but instead of thinking up clever, witty comebacks Jesus just quotes what is already written in Scripture. I’m thinking we should do the same. So in this discussion, even though the tempter had a personal conversation with Jesus, nothing was revealed you and I could not already find in Scripture.

And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?Luke 10:25-26 NKJV

Once again Jesus does nothing more than take the lawyer to Scripture. The same Scripture you and I have even though we’ve never had a physical person to Person talk with Jesus, like many wish for.

In Luke 24 Cleopas and his friend are walking towards Emmaus, when they meet Jesus. They don’t realize who He is as they tell Him about their doubts about what happened that crucifixion week. Now here they are talking to Jesus personally, and what does He do? He doesn’t tell them anything other than what was already written in Scripture!

 And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. Luke 24:27 NKJV

So here we have three cases of someone getting to actually have a real live physical one on one conversation with Jesus, and each time nothing was revealed but what was already written in the Scriptures. Could it be that everything we need to know about life’s trails is already in the Scriptures? Later Cleopas and his friend said, ““Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” Luke 24:32 Friend, has there not been times when you have read the Scriptures and your heart burned within you as though Jesus was talking personally to you? Its because He was! Someone once said, “I may know a lot of books, but the Bible is the only book that knows me!”

Several years ago my church had an agape communion feast. It was supposed to be a time for personally healing and restoration. The leader assigned us a partner to pray with. My partner refused to pray with me because I had a different opinion about a local issue. I would prefer to not give that member the satisfaction of reading this, and triumphing in that they successfully hurt me, but they did. What God had designed to be a healing time, this member had used to bring me pain. I questioned God as to why He would let this happen? This was a sacred feast and yet someone used it for evil. God did not answer me audibly, but once again He through the Spirit pointed me to Scripture. We were celebrating an agape feast, similar to the Passover super. That night Jesus wanted someone to pray with, but his disciples failed Him. Sure they were not mean spirited like this church member, but still they let Him down, and Jesus had to experience the post agape feast praying alone just like I did! I realized I felt His pain and He felt mine! When I realized Jesus and I had shared a unique situation together,  that brought healing! Through both providence and Scripture Jesus revealed Himself to me.

In chemistry you have a classroom where you learn theory, and a lab where you learn practicum. When we go through trials like Job, we have the Bible to learn theory, but then we have the world as our lab where we put it into practice. Through practice Jesus leads us by His Word and providence. As different lab experiments turn out uniquely so does our providence, but God has given us His Word in the Scriptures to guide us all, even in our unique experiences.

This is why Paul said the Scriptures are profitable for doctrine, but not only for getting our 28 fundamental beliefs. He went on to say for all our instruction in righteousness, as we become just as complete in Him as we are individually unique in Him.

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 NKJV

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.

The Day God’s Love Made the Universe Stand Still

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

There is a saying, “kids who are loved at home come to school to learn. Kids who are not loved at home come to school to be loved.” Is it any different in Sabbath School? Is it also true that God’s children (ages 0-125) who know they are loved come to Sabbath school to learn, and those who don’t yet know they are loved, come to Sabbath School to be loved?

I can still remember sitting at my desk in my 4th-grade classroom at Tulsa Adventist Academy, listening to my teachers, Miss Fisher and Mrs. Krueger, lecturing us about something. I don’t really remember exactly what it was about, but we must have been struggling with our grades, because all I remember is, both teachers told us, “If you only learn one thing this year learn this. We love you!”  Now we were loved at home. We were loved at church and school, but as educated as my teachers were, they knew the most important thing is not money or a degree. It’s love. Without that nothing else matters, and when you know you are loved, nothing can stop you!

For the love of Christ controls and compels us, because we have concluded this, that One died for all, therefore all died (2 Corinthians 5:14 Amplified Bible)

So while humanity tries harder, and reads self-help books and tries 12-step recovery programs, Paul says it is by looking at the cross and knowing we are loved that we get all our power to succeed. I remember John the Baptist telling everyone to “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. John 1:29. He didn’t tell them to try harder next time. He told them to look at the Lamb. Let His love soak into you.

As legalistic humans we are always wanting to promise to try harder next time. But the answer is not promising to try harder. The answer is letting yourself be loved.

In Jeremiah God mentions how Israel had not kept the promises they had made, so He was going to make a better promise. His promise would be better because He is the the One making the promise instead of them. He is the perfect Promise-maker while we are lousy promise-makers!

“But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel after those days,” says the Lord. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. (Jeremiah 31:33 NLT)

So God promises to do for us what we could never even promise to do for ourselves, much less even try harder to make happen. God is the One promising, and He is the One who is accountable to make it so. Please notice something very important though. Its in Jeremiah 31:3 NLT, several verses before He promises to write His law on our hearts.

I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.

Just like my teachers realized all the book knowledge in the world doesn’t mean a thing without love, God feels the same way. Knowing all the laws and having them memorized in your mind and knowing them all by heart doesn’t mean a thing if you don’t know how much God loves you!

Friends, there is no reason for you to promise God you are going to try harder and do better next time. He has already promised you! We don’t need to promise God what He has already promised us! What? I don’t have any work to do myself? Well yes, and I will let Jesus tell you Himself, exactly what your work is.

 Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.” John 6:29 NLT

Our work is to believe God’s promise that He loves us with an everlasting love, and He will place the principles of His love (also known as His law) in our hearts!

This is why John never told us to try harder! Just look at the Lamb and let His love soak into your heart till your heart is saturated with His love, which is also His law. You don’t need to promise God anything. Your work is to believe the promises God has made to you!

In 2017, I don’t need too many self-help books. I don’t need to try harder. I just need to look at the Lamb in 2017 and fall in love with Jesus! His love will change me in ways I could never change myself. After all, all the self help books and promises of better performance don’t mean a thing without love!

So just how good is God at keeping His promises to love and save us? For brevity, let me share one example. You can read about it in Joshua 9-10.

The Gibeonites used deceit to trick Israel into letting them in on the covenant God had made with them. Even though Israel was not supposed to make a covenant with anyone living as close as the Gibeonites, they did. Later when the Gibeonites were under attack, they called upon Israel to save them, and even though the Gibeonites had used deceit to secure this covenant, God was so relentless in keeping His promise of love, that He caused the sun to stand still until the Gibeonites were all rescued! God fought for Israel as Israel fought for the mischievous Gibeonites. Let that soak in. The Gibeonites were in no way worthy of any of God’s blessings, but God was still so loving and faithful to His promise that He made the sun stand still until they were all rescued! Talk about a love that moves heaven and earth! And this powerful love was given to the most undeserving people! So, scientifically speaking, the greatest power in the universe is not gravity or the suctioning power of the black hole. God’s love overruled all those powers and made the solar system stand still. Imagine what this love can do in your heart! 

God’s powerful promises and love are also for you and me. In Hebrews 13:5 God promises to never leave us or forsake us, but the Amplified Bible is the only English version that even begins to grasp what God is actually promising.

for He has said, “I will never under any circumstances desert you nor give you up nor leave you without support, nor will I in any degree leave you helpless, nor will I forsake or let you down or relax My hold on you- assuredly not!” Hebrews 13:5 Amp version.

If we know we are loved we can come to Sabbath School to learn, and we can learn while we are loved, but we can’t learn without love.

If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:2 NLT

—and the greatest of these is love.1 Corinthians 13:13 NLT 

You may study this week’s SS lesson here. 

What Time is Sunset?

During the 1992 U.S. presidential debate, George Bush Sr. glanced at his watch, and lost the election. Many speculate, that by looking at his watch, Bush was disconnecting from his audience while a young Clinton was charming them. When we watch the clock on Sabbath are we disconnecting from God?

I love reading so much, that when I was in high school, I thought it would be so cool to be locked in the central library overnight, so I could browse through all the books all alone with no one to disturb me. Fast forward to today when I have my own Kindle and and can do just that! I have a library at my fingertips that I can browse all night – and I have! One thing, though, that bothers me about my Kindle is that at the bottom of the screen is a scale that tells me how close I am to the end of the book, while I am reading. I hate that! I want to be lost in time when I read. I don’t want to be thinking about how much time is left. I just want to be in the moment. It’s like life. I don’t want to know how much time I have to live. I just want to live and be in the moment!God gave us the Sabbath to enjoy. When we glance at our clocks, asking again and again, “What time is sunset?” are we sending the signal that there is somewhere else we would rather be than with God – just like Bush unintentionally sent the message to his audience that there was somewhere else he would rather be? Is the Sabbath something we want to just get over with, or do we likebeing in the moment on Sabbath, without looking forward to when it will end?

In the Garden of Eden, do you think Adam and Eve were looking at the sun, waiting for it to set, while they worshiped and fellowshipped with the Lord every Sabbath? Do you think they found Sabbath-keeping a chore, or do you think they delighted themselves in being in the moment and enjoyed their special time with God?

Some say that now that we have rest in Jesus, we no longer need a weekly Sabbath rest. Did Adam and Eve have rest in Jesus or not? Yet they enjoyed a weekly Sabbath rest – a special time with their Creator God. If they needed a weekly Sabbath to fellowship with God before sin, then we also need the same blessings after the atonement. Actually we enjoy the blessings of the weekly Sabbath the most when we are at perfect at-one-ment with God. Since the purpose of the Sabbath is to enjoy our relationship with God for eternity, the Sabbath will be kept for eternity. (See Isaiah 66:23)

By giving us the Sabbath, God gave us rest and not burdens. Mark 2:27 says the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath. In Isaiah 58:13 God wants us to call the Sabbath a delight.

Since the Sabbath was meant to be a delight and a blessing, God gave us guidelines about Sabbath keeping. However, we defeat the purpose of the Sabbath, when we become so focused on the guidelines  and so “stressed” about keeping the Sabbath appropriately that, instead of enjoying the holy hours and being in the moment, we just watch the clock until sunset, when we will be relieved of the stress and pressure of Sabbath keeping. Yet the purpose of the Sabbath is to eliminatestress and pressure, not create it!

Imagine the Hebrews when God delivered them from Egyptian slavery and reintroduced them to the Sabbath. They had been working non-stop so Pharaohcould rest. But God worked non-stop to deliver the Hebrews so they could rest. The Sabbath rest reminded them that God’s work had saved them, and not their own efforts. Pharaoh gave them work and burdens, but God took those burdens so they could rest.

We read in Exodus 16 that God gave the Hebrews twice as much manna on Friday so they would not need to gather on the Sabbath. He did not want them burdened with meal preparations. He did not want them to be stressed or burdened at all. In Exodus 35:3 He told them not to kindle a fire. Today, starting a fire may not be any work at all, but it was back then.

When a man is in love with his wife, on special nights, he will come home from work, where has provided for her needs, and tell her to relax on the sofa while he prepares dinner for her. He does not want her to lift a finger. After dinner he leads her back into the living room, where he will massage her feet until she falls asleep. Then he goes back in the kitchen and cleans up while she rests. On such a special night, when he is expressing his love for her, he does not want her to worry about anything or do any work. If the kids have left their toys in the bathtub, he will remove them for her before she takes her bath. This is a special day for him to express his love for her, and he does not want her to do the least amount of work! He wants to be her everything!

As long as the husband loves his wife he will always need special nights like this to express his love for her. Oh, but you say, “If he loves her he will love her every day and every day will be special.” True, but all you hopeless romantics know that even in marriage you need date nights which are special nights like no other night. Likewise, as long as God loves His people He will always need His special Sabbaths to express His love for them.

Now suppose after preparing dinner and lighting the candles, the husband leads his wife into the dinning room and sits her at the table. He then serves the casserole on her plate. He stares lovingly into her eyes, but she is not gazing back. She is watching Britain Has Talent on her tablet. Doesn’t look like she is too into him, does it? She is not sharing the moment, is she? To call the date night a delight, she needs to delight in her date.  In order for us to call the Sabbath a delight we must delight ourselves in the Lord of the Sabbath.

You may be reading this, thinking, our date nights are nothing like that! My wife does not even like for her feet to be massaged! Her feet are too ticklish! Your date nights may have different activities, but the principle of love and devotion are the same. So with Sabbath keeping. Date nights should be creative, and so should Sabbath keeping. Do you get tired of the same ole Sabbath rituals of just going through the motions of playing traditional church, with no creative or spontaneous passion and emotion? You are not alone. God gets tired of it too!

Stop bringing me your meaningless gifts; the incense of your offerings disgusts me! As for your celebrations of the new moon and the Sabbath and your special days for fasting—they are all sinful and false. I want no more of your pious meetings. Isaiah 1:13 NLT 

When Israel was just going through the motions of traditional Sabbath worship, without putting any creative passion and emotion into it, God called it meaningless, sinful, and He wanted no more of it.

Now there is nothing wrong with traditions unless we use tradition as an excuse to not be creative and thoughtful. Married couples have traditions, but they should be thoughtful traditions. In other words, tradition should never be an excuse to be mundane and boring! In Isaiah 1:13 God is telling His people, He does not want any more date nights if they are just going to be meaningless traditions void of love, creativity and passion.

After all, if the Sabbath is a memorial to our Creator who created us in His own image, shouldn’t we be creative too?

Please comment below with some creative ideas you have for Sabbath. God put a lot of thought into His date with us each week. Let’s be creative and make the Sabbath a day where we are not looking at our watches waiting for it to be over. Instead of asking “What time is sunset?” let’s live each Sabbath moment to the fullest.

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.