Does God give us more than we can handle?

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There is a saying in Christendom that goes something like this “God will never give you more than you can handle”. This is a mantra that is repeated over and over as a way of building up the willpower to overcome an especially difficult situation. As it were, there is a struggle and a weight that exists inside people as the burdens of this world begin to accumulate. It might be anything- the loss of a loved one, the loss of employment. Broken relationships. Divorce. Death. Desertion. The consequences for private sins and the harping of the devil.  For those suffering, whatever it is- physical, emotional or spiritual- heartache rips at them. Sorrow fills them. Uncertainty bids them. Stress cripples the mind and things once firm and decided begin to shudder and crumble. In those moments of personal pain,  people with good intentions might offer the reassurance to the one hurting “God will never place a burden on you so heavy that you cannot carry it.”

That might seem reassuring and spiritual sounding, but more often than not it is unhelpful at best and biblically suspect at worst. Why? Because this is not a legitimate promise of God. It is a promise that many people believe is there, but sadly are mistaken as the word of God offers us no such false condolences.

What the scripture does say in context, is “Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.  Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.”
[1 Corinthians 10:7-14 ESV]

The aforementioned verse is a legitimate promise of God that we can stand firm in, but that promise does not say that God will never give us more than we can handle in this life. Instead this word is speaking about temptations, speaking specifically about our innate ability to turn everything good that God has made into an idol which we then bow down to in though, word and deed. We have a propensity to idolize things that we ought not to.  We misuse sex, food, sport, music and pleasure and make those things our gods. We are by nature idolaters, and so we need to be on guard and take great care that we do not inavertedly walk in this. We must take care to ensure that we are not lulled into complacency by our own prideful assessment of our ability to resist and fall prey. These verses are not about situational hardships that we go through in life, but rather they are about being tempted from sin and the flesh.

So that verse isn’t saying what people like it to say, so what then do we make of this quote?  When we find ourselves unable to live up to the expectation that we must endure hardships because they wouldn’t be there if they weren’t surmountable on our own, we either grow bitter or we despair.  The bitter man is the Christian who believes there is a promise from God that says they will never have to endure anything beyond their ability to handle. And yet when he  has an event happen in his life that he can’t handle, from that moment they quit trusting God and grow disillusioned and disappointed. The rationale is this-  if God lied about this and broke this promise, how can I ever trust anything He says? That’s one possibility. The second possibility is despair- “God will never give me more than I can handle, and yet I can’t handle this.” What must that say to the person about their relationship with God? That they are a failure who isn’t spiritual or strong enough. That their fragility is weakness and their inability is insufficiency. There is a sense of “What is wrong with me that I can’t endure, that I can’t handle these trials that I’m supposed to be able to handle”? which leads to despondence.

And yet God’s word is clear that we will have trials that we cannot handle- that we will brush right up against the agonies that result from this contorted, fallen world.  St Paul writes “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life.  Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. [2 Corinthians. 1:8-9 ]

And so what is the answer? When we walk through the hardships of this world. When we suffer loss and become at a loss ourselves. When we are tormented and attacked and when we can hardly breath or think straight because we are overwhelmed by our circumstances and by the stains of our sins and the sins of others in our life, we read the rest of the verses. “Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death…..But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.  He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us,  as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favour granted us in answer to the prayers of many.”

God gives us more than we can handle so that we will rely on him. All things direct us to him and his work. The promise is not a perpetual conquering based on our own abilities and fortitude. We are not told to grimace and through sheer force of will bear the burdens on our own- that will only produce pride in ourselves for our ability to endure. Rather, our inability to endure shows that only Christ Jesus  is able to sustain us. It might be paralleled to the work and function of the law, which in our inability to perfectly keep it we see our need for a saviour who has kept it for us. For this reason, a more accurate statement might be that “God will never give us more than He can handle for us”

We need to know that in the face of hardships and burdens that it is ok to feel crushed, desperate and helpless. It is ok to feel weak and poor and unable. It is ok to have to swallow back a sob and feel that embarrassed aloneness when you realize that this is not something that you can do on your own. Because that points us to Christ. That drives us to Him who is always strong, always powerful, always unfailing full of grace. To quote Greg Lucas

“My experience is that God will place a burden on you so heavy that you cannot possibly carry it alone. He will break your back and your will. He will buckle your legs until you fall flat beneath the crushing weight of your load. All the while He will walk beside you waiting for you to come to the point where you must depend on Him. “My power is made perfect in your weakness,” He says, as we strain under our burden. Whatever the burden, it might indeed get worse, but I know this–God is faithful. And while we change and get old, He does not. When we get weaker, He remains strong. And in our weakness and humility, He offers us true, lasting, transforming and undeserved grace.”

Repost from . January 7, 2011

The Myth of the Burning Garbage Dump of Gehenna

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I’ve listened to many sermons and conference talks over the years which have included in them a curious factoid, namely that Gehenna was not only a reference to the Valley of Hinnon, but that it was also a perpetually burning trash dump. The idea is that the Valley of Hinnon laid just south of Jerusalem, immediately outside its walls, and that all the refuse and waste from Jerusalem was burned there. Some people use this historical tidbit to make a point either to paint a picture how foul, vivid and terrible hell would be, or alternately to suggest that there is no eternal hell, and the references Jesus makes to the fires of hell and torment was simply a reference to this burning trash pile. There is a emergent/universalist writer named Sharon Baker who has a book called Razing Hell. She offers the following highly imaginative description of this burning refuse heap, which serves as a nice, detailed amalgamation of all the descriptions I’ve heard of it over the years.

“Well before the time of Jesus, the valley was also used as a refuse heap. The people in the surrounding areas dumped their trash in Gehenna, where it burned day and night. The fire never went out. It smoldered there beneath the surface, incinerating the rotting, smelly garbage. New garbage was piled on top of the old decaying garbage: rotting fish, slimy vegetation, decaying human refuse of every imaginable sort. And as you know from experience, a dump without flies is a dump without garbage. The flies laid eggs on the surface of the dump. So just imagine the hundreds of thousands of squirmy, wormy maggots living there, eating the rotting refuse. All the while, under the surface, the fire still burned, devouring the putrid garbage days and weeks past.

 

It was a fire that burned forever, where the worm did not die and where people went to throw their trash, grimacing from the stench, gritting their teeth in revulsion, never venturing too close for fear of falling into the abhorrent abyss. In times of war, decaying human flesh mingled with the rotting garbage—imagine the vile vision. When Jesus spoke of Gehenna, his hearers would think of the valley of rotting, worm-infested garbage, where the fire always burned, smoke always lingered, and if the wind blew just right, a smell that sickened the sense wafted in the air.” (pp. 129-30)

There’s only one problem. There is no biblical support for this, neither is there any literary sources or archaeological data from the intertestamental or rabbinic periods to suggest this. Put simply, there is no evidence that the valley was, in fact, a perpetually burning garbage dump. In fact, near as anyone can tell, the earliest mention we have of this theory comes a Rabbi named David Kimhi who wrote a commentary on Psalm 27 in the 13th Century. He remarked

“Gehenna is a repugnant place, into which filth and cadavers are thrown, and in which fires perpetually burn in order to consume the filth and bones; on which account, by analogy, the judgement of the wicked is called ‘Gehenna.’

That’s it. That’s the earliest reference we have to it- a Rabbi writing in the middle ages from Europe, not Israel, some 1100 years after Jesus was born. He does not tell us where he got that information from and that is all we hear of it. There’s nothing before that. There is no mention in the tons upon tons of writings we have from Church Fathers, Christian and Jewish writers, or even secular writers for that matter. Its a blank slate until this commentary pops up. And as far as Rabbi Kimhi goes, note that even he stated the alleged dump of Gehenna became an analogy for the judgment of the wicked, which demonstrates that even the first writer to make this connection saw it to be an analogy for the place that the wicked will be judged.

Todd Bolen, from his bibleplaces blog, rounds up some scholarly sources. He quotes:

Edward Robinson, preeminent explorer of the Holy Land beginning in 1838. He wrote: “In these gardens, lying partly within the mouth of Hinnom and partly in the Valley of Jehoshaphat, and irrigated by the waters of Siloam, Jerome assigns the place of Tophet; where the Jews practised the horrid rites of Baal and Moloch, and ‘burned their sons and their daughters in the fire.’ It was probably in allusion to this detested and abominable fire, that the later Jews applied the name of this valley (Gehenna), to denote the place of future punishment or the fires of hell. At least there is no evidence of any other fires having been kept up in the valley; as has sometimes been supposed” (Biblical Researches, vol. 1 [1841], 404-5).

 

James A. Montgomery observes this medieval commentator’s logic, but does not accept it. “With the common sense which often characterizes Jewish commentators, Kimhi says that the place was the dump of the city, where fires were always kept burning to destroy the refuse; ‘therefore the judgment of the wicked is parabolically called Gehenna.’ But from the Biblical references the place appears to have nothing physically objectionable about it; in contrast to its contemporary condition Jeremiah prophesied that it would one day be called ‘Valley of Slaughter’” (“The Holy City and Gehenna,” JBL 27/1 [1908], 34).

 

About the same time, G. R. Beasley-Murray made a similar observation: “The notion, still referred to by some commentators, that the city’s rubbish was burned in this valley, has no further basis than a statement by the Jewish scholar Kimhi made about A.D. 1200; it is not attested in any ancient source. The valley was the scene of human sacrifices, burned in the worship of Moloch (2 Kings 16:3 and 21:6), which accounts for the prophecy of Jeremiah that it would be called the Valley of Slaughter under judgment of God (Jer. 7:32-33). This combination of abominable fires and divine judgment led to the association of the valley with a place of perpetual judgment (see Isa. 66:24) and later with a place of judgment by fire without any special connection to Jerusalem (see, for example, 1 Enoch 27:1ff., 54:1ff., 63:3-4, and 90:26ff)” (Jesus and the Kingdom of God, 376-77).

 

W. D. Davies and D. C. Allison, in their excellent commentary on Matthew, note the lack of ancient evidence but do not entirely reject the notion of a garbage dump. “Why the place of torment came to have this name, the name of the valley south of Jerusalem, gê-hinnōm (Josh 18.16 LXX: Γαιεννα), now Wādier-rabābi, is uncertain. The standard view, namely, that the valley was where the city’s garbage was incinerated and that the constantly rising smoke and smell of corruption conjured up the fiery torments of the damned, is without ancient support, although it could be correct. Perhaps the abode of the wicked dead gained its name because children had there been sacrificed in fire to the god Molech (2 Chr 28.3; 33.6), or because Jeremiah, recalling its defilement by Josiah (2 Kgs 23.10; cr. 21.6), thundered against the place (Jer 7.31-2; 19.2-9; 32.35), or because it was believed that in the valley was the entrance to the underworld home of the pagan chthonian deities (cf. b. ‘Erub. 19a) (Matthew 1-7, 514-15).

I would consider this myth, much like the myth of the shepherd breaking the sheeps legsthe myth of the camel and and the eye of the needle gate, and the myth of the rope around the high priest’s ankle, to be thoroughly debunked.

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The predatory claims of Daniel King.

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Daniel King, the worldwide evangelist and alleged healer I mentioned in a previous post, has a website advertising his books where he makes some claims that some might consider pretty spectacular. I thought in light of the post I made a few days ago, it might be worth following up with some more insight and thoughts on the matter. As a side note, I think its worth mentioning that Daniel King has responded to me a few times and engaged with me on these matters. This is a rarity and something that is appreciated. In a small way it sets him apart from the overwhelming majority of word-faith preachers, and I think this is a virtue worth being lauded.

In any case, let’s get to the thrust of the post, which is to review and comment on the promo page for a recent book that he wrote and some of the claims that he makes about not only his ability to heal, but the means and extent in which he heals.  The book is called “Healing Power”.  I would post the link, but after I spoke to Daniel about, the website was taken down and redirected.  It was healingpowerunlimited.com. If you can find it in the interweb achieves , anyone, please link in the comments so I can update this post with it.  I have saved the entire page, however, and will quote it verbatim.

In the first section, we see a few claims. We see him saying that the powerful truths that have cured thousands are available to “you” indiscriminately. If you buy his book, you will be the recipient of the knowledge of God’s healing power. You will learn that much of the secret of healing originates in Daniel Kings ideas, which he says he proved repeatedly. He also states that because he has witnessed countless miracles, he knows that the person buying this book will also be the recipient of a miracle

“To: YOU

From: Daniel King

Subject: How YOU can be HEALED!

Dear Friend,

EVERYONE needs healing in some area

For the last fifteen years of my life, I have intensely studied God’s Healing Power…I read over two hundred books on healing…I have tested and proved every one of my ideas in countless services on almost every continent in the world…I have personally witnessed thousands of miracles with my own eyes…and I KNOW God can perform a miracle in your life! In our services, blind eyes are opened…deaf ears hear…cancer is cured…the lame walk…bad backs are repaired…”

What part of your life needs healing? Is your body sick? Do you need healing from bitterness, fear, or loneliness? Have you ache from abuse in your past? Do your relationships need healing? Do you need spiritual, sexual, emotional, or physical healing? Do you suffer from Alcoholism, Allergies, AIDS, Arthritis, Asthma, Back Pain, Bleeding, Blindness, Bruises, Burns, Broken Bones, Cancer, Crippled Legs, Colds and Flu, Coughs, Curvature of the Spine, Depression, Diabetes, Deafness, Down’s Syndrome,  Eye Problems, Epilepsy, Fear, Fever, Heart problems, Tooth Aches, Infections, Infertility, Liver Problems, Lung problems, Mental illnesses, Skin Diseases, Sore throat, Sprains, Stomachaches, Smoking, Swelling, Growths, Tumors, Warts, Effects of Strokes, Ulcers, Uneven legs or any other physical ailment?”

We see that the miracles consist of curing major physical illness and life threatening conditions. We’re not simply talking about bad backs and leg lengthenings. If you have cancer, AIDS, Down Syndrome, blindness, or any other major problems, you do not have to suffer these anymore. You do not have to experience the pain, isolation, crushing financial burden, anxiety, fear or heartache that this must cause you or your loved one. Daniel King knows for a fact that you will be healed if you purchase this book.

Are you interested in discovering proven “step-by-step” secrets to DRAMATICALLY improving your health?

Would you like to learn how to QUICKLY receive the healing you need?

If so, I know you will find this book EXTREMELY valuable!

Because I’m going to show you what took me over fifteen years to perfect…a proven, “Battle-tested” system for tapping into God’s healing power…

Daniel King then gives us some testimonials of those who have been healed. To say they are vague and non-specific is generous.

In the Dominican Republic, a seven year old boy named Valintino who was born deaf and dumb was completely healed!

In Honduras, a deaf girl’s ears were instantly healed because of the secrets in this book.

In Sudan, Africa a blind baby was suddenly healed as his mother listened to my message.

In Brazil, a man jumped up out of a wheelchair and began running because of the truth he heard.

If you were sceptical up to this point, and you think of your mother dying of breast cancer in a hospice, your brother hooked up to a dialysis machine, your best friend wasting away from HIV, your father-in-law losing his mind to the ravages of dementia, or your young son battling leukemia, and you think this sounds too good to be true, Daniel King wants to allay your concerns and suspicions.

“This book is bare-bones facts about how to be healed…no nonsense about trying to figure out if it is God’s will to heal you…this book proves it is God’s will to heal you…and teaches you how to apply this truth to YOUR life.  Learn the healing secrets that work…both in receiving your own healing and in helping others to get healed.  If you have a friend in the hospital, don’t buy them a bouquet of useless flowers (roses won’t heal cancer) get them a copy of this book so your friend can LEAVE THE HOSPITAL.  Stop sitting around complaining about your aches and pains…learn some faith principles that are GUARANTEED by God to succeed.”

Stop complaining about your cancer and your friends and family suffering. That cold, helpless feeling you feel in the pit of your gut  is unwarranted, as its quite the simple process to take care of any frightening situation. All your loved ones need is a copy of the book. Don’t believe him yet? Well here are a few more objective, properly sourced, medically confirmed testimonials to convince you.

“The doctors found four tumors on my ovaries…after prayer I visited the doctor for another sonogram…the tumors disappeared!  – Woman in Brazil “

Whenever I start feeling sick I pull out your book “Healing Power” and re-read the stories about how God heals the sick…without fail, I feel better almost immediately.” – Man in Ohio

And another guarantee that everyone can be healed of anything

Now, Daniel King is on record sharing the facts on how anyone and everyone can be COMPLETELY healed.  You will learn in a few pages what many Bible school students have spent years studying.

We learn the benefits of what buying his book will do, which include courses on  “17 Secrets to Healing Power” and “the healing power of positive confession. If you buy this book and do what it says, you will see these benefits

Pain Free Living
Reduce Doctor’s Bills
Help Your Sick Friends or Family Members
This is not heavy reading…just bare-bones essentials to what you need to know to be healed.

We are then given another quick assurance which again attests to the secrets found within [notice that the term "secrets" is a major theme here]  Daniel King has discovered the secrets to perfect health, and in fact, he markets it as “healing insurance” so that you never get sick in the first place.

Everyone needs healing…but the reason so few are healed is because they don’t use any of the secrets in my book. If they knew and applied these faith building techniques, healing would quickly appear! Not only will this book help you get healed…it will also help you STAY HEALTHY. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Don’t wait until you get sick to turn to God…buy healing insurance today by using the valuable information in this book to build your faith for when tough times come.

So Daniel King has made some pretty astronomical claims, which could be summarized as follows “God will definitely, definitely, definitely cure and heal every sickness and disease if you buy this book, thereby allowing you to discover the secrets that I knows, and then apply them to your own life.” I imagine it is a great and awesome responsibility to bear- knowing that you have discovered secrets that are so profound and earth shattering, yet also being super easy to learn and can be done in a step-by-step process. Is Daniel King going to hospitals in North America and emptying them out? Is he going to the oncology department in a childrens hospital and imparting his gifts? What is he doing with this information?

Well, he’s selling it. Allow him to explain

“How much does the book cost? I’ll be honest with you…the truths in this book are not cheap by any means…it cost me tens of thousands of dollars to learn what is in this book…you can learn in a minute of reading how to activate what took me years to learn.

A single week in the hospital can cost thousands of dollars…insurance costs keep rising year after year…a visit to the doctor’s office can be extremely expensive…

The  wisdom in this book is worth thousands of dollars…but I’m making it available to you for just $19.99.”

A few things here. First, why did it cost Daniel tens of thousands of Dollars to learn these secrets? Are not all these secrets found in plain view in the Bible? Wouldn’t all the effort involve him simply reading the texts and doing what it says,  or are the secrets found in extra-biblical texts written by other human beings? Second of all, this strikes me as an implicit chastisement to all the people who are in hospitals being overwhelmed by hospital bills because they or they’re loved ones are battling debilitating illnesses. If only you were willing to pay 20$ for this book, you would have had healing insurance and you would  not gotten sick in the first place. Your husband wouldn’t  have gotten prostate cancer and your little girl wouldn’t have been born with down syndrome. Daniel King knows the secret to get everyone healed of anything, and he is willing to share his secret knowledge, but you have to pay for it first. No money, no miracle. Freedom from grief and pain isn’t free. It’ll cost you. 20 bucks.

“If you think that is too much, you can keep paying enormous doctor’s bills.

But, if you want healing in your life, sow a seed that will produce a miracle harvest. By selling this book, I’m not trying to get money FROM you, I am trying to get God’s blessing TO you.

If I did not believe these secrets would help heal you, I would not make them available to you. These are the most valuable ideas of my years in ministry…all in one place for you to access.”

This book is available as a free instant download. That means there are no production cost involved. He doesn’t have to pay for the paper, or the printing press, or the labor, or the overhead. He could easily make this a free download without costing him any money and more easily get this into the hands of those who need it most if he truly believes that they will be healed. But like he said, if you don’t want to pay 20 $ for it, then keep on paying your medical bills. Keep on selling your home and cashing in your kids savings funds and RRSP’s and 401k’s, all in a desperate bid to keep hope alive and to survive.

Once you order, you will be able to INSTANTLY download the entire book “Healing Power” to your computer as a pdf file…NO WAITING TIME…NO SHIPPING CHARGES… you can keep the book on your computer…or you can print a copy out for FREE if you want.

And there you go. That’s the end of his advertisement for his book. As nice as he comes across, as well meaning as he tries to be, as much as I appreciate him responding to me and trying to interact with me, this ultimately comes down to an issue of predation. Daniel King is a predator. He preys on the hope and desperate fear of people looking for a miracle and promises them the world, all the while delivering nothing. He preys on the destitute, the desperate, and the dying. It takes a special kind of  brazeness and audacity to prey on people this way, and to use this particular tactic. He promises them miracles in exchange for money. Blessings for bucks. Deliverance for dollars.  He promises things that he cannot and does not deliver, and he will not allow himself to have his claims seriously examined by his critics and by those who would disbelieve him. Its simply not believable, and this is just a small part of a larger whole of dangerous beliefs that he holds. Avoid at all costs.

I don’t believe in healing ministries or crusading faith healers

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I believe that God heals. I believe that the Lord, in his mercy, can do wondrous miracles. I believe that a man or woman can be healed from the most frightening, hopeless illnesses. I don’t think its common, but I believe it happens. That being said, I don’t believe any one person has a gift for healing, or that there is such thing as a healing ministry that actually heals anyone on a regular or semi-regular basis. Furthermore, I think the extreme vast majority of all so-called faith healers who hold huge crusades and rallies are all charlatans, and I don’t believe anyone is ever healed at those things.

Much of the reason for this is theological. At this point I won’t name their collective names so as not to detract from the point, but when I survey all the big name and many smaller names who are in the game and claiming to perform amazing miracles, I am struck by the non-coincidence that none of these men are sound in the faith. Instead, what you have is a rag-tag collection of prosperity-gospel heretics who are fleecing the flock in exchange for some impartation of very bad theology . While everyone in this crowd has a different tweak on how they preach and emphasize the gospel of health and wealth,  I would consider it a monstrous, demonic belief and the calling card of this particular brand of heretic.

In the scriptures, we see that whenever a miracle was done it was to support the message that was being preached, which invariably pointed to Christ and was always indirectly the repentance and the forgiveness of sins in the finished work of Christ. Heretics didn’t get to perform miracles. In the same way we don’t consider healings from witch doctors and shamans as being legitimate miracles from God,  so likewise do should we disregard these faith-healing prosperity preachers, whose message is just as useful and sanctified as the shamans is.  So whenever you hear some prosperity preacher telling you that you can get your miracle if you send him 10 bucks as a seed offering, or whatever, you know this is someone is in the process of slaughtering the sheep and who is not from God, and therefore does not have God’s power to do miracles through his name and through the shed blood of his Son.

But there is another, less theological and more practical point to consider. These men claim to have healed hundreds of thousands of people of every terrible, wasting, incurable illness and physical calamity known to man, but there is no proof. I’m not the first person to suggest this, but why not open up the crusade to journalists and other medical professionals? I’m going to pick on one person in this post, and that is Daniel King. Daniel King is a traveling evangelist/miracle worker who came out to speak to Fort McMurray a few years ago at the behest of a local church. When he’s not preaching convoluted messages about the gnostic secrets of Obed Edom, he has massive rallies where he claims that  says  he has healed thousands of people from ailments such as cancer, blindness, deafness, infertility, HIV and Aids, crippled legs, Down Syndrome, tumours, and every other affliction that a man could be burdened with.

So why not contact CNN, BBC, the New York Times, or some other major players in the industry and invite them out to the event? Invite them to bring their high definition cameras, recording equipment, broadband connection,  and grant them an all- access pass to be on stage, back stage,  or mingling with the crowds and being wherever they want to be. Let them come with their equipment, their manpower, their sceptics, and then promote the hell out of this thing. Run full-page ads in every newspaper for a month. Rent TV time to run ads during primetime television. Start an on-line media blitz using every social-media means you can muster.

And then start the revival.

And then start the healings.

You could invite the best and brightest of the scientific world to attend- men and women from the most renowned universities and think-tanks in the world. You could also invite the most hardened sceptics to observe and interact with the crowd and with those being healed. They could stream the entire thing, with commentary, to hundreds of millions of people around the world who could then witness these amazing miracles being done in the name of God.

After all, Jesus and the apostles did their miracles publicly. Their miracles were done to believers and non-believers, in the presence of believers and non-believers, and the reality of their healing was without dispute. In the scriptures, no one was questioning that the miracles had taken place. Instead the sceptics and unbelievers were left grappling for explanations as to how this could be done. Can Daniel King not do the same thing? The doctors could examine the people right before they go on stage, the journalists could talk to their friends and families and their own family physicians, and then Daniel King could do his thing and heal this person who has so much faith. Once healed, the doctors could examine the newly minted recipient of miracles. They could run some quick tests and see what physical transmogrification has taken place, confirm for the world that these indeed were all legitimate healing, and then after that they could stick around for a few days after to do follow up and make sure all the proof is in good order, which would then lend even more credibility to what has transpired.

Wouldn’t that blow the world up? Wouldn’t that set the world on fire for God? Invite the New Atheist out to the party and see what happens when the power of God and his miraculous healing falls on people in a way that has them disbelieving their own eyes.  Wouldn’t that absolutely shake to the core the spiritual state of the world? They could put it up on YouTube and the Atheists, Agnostics, Muslim, Hindus, and every other non-Christian group out there would witness first hand the power of the true and living God, confronting them in a way that they could never deny, and opening the floodgates to give an unbelieving world something to believe in?

We could take this out of the context of secrecy and suspicion. Instead of telling people about some guy you know who know a guy who knows a missionary who raised someone from the dead somewhere “in Africa”, we could say “God is all powerful, and his son Jesus Christ proved he was God by being raised from the dead. And as a sign of his power and great might, we are going to perform some miracles, so you can see the power of the one true God, and these miracles will confirm our message and the gospel we preach, which is that whoever repentant of their sins and outs their faith in Christ will be saved.” and then in front of hundreds of millions of people- Daniel King can do what he does best- he can perform these miraculous acts of healing, in the same way and same vein as the thousands upon thousands he has claimed in the name of Jesus to have done.

What do you say, Daniel King and the rest of the faith healing gang? You’ve been quoting us John 14:12 for years, and saying that we can do greater things than Jesus. What on earth could possibly be stopping you from implementing this and reaching half the world for Christ in one, single, solitary day?

Great David Platt Quote

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“The lesson I learned is that the war against materialism in our hearts is exactly that: a war. It is constant battle to resist the temptation to have more luxuries, to acquire more stuff, and to live more comfortably. It requires strong and steady resolve to live out in the gospel in the middle of an American dream that identifies success as moving up the ladder, getting the bigger house, purchasing the nicer car, buying the better clothes, eating the finer food, and acquiring more things…The way we use our money is a barometer of our present spiritual condition. Our neglect of the poor illustrates much about where our hearts lie. But even more than that, the way we use our money is an indicator of our eternal destination. The mark of Christ followers is that their hearts are in heaven and their treasures are spent there” David Platt: Radical

Rethink : When healing in the New Testament diminshed

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It seems that in the early days of the Church, in its infancy and newness, miracles and other signs and wonders were plentiful. There was a need for authenticating signs to accompany the Apostles’ ministry, and we see a fair number of examples. Peter walked by people and his shadow healed them.  Stephen healed. Barnabas healed. Phillip healed. The other apostles healed.

And Paul healed as well. As one example.

“And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.” Acts 19:12-13. 50-52 AD

But then there is a shift. Near the end of Paul’s ministry, some 15 years after the events of Acts 19 and over 30 years after Jesus had died- near the time when the Apostles had all but perished and the fledgling movement had become firmly established,  we see something else.

“Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. Erastus remained at Corinth, and I left Trophimus, who was ill, at Miletus”. 2 Timothy 4:19-20. 65-66 AD

 “Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure. (No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.”) 1 Timothy 5:22-23. 62-64 AD

“I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.” Phillipians 2:26-27. 61-63 AD

We see that Paul, who possessed apostolic power to do signs and wonders and mighty deeds,  could not, or did not, in the course of that time, heal Timothy or Trophimus or Epaphroditus. Whereas in the first half of the scriptural timeline we see that everyone is getting healed, whether they were believers or unbelievers- faithful or faithless, in the later half we see several people who are not getting healed and this gift seemingly being withdrawn. We see illness, disease, and sickness becoming a permanent reality in the life of the Church and congregations as the Church had become established and the need to have authenticating messages subsided and eventually ceased. This fits in well with other bible verses and other arcs of the narrative.

I do believe in healings as a rare, uncommon occurrence, but I also believe that the early overflow of Apostles in the Bible were unique in the history of the church. Once their ministry was accomplished, the need for authenticating signs ceased to exist, and this wholesale, common and frequent signs and wonders has ended.

I’m far more judgmental, and far less hateful than people give me credit for

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I read a pretty interesting article recently, which served to demonstrate yet again the overbearing, over-zealous intolerance of the “tolerant”. For the TL:DR crowd, a university student tore down a designated “free-speech” wall because even though it had comments written on it like “QUEERS ARE AWESOME,” “Gay is OK” and “I [Heart] Queers”, one student had scrawled ““traditional marriage is awesome.” This statement was apparently so hateful and so outrageous that a LGTB activist named Arun Smith destroyed the wall, tweeting afterwards that “not every expression is valid, or deserving of expression.”

While I’m convinced that the LGTB community will lead the way in championing the eventual silencing and persecution of Christians [another blog for another time] it struck me that its so bizarre that this is the issue has become the defacto issue in which tolerance and intolerance is decided and where love and hate has become the battleground. Where bigotry, discrimination, dogmatism, fanaticism, and prejudice are laid bare. If we vocalize that their choices, lifestyles and sexual acts are wrong and incompatible with a biblical worldview, we are vilified as not only being hateful, but somehow tacitly encouraging hatred and violence upon the people that we don’t agree with and with whom we have deep and irreconcilable differences with in how they express and live their sexuality.

So how do I manifest and project my purported hatred? Do these people who lambast Christians for their views on homosexuality just not know what we believe about other dynamics in the sexual arena, and if they did, would they care? I’m called a judgmental bigot who must be silenced when I say that homosexuality is wrong and that there is no such thing as gay marriage, but why does that not carry over to my other beliefs? As a Christian, I’m not just against homosexuality. I talk about it every now and then because this is the battleground that we are currently fighting, but its not something that I’m especially agitated about. And in fact, the sphere of homosexuality comprises one small part of an over-arching Christian ethic on the sacredness and sanctity of human sexuality.The reality is that I’m against all forms of sexual expression not found within the confines of a monogamous, heterosexual marriage.

I don’t just believe homosexuality is a sin- I believe premarital sex is a sin. I believe adultery is a sin. I believe shacking up is a sin. I believe the consumption of pornography is a sin. I believe masturbation is a sin. I believe polygamy is a sin. I believe lust of the heart and immodesty is a sin. If people know that, they sure aren’t letting on. Am I an intolerant bigot when I say that husbands and wives shouldn’t cheat on each other? Am I encouraging hateful actions and intents upon men and women who are faithless to their spouses? I imagine that adultery and infidelity is a sin far more prevalent that homosexuality, and yet where are the screeds against that?   If its fair game to accuse me of being and doing these things in regards to the gay issue, how does this necessarily translate to the adultery issue? I disagree with both on the same basis, and so why aren’t I being raked over the coals on that one?

Many of these people will suggest that if I vocalize my rejection of same-sex practices that I’m promoting hatred and violence.  How is this manifestedly possible and demonstrable? Am I encouraging violence upon those committing any sins?  Am I telling people to go hurt and harm and kick their heads in? How does my rejection of their ethic for one which I believe to be better equate with  me somehow rallying those around me to acts of brutality and murder? It doesn’t, and yet its a foolish argument that seemingly isn’t going away.

Or how about premarital sex and various other sexual mischief that couples commit with each other? Pretty much everyone in our society engages in that- it really is the norm that is encouraged and expected, and I think that’s just as wicked a sin as homosexuality is. So how does this manifest in my life? Am I a hater who is intolerant? Is that belief so outrageously judgemental that it warrants boycotts and protesting, much like the intolerant “tolerant”  did with the whole Chik-fil-A debacle? If the president of that company had made comments suggesting that fornication was a sin that needed to be repented of, would there have been similar widespread condemnation and economic thuggery from the enlightened ones? And why not? Saying that premarital sex is wrong and those engaged in it are committing a wicked, egregious deed impacts far more people with judgmentalism than the gay thing, and yet the latter is what makes headlines.

I’m labelled judgemental for my views on homosexuality, and yet I know that I’m far more judgemental than I’m given credit for. [I use judgmental in the sense that I have made internal, moral judgements based on moral, eternal sources and authorities] If they knew the full spectrum of my beliefs, and the positive presentation I would give for the Christian sexual ethic, would they continue to hold me hostage with the threat of social excoriation? I’m branded as out of touch, close minded, and socially devolved for my views on the queering of our culture because of the pushback that I give, and yet if they were being fair and consistent they would call me hateful for my views on the hundred sins that came before that, and be able to demonstrate my so-called hate and bigotry.

I don’t merely disagree with the practices of 2% of the population, but with the sins and evils of 100% of the population, because we are all prone to abuse and misuse the gifts that God has given us. I don’t view homosexuality like the Westboro devils do [ the deranged, frothing at the mouth cultists with a single-minded devotion to ignorance and wrath.]  I treat and view the sin of homosexuality with the deference and lens I view a young teen looking at pornography on his computer, or a co-worker of mine who is fooling around with her boyfriend, or a man who is obliterating the marriage covenant with his wife.

Sad for the spiritual ruin they are bringing upon themselves.

Desiring for their own sake that they stop.

Acutely aware of my own failings and  inconsistencies in light of their own.

Thankful for God’s mercy and forgiveness.

But nothing resembling hateful.

The Message Bible is not a fan of St. Paul


I heard a sermon recently where the Pastor quoted extensively from The Massage Message bible. Specifically he read a long portion of Romans 9, and then made attempts to exegete it. I don’t even know why he bothered.

I have a theory on why pastors use the Message bible. I wrote in another post that:

Why use the Mb? Because it words things in a way that the pastor finds compelling and gripping and in which he thinks he congregation will get a kick out of. And the congregants go along with that because it has ceased being important for a translation to accurately reflect what was being said. It has ceased being important that Jesus’ words, meaning, and intent-without additions or interpolations- are immortalized and cannonized.

It has become wholly acceptable to abuse and molest the original meaning  because for some people, the intent isn’t to know what the original meaning is, but rather to develop an emotional response. And as long as that emotional response in brought on by something remotely bibley, they can interpret their feelings as a spiritual encounter, which is the source of their security, affirmation and joy. The Pastors putting these paraphrases are are not doing it so that will have a cerebral or intellectual impact, but rather an emotive one.  Its not for piercing clarity, but for vague etherialities. Its not for maximum accuracy, but for maximum sentiment. That’s the thrust of the appeal- because warm fuzzies are an easier sell than  rigorous faithfullness to the text.

What I wanted to focus on in this post is the issue of accuracy and what it means to faithfully represent what was written by the apostles. We believe that the Scriptures are given by inspiration of God and are theopneustos. That is, God-breathed. Some Bibles seek to get as close as they can to the original texts, with our best scholars who painstakingly pore over every nuance so that they can give us a product that represents the best and most accurate and most faithful rendering of the originals we have. The Message bible is not one of those bibles..

When doing a critical scholarship of all the manuscripts that we have, our problem isn’t that we don’t have enough of the original, but that we have too much of what came after. We don’t have 95% of the originals, but rather we have 120% of them. Its like we have a puzzle with 20 extra pieces, and by doing textual and source criticsm, we can weed out the extra pieces, the variants, the transcription errors, the scribal interplorations, etc. The ultimate objective of the textual critic’s work is the production of a “critical edition” containing a text most closely approximating the original.

The Message bible is wholly unconcerned with trying to figure out what was actually said or trying to minimize the excess. I think this is seen well in Romans 9. In the ESV translation, there are 734 words.  The NIV has 738. In Romans chapter 9, the Message bible has 836. In many ways the Mb is similar to Codex Bezae- a codex infamous for its many strange and bizarre renderings, as well as gratuitous flourishes and additions. The horrific gluttonous additions to the Mb is bad, but it actually gets worse than that. Not only are there many places in the Message bible where it’s incredibly bloated with whole sentences added in, there are other places where there are whole sentences missing! There are concepts missing.  There are There are important details missing. There are important statements about God’s character missing. There are important details about God’s purposes missing. In short- it’s just not there.

The twoexamples I wanted to examine are found in Romans 9.

Romans 9: 17 and 18

17. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth. ESV

17. The same point was made when God said to Pharaoh, “I picked you as a bit player in this drama of my salvation power. Mb

18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. ESV

18. All we’re saying is that God has the first word, initiating the action in which we play our part for good or ill. Mb

Here we’ve left out half of a verse. Evidently its not important to know that God’s purpose in hardening Pharaohs heart was so that his name would be proclaimed in all the earth, and so that the demonstration of power would yield him glory. I don’t know why that wasn’t included. Its not like it would be difficult to add that segment in. So that is a little strange, and in continuing the trend we see verse 18.  In verse 18, its nothing but vague obfuscation.  There is no mention of God’s mercy, nor is there any mentioning of the hardening that God enacts on whoever he desires. There’s no way to read the Mb and find that information in the scriptures  It doesn’t bring clarity to the texts, and it does not accurately reflect what is trying to be said.

Romans 9:21-23

21-Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? ESV

21-Isn’t it obvious that a potter has a perfect right to shape one lump of clay into a vase for holding flowers and another into a pot for cooking beans? Mb

22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, ESV

23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—ESV

23 and 24 If God needs one style of pottery especially designed to show his angry displeasure and another style carefully crafted to show his glorious goodness, isn’t that all right? Mb

In verse 21, there is no mention of honorable use or dishonorable use in the MB. Instead we see merely a utilitarian difference . In verse 22 and 23, I actually can’t even figure out which verse is what. But look how much is being left out!

1. There is no mention that God has a desire to show his wrath

2.There is no mentioned that God is enduring the vessels of wrath

3.There is no mention that God is showing patience while doing so

4. There is no mention that these lumps of dishonorable use, these “pots for cooking beans” ‘are vessels of wrath

5. There is no mention that these vessels were intended  for destruction

6. “Glorious goodness” is not the same as “the riches of his glory”

7. There is no mention that the wrath of God towards his vessels of destruction was to show his glory to the vessels of mercy

8. There is no mention this this was prepared by God beforehand

9. There is no mention that this was prepared by God for the the purpose of glory

10. There is no mention that the eternal state of the Vessels of mercy is glory. 

It amazes me at how much is missing, and how much we are being robbed from knowing by following this so-called paraphrase. And again, evidently its not important that we know these things. I would also recommend checking out verses 30-32 in both translations. In the case of the Mb, it is shocking bad and inadequate.

The  point is this; the Message bible isn’t a neutral, clever paraphrase. It doesn’t merely “re-word” things, but it adds whole sentences and it removes whole sentences. It actively seeks to distort what God said through his Son and through the writers of the scriptures.  In the case of Paul and Romans 9, it doesn’t care what Paul said. The important thing in not that we have an accurate record of what the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write, and that we relate that to people, but rather its more important to tell people how one person remixes and reinterprets the words of Paul.  And so when someone reads from the Message bible from the pulpit, purporting it to be some kind of bible, it is very hard for me not to lose respect for them. Ultimately what they are telling me that its not important to know what God inspired the Apostles to wrote. That its not important to know what Jesus actually said. That its not important to share the actual revelation of God.

51 Biblical Proofs Of A Pauline Papacy And Ephesian Primacy- Contra Rome

 

I heard a really bad argument for the primacy of the Petrine papacy  few days ago, which was that Peter was the first person to raise the dead, after Jesus, and therefore this biblical evidence demonstrated his primacy and his designation as the Pope. I found this quite silly  and amusing, but did not think much of it, and did not argue it. Then today I ran across this brilliant article by Jason Enwer [here]who demonstrates a more sure and true Pauline papacy and  Ephesian primacy. In it he purposefully and intentionally utilizes the same curious reasoning that Roman Catholics use when they are trying to demonstrate their beliefs.  I thought it a sting well worth enduring to see how the RCC can manufacture evidence of “Primacy” by selective citation and out-of-context “snippetry”

1. Paul is the only apostle who is called God’s chosen vessel who will bear His name before Jews and Gentiles (Acts 9:15).2. Paul is the last apostle chosen by God, apart from the other twelve.3. The resurrected Christ appears to Paul in a different way than He appeared to the other apostles (Acts 9:3-6).

4. Paul is the only apostle who publicly rebukes and corrects another apostle (Galatians 2:11).

5. Paul is the only apostle who refers to his authority over all the churches (1 Corinthians 4:17, 7:17, 2 Corinthians 11:28).

6. Paul is the only apostle to call himself “father” (1 Corinthians 4:15).

7. Paul is the steward of God’s grace (Ephesians 3:2). This means that Paul is the overseer of salvation. Fellowship with Paul and his successors is necessary for salvation.

8. Paul is mentioned more in the New Testament than any other apostle.

9. The book of Acts, which mentions all of the apostles, discusses Paul more than any other apostle.

10. Paul was the first apostle to write a book of scripture.

11. Paul wrote more books of the New Testament than any other apostle.

12. Paul is the first apostle to be taken to Heaven to receive a revelation (2 Corinthians 12:1-4).

13. Paul is the only apostle Satan was concerned about enough to give him a thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7).

14. Paul seems to have suffered for Christ more than any other apostle (2 Corinthians 11:21-33).

15. Paul seems to have received more opposition from false teachers than any other apostle did, since he was the Pope (Romans 3:8, 2 Corinthians 10:10, Galatians 1:7, 6:17, Philippians 1:17).

16. Paul seems to have traveled further and more often than any other apostle, as we see in Acts and his epistles, which is what we might expect a Pope to do.

17. Only Paul’s teachings were so advanced, so deep, that another apostle acknowledged that some of his teachings were hard to understand (2 Peter 3:15-16). Peter’s understanding of doctrine doesn’t seem to be as advanced as Pope Paul’s. Paul has the primacy of doctrinal knowledge.

18. Paul was the first apostle whose writings were recognized as scripture (2 Peter 3:15-16).

19. Paul singles himself out as the standard of orthodoxy (1 Corinthians 14:37-38).

20. Only Paul refers to himself having a rod, a symbol of authority (1 Corinthians 4:21).

21. Paul initiates the council of Acts 15 by starting the debate with the false teachers (Acts 15:2) and delivering a report to the other church leaders (Acts 15:4).

22. Peter’s comments in Acts 15:7-11 are accepted only because Pope Paul goes on to confirm them (Acts 15:12).

23. When the Corinthians were dividing over which apostle to associate themselves with, Paul’s name was the first one mentioned (1 Corinthians 1:12).

24. Paul was the only apostle with the authority to deliver people over to Satan (1 Corinthians 5:5).

25. Paul had the best training and education of all the apostles (Philippians 3:4-6).

26. Paul is the only apostle to call the gospel “my gospel” (Romans 2:16).

27. Paul writes more about the identity of the church than any other apostle does (1 Corinthians 12, Colossians 1, Ephesians 4-5), which we might expect a Pope to do. Paul is the standard of orthodoxy and the Vicar of Christ on earth, so he has the primary responsibility for defining what the church is and who belongs to it.

28. Paul writes more about church government than any other apostle does, such as in his pastoral epistles.

29. Paul discusses church unity more than any other apostle does (1 Corinthians 12-14, Ephesians 4), suggesting that he was the one responsible for maintaining church unity because of his papal authority.

30. Paul writes more about the gospel than any other apostle does (Romans, Galatians). As the leader of Christianity, Paul was most responsible for explaining the gospel and other Christian doctrine.

31. After Jesus, Paul speaks more about the kingdom of God than anybody else does (Acts 14:22, 19:8, 1 Corinthians 4:20, Galatians 5:21, 2 Thessalonians 1:5). After leaving earth, Jesus passed on the responsibility of teaching about the kingdom of God to Paul, the king of the church on earth.

32. Paul speaks of revealing mysteries more than any other apostle does (Romans 11:25, 1 Corinthians 15:51, Ephesians 5:32, 6:19, 2 Thessalonians 2:7), since he was the chief teacher of the church.

33. Paul was the only apostle other people tried to impersonate (2 Thessalonians 2:2), since he had more authority than anybody else.

34. Paul’s clothing works miracles (Acts 19:11-12).

35. Paul is delivered from death more than any other apostle (Acts 14:19, 28:3-6, 2 Corinthians 11:23).

36. The Jewish exorcists in Acts 19:13 associate themselves with Paul rather than with any other apostle.

37. The demons in Acts 19:15 recognize Paul’s primacy.

38. The Jews in Acts 21:28 recognize Paul’s primacy, saying that he’s the man they hold most responsible for teaching Christianity everywhere.

39. Paul had authority over the finances of the church (Acts 24:26, 2 Corinthians 9:5, Philippians 4:15-18).

40. Paul acts as the chief shepherd of the church, taking responsibility for each individual (2 Corinthians 11:29). For example, Paul was Peter’s shepherd (Galatians 2:11).

41. Paul interprets prophecy (2 Thessalonians 2:3-12).

42. Only Paul is referred to as being set apart for his ministry from his mother’s womb (Galatians 1:15).

43. Jesus Christ is revealed in Paul (Galatians 1:16), meaning that Paul and his successors are the infallible standard of Christian orthodoxy.

44. Paul is the only apostle who works by himself, only later coordinating his efforts with the other apostles (Galatians 1:16-18).

45. Only Paul is referred to as bearing the brandmarks of Christ (Galatians 6:17).

46. Every Christian was interested in Paul and what was happening in his life, looking to him as their example and their encouragement (Philippians 1:12-14).

47. Christians served Paul (Philippians 2:30).

48. Paul worked more than the other apostles (1 Corinthians 15:10), since he had more responsibilities as Pope.

49. Paul was to be delivered from every evil deed (2 Timothy 4:18), meaning that he was infallible.

50. Only Paul is referred to as passing his papal authority on to [Ephesian] successors who would also have authority over the church of God (Acts 20:28).

51. Among the seven churches addressed in Revelation 2-3, the church of Ephesus is mentioned first, since the bishops of Ephesus have primacy as the successors of Paul. The church in Ephesus “cannot endure evil men” (Revelation 2:2), meaning that the bishop of Ephesus is infallible when speaking ex cathedra on matters of faith and morals. The Ephesian church puts false teachers to the test (Revelation 2:2) by exercising its papal authority. The bishop of Ephesus has the responsibility of evaluating all teachers and declaring which are orthodox and which are not. None of the other churches in Revelation 2-3 are described as having this authority.