Monday, June 29, 2009

PRIDE KILLS

This weekend I had an opportunity to see the destructive power of pride in action. My friend Robert is 77 years old and homeless. He lives in a motel room in Santa Ana all alone. He can barely breathe. He has no strength to stand and walk to the bathroom without stopping halfway to rest against the wall and catch his breath. He eats Ramen noodles and donated food, and yet he refuses to allow me to buy him lunch. He will not, even as a personal favor to me, allow a volunteer from the Senior Community Center to come and talk to him about their free meals program, or their free shuttle plan.

Instead, Robert talks to me about his plan to ask his doctor to amputate his right arm because he is in constant pain following surgery after an accident. “If I let them just cut my arm off,” he says, “then I could stay at Fountain Care and they would bring me my meals and someone would be there to take care of me all the time,” he says. I can only shake my head in disbelief. “But Robert,” I try to explain, “you could stay here in this bed and keep your arm and someone could still bring you your meals and come visit you and make sure you’re doing ok.” He makes a face and shakes his head, coughing hard into a napkin as he lays back on his rented bed. “Naw,” he finally croaks out. “I don’t want to lose what little independence I have.” And around and around we go.

Driving home after our visit I am frustrated and I let God know about it. “Please, God, let Robert let me help him,” I pray. I remember Jesus instructing his disciples not to take anything with them and to leave their money belts at home as they went out to preach the Gospel. In some ways, Robert is giving me an opportunity to learn how to be his friend and to demonstrate the Kingdom of God to him without money. If I don’t give him money, then what can I give him? Friendship. Honesty. Love. Compassion. Jesus.

Still, it frustrates me that Robert would rather do things his own way and lose his arm than to accept help from someone else and keep his arm, and his health. This isn’t anything new, of course. Many people who are homeless are kept there because of their pride. Many exhibit varying degrees of “It’s my way or the highway” attitudes which prevent them from entering a program or submitting to the rules imposed by a shelter or a rescue mission. So, they hold hard and fast to their way of doing things, even though their way keeps them homeless and hungry and alone.

In some ways I can relate because, at heart, I am a prideful man. If there’s anything I grapple with on a daily basis, it’s my pride.

This weekend I also experienced a bit of humility. On more than one occasion I found myself humiliated and it gave me an opportunity to explore my pride a bit more. I realize that the only reason I got my feelings hurt in each case was due to the stature of my pride. If I had been humble and meek my feelings would not have been hurt. I could’ve cleared the low ceilings without banging my head if my knees were already bent low. Instead, I walked upright and got smacked in the face with my head held high.

Someone once told me that you know you’re really a servant when you get treated like one and you don’t get insulted. I’m not there yet, but one day I hope to be.

Pride kills. I’ve seen it divide families, churches, and marriages. It also removes us from God’s grace and takes us on a detour from the Kingdom of God.

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” – James 4:6

At the sermon on the mount, Jesus established the reality of God’s Kingdom for us. He told us that, in God’s economy, the poor, the weak, the humble, and the broken-hearted were the most blessed in the Kingdom. Along this redefined scale of greatness, those who find themselves at the bottom in this life are blessed to learn that, in God’s Kingdom, they are actually closer to the top than they thought.

We often get confused and say that God’s Kingdom is upside down, but the truth is that our reality is what’s out of whack. God is not upside down, nor is His perspective. This is why those who seem to be on the top in our society (the rich, the famous, and the powerful) often admit that they are empty, broken and disillusioned to discover that Jesus was right all along. The way to true life and joy and happiness is down, not up. When we surrender this fantasy of having it all and let go of everything except God himself we’ve taken a most important step. Many of those who are weak, humble, broken and poor already know that they are not good enough to make it on their own. They are at the top of God’s scale of greatness even though they seem to be at the bottom of ours.

I must confess that I still struggle with these two opposing definitions of greatness. I catch myself wanting fame and working for the praise of men, even though I have seen the Kingdom and I believe that Jesus showed us the Truth. True greatness is found at the feet of others with a basin and a towel, not sitting atop the highest sky-scraper overlooking the largest city while you count your money. I know that, but I am still learning to embrace the reality of it.

So, if anything, my experience this weekend with naked pride and painful humiliation has been beneficial to me. I’ve received a reminder of how pride can imprison someone, and I’ve discovered that my prideful heart is still alive and well –and still in need of being crucified with Christ.

What are the things I do every day that feed my ego or stoke my pride? Can I fully surrender these empty aspirations at worldly fame? Can I actually demonstrate that I believe Jesus is true when he says that the greatest in the Kingdom is the servant of all?

I stayed up late last night, after my wife and sons went to bed. I sat alone and I recapped my weekend. I took stock of all these things and I believe there are some things that still need to die in me. There are still territories in my heart that need reformation. Let the revolution continue.
**
kg

JON ZENS - SATURDAY, JULY 11TH

Author and theologian Jon Zens will be coming to Orange County to speak to local Orange County house churches on Saturday, July 11th from 9am to 12pm.

Location:
The Home of Noel & Julie Cruz
18722 La Casita ave, Yorba Linda, CA 92886.
For more info call Julie Cruz at 714-777-0098

THIS IS A FREE EVENT
*Must RSVP to attend via email (see below).
To register or for more info please email:
ochousechurch@gmail.com

About Jon Zens
Dr. Zens has a wide-ranging theological background. He holds a B.A. in Biblical studies from Covenant College, a M.Div. from Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, and a D.Min. from the California Graduate School of Theology.

For the last thirty years, Jon has been the editor of a magazine entitled Searching Together. He's not only a NT scholar, but he's an expert on church history. Jon also served as a pastor for a number of years, but moved on after concluding that full reformation within the existing institutional church system was unworkable.

You can read his story here.

Also, for the past thirty years he and his wife, Dotty, have been ministering in small fellowships concerning living under grace and learning to extend grace to others.

If you'd like to read more about Jon Zens I've included a link to an excellent debate between Jon and Ben Worthington on hierarchy in the New Testament church here:http://www.paganchristianity.org/zensresponds1.htm

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A.W. Tozer on Corporate Christianity

We in the churches seem unable to rise above the fiscal philosophy which rules the business world; so we introduce into our church finances the psychology of the great secular institutions so familiar to us all and judge a church by its financial report much as we judge a bank or a department store.

A look into history will quickly convince any interested person that the true church has almost always suffered more from prosperity than from poverty. Her times of greatest spiritual power have usually coincided with her periods of indigence and rejection; with wealth came weakness and backsliding. If this cannot be explained, neither apparently can it be escaped.

The average church has so established itself organizationally and financially that God is simply not necessary to it. So entrenched is its authority and so stable are the religious habits of its members that God could withdraw Himself completely from it and it could run on for years on its own momentum.

- A.W. Tozer, Tozer on Christian Leadership

Thanks to Alan Knox for pointing out this quote to me. Great stuff.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Are We (Really) Practicing Christianity?

According to the New Testament, the Christian faith was inaugurated at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit, in fulfillment of Joel 2:28-32, was poured out on all flesh. From that day forward, the followers of Jesus became empowered to preach the Gospel, baptize new believers, plant churches, and share communion with other believers. Everyone was in the ministry of Jesus Christ. There was no distinction between clergy and laity because in their minds, every follower of Jesus was “…being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." – 1 Peter 2:5

When the Spirit of Almighty God was poured out on all flesh at Pentecost, those first Christians got it. They understood that the same Holy Spirit of God that once rested over the ark of the covenant behind a 300 pound veil in the Temple of Jerusalem was now living within their own hearts. They were excited beyond belief and consumed with a fire and a passion to share this living presence of God with everyone they knew.

The original Christian church was one “not made with human hands”. Rather than following “the pattern of this world” the Biblical Christian church was birthed by the Spirit of God, empowered by words of Christ, and under submission to the Father. Simply put, the Christian church we read about in the New Testament was something that God was doing, not men. In contrast to our Church today, the first Christians were ordained by the Holy Spirit of God Himself and sent out to proclaim the Gospel, the Good News, that the Kingdom of God had come to every man, woman and child.

The artificial, man-made hierarchy we see in the Christian church today is not what the Church practiced under the Apostles in the New Testament. Instead of a Body made up entirely of Spirit-filled ministers of the Gospel, the Christian church eventually surrendered this heavenly model for a more top-down approach.

As one New Testament scholar, Howard Snyder, put it:

"The clergy-laity dichotomy is…a throwback to the Old Testament priesthood. It is one of the principal obstacles to the church effectively being God’s agent of the kingdom today because it creates a false idea that only ‘holy men,’ namely, ordained ministers, are really qualified and responsible for leadership and significant ministry. In the New Testament there are functional distinctions between various kinds of ministries but no hierarchical division between clergy and laity. The New Testament teaches us that the church is a community in which all are gifted and all have ministry.”

I believe this is partly why Jesus strategically chose his disciples from among the most common and ordinary strata of society. He wanted to make sure that when a run-of-the-mill fisherman stood up and proclaimed the Gospel no one would bow down and worship him. Instead, the people saw ordinary men and women just like themselves, uneducated, dirty, and painfully normal, who had been caught up into the eternal purpose of God.

When Peter spoke under the power of the Holy Spirit, or when Paul prayed for people to be healed, or when any of those unnamed disciples ministered to one another in the Body, everyone knew it was God doing the work, not the people themselves.

“When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” – Acts 4:13

When they gathered together it wasn’t to hear words of “eloquence or superior wisdom” but to experience Jesus in their midst as the Head of the Body and to share Him through a communion that went beyond bread and wine. The original, New Testament Christians were empowered, “not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power” (1 Cor 2:1-5).

The Church is what God is doing, not what we are doing. We are living stones, but only because we are filled with the Life of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Gathering apart from that is just a gathering. When we come together, to the Living Stone, we also like living stones are built up into a holy priesthood, offering sacrifices of praise to celebrate our Risen Lord who is present with us in the meeting.

Can you imagine being in a room with Jesus and allowing someone other than Him to speak for over an hour? Can you imagine experiencing the awesome presence of the Spirit of the Living God and reading announcements?

The Body of Christ is an expression of the tangible, resurrected Christ. Have we settled for less? Have we become comfortable listening to the wisdom of Men rather than waiting quietly for the whisper of our Eternal Creator?

As I ponder these questions I am left with an awful question: Am I really practicing Christianity or am I practicing Churchianity? Because the more I read the New Testament the more I see a people who were caught up in something beyond themselves. They were the most common, uneducated, normal people you can imagine. Even their leaders were humble, ordinary, everyday men and women who saw themselves as fortunate participants in the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy and the heart’s desire of Almighty God to reveal Himself to the World.

Is that how I see myself? Is that how I practice my faith? If what I am practicing doesn’t resemble Christianity as the New Testament reveals it, then what in the world am I practicing?
**
kg

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Re-Empowering God's People

Over the last few months I have been personally challenged by the study of the New Testament in regards to who we are as the Body of Christ and the Priesthood of Believers.

According to the New Testament, the Body of Christ was empowered to minister to one another by the Holy Spirit. Every baptized believer in Christ was "in the ministry" and capable of planting a church, baptizing new believers, and teaching the Gospel.

Today, only trained professionals with seminary degrees are allowed, or expected, to start churches, baptize new believers, teach the Gospel or minister to the Body.

By complicating the message and placing obstacles in the way, the average follower of Christ today is not empowered to actually behave like a member of the priesthood of believers, nor are they expected to.

A few weeks ago I attended an evening service where a well-known travelling preacher exhorted us all to be more active in sharing our faith. He told us why it was important. He made us feel inadequate for failing to be more evangelistic. He prayed for us to become more active in our faith. But what he didn’t do was to affirm our identity as priests in the Kingdom of God. It was insanity: To berate us all for not behaving as members of the priesthood while denying the priesthood every step of the way.

For us to fully become the people God made us to be, we have to understand who we were made to be. For us to be the New Testament church, we have to embrace our identity as living stones, living sacrifices, and priests of the Kingdom.

Most of us really have no idea what it really means to be one of the priesthood of believers. We’ve never heard it taught, or preached and certainly we’ve never seen it modeled for us.

Lately I’ve been trying to really practice the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit. The reality that God is as much with me, even within me, as He is when I am in the act of corporate worship or prayer is powerful. God is here with me now. His Spirit is alive within me. His voice is whispering to my heart. His power to love and heal and forgive and transform lives is as close as my own fingertip. What does that mean? How does that affect my interactions with my co-workers, my neighbors, my children, my wife?

I fear that the Church today has largely forgotten who she is. We do not live daily in the awareness of God’s empowering presence. We do not think of ourselves as priests. We do not behave as if our lives are living sacrifices to Christ. I include myself in this group, by the way. I know I need to fully grasp who I am in Christ and to start living every single day with a greater awareness of my identity.

I believe it is vitally important for us to become the empowered Body of believers who behave as a Spirit-enabled priesthood.

According to Revelation, our identity in the priesthood of believers is part of what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross:

"You (Jesus) are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
and with your blood you purchased men for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation.
You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,
and they will reign on the earth." - Revelations 5:9-10

From now on I intend to center my life on the practice of the presence, the reality of the priesthood and the daily, living sacrifice of my life to Christ. After calling myself a Christian for nearly 34 years, I think it’s about time.
**
kg

Monday, June 22, 2009

My Letter to the Editors of Cutting Edge Magazine


As a former member of the Vineyard movement I am still on the mailing list for their church-planters magazine called "Cutting Ege". The most recent issue was 22 pages long and was entirely on the subject of "Church Planting and Money".

Having planted a church myself over 3 and a half years ago with no money, no leadership team, no building and no salary, I found their assertion that one must have a sizable financial investment to begin planting churches slightly spurious.

Here's a letter I sent to their editor on May 30th. To date I have not received a response so it's highly likely that I am no longer on their mailing list.

**
Dear Editor,

Thanks for the most recent issue of "Cutting Edge" Magazine.

As a church-planter myself I had to make a few observations that I believe you left out of the discussion.

Several church-planters today (like myself) have discovered that planting and growing a healthy, vibrant, disciple-making Body of Believers actually costs very little, if nothing at all.

My wife Wendy and I started our house church over 3 years ago. Our vision was to plant a church where 100% of the offering would go to the poor, just like in the New Testament. I have been working as a copywriter for a marketing agency to support my family and everyone in our house church (over 6 families and several singles) have collectively given over $15 thousand dollars to help the poor in our community and support the poor in our own Body over the last 3 years.

Our church is growing very quickly. We have about 40 people who join us in our home every Sunday morning for shared breakfast and shared teaching. We also gather on Thursday evenings for shared dinner and througout the week as well.

Your article suggests that it is a "false dualism" to pit spiritual matters against earthly matters. I wonder if it it's actually a "false ecclesiology" that tells us that without $10k and a paid pastoral staff, etc. we cannot be the Church and establish vibrant communities of faith.

How did the New Testament Christians manage to plant so many churches and make so many hundreds of thousands of disciples without all that money? I find it fascinating that they actually took their property and their money and surrendered it for the good of others rather than to horde it for themselves.

Today the downturn in the economy is adversely affecting many businesses, as you point out, but if your church is not run like a business it's amazing how the downturn has zero affect. We are free to continue giving and to plant more churches regardless of the economy.

Our house church does not pass the basket. It sits on a table in the corner of the room and only twice a year do we ever mention the offering-- and then only to read a list of ways we have used this money to help the poor in our community and within our own Body.

Even though I never make a big deal about the offering, people are giving with great joy because they know that every single penny they place in the basket will be given away to people in need. They are truly, honestly "Hilarious givers"!

We, the Body of Christ, are never referred to in the NT as anything other than a Body, a Family, a Bride and an Organism. We, the Church, are the Temple of the Holy Spirit. We do not need to build temples in order to fulfill our calling to embody Christ as living stones.

Does it really cost all that money to plant a church? Only if you abandon the New Testament model and embrace a business model.

Thanks, again, for this issue of Cutting Edge. I really do appreciate the great work you (and your staff) put into this labor of love each and every issue. Please take my comments as an alternate perspective on the subject of planting churches and money.

In Him,

Keith Giles
Mission House Church

Friday, June 19, 2009

Orange County House Church Gathering - Sat. July 11th

Orange County House Church Gathering
with special guest, author and theologian Dr. Jon Zens


When:
Saturday, July 11th from 9am to 12pm.

Where:
The Home of Noel & Julie Cruz
18722 La Casita ave, Yorba Linda, CA 92886.
For more info call Julie Cruz at 714-777-0098

Cost:
Event is Free.

To Register:
Must RSVP to attend via email (see below).
To register or for more info please send email to:
ochousechurch@gmail.com

About Jon Zens:
Dr. Zens has a wide-ranging theological background. He holds a B.A. in Biblical studies from Covenant College, a M.Div. from Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, and a D.Min. from the California Graduate School of Theology.

For the last thirty years, Jon has been the editor of a magazine entitled Searching Together. He's not only a NT scholar, but he's an expert on church history. Jon also served as a pastor for a number of years, but moved on after concluding that full reformation within the existing institutional church system was unworkable.

You can read his story
HERE

Also, for the past thirty years he and his wife, Dotty, have been ministering in small fellowships concerning living under grace and learning to extend grace to others.

If you'd like to read more about Jon Zens I've included a link to an excellent debate between Jon and Ben Worthington on hierarchy in the New Testament church
HERE

Hope to see you there!

Blessings,
Keith

Thursday, June 18, 2009

It's All Good

This blog was recently reviewed by a team of blog marketing professionals and was awarded the prestigious rating of "Good".

[See below]

Dear Keith,

Our editors recently reviewed your blog and have given it a 6.6 score out of (10) in the recreation category of Blogged.com.

We evaluated your blog based on the following criteria: Frequency of Updates, Relevance of Content, Site Design, and Writing Style.

After carefully reviewing each of these criteria, your site was given its 6.6 score.
Please accept my congratulations on a blog well-done!!

Sincerely,

Amy Liu
Marketing Department

**

So, if you notice, the blog now sports a hot little badge of honor declaring to all the world that we have been weighed in the scales and found "Good".

Now that I have achieved my lifelong dream of mediocrity I guess I can relax and enjoy it.

(Ahhhh....)

kg

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Myth of the Pastoral Epistles

Search it up on Wikipedia.org and you'll find a brief entry about how 1 and 2 Timothy and the book of Titus (and sometimes Philemon) are referred to as the Pastoral Epistles of Paul the Apostle.

Nevermind that these are not written to Pastors.

Nevermind that Timothy is, like Paul, a travelling missionary and church-planting evangelist.

Nevermind that Titus is also not a pastor but has been "left behind in Crete" to help establish a church community there before he moves on to plant other churches elsewhere.

Nevermind that Philemon isn't anything other than a slave-owner who needs encouragment from Paul regarding treatment of said slave.

Nevermind that both of the epistles to Timothy and the one to Titus deal primarily with the character of elders (plural) within the church community.

Nevermind that the word "Pastor" does not appear in any of these so-called "Pastoral Epistles".

Nevermind that the word "Pastor" only appears once in the entire New Testament.

As long as you can overlook all of these minor details, you should have no problem referring to these as the Pastoral Epistles of Paul.

-kg

Monday, June 15, 2009

JON ZENS - SATURDAY, JULY 11TH

JON ZENS - SATURDAY, JULY 11TH
Author and theologian Jon Zens will be coming to Orange County to speak to the local Orange County house churches on Saturday, July 11th from 9am to 12pm.
(LOCATION TO BE ANNOUNCED)

Event is Free. Must RSVP to attend. Please send an email to register or to get more info to:
ochousechurch@gmail.com

About Jon Zens
Dr. Zens has a wide-ranging theological background. He holds a B.A. in Biblical studies from Covenant College, a M.Div. from Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, and a D.Min. from the California Graduate School of Theology.

Zens' groundbreaking articles in the late 1970s, "Is There a 'Covenant of Grace'?" and "Crucial Thoughts on 'Law' in the New Covenant," were highly instrumental in developing what came to be called "New Covenant Theology."

For the last thirty years, Jon has been the editor of a magazine entitled Searching Together. He's not only a NT scholar, but he's an expert on church history. Jon also served as a pastor for a number of years, but moved on after concluding that full reformation within the existing institutional church system was unworkable.

Also, for the past thirty years he and his wife, Dotty, have been ministering in small fellowships concerning living under grace and learning to extend grace to others.

If you'd like to read more about Jon Zens I've included a link to an excellent debate between Jon and Ben Worthington on hierarchy in the New Testament church
HERE

More details on this as we get closer to the date.

Blessings,
Keith

Friday, June 12, 2009

INTERVIEW: DR. G.K. BEALE (Part 2)

This is the final half of my interview with Dr. G.K. Beale, author of "The Temple and the Church's Mission."

In this interview we discuss the Tribulation, End Times Suffering, Deception and Persecution, and Pastoral Support.

Those who know me already know I disagree with Dr.Beale on the issue of pastoral support and clergy, but our dialog here is interesting regardless of where you land on these issues.

PART 2

Keith: What are the practical impacts of the teaching in your book? If I understand now that the Church is the promised, end times Temple, how does that practically work out in my life and my faith?

Dr. Beale: What it means is that where we’re standing now in God’s redemptive, historical program is that we’re part of the end time Temple, and it’s a literal Temple. The literal, again according to Hebrews, is not always the physical. In this case the physical has always pointed towards God’s presence with His people. So Christ is the Tabernacle-ing Temple in John 1 and his resurrection continues that Temple and so the point of the Temple, and the point of my book, is to show that this Temple is to be expanded. The way that occurs in the New Testament is through believers being made in the image of God. What do you do with images? The same that happened with Adam in Genesis. He’s made in the image of God and you put him in the Temple, which is the Garden of Eden. So, when we become believers we become part of the Temple of God but we’re images in the Temple to reflect Him. If that is the case, then as we go out into the World, whether through the testimony of Word or Life, we’re to spread the presence of God. As people come to faith through our life or word, or both, basically what’s happening is that this is the Temple expanding. God’s presence expands outward from us, through us, to others.

That also happens through suffering. In Revelation chapter eleven if you wanted to consult my commentary, it says you’re to measure the temple and the altar and the one’s worshiping in it but not to measure the outer court but cast it outside. What in the world is going on there? Well, the long and the short of it is that Temple is God’s presence, the Believers are in that Temple, the measuring has to do with their salvific condition, and they’ll never be removed from God’s presence, but the outer court is the physical side of the Temple. That is where the priests of Israel sacrificed so it becomes very clear in verse one when it says to measure the altar, that’s a specific of chapter 6 and verse 9, where it says beneath the altar I saw the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained.

So, one of the ways believers spread the presence of God, yes it’s through their testimony, yes, it’s through the word of God, but one of the main ways that God’s presence is manifested to the world is when the world pressures us to compromise our faith and our testimony - when we’re unwilling to compromise – we remain loyal to God and it brings suffering we are sacrificing ourselves on God’s altar. Unbelievers, at those times, will see that, and that is often what gets their attention and leads them to faith in Christ.

I think that we become the priests, we’re the temple of God’s presence, we’re the sacrifice and that’s because we follow the Lamb wherever He goes. According to Revelation chapter 14, He’s the temple, He’s the Priest, and He’s the Sacrifice. Of course, our sacrifice is not like His in terms of being vicarious and substitutionary, but ours is a witness and it pleases God to manifest His presence through suffering. As Paul says, in 2 Cornthians and elsewhere, “My power is manifested in your weakness” and I think that can be applied to the Temple.

So, I think that these are very practical things. Whether it’s a peer group that’s pressuring you to conform or whether it’s a boss who’s asking you to be unethical, or if it’s a Government to stop believing in Jesus, when we refuse to compromise and we’re faithful priests in the Temple, then the presence of God spreads and the Temple expands.

Isaiah 57 says the Temple is a place of prayer, and we are a people of prayer. We ought to be a people much more in prayer. We’re priests who teach, although we know that the epistles that there elders and deacons who have the gift of teaching, but to everyone there is an expectation that we should know the scriptures and should be able to pass along that knowledge, even if they don’t have the gift of teaching.

So, generally, priests are mediators between God and the unbelieving world. Those are some reflections. Adam and Eve would have increased God’s presence among them by remembering God’s word and obeying it and they didn’t do that.

Keith: One thing I find fascinating in doing this kind of study, especially as you’ve just outlined it, is the idea of Temple, Priest and Sacrifice. We start with Jesus who equates His body with the Temple, He was, Himself the sacrifice, the Lamb of God, and we know from Hebrews that He performed the function of the High Priest. Then we see where every believer is now, in Christ, the temple of the Holy Spirit, a member of the priesthood of the believer, and the living, daily sacrifice.

Certainly, for myself, once I went through the Scriptures and understood these things completely, it revolutionized my personal faith. It seems to be something the Apostles and the early Christians fully understood. I think, especially, being Jews they understood how these concepts of Priest and Temple and Sacrifice were fulfilled in Christ, and then they continue on to explain how we are now also the Temple of God, and the living sacrifice, and the priests of God.

I guess what fascinates me is that these concepts are taught separately in the Church today but not connected in this way, at least not with any actual expectation that we are going to, as followers of Jesus, fully embrace our identity as Temple, Priest and Sacrifice.

If I look at Church today, in practice, I think these ideas almost appear to be radical and controversial. If I were to stand up today in a pulpit and preach and teach these things on Sunday morning I suspect that the majority of people would say, “Wow, I never understood this before.”

How do react to that? How did we end up with a faith where these ideas are so foreign?

Dr. Beale: Some thoughts that come to my mind are that, there is very little emphasis on expository preaching in churches today. When one faithfully preaches through the Old and the New Testaments one will come across the ideas.

In the New Testament, for example, if one has eyes to see and ears to hear, the idea of inaugurated eschatology is all over the place, including of course, the Temple. What you said about the Temple is no less true than other things. If you said that we’re experiencing the Great Tribulation now many people would begin to throw tomatoes at you. But 1 John 2:18 says, “Children this is the last hour. You’ve heard it said that anti-Christ is coming. I tell you, many anti-Christ’s have already come and from this we know that it’s the last hour.”

We’re at the last hour! Why? Because the spirit of the end times anti-Christ was there at the beginning of the Church. This come from Daniel, chapters 8 through 12, and part of what the anti-Christ, the end times opponent, was doing towards the end of Daniel chapter eleven was to deceive the Church. That’s exactly what’s going on today. The anti-Christ, though not physically present, is sending his emissaries to deceive so the end has begun. The final tribulation isn’t universal yet but it has begun, it is occurring in selected areas, has done so since the time of the beginning of the Church and at the end of time it will be universal so it certainly will increase.

Most people wouldn’t say we’re in the latter days today, although they may admit we’re on the verge of it. I think a lot of this has to do with a larger notion of eschatology and what it really is. Is it only about the future? Many in the conservative church would say so. Others look at it as something that has already begun and will continue into the future.

The conservative scholars, people who teach in seminaries and colleges, are more aware of this but this has not filtered out much in the congregations or among pastors.

Keith: Why do you think that is? Is it because once a seminary graduate becomes a teaching pastor he sort feels gun shy about teaching something that may be seen as unconventional?

Dr. Beale: While there are a number of conservative scholars who are aware of these things I don’t think it’s paramount in their teaching, even in seminary. So, I don’t think it’s something on the top of their students minds when they go out into the ministry.

For myself, in about a year I’ll finish a book that’s called “Transformation of the Old Testament and the New” which is a Biblical theology of the New Testament arguing that the way to understand it is that the latter days have begun and the march towards New Creation, specifically, has begun, and the major notions of justification or reconciliation or doctrine of the Spirit, are to be understood as facets of these things.

For example, Paul will talk about how he’s been crucified with Christ and how it is not he that lives but Christ who lives in him. The notion of living, when most people read that, they assume that he’s only talking about the Christian life. And yeah, that’s true, but it’s resurrection life. It’s the life of eschatological resurrection and that makes a big difference. The reason it does is because Paul starts giving commands that the Christian should start living differently from the world. Why? Because they are able to.

Keith: Right.

Dr. Beale: Put philosophically, for the Christian, essence precedes existence. Who you are determines what you do.

Keith: Amen.

Dr. Beale: Where many unbelievers would say, “No existence precedes essence; what you do in life determines who you are.” Which sounds kind of moral, sounds kind of good, but it’s not the Biblical view.

Keith: Absolutely. I think it’s easy to get confused by the “Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?” question. When you get into the discussion of doing good works and serving others this always comes up. My wife Wendy and I do a little work with the poor here in the community, and with our church family. We often hear people question whether we’re trying to earn our salvation or wonder out loud if we’re unsure of our salvation and we’re trying earn God’s favor, or what have you. But, what I find fascinating is that if we go to Ephesians where Paul tells us that we’re saved by grace he continues on to add, “to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do.” So, I always use the phrase “Swimming will never make you a fish, but if you’re a fish you will swim” to explain this apparent dichotomy.

Dr. Beale: Beautiful. I like that.

Keith: We don’t do good works to be saved, but if we’ve become new creatures in Christ, by Grace, then we will do the things that new, transformed creatures do and that, Biblically, involves doing good works.

Dr. Beale: If you don’t swim then you might ask, “Am I really a fish?”

Keith: Yeah, exactly. This is what fish do, so why are you not acting like one?

Dr. Beale: Or at the very least, maybe you are a fish but you haven’t started swimming just yet. Eventually, if you are new creation it will show itself.

Keith: I don’t want to get you into too much trouble here but I know my next question is a little controversial so I’m just going to ask it and you can respond as you wish, ok? I mean, I’m not trying to lay landmines for you so whatever feel comfortable discussing is ok with me.

Dr. Beale: Well, I’ll be quite frank that the teaching on the Temple that I’ve laid out doesn’t have to affect a particular model of the Church. Having said that, I do think that there’s a model for the Church laid out in the pastoral epistles in terms of eldership, deacons, and the sacraments in Corinthians and elsewhere the marks of a church are spelled out to include church discipline.

I also believe that first and second Timothy say that the teaching and preaching of the Word, and of course believers gathering together, are to be expected. I do think that leadership structures have been laid out from the pastoral epistles, for myself. I think there are to be elders and deacons. In terms of tithing I don’t think that the Temple notion determines that issue but other considerations apply. I wouldn’t say that the “tenth”, which is what “Tithe” means in Hebrew, has to be given. It can be, and it could be a good rule, but that aside we know that there should be giving and it should be from the heart. That’s the bottom line.

In terms of a building, again, you can have a house church or you can have a building or whatever the Lord leads one to do. The same with the building fund and a paid clergy. Paul says Elders (1 Timothy 5) are worthy of double honor and that meant money because they worked so hard at teaching and preaching that they needed to be supported. So, I do think that there’s a basis for this in 1 Corinthians 9 where he says, “do not muzzle the ox while he’s threshing”.

So, those may just be my reflections. I don’t see them as flowing out of the Temple notion, though I’m always open. I certainly don’t have the last word on the Temple, or any of these things. So, those would be my reflections on those questions.

Keith: I really do appreciate your perspective Dr. Beale. This is something that I am studying as well and trying to understand as well from scripture as well.

Dr. Beale: I think that’s an important consideration as well. What is it that scripture lays out? Then, what kind of liberty do we have that is extra-biblical but not anti-biblical? Theological seminaries are not biblical in the sense that we’re commanded to have them. But I don’t see them to be unbiblical. Having said that, I really see that what seminaries do, ideally, ought to be in the context of the local church or group of churches united together – which is what some are, they’re denominational seminaries.

Keith: One of the things that I really personally struggle with is the idea of taking a salary as a pastor. When we felt called initially to plant a church where 100% of the offering could be given to the poor in the community, I made a conscious decision to redefine what “being in the ministry” meant. Today, even though I’m working a regular, tent-making job, I still do just as much ministry as I did before, when I was a paid on-staff pastor. It’s just that I don’t receive a salary or an income from loving and serving my brothers and sisters in the Body. I provide for my family by working as a writer in a marketing department during the week, and that is also my ministry. It’s my mission field.

The scriptures I looked at were some of the same ones you’ve already mentioned but also where Paul argues pretty strongly that “those who preach the Gospel should make their living from the Gospel.” He affirms that. He totally does mean that and he actually says that Jesus has commanded this, but then he follows it with saying that he would personally rather work with his hands and not be a burden to the local church. He admits that he has in the past received compensation for his service but feels that he was robbing God, or the church, by doing so. So, he paints a picture that there is liberty for both.

Dr. Beale: I would say that what he does say in 1 Timothy 5 there probably is the norm however. Not only should there be elders, but those who particularly work hard at preaching and teaching should be compensated, I believe. Of course there could be someone who is wealthy and doesn’t need the money, or someone like yourself who has opted not to take a salary, so there are those exceptions. I do think that those would be exceptions because there are some who put so much into the teaching and the work of pastoring that that’s all they do.

Keith: I mean, sincerely, to ask your opinion on this because I’m curious to know, and I'm sure you have studied this much more than I have scratched the surface on, but do you believe it was the norm during the first century church, under the Apostles that elders were supported financially? I’ve tended to think of support as being what was provided to travelling missionaries who were going to plant churches and preach the Gospel to the surrounding villages, maybe there were taking their wives along as Paul mentions. I’ve always thought of “support” as being a place to stay, or food and water for the journey to the next village or maybe a small offering to help them get to where they were going next, but not so much we’re going to take care of you for the rest of your life. More like, when you come to our town you can stay with me, eat at my table, you can sleep here, not so much like, “Here’s your monthly check.”

Dr. Beale: Well, for myself I would see it as both. I don’t think Acts is really speaking to this issue the way that Paul does. In terms of Elders in 1 Timothy 5, but it’s clear in that passage when it says they are “worthy of double honor” it’s not just respect but it’s actually financial support. Yeah, what you’re saying is definitely included but I wouldn’t say that that’s all there is.

Keith: The other thing I was going to ask you is something I will admit I’m biased about since I lead a house church. But, for most of my spiritual life, even as a pastor on staff at a traditional church, the ideas of the priesthood of the believer were largely unknown to me. We’d say, “you’re the Temple of the Holy Spirit” but I still go to that building over there and that’s really my Church. Instead of thinking of it more as something I embody and that we together are the Body of Christ. So, sometimes, in my experience anyway, these are ideas that I didn’t seriously consider until I stepped away from a traditional model. After that I began to really see these things differently and began to experience these things in a more tangible way. While I was involved in a traditional church, however, “Temple” was the building we were meeting in, the “Priesthood” was about the pastor we elected and so on. And I’m not trying to say that these things are wrong, but sometimes these physical elements end up distracting us from the reality.

Dr. Beale: Well, I suppose they could. If one viewed the Church as the Temple, that is the physical church, and if one viewed the Pastor as the only Priest then that would be a wrong view. I think that all believers are Priests, but then of course we know that this is fleshed out further that there were some with different gifts. Some were evangelists, some had different gifts. I think if you had a physical structure with really good teaching then, hopefully people really wouldn’t have the wrong idea.

Keith: Can I change the subject a bit and go back to something you alluded to earlier? You were talking about how we, as the new Temple, help the Temple and the Presence of God to spread is through suffering. You suggested that this was one of the ways that we help to spread the Temple presence of God in the Earth today. I agree with you on that but I wanted to ask you to elaborate more about the fact that the Spirit of Anti-Christ is already at work and that, in effect, we are in the End Times now.

So, what I was wondering is, as we see the Church both being persecuted and, at the same time, growing stronger under that persecution, in places like Korea and China and Africa and the Middle East, in fact, pretty much anywhere you see persecution really. It’s as if our suffering for the Gospel, as we encounter that Spirit of Anti-Christ, which again creates the suffering, it’s as if the Tribulation has never really left the Church. It maybe something that we, in America, don’t realize because we are not suffering for our faith and I tend to think that when we say “The Church” as Americans we really mean, “The American Church.”

Dr.Beale: You have to remember that if you read Daniel 7 through 12 for example that suffering and persecution is only one facet of the Tribulation. The second major facet is deception.

Keith: Wow.

Dr. Beale: (Laughs) Most of Paul’s letters were written because of deception with the Church.

Keith: True. We wouldn’t really have most of the New Testament if it weren’t for Paul’s letters to correct deception and immorality in the Body at that time.

Dr. Beale: So deception, combined with overt suffering and persecution is a very powerful example of how the Tribulation started in the First Century and continues today.

I mean, you do have sectors of the Church where there is deception, and others where there is suffering, but at the very end it will be universal deception and suffering.

Keith: Well, we’ve been going almost an hour here now so if you need to go I understand.

Dr. Beale: Yes, actually we’re installing a new pastor today and I didn’t realize that it was today. I was hoping to be able to make the very end of that.

Keith: Certainly. I understand. I really do appreciate your time and sitting and talking with me about these issues.

Dr. Beale: Well, I enjoyed taking about them. That’s what I do! (Laughs) It’s what you do too.

Keith: Yes sir. Thank you so much, Mr. Beale.

Dr. Beale: You wanted to talk about this issue on Shadows and Types?

Keith: I would love to if you have the time.

Dr. Beale: I’ll give you some quick reflections on that. A lot of allegory has happened, a lot of misuse of types has occurred and I would just say that there are four or five ways to put controls on that so it’s not unbridled.

One is in the Gospels wherever you find the fulfillment formula and it’s attached to an event in the Old Testament then you’ve got a classic type. Like in Matthew chapter 2 where it says, “Out of Egypt I have called my son” and it reflects back on Hosea chapter 11 and that’s just a reflection back on the event of the Exodus. That’s a very difficult passage but I think the notion of typology is that earlier events from the Old Testament prefigure and foreshadow events in the new. So they’re not prophecy by words but prophecy by events and patterns.

When you find a fulfillment formula, or language like that such as, “It was necessary for this to happen so that the scriptures might be fulfilled” or “the promises came” as in 2 Corinthians chapter 1. When you find that kind of language, as in 2 Corinthians 7, chapter one, “therefore having these promises…” those are all indications of that prophecy has been fulfilled. And when just events are quoted and not overt prophecies that’s typology as in the case of “Out of Egypt have I called my son”.

So, sometimes you can discern from the Old Testament that those events were seen as prefiguring events, even from the author’s vantage point.

Secondly, another way to discern types is repeated patterns like when you’ve got Adam in the Garden disobeying and then you have the same imagery of Adam applied to Noah. Then you have some of the same imagery applied to Israel. What you have there is a recapitulated pattern and when you find those patterns and then see them again in the New Testament those may be candidates for typologies.

Thirdly, in Old Testament narratives like the Book of Judges, when you have the narration of speedy rises and falls of leaders like the Judges, or in Isaiah chapter 22 where you have the same. This is where God’s commission is not fulfilled and cries out for fulfillment. When these are not fulfilled there’s a lack and yet alongside this there’s various points in the history of Israel where we’re told that one is to come, as in Isaiah chapter 9, who is going to fulfill these things. So, when you put those together – the speedy rises and falls of leaders, and the very lack of fulfillment suggests that this needs to be filled in and there’s going to be one to fulfill these things eventually. You have these characters who negatively point forward –these prophets and priests and kings.

A fourth criterion would be, when you have a clear reference to a type like the first Adam is a type of the last (Romans 5:14). When you go back in the Old Testament and see characters who are patterned after Adam, very clearly, those probably also are good candidates for types of Christ’s. Even negatively. I mean, Adam himself was a negative type.

For example, Noah is patterned after Adam and I would say that he is also a negative type of Christ. On the other hand, 1 Peter chapter 3 presents the days of Noah as a type of the days of the coming of the Son of Man and the Apostasy.

So, those are just some reflections on typology if you’re interested. I would encourage you, if you don’t have this book…and it’s not going to put that much money in my pocket, but there’s a book I’ve edited that’s called, “The Right Doctrine From the Wrong Texts”.

Keith: Wow. Great title.

Dr.Beale: It’s a debate on different views of how the Old Testament used in the New Testament. In the last few chapters I have definitions of typology and examples of it. It’s published by Baker Book house.

If want to really delve in, Don Carson and I edited a book “A Commentary on the New Testament use of the Old Testament” that was a 10 year project that just came out in 2007.

At any rate, if you’re really interested you could delve further.

It’s been a pleasure to chat.

Keith: It’s been a blessing for me as well.

Dr.Beale: Thanks and may God bless you in your ministry.

Keith: God bless you as well.

**

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Prayer For Grace and Healing

For those of you who have been shamed from the pulpit for meeting in your homes, I pray that the Lord would comfort you.

For those of you who have been shunned by those who once embraced you because you no longer attend the Sunday Morning Service, I pray that the Father would wrap His arms around you and hold you close.

For those of you who have been ignored in the grocery store by a brother or sister in Christ because you no longer believe in the man-made hierarchy of Corporate Church, I pray that God would grant you grace.

For those of you who have lost friends, the respect of family members, and have been invited not to come back to churches that once celebrated your arrival, I pray that Jesus would heal the pain in your heart.

I pray that God would comfort you and remind you that you are not alone. You are not forgotten. Your pain does not go unnoticed.

I pray that you would not return evil for evil, but that you would, in obedience to Christ, pray for those who persecute you.

I pray that you would have the grace to forgive those who have treated you so horribly and that you would forgive them and set them free and ask God to remove all condemnation from their hearts.

I pray this for you, my friends, because this is what I need for myself today.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

FRANK VIOLA INTERVIEW

As part of a blog-marketing co-op I've interviewed Frank Viola about his newest book, "From Eternity to Here". (See below)


Frank, can you explain the title of the book? what does it refer to?

God has had a purpose in His heart from eternity past that provoked Him to create. That purpose (Paul calls it “the eternal purpose”) is what governs all of what God does in, with, and through His creation. And that purpose is meant to be fulfilled here, on this earth, for that’s why He created it. The book unfolds the above. Hence the title.

Your previous books focus a lot on us (the church) and our mission. the new book turns more towards God and His mission. how are these intertwined? how does our mission and God's mission connect?

They aren’t to be separated. God’s purpose is to be our purpose; His mission our mission; His vision our vision. One of the main reasons why I wrote the book is to bring this out.

I've heard you say recently that you wouldn't give a dime for most house churches today. what do you mean by that? aren't you "the house church guy?"

Nope, I sure aren’t (that’s great English, eh?). That’s one of the myths right up there with the idea that George Barna and I believe that computers are pagan because they weren’t around during the first century.

My books and spoken messages consistently maintain that I’m not an advocate of “institutional church” or “house church.” Instead, I maintain that the organic expression of the church or organic church life is what God is after. The church we see envisioned in the New Testament and the teachings of Jesus and the apostles was organic rather than institutional.

I’m told that one of my oft-quoted statements is, “Meeting in a home doesn’t make you a church anymore than sitting in a donut shop makes you a police officer.”

My message on the church is received more so by house church advocates (or “movement”) simply because my critiques of the institutional/traditional church are the same. I also believe that it’s good (though it’s not a Mosaic Law) to gather in a home for some kinds of meetings.

But the issue is not the location of the church. The issue is the basis upon which a group of Christians gather and whether or not the members are living for God’s eternal purpose. Are they learning to live by the indwelling life of Christ together? Are they expressing His life corporately in their meetings and community life? Are they living a shared life in Christ? Are they consumed with, intoxicated by, and enraptured with Jesus Christ or are the focused on some “it”, “thing”, or “doctrine”? Are they manifesting Christ’s glorious riches when they come together? Do they know the experience of the cross and are they laying their lives down for one another? Etc. etc.

Many “house churches” and “simple churches” today do not even understand what God’s eternal purpose is let alone live for it together. The same is true for the typical institutional church. The letters I’m receiving from the book only confirms this.

For those interested, I’ve addressed these themes in detail in my book Reimagining Church and a “straight-talk message” to house churches that can be heard online.

Isn't this book really just an attempt to get mainstream christian booksellers to start carrying your other, more radical books?

Lol. That thought never crossed my mind, but I don’t think it would work if some author tried to do that. Booksellers usually don’t stock older books by an author even if they like a new one. As far as I know, all Christian bookstores and sellers have carried all of my previous books before From Eternity came out, including Pagan Christianity, which is pretty remarkable. Family Christian Stores didn’t carry it at first, but about one or two months after its release, they did. You can even find it on LifeWay’s website.

So much of your writing is centered on re-educating today's Christians about their own true and biblical ecclesiology, mission and purpose. why do you think we've gotten so far off track? what factors contributed to the need for this re-education?

I really don’t know. I think it starts at the top levels. Seminaries and Bible schools produce pastors and teachers. They in turn teach God’s people. God’s eternal purpose doesn’t appear on the radar screen of most of those lesson plans, I guess. Plus, we’ve all been handed a certain mindset by which to interpret Scripture. D.L. Moody’s theology has taken hold of the minds of most evangelicals. But that’s another discussion.

Other than reading your book, how can today's christians get back on track and rediscover their DNA as the Body of Christ?

To spend time visiting those churches that are living out of it. Or to find those who have been called to equip Christian groups to live by Christ’s indwelling life together.

Do you think that we are in the midst of a modern reformation of faith today? will the church be radically different 20 years from now?

The Protestant Reformation didn’t change the church of its day. All it did was make an expression of church outside of Roman Catholicism acceptable. The same is true when the Pentecostal movement came along. It eventually made a new kind of church acceptable from what was on the earth previous to it.

I think the same is true with what’s happening today. I won’t put my prophet’s mantle on for this, but in 20 years, I suspect the Protestant institutional church will still be here. The Catholic and Orthodox churches will be here. Even megachurches will still be around. What I think will change is that those Christians who gather exclusively under the headship of Jesus Christ without a modern pastor, a Sunday morning order of worship, a religious/sacred building, etc. will be accepted as “normal” by more people than they are today.

Would you be interested in leading one of our discussion times at next year's Non-Con (non-conference) in March with David Ruis, Justin Fox and myself? It's a dialog-driven event for 45 people to explore the Temple, the Priesthood of the Believer and the Living, Daily Sacrifice here in Southern California.

I’m a big fan of David Ruis. His music in the 90s was in-cred-ible. I’d like to learn more about it.

**
OTHER BLOGS PARTICIPATING IN THE “FROM ETERNITY TO HERE” BLOG CIRCUITToday (June 9th), the following blogs are discussing Frank Viola’s new bestselling book “From Eternity to Here” (David C. Cook, 2009). The book just hit the May CBA Bestseller List. Some are posting Q & A with Frank; others are posting full reviews of the book. To read more reviews and order a copy at a 33% discount, go to Amazon.com

If you live in the USA, you can also visit your local Family Christian Store to grab a copy. They are having a special promotion this week.
For more resources, such as downloadable audios, the free Discussion Guide, the Facebook Group page, etc. go to the official website: http://www.FromEternitytoHere.org

Enjoy the reviews and the Q and A:
-----
Out of Ur - http://blog.christianitytoday.com/outofur/archives/2009/05/viola.html
Shapevine – www.Shapevine.com (June newsletter)
Brian Berly - http://www.brianeberly.com
DashHouse.com - http://www.DashHouse.com/
Greg Boyd - http://www.gregboyd.org/blog/
Vision Advance - http://vision2advance.blogspot.com/
David Flowers - http://ddflowers.wordpress.com
Kingdom Grace - http://kingdomgrace.wordpress.com
Captain's Blog - http://www.captainestes.blogspot.com/
Christine Sine - http://godspace.wordpress.com
Zoecarnate - http://zoecarnate.wordpress.com
Church Planting Novice - www.churchplantingnovice.wordpress.com
Staying Focused - http://kimmartinezstayingfocused.wordpress.com/
Take Your Vitamin Z - www.takeyourvitaminz.blogspot.com
Jeff Goins - http://jeffgoins.myadventures.org
Bunny Trails - http://bunny-trails.blogspot.com
Matt Cleaver - http://mattcleaver.com
Jason T. Berggren - http://blog.jasonberggren.com/
Simple Church - http://www.simplechurchjournal.com/
Emerging from Montana - http://wordofmouthministries.blogspot.com/
Parable Life - http://www.theparablelife.blogspot.com
Oikos Australia - http://www.oikos.org.au/blog/
West Coast Witness - www.WestCoastWitness.com
Keith Giles - http://www.Keith.Giles.com
Consuming Worship — http://www.consumingworship.org
Tasha Via - www.tashavia.blogspot.com
Andrew Courtright - www.andrewcourtright.blogspot.com
ShowMeTheMooneys! – http://www.showmethemooneys.com/
Leaving Salem, Blog of Ronnie McBrayer - http://leavingsalem.wordpress.com/
Jason Coker - pastoralia.missionaltribe.org
From Knowledge to Wisdom - http://isthistheway.typepad.com/
Home Brewed Christianity - http://www.homebrewedchristianity.com
Dispossessed - http://kblog.kevinjbowman.com
Dandelion Seeds - http://www.homeschoolblogger.com/Dandelionseeds
David Brodsky's Blog- "Flip the tape Deck" - http://flipthetapedeck.blogspot.com/
Chaordic Journey - http://jeffrhodes.wordpress.com
Renee Martin - http://www.reneemartinmusic.com/profiles/blog/list
Bob Kuhn - http://organicchurchnola.wordpress.com/
Real Worship - http://therealworshipleader.com
Fervent Worship - http://ferventworship.blogspot.com
Julie Ferwerda Blog - www.JulieFerwerda.com / www.OneMillionArrows.com
What's With Christina?! - http://w2christina.blogspot.com
On Now to the Third Level - www.080808onnowto.blogspot.com
Irreligious Canuck - http://www.irreligiouscanuck.com
This day on the journey - http://guychmieleski.blogspot.com
Live and Move: Thoughts on Authentic Christianity - http://liveandmove.blogspot.com/
Spiritual Journey With God - http://www.elvineve.blogspot.com/

Dries Conje - http://www.echurch.co.za / http://www.thejesusfeed.com / http://www.bookdisciple.com.
Journey with Others - http://journeywithothers.blogspot.com
Christine Moers - www.welcometomybrain.net
Breaking Point - http://marybethstockdale.wordpress.com
Hand to the Plough - http://www.handtotheplough.com.au
Jon Reid - http://jonreid.blogs.com/oneanother/welcome-pilgrim.html
Weblight - www.blog.worldwidewebservices.se
D. L. Webster - http://gzmproductions.com/dlwebster
Searching for the Whole-Hearted Life - wholeheartedlife.blogspot.com

Monday, June 08, 2009

ANOTHER LAW? - New Article at TheOoze.com

Nothing underscores the failure of the American Church to overcome evil with good by commitment to the teachings of Jesus than this: We have abandoned social change by way of the Gospel and embraced social change by way of the courts, and politics, and law.

The solution to the problems facing American society is not found in changing our laws, and even if it were that would be a job for a lawyer or a politician, not a follower of Jesus....

Read it and comment
HERE

Sunday, June 07, 2009

A WALK ON THE KETCHERSIDE

W.C. Ketcherside's amazing book, "The Royal Priesthood" was written over 50 years ago, yet it packs an incredible punch today.

Just reading from the first chapter today and wanted to share this:

"The early church gathered around a table; the modern church sits before a pulpit.

The Lord placed the table in the church so it could remember its debt to him; the clergy placed the pulpit in the church to bring it into debt to them.

In the early church they all spoke one by one; today all the speaking is done by one.

Then the Spirit was kindled; now it is quenched.

Then they claimed to love each other and talked about Jesus; now they claim to love Jesus and talk about each other.

In those days all exerted an effort to exhort; now all must be exhorted to exert any effort.

The primitive disciples did not ask the world to come and get the gospel, they took it to them. They gathered to eat the Lord's Supper, then scattered to preach the Word.

Wherever there was a Christian and a sinner, there was a gospel meeting."



DOWNLOAD THE COMPLETE BOOK FOR FREE
HERE

Saturday, June 06, 2009

INTERVIEW: DR. G.K. BEALE (Part 1)

G.K. BEALE – “The Temple and the Church’s Mission”
(Part 1)

Dr. Beale is Professor of New Testament, Biblical Theological Studies at Wheaton College. He is also the author of an amazing book called “The Temple and the Church’s Mission”.

As I’ve been researching the New Testament Church a friend recommended the book and it has proven to be a goldmine of great insight for me.

I was honored to have Dr. Beale agree to a phone interview a few months ago. Here is part one of a transcript of that conversation.

Keith: What is the main thesis of your book and what lead you to write about this subject?

Dr. Beale: The motivation was really from a commentary I wrote on the Greek text of Revelations for the New International Greek Testament Commentary series. As I was near the end of finishing the book I was looking at the last vision from the book of Revelation and as I finished studying that section I saw that John said, “I saw the new heavens and the new earth and the old heavens and earth have passed away and were no more and there was no more any sea” and the rest of the vision doesn’t appear to talk about a new creation. It speaks of what’s envisioned as a city in the shape of the Holy of Holies that is garden-like.

The way to simply solve this is that John sees this vision of the new heavens and the new earth and then he focuses in on a particular location which is the New Jerusalem, or the city itself, shaped like the Holy of Holies that is garden-like. That’s one possible understanding. But, in fact, from a number of considerations exegetically from chapters 21 and 22 of Revelation it is apparent that the reason John doesn’t go on to describe the undulating valleys and rivers is because in fact he is equating the new heavens and the new earth with the City, the new Jerusalem.

So, then the question arises once we are convinced of that, is “Why is that?” I mean, it’s very odd. You can maybe picture a Star Trek episode where they find a planet that is square and is garden-like but it’s a very weird picture. So, in the commentary I actually had a two page explanation of what I thought was going on. Of course, part of the solution is to see that the Garden of Eden was a temple of God’s presence and Adam was the first priest and he should have faithfully spread the boundaries of God’s presence until the Garden covered the entire earth. Of course, that immediately answers the question of why the new heavens and the new earth is equated with a garden (in Revelation). Because now Eden has now finally become co-equal with the New Heavens and the New Earth.

In terms of the city, the book traces the idea that the expansion of the end-times temple, prophetically, reveals that the Holy of Holies is first to expand to cover the city, then the land of Israel and then the whole world. So, the idea is that at some point the Temple and the City become one.

At any rate, the book is a 450 page expansion of that first two-page excursis. It just felt to me like an important enough topic to warrant further study and illumination.

Keith: As you began to go through the Old Testament prophecies concerning the End Times Temple you started to connect all these same dots. You point out that God refers to the Temple as being a garden, a temple, and a mountain almost interchangeably.

Dr.Beale: For example, the reason that many haven’t seen that Eden is a temple is that the word isn’t used (in Genesis) to describe it. But, one wants to be careful of making the word/concept confusion. Certainly the Bible, for example talks about the concept of new creation without using the actual phrase “new creation”. It talks about eschatology without using the phrase “latter days” or “end times”. It’s the same with the Temple. You can go too far the other way and just be too wild and just claim the concept is there even though the concept, in reality, isn’t there. You have to be very careful.

Keith: Right. How did you avoid this pitfall?

Dr. Beale: One of the ways was to trace these various themes, in this case the Temple, to demonstrate that Eden is a sanctuary of God, hence a Temple, and then begin to see how the Old Testament itself literarily develops by allusion the references to Eden and the Temple. From the Patriarchs to the Sanctuary to the Temple in Israel, as well as the Tabernacle before the Temple, and on into the New Testament and Revelation. There are a lot of what I call intertextual trails and trajectories that can actually be traced literarily. I think that’s one of the areas that much more work in Biblical Theology can be done. It’s not just tracing concepts and themes, because that can get very subjective, but you can begin to see how themes trace literarily and textually. I’ve just written another book using this same method called, “We Become Like What We Worship” which is subtitled “A Biblical Theology in Idolatry”.

So, at any rate, that’s basically what I did in my book.

Keith: Let me ask you, especially with current events today, it’s nothing really new but ever since I’ve been alive there have been waves of End Times extremism. Books like “The Late, Great Planet Earth” and films like “Thief in the Night” and more recently, “The Left Behind Series”, tend to take a very unique view on the rapture and the return of Christ. My whole life I’ve been told how to read scripture and understand the End Times prophecies and story. Especially today as we look at Israel and Gaza and turmoil in the Middle East, what are we to believe? Taking into account the things you’ve studied, is it true that any day now we should expect to see the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem in order to fulfill the prophetic, end times prophecies?

Dr. Beale: I think that, first of all, there are two main groups of Christians in the United States, speaking very generally. One group is very pro-Israeli, basing their stance on the notion that what happened in 1948 with the creation of the Jewish nation is the beginning of the fulfillment of the restoration of Israel and that it will be climaxed in the dispensational scenario with the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple and so on.

The other group of Christians would be very much against that and would attempt to argue from the Bible, in some cases well, that there is really no legitimacy for what Israel is doing. I can understand that from the perspective that Israel has all the armament and the Arabs have none, and that sort of thing.

So, I think those are two extreme views. Now, in terms of attempting to support Israel because what’s happening now is the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy and the restoration of Israel and waiting for the temple to be rebuilt I just don’t think scripture supports that. So, I wouldn’t support any political, pro-Israeli position on the basis of what the Bible says. I think Israel was not faithful and disobeyed and I think God raised up a true Israel. I think that Jesus is true Israel, which he is actually in Isaiah 49:3, “You’re my servant Israel,” it’s one of the servant songs which is developed most famously in Isaiah 53. But Jesus is actually called “Israel” and is actually referenced in Luke 1:2 and Acts 13. Isaiah 49:8 is referenced in 2 Corinthians 6:2 and following as either applying to Christ, or even more intriguingly to Paul and the rest of the church as being identified as true Israel, being a light to the nations. When the New Testament says that Jesus is the seed of Abraham this is another way of saying that Jesus is true Israel in Galatians 3.

I can go on if you want me to, but the point is that Jesus is true Israel, he is the apple of God’s eye, not any particular ethnic nation including Israel in the land. So, the promises as 2 Corinthians chapter 1 says, “as many as may be the promises of God, (the eschatological promises), are yes in Him.” They’re inaugurated, but not consummated, in Jesus. He’s the locus, not any particular ethnic nation.

Keith: Can I just interject that to me, one of the most powerful verses along those lines is where Jesus talks about how God could raise up sons of Abraham from the stones of the ground and that the true son of Abraham is the one who does the will of the Father. It doesn’t matter then if you are born of Abraham’s seed physically, ethnically, or not.

Dr. Beale: Right. I mean, Jesus brothers and sisters and mother are outside calling for him and he says, “Who is my mother and my brother and my sister except those who do the will of God?” Romans chapter 2 says that the true Jews were the ones who were circumcised spiritually and not physically and has in mind even Gentiles there.

For myself, I think that Jesus is the true Israel, and what that means actually is that you have prophecies of the restoration of Israel that are applied to Jesus and the Church. The Dispensationalists just take these as analogies, but in fact I think it’s more probable that these are beginning fulfillments. So the restoration of Israel began, not in 1948, but in Jesus and His Church, and I think this can be demonstrated exegetically.

So, I do believe that whatever we’re seeing in the Nation of Israel today is part of God’s plan. It’s part of His decretive plan. If a bird falls from heaven it doesn’t fall apart from God, but the bird isn’t prophesied to fall from heaven. So, likewise I think that what’s going on in the middle east today and in Israel isn’t prophesied but it’s part of God’s plan but it’s the wrong direction to go.

With regard to the Temple, again, (and I think I might use this illustration in the book), but it reminds me of when I was doing doctoral studies in Cambridge and I had a picture of the girl I ended up marrying on the desk. I would get her letters from back home in the States and I might have hugged and kissed her picture, who knows, I don’t remember. But certainly I looked endearingly at it. But now that we’ve been married thirty years if I were to spend every evening in our den continuing to stare at her picture when she is right there in the room then there is something wrong. She’d probably call our pastor to come over and counsel me.

The point is, the substance is here with my wife. I no longer need the picture. Christ is the true Israel. He is the true Temple. So, to look longingly at the picture of a physical temple is to make the same mistake. The substance is here. In fact, Hebrews chapter 9 uses the word parable, in verses 8 and 9, to refer to the physical Temple. The physical, Old Testament Temple is not the literal Temple, it’s the illustrative Temple. The Temple that Jesus has begun to establish is called the “True Temple”. So, to look at the picture is not to see the substance that is already here. I think to expect something in the future is to try to put the progress of redemptive history into reverse while you’re going seventy miles an hour.

Keith: That sounds like it could be very dangerous. (laughs) Now that I begin to see these things in a different light it makes me stop and question so much of what I have been told to expect in terms of signs and prophetic expectation. I believe that Christ will return but now the signs and the conditions of that return seem to be up in the air.

Dr. Beale: That’s why he says he’s coming like a thief. Yet I think there are some signs but I don’t think we’ll know definitively until after he comes. So, we should always be alert.

Keith: Right.

Dr. Beale: I, like you, believe that there is a final, personal coming of Christ. I think that there’s going to be a final, actual, literal anti-Christ, but I think that anti-Christ is also already here. All the prophecies of the Old Testament have begun fulfillment but not consummated.

Keith: I think I agree because the danger is when we read something like Revelation or other eschatological books or prophetic verses and, I believe they’re written, almost on purpose if you will, in a cryptic way. That it’s not so much for the purpose of allowing us to predict what’s going to happen in advance, but that it’s more so for the benefit of those who are living at the time when it is being fulfilled to say, “Oh, this is what’s happening now,” or even after the fact to look and see that God knew it would happen and He told us it was going to happen and we have the benefit of hindsight, if you will. He’s enlightened us by His Word but, I believe, more to comfort those who are enduring persecution and living through these end times events, and less for us to plan the next hundred years, or to anticipate what will happen in advance.

Dr. Beale: Fulfillment always fleshes out the details of prophecy so there are always some surprises just as there was with Christ’s first coming. There’s no doubt that God does prophesy and He does so specifically. Mathew 2 says that Micah 5 prophesied that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem and He was, and so forth. So, Isaiah 53 is a direct verbal prophesy, so you do have specific prophecies but there are always surprises because that’s the nature of fulfillment. Fulfillment always fleshes out the details.

Keith: I agree. The best example of that is the Messiah. There were very strong opinions based on Biblical evidence that the Messiah will do this and say that. So, people being so dogmatic about what the Messiah must do and how he must come and they’re standing an inch away from Him and they don’t recognize Him. So, I think we can also be in danger of being so sure of ourselves that “this absolutely must mean that” and we could miss what God’s really doing because it doesn’t fit what we’ve decided it is supposed to look like.

Dr. Beale: Right.

(END OF PART ONE)

Friday, June 05, 2009

Free MP3 - "On Being the Church" by Keith Giles

The mp3 of my presentation at the Missional House Church Network Conference on the Temple, the Priesthood and the Sacrifice is available online for free
HERE

This message is one of the most complete pictures of how Jesus accomplished and fulfilled the promise of God from the Old Testament to build a Temple "not made with human hands".

I also answer several specific questions about The Mission (our house church family) and how we handle children, money, spiritual gifts, and more.

You can also listen to and download the other great presentations by the amazing Charity Leslie and the incomparable Bill Faris
HERE

Thursday, June 04, 2009

COMING SOON: NON-CON 2010

Non-Con 2010
"Now with more 'non' than ever before!"
Saturday, March 20, 2010

Only 45 seats available.

Details soon.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

LAUGHING AT GOD?

No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one’s laughing at God
When they’re starving or freezing or so very poor

No one laughs at God when the doctor calls
After some routine tests
No one’s laughing at God
when it’s gotten real late
And their kid’s not back from that party yet

No one laughs at God when their airplane
Starts to uncontrollably shake

No one’s laughing at God
When they see the one they love hand in hand
with someone else and they hope that they’re mistaken

No one laughs at God when the cops knock on their door
And they say “We’ve got some bad new, sir,”

No one’s laughing at God
When there’s a famine, fire or flood

But God can be funny
At a cocktail party while listening to a good God-themed joke or
When the crazies say he hates us
and they get so red in the head
You think that they’re about to choke
God can be funny
When told he’ll give you money if you just pray the right way
And when presented like a genie
Who does magic like Houdini
Or grants wishes like Jiminy Cricket and Santa Claus

God can be so hilarious
Ha ha, ha ha

No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one’s laughing at God
when they’ve lost all they got
And they don’t know what for

No one laughs at God on the day they realize
that the last sight they’ll ever see is a pair of hateful eyes
No one’s laughing at God
When they’re saying their goodbyes

No one’s laughing at God
We’re all “laughing with God”

by Regina Spektor, from her fifth album, "Far", released on Regina’s MySpace on May 8, 2009; official release on May 18
**
LISTEN
HERE

Monday, June 01, 2009

What God Allows

The other day as I was talking with a friend the question came up, "Why does God allow these things to happen?"

It doesn't really matter what the specific context of our conversation was. You and I can fill in the blanks here and ask why God allows suffering, why God allows children to be abused, why God allows spiritual leaders to twist the Gospel, why God allows Christians to shoot abortion doctors on Sunday morning in Church?

It seems to me that if you made a list of the top 10 things God does not allow you'd have a hard time coming up with even one thing.

"How can God allow...?"

When we ask this question are we yearning for God to take more control over our reality? Are we hoping for the day when the Kingdom fully breaks into this world and His perfect will is always, fully accomplished?

Surely it's not that we expect God to prevent car crashes or divert bullets or ensure that no one anywhere is ever harmed or killed or endures suffering? Seriously? Is this the world we live in? Is this our expectation?

But, maybe the answer is "Yes." Maybe we do, in our heart of hearts, long for God to reach down and protect every life and heal every hurt and prevent every tragedy. And if so, then what we're really desperate for is the breaking in of the Kingdom of God into this world we live in now. This is exactly what Jesus wanted to see when he came and announced "the Kingdom of God is at hand."

The truth is that our world is full of suffering and pain. This is our reality. However, there is still hope for us to experience a reality where God's rule and reign is tangible. "The Kingdom of God," Jesus said, "is within you". It begins with our individual hearts and our actual lives. We must invite Jesus to be the King of our life first. We must surrender our rule and reign for His rule and reign. We must humble ourselves and trust Him with all that we have.

Now and again we do experience the breaking in of the Kingdom of God. Sometimes God does intervene and He miraculously heals someone. Sometimes God brings us through the car crash unscathed. Sometimes God reaches into this reality and corrects what is wrong and makes it right. I'm very thankful that in my life God has intervened on several occasions. I have personally seen and experienced His healing. I have experienced His Grace and His Mercy.

But sometimes, God does not intervene. In fact, God's intervention is the exception, not the rule. God often allows anything, and everything, to happen. He works through the pain, the tragedy, the disappointment, the tears and the wreckage to bring redemption, salvation, clarity, peace and reconciliation.

We recently said goodbye to a dear sister in Christ who struggled and suffered with brain cancer. God did not heal her of this, but He did work through her suffering to bring reconciliation to her son and daugther and brother and sister. Healing did take place, but not in the way we expected.

For now we live in a fallen world. God is still in control, but more often than not God allows things to happen and He works through the wreckage.

We are co-workers with God in this effort. He allows us the honor of extending grace to the sinner, comfort to the afflicted, and hope to the hopeless.

In fact, Jesus so identifies with the poor, the broken, the imprisoned, and the outcast that he says "whatever you have done to one of the least of these you have done it to me."

So, the next time we are tempted to ask, "How can God allow...?" we have to realize that God is permissive, but He is not passive. He takes what is intended for evil and turns it to good. He is in the business of turning darkness into light, and He calls us to the same ministry of reconciliation.

Maybe, when it comes to suffering and injustice we should ask ourselves, "How can we allow..?"

"I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven." - Jesus, (Matthew 16:19)

"We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you." - 2 Cor 4:10-12

"Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us." - 2 Cor 5:20

**
kg

Undercover Christian

Fascinating story on NPR about a young Brown University student who went undercover at Liberty University in order to better understand Evangelical Christians.

The article is full of amazing insight and irony. One of my favorite observations by the author was this:

"Roose, the product of the "ultimate, secular, liberal upbringing," got the idea to go undercover after meeting a group of Liberty students while a freshman at Brown. "I had never really come into contact with conservative Christian culture," he says. "It became clear very quickly that we had almost no way to communicate with each other."

How can it be that we have no way to communicate with other human beings? Why do they have to learn our Christianese and participate in our brand of Christian consumerism before they can understand us?

Can you imagine a first century pagan having to do all of this just to find a way to communicate with followers of Jesus in Jerusalem?

This is part of why I want to destroy the Christian Subculture. It puts us on an island away from the people we are commanded to love and serve.

Read the full article (and the insightful comments below it)
HERE