Friday, April 30, 2010

WORTHLESS?




Last week I had lunch with my friend, Robert Higgins. Every Friday he and I spend an hour together and share lunch in his room at Fountain Care.

Robert is 78 years old. He has bone cancer. He is on Hospice Care now.

When I first met him he was homeless. The manager of the motel in Santa Ana where we've been serving introduced me to Robert. When Pete, the manager, called me on my cell phone about a year and a half ago he asked if our house church could help Robert get into one of the rooms at the motel on a regular basis. Robert was sick and, at the time, it was winter and a cold rain had settled over Orange County. Pete told me, "Keith, if I send him back out in this weather I'm afraid he won't live through the night."

So, we helped Robert to get into the motel room. I visited him now and again to check up on him and make sure he was taken care of. This was before we knew about his bone cancer.

Over the last year or so I've learned a little about Robert's life growing up. I've listened to him share stories about his own mistakes with his children and his marriage. I've watched him share about his failures and his regrets with tears in his eyes.

One thing about Robert that seems to keep recurring is his low self esteem. He's always talking to me about how he's not worth anything and how no one in his life ever saw much good in him.

Last Friday, as we shared lunch together, Robert made me laugh out loud. He was talking to me about his time on the street and how his other homeless friends would chide him for not carrying a sign - "Homeless. Will work for food." Robert refused. "They told me I needed to swallow some of my pride," he said. "I said, naw, naw, as long as I'm able to work I'm not gonna stand on a street corner and beg for money."

Robert said there was one time in his life when he did consider carrying a sign. "When I was really depresed and suicidal," he said, "I did think about making a sign and carrying it around that said, 'Homeless. Worthless. Please shoot me.'"

I confess that when Robert said that to me I laughed out loud. Actually, we both laughed pretty hard about that, but I knew what he was telling me came from a place of real pain in his heart.

Slowly, over the last several months, I've been able to encourage Robert about his worth. I've reminded him that God has placed a large group of people around him who really love him and value him. "It's like God has put a spotlight on you, Robert. People just seem to pick you out of the crowd and give you special attention," I said. Robert's eyes filled with tears and he nodded. "You're right," he said. "About the last year, once I met you and Pete, it's like you said, people seem to pick me out of the crowd and show me special attention."

I waited until Robert composed himself and then I said, "That's God showing you that He loves you, Robert. He's put all these people in your life to let you know He sees you and He loves you. He hasn't forgotten you."

Still, I know that Robert hasn't fully let go of his feelings of worthlessness yet. He's beginning to accept that his life has value, but there are still years of verbal abuse and manipulation for his heart to overcome.

When I was young I used to collect comic books. I would read them with gloves on and seal them in plastic bags to preserve their value. One day my Dad said something to me that I'll never forget. We were talking about how one of the comics I owned was valued at $200. He smiled and said, "Son, that comic is only worth $200 if you can find some chump who's got the money and is willing to give it to you."

It's true. It doesn't matter what price tag someone puts on an item. The real value of that item is in what someone is willing to pay for it.

"For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect." - 1 Peter 1:18-19

What price was Jesus willing to pay for you to be with Him? How much worth do you have to Him? According to His Word, you are worth suffering for, and bleeding for, and dieing for.

"You are not your own; you were bought at a price." - 1 Cor 6:19-20

In God's eyes, you are not worthless. You are not stupid. You are not a failure. You are precious beyond measure to the Creator of the Universe and He would rather die than be without you.

"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" - 1 John 3:1

-kg

Thursday, April 29, 2010

GOD DOES NOT "USE" PEOPLE

I hear people ask God to use them all the time, and I know what they mean to say, but I have to make it clear that God never uses us. He does partner with us in the work of the Kingdom. He does invite us to serve others and to show love to those who have never seen what real love is. There's plenty of opportunity for you and I to cooperate with the work that God is already doing in the world today. But, we are not tools that God uses to accomplish a goal.

Where does this phrase come from, anyway? I've scoured the scriptures and I cannot find anywhere where a prophet or apostle, or anyone else, ever said anything about how God "uses" His people.

What we do see is an invitation to follow the example that Jesus left us. We're compelled by the love of Christ to submit ourselves to Him as a living sacrifice. We're even commanded to spur one another on to do good works and to use our God-given gifts to build up our brothers and sisters in the Church.

Jesus said that his Father was always at work and that he only did what he saw the Father doing. We're invited to take part in that same work of the Kingdom. But, I don't see where we are asked to let God use us like puppets, or objects.

Maybe I'm just playing word games here. Or maybe I've spent too much time listening to friends tell me about how they were "used" by the people they were supposed to be able to trust completely. I don't know.

Maybe this language about God "using" us is part of why so many in the Church find it impossible to fully trust God? Perhaps it's the idea that God is so much bigger than we are and so much more powerful. He is all-powerful and we are weak, empty and foolish.

Yet, that's what Jesus is doing on the cross when he lays down and submits himself to us. In effect, Jesus is saying, "Look. This is what I am really like. Not only will I not use my power to abuse you, I will lay aside my power and allow you to abuse me."

If our God is able to take our pain and punishment upon Himself and turn our own insecurities and sin into the fuel for our salvation, I think this is a God we can trust completely.

Words matter. What we say, and the terms we use to describe our faith are especially powerful and revealing. I have the same reaction whenever someone refers to a passage in the Bible as a "story". Many of us talk about scripture this way, but for the record, the Bible is a book of history. it is not a story book.

Words are revealing. For example, if we call "Church" something with four walls, or that thing we do on Sunday morning, then we really do not understand what the word "Church" means at all. If we say that the leader of our church is "Pastor Smith", then we don't actually consider that Jesus is the leader of our church.

At any rate, when it comes to saying that God uses us, I guess I'd love for us to be a little more specific and exact in our language. I'd love for us to find new ways to talk to one another about how wonderful it is that we have the privelege of cooperating with the ongoing ministry of Jesus. Certainly we can find better ways of communicating to the world about what it means to serve others without suggesting that we are mindless, spineless puppets of God.

"You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name." - Jesus (John 15:14-16)

**
kg

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

THE HEART OF JESUS CONFERENCE VIDEO

This was my very first compassion ministry conference with David Ruis way back when. The video is timeless, however and it brought tears to my eyes to see so many dear people we used to serve - some of whom have gone on to be with the Lord. Others we're still serving, but they've grown a lot older since this was made. "We love you, Lord. We love you. We love you. Can you hear us?"
video

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

WORD OF GOD SPEAK

The Spirit of God speaks to every believer:

“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.” (John 16: 13-14)

“'In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.” – (Acts 2:17-18)


The Spirit of God empowers the whole Body of Christ for ministry:

“As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.” – (1 John 2:27)

"I myself am convinced, my brethren, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another." - (Romans 15:14)

"For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged". - (1 Corinthians 14:31)


The people of God are the members of the holy priesthood:

"As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him— 5you also, like living stones, being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." – (1 Peter 2:4-5)

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. - (1 Peter 2:9-10)

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)

"Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.

"The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Now the body is not made up of one part but of many." - (1 Cor 12:7-14)


The Body is capable of ministering to one another:

"What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church." - (1 Cor 14:26)

The Body is capable of handling discipline herself from within:

"If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector." - Jesus (Matthew 18:15-17)

"If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church!" - (1 Cor 6:1-4)

Jesus commanded His Apostles not to pattern the church after the hierarchy of the pagans, or of the Jews:

"Jesus called them together and said, "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." – (Mark 10:42-45.

"But you are not to be called 'Rabbi,' for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth 'father,' for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called 'teacher,' for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted."- (Matthew 23:8-12)


The Apostles affirmed this command from Jesus:
"Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, because it is by faith you stand firm." - (2 Cor.1:24)

"To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ's sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away." – 1 Peter 5:1-4

In the book of Romans Paul exhorts the community of believers to:

"be devoted to one another" - Romans 12:10

"honor one another" - Romans 12:10

"live in harmony with one another" - Romans 12:16)

"love one another" - Romans 13:8

"edify one another" - Romans 14:19

"accept one another" - Romans 15:7

"instruct one another" - Romans 15:14

"greet one another" - Romans 16:16

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

HEARING THE VOICE OF JESUS

In the Gospel of John, Jesus tells his disciples that he is the good shepherd and that his sheep hear his voice and follow him, (ch. 10, v.1-27). In addition, he also says that they will not listen to others because they have discernment to recognize his voice and obey his teachings.

He also affirms, at the end of his ministry, that the Holy Spirit would come and speak to us and teach us.

“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.” John 16: 13-14

In the book of Acts, at the birth of the Church on the day of Pentecost, Peter affirms that the pouring out of the Spirit which Jesus promised was also a fulfillment of the prophecy in Joel which said,

“'In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.” – Acts 2:17-18

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 who was in Christ was automatically ordained into the ministry of Jesus Christ, and 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

Throughout the New Testament, Paul and the other disciples affirm this ongoing dialog between Jesus and His people.

“As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.” – 1 John 2:27

Paul says, "I myself am convinced, my brethren, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another." - Romans 15:14

"For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged". - 1 Corinthians 14:31

What I find fascinating is that, according to Jesus and the Apostles, every believer is capable of hearing the voice of God, and yet, in today’s modern church we typically find that only one, or perhaps a few, are expected to hear God’s voice and communicate His will to the Body.

Why is that?

Partly because we have created a false Clergy/Laity divide which falsely teaches (or at least models) the idea that only those who have attended seminary and/or graduated from Bible College are capable of hearing God’s voice or instructing the Body.

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.”

Essentially, in spite of the fact that the veil in the temple was torn in two “at that moment” when Christ said “It is finished” we have virtually re-sewn the veil and re-instituted our own levitical priesthood system.

Like the people of Israel in the days of King Saul, we want “a king like all the other nations have” – someone to rule over us and mediate for us. Like them, we have rejected God as our King and our Lord and have elected representatives who will listen to His voice in our stead.

Clearly, the New Testament reveals that Jesus, by His blood, purchased for us the right to become “a kingdom of priests to serve God” (Revelations 1:6) and also in chapter 5:

"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

Numerous New Testament scholars affirm that this man-made Clergy/Laity distinction came much later in the historical church and created a false hierarchy within.

“This (clergy/laity) structure does not correspond to what Jesus did and taught. Consequently it has not had a good effect in the history of the Church ...Among his disciples Jesus did not want any distinction of class or rank...In contradiction to this instruction of Jesus, a “hierarchy,” a “sacred authority,” was nevertheless formed in the third century - Herbert Haag, Upstairs, Downstairs: Did Jesus Want a Two-Class Church?, Crossroad, 1997, p.109.

"Our survey has shown us that no cultic priesthood is to be found in the New Testament. Yet we wound up importing Old Testament Levitical forms and imposing them on Christian ministry . . . Nevertheless in practice there is no denying that there has historically been a gathering into one person and his office what were formerly the gifts of many . . .[This practice] goes astray, of course, when it translates to mean that only ordination gives competence, authority, and the right of professional governance. It goes further astray when eventually all jurisdictional and administrative powers in the church come to be seen as an extension of the sacramental powers conferred at ordination. In short, there is a movement here away from the more pristine collaborative and mutual ministries of the New Testament." - William Bausch, from his book "Traditions, Tensions, Transitions in Ministry", Twenty-Third Publications, 1982, pp. 54, 30.

In spite of these man-made aberrations to God’s original intent for His New Testament Church, it’s still possible for us as the people of God to hear His voice today. Jesus promised that we, His sheep, were capable of hearing His voice. He promised to send His Holy Spirit to fill us and to reveal all truth to us, and we know that He did that – both at Pentecost and when we personally received Christ as our Lord and Savior.

So, what’s stopping us today from hearing God’s voice? Clearly, only our own lack of desire to draw near to Him and to listen. Of course, what’s also stopping us is the dominant Clergy/Laity system which forbids those designated as “laity” from sharing what we hear with our brothers and sisters. The life and ministry of the Body to “one another” is strangled by this man-made, unbiblical system.

Still, if there’s one thing I am convinced of, it is this: God is fully capable of speaking His will to His people. He has promised us that we – directly – can hear His voice without the need for any mediator between God and us. We can hear God. He can speak to us and we can know His voice.

May we draw near to listen to Him, and may His Bride make room for His voice to be spoken as He intended: Through the distribution of the Gifts of the Spirit, for the common good. (1 Cor 12).

If we are acquainted individually with the idea of submitting ourselves daily to Christ as Lord and Savior, let us carry that into our gatherings together and submit together to Him as our Head, our Lord and let Him lead our meeting and speak to us as we wait on Him.

If we truly believe that Christ is made manifest in our presence at the Lord’s table, and if we seriously believe that Christ is alive in each of us, then let us demonstrate this by acting as we would if Jesus were among us in the flesh. Let us keep silent and let Him speak and lead His people.

-kg

Monday, April 05, 2010

OUR EASTER ANGEL

Last night, around 9:45pm, God sent a runaway teenage girl to our front door. Her name was Angelica. She had run away from a girl's home called CRF, which, we eventually learned, is just around the corner and down the block from our house.

Angelica broke through a screened window and cut her face as she tripped on the curb in her escape. She started running blindly through the neighborhood, unsure of where to go next. Because she is a christian girl, she started praying for God to help her and tell her where to go.

She ended up knocking on our neighbor's house in our cul-de-sac. Tammy came to the door and the first thing Angelica said was, "Please don't call the police". Seeing this scared, out of breath young girl on her doorstep with blood on her face, she decided to get some help. Tammy said, "I know a pastor and his wife down the street. They'll know what to do."

That's when they knocked on our door. We had just put our boys to bed and had settled down after a hellish week of airport drama, sickness, and non-stop Holy Week prepartions for Passover Seder, Good Friday and of course, Easter in the Park that very morning. We came to the door together and found Tammy and Angelica on our doorstep.

Tammy said to Angelica, "I know you don't me, but I trust these people with my heart and I know that they will take care of you, ok?" She knodded and repeated, "Please just don't call the police, ok?"

After Tammy left we brought Angelica inside and sat her down on the sofa. Wendy and I sat on the floor near her and just asked her to tell us her story. She was in tears a lot of the time, but eventually she got her story out. At first, she wanted us to drive her to her Mom's house in Anaheim. "What's the phone number?" my wife asked. She didn't know the number, she only knew the address.

I took a second to let that sink in. This teenage girl was in a stranger's house on Easter Sunday night. She had nowhere to go. No friends to call on. Even her own Mother, just a few miles away, could offer her no comfort. My heart broke for her.

"Angie?," I said. "I don't know your situation. But I'm guessing that your Mom's house is probably not a very safe place for you. Is it?" She hung her head and nodded. "You're right," she said.

I asked her to consider returning to the CRF home, since she had affirmed that the people there were really nice and very supportive of her. She completely refused to go back.

"What do you want to do?" I asked.

"I want to go back to Orangewood Children's Home," she said. She had stayed there previous to being at CRF.

"I can't just drive you over there and drop you off, can I?" She shook her head.

"My social worker said she can help me on Tuesday," she said.

"But by Tuesday everyone is going to know you ran away, including your social worker," I said. "By then, they won't take you to Orangewood, they'll take you back to CRF, or maybe to Juvenile Hall for running away."

"Can I just stay here?" she asked.

"Sure, you can stay here. But the police are going to be looking for you. People are going to be worried about you. And you won't get to go back to Orangewood if you're a runaway."

We tried calling her social worker, but she didn't answer. We got a recording that said she would be back in the office on Tuesday.

So, we decided to pray for wisdom. We bowed our heads and we asked God to honor His promise that if anyone lacks wisdom they can ask Him. So, we did. We confessed that we didn't know what to do to help Angelica, but that we knew that God had a plan that was the best for her life. We prayed and then we waited.

God was faithful. He gave us the idea to call Orangewood Children's Home, where she used to live. Even though it was 10pm on Easter Sunday evening, we got a live person on the phone.

I explained that I was a pastor in Orange who was trying to help a runaway girl. The woman on the phone, Shelly, asked me the name of the girl. When I gave her the name and her date of birth, Shelly said, "Oh, I know Angelica! Can I talk to her?" I handed the phone to her and the two of them talked for about ten minutes. From our end of the conversation I could hear Angelica saying, "I'll just run away again.... Then just send me to Juvie(Juvenile Hall)....I just want to come back to Orangewood again...please?"

Eventually, Angelica and Shelly made a deal. Angelica promised to go back to CRF for one more night and Shelly promised that she would find a way to get her back to Orangewood on Monday. They agreed and Angelica handed me back my phone.

Shelly asked permission to give my phone number to the people at CRF so they could come and pick her up. We were more than happy to do that. In five more minutes a woman from CRF called, got directions to our house and sent a van to pick her up.

We waited outside with Angelica until the van came and got to meet Laura, the girl from CRF, who was very sweet and not much older than Angelica herself. They hugged each other and Laura said, "We forgive you. It's ok."

Before they left, Wendy and I gave Angelica our phone number and asked if she would keep us up to date on what happened next. We also said that we would come visit her sometime too.

As the van drove away and we turned to walk back into our house we couldn't help but feel that God had allowed us to play a part in His rescue of this young girl from danger. If she had come to another house, or if she had been picked up by the police, it could have been a lot worse for her. I know we'll see her again and talk to her very soon. She's left a permanent mark on our hearts.

One thing we promised Angelica was that we would keep her in our prayers, and that our house church family would be praying for her too. If you would take the time to pray for Angelica I know she would appreciate that very much.

Pray that God would work out His perfect plan for this young girl and that he would continue to keep her safe.

Hopefully, God will give us good news to share about her in the next few days.

Blessings!

Sunday, April 04, 2010

RISEN?

We as Christians have an unusual fascination with the death of Jesus. I know that what Jesus did for us, on the cross, is an astounding act of love and sacrifice. Without this, none of us would have any hope, and yet Paul the Apostle declares that, "..if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins." (I Cor.15:17)

I wonder if our fascination with his death has something to do psychologically with our view of what it means to be a Christian?

For instance, the modern church, especially in America, can't seem to go on enough about the death of Jesus. It seems that all the television preachers can talk about is the fact that, "Jesus died on the cross for your sins".

When a Christian person is interviewed on television or stands to talk about Jesus, inevitably the only thing they can find to say is that, "Jesus loves you and he died on the cross for your sins".

At times it all starts to sound monotonous and cliche. I can almost hear the lost saying, "So what?"

The message we send most loudly to the world is the idea that Jesus died.

Even the most prominent media message in our lifetime, Mel Gibson's mega-evangelistic "Passion Of The Christ", which was dubbed "The Greatest Evangelical Message in Two Thousand Years", was all about the death of Jesus. The resurrection scene at the end was so vague and quick that most of us, even those of us who know the story, were left going, "Huh? What just happened?"

At Easter this overt focus on the death of Jesus is most noticeable. For me, when we spend those two weeks before and after Easter talking about the irrefutable fact of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, it almost seems strange. Like, "Oh yeah! He DID rise from the dead, didn't he?", as if this most historically provable event is something we need to be reminded of, but only once a year.

This has got me thinking. Why is it that we focus so much on the death of Jesus and very little on the resurrection of Jesus? I mean, why isn't the resurrection the main thing we talk about? Why don't we go around proclaiming that "Jesus is Risen!" and argue with people about the fact that there's no refuting the fact of Easter?

Here's my theory:

We, the Church, are the Body of Christ. We are the physical representation of Jesus in the world today, and I think we're more comfortable being the "Body at Rest" than the "Body in Motion".

As the Body of Jesus, we're more comfortable in the dark of the tomb, wrapped in our own shroud, meditating on this death of our Lord, with the stone rolled shut across the door.

We ignore that what we are called to do, as the living Body of Jesus, is to go out and proclaim, demonstrate and testify with our lives the awesome miracle that "Jesus is Alive!" and that we are living examples of this fact.

What I long for is the day when we are bold enough to declare, as one people, with one voice, that Jesus is Alive, and that our conduct in the world would bear witness to this fact.

Our inactivity, our apathy, our aversion to serve others and live out the compassion of Jesus, sadly proclaims that Jesus is dead.

It's when we live for Him, when we continue to love the way He did, when our lives are in sync with His, that we proclaim by our actions that, yes, indeed, Jesus is really alive!

Is Jesus really alive? Has He really come to live in your life? And how would anyone know this to be true if you never actually demonstrated the life and love and ministry of Jesus in your own life?

Do we, as individual followers of Jesus, feel safer within the quiet of the tomb? Or are we willing, even eager, to roll away the stone and begin to live the truth of the power of the Gospel?

If we, the Body of Jesus, do not act as a living Jesus would, within this world, loving those He loved, sharing with those He spent time with, continuing His ministry of transformation, then we do not demonstrate that Jesus is alive, we simply testify that He has died.

What we must do is to wake ourselves from our slumber, shake off the apathy, and begin to proclaim, with our own lives, that Jesus is truly alive.

"I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing."- John 14:12

"Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did."- 1 John 2:6

He is Risen! He is Risen indeed!

Peace,
Keith
www.keithgiles.com

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Originally sent to the faithful subscribers of the [subversive underground] newsletter on Monday, March 20, 2006

Friday, April 02, 2010

JESUS IN THE PASSOVER

Last night our house church family observed the Passover Seder dinner together. This is our third time to gather this way and, each time, I am touched and on the edge of tears to see how much God loves us.

At the beginning of the dinner, a woman lights the candles and sings a blessing. Without her, the story of our redemption cannot be told. Like Mary, the mother of Jesus, she brings the light into the world and shares it with all of us.

"And Jesus said, 'I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'" (John 8:12)

First, three matzahs are placed in one single pouch. Early on in the dinner, the middle matzah is broken and one half is wrapped in a cloth and hidden. Later on, a child will find the "affikomen" (a greek word meaning, "that which comes last"). This final piece - taken from the "bread of affliction" is shared by all at the very end.

Early on in the meal, we dip our matzah into horseradish and charoset (a sweet mixture of honey and nuts). This symbolizes how our bitter afflictions can be sweetened by our hope in God. It's also at this point in the passover that Jesus identified Judas as the betrayer, saying:

"One of you shall betray me." Peter motioned to John to ask who he was. Jesus answered, "He it is, to whom I shall give a sop." After he dipped sop, Judas left to betray him." (John 3:21-30)

What I find interesting is that, during the meal, everyone dips the sop together and eats it. Very likely the disciples considered that it could be any one of them who would betray Jesus. Most especially, Peter might have feared that it was him due to the fact that Jesus rebukes him and prophesies that Peter will deny him three times before the cock crows. This might explain Peter's dogged determination to stay with Jesus throughout the night, and even to cut off the soldier's ear with the sword.

Another fascinating aspect of the Passover is the inclusion of the prophet of Elijah. There is a cup poured for him, and a place set at the table for Elijah. At one point, a child goes to the door to see if he will return and announce the coming Messiah. In Malachi 4:5 it says that the prophet Elijah will be sent before "the great and terrible day of the Lord." Jesus said of John the Baptist, "...this is Elijah" (Matthew 11:14).

If we read the prophecy in Malachi about the return of Elijah to prepare the way for the Messiah we find this:

"See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse." - Malachi 4:5-6)

When the Angel of the Lord appears to Zechariah (the father of John the Baptist) he repeats this same promise:

"But the angel said to him: "Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John...Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." - (Luke 1:13-16-17)

Jesus also affirms that John the Baptist is the fulfillment of the Elijah prophecy saying, "Indeed, if you are willing to accept it, he (John) is Elijah, whose coming was predicted." - (Matthew 11:14)

This is a serious revelation for me, because it suggests that the "Day of the Lord" may have been fully realized in the first coming of Christ (although I leave room for the second coming version as well). However, when the Angel of the Lord refers back to the prophecy in Malachi, he is affirming that the coming of Elijah - in the form of John the Baptist - is a fulfillment of that same Malachi promise, which appears to speak of what we would normally refer to as an "end times" event, or a final judgement, not simply a messianic precursor.

It starts to make me wonder in what ways Jesus fulfilled the "Day of the Lord" prophecies in his first coming. He most certainly came to judge the Jewish leaders of the day, (the Pharisees, Scribes and Sadduccees), and his crucifixion resulted in the tearing of the temple veil, and soon after the temple in Jerusalem was utterly destroyed...and remains so to this very day.

At the final cup, "The Cup of Praise", it is a tradition to sing the Hallel (Psalms 113-118). This is most likely the very same hymn that the disciples sang (Matt 26:30) as they left the passover table. The song says, "The stone which the builders refused is become the head of the corner...it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it." (Psalm 118:22-24)

It was this fourth cup with Jesus refused to drink from, saying, "I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the Kingdom of God." (Mark 14:35)

Afer the singing, Jesus and his disciples left the city and went to the Mount of Olives. It was dictated by tradition that the Atonement Lamb's body was to be offered up to God outside the city walls (Hebrews 13:11-14).

At 3pm on Good Friday, the shofar was blown to announce that the lamb was being sacrificed. It was also the moment at which Jesus declared, "It is Finished" and the veil in the temple was ripped in two.

I cannot express to you how amazing it is to me that God predicted all of this, thousands of years in advance, and instituted the Passover Seder to remind the Jews of His plan. It blows my mind that God fulfilled all of this on very exact day, even the same hour of the day, that He ordained so long ago.

Tonight our house church family will observe Good Friday with a meditative service. I cannot wait.

-kg
**
Details on the Good Friday service are
HERE

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Knowing VS Doing

I love the scripture where Jesus washes his disciples feet. It says in John 13 that he wanted to "show them the fullness of his love", and so he put on the clothes of a slave. That is what Jesus is doing when it says that he took off his outer garment and wrapped a towel around his waste. Jesus was wearing the clothing of a slave, and he was also on his knees performing the work of a slave.

This work of washing someone's feet was a dirty job. At this time in history, if you were a Jew and you had a Jewish servant and a Gentile servant, you would never ask your Jewish slave to wash feet. If you did, that slave would know that he was being punished. It was the lowest of the lows to wash feet.

This is why Peter protests. He is shocked and flabbergasted that Jesus is playing the role of a slave. He tries to dissuade Jesus from going through with this audacious act of service. Yet, Jesus needs to show his disciples "the fullness of his love" and up to this point, his greatest act of love for them is to humble himself to the very lowest place among them and to serve them in this way.

Afterwards, Jesus puts his regular clothes back on and sits down. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asks. “Now that I have washed your feet, you also should was one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” He ends by saying, “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”

This statement is most revealing. Jesus wants his disciples to not only understand what He has done for them, and not only to experience the fullness of his love individually. He also wants them to realize that their blessing will come when they put his words into practice.

Jesus wants us to understand that we are not blessed because we know something. We are only blessed when we do the things we know.

We cannot know that God has commanded us to have an open-hand to the poor and then expect that we will be blessed or that we will grow in Christ because we have the understanding. We have to put the words of Jesus into action if we hope to reap the benefits.

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,” and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6)