Saturday, September 28, 2013
Jesus contrasts His ministry and teaching with the Teachers of the Law. Are we under the Law of Moses or the Law of Christ?
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
From the earliest days of our house church gatherings we have always encouraged everyone to share a testimony of what God has done in their life, or to talk about what God is teaching them, or share from scripture what they’re learning in their daily walk with Christ.
Because we’ve rejected the modern practice of elevating a pastor or teacher above the rest of the Body, the issue of women operating within their gifting as members of the priesthood has never been an issue for any of us.
Within the Organic Church movement the emphasis is on Christ being our Leader, therefore everyone else is treated as an equal within the Body. Teaching is not seen as "exercising authority over" anyone, so the question of whether or not a woman can teach in that context has never been a problem for us.
Our goal has been to live out of the reality of the priesthood of every believer found throughout the New Testament. As Peter said at Pentecost, the pouring out of the Holy Spirit was a fulfillment of God’s promise to empower the Church, and that promise was made to “all people,” including “sons and daughters” (Acts 2:17). Quoting from the prophet Joel, Peter went on to say:
“Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.” (Acts 2:18)
From the beginning, God’s intention was that women and men together would equally receive the outpouring and empowering of the Holy Spirit.
Women are included among those who the New Testament authors refer to as “a holy priesthood”:
“You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” ( 1 Peter 2:5)
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” ( 1 Peter 2:9)
“And has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.” (Revelation 1:6)
“You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:10)
“The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.” (Revelation 20:6)
Therefore, women in the New Testament church are not only allowed to behave as priests, but they are highly encouraged to do so. Why? Because the health and well-being of the Church is dependent upon one very important practice: the mutual sharing and serving of every single person in the Body of Christ. (See 1 Cor.12)
Without this practice of operating as organs that support and strengthen one another, we cannot rightly call ourselves the Body of Christ, can we?
We don’t believe so.
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Guest post by Wendy Giles
During my recent trip to Tennessee my mother wanted very much to bless me with something beautiful. As we were in a gift shop during a visit to a cave with a large underground lake we came across some sun catchers. Some were very pretty. They had ones with pansies (my favorite flower), and some with lighthouses (I love the ocean) among their choices.
My biggest desire was just to spend time with my family, not to receive a souvenir. But my parents wanted so much to bless us, not realizing that they, themselves, were already the blessing I wanted most.
Today, I have a sun catcher, but it isn’t either of the two I looked at with my mother. It’s made of plastic, with uneven paint, made by a five year old girl who lives on our street. She left it on our front porch with this note:
I made you a Jesus thing and I’d like you to have it.
This sweet little girl blessed my heart so much. We just finished (over the summer) a Kids Club for the children on our street. She came and heard about Jesus here in our home. He blessed her (and me) enough to place on her heart the desire to give me a gift.
It amazes me that with Jesus we see a common thread woven through the hearts and lives of His followers – both young and old – the desire to be a blessing.
Sierra, like my Mom, wanted to give me something that would be a blessing. She, like my Mom, is already a precious blessing to my heart. The sun catcher is simply a reminder of the sweet gift I have been given.
I am blessed to be so loved.
Monday, September 16, 2013
I’m currently in the research phase of writing my next book. That means I’m doing a lot of reading and studying and thinking about the topic before I eventually sit down to put my own thoughts down on paper.
This weekend as I was immersed in this process, I discovered something new and I had to share it with all of you here on my blog.
Many of us are familiar with Jesus’ statement :
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
Now, I’ve always read that verse as if Jesus was saying, “Are you tired? Are you stressed out? Come to me and I’ll give you the peace you’re searching for.”
While this is still a valid reading of that verse, I discovered something even deeper was going on that I wasn’t aware of until now.
Jesus had a lot to say about the teachers of the Law, and almost none of it was good. His main criticism of them was this:
"(The teachers of the law) tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them." (Matthew 23:4)
"Jesus replied, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them" (Luke 11:46)
See, Jesus was pointing out that the teachers of the Law burdened people with endless rules and added pressure to perform in order to be accepted by God. Keep in mind that these same teachers of the Law were unable to keep these rules themselves, and they also refused to help anyone else keep the Law.
So, when Jesus turns and says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me…and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light”, He is contrasting the Law of Moses with His Law (the Law of Christ).
This is significant for several reasons. One, because Jesus is giving people a choice. They can continue to try and follow the Law of Moses – which no one can keep. Or, they can take off that yoke and put on the one He offers which is easy and light.
This is a radical teaching. Jesus is offering people an opportunity to find peace, and to please God, without jumping through the hoops imposed by the Law of Moses. The Apostles expressed this same idea when they said:
"Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear?" (Acts 15:10)
But we’re not done yet. The second thing I realized was that Jesus’ offer to take on His yoke is not about following an easier set of rules. In fact, if anything, the Law of Christ is even more difficult to keep. Why? Because Jesus raised the bar on the Law of Moses by declaring that even our thoughts about sinful actions were equal to committing those acts.
“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.” (Matthew 5:21-22)
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus contrasts the Law of Moses (“thou shalt not murder”) with His Law which says, “If you are angry with your brother you will be judged.” He also says that if you look at a woman to lust after her it’s the same as committing adultery with her, and so on. Yet, Jesus still maintains that His yoke is easier, not harder, than the yoke of Moses. How can this be?
Here’s the key. Earlier in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says something that, at first, sounds like bad news:
"For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:20)
Wait…what? My righteousness must be greater than those Pharisees? How can that make things easier for me? That sounds more than impossible, especially if those guys can’t even keep the Law themselves.
And that’s the point. See, while the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law placed burdens on people that they themselves couldn’t carry, Jesus only expects us to do the things that He has already done demonstrated are possible to accomplish, (i.e. – Loving our enemies, turning the other cheek, forgiving those who persecute us, etc.). And while the Pharisees wouldn’t lift a finger to help people keep the Law of Moses, Jesus promises us that if we will remain in Him, He will empower us to bear good fruit and keep His Law of Love.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
See, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were victims of a grave misunderstanding. They thought, “If we do enough righteous things, we will become righteous.” That’s insane. Jesus pointed this out by saying:
“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn bushes, or grapes from briers. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of." (Luke 6:43-45)
In essence, the idea is this: Trying to produce good fruit will never make you a good tree. But, if you are a good tree you will naturally bear good fruit.
This is the major difference between the Law of Moses and the Law of Christ: Jesus makes us into “Good Trees” that naturally bear good fruit. That’s why it’s so easy to keep His Law of Love. As long as we remain in Christ, who is Love, then we will be filled with His Love and we will bear good fruit that pleases Him.
I’ll end with one more verse, this time from the Apostle John who said:
"And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister." - (1 John 4:21)
"In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome..." (1 John 5:3)
Keep in mind, the commands John refers to here are not the commands of the Old Covenant, but the New Command of Jesus that we love another. This command, unlike the Law of Moses, is “not burdensome” because Jesus is the vine and divine love flows through him like rivers of living water. All that matters is being grafted into that vine of life and endless love. The rest, is easy.
Thursday, September 12, 2013
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Just in case you've not heard, I've now the managing editor of a brand new online magazine called "House2House Magazine".
The online resource features great articles on topics relevant to those in the organic and house church movement.
Our contributors include authors and teachers like, Frank Viola, Milt Rodriquez, Felicity Dale, Alan Knox, Jon Zens, Ross Rohde, Neil Cole, Miguel Labrador, John White and several others.
I'm also very proud to say that we're featuring a lot of great bloggers like Karen Yates, Katie Driver, Kathleen Ward, Josh Lawson, Lindsay Hamby, Scott Whaley, Erin McCrum and yes, even me.
The editor-in-chief is Ken Eastburn who is also the founder of The Well house church here in Orange County, and the Director of House2House Ministries, and my friend.
Some of the photography was graciously donated by Ken Stiller at Heavenly Perspective Photography.
My friend Elim Feliciano helped design the logo and the website.
What more can I say? It's awesome. Be sure to check it out daily for new articles and great insights.
Visit House2HouseMagazine.com here>
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
To be a Christian Pacifist doesn't mean you do nothing. In fact, it almost certainly means that you will have to die in the process of following Jesus into radical enemy-love. Listen as Keith Giles explores the practicality of peace and non-violence from a Kingdom perspective.
Wednesday, September 04, 2013
I had an interesting dream the other night that was a combination of philosophy, theology and mathematics. I’ll do my best to communicate this in blog form but it might be something that works better as a live presentation or dialog. Let me know if this makes sense or not.
The philosopher Xeno had a theory which worked on paper (in theory) but was not possible to recreate in the real world. In essence, Xeno proved mathematically that it was impossible for any object to travel from point A to point B. In his example it was an arrow.
Xeno’s theory worked like this:
Before an arrow can travel the distance to the target, it must first travel half that distance. But before it can travel the half distance it has to first travel half of that distance also. In short, as each distance is cut in half, Xeno demonstrates that there is no measurement of distance that cannot be divided in half. Therefore, you’d have an infinite series of points that need to be crossed in order for the arrow to travel from the bow to the target. (Google “Xeno’s Arrow” if you need help understanding this concept).
This theory is true mathematically, but to prove it false all you have to do is to fire the arrow and hit the target. Theorem refuted.
But not so fast. What Xeno actually proved is that there are some concepts which are true (actual infinites) but that do not exist in the physical reality we all live in. Xeno actually proved several things:
First, that actual infinites do exist (otherwise math would not work).
Second, that there are things that exist (because we can prove them mathematically or otherwise) but that do not exist in this world. Therefore there is a world outside of this one where these concepts or truths do exist.
Thirdly, that since actual infinites do not exist in the physical reality, our universe is not infinite. (This means that our universe had an actual beginning and is not eternal).
The simplest way to express Xeno’s arrow is to draw a number line. This is where you have a line with zero in the center which counts upward from positive one leading towards infinity on the right, and counting backward from negative one towards infinity on the left. The end of each line has an arrow which indicates that the numbers (both positive and negative) extend outward into infinity.
This number line exists on the page, and it exists theoretically in mathematics, but it does not exist in our actual world. In other words, you could not ever hand me an actual number line in the real world. No one can actually produce one, even though it can be proven to exist theoretically.
With me so far? Ok, here’s where I’m going to get theological.
If we think of Infinity as God, then we can look at this from two different perspectives – Either this proves that God exists or it proves that God does not exist.
For example, if you take the perspective that God does not exist then you might be tempted to say that since an actual Infinite cannot exist in this reality (or Universe) then God does not exist. In other words, I can demonstrate on paper that an actual Infinite exists mathematically, but I could also draw a Leprechaun on a piece of paper and that wouldn't prove that they are real.
However, you could also take the perspective that God does not exist in this physical reality (or is not limited to or limited by this reality) but that His existence can be proven mathematically (since without this concept of an actual Infinite our mathematical calculations would not be true).
Now, let’s mentally turn our number line from left to right into an up and down line, with the negative line going up into heaven and the positive line pointing down towards the Earth. (There’s a reason why I don’t turn it the other way but I’ll explain that in a moment).
If we think of the Spiritual realm as being the negative infinite side of our number line and the positive infinite side as physical reality, then I have a theological thought to share.
When the Apostle’s Paul and John were talking about the incarnation of Jesus, they were doing math. (Stay with me here).
John says in his Gospel (see chapter one of John) that “In the beginning was the Word (that’s Jesus) and the Word was with God [that is an actual infinite], and the Word was God [or, Jesus was equal to infinity]…and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” [And the question is, “How?”]
Paul says this in Philippians:
“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ, Jesus, who, being in very nature God, [that is, being equal to Infinity] did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing [or, Jesus became Zero] by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness [that is, became a positive one on the number line.]”
Jesus was equal to Infinity (or God), and we already know that our reality cannot contain an actual Infinite object, or being. Therefore, the only way for God (the actual Infinite) to approach the positive reality was to empty Himself of Infinity and become Zero.
Jesus emptied Himself of Infinity to become zero and by His own admission Jesus could do nothing on His own, but only what He saw the Father doing. [See John 5:19; 5:30; 12:49-50; 14:24; 14:31]
Here’s where it gets tricky. Zero does exist in our reality. It is possible to create an object which contains an absolute vacuum and is therefore, literally, full of nothing, or zero.
Unless of course you want to argue that even that vacuum isn’t full of nothing because space is something. In fact, you’d be right about that since at the subatomic level, every atom is 99 percent empty space. So, even solid objects are literally full of (mostly) nothing.
I’m not sure if that makes any sense to anyone other than myself, but it was the idea that woke me up this morning about 3 a.m. and I had to write it down.
Love to hear your thoughts about this if you have any.
Tuesday, September 03, 2013
Christians have a unique problem. They know some verses of scripture so well that they can’t see clearly what it says.
For example, the Lord’s Prayer. Even non-Christians I know can recite the words, “Our Father, who is in Heaven; Hallowed be your Name. Your kingdom come, your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread…” etc.
But repeating the words from memory isn’t the same as understanding what is being said. The familiarity we have with the passage can actually become a barrier that prevents us from really seeing and receiving the truth that Jesus wants us to practice.
So, let’s try to see this passage (Luke 11) through new eyes.
First, His disciples see that He is praying and then they ask Him to teach them how to pray. This alone is surprising because most of the time the disciples are asking selfishly to be the greatest, or to sit at his right hand, etc. Here, they actually ask Jesus to teach them to pray the way He does.
So, in Luke chapter 11, Jesus begins his teaching by instructing us to remember that God is our “Abba” or “Daddy.”
What an astonishing way to begin. Instead of using a formal title to refer to God, Jesus uses the intimate word “Abba”. Literally, He is telling us to address God as our “Papa.”
In short, He wants us to start off with the realization that God loves us dearly.
Next, he instructs us to meditate on the Holiness of God. We’re commanded to pray that the Name of God be reverenced and held in the highest esteem, but only after we have first understood that God loves us as His children. This reminds me of the verse in 1 John which says:
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called the Children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1)
After this, Jesus asks us to pray that God’s perfect will be accomplished here and now: “Your Kingdom come.”
So far we’ve not even entered into the part where we ask God for something. We’ve simply put ourselves into the right frame of mind by taking the time to realize that: God loves us, He is Holy, and He is in control.
Then we get to the petition part. This is where things get interesting.
Jesus tells us to pray for “Daily bread”. In other words, we’re to ask only for what we need today. Nothing extra. Nothing beyond what is necessary to survive. Just simply for “enough.”
This seems to stem from Proverbs 30:
“Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.” (Prov. 30:7-9)
Here, the idea is that we want to remain content. We want to stay continually thankful for what God has given us for today. We actually want to depend on God for everything we need.
Then, Jesus gets down to business:
“Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.” (Luke 11:4)
Our forgiveness is linked to our ability to forgive others. In Matthew Jesus takes it even further by saying:
“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matt. 6:14-15)
The essential idea here is that unforgiveness is a sin. If we are still holding on to our grudge, then we have not actually repented of our unforgiveness and our sinfulness remains. Until we forgive others, we cannot be forgiven of our sin of unforgiveness.
Finally, Jesus asks us to pray that we will not be lead into temptation.
Now, go back and read Luke 11:3-4 and you’ll notice something astounding – it’s not about you.
Notice: Jesus does NOT tell us to pray for “MY daily bread” or to “forgive MY sins” or “Lead ME not into temptation.” Instead, what does Jesus say? He instructs us to pray this way:
“Give US our daily bread…”
“Forgive US our sins…”
“Lead US not into temptation…”
This is a prayer for one another. It’s an instruction to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ. Certainly we are included in the “Us” but we are not the subject. We are only included because we are members of His Body.
The beginning of the prayer is about God – He loves us. He is Holy. He is in control.
The rest of the prayer is about community – Feed us. Forgive us. Protect us.
This is how Jesus wants us to pray. He wants us to begin by taking the time to remember who God is, and then he wants us to take the time to lift up one another because we all have physical needs, spiritual needs, and emotional needs.
After this, Jesus shares a parable about a persistent friend. The point of this, I believe, is that Jesus wants us to pray continually – but NOT in a selfish way. Instead, I think Jesus wants us to remain persistent in praying the prayer he has just taught us.
In other words, Jesus wants us to continually pray persistently this prayer about God – because we need to remind ourselves constantly that He loves us, He is Holy and He is in control. Then, Jesus wants us to pray persistently for one another – because we’re all weak and we all need to remember that our brothers and sisters need food, and forgiveness, and protection.
I think this theory is especially likely considering how Jesus ends the parable of the persistent friend in verse 8:
“I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.”
The themes of bread and “as much as you need” point us back to the earlier “daily bread” reference.
The last two points are simple. Jesus says that those who ask receive, those who seek find and those who knock open doors. Then he concludes his teaching with this:
“If you being evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give you whatever you ask for.” (v.13)
Actually, no. That is not what Jesus says. If you read the passage yourself you’ll see that what Jesus says is actually this:
“…how much more will your Father in heaven give you the Holy Spirit.” (v.13)
Why is this last part significant? Because Jesus wants us to ask for the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit leads us into all truth (John 16:13); The Spirit comforts us (John 14:6); The Spirit intercedes for us (Romans 8:27); The Spirit empowers us to follow Jesus daily (Acts 1:8; 1 Sam. 10:6); The Spirit bears fruit within us that includes “Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control.” (Gal. 5:22-23).
Want to know one other awesome thing that the Holy Spirit does for us? Check this out:
“Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.” (Galatians 4:6-7)
How cool is that? The whole thing comes full circle. Because we have the Holy Spirit within us, we are able to cry out “Abba” which is how the Lord’s prayer begins.