Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Palestine got Left Behind

First off, I would like to state that I am not anti-semetic, nor am I Palestinian. I am a simply a critical minded man trying to honor Jesus.

I am currently taking a course about the Jewish-Arab conflict in the middle east. It has covered from about 1890 through today. Most of the course has been focused on the events that have taken place in the middle east, and it has been only moderately interesting.

Today, we focused on American support for Israel. About halfway through the lecture, I found myself feeling sick to my stomach. Among many other reasons (ie. oil), perhaps the most dominating influence in American support for Zionism is ignorance.

Excuse me, let me rephrase that. Perhaps the most dominating influence in American support for Zionism is the association of the new Jewish state with American religious tradition. Many Americans Protestants see the US as God's chosen country. You can find references to the US being the New Jerusalem pretty easily in American history. In 1803, President Adams publicly showed support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Based in Old Testament ideals, we see America as our own promised land, and Americans as the new chosen people. As an extension of this, many Americans believe it is right for one chosen people to help out another chosen people. Many Americans took pride in Jews ability to reclaim the frontier, like they had done with the West. I would like to note that until very recently, I would fit right into this category.

Based mainly on my ignorance of this situation, I thought all these ideas sounded pretty great. All of that seems relatively harmless on the surface. Perhaps the most important, most "exciting", and least likely thing to be labeled as bad is the fact that Zionism is seen as fulfilling biblical prophecy. The OT speaks of Jews returning to Jerusalem and the end being ushered, the Kingdom established, and by our own Christian Tradition, Jesus returning.

Good deal, right?! Jesus coming back, the Kingdom on Earth, Hallelujah! Right?

Sort of...

A little history on Zionism. Zionism is the product of 19th century nationalist movements in Europe. Nationalism defines a nation around a certain people. Germans are people of German decent. The French are people of French decent, etc. Inherent within a Nationalist movement is a need for an "other". I am French, not blank. Many of these nationalist movements were based around the supremacy of white, protestant males. Increasingly, Jews were defined as the obligatory other (but not only Jews, but also Gypsies, peasants, etc).

As you might guess, there is something inherently evil about a nationalist movement. Defining a group of people as other, as unneeded, unwanted, or disposable is not only not "kingdom", it is the basis for genocide. Thus, the holocaust (though the leap here is rather simplified).

Increasing anti-Semitism forced Jews to seek their own national homeland. The obvious choice was Palestine. The problem? Palestinians. Through a series of what started as land purchases, then wars, the vast majority of the people Palestinian people became refugees, forced out of their homeland by war, and forced to live in extreme poverty, some still to this day.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that this entire situation is complicate and convoluted. It took an entire semester to learn all the adequate information (even then, most of it was glossed over), so to boil it all down to one blog post would be a little silly. It is not my intent to pick sides. In fact, I would like to do the exact opposite. It is easy to see (with an objective eye) that both sides have committed their fair share of atrocities, and both are certainly in the wrong on certain point. I would like to transcend sides and look at it through the eyes of Jesus.

One last historical tidbit before moving onto my point. Zionism was founded on secular, not religious, ideals. In fact, many orthodox Jews saw (and still see) Zionism as inherently heretical. The messiah was meant to lead the Jewish people back to Israel, not a secular movement.

So it was this secular Jewish movement that Protestants picked up as the fulfillment of the end times prophecies. Unfortunately, most of these Protestants take on a dispensationalist, Left Behind type view of the end times. More important than anything is to them is the fulfillment of these OT prophecies and the return of Jesus, apparently at any cost.

But does this view of the situation in Israel line up with the way Jesus views the situation? Does Jesus put his own return and the status of the Israelites higher than the Palestinian people?

I would like to propose that if there is a modern equivalent of the story of the Good Samaritan, it would probably have to be Israel and Palestine.

Did Jesus side with Israel in the story of the Good Samaritan? Does Jesus side with Palestine today?

I'd like to propose that Jesus is on all sides, especially those who are poor, widowed, orphaned, destitute (which both sides surely have plenty of). Jesus is not a nationalist, but a Kingdomist. He is all about the Kingdom, all the time. And in the Kingdom, your enemy is your neighbor and you bless those who persecute you.

So how can a movement like Zionism be the movement that brings the Kingdom of Heaven to earth? I would argue that it can't, and isn't. I would argue that it is ignorance or oversight of what the Kingdom stands for that allows for sure end times views. I would argue that Jesus doesn't pick sides, but he picks people, from both sides.

It is time that we embrace an end times world view in which Palestine isn't Left Behind, especially since Jesus doesn't leave them behind.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Importance of Being Glorious

Have you ever thought about the fact that we are Jesus' reward for enduring the cross? We being the church, we being his people, we being you and me.

Have you ever let this truth hit you deep down, let it soak in, and really let all of its implications grab hold of you? I have caught a glimpse of what this means in the last few days, and I wanted to write on it, both to firm it up in me, and to share.

As a side note, I recently bought a bible with 26 translation of the New Testament. It basically lists major variants from the KJV, but it is an amazing resource and has really opened up a lot of different verses for me.

One of this verses is John 17:24. In this passage, Jesus is essentially praying for you and me, for "all who will have faith in [him] through [the disciples] message." It is during the Last Supper sense, just before he goes off to be murdered.

The verse in the King James reads: "Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world."

When I read that verse, nothing really stands out to me. It seems like the same thing I have been hearing all my life. But when I read it in the Moffit translation, it really hit me differently.

"Father, I ask that these, your gift to me, may be beside me where I am..."

We are Jesus' gift for enduring the cross. Jesus went to the cross and died with a reward in sight, and that reward is us. We are his gift.

When I think about what the church looks like today, I can't help but be heart broken over the fact that we're a pretty crappy gift for our King. Jesus made us holy through the sacrifice of his body (Heb 10:10), but all we do is cry out "make us holy". He gave us his glory, that we would be one (John 17:22), but all we do is bicker and fight and make new denominations because we can't be one. He did it all for free, as a gift to us, not by our own works (Eph 2:8-9), but all we do is try to work and earn it.

His blood makes us holy, nothing more, nothing less. The Son of God's blood was poured out to make us holy, once and for all (Heb 10:14), there is no other way to become holy than through Jesus' blood. There will never again be an offering for sin because Jesus' blood covers us for all eternity, once and for all, till the end of the age. One translation put it like this, "there is no longer any need of an offering for sin." Why? Because Jesus was the final offering.

I've been trying to think of an analogy for this so that we might better understand. Imagine for a minute that you are in pretty bad debt. Maybe you have a ton of student loans, or you went a little crazy with your credit card, and you owe $50,000. It is going to take you quite a while to pay it all back $100/month. Now imagine that some foreign king hears of your debt and tells you he wants to help you out a little bit. He deposits 50,000 rubies (not dollars) into your bank account. You think, “great! Now my debt is paid off!” Problem is, you’re not taking into account the exchange rate. So now you are living debt free, but still dirt poor because you think that you don’t have any money left over. You think that you have to earn your fortune. What you didn’t realize is that 1 ruby is equal to about 10 billion dollars. You are basically a multi-trillionaire living as if you were dirty poor because you don’t understand the inheritance that this foreign king gave you.

This is essentially the situation that most Christians today find themselves in. We believe that Jesus paid our initial debt, but don’t realize that he has an inexhaustible amount of grace for us, that every time we screw up, it doesn’t put us into debt, but draws upon our infinite bank account of grace.

And its not even about sin or no sin, it is about having all of the king’s resources at our fingertips because he has made us holy. Not only do we not go into debt, but we have billions of dollars we can spend on good things. We have an unending reserve of resources.

But how happy do you think the king who paid your debt and gave you access to his bank account would be if he found out that you are still living as a slave?

Now consider the fact that you are supposed to be this king’s bride. The king is planning this amazing banquet feast for you to come join him in, and you are the guest of honor. He has invited all of his friends and all of his servants have been preparing this banquet for years. He has literally poured his blood, sweat, and tears into this banquet.

He has even sent you his personal aid to help you in preparing for this day. The aid is supposed to teach you all the etiquette for the banquet, how to act like the royalty that you are. The only problem is, you still have it in your head that you are a servant. You don’t realize that you have access to the king’s full resources, and you don’t listen to the king’s aid when he tells you all the great things about you. It is like you plug up your ears and refuse to see the reality right in front of you. The king has chosen you, made you worthy, and invited you to dine with him, but you are too busy telling yourself that you are unworthy, rather than accepting the fact that your worthiness has nothing to do with you and everything to do with what the king says about you.

Imagine if you showed up to the king’s banquet, the most beautiful, expensive, fabulous banquet thrown in the history of the world, imagine that you should up to this banquet in your servant’s garb. Imagine that you were in ratty old cloths, sweaty from a long day of labor (that the king’s aid should have been doing for you), dirt on your face, runny nose, the whole nine yards.

Wouldn’t this be basically the ultimate slap in the face for the king? He has made it his life’s work to create this banquet and prepare you for it, he sent you his best friend and personal aid to groom you, he even had to sacrifice himself, to suffer and die and be raised from the dead in order to throw this banquet with you are the guest of honor. All this preparation, all this work on his part to get you here, all to be taken as a free gift. You didn’t have to earn a single ounce of the honor and worth he has given you; he did it all.

But the whole time, instead accepting the free gift, you tried to earn your honor and worth by working for it. Instead of being the royalty that he made you, you tried to work to make yourself into royalty, saying you weren’t worthy to accept it as a gift, you had to earn it.

I don’t want to imagine the look on the king’s face when he was expecting a glorious bride and you show up in rags. “Didn’t you get my personal aid, my best friend that I sent to you? Didn’t I tell you that I made you worthy? Wasn’t I flogged and murdered to make you whole and complete? Aren’t I enough for you?!?” I can’t imagine the pain in the king’s voice. “Don’t you get what I have done for you???”

I can’t fathom what it would be like to dedicate your entire life and all the resources of heaven for this one purpose, only for your bride not to get it, for your bride think that it is all about her and not what you have done for her. What Jesus made us into has nothing to do with what we can or have earned, but it has everything to do with what he deserves.

When the high king of heaven pours his blood out to make for himself a holy and beautiful bride, and when he says, “It is finished,” meaning, “I’ve done it, I’ve made my bride holy, now all she has to do is come to me,” I’m pretty sure that he meant it.

He made us holy when he died on the cross. He deserves a bride that stops trying to make herself holy through her own works and accepts the fact the He made us holy through His works.

The only suitable response to such a gift is to accept and live as the bride he made us into. Jesus is throwing a huge party in heaven, he is demanding that we attend, and as the guest of honor’s gift and only request, we’d better make it worth his while and accept.

It has nothing to do with what we do or earn, but everything to do with what he did and says about us. If you have accepted the invitation to be his bride, his gift, then he has made you holy and worthy. There is nothing left for you to do but live in that reality.



Monday, August 31, 2009

Who He Has Made Us...

Probably my biggest pet peeves is theologically incorrect worship music. Usually the songs that really irk me are the ones about the "rapture"/ones about escaping to heaven, for obvious reasons (its "your kingdom come", not "let us fly, fly away").

Much of our theology isn't formed from reading the bible or listening to sermons, but from the music we sing during "worship". But what happens when our "worship" isn't glorifying to Jesus?

Recently, I have been more and more distraught by the songs containing lyrics like "make us holy", "wash us clean", or "i'm just a sinner, won't you fix me", etc. (These are generic lyrics, as I can't think of any specific songs to speak to right now).

Why have these songs been bothering me you ask? Because the finished works of the cross have already made us holy, clean, and righteous. Jesus poured out his blood to free us from our slavery to sin and shame, we carry it no more because Jesus took it from us. So why do we continue to sing, asking him to do something he has already done? He did it on the cross and paid the ultimate price.

He can't do again what he already did. I'm not entirely sure what result we are looking for when we sing lyrics like these as worship. By singing "make me holy", it is almost like we are asking him to bear the cross again.

"Oh Jesus, you're so good! La la la! But now that I think about it, the first time you died and rose again wasn't enough to make us holy! La la la! Won't you go to the cross again so that I can be holy once more? La la la!"

I understand that while we are made holy in Jesus, we can still sin. But sin isn't the standard, righteousness is. How are we going to live up to the standard of righteousness if we continue to believe the lie that Jesus' blood isn't enough to make us holy for eternity? I honestly think that the distinction is in something as little as a mind set. We were baptized into his crucifiction, and raised again with his holy spirit. We are a new being, the old is gone, the new has come. We are not slaves to sin, but to righteousness. We no longer have the chains of death shackled to our leg, but we are free, holy, righteous, and the only place that this isn't true for most of us is in our minds. In Eph 2, Paul says that before coming to Jesus, we lived as sons of disobedience, and we "lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the flesh and the mind". Well our flesh was crucified with Jesus, and we were given the mind of Christ. Maybe its about time to renew our thinking about our holyness and our standing with the Father.

Jesus is soooo good. He poured out his blood to make us holy. We sit in heavenly places with him. We are his body and his holy temple. The holy spirit dwells in us.

He stands at the door and knocks, and if we just but open the door, he will come in a dine with us, and he will let us sit on His throne with him. He's so freaking good that he doesn't even put us at the kiddie table in heaven, but asks us to sit on his throne with him! I can't even process the implications of what this means.

One thing I do know is that having him elevate us so high should do nothing but humble us and cause us to worship him even more. Us being holy has nothing to do with our actions and everything to do with how much he loves us. The only possible responce would be for me to offer up a sacrifice of worship to him. And not a weak, "make me holy" kind of worship, but a worship that says:

"Jesus, you're so good, you're so beyond compare, you're so holy that you made me holy, you're so good that you made me (who once was a broken wretch) righteous, you made me a king in the heavens, and that makes you the king of kings. You made me a king, and you're the king of kings!"

This is the kind of worship that will not only bring the utmost glory to our savior king, but will also glorify his body and cause a generation to rise up and be who He paid for us to be. Because when the church is glorified, Jesus is glorified, because we are his body. Jesus can't be glorified unless we are glorified. Jesus can't be king on high unless we are king on high with him.

Jesus can't be who is deserves to be unless we accept who he has made us...

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Why is this man blind...?

I am currently reading Greg Boyd's God at War. In it, Boyd addresses the blind man "who sinned, him or his father" passage in John 9.

Jesus response is typically translated "he was born blind -so that- God's works might be revealed in him." Boyd argues that the word we translate "so that" shouldn't be translated as passive, but as an imperative (as more of a command). Boyd translates it, "he was born blind. But let the works of God be manifest!"

The disciples are asking a moral question, Jesus is responding with a command to heal the man. Jesus isn't concerned about answering questions about God's intent other for this man to be healed. "Yes, he is blind, stop asking questions and heal him." In such a situation, with such an emphatic command, there is little room left for God's will to be in question. He wants this man (and all men) healed. He is blind because the world is fallen/the devil caused it, but this passage isn't about why he is blind. It is about God's desire to heal him.

Even if we did read this passage in the traditional vain of thought, it would be a lone passage saying its God's will for this man to be blind from birth in a book neck deep in stories of God healing all whom he touches. Should we change our entire mind set to fit this one passage (that as Boyd argues is mistranslated/interpreted to start with), or should we seek to find the reading of this passage that fits with the rest of scripture?

Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8) by healing the sick, raising the dead, and advancing the kingdom of God/heaven/light against the kingdom of darkness. Everywhere else in the gospels, Jesus healing acts are seen as advancing the kingdom. Nearly everytime the "Gospel of the Kingdom" is mentioned in the gospels, healing, raising the dead, etc, follow as commentary on what preaching this gospel entails. I could walk you through the versions, but I feel like I have done this multiple times before, so scroll down.

Would it be too much of a stretch to say that this man was blind because he lived in the "kingdom of darkness" (i.e. the fallen world he lives in)?

When the Light of the World comes into the Kingdom of Darkness, the only proper question is not about God's will, or the origin of sickness, "Why is this man not healed yet?"

Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Life Examined

I feel so idle right now, like I want to (or am supposed to) be doing something more, but I am afraid (or can't, or am too lazy/not motivated enough) to get there.

I have serious questions about why I am in school right now, whether being in school is wisdom, or if it is actually unbelief in God's power in my life. One of my professors once said "we are in the education business because we don't want to die". It was a bad joke about the dangers of coal mining and why we are getting educations instead of working in some dirty shaft in Pennsylvania, but I feel like there is a lot of truth to it. If I can only get one more A, if I can only get that piece of paper that says I did it, then I won't have to rely on God, to trust him to provide. I can wrap my identity up in my diploma and my alma mater then I won't need to be vulnerable with Jesus. If I can get this degree, then I will have job security and not need to trust in Yahweh. But at this point, it would be stupid not to finish. I already have debt equivalent to a very very nice car, so why not tough it out and get that piece of paper that will solve all my problems?

The weird thing is that I have had some very inspiring times in the bible recently. Joshua 1:5-6 says "5No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. 6 Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them."

Something about those verses ring so deeply inside of me, like they were placed there for me. They raise up inside of me this fiery passion for God that is inexplainable. "For you will cause this people to inherit the land". God is so good.

In Exodus 33 it says of Joshua, "1Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent."

While Moses met face to face with God, Joshua was apparently there too. When Moses left the weighty presence, Joshua remained. He would not depart. I believe that it was in his weighty presence that Joshua was turned into the kind of man who would "cause this people to inherit the land." There are intense connotations to the idea of inheritance that I can't go into right now (wish I had time and more knowledge on it). It wasn't through intense study of the law or through military cunning that Joshua cause the people to inherit the land, but because he was a man who "would not depart from the tent".

I want to be a man who will not depart from the tent, who will not leave YHWH's weighty presence, but how am I to do this when my life is consumed by school and my heart grows cold to him when I am immersed in the godless smut of academia? "My heart and flesh cry out for the living god", yet I am stuck in a system, "always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth." The greeks demanded wisdom and the cross was folly to them.

Worldly education is a paradox to me. It seems the more I learn, the deeper desire I have to recede into the tent. Yet, I constantly substitute learning about the tent for time within the tent. I know there is value in my education, it has taught my to think critically, and to write, and a few other useful things, but all too often, I use these things as substitutions for interaction and communion with the only one who will ever fulfill me. I write so much about encountering God, but spend so little time actually doing it. I learn so much about what a Christian should look like, but spend so little time actually looking like it. I have so much knowledge, and too little Jesus.

Is my education bad? No, but it isn't Jesus either. I have this gapping hole in my heart that Jesus needs to fill, a hole that seems to only get bigger the more I do homework and study, a hole that only gets more clogged and sodden the more I learn about the things of the world through, the more I divert time away from the wellspring of life into the desert of school.

Part of me wonders if writing is evasion or healing for me. I would like to lean toward the latter, but only if it leads me closer to Jesus, close to the tent of his presence.

The sad thing about this is that I now have to go study... :(

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Jesus Is Alive...

Jesus isn't in heaven b/c he went there when he died. We have this thought in our heads that death leads to heaven, which I suppose is true in some regards.

I've recently been hit with the thought that Jesus isn't dead. He is in heaven, but he isn't dead. He rose again. He is in heaven, alive and well. He ascended in life, he still lives.

I find myself all too often praying to the image of Jesus on the cross, the dead or dying Jesus. The problem is that he isn't dead or dying. He is alive and glorious.

I feel like the distinction is between defeated and victorious. If we pray to a defeated saviour, a saviour still hanging on the cross, then our prayers will be defeated, weak, and powerless.

If we pray to victorious saviour, a saviour who in his glory trampled all over anything that could be coming against us, then our prayers will be powerful and bold and will move mountains, because that is was Jesus did with his resurrection.

Death couldn't hold him down. God made a spectacle of evil with the cross.

Col 2:15 says:
"nailing it to the cross, He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him."

The Message puts it like this:
"He stripped all the spiritual tyrants in the universe of their sham authority at the Cross and marched them naked through the streets."

I put it like this:
"Jesus took a huge dump on all the false powers, the demons and their minions, triumphing over them on the cross, smearing the poop on their faces with the resurrection."

Sorry for the vulgar image, but something has to wake us up to the fact that Jesus rules and Satan drools.

Jesus put them to shame, not in a wimpy, meek, boring Jesus of the movies kind of way, but in a powerful, I rule the world and I'm taking it back for my people, so get the hell out of here kind of way.

Jesus is alive. He is not beaten down and broken. He is victorious, he uses demons as shovels to clean out horse stalls, he cleans toilet bowls with them.

He has utter and complete power over any evil. There is nothing they can do to stop him.

That is, aside from convincing Jesus' body, his action in this world, that none of this is true, that Jesus is still on the cross, that evil still has power.

I just got hit with this thought.

If the church, who is Jesus' body, still envisions Jesus on the cross, then where will his church be? All we will know to do is act like people who are still nailed to the cross.

The problem is that Jesus isn't still on the cross. He is victorious, all things are under his feet, subject to him. He rules the world with power.

If the church, who is Jesus' body, envisions Jesus as being over all things, then where will his church be?

Father, help us to repent of our low view of you and in turn of ourselves. Help us to live a life of victory, a life to destroying the works of the devil. Father, help us to realize that our ministry is the same as your ministry. We are to continue the works that you did on this earth, as if you never left.

All too often in the gospels, Jesus is described as preaching the gospel, follow by a list of these things: heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse leapers, cast out demons, feed the poor, free the captive.

How are we to do Jesus ministry, as listed above, while believing that we can't, that we are still nailed to the cross, that evil is triumphing and we can do nothing about it?

We can't. But what we can do it realize that is a lie, that Jesus won, that we share in his victory, and that is the ministry that we are called to.

Father, let us realize this. Renew our minds with your reality...

Monday, April 20, 2009

Diamond Washing

So the other day I was talking to a friend and I realized this great analogy for how sin affects us and how it affects our relationship with God. I thought I'd share, more to remind myself than anything...

So Abby and I are engaged (surprise if you didn't know!), therefore Abby has this amazing ring on her finger. A few weeks ago, we noticed that one of the prongs that holds the diamond in place was bent, so the diamond was a little loose. We took it into a jeweler asap to get it fixed.

It took a few days, but when we got it back, it was sooo sparkly. We walked out onto the street and looked at it shine, it honestly kind of hurt my eyes to look at it. When I asked the lady what they did to get it so shiny, she was like, "Oh, we just cleaned it. You should probably do it every day with a little toothbrush and some water."

Everyday? At that point we'd been engaged for at least 3 months and hadn't cleaned it once. No wonder we noticed such a huge difference. 3 months worth of dirt and oils and lotions had built up on the ring to the point of it hardly shining at all anymore. With a little soap and water, that thing bore a hole in my retina.

I would like to propose to you that when we become Christians, we all become like diamonds in the eyes of the Father. He has an incredibly high view of all his people, certainly higher in regard than we humans hold diamonds (which is saying a lot).

I would also like to propose to you that if we sin, we don't cease to be diamonds, we just got dirty. If we sin, we don't cease to be sons or daughters of God, we just need a little washing, a little bit of repentance.

Out nature does not change. We are still diamonds. A diamond does not cease to be a diamond just because it doesn't shine, nor does a son or daughter of the most high cease to be just because they make mistakes.

But it is contrary to a diamond's nature not to shine. That is what it lives for, to reflect the beauty of the sun's light, to draw the eye of all the people and bring glory to its creator. It is contrary to our nature to sin. We are not slaves to sin, but slaves to righteousness. We died and rose again through baptism, just as Jesus did on the cross. We are new creations, the old is gone, the new has come (not is going to come someday or at the resurrection, but HAS COME, now).

It is contrary to our nature not to shine like a diamond. Isa 61 says "Arise, shine for the glory of the the LORD is upon you." We were made to shine.

But if we sin, we get dirty. We get the oils of this fallen world on us and we can't let the light flow from us. If we go 3 months without being cleaned, we are as dull as that diamond before we took it into the jeweler's.

How are we cleaned? By the blood of Christ. By letting his blood wash away our dirt, our sin and shame. By letting Jesus in on our dirty little secrets and letting him make us shine again.

1 John 1:9 says:
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

I can't think of anything more freeing in my life than humbling myself before Jesus and letting him wash me clean.

"Jesus, I'm sorry that I sinned. I know it is not my nature, I know you didn't die on a cross in order for me to keep on sinning. It is not who I am, it is against the nature that you bought for me with your blood, it is not my lot in life. Jesus, break off these lies that tell me that sinning is the norm and that I am indebted to it. I am indebted to nothing but righteousness; that is the call on my life. Wash me from this sin and these lies that tell me otherwise. I have always been a diamond, my sin never changed that. Make me shine like one again."

Let us shine like the diamond that we are and always have been by realizing that we aren't enslaved to sin, but repenting quickly and whole heartedly if we do.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

I can stop writing now....

So I have been trying to figure out how to say something in every blog post thus far, but can never quite find the words to express it.

Watch this video. It's 4 minutes long:

http://www.bjm.org/content/1/the-normal-christian-life.html

(It's called power forces a decision).

Bill Johnson says in 4 minutes that which I have been trying to say for nearly 4 months....

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Wisdom of the World...

So I thought I'd make a quick post about something I was reading this morning, more as a mental brainstorm for myself than anything.

In 1 Cor, it talks a lot about the wisdom of the world vs. the wisdom of God. The wisdom of the world is folly to God, and the wisdom of God is folly to the world.

I find myself all too often trying to live by the world's wisdom, but the world's rules, trying not to be the last kid picked in the proverbial game of kickball that is my life. Recently I have spent so much time trying to fit in to this world, compromising my beliefs so that I won't looked at like I'm crazy, when all along that is what I need most. That is what I'm called to. "If we're crazy, it's for God, but if we're sane, it's for you."

I want to be crazy in the eyes of the world, to be laughed at, to be the scum of the earth, because it is in dying that we live. We are meant to live in an upside down kingdom.

Honestly, I have very little problem saying that I believe in God, that's a rather normal thing. Most people do in some form or another. My problem is that I really, really, really believe in God, in his goodness and his desire to renew all of creation.

In 1 Cor, Paul says "For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles"

How is it wise to die? In the world's eyes, it's not. But it is the thing that sets us free.

A few verses later in 1 Cor, Paul says
"1And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God."

There is so much in those verses to talk about, but I want to focus on the last part of the last verse for now.

Paul wants us to have faith in the power of God. The word power there is "dunimas". We get the word dynamite from the same root, and this word is in specific reference to miracles.

Paul wants us to have faith in the miraculous working of God. In the dynamite of Jesus.

Not in what the world tells us, because that is folly. Not in what our doctors learned in a textbook. Not in the scientific or the provable, but in the miracles of God. Not to say that doctors are bad, or that you shouldn't trust what they say, but we are called to have faith in God, not in doctors.

Doctors are trained to see what is scientifically possible in this world, believers are meant to see the impossible and make it happen.

I believe that God is good, that he is miraculous, and that we are meant to worship him for this. I believe that God wants to demonstrate his power today.

He wants us to have faith in his goodness, in his purpose, in his working in this world. He wants us to have faith in what he says, not what the world says about him or what he is capable of.

I would like to point out that Christian teaching can be just as worldly as anything else. Paul called the Jews' wisdom worldly, just like the Gentiles'.

The only wisdom I am to follow is that of God, and right smack in the middle of Paul's discourse on wisdom, he says he intended for the Corinthians to have faith not in the wisdom of man, but in the power of God.

Let us have faith in God, faith in his goodness, and faith in his miracles. Paul did...






Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Grace Days

So I was just playing guitar, worshipping Jesus when I remembered what Graham Cooke (a prophetic guy in SoCal) said once:

"There are no good days or bad days, just days with Grace."

I always remembered him saying that, but never really got it until just now. I'll let you contemplate it and see if you can make the connect faster that I did...

(hint: read the post before this)

A Life Abandoned...

One morning a week or two ago, I began reading the book of Hebrews and didn't stop till it was over. I didn't plan to read it all in one sitting, but I ended up doing it anyways. I like to do this from time to time because I get insight out of the books that I wouldn't have otherwise, connecting themes and seeing natural progression of ideas throughout.

Among other this, the thing that struck me most about my reading of the book of Hebrews was the phrase "a sacrifice of praise" in Hebrews 13:15.

Essentially, the entire book of Hebrews is about Jesus being our sacrifice, our high priest. It's about how there is no more need for sacrifice, because Jesus was a perfect sacrifice. There is no more need for priests to offer sacrifices every day or week or month or year because the ultimate sacrifice has already taken place.

And on the same note, there is no need for Jesus to continuously offer himself, as the former priests continuously offered sacrifices. Jesus' sacrifice was once, and for all, to end all others. His works are complete, we are clean, his blood did the job, cleansing and renewing all.

The overwhelming message of this book is that Jesus' work on the cross is complete, there is no need for more sacrifice for sin. It is done, grace has taken over. We are free from sin and shame, not slaves to sin, but to righteous. Not Satan's whipping boys (or girls), but Jesus' victorious companion, and there is no need to offer another sacrifice for our sins.

There is a great son by Kristene Mueller which says:
"You keep bringing me sacrifices to easy your mind, but it is your heart that I want"

Now, at the end of the book, the writer says, "Now through him let us continuously offer up a sacrifice of praise to God."

The writer, after thoroughly showing that Jesus was the final sacrifice for sin, that there is no need for any more, calls us to continuously offer up a sacrifice of praise.

Continuously, in contrast to the continuous offering of bulls and goats, which had to power to take away sin.

Continuously, in contrast to the once and final sacrifice of Jesus, the only thing that has any power to take away sin.

We are to continuously offer up a sacrifice of praise.

Why?

Because it is the only sacrifice left for us to make. To live a life abandoned to Him, who bled and died, that his blood might be sprinkled over us, cleansing us for ever. When we receive such a great gift, there is only one thing we can do in return, to live a life of praise.

I think that a lot of us get that part, the praise part. It is the continuously part that hits me and I am writing this. Never ceasing, through the good and the bad, when we feel like it and when we don't. When the world seems to be crashing down, and when God is blessing you beyond compare. When we're tired and weak, and when we're happy and smiling.

In the psalms, David says, "I will praise you." Somebody pointed out to me that when David says that, he is in a spot where it isn't easy or convenient to praise God, that all his circumstances are looking down and there is no conceivable reason to praise God. David makes a sacrifice of praise, and by the end of the psalm, it is pouring out of his heart.

We must live a lifestyle of praise, continuously. "I will praise you" no matter what, even when I don't feel like it, even when it isn't convenient, even when I'm tired or grumpy. We must live a life so abandoned to God that it doesn't matter if we don't graduate and get a degree, it doesn't matter if we eat today, or if we get a raise or have a good job or drive a car at all.

We must live a life with out eyes set on heaven and Jesus, with our will so far abandoned to His that all that matters in a day is whether or not we encounter him in some way. Our circumstances can not define our heart of worship, our heart of worship must define our circumstances. We must live with a heavenly mindset, praising always, giving thanks always, acknowledging and seeking after God's heart and goodness always.

It is called a sacrifice of praise for a reason. If it were easy, it wouldn't be a sacrifice. But it is the only sacrifice acceptable to God, because it's your heart that he wants.

Friday, March 20, 2009

7 Promises from Revelation

I was reading Revelation this morning, a book that is very daunting to me as well as to others. I have had a strange relationship with the book throughout the last few years.

I know that there are immense truths hidden within, but there is also incredible ability to find lies, about God's will and about God's plan for the future. It is a book that is by no means straight forward, therefore it lends itself to crazy theories of all sorts.

In this post, I would just like to point out 7 truths/promises that are found within Chapters 2-3. These chapters consist of messages written down by John, from Jesus, to seven churches in Asia Minor (modern Turkey).

At the end of each letter, Jesus has a word of encouragement for each individual. He starts them off (in my translation) with "To those who conquer"

In order to clarify what the word "conquer" means in the greek, I decided to looked it up.

The greek word is: Nikao
  1. to conquer
    1. to carry off the victory, come off victorious
      1. of Christ, victorious over all His foes
      2. of Christians, that hold fast their faith even unto death against the power of their foes, and temptations and persecutions
      3. when one is arraigned or goes to law, to win the case, maintain one's cause
For our purpose and considering the context, the second definition would seem to fit best. It isn't conquering in the sense of capturing other people's lands, but rather, conquer in the sense of prevailing against evil, etc. (for more on prevailing against sin, read some of my earlier posts).

Now that that is cleared up, I'm just going to list the scriptures and hopefully let them do the talking.

Rev 2:

7. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

11. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.

17.
To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.

26. The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, 27and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. 28And I will give him the morning star.

Rev 3

5.
The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.

12. The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.

21. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.


While I would love to go through and comment on all of those, it would take me far too long, and it would ruin the fun for you!

I would like to point out that the each of the promises is in somewhere related to the body of the message to each church, so to get the full context and all that, read Rev 2-3.

The one promise that I would like to discuss in brief is that of Rev 3:21: The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.

I honestly do not know what to do with this. Jesus is saying that we will sit on his throne, as the Father let Jesus sit on his throne. I don't know how to wrap any theology around this idea.

What I do know is that Jesus and the Father apparently view us far, far, far higher than we give ourselves credit for. Not to say that we should be prideful of how great we are, but rather, we should take encouragement in the fact that God has an infinitely high view of us.

Reminds me of Jeremiah 9:23-24
23Thus says the LORD: "Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, 24but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD."

Let us boast that we KNOW the lord, and let us live a life of glory and honor, conquering death and sickness, depression and disease, a life lived from the victory of Jesus, from this side of the cross and not that side, setting our eyes on the things above, where Christ is enthroned, knowing that if we do this, if we life a life for him, denying sin and shame in the body and living for glory and honor, eyes set on him, then indeed, it is him that we will gain, him and him alone, while (apparently) cuddling with him on his throne for all eternity.

Praise Christ Jesus, the one who was and is and is to come!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Christ that Is...

Hello friends, before I dive into my new post, I'd like to point out that most (if not all) of what I write in these blog posts doesn't come directly from me. Most of it is me re-articulating the arguments of great men like John G. Lake, Bill Johnson, Kris Vallotton, or many others. But that isn't to say that I'm stealing from them, because they would openly say that they borrowed their ideas from elsewhere as well. I say all that so that you aren't in awe of me and my amazing revelation (though maybe you should be in awe of my ability to read, underline, remember, and borrow :P ).

With that said, I want to talk about Christ as he IS, not as he WAS. I have been talking all along about this idea of the Church and its necessity to be glorious. Today I'd like to take another crack at it.

Romans 8:29 says:

"For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers."

The end of 1 John 4:17 says:

"...as he IS, so also are we in this world. "

We are to be as Christ is, now, to the world.

How is Christ now?

In all my previous posts you can read all the verses about Jesus being lifted up at the right hand of God, in a glorious state. He once was lowly and meek, bearing our burdens, and suffering and humbled.

But that was before the cross. Before he died and rose again. We are called to be "as he IS", not how he WAS, to the world.

So how IS he?

Revelation 1:17-18 says:

"Fear not, I am the first and the last,and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades."

In Matthew 28 He says:

"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me."

And again in Eph 2, Paul says:

"[God] raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all."

Jesus is alive and glorified. He holds the keys of life and death, he knows no death any longer. All things are placed under his feet. He has total authority and dominion over all.

As Christ IS, so we are to the world.

That verse in Eph says that he gave all things to the church, which is his body. If Christ is over all things, and we are his body, where does that place us?

How can somebody be over all things if his body is under all things?

He can't. If we are his body, we ARE over all things. So why do we still struggle with sin and shame, and why do we look at the cross as our example of how to live in this world, a cross that that brought suffering and shame to our savior in order to set us free!

We are not slaves to sin, Jesus freed us on the cross.

We are not slaves to the cross either. The cross was for Jesus, not for us. Jesus died on the cross so that we wouldn't have to. He died on the cross so that we could be seated in glory along with him.

But we always turn to the cross as the way to live our lives. Surely Jesus says to pick up our crosses daily, to die to our selves and to live for others, I do not deny that. I am calling you to view it differently though.

We live in a place of victory. Jesus won, we share in his victory. We are his body, set over all things.

In our hands are the keys of life and death. Let us unlock the chains of sin and death, of sickness and disease, of poverty and hungry, but most of all, let us do it hidden is Jesus' glory.

We are called to be a people so inundated with God's weighty presence that we can't help but change the world around us, not by what we do, but by the mere presence of his presence upon us.

We are not sinners, but saints. We are not losing the battle, but have already won. We are not slaves to sin, but called to be covered in His glory.

We need to get over our small view of our selves and realize that Jesus views so highly that he would die on a cross, he would suffer long, not for us to suffer as well, but to set us free, that we can live in the presence of God all of our days.

We need to be leaky people. God's presence must seep out of us onto others, like a heavenly perfume that changes the world.

We must be as Christ IS, not as he WAS. Being Christ to the world is being his glorified presence in the world.

Christ IS glorified right now. We ARE his body, his presence in this world. We MUST get over our small, broken view of our humanity and view ourselves as Christ views us, as glorified, as holy, as his.

And the only way I know to do this is to soak ourselves in his presence so that we leak to the world. To just be in his presence.

If you are a believer, you have legal access to his realm (but only if you believe ;) ). We must enter into his throne room and bask in his glory, that we might know what it means to be Jesus to this world. We must see the glorified Christ to get the blueprint of what he means us to be in this world.

Surely this comes through reading the Bible and finding truth, but it must go further than that.

I've written about this in previous posts, but we must have the experience of a transformed mind. While he is to an extent, God isn't entirely concerned with our logical pursuit of him.

Like a fine steak, we must marinate in his glorious presence until our very beings smell and taste and look like the glorified Jesus.

Because we're called to be as Christ is...

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Experience of a Transformed Mind

There is a certain amount of ambiguity in the call to transform one's mind. It seems quite possible that this call could be nothing more than an intellectual pursuit, something to consume the mind and the mind alone.

As I wrote in my first series of posts, there is an inherent short coming in the solely intellectual pursuit of God. If rely only upon our minds for interaction with and understanding of God, we are missing a whole side of God that he is calling us to.

I'd like to call that side "Living in the Glory". The physical, tangible manifestation of God's glory. The glory that made the psalmist say
"One thing I ask of the LORD,
this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to seek him in his temple."

We need to learn a pursuit of God that goes beyond a simply intellectual approach into a way of interacting with God that is beyond understanding and reason. Our pursuit of God needs to go beyond good doctrine. Sure, good doctrine is a necessity, but it necessarily needs to be formed out of more than writings in some old book, or in a blog post, or what our pastor tries to convey with broken metaphors. Our doctrine must be formed out of a real relationship with a real God.

Doctrine has no power to transform a mind, but God does.

Our relationship and interaction with God shouldn't "make sense". He is too big, too glorious to fit into our tiny, broken schemata of how God functions. As Paul says, "If I am beside myself (crazy) it is for God, but if I am in my right mind, it is for you". He is too good to comprehend. His very nature is that of giving of himself unto the point of death only to bring blessing and joy into our lives.

Our God is so good that he died for us.

I won't even begin to pretend that I comprehend the magnitude of that love. It is not something to be comprehended, but experienced.

Somehow we as Christians substituted goosebumps during worship for an experience with God. Our sites are set too low. The bible calls us to set out minds of Heaven, on Jesus, on His love.

We were made to live in the glorious, weighty presence of YHWH. We were meant to feel of the weight of his love crushing down upon us, to the point sheer bliss and utter fear of his goodness.

There is a story about Smith Wigglesworth, a great revivalist from the past. God's weighty presence showed up so thick in a prayer meeting he attended that people began to leave the room in fear of being crushed to death. One by one, they left the weighty glory.

But Smith remained. The weight of His glory was so heavy that there was a literal fear that he might die, but he resolved not to leave. If God was going to kill Him by revealing His goodness so purely and tangibly, Smith decided there was no better way to go.

That is the kind of transformation of the mind I am talking about. The kind where Heaven invades earth and there is now to turning back, no denying the reality, the tangible presence of YHWH, our God. I am convinced that we worship a shadow of what we are meant to because we haven't pressed in to the point of being willing to die just to experience even a second more of His weighty glory.

We must resolve to live for nothing else. Nothing else will satisfy. Nothing else is worth living for. It is questionable whether life outside His weighty glory is actually life at all.

I pray that this is cry of all our hearts. Everything else will fall into place, if only this would be all that we live for:

"One thing I ask of the LORD,
this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to seek him in his temple."

And

"My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and my flesh cry out
for the living God."

And

"Better is one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked."

Let us live in your glory.

Where do Christians go when they die?

It is a really simple question that everybody knows. Christians go to heaven when they die. My next post will probably be more about what heaven is like (as far as we can know), but this one is about what we do in light of my last post.

You are already dead. If you don't believe me, read my last post, or basically any of the letters of Paul in the New Testament.

So where do Christians go when they die?

Heaven.

"Am I in heaven right now?" you might ask.

That is a tougher question. It is a yes and no kind of deal. You have legal access to the realms of heaven now that you are dead.

But the important point to catch is that you are not only dead, but raised again. Raised by the same spirit that raised Christ Jesus from the dead. That spirit not lives in you, bringing life to your mortal body. (Romans 8:11 paraphrase).

Colossians 2-3 and Romans 5-8 are very similar. You could probably safely say that Col 2-3 is a layman's version of Romans 5-8.

In Col 2-3, Paul says that you have died and were buried with Christ in baptism, but that you were raised up and seated in heavenly places.

You are seated in heavenly places right now if you are in Christ.

Col 3 says "1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory."

Verse 2 holds an incredible key to the Christian life.

If our sinful nature has already been killed through the baptism with Christ, and we are raised again into heavenly places, why do we continue to sin?

It isn't a heart issue, your heart has been renewed and redeemed.

It is a matter of non-renewed mindsets.

Set your mind on the things about, not on this things of the earth. Col 3:2

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Rom 12:2

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Eph 6:12

3For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and [i]we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.[/i] 2 Cor 10


Our problem as Christians is not that we are sinners struggling to find grace, we should be so incredibly overwhelmed with the oceans of grace that we already have.

Our problem is not that we are stuck in our sinful nature. Our sinful nature is DEAD!

Our problem is that we honestly don't believe any of this is true.

We don't believe in the finished works of the cross. It is too good to comprehend, too immense to wrap our minds around, so we don't....

Eph 2:6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus

Raised. Not is going to raise. Not will raise sometime soon, or sometime far off.

Raised.

Right now as a current reality, not a far off hope.

We are saints called to live in His glory, not sinners saved by grace.

We are told to come boldly before the throne with our requests. Boldly before the throne, as one without an sin or shame attached, because we have no sin or shame attached.

We are told that our life is hidden in Christ in heavenly places, that we are seated at the right hand of God.

We are called to live in his weighty presence, his shekinah glory, for all the days of our lives.

We are called into divine encounters. To visit Jesus in His throne room, right now.

To live a life of bringing Heaven to Earth by being the very vessels by with the substance of Heaven is transmitted to Earth.

We are called to be carries of the Divine.

But first, we must realize that we have died, but like Jesus, are not dead for good, but raised with Him by the same spirit.

We live in heavenly places right now. Lets live like it.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Christian Necromancy

If you believe in Christ Jesus, then you have died and rose again. Not in some metaphorical sense, but in a very literal sense.

As Paul says in Romans 6 "How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life."

Or again in Col 2 "having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, "

When Paul says the word dead there, you might be surprised to find out that what he actually means is this, you died. Like no pulse, flatlined, 6 feet down buried with Jesus in the ground kind of dead.

Your old nature is gone.

You are alive now because the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead now lives in you. The literal Spirit of Life lives in you.

So if your old, sinful nature is dead, and your new nature is that of spirit and life, why do you continue on in your sinful ways?

We are no longer sinners, but saints.

We are no longer sinners saved by grace, but saints living by and in His glory.

There is a word for people who talk to dead people.

"Necromancers"

Necromancy is the act of interacting with dead people through divination. When we interact with our "sinful nature", we are practicing necromancy. Necromancy is frowned upon in the Bible. Its not a good thing.

We were set free from sin when we were raised with Jesus into heavenly places. Sin is a characteristic of somebody under the curse. If you have died, you are no longer under the curse. If you have been raised again by the spirit of God, then you are under the curse even less so.

If you are in Christ, sin is no longer your nature. Righteousness is. Royalty is.

You are no longer bound to your sinful nature. In fact, to interact with it is a sin in itself. You are set free from your sin, from your past, from all evil in your life, and you are freed from interacting with it.

You can't bring back what Jesus killed. Please stop trying.

Life is so much easier when you realize that you've died...

Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Necessity of a Glorious Church Part 3

I feel I need to clarify a few things before I continue on in my argument. First is that most of what I am writing, I have been thinking through for quite some time, but that doesn’t not necessarily mean that I have the entire argument or picture in view at any one point. There is probably much that I intend to say that I’m not, and much that I don’t intent that can easily be read into what I’m saying.

Second, I tend to talk largely in absolutes. Whether that is a bad thing is up to you, but I tend to be slightly more open-minded than I probably come across.

So I start this post official with a bit of a story. As I stood in New Life Church one Sunday morning earlier this semester, I was struck with a picture in my head. I can’t remember if it was during worship or during the sermon, but I do know that it was more vivid than most of the random things that pop into my head. Some might say it was a vision, and others might think that is weird, so to keep it user friendly, I’ll call it a simple mental image.

The picture was that of evangelism. There were two people, the evangelist and the one being evangelized to. The scene was dark, as if the two men were suspended in a void, yet the men were perfectly visible. The evangelist obviously knew all the right words to say, I could literally see them coming out of his mouth, as if a ticker tape with the words was being sent through the air to the other man. The argument was the equivalent of what you’d see on a tract or the bridge diagram. Jesus loves you, died for you, all the Christian jargon.

The problem was that there was some sort of fog between the two people. As the words entered the fog, I could see the mist laying hold of the words, almost like a man trying to make his way through a dense jungle without a machete. Only a few words actually made it out of the fog, enough for the second man to grab onto a few of them, like Jesus and salvation, and a few other broken words. Enough for the man to understand the basic message, but not quite enough to move past the confusion of the fog.

Then the scene rest, the two men and the fog were still present. This time, the evangelist reached out his hand, as if to lay hands on the man to pray for him. Out of the darkness surrounding the men came flying in white arrows from all directions. The arrows lit up the second man, the fog dissipated, and the image ended.

I instantly knew what the whole picture meant. The first scenario was about the current model of evangelism that is dominant in most churches today; the intellectual approach. In it, we try to convince the world through logic that Jesus is lord and savior. We have all sorts of plausible arguments, logic puzzles, and snazzy diagrams explaining the cross, salvation, and love.

As I spoke about in the first post, the lack of a changed lifestyle for most Christians leaves little room to legitimize ourselves within the culture on a whole. We therefore rely upon emotional experience and consumerism to lend credibility to our own conversion experience.

I’d like to now argue that the necessity of the justification of our conversions by these means is contingent upon the means by which we were converted. Our logical approach to evangelism begets logical approaches to understand God.

The problem is, these logical approaches are lacking. We are left to spend years trying to piece together a picture of God by reading endless amounts of books, listening to countless sermons, and arguing about theology on facebook. This in turn creates an industry to support this endless search for God. We have Christian book publishers, Christian movies, and GodTube, our own little version of youtube.

So we get caught in this cycle caused by broken evangelism, trying to grab the missing words from the mist.

But I would like to propose that the gospel was never meant to make sense. It was never meant to be a logical assertion to be assented to. It was never meant to be preaches exclusively with words.

(This coming from a guy who spends most, if not all, of his time pondering, creating theories in his head, and trying to debunk arguments. I’ve spent the last two and a half years trying to create an understanding of God using logic. I bring this up only to say that what I am writing now is as much of a critique of my own life as it is of Christianity as a whole.)

As I spoke rather vaguely of in the last post, preaching the gospel of the kingdom and seeing the miraculous is intimately connected. Multiple times in Matthew, Jesus is said to be preaching the gospel, and healing every sickness and disease. Jesus even sends his disciples out to do the same in Mat 10.

In 1 Cor 2, Paul talks of his evangelism in Corinth. He says, “my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”

The word “power” is \doo'-nam-is\, which comes from the same root as our modern word dynamite.

Our gospel should be explosive.

Two chapters later, Paul is speaking about some arrogant men in the church and he says that when he returns to them, he won’t judge the men by what they are boasting about, but by the power that they demonstrate.

1 Cor 4:20 ‘For the kingdom of God does not consist of talk, but in power.”

Again to the Corinthians, though in his second letter, Paul talks about the glory of God. He speaks of Moses’ shining face after Moses descends from the mountain. Moses just had an encounter with the Lord, and now his face is literally glowing so brightly that the Israelites make him wear a vale over his face, as to hide themselves from the glory of the Lord.

Paul says, ”For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory.” (2 Cor 3:9)

If there is glory in the Law, then how much more glory should there be on display from the believers in the new covenant?

2 Cor 3:10 “Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it.”

Have you ever look directly at a flashlight in the dark? It is blindingly bright.

Have you ever looked at a flashlight in broad daylight? You can hardly tell that it is on.

The glory manifested in our lives should be like the sun, compared to the flashlight of the Old Testament.

But what does that mean?

In the Old Testament, God’s glory was understood to be a physical manifestation. It filled the temple. The psalmist’s heart and fleshed ached to return to the weighty presence of the Lord.

And it is just that, a weighty presence. The Hebrew word for glory is the same word as heavy. It is a physical manifestation of weight.

The glory also manifested as a cloud and fire in the desert to lead Israel.

Have you ever lain in bed at night under a warm blanket heavy on your chest? There are few more comforting feelings than that. I imagine God’s weighty presence to be like that, only far, far, far superior.

In Isaiah, and other prophetic writings, the call is for the Lord’s weighty presence to fill the whole earth. For his glory to cover the lands as water covers the seas.

Paul proclaims that the glory of our time should make the glory in the Old Testament not only pale in comparison, but it shouldn’t even be in the same conversation. We shouldn’t be speaking of the great triumphs in the old days, as if God doesn’t intend to move even greater in our lifetime.

Jesus says in John 14 that we will do greater works than he ever did.

We are called to do greater works than Jesus.

The one who has all authority on heaven and on earth is calling us to do greater works than he ever did.

We are called to disciple nations.

To preach the gospel to the ends of the earth.

The gospel, that when preached causes lame people to stand and dead people to raise up, that when mentioned is surely to be followed by a miracle of some sort.

We are called to preach this gospel to all peoples. Not to logic them into heaven, but to bring heaven to them.

To bring heaven to earth.

To be a people of his glory, of his weighty presence.

A people with faces shining brighter than the sun because we’ve seen Jesus.

And there in lies the problem. How are we to tell others of a God we’ve never actually met, of a God we know only through diagrams and sermons?

How are we supposed to live in His glory?

I’m not entirely sure, but it is my most earnest prayer that we find out. That as you are reading this, God will send his glory upon you. That you will be struck with weighty presence.

And that we’ll be able to introduce the world to a God that we’ve met, face to face, as friends, as lovers.

May His glory cover the earth, as water covers the sea.

The Necessity of a Glorious Church Part 2

(Please read Part 1 to get the full effect)

I know what you are thinking now. I'm going to tell you to live a different life, to love your neighbor, and to do the right thing in all circumstances. I harped on the church in the last post for not looking different morally, for being just as likely to look at porn, to steal, to swear. The obvious remedy for this is to live a changed lifestyle.

But what kind of changed lifestyle?

Is it enough to simply love your neighbor?

Of course it is!

But the real question of this post is, "What does loving your neighbor mean?"

Before I dive into that question head on, I'd like to return to the idea of identity. When one is to examine how to identity oneself as a Christian, it seems a good idea to look at how Jesus identified himself.

Matthew 11:1-6 1When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities.

2 Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3and said to him, "Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?" 4And Jesus answered them, "Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. 6And blessed is the one who is not offended by me."

John's disciples ask Jesus a very fundamental question. Essentially, "Are you the Messiah?" "Are you the one who is going to free Israel from Rome?" "Are you the one who is to reconcile us to God?"

"Who are you?"

But what does Jesus say in response? Look at my actions, not my words. It is easy to say I'm the Messiah, or a Christian, but it is tough to live it. We've all heard this before.

I believe that the real crux of the argument comes in what Jesus is doing next. He is doing miracles. He is reaching into heaven and pulling down the Father's glory. He is operating as any perfect human being should.

He is loving people into heaven in a completely different why than we do today. He is loving people into heaven by bringing heaven to them. He is praying for God's kingdom to come, and his will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

What Jesus isn’t doing is solely using the world’s means to love people. He isn’t starting a gov’t-sanctioned fund to fight poverty. He isn’t getting people to trust more in Caesar’s saving ability (when Joey was in DC over break, he said it felt eerily like Rome). He isn’t preaching a feel good message.

He isn’t breaking down the path to heaven to salvation into a simple prayer, then ticking another off his list when they pray it.

He is bringing salvation to the people. I read once (more than likely in an NT Wright book, great man), that salvation in the 1st century had nothing to do with escaping to heaven. It had everything to do with Caesar coming in with his army and saving the people from evil. It was a here and now thing, not a dead and gone thing.

Jesus was bringing salvation here and now.

Salvation from sickness, from disease, from death, from all the woes of sin. He sets us free here and now.

And he told us to preach his message to the nations.

Matthew 4:23 “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.”

There is an intimate connection between preaching the gospel of the kingdom and seeing the miraculous. When we preach the gospel of the kingdom, the physical presence of God comes on earth as it is in heaven. When we heal the sick, we are making God's will for all people manifest on earth as it is in heaven.

I don’t think it is a coincidence that in the middle of the bible’s most explicit discussion about spiritual gifts is the bible’s most explicit discussion about love. Read 1 Cor 12, 13, and 14. He gave us spiritual gifts, little pieces of heaven to steward, in order to love others. And he tells us not to be ashamed about this, but to pursue the higher gifts.

I believe God gave us a mission, to love the world into heaven. He gave us the means to do this, by bringing heaven to the world.

He gave us a prayer to pray, and he gave us gifts to use, and he gave us his spirit to guide us, and it is all for his glory, to renew this earth, to bring heaven here, now.

I once heard a pastor speak about the miraculous, in regards to the Christian identity. He said that our love must be better, different, more than the Lions Club and Rotary. He said that he loves what they are doing, but if the world can’t tell the difference between Rotary and Jesus, then there is a problem.

If we are not different than Rotary, then we are nothing. Paul says that if Jesus wasn’t raised from the dead, then we have faith in nothing.

Col 2:11-12 “In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, 12having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.”

Romans 8:11 “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.”

If Jesus wasn’t resurrected, that’s the ball game. We are just a church who does fund raisers and tries to convince a broken world that we have the answer.

But if we aren’t operating in the same power that Jesus did, that Peter and John and Paul did, that thousands throughout church history did, then how are we any different than Rotary?

Peter and John, maybe through lack of money, or maybe through a true understanding of the beggar’s needs, didn’t give him money. He gave him a piece of heaven.

Acts 3:6 “Then Peter said, "Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk."

Is Rotary the hope of the world, or is Jesus?

I’m on not trying to rip of Rotary. My beautiful fiancĂ©’s mom is a very active member of Rotary, and I wouldn’t dare try to belittle her work. Rotary is a great thing, but the church is meant to be greater. Rotary wasn’t called to be a light on a hill.

Indeed, if there is no difference between Rotary and the church, then we've missed the point. We don't hold a message that is good news. Its is just the message of the world, with a more exclusive membership.

If the church is not operating in the power of God, then we are missing the point.

Then we aren't the church.

We're just a group of elitists think we're something because we can repackage a message that the world already has. A message that says if we love people just enough, if we raise just enough money, then the world will be okay.

But Paul says to have faith in the power of God. I quoted a verse about, and there are more.

We are called to more. We are called to bring heaven to earth. It is a simple prayer, but it might just change this world.

Have faith in the power of God. Without it, we're just Rotary.

The Necessity of a Glorious Church

This is a excerpt from a paper I wrote for a film class last semester. I will post this for now, let it brew a bit, then expound a bit a little later when I have more time.

Hopefully the necessity of a miraculous church will make more sense in Part 2, but I felt the need to explain this first part of my argument before moving on, and how better to do it than with something I know I've already written well.

So read, respond, and if you are confused or intrigued, offended or outraged, let me know, and wait for the second post....

Hopefully the rest of the entries will be a bit shorter. I think it is worth the read though.


"The Passion of the Christ: A Cultural Phenomenon" excerpt

"It makes sense to use emotional impact as a measuring stick for the likelihood of a conversion, considering the reliance upon emotion as one of the sole factors in defining the conversion to the Christian faith. In the postmodern world, it is becoming increasingly difficult to define what exactly a conversion constitutes. A personal relationship is a rather subjective criterion by which to measure, so the reliance upon emotional experience to validate personal conviction is seemingly logical.

In the Bible, the book of Ephesians says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast” (2:8-9, NIV). If one hangs around any Evangelical long enough, one will surely hear these verses quoted, whether word for word, or more commonly as a catch phrase thrown about with other Christians. Their meaning is essentially this, it is a matter of the heart and a personal knowing as to whether or not one is “saved”, a matter of faith. It is not something you can earn by doing good works, but only receive as a gift from God.

The verse right after the ones quoted above states “For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works” (Ephesians 2:10a emphasis added). As the book of James puts it, “faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). Something is lost in the distinction between doing works and earning salvation. The first point of view is based on doing good works in order to earn salvation. The second point of view is based on receiving salvation as a free gift, not based on works, yet because of the free gift, doing works to bless others (Romans 2:4b says, “God’s kindness leads you toward repentance”). The need to earn salvation was one of the many things that caused the split between the Catholic and Protestant churches. Catholics contended for the former point, Protestants the latter. It could be contended that in the Evangelical’s desire to move away from salvation based on works, they have lost too much in regards to works, enough that their faith, in some instances, has become nothing more a warm fuzzy feeling in the heart, with no outward expression.

As made evident by David Kinnaman in his book UnChristian, the distinction between born-again believers and the rest of the world is hardly noticeable. Kinnaman and the Barna Group, a market research company, have spent years doing market research through polling into matters concerning Christianity. Kinnaman defines born-again believers by the strictest terms in his research:

To be classified as a born-again Christian, a person has to say he or she has made a personal commitment to Jesus that is still important and that person believes he or she will go to heaven at death, because the person has confessed his or her sin and accepted Christ as Savior. (Kinnaman 46)

According to Kinnaman’s research, “the lifestyle activities of born-again Christians were statically equivalent to those of non-born agains.” Respondents were asked to comment on their activates over the last 30 days, and the results showed that born again believers were just are likely to gamble, bet, view pornography, steal, visit a medium or psychic, get in a fight or abuse somebody, be drunk, take illegal drugs, lie, take revenge, or talk behind someone’s back. They were also just as likely to have looked at online pornography, viewed sexually explicit magazines or movies, or to have had “an intimate sexual encounter outside of marriage” (Kinnaman 47). According to one study, 85 percent of respondents “personally know at least one committed Christian”, but only 15 percent of those respondents would label those Christians as “significantly different from the norm” (Kinnaman 48). Perhaps the most interesting bit of information from Kinnaman, in light of the above, is when asking Christians what “priorities [they] pursue in terms of their personal faith”, the largest number of responses was “being good, doing the right thing, not sinning” (Kinnaman 48-49).

So what do Christians turn to when, in trying to be “in the world, but not of the world” (Smith 48), they can’t distinguish themselves from the world and they can’t live up to the criterion that they set for themselves? To a certain extent, because their Christian identity is subjective, based upon their heart and not necessarily any outward expression, some Christians begin to lack means by which to distinguish their lives from the lives of the world. As stated earlier, one way to resolve this conflict is to rely upon emotion and personal conviction, but as these are inner states and not outer expressions. When they are indistinguishable from the world, it becomes very difficult for Evangelicals to evangelize.

Perhaps the most American way to resolve this problem is by buying things. By wearing a cross around your neck, wearing a t-shirt that says “Jesus Saves”, or plastering your bumper with catchy stickers, you can mark yourself out as Christian. Merchandise becomes a material representation of what happened in the heart. Buying Christian trinkets is easier than living a changed life style, and convincing others to do the same lends validity to one’s own shortcomings. An entire Christian culture is able to define it self based upon how much Christian merchandise it can own and display, as evidenced by the estimated $4.2 billion Christian retail market in 2004 (Patsuris).

Which explains why Evangelicals were so quick endorse the film, to buy the outreach tools, to invite all their neighbors, to hang banners up around their place of worship, as well as turning out in droves to see the film in theaters and to buy the DVD. The Passion was a form of worship for some, but for others, it was a reassurance of their reason to worship.

As one can see, when critics attacked The Passion, they weren’t just attacking the film, nor were they simply attacking the Evangelicals’ faith, they were attacking Evangelicals’ form of social legitimacy. In the Evangelicals’ battle against the secular world, the battle is based upon their chameleon like abilities to look like the world but not be the world. By criticizing the outlet of their outreach, critics are coming against everything that Evangelicals stand for. To some Evangelicals, The Passion was not just a film; it was a fulfillment of their deep-seated desire to reach the world through the world’s means."