Category Archives: Church

A Higher Life

When Paul wrote the following instructions to the congregations he had launched in Colossae, he clearly had in mind that believers should be easy to pick out of a crowd. Not because they wore their hair in buns, or had long dresses, or had a fine selection of “church hats.” Because they had their minds so set on another dimension that the interactions they had with the visible earth were strongly affected.

As you read this portion of his letter, imagine that he wrote it to the people in your congregation. Consider ways the Holy Spirit may be prompting you regarding whether you are fitting in or standing out:

So if you have been raised with the Messiah, seek what is above, where the Messiah is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on what is above, not on what is on the earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with the Messiah in God. When the Messiah, who is your life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.

Therefore, put to death whatever in you is worldly: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, God’s wrath comes on the disobedient, and you once walked in these things when you were living in them. But now you must also put away all the following: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his practices and have put on the new man, who is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of his Creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all.

Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so also you must forgive. Above all, put on love—the perfect bond of unity. And let the peace of the Messiah, to which you were also called in one body, control your hearts. Be thankful. Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
(Colossians 3:1-17 Holman Christian Standard Bible®©)

Daniel in Babylon and Joseph in Egypt were noticeably aliens. When Paul was in Athens, he was clearly alien. Jesus was even clearly alien in Jerusalem. Stand out. Be awesome.

Leaving Home

Today I read some of Philip Schaff’s “History of the Christian Church.” It saddened me to see his account of the migration of congregations from meeting in each other’s homes to the building of temples that were clearly inspired by the same designs used to worship Saturn or Zeus or Dianna:

Let us glance first at the places of public worship. Until about the close of the second century the Christians held their worship mostly in private houses, or in desert places, at the graves of martyrs, and in the crypts of the catacombs. This arose from their poverty, their oppressed and outlawed condition, their love of silence and solitude, and their aversion to all heathen art. The apologists frequently assert, that their brethren had neither temples nor altars (in the pagan sense of these words), and that their worship was spiritual and independent of place and ritual. Heathens, like Celsus, cast this up to them as a reproach; but Origen admirably replied: The humanity of Christ is the highest temple and the most beautiful image of God, and true Christians are living statues of the Holy Spirit, with which no Jupiter of Phidias can compare. Justin Martyr said to the Roman prefect: The Christians assemble wherever it is convenient, because their God is not, like the gods of the heathen, inclosed in space, but is invisibly present everywhere. Clement of Alexandria refutes the superstition, that religion is bound to any building.

The shift to the basilicas was described like this by Schaff:

The description of a church in the Apostolic Constitutions, implies that the clergy occupy the space at the cast end of the church (in the choir), and the people the nave, but mentions no barrier between them. Such a barrier, however, existed as early as the fourth century, when the laity were forbidden to enter the enclosure of the altar.

(from Schaff’s History of the Church, PC Study Bible formatted electronic database Copyright © 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

The shift is a description that brings to my mind a contrast that is like the difference between a home and an orphanage.

Reading the Gospels

I’m guessing that you have read Matthew, Mark, Luke,  and John at least once by now. The next time you read them, if you manage to convince yourself that when Jesus said anything there about the Kingdom (which He did – A LOT), He wasn’t talking about the church, the difference in what you extract from the words He spoke will change your life and your work and quite likely affect everyone you interact with in the earth in some way.

He didn’t say much about the church. He said a lot about the Kingdom. Think about that when you read it again.

The Glowing Face

Why, when Moses spent time in the presence of Yahweh, did his face glow in the dark? (Exodus 34)

Why, when Jesus spent time speaking to His Father, did his face not shine? He was in all ways a man, just like us. We are the place now where His glory dwells. Through us, it is not just a glow, but a power and an evidence of His presence with and in us, not just evidence of having been near Him. We carry Him in the earth as we manifest His desires and instructions.

Now since the children have flesh and blood in common, He also shared in these, so that through His death He might destroy the one holding the power of death—that is, the Devil— and free those who were held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death. For it is clear that He does not reach out to help angels, but to help Abraham’s offspring. Therefore He had to be like His brothers in every way, so that He could become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tested and has suffered, He is able to help those who are tested.

Therefore, holy brothers and companions in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession; He was faithful to the One who appointed Him, just as Moses was in all God’s household. For Jesus is considered worthy of more glory than Moses, just as the builder has more honor than the house. Now every house is built by someone, but the One who built everything is God. Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s household, as a testimony to what would be said in the future. But Christ was faithful as a Son over His household, whose household we are if we hold on to the courage and the confidence of our hope.
(Hebrews 2:14-3:6 Holman Christian Standard Bible®©)

 

Working or Bargaining

A merchant is not a builder, but a bargainer. She/he uses the power of trade to obtain a desired object or payment, not the power of labor.

When the merchant in Matthew 13:45-46 found a pearl of astonishing value, he desired it. He could not get it by the means Jacob got his two wives and many flocks, though (Genesis 29). Jacob worked for 7 years for Rachael, and then discovered that he had been deceived into buying Leah. He worked 7 more years to purchase Rachael, whom he desired. More time was spent in the service of his uncle Laban to gain herds of animals to take with him when he left Laban’s ranch. Even after suffering the lengthy time of labor to obtain her, he lost her soon in death.

We cannot work to obtain the Pearl. We can only trade all we have. All of life – property, relationships, prestige – that is what it costs us to obtain Jesus. But when we have received Him, we have more than enough.

Singing Thanks

   Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving;
play the lyre to our God,
 who covers the sky with clouds,
prepares rain for the earth,
and causes grass to grow on the hills.
   He provides the animals with their food,
and the young ravens, what they cry for.

   He is not impressed by the strength of a horse;
He does not value the power of a man.
   The Lord values those who fear Him,
those who put their hope in His faithful love.

(Psalm 147:7-11 Holman Christian Standard Bible® ©)

Womb or Tomb

I have been annoyed for a long time when I hear people having “revival meetings.” Part of my bad attitude stems from the number of meetings that came and went and nothing changed in or among anyone.

Another part of the pain of listening to people longing for revival is the meaning of the word “revive.” It refers to something that was dead or near death being brought back to life. In my set of values, it is like longing noisily for the rock that Moses split in the desert, instead of longing for the wells in the land of promises that we won’t have to dig.

Having a greater desire that we could return to the good old days than that we could enter into the days of the future early seems to me like longing for the fish and garlic of Egypt when times get hard in the desert. We are being drawn or driven somewhere. The good old days only seem better than the surprises of the days we haven’t seen because our memory is more powerful than our imagination.

What comes out of a tomb at the Lord’s command can not match what comes out of a womb at His command. In Acts chapter 2, when the day of Pentecost had fully come, Jesus called the Church out of the womb of a room where they had gathered. When Paul visited the Jews in the synagogue of each new city he visited as he went forth from Antioch of Syria, he called the Church to be born from that womb that had been impregnated by the Holy Spirit with people who were longing for a new thing.

This is what the Lord says—
who makes a way in the sea,
and a path through surging waters,
who brings out the chariot and horse,
the army and the mighty one together
(they lie down, they do not rise again;
they are extinguished, quenched like a wick)—
“Do not remember the past events,
pay no attention to things of old.
Look, I am about to do something new;
even now it is coming. Do you not see it?
Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness,
rivers in the desert.
The animals of the field will honor Me,
jackals and ostriches,
because I provide water in the wilderness,
and rivers in the desert,
to give drink to My chosen people.
The people I formed for Myself
will declare My praise.
(Isaiah 43:16-21 Holman Christian Standard Bible® ©)

Blessing on Purpose

Matthew described in chapter 10 of his testimony a Kingdom mission that Jesus sent him on with the rest of the apostles. Included was a bit of information about blessing or condemning people along the way.

Jesus sent out these 12 after giving them instructions: “Don’t take the road leading to other nations, and don’t enter any Samaritan town. Instead, go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, announce this: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those with skin diseases, drive out demons. You have received free of charge; give free of charge. Don’t take along gold, silver, or copper for your money-belts. Don’t take a traveling bag for the road, or an extra shirt, sandals, or a walking stick, for the worker is worthy of his food.

“When you enter any town or village, find out who is worthy, and stay there until you leave. Greet a household when you enter it, and if the household is worthy, let your peace be on it. But if it is unworthy, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that house or town. I assure you: It will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.
(Matthew 10:5-15 Holman Christian Standard Bible® ©)

They were not on a Church-planting mission, but on a Kingdom-announcing mission. They were instructed to be intentional about blessing with their peace the home that made them welcome. Also, if they were rejected, they were told to retract the blessing. Their judgement of the home or village would be enforced later.

It is in your power and under your authority to extend blessing. It is within the scope of your authority as a citizen of the Kingdom to speak into existence, or just to intend or will it into being that people are blessed. It is also in your power to retract blessing and to even extend curse or judgement.

The missions we are on in the earth are both Kingdom and Church oriented. We should not take it for granted that what is in our hearts toward each other or toward outsiders is right or just. We need to frequently ask the Holy Spirit to examine our hearts and to give us the fruit of Who He is to influence our responses to and intentions toward everyone with whom we come in contact.

We should be very intentional about how we influence communities and people in the Spirit.

Simple Gospel

I expect to soon be called on to pray with a 5 year old child regarding some trauma its family has subjected it to. While praying about what to pray, I started to also wonder how to include the child in the prayer.

How can I communicate to the child that we are going to talk to Yahweh? How to describe the love and the power of Jesus? How to communicate good and evil and healing and freedom?

It made me laugh when I was encouraged by remembering how much children can handle of invisible and impossible and lack of detail or rationale. I thought of how well they accept the lies we insult them with regarding equinox rabbits and solstice reindeer and the many stupidities we relate to the day before November 1 (All Saints Day).

If they can thrive in all of that trash, they should really do well when we honor them by telling them the truth about Jesus and teach them to talk to Him and listen to Him.

Going to Heaven

I feel as though I am about 40 years late doing the things that I believe I am in the earth to accomplish. Among other reasons, this sense that I have not really entered into my destiny here yet makes me pretty annoyed when the church around me is singing songs like “Precious Lord” – asking for permission to leave the work in the field unfinished and go to Heaven for the eternal picnic on the streets of gold.

Most of the songs written by the church in the ’30s through the ’50s were about going to Heaven. Much of what was written in the ’80s and ’90s was worship. Some was about the harvest – the unbelievers we have the privilege of offering good news to about salvation and the Kingdom of Heaven. Our songs declare our hearts – we sing about what we treasure.

The more our minds are set on manifesting the culture and power and persons of Heaven in the earth, the more successful we will be at populating Heaven with converts. The more we are whining about wanting to leave the harvest ripening in the field and spend the “afternoon” of the ages in a rocking chair instead of in the heat of the workplace, the less likely we are to be successful at bringing the Lord of the Harvest the nations.

They are an offering that He deserves. They are worth His life to Him. They need to be very valuable to us. They need to be brought to Him.