The Intentionality of God – Part 2

Tags

, , , , , ,

pillar-cloud

This is part 2 of The Intentionality of God blog posts. If you have not read Part 1 I strongly suggest that you do so by going to this page: Intentionality Part 1.  (The link will open a new window so when you are done reading it you can come back to this page.)

In part one of this series I attempted to illustrate the intentional nature of our God by using several examples within the created (physical) universe. Obviously, the creation will reflect some of the aspects of the Creator Himself. As you read this post I am sure you can see how intentional God really is. He doesn’t do anything randomly or by accident. He always has an intention (or purpose), a plan (or administration), and an expression of that purpose, which is the fulfillment of the intention.

As I pointed out in part one, the first creation (of the physical universe) is just called “creation” in the scriptures. However, we see in the New Testament, that God also has a New Creation which was actually a precursor to the first creation.

“remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.” (Ephesians 2:12-16)

It is apparent through this passage (and many others) that what God wanted all along was one new man. The word “man” here can also be translated “mankind” or “humanity”. This is the new creation. God wanted a new race that was neither gentile or jew but a whole new creation. But was God still intentional with this new race? Did He have a specific purpose, plan, economy, and goal in mind with this new humanity?

YES!!! Even more so than the first creation. Remember I told you that the whole reason God created the physical universe was to “house” or provide an “environment” for the new creation (or humanity)? If this is true then wouldn’t it stand to reason that the shadows and types we see in the Old Testament would point us to the spiritual reality that we see in the New Testament?

For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.” (Galatians 6:15)

Here, Paul is telling us in one sentence that God’s whole intention behind creation has to do with the New Creation. Here, he is pointing us to the spiritual reality behind God’s intention not merely the foreshadows we see in the Old Testament. However, those shadows (or types) can reveal to us the spiritual principles behind the New Creation, that is, the Body of Christ!

See Israel according to the flesh! are not those eating the sacrifices in the fellowship of the altar?” (1 Corinthians 10:18)

Here Paul is calling the physical nation of Israel: Israel according to the flesh.

“For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.” (Romans 2:28-29)

Here, Paul reveals that the true Jew is a spiritual reality, not one of the physical, natural nation. So therefore, is it possible to see aspects of God’s intentionality with his new creation in the “shadow” of the natural Jewish nation? I believe that it is. All of the features that we see in the old physical nation of Israel show us spiritual principles and features that apply to the true new Israel, that is, the Church of Jesus Christ!

“Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ.” (Galatians 3:16)

Features of the Nation:

Separation

God strictly forbade the intermarriage of the Jewish nation with any other people or nation. The main reason for this was the fact of the “other gods” and the opening up of the door of the spiritual realm concerning those “gods”. God considered this to be “fornication” because his relationship with Israel was one of a spiritual marriage. The nation of Israel was to be separate, they were to be distinct, they were to be wholly for God. This was to preserve the seed!

Cohesion

Because of their natural blood line, the nation of Israel was to be one. They were one (naturally speaking) because they were all natural born descendants of Abraham. They were from that same seed. They were from that one family. Even though they may be scattered all over the earth, yet when you meet them you can tell they are still of one clan, one family, one nation. This is because of the “seed” of Abraham. But remember that Paul tells us that the spiritual reality of Abraham’s seed is Christ! (Gal. 3:16). In the New Testament we see that spiritual seed having one origin, one source, and one life-principle. That is the meaning behind John 17!

A Common Food

Notice with me that Israel in the flesh has a common diet! They all eat the same things at the same time. Their diet is mainly determined by the law of Moses. It is a healthy diet that gives them all strength and vigor. We can see that through the eating of the lamb before leaving Egypt.

As spiritual Israel we all are to eat and drink the same thing… Christ Himself!

“For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.” (1 Corinthians 10:1-4)

“So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. “For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. “As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me. “This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.” (John 6:53-58)

The Tabernacle, the offerings, and the priestly functions

Our very intentional God left nothing to chance! He gave them very detailed instructions on how to build and erect the tabernacle. He also gave explicit instructions on how to perform the priestly ministry along with all of the offerings. If you don’t believe me you can read it for yourselves in Exodus through Deuteronomy. God had a purpose, a plan, a design, and an execution. And all of those things speak to us of Jesus Christ and His Church!

“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me;” (John 5:39)

The Law of Moses

The law given to the nation of Israel in the flesh also speaks of our new life in Christ. It is the same law for all believers, for everyone who is part of the true spiritual Israel. In fact, it is the only way that any of the other features will be expressed in the nation of God’s people. Without this law, the Body of Christ will simply be another social club, “do-gooders”, or “network” of friends. This law is the glue that holds it all together. It’s the source by which all decisions are made. It’s the vehicle by which seasons and directions are determined. It’s the heart pulse of this corporate people.

“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.” (Romans 8:2-5)

You see we, as the new humanity, we live under a law as well. It’s not the law of Moses and it’s not written on tablets of stone. Rather, it is the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. And it is by His Life within us that we find the mind of Christ to make decisions. And it is by this law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus (who lives within us!) that we live our lives individually and corporately.

All of these features (and many more) concerning Israel in the flesh are “pictures” and “shadows” of the Israel of God, the true Israel, the New Humanity, the Church!

“For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.” (Galatians 6:15-16)

In the next blog post (part 3) we will look at the point of all of this intentionality and purpose and how this is practically worked out in the New Testament house of God, the true Israel.

You won’t want to miss this one!

The Intentionality of God – Part 1

galaxies-597905_1280

May the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ be eulogized, the One who conferred benefactions upon us in the sphere of every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, even as He selected us out for himself in Him before the foundations of the universe were laid, to be holy ones and without blemish before His searching, penetrating gaze; in love having previously marked us out to be placed as adult sons through the intermediate agency of Jesus Christ for himself according to that which seemed good in His heart’s desire, resulting in praise of the glory of His grace which He freely bestowed upon us in the Beloved, in whom we are having our redemption through His blood, the putting away of our trespasses according to the wealth of His grace which He caused to superabound to us in the sphere of every wisdom and understanding, having made known to us the mystery of His will according to that which seemed good to Him, which good thing He purposed in himself, with respect to an administration of the completion of the epochs of time to bring back again to their original state all things in the Christ, the things in the heavens and the things on the earth, in Him, in whom also we were made an inheritance, having been previously marked out according to the purpose of the One who operates all things according to the counsel of His will, with a view to our being to the praise of His glory who had previously placed our hope in the Christ, in whom also, as for you, having heard the word of the truth, the good news of your salvation, in whom also having believed, you were sealed with the Spirit of the promise, the Holy Spirit, who is the token payment of our inheritance guaranteeing the full payment of all, looking forward to the redemption of the possession which is being preserved with a view to the praise of His glory.” (Ephesians 1:3-14 Wuest Translation)

This blog post and the next will cover two aspects of the intentional nature of God. This first part will cover the intentionality of God’s nature and character. The second part will cover the intentionality of God’s eternal purpose in Christ. In essence, the way that I am going to show these two aspects is by referring to the two creations; the old creation (the physical universe), and the new creation (Christ and God’s purpose in Christ).

Our God has an intention. He has a purpose. You could say that he has a goal in mind. The above passage in Ephesian chapter one is absolutely mind boggling in both it’s fullness and it’s scope. It gives us an incredible insight into the very nature of our God. Everything God does is absolutely pregnant with purpose and intentionality. To make it easier to understand let’s map it out this way:

This basic map shows the process of having a purpose, designing and planning toward that purpose, taking practical steps towards the fulfillment of that purpose. And then the actual realization or consummation of that purpose. This is how we approach every project that we tackle. But where did we get this from? Did we just make it up? Of course not! Since we are made in the image of God we approach the completion of a project in a similar way. Now let’s take a look at how our endlessly creative God approached the creation of the physical universe. But before we do, it’s very important that you realize that God had a purpose before the physical universe. In fact, it was that purpose that motivated God to create the physical creation. We will call it the first creation for that is exactly what it is in the mind and heart of God. He created the second creation, that is the physical universe, in order to facilitate and create an environment for the first creation. This first creation is called the New Creation in the New Testament. However, it’s actually older than the Old Creation. Is that confusing or what? Let me put it this way: since the first(new) creation is eternal, that means that it actually existed inside of God before the Old Creation (the physical universe). This will make more sense in the next part of this blog post! For now, let’s just say that the physical universe that you see around you was created for this new creation.

Now, let’s take a very brief look at the degree of intensity of God’s intention, design, planning, and structure inherent in this created physical universe.

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)

Our Atmosphere and Outer Space

Did you know that during a lightning storm two gases are combined? The lightning bolt produces nitrogen and then combines it with the hydrogen in the water to produce fertilizer. The fertilizer falls to the earth to cause plants to grow!

“Lift up your eyes on high And see who has created these stars, The One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, Not one of them is missing.” (Isaiah 40:26)

Our sun produces more energy in one second than all of mankind has produced since Adam and Eve. The sun also drives all weather on the earth.

The visible universe contains more than one hundred billion galaxies. Each of these galaxies has a diameter of millions of trillions of miles wide. Each galaxy contains hundreds of billions of stars. And yet the scripture says that God has given them all names and calls them by their names! Just think, our God not only created all those stars, he also named them all and keeps them all in their places to function properly.

In the twentieth century it was discovered that the universe is expanding all the time. Scripture tells us that God stretches out the heavens like a garment. Isaiah 40:22

Inner Space

Look at the structure and intention behind a single atom! Or further yet, the properties of water. This one element supports all life upon the earth. It makes an excellent solvent, coolant, and transporter.

How about the complexity of a snow flake crystal? They are complex, symmetrical, and beautiful. And each one of them is unique! What an amazing and creative God! They are structured and patterned. Just like we humans are each unique and different.

DNA – the blueprint for all life

It is by far the most dense information system known to man. For example, the amount of information contained within one pinhead of DNA would fill a stack of books five hundred times higher than from here to the moon! The program code and design of such a system shows us a God who is an extremely intelligent and a structured designer.

All human life begins with one single cell. How does that tiny cell know how to reproduce itself and grow into a body of one hundred trillion cells? It is by the genetic code. This DNA is the manufacturer’s manual. Not only that, but there are also “editorial” enzymes that travel up and down the DNA strands checking for damage and repairing it.

Seeds

The seed is the reproductive structure that God made for all of life. All seeds (whether plant, animal, or human) are complex systems to reproduce life. Everything needed for the future life is contained within the tiny seed.

How does the seed know how or when to grow? How does it know which way the root is to grow and which way the stem is to grow? How does it know that it needs the soil, water and warmth in order to grow? Obviously, God purposed, planned, and designed these tiny “embryos” to do what was needed.

Animals

How does a school of fish know when to turn or to dart into another direction? How does a flock of starlings fly so close together and change direction so quickly? (These movements are called murmurations and you can view them on youtube.com). Actually, there is no one leader who controls the flock. Instead, they move together instinctively. It’s usually initiated by a predator nearby and each bird communicates (very quickly!) to the seven birds immediately around him. Then those seven birds communicate to the seven birds around each of them. This is how they can make a decision to move so quickly. It’s corporate communication!

Conclusion

Obviously, I could go on for pages and pages about seeing the nature of our God in his creation. But I think you get the point! Our God is extremely intentional and purposeful. He is an incredible planner and designer. He planned and planned and even micro-planned! This was all according to his divine intention. His Ultimate Intention which we will explore in part two of this post. Look for it soon. I am building toward something here folks so please stay with me!

Resources:

“God of Wonders” video:
Watch on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/God-of-Wonders-291921489991/

The Ultimate Intention
book by DeVern Fromke

Is Christ Enough? Headship

Tags

, , ,

 

The Body of Christ

And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.”  Ephesians 1:22-23

but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ,” Eph 4:15

He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.” Col. 1:17-19

For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority;” Colossians 2:9-10

Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God.” Colossians 2:18-19

The headship of Christ is not something you hear or read about very often.  Why?  I believe it’s because we really don’t understand what it means.  Obviously, why would you talk or write about something that you yourself don’t understand?

The Abuses

In my experience in the institutional church the only time I heard about the “headship” of Christ was when the preacher was referring to authority structures in the church.  Usually, they would be referring to some kind of hierarchical authority structure such as the clergy/laity system.  You would be instructed to submit to your pastor or elders as unto the Lord.  These people were the ones who would “run” the church.  Sometimes there would also be some kind of trans-local authority that you would need to submit to such as traveling “apostles” or “prophets”.  And then at very rare times you may hear about the headship of Christ referring to the authority of Christ over your life as a member of his body.  That was about it.

This post is an attempt to correct some of those ideas and add to our understanding of the fullness of Christ in reference to his headship.

The Meaning of “Head” in the New Testament

First of all, we need to understand the meaning of the word “head” in the Greek language.  This is no simple task and I am definitely no Greek scholar!  There is much controversy surrounding the original meaning of the Greek word: kephale (head).  Some say that it strictly means (authority, or person in command) and others say that it means “life source“.  I believe that it means BOTH!  And I think you will clearly see that as I bring out the context in a few of the passages I cited above.  There are a few important aspects of Christ and his Church that I would like to bring out of these passages.

Life Source

but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ,” Eph 4:15

Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God.” Colossians 2:18-19

These passages clearly bring out the aspect that Christ, as the Head supplies the body with his Life.  First, we see in the Ephesian passage that we (the body) are to grow up into the head (Christ).  This obviously speaks of him as our Life Source.  We grow (by his life) into him.  Secondly, in the Colossian passage we see that the entire body is supplied and held together and grows with a growth (life) that comes from God.  Therefore, we can see that this word “head” clearly means life-source by the context of these passages (and others).

Authority

He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.” Col. 1:17-19

The idea of before, beginning, firstborn, and first permeates this passage.  The head comes before the body.  He is the head because he is first.  The other aspect is the idea of all things.  He is before all things; all things hold together in Him; He will come to have the first place in everything (all things).  He is the head because he is the “all things” of God!  He comes first because He is the Beginning!

He is definitely Large and in Charge!

Both Life Source and Authority

And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. Eph. 1:22-23

Here we see both the authority of Christ AND the life flow (or source) of Christ.  Everything is under his feet (in subjection) which speaks of his absolute authority.  But that is to the church, his body, which is his fullness.  Christ filling all things with his fullness speak of the flow of his life source into the church.  He is definitely Lord of lords and King of kings.  Make no mistake about that.  But his authority can only be actuated by him being the Life Supply of the church.  Both work together!  We cannot have the King of kings unless we have the Vine!  We cannot have the Lord of lords unless we have the flow of Christ’s life throughout the Body.

The Most Beautiful Picture of Christ as Our Life Supply:

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brothers to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, Coming down upon the beard, Even Aaron’s beard, Coming down upon the edge of his robes. It is like the dew of Hermon Coming down upon the mountains of Zion; For there the LORD commanded the blessing–life forever.” Psalms 133:1-3

Wow! God, the Father’s life flows down (via the Spirit) from the Head (Christ) to every member of the Body (the Church).  Is this a picture of Life Source or what?

Practically Speaking

Okay, so this is all great and wonderful.  Jesus Christ is the Head of his Body, the church.  This means that he is both the Life-Source of the Body as well as the Lord (King) of his kingdom.  Both of these truths are wrapped up in the fact that he is the Head of the church.  I think that most Christians would agree with these statements.  However, here comes the clincher:

How does his headship play out practically within the life of the Body?

One thing is for sure; he does not express his headship through top-to-bottom or chain-of-command style leadership.  There is no one human person who leads or directs his church.

“But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. “It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.
(Matthew 20:25-28)

What Jesus was saying here is that his church would not function the way that those in the world system function.  That is, with chain-of-command top down authority.  His kingdom would function in a totally different way.  And that way is that they would become the lowest, the least, and the servants of all.  This message from our Lord came about because the mother of the sons of Zebedee (James and John) wanted to know if her sons could be given the right hand and left hand place next to the king.  He told that she had no idea what she was asking.  This was her only concept of authority.  It’s a chain-of-command top to bottom system.  But this is not how the kingdom of God would function at all!

All of the Members Seeking the Mind of the Head

Paul said that “we have the mind of Christ” (1Cor.2:16).  Notice that he didn’t say “I have the mind of Christ”.  Having the mind of Christ is a WE thing!  We all together as the Body have the mind of Christ.  Did you know that the human brain sends a message to the whole body when it makes a decision?  Actually, its more accurate to say that the whole body has a part to play whenever the brain activates something.

In organic churches, we take the Headship of Christ very seriously.  We hold it in very high esteem by the practice of the whole body seeking the Head for his direction and decisions.  This is a very long and arduous task, believe me!  In fact, you may be asking how is this even possible?  Well, it’s actually very simple to explain but not simple to do.  The brothers and sisters in the church get together for a specific purpose of making decisions and planning.  If the church is healthy then the members of the body will have already been seeking the mind of Christ about the matters to be discussed ahead of time and will come to the gathering with a sense in their spirits of what the Lord is saying.  They will already have spent time in fellowship and prayer with the Lord about the matters to be discussed.  Sometimes these practically meetings can last a long time and sometimes not.  But they do not move ahead until the body agrees on what the Lord wants.

Is this difficult?  You bet!  Is there a battlefield happening?  Absolutely.  Why?  Because there is a whole realm of creatures who are resisting and even battling against the Lord Jesus having his full headship in his church!

For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority;” (Colossians 2:9-10)

We see the church seeking the mind of Christ together in Jerusalem concerning the decision to not place any additional burdens on the new believers who were Gentiles.  And the statement is made that:

Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas–Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren,”  (Acts 15:22)

And in another place:

For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials:” (Acts 15:28)

So there you have it!  Those who have itinerant ministries, the more mature saints (elders), the whole church, and the Holy Spirit all agreeing together on the mind of Christ!  That’s how decisions were made under the headship of Jesus Christ.  His mind was discovered in the midst of believers who had humbled themselves to the Lord and submitted themselves to one another (Eph. 5:21) under his direct Lordship and Headship.  Those who sought out his indwelling, eternal, uncreated, divine Life so that he would fully be expressed on the earth again!

Is this difficult?  NO!!!  It’s actually IMPOSSIBLE!!!  Only by God’s grace and in his Spirit and Life can this happen.  Will there still be problems in the church?  Absolutely!  Just read the New Testament letters!  I have come to the conclusion that problems in the churches are normal.  As long as they are the right kind of problems.  Notice with me that in the N.T. the problems are all people problems.  One guy was committing incest.  Another had problems getting along.  Some were dividing up over their favorite workers.  Some were following erroneous teachings.  But none of these problems were institutional in nature!  They were never fighting over who the next “pastor” was going to be.  There were no controversies over how much money to spend on the new building project.

But the kinds of problems an organic church will have are totally different.  One of them is laziness and atrophy.  The church may (at times) stop seeking the Lord together to find his mind for the seasons, decisions, and plans of the life of the church.  When this happens the headship of Christ is being circumvented.  Usually, those issues that need to be address won’t magically disappear and they will rear their ugly heads at the most inopportune times!

But when you have a bunch of crazy people who are simple enough to actually believe that Jesus Christ can in reality be the spiritual and practical Head over his church then all hell will break loose!

You may be asking: How in the world can this happen in reality?  I mean how can a group of believers get together and really be able to discern the mind of Christ in oneness?  How can this happen without a human leader (or group of leaders) running the show?

My answer would be to take a look at nature.  God has wonderfully built into creation this principle of corporate oneness under the headship of Christ.  Did you know that many species of animals and insects migrate to completely different areas of the world?  They all gather at the same time and at the same location!  Some travel thousands of miles and even to a different hemisphere!  How is this possible?  It’s something called “instinct“.  It’s actually built into their DNA by God himself.  Guess what?  God has also built into the spiritual DNA of his Church the instinct to gather.  Not only to gather but to express his Son and live by his Life-Source.

It’s there in your spirit, the deepest part of you.

It’s so that you will know him intimately and deeply.

It’s so that you will live by his life.

It’s so that you will live together with his people and display his kingdom!

This is our calling saints.

There is no compromise on this matter at all.

 

For more information on the headship of Christ:

Building Up the Body: One Man or One Another?

The Clergy/Laity Distinction: A Help or Hindrance?

Kephale (Head) by Laurie Fasullo

The Gathering Swarms

 

 

 

 

Is Christ Enough? Changes

Tags

, , ,

amazing-736885_1280

A voice came to him, “Get up, Peter, kill and eat!” But Peter said, “By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.” Again a voice came to him a second time, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.”
(Acts 10:13-15)
“As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do.”
(Acts 9:3-6)

The Lord has been dealing with us lately with such things as flexibility as opposed to rigidity.  Especially in the midst of change.  Now we have said for many years that the Lord deals with us (both individually and corporately) in “seasons”.  Just like in nature there are seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter; so there are seasons in God’s dealings with us and also in his work.  However, these “seasons” aren’t nearly as predictable as the natural ones!  At least not for us.  Obviously, God knows what is going on and planned these things from before time.  But the problem is that our vision just isn’t that eternal yet!  Our flesh, our natural man likes things that are predictable, revealed way in advance, and things that we are already comfortable with.  But God just doesn’t operate that way when he is dealing with us.  He operates in this completely “other”, eternal realm called faith.

Endless Variety

We must remember that our God is a God of endless variety and beauty. Just a look at the natural world will show you that! Just take a look at all of the varieties of plants, animals, and people. And that’s just the visible creation on this planet alone! Even within the seasons there is variety and changes. What about the “unseasonable” weather we have all experienced?  Even within the seasons that God takes us through there is variety.

Timing

Then there is the whole area of the timing of the Lord.  We know that his timing is not our timing and his ways are not our ways.  He does things his way and in his time!  Most of us reading this post right now agree with and understand these things.  But there is a huge problem.

We so quickly get settled, and even cemented, into the ways that we have been in or are in right now!

God is moving on and we are now stuck in the last movement or enlargement of God.  You see, I am not here even referring to missing the Lord in his timing or ways.  I am referring to getting “stuck” in the past (or current) situation that he himself took us through.

Comfort Zones

I find that the older I get the quicker I am to settle down into a comfort zone.  It’s really quite remarkable.  God is always moving us ahead in him.  But many times (especially if we like the season) we will want to stay where we’re at.

This reminds me of the children of Israel wandering in the desert.  God wanted them to take the promised Canaan land but they wandered around in a wilderness for forty years that only takes two weeks to cross!  Of course, the manna is a classic example.  God (for a season) fed them with the manna from heaven.  It would daily come down to provide their food.  However, they could not store it up for the future or even the next day!  They needed to trust God for their daily bread every single day.  Then, the time came when the manna was no longer being provided and now God was sending quail.  But they were used to manna!

Outside the Box

Then there was our friend Peter.  God wanted to include the Gentiles in his eternal purpose to have an expression of his Son on the earth (the Church).  Actually, he always had included the gentiles, but most of the Jews could not see the true spiritual Israel that Paul writes about in the letter to the Galatians.  Peter had to receive a dramatic rooftop vision to get the picture.  Even then, he was refusing to rise up and eat those “unclean” animals.  You see God was doing a new thing.  At least it was new in the eyes of Peter.  The apostle had always only thought within a very limited Jewish “box” and anything outside of that box was unthinkable.

But then there was our friend Paul! Now this guy was much more ingrained into the Jewish religion than Peter.  He was a real Pharisee, a Hebrew of Hebrews, as to the righteousness found in the Law, completely blameless (Philippians 3).  So you can see why God needed to knock him down and strike him with physical blindness in order that he would receive a vision!  He had to see that the church he was persecuting was the actual Christ Himself! (see Acts 9)  Saul was transformed into Paul and changed from a persecutor of the church to a master builder of the church.

In both of these examples (Peter and Paul) God had to break them out of their comfort zones in order for him to do something new.  It wasn’t something either of them expected or ever considered.

The Main Point

The main takeaway of this post is simply this:

God doesn’t want us to follow “ways”, he wants us to follow the Way!  Jesus Christ IS the Way.  Brothers and sisters, don’t get stuck in ways of knowing Him or doing things for Him.  Those “ways” will change and what worked today may not work tomorrow.  That’s because the way of the Lord is Christ, Himself, the Person!  Knowing Him and following Him and abiding Him is the key to every day and every work.  The true Foundation is only Christ and He is to be everything in our lives.  Not only individually but also corporately.  That’s why seeking him is so important for every step along the way.  Waiting upon him and not moving ahead of him is equally important.

Don’t be afraid of change

Don’t get stuck in a rut

Don’t get comfortable in past ways of doing things or systems of thought and procedure

Be flexible, be open

God’s change always brings about enlargement!

God’s new thing always brings in an abundance of Life!

 

Bread and Wine: A New Ebook

Tags

, , , ,

 

Bread and wine

Eating and Drinking Christ

This, unfortunately, is a very strange sounding phrase for most Christians today.

The reason for this is that the idea of knowing and consuming a Christ who lives deep inside of you (in your spirit) is not something we normally hear much about.

After watching a few hours of Christian television recently (which I hardly ever do!) I have concluded that most teaching comes under the category of “Christian Living”; in other words – how to live the Christian life.  We are told that it’s very important to live the Christian life now that you are one.  But the problem is that most bible teachers tell you that the “Christian Life” is something you do by: reading the bible, praying, going to church, paying your tithes, witnessing, doing some kind of christian work (usually by volunteering at the church), and so on.  This, we are told, is how one learns to “live” the Christian life.  So, most of us (myself included) spend years of our lives trying so hard to be good Christians using these methods.

But I propose to you that living the “Christian Life” is not the way at all!  It is the totally wrong premise!  It is the totally wrong foundation!

So… how do we live the Christian life?  Short answer:  WE DON’T!

There is only ONE who can live the life of the Father and that is the only begotten Son.

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
(Galatians 2:20)

So now the question becomes one of an inward fellowship with an indwelling Christ. Dear saint, know that He lives within you and desires to have a deep intimate relationship with you internally. When we plant organic churches the first thing we do is preach Christ to the brothers and sisters. A much bigger and greater Christ than they have ever seen or heard before. The second thing we do is teach and equip those believers to know this glorious Christ intimately and inwardly.

A Great New Resource

This brings me to the point of this blog post.

A few years ago my wife and I started training new organic church planters. RC and Bridget Babione were part of that training. They are now part of a planting team in Austin, Texas. Bridget just released an ebook called: “Bread and Wine: 20 Recipes for Eating and Drinking Christ“.

I cannot recommend this book more highly.  It will help you to know an indwelling Christ is ways that you never thought of.  These helps are very practical and easy for anyone to follow in their everyday lives.  You can find out more about the book and how to order from this website link:

Bread and Wine

Is Christ Enough? Your Life

Tags

, , , , , ,

sheep-1587530_640

Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.’

(Matthew 16:24-25)

Here is the problem with the quote from Jesus above:

1.) We over-spiritualize it

2.) We disregard it

3.) We disdain it and avoid it at all costs

4.) We take it to mean that we must be willing to sacrifice for Jesus.

Matt 16:23 But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.

CAUTION! Hang on to your bloomers… this blog post is going to be as blunt as I can possibly get in order to attempt getting through to you, my readers (all ten of you!).

I honestly believe that when we read passages (like those above) about the Lord’s call for us to follow Him that we really don’t get it.  That’s also true when we hear these things preached or written about.  That’s why my prayer for this blog post is that your eyes (spiritual) and ears (spiritual) would be opened to truly hear what our Lord is saying.  Are these statements important?  Yes! In fact they are everything!

*************************************************************

So Lord Jesus, I ask that those who will read this post will be touched by your Spirit to see and hear these things as perhaps for the first time.  Lord, may they not think: “oh yeah, I know that!” but instead humbly (like a child) receive what you have said as if they had never heard (or read) it before.  And Lord, may it cause a complete revolution to take place in their hearts and within your Body throughout the world.  Amen

*************************************************************

You might think I’m crazy, but I honestly believe that I can boil down the problems within Christianity and among most Christians today in one simple statement.

We don’t really believe what Jesus and the New Testament writers said!

That’s because if we did, then our lives would be very different than a typical Christian of today.  We would be radical, even revolutionary people.  Instead, what we see around us today is this insipid, anemic, lukewarm version of so-called Christianity.  For the most part, a people who are not willing to lose anything, let alone their very lives!

I can speak this way because I have been a believer for over 43 years and have seen a lot of Christians in that time.  My wife and I have been working for 25 years of that time to help start and plant something we call “organic” churches.  And in that time I can honestly say that I believe I have the main problem with believers who are attempting to return to a genuine, authentic, New Testament expression of the church.

They are just not willing to lose their lives!

And yet Jesus said that you could not even be a follower of his unless you were willing to lose your own life.  But I ask you dear brothers and sisters: IF WE ARE NOT EVEN FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST YET HOW CAN WE BE HIS CHURCH?

Then Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone is desiring to come after me, let him” forget self and lose sight of his own interests, and let him pick up his cross and carry it, and let him be taking the same road with me that I travel, for whoever is desiring to save his soul-life shall ruin it, but whoever will pass a sentence of death upon his soul-life for my sake, shall find it. For what will a man be profited if he gain the whole world but forfeit his soul-life. Or, what shall a man give as an exchange for his soul-life? For the Son of Man is about to be coming in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He shall recompense to each one according to his manner of acting.” (Matthew 16:24) (Wuest)

But whatever things were to me a gainful asset, these things I have considered a loss when it comes to my acquisition of Christ, and still so consider them. Yes, indeed, therefore, at least, even I am still setting all things down to be a loss for the sake of that which excels all others, my knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord which I have gained through experience, for whose sake I have been caused to forfeit all things, and I am still counting them dung, in order that Christ I might gain, yes, in order that I might in the observation of others be discovered by them to be in Him, not having as my righteousness that righteousness which is of the law, but that righteousness which is through faith in Christ, that righteousness which is from God on the basis of faith. Yes, for His sake I have been caused to forfeit all things, and I count them but dung, in order that I might come to know Him in an experiential way, and to come to know experientially the power of His resurrection and a joint-participation in His sufferings, being brought to the place where my life will radiate a likeness to His death, if by any means I might arrive at the goal, namely, the out-resurrection from among those who are dead. (Philippians 3:7) (Wuest)

As I hope that you can clearly see, all of these statements hinge upon one thing: A LIFE LAID DOWN!

If our individual relationship with God is hinging upon us laying down our lives then how could we ever think that His Church would operate by any other principal?

People all over are asking for “organic church” life but they haven’t even totally given their lives to the Lord yet! I ask you, how can this work? It can’t, it can’t, it most absolutely cannot!

The Great Contradiction

As I stated earlier in this post, my wife and I have been working in the area of helping and planting organic churches. We have noticed a very strange phenomenon concerning this. Many of the people who are helped by us in the churches we plant and others who hear or read about our work make statements such as those below:

  • “I really appreciate all that you have done to help us”
  • “You folks have sacrificed a lot to help us”
  • “We really honor and look up to you because of your sacrificial service”
  • “You have given up so much to do this work, thank you!”

Now, please don’t misunderstand me, we really appreciate these statements made by precious believers where we have worked.  We take their love and encouragements to heart in every way.  There is a special and strong bond between us.  We thank the Lord for that every day!

However, there is also something very strange about all this …

We are not special Christians!  We are just “normal” Christians.

Yes, we have laid down our lives for the Lord and His House.  But that is just what a normal believer does!  Now, not everyone is called to his work of planting churches, traveling, preaching, etc.

  • But we are ALL called to follow Him completely by giving up our lives and living His life.
  • We are ALL called to forsake all to follow Him.
  • We are ALL called to take up His interests and His purpose and lay down all of our ideas, dreams, hopes, agendas, programs, wants, and even needs.
  • We are ALL called to take up His all-encompassing interest which is His Church!
  • We are ALL called to go wherever and do whatever He needs for His eternal purpose (the expression of Christ in His Body).

In other words: A true follower of Christ is someone who has given up all rights to himself and his/her own desires, wishes, dreams, and goals.  That’s just a normal Christian.

But we are so used to living a sub-standard Christian life that we actually believe that those who are “sold out” for Christ are either fanatics or called to the ministry!

But wait!  Our Lord Jesus even went beyond that!

But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s. (Matt 16:23)

 

Do you “see” it? Do you “get” that? Here our Lord makes such a terrible and frightening statement that our minds tend to either blot it out or minimize the statement.

Let me put it in other words.

Jesus is telling Peter here that because he is setting his mind on man’s interests (his own) and not on God’s, he is not only a stumbling block to Christ, but he is also functioning by the life of Satan, the enemy of God!

Folks, I really don’t know how it could be stated any clearer:  When we put our own interests above that of Christ and His Church we are a satanically inspired stumbling block to Him!

You see, it’s either going to be your life or His!  Both will never work and will actually work against God’s purpose.  That’s why the Lord told us to leave all to follow Him.  That’s why He told us to deny (literally: to disown) our lives.  Organic church won’t work if you try to retain your own life!  It will end up being some watered-down version of the true expression of Christ.  It may be better than institutional church in some ways but it will not be what the Lord wants or live up to His own vision and passion.

The Foundation

When we come to plant a new organic church we always tell the believers that they will need to clear their schedules and simplify their lives.  We also tell them that the Church cannot be just a adjunct (add-on) to their lives.  THE CHURCH MUST NOW BE THEIR LIVES!  The biggest hindrance to organic church life is not the devil, the religious system, or even your background.

The biggest hindrance to true organic church life is your own life!

I get people coming to me all the time wanting to join an existing organic church in their town.  They tell me that they have earnestly wanted this life for many years and are willing to do whatever it takes to find it. When I tell them that I don’t know of any such churches in their town but that I do know of churches in other cities then they begin to make excuses why they could never relocate to another town or state.  I’m sorry, but I honestly don’t have much compassion for believers in this condition.  They say one thing with their mouths but their hearts are far from the Lord and His purpose.

I can honestly say that most people don’t experience organic church life simply because they are willing to live without it!  You MUST be desperate for this life!  I mean REALLY desperate!  My wife and I were not willing to live without it.  We were willing to go anywhere and do anything to find it!

The Bottom Line

One of my favorite movies is The Untouchables with Kevin Costner and Sean Connery.  It’s about the taking down by law enforcement officers of one of the most notorious criminals of all time; Al Capone of Chicago.  Costner (Elliot Ness) works for the Treasury department and has been commissioned to put Capone out of business.  Connery is an older Irish cop on the beat in Chicago.  He has obviously been around the block several times and knows what is really going on with crime in the city.  Costner recruits Connery to help him put Capone down.  However, Connery’s character makes one thing clear to Ness by asking him one simple question: “what are you prepared to do?” He then goes on to tell him that this is an “all or nothing” endeavor.  That if he goes after Capone it will cost him everything.  Then he tells Ness, “here endeth the lesson.”

Brothers and sisters, what are you prepared to do?  Are you willing to go wherever and do whatever your Lord wants?  Don’t answer too quickly!  It’s so easy to say “Yes” to such a proposition without having counted the cost.  So… what is the cost?  The cost is simply everything!  Your Life!  Living organic church life means that you no longer hold any claims to your own personal life and now He IS your life.  And believe me, this rabbit hole goes much deeper than you ever imagined!

Is Christ REALLY enough?

“Here endeth the lesson.”

 

Special Note:  If this message (and the Lord’s dealings with you) have been tugging at your heart and you are willing to lay it all down for His calling and His purpose then you may be ready to engage in the most glorious adventure ever – true body life!  If this sounds like you then please email me at: milt@therebuilders.org and I will give you information on some possible new organic church plants that you can get involved in.

 

 

Is Christ Enough? Sexuality

Tags

, , , ,

bride-894871_640

Seeing What’s Really Going On Behind the Scenes

There is no doubt whatsoever that things are radically changing in our world.  One area that is definitely changing is the whole arena of sexuality.  Wow, has this changed in the last 60 years!  Now this post will be very controversial just like the others in this “Is Christ Enough?” series.  But I ask my readers to bear with me until the end of the post.  I am going to make some majorly important points at the end.  So please hang in there with me.

The Current Situation

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that sexuality is changing around us.  Especially if you have been around for fifty years or more!  There have definitely been some major changes within the last three or four decades.  Please let me give you what I have observed in my 63 years.  Note- this is merely an observation and not a judgement or assessment of the morality or correctness of our current situation.

Crossing the Line of Male and Female Distinctions

What we have seen in the last thirty years is an attempt at doing away with all sexual distinctions and so-called prejudices.  The act of sex between male and female is no longer exclusive to that combination and now includes male with male and female with female.  The homosexual (gays and lesbians) world is vying for equality, acceptance, civil rights, and equal “air time” in the media and the government.  The arts are now opening up to this so called “movement”.  For example, more and more movies are being made with and about homosexual (and now transgender) relationships.

No longer is it just gay and lesbians, but now we have the LGBT movement which includes lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender/transsexuals.

 … attitudes toward gays and lesbians have changed so much in just the last 10 years that, as Gallup reported last week, “half or more now agree that being gay is morally acceptable, that gay relations ought to be legal and that gay or lesbian couples should have the right to legally marry.” (In 1996, when Gallup first asked about legalizing same-sex marriage, 68% of Americans were opposed.)  By Mark Z. Barabak, Los Angeles Times  May 20, 2012

So what we are seeing around us is the fastest growing movement in history.  The majority opinion has gone from general opposition to acceptance in a decade!  And since now our whole nation (U.S.) has legalized same-sex marriages (see this article on Wikipedia) opposition has apparently become a moot point.

But that’s not all…

Now We Also Have the “Gender Blender”

Recently, fashion designers like Gucci and hip boutiques have begun selling what’s being called gender-neutral or gender-free clothing: clothes that can be worn by either men or women. (Both The New York Times style section and The Guardian have recently covered this trend.)
Then there was Target’s announcement in August that the retail giant would be eliminating gendered language in its children’s toys and bedding, transgender celebrity Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair cover and singer Miley Cyrus’ self-identification as gender-fluid.  (taken from CNN Style.com By Mary Rizzo, The Conversation)

 

Recently I was shopping for a coat at a “stylish” clothing store. I have to say that I was confused as to whether I was in the men’s section or the women’s. The coats looked very feminine to me. And my wife agreed! But it’s not just in clothing, it’s also in hair styles. Have you noticed recently that more and more “hip” and “trendy” hair styles among young people are unisex? What about the shaved head with a bun on the top? What about a bushy Mohawk on top with a shaved head? These hair styles are usually accompanied by tats all over the arms.  Now, please keep in mind that I am not making any judgement calls about any of these things.  I am merely reporting what I am observing.  My point of all this will be at the end of this post.

Uni What?

There is also the whole unisex movement around the world.  Did you know that the idea and implementation of unisex restrooms has become a huge debate around the world?  As I write this post cities around the world are actually voting on measures known as “bathroom ordinances” which would prohibit discrimination based upon gender identity.  This is coming about mostly because of the transgender issue.  If, for example, someone decided to change their sex, then which restroom can they now use?  Because the transgender community is growing, now many people and institutions are feeling forced to redefine sexuality and gender altogether.  No doubt, the next step will be bi-gender movement.  These people are both male AND female either physically, psychologically, or both.  Now society will have to not only accept this but re-frame all social structures to fit into this new lifestyle.

What About Sexual Intercourse and the Marriage Relationship?

Moving on from the “Gender Blender” stuff let’s now take a look at marriage (between a man and a woman) as a life choice and institution.  Wow!  Have things changed in this area or what?  First let’s take a look at the stats on marriage:

Professor Stanley at the University of Denver suggests that people consider the following statements:

  • About 31 percent of a person’s friends, aged 35 to 54, who are married, engaged or cohabiting have already previously been married.
  • People who have been married many years (say, 35-plus) and have never been divorced have almost no chance of the marriage ending in divorce.
  • The rate of divorce per year per 1,000 people has been declining since 1980.
  • A young couple marrying for the first time today has a lifetime divorce risk of 40 percent, “unless current trends change significantly.”

However…

What these stats don’t tell you is that less and less people are even getting married at all!

The marriage rate in America has hit a record low and is expected to drop even further next year, according to a company that specializes in wedding and fertility trend forecasts. But some experts speculate that the headline-grabbing recent retreat from marriage may be bottoming out.

Others have made similar findings. A Pew Research Center report recently said that one-fourth of millennials are likely to eschew marriage entirely.

And of course these stats are for marriages that are men and women.

What’s in a Word?

Now there is something else that has become more and more pervading throughout our society.  That is the use of the “F” word.

Recently I was getting some work done on my laptop in a McDonald’s restaurant.  All of a sudden about 50 junior high school kids overtook the place with a very loud and tumultuous roar.  At that point it was extremely difficult to hear or think!  I was sitting at a bar (for people with laptops) that seated six people.  Well, it didn’t take long before five young teenage boys sat down at the bar.  Obviously, there must have been a junior high school real close by.

At first, I wasn’t really listening to them because I was trying desperately to block out all the noise so I could continue working.  Unfortunately, I had forgotten my earbuds but I instinctively knew that they wouldn’t have helped much anyway.  Soon my mind began to wander and I found myself listening to these boys.  The first thing I noticed is that just about every fifth word was the “F” word!  It flowed out of them like a sewer hose!  It was obvious that they really didn’t realize what they were saying and that word was just like saying any other word like “a” or “the”.  Then, I started hearing them discussing their sexual conquests and those of people they knew around them in the restaurant.  It was nothing for them to say things like. “yeah, I F—- Suzie” and “I heard that Joey has also already F—- her”.   It was like nothing I had ever heard before.  Treating sex like a sport or something.  It was absolutely frightening! Now whether these sexual “conquests” were based in reality or not is not really my point.  The fact that they were thinking and talking like that is my point!

About two weeks later I was driving near that same spot and was waiting at a traffic light.  As I was sitting there a crowd of young teenagers walked across the street in the crosswalk right in front of me.  Guess what?  They were all using the “F’ word loud and clear!

Of course, we have all noticed that language has changed in our culture all around us.  We can see and hear it in movies, music, art, the internet, etc.  For many, true marriage with one person (for all your life) is looked down upon and is outdated in this sexually “enlightened” culture.  Sex, is now something separate from true marriage (with one male and one female) and is considered to be as a “sport”.

NOW FOR MY PROMISED POINT!

First of all, before we can discover what is truly going on here, we need to ask the all pervading question: “WHY?”

WHY has sexuality changed radically in our culture in the last 50 years?

WHY are gender roles and definitions being changed and blended into one big pot?

WHY are we now moving to a unisex format?

WHY? is traditional marriage becoming a thing of the past?

WHY are our children now seeing sex as a sport for any age and using the “F” word?

The answer might actually shock you!  It’s something far deeper than the breakout of our society or world system.  Yes, of course, it is tied into the world system.

The apostle John told us something very revealing about the system(s) of this world.

We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.(1 John 5:19)

Okay, so understanding that, what do you think the enemy of God is up to in this area of sexuality?

He is attempting to assault, mock, and destroy the testimony of God’s eternal purpose in this world!

Considering the fact that most Christians don’t even know (let alone understand) the eternal purpose of God, this should not come as a shock to us.  Dear believer, I implore you, if you do not know what I am writing about please read other posts on this blog that have to do with the “eternal purpose”.  Do so in a spirit of prayer asking God for his revelation in this all important matter.

Now, you may be asking: “Milt, how does attacking sexuality and marriage in our world attack the testimony of God’s eternal purpose?”

Well, I am really glad you asked that!  :-)

Paul does a wonderful job of summing it up for us in this passage:

Ephesians 5:22 (22-33) The wives, be putting yourselves in subjection with implicit obedience to your own husbands as to the Lord, because a husband is head of the wife as the Christ is Head of the Church, He himself being the Saviour of the Body. Nevertheless, as the Church subjects itself in obedience to the Christ, in this manner also the wives should subject themselves in obedience to their husbands in all things. The husbands, be loving your wives with a love self-sacrificial in its nature, in the manner in which Christ also loved the Church and gave himself on behalf of it, in order that He might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the bath of water in the sphere of the Word, in order that He might himself present to himself the Church glorious, not having spot nor wrinkle nor any of such things, but in order that it might be holy and unblamable. In this manner ought also the husbands to love their wives as their own bodies. The one who loves his own wife loves himself, for no one ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, even as the Christ, the Church, because members are we of His Body. Because of this a man shall leave behind his father and his mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great. However, I am speaking with regard to Christ and the Church. Nevertheless, also as for you, let each one in this manner be loving his own wife as himself, and the wife, let her be continually treating her husband with deference and reverential obedience. (Wuest’s Expanded Translation)

There it is! There you have it! In case you didn’t get it, I will spell it out for you. Paul tells us that the physical marriage union is a picture, an image, a shadow of something much deeper and higher. It is a reflection of the spiritual marriage between Jesus Christ and His lovely Bride, the Church! And this is all about him getting what he has wanted since before creation. That is, an image, an expression, a family, a body, a bride, a city, a tree (vine and branches), a new kingdom, a new humanity, and a new creation! This is so that the fullness of Christ would be expressed and displayed to all creation (visible and invisible) through this “woman” “wife” if you will.

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
(Ephesians 1:18-23)

So… of course the enemy of God will do whatever he can to stain and tarnish the picture of His eternal purpose.

Is Christ Enough? Politics

And He was saying to them, “You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. (John 8:23)

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” (John 18:36)

But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.” (Galatians 6:14-15)

Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:15-17)

We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.”  (1 John 5:19)

Changing the World

Christians have for many centuries been involved up to their earlobes in attempting to change the world. Now when I say the “world” I am not referring to the people in the world but rather the world “system”. This word in the Greek is “kosmos” which literally means: a system, order, arrangement, or adornment. The scriptures are continually pleading with us believers that we are NOT of this world system and therefore should not be occuppied with it.

Here is an excellent translation of 1 John 2:15-17 from well known New Testament Greek scholar, Kenneth Wuest:

Stop considering the world precious with the result that you love it, and the things in the world. If anyone as a habit of life is considering the world precious and is therefore loving it, there does not exist the Father’s love in him. Because everything which is in the world, the passionate desire of the flesh , and the passionate desire of the eyes, and the insolent and empty assurance which trusts in the things that serve the creature life, is not from the Father as a source but is from the world as a source. And the world is being caused to pass away, and its passionate desire. But the one who keeps on habitually doing the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17)

Wow! That really makes it clear, doesn’t it?

Brothers and sisters, we are not part of this world system, we are not a part of this world culture, and we are definitely not to be in partnership with the forces behind it!

So… let me ask you a very directly penetrating question:

Why then are so many believers involved with trying to change this world system?

Right now many of you might be thinking: “Well c’mon Milt, aren’t we supposed to love and reach the world by working within the system to change it?

No! No! A thousand times NO!

Can’t you see that according to the mind of God (as revealed within the writings of the New Testament) that He has absolutely no desire to save or change this world system? That system is controlled by the evil one (1 John 5:19). God has already condemned that system and it will have the same fate as satan and all his fallen angels. God has absolutely no use for that system whatsoever. It’s like the Titanic… its goin’ down! You can rearrange the tables and chairs all you want, but its still going down nevertheless. Christians being involved with changing the system (government and politics) is like trying to fix up the Titanic! What an absolute waste of time and effort! I tell you that this idea is a total diversion of the enemy to get you occupied with his system and to be totally distracted from God’s own “system” or culture.

Oh, you mean you didn’t know that God has his own system and culture? Of course he does.

It’s called the Kingdom of God!

“My kingdom is not of this world.”

This kingdom comes from another completely different realm. The heavenly realm. It doesn’t even come from the world of men at all! It comes from a much higher place indeed. It comes from within God himself. It comes from a place called Spirit. And it is not dictated by anything of men or angels (fallen or unfallen). Or for that matter, anything created! It’s Jesus Christ Himself!

nor will they say, Lo, here! Or, Lo, there! For behold the kingdom of God is in your midst.”  (Luke 17:21)

Christ Jesus Himself is the Kingdom and he has his own culture, society, and system (way) of doing things and living. And it has nothing to do with this world system at all!

If you want to know more about it just read Matthew 5-6 which we could call the “magnacarta” of the Kingdom. This Christ is completely different and “other” than anything the devil or man can come up with. Not even close!

So why would we (as believers) get involved with trying to save or change that world system? That system has been around for thousands of years and still hasn’t changed, except maybe for the worst.

to all those who are in Rome, beloved of God, called-out saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 1:7)

Paul said that we are “called-out saints” (the literal translation of holy ones). But what are we called out of? The world system and all that is within it! God loves and wants to save the people of the world, but not the system of the world.

So What About “Christian” Politics?

At the time of this writing (in the U.S.) folks are getting ready for a national election. As far as I am concerned it’s just a “parade of clowns”. Come on, really! Are you serious about the choices we have for a new “president”? Please… give me a break! I personally refuse to be responsible for any of it by casting my vote. I also refuse to even subject my mind and heart to watching these ridiculous debates, interviews, quotes, personal attacks, ad nauseum, of the presidential candidates.

Called-out saints: don’t we have better things to do with our energy and time than to invest in that kingdom?  What about the kingdom of our Lord and Christ?

Isn’t Christ Enough? I mean really… isn’t He?

And for those of you who believe that this nation (U.S.) was founded by Christians on Christian principles, please let me tell you a brief story:

My wife Mary and I were recently visiting a wonderful group of saints (holy, set apart ones) in the Washington, DC area. Some of them were able (and gracious) enough to take us to see some of the sites of DC. We walked down the National Mall and saw many of the monuments and memorials. We also took a tour of the Capitol building. Of course, this is the building where our government makes decisions in the house and senate sessions. The tour was quick but was very informative and our guide was very good. The last thing that he drew our attention to was to look up and see the painting that is on the inside of the dome of the building. Of course, since it’s a dome, the painting is a circular one. There are figures (men) all in a circle with one man at the center. Our guide explained that the men all around the circle were the Greek gods and philosophers. The man in the center is George Washington!

At that point the lights completely came on for me. I saw it so clearly then that the whole world system is founded upon the evil one. And that the United States of America has been built upon the foundation and principles of the Greco-Roman world! And that these are just two kingdoms of man that have fallen in the past (even though we still follow many of their principles and philosophies in many areas of life!). But they will all fall as prophesied by Daniel of old.

And in the days of these kings, the God of Heaven shall set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed. And the kingdom shall not be left to other people. It shall break in pieces and destroy all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.” (Daniel 2:44)

Saints, which kingdom are you investing your thoughts, attention, time, money, and energy on?

Again I ask the question: Is Christ Enough?

For more resources on this topic see:

Searching Together Blog by Jon Zens

Subversive by Keith Giles

The book: The Myth of a Christian Nation by Greg Boyd

Is Christ Enough? Power and Wisdom

lion-1214837_640

For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

(1 Corinthians 1:22-25)

Here, in this passage, Paul sums up the gospel that he preached in the face of insurmountable odds and extreme opposition.  It is a gospel that is so radical and so extreme that it called down unbelievable persecution upon his head everywhere he went.  This persecution was not only dished out by the heathen but more so by the religious folks, namely the Jewish nation.  It is a gospel that is so different and so outrageous that you can really only tag it “radical” and “revolutionary“.

The definition of the word: “radical” means going to the root of a matter, even to the point of being immoderate in thoroughness and completeness.  I can only say that the gospel that Paul preached was indeed both radical and extreme.  He definitely went straight for the root or the heart of the matter!  In other words, he went straight to the point!

The Content of the Gospel

But what exactly IS the gospel?  What was it exactly that Paul preached?  Let’s start out by going over what his gospel was not.

His gospel was not:

The end times
Spiritual gifts (miracles, healing, etc)
Speaking in tongues
Ministry and leadership
Evangelizing the nations
Hebraic roots
Biblical knowledge and teaching
Theology
Philosophy and psychology
Politics and believers changing the world system
How the Jewish nation could back into power
A woman’s place in the church
And on and on we could go…

No, no, a thousand times NO!

So now, the question that is just begging to be answered:

SO WHY THEN DO WE CHRISTIANS SPEND ALL OF OUR TIME, EFFORT, AND MINISTRIES FOCUSING ON THOSE THINGS?

The answer is so radical and so extreme that it baffles the most learned scholar.

The answer is so simple and yet so profound that Paul calls it a “mystery”.

I will let Paul himself tell you the content of his gospel:

Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.

(Colossians 1:25-29)

Did you get that?  “We proclaim HIM!”  Not an “it” and not a “thing”, but a HIM!

Wow!  Talk about a radical and revolutionary idea!  The fact is that the gospel is not about ideas at all, but only about a Person!  THE Person of Jesus Christ.  Only God could come up with this.  A message that his sent-ones would promote, proclaim, and announce; a Person who would (and indeed has) changed everything.  Not a set of ideas or doctrines.  Not a philosophy, and definitely not a new religion.  Not an activity or ministry. simply a new Person.  Yes, something totally new has happened in the universe because of this Person.

In this Person of Christ:

  • we have been transferred from the domain of darkness to the kingdom of God
  • we have redemption, the forgiveness of our sins
  • he fulfills God’s goal to have an image of himself on the earth
  • all things were created in heaven and earth
  • he is before all things, and in him all things hold together
  • he is the head of a new creation (body) called the church
  • he is the firstborn from the dead so he will have the first place in everything
  • all of the fullness of the universe was pleased to dwell in him
  • and he is now reconciling all things to himself
  • so that he himself would come to have the first place in all things

Wow!  What a Christ!  He deserves to be all that we proclaim!

But there is a problem.  It’s called:  The Fall of Man

Our Natural Tendencies

Paul tells us that the “natural man” cannot accept the things of God:

But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. (1 Corinthians 2:14)

So the problem is that our natural man cannot accept the fact that Christ Himself (the Person) is not only the gospel but also everything else related to God’s eternal purpose. The natural man says: “No! it has to be some thing, an it, a doctrine, a teaching, a set of principles or rules, an activity, a gift, a miracle, or something else. It just can’t be that simple!”  But then, as we know, God’s ways are not our ways and his ways will always confound the wise of this world.  He has chosen to make his Son the Center of everything!  Yet we, in our natural man, are always working real hard at making it about something else… anything else!

Now, perhaps with this backdrop, we can understand what Paul was saying in the quote at the top of this post (1 Corinthians 1:22-25).

Jews Ask for Signs and Greeks Search for Wisdom

Sad to say but most Christians today are either like the Jews or the Greeks.

The Jews were the ones who were always asking for signs.  They wanted to see miracles.  They wanted to “feel” or experience something.  They were like the modern-day pentecostals!  They could not believe unless they saw supernatural manifestations.

Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” So they said to Him, “What then do You do for a sign, so that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform? “Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘HE GAVE THEM BREAD OUT OF HEAVEN TO EAT.'” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. “For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.” Then they said to Him, “Lord, always give us this bread.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. “But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe. (John 6:28-36)

The Jews would not believe even when the Lord did perform miracles!  Why? Because they were looking at the “signs” not the Person to whom the signs pointed!  The bread they ate wasn’t the point.  The One who came from heaven (the Real Bread) was the point!

So what does Paul have to say to the sign-seeking Jews?

CHRIST IS THE POWER OF GOD!

The Greeks were the ones who were always seeking after “wisdom” or “knowledge”.  They wanted to know things.  That’s why so many philosophers came out of the Greek culture.  They wanted to know the secrets of the universe.  They are like the modern-day fundamentalists!  They want to “know” the Bible.  They believe that having an intellectual understanding of the scriptures will bring them the truth.

 Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.  (John 14:5-6)

The Greeks wanted to discover truth through teaching and philosophy.  They wanted to study hard and wrack their brains to know God.  That way, the natural man could be glorified.  But God loves to confound the wise!  He places all truth and wisdom inside of a Person so that the only way to know God’s truth is by getting to know that Person.

So what does Paul have to say to the wisdom-seeking Greeks?

CHRIST IS THE WISDOM OF GOD!

Brothers and Sisters, let this all-glorious, all-inclusive, all-encompassing, all-pervading, all-encircling Christ be truly our All in All!  Everything from God is found inside of his Christ.  Nothing that is for us has been left out.  Let’s not miss the forest for the trees!  This one and only Christ is both the forest (the church) AND the Tree  (God in the flesh).

This Christ truly is MORE than enough!

Book Review: Unchurching – Christianity Without Churchianity

unchurchingI would like to introduce you to a new book called: Unchurching: Christianity Without Churchianity writen by a friend of mine named Richard Jacobson.

This book is one of the best offerings on the modern day church system that I have read in a long time.  It’s a sticky subject for many to say the least. And I guess the million dollar question would be:

Is the “church” we see and experience all around us in our time the same church that we read about in the New Testament?

My wife and I started asking that question over thirty years ago.  The only conclusion we could come up with was an absolute “NO!” What we see around us definitely is not the same as what we read about in our bibles.  I think that most Christians, if they are honest with themselves, would agree with that statement.  But then the next question which is begging to be answered is: “well, then what do we do about it?”  And are we even supposed to do anything about it?

In this book, aptly titled Unchurching, Richard Jacobson does an excellent job at tackling these questions head-on using only the scriptures as his resource.  He does so with razor sharp biblical and theological accuracy with attention to every detail.  Fundamentalists, evangelicals, and charismatics alike will have a very difficult time arguing with Richard’s points made in this book.

So, if you are searching for the truth about the way we “do” church nowadays and are willing to be painfully truthful with yourself about the answers, this is the book for you!  I guarantee that it will completely rock your world.  And so it should!  It’s way past time for God’s people to stand up, be counted, and be willing to speak the truth in love with the goal in mind that God will get the church that HE has always dreamed of!

I highly recommend you read this book today, but only if you are not afraid of the truth!

You can find out more about Unchurching and download a copy at this website:

Unchurching Book