Saturday, November 12, 2011

What is the Kingdom?

Part 1

Part 2

Post-Constantine "Christendom"

By the end of the century (4th), the emperor Theodosus finalized the conquest of Christianity, making the faith of the Christians the only legal religion in the empire. Within one century, the Christian church had moved from the status of a minority, persecuted sect to that of the only legally sanctioned religion in the Roman Empire. Indeed, as some historians tell the story, Christianity had "triumphed" over its enemies. The Christian church had arrived, or so it appeared. Thus arose "Christendom" - an alliance between church and empire.

On the other hand, other historians and theologians recount these events as the "fall of the church." This type of story telling is perhaps too naive, simplistic, or sweepingly judgemental - surely there is much to be learned from post-Constantine Christians. Nonetheless, one finds in "Christendom" particular ways of thinking about Jesus that obscure (if not set aside) his teaching. In other words, some serious consequences came in the wake of the "triumph of Christianity." Painting in too-broad strokes, one might characterize some of these consequences this way:

  • "Christianity" increasingly loses the biblical emphasis upon discipleship and replaces it with an emphasis upon religious ritual.
  • "Church," rather than denoting the New Testament concept of a community of disciples living as the "body of Christ," begins to connote a hierarchy that protects "orthodoxy."
  • "Salvation," instead of being construed as the gift of a transformed, abundant life in the now-present kingdom of God, begins to be equated with an otherwordly reward. More crassly put, "salvation" is increasingly viewed as a fire-insurance policy, a "Get Out of Hell Free Card" guaranteeing an escape from the fires of torment and ensuring the receipt of treasures in heaven.
 In Christendom, the "whole world" may be dubbed "Christian," and yet it is un-Christlike.

We in the Western world are long removed from those days of governmentally established Christianity, living in the day of "separation of church and state." Nonetheless, such habits of thought remain.

by Lee C. Camp in 'Mere Discipleship - Radical Christianity In A Rebellious World'

Friday, November 4, 2011

I Can Only Imagine!!

I was just reminiscing the other day about how heavenly real estate, mansions, jewels, precious stones and crowns are offered as enticements for people to live holy. Now ofcourse, I know that people can point scripture verses to me for all the above mentioned things. But as mentioned in my previous post "The Missing Ingredient", fear and/or rewards shouldn't be our motivating factors to "live holy", rather, it should be love - a loving intimate relationship with Jesus born out of a revelation of how much He loves us.

When we see the love of our lives, Jesus, face to face, I wonder if any precious stone, crown or mansion would really matter. What could be more precious, lovely and awesome than the person of Jesus? Me thinks that we would lay our crowns at the feet of Jesus, because to Him belongs all the glory, honor and power. He alone is worthy to receive all praise. How can I hold on to that crown??

There are 2 songs that come to mind now:


Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Missing Ingredient!

I was reminiscing the other Sunday, with the brethren, about my quest for holy living for almost my entire life. I grew up listening to the constant drum beat of "be ye holy, for I am holy" and "holiness without which no man shall see God." (Let me stop here and say emphatically that I am all for holy living). The carrot that was offered was "heaven" and the stick was "missing the rapture", "the great tribulation" and eventually "the lake of fire." I tried very hard to follow all the rules and commandments, made the best effort to keep every sin, intentional and unintentional, confessed. But the goal post always seemed to be elusive and the standard unreachable. Even though I put on a "holy" face, I knew in my heart that it was such a big burden to obey all the laws and commandments and keep every single sin of thought, word and deed confessed and I wasn't doing a good job at it. I tried to compare myself with others and console myself that I wasn't a big sinner as some others were. But my Christian life was like running on a treadmill, running hard but getting nowhere and honestly I was getting frustrated.

But thanks be to the Lord, that He opened my eyes to see that I could "never" live this holy life by my efforts. He also gave me a glimpse of how much He loved me and how much I was forgiven - not because I was a "good" Christian or was good at keeping my sins confessed, but rather while I was yet a sinner, He loved me and died for me. He saw me in my most wretched condition and yet He chose me. Now the words of Jesus, "but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little" made sense to me. This revelation of how much I was forgiven and loved by Him caused me to fall in love with Him as never before. What was the result of this love relationship? - I started living holier "accidentally" and "effortlessly" than I ever did by my efforts, trying to escape hell. No wonder Jesus said, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." I found out experientally that "love fulfills the law ."

Moreover, I found out that I was already holy, not by my holy living, but because He had washed me and made me holy and the Holy One had taken up residence in me. Now, the exhortations in the New Testament for holy living started making sense to me - "you are in light, so walk as children of light" and "walk worthy of your calling." In other words, live out who you are. You are holy, therefore live holy. All my life I was trying to put the cart before the horse. I was trying to live holy to "become" holy, not knowing that holy living was to be a fruit of my being holy. Not only that I was trying to do it in my strength, not knowing that the only Person (Jesus) who could live holy was now living in me.

Dear one, can you see the subtle difference between living under the drudgery of legalistic religion and living in true holiness? It is a simple yet subtle difference of either being on the treadmill of "becoming" holy by holy living or living holy because you are already holy. It is so simple that it is very easy to miss it, but if you get it, it will change your walk with the Lord forever.

So what was the missing ingredient in my quest for holy living? T'was Love! Say "Yes" to love and "No" to fear, because fear has torment, but perfect love casts out fear!!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Some benefits of Organic Church Life

We met with the brethren today and had a wonderful time sharing Christ with each other. One of the things that we are experiencing and realizing more of is the benefits of meeting organically under the Headship of Christ.

Each person has the freedom to express Christ creatively in their own way. One such form of creative expression is through writing new Christocentric songs or adding new verses to or modifying existing songs.

Since Christ is a multi-membered Person, He is expressed fully when every member functions by sharing and participating as opposed to one-man preaching a sermon. It is akin to how a person is not made up of just one part of the body, but all the parts of the body together.

Overfunctioning or underfunctioning of certain members of the body leads to atrophy or weakness in the underfunctioning members and abnormal growth in the overfunctioning members thereby affecting the overall well-being of the body.

Since Christ speaks through different members, the chances of erring in doctrine or teaching is minimized drastically as opposed to a large institution or sect where doctrines are handed down by a few elite people or a person. Even if there is a chance of error in an organic church it is confined locally to the group and not widespread as in the case of denominations, sects or institutions where huge masses of people could possibly be led into error.

Most of the New Testament exhortations of "one-anothering" like bearing one-another's burdens, edifying one another, loving one another etc can be lived out in a small community of believers.

Since there is no room to hide in an organic church, you are exposed and very vulnerable. You can't but share your life with your brethren and therefore open up yourself to the possibility of getting offended or offending others. It is here where the instrument of the cross can be allowed to work in your life to conform you to the image of Jesus. It is here where your flesh gets exposed and you learn to put it off and put on Christ and live by His life. You see the fruit of the Spirit - patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control, love and other virtues develop in you by the Spirit. In short, this is the natural habitat for the believer where one grows and matures into the fullness and stature of Christ. This rarely happens without living in the community of brothers and sisters.

In short, you see DNA of the Trinity in the local church (ekklesia), since she came out of Jesus' side and lives by His life. You see the fellowship, mutual love, submission, sharing of life, laying down of life between the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, manifest in the local ekklesia.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Tower of Babel (TOB) vs City of New Jerusalem (CONJ)

1. TOB built by 'dead' bricks, CONJ built by 'living' stones.

2. Bricks - man's handiwork, Living stones - God's handiwork.

3. TOB - man's effort to reach heaven, CONJ - result of God reaching out to man.

4. TOB - man made religious organizations/institutions, CONJ - the ekklesia of Christ

5. TOB - dwelling place of man, CONJ - dwelling place of God.

6. TOB - anthropocentric, CONJ - Christocentric

7. TOB - mystery of iniquity, CONJ - mystery of Godliness

8. TOB - Babylonion system (worldly system), CONJ - Heavenly system

9. TOB - wordly kingdoms, CONJ - heavenly kingdom.

10. TOB - legalism, CONJ - Grace.

11. TOB - headed, controlled and led by man through heirarchical authority, CONJ - headed by Christ alone through every member of His body functioning.

12. TOB - community disintigerated, CONJ - community formed.

13. TOB - Division, CONJ - Oneness/Unity.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Born to be wild

So, we went to a wild life safari recently and the animals in captivity reminded me of the message shared by Milt Rodriguez at Threshold 2011. It was pathetic to see these animals living in an artificial habitat, lying around motionless, not hunting or being the wild animals that they are supposed to be - a case of lost or mistaken identity as a result of being in captivity. They wait for the humans to bring their food. At one point when the elephants saw the white striped truck approaching them, they ran towards it knowing that they were going to be fed. The elephants munched on the "pre-packaged, processed food" that the humans threw at them. Humans have tried their best to create a habitat for these animals, but everything smells of human there, nothing like the wild. The lions that are supposed to live in a group called a 'pride', now live in isolation. They perhaps have lost their natural instincts and forgot the smell of a live prey. They have forgotten what it is like to go on a prowl, crouch upon the prey and make a kill, and bring back the meat to be shared with the pride. Since they do not have to run after the prey, their muscles have probably atrophied. Since they get "ready made" food, they probably, have become lazy. Folks, they were born to be wild.

My story, as a christian, when I was in captivity, is similar to the story of these lions. I was in the institutional church setting, pretty domesticated. Little did I know that I belonged to the 'pride' of the Lion of Judah (although I had head-knowledge of it). I did not have to hunt for my 'food' - Jesus, since I was expecting to be 'fed' every Sunday morning. I got 'processed and prepared food' thrown into my mouth, with no effort required on my part. Since I didn't have to move a finger to get my food, I became quite lazy and my muscles atrophied. I began losing my spiritual instincts and started forgetting and losing my identity. I had been tamed, domesticated and institutionalized. As a lion, I was supposed to be living in a pride or a community of believers, but I found myself living a solitary Christian life. The only contact I had with the kind of my own was for a few minutes before and after the 'service' which was limited to handshakes. After that I was on my own. I did not know how to find my food and share it (share Christ) with my pride, since there was no pride at all. I did not see how I could do the 50 or more "one anothering" in the New Testament, like carry "one another's" burden in this artificial environment. I thought I was living in the right habitat, but little did I realize that it did not smell like the wild, but it smelled of 'humans', the work of man's hands. Little did I realize that little by little I was being stripped of my identity as a 'royal priest' and my spiritual instincts being suppressed.

But thank God, He opened my eyes to see that I was 'born to be wild'(singing 'born to wild - steppenwolf now). I was to live in the wild, my Canaan land, a land where there is abundance of food, my inheritance - Jesus Christ. I was to live in my natural habitat, the ekklesia, hunting down my food -Jesus Christ and sharing it with my brethren in the ekkesia. I was to live a shared life with my brethren, in the same pattern of sharing that goes one between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the Trinity - a life of shared love, life, fellowship, communion, relationship. Since then my muscles are slowing gaining strength. I'm honing my hunting skills with my brethren. Our 'pride' needs help to be rehabilitated in the wild fully. I pray that the Lord will bring 'special lion handlers', the apostolic workers, to do just that.

P.S. Milt Rodriguez is an apostolic worker, who co-labors with Frank Viola, Jon Zens and Alan Levine.

Monday, July 18, 2011

What is God doing these days? (He who has an ear, let Him hear)

Well, some may say that God is sending a revival here or there. Others may say He is saving souls, yet others may say He is doing miraculous things or blessing people spiritually, financially and materially. Others may say that He is delivering people from the bondage of legalism and sweeping the earth with a revolution of grace! And all that is true! But why is He doing all these things? Are these things the 'end' or just a means to the 'end'? Does God have an overarching Purpose, an Ultimate Purpose, towards which He is working all these 'things' together? If God does have such a Purpose in His mind, it would only make sense to find out what this 'Ultimate Purpose' of His is, and what is our part, if any, in the fulfillment of that Purpose. If this Ultimate Purpose of God is like the bulls-eye on the target, is our Christian walk or gracewalk going towards that target or are we like a ship adrift in the vast ocean?

In the past, I personally, while reading the N.T especially the letters to Ephesians, Colossians and Romans, have overlooked, the passages where Paul talks about the 'Purpose' of God, Him working everything according to the counsel of His 'Will', His 'Intent'. He calls it specifically the 'Eternal' purpose of God, which was hid throughout the ages, but has now been made know to us by the Spirit through the apostles. If it is 'Eternal' that must means that God has had this Purpose or Intention in His heart even before there was anything, before the beginning of time, before He said 'Let there be..", before the foundations of this earth was laid. In fact, creation itself happened towards the fulfillment of this 'Ultimate' Purpose, Intention or Will. Some may say that His Ultimate Purpose is to save people from their sins. But He did not create Adam and Eve in need of salvation. So what is it that caused Him to create Adam and Eve in the first place. So this 'Purpose' must be something beyond the 'salvation' of lost souls.

Well, we can get a glimpse of what was in God's heart in reading the creation account in Genesis 1 and 2. Man had not sinned yet in these chapters. There are 4 aspects to this eternal plan or Purpose.

1. God is a 'community' of 3 persons, yet they are One. God is Love. God is a passionate lover, yet if love is not shared or received, there is not much of an expression of love. Of course there was mutual love and fellowship and sharing within the Trinity. Yet God being love, had to pour out this love on something or someone apart from the Trinity. God wanted to expand His fellowship (community) and include man in this circle of passionate love between the Father and Son through the Spirit. More specifically, the Father wanted a 'bride' for His Son on whom the Son would lavishly pour out His love.

2. We also see that God wanted to expand His family, or more specifically, the Father wanted, not just one Son, but many sons and daughters. He told man to be fruitful and multiply.

3. Sarting from Genesis to Revelation, we also see that God then wants to live and fellowship (have community) with man on 'Earth', not in heaven. We see Him coming to commune with Adam in the cool of the day in the garden. The garden was the first dwelling place of the Lord on this earth. Throughout the Bible, He is seen as someone who is seeking for a place to dwell. Now you know, why David was a man after God's own heart, because he wanted to build a house for God.

4. God also wanted this earth to be filled with His image. Now, as we know, God is a corporate God (three persons) and He wanted a corporate image of Himself on this earth. Because of the fall, we see it as an individual thing. It only makes sense that God wants a community of people to bear His image since He himself is a community. The first man Adam and his race failed in this mission. The new man Jesus is the express image of God. God wants His image to fill this earth, more specifically, Jesus to fill this earth.

Later on we see that man sinned and it seems that the enemy may have thwarted God's Eternal Purpose. But not so!! God is still working out this Grand Purpose of His on this earth. How so? Through Jesus Christ who is at the Center of His Purpose! 1)He is still pursuing His bride (think corporately). 2. He is still increasing His family through His Son Jesus 3. He is still building His dwelling place with living stones built "together" (think community) upon the foundation (Jesus). 4. He is still enlarging and spreading His image on this earth through His Son Jesus!

Who is this bride - She is the church, the most beautiful woman on this earth.
Who is His family - Sons and daughters, who call Him Abba Father - The church
What is the dwelling or habitation of God - The church (think corporately, rather that individually)
Who is the image of God on this earth - The church, who is the fullness of the Son.

Saints, this is what God is after. This is what He had in his heart from the dateless past. This is His eternal Purpose. The church is His passion, His beautiful bride, His dwelling place, His family and His image on this earth.

He wants His church to bear His image in every city on this planet. How is this done? By local expressions of His church, a close knit "community" of people who live by His life, fellowship with each other, share His life with each other, share their lives with each other, love each other thus expressing the corporate image of shared life, love, fellowship and community in the Godhead. "Everyone will know that you are my disciples because of your love for each other", said Jesus. How will the world know this without a local expression of His community? - A local community, where saints let go of 'individualism' (not individuality) and live like the family of God (not just in theory), sharing lives, love and more importantly His life. A community where people meet, solely under the Headship of Christ, where Christ is allowed to take His rightful place of King and Head of the church, where He leads the meeting through the Spirit, and not a meeting based on programs, rituals and liturgy. A meeting where every member is free to function in their priestly role, thus making Christ visible through every member of the body functioning and not just one person or a few people functioning, while the rest are merely spectators in the pews. Saints, Christ is looking for a home (habitation) among us! Are we as 'living' stones, being built up "together" with the other living stones, or is our interaction with them limited to a hand shake at the end of the meeting?

God is passionate about His purpose? This is what He is doing today - working out His Eternal Purpose, and He has been doing it since the beginning. Of course, He will bring it to completion at the end. Today, He gives us an opportunity to be part of this 'Grand Purpose'! The question we need to ask is, is His Ultimate purpose our purpose, is His vision our vision? Are we living our 'individual' Christian lives as lone rangers or are we being built up together with other local believers to be a habitation for Him, a local expression of His Body, His image, His family and His beautiful bride!!

P.S. For those who want to explore more about the 'Eternal Purpose', here are two awesome resources:
1. Audio mp3 :The Eternal Purpose of God
3. Book : From Eternity to Here: Rediscovering the Ageless Purpose of God

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Tidal Wave

Tidal Wave from on Vimeo.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

But I have a few things against you... Rev 2:14

This post is not meant to be critical of any individual/individuals/church/churches, but an observation of the system in general.

The church of Jesus Christ is a living, breathing organism. The very life of Jesus is the source of "her" life. When left untainted by human tinkering, her DNA will give expression to the most beautiful woman the world has ever seen - the bride of Christ. Unfortunately, the traditions and doctrines of men have altered her DNA to such an extent that her growth and appearance have been stymied and distorted.

Some of the factors which contribute to this situation are:

1. A seperation of sacred vs secular life for a Christian. For a christian every day, every minute, every second is sacred. He is living in union with Christ every moment of his life. So wherever he goes, Christ goes with him. That means his workplace, school, market place is sacred and they become his mission field.

2. A seperation of clergy vs laity. According to the N.T. every christian is a king and a priest. The old system of priests, temples and sacrifices has been fulfilled and done away in Jesus Christ. Of course there are apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers. But they are not "positions" like in an organization such as GE or Microsoft. These are gifts that Christ has given to His church for the equipping of the saints. Neither are they "titles" like in a secular organization, but more like a "function" that these people fulfill within the body of Christ. Seperation of clergy and laity, renders the laity as non-functioning or rarely functioning members of His body, sitting in a pew, passively listening to a sermon and going out and living their individual lives thereafter.

3. The church is viewed as a place we go on Sundays to "worship". Worship is not a 45min to 1 hour thing we do on Sunday mornings. Worship is an attitude of the heart which is born out of love for our bridegroom. It includes, but is not limited to a few songs, sung along with an orchestra played by professionals. Jesus told the samaritan woman at the well, "Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem..Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks". We don't limit our worship when we go to this place or that mountain or the building we call "church".

4. Jesus also said that by your love for one another they shall know that you are my disciples. To say the least, the body of Christ has been sliced, diced, butchered and cut into innumerable pieces constituting denominations and sects. Sunday morning is the time when this division is most visible. Some say they are of Paul, some say they are of Apollos, some say they are of Christ, some of Wesley, some of Luther, some baptists, some pentecostals, some anglican, some reformed. When the church was born after the resurrection of Jesus, the churches were simply known by the city they were in for ex. church in Corinth, Ephesus etc. You could never see any church named after a person or an organization unlike the modern churches. Paul strongly rebuked such divisiveness among the christians in Corinth. Imagine, if just the Christians that lived in your street or block (I'm picturing my densely populated town) identified themselves, not by the name of their "organization" but by identifiying themselves as part of the church in that city and lived as such. Imagine the display of "oneness" for the world to see. Christ will be made manifest to the world!

Does this mean that God won't use the existing system? Of course God will use His people and God will bless His people! But that is not His highest and His best, that is not the vision in His heart of His beautiful bride called the church. In the midst of all this confusion, He is building His church, not human organizations, but His bride and His house!

Just some thoughts!


Sunday, January 30, 2011

He drew us from darkness into Light

We had an awesome face to face, every member functioning meeting under the living, breathing, functioning Headship of Jesus Christ. He made Himself visible through the songs, testimonies and word shared by each member. Jesus ministered to us through the following verses:

Col 1:12 (Amp version)  Giving thanks to the Father, Who has qualified and made us fit to share the portion which is the inheritance of the saints (God’s holy people) in the Light.13  [The Father] has delivered and drawn us to Himself out of the control and the dominion of darkness and has transferred us into the kingdom of the Son of His love,
1 Peter 2:9,10  But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a dedicated nation, [God’s] own purchased, special people, that you may set forth the wonderful deeds and display the virtues and perfections of Him Who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. 10  Once you were not a people [at all], but now you are God’s people; once you were unpitied, but now you are pitied and have received mercy.

I had never read Col 1:12 in a version other than KJV. Some other versions make it very clear that God Himself has “qualified” us and made “fit” to share in the inheritance of the saints in the Light. (Note that: we are in the Light now, NOT will be someday). It is not because of anything we did that He qualified and made us fit, but only because of His love and grace.  The Father (not our doing) delivered and drew us to Himself out of the control and dominion of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of the Son.

Not only that, He made us (the church):
-  a chosen race (not Jew, not Gentile, but a NEW third race),
-  a royal priesthood (every believer is a priest),
-  a dedicated nation (not of this world – an alien colony from heaven),
-  God’s own purchased (He paid with the precious blood of His Son),
-  a special people, God’s own people.

Now why did He make us, the “church”, all these things? – to display the wonderful works and virtues of Him Who called us out of darkness into His light, in other words, to give visible expression to Jesus on this earth.

How do we do that? Notice the corporate nature of I Peter 2:9, 10 - It refers to race, nation, and people. An individual Christian may be able to do these things, but God’s purpose is fulfilled, when the church (Christians as a body) functions as she is supposed to – every member functioning as royal priests (not just in theory, but practically), sharing Christ in them with each other, fellow-shipping and living a shared life as members of His family, as people of this new race and colony.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Tidal Wave

Tidal Wave from on Vimeo.

THE NAKED GOSPEL - Andrew Farley

Please download this book for FREE by clicking here. You can also buy a copy for yourself by clicking here. It is a MUST read for every Christian! As Andrew puts it, it is "Jesus plus nothing. 100% natural. No additives.It's the truth you may never hear in church. The Naked Gospel is a chapter-by-chapter assault on the churchy jargon and double talk of our day. It puts forth a message that is simple but life-changing. With a fresh take on Scripture and unapologetic style, The Naked Gospel will challenge you to re-examine everything you thought you already knew."