Pulled From The Pages

Gleanings and observations from the things I’ve been reading.

“Take Out Your Scrolls And Roll Them On Down To The Letter To The Ephesians…” (Part 1.)

 

 

Imagine with me…

…It’s shortly after Pentecost. The church is getting ready to assemble in the outer Temple Court. The pews are all set nicely in their rows with the scroll of the day neatly tucked in the scroll holders. The sound system is ready and a mike awaits the speaker behind the pulpit. The worship team is ready… and after the opening prayer and some announcements songs soon fill the air.  And then the Pastor steps up to the mike. “Take out your scrolls and roll them on down to the letter to the Ephesians… we will continue where we left off last week in chapter 4, at verse 11…

Sounds sorta familiar… in a scrambled up kinda way.  ‘Cause two different era’s got scrambled together.  Like eggs from different birds, scrambled together “turducken” style…?

Sounds strange putting pews in Jerusalem’ Temple Court.  And the scroll of Ephesians?  It’s only A.D. 48, Ephesians hasn’t even been written.  Scroll holders?  In the pew?  Uh… What’s a pew!?  And what’s a pulpit? Or who is a Pastor who stands up behind one and delivers his (three point!) sermon to the people sitting in pews in the temple court? It’s scrambled eggs, amplified and mixed for your consumption, with a sound system…

a sound what?

This is mixed up.

Yep it is. Can we unscrambled scrambled eggs?  Take away the scroll; they didn’t have Ephesians on a scroll to read. They didn’t have Bibles! Take away the pews with the Bible holders… and the sound system, and the Pastor speaking behind the pulpit, and the worship team. They didn’t have any of that back then. Now, how in the world did they survive without them?

Actually the question should be, “How was it that they thrived and grew by leaps and bounds without any of that?

Take that all away, roll the time back to the Day of Pentecost and put Peter in his place, speaking the truth with amazing boldness… What did he have? When the 120 in the upper room went out after Pentecost what did they all have?

Simply (radically)…

…they had Jesus.

They had Jesus within. They had the Life living within them and they were living by that Life. They were the new dwelling place of God. They were the new temple, the living stones, being built upon the Cornerstone,  filled with all His power by the Spirit’s anointing. They had within them the living Word, and they were living by the Life of that living Word.

But wait, we have the word too, right? Now we have the Word, The Holy Bible. We now have something the early New Testament church didn’t have, namely, we now have the New Testament, and hey, not only that, WE have the Whole Book.  And unlike most of them back then, we can read!        So we should be better off right?  We now have the Book. We must be better equipped than the early church was right?                                                And for sure more mature… 

Well, lets see… Take your scrolls out of your scroll holders and roll them on down to the letter to the Ephesians chapter 4 verse 11…”

11 And [Jesus] gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the  knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature  which belongs to the fullness of Christ. 14  As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness  in deceitful scheming; 15 but  speaking the truth in love,  we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ,16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together  by what every joint supplies, according to the  proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

Jesus gifted the church with  apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastor (and) teachers, given in verse 11 to function as the equippers of the saints; to equip the individual parts for their work together with Jesus, the head of the Body, in service and ministry. We have pastors… And… let’s see… we used to have traveling evangelists. (But have you met any lately?) We do have pastors, lots of pastors to equip us. Does it seem some of those listed are missing in today’s church in America…? If that is so, why is that? And without them are we better equipped than the early church was? Can we be? Are we better off? If some of the equippers who were gifted to the early church are missing how can we, the latter church, be properly equipped and better off without them?

And how then can we attain to the unity of the faith? And a true knowledge of the Son?

Well… we do have 33,000 (and growing) examples of the “unity of the faith”.  33,000 denominations denominating; giving a name for and founding their identities upon the winds of the different doctrines found in and out(!) of the Bible.

We do have a lot of knowledge. We been taught a lot of stuff, we know all about a lot of things in the Word, in the Book. Is that knowledge the equipping we’re talking about? If it’s not then what do we need to know? Who then do we need to know?

Jesus. (Yeah, I know, of course…)

But do we really fully know Him? Do we really know the Word, the living, breathing, nail scarred Son? Are we hungry enough to seek his Bread? Are we really thirsty for the Living water that satisfies? Are the equippers of today asking us this: Is He the one we are living by; are we living by a Life not our own?  Isn’t that where we find the true knowledge of the Son? In picking up our cross and laying down our lives and partaking of His Life?   Is our knowledge of him merely conceptual (“Biblical” even, doctrinally correct even.) or is it truly personal and relational? Do we just know all the stuff (we may think) there is to know about him or do we really know Him?  If we know Him have we then been filled in full measure with “the fullness of Christ”? Have we grown up in all aspects unto Him? Are we letting Him be our head? Individually? And corporately?

So many questions… Hard questions… I gave no answers ‘cept one. (you noticed…?)

Do you ‘Got Jesus’?  He’s got the answers… What is he saying to you…?

Please tell me.

 

O.k., now roll up your scrolls and place them in the scroll holders…

 

 

Part Two (in part, I hope, from you…) is coming: Eph 4: 15,16:

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Jesus is building his church; How do you think the church is doing?!

 

 

 

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There’s nothing Pagan about MY Christianity(!?): a look at a book.

I’m finished with reading Pagan Christianity.  Done.  I swallowed the red pill…*  [Gulp.  I’m done in].  I encourage you to take a look and to give it a serious read if you dare…*  ‘Cause it confronts us with this possibility: that institutional “gatherings” clearly miss the mark when set along side the called out gatherings of the early Christians, and, that the institutional church in it’s modern cultural setting has largely been built upon the customs of men. The examples in the book are many, among them, churches today paying salaries within a hierarchical infrastructure patterned after this world and not after the kingdom; The maintenance with tithes and offerings of a place where people go;  Maintaining a building and infrastructure which drains resources rather than pouring them into nurturing and providing for the needs, both spiritual and physical, of the living stones who make up the real building/temple of the living Godhead, i.e., a people in community who are gathered in the name of Jesus; The questioning of the sermon/eucharist as the center piece of the church gathering…

The early church gave freely to the needs of people (as contrasted to the required and burdensome tithe given to the religious infrastructure of the old testament era). The early church had no split between clergy [Titled as: Pastors/Bishops/Priests…] and the [so called] laity; all were a participatory priesthood of believers equal in Christ, with Jesus (who warned us to give no one Titles) acting as the functioning and only Head of the gathering under the direction of the Holy Spirit. Today  institutionalization causes most believers to think church is a place where they go, to [mostly] watch the show and listen to the display of what someone [else] knows. Participating together within the active giftings of the Spirit in the early church gathering stands in startling contrast to what we call “using[or not]” his gifts today when we gather.

Add to that this reality: We have been taught, for the most part, to think and act: “WWJD”. Birthed by the book of the late 1800’s “In His Steps” , and popularized in the 80’s by the bracelet, we think and act upon what we know about what Jesus would do and not what Jesus actually did. Jesus didn’t wear a bracelet that said WWFD: “What Would Father Do”, he instead lived by the life of his Father doing only what his Father told him to do and say. We have the same call on lives, to live in Christ Jesus, because, apart from him, as he tells us in John, “…[we] can do nothing.”: we cannot live the Christian life in our Post Christian culture without the realization of “Apart from [Him]…” , just as the church will not reflect Life, to that same culture “Apart from [Him]…” if wrapped up in it’s own customs and ways.

Those are just a small portion of the institutional and cultural customs that are entrenched in “church as we’ve known it”. It is the product of 1700 years of the traditions of men.

When juxtaposed along side the gatherings of the early church, today’s “church gathering” does leave the one who has “been there, done that”, wondering, ultimately, what the real point of that kind of gathering is. It left this one who has “been there and done that” realizing there is something amiss; it left me searching for a better answer.

Is there an alternative? A better [Biblical] alternative answer? I do believe there is. What if there is a purpose to the gathering beyond what we have been shown and known? What if there really is a better reason to be gathered, so that rather than just watching the show, we are instead called, as a complete and properly functioning body, into the show, showing Jesus through one another by participating with one another as the fellow ministers and priests of Christ, in the ongoing revelation of Jesus Christ himself to his body through his body; participating in gatherings that truly are under His headship. With the Holy Spirit properly at work within the gatherings, with Jesus as the focal point, maybe we just could better discover the height and length and breadth and depth of the love [and joy] of Jesus.

It looks like our trouble is, we have been removed from the reality of what that looked like in the early church, by the forms and customs of our day; we are so loaded down with the baggage of our own traditions that we have difficulty grasping what “normal” might look like for a “church” gathering today.

That is, until we let the Spirit crack open the Book and give us another look. To do that we may first need to lay down a whole lot of baggage loaded with the presuppositions of many years of tradition, move beyond our comfort zone, and be willing to let the Living Word speak the Truth to our version of “normal”.

~~rob
* In Pagan Christianity?, “Have We Really Been Doing It By The Book?”, by Frank Viola and George Barna, the opening challenge is this:

“Warning: If you are unwilling to have your Christianity seriously examined, do not read beyond this page. Give this book to Goodwill immediately! Spare yourself the trouble of having your Christian life turned upside down.
However, if you choose to “take the red pill” and be shown “how deep the rabbit hole goes”… if you want to learn the true story of where your Christian practices came from… if you are willing to have the curtain pulled back on the contemporary church, and have it’s traditional presuppositions fiercely challenged… then you will find his work to be disturbing, enlightening,and possibly life changing.”

Well… even before I read that book, I was confronted by the choice of taking either the red pill or the blue one. There is a choice. Take the blue pill and everything goes back to what we believe to be “normal”. So church as you’ve known it will remain (at least for a time) comfortable and normal (in an abnormal and strangely uncomfortable way?), but, if you take the red pill, your Matrix dreamlike church world norm will be forever changed, because, as Morpheus said to Neo in the movie,The Matrix, “There is no going back.” If you crack open the Book and take another look, the The Spirit of the Author of that Book just might confront you with the choice.

The choice has been made for me.
I took the red pill.

The “normal” dream is now fading, and a new reality is beginning to settle in…
…I am now beginning to have a new dream: I am dreaming that a true and complete Reformation is yet coming before Jesus does, when as the acting and functioning Head of his church he will renew his church, his very own body, to it’s former state and thus receive upon his return his purified bride, the bride that he has prepared for himself, who has finally learned how to truly live in Him, just as he lived his own life through his Father’s life…

“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…”