Grace is costly. It may accrue to us freely, but it cost Jesus dearly. Love is costly, as is peace-making reconciliation. It is not enough to understand these things as abstractions. We must grow in grace-ness (graciousness) toward others—even those with whom we may disagree or those who may have hurt us. Jesus was wounded in the house of his friends and betrayed by one of his most intimate friends. The disciple is not above the Master. We have been given a ministry of reconciliation to, and for, the world and it is a tall order. Would it not make sense that it actually work among those who call upon Jesus as Lord, before we try to export our convictions to others?
Really? Another seminar on Revelation? God spare us. Normally, that’s how I would feel about this topic. The fixation on the Revelation in Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism is a manic money-making machine. However, this live-stream will be unlike anything I experienced growing up in Evangelicalism: we will not be trying to predict the future! Rather, we will endeavor to look at the Revelation through the lens of first century, Second Temple era metaphors and cosmology. What would a Mediterranean-basin, Jew/Gentile audience understand from the imagery in a letter full of Jewish apocalyptic themes?
In today’s climate of heightened political rancor, some believers use the cleansing of the temple gospel narrative to justify all manner of egregious and even violent behavior toward others–“After all, Jesus whipped people.”—sic. The cleansing of the temple account is one of the favorite proof texts of those who want to try to deflect the potency of Christ’s clear ethical commands to overcome evil with good and to love one’s enemies. Those who proof text this passage to justify their behavior are betraying the scriptures and the Lord they profess to serve.
I believe we are living in the most significant moment in the history of the church since the Reformation. While we can be thankful and grateful for the many benefits that derived to us from the Reformation, many of the beliefs, values, and practices that came from it are being challenged in this hour. In my opinion, rightly and necessarily so. On the eve of the quincentenary (500th anniversary) celebration of the Reformation, I have an appeal to make.
Within Charismatic circles, there is a widely influential subset group called the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). One of their strongly held beliefs is the necessity of submitting to an alleged “apostolic covering” or maintaining what is called “governmental alignment” to a “covering apostle.” It is alleged that failure to do so, cuts off heavenly blessing and opens the individual to spiritual dangers and demonic attacks. The Protestant forefathers must be rolling over in their graves. They gave their life’s blood to do away with the belief system that required a class of religious professionals to broker or mediate the blessings of heaven to the believer. It is beyond painful to see the resurrected form of this doctrine being espoused in so-called apostolic churches and foisted under the banner of “new revelation,” “restoring apostolic covering,” and “restoring apostolic authority.” It is not new revelation. It is old heresy in a new dress.
Spiritual covering is a biblically illegitimate, bad idea, that just won’t go away.
The expression of pastoral ministry in the church can tend to aggregate at extremes in the Body of Christ. On the one hand you can have pastors who are oppressed by domineering and controlling board members and elders, whose mission in life seems to be to be to break pastors down and keep them in poverty. On the other hand, you can have pastors who think themselves as demi-gods at the top of a pyramid hierarchy who think people are little more than resources given by God to them to fulfill carnal ambition rooted in insecurity and thinly veiled as “corporate vision.” In Part One here, by my friend, Nick Vasiliades, explains why fundamental values and ideas in most western churches of how pastors are expected to function are the underlying reasons for so many misconceptions and malpractice of one of the necessary, precious, and legitimate gifts of the resurrected and ascended Lord to His church. Is it possible to be a supernaturally gifted “carer of souls” and avoid reactionary expressions? Yes, but not as long as we cling to biblically baseless definitions, values, and expressions of pastoral ministry.
Recently, I had the privilege of spending an hour and a half in the manifest presence of God. What made the experience so unique is all the things that many of those reading this have been conditioned to believe are necessary for such a thing to occur in a meeting (a good crowd, prolonged praise and worship, sermon/ministry of the “word,” prayer, altar call, heart wrenching repentance, whatever, were all absent. How can that be possible?
And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence and the violent take it by force. – Matt. 11:12, KJV.
All my Christian life I have found the idea that Jesus somehow endorses violent human effort for His cause as very odd. It contradicts the rest of His teaching, the life He lived, the example He set, and the rest of the New Testament. What does this passage about the kingdom of heaven and violence mean?
Last week I presented a broad overview of how I believe the church has evolved in America during my lifetime. I now believe that there should be little doubt that the church is not only in rapid numerical decline but intellectually and spiritually we are almost powerless. A major reason for this condition lies in the loss of what I referred to as “the romance of orthodoxy.” When good orthodoxy is joined with a deep sense of mystery shaped by paradox I believe we see a better way to enter the next era of church history. I want to explore this idea today.