Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Jesus is awakining an army of insurgents to raise Hell.

Close your eyes and picture a church...

What images do you see?

To understand Jesus vision of the church we need to explore what Jesus taught his first disciples about his ekklesia (Church).

The first place Jesus ever uses the word ekklesia is in Matt 16...


Jesus has called these disciples to follow him. They are mostly young guys who were learning the family trade, because they did not make the cut to study under another Rabbi. So When this crazy Rabbi with a new yoke tells them to drop everything and follow him they do.
But remember how young they were, and the influence their culture had on them.

Mat 16:13
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?"

What was Caesarea Philippi?

Caesarea Philippi was a place outside of the religious culture the disciples were use to. It housed large shrines to pagan Gods, but more on that in a minute.

Caesarea Philippi's location was especially unique because it stood at the base of a cliff where spring water flowed out to feed the Jordan river. At one time, the water ran directly from the mouth of a cave set in the bottom of the cliff. Now the water no longer gushes from the cave, but only seeps from the bedrock below it.

The pagan people commonly believed that their fertility gods lived in the underworld during the winter and returned to earth each spring. IE the winter comes and plants die, animals migrate and or stop reproducing “the fertility Gods must have left us...”

They saw water as a symbol of the underworld (hades) because it mostly came up from springs or people dug wells down to it. And they thought that their gods traveled to and from that world through caves.

The Hebrew word for hades is SHEOL. Both the Hebrew word SHEOL and the Greek word HADES are often translated Hell in English.

Sheol" is a Hebrew word used for the abode of the dead. It is thought of as a place situated below the ground (e.g. Ezek. 31:15), a place of darkness, silence and forgetfulness (Job 10:21; Ps. 94:17, 88:12). Although the dead in sheol are apparently cut off from God (Ps. 88:3-5), he is not absent (Ps. 139:8), and is able to deliver souls from sheol (Ps. 16:10).

Worship of the god of fertility Pan was centered at the cave and the spring at the high rock bluff. Several niches carved into the rock are identified as being dedicated "to Pan and the nymphs."

* the image of Pan is where most contemporary art depicting the devil comes from *

To the pagan mind, then, the cave and spring water at Caesarea Philippi created a gate to the underworld. They believed that their city was literally at the gates of the underworld—the gates of hell. In order to entice the return of their god, Pan people would come to Caesarea Philippi and engaged in horrible deeds, including prostitution and sex between humans and goats.

So are locked in to what the disciples must have thought they were seeing?

When Jesus brought his disciples to the area, they must have been shocked. Caesarea Philippi was like a red-light district in their world and good young Jewish boys would have avoided any contact with the area and its people at any cost. They would have been more likely to eat burning coals than go there.

It was a city of people eagerly knocking on the doors of hell. A huge cliff with nitches carved out to hold idols.Feasts, festivals, and rituals to pagan Gods abounded.

It is located twenty-five miles north of the Sea of Galilee where Jesus did most of his ministry. Can you imagine the conversations that must have taken place among the disciples on the way up there.

Standing near the pagan temples of Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asked his disciples “Who do you say that I am?”

Mat 16:14
They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets."

Mat 16:15
"But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"

Mat 16:16
Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
We like to think “Peter boldly replied, you are the Son of the living God.” but it is more likely that he said it so that the crowd would not hear...

Mat 16:17
Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.

Mat 16:18
And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

Jesus continued, You are Peter and on this rock I will build my church...

Christians have debated the meaning of those words for a long time. In your bible it may even contain a foot note saying that Peter means rock. Remember that this is a foot note added later by a well intentioned monk or scribe. The word Jesus used for Peter is Πέτρος (Petros) a proper masculine noun, and the word Jesus uses for the rock is πέτρα (petra) a feminine noun. It seems to be more a play on words than a doctrinal statement.

But in this context it IS pretty clear that Jesus words had symbolic meaning.
This understanding harmonizes perfectly with Jesus teaching style. He is always using real word pictures to reveal truth to the folks he is teaching.

"The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed...""Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees...""Take this bread..."

So Jesus is saying his church will be built on THIS rock?
of Caesarea Philippi?

A rock literally filled with niches for pagan idols, where ungodly values dominated?

Further more didn't Jesus know that gates were defensive structures built to keep invaders out!

By saying that the gates of hell would not overcome was Jesus suggesting that those gates were going to be stormed?

Its also interesting to note that this is the first time Jesus speaks of his establishing a church. Until this point the disciples must have believed that they would follow Jesus forever...

Jesus presented a clear challenge with his words at Caesarea Philippi:
He didn't want his followers hiding in a building. In fact there is clearly a lack of any kind of building structure in Jesus vision, the only structure are the gates and they belong to another army...

He has commissioned us to build an ekklesia (Church) that will storm the gates of hell, and rescue those held there.

Are you part of Jesus ekklesia?

What images do you see when you think of church?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Just be a good citizen and pay your taxes?

Whats your favorite commercial?

Do you have any money with you?
Take it out and examine it...
Write down what you see.

Mat 17:24
After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax came to Peter and asked, "Doesn't your teacher pay the temple tax

Adult Jewish males throughout the Empire paid an annual two-drachma tax based on Exodus 30:13-16, for the upkeep of the temple. Priests were exempt from the two-drachma tax, but even more significant here, dependents of a king were naturally exempt from his taxes... But lets roll on here.

Mat 17:25
"Yes, he does," he replied. When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. "What do you think, Simon?" he asked. "From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes-from their own sons or from others?"

Notice that Jesus doesn't need to ask Peter what the men wanted. They did not approach Jesus directly, even though they obviously knew he was back in town, but choose instead to try and collect from one of his disciples. What do you think that means?

One has to wonder if they somehow felt subbed. How could this famous (or rather infamous by this point) Rabbi come to their town and not come to see them? Didn't he know how important they were? Didn't he know that they were the pious ones? Not only that but he had not even paid his taxes yet...

Mat 17:26
"From others," Peter answered. "Then the sons are exempt," Jesus said to him.

At this point Jesus could have left it alone... Or He could have kicked the door open and laid the smack down (We know he was not afraid to do just that). But He chooses a different option.

Mat 17:27
"But so that we may not offend them, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours."

First notice Jesus and his disciples are without money...

And what is this coin in a fishes mouth?
And note that the fish has just enough money for the tax not a surplus...

Lets look at another time Jesus interacted the powerful and talked about taxes (and or mass media)...

Who were the Pharisees?
Who were the Herodians?

The Pharisees thought conspiring with Rome was tantamount to treason against God. And the Heordians got their power because they continued to conspire with Rome.

Mat 22:15
Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words.

Mat 22:16
They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. "Teacher," they said, "we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are.

The pharisees would not be seen in public with the herodians, so they send their disciples... (we see this in modern culture when a political party sends its public relations folks out as media pundits and experts of one kind or another)

Mat 22:17
Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?"

Mat 22:18
But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, "You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me?

Mat 22:19
Show me the coin used for paying the tax." They brought him a denarius,

Funny again nether Jesus nor any of his disciples have a coin on them...

They think they have devised a clever trap for him:

If he sides with paying taxes to Caesar then all of the people he has been traveling with, healing, and teaching are left out to dry. He would be endorsing an unjust system.


If he says don't pay your taxes then he is guilty of conspiring against Rome.
* this is one of the reasons they give Pilate to have Jesus put to death.Luke 23:1-2

But Jesus sees this as a trap from the minute they open their mouths...

Mat 22:20
and he asked them, "Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?"

If you live in a world with no TV or Radio or any other form of mass media, How do you get your message out across a wide geographic and economic spectrum of people?
How can you make everyone remember it?

Who uses Money? Everyone
Who knows what is on a bill?
Have you ever seen someone check a $100 dollar bill?
They hold it up to the light to look for special threads and water marks, they feel the paper for the right thickness and texture, they may even have a special pen or marker that changes color when the bill is real...

Caesar minted coins. The only official coin of the whole empire. These coins had his image on them. And they had his Gospel.

The root of the word evangelical, evangel, is derived from the Greek word euangelion which is often translated as “good news.” From that same word, we derive the word gospel. In the ancient Roman imperial world, the “gospel” (euangelion) was a proclamation that the “kingdom” of Caesar was at hand and that Caesar was the “Savior” who had established peace and security, this was accomplished by military invasion and subsequent crucifying of anyone who opposed Roman rule.

Mat 22:21
"Caesar's," they replied. Then he said to them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's."

What does that last line mean?

Is it a reference to Gen 1:26:
Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."

Also notice Jesus doesn't say then pay the Tax, he says give back to Caesar what is his, all of the coins have his image and inscription on them!

Mat 22:22
When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.

Its almost like an inside joke at this point... Can you hear the disciples snickering and saying "remember the fish"

What was Jesus saying to the Pharisees and Herodians?

Often these text are interpreted as Jesus saying "Just be a good citizen and pay your taxes." But That complete misses the point here.

Because coins were the mass media of the first century, Jesus is essentially saying reject and give back this false image, this false gospel, that has been handed to you. And Give to God all of yourself and all of creation, because God will settle nothing less...

Remember that list I told you to make, at the begining of this post, of the things you saw on the money you have with you?

Whats on the list?

Does the fact that someone consciously borrowed Gods name mean the money is any less secular?

Who does that money belong to?

What do commercials teach you?
Is it God honoring?

Thursday, May 07, 2009

What does it mean to follow Jesus ion the Emerging post-modern culture we find our selves in?

What does it mean to follow Jesus in the Emerging post-modern culture we find our selves in?
I have wrestled with this question for quite some time now... I found inspiration (in a book, big surprise for those of you who know me) from Phyllis Tickle’s extraordinary new thoughts in "The great Emergence."

Let me take a stab explaining at a new incite I gained from her...

What is Emergent? It depends on where you are comming from, or rather what your perspective on following Jesus is.

Lets start with a picture of concentric rings (five circles ones inside the other like a bulls eye) and a metaphor of inheriting a house:

There are some folks, on the outer most ring, that will not change anything ever. the furniture and even landscaping will always remain the same. to even suggest that there is anything wrong with the house they inherited from their grand -parents is tantamount to treason.

The next group of folks, on the next ring in, are willing to redecorate, get new furniture, plant new flowers and maybe pave the driveway but nothing to extensive. They view the house as fine just a little dusty and dated.

The next group of folks, on the next ring in, are willing to gut the house and do a total remodel. The house and land are an important inheritance, and they have fond memories, but they also recognize that the house is not functional (because it was built by their ancestors and added on to by several successive generations).

The next group of folks, on the next ring in, are going to bulldoze the house! They see the land as a heritage and have a firm grasp of their roots. But they know that the house is not the treasure but the land is. They will build new structures and seek new ways to use the land.

The last group of folks in the center is going to burn down the house and walk away from the land. They will become nomads, because they only remember the abuses and negative things that happened in the house. They will carry with them their inheritance in their hearts and minds.

Now each group sees everyone else who is farther inside of these circles than they are as emergent (which is just a way to describe a new form of Christianity).

So the question has become where are you?

That will help you discover how you can follow Jesus in these new (some would say ancient) things he is doing.

Does that make sense?