A mentor of mine used to say, 'you gave 10% in the Old Testament, in the New Testament you give everything '!!
God (Jesus) began to say some things to people in the New Testament, that were never said in the Old Testament. When a rich man asked Jesus what he needed to do to inherit eternal life, one of the statements Jesus replied with was, 'go sell what you have and give to the poor, and come and follow me'.(Math 19v21)
At another time He(Jesus)said,' So likewise, whoever of you who does not forsake all that he has cannot be my disciple'.(Luke 14v33)
What was the giving like in the early Church? Acts 2 tells us that, 'all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need'.
Again in Acts 4 it records,'Nor was there anyone among them who lacked, for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold and laid them at the Apostles feet, and they distributed to each as anyone had need'.
The Old Testament was about giving a portion to God. The New Testament is about being sold out to God!! The New Testament is about discipleship. A disciple is a disciplined one, or one who has placed himself or herself and all that she has, voluntarily, under the instruction of a Master. That is why Jesus said,' If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple'.(Luke 14v26)
Notice that Jesus said, MY disciple. It is about personal relationship with the Lord. At the end of Johns Gospel after Jesus had finished telling Peter what he was to do (and how he would die) Peter noticed another disciple following and said, 'what about this man Lord'? Jesus said to him, 'if I will that he remain until I come, what is that to you, you follow me'. In other words don't bother about anyone else, you just concentrate on being my disciple and listening for my instructions. He was saying, it is about your relationship with me.
A disciple of Jesus is one of the give anything, go anywhere bunch. For the sake of the Gospel. After that it is up to the Lord. C S Lewis became a Christian at Oxford and served the Lord all of his life at Oxford and he went to be with the Lord at Oxford. C T Studd was an english cricketer in a similar situation to Lewis but he gave up everything and went to Africa trusting God. He lived and travelled in primitive conditions amongst the native peoples and went to be with the Lord there, having no possessions to leave behind. Studds motto was, 'If Jesus Christ is the Son of God and died for me, then nothing I can do for Him can be to much'.
Both of those men were disciples, each doing what God had instructed them personally to do.
I always laugh when I think of an experience Evangelist Jesse Du Plantis wrote about. He was sitting in Church and God spoke to him telling him to give a certain amount of money to the Church. He said, 'Lord that's all I've got'. The Lord replied,'thats all I want'.
A disciple knows that he has committed himself to the God who owns everything and to whom nothing is impossible. Another disciple, Paul, said, 'And my God will supply all of your need'.
THE HOUSE church movement got my attention a few years ago after I read a book that put forth the case that most of the Body of Christ is not doing Church the way it is supposed to be done.
I began to think the authors, Frank Viola and George Barna, were right but I had difficulty coming completely out on their side in some of the issues they raised.
I pretty quickly realised that my thinking was being affected by the fact that I had spent many years in a leadership dominated Church where the leadership was firmly in control.
That Church had a profound affect on my life as a Christian and the blessings I received there are foundational to who I am today. Therefore my intention is not to be critical. I suspect that sometimes Gods intentions are deeper than we realise. I should say that I also often felt very frustrated at that Church.
Viola and Barnas book leads to the conclusion that the New Testament shows us that house Churches are the way to go. One of the things I began to think about was the amount of money tied up in Churches with full time staff and building and utilities overheads. Recently I read an article by a Minister who had been part of the leadership group in a big Church with a budget of more than one million dollars a year. Interestingly he said that money was tight even with that income, because of the overheads.
He began to get the sense that things should be somehow different and eventually he resigned and started a house Church. The aim was to eventually have a thousand member Church, meeting in 50-80 homes, with a one million dollar budget again, but this time giving 80% of the money to needy causes and missions.
In the past thirteen years the house Churches have been able to channel one million dollars to various community projects and they have also started 450 Churches in India.
He also said that no person in the house meetings takes a salary. I presume that means they all work.
I have to admit, that article convinced me that the house Church movement is on the right track.
PAGAN Christianity was the name of the book. I had noticed it in the Christian bookshop that I frequent. 'I'll stay well away from that', I thought---'what a terrible name for a Christian book'.
But then I read a review of it somewhere, and decided to buy it. The general theme of the book, authored by Frank Viola and George Barna, is that we are not doing Church right. That we are not doing Church as it is revealed in the New Testament. They present the case quite convincingly, that from around the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine, the Christian Church began to adopt some of the secular practises of the society around them in order to keep up and fit in.
Meeting in buildings, preaching from a pulpit, separation of clergy and congregation, are some of the activities they take issue with in the book. They also touch on the fact that a lot of Churches today operate on a model borrowed from secular business.
Something that surprised me the most, because it is clearly shown in the New Testament and I had missed it, was that the New Testament books (letters) that were intended for the entire Church, are never addressed to the leaders. It is always,'to the saints'or 'to all the faithful brethren' or 'to the Church at' etc. Jesus messages to the various Churches in Revelation are conveyed through their respective Angels, but the message is spoken by Jesus directly to all of the people of each Church. Not to leaders. What woke me up there also, was that Jesus is holding all of the people that make up the Church, responsible for what is wrong in the Church.
If the Lord said that to us today, and I guess He still does--but we are not listening, our first thought would be, 'why tell me Lord..that's a problem for the Pastor, the Elders or the Board'.
There was an equality, a level playing field, that seems to be almost totally missing today.
I started to take an interest in the House Church movement after that. I subscribe to House2House magazine online and it has helped me to think through a lot of the issues that arose in my mind after reading the book.
John Wesley observed that Christians have a choice......... 'FROM long experience and observation, said Wesley, I am inclined to think that whoever finds redemption in the blood of Jesus - whoever is justified - has the choice of walking in the higher or the lower path. I believe the Holy Spirit at that time sets before him the 'more excellent way', and incites him to walk therein - to choose the narrowest path in the narrow way - to aspire after the heights and depths of Holiness - after the entire image of God. But if he does not accept this offer, he insensibly declines into the lower order of Christians ; he still goes on in what may be called a good way, serving God in his degree, and finds mercy in the close of life through the blood of the covenant.(John Wesley)
This observation by Wesley does seem to have some backing from Gods word. The last chapter of the last book of the Bible, Revelation, has two types of Christians. Verse 11 says.....let him who is righteous be righteous still and let him who is Holy be Holy still.
The Holy Highway verses are found in Isaiah 35v8-10. When reading it easy to miss three extra words in the text ; and a Highway shall be there ....and a Way. So there are two ways, the Highway and the Way. It tells us that the Highway is the way of Holiness and I believe that the Way is the way of righteousness.
Something similar is found in Genesis in the lives of Abraham and Lot. Abraham has a close walk with God, hearing His voice and obeying Him. Abraham is mentioned 69 times in the New Testament and he is presented to us as an example of faith and a man who pleased God. The Lord also identifys Himself with Abraham saying, 'I am the God of Abraham'.( Mark 12v26 )
Peter says in the New Testament that Lot, ' had a righteous soul '( 2Peter 2v8 ). He is shown to us as a man who made some poor choices that brought trouble to himself and his family including the eventual death of his wife. ( Genesis chaptrs 13,14,19 ) It seems that his poor choices came from a lack of understanding of Gods ways.
That does not mean that a righteous person will have a hard life, but it shows that Abraham chose the better way.
Two roads converged in a yellow wood and sorry I could not travel both and be one traveller, long I stood
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I - I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference (part of poem by Robert Frost)
In the rest of the poem he says that both of the ways seemed much the same, as he stood and looked. He noticed that one seemed to be less travelled upon and he decided to take that way, and was glad he did.
Holiness and righteousness look much the same without experience. Holiness does seem to be the way less travelled among Christians. But anyone who decides to walk on the Highway of Holiness will find that ............it makes all the difference.
(The site software has messed up the type size in this post and I can't correct it, enjoy anyway.) TOM BOMBADIL IS THE MASTER, NO ONE HAS EVER CAUGHT OLD TOM WALKING IN THE FOREST, WADING IN THE WATER, LEAPING ON THE HILLTOPS UNDER LIGHT AND SHADOW. HE HAS NO FEAR, TOM BOMBADIL IS MASTER.
OLD TOM BOMBADIL IS A MERRY FELLOW, BRIGHT BLUE HIS JACKET IS, AND HIS BOOTS ARE YELLOW.
On their journey the four hobbits come into the territory that is the domain of an unusual character, Tom Bombadil. He is always singing and laughing and dancing all about. But the hobbits find that Tom is a man of spiritual authority also. Twice, in Toms territory, the hobbits get attacked by evil spirits and Tom frees them with just his word of authority. With surprise the hobbits discover that the ring has no affect on Tom at all.
As they are leaving he tells them to call out his name if they strike trouble, and he will be there to help. Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin get lost when night falls and are caught by the barrow wight, a bad spirit that means to finish them off. Frodo remembers what Tom had told them and calls out his name, and as he does so he feels courage and strength coming back to him. Then they hear singing and Tom appears. He commands the wight to go WHERE GATES ARE FOREVER SHUT, TILL THE WORLD IS MENDED. TOM WAS LAUGHING AS HE DANCED AROUND THEM IN THE SUNLIGHT. ONE WOULD HAVE THOUGHT THAT NOTHING DANGEROUS OR DREADFUL HAD HAPPENED; AND INDEED THE HORRIBLENESS FADED OUT OF THEIR HEARTS AS THEY LOOKED AT TOM AND SAW THE MERRY GLINT IN HIS EYES.
This part of the story reminds me that we have the joy of the Lord.'These things I have spoken to you', Jesus said, 'that my joy might be in you and that your joy might be full'.
'Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads.( Isaiah 51v11)
Tom Bombadil shows us that unusual mixture that only a Christian can have; joyfulness, a merry heart, childlikeness and spiritual authority that overcomes evil.
WHAT is an Old Testament Christian? The best test to find out if I am a New Testament or an Old Testament Christian, is to turn to the Book of Hebrews, chapters 9 and 10.
This section, first of all, talks about the experience of the Old Testament people, particularly about their experience with sin. It says that the High Priest went into the Holy of Holies year after year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the peoples sins committed in ignorance(9v7). It says that the sacrifices were symbolic but that they could not make him who performed the service perfect in regard to conscience(9v9). For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins (10v4). They had to offer sacrifices continually year after year (10v1). The High Priest and the people were continually reminded that they were sinners (10v3). All the Priests stood ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which could never take away sin (10v11).
That is the Old Testament experience, a continual preoccupation with and consciousness of sin. They were always aware that they were sinners.
Then we read about the experience of those who have received Jesus as their saviour, who have accepted His sacrifice of Himself, for their sins. It says that the blood of Jesus has purged( the American dictionary says that purge means to make physically and spiritually clean) their conscience from dead works to serve the living God (9v14). Jesus has put away sin for them by the sacrifice of Himself (9v26). Those who receive Jesus sacrifice for them have been once purged and have no more consciousness of sin (10v2). We are sanctified through the body of Jesus once for all (10v10). He(Jesus) offered one sacrifice for sins forever (10v12). We no longer need an offering for sin (10v18). God has no more memory of our sins (10v17). Jesus has perfected us forever (10v14).
The New Testament experience is that sin has been put away, there remains no more consciousness of sin, we approach God as perfect people (10v1)
The choice is ours. Will we be Old Testament or New Testament Christians?
THE BLACK riders, the servants of the dark lord, are closing in on Merry, Pippin and Frodo and there companion Strider.
But they are close to the Elvin Kingdom of Rivendell and one of the Elf Lords has ridden out to help them. He is one of the few who can confront the nine black riders and drive them back. He tells the the little band that he came across two of the riders on a bridge a few days back and when they fled from him he pursued them. Later he met two more and they turned away as soon as they saw him.
Frodo asks Gandalf about Glorfindel, the Elf Lord, later when they are safe. Gandalfs answer is one of my favourite portions of the book and confirms that Tolkien new what the real Christian life was about;
AND HERE IN RIVENDELL THERE LIVE STILL SOME OF THE DARK LORDS CHIEF FOES; THE ELVEN WISE, LORDS OF THE ELDAR FROM BEYOND THE FURTHEST SEAS. THEY DO NOT FEAR THE BLACK RIDERS, FOR THOSE WHO HAVE DWELT IN THE BLESSED REALM, LIVE AT ONCE IN BOTH WORLDS, AND AGAINST BOTH THE SEEN AND THE UNSEEN THEY HAVE GREAT POWER. Frodo says, ' I thought that I saw a white figure that shone and did not grow dim like the others. Was that Glorfindel then? Gandalf replies, YES, YOU SAW HIM FOR A MOMENT AS HE IS UPON THE OTHER SIDE; ONE OF THE MIGHTY OF THE FIRST BORN. HE IS AN ELF LORD OF A HOUSE OF PRINCES.
What a marvellous description of a Christian. We, are evils chief foes and we do not fear them. Our Bible tells us to submit ourselves unto God and resist the devil and he will flee from us. Jesus said, ' in my name you will cast out devils'.
We live in the Blessed realm, the Presence of God. We live at once in both worlds, the spiritual and the physical. We are, 'seated in Heavenly places in Christ Jesus' even as we walk on the earth.
Against the seen and the unseen we have great power. Ephesians tells us, ' that you may know...what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe'. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead.
By faith we can see ourselves as we are upon the other side. Romans 8v30 tells us that Jesus has Glorified us, and in another place Paul talks about the Glory that will be revealed in us.
Whether we feel like it or not, the truth is that we are the Mighty of the First Born; the Lord Jesus Christ. We are of a House of Princes, Kings and Priests unto our God ( Rev 1v5,6)
WORK, effort, strive, (and even) sweat, were some of the words used in an article entitled, 'Yes Holiness does require effort', in a Christian news magazine I was reading through the other day.
Firstly, I acknowledge that sweat was required to make Holiness available to us. Note that I have used PAST tense. Here is the sweat that was required to enable you and I to be Holy;
And being in agony, He (Jesus) prayed more earnestly. And His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. Lu 22v44
The context of the words used in the article, which also included fighting, struggling, pressing and pursuing, was self effort. A link to another comment was entitled, Sanctification is Sweaty Work. It went on to say that, 'whilst God is actively making us Holy we must also be working at it ourselves', and 'we can be actively killing sin'.
Have you ever tried to do those things? Waking up in the morning and deciding that today I am going to work at making myself Holy!! today I am going to do some sin killing in me!! Where do you start? how do you know if you have succeeded? That sort of advice is meaningless when it comes to real world practise.
Also, if that advice is correct, the person who has strived the most; who has struggled more, could congratulate themselves on being a better Christian because they have put out more effort.
Some of those words are in the New Testament. For example Jesus words in Luke 13v24,'strive to enter the narrow gate', and Pauls exhortation to 'press on'. Peter also tells us to 'make every effort', to be partakers of the Divine nature. The Amplified Bible has Peters statement as,'make every effort to exercise your faith'. And there we begin to have the true understanding of the meaning of these types of words.
Hebrews 4v1-11 holds the key to understanding the use of all these words in the New Testament. In a paradoxical statement the writer says (v11)'therefore let us STRIVE to enter that REST'. It talks about Gods works for us being finished from the foundation of the world (v3) and that we have ceased from our own works (v10) The striving is reinterpreted as faith or belief, 'let us fear lest we have unbelief'. We are to strive to BELIEVE in the finished work of Jesus for us at the cross and to cease from our own works to get right with God. Holiness and a successful Christian life is to be received by us as a gift, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to be received by faith.
That is why Colossians says, 'As you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him'.
When Jesus was asked what work it was necessary to do to get eternal life,He said, 'This is the work that God requires of you, that you BELIEVE in the one He has sent'.(John 6v29)
THE LIGHT in his eyes was like a green flame as he sped back after the Hobbit to recover his precious.
Gollum finally realises Bilbo Baggins has the ring and comes after him. His screech alerts Bilbo to the danger and he starts to run. As he does so he puts his hand in his pocket and the ring slips onto his finger. The ring makes the wearer invisible and after some time Bilbo realises that Gollum can't see him. Gollum heads for the entrance of the tunnels where he is sure Bilbo will eventually turn up, Bilbo follows him and finds his way out. Bilbo has the opportunity to slay Gollum who can't see him, but at the last moment PITY STAYED HIM, HE WOULD NOT USE IT TO HELP HIM KILL THE WRETCHED CREATURE AT A DISADVANTAGE. He leaps over Gollum and escapes.
The Beatitudes are 10 important truths that Jesus taught. Number seven is: Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy. (Math 5v7).
Later in the book while Gandalph the wizard is explaining about the ring to Frodo, Frodo says,'what a pity Bilbo didn't stab that vile creature while he had the chance'. Gandalph replies, 'pity! It was pity that stayed his hand, pity and mercy: not to strike without need. And he has been well rewarded, Frodo. Be sure that he took so little hurt from the evil, and escaped in the end, because he began his ownership of the ring so. With pity!!'
Bilbo had ownership of the ring for many years, but it did not affect him with the same severity of evil as it did Gollum. Because of his mercy he obtained mercy. Many chapters further on Frodo himself is tempted to kill Gollum, who has attacked he and Sam on the trail, but Gandalphs words come back to his mind and he chooses not to slay Gollum. The book reveals that Frodos decision at that time is a major factor in his life being saved at the end of the journey. He was merciful and he obtained mercy.
Thus one of the spiritual truths that Jesus emphasised as of great importance, is used by Tolkien as one of the foundations of his story.
THREE RINGS FOR THE ELVEN KINGS UNDER THE SKY, SEVEN FOR THE DWARF LORDS IN THEIR HALLS OF STONE, NINE FOR MORTAL MEN DOOMED TO DIE, ONE FOR THE DARK LORD ON HIS DARK THRONE..................... A DEVOUT and believing Christian, is how one author described J R R Tolkien, the writer of The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy. Tolkien was a Roman Catholic believer all of his life. As a young boy he was impressed by the compassion of the Catholic Priest who helped his mother to find accomodation for herself and her two boys when Tolkiens father died suddenly overseas, leaving the family in poverty. The Priest, Father Francis Morgan, also regularly gave money to the family. Only a few years later Tolkiens mother also died from diabetes and Father Francis took over the guardianship of Tolkien and his brother Hilary.
You would have to search long and hard to find someone, these days, who has not heard of the book or the films. What seems not to be widely known is that The Lord Of The Rings is full of Christian symbolism and reveals Tolkien as a very spiritual man. The underlying Christian message in C S Lewis' writing is fairly obvious, but you have to dig a bit deeper to discover it in Tolkiens work.
ONE RING TO RULE THEM, ONE RING TO FIND THEM, ONE RING TO BRING THEM ALL AND IN THE DARKNESS BIND THEM, IN THE LAND OF MORDOR WHERE THE SHADOWS LIE.
Thus the purpose of the ring that is the central object of the book is revealed. The ring is a symbol of the sinful heart that every person without God has. The power of the ring comes from its connection with the dark lord Sauran. The New Testament says that every person without Jesus is in the 'snare of the devil having been taken captive by him' and they are under the 'power of darkness'. (2Tim 2v26)(1 John 5v19).
The ring deceives and destroys and its dark work is shown in the life of Gollum who was formerly a Hobbit known as Smeagle. His friend finds the ring in a river while the two are fishing one day. Smeagle kills his friend to get ownership of the ring ( which reminds me of Cain and Able ) and becomes 'a wretched creature' who shuns the light and is full of treachery and evil deeds. He is totally obsessed with the ring, calling it his 'precious', but is blind to the fact that it is destroying him.
Gollum lives in the black-orc mines deep under the Misty Mountains. Bilbo Baggins, a Hobbit, gets lost in the mines and comes across the ring by accident after Gollum has dropped it. So the ring leaves the possession of Gollum and the adventure begins.