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Posts Tagged ‘pagan christianity’

Taki’s adventures continue. Please check out the story here on my brand new WordPress site!

Lioness Hunting

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As I sat quietly, hoping to hear something from God, a picture of a wild rose opened wide with the pollen exposed came into my mind. This is what I believe I heard:

As the blossom clothes and glorifies and helps to identify the rose bush, so I have clothed you with beauty, My saints. The rose bush without the blossom remains a rose bush. It does not become more or less a rose bush because it bears or does not bear blossoms, but beauty and fruitfulness (which is produced by beauty) are the whole point of a rose bush. Oh yes, the bush is delicate and lacy and lovely on its own. Its leaves are unsurpassed for intricacy of design and even its thorns are a treat to behold. Yet without bright blossoms, who notices a rose bush amongst the aspens? Only those seeking it. But everyone sees the blossoms.

Therefore, whoever seeks the rose bush will find it, but even he who does not seek will notice the bright pink roses. There is a time for blossoms and a time for buds. There is a time for root and branch to grow, and for the bursting forth of new leaves.

A new, small rose bush may have a few blossoms in its first year, but its strength must be reserved for growing. Unless conditions are harsh and the bush senses it will die soon. Then it must mature quickly and produce fruit if it can, with seed.

But if the bush will live, it is best for it to grown and allow blossoms to come forth as they come.

The blossoms that clothe the bush are the righteous deeds of the saints–they are the fine, snowy linen worn by My bride, the beauty of the flowers that attracts insects and bees and birds–all of which feed on the flowers and cause them to produce fruit.

And the fruit is good for eating and for the sowing of new seed. The seed is produced by being and by drawing nourishment from the stalk and the root.

Artificial roses can be beautiful, but they do not produce pollen and nectar, nor do they have a fragrance to attract. They may attract some less-discerning with their intense colors, but they have nothing to offer for the hungry. There is no food, no fragrance, no feeding the spirit, and no fruit and no seed.

Cultivated roses are a little better. They have life, of sorts, though it must be supported by all kinds of outside intervention; sprays and pruning and fertilizers and work. Wild roses grow of themselves. All who are around them see, and marvel that such beauty can spring forth in unusual and unexpected places. Wild roses know the seasons and the times; when to bloom and when to fruit. Cultivated roses that survive in uncultivated times do so by going wild. Some can and some can’t. Some survive and some do not, and some are better gone. But the seed–the seed knows its way back to the wild.

All that you need is within you. Do not fail to listen to the voice of My Spirit within you. My seed is in you. Let it lead you back to the forest glen–to the sunlit hollows where the wild roses thrive.

This is a message to the organic church. If it makes no sense to you and you want to understand, please feel free to ask any questions you’d like.

Blessings, Cindy

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Ladybug on Leaf

Frank Viola posted an excellent blog today addressing this question, and you should read it–with all of its accompanying links. However, I’d like to summarize just a bit here, since it’s a long blog, and it may take you a day or two to find a quiet hour to study it. I’d like to note, though, that Franks’ entire article is well worth reading, especially if you haven’t read his books. You’ll get a lot of good information from it.

In our western SD community, the term Organic Church tends to pull up images of “all my friends and my old lady sitting, passing the pipe around” (John Denver; paraphrased slightly). Very funny, not true. We don’t pass the pipe around at all–we’ve never passed a pipe around, nor even discussed the possibility. But we do sit around in front of the fire sometimes, if it’s cold. And we do share our portions of Jesus Christ with one another.

In the “house church movement,” the name Organic Church has been used to refer to any non-traditional gathering of God’s people, whether it fits the original intent of the term or not. Here’s a quote from T. Austin Sparks that more accurately defines the meaning of the term Organic Church:

God’s way and law of fullness is that of organic life. In the Divine order, life produces its own organism, whether it be a vegetable, animal, human or spiritual. This means that everything comes from the inside. Function, order and fruit issue from this law of life within. It was solely on this principle that what we have in the New Testament came into being. Organized Christianity has entirely reversed this order.

And here it is in Frank Viola’s words:

By “organic church,” I mean a non-traditional church that is born out of spiritual life instead of constructed by human institutions and held together by religious programs. Organic church life is a grass roots experience that is marked by face-to-face community, every-member functioning, open-participatory meetings (opposed to pastor-to-pew services), non-hierarchical leadership, and the centrality and supremacy of Jesus Christ as the functional Leader and Head of the gathering.

Put another way, organic church life is the “experience” of the Body of Christ. In its purest form, it’s the fellowship of the Triune God brought to earth and experienced by human beings. . . . Organic church is not a theater with a script. It’s a lifestyle-a spontaneous journey with the Lord Jesus and His disciples in close-knit community.

House churches are not all alike. I believe that God does work through all kinds of churches, whether they meet in a “church” building, a living room, a coffee shop, or the break room of a business. That said, simply meeting outside a traditional church setting does not mean that a church is accurately described as “organic.” I really do encourage you to read Frank’s whole article, as he describes this a lot more thoroughly than I have here.

Frank Viola works with a number of brothers and sisters in planting and helping organic churches around the world. Two of his brothers, Milt Rodriguez and Gary Welter, have agreed to come here to Rapid City, SD to help us. To start out, they’ll be doing a conference for us on the last weekend of February. I know, I know–that does sound a little institutionalized, but I can explain . . . really! This event has a number of purposes: to draw people together in our area so we can get to know one another and perhaps learn of others nearby who also want to meet in an organic way; to give us all some new insights into the ways God (the Father, Son, Spirit) IS community, and how He wants us to be community not only with one another, but also with Him; and to pave the way for possible future help from these brothers, who are a treasure trove of practical experience in living organic church.

If you live in the “five state region,” (you know who you are 😉 ), or even if you don’t but would like to learn more about how to learn to meet and live life together in an organic way, you’re welcome to join us, whether for the conference or for one of our regular/irregular meetings. We’d love to have you come and to have the opportunity to get to know you.

Love Always, Cindy

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Since WordPress just started offering this cool new gizmo, I had to give it a try. So send me some feedback. 🙂

In chapter 11 of Pagan Christianity, the authors address our methods of reading and interpreting scripture and the New Testament in particular. Viola begins by pointing out the non chronological arrangement of the various writings of the New Testament.

The gospels come first, which isn’t the order in which they were penned, though this does seem appropriate to me, as their events came first. Various writers have tackled the task of setting them into a unified and chronological account–a task more difficult than one might think, as they are not even necessarily arrainged chronologically within themselves. This type of arrangement was not as typical of the first century as it is of our time.

After the gospels comes the book of Acts, which also works for me, as it is a kind of synopsis of the events we see later addressed in the epistles, or letters of Paul, Peter, John, James, and possibly others. Following Acts, though, things become rather untidy. Well, untidy in a rather tidy way. The longest letters come first, followed in order of length by the rest. If you read carefully and cross check with the book of Acts, you can figure out where most of them fit in, but don’t make the mistake of thinking they come to you in the order in which they were written.

Viola’s second beef is the chapter and verse divisions. I happen to think these come in pretty handy. Otherwise, how would we ever find anything twice? However, he does have a point that these artificial segments tend to make us forget that we’re reading a whole letter or story, not a collection of wise sayings, each of which is true and complete in its own right. Lifting a sentence or two from one of the epistles and trying to prove something is like someone doing the same to one of your e-mails or blog posts. It might work, and it might accurately represent your point, but it very well might not work or represent your views. It’s taken out of context. Chapter and verse delineations make this separation an easy and a natural process which we frequently don’t even notice we’re doing.

I would add that we think we’re taking a verse in context if we simply read it along with a few verses previous to it and following it, but this isn’t often the case either. In my study of 1 Corinthians (posted here, throughout my blog’s history) I’ve learned that, in order to get the whole significance of a given snippet, you often have to have read the whole letter from the start, had at least a rudimentary understanding of the culture it was written to, and checked back with Acts to see what was going on in the church at the time it was written. Keeping things in context is not as easy as I was taught. And I should also add that even this doesn’t prevent your getting a mistaken understanding, particularly if you’re taking scripture in the context of your own life, preconceptions and experiences. It takes effort to read what is written, exactly what is written, no more or less than what is written, and remember what was written before what you’re reading now, and weave these threads together into an accurate picture of what’s just been said.

And on top of that, you still can’t do it if you don’t have the Holy Spirit living inside. To the unsaved, scripture is a secret code that looks like it’s saying something, but you can’t really tell just what.

The whole chapter is very much worth a read. You’ll discover, as I did, why some of those iron-clad “proofs” you might have been given didn’t work out in life. God isn’t our invention or our chore boy. He’s God, and He’ll do what He will, no matter which scriptural “proof” you try to wave in His face. Lucky for us, what He wills is to love and redeem us. He just might not always do it the way you think the bible says. If you learn to read what’s actually being said, though, you might find that God is always faithful.

Grace and Peace,

Cindy

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This review will be short, as the chapter is short.  The authors start by talking about the history of ministerial education and make their point that, in fact, mentorships and apprenticeships are far more effective in training Christian workers. I have to agree with them on this, but with a few caveats. First, this is appropriate for the church of the first century as they, for the most part, did speak Greek–biblical Greek, in fact. I believe it’s important to the church to have linguists and historians and so on who specialize in Christian studies. It’s not that we couldn’t make it spiritually without this knowledge, but it does add an important dimension to our understanding of scripture.

As for the rest, soteriology, ecclesiology, eschatology, and so on and so on, I know plenty of scholars with no formal education who excell in these fields. Well, I don’t know them personally, but I’ve read their books. It’s fine to study about God, so long as we don’t forget that knowing God is the important thing. That said, I surely don’t think a seminary is the only, or even the best preparation for a life of ministry. The best preparation is a knowledge of how to hear from God, trust Him, and most of all, love Him and others.

Sunday School,  the authors point out, began as a ministry to poor children who, forced to work all week, had only Sundays on which they might have the free time to learn to read. So, Sunday School actually started out as basic education for the poor. While the need for this sort of thing has long been history in the west and most of the rest of the world as well, we have continued the tradition of Sunday School as a place of basic teaching in the faith. This is where kids typically learn bible stories and Christian ethical principles. Do they learn to love Jesus? I don’t know.

The authors don’t mention this, but in several churches I’ve had experience with, Sunday School is considered “small group” time. I don’t know that I’d agree. Usually it’s just another mini-message with some questions thrown in, but your results might be different or better than mine.

The next topic here is youth ministry. Again, this is of recent vintage. Many of you will know this first hand as you’ll remember when youth ministry was either not in evidence at all, was provided by para-church ministries, or was staffed by volunteer parents. Now-a-days nearly all churches larger that a couple hundred members have a youth minister on staff–even if he is living on Ramen Noodles.

The main point of this chapter seems to be that actual ministry prepares one far better to deal with real life situations than seminary. This maxim could as easily be applied to any profession. I think that it’s probably a good thing to have both a balanced education and life experience. Throw in a good dose of self-directed study, and you really do have a better perspective on things. Nevertheless, I’ll take a brother or sister who truly knows how to listen to God over a PhD whose knowledge is all in his head any day.

The next chapter is an important one, I think, dealing with our methods of biblical interpretation. I’ll try to get it up sometime next week.

God bless,

Cindy

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This may be the most controversial chapter in this whole controversial book. For as long as I can remember I have been a believer in tithing. I have even actually tithed for most of that time, though there was a period where I couldn’t afford it, no matter what Malachai had to say about the windows of Heaven. (Malachi 3:10) I was surprised to hear what Viola and Barna had to say about this topic and I did not intend nor expect to be convinced by their argument–but I’m not a total cement head. It’s possible to persuade me–if you’re really good. 😉

You’ve guessed by now that the authors don’t believe in tithing. They say it’s Old Testament and doesn’t apply to the New Testament and to the church. So far, they say just what my pastors have always said that those people (meaning the people who are wrong) would say about tithing. However . . . they have more than that to back up their position.

Read the New Testament, and you’ll see there’s nothing there about the churches tithing. They gave, but they gave as they chose to give. They didn’t give to support a church building because they didn’t have church buildings. As I mentioned in my review of chapter five, the authors argue that the NT church didn’t have paid clergy, so if this is the case (and I think they made a good argument for it), the church didn’t tithe to support their pastors. Tithing wasn’t a practice of the NT church. There are a couple of mentions of tithing in the NT, but they don’t apply to the church.

The tithe in the Jewish nation went to support Levites (who were not allowed to own property), and orphans and widows. It was a tithe of grain, vegetables, livestock, etc. Orphans and widows and Levites didn’t have these things (which was why they needed them) and so they didn’t have to pay. The tithe was good news to the poor.

Having experienced not having enough money to pay my bills, I can tell you what a burden the tithe can be on the poor, even if they don’t pay it. I wouldn’t call myself poor, as I had relatives who helped me, but I was not able to tithe, and I felt terrible about it. What’s more, I had been told the tithe was not just on income (before taxes), but also on any appreciation of property. I didn’t own a house, but this made the idea of owning one farther away than ever, as I knew that, even if I could afford to buy a house, I would never have been able to afford to tithe on its appreciation unless I were to sell it. Maybe it seems silly to you, but I really wanted to obey God, and this seemed like such a heavy burden to me, and with no relief in sight.

Many times I wrote a check for my tithe not knowing how I would feed my kids or pay my bills. While I always managed to do these things, there were no windows opening in Heaven for me–for the pastor, maybe–I don’t know. I “knew” that God was punishing me because I had not paid my tithe a couple of months ago and had yet to make it up–but I didn’t have the money to do it.

The Malachi promise was made to Jews paying their national tax (which was, apparently, more like 23% when all the various forms of the tithe were added together.) We have better promises now, and God’s favor is no longer counted in bigger grain harvests and more calves and lambs being born.

The history of how the tithe made its way into the Christian church is amazing. It started as rent on land belonging to the state. This rental fee was typically 10% of the produce of the land, and was called a tithe. Ownership of the land, with its accompanying 10% rent charge, eventually was transferred to the ever more wealthy church, and began to be identified with the Old Testament Levitical tithe. This was the beginning of tithing as a practice in the Christian church, and it didn’t happen until around the eighth century!

As the tithe as rent payment ebbed out, the tithe as moral (and in many places legal) requirement ebbed in. By the tenth century, the tithe had become a state-mandated religious tax. It was not optional–it was the law of the land.

Although tithing to the Christian church is no longer the law of the land, many denominations require it as a prerequisite to church leadership and many more will impose a load of guilt on those (including the poor) who do not pay it. When you’re struggling to buy macaroni, ten percent of what little income you have is an impossible figure.  You feel you’ll never be worthy of God’s blessings because you just can’t afford them. But what if you’re making 250K a year? Sure your tithe amount is enough to get you an easy eldership, but does it hurt you? Can you put beans on the rosewood table? Eeh–you’ll probably manage.

As the children of grace, is tithing even applicable to us? The authors argue that Christians should give as the Holy Spirit prompts, sacrificially, out of love, and in faith that God will meet our needs. Believers should give out of a heart of compassion and with a cheerful spirit, but not out of obligation or compulsion.

Maybe I’m a pushover, but it makes sense to me. What a relief to know that I can give to that ministry that touched my heart and that I long to support but couldn’t afford to because I could barely afford to tithe to my local church, which could barely afford to keep the doors open, what with paying the mortgage and the pastors’ salaries and the utilities and, and, and . . . .

My family has begun doing church together at home. If we find people to join us, that’s not going to increase the budget appreciably–maybe a little more coffee, some extra folding chairs or whatever–we can still afford to give to the causes God impresses us with. What freedom! What joy to be able to give where God leads us to give!

The next chapter covers baptism and the Lord’s Supper, so stay tuned. 😉

God bless,

Cindy

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