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Taken from the Blog Space of Rachel Held Evans.  I really appreciated this post, and it spoke so close to my heart with a lot that is going on right now.  This is the first I have read of her blog, but I am interested to learn more. Check her out here.

I have mentioned before that I believe evangelicals in the U.S. are about to engage in a big conversation about the Bible—a conversation about how we interpret it, how we apply it, how we talk about it, and how we relate to it. My hope is that we will move forward with a more nuanced, inclusive, and humble approach to the Bible, one that leaves room for a diversity of interpretations and applications while preserving the Bible’s time-tested value and authority. To do this, I suspect we will have to agree on some basic “rules of engagement.” In my own life, I’ve found these to be helpful:

1) I won't question your commitment to the Bible just because you interpret it differently than I do.

2) I won’t use the Bible as a proof-texting weapon of mass destruction.

3) I won’t accuse you of “picking and choosing” when we all employ some selectivity when interpreting and applying the Bible.

4) I will use the word “biblical” properly—as a descriptive adjective, not a prescriptive one. (The cartoon above illustrates the need for this perfectly!)

5) I won’t use the words “plain” or “clear” when referring to an ancient collection of stories, poems, letters, laws, history, prophecy, and philosophy—all written in a language and culture very different from my own.

6) I will keep in mind that my interpretation of the Bible is only as inerrant as I am.

7) I will use the Bible as a conversation-starter, not a conversation-ender.

Note: (The cartoon is used with permission from Mick Mooney.  Check out his blog here.)



* How would you describe a CHRISTIAN?
* Describe the role of a PASTOR?
* What is THE CHURCH?

Escape From Churchianity (by Chip Brogden)

It is important that we make a clear distinction between the True Church (the Ecclesia-in Greek) and the Institutional Church, Organized Religion, or religion in general. The easiest way to begin is to discuss one critical thing that Organized Religion cannot do: Organized Religion cannot impart Life.

"This is our testimony, that God has given us Eternal Life, and this Life is in His Son: He that has the Son has Life, and He that has not the Son of God has not Life”

(1 John 5:11, 12).

Contrary to popular belief, the Lord Jesus Christ does not live within the matrix of Organized Religion. Can you join a "church"? Yes, if you meet their requirements for membership. Can you join the Ecclesia? No. You have to be born into it. Or, to be more biblically correct, you have to be “born-again” into it. It is not a question of joining or not joining but a question of having Life versus not having Life. "He that has the Son has Life; He that has not the Son has not Life."

Some erroneously believe Jesus founded a movement, or formed a new religion. No, the world already had movements and religions and would continue to have them. He had no intention of starting a new one. What did He bring us? What did He contribute to the world? He committed Himself to us as our Life.

Muhammad, Buddha, Confucius, or Socrates can bring us good teaching, moral excellence, and religious philosophy. For this they may be commended as rendering help and aid to humanity. But Jesus Christ is different: He brings us Himself as our Life. It is not that He merely transmits some teachings to us, depositing some virtue into the human race before being taken up into heaven. It is well beyond Him simply being an example for us to follow, the standard by which our morals are measured as we frantically whisper, "What would Jesus do?" No, He Himself came to be our Life. He is Savior and Salvation. He is Redeemer and Redemption. He is Healer and Healing. He is the Giver of Life and He is Life.

“In Him is Life because He is Life. All who are in Him possess Life, and Life possesses them. The Life is in the Son. The Son is in me, and I am in Him. We share in a common Life. He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him” (1 Corinthians 6:7).

How does Jesus bring Life to His chosen saints? (Hint: Remember back to our lessons on how God instituted the sacrifice system for atonement of sin and how the OT requirements changed for NT believers because of the Cross!)
In order for a person to receive the Life that Jesus offers, what must he/she do?

Everyone together who possesses Life is called The Ecclesia, The Church, The Body of Christ. The individual members of the Ecclesia are called Christians. They are the in-Christed ones. They abide in Him, and He abides in them.

“So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples..."(John 8:31 ESV).

Notes from Gaynor: Abiding, then, requires a belief in the sacrificial work of Jesus Christ on our behalf. It is a dependence upon His provision of life and a belief and a relation with the person of Jesus Christ and His Word (John 15:4, 7).

You ask, “Is not a Christian one who believes thus and so, or behaves thus and so?” They may very well believe or behave thus and so, but the belief or the behavior, while it may assist us in identifying them, is not what makes them a Christian. It is the Life imparted by Jesus. Certainly, Christians have a core system of beliefs and practices, but the characteristic of a Christian is Life through and in Christ.

An “intellectual Christianity” is what Organized Religion brings. It cannot impart Life. What is “intellectual Christianity”? It is the “ABC Gospel.” Perhaps you have heard it. Salvation is obtained in three easy steps: "A" stands for "admit you are a sinner"; "B" stands for "believe on the Lord Jesus to save you"; and "C" stands for "confess Jesus as your personal Savior." What is wrong with that? Simply this: there is no Life there. "ABC" will not save anyone because with "ABC" there is no encounter with Jesus, Who alone is Life. There is only an intellectual acceptance and affirmation of what is presented as "Three Easy Steps." One might say, “I believe this, I say that, and that makes me a Christian, right?” No, it just makes one religious. There are many people who "get religion" but they don't “get Jesus.”

In your experiences with Christians in “churches,” discuss how people you have witnessed “get religion” but don’t “get Jesus.” What do you see as the main difference in Christians who are “religious” and Christians who “get Jesus”?

Organized Religion has caused Christianity to morph into Churchianity, a “gospel” that is easy to believe in but progressively more difficult to live up to. Organized Religion can bring doctrine, teaching, and belief. Some of it may be morally excellent and good. Some of it may even sound biblical, like "Three Easy Steps." Nevertheless, Organized Religion cannot impart Life. Why? Because it has no Life to give. Jesus Christ is the Life. And Jesus does not live within the matrix of Organized Religion. He gives HIMSELF. How can any person, organization or movement claim to give away another man, much less impart the very Life of Jesus Christ? Only Jesus can give Himself as our Life.

You see, then, the most anyone can do is point people to Jesus as the sole Source of Life. They may contact Life through us, but we cannot give them Life. To those bound by Organized Religion, Jesus cries, "You search the Scriptures, because you think in them you have Life. You are content to read about Me, but you will not come to Me that you may have Life” (John 5: 39, 40, paraphrased). Jesus says, “Come to Me,” not "Memorize these Three Easy Steps and attend the church of your choice this Sunday." “Come to Me,” He says to all. He is Life.

Stop &Reflect:
What, then, is the role of the Church?
What is the role of the Christian?

The Church, the Lord's Ecclesia, is the combination of individuals who have the Revelation of Jesus and have come to Him to receive Him as their Life.

Here is where the confusion begins. We glibly use the term "church" to describe things that are not The Lord's Ecclesia. A building devoted to religious meetings is called "the church." Attending a religious meeting is called "going to church." Hearing a good message or good music during the religious meeting is called "having church," and even a popular tune says, "Crank up the music, let's have church.” Becoming a member of the non-profit organization that owns the building devoted to religious meetings is called "joining the church." Taking responsibility as the founder or being voted in as the director of the non-profit organization that owns the building devoted to religious meetings is called "pastoring the church." Making additions to the building devoted to religious meetings or to the membership list of the non-profit organization that owns the building is called "church growth."

What we call "church" is simply Organized Religion. It is not the Lord's Ecclesia. For the sake of convenience, or just plain laziness, people have grown accustomed to saying "church" instead of "a non-profit organization that owns a building devoted to religious meetings." The Bible, though, clearly distinguishes between "The Church" and "church." We hope to impress upon you the difference between what people customarily call "church" and what the Lord considers to be "The Church." We simply see things the way we have been trained to see them; we do not see things as God sees them.

It is very easy to quantify and describe things in terms of Organized Religion because it is earthy, worldly, and natural. Ask someone on the street: “What is church?” and they will respond: “It is that building there with a steeple on top.” You ask: “What is a pastor?” and they will answer: The fellow who does the preaching. You ask, “What is a Christian?” and they will answer: “The folks who read their Bible a lot and pray a lot and go to church a lot--you know, doing good works.” You see how easy it is to define? It is tangible, concrete. We can get our hands on that.

But the reality is that everything that makes up the Ecclesia is spiritual, and thus, it is invisible to the naked eye. It cannot be measured by dollars and statistics. Now ask the same questions of someone who knows better: “What is church?” and they would answer correctly from a biblical stance: “The Church, the Ecclesia, is the synthesis of individuals who have the Revelation of Jesus and have come to Him to receive Him as their Life.” Pray tell, where do I find that? What do I look for? You can't do it; it's like trying to find the wind. It is beyond geographical description; it is everywhere and nowhere.

When asked: “What is a pastor?” a biblically accurate answer would be: “Someone called to feed the Lord's sheep as an under shepherd of the Chief Shepherd.” Huh? You mean preaching? No, not necessarily. You mean a doctor of theology? No, not really.

So then, what is a Christian? Oh that's easy, someone who is in Christ. What do you mean "in Christ"? Don't you mean someone who "believes in Christ?" No, I mean someone who is IN Christ, in union, one with Him.

“And we who are in Christ Jesus ARE seated with Him in heavenly places” (Ephesians 2:6).

So what does THAT definition of a “Christian” look like? How many chapters of the Bible does a “Christian” read per day? How long do they pray? How often do they attend church? The definition of “Christian” defies explanation because the truth is it has nothing to do with the external, only the internal. Like the wind: you can see the effects of it but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it goes—so are “Christians” who are born of the Spirit.

(John 3:1-8) “1 Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” 3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.]” 4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

This invisible Life is the characteristic of the Ecclesia. When you can capture the wind in a bag, then you can stuff Christians into a building and call it "church."

“Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21).

So, from our vantage point here on earth, Organized Religion can be easily seen, felt, touched, experienced, quantified, denominated, characterized, categorized, analyzed, and explained. We can chart its progress and hang the data up on the wall, point to it and say, “Yep, we've got this many million converts here, and this many million members there. Church growth is up (or down), we collected this many dollars last year, and in relation to the rest of the world's religions we rank number whatever. We've got this many thousands of churches in this part of the world, we have this many thousands of pastors and Christian workers, and we've translated the Bible into this many different languages.”

Meanwhile, what drives the Real Church, the Ecclesia, is invisible, spiritual, ethereal, in the world but not of the world, hidden, veiled, hard to describe in terms we can understand. We can't generate the data and hang it up on the wall.

Stop & Reflect:
* Based on our reading today, how would you NOW describe:
(1) A “Christian”?
(2) A “pastor”?
(3) “The Church”?
* Do you struggle with understanding the definition of “Church” or “Christian” in relation to the spiritual world? Why or why not?

Now imagine that the Lord wakes you up one night and says, "Come up hither, and I will show you the Church." You expect Him to carry you down the street to the Family Worship Center or across the country to where the crowds say they are experiencing revival, but instead, you find yourself rising high into the air, leaving the earth behind, and in the blink of an eye you travel beyond the edges of the temporal universe and into the spirit realm, seated with Christ in heavenly places, there in the throne of God.

Seated with the Lord and looking back down upon the world, you will find from this perspective that the cathedrals, the church buildings, the worship centers, the sanctuaries, the denominational offices, the seminaries, the tithes and offerings, the membership drives, and the movements all vanish from sight. Everything melts away. He does not see the Assemblies of God, the Southern Baptists, the United Methodists, the Lutherans, the Presbyterians, or the Roman Catholics. He does not see Charismatics or Fundamentalists or Bible Belts or Christian Conservatives or Religious Rights. He does not see the building devoted to religious meetings as anything more special or significant than the grocery store or barbershop. He sees pastors, yes, but strangely. He does not see every director of a non-profit organization who owns a building devoted to religious meetings as a “pastor.” And, from this heavenly observation point, it is not just the pastors that are different. Everything seems odd. Backwards. Apostles are not where you expect them to be, and they are not doing what you expect them to be doing. Neither are prophets, evangelists, or teachers. Yet, they are right where He wants them to be, doing exactly what He wants them to do. Interestingly enough, He is not concerned with a rise or a decline in “church” attendance because He does not see “The Church” as something that can be attended. Hmmmm.

Standing next to Him, you see as He sees. You realize when you look upon Christendom, all that God sees is His Church, the Ecclesia. He deems those who abide in Him, those who possess the Son, as those who have Life. His Church is not declining. It is growing because His Life cannot be contained or restricted. His Ecclesia is outside the matrix. His Church is spiritual, and as such, it is eternal, transcending time and space. Just as He is and does.

You look upon His Face and see the curve of His smile, so you follow His gaze—and there it is, the living stones and precious gems that make up His Church. You couldn't see them before because you were right in the middle of it while still on earth. But now, far removed from it all and looking down upon it from the Lord's perspective, you see that the living stones are being assembled together into a brilliant, gleaming, dazzling building which covers the entire earth! An angel stands apart from it, shouting, "100% pure: never touched by human hands!" You zoom in closer and discover that the stones and gems are not literal stones and gems, but people! Wonderful, beautiful, joy-filled people, joined together into a striking mosaic of vibrant colors, a tapestry of interwoven beauty, a medley of lives in perfect twelve-part harmony, all pulsing with His heartbeat, His Life, His Essence. You begin to weep at the unadulterated purity of it and oneness of it. There is no spot, wrinkle, or blemish to be found.

Only God could make something this perfect. Only God. Only God. And there in the midst of this wonderful place, you see what makes it so splendid. There HE is, walking around in the midst of this heavenly Temple, adding living stone upon living stone, precious gem upon precious gem, and what do you hear? Singing? Yes. The Living Stones are crying out in praise. And He is smiling, and—whistling while He works.

Jesus is building His Church.

If God would grant you a moment by His side and allow you a fleeting glance at His Church from the heavenly realms, you would at once understand what a pitiful substitute we have in Organized Religion. There is nothing more completely opposed to the heart and ultimate purpose of God than Organized Religion.

* By envisioning Christ’s Church from a heavenly viewpoint, what is different than our earthly perspective?
* How does this heavenly perspective motivate you in your walk in/with Christ?

If God is pleased to grant you this vision of His Church, then you will come to appreciate it as a blessing and a curse—a blessing because to see things as He sees them is true Wisdom and Oneness with Him and His people…and a curse because once you see things as He sees them, you will never again be able to accept the substitute, the counterfeit, even the good, at the expense of His One Holy Church. Before, you might casually call this thing and that thing "church" and find it socially acceptable, but now the Spirit of Christ in you will convict you when you hear others call some building the "house of God," knowing full well that His House is not this dead thing made with human hands!

It will not be enough for you to then say: "Lord, the Church belongs to You, not to me, not to anyone. Now I see my mistake. I take my hands off of it, for it is not mine to control or run. I repent of trying to build what you wish to destroy, and destroying what you wish to build. What am I, Lord, but a little stone, a little sheep, a little member of a wonderful Body of Believers? You are building Your Church, and now I will let you do it. At last I see. Only let me find a quiet place to serve You and serve Your people in secret, for I want nothing else for me, but all of it for You."

No, once you see Christ’s Church, you will be jealous over His Church with His jealously, and you will be acutely aware of false pastors and false teachers and false evangelists and false prophets and false apostles! It is a question of seeing! And see, you will! You will see as He sees, hear as He hears, feel as He feels. Once you have had a taste of Real Life, you smell Death a thousand miles away, and your spirit rebels against it, your emotions scream in protest, and you are sick to your stomach with grief, anger, and compassion all at once. You will claim: "No! This is not the Ecclesia. This is not the Lord's Church. This is a sham. This is bogus. This is nothing but Organized Religion!"

We are not suggesting that you challenge the system or other believers by provoking confrontation. All the arguments in the world will not convince people, nor should we attempt to make people see. Simply allow them to see. Look upon the face of Him who sees things as they are so that others may look into your eyes and see Him as He is. One minute of seeing is worth a lifetime of argument. God will grant us a discerning heart and eyes to see and hear if we will ask Him for such holy things, and if we are willing to accept both the joy and the burden that accompanies such a revelation.

May God have mercy on us and give us such a revelation of Himself and of His Church that we may escape from Churchianity and find the fullness of Life in Him.

* Why would we have both a “blessing” and a “curse” if we accept the revelation of Christ’s Ecclesia?
* How can we balance our respect for Christ’s Church and our respect for “Organized Religion”?
* What specific part of this lesson touched you, gave you a new perspective or changed you in some way?

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Borrowed From
© 2009 First Fruits of Zion, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

Parasha: Vayeshev
Signet, Cord and Staff
Vayeshev - וישב: "And he dwelt"
Torah : Genesis 37:1-40:23
Haftarah : Amos 2:6-3:8
Gospel : John 2:13-4:42

Thought for the Week:
As Tamar's pregnancy began to be obvious to others, she would confidently "tap her stomach and declare, 'I am big with kings and redeemers.'" (Genesis Rabbah 85:10) So may Messiah be fully formed within us, and may we never forget who dwells within.

Commentary:In Genesis 38:18, as Judah negotiates with Tamar (whom he assumes to be a prostitute) he asked her "'What pledge shall I give you?' And she said, 'Your seal and your cord, and your staff that is in your hand.' So he gave them to her and went in to her, and she conceived by him.'"

The Rabbis of old saw messianic revelation in Genesis 38's story of Judah and Tamar. As we look at their comments, we are afforded a wonderful opportunity to observe a typical example of classic midrashic allegory. A midrash is a form of biblical interpretation developed by the ancient Rabbis. Its goal, derived from the Hebrew root for the word drash — "seek, search" is to attempt to find the deeper inner, often hidden meaning of the Torah by use of the allegory and word associations.

After agreeing to the price, Tamar demanded that Judah leave a pledge as a guarantee just in case he was to forgo his payment to her. The pledge she demanded was Judah's personal identification articles: his name signet (probably a cylinder seal with his name on it), the cord which held his cylinder around his neck and his personal walking staff.

The sages of old, practicing classic midrash, saw much more in these verses than what most of us would be able to see. Without negating the literal, most obvious sense of the words, the rabbis went "deeper" and said, "'Thy signet' alludes to royalty (citing Jeremiah 22:24); And 'thy cord'...alludes to the Sanhedrin (citing Numbers 15:38). And 'Thy staff' alludes to the royal Messiah, as in the verse, 'The staff of thy strength the LORD will send out of Zion.'" (Psalm 110:2) (Genesis Rabbah 85:9)

The first thing to note is that the rabbi who developed this midrash connected the reference to "the signet" and Numbers 15:38 because this Torah reference was to wearing blue in the fringes of your four-cornered garment. This alludes to the Sanhedrin because, the Sanhedrin wore fringed cloak, (talit). Second, notice, most importantly that in Judah's staff the rabbis saw the Messiah. Perhaps they connected the passage in Genesis 49 which places the staff of kingship in the tribe of Judah. Lastly, when the Rabbis cited Psalm 110 as a proof-text for their interpretation concerning the staff of Judah, they betrayed the fact that they also considered Psalm 110 to be a Messianic Psalm-as we also do. Psalm 110 is the most frequently quoted Psalm in the Apostolic Scriptures.

To what end do these things betoken Messiah? The offspring of Judah and Tamar is Peretz, the father of the Davidic line through whom Messiah would ultimately be born.

Truly, Messiah may be found throughout the Torah.

© 2009 First Fruits of Zion, Inc.
All Rights Reserved
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