TWO TREES IN A GARDEN

God planted two fruit trees in the middle of the Garden of Eden.

  • the Tree of Life
  • the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil

Several observations:

  1. Were these literal trees or are we to take this ancient story metaphorically?
  2. Either way, they certainly represent truths much deeper in the human psyche than simply making right dietary choices.
  3. The consequence of eating from one tree is shame, hiding, cover ups and death, not to mention sweat and pain in child birth.
  4. Eating from the other tree results in eternal life.
  5. Both trees are good. God declares that all He has made is good. “…God made every tree grow that is pleasant to look at and good for food.” (Gen 2:9)
  6. There must be a “good” purpose for the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
  7. Are these trees, or what they represent, still confronting us today? If so, it would be wise to avoid one and find the other.

Two Trees and Two Covenants

The scriptures introduce us to two covenants between God and humanity which correspond to the two trees. One is the Covenant of Law, written with ink and chiseled on tablets of stone.

  • The law defines good and evil, “…for by the law is the knowledge of sin.Romans (3:20)
  • The law is good, holy and even glorious. (2 Corinthians 3)
  • It produces condemnation resulting in shame, hiding and veils or cover ups.
  • It’s called the ministry of death. It will kill you.
  • It is temporary.
  • It fulfills its purpose as a school teacher leading us to Christ. (Galatians 3:24,25)

The Tree of Life

Jesus and the new covenant are the Tree of Life. He is the resurrection and the life. “The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord…”

  • not of the letter but of the Spirit.
  • written not with ink but by the Spirit
  • written not on tablets of stone but on the heart
  • the letter kills but the Spirit gives life
  • not producing condemnation but righteousness
  • not hiding or wearing veils, for when one turns to the Lord the veil is taken away
  • we, with unveiled face, beholding the reflected glory of the Lord, are being changed into His image.
  • not fading glory but increasing glory.
  • not temporary and passing away but permanent

(2 Corinthians 3)

by John Cooke

http://www.jfcooke.com

God in a Body

“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory…”  (John 1:14)

What a wonderful idea! The Logos (the spoken Truth by which everything is created) became flesh and blood and lived with us.  The Message spoken by God became a human person. The Gospel in skin. God in a body, “hanging out” with us. Wow! What an amazing idea!  The glory of God walked around with us; eating, drinking, laughing, crying,  like us  and as such, showing us what God is like.  “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father  and you have seen His glory”.

This warrants admiration and even worship. Even if He remained on a distant mountain, invisible, speaking only to a favored Moses, or through special oracles and written words. To become human, but to remain aloof behind walls among the rich, powerful, exclusive or holy, one could still claim He was with us, but by appointment only.  However, He became flesh and lived with us, with all kinds of people: poor, rich, religious, weak, powerful, sick, healthy, sinful and righteous. He purposefully went to where people were, ate with them and “hung out” with them.

But that’s not all.  Apparently this is not only true of Jesus. The children of God are also to be defined as “the Word  made flesh”. We too are to be God in a body. The Message must become flesh and blood, the Gospel in skin, real people indwelt by God and “hanging out” with those who want to know what God is like.  We are containers of God’s glory walking, talking, eating, drinking, laughing and crying with them. What if it could  be said of the children of God, “If you have seen us, you have seen our Father, and you have seen His glory”.

“Having so fond an affection for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the Gospel of God but also our own lives…”  (1Thess 2:8)

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Gospel of the Kingdom

This is the Gospel in its simplest form: “Jesus is the King” and all government in heaven and earth is now on His shoulders. He is King now, not someday but today.

This is the good news we are commissioned to reveal to the world. The government of the King has come and is increasing on earth as it is in heaven.

All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples…” (Matthew 28:18-19)

Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end.” (Isaiah 9:7)

He is presently enthroned as the King of all kings, “…far above all authority, power and dominion …not only in this age but also in the one to come” (Eph. 1:20-23)

What does this mean for us?

  • We are unable to see the Kingdom without being “born again”.

  • We cannot enter the Kingdom without believing in the King (John 3)

  • We are to seek the Kingdom first before anything else, praying that it is established on earth as it is in heaven.

  • The Kingdom has been given to us as sons and daughters of God. It is within us, and among us. We bring the King and his Kingdom with us, declaring and revealing the Kings glory and presence to the world.

  • We operate as ambassadors of God’s Kingdom brokering terms of peace, God making His appeal through us, “Be reconciled to God.”

http://www.jfcooke.com

George MacDonald and Universalism

Christian universalism is a school of Christian theology focused around the doctrine of universal reconciliation – the view that all human beings will ultimately be “saved” and restored to a right relationship with God.  ( Wikipedia)

George MacDonald has been called a Universalist but I think that is too simplistic. I hesitate to label him so narrowly. C.S Lewis imagines a conversation with MacDonald about this during his bus trip to heaven in “The Great Divorce” (which I love). I write about it a little in my blog “What Good is Hell” ( see below) which you may find helpful. MacDonald discusses the subject but rather than forming a dogma or taking a firm theological side he takes a “what if...” approach. He starts from the heart of God as loving Father who is not willing that any of His children should perish. He who descended into hell once to deliver captives may do so again.
MacDonald  does not view hell as punitive but remedial. He also does not see the cross as punishment endured by Jesus for our sins, but as God’s solution to defeat Satan and take away sin’s dominion over us with its consequences of death, sickness, poverty, alienation, captivity, etc. and to pay the “debt” incurred by the wages of sin.

He writes, “When we say that God is Love, do we teach men that their fear of Him is groundless?” He replied, “No. As much as they fear will come upon them, possibly far more. … The wrath of God will consume what they call themselves; so that the selves God made shall appear.”

What if hell’s fire is designed to purge away that which is incapable of entering or even seeing the Kingdom. All that enters the Kingdom must pass through fire consuming that which is combustible and revealing the “gold, silver and precious stones”.  And so, some are saved by fire. There is no place to run from the Fire of God. The further we run from Him, the hotter it gets. The solution is to run towards Him, pass through the fire and come forth as gold.

It is His will that none should perish but that all might be saved. Then can we not pray, “Thy will be done.” Is it conceivable that His will ultimately should not be done?

2 Corinthians 5:18-19 “All this is from God who reconciled us to God through Christ…that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ… not counting men’s sins against them.

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The Movable Feast

Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven is about who comes to dinner (Luke 14).  Do we just invite our friends and family or do we include those who are marginalized from Christian society. His “ministry strategy” was like a movable feast.   He took “church” with him and ate with people who were not usually welcome to “worship services” in the temple or synagogues.

The strategy that Jesus and the apostles used is worth revisiting.  Jesus followed a very simple strategy.  Most often he taught his disciples in a public place or in a home around a meal.  The apostles followed the same methods, not just for evangelism or missions.   This was how “church” was done for the first 300 years before the state church began building cathedrals and establishing a professional clergy and priesthood.

A Return to Simplicity

The way we structure our church culture is the way our spiritual descendants will reproduce it.  The simpler it is, the more naturally and quickly it will reproduce.   The less it isolates us from the culture around us, the greater the impact upon that culture.

Jesus told us to go and develop disciples and He would build His Church.  We reproduce disciples by revealing the presence and values of the Kingdom in the context of relationships. We invite pre – Christians to follow us as we follow Jesus. We demonstrate discipleship by loving God, loving one another and loving our neighbors. In this way we reproduce disciples who are equipped to reproduce disciples.

Jesus showed his disciples how to reveal the kingdom of heaven to the world.  Then he imparted the Holy Spirit to them and released them to do the same.   His purpose was to model for them a corporate lifestyle which they were to reproduce after he was gone.

“Greet the church which meets in your house” (1 Cor. 16:19; Col. 4:15; Philemon: 2, Rom. 16:5 and so on). Apostolic teams visited house to house and taught them (Acts 20:20). They ate together and hosted the presence of God (Acts 2:42).  “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were saved.” (Acts 2:46-47, 4: 1-4)

Story Time

Jesus’ often told stories around a meal to explain the Kingdom and how it is manifested on earth. His disciples had trouble understanding what he meant by the “Kingdom” because they envisioned an earthly nation of Israel restored to her former glory and sovereignty, with a great king like David or Solomon sitting on the throne in Jerusalem.

Jesus’ teaching didn’t make any sense in that context.  “The kingdom is here.”  “The kingdom is within you.” The “kingdom” is about who you invite to dinner, where you sit at the table, who your neighbor is, where and how you build your house or invest your money.  It has to do with how a farmer sows and harvests his crop, how a shepherd cares for sheep, how fishermen sort their catch, how yeast works in dough, how merchants value pearls and how treasure hunters respond to treasure.

The Kingdom is to be on earth as it is in heaven. He has given us the Kingdom. We are to bring heaven’s values and resources to earth through our relationships, families, communities and work.  The creation longs for this revealing of the children of God.  We are “the light of the world”.  That light must not be hidden behind religious walls but rather placed in full view (lights set on the hills) of family, business, education, government, media, arts, religion, etc.

“They will…

  • Rebuild the ancient ruins,
  • Restore the devastated places and
  • Repair the ruined cities.”    Isaiah 61:4

Each household and social network was potentially an intentional community of disciples.  The life and affairs of the church were concentrated primarily within these groups.  Each group functioned as part of a larger community of groups within a city.

Heads of households hosted the presence of God.  They were not restricted by spiritual gifting,  or gender.  They may not even have been believers yet,  only “men or women of peace”.

The larger community of households was served by selected overseers who provided accountability, coaching and spiritual oversight to the house churches.  These overseers were chosen by the apostolic team from among the household gatherings.

What Happens at a Movable Feast ?  We eat together, pray, sang, worship, heal the sick,  share communion, read and discuss the scriptures.  We intercede and look for “lost sheep”,  love one another, encourage and build each other up in the faith  and cared for the poor.

I suggest that we consider limiting our reliance on frequent large gatherings, large events and stage performances. These can actually slow down the growth and development of disciples if they become too frequent.  Equipping ministries  (apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers and evangelists) should focus on giving away ministry by appointing elders and mentoring overseers, and key leaders.  Keep the groups small, simple and rapidly reproducing.  When they become too large for an average size house, divide the group, open another home and release more people into ministry.

My purpose is not to be critical of the church but to increase her exposure to the world.  The world longs for the revealing of the children of God.  We are “the light of the world”.  That light must not be hidden behind walls but rather placed in full view (lights set on the hills) of  family, business, education, government, media, arts, religion, etc. 

By: John Cooke

The Movable Feast

movablefeasts@gmail.com

www.jfcooke.com

The Human Enemy Is Not My Enemy

I was born in China in 1948 to missionary parents. My family was forced to leave China in 1950. The Lisu Chinese pastor who dedicated me to Jesus was later commanded to stop preaching in the name of Jesus. He said that he must obey God rather than men, so they cut out his tongue and said, “Now preach”. He bled to death for his faith.

Pastors, evangelists and teachers were executed or imprisoned. It became illegal to own a Bible or assemble for worship, but the number of believers in Christ grew more than 100 fold over the next 50 years. The testimony of those who are martyred for their faith only serves to strengthen and increase the victory of Jesus in the world. The recent testimonies of Coptic martyrs and their family members in Syria, were filled with expressions of forgiveness from those suffering and grieving.  It is not surprising to discover that the number of Jesus followers is growing faster in the Middle East in the places of greatest persecution, than anywhere else on earth.

This is not just about non-violent resistance, which is a powerful political strategy demonstrated by the wonderful examples of Gandhi, Dr Martin Luther King,  the Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela. It is about the testimony of Jesus and His kingdom which “are not of this world” (not about human politics or government). The battle of Christ and His followers is not against evil persons (flesh and blood).  The human “enemy” is not my enemy.

Jesus refused to engage Pilate by resisting the authority of Rome. The Lisu pastor was not resisting Mao or the Peoples Republic.  Jesus’ battlefield is not even between religious systems (such as Islam and Christianity) but against cosmic spiritual wickedness and deception.

As for people, “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing”.  Here… let me put that ear back on.

For the Royal Family

I bow my knee before the Father, from whom every family  (or all fatherhood)
in heaven and earth derives its name” (or finds its identity).  Eph 3:14-15 (parentheses mine)
Apparently family and fatherhood are at the center of the universe and fundamental to the administration and government of both heaven and earth. We are not so much governed “by” as governing “with” the Family. Not so much “subjects” of the universal Government as we are heirs and therefore co-administrators.  ​We are  to reign with Him.

The government of the planet is upon our shoulders, (with and in the Name of the Divine Family).   Every name, title and authority has become subject to Him and placed under His feet (and therefore under our feet), who are the fullness of Him who fills everything.  (Eph. 1:22-23).  Where are His shoulders and feet, if not in His Body?   It is the Father’s good pleasure to give us the Kingdom.