Jesus Now

Jesus Now: Unveiling the Present-Day Ministry of Christ is Frank Viola’s latest book. I love Frank Viola’s writing. He is always scriptural, always Jesus-centered and he always makes me think. So I was delighted when he sent me a copy to review.

Over the years, I’ve read many “deeper life” books. The writings of Andrew Murray, Watchman Nee, and AW Tozer and many others have impacted me. In many ways, Jesus Now reminds me of their works. It places Jesus front and center; it challenges the reader to make Jesus Lord of everything in life; it reveals how Jesus transforms and strengthens the believer.

We all know what Jesus did when he was here on earth. He healed the sick, cast out demons, raised the dead. But what is he doing now? He continues to work in our lives. Jesus Now: Unveiling the Present-Day Ministry of Christ details the current ministry of Jesus as our High Priest, Chief Shepherd and Heavenly Bridegroom. Just these chapters alone could transform the lives of many believers as they are set free from guilt and condemnation.

But the book doesn’t stop at the level of the individual follower of Jesus. In a way that few books do, Frank takes these concepts further into the ministry of Jesus in the body of Christ at large. Jesus is the Master Builder and the Head of the Church. This has implications for how we meet together and how the church interacts with the world.

Although this book is a fast read, I believe Jesus Now is destined to be a classic! I highly recommend it.

Frank has a great offer for us. If you purchase the book between May 5th and May 8th from Parable.com, you will not only get it at 50 percent off, you will also get a study guide for free. Here’s where you can get it.

The launch of The Black Swan Effect

[Tweet “IT’S OFFICIAL! THE BLACK SWAN EFFECT IS NOW LIVE ON AMAZON. Yay!!”]

 

Here’s the link to The Black Swan Effect: A Response to Gender Hierarchy in the Church on Amazon. Both paperback and Kindle editions are available.

I’m so grateful to the team of women–my wonderful friends Peggy Batcheller-Hijar, Jan Diss, Katie Driver, Suzette Lambert and Julie Ross–we’ve worked together on this project for four years now. And I’m very thankful for the guys who’ve stood with us, contributed chapters, encouraged us–Neil Cole, Dave Ferguson, Michael Frost, Alan Hirsch, Floyd McClung, Frank Viola and Jon Zens. And Lynne Hybels wrote the foreword of the book for someone she’d never met… What a blessing!

Although our technical launch date is tomorrow (Saturday, April 5th) there are already various other blogs and articles about  it on the Internet. (See here, here, here and here).

Most readers of my blog are familiar with the The Black Swan Effect. But if you’re new, here’s a little about it–taken from the “blurb” on Amazon.

The Black Swan Effect presents a vision for what can happen as men and women work together in the Kingdom of God.  The authors (both male and female) encourage men to champion women as equal co-laborers and partners in the harvest. They also give women permission and inspiration to follow the Lord—to reach their own full potential and encourage others to fulfill God’s call. The Black Swan Effect equips both men and women to bring an informed and positive contribution to the increasingly crucial conversation on gender in the church.

If you are like most Christians, one of three primary motivations propels you into this discussion about women in ministry:

  • Many Christians have come to the conclusion that there is no better way to increase the size of God’s missions workforce than to fully deploy women to use their spiritual gifts and God-given capacities.
  • Some are asking theological questions. They are investigating how the Bible portrays women, especially women leaders. How did Jesus treat women? Were the New Testament writers—in particular, the apostle Paul—misogynists? Are there alternative interpretations for some of the really difficult passages of Scripture?
  • Others are drawn to this discussion because of issues related to justice and human dignity around the world as well as in the church. As they study Scripture, they are assured that God creates all men and women in his image, and they can’t even imagine a God who would discriminate against women.

Fourteen different authors contribute to these themes, each writing from their own area of passion and expertise, the whole being woven together into a single narrative. Encouraging stories of women who are doing marvelous things for God today accompany each chapter.

Change is coming! Let’s get ready.

If you purchase The Black Swan Effect, readers of my blog can also get a free download of a short (25 page) e-book entitled “A Simple Guide to the Challenging Scriptures for Women.” (I’m using an honor system here. If you purchase the book, click on the link for the guide.) It’s a quick reference to four of the Scriptures that have proven most troublesome when it comes to women in ministry through the years.

 

Do simple/organic churches need a “covering”?

Here’s the idea: everyone needs covering–a kind of spiritual protection against the storms of life. If someone moves out from under covering, (as in leaving a particular church, or more specifically a particular leader), they somehow become vulnerable to demonic attack and are likely to end up with all kinds of problems. House churches are especially vulnerable because they don’t have any kind of covering–no one who has spiritual authority over them. Their people don’t answer to anyone.

Covering

I’ve come across a number of people who have been told this by their pastor or spiritual leader when they have brought up the idea of leaving a particular church. When they’ve taken the plunge and moved away from that church, others, who used to be their friends, have even been forbidden to have contact with them in case they are “contaminated.”

I believe this is spiritual abuse.

The idea of covering is totally non-Scriptural! The only reference to covering in this way in the Bible is the story of Ruth and Boaz where Ruth asks Boaz to extend the borders of his garment over her. It’s very far-fetched to apply this to church leadership.

As Frank Viola says, I think in Reimagining Church, it is extraordinary that when Paul writes to the people in Corinth addressing a serious moral problem in the church, he does not ask the leadership of the church to deal with it. One would have expected him to ask the elders to handle the situation. Instead, he addresses the whole body and anticipates they will deal with the problem.

We quite often get asked, “Who is your spiritual covering?” Our response: “Jesus is the authority to whom the church answers! We can all hear him and respond to his call on our lives.” If the Lord calls others to leave us, we give them our blessing and send them on their way. We’ve found that you cannot outgive God.

What do you think

Update on the book on women

Most people who read this blog know that, although its main emphasis is usually on simple/organic church, for several months I’ve been writing consistently about women. The reason? For the past two years, I’ve been compiling a book on women in the Kingdom. That process is very now very nearly finished. Just the final details on the last chapter to go before the manuscript is ready to send to the publisher (YAY!)

Here’s a little history behind the book.

Five years ago, recognizing my own need for peer fellowship, I reached out to a few women who play a significant role in the body of Christ. We connected via conference call. As our fellowship grew deeper, a natural discussion topic was the role of women in the church. Between us, we were aware of many women who desire everything God has for them, but yet who hang back, waiting for a man to take the lead. What could we do to give them permission to follow the Holy Spirit with all their hearts no matter where he led, even if it meant them taking the initiative? How could we encourage men to stand with them?

We knew from experience that in the church in the West, with notable exceptions, women have been sidelined and marginalized. Because they’ve been taught that they’re stepping out of line if they initiate or lead, they have settled back into passivity. Men lead; women follow. That’s the godly pattern. The result? The mission of Jesus suffers as a large portion of the workforce for the harvest waits for men to take the initiative.

On a couple of occasions, our team of women went away together for several days of prayer and fellowship. Always we came back to the idea that God longs to free women into their destiny, that if they were released, the workforce for the Kingdom of God would potentially double. The obvious follow-up question: is there anything we can do to inspire and empower other women?

Then came a weekend when God spoke to a larger group of 12 of us about Deborah and Barak. As a result of studying that story, we decided to approach some men who we knew stand with us in our beliefs about the role of women. We recognized that if a group of women tackled this subject, we would be perceived as feminists with an agenda, but if both men and women were involved, it had the potential of contributing to a Kingdom movement.

Many men actively advocate on behalf of women. Some take every opportunity to speak about the injustice that exists in the church and do everything they can to promote women. Others have made the study of the Scriptures concerning women a priority.  Still others take practical steps to hold open the doors allowing women in ministry. Several pledged to stand with us and together we would seek to release women.

The group of half a dozen women finally concluded that we would write a book together, and that we would ask men to contribute.

We approached several men who agreed to share from their particular area of interest and expertise. We are so grateful to them for their willingness to identify with us and to actively champion the cause of women.

The final list of contributors to the book apart from myself:

Peggy Batcheller-Hijar, Neil Cole, “Jan Diss,”  Katie Driver, Dave Ferguson, Michael Frost, Alan Hirsch, Suzette Lambert, Floyd McClung, Julie Ross, Frank Viola, and  Jon Zens

 


 

 

God’s Favorite Place on Earth

When Frank sent me a copy of his latest book, I was keen to read it because I knew it looked at the lives of Mary and Martha and their brother, Lazarus.

God’s favorite place when he lived on earth was their home in Bethany, the place where Jesus was accepted unconditionally and where he returned, time and time again. Part fiction (the moving story of Jesus in Bethany is narrated by Lazarus) and part insightful theology, Frank uses the story to help people facing many kinds of challenges–doubt, discouragement, fear, materialism. He demonstrates in a practical way how to deal with offense, both by God–when he doesn’t meet our expectations or doesn’t show up on time–or from others who may hurt or reject us. He challenges us to live a life free from offense.

I’ve studied the Gospels on many occasions, but certain things became clearer to me as I read this book. I saw details that had escaped me before. Example: I’d never noticed that Jesus’ ascension occurred in Bethany. The conversation between Jesus and Martha about his resurrection took on fresh power.

Frank writes powerfully and poetically. He challenges  us, both as individuals and corporately, to love and follow Jesus wholeheartedly and to be a place where Jesus “feels at home.”

For those who purchase God’s Favorite Place on Earth between now and May 7th, you will get 25 free gifts. You can find out how to claim these here.

The Untold Story of the New Testament Church

I’ve been studying the different characters that appear in the Book of Acts recently, starting with Paul. I’ve often puzzled over apparently contradictory passages from Acts and Galatians that talk about what Paul did immediately after his conversion–whether or not he visited the apostles in Jerusalem. As I revisited this question, I remembered a book written by Frank Viola called  The Untold Story of the New Testament Church: An Extraordinary Guide to Understanding the New Testament. I’d skimmed the book before, but never taken the time to study it.

Frank is a good friend of ours. He and his wife have enjoyed several evenings with us in our hot tub, putting the world to rights. (It’s where we came up with the idea for the hilarious spoof video for his book, Pagan Christianity?, that our son, Tim produced.)

I’ve been reading The Untold Story for a week or so now, following the extensive endnotes, and greatly enjoying the insight and research Frank has produced. The books promo claims “you will understand the New Testament like never before.” As I have read the epistles within their historical context in the New Testament narrative, I would definitely say the book lives up to its claims. Anyone who desires a greater understanding of the history of the early church would profit from reading it.