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Posts Tagged ‘Gamaliel’

The Rabbi’s yoke is the set of interpretations of the law that a rabbi has and passes to his students. Paul was zealous because his teacher taught him to be. How many of us are still operating out of ingrained lessons and prejudices?

Acts 22:3b
“…Under Gamaliel I [Paul] was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers and was just as zealous for God as any of you [the crowd in Jerusalem] are today.”

My mother, an immigrant, was fervent about equal rights. When we first arrived in this country (1951), we lived in North Carolina. My father, already over 60, was forced to carry heavy railroad ties alone because the supervisor assumed he wouldn’t want to work with a negro [that’s the polite term]. We moved to Indianapolis within the year. There we lived in the inner city where we experienced a different form of prejudice against us because we were “foreigners.” In the end, although our family was poor and fiscally conservative, we remained socially liberal.

But others are taught from an early age to distrust, fear and even hate. Children are brainwashed to believe the worst and they quickly mouth the name-calling and rants they hear in the home. This learned hatred is particularly vitriolic in the case of skin color, sexuality, and religious practices. In some middle eastern countries, this yoke (set of beliefs) has escalated to the point of sacrificial suicide to kill and destroy “infidels.”

In order to take on a new yoke, one must take off the old one. “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” [Matthew 6:24a]

It is so difficult to let go of something we have believed our whole lives. Instead, the old yoke is perpetuated from one generation to another. We teach our children what we were taught, either directly or indirectly.

But Jesus says his yoke is easy and his burden is light. [Matthew 11:30] And yet, some people still try to make the yoke of Jesus heavy and burdensome. They manipulate His yoke to be more like the yoke they have known before.

Jesus’s yoke is like no other yoke. There is freedom. There is love. There is a lightness of being. There is trust. There is hope. There is Spirit.

Paul was thrown to the ground and blinded in order to get his attention. What about us? What must God do to reveal the yoke of Jesus to us? I think I am still trying to wear more than one yoke. Show me, O God, the yokes of my past that weigh me down.

I only want to carry one yoke: the yoke of Christ Jesus.

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Acts 7:33
Then the Lord said to him [Moses], ‘Take off your sandals; the place where you are standing is holy ground…’ [Stephen to the Sanhedrin]

I have always thought Moses was told to remove his sandals because they defiled the ground. But today, as I read this passage, I see something new: it was important for Moses to actually feel that holy place with his feet. There was strength and truth and power that would touch him through the ground, that holy earth spot.

I don’t have much experience, background or tradition of holy places outside the church or in various para-church settings. But I think there would be more experiences if I would open myself to them. I too often cocoon myself away from seeking out holy places.

In the same way that Moses stepped onto holy ground initially in sandals, I clothe myself in tradition and limiting expectations. It’s time to take off my shoes…. again.

Some years ago, I was on the cutting edge of worship. I was listening to the Vineyard and Hillsong and even Maranatha before that. I was standing on the charismatic bandwagon and riding up front. I was dancing and praising and jumping and shaking and laughing. I was speaking in tongues and singing in the spirit. I was prophesying and interpreting. I was on fire.

But I don’t think I was standing in bare feet on holy ground. Not really. I was going through the motions (and emotions) of what it might mean to touch holy ground. Actually, all I did was put on a different pair of shoes than the more traditional churches were passing out to their congregants.

Today, there is another generation of believers who is trying to take off their shoes and experience God’s holiness. For some of us, it’s too different. They are getting their feet very dirty. They are slopping through some weird stuff, but they are persisting through the swamp and on to higher ground. They are loving God and loving Christ Jesus and loving their neighbors. They are emergents like the Emergent Village, they are Christianity 21, they are Catalyst, they are in “conversation.” They are connected virtually and face to face. They are Solomon’s Porch, Apex, House of Mercy, Ooze, Axxess, Sublime Remix, Boaz, Headspace, Cedar Ridge, Water’s Edge, Tribe, Resonance, Three Nails, Mars Hill, and ReIMAGINE, to name just a few. They are embracing Christ in our culture and sharing His relevance with those who have long since worn boots in all the holy and unholy places.

For the naysayers against this new brand of followership, I remind them of Gamaliel, “So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.” [Acts 5:38-39]

Lord, take my shoes this day and help me touch holy ground. Give me insight and transforming power. Give me courage to walk in this new place. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll dance again.

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Acts 5:38-39
“Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men [the apostles] alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” [Gamaliel speaking]

There are really two messages here. One is for the believers, to trust that projects and plans, if truly within the will and anointing of our God, will remain. They will survive and even thrive. But if not, then it’s important to let go. There are plenty of good things to do. There are plenty of ideas. Move on.

Years ago, I had developed two shows that I toured to churches and para-church organizations. They were a labor of love but somehow, not of the right time. In that era, churches were not set up well for theatrical performances. Both of my pieces had to be adapted constantly in order to make them work in a traditional sanctuary setting. Just the idea of having theater lights was foreign to most church goers or to ask that everything be stripped from the altar area. Those who saw the shows, were moved by them, but it was an uphill battle to find churches willing to open their doors. In today’s more modern settings, my shows would have fit in perfectly. It was simply not the right fit and in the end, I retired them.

When I let go, it was hard. I felt I had failed and totally missed God. But, now, in hindsight, I think they achieved what they were meant to achieve. I learned so much from that process and my immersion in the scriptures during the research and preparation time has served me continually.

The second message of this story about Gamaliel and the Sanhedrin is critical for everyone. An anointed person or group cannot be stopped by “human” pressures or verbal attacks. An authentic faith and presence of God in a life is a bulwark and will prevail. Faith of this magnitude sustained people like Mother Teresa among India’s poor, Elie Wiesel in the concentration camps, Hudson Taylor in China, David Livingstone in Africa, and Martin Luther King, Jr. and Billy Graham in the U.S., to name a few.

But this is also true for well-meaning Christians who try to silence the voices of others in the name of “protecting” the faith. The Sanhedrin also felt they were protecting Israel from heresy.

Currently, there is a movement rising up called Emergent Worship and post-modern thought … some are flaying against these trends. Most of the people who are involved with these movements are under the age of 45… they are of a generation that needs and wants to ask questions, to have their faith be an intrinsic part of their culture and their lives. Personally, I think it’s a good thing. This same kind of ground swell happened when the charismatics and Pentecostals started up 20 and 30 years ago in the face of great consternation. And yet, those movements have been integrated into many churches and church traditions.

My message is simple: be wise and remember Gamaliel’s advice: “…if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”

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