Short-cuts Into His Glory?
Visiting, Moving, Spiritual Growth, and Other Stuff
Friday Morning, October 18, 2002
Part 1: An Honest Look
So, we’re a little weird. We’d like to invite you to be a little weird, too. Oh, there are many ways to establish our weirdness, but the topic of the day has to do with “visitors” since it comes up for discussion with us fairly often. “But wait—there’s more!”
On a more general level, we could ask this: Isn’t it worth considering a different course in your Christian life and Church Life than what “everyone else” is doing? And obviously (of course!) there is no reason to change anything in our approach or decisions—if we desire to end up where “everyone else” has ended up. There would be no further consideration or change needed in that case. And yet, if you DO know of the deep need for Change in His Body worldwide, then this may be an important few moments for you to think and pray clearly, as you read what follows. Your call. But as a man once said, “INSANITY is to do all the same things—and expect things will change anyway.” Or something like that.
This writing is an invitation to come to Higher Ground in your personal and Church Life than you are likely to have ever previously experienced. Acts 2:42-47 stuff. For JESUS’ sake—not our own. Even if you have not personally been around the world, most still are aware there is very little with the appearance of Jesus—His Church “that the gates of Hell cannot prevail against.” Good things, good people, and Jesus’ Hand in many places? Of course! Yet, much of the good is harmed and wasted, as unbefitting leaven and disobedience and “strange fire” compromise the “radiant church without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” Jesus has made His Desire for this clear. And His People will always die, if necessary, for what pleases Him!
Does our lukewarmness in most local congregations in this generation break your heart, as it does His? Then, let’s take a look together at how we’re approaching His Life together. It’s not a time to judge or to worry, but to CHANGE! If you are hungry for Him and passionate that He would “have the Reward of His suffering”—a “Bride who has made herself ready”—then let’s ponder together some of our foundations, personally and in His Body. Bear with some of the challenging thoughts that follow! Why not? If we know we need to change, why not?! It’s for His sake that we must all be willing to question and change, that we might also experience the full brunt of His Life and demonstrate His Testimony again. Like “stars shining in the universe” we will again be broadcasting His Glory, even “to Principalities and Powers, now, through the Church.” And the world will see the “THIS is HOW” of Jesus: the Together-Life and love His People exhibit in their daily lives with one another, shining “brighter and brighter unto the Full Day!” Worth “changing” for? I dare believe so, and say so.
Yes, we’re guilty. Weird. : ) How so, you ask—besides what you were already thinking? Well, here’s a part of our strangeness: We have actually asked many, many hundreds of people over the years NOT to move here, or not to visit here as soon as they had planned. Weird. When christianity is even famous amongst the pagans for “sheep stealing” and “recruiting”—we do exactly the opposite. Why? Well, there are several crucial reasons for answering that question thoroughly.
Why did Jesus, the rightful Head of the Church, turn people away in John 6? He had all the tools to “recruit” numbers, and He intentionally did the opposite? But, think how much good He could have done with numbers and resources! You’ll see, if you’ll stay with us a bit, that there is an “inner” world far more important, and far more powerful, that MUST COME FIRST.
Yes, we have always had our share of visitors over the years. We have visitors from the four corners of the earth in our homes any given week. So, it’s not about that. Truly it has been a gift from God that we’ve had these hundreds and hundreds of very special Saints, of various tongues and ethnicities and religious backgrounds, staying with us and involved in our lives.
Even beyond that level of interaction with “visitors,” we have welcomed troubled couples or families to come and live here at times, for periods measured in months and even years. Several examples of difficult situations come to mind. In one case, the unbelieving husband was caught deep in sin, and the wife was not willing to live with him any longer—unless he sought help. We allowed them to move here for quite a long time to share the daily Quality of interchanged Life, while he was in the Valley of Decision.
We have given refuge to people previously living in shelters or under bridges, and to homeless carnival workers. We have offered Family Life to young people from other cities, staying with us at the request of their parents. We have extended Jesus’ love and provision to “derelicts” and alcoholics, and to clergymen repenting of man’s religion. We have answered the cries of families despairing the leaven and rote of canned attendance—who were unwilling to lose their children to sin in “youth groups.” We have entertained both devils, and angels “unawares.”
Now, why did I say all of that? I guess it just seemed right, for the sake of those we’ve asked to not visit us, to illustrate the incredible “hospitality” of the Believers here—in every measurement of the word. I can’t say enough about the Faith and sacrifice I’ve seen demonstrated by so many here, for so long. Kindness, self-sacrifice, risk, and generosity are not lacking in the slightest, from what I have seen here and elsewhere in the world. And, it has been a joy to meet so many true Disciples of Jesus, indwelt by the Son of God, from so many places and backgrounds, both in our homes and in theirs as they’ve asked us to visit.
Listening, Not Logic
I still contend that we’re weird, as far as this subject is concerned. We just DON’T and WON’T “recruit” or be casual or sloppy. It’s an important issue to us that it be Father’s Timing for any visits or moves, either direction. “Unless the Lord builds the House, its builders build in vain.” And “building in vain” would be a colossal waste of time and energy, as well as dangerous, for those “the Father HAS given us” (John 17). As His “slaves” (doulos), it is not our prerogative, of course, to do anything other than “what we see the Father doing,” no matter how good the idea may seem.
There was a time that the “newly converted” Roman Emperor, the reigning Caesar, was allowed to be viewed as a Christian “leader”—rather than the Spiritual “baby” he actually was. The Christians of that day were “flattered” by their success in “converting” someone of Caesar’s celebrity status. They had, unfortunately, fear and awe of him as a human, and the predictable lust of immature Christians for Rome’s influence and wealth. These sins of the flesh contributed to this terrible and costly mistake of calling the Roman Emperor a Christian “leader”—before he knew God well, or at all. Today, celebrities, musicians, sports stars, the wealthy, and human authority figures who are “converted” encounter the same gruesome error of reverence and promotion by shallow or ambitious believers—to everyone’s detriment.
Allowing Caesar Constantine to be considered amongst the “leaders” of the church seemed like a good idea to those fourth century (and formerly persecuted) Christians. History shows that the Spiritual degradation and devastation of much of Christendom was the cost of that blunder. We’re still paying a price for that one, with icons and holy buildings and clergy and holy days and rituals Caesar “normalized” and institutionalized for christians so as not to alienate the false god worshippers in the Roman Empire. While this worldly wisdom was “politically correct” of course, these things were and are foreign to the spirit and teaching of the Bible and Life of Jesus. These Constantinian fourth century additions to Christianity have inebriated multitudes that have lost their taste for the Real thing—having been fed the superficial. Many honest people and families have been robbed of their Highest Destiny by the “empty traditions handed down by their forefathers.” This is just as the Apostle Peter warned. And the sort of thinking that created THAT 1800-year-old (and very serious) mess is what we are discussing—and are committed to avoiding—like the plague.
I Can’t Think of a Subtitle, But the Spacing Works
Anyway, we should dialogue a bit. This whole discussion is really about how you view your life—not just about visits and moves. It’s about getting deep into the heart of God, rather than taking shortcuts… that will only prove to be dead-ends. We have other choices!
I know this writing may be slightly l-o-n-g for those of us trained to talk on a cell phone while driving in the fast lane, while eating a fast-food burger, while reading an e-mail. Thinking and reading and pondering and praying often find little place in lives more easily filled with changing screen savers, tweaking software, altering passwords, watching television, or risking lives and futures on the www expressway and with dangerous hours in the “spiritual” chat rooms.
Still, we are Called! We must must must retain and refine our ability to prophetically project our hearts and minds into deeper places! Please take adequate time with this short read (as the Hebrews writer called his letter)? This note is about drawing near to God and deepening our relationship with Him. This is not just about “visiting”—though we’ll start there. You’ll see why. It illustrates the point, though it is but one method of our “short-cuts to Glory.”
Testing the Spirits
It has come as a bit of a surprise—an offense to some, but a pleasant distinguishing mark to others. When folks ask to move here, or to visit from other cities or countries, instead of being “flattered” by the attention, we actually first hope to get to know them before any “visiting,” in most cases. Getting spiritually acquainted first just makes sense. We want to understand our motives and theirs, as far as able. It’s just so essential that all focus and honor are on Jesus—not just words and concepts “about” Jesus. If we can’t get comfortable that a trip either direction is His Timing, we’ll always want to postpone until the motives and timing all make sense from His perspective, as nearly as it can be discerned.
In a world of drive-thru fast food, and drive-thru relationships… this IS weird. Why not just let ‘er rip? Whatever pops into anyone’s head, anywhere anytime—that should be fine, right? I guess that’s what you do in your family, too? Anytime an unknown neighbor wants to take your children camping for the weekend, it’s automatically got to be fine, right? Just whatever they think is peachy with you. Ummmm. Probably not. REAL Life and Love aren’t like that! You know that. Family, whether five or five thousand, 100% devoted to Daily intimacy with God and one-another in His Body, is just very different than your average “attendance-based” “shake the hand of your neighbor” institution. It just is. “ALL the Believers were together, and lived totally intertwined lives,” saith the Lord. In a family and Family, whether camping or “sleep-overs,” we give it all some thought and a lot of prayer. So do you. : )
Regarding “visits” and “moves,” some have stumbled over our passion to first seek Father’s Face, and our consequential unwillingness to instantly yield to every offer or request (or subtle demand). On a few occasions, someone has actually become highly agitated or indignant when we’ve pursued prayer and life a bit with them, rather than the “just say yes!” they had anticipated. This reaction, of course, confirmed the Wisdom of our prayerful reluctance to receive them at that season of their life. A few over the last two decades have actually sought revenge for their “hurt feelings” by changing their whole attitude towards the Church here, in a heartbeat. These, who had previously been energetic and documented admirers (“too much” so, it would have seemed to me)—became creative, relentless slanderers faster than you could hit “Send” on an e-mail. It has been intriguing to watch. “Hell hath no fury as a woman scorned.” (Surely that’s in the Bible somewhere.) Although this pithy proverb has contemplated “a woman,” no doubt for tempo and poetic simplicity—the reaction described is certainly not limited to the female gender, we’ve noticed.
Gladly, that sort of person and situation are rare. Better still, there is always that “other side” of life, isn’t there? When asked to reconsider the timing of a visit, others have expressed joy at this surprise Light. Some actually welcome and appreciate the “laying bare the thoughts and motives of the heart” in their lives. Our willingness to “slow down,” and to “watch and pray” and dialogue a bit… is an unexpected fresh Breeze to some. Our desire to get to know them has confirmed their desire to spend time with the Church here, gathered around Jesus and His Ways. These “Light-lovers” (Jn. 3; 1Jn. 1) actually enjoy the fact that we would want to get to know them and a bit about them—rather than just immediately recruit them, enlist them, or use them. “Relationship” is not normally how it’s done, we’re told.
Nicolaitanism Devastates the Work of God
Unlike Jesus, and unlike the Spirit of those who followed His Leadership in the First Century, it seems that false leadership and false movements in the religious world today are generally “recruiting” people from other places. Why? One older brother has written that 1) a marketing and sales job, 2) a soft message that does not challenge sin in anyone’s life in any practical way, 3) sensual appeal by program, personality, and music, and/or 4) recruiting flattery… are used as the means of increasing “nickels and noses” for their locale and “ministries.” I know that’s sad to say. But, when the curtain gets pulled on the wizard of ozzzzzz, it does turn out there are a lot of “secrets” backstage. We could forward you a few hundred emails from every sort of denomination and non-denomination, large and small, institution and “house church” you can think of to demonstrate the point. But, we’re really far more interested in the Solution here than we are in discussing “the problem.” The only reason I can think of for talking about the problems first is, as Jesus said, no one looks for solutions when we aren’t even willing to acknowledge that there IS a problem. So, we’ll bump into this issue for another minute or two, and then on to some other Things. : )
The word “ministry,” mentioned above, is a grievously man-centered and poorly translated word, and its abuse is an illustration of some of what needs to be laid aside if we will ever see Jesus’ Life amongst us, in our congregations and in our lifetimes. “My Ministry” is a dangerously abusive and ego-centric concept in today’s church world. It propagates and fuels Nicolaitanism—quenching the Spirit’s Gifts amongst the Holy Nation, the Kingdom of Priests, the local Church. Clergyism and Nicolaitanism are forbidden by Jesus, the Rightful Head of the Church. The Greek word “Nicolaitanism” used by Jesus in the letters to the seven Churches, means “conquering the people” and “creating laity.” Jesus says He “hates” Nicolaitanism; He “hates” the system of religion that allows mere men to “conquer” His People and make them what we would call “laity”—instead of a Nation of equally-active Gifted servants. He “vomits” lukewarmness, and certainly 1900 years have proven that Clergyism promotes laziness and lukewarmness amongst His People. “We don’t want to face God ourselves, Moses. YOU do it, and let us know what He said.” “We want a king—like the other (denomi)nations.”
Samuel, Not Saul, Is Jesus’ True Leadership
Now don’t misunderstand. “Leadership” and “Gifts” are very much a part of God’s heart—and a necessity for any Body of Believers to receive the nine or so beautiful Assets mentioned in Ephesians 4:11-16. You want, I assume, those nine things, such as “the unity of the Faith, the full knowledge of the Son of God, and the full measure of the stature of Christ!” Well, GOD says you don’t get those nine things from your prayer closet or your personal commitment. They are granted to the Body of Christ through the Gifts He pours out amongst us. That’s just His Plan—and you and I will never get away from the necessity of Gifts and Leadership in our midst! And yet, there is a huge difference between Saul’s “leadership”… and Samuel’s leadership. The pagans have their ways, which work fine (most of the time) for IBM. But in GOD’S House and “from the Beginning it was not so.”
[Pretend this is a footnote, but I won’t make the typeface microscopic: What’s the big deal with mimicking man’s ways of leadership and system? For one, pride is the end result of man building man’s way—with marketing, recruiting, demographics, “special speakers” and advertised “artists” and “automatic” or “official” ANYTHING in meetings and amongst God’s People. That fleshly human approach to system is Babylon’s, not God’s, and to “leadership” is Saul’s, not Samuel’s. Furthermore, man’s “way” to do “system” and “leadership” births Ishmael, not Isaac. Pride is the natural byproduct of man’s way of collecting “audiences” to gather before today’s spiritual hero or talking head. God’s way is that ALL are “brothers amongst brothers”—PERIOD (Jer. 23; Mat. 23; 1Cor. 12-14). God’s way is about Gifting and relational Life—Jesus’ current Headship—not “position” and form and marketing and choreography amongst mere men. Regardless of a man’s Gifting, “when Revelation comes to the second, let the first sit down.” Jesus indwells ALL His People (Rom. 8, Acts 2:16-18), and the Spirit Gifts all of His People with a “part of Jesus”—various Gifts “as He wills.” Consequently, God Designed the times that Saints gather together, and their daily lives together, in such a way as to vastly diminish the threat of sin and pride. 1) God commanded us to build out of daily relationship and intimate involvement of 100% of those who call themselves Christians—baring and melting our LIVES together in Koinonia, “confessing sins one to another,” “bearing one another’s burdens,” “submitting one to another,” “loving one another”—not “attendance” amongst relative strangers, and 2) God’s definition of “decent and in order,” and “everything to the building up of the Church” is not the assignment of (or capitulation to) “automatic” speakers or stars or performers. God’s Way is that JESUS Himself will make decisions in a gathering of the Saints, moment by moment, regardless of what mere mortal is present (1Cor. 14:23-30). End footnote. : ) ]
Jesus’ Way is very different than that of the Gentiles. “Not so with YOU!” “Call NO man leader, father-so-and-so, brother-so-and-so, pastor-so-and-so, reverend-so-and-so… for you are ALL to be ‘brothers amongst brothers’—or you will be allowing humans to usurp MY place as your Head. By giving men titles and positions, and ‘automatic’ teaching, worship leading, or leading privileges you are robbing Me, and My People! Current anointing, not position, is My way in MY Church! ‘When revelation comes to the second, let the first man sit down.’ I AM to be the only ‘Automatic!’ As a consequence for ignoring this Instruction of my current Headship, ‘the gates of Hell’ will prevail consistently in all such places. You will witness the darkness of sin over your teens and marriages and businessmen. That’s one way you’ll know.”
“Samuel leadership”—leadership by Gift and current Anointing… is SO different than Saul’s “automatic” positional and pre-planned “leadership.”
As Paul said, in response to the same root topic, “It is the same now.” Truly, “the child born in the logical way always rises up to persecute the Child born of the Spirit.”
The Not-Wanted Poster: Recognize the Face
One downfall of these unBiblical and faulty paradigms of Nicolaitanism, “my ministry,” and “official pastor in charge” is this: a periphery quickly develops (this is disobedient to several clear Commands of God), problems arise and are “brushed under the rug,” and choreographed form replaces spontaneous reality. If an official or automatic holy-man-medicine-man, or CEO-in-charge, or “author” is not particularly “deep” in the person of Christ Jesus, and their carefully crafted words are more spiritual than their actions, heart and mind—problems arise. You will recognize these men by the advertising in their newsletters and speeches and websites of the latest greatest things they have done. Their pictures and biographies will adorn the back flap or back cover of “their” books without conscience. They may often be found inadvertently promoting themselves, by font size and frequency of mention, as larger than Jesus. They will speak of their innumerable “church plantings” or degrees or accomplishments, and their websites will advertise their agenda of “speaking engagements.” They solicit funds for advancing their exposure and power, and flatter “key” contributors, the “influential” and the “known,” towards their own ends.
While some have adopted the aforementioned “style” innocently because it’s all they’ve ever known, those truly innocent will abandon these ways when the Light is shone upon it—regardless of personal cost or financial risk. We’ve seen it many, many times. Meanwhile, the guilty will attempt to defend the undefendable by diverting attention, name-calling (“cult! cult!”), or twisting and controlling perceptions by misquotes, and dishonest “information” solicited from others with sins to hide. Jude speaks of these sorts of people in the religious world. You’ll recognize them. Watch for those who react sternly to sincere and humble questions (right or wrong) about what they’re doing. Instead of “loving the Light” (or patiently trying to help the misinformed or immature), they will retaliate—with sarcasm and power plays from their “bully-pulpits” and pens. Their “successes” make them untouchable in their own eyes. The ivory tower and celebrity worship of today’s christianity have become quite a trap for “the man of power of the hour”—the special guest speaker, “author,” or advertised musician. There is quite a crowd up there at “the pinnacle of the Temple” listening to satan’s offers of fame and fortune. Wonder if the roof will hold.
Another way to recognize a very serious problem and flaw in the way men build is this: Frequently and revealingly, the “stars” and “recruiters” show little hatred of sin as Jesus did and does (Heb. 1:9; Jer. 23:16-22). Well, maybe occasionally, from a few—but only even then sprinkled in a detached-from-real-lives speech or “sermon.” Those who Walk with God will always be characterized as those who “love righteousness and hate wickedness.” Like Phinehas (Num. 25:7-8; Ps. 106:30), it “will be credited as righteousness” when we DO something about sin, rather than just talk about it or ignore it.
A recruiter in the religious world is driven by his own agenda, however, and not by God’s Agenda. He will gladly ignore “leaven in the batch” in his dangerous prelapsarian disobedience to God, if it serves his own temporary goals. He’ll sing a plausible love song to the leaven, and heap guilt with the cry of “legalism” upon anyone who would dare make the scriptures (1Cor. 5) their guide in such matters. Instead of spending his life and reputation to resolve and redeem and restore—a torpid “counseling session” is all he can or will muster. Like the monkey of fame, he “sees” it not.
Some “recruiters” prey on fears and emotions and previous disappointments in order to win others to themselves. Some exalt themselves freely. They line their pockets, marketing and selling God’s word and their “books” or “christian music” with smooth words to incite fleshly excitement or emotion, or dreamy stimulation. They prostitute and recruit to increase their wealth. Or sometimes they recruit, or market and sell to build up another currency—the currency of the ego. By increasing their personal power and influence and by placing themselves at the front, bloviating of their exploits and travels, they can dull the pain of their own moribund lives. They have not seen change in their own lives, or in those around them particularly, due to their faulty paradigm and ways and separation from Jesus. So, “It can’t be done.” They accept the somniferous state of God’s Testimony in His Church and “get on with making a name and a living”—and say, “We’ll leave the rest to God.” Oh, the loss to the honor of Jesus Christ and His Word and Ways.
But, enough of that! You’re big. You can see it easily enough, if you care to. And if you WANT to embrace or “move up the ladder” in that sort of thing, then that is where you belong. Not a problem. As Smith Wigglesworth said, “If you can, you should.”
But now, let’s get back to “visits” or “moves” or “relationships” and how all of that relates to our hearts and how we approach our God.
Sorting It Out
The frequent letters we receive asking to visit are obviously welcomed by the Believers here. It is continued, encouraging proof that there are many many Saints who CARE about Jesus and His Life. There are easily “seven thousand,” and many more, who sacrificially thrill for “the Bride who has made herself ready”—and her Returning Groom! There would be no satisfaction in minimizing the delightful and relentless search that many worldwide true Believers are making in the spirit of “father Abraham.” As did “the father of our faith,” many are willing to leave all to please Him, “without wavering, fully persuaded.” The Pearl of great price is worth “selling everything.” There is true liberty “outside the city gates,” away from leaven and compromise that is by definition controlling, “attendance-based” christianity. Too many wonderful Believers have seen their Life-blood drip slowly from their cups, year by year, and disappear between the institutional cracks, with the droning, flagitious rapine, “Work from within,” “Work from within,” “Work from within” …as the cadence of the death drip. Lives and youth and marriages and opportunities are destroyed or atrophied needlessly, generation after generation.
How does this happen that so many spend twenty years or more as Christians, and are LESS in love with Jesus and LESS passionate and sacrificial about His Purposes than they were eighteen years earlier? We all know it happens that way 90% of the time, not “once in awhile.” How does it happen?! Many are duped by fear of the unknown: “What I’m doing is questionable, but I’m told it is ‘safe’ compared to the boogieman ‘out there.’” Some are held hostage by guilt imposed by artificially placed leaders: “Touch not god’s anointed!” and, “If you really loved people you would….” Many are captive to their own weakness for spiritual sensuality and emotional appeal: the adrenaline rush of flattery and hope, or of manipulative music, lights, and words. The generations are thus leavened into submission, shorn of power, and left in nursing homes, or the poverty of aloneness to rot. Finally, they have learned not to question or provoke change, nor do they have the energy or resources left to do so.
“NOW, Through the Church!” (Eph. 3:10).
No, this disconnectedness, aloneness and relative fruitlessness was never God’s Intention. If you remember, Jesus started at “thirty-fold” when He was discussing the minimum fruitfulness of a healthy Christian “abiding” in the “true Vine.” His way is not aloneness and fruitlessness. He said it was His CHURCH that the gates of Hell could no longer prevail against—and that He would set the lonely in families, not pews and folding chairs, or even sofas. So when people see His Plan, and CARE, how could this be less than encouraging?! It truly is a wonderful thing when His Chosen muster the courage to question and seek. It is rarified Air!
But It Can’t Hurt to Ask ;)
Since we are not always so good at knowing (even) our own hearts, it has been beneficial over these many years to ask some questions of those who have wanted to visit or move here. Oh!! The immense grief Father has spared us with just this one little point. Just as Apollos had “letters of recommendation” from trusted brothers in Ephesus when he journeyed to Achaia, and Barnabas cleared the path for a Saul of Tarsus in Jerusalem and Antioch amongst those who did not know him, perhaps asking a few questions and getting to know someone’s heart before they spend days with our brothers, wives, children and new converts is not such a bad idea? This time and dedication to building an understanding first, couldn’t be more important. It is a catalyst to spur growth and love and purity towards Him. Risking for Jesus is easy, but to be careless in such things is a sin of foolishness and poor stewardship of those Father has entrusted to us. These sins are certainly no better than sins of self-preservation or inwardness and selfishness. None of them are Jesus, and all have to go from our lives. God’s House “is built with Wisdom.”
Below is some real-life correspondence, which will help to show you what we mean. Imagine you had asked to visit a Church somewhere, and you had penned the request below. Shortly thereafter, you received the reply further below. How does this make you feel? How do you respond? Do you shrink back? Lash out? Cry? Shout? Do you persevere or quit? Love or hate? Reflect or defend? Now remember, you have a lot of emotion and desire and perhaps past hurt wrapped up in all of this, as well as a desire to protect your family from the lukewarmness of the Laodicean church world. How could that be so wrong? Jump into this e-mail correspondence with us…
Sent: Friday, October 11, 2002
Subject: Possibility of visiting the Saints there
Dear Brothers, do you folks ever have believers come to visit in order to see what the Lord has done among you? And, do you have Saints there that the Lord has used to visit other places to equip and strengthen Believers? Some of the brothers here would like to come and visit, and witness what God has done there. Would that be okay? Thank you very much, Andrew
Sent: Friday, October 11, 2002
Subject: Possibility of visiting the Saints there
Hi Andrew. : ) Of course we do have a flow of Family from other parts of the world stay with us rather frequently, and there’s no reason to think that we wouldn’t also enjoy your visit. And yes, we do frequently visit in other cities and countries when it seems “the Grace of God is evident” (as in Antioch in Acts 11), and the foundational Gifts here would further serve God’s Purposes in a place. Yet, we don’t instantly assume anything, either. We desire to put some effort into “watching and praying” and discerning who is seeking “the Pearl of great price,” and who is simply treating it all as a hobby or pastime. What price will this person pay for Jesus and His Truth and Kingdom? Is it “part” of their lives, or their sole reason for living? Why do they want to visit? Or, why would they like someone to come and help where they live? Do they want a “teacher,” that they might receive “a teacher’s reward”? There are “ten thousand teachers.” Or do they desire something more? What is in their hearts? If we don’t know them, then it could be most anything!
We are “not ignorant of satan’s devices,” and we’re aware of the “wicked and adulterous generation” we live in. We know that the Scriptures are true, and therefore Jannes and Jambres, Balaam, Korah, Cain, Alexander, and Diotrephes still live on in today’s church world. So, for obvious reasons, we do want to get to know folks a bit.
If your “church world” is a “daily” Family, this will all make sense. If you are a Saint amongst even hundreds who are living daily as “we being many are One,” “contending as One Man for the Faith,” “from the least to the greatest”—instead of “attending” an institution (whether in a building or in a living room)—you’ll know just what I mean by this need for discerning love and care.
The kind of questions we’ve asked to get to know folks a little bit before they’ve come are scattered in the correspondence below. Andrew, could you ponder them, too?
Sent: Wednesday, October 9, 2002
Subject: a brother visiting
One of the brothers here has a little time off and wants to come and visit you this weekend. Could you e-mail me an address and phone number so he can locate you when he arrives?
Sent: Wednesday, October 9, 2002
Subject: a brother visiting
Hi John, Of course it’s not clear from your note exactly who it is who wants to visit, why he wants to visit, or whether it will eventually work out, but I probably ought to mention that we don’t do a lot of “tourist” things here. Certainly, we have a lot of visits from Saints, “great and small,” from various places and of innumerable backgrounds. But, with someone we don’t know at all, with no communication from him or knowledge of him, or even his name, let alone whether he lives in an accountable, tested, committed, abandoned life in Jesus (or even desires that), or know anything about his reasons for wanting to visit… well, it’s pretty hard to say “yes” under the circumstances!
This is certainly not an insult to him (he may be a fabulously obedient servant of Jesus), but out of Principle, it really isn’t likely that he should come until we know him a bit, and something of him. This wouldn’t be a great weekend anyway, since we have a number of brothers who will be out of town. Even if everything were built Right, this weekend likely wouldn’t have worked out. Hope that’s okay.
I’ll trust you, John, to pass this all on to him in a way that won’t hurt his feelings. And, I know this isn’t necessarily “easy to swallow.” No doubt, the more likely scenario he might have expected to receive would have been recruitment to “come look at us” for “show-and-tell.” I am sorry if it “stings” a little for plans to fall through, but pleasing God always comes first, of course (Gal. 1:10; 1Cor. 4:2).
If there had been a chance to get to know the man who wants to visit, there are obvious things we probably would desire to know about his reasons for wanting to visit. As I said, I’m sure he’s fine. But often, reasons for wanting to visit or move are quite suspect. Can you believe it? : ) Perhaps a sinful motive drives them, such as “curiosity” of what is happening in the Church here. (Curiosity is carnality.) Sometimes it is mate hunting, which is disgustingly dishonest, misguided as such, and abusive of Truth and Life. Sometimes one would want to come under the opaque cloak of skeptical judgment: “I want to see this for myself,” or, “I have some questions about that,” blah blah. Some are recruiting for their own movements. Something of a franchising or imperialistic visit. Some are “pastor wannabe’s” and pursue a platform for themselves—to “be somebody.” Some are looking for monetary security, amidst the large number of sacrificial and deeply loving Saints. Some are looking for a “home school” coop. Or is that “co-op”? Some seek free, “trustworthy” childcare or someone else to cover for them (or to blame) for their poor parenting. Some are lonely and seek a social world. Some are movement drunk, or perhaps “against” something else. Some are looking for a hobby. Some are rebels in their previous worlds—running fugitives. Some are spiritual “street people” because they despise authority or are too lazy to invest in lives. They wander endlessly, of their own volition—claiming they want to “settle down,” but truly cannot be satisfied or love. Some, due to lack of accountability or submission in their lives, or a grand ego have hallucinated their way into thinking they are “prophets,” and they need to straighten everyone out. Some desire to come because their spouses or parents want them to come. Some are looking for a “dog-and-pony show” so they can “take back ideas” to “use” in their worlds. Some play a “chess game” with Truth and enjoy the challenge of trying to dissect Truths. It’s a game. It’s just that when you attempt to dissect LIFE for enjoyment’s sake, you create death rather than “finding answers.” All are deadly, but this one deserves further discussion. Later. : )
While many wonderful things happen, “angels-unaware,” when we Build Jesus’ way and enjoy the company of Saints of every background, it is equally true that harm only comes when “Jannes and Jambres’ folly” is not dealt with properly. It’s not wise for servants of God to allow themselves to be a spiritual “tourist trap” for Christian “Bermuda shorts, Nikon cameras, and a Holiday Inn” for the curious, the critics, the vacationers, or the ambitious. Our focus and resources must be available for what He has Called us to be and to do—rather than simply reacting to the myriad of scattered situations that are not His Thought. Of course! You knew that. You have to deal with that in your own personal life every day. And the true Body of Christ is an organism, not an organization, in its Highest form!
John, I know that this all must be fairly obvious, having said it—but I just think it’s appropriate to talk it through and be certain that we’re filling our plates with Jesus, rather than religion or expectation or technique. We do, and always will welcome visitors in His Timing, when the motivation is gathering together around JESUS. THAT’S what it all has to be about, rather than the sideshows of the other junk! I trust we’ll all be much better off for having taken the time to get it Right. : ) Agreed?
Give our love and apologies to the man you spoke of, and perhaps he can correspond with the Saints here and we can hear one another’s hearts. Let’s do that. : )
For His Sake, and His Glory,
mike, with the Chosen here
Part 2: Shortcuts Will Steal Our Life
So, there it is. Stripped back, laying bare bone from marrow. But, let’s go deeper still. Some of the possible “secret intentions” of “wanting to visit” are obviously sinister (though not uncommon). But at least one of the reasons for wanting to “come visit” doesn’t sound SO bad! The “seemingly” good motive of wanting “to come ‘to see’ to get ideas to take back with us to where we live—why is that such a problem?” That one sounds rather noble, actually! What’s so wrong with that idea?!
Well, for one, check this out: It’s not possible to take back ideas to “use” anyway! At least, not if it’s the Real thing. The Life of God cannot be bought or duplicated, nor imported or exported by information or idea. Information, ideas, and ways, much to the modern (western) world’s surprise, have very little to do with experiencing the Life of God, or being a true Church, a Lampstand, in the eyes of God. “Implementing ideas or techniques,” or copying anyone or anything will only result in a nightmarish and temporary placebo for God’s People, and somewhat of an ego trip for the one who borrowed the ideas and “took them home.” Often the plagiarists will return home claiming “credit” for the “good ideas.” But now, of course, to gain full personal reward amongst their peers, they must also attempt to cast enough doubt and aspersion on those from whom the ideas were taken to secure their own personal place as “spiritual”—rather than as a religious cribber. “Well, they were nice people, but _____. Well, some good things could be said, but ___.” The oldest trick in the book.
GIFTS: His Way
A true and deep daily experience of Jesus’ Life Together never springs forth out of such pride or dishonesty. Even beyond that obvious point, hear this one too: Neither can the Life of true Church spring forth where you live from “perfect knowledge”—or “dedication”—or even because you “love the Lord!” Strange, eh? His ways are HIS choice, and that’s not how HE chose to do this Holy thing called Koinonia and Ekklesia. So, if not “personal dedication” and “knowledge” and “love of God”… WHAT then??!! Much of God’s Plan is fully dependent upon specific Gifts abiding in relationship (though not necessarily proximity) with a local Body of Believers. Gifts are nothing more and nothing less than “parts of Jesus Himself, distributed as the Spirit wills,” functioning in the places where God’s People live. Fifty carpenters and fourteen plumbers and seventy-six electricians all individually gifted still cannot build a house without the other gifts, and without those Gifted in blueprint reading (1Cor. 3:10, 12:4-31, 12:17) and “katartidzo,” “mending together” of the other gifts (Eph.4:11-16, 2:20-22). That’s just how it is. His Plan. The “whole body is not an eye” or “a hand.”
That, by the way, makes it all totally mutual and equally true the other way, too.
A “Church for Dummies” How-To Manual?
But, let’s say (though incorrect and destined to disappoint) that we could simply capture ideas and concepts and truths, and maybe even a technique or two of “how to do it,” and “any good christian can start a Church and experience Life—if they know enough.” Let’s say that Gifts, specific Gifts and Assignments given by God, were not truly required to see the Together-Life of Jesus Christ manifest on a sustainable basis in a place. Let’s say that we could experience a sustainable Fellowship for decades in a place—a Together-Life of intimate relationship in the Father and the Son and the Spirit by having enough information and commitment and love. Let’s pretend that with sufficient information and prayer and commitment we can have “Church” as God Intends (Eph. 3:10, 2:20) and have “daily” (Acts 2:42-47; Heb. 3:12-14) Intertwined Life in the Body of Christ “from the least to the greatest.” We can experience His Plan in all of this, as He Intends—with no periphery or undealt-with leaven issues “leavening the whole batch” (1Cor. 5:6-12). Also, of course, no legalism or power structures or cliques or politics. Only love and Relationship. Sustainable and Alive.
Let’s say information, effort, and commitment—rather than Gifts—were the key. With this information on “how to do it,” we wouldn’t be destined to “morph” into yet another religious mess… another ritualized, fossilized, clergy-ized thing.
Let’s say that our control of information, and “how to,” did allow us to “capture” what Church can and should and must be. We’ve visited churches, and we’ve bought the magazine subscriptions and the latest fad book on the topic. We’ve “visited” the websites and signed all the guest books and spent hours gossiping and reading gossip in the forums and chat rooms and discussion lists. We’ve invited in the ten thousand tutors to give us pep rallies and speeches. We’re ready now. Let’s pretend that Foundational Gifts in ongoing relationship have nothing to do with “starting a church”—or helping a group of Believers experience the Quality of Life found in Acts 2:42-47.
Do you realize that even IF Father’s Plan didn’t involve the parts of Jesus (His various specific “Gifts” deposited into various lives) specifically, each playing their own parts in the Building of the House, that we’d still be in trouble? Even IF that were true… Father would still never allow information or love or commitment to resolve the Issue of “How To Start A Church,” or “How To Live A Life,” or “How To Encounter True Daily Relationship And Fellowship.” God would still never allow it. Why?
The Kingdom Is Entered Through Much Tribulation
Being conformed to His Likeness and encountering the Fullness of His Indwelling—“together with all the Saints”—REQUIRES that we share in the fellowship of His suffering. It never has been about technique and information. Oops.
While we can’t “get there” through information or method—I must say adamantly and authoritatively that Jesus Commanded that the “traditions of men” will quench our ability to find Him. Don’t think you can skip this point and slump into ritual, rote, program, hierarchy, and predictability as you’ve been trained—and still Encounter much of Jesus or His Life. While we’ve surely pressed to perspicacity the case that Life is not “achievable” via information and technique, it remains true that we still may ruin our opportunity to find Him and His Life by clinging to men’s “empty traditions handed down by our forefathers.” Jesus did not stutter or waver: Men’s ways and “traditions nullify the very Words of God.” Rote, predictability, and form deafen us to the Father’s Voice. Written to Christians, God said that embracing man’s wisdom is “unspiritual, and of the devil.” Something of this magnitude would be worth watching out for, I would think. Looking for a “way to do something” will get us nowhere. Neither did God ever say, “Do whatever you want, and I’ll bless it regardless.” Wow. Not a chance. Uzzah, Ananias and Sapphira, Nadab and Abihu, and the vast majority of the religious world today (Mat. 7:13-23) have all discovered God’s Thought on that one! They’ve found, at best, that doing things men’s way will only birth Ishmael and “lead to death.”
I AM the Water of Life
The irony is this: Though having the “right information” and “doing things the right way” profit us nothing, it is equally true that defending the practices and traditions of men is fatal, according to Jesus Himself. As subtle as that may sound, it all comes back to this: He wants us to find HIS HEART and LIFE, and both things just mentioned above quench the Spirit. He seeks to drive us deeper by not allowing us to fall into rote patterns, traditions and liturgies which only touch our flesh and emotions. Nor will He allow us to replace Him by the embrace of stimulants: cleverness, personality, charm, technique, talent, knowledge, forcefulness, or showmanship. Nor by sensual music or mindless, throbbing beat. He’s just so far past all of that; we cannot find Him there. It’s not EVEN a shortcut. It’s a lousy and powerless substitute.
When we seek the answers as to “HOW?!” things can be done, we are damaging our ability to hear Him, and to learn in the inner man all that He wants to teach us. We can destroy our ability to hear HIM by choosing a path of traditions, hierarchies, programs, liturgy, and attendance-based religion (as opposed to daily, deep, relationship-based true Christianity, Heb.3:12-14, amongst the entire Church, without exception. “See to it.”) But we can also destroy our ability to hear Him by wanting to be “copycats,” and by “taking shortcuts”—borrowing words and information and ways! The true Knowledge of God and House of God are matters of the heart and soul and Spirit—and “you can’t get there from here!”
In attempting to approach Him and His Work and His Body by asking “HOW?”, we have only limited and set boundaries that will invariably rob us of the very Cross He meant for us to join Him on. And on the cross alone are principalities and powers utterly conquered and humiliated! (Col. 2:8-15; Gal. 2:20, 6:14) If only looking for ideas—to control our destiny and escape our fears—we will NOT find Jesus, or Life in the Body of Christ. We will ultimately only concrete ourselves into the sarcophagus of our own limitations and the finite gray jelly between our ears. And we will sadly seal others’ fates with our own. We are bound in the graveclothes of the faulty concept and deception of the ages, from the Garden of Eden until present: “The only thing that keeps me from having what I want or need is some missing information or elusive method of accomplishing the task.” Knowledge is power, “they” say. “We’re one program, or staff member, or sermon away from the greatness we all seek. For Jesus, naturally.”
Then there must be some accountability program. We must ensure that no one is questioning or non-compliant to our idea and “vision” and plan. Gasp.
It is a terrible, fatiguing, and ruthless cycle—when we build man’s way.
And God Is Not There
When we attempt to skip the Cross, and find “the key” or “the answer” or “the how-to” and find Life without Jn.12:24—we never find God at all. Certainly we think we desire to do all we do FOR God, but our motives remain shallow and suspect, and our honeymoon successes blind us to the fact that nothing has changed, at its core. The second law of thermodynamics will have its way with such building around ideas, methods, type of edifice, personalities and the like… and it will erode and repeat the dreaded and desperate cycle once again. The failure of man’s religion “for” God (this Life-scarcity obvious to all except those who are drunk on religious merchandise and pay) will then spawn a new generation of “rebels” such as yourself—to rise up against you and your new fortress.
If, on the other hand, we are not asking “how-to,” but rather, “What’s wrong with me?”, we’ll find a Cross and opportunity to become nothing. When we press our own motives and ask ourselves, “Why does this matter to me, really? Why do I care?”, and accept no shallow platitudes in response, we are closer to Reality for having tried ourselves, honestly. If instead of “What’s wrong with them?”, and, “How can I ‘do’ it?”, I ask, “How must I change to be like Jesus?”—perhaps there is progress towards a SUPERnatural Life. Will I ask myself, “Is this just superficial ideology, and the fluff of habit or hobby or inheritance?” Will I examine and refine myself with something beyond the externals, and “what I can get” pathetic nature—and ask, “Is this Life in Him, and His Together-Life something and someOne I would pay any price for?” Will I mine the depths of my soul and probe with the question, “Am I doing this for ‘me’—or for HIM?” If the Cross, our cross, never takes us to that place, we will never have more than a cheap and lifeless similitude in our lives, fueled by flesh, not Spirit, and a fading Glory, rather than “ever-increasing Glory.” Is there someTHING we desire? Or do we truly desire death on a Cross—the Place where Life begins (Jn. 12:24; Gal. 2:20, 6:14; Lk. 9:23-26, 57-62). There is “an idea that seems right to a man.” But, we’ve tried that.
“They” Need Fixed!
There’s still more implied in the idea that we can experience Together-Zoe-Life, God’s true Intention for the Church, through acquiring knowledge or by commitment.
By the way, keep proper definitions of terms in mind as you assess your world: Legitimate “born of Heaven” Church Life is the shared Life of Jesus—with daily interaction amongst His ten thousand Gifts. It is a Life in the joyous Commands of “bearing one another’s burdens,” “loving one another deeply from the heart,” “submitting one to another,” “confessing your sins one to another,” “admonishing one another daily,” “bearing with one another,” and “having all things intertwined.” Church is “Together-Zoe Life.” (“Zoe” is the Word Jesus used to describe the “Eternal” and “Indestructible” Life and Glory of God Himself, imparted and shared with those abiding “in Christ.”)
That was fun. Now where were we? Oh yeah…
Also implied in “I can get what we need, if I just know more, or try harder, or acquire the proper ideas and means” is, believe it or not, the idea that “others have let me down.” Take a deep breath and think with me here. Somewhere underneath, way down deep, if we are “seeking ideas” or “ways,” we are probably not really asking, “Where has my heart gone astray?” More often, we are asking, at the core of it, “How can I get these other people to change?!” We have missed the Point in “seeing” things this way. And we have missed the Cross. And we have missed all hope for true and permanent Change into His Image and Glory. It’s subtle but Essential!
“Changing people”—is that really what we need to do? Is that really what it is? Better that others are loved into greatness, and see an example of change in you. Jesus never coerced people to go where they did not already desire to go. He just went. Come what may. Go and do likewise. You’ll find out who His true Disciples are, unmasking the pretenders and the unBorn by Changing yourself. True Disciples of Jesus always “love the Truth, and so are Saved,” and “love the Light.” “This is the Verdict.”
True Disciples may well resist coercion, repression, and bludgeoning—but they will not resist Truth lived out before them. Pretenders are leaven, yes. But the weak or unknowing may well be the Mighty Men of the future. By implementing “ideas,” or seeking “information” or “methods” to “solve a problem” or to “promote Life”—we miss the very fount of Life itself: a willingness to die to help others who may not yet even realize they need help. Some will love the Light. And these are not the obstacles and the problems—they are Opportunities.
It is not in “getting what we want” that we get what we need.
What Guarantee Can You Make Me?
We are forever, in our fallen state, our natural minds and our carnal tendencies, wanting something to measure and something to prove and something to “have.” We think if we can’t measure it or prove it, then it must not exist.
“Prove you love me.”
“Is this a Lampstand, a true Church? Yes or no. If not, when will it be? How will I know? How do we get there? What changes once we are a Lampstand?”
“What is my Gift, and how can I know? Can I take an ‘ink blot test’ or something so I can be sure? How should my Gift look, and what should I do now? And now that the results are back from my psycho-gifting test, I should start a ‘ministry,’ shouldn’t I? Well, if you won’t make room for me on the stage, I have every right, don’t I?”
“Jeremiah, John the Baptist, and a bunch of those guys in the Bible couldn’t have been legit, since they didn’t do any miracles. I want to see miracles if I’m going to ‘believe.’”
The quest for the tangible, the provable and the measurable is always the quest of the Nimrods and Judas’ and Korahs and Cains and Uzzahs and Sauls of our day. “‘Show us miracles, and then we’ll believe,’ saith the wicked and adulterous generation.” Entertain me. Prove it to me. Give it to me.
But Does It Work? and Other Miserable Questions
“If this is Truth, where has this concept ‘worked’?”
(“If I can stick my hand in the hole in His side, then I’ll believe.”)
“What will it cost me?”
“How long will it take?”
“What will happen if we fail? What is our contingency plan, and who can we blame?”
“How will we get ‘them’ to change, so we can get things on the right track?”
“What’s in it for me?”
These are all questions that imprison us in the chains of mediocrity. Sadly, many have relegated themselves to this birth and death habitat of the unremarkable and unChristlike. Lack of courage, lack of honesty, and unwillingness to place Jesus (and His Priority) first in their lives and hearts have done them in. The faithless continue their incessant whining for the above-listed assurances. And the exhaust pipe smoke-screen cry for “more information” and “perfect understanding” buys more time and diverts attention. But why do all of that?! Why would we want to hide under a wet, moldy rock with invertebrates?!
A willingness to risk, a willingness to live, a willingness to “share in the fellowship of His sufferings,” a willingness to be used, rejected, and killed…these are marks of those who will “See the Kingdom” and “See the Lord.”
Information and Formation are not the same. As we’ve said, the first, information, is frequently a diversionary tactic and excuse—for a fear of the second, Formation. “Fast” and “guaranteed” are the seductions of the “virtual” world of television and the internet. But Spiritual Depth and Quality of Life plummet out of reach and disappear when we sell out so easily as that. We don’t need to be afraid of One so committed to us as Jesus!
But, we’re not done yet finding ways to short cut our potential Life in Christ and His Church! “Who will take me there, and therefore take responsibility for the outcome?” Seeking to copy another’s experience as a template of “how to,” or to saddle them up to make them take you to Glory? Is there any hope that this sort of costless, Cross-less shortcut will allow us to “accomplish” our goal? Noper. : ) Does someone else’s life or a Church somewhere inspire us to learn “how” ideas or techniques, or does their experience of Jesus live to give us HOPE? Oh, what a difference! Is Life a source of information, or is it a spring of Hope and fountain of Gift? The answer to this question in one’s heart will lead one of two places. I know this is tough to grasp, but try. We can, by our choices, either experience the Ishmael fruit of a “sperm donor,” or we can Encounter relationship in the Isaac-Life—born in the testing of Holy Flames and Skandalon.
While Gifts in relationship across the cities and continents is a Biblical mandate to fulfill His Purposes on earth, it is also true that men generally WANT a “sperm donor”—not a father. The former brings ideas, and is “for hire.” The latter is as priceless as the cost of Love. The first scenario will not call for the loss of “control”—as the second always will.
Saccharin Is Not Sugar; Saccharin Is More Like C7H5NO3S
There is a time honored ritual dance in the business world. When you can’t get the job done yourself, hire a “consultant.” It’s said that at the end of the day, the only ones who benefit from consultants depositing ideas, strategies, teachings, and methods—are those who do the depositing: the consultants. Certainly the consultants make the bucks, but the consultant “hire-a-gun” strategy works well for the little bosses, too. The company may not change or grow, but the little bosses aren’t so concerned for the larger picture that isn’t about them, necessarily. The little bosses, jealous for control, esteem, and promotion for themselves, more than for the betterment of the company, are not threatened by the “experts” and consultants. Why? Because the way it is set up, the consultant is only a guest with words. The little bosses can diminish, ignore and insult the “hired gun” once the consultant steps out the door. They were visitors who “don’t understand us,” and now they’re gone. Even if the consultant is really good and everyone gets “pumped” while the “consultant” is there… nearly every time, little to nothing changes in the end. Everything reverts back to the comfort zone.
The same is true of the “ten thousand tutors, but not many fathers” in the religious world. The temptation of the little bosses, mini-popes, is to bring in a scapegoat hired gun, while maintaining “control” in themselves. When their esteem or ways are threatened, they resort to belittling, contradicting, scoffing at…or ignoring the “sperm donor” after he is “gone.” They would never say it, but, “Relationships are dangerous—they threaten me! But if we can just stick with ideas, motivation, technique, methods, structure, franchising and branding identity—those have some value. Let’s stay with those.”
Here’s one that happens a lot, too. Perhaps the “event” becomes the focus. The consultant’s great “teaching.” “The Meeting!” We celebrate the moment and content of the “teaching”—rather than participating in and demanding change in the Quality of daily Life. If the “teaching” is any good, the temptation will be that the memory of the “teaching” event or “service” becomes a substitute for Reality. “Remember four years ago when Brother So-and-So said _____? Wasn’t that AWESOME?” But, LIFE DOES NOT CHANGE. That, truly, is worse than a placebo. This world of spiritual consultants “hired” to dispense memorable, cleverly presented information and a short-term adrenal rush… is an anesthetic—a morphine. It not only dulls the pain, but worse—it also clouds the perspective of what can be, what should be. The seeming “safety” and “control” of this “predictability-with-no-accountability” makes for a very sad tradeoff.
“Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?”
You see, if we won’t endure the process of the Abrahamic faith (a life of “no guarantees”)—where Truth and obedience and relationship with God are worth more than our physical lives to us, we’ll miss it all anyway. Since Jesus IS intertwined intimately with both Truth and His Body, then this must also be True: If we won’t persevere and risk when there is no easy out and patented method, then we won’t ever even know our own motives in the first place. How easily will we give up? How much inconvenience, or embarrassment, or rejection will we endure? Are we willing to disappoint other folks who live in that gray, twilight world we are stepping out of—long-time companions, mentors, employers, or physical family we have cared about? What cost of finances or sleep or confrontation will we endure?
Do we really want “it” because it cost Jesus His life? Or do we pursue feebly, and are easily sidetracked or dissuaded because it is only a matter of curiosity or hobby, or because it pleases our spouses or parents, or because of its social benefits? Perhaps we’re just complying—not dying?
Is the “cost” of reconsidering our life and beliefs and practices too high? WHY do we do what we do? WHY are things around us not Changing towards Him, if they are not? Self-deception, illusion, and blame shifting all make for a rather bland and useless and dishonorable life. If we live in cynicism, or approach God and His Church as if it were religious forensic pathology, we must admit that we are NOT as honorable or wise as we had imagined in our self-flattery. It bears no fruit! It wounds the Father deeply. Let it go.
If “trust” and “faith” are not synonyms, then every dictionary—Greek, English, or otherwise—is in error. Christianity can be defined in no other way. “Those with the Faith of Abraham are sons of Abraham,” and “children of the Promise” in Christ Jesus. Let’s let Him purge us, as we face Him with open hands. Sure, it’s risky. But what is the alternative?
We can trust HIM to take us Home, can’t we? YES! He, His Oath, His Covenant, His Blood… make it sure. Faith. Trust.
Billy Bob’s Burger Barn
Our “basket case” pasts, and the irresolvable betrayals in our childhoods and church lives (real or perceived), have put us all in that same heavy boat. We want to protect ourselves from the unknown.
When traveling down the highway in an unknown part of the country, and faced with a choice between “Billy Bob’s Burger Barn” and McDonald’s… what do you do? What can you “know” for sure? Is “Billy Bob’s” the E. coli capital of the world? Are their sandwiches an ongoing salmonella-culture experiment? How can we know? Maybe Billy Bob’s is the home of the most perfect steakburgers in the western hemisphere. How do we know? Meanwhile……we DO know about McDonald’s. Golden arches, relatively clean bathrooms. A very predictable greasy taste, and a pungent aroma that will adhere to your clothing for three washings. All of this, added to that famed poor nutrition, and more calories per ounce than crude oil. McDonald’s is to vitamins what anti-matter is to matter, and a black hole is to a star. It is the white noise of carcinogens. No matter if we are in Moscow, Sao Paulo, Beijing, or New York…a Big Mac attack gets you exactly “that” every time.
But we’ll go to Mac’s anyway, virtually every time, rather than attempt a Billy Bob’s surprise. Why, oh, WHY?!
Simple. Because it’s KNOWN!
“Knowing” the terrible is so much easier for us than to be “out of control” by “not knowing.” We’re so weak, and so compliant, aren’t we? : )
Human nature is generally so afraid of the unknown that most everyone will settle for known poverty, rather than risk the unknown. And this same very weak and human character trait carries over into far more important decisions than our lunch options. It happens to us again and again in life-and-death Spiritual decisions, as well.
We hate risking what we think we “have”—no matter how it has proven itself inadequate and unBiblical. We will defend it to the hilt, jealously guarding its dark secrets and lack of Life, just because of the golden arches. Sunday and Wednesday and the music and the programs and the lack of intrusion are predictable. It’s “right” because I understand it and control its relationship to me. I can “wear” it like a shirt, and discard it as I please. And from one city or country to the next, the food tastes the same. No matter its content—if it is acceptable to my palette and comfort zone.
As a child is often afraid to turn the light out at night… many Christians are afraid to turn the light on.
Consequently, to protect ourselves, we keep asking questions, demanding proofs, scientifically establishing “orthodoxy according to grandma and what everyone else is doing.” We’ll easily close our eyes to what surrounds us as it compares with the Quality of Life of Acts 2:42-47. We’d sooner eat junk food our whole lives, than risk. We’ll procrastinate and hide behind our “questions”—just to draw attention away from our own doubts and fears, and the sins we don’t desire to eliminate from our lives.
That, we think, puts us “in charge” to test others, instead of ourselves. It’s more gratifying to our human flesh to evaluate and judge what we don’t understand, and to desire “how-to’s” and methods and “ten thousand teachers” and authors and musicians, than to go to Him “outside the city gate,” “outside the camp”…and risk.
We guardedly acknowledge our need for Change, but desire to hedge our investments by sticking an old tennis shoe in the back door—to keep it open for a hasty exit if we feel threatened.
Yea, but!! Why protect what “works” to make us comfortable, when often what “works” has little to no value—at least compared to what could and ought to be?
If Jesus IS Truth, Is Truth REALLY “Optional”?
With hamburgers, it doesn’t matter all that much where we decide to stop for lunch. But when we treat Truth and Life in this manner, we are only proving that it is all very optional to us, very expendable or replaceable. If we treat the Truths of Jesus and His Church and Kingdom as optional, we’re saying that our personal comfort has more value to us than pleasing Jesus in the Highest possible way, and Changing at the fastest possible rate. We often allow the world, “and how everything is,” to define and control us, rather than us defining the world around us—and calling it to task for the contradictions between it and the Ways and Life of Jesus.
The consequences of not wearing our chameleon-colored Sunday outfit? We might get eaten if we don’t blend in. Is it worth the risk to question what we KNOW is mediocre? Can we, for Jesus sake, shove off into the deep—willing to face our own weaknesses and now-obvious limitations and lack of Spiritual depth? You bet it is.
Not that anyone will make it easy for us to jump off of the marionette stage. “Simon says, ‘Dress up.’ Simon says, ‘Lift your hands.’ Simon says, ‘Sing this song.’ Simon says, ‘Shake hands with the marionette next to you.’ Simon says, ‘Repeat after me.’ Simon says, ‘As we all stand and sing.’ Simon says, ‘Every head bowed.’”
Not that God gives guarantees to children of Abraham. Not that He won’t ask you to kill your Isaac. Not that you’ll avoid a cross…………
Heisenberg or Hindenburg?
BUT, it’s pretty important how you face this thing called “Christianity” and “Truth.” And, if you ever were to visit here, don’t expect us to make it easy for you by letting you borrow an idea or two to take home with you, so you can have what we Have. : ) In fact, we’ll probably make you miserable and confuse the daylights out of you with what you thought we were supposed to do and say, and how you think you witnessed us to be. The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle of Subatomic Particle Theory applies to you, you know. But you already thought of that. : ) The fact that you’re present with the “whoever you are” you brought with you—means you’ll never see “how things are” anyway! “IT” all changed to deal with your presence. If you’re loud or obnoxious or proud, the home or the city park full of Saints are all affected by, and sensitive to your presence, and sobered by your Needs. If you’re fearful or shy, judgmental or cynical, dull or lifeless, hyperspiritual or the antichrist…everything, everywhere True saints are, will CHANGE to deal with your presence. You’ll never see anything you think you see, anyway! And it probably won’t be any fun, either. Legalism in your bones and brain will be scandalized by our Liberty. Or your carelessness and lawlessness will be exposed and scandalized by Truth and our passion for obedience.
BUT, you can always judge us to make it easier to go back into whatever you were doing. That’ll make it easier. Try that. ;)
OR, we could always consider working together, falling in love all the more with Jesus, together, and living in the wonderful peace of His Light and Liberty… TOGETHER!
Oh, I have to admit… I’ll be honest with you here. I like that better. : )
In Jesus’ Love and Hope,
mike, with the Saints here