This site came about as a result of a journey. The journey came about as a result of a crisis. The crisis came about for three reasons. The first being I was so locked into the matrix (the religious structure that is currently called the church) that I had lost sight of the purpose for being a Christ follower. The second reason is that my actions caused a reaction in someone dear to my life. However that person became a casualty of the matrix. The third reason this became a journey is the deep long abiding cry of my inner most being to follow Christ.
The writings on this site are a partial result of this journey. The purpose of this site is still unfolding, but would not have happened had the tragedy not occurred. The focus of this site is because of the desire to follow Christ.
You will notice as you read that the most current installment is first, with each subsequent installment following until you reach the beginning of the blog posts.
As I sit down to write, it has been 22-days since the knot appeared on my neck. It appears the outward rash has found new life renewing its quest to spread across my body. It beckons a second question that I have fought to ask. If the Bible declares something, not once, but twice, doesn’t it solidify its promise?
According to the scriptures words are established when coming from two or more witnesses. I know contextually this is referring to a testimony as it relates to an incident. Would the same not also be true regarding the word of God?
I believe the answer to be a resounding yes!
In the Old Testament book of Isaiah the prophet declares that Messiah would take a beating that would ensure humanities healing. In the gospel’s Jesus took a horrendous beating ripping and tearing his flesh from his bones before being taken to Golgotha to be crucified. The Apostle Peter repeats the words of prophet Isaiah claiming mankind’s healing by the beating of Messiah.
As a Christ follower, it is my deepest desire to honor the Lord Jesus Christ, to obey his word and walk a life worthy of his sacrifice.
Since I believe Jesus Christ to be the Messiah who was beaten, crucified, died, buried and three-days later rose from the dead; then I believe his beating was to secure my healing.
That being the case, why after 22-days do I still suffer from the pain and anguish of this thing called shingles?
I must confess that I have no definitive answer.
I know it has caused me to rethink things that I have held close throughout my life as a believer.
Is healing really for modern day Christ followers?
Do miracles still happen in modern times, or did they really cease with the death of first century believers?
This is important because the essence of simple church is having a close personal relationship with the godhead.
This relationship is deeper than a casual knowledge of the Bible or the ability to recite a prayer. It is a real, personal, up close relationship with a God who—for the most part—is not seen.
It is a relationship that is built on an unseen substance called faith. It is built over time through a persistent dedication—at times determination—to get close to him.
Do I still believe that healings are for today? Yes I do.
Do I still believe that miracles happen in modern times?
Yes I do, and here is why.
“God is not a man and does not lie…” Numbers 23:19
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise…” II Peter 3:9
“You have received the Holy Spirit and he will teach you what is true.” I John 2:27
“Fight the good fight of faith…” I Timothy 6:12
“Endure hardship as a good solider…” II Timothy 2:3
“In the world you will have tribulation…I have overcome the world.—Jesus John 16:33
As I mentioned last week, perhaps there is a lesson, a purpose, reason that may or may not be revealed in this lifetime. I believe that some lessons are purely purposed for our eternity with him. God experienced humanity up-close, personal, and intimately through Jesus Christ. This is now an experience that will present throughout all eternity.
A case could be built that reports how horrible a life Christ had on planet earth. There are a number of things that seemingly made no sense at the time he went through them. For example why his earthly family not believe in him? How did that make him feel?
Why would God put Jesus through something like that?
The answer is the eternal value that is brings to the table. Why do Christ followers endure hardships and heartaches?
I have always been taught—even taught it myself—the answer is so we can be a witness to others that will endure the same hardships and heartaches?
I do believe the value that experience brings to someone going through a hard place. I also believe that some experiences are meant to shape and prepare Christ followers for the eternity we will spend with the godhead.
I have a saying that is appropriate to place here.
We really can’t loose for winning; can’t be defeated for being victorious; can’t go under for going over!
Last week’s installment
On December 26, 2017 I was diagnosed as having shingles. What started on Thursday before Christmas as a knot under my skin on my neck had turned into full-blown shingles by that Tuesday.
The interesting thing about shingles is that the virus lives in your spinal cord having been deposited there while having Chicken Pox as a child. It lives there unnoticed until your immune system is too weakened to keep it in check.
At that point it finds a vulnerable area of your body to erupt into a spider-web like rash attacking the nerves in the affected area.
There is no known cure for shingles, only medication to help limit the spread of the virus. There is also medication to ease the nerve pain that is caused by the virus.
On Sunday December 31, 2017, I wrote a blog that I realized was not for human consumption; at least not at this time. The pain of the shingles captured my attention and I never returned to write a new post.
The incident has opened my eyes to a potential danger that cold be lurking in my very life. This danger isn’t sin—necessarily—but past habits or traits that could be lying dormant in my soul waiting for the opportunity to make a grand—unwanted—entrance back into my life.
I have become very aware of a deep-seated anger that has attempted, on numerous occasions of the past couple of weeks, to spring to the forefront of my life. The simplest miss-steps have caused a rush of angry emotions to all but explode.
I can honestly say that if it were not for a having a close personal relationship with the godhead, it would have won on many occasions.
According to the doctor, this virus has lived in my body for years. I do not recall having Chicken Pox, but that is supposedly when the virus made its entrance into my body.
This is like the various instances in my young life that allowed anger issues to enter my life—my mind, will and emotions, or soul.
Because of accepting Christ into my life, this anger began to fade away. Over time, I had forgotten the influence it once held over my life. I can even say that there had been times when I knew the hand of God had set me free from things that created such anger.
It wasn’t until I experienced a weakened physical condition that this dormant anger showed its ugly hea
Could it be that humanity has entered into a time when the called out must begin to examine our lives to expose such hidden areas?
The Apostle Peter speaks of a time—a time I believe to be the end of the age—when judgment will come to the house (oikos, tabernacle, dwelling place) of God. This judgment is to expose the hidden things that lurk in the shadows so as to bind men and women into sinful ways.
There are numerous scriptures that speak of the adversary, the devil, lurking, seeking ways to trip up the righteous.
A close personal relationship with the godhead will be our first line of defense against such attacks, but the prompting of the Holy Spirit to examine our lives can prepare us to rid our lives from such things.
I am reminded of a line in the movie Evan Almighty, when God is talking with Evan’s wife. He asks her a very probing question. He asks if she supposes that when someone asks for patience that God gives them patience, or places them in a situation where his patience can be exemplified through their lives?
To that end, if God wanted to reveal some lurking problem in our lives, do you think he would say, “Address this problem,” or do you think he will place us in a situation that exposes the problem?
I think the latter is true; but you will need to decide that for yourself.
Once a problem has been exposed—because of a close personal relationship with the godhead—it can be taken to the Lord to be corrected.
Think about it.
Happy New Year!
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Pea
ce.” Isaiah 9:6 KJV
“His government and its peace will never end.
He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David
for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies
will make this happen!” Isaiah 9:7 NLT
Jesus is that child. That son is the savior and this promise is true and righteous.
This Christmas reveals a world divided by so many things. Political correctness has invaded the very fiber of humanity. In a recent news story, a neighborhood family was told to take down a sign this holiday season because it offended some of their neighbors. The sign simply read, JESUS.
We mustn’t forget that a child was born who will fulfill the promise of the Father. His birth has been celebrated for centuries by millions even billions worldwide during this time of year.
We must also remember that this child accomplished more than redemption of humanity; he represents the future of eternity.
With everything that is taking place around the world, it could be easy to loose sight of one very important fact; Jesus said he would return to earth at the time appointed by the Father.
It is customary in Western civilization to annually celebrate ones birth. It is meant to be a time of happiness and well wishes upon the birthday man or woman, boy or girl. It seems that this tradition applies to everyone except Jesus. The growing trend is clearly defined to celebrate the holidays, but ignore the Christ child around whom this holiday has been centered for centuries.
I would like to point out that as wonderful as celebrating ones birthday can be, we must be ever mindful of the promise penned by prophet Isaiah over four-thousand years ago.
Jesus is a king, with a kingdom and a ruling government that will rule fairly in righteousness. He speaks clearly in the gospel pages of Matthew, Mark and Luke about his return. He speaks plainly about being seen in the clouds coming with his kingdom in great power and glory.
While it is important to honor Jesus during the time we celebrate his birth, it is even more important to be reminded, “Men of Galilee,” they (the Angels) said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11 NIV)
I grew up in a quasi-religious family. After being told she would miscarry, my mom went home and prayed asking God to give her the child, which she promised to raise up in church.
God answered that prayer and my mom kept her promise. I recall times that my parents would drop me off at church. I was there all the time.
At some point my mom had a parting-of-ways with the church over wearing make-up. It was during that time that she found this group of women who were meeting in someone’s home. In those days they were called prayer-meetings. This prayer-meeting began to grow until it became a house church gathering, although in those days they were not called that. In fact, in those days they were called rebellious because they opposed the established church.
While that was going on, a family from the church would often pick me up on their way to church. I do not recall this time being hard ot difficult, but I was a pre-teen wrapped up in my own world. I maintained a relationship with God, as I understood it. I do not recall the political stuff swaying me one-way or the other.
Eventually we became part of the house church group and I found my relationship with God grew because of it. I remain thankful for the experiences I had with that group of believers even though it became cult-like at the end.
These early experiences shaped my thoughts and feelings as a young pastor. I understood the value of small group meetings in bringing people into a closer relationship with God that was missing in the corporate setting.
I eagerly embraced the cell-group concept when it was introduced into the church.
I also had deeply embedded in my mind the error of the group I had been part of; for this reason I wrapped the cell-group meeting in safeguards. This worked for a season, until some groups began to experience things that I thought were potentially dangerous; things like the moving of the Spirit, or people who believed the Lord was directing them in a different direction than the one I had laid out for the group.
I bring this up for two reasons.
The first reason is the religious side of the church. As a pastor I was genuinely concerned for the safety of my congregation. There is certainly no fault in that; in fact, it is a commendable thing. However because I was in the matrix (as I have called it) I could not see any other way.
For this reason, my actions and attitudes were not wrong.
I was however missing the direction of the Holy Spirit regarding the church. You could say it is the classic conundrum. How could I do anything differently? The answer is I could not. The challenge is being open to the direction of the Holy Spirit to see something differently than I had seen before; to believe something differently than I was accustomed to believing.
Looking back on this time in my life, I can now clearly see the patient attempts of the Lord endeavoring to open my eyes. I now recognize that deep inner turmoil as the Holy Spirit trying to get me to notice the burning bush, if you will, that captured the attention of Moses in the wilderness.
What do you think would have happened had Moses refused to pay attention to the bush? I suppose he would have lived out his life as a shepherd in the wilderness and God would have risen up another deliverer.
There is much that could be said about this, but it is important to understand that God would not have abandoned Moses, he simply would have missed out on a tremendous blessing of the Lord.
The second thing to understand about my story is the fact that the Father was very gracious in setting things in place that brought me to such an understanding about building a close personal relationship with the godhead and the simple church plan for this time in history.
For those who are willing to “turn aside,” as it were, to see the burning bush, there awaits an adventure that will truly be life changing.
I believe that a revival is upon us unlike anything we have seen or known in our lifetime.
These elements of a close personal relationship and simple church will play a significant part.
Time will tell if I speak by the Spirit of the Lord or my own human heart.
The New Testament book of Acts gives an overview of Pastor Moses and the church in the wilderness. The passage in Acts 7 states that God spoke to Moses at Mount Sinai giving him “life-giving words to pass on to us”—Christ followers today.
Centuries later those “life-giving” words became known as the Pentateuch or books of Moses. Centuries after that, they became part of the sacred writings called the Old Testament.
Year’s later men who walked with Jesus wrote about their experiences with him. These stories would later be called the Gospels. This was followed by men who wrote letters to Christ followers about how to live a righteous life. These letters would eventually be called Epistles.
These writings were eventually recognized as sacred words that were placed into a volume of books called the Bible.
Why is this important for a Christ follower who is on an unexpected journey to a close personal relationship with the godhead?
It is important because each of these people—both men and women—had a close personal relationship with God as he had revealed himself to them. That relationship created a bond between them that allowed them to trust God as well as be trusted by God.
God created mankind with the ability to “know.” This “knowing” is different from the instinctive knowing that is in all things created; the ability to perform certain functions on an ongoing basis. This “knowing” has the ability to be inquisitive, to create, to rationalize.
Mankind would want to know about the beginning of creation and how things got to where they were at a certain point in time. So God had a relationship with Moses that allowed him to trust Moses enough to write the story of Creation. You will have to ask God why Moses out of the millions of people he could have chosen. Perhaps the heart of Moses was softened to respond to God.
The point is a close personal relationship had to be established before these writings could be put forth. The same is true with each individual who wrote words that became the sacred writings of the Bible.
The other side of the trust issue is the fact that each person writing these things had to trust it was God giving them true and accurate words to write—especially Moses, especially the Prophets.
This could happen because of a close personal relationship.
Most importantly, this understanding of the lives and relationship of these people are meant to encourage the heart of Christ followers today because God is the same God. Those who dare to get close enough to him to hear him speak will have a genuine advantage over those who simply read the words of the Bible and move on to the next thing to check off for the day.
His words come alive.
The song the Father gave me a few months ago is a case in point. The many inclinations or impressions, from the Holy Spirit regarding my daily life is another.
Drawing close to him, daring to have a close personal relationship with him is what allows this to happen. This is the journey that I believe the Holy Spirit is calling those who will listen, to come on.
My heart is being stirred by the Father to make some changes in 2018. There are several articles that have been placed on my heart to study and write about. I will renew my quest to have this manuscript published in the New Year as well as delve into possible speaking engagements.
It appears that my family and I are being directed into an extended time of fasting and prayer in the New Year as well. I do not know what is in store for this New Year, but I do know that a renewed sense of anticipation is growing within me.
I share these things because they are a direct result of this journey that began in 2001 when my wife and I were challenged by the Lord to “cast off” the constraints that held us locked into a routine and certain way of life.
We left everything as well as everyone comfortable and familiar to us to obey God’s direction in our lives. Writing this reminds me of a line from a commercial a hundred years ago (it really wasn’t that long ago) that said, “Try it, you’ll like it…I thought I was gonna die!”
However hindsight being 20-20 (in vision) has once again proven correct, as I would not change the journey—as painful as it has been—for anything.
This relationship is real.
I no longer get up spending hours reading and praying before I begin my day; although there are times that I spend hours reading and praying. My day is consumed with the presence of the godhead in everything I am doing.
I still have my routine of prayer and bible reading, but I talk with the godhead often throughout the day. I talk with each one separately, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. There are times that I can sense the presence of one over the other. There are also times that I know I am in the presence of God; I assume the fullness of the godhead.
Here is what is important to understand.
I had experiences like these in my past life as a committed dedicated Pastor. At the time though, I did not, or could not, recognize the difference. It was just the presence of God. It was also compartmentalized in that these experiences only happened during the times I was “seeking” the Lord, or “pressing” into his presence.
It was as though I had my time with God, then I lived my life—mindful of God, to be sure—but the two were separate. It was not uncommon for me to say something like, “Let me get to church so I can experience the presence of God.”
I must emphasis that there is nothing wrong with what I am talking about.
I am saying that in this part of this incredible journey with the godhead, I experience those things often no matter where I am. For instance, I opened an e-mail at work late Friday afternoon and had a “Kairos” moment at my desk that went with me on my drive home. It was incredible.
This is the reality of the relationship with the godhead.
I am also sensing the timing of this kind of relationship as it relates to evangelism. It is spoken about extensively in the manuscript, but it could be the timing is approaching when the importance of such a relationship will impact evangelism in the world.
Building a close personal relationship with the godhead is essential in simple church life. It is the foundation from which everything important is built upon. A close personal relationship builds trust, establishes hope and allows faith to work in your life.
I remember how my life was affected when my wife and I started dating.
I seemed happier while working. The challenges I faced didn’t seem as hard because I knew that at the end of the day I would see this amazing woman. I had a purpose to get done things that I may have put off for another day.
I recall how nothing else mattered but meeting her. Once I left the office, I would hurry to see her. The things I counted as important changed because my priorities had changed.
We would spend hours together talking, walking and playing tennis. I got to know her as much as she got to know me. We learned what the other liked and disliked. We learned about family, dreams and ambitions.
That time established a lifelong bond that has endured many trials, tests, and setbacks.
This is what a close personal relationship with the godhead is meant to do. It is meant to get to know God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. It is meant to learn what God likes, dislikes and even loathes. It is a time to discover what dreams, hopes and ambitions He has for you.
Throughout the Old Testament we find stories of men and women who had such a relationship. Some, like Abraham, talked with God face-to-face, while other’s had dreams and visions about him.
King Solomon writes poems and prose about such a relationship using the allegory of a man and woman in love. Queen Esther speaks about drawing close to God by fasting and prayer to find a much-needed answer for a very serious problem.
This is why spending time reading these stories are so important in building that relationship.
However reading scripture alone is not how such a relationship is established. It is equally important to talk with God. The Bible tells of Enoch who walked with God and could not be found because God took him.
Imagine getting so close to the godhead that, like Enoch, you are invited to skip death and come straight into God’s presence in heaven!
That kind of closeness did not happen by occasionally reading a few scriptures or uttering a prayer here and there.
Abram—before God changed his name to Abraham—had a conversation with God asking him about the heir of his estate. Abram complained that the child of his trusted servant would inherit his possessions. God spoke to Abram inviting him to take a nighttime walk. God answers Abram’s question by challenging him to count the stars—if he could—because that is how large his family would be.
Abram believed God.
This is the essence of a close personal relationship. Abram had been walking with God between ten to fifteen years. Within this time he learned that he could trust what God told him.
This is why having such a relationship is so vital in your walk with God.
This Thursday 13 people will sit down around the makeshift table that will be set up in our family room to eat a meal that centers around one theme, being thankful. It will be a diverse group of people that will be family, friends and strangers.
I like Thanksgiving; I like the Fall of the year and the festivities that accompany it. My wife, one of our daughter’s and I were born during this time; our anniversary is also during this time. There is a freshness about this time of year.
It is that freshness that I would like to speak too in this post.
Never in my lifetime have I seen America as divided as we are today. In the sixties there were racial divisions, but they pall in comparison to what is our new reality today. The seventies had its cultural divisions while the eighties brought about economic divisions and the nineties was full of social divisions; but none of them compare to what we see everyday across our land.
Today it seems to be a banner of honor to speak against the President of the United States, or the members of Congress, or law enforcement personnel. Businesses are openly criticized and boycotted because of their particular beliefs.
People of notoriety or fame feel as though they have a right to boldly speak out against political matters, while sports celebrities find it acceptable to protest in ways deemed offensive to the general public that supports them.
A person is labeled some type of “phobic” when expressing an opinion about a matter while media outlets openly make-up stories that are slanted to give a negative opinion.
We live in a vastly divided country in virtually every arena of life.
Then you come to the Fall of the year and find yourself preparing for Thanksgiving; which has its issues with Black Friday, Cyber Monday and now Blackout Wednesday.
Thanksgiving has always been about a “thankful people” giving “thanks” to Almighty God for taking care of them.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this Thanksgiving people throughout the vast diversities abounding in America took time out from their agenda to give thanks to Almighty God for any number of reasons?
Simple church is about building a close personal relationship with the godhead.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if those who have taken such a journey to that kind of closeness with God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, quietly led a charge to cross the lines of division and divisiveness with a kind word and an open heart?
Wouldn’t it something if such a gesture brought about a “revival by one” across the land?
What a refreshing that would be during the Fall of the year!
I mentioned a few posts back the song the Lord gave. The chorus says,
I will be there when you’re not sure,
I will be there when it’s crashing in around you,
I will be there, be still and know that I am God.
The song came to me while driving to an appointment. It began to roll out of my mouth like something I had known for a long time. The words were not coming from my intellect; they were coming from deep within my being, my spirit was singing.
During this time I had found a note in my Bible from a man who spoke into my life 25-years earlier. He spoke Philippians 4:19 over me. In King James English, it says that My God shall supply all of your need according to his riches in glory through Christ Jesus.
This note has been in my Bible—along with many other notes—for 25-years. It wasn’t that I had lost it; like every other note in my Bible, I had not looked at it for a long time.
What made it different this time was the fact that I was being drawn to the note. This means that the Holy Spirit was prompting me to read it. It was speaking to my heart (and situation) like never before. I began to meditate on it, read it in various translations, and do a word study on it.
The Holy Spirit was endeavoring to show me something. I realized that 25-years ago the Father was preparing me for the unfolding events taking place in my life 25-years later.
I immediately remembered a story in the Old Testament about God and Abram (before God changed his name to Abraham). God promised Abram children as the stars in the heavens; and at 75 years old, he believed God.
It would be 25-years later before his first son Isaac would be born; but that day Abram believed God
This is why this story is important.
Had I simply been prompted to read Genesis 15 where the Abram story is found, I might have commended Abram for believing God.
Had I not spent time reading the Old Testament stories, I would not have made a connection with Abram when I re-read the old note.
Had I not been developing a close personal relationship with the godhead, I would not have made a connection between the note and the Abram story. The 25-year thing may have triggered a memory about an Old Testament story, but it would have ended there.
However, building a close personal relationship with the godhead, reading the stories of the Old Testament in light of building a close personal relationship with the godhead and finding the note allowed the Holy Spirit the opportunity to prompt me to read Genesis 15. Because of building a close personal relationship with the godhead, while reading the Abram story again, and seeing that he believed God, it resonated in my heart that the Father wanted me to believe him in the same manner.
Abram had nothing but a word from God and a picture of a starry heaven; with that he believed. He not only believed that night, he held to that belief for 25-years until his first son was born.
For me, the lesson was—and remains—that 25-years before it ever happened, God the Father was preparing me. Now that it is happening, I am to believe him that he will do what he said he would do.
All I have to go on is his word, scores of Bible stories of him honoring his word and my own personal experiences with him in the past.
Here me why I say this.
A religious relationship with God would not have produced this. It would have produced a bitter heart because God had not shown up when I thought he should have.
This isn’t a criticism, but the cruel fact of many crushed lives of good people that have walked away from following God because of things like this.
I hope this offers some comfort, some understanding and most of all, some hope.
This site is dedicated to helping Christ followers build a close personal relationship with the godhead, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
It is said of Adam and Eve that they walked with God in the garden in the cool of the day. They had a close personal relationship with him. I cannot even imagine what that must have been like. Remember there wasn’t any sin, temptation or ulterior motive in anything being done. It was pure, simple and genuine. The man (male and female) stood naked and unashamed before creator God carrying on stimulating conversation.
The temperature was perfect—whatever perfect is—the breeze comfortable and inviting and the scenery breathtaking.
They walked, talked and laughed. Along the way God would point to an animal asking Adam what he would call it. Adam spoke a name and it was so. From now on, that animal would be a zebra or a giraffe, or horse.
It was perfect in every way, until temptation entered in.
I find it interesting that Eve wasn’t the least bit concerned that a snake spoke to her. I also find it interesting that the questions asked by the serpent did not alarm her. Perhaps it is because she may have had the same questions.
From everything I understand about an infinite omniscient God, none of this happened without his knowledge. He would also know the outcome of the conversation along with the consequences that would follow.
Why would he do that?
I bring this up for two reasons. The first reason being that it is a Bible story from the Old Testament book of Genesis. The second reason is how the above thoughts came about as a result of reading that Bible story.
Years ago I made a decision to read the Bible from start to finish in one year. It was a decision that I followed through on for decades. I would dutifully open up the cover and read the prescribed number of chapters that would allow me to complete my task in one year.
I was quite proud of myself for being disciplined enough to do such a great job.
As a pastor, I would spend time studying certain portions of scripture that related to the sermon that I would deliver; but I had my reading time and my studying time; never did the two meet.
It wasn’t until much later that I began to read with the idea of finding out the back-story; thus the Adam and Eve piece earlier.
When I was in the matrix, I would dutifully do my prescribed time with God, in reading and praying. I did it with a pure heart, meaning—for the most part—I wanted to do it. There were times though that I did it out of obligation because it was the “right” thing to do.
Even though there is merit in that, what I hope you will see is the difference in doing something out of the since of obligation so you can check it off the list, verses doing something in order to build a close personal relationship.
The Bible is to be read in order to assist you in developing a close personal relationship with the godhead. The Old Testament books are meant to paint a picture of mankind’s purpose in being created. The stories are to be understood rather than simply read.
It is far more important to glean the lessons in the story rather than marking it as read.
Reading is important, but understanding is paramount in building a close personal relationship. The stories of the Old Testament are rich with questions to be answered by the Holy Spirit for those who are willing to first find them and then ask them.
In doing so, a relationship begins to be built.
The New Testament certainly has its place, but today’s focus is on the relationship building opportunities found in the Old Testament.
My wife recently saw a snippet of a broadcast of a series of meetings going on at a local church. These meetings are called Revival services; which is a story in itself. What she heard raised a question that she and I spent several minutes discussing. The speaker was telling the audience about a time when he and his wife were talking about purchasing a new high-end vehicle. He also mentioned that at the same time their “dream-house,” had become available. Her question was why some people seem to be so “blessed” while others seem to struggle so much?
Let me be quick to say that I am in NO way speaking ill of the person my wife saw on the broadcast.
The person on the broadcast represents a mindset of people who are locked into what I have called the matrix; the religious leaders who set the example for the religious followers to follow. This system has been in place and will remain in place until Jesus returns.
There are those in the system who are enslaved by the system; those who game the system and those who, with a pure heart, serve the system because they do not know any other way.
Through the years I have seen each type. I have worked closely with some—the names of some you would probably recognize—and can testify that their heart is honest towards the Lord.
These men and women are serving the Lord where they are called. For whatever reason, they are not able to wrap their heads around the simple church model; but they completely understand having a close personal relationship with God.
Simple church is about building a close personal relationship with the godhead—simply a deeper understanding of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
One understanding that I have come to see on this journey is that the Father does not care for the “now” as humanity does. This speaks to the new car and new house mentioned earlier. This does not mean that Christ followers are to live in poverty. The Bible clearly states that Abraham was quite rich in material things as was Joseph, David and Solomon. However in the New Testament Peter was a common fisherman, Matthew a tax collector and Paul was a religious scholar told how much he would suffer for Christ and his kingdom.
The missing ingredient is eternity.
The New Testament book of Hebrews speaks of Abraham not having received the promise of God. It speaks of him looking down the corridors of time and seeing the city of God—his true home.
This speaks of eternity.
Consider this, the Bible states that Abraham was quite rich by worldly standards—new car and dream house—but he wasn’t looking for those things; he was looking for an eternal possession.
Building a close personal relationship with the godhead isn’t about finding out how to gather “things” while here on planet earth; it is about preparing yourself for the eternal things as Abraham had done.
In my past life, I could relate to the statement made about the cars and homes. It spoke to how “blessed of God” I was. Today I understand that cars are important, as are homes; but I also understand how temporary and unimportant they are.
Am I preparing myself for eternity?
The closer I get in my relationship with the godhead, the more I understand how unimportant the “things” in life are. To be sure they are nice, comfortable and enjoyable, but they will wear out and have to be replaced.
Jesus speaks of this in what we have called the Sermon on the Mount when he says Not to hoard treasure on earth that will soon be gone, but rather stockpile treasure in heaven. In fact he concludes the thought by saying, “The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.” (Matthew 6:21 The Message)
Developing a close personal relationship with the godhead will open your eyes—spiritual eyes—to eternal things that begin to overshadow the natural things once held as important.
This means that the answer to the question why some people seem to be so “blessed” while others seem to struggle boils down to a matter of the heart. If your focus is on the here and now, then yes the cars and houses signify blessing. If however your focus is on the eternal, then the cars and houses are simply conveniences to be enjoyed, if they come, while you look for the eternal.
This is a matter that can only be answered in your heart rather than in the accumulation of “things.” Abraham accumulated a lot of “things,” but in his heart, he was looking for the city of God.
If you are looking for the “things,” then Jesus tells us in another place in the Sermon on the Mount, that you have received your reward.
If on the other hand, your heart is focused on building a close personal relationship with the godhead, you may or may not see the “things” deemed important or counted as “blessings” by those in the matrix. You will however position yourself to see the city of God.
Simple church is about community and the focus of the community is encouraging one another to build a close personal relationship with the godhead.
The Apostle Paul speaks to this in his first letter to the Corinthian Christ followers. He uses a very interesting Greek word in First Corinthians 11 to explain the gathering of believers. It is a primary focus of the manuscript I have mentioned. The word is, Synerchomai (sün-e’r-kho-mī) and carries an assumptive meaning. It assumes there is an understanding of the reader that coming together is going to occur.
This is important to comprehend and here is why.
The structure of the gathering is to encourage the Christ follower in his or her faith to continue to draw close to the Lord. The way this is done is by communicating stories—or testimonies—by fellow believers in their journey with the godhead.
Think of it this way; consider this story.
I was struggling with the weight of everything going on in my life. I knew that I needed to get closer to the Lord in order to find some peace that would carry me through. One day while driving to an appointment, I was—yet again—asking the Father for some understanding as well as an answer. These words rolled into my conscience; it seemed that I “knew” them rather than thought them. “Be still and know that I am God,” were the words. I knew them to be a verse of scripture in the Old Testament, although I did not know the address.
What happened next was amazing.
I began to quietly sing,
Be still and know, be still and know, be still and know that I am God.
I will be there when you’re not sure,
I will be there when it’s crashing in around you,
I will be there.
Be still and know that I am God.
Let’s apply this.
In the traditional church setting I will hear some great music, enjoy being around some great people, and hear a great sermon. There is nothing wrong with that. I may have an opportunity to briefly mention my experience with one or two people who may or may not be interested in listening.
In the simple church setting I could hear some great music, and I will have the opportunity to share my experience—maybe even sing my song—with some great people. I will also be able to hear about their experiences. There could be a great sermon, but that isn’t the focal point of the gathering. There is nothing wrong with that.
Generally speaking, in the first example believers “get” to go to church, while some “have” to go to church, and a few—generally speaking—“what” to go to church.
In the second example believers—again generally speaking—“can’t wait” to gather with other Christ followers in order to share their experiences or testimonies as well as listen to the testimonies of other believers.
This is why the assumptive meaning of the Greek word used by Paul is so important.
In the first example believers are gathering because they are supposed to gather; again generally speaking. In the second example believers are excited about gathering because they have the opportunity to relate with each other in a meaningful way.
It must be understood that this is not anti-church, the church as we currently know it, is not going away.
It is about understanding a different way of approaching the gathering of believers that more closely resembles the New Testament model introduced by Jesus.
The gathering or coming together of the believers is about building a close personal relationship with the godhead. One model promotes that while the other model may encourage it.
There is much more that needs to be expounded upon, but not in this setting. The manuscript offers more insight.
Before I return to the focus on simple church, I want to offer a thought about a subject I was once passionate about. It seems that through the years both the passion and the subject have slid to the far corners of my mind and soul.
As a young Christ follower full of zeal and ignorant passion, I was quite adamant about the soon return of Jesus. I recall one summer while being home from college and working a summer job that a news story blared over the radio of a man in the Middle East being shot in the head. At the time of the report the man had not died. I remembering thinking this guy must be the anti-Christ. I almost left work to rush home to tell my mom and get ready for the rapture.
I do not recall why I didn’t do that and the man later died from his wounds.
The example is simply an illustration of how attune I was concerning the return of Christ.
Through the years that passion has waned while life has continued and circumstances have clouded my soul. This doesn’t mean that I stopped believing; it means the zeal is much more sedate and the passion isn’t ignorant (By that I mean that a fool tells everything he/she knows; a wise person waits until the right time).
Over the past several weeks I have been reading in the New Testament book of Revelations and have had tinges of that passion pinging my soul. The return of Christ is central to the Christian faith. The early believers had a regular diet of the imminent return of Jesus. The Apostle Peter addresses the issue in his writings warning believers not to listen to those who scoff at his return.
I believe in the return of Christ at the end of the age, though I have no idea when that will be. I believe that the spirit of mankind (male/female) will live forever; either in a god-forsaken eternity of torment or a God-filled eternity of peace. I believe that mankind’s existence on planet earth is designed to prepare him or her for that eternity. This explains the necessity of trials and testings, heartaches and hardships.
I also believe that the current structure of church as we know it has played an unwitting role in keeping Christ followers from God’s original design for mankind. This isn’t a criticism of the current structure; I lived it, proclaimed it, preached it for years. In my heart-of-hearts, I would defend the position of the church. But on this side of the fence, I now see how it has moved the Christ follower away from the simple to the complex.
The New Testament church is supposed to be about building a close personal relationship with the godhead. The simple church concept is about returning to that close personal relationship.
For example, the Bible is to be read in order to assist the Christ follower in developing that relationship, not to see if it can be read in one-year. Don’t misunderstand; having a daily discipline of reading is good if the discipline is to build a close personal relationship.
The stories of the Old Testament help the Christ follower understand mankind’s purpose in God’s grand scheme of things. The characters of the Old Testament bring understanding of how God desires to interact with mankind. It reveals what righteousness means to God and how important it is for mankind to be righteous.
The New Testament introduces the godhead through Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Even though the Holy Spirit is mentioned throughout the Old Testament, it isn’t until the New Testament that his place in the godhead becomes clear.
As the central figure of the New Testament, Jesus models a close personal relationship with God. The New Testament believers illustrate what this looks like through their writings in the books that make up the New Testament. The Apostle Paul emerges as a key figure because of the revelation given to him by the godhead.
Back in the day, I would instruct believers to have a daily discipline of reading at least three chapters a day in the Bible, praying at least 30-minutes a day–starting first thing in the morning—and telling at least one person a day about Jesus.
Here is the problem with that instruction; it focuses on accomplishment, not relationship.
Today I will encourage Christ followers to spend time daily learning about the godhead by carefully reading the scriptures, asking questions along the way. Ask the godhead—God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit these questions. This could be called prayer, or it could be called having a conversation with God. If answers do not come, then take those questions to the gathering of believers to discuss them. As this relationship develops, talking to someone about Jesus will come naturally.
Can you see the fundamental difference between what is called church today and the gathering of Christ followers being called simple church?
The Apostle Paul gives insight on this. It is a large part of the manuscript that I have been talking about. I will expound on this next week.
Please allow one more week reprieve before continuing our journey. In a way this week’s post represent’s the very essence of that journey.
After two and a half weeks in the hospital, we were able to bring our son home; only to get prepared for an approaching hurricane. Our family had radically altered our schedule rising early and staying up late in order to take care of our son. The last thing we wanted to do on the one morning we could sleep in and lazily ease into the day, was to get up early to prepare for a storm; but that is exactly what had to be done. Both my mother-in-law and sister-in-law’s houses had to be boarded up.
After we made sure our oldest son was tended too, the rest of the family loaded up and headed to my sister-in-law’s. On the way I realized that life is on the clock. There are times when we can be lazy, but for the most part life requires us to be responsible doing the right thing. In this case, the right thing was altering our schedule not once or even twice—we would have to undo everything that was being done—in order to do the right thing.
This is what being on the clock means; doing what must be done, when it must be done.
Jesus tells a story of a servant working in the field. At the end of the day the master does not invite the servant to sit down to dinner with him; but rather tells the servant to prepare dinner so the master can eat. It is only after everything is done that the servant can sit down to eat. The servant is on the clock and therefore required to do the right thing. This isn’t an act of punishment, but rather an act of obedience that will lead to a time of refreshing.
In what we have come to call the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us that if we are compelled to do something—in this case doing the right thing—do it twice as long. This isn’t meant to be a punishment, but rather an expression of love; even when you would rather be selfish.
There is another story where a father asks his two sons to work in the field. The first son tells refuses, but later changes his mind and goes to work, while the second son says he will go, but doesn’t. Jesus asks which of the two did the Father’s will; the first of course because he did the right thing.
The writer of the book of Hebrews makes a remarkable statement when he writes, “We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.” Hebrews 12:2 NLT
Simple church is about developing a close personal relationship with the godhead. Jesus modeled what that looks like while on earth. In the King James Version, it states that he “despised the shame,” but did the right thing anyway.
Jesus did this with an anticipation of what would come, sitting in the place of honor beside God’s throne. In like manner, our simple church journey has a divine purpose of preparing us for an eternal position.
There is much to be said about this that is written in the manuscript that I am working on having published.
The Lord willing, next week the journey continues.
I apologize for missing last week’s post. Our oldest son has been in the hospital for nearly two-weeks. His appendices ruptured, which caused no small stir concerning his health and well-being. He has undergone a couple of procedures to get everything corrected.
The wondrous thing about the ordeal has been the hand of God throughout the entire process. My wife called the EMT’s, which placed him at the front of the pack at the ER—as opposed to taking him. It was determined that exploratory surgery was needed to determine what the problem could be. Because of his age—16—the pediatric surgeon was contacted—he happens to be one of the best in the world. The surgery revealed the problem that was quickly addressed. Following the surgery, the surgeon walked us through each step of what to expect followed by the corresponding action.
My wife has moved into the hospital since this started. One morning I was not able to bring her coffee; the pastor showed up with coffee.
The shift meant adjustments for our other two children concerning school, practices and daily routines.
Enter Grand-mamma–she continues to be awesome.
People have brought us food and gift cards and given Grand-mamma an occasional break.
There have been dietary concerns when our son was allowed to begin eating. The Charge Nurse stepped in telling us she would take care of it.
So many small things have happened that scream “the hand of God” is taking care of us. In the midst of all of it has been an incredible, calming peace that can only be described as supernatural.
There is still no word on when our son will be released; but we know that Abba Father is taking care of it—all of it.
I trust that next week I will be able to resume our simple church journey.
Thank you to everyone who is coming along in the journey.
Gathering together is very important in the life of the Christ follower; but what does it mean? For the vast majority it means coming to a building—called a church—standing, sitting, singing, being quiet, then going home. I understand this is an over simplification of what is called “going to church,” but I am endeavoring to draw a comparison; not offer a criticism.
The Apostle Paul provides a look inside a simple church gathering throughout his letters in the New Testament. He speaks of meetings in houses and by brooks. Any time he speaks of the Synagogue it is in reference of the Jewish gathering. There is a distinct difference. The leaders he sets in place are over the first group, not the Synagogue.
There are two reasons to point this out. The first reason is to gain the understanding of how the early New Testament church functioned. The second reason is to gain an understanding of how leadership functioned in those days.
The structure was more organic (another term for simple church, organic church). The leadership role was a title of designation, representing one “with” authority as opposed to one “in” authority. This was duplicated from town-to-town as well as region-to-region and it worked very effectively in spreading the gospel message of Christ.
In pointing this out, I hope you see the stark difference between the early New Testament church and church, as we know it today. I know I repeat myself as I say this, but it isn’t a criticism of what is now in place, simply an endeavor to recognize another way of not forsaking the gathering of believers (Christ followers).
I suppose I feel the need to express this because I know the reaction of the vast majority of today’s church leaders, some of who I have been in association with.
The focal point of this site, this blog, is to bring the Christ follower into a close personal relationship with the godhead. The believers of the early church developed this naturally, if you will, because of the structure of the simple church.
Now think about this in our Western cultural mindset.
There is a synergy that is present when like-minded people get together. As one begins to convey a compelling story about their life, it ignites a desire in another to have such an experience. At some point this person will act on that desire, which will eventually lead to his or her compelling story.
Below is a crazy story that happened while in Bible College. It is an illustration of simple church in its simplest form.
Stan’s car broke down on his way to Bible College. He needed someone with a truck to tow the car to a repair shop. Dave had a truck and was free on Saturday. I agreed to come along. The car was in a business parking lot about an hour away. Dave’s truck was an old Ford F150 with a bench seat. We loaded the chain in the truck’s bed and climbed into the cab.
It wasn’t long before our conversation turned to things about God; after all we were Bible College students. One story led to another that led to another, each of us having a story to tell. I told them about the time I worked in a grocery store where a guy attempted to steal some beer. I happened to be at the front of the store standing near the entry doors talking to the manager, when this guy shot by me like a bullet leaving a rifle barrel. An employee shouted, “Stop him, he just stole some beer!” I darted out the door in hot pursuit. The guy was fast, not giving me any chance to get close to him. He headed into the field across the street from the store with me running as fast as I could to catch him; but that wasn’t going to happen. At that point I shouted, “Stop in Jesus name!” The guy froze in mid-stride with one leg in the air and one hand in front of him. It took me a couple of seconds to reach him. As I put my hand on his shoulder, he crumbled to the ground saying, “What did you do, man?”
We were so energized by the timed we reached Stan’s car that we jumped out of the truck, placed our hands on the car’s hood and told it to work. Stan jumped into the car, placed the key in the ignition and it started! He drove it back to the Bible College. I don’t think he ever took it to the repair shop.
Did the car start because we prayed over it, or because it had sat there a few days? As far as three young Bible College students were concerned, it was most definitely because we prayed over it.
The story is a great example of how simple church encourages Christ followers to continue in their journey. There are several analogies that can be drawn from the story in support of simple church; but what is important is the encouragement that was brought by each one having something to contribute. The story also conveys the importance of gathering together by encouraging each other.
The church in the wilderness was set up according to the Old Testament customs given my God to Moses. The Catholic Church is set up under that pattern or structure. Through the course of time this model has been altered, but the general structure remains intact.
Under this model Jesus cannot be a high priest because he did not descend from Aaron.
This creates a challenge; if Jesus is our high priest, then the structure is illegitimate and therefore not blessed by God.
However the church today is very legitimate and—for the most part—blessed by God. How can this be?
It can be because Jesus is a high priest after the order of Melchisedec; an Old Testament mystery.
The scriptures say he has no parent’s nor a beginning or ending. He is the king of righteousness and then the king of peace.
The book of Hebrews declares that because of this appointment as a high priest, that a change must take place. The Old must be laid aside while the New is taken up.
Jesus is the high priest of the New Testament church, not Aaron. Jesus has implemented a change in the way church must be done. This isn’t to say that Aaron’s way was wrong; Jesus simply brings a better way. Aaron’s way could not offer salvation, only the covering of sins through the blood of animals. Jesus offers both a cleansing of sins—washed as though it never happened—as well as returning to mankind’s original state in the garden—we call it salvation.
This is why simple church—as one of its many labels—cannot be discarded or branded.
The church in the wilderness was always meant to be a temporary fix while the true plan of redemption unfolded.
Consider how ingenious this was. In the unseen battle in the spirit realm for human kind, God kept the adversary, the devil, focused on the temporary plan—he quickly moved to corrupt it—leaving him completely unaware of the eternal plan.
The eternal (new) plan allows mankind the opportunity to once again get close to God; to have a close personal relationship with the godhead.
The old order was only able to show humanity an image of what the new order would look like.
This change was meant to change everything.
It is my belief that the way church has been done over the past two-thousand years represents the old order in that it was not designed to draw mankind into a close personal relationship with the godhead; but rather was designed to satisfy the innate need for form and familiarity; which as already stated, has its place.
The New Testament church today is meant to operate on a different premise than the Old Testament church.
If you are going to church to get filled with the spirit, you are operating under the old order.
If you are going to church to get fed the word; you are operating under the old order.
If you are going to church because you are not to forsake gathering together; you are operating under the old order.
As the church you gather with those of like belief in order to encourage each other along in your journey until the coming of Lord.
This is why Christ followers are not to forsake gathering together. But what does that look like.
The writing of the New Testament book of Hebrews offers tremendous insight into simple church life. There is a passage of scripture in the tenth chapter that is often quoted regarding church attendance. It states that we (Christ followers) must not forsake gathering together as some do. We are to encourage each other as the return of Christ approaches.
In order to grasp a fuller understanding of what this means, it is important to find the context surrounding the passage. The sixth chapter is a good place to begin to grasp this lesson. It talks about father Abraham receiving a promise from God—the supreme deity—to bless both Abraham and his descendants. God backs up the promise with an oath in his name. He says to Abraham that as the God who cannot lie, he will bless Abraham and his descendants.
Consider how powerful this is.
The supreme God—creator of everything—tells you that he will do something. Do you think he is not going to do it? Do you think he will twist his words so as to get out of doing it?
Think about this.
He—God—wasn’t tricked into saying this—not that God could be tricked into anything. He wasn’t obligated to say it because of something Abraham had done. Nor did he unintentionally say it in a weak moment. God told Abraham in no uncertain terms that He would bless him and his descendants.
There is much to say about this, but keep in mind today’s subject is not neglecting to gather.
God makes a promise.
The challenge comes when the promise falls on human ears. It is certain that Abraham did not have the challenge with patience that modern humanity has; but like all fallen mankind, to be patient is challenging.
The Greek word used in this passage is translated to persevere patiently and bravely; something Abraham spent years doing.
This patience produced hope and hope brought perseverance. Developing a close personal relationship with the godhead takes patient perseverance. The hope that kept Abraham in the journey was God’s inability to lie. It is this hope that must be embraced today in order to see the promises fulfilled.
The journey is designed this way for a reason. It is available to everyone, however only those with a determined desire will see it through. This isn’t an escape clause to justify why so many do not complete the journey.
Quite the contrary; it is somber picture of a committed heart.
It is said in the Gospel of John that following a certain message taught by Jesus, that many of the disciples walked away because they were no longer willing to follow him. It is written in the Epistle’s that the ones who stick it out until the end are the ones that will be saved.
It all goes back to choice.
Will humanity choose to believe God or not? There are those who will flat out refuse; then those who will go along for a time; and finally those that are committed no matter what.
This is why the church of today will be present when Jesus returns. It represents a safe place to practice form and familiarity.
This is not a criticism, simply a harsh fact.
In one translation it is said of Abraham that he looked down the corridors of time and saw Jesus. This gave him the strength to carry on.
Today mankind is to look back through the eyes of history to find Jesus and thereby receive hope to carry on. Not only will Jesus be seen, but everyone who determined to take the journey to a close personal relationship.
This hope is wrapped up in Jesus.
The book of Hebrews continues by pointing out a very important fact about Jesus. He was made a high priest, but not according to the law. The law made it clear that the priesthood belonged to the sons of Aaron. This could not be changed or altered…to be continued next time.
Form and familiarity are not bad words. They are, in fact, necessary for the existence of life. The sun rises each morning in the east as it has done since the beginning. The moon circles the earth from east to west; as it has always done. The movement of the moon controls the ocean tides. The various seasons are governed by earth’s rotation around the sun. These are undeniable examples of form and familiarity without which humanity would be unable to function.
The advancement of any civilization is depended upon the education of the children, without which would lead to anarchy.
Form and familiarity are essential to mankind’s growth and development.
This is why discipline is necessary in everyone’s life. It instills habits and rituals into children that are carried out as adults. Do you suppose that at age 30, some bright idea sprang into Jesus’ head saying he needed to have time alone with God?
I liken that to opening the door of our children’s bedroom one morning to find them out of bed cleaning their room. They inform me that this overwhelming thought of cleaning their room caused them to jump out of bed and get started.
I awaken to realize that I was dreaming!
Jesus learned from the traditions of the elders, his family and their clan about spending time with God. The discipline came over many years of “doing,” not by some overwhelming desire.
It is said of world-class athletes or musicians, that the daily discipline of the basics is the earmark to their greatness. The Polish pianist, composer Ignacy Jan Paderewski is noted for saying, “If I miss one day of practice, I notice it. If I miss two days, the critics notice it. If I miss three days, the audience notices it.”
This is form and familiarity.
In one place in the scriptures, it is stated that heirs are no different than servants until their training is complete. Think about this. Here is the future boss; yet until the form and familiarity are completed, he or she isn’t any different than me.
It is a grave mistake to think you can escape form and familiarity.
Growing up, I practically lived at the church. I recall times my parent’s would drop me off so I didn’t miss some service or function. I tell people that I have slept under more pews that most folks have sat on. I was always there. I was immersed in form and familiarity as a child having no idea what it was.
I now know that such learning became the foundation of my walk and relationship with God. I recall one day as a teenager having a desire to know more about God. That day I determined to read through the Bible, something I had never before done. For the next 36-years I read the entire Bible cover to cover in many different translations.
Form and familiarity played a large part in this; however the desire to get closer to God coupled with his grace enabled me to continue.
The problem arises when form and familiarity are confused with a close personal relationship.
This is where my single greatest struggle began. I would often say to myself that I spend time with God; I read his word; I honor him with my life. True as it was, I was confusing form and familiarity with a close personal relationship.
Think of it this way.
Let’s say that my wife has written me a large number of letters. Every day I spend time reading those letters. I laugh, I cry and I thoroughly enjoy spending time with her through the letters. As a result I learn a great deal about her. I understand what makes her happy, or sad or even angry. I get an idea of her personality and habits because of the letters. The letters are great; but they are form and familiarity.
If I never spend time alone with my wife, I have missed the beauty of building a close personal relationship with her. Even though I know a lot about her because of the time I spend reading her letters, I will never truly know her.
I believe this is the state of many in the traditional church today.
Form and familiarity are necessary, but are only a stepping-stone to something better.
When the Father placed me on this journey over 10-years ago, I had no idea what to expect. The further down the path he took me, the more convinced I became that the way church is being done is incorrect.
Through the years I have experienced shifting opinions regarding the structure and place of church in the Western mindset. At one point, I viewed it as a necessary evil, one that will not go away, but is fundamentally flawed. There are those who hold this view so adamantly that they have written books about it. Some of those books are included in my recommended reading because it is important to have a balanced view of any subject.
Today I understand that the church has become commercialized. This means the leadership follows the same business model or mindset of successful businessmen and women in the secular circles.
In the King James translation of the Bible, the word church is used 77-times. It is translated from the Greek word Ekklesia and means to call out or to call forth into some public assembly. Simply stated, it is an assembly of people. This is important because it addresses a mindset of what church is and isn’t.
It isn’t a building, although a building could be involved.
It isn’t a location, although a central location could be used.
It isn’t form, although a certain order is to be followed.
I have come to understand that the model of today’s church is deeply rooted in the church of the wilderness with its form and familiarity. This isn’t a criticism, but an observation and one that must be understood.
Form and familiarity are easy. Once you learn the system, you simply follow it.
You need structure in order to maintain form and familiarity, so a hierarchical structure is put in place. It is complete with a set of rules and regulations, do’s and don’ts for the participants to follow. Those who follow them are said to be in good standing, while those who don’t are subject to the prescribed disciplines.
This is how God set up the Old Testament church in the wilderness. It is also the model of the church today.
The challenge to this model is in the form of a question.
Is this the model Jesus intended his disciples to adhere too? The New Testament church in the book of Acts seems to indicate the answer is no, it is not the model to follow.
This is what church is supposed to be. It is where the idea of simple church begins to emerge.
It is important to understand that this isn’t an attack on the Old Testament model; God gave it to Moses. Nor is it to say that using this model today is wrong. It is simply to say that Jesus seemed to have a different idea in mind.
From the beginning of his public showing, Jesus represented a different approach to God. He both lived and proclaimed a personal relationship with the Almighty. The result of such a relationship being walking with authority.
In the New Testament books we call the Gospels, Jesus repeatedly tells the people that they have heard—been taught—a certain precept of the law. Jesus, however, is now telling them a different way to live out that precept.
For example in his first lesson, Jesus addresses murder by saying in the past you have been told not to murder. He then offers a different way to live out that precept of the law by saying not to even be angry or speak ill of a person.
Understand that form and familiarity says do not kill. Jesus is saying do not even be angry with or speak ill of someone. Form and familiarity deal with the outward matters while Jesus is touching the inward matters of the heart.
I am certain that virtually every minister behind virtually every pulpit in the world will agree with that. I know it was a deep cry of my heart to have the congregation I served not only get that, but live it.
The idea of simple church does not focus so much on the form and familiarity as it does on the close personal relationship with what I am calling the godhead—God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Jesus both taught as well as lived this relationship with his disciples for over three-years. There are numerous stories in the Gospel pages where they operated in the Old Testament form and familiarity only to be corrected by Jesus. Peter asks Jesus if he should forgive a person that offends him seven-times—form and familiarity. Jesus responds by saying not seven-times, but seventy times seven times—close personal relationship.
By virtue of the structure, the Old Testament model of church cannot address the heart issues that a close personal relationship can.
This is why home-groups or cell-groups began springing up in the church in the 1980s. It was a way to address the heart issue. Because of the Old Testament model of doing church was in place, Form and familiarity had to be involved. This involvement stifled the close personal relationship because it could not be controlled. This is not a judgment, but a very true reality of my attempts at cell-group gatherings.
It is said of King David that he had a heart after God. I find it interesting that this isn’t said of all humanity.
This tells me that form and familiarity must be in place in order to assist the vast number of people who do not have a heart like David’s.
More on that next time.
This journey began in the most unusual way. It was with much reluctance that I agreed to step into the pastorate of a small struggling church that I at one time oversaw. My wife and I sensed it was God’s will as did the counsel of those I held myself accountable to.
About four years into the rebuilding process I knew a change had to take place. It wasn’t a spiritual change, but rather a very practical one. The finances were simply not there to keep doing what we were doing.
The decision was made to rent out the sanctuary and move our services into the parsonage. The plan was to do so for a couple of years while we restored our financial stability.
During this time the Holy Spirit began working on my heart about doing church differently. It is described in detail in the manuscript that I am working on publishing.
But what is important to understand is why I accepted this position in the first place.
I agreed to become the pastor because my wife and I were agreement about it, because those I made myself accountable to were in agreement with it, and because that still small voice of the Holy Spirit had been confirmed by the above.
To my way of thinking, this meant that God was going to grow this congregation to a sizeable force in the community. In fact an invited guest speaker publically announced during a service that God had given me the city—even though it was a small town.
Four years later the decision is being made to cut expenses and move services into the parsonage.
The first question to arise was where did I miss God? This was followed by how did I miss him? There were many more questions that flew across my mine during that time, and rightly so. Given my mindset going into the project, (notice my choice of words) how could I think any other way?
However given the fact that I had willingly and sincerely given my life over to the will of God, it must be his plans that were being implemented rather than mine.
This is huge.
I was close enough to the Lord to know his voice. I walked with him long enough to know how to confirm his voice, however I still had my agenda concerning his-will for my life. It was my assumption that purpose for my being there was to grow a sizeable congregation in that community.
I could rationalize a dozen different reasons to back this up, but the point to embrace is I missed one key element in this relationship with God.
I knew his voice, I knew how to confirm his voice, but I had not learned how to wait on him to carry out his plan.
It is like attempting to stand up a tripod using only two of the three legs. It will fall every time. And this is what was happening. I was falling—not failing (although it felt like I was failing)—because I was attempting to stand without the third leg.
I cannot tell you how many times I have replayed that scenario in my life.
Nor can I tell you the vast amount of grief it has caused me as well as many others throughout my years of leadership in the church. The sad reality is this scenario is played out countless times within the lives of godly people on a daily basis. It is because, like me, Christ followers have not been taught how to have a close personal relationship with the godhead.
In those days I had no idea what that meant, much less what it looked like. Others might be able to wait on God to see his plan, but fail to wait on him as to when to implement that plan. Still others might know when the plan should be implemented, but fail to understand that it is God’s plan
This is not say that everyone is guilty of missing this critical step; but I have seen it played out over and over for many years.
I have also seen the enemy of mankind use this to confuse as well as defeat many godly men and women. The disappointment is more than they can bare, so they turn their back on God.
I can tell you most assuredly that the reason I did not throw up my hands and walk away during this time is the unity my wife and shared coupled with the inner witness in my heart to stay the course.
From that beginning has grown the close personal relationship with the godhead. It is coupled with what is called by some, simple church, because this relationship does not come by joining a secluded monastery and living a life of solitude. It grows where simple community is present.
The truth of this reality is plainly seen in the New Testament. However the larger segment of the body of Christ has missed it. There could be many explanations for this, but I believe the primary reason to be man-made rules disguised as righteous behavior.
Jesus began recognizing this at age 12 as he sat in the midst of the religious leaders in Jerusalem asking them questions. He dealt directly with it once he was known in the region as a teacher.
He often confronted the religious leaders with questions of “why” when they attempted to correct him. He would ask them why they make God’s word useless in favor of their traditions.
Many arguments could be fought over this, but it is important to understand the lesson to be seen.
A close personal relationship with the godhead is at the core of every Christ followers life. I speak with full confidence when I say that at one point in my pastoral life I would have argued that I am teaching that. However at this point in this unexpected journey, I can now look back and say that I was wrong. I have a lifetime of experiences to prove it.
Further more the intent is not be to argumentative, but rather to move understand what a close personal relationship with the godhead looks like; and then develop that in ones own life.
“The polls are in and the news is bad for the Church in America.
Christianity is on the decline, Americans have given up on God, and the “Nones”—those who have no religious ties—are on the rise. It is indeed true that parts of the Christian Church in America are struggling, while a growing number of Americans are far from God,” Ed Stetzer, author and Christian Missiologist.
Last week I wrote about the church exodus that experts are seeing in America. I mentioned two particular groups of people that could contribute to such an exodus.
The first group mentioned are those who do not have an inward witness of Christ. This does not mean that they have never experienced some type of emotional draw to the Lord. It simply means that they have never developed a close personal relationship with him.
They could well represent the pathway soil in Jesus’ story in the New Testament book of Luke. There was a hearing of the word of God—the seed—that reached their heart, but because it was so hard, it became prey to the advise of those around them, or the philosophies that they held to be true, or the popular opinion of society.
Whatever the reason, the word of God did not find an opening to begin working in their lives.
I believe this is one place simple church can really shine in a darkened world. The relationship element of ones individual life should serve as a calling card to a lost soul.
I recall a classmate in college that openly professed his disbelief in God or anything to do with God. He would constantly want to challenge me in conversation about God. It seemed he thrived in being contentious.
It took place so long ago that I do not recall particular instances, and I do not remember him asking Jesus to come into his life; but I do remember him saying one day that I always had a rebuttal to his challenges about God.
The point is that something in my life stirred him to approach me in an effort to challenge me about God. I know that it was the adversary that stirred him to challenge me, but I believe that my lifestyle is what got his attention.
My lifestyle is what is important to understand. If you can receive it, this is evangelism. It is a Christ follower living out his or her everyday life in such a way that gets the attention of those who do not know Christ.
I remember a friend who was promised a promotion at work. All of the employees knew he was up for this promotion. They also knew him to be a righteous person. He didn’t beat them over the head with bible verses that they knew nothing about anyway. Neither did he browbeat them telling them what sinner they were. He simply lived his outward life like he lived his inward life.
The day of the promotion announcement came and to everyone’s surprise the company gave the position to someone outside the company. To be sure, my friend was upset, but never said an angry or crossword about the company.
This got the attention of everyone in the company. They could not believe that he didn’t get mad, pitch a fit and quit. He simply went to work the next day doing what he had been doing the days and weeks and months before.
As it turned out, the outside guy didn’t perform to the company’s expectation and was fired. Guess who got the job and the promotion?
This single act had a huge impact on the people who worked with my friend. It gave him many opportunities to speak with them about the Lord.
The scriptures tell us in the New Testament book of Acts, that the religious people marveled that two uneducated men like Peter and John spoke with them with such boldness and conviction. The reason for such a display of confidence was the fact that these men had been companions of Jesus.
A close personal relationship with the godhead produces a boldness that causes those in their world to take notice. It is possibly the most effective evangelism tool in the Bible.
This certainly isn’t any attempt to minimize evangelistic efforts, simply to emphasize the value of such a relationship.
In the likelihood you have missed the connection with simple church, allow me to explain. The focus of simple church is the simplicity of developing a close personal relationship with Christ followers, the godhead and then the lost in your world.
There is a section devoted to this in the manuscript that I am working on having published.
The fact that statistics are showing people are leaving the traditional church—what I have called the matrix—is a clear indicator that a change must take place. This is not to say that traditional church will go away. It is to say that the early New Testament way of gathering was so effective that it reached the then known world.
Perhaps it is time to embrace that way of being the church today.
Consider why people will leave a church. The reasons could be many as well as varied. For example the first group of people mentioned in last week’s post, those without a close personal relationship with the godhead, might leave because the message being proclaimed was convicting them. Instead of surrendering to the drawing of the Holy Spirit, removing themselves from the conviction would be easier.
Another reason this group of people might leave is the lack of entertainment. There wasn’t enough action to keep them engaged, so they departed to seek it elsewhere.
Another reason could be fear of being found out. For them saving face was far more important than having a close personal relationship with the godhead.
I think my favorite reason, although I did not recognize any of this at the time, was they were not being fed. Even though this reason applies to the second group mentioned last week, it is important to see how it applies here.
With the exception of the first reason for leaving—the convicting power of the Holy Spirit—each of the other reasons are about me. I am not being entertained, I might be exposed or I am not being tended to.
The Apostle Paul addresses this in his letter to the church at Corinth (it is mentioned in an earlier blog), when he states that every one of you will have something to contribute when you come together. In other words he is saying that you are not coming to be entertained, you are coming to participate.
Jesus uses a parable in the gospel of Luke to talk about a close personal relationship by describing four types of soil—hearts—that seed—the word of God—will be planted in.
The first type of soil was hard because of continued use. It is likened to a path. Because the ground was so hard, the seed could only lie exposed on the surface. Since it was exposed, birds or rodents were able to come along and eat it up.
This is like the first group of people mentioned. The word of God has the power to convict, but without it settling in the soil of ones heart, it is exposed making it easy for anything to pluck it up. It could be someone’s comment, or a past hurt or an evil thought that snatches the seed away. The seed has no chance of reproducing.
The second type of soil was rocky. Even though the soil had not been prepared, the movement of the rocks had at least softened the surface thus allowing the seed to find a place to be planted. Because of a lack of moisture the seed eventually dies.
It took years on this journey before I was able to see what the Holy Spirit wanted me to see in this parable. The hardships of life can do one of two things to people. It can make them bitter—the pathway group—or it can make them better—they rocky group. The hardship at least has softened their heart enough to allow the seed of the word of God to settle there.
Unlike the first group whose heart was to hard to even give place to the seed of the word of God, this group was open enough to receive it.
The reason the seed dies is due to a lack of moisture. The scriptures are full of illustrations regarding water. For example the Apostle Paul speaks of the church, the ekklesia, being cleansed by the washing of the word of God.
In another place the Apostle Paul speaks of planting the seed in the heart, while another waters the seed that was planted. The context of the scripture is the fact that God causes it to grow.
This watering is connected with a close personal relationship. The purpose of this blog isn’t to explore the connection.
The third type of soil in Jesus’ story is full of weeds. The outer layer is soft enough to allow the seed to settle in, but it immediately begins competing with the weeds for survival. The weeds win out and the seed dies.
In another place in scripture these weeds are likened to cares, worries or anxieties about life. Because the seed must compete with these things in a person’s heart, it isn’t able to receive the nutrients needed to bring it to fruition, so it dies.
The last soil mentioned in Jesus’ story is called good soil. Anytime a farmer plans to plant a crop, the field to be planted is toiled, raked and made ready to receive the seed. This ensures the seed will have the right conditions to give it the best chance of growing.
There is much to be said about a close personal relationship with the godhead in this passage of scripture. However what is important to understand today is why people might leave the fold in order to discover a way to draw them back.
It begins with your close personal relationship with the godhead.
“The church in America today is in decline,” Thom Schultz, CEO of Group Publishing.
“Christianity is on the decline, American’s have given up on God,” Ed Stezter, Pastor, Author, Christian Missiologist.
Each of these respected men sight staggering statistics backing up their claims. Mr. Schultz estimates between 2.8 million to 7.8 million have left Christianity within the past seven to eight years.
Do these numbers represent men women and children who made a profession of faith in Christ that have walked away from church? What would cause such an exodus?
The Apostle Paul speaks of a falling away or apostasy, taking place before the return of Christ. This could be part of the reason that so many who once said yes to Jesus have decided to leave. However once you understand the falling away, it only reinforces the necessity for a close personal relationship with the godhead.
This defection is that of true religion. The understanding of what Paul is saying is based in teachings that lead to people believing a lie rather than the truth.
Paul was accused of teaching such lies with the message of the gospel. Even though looking back through the eyes of history, that is certainly not the case; it appeared so in the minds of the religious leaders of his day.
Paul details such a person who walks away from the truth in his writings to Timothy. He outlines traits of selfishness, self-centeredness, and arrogant defiance to authority. He speaks of them as those who follow their own path as opposed to a righteous path.
If these are the ones leaving the church, they had no real relationship with Christ to begin with. They only had a form of godliness; an outward show without an inward witness.
If on the other hand, this exodus represents people who have an inward witness, who walked in a godly conviction, then there is an issue to be addressed.
These are the lives that are of concern to the Lord. This isn’t to say that the first group isn’t important. Christ died to save sinners. However what I am speaking about relates to the church (ekklesia).
Jesus gave the illustration of the shepherd leaving the ninety-nine sheep in order to search for the one not present. These millions of lives referred to by Mr. Schultz represent the one in Jesus’ story.
There could be a thousand reasons why this is happening; but I can assure you that one key-missing ingredient is the lack of a close personal relationship with the godhead.
As a pastor it was one of my biggest concerns. Even though at the time I was unable to identify the problem, it grieved me that week after week I proclaimed the word of God to a congregation that week after week continued struggling with the same issues.
It is becoming clear to me that the mandate from the Father for me, is to proclaim a close personal relationship with the godhead.
In doing so, perhaps these millions will have an opportunity to return to the fold. Perhaps those sitting in pews across the globe will be able to find victory over the issues they have struggled with for years. Perhaps the message of the king and his kingdom will in-sight a revival unlike anything humanity has seen since the founding of the early New Testament church.
The scriptures tell us that Christ gave certain gifts to his church, his ekklesia. Some of those gifts were apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.
I was taught that these were offices within the church. I functioned within one of those offices called pastor. I have no problem understanding that men as well as women operate in these various gifts.
Since being on this journey with Abba, I have come to understand that instead of offices, they are positions within the church (ekklesia) to assist the Christ followers into a close personal relationship with the godhead.
This being said, the Evangelist is to assist the church (ekklesia) in reaching the first group mentioned above. There is much that could be said about this, but not at this time.
The pastor is to come along side the Christ follower to assist them in reaching the second group mentioned.
The purpose of this blog is to assist in building such a relationship, for how can one teach something they know nothing about? How can this massive harvest field be reaped if there are no laborers to reap it? How can Christ return without the message of the good news being spread throughout he world?
Together we the church, the called out of bondage—whatever that bondage might have been—are being called upon to build a close personal relationship with the godhead in order to reach a growing number of humanity—both lost as well as wounded—with one simple message.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him will not perish, but have eternal life, John 3:16.
What is the simplified church? What does it look like? Is it relevant in today’s Christian world?
I believe the answer to the last question is a resounding YES given the fact that “church” as we know it is in serious decline. One study pointed out that 80 percent of churches are either stagnant or in decline. The reasons vary, but relevance, lack of purpose and lack of trust are often sited as why people are leaving. The numbers also vary by age with Millennial’s leading the exodus with only four in ten in church attendance.
I found it very sad that every single article I have researched offers traditional “church” logic as to how to turn this around. Below is up one example of what I am talking about. In an article written in March of 2016, Best Selling Author David Murrow writes, “Let me spend a little time on that last one. One of the hallmarks of 20th century evangelicalism was the focus on individual unction: personal salvation, a personal relationship with Jesus, personal devotions, etc. Pastors taught people to dig into the Bible themselves; to self-feed by reading Christian books and listening to Christian radio; and to share their faith with others – all without much support from the church.
But by placing the individual in charge of his own spiritual life the church unwittingly de-emphasized the importance of community. This produced a generation of spiritual James Bonds – lone wolf agents who imagine themselves serving God without much help from headquarters.”
Let me be quick to say that I am not disagreeing with Mr. Murrow’s logic. It was only a few years ago that I would have given a hearty, “Amen” to his comment.
This journey of discovery that Father has placed my family and me on is one that has radically changed the way I view many—if not all—things church.
What if the things Mr. Murrow mentions in his article are actually the very things the early New Testament church practiced?
Please understand that I am not attacking or refuting Mr. Murrow’s view. I am simply pointing out a very fundamental fact that has been missed or at least overlooked.
The outcome of the council in the book of Acts the 15th chapter conclude that Gentile Christ followers only need to adhere to a simple practice. They were not to engage in certain pagan rituals surrounding food. There was no mention of attendance or obedience to church leaders or any such thing.
Before the Apostle Paul left a city, town or region, he would appoint elders, older men, to look after the church or the called out (ekklesia) and the apostle turned them over to the care of the Lord. He did not leave them with a list of do’s and don’ts; the godhead simply directed him to certain men—in those days—to take the oversight of the ekklesia.
Later in his travels Paul offers instructions for what the gathering of believers should look like. In his writings to the Corinthians, he tells them that everyone is to have something to bring to the gathering. It may be a song, a teaching, a prophetic word or utterance, but whatever it is, it must be done for building everyone up.
The Apostle Paul uses a very interesting verb when giving this instruction in I Corinthians 14:26. This verb carry’s an assumptive meaning. In other words it assumes the one reading already knows what to do. The Greek word is synerchomai (sun-er-kho-mi) and is translated, to come together.
The apostle gives certain instructions to the ekklesia about what should happen when they gather. It includes participation from many as opposed to a few. It is assumed that those reading his letter will be gathering together.
This raises the question why are they to make such an assumption? There is a section devoted to this matter in the manuscript I am currently working on having published. Because of that, I am tempted to write several paragraphs in response; but in order to stay on track; I will not yield to that temptation.
The point that I believe Mr. Murrow missed in his research is the simple fact that the original intent of the Christ follower in the early church was to develop a close personal relationship with the godhead. Because of this relationship, they would know—through the prompting of Holy Spirit—the importance of gathering with other believers. This relationship would bring them insight or revelation that they would in-turn share with the ekklesia under the leadership of elders or those with spiritual maturity who encouraged such exchange.
Perhaps the decline in church attendance, at least in part, is due to the fact that the current model cannot support this kind of community. Perhaps the reason home cell groups do not flourish today as they once did is because of man-made control.
My heart longs for a strong vibrant force in the earth called the ekklesia—the called out—who radiate the love of God, the grace of the Son and the power of the Holy Spirit in a sick dying world.
This is what this journey the Father has taken my family and I on are searching for. It isn’t to call out the church, as it exists today. It isn’t to point a finger of accusation or to threaten an uprising.
It is about change!
It is the kind of change that totally turned the live of a radical zealot into a radical Christ follower. He wrote these words, “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.” Phillippians 3:10 (English Standard Version).
His name is Paul.
Have you ever taken the time to imagine what it must have been like to walk, talk, eat and be in the presence of Jesus when he walked on along the Sea of Galilee? I have been privileged to visit there once. It has been indelibly embedded in my mind the moment it happened.
We were on a boat ride in the middle of the lake when the guide had the captain stop the engine. There was a light breeze blowing creating a small chop on the water. He began by saying that the disciples were at about this spot on the lake when Jesus came walking to them on the water. He pointed in the direction that the Lord would have been coming; that is when it happened.
At that moment I was no longer on a historical visit to the holy land, I was in the land where Jesus walked some two thousand years earlier.
That moment completely changed my entire perspective of our visit.
One of my favorite accounts from the gospel stories about Jesus is found in Matthew chapter 16. Jesus is asking his disciples about the word on the street concerning him. Different disciples are giving him different answers when he interrupts with a most exposing question and asks them to tell him who they believe he is.
I cannot help but think that it was one of those defining moments for Peter when—as I like to imagine how it happened—his ears heard what his mouth was saying, “You are the Christ,” he explained. I can imagine him pausing mid-sentence, his eyes big as saucers as the realization penetrates his heart.
What an incredible time it must have been in Peter’s life.
Jesus affirms Peter by assuring him that he had a God-inspired revelation. He continues by telling Peter that on this rock will be built the ekklesia—called the church.
He tells Peter that he is about to build something so strong, so powerful that even the power of Hades will not overcome it.
In about 30-years following the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, the message of Christ had spread throughout much of the known world with untold numbers of gatherings and meeting places proclaiming the good news.
Consider how amazing this is given the fact that there is no structured organized plan or committee to carry this out. The Apostles had a simple mandate, proclaim the good news.
For the most part the Apostles remained in Jerusalem, while converts took the message of Jesus to the uttermost parts of the earth.
A leadership conference is recorded in Acts 15 when a dispute arises regarding doctrine. The simplified message of a close personal relationship with the Lord is conveyed and carried back to the new believers.
This bond of closeness with the godhead remained strong among the ekklesia—the church—throughout the lives of the Apostles.
It appears this unity began to erode with the second generation of leaders taking the reigns. Doctrine began to be the keynote and separation began to follow. The unrelenting disapproval regarding doctrine among the Jewish leaders led the way for the first tier of this separation to take place.
Sadly it became the beginning of more separation as sect after sect emerged with their own version or belief.
The purpose of this brief history lesson is to simply point out that the results of such separation are the many church-camps that exist today.
This isn’t to speak ill of them, but simply point out what happens when a close personal relationship with the godhead is replaced with a doctrine or belief. This isn’t to say doctrine isn’t important. It is to say that a close personal relationship with the godhead is more important.
What such a relationship is in place, doctrine will find its proper place.
The leadership conference in Acts 15 offers an important lesson in cooperation when a close personal relationship is in place.
There was stark disagreement on a very key doctrinal issue—circumcision; this doctrine being central to Jewish belief. There were Jewish believers that felt strongly that the Gentile converts had to be circumcised in order to follow Jesus. The Apostle’s—especially Paul—did not hold to this belief. He made the case that this doctrine was a Jewish custom not a universal mandate for salvation.
The contention was sharp.
The disagreement was resolved because they prayed, then they discussed, then the Lord gave them a solution.
I recall being such a meeting within a certain denomination regarding some fundamental changes that needed to be addressed.
I recall listening to each side of the argument with compelling points being made by both sides.
What grieved me was the fact that not once was stated that their arguments came as a result of much prayer, fasting and seeking the scriptures. The basic argument was it has been done this way since the beginning verses it is time to make a change.
The point to be understood is the fact that either sides were right; however, the issue wasn’t right or wrong; it was what the Lord of the church wanted. This answer is only found by prayer and fasting.
Without a close personal relationship with the godhead, one is left with personal feeling or popular public opinion.
In the simplified church, such relationships with the godhead as well as those within the community enable godly solutions rather than the formation of new sects and divisions.
Holiday’s that mark a date in the past have always intrigued me. Two-hundred forty one years ago on this very day (July 2nd) a group of 56-men agreed on a course of action that would both shape as well as change the course of history. Setting aside the dispute as to when the Declaration of Independence was actually signed, this day in history marks the accord that set America’s future on a course of freedom. This simple, yet monumental act would help change both American history as well as world history. It would insure that tyrannies and ruthless dictators would be held in check around the globe.
One of the many things I find interesting about these men is that they were all white.
There was not a woman or person of color who cast one single vote. The reason this is so profound is the fact that document these men signed would help to bring equality to women as well as every ethnic group who would call America home.
These men had varying beliefs about the issues of the day; but they found a common point of agreement that caused them to set aside their differences and ratify a history-changing document.
Thanks to the creative imaginations of men and women in Hollywood, we have graphic images of what life in Philadelphia Pennsylvania would have been like when this momentous event took place.
I can only imagine the mixed emotions that swirled around the room as discussion ended and the vote began.
If it were possible to travel back in time, one could set the date to July 2, 1776 and actually watch as this event unfolded.
What intrigues me about this date is the fact that it actually happened.
Perhaps more importantly, it hasn’t been forgotten. For well over 200-years American’s have gathered to celebrate July 4th. I find this important for two reasons—one spiritual, the other historical.
The day marks a momentous change. Even though on July 5th, 1776 life wasn’t any different than the day before, a shift had taken place that could not be ignored.
This is how the life of a new Christ follower may feel after making a decision to accept Jesus as the savior of their life. On one hand, everything is as it was before; the same problems, challenges and concerns. However on the other hand, everything has changed in ways that cannot even be comprehended.
It should become a date—like July 4th—that is both remembered as well as celebrated for the remainder of ones life.
On July 3rd you were going this way and on July 4th the decision was made to go another way. It was a life-changing decision.
There are two reasons to note that date.
The first reason is to remember where you were on July 3rd—as it were—and reflect on what happened on July 4th—as it were. This remembrance is to keep fresh in ones life the decision made to make the change. In other words it is a time of reflection.
The second reason is to take note of the changes that have occurred since that decision was made. Year after year it is important to pause long enough to realize just how much—or perhaps how little—change has taken place.
This reflection allows for either a celebratory reminder of how much better life is, or a reflective admonition for additional changes that must be made.
Either way, something positive is meant to come out of the reflection.
When this celebration is coupled with family and friends, it reinforces the desire to either stay the course or make course corrections. Since there is safety in the counsel of many, this element of celebration should not be ignored.
The historical reason for remembering this day is to take a reflective survey of the past.
I recently saw a headline that stated that our founding fathers would not be happy with today’s America. A case could certainly be built for a second declaration of independence from oppression and political abuses.
What a breath of fresh air it would be to see the political scene in this country to pause long enough to take a hard look at the America the Second Congressional Congress envisioned when signing the Declaration of Independence. This is why the earlier reference was made as to the makeup of this Congress.
Without the ethnic diversity, these men found a way to ensure ethnic diversity could take place. Without gender diversity, gender equality was ensured—even if these men would not agree with the gender issues of our day.
I find it amazing that with over 200-years of every imaginable advancement humanity has made, that these simple-minded—by comparison—men could accomplish something the political establishment of today cannot; the willingness to compromise for the sake of the country.
Perhaps if these political leaders of today would take such a pause, they might see some things that could be done differently.
Either way, Happy Independence Day—whether it be a spiritual or an historical one!
One of the key arguments I had about the cell group movement of the Nineties was accountability. As the pastor, I could not allow some groups running off doing their own thing. There must be accountability. It wasn’t that I was endeavoring to control them; I was responsible to watch over the flock.
I know that many pastors’ hold to this way of thinking and I would not have disagreed with them; until I began this journey.
The role of the pastor is to shepherd or watch over the flock; this is certain. However for the most part the current role of the pastor doesn’t match the role of that of the New Testament. There will be more on that in another post.
The role of the Christ follower is to develop a close personal relationship with the godhead. This too is something that looks far different in the early New Testament church.
A close personal relationship begins with the acceptance of Christ’s invitation to be born again. It continues with spending time with other’s who also know Christ. This is key because that represents those who have a deep established relationship with the godhead as well as other’s who have recently made the same commitment to follow Christ.
The result of this relationship becomes a strong desire to draw closer to the godhead. As a result, the new believer takes steps toward God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit according to their willingness to be open.
The Apostle Paul addresses this in his letter to the Christ followers in Corinth. He instructs us—as he instructed them—to come together with the expectation of having something to present to everyone. It could be a revelation from the word of God, or a song, or even an inspirational utterance called prophecy.
This is something you will not see in most churches today. It simply would be too chaotic to allow such a thing to take place.
As this close personal relationship develops, it reaches a point where the Christ follower is receiving instruction from the Lord regarding his or her life. As that instruction is shared with those he or she comes together with, the accountability of the gathering (the leadership along with the other Christ followers) confirms that the believer is accurately hearing the voice of the Lord—or not.
The things that are conveyed while meeting together serves as a confirmation point that the Christ follower is indeed on the right track. This is huge because it allows the community to participate in the growth and development of the others in community.
It is also huge because it eliminates the need for the pastor to carry the burden of being like Moses listening to the needs of the congregation. This is true even if there is a well-structured matrix in place with elders and deacons as Jethro—Moses’ father-in-law—instructed Moses to do.
It is also huge because it eliminates the demigod mentality that is prevalent in many church leaderships today.
Even though at the time I did not understand this, I knew the growth of the congregant would take place in small group settings. The focus of these groups was a dialogue about my sermon. This would put everyone on the same page; which would create excitement in the church service. The result of that excitement would be inviting more people to attend; which would mean growth.
Let me illustrate what a close personal relationship with the godhead may look like.
This past week was a particularly difficult time for me. There was a larger than usual attack of oppression that would not let up. It was the kind of oppression that constantly ran negative thoughts through my mind. It was so severe that it affected my dreams at night as well as my work during the day.
No matter how determined I was to think good thoughts, quote scripture after scripture, it did not let up.
As I was in prayer I had this impression to reach out to several people who I have close personal relationships with. I simply sent them an e-mail asking them to pray.
On the way home from work—I had to leave early—I had this portion of scripture run though my mind. It was, be still and know that I am God.
When I arrived home, I pulled my wife aside from her work to talk with her. After a good cry, we prayed. She then spoke to me in her usual loving, but stern way and said, “I give you permission to take the rest of the day off.”
I went to the scriptures to locate the portion of scripture that earlier ran across my mind.
I have included it in this post, without comment, for you to review. However before I get there, it is important to understand that something.
I could have called the pastor, who would have lovingly offered wise counsel.
The reason I did not call him is because of the counsel of the Father that filled my mind while in prayer was to reach out to friends.
The counsel of the Son was a verse of scripture; that ran across my mind while driving home.
The counsel of the Holy Spirit was to read that portion of scripture from a particular translation.
This combination of obeying the counsel of the godhead provided the victory that I needed in this situation. It had nothing negative to do with the pastor; it wasn’t an act of rebellion or unwillingness to submit to authority; as a matter of fact I submitted completely to authority—that of the godhead.
The lesson to hopefully be learned is the importance of developing a close personal relationship with the godhead and what that looks like.
I invite you carefully read the following words. They are taken from The Message.
God is a safe place to hid,
Ready to help when we need him
We stand fearless at the cliff-edge of doom,
Courageous in sea-storm and earthquake,
Before the rush and roar of oceans,
The tremors that shift mountains.
Jacob-wrestling God fights for us,
God of angel armies protects us.
River fountains splash joy, cooling God’s city,
This scared haunt of the Most High.
God lives here, the streets are safe,
God at your service from crack of dawn.
Godless nations rant and rave,
Kings and kingdoms threaten,
But Earth does anything he says.
Jacob-wrestling God fights for us,
God of angel armies protects us.
Attention, all! See the marvels of God!
He plants flowers and trees all over the earth,
Bans war from pole to pole,
Breaks all the weapons across his knee.
“Step out of the traffic!
Take a long, loving look at me, your High God,
Above politics, above everything.”
Jacob-wrestling God fights for us,
God of angel armies protects us.
Happy Father’s Day
It was not my intention to post anything regarding Father’s Day. However while driving home this past Friday I began to think about my dad and the ever-changing role of fatherhood in our culture.
My dad was the single income earner of a family with four children. Mom took care of the household based on the budget given to her by my dad; but dad brought home the paycheck.
For the most part mom took care of the discipline and general raising of the children. However I will never forget those fear provoking words, “Wait until your father gets home,” because we had done something so severe that it took dad to bring correction.
Television portrayed dad in a positive light with Ward Clever (Beaver’s dad), Jim Anderson (Father knows Best), and happy-go-lucky Andy Taylor (Opie’s dad) letting children know that dad was in charge.
Then dad began to change when Archie Bunker (All in the Family), and Al Bundy (Married with Children) began putting dad in a not so positive light. Dan Conner (Roseanne) added to this decline of dad’s image all for the sake of a cheap laugh.
Homer Simpson (The Simpsons) took dad to a new comedic level of being an authority figure that is nothing less than an idiot, while Bob Saget (Full House) portrayed dad as a modern man raising his children without a mother. His being a friend approach made dad somewhat more approachable.
Sadly Hollywood has assisted the world in defining what dad is supposed to be; and the images are less than honorable. It appears that achieving a laugh became more important than presenting a positive image.
Today’s dad must be politically correct, socially accepting of whatever trends or behavior the children choose to relate to. Anything less is labeled as some type of phobic behavior that is certainly unacceptable.
Equally as sad is how I have seen this trend fully embraced—for the most part—in the church culture where the really cools dads look as well as act the part. The appearance is that their children are culturally balanced and socially relevant.
That sounds nice, but I have a problem with it.
As a Christ follower, godly men do not look like their worldly counterparts. They strive to live a life that is God-honoring in such a way as to inspire their children to walk with them.
Godly men are not perfect self-centered egoists, but rather sensitive caring men who endeavor to walk up-stream of popular ideas of what dad should be. They are not some bumbling idiots that are out of touch with the world around them whose children are embarrassed to be seen in public with them.
Godly men are far from perfect, but who embrace a perfect father by having a close personal relationship with the godhead. They endeavor to train their children in tandem with their wife to also develop such a relationship with God.
It is my hope that today, THIS kind of dad is honored all across our great nation and around the world.
If you are striving to be this kind of dad, I commend you. If you fall short of being this kind of dad, I encourage you start today.
Stand in front of your children and make a bold proclamation that you are going to change. Ask them for their patience as well as support as you make good on your promise.
When you need help, ask for help. If you do not know who to ask, reach out to me, I will gladly offer assistance.
Don’t be afraid to let your children see you being real; it will impact their lives in very real ways.
Together we can mark 2017 as the beginning of a very Happy Father’s Day.
The next installment
It is important to understand that Jesus grew up within this Old Testament model. It is recorded in the gospel of Luke that Jesus’ habit was to attend the Synagogue on the Sabbath.
This tells us that God the Son was not opposed to such a gathering. However because of the intense hatred for Christ and his followers, following his resurrection the new believers were not welcomed in the Synagogue.
They continued to meet in the temple courts where Jesus often taught the people. The difference here is that the New Testament book of Acts points out that the new believers did this daily.
That will put a crimp in your lifestyle!
It soon became their habit to gather each day in the courtyard, then move into someone’s home to eat. According to historical accounts, this went on for about one year before persecution from the young zealot Saul forces the young believers to scatter throughout the region.
This is when the believers began meeting in homes and remote places in order to avoid suspicion that would lead to further persecution.
This practice went on for about 14-years creating a large number of gathering places called churches (ekklesia).
Today we label such gatherings with names like, organic church, simple church or house church. Whatever the name, its origin is found in the book of Acts and facilitated the rapid expansion of salvation and eternal life through Jesus Christ.
As one brought up in the current way of doing church as well as a leader within its structure, I have seen the decline and/or shifting of church attendance. Smaller groups have been absorbed into larger groups while larger groups experience a decline or stagnant state of existence.
The rise of the simple church movement—it has been called by some—in the early twenty-first century, is not some uprising of disgruntled congregants mandating their right to be heard.
I believe the cell-group meeting that flourished in the eighty’s was of supernatural origin, leading the way to the house church gathering following the turn of the century.
I also believe this is by divine providence for reasons stated in the previous post.
As one sovereignly brought out of what I have called the matrix and placed into this way of being the church, I carry a unique understanding of both its dynamic as well as its purpose.
Think about it. If this vehicle, call it whatever you will, was used by the Holy Spirit to expand the good news of kingdom throughout the known world, wouldn’t it make sense that at the end of this age the same Holy Spirit would once again use the same vehicle to impact the known world?
I believe the answer is a resounding Yes.
Does this mean one way is right while the other way is wrong? I believe that is the argument the enemy of the cross would like to use to divide the Christ followers.
There are many arguments that can be brought up regarding this; but what cannot be denied is the fact that such gatherings are taking place around the world.
Perhaps the wiser thing to do is to take the advice of Jesus when he told his disciples about the man casting out demons, “Don’t stop him!” Jesus said. “No one who performs a miracle in my name will soon be able to speak evil of me.”
The next installment
The simplified church is a gathering of Christ followers. The word church in the New Testament is the Greek word Ekklesia (Ek, kla, see-a) that means a gathering of citizens into some public place. The word simplified means to reduce to the basic essentials. The combination of these words forms the bases of site. It is a place where Christ followers can come to learn about essential ways to follow Christ. It isn’t a gathering place in and of itself. It is simply a place to learn the most basic lesson of following Christ; having a close personal relationship with the godhead. It is about falling in love with God the Father and his infinite wisdom regarding all manner of life and living. It is about falling in love with God the Son and the incredible gift the Father presented to mankind through his son Jesus Christ. It is about falling in love with God the Holy Spirit, the giver of eternal life and truths to be revealed about God the Father and God the Son.
Best selling author David Murrow published an article earlier this year commenting on the decline of church attendance in America. Thom Shultz, CEO of Group Publishing also published an article with staggering numbers into the millions of American’s leaving the church.
Both men agree that there is a problem.
I was particularly intrigued by Mr. Murrow’s comments. He states,
“One of the hallmarks of 20th century evangelicalism was the focus on individual unction: personal salvation, a personal relationship with Jesus, personal devotions, etc. Pastors taught people to dig into the Bible themselves; to self-feed by reading Christian books and listening to Christian radio; and to share their faith with others – all without much support from the church.”
He continued his comments, by saying,
“This produced a generation of spiritual James Bonds – lone wolf agents who imagine themselves serving God without much help from headquarters.”
The observations made by Murrow’s are an important. If the reason attendance is in decline is because people are finding a close personal relationship with the godhead, then perhaps that isn’t a bad thing.
Secondly what support from the church is he referring to? The article does not clarify, but as a pastor I believe I have a good idea.
I recall the early days of the home cell movement. I eagerly embraced it and quickly implemented it into our weekly worship. It was very structured with elders heading up each group. It was discussion based giving the congregants the opportunity to dig deeper into the message or sermon that the discussion was based on.
It started out great; but something unexpected happened along the way. The elders began reporting back that the various groups wanted to delve into other topics. It seemed that the natural flow of things would lend itself to discussing the subject at hand rather than the subject prescribed.
I couldn’t have such strife in the ranks. Everyone had to be on the same page in order for us to move forward as a church.
What started out growing wonderfully well began to dwindle under the increased control I had placed on them.
It wasn’t until I embraced this unexpected journey to simple church that I began to see my mistake. The Apostle Paul addresses this very issue in his letter to the ekklesia in Corinth. He tells them that when they come together that each of them is to have something to contribute. Has goes on the say that such a gathering is to have order.
Since the church is the gathering of Christ followers, the support comes from three places. The first is the godhead through the person of the Holy Spirit who instructs, guides and directs them. The second is the assembly who affirms the things being presented by the others. The final area of support is from the leader of that group whose responsibility is to discern the direction they are to take.
This is a simplified approach, but that is simple church.
This is something I could not see in those early days. If I wasn’t controlling it through my instructions, then chaos would ensue—or so I thought and was taught.
The last comment Murrow makes is simply a matter of perception. In his comment he says that these, “spiritual James Bonds,” are “serving God without much help from headquarters.”
I understand completely what he is referring to because I once thought the same way. I had to take control of the home cell groups because it was my responsibility as the pastor.
However, the result was a failed attempted at a God ordained movement.
I now understand headquarters to be God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. This does not mean that every little gathering or assembly is an island unto himself or herself.
It does mean that when everyone is in communication with the godhead (headquarters) that everything flows smoothly.
If someone is not in communication, this becomes obvious to the others and a corrective course of action can be taken.
All of this sounds as though I am advocating the decline on the American church; I am not.
I am simply stating that if Mr. Murrow is correct in his assumption, that there is a biblical place for those who are developing a close personal relationship with the godhead that the traditional church is unwilling to embrace.
The fact of the matter is that not everyone who calls on the name of Christ will embrace the call of Jesus to deny his or herself and daily take up their cross to follow him.
For those who are not willing to walk such a radical lifestyle there is the traditional church setting. However, for those who are wiling to cast off such constraints, the teachings of Jesus and the New Testament book of Acts builds a strong case for such a simple way to be church.
This may be difficult for some to wrap their head around, but the model of the church today is based on the church in the wilderness pastored by Moses. To be sure there are modifications to this Old Testament version, but the New Testament gathering began quite differently than the Old Testament model.
Memorial Day is a federal holiday honoring the men and women who gave their lives while in service of this great nation. It is fitting to set aside a day to honor and pay tribute to them. It is a righteous act, one that respects the value of human life.
This is important because of the devaluation of humanity that is taking place in our land and around the world.
This is not a time to reflect on the lives of the hero’s whose very name invoke thoughts of bravery, courage and heroism; no, this is a time to remember every unsung hero, every ordinary Joe or Jane who stood in harms way so that other’s could be saved.
To the families of those brave men and women, I say thank you for your sacrifice. It is because of it, that I am able to sit in the comfort of my home and write this.
May God bless you all.
Memorial Day also reminds me of the simple truth of a simple church life. It is about service, about laying down your life in order for other’s to live. I think of one person whose courage allowed God to show himself alive to a non-believing people.
The General was a highly decorated soldier as well as a noble man. He had the respect of his peers and his government. He had everything any man could want in life. He had riches, servants and a faithful staff to tend to his every need. But he longed for one thing that no one had been able to give him. He longed to be cured from this horrible skin disease.
There was not a single doctor in all the land who had been able to cure him.
One day his staff overhead the servant’s talking. The conversation caught the attention of one of them. He pulled the servant aside asking her to explain what she was telling the others. He could not believe his ears for she told him of a man in her hometown that could cure the General.
The staff member went to the General; the General went directly to the King, who wrote a letter to the King of that country announcing the General’s visit.
The very next day the General and his entourage were off to find this man. The General took his King’s letter and presented himself to the King of that country. The King thought it to be a trick and dismissed the visit as a rouse.
Determined to find the man, the General’s staff located him through the town’s people. There was quite a commotion as the General and his company arrived at the man’s house.
As his attendant knocked on the door, the General imagined what the man might require of him. His thoughts were interrupted when the man’s servant came to the door asking them to wait.
A few minutes later the servant returned with one simple instruction; you are to dip in the river seven times. The General was outraged. It was humiliating that a man of his stature would do such a thing, in a river as dirty as the one in this country no less.
The General turned in disgust thinking he had been played.
Then it happened.
The General’s attendant made a bold move, one that could cost him his life. He took it upon himself to approach the General uninvited. The General was so angry he did not rebuke the attendant, but rather barked at him, “What do you want?”
In a move very uncommon among attendants or servants, he asked the General to reconsider his decision by appealing to his common sense.
The General stopped in his tracks looking the attendant squarely in the face. After what seemed an eternity, the attendant’s heart beating hard, sweat pouring down his face, the General replied by saying, “You may be right.”
With that the General and his party headed to the river. By the time they arrived the General had determined to follow the man’s instructions to the letter. He stripped down to his under garments and walked straight into the river, dipping himself seven times.
As he came up the last time, his eyes noticed that his arms were completely normal. He touched his face; completely normal too. He threw his arms in the air shouting, an uncharacteristic move for him.
At first the entourage did not know what was going on. They stood on the shore frozen until they realized that the General was excited and showing an unusual act of emotion. They began to cheer with him.
An unnamed hero, an ordinary person, who had enough of a relationship with the General and the willingness to risk his life, was able to offer him counsel that changed his life.
This is simple church in action.
The church in the wilderness
In the Old Testament Moses took the Children of Israel into the wilderness. It was God’s design to avoid the armies of the surrounding tribes. The intent was to position them to enter into the land of promise. The journey took forty years longer than God intended; it seemed Jacob’s children needed to learn a very important lesson.
Once the journey was over, Israel crossed the river Jordan to enter the promise land; where they were instructed to drive out their enemies.
In the New Testament Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness for a series of tests. Following the test Jesus emerged from the wilderness in the power of the Spirit.
Within these two wilderness accounts lie the lessons for Christ followers today.
The wilderness is a mandatory destination, yet not a permanent one.
The Old Testament shows us the journey you and I must walk in order to enter the promise land today. The New Testament shows us the way to walk through the wilderness.
The Old Testament shows us the journey into the promise land, while Jesus shows us the way to walk through the promise land.
The children of Israel had trust issues. The wilderness addressed those issues. God used Moses to show them how to trust him.
Mankind is meant to live by every word God speaks.
Jesus shows us that in his wilderness experience as well as his daily life.
In the Old Testament Israel had to drive out the enemy—people who had lived there for years.
For the Christ follower today our promise land is returning to humanity’s original intent—abundant eternal life.
The enemies we are to drive out are the thoughts, beliefs and suspicions that have pledged us our entire life.
There will be many battles—it took Israel years to conquer the land.
Jesus shows us how to be victorious by using the word of God. This is far deeper than memorizing verses in the bible in order to accomplish our selfish desires.
It is developing a close personal relationship with the godhead that causes you to desire to learn what the bible says, and why it is saying it, rather than simply memorize it.
The journey will take years.
Sadly some will die in the wilderness having never learned the most important lesson of all; mankind lives by every word out of God’s mouth. The answers to your questions in life, about life and everything related to life, are all found in the Word of God.
This is why the Bible is so important to humanity.
It is also why the Christ follower must cherish the Word of God. But let’s be clear about it; it is paramount that you develop a close personal relationship with the godhead. The Word of God cannot be read simply to learn the stories contained in it. It cannot be read to gather knowledge about God the Father, God the Son or God the Holy Spirit. These are reasons people read the Bible every day; and yet they are no closer to the godhead than when they started.
Happy Mother’s Day
What a unique creation, a Mother. Have you ever stopped to consider that in the beginning God did not create a mother, or a father? God created a man and a woman.
A mother is a by-product of the love and union of that man and that woman.
In the beginning the close personal relationship with the godhead spilled over into a close personal relationship between the man and the woman. The result of such a close, personal relationship is a child.
Consider how powerful this is.
Creator God placed within each gender of his creation one very unique item, that by itself has no purpose in order for creation to function. However when that very unique item meets the other very unique item, a miracle takes place that we call pro-creation!
From that , God’s creation experiences an entirely new way to live—parenthood.
This could go very deep when you consider that throughout the animal kingdom, it is predominately the female—or mother—that takes responsibility for the raising of the offspring.
However the focus of this post is to honor this wonderfully unique person called Mother!
Because humanity is so fractured, there are many adaptations of the word Mother. Terms like birth mother or biological mother, or surrogate mother, or stepmother are a few of them.
I cannot tell you how many times I heard some version of, “This child did not come with an operations manual!” Parenting is a challenge and it becomes especially difficult when it comes to the mother’s role.
I am expressing it this way because the world we live in has produced all kinds of women who have surpassed expectations as well as failed miserably as a mother. My wife and I are fortunate to have very good mothers. We believe that our children—for the most part—believe that they have a very good mother.
However I knew countless thousands that cannot make that claim.
For them this day is either just another day, or a day that conjures up bad memories otherwise forgotten.
If that describes you, then I encourage you to think about this. I was fortunate to have a very wise instructor while in Bible College. If something turned out really bad—like a parent/child relationship—she would say, “Today we learned how NOT to it.”
To be sure it can—and probably will—hurt. But what is important is to learn from it so as not to repeat it. Where your mother (or father) failed, you can succeed.
This is possible because of a close personal relationship with the godhead. Once you allow yourself to get close enough to expose those bitter hurts, wounds and bruises, you will find the love of the ultimate parent lovingly and graciously taking them away.
This enables you to look at your mother in a different light; which gives you the opportunity to forgive her and move on.
It isn’t easy. If it were, everyone would do it. Those willing to take the journey will find incredible joy on the other side of that journey.
For those who were blessed enough to have a good, or even great mother, you have the foundation for a close personal relationship with the godhead.
Jesus and his mother is a great example of such a mother/child relationship. The focal point of the scripture’s is Christ, but remember that Mary had at least six more children after Jesus. The reason this is important is the testimony of a mother’s ability to love each of her children in an equally special way.
The scriptures tell us that Mary stored up in her heart—she held them close—the things that were told her regarding her son. Even though this is speculation, it is reasonable to believe that she talked with Jesus about these things over the course of his young life. It is also reasonable to believe that she even encouraged him along the way.
I say this because I understand human nature as well as draw on my own relationship with my mother. She would be there with a positive word even in the midst of the worst situations.
Her words would always comfort me because even though she was my mom, I knew she believed what she was saying—as opposed to saying it to make me feel good. Because of this, I find it easy to believe that Mary did the same for her son.
Just before Jesus dies on the cross, he honors his mother by telling one of his disciples, John, to take care of her. What a powerful testimony of the bond between a child and a mother.
So, Happy Mother’s Day.
I trust you are able to celebrate it to the fullest potential that you can. Whether you determine that this year is the year you decide how not to do mothering, or you celebrate with your mother, or like me, you celebrate it knowing that your mother is having an awesome time in heaven; celebrate the day and the reason for the day.
The next installment
As I understand relationships, they are as individual as the people who are in them. Of all the people mentioned in the Bible, only Abraham is called a friend of God.
Consider this man once called Abram.
He obeyed his God by leaving the land of his heritage and journeying to a strange land. At the age of 75-years old, he began a journey that would bring him into the promise land; even though it would be as a stranger. Abram journeyed up one side and down the other of the land of Canaan as a stranger. He died as a stranger in the land of promise.
And yet, this man is called a friend of God. How can that be? How could Abram be so blinded as to trust—much less follow—a God who would treat him that way?
Abraham believed God and that belief carried him past all the doubt, all the heartache, and all the grief, into a very close personal relationship with God.
Every time Abraham found himself in a difficult place, he cried out to God. Every time he cried out to God about his difficult place, God would show him something about his promise to Abraham and that satisfied him.
How can that Be?
What would cause a person in crisis to find a place a peace in the midst of the crisis simply because this unseen entity showed him something about his future?
Abraham believed God.
This means that Abraham choose not to believe other things. He choose not to believe the crisis he was facing. Even though every fiber of his natural being screamed otherwise, Abraham grabbed a hold of the word of God.
There is a lesson in Abraham’s life that applies to the journey that you and I are currently on. Like Abraham there is a wilderness to walk through. Like Abraham there are crisis’s to endure. And like Abraham there is a choice to be made.
The question is which choice are you making? Are you choosing to believe the evidence of your natural being and surroundings; or are you choosing to believe the promise that God has given you?
The next installment
How does one have a close personal relationship (CPR) with someone you cannot see? Perhaps the bigger question is why would any rational human being even consider such a notion? Humanity has become so self absorbed that anything religious—there are a few exceptions—is looked at as narrow minded or some type of phobic.
I find it interesting that in a world of individualism almost anything is tolerated—even embraced—except religious beliefs.
The irony is that religion prescribes ways to have a relationship with God while controlling you in that relationship.
As I understand relationships, they are as individual as the people who are in them. Of all the people mentioned in the Bible, only Abraham is called a friend of God.
How does one have a close personal relationship (CPR) with someone you cannot see? Perhaps the bigger question is why would any rational human being even consider such a notion? Humanity has become so self absorbed that anything religious—there are a few exceptions—is looked at as narrow-minded or being some type of phobic.
I find it interesting that in a world of individualism almost anything is tolerated—even embraced—except religious beliefs; perhaps that should be qualified as Judeo-Christian beliefs.
The irony is that religion prescribes ways to have a relationship with God while controlling you in that relationship. I honestly think that out of ignorance that many have done this; although there are those who have full understanding of what they are doing.
As a pastor I did not want my congregation to get into some bondage under the guise of hearing the Lord tell them to do something. It was meant to be a safety net to have them run it by the elders given charge over them.
It was not until years later that I saw the danger—as well intended as it was—in this.
Think of it this way. Would it make sense that the God of all creation would lead his creation astray? If someone is pursuing a relationship with God, would God deliberately lead them into bondage?
I can hear the voices of my former pears screaming, “But to not be accountable is to open oneself up to the devil;” to which I wholeheartedly agree. The assembling of ourselves together keeps us safe. The voice of the shepherd allows us to stay in the fold.
We are talking about a close personal relationship with the godhead.
The next installment
While I was reviewing previous posts, I ran across this one and realized that it had not been posted. What I find interesting is that in some ways it dove-tails off the last installment regarding the wilderness. The wilderness, you see, is designed to teach us how to trust the godhead by living according to every word He has spoken in the word of God.
This story—that took place earlier this year—unfolded before the revelation of that truth—living by every word from God—was made more clearly known in my life.
Read it and see if you can determine what I am talking about.
I experienced something the other day for the first time. The funny thing is, I am certain that I have experienced it countless times over in my life. Here’s what happened.
The last three months have been disastrous financially. Since I work in a commission only sales position, no sales means no income. I have attempted every legal method I know—almost every legal method, I did not write a note on a piece of cardboard and stand on a street corner—to get money to pay the bills, keep gas in the vehicles or keep creditor’s from calling—who I talked on an a weekly basis.
I have made every confession, repented of every sin and made proclamations out-loud regarding the finances. I have prayed, cried out to God begging, pleading and asking in faith for ways to get the necessary finances to take care of my family. I sent a gut-wrenchingly honest letter to key people in my life asking them to pray over the matter as well as offer counsel; which some did. I heeded the counsel offered without any different result.
I am in a hopeless situation and yet not hopeless. I have walked with God far too long to know that he will show up and take care of this mess—at my house it is code named Ship High In Transits!
There is an old hymn that correctly describes the situation. I believe it is the chorus that says, “Mercy drops ‘round us are falling, but for the showers we plead.” There have been little “blessings,” if you will, that have brought encouragement along the way. Someone has called asking me to stop by so they could give me a box of groceries. Someone has asked me to meet them at the convenience store, then put gas in my vehicle. On a couple of occasions, a check has even shown up in the mail.
These little “mercy drops” are indeed falling, but the needed showers of a steady paycheck has become a longing thought.
As you might imagine, this has brought an immeasurable amount of stress on my physical body as well on the family. I have borrowed money from our children and siblings—that is a not-so-fun experience. I am not only working full time to make sales, I am working full time to locate some kind of employment to get a paycheck into the household. Even though my wife is home-school mom, she has been unsuccessful in landing any employment.
It is a hopeless situation, but we are not without hope.
I gather the family together to talk over the matter. I am honest about what is going on—I certainly have no understanding to explain it. I make sure we avoid the “why” questions because they do not offer any helpful answers. I make certain that we read God’s word and that we continually pray for his guidance.
I address the anger issues that flare up as a result of this Ship High In Transit.
Then it happened.
I have walked with my God far too long to raise my fist in anger toward heaven and blame him. I have far too many testimonies of his mercy and grace showing up in my life to walk away in disgust. I have seen him make a way where there simply was no way to be made. These are my experiences, not just some stories that I read about someone else.
I recall a song by a Christian recording artist many years ago that went something like this, “Through it all, I have learned to trust in Jesus, I have learned to trust in God. I thank God for the mountains, I thank God for the valleys, I thank for the Storms he’s brought me through. If I never had a problem, I’d never know God could solve them. I’d never know what faith in his word would do.”
I have lived it, so I knew, I know, he will be here as well.
One of the sales I had been working on came through. That same day, three other sales I had been working on, came through. The next day I had an offer for some part-time employment. Then another opportunity was placed before me.
The challenge now before me is determining which one the Father wants me to say yes to!
Last night as I leaned against the counter in the kitchen, I experienced something for the first time; but I am certain I must have experienced it many times before. As I leaned on that counter sipping my coffee, I realized that all of the anguish, all of the sorrow, the sadness had been replaced with a calm assurance, a peace and a renewed hope that everything was going to be all right.
I still do not have a complete understanding as to “why,” and I may never know this side of eternity. But I do know that if I hadn’t had this problem, I wouldn’t experimentally know that God would solve it!
So be assured that He does and He will.
The next installment
It happened on a certain day that the things he heard Jesus saying had stirred the son of a rich man. He inquired as to what more he needed to do. Jesus knew the young man had much wealth. Perhaps it was by the clothes he wore, or the manner in which he carried himself. Or it was probably that the Holy Spirit revealed it to him.
His answer to the young man’s question shocked both the young man as well as Jesus’ disciples. Jesus told the young man to give up the thing he treasured the most and come follow him. The young man could not think of doing such a thing—he would be poor. The disciples could not imagine Jesus saying such a thing, who would be crazy enough to follow him?
Certainly they left everything to follow him because they were stirred by something deep within them—little did they understand that stirring to be the Holy Spirit. But they were not rich and giving up what little they had was nothing to giving up riches.
Jesus did not flinch. He knew that whatever holds you, owns you. Riches both held and owned the young man. In another place he boldly claimed that humanity couldn’t serve both God and money, or riches.
This prompted Peter to ask the question racing across each disciple’s mind. “What about us?” They wanted to know what would happen to them; they gave up the little they had.
The answer must have equally shocked them.
Without batting any eye, Jesus told them that anyone who gives up possessions of this world in order to be a follower of his, will receive possessions of this world in this lifetime along with eternal life.
How powerful is that!
There is a lesson in that that will be saved for another day; but understand possessions are not easily given up. This is where the wilderness experience becomes so important in the life of the Christ follower.
The lesson isn’t in the things that are given up. The lesson is learning how mankind is supposed to live—by every word spoken by God.
The Wilderness part 2
The other side of the wilderness experience is what I am calling the promise land. It is a place where the close personal relationship with the godhead is put to use on a daily basis. It is a place that has been promised by God to everyone who has taken the journey that has led them into and through the wilderness.
In order to understand this promise land, you need to understand the land God gave to the children of Israel. This understanding has very little, if anything, to do with the terrain, the geographic location or the natural beauty of the land.
This understanding has everything to do with how Israel took such a land making it their own. It is first important to understand that it was the fulfillment of a promise to Abraham who walked with God; eventually being called a friend of God—one having a close personal relationship.
For the Christ follower today there is also a promise; a life eternal promise. This is the fulfillment of the redemption plan set in place millennia ago after mankind’s fall. Eternal life is a privilege of being created like God—the original intent when mankind was placed in the garden.
You must remember that humanity is eternal because God is eternal and will live forever. Because of Adam’s sin and mankind’s fall, the eternity humanity had to look forward to was eternal separation from God.
The promise of Jesus was to restore mankind back to that original place of eternity with God. This is why God is so intent on giving mankind every conceivable opportunity to make the right choice—it will always remain humanity’s choice.
However Adam and Eve enjoyed more than eternal life—they also enjoyed the garden they were placed into. In like manner, the Christ follower has a world of life to enjoy before stepping into that eternal joy.
Jesus told his disciples—thereby telling us—that much more awaited them in this lifetime.
A Special Easter installment
Resurrection! It isn’t a word that is used in everyday conversation. Neither is it a word that is used in a broad sense. The meaning is to be raised back to life. If the word is even used in conversation today, it is a figurative reference to an object or a thing rather than a person. For example, There seems to be a resurrection of the old band; meaning the old band has come back to life.
I find it interesting that it isn’t even a word that is used today, Resurrection Sunday. It is called Easter taken from a Greek word Pascha which refers to a central religious feast of Christians.
The point being that resurrection is a very powerful word and yet it isn’t used to proclaim the risen Christ. Oh indeed he was raised from the dead, but that is downplayed for the greater importance of a feast; eggs and candy and lots of food.
While I have no problem enjoying a good meal, especially with those I love, the meal hasn’t been resurrected, Jesus has.
In the Gospel books of the New Testament, the religious folks used the word resurrection as a way to trip Christ into saying something they could use against him—that failed of course.
In John the Apostle’s writings, he mentions the just and unjust in regards to the resurrection—the future tense. Martha—Lazarus’s sister—speaks about resurrection in the future tense, when talking with Jesus.
The book of Acts tells us of the disciples proclaiming the resurrection of Christ as a way of compelling non-believers to follow Christ. They believed it so much, that it impacted the way they conducted their lives.
This is what I am talking about.
Because Jesus Christ rose up from the tomb coming back to life after being dead, the promise of the Father to restore humanity back to our original place has been set in motion.
Because I have accepted that as true and acknowledge that God raised Jesus from the dead, I now begin my journey of restoration to that original place.
This means that I am convinced that Jesus was indeed resurrected; which means I am a child of the most high God on an incredibly unexpected journey to my original design!
I cannot up help to talk about that to others, as the early disciples did in the book of Acts.
Yes I will gather to enjoy the food, the fun and the fellowship; but my passion is to talk about this journey to anyone willing to listen. It will be your loss if you choose not to listen; I will simply go on to someone else until I find that person who is!
Happy Resurrection day!
The Wilderness part one
After mankind’s fall, Adam and Eve were removed from the garden into a wilderness experience. It was here that they found out about thorns and thistles, weeds and poison ivy as well as every other negative thing that was now part of their new reality.
Imagine how daunting that must have been. They went from having everything at their finger tip to making everything work with their hands. The ease they enjoyed for so long now replaced by labor and toil for the remainder of their lives.
I must have been a difficult transition.
When God called Abram—later to become Abraham—he took him from a good place and placed him in a very different place. The transition must have been difficult.
When Moses realized that Pharaoh was out to take his life for killing the Egyptian guard, he fled from the comfortable life he grew up in into the wilderness—a life he knew nothing about. The transition must have been difficult.
When it came time to implement the plan of redemption, Jesus left the wonder of eternal happiness to be born as the son of a peasant family. The transition must have been difficult.
When it was time for Jacob’s children to be delivered from the harsh bondage of Egypt, Moses took them into the wilderness. I can only imagine what a relief that must have been for them after generations of slavery.
And then, following his water baptism, Jesus is taken into the wilderness to be tested by the devil. Do you think this was a difficult time for him; or do you imagine he looked forward to it?
The point to be understood is that a wilderness experience is truly a natural part of humanity’s existence. It does not automatically mean suffering is to follow as the case with Israel leaving Egypt or Jesus going into the wilderness for testing.
For many in Western civilization that experience has been lost. In fact most developing nations of the world are loosing that experience as well—even though there remains much grief and suffering in the world.
The question is why is a wilderness experience a natural part of mankind’s existence? The answer is found in the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy—the story behind the page “I am about to bring you into a good land.”
The overwhelming reality that mankind was made to live by God’s word.
The story is compelling. In the beginning we see two perfect human beings living in perfect harmony with God, with nature and with each other. It is a picture of humanity living by the word of God.
This is followed by mankind being duped into believing they can do better by taking control of matters themselves. In this part of the story you see some good, some bad, but a lot of evil.
Then comes the intervention.
Mankind has the opportunity to return to his/her original state—with some exceptions. Those who have much to loose by following such a path meet this with much opposition. Little do they realize that a soulless adversary is using them to fulfill his self-willed purposes.
If this isn’t enough, this adversary is successful in duping those who refuse to fully buy into his wicked scheme by selling them a bill of goods called religion. This seems to appease mankind, tricking them into thinking that they can form their own pathway to God.
This is what I have called the matrix.
I call it this because of those who have been awakened to a true pathway—called a journey—to the godhead. That journey must take you through a wilderness experience.
So thus, we have come full circle in the world of simple church and finding a close personal relationship with the godhead.
It is the reason this site was started.
Religion forces you to comply with a certain number of rules, regulations and ordinances. Its contention is if you follow the pattern or system, you will reach a certain result. This principle is found in the business world and for the most part it works. A pattern has been identified whereby if followed will lead to a certain result.
Although this may work in business, it only produces religious people in the church community.
It is the Apostle Paul who identifies this as a powerless act rather than closeness to God.
Having a close personal relationship with the godhead is what simple church is about. This is a journey that has similar stops for everyone along the way, but by no means the same stops for everyone.
A story began to develop that needs to be told, but I have not seen the moral of it yet. The reason it must be told is simple; it speaks to the very heart of the simple church concept and having a close personal relationship with the godhead.
It began developing a week and a half ago. I was faced with the very likely probability of exceeding my work related goals, which meant a financial bonus. As the week came to a close, the probability began to fade—but not by much.
While driving home that afternoon, I began talking with the Lord about it.
Then it happened!
I felt such an excitement come over me, that I knew that the Lord had this. All I needed to do was relax, trust him and everything would work out. As the next week went by the probability dwindled with each passing day.
While driving home I encouraged myself by quoting the word of God and saying it was in the Father’s hands—relax, trust him and everything would work out.
The bonus opportunity ended at the close of business on Friday—without it being taken care of—and the bonus went away!
What happened? Why would God do that? How could he tempt me, and then torment me like that?
That is how I used to think about such an incident; but not now.
There remained six opportunities to realize this bonus; one of them was the strongest possibility. I arrived at the meeting with full anticipation of a positive outcome. As I walked out the door, I thought, “That didn’t go the way I thought it would.”
I texted my wife the outcome and she texted back her condolences. My response to her was one of those Jesus asking Peter who people say that I am, moments. Just as Peter must have been shocked at the words that came out of his mouth, so too my mind was having a difficult time believing what my fingers were typing.
This is what I wrote; “It has taught me that I need to find out what His expectations are instead of knowing what mine are.”
When Jesus when through the testing’s with the devil following his wilderness experience, he responded to each test by quoting the scriptures. The first passage of scripture he used is found in the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy.
This portion of scripture has great value to me personally because the Lord has used it to open my heart in the midst of my own journey. I expound on this in the post, I am about to bring you into a good land.
The verse Jesus quotes rebukes Satan by reminding him that mankind lives according to every word that comes from God’s mouth.
That is a mouthful—no pun intended.
Jesus was hungry; he had an expectation of eating. The adversary attempted to use this very natural desire to tempt him to do something unnatural—turn rocks into food.
In like manner, I had an expectation of closing a deal with a customer that would bring me financial gain—a very natural desire to provide for my family. For me the temptation was to get angry with God for not intervening in my meeting and closing the deal. If you will allow this, it is an unnatural thing to do.
This is the part that I have not yet wrapped my brain around. I was not expecting God to manipulate the other party in order to bring me a favorable outcome. I was however expecting that his favor on my life would bring a favorable outcome. I preserved the overwhelming feeling to mean God would bring the financial bonus into my checking account. It is quite the conundrum—and one I am still seeking an answer on.
The point to be made is the realization that my expectation did not line up with the Father’s expectation. This meant that I had a decision to make. Do I raise my fist in anger to accuse God of not honoring his word; or do I simply blow it off as another misfire in my walk with God?
The answer is neither.
The truth is this is exactly what I had done in the past. This attitude comes from having a religious relationship with God rather than having a close personal relationship with the godhead.
This is what I have called the matrix—taken from the 1990’s movie with the same name.
This particular time instead of getting angry or just blowing it off as another missed opportunity by God, I opened my mouth and spoke the word of God. I spoke out loud the following words. “I can be sure that you—God—will take care of everything I need. Your—God’s—generosity will exceed even my own in the glory that is revealed in Christ Jesus.”
The difference is that I have developed a close personal relationship with the godhead.
This means that I have gained a level of trust that allows me to know that if something did not go down the way I thought it should have gone, that God has something else in mind. I know that I have to inquire of him what I have missed—which could be as simple as the timing—because I know from his word that it his good pleasure to give to me the kingdom of God.
There are serious trails that could be taken to offer a deeper understanding of this, but what is important to comprehend is the developing of a close personal relationship.
This is the essence of the simplified church.
The next installment
You are to remember that I discipline you even as a father disciplines the child he loves.
Because of this, it is of absolute importance that you keep my commandment, that you walk down the road that I show you and you reverence me; because
I AM about to bring you into a good land.
The above is an excerpt from my page “I am about to bring you into a good land.”
This story is quickly rising to the top of my must read list on this site because it outlines the necessary steps each Christ follower must take in his or her journey.
The challenge is—and this is the state of the “church” today—that someone receives a revelation about God, makes it a series and everyone pastor who is worth his/her salt, grabs the series and begins delivering it to their congregation.
That isn’t relationship.
Consider this statement. One man’s (woman’s) revelation is another’s inspiration.
This journey is about discovery. It is about building a close personal relationship with the godhead. This kind of relationship cannot be built by listening to a lecture—no matter how well delivered it might be. Nodding in agreement once in a while, or giving a hearty “amen,” isn’t going to get you there.
This isn’t to say listening to the lecture is wrong—far from it. I can tell you many stories about listening to a minister deliver a sermon, only to find myself engulfed in thought based on something that was said. There have been many times that I feverishly wrote notes that had nothing at all to do with what the person delivering the sermon was talking about. Something they said certainly triggered a thought that the Holy Spirit exploded in my mind, which began a thought process that took me on a journey while quietly sitting in the congregation.
I realize how damaging this could sound. I understand how one could take it as a sign of disrespect; but I assure you that quite the opposite is the case. The individual’s message—i.e their revelation, became my inspiration. That inspiration took me on a path that eventually led me to my own revelation.
If, during this time, I am being disruptive to those around me, then I am the one in the wrong. If I simply let the thought go because I it would be disrespectful to the person giving the talk, then I have conformed to religion rather than a close personal relationship with the godhead.
When the Apostle Paul admonishes the church to do things in an orderly fashion, he isn’t saying to become mindless drones that conform to religious rituals. Rituals have their place, but understand that Jesus himself told the religious folks of his day that the Sabbath was made for the son—i.e. son’s/daughter’s of God—not the other way around.
This means that those who have this close personal relationship with the godhead are sensitive to the prompting of the godhead.
Let me give you an example of what I am talking about. I can remember many times after a sermon standing at the back of the building shaking member’s hands as they left. I recall people telling me things about my sermon that I never said. I would always smile and say thank you, not understanding what they were talking about. It wasn’t until my journey brought me to this revelation—one man’s revelation is meant to be another’s inspiration—that I began to comprehend.
Something I said sparked a thought in their mind that allowed the godhead to place an inspiration into their heart. When you think about it that is powerful!
The simple truth is that Abba God is looking for those of his children whose heart is open enough to allow him to speak to them. Once they show their willingness to listen to him, he gladly opens up things to them that help them along in their journey.
As a pastor, I must say that I did not understand that, nor did I appreciate it. However, as a child willing to take a journey with his father, I am thrilled that it happened in spite of me my ignorance.
I mentioned in an earlier post that I have been raised within the “church” structure my entire life. Through the years I have learned what it means to have a close personal relationship (CPR) with the God. I have also mentioned that I served as a successful pastor, pastoring other pastors. The trauma of experiencing a divorce in the middle of that became the doorway that lead to the path that has become a most unexpected journey.
It has been on this journey that I began to understand what it means to have a CPR with the godhead as opposed to God.
The Shack is one of my recommended reads for anyone willing to take such a journey. I am thankful that the recently released movie about the book stuck close to the message of the book. It helps you grasp the concept of a triune God; three, but one.
This understanding did not come all at once. In fact, it took quite some time for me to wrap my brain around it. I knew about spending time in the presence of God. I knew the joy of sensing his presence. I felt the supernatural power in my being. I was amazed at how quickly I would “know” something simply because of a thought that seemed to permeate my being.
But this is, has been and will continue to be my journey.
Do you remember the old saying, “hind-sight is twenty-twenty?” I certainly found it to be true in this situation. As broken as I was, as devastated as I had become, I knew God had not left me. I knew he was still looking out for me. At the time I had no understanding whatsoever as to the “why’s,” of this; it did not cause me to shake my fist in the air blaming him.
Let me pause at this point and state what this blog is not. It is not an attack on the church, as it is known today. It is not an indictment on those who have poured their lives into developing and maintaining the church, as it is known today. You can be certain that there are those who are using the vehicle being called the church for their personal gain—the apostle Paul made that abundantly clear in his writings to Timothy—but this blog isn’t about that either.
This blog is about a journey that began in the most unexpected way, to the most unexpected person, for all the most unexpected reasons. My entire life had been centered around the church. I left college—pursuing a career path that was very important to me—for the sake of the calling of God on my life to become a pastor. I became a pastor to pastors. I was on an upward career path within the denomination I was serving.
I did not ask for this!
I can tell you—hindsight being 20/20—that I now understand the gnawing in my inner person—the spirit part of me—that I was never able to place my finger on. I can tell you that I rationalized it as being called to a particular arena of prayer known by some as intercession.
I can tell you that overwhelming cry of my heart for all of those years—and still remains—is the will of the Lord be accomplished in my life.
I can tell you that I did not want a divorce. I have never been a proponent of it—there are exceptions—but a husband and wife who love each other can find God’s amazing grace to work it out.
I can tell you that it took a major overhaul in my thinking to embrace remarrying a woman who was not my first wife. I both practiced as well as preached reconciliation.
All of these things happened because the cry of my heart was to know God and to be so close to him. They happened in order to prepare me for a journey that I had no idea was in my future.
I thought I was prepared to cast off restrains and go for God—boy was I mistaken. You can be sure that “I” thought I was ready and in a manner of speaking I was. The spirit part of my life was indeed ready while the intellectual part of me was ready as long as it went the way I had it planned. It was a nice neat little package where life was sunshine and lollipops; where God responded the way I thought he should and the devil tripped all over himself anytime he attempted to disrupt my perfectly blessed life.
I recently heard a minister comment that if you have not been in the wilderness, then you have not been close enough to God. Think about how powerful that statement is. The gentleman pointed out that God took his chosen people into the wilderness—their hard-heartedness kept them there for forty-years—before bringing them into the promise land. He then took his son into the wilderness for forty-days—one day for each year Israel wondered in the wilderness—before presenting him to the world in miraculous power. The question he poised is profound; Do you think there is any chance he will not take you into the wilderness?
What does this have to do with a simplified church? It has everything to do with it. The wilderness experience begins with a relationship. It isn’t a meet with a group of people—no matter how large or small—for 60 minutes to 90 minutes once a week kind of relationship. The fact is, that isn’t a relationship at all. It could be classified as an acquaintance; but certainly not a relationship. Secondly a relationship is something that is two-fold. It involves dialogue between two people. Sitting for 20 minutes to 30 minutes listening to someone talk to you does not qualify as a relationship. Let me clarify something. I am not speaking negatively about the structure that is currently in place that is called the church; it is the best thing going. I am saying that for the majority of people who attend such gatherings, this is the extent of their relationship with the godhead; and that is no relationship at all. This subject will be looked into at a later time. The focus at the moment is to establish a viable meaningful relationship with Abba God.
This journey began with a wilderness experience.
The doctor was looking at the files in his hand as he came into the examination room. After a few awkward moments of silence, he said, “I think the best thing for you do is to go home and let nature take its course. Your body simply will not carry this pregnancy to term.” He placed his hand on the stunned young woman’s shoulder and said, “I am sorry; but come back in next week and we will follow up with you.” With that he turned and left the room. “What am I to do,” she thought? Sobbing as she arrived home she curled up in her bed and cried out, “God if you give me this child, I will raise him to serve you.” It was about seven months later that I was born. I am the oldest of four and my mother kept her promise. I remember being dropped off at church as a child. I remember sleeping under pews as a child. I even remember being snatched by the hand by my mother for making fun of the lady the next pew over. I spent my entire life in the church. I guess it isn’t any surprise that I became a pastor; although that wasn’t by my choice. I went to college to become an accountant. While home on break the summer of my junior year, I had an encounter with the Lord that set me on the course that has lead to the journey that I am on today. (An excerpt from the page, “My journey)
This is not to say that I am some Samuel who lived into the walls of the compound being totally immersed in scripture and religious practices; my life as quite normal in that respect. But I did have a solid background in the Christian religion.
The first time I left the traditional church was following a divorce—a much unplanned, unwanted divorce I might add—but a divorce nonetheless. Since I had been behind the pulpit since I was 18 years old and salaried as a pastor since I was 25 years old, a brief respite from pastoring seemed like a good idea. I understood that it was necessary given my situation. (An excerpt from the page, “My journey)
This leads to the second reason for this site being created. I had become someone that neither my wife nor I enjoyed being around. She increasingly became dissatisfied with who I was. I had become so blinded by the matrix, that I did not realize who I had become. I resisted her efforts to change as some sad attempt to get me to leave the matrix. The result was she left and our daughters left.
There I was alone.
This could have lead to a tragic ending had it not been for the third reason, in desire to follow Christ.