The Way

The Way
My Journey Into the Community God Intended

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Cross

Lately (the last couple of weeks) I have noticed a theme in God's revelations to, at least me, and seemingly many around me.  The cross. 
 
Since my humble start in the Baptist faith in 1967 I have heard of the cross.  The cross of Christ.  That instrument of death that the Romans used to crucify our Lord.  The symbol of the Christian faith.  I memorized verses like Luke 9:23 which says, "And He was saying to them all, If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me."  And Galations 2:20 (one of my favorites) "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me." (both NASB).  The cross has always, until recently, been something associated with the death of Christ and, in a small way, something I was supposed to "carry". 
 
Over a year ago God began a total 'deconstruction' of my life.  Although I had been pursuing Him, the cross had yet to be a reality in my life.  To make a very long and complicated story short, He took everything that I held most dear in my life and made it worse than anything I could have imagined - and I have a very vivid imagination.  Christ, at that point, took me to His cross to see the price He paid my sin so that I could see that I could no longer refuse forgiveness to others for sins against me.  My pride had to die - be placed on the cross to bleed out slowly.  Only, my pride did not want to die.  I discovered that it would get down off the cross every morning and in the midst of any circumstance someone or something did not go my way.  That pesky pride needed to be continuously re-nailed to that cross. 
 
As I started meeting with an organic expression of the Lord in Dallas in February of 2012, Christ began to reveal more and more of Himself to me through His body.   Connected now to hundreds of like-minded followers of Christ across the country, and even the world, I see more and more of Him all the time.  He has also started revealing more things in me that need to join my pride on the cross.
 
One of the first things He showed me was my agenda.  I wanted to see an organic expression started in my city.  I knew (in my own mind) that I would never be able to get a worker to come to the small town of Terrell, TX, so I joined with this larger group of people in Dallas where I was certain we could get a worker to come - and we did.  Then, the living arrangements we had for them cratered and they ended up coming to stay with us for 4 months - in Terrell, TX!  During the course of growing together with the assembly (ekklesia) in Dallas, God took from me that which I wanted (a church in Terrell) and replaced it with an uncontrollable desire to be with the saints in Dallas - that which He wanted.  Something great came from my agenda dying on the cross.  By the way, that one just died - has not revived itself to jump down from the cross and push itself on others. 
 
That's just one example.  There have been may other things that have made their way down the Via Dolorosa to find their ultimate demise on that old rugged cross and still many other things, I am sure, that will have to make their way there, as well.
 
I look back to Gethsemane at the prayer that Christ prayed in the garden - "And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” (Matt 26:39 NASB)  It seems that Jesus had a different will than that of His Father in this instance.  Faced with the prospect of dying the most horrific physical death imaginable, Jesus said, "That's not what I really want to do".  But, then He did something to set an example and standard for His body- He relinquished His will to do the will of His Father.  His will (Christ) at that time was to live and not do the whole cross thing.  But He took His will and willingly laid it down on that cross and allowed a Roman soldier to drive nails through it to hold it to the cross.  He did not have the strength or ability to nail Himself to the cross - He allowed others to gladly do it for Him.
 
I find this to be the case all to often in Christian circles today - there are so many who will gladly take up a hammer and spike to crucify others to make their point or to advance their agenda.  The Romans were trying to squelch an apparent Jewish uprising.  Today, anytime someone in the church doesn't get their way they feel the need to make someone pay and the cross, after all, has always been an effective method of making someone pay.  Many times, I have found that God will use people, such as this, to aide me in getting certain things "nailed to my cross" as He sees fit.  On the same hand, I do not see this as justification for myself, or anyone else to heartlessly drag a brother or sister to be crucified on a cross not of their choosing because we think they need to die to something we don't agree with.
 
The cross.  For Christ is was a choice that He made because He saw past the cross to His bride - the church, the Ekklesia.  For me it is a choice that I must make because I can now look past the cross also to see - to be part of - His bride.
 
The cross.  Not just for criminals and our Savior.  For all those who desire to be one with Him, sharing in His death so that we may share in His life everlasting!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

"Are You in a Cult?"

Since we (my wife and I) walked away from organized religion in 2010 and began a quest to find “organic” church, many of our friends and family members have expressed concern that we have fallen prey to a cult.  I wanted to address this concern and offer a more thorough explanation of where we are in our “walk with God”. 

Let’s start by looking at the definition of a cult.  According to the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary online, a cult is: 

1.  a small religious group that is not part of a larger and more accepted religion and that has beliefs regarded by many people as extreme or dangerous

2.  a situation in which people admire and care about something or someone very much or too much

3.  a small group of very devoted supporters or fans


1.  Yes, we are a part of a small, but growing group that is not part of a larger and more accepted religion or denomination that has beliefs regarded by many as extreme or possibly dangerous (not dangerous to myself or other members but rather to the status quo of accepted religious practice today).  We are not bound by the traditional definition of religion any more than Christ was bound by the Jewish religion.   We meet together in homes all across the DFW metroplex for a weekly meeting on Sunday, much like a denominational church, with the exception we do not have a “pastor” or any paid staff who impart their interpretation of God’s will of otherwise marching orders to the masses.   We believe that each and every follower of Christ has a portion of Him that indwells them and when we all come together, we each share that portion within us with those who are sharing their portion likewise with us.  Is this practice ‘dangerous’?  It can be if there is one or more individuals who desire to promote their agenda over that of Christ through the body.  Fortunately, we have had the benefit of an apostolic worker who came and spent  6 months with us teaching us and laying a proper foundation to ensure this does not happen.  

 When we come together in this meeting, we sing, we share testimonies, poems, events in our lives during the recent past where God has revealed Himself to us or spoken in some way to guide us.  We share scripture and sometimes take off on a discussion where all are free to share how they see Christ there.  We also have assignments, agreed upon in advance that encourage each of us to dig deeper, often with other brothers and sisters during the week to see more and more of Christ in the world around us and in each other.  We also eat, or as the word says, “break bread” together.  Body life is shared across the table from one another as we share our food with each other.   But there is more. 

We also are striving to spend quality time with each other outside of this Sunday meeting, during the week,  We have bi-weekly Brother’s Meetings and Sister’s Meetings during the week to get to know each other better and to seek the Lord in the ongoing life of the body.  We have meals with other, we go to movies with each other, we go bowling with each other and are constantly looking for new ways to experience the numerous “one anothers” found in scripture.  We are becoming more and more like family as we spend more and more time with each other.  We know and understand that none of us is perfect in this life and choose not to judge the heart and motives of anothers actions.  In all these things we seek to lift up Him who has brought us together.

2.  We have found ourselves in a situation in which the people we have begun to share this community life with admire and care about this Christ who is our ALL very much, but not as much as what we will -which will never be too much.  We all have questions – everyone in the world does.  We have come to understand that “Christ” is the answer to each and every question.  “Why am I here?”  Christ!  To be part of His expression and to honor Him.”   “Why do bad things happen to good people?”  Christ!  When a lost world excludes Christ and removes Him from the daily equation, bad things will happen not just to us but to those around us.  Many times Christ merely needs to point out, even to those that follow Him, that He is all we need and then allows us to be brought to a place where He is all we have.  Part of every equation is the answer.  Christ is the answer -  the only answer, so if we leave Him out all we have are questions. 

3.  I don't think we are a group of devoted supporters or fans of Christ.  Football teams have devoted supporters and fans.  Athletes have devoted supporters and fans.  Movie stars have devoted supporters and fans.  A Bridegroom has a bride and that is who the church is – who we are.  We seek to know this one true love and express our love back to Him.  We seek to die to self more and more so that His love might manifest itself through us to those around us – both in our group and in the world around us.  Knowing Who He is and who we are in Him is foundational to our revelation of Christ in everyday life.  While we are VERY devoted, we are His bride, not mere fans.


So, by pure definition we are NOT involved in a cult.  We are NOT a “religious” group.  We do NOT “care about” Christ too much, on the contrary – this side of eternity we will never be able to go overboard in demonstrating our love for Him.  We are NOT mere supporters or fans of our Lord – we are His bride. 

We are involved with a body of Christ-followers who wanted more Christ than what modern religion or denomination could offer and boldly stepped out of the religious box to find Him - and we have.   We have come a long way in our walk in the past three and a half years and we still have a long way to go.  But this “expression of Christ” that we now pursue is ‘organic’ – a living, breathing, growing organism that is full of life – His life.  Church, for us, is not a building, a place to go, a set of rules (“thou shalt” and “thou shalt not’s”) to follow to achieve God’s favor.  When my daughter-in-law married my son, she automatically had my favor.  I love her as my own daughter.  When my son gains his inheritance from me, she will share in that 100%.  When we become part of the church, His bride we automatically have the Father’s favor and will share in the Son’s inheritance 100%.  We will live with Him in eternity in His Father’s house – OUR Father’s house, not some shack  (in comparison) on a hillside.
For anyone wanting more information on what I am writing about here, please feel free to contact me and I can recommend multiple resources to help you find your way out of the box.  I don’t want to mislead anyone, so I do offer this disclaimer:

It is comfortable in the “box” of religion.  You show up, put in your time, put some green in the plate and then coast on to next week when you do the same.  Community life with other followers of Christ requires sacrificing self on a daily basis and can often be uncomfortable because you are not used to sharing life with these casual acquaintances you see in the pews once or twice a week.   If you want more of Christ, then all the sacrifice in the world seems like a bargain.  If you are just unhappy where you are and are looking for something new or different, then this is probably not for you.    For those of us that have tasted and seen the pure worth of this pursuit, there is no other option, no plan B, nothing else that will satisfy the hunger in our spirit.  For us, this is it!
If you want more Christ, there is more to be had.  But there is a cost.  Yes, salvation is free.  But in order to be filled with Christ one be emptied of self.  The more full of self you are the less room there is for Christ in your life.   The more self dies and withers away, the more room there is for Christ to come in and fill you. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

Book Review: "God's Favorite Place on Earth" by Frank Viola


Few books that I have read have had the impact that "God's Favorite Place On Earth" has had on the way I see Christ. For the majority of my Christian life Christ has been a distant Lord, watching and judging me as I stumble along in this journey. Frank Viola clearly illustrates a totally different - and accurate - picture of the Christ who dwells in us.

Bethany, while a historic community that was the home of Simon the Leper and the well known Mary, Martha and Lazarus, was also a place of rest and refuge for our Lord while He dwelt among us in His physical form. It was, in fact, from Bethany where the feet of Jesus last touched the dust of this world. In this book, Frank does an excellent job of communicating that Bethany is so much more than just a historical place and that the Lord still seeks Bethany today. In his unique (at least to my reading experience) approach to communicating the story, Frank uses a combination of actual scripture, dramatic interpretation and spiritual application to bring the reader to a place of being able to recognize Bethany as a place that still exists today. Yes, the book tells the story, but there's so much more here to be discovered.

Several points which stood out to me I would like to highlight, if I may. 

  • "While brokenness is difficult, it’s beautiful because it makes God look good. Your natural gifts draw attention to yourself while brokenness draws attention to your Lord. With this in mind, power is dangerous in the hands of an unbroken vessel."
Maybe we should think twice before questioning God when trials seem to overtake us.  Frank gives keen insight into the heart of Christ as He internally processed the sickness, death and call to resurrection of Lazarus.
  • "We live in a day where the popular idea behind ministry training is to focus on developing one’s gifts. Gift inventories, personality surveys, and strength indicator tests are the rage among those who want to be equipped for ministry today. But these kinds of tests set your eyes on your gifts. They put the focus on your strengths and your natural abilities. They make you the center of attention. However, the Lord is far more interested in your weaknesses than in your strengths. He’s interested in breaking you. Why? Because when there is less of you in the way, there is more room for Him to work."
If you have not experienced this type of gathering, you are missing out on what I feel is the Lord's heart for His bride.  A gathering where the Lord is released from the confines of religion and free to express Himself to reveal His glory and His heart.  These gatherings are out there if you really want to experience this.

  • "We live in a day where the popular idea behind ministry training is to focus on developing one’s gifts. Gift inventories, personality surveys, and strength indicator tests are the rage among those who want to be equipped for ministry today. But these kinds of tests set your eyes on your gifts. They put the focus on your strengths and your natural abilities. They make you the center of attention. However, the Lord is far more interested in your weaknesses than in your strengths. He’s interested in breaking you. Why? Because when there is less of you in the way, there is more room for Him to work."
 If you have spent any time in church, you have experienced this.  How refreshing to know that God is not interested in what WE can do, but rather what HE can do through us.

"God's Favorite Place On Earth" is well written, well documented and a well of insight into the heart of our Lord for His bride. It can easily be used for a group book study, daily devotional and would also make an excellent gift. It is a must-read for those who desire to know Christ deeper.   Many thanks to Frank for sending a copy of this powerful story to me to review.  This is one book that has definitely earned 5 Stars!

     

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Coming SOON!




Shortly, I will be receiving a review copy of God’s Favorite Place on Earth by Frank Viola. The book released May 1st and stayed in the top # 50 on Amazon.com for 8 straight days. There’s a lot of buzz about this book on the Web, and I’ll be writing a review after I read it.
Here are a few interesting nuggets about the book.
* It’s been recommended by 47 Christian authors, including John Ortberg, Jack Hayford, Leonard Sweet, Tricia Goyer, Mary DeMuth, Greg Boyd, Todd Hunter, Jon Acuff, Phil Cooke, and many others.
* There is an interesting video trailer for the book that introduces it.
* The book tells the story of Jesus in the little village of Bethany and the amazing things that happened there through the eyes of Lazarus. It combines biblical narrative, dramatization, theological insights, and nonfiction devotional teaching. It argues that “Bethany” was God’s Favorite Place on Earth and explains how every Christian and every church can be “Bethanys” today for God.
* The book addresses 18 specific struggles that Christians face today and offers hope, challenge, and fresh insight.
 
You can check all of this out at God’s Favorite Place on Earth and get the book on discount.

Friday, May 24, 2013

My Take on the Origins of Athiest and Agnostics





I think that most of those who profess to be atheist or agnostic have somewhere down the line been hurt, offended or injured by someone "claiming" to be a Christian.  Instead of seeing the fault in the person they attribute the fault of the person to Christ.   "If that is what this 'Jesus' is all about then I want nothing to do with Him or His religion" - can you blame them?   So many 'church members' experience this same thing - being hurt by those who call themselves Christians - even those in leadership positions within the institution.   All over the world you have men standing in pulpits every week telling their congregations that they must live their lives in a manner that even they, themselves are unable to do - how can we 'love those who persecute us', 'bless those who curse us', do good to those who do us harm'?   In our flesh, we cannot.   It is our nature to repel or even destroy those who do such things to us, our family or even our country.   The ONLY human being ever able to do this was Christ.   No one before and no one since.   Why then is it rammed down our throats that we must be "Christ-like", when in our flesh we have proven over the past 6 thousand years that we are unable to do so?   Can we, over the course of a lifetime, be successful in imitating the creator of the universe, proving ourselves to be "good enough"?   Seems to me all we will prove is what miserable failures we are in accomplishing this task. 

I have read and re-read the entire New Testament and no where have I found any command or instruction to try and 'be like Christ'.   Can we become omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent?  Paul said told us to be "imitators of God" and to walk in love as Christ loved us and gave Himself for us" (Ephesians 5).   Jesus gave the church one commandment to replace all of the others, including the two "greatest" commandments (Love the Lord and Love your neighbor as yourself) because He knew that, in our flesh, we would not be able to comply with even just these two, much less the whole of the Law and the Prophets.   He said, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another." (John 13:34) 

So, how can we do this?   How did Jesus do it?   How did He love 12 obstinate, stubborn, unbelieving men who fought between themselves, thought themselves to be more worthy than their friends to receive a place of honor in the Kingdom and left Him high and dry when things got tough?   He loved them with the indwelling love of His Father that looked past their faults into eternity.   It makes perfect sense then, that the only way we can obey this one command is by the indwelling love of Christ that does the same thing - looks past their sin and baggage and see the Christ in them from eternity to eternity. 

How can we do this?   By dying to self (crucifying MY wants, desires and agendas) and allowing the Christ IN me to love them through me.   Once I understood that I did not have that kind of love in my flesh I was able to not feel guilty for not being able to love the un-loveable.   I have learned to not judge others on their failure to keep the 10 commandments, because I know now that is not my responsibility.   Only GOD is able to judge and I certainly am NOT qualified to do His job. 

All that to say this: If everyone that call themselves "Christian" were to follow this one commandment - to love others as Christ loved us - what would the world see in His church?   They certainly would not see a bunch of hypocrites living selfish, judgmental lives telling all the "lost" people they if they don't get their lives in order that they will spend eternity in hell.   They will instead see Christ loving them through His body (the church) and be drawn to Him as a bride to her bridegroom. 

Who was it that Jesus warned about the dangers of hell?   Was it the drunks, tax collectors and prostitutes?   No.  (He hung out with them!)   It was the 'religious' people of the day - the 'church members', if you will.   All those that thought they were better than everybody else because they 'followed the rules'. (Luke 18:9-14).   If you are out there trying to be 'Christ-like', know that you are spinning your wheels trying to do something God does not require or expect you to do.   All He wants is for you to get out of His way so that He can do what only He can do in and through you.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Top 10 Things I Learned in 2012

1. If you are the most important person in your life then everyone else in your life will suffer.

2. The difference between telling someone that you love them and showing them that you love them is the difference between night and day.

3. My wife is an amazing person and I really do love her. (You might ask why I just learned this in 2012 – see # 1 & # 2).

4  Jesus was serious in Luke 9:23. It is NOT easy and the “daily” part is not optional. Dying to self is hard, but necessary. Doing it EVERY DAY is harder and even more necessary. Pride is puffed up and hard to swallow – but nailing it to the cross deflates it and makes it more manageable to choke down.

5. I am NOT qualified to judge your sin. That is God’s job and I have no business infringing into His responsibilities. The same goes for you.

6. Words are just like guns and motor vehicles. They are not inherently bad but when misused they can seriously injure others or worse. There are no bad words, just ordinary words used in a negative context to offend. Choose your words wisely and always to edify and build up – not to tear down.

7. I have two really cool kids who are engaged to two very special people who will become, in 2013, my son-in-law and daughter-in-law. I also have two very special grands that I love more than I ever thought I could. Their hugs make the darkest clouds dissipate and disappear.

8. Life is hard, is rarely fair and is filled with pitfalls. I can choose to sit back in my comfort zone and avoid most of the above problems and never reach my potential or I can choose to get out there in the middle of life, fight hard and overcome the unfairness and pitfalls and be more than I am now. What I won’t do is sit back and whine to all that will listen how miserable I am as the world caves in around me in my comfort zone.

9. A 50 year old man can FINALLY earn his bachelor’s degree while operating his own computer repair shop – and do so Magna Cum Laude. I don’t care if you have been out of school for 3 months or 30 years – if you want more get off your butt and go get it.

10. You don’t invite Christ “into your heart” to bind Him securely and force Him to be a spectator to your drama of a life. “Indwelling” should be synonymous with “in control” and if I am getting MY way in everything then that means He is not getting HIS way in anything.

I hope some of these things might help someone else have a revelation in 2013. I have found them all to be true and have changed my perspective on life accordingly.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Adoption Via Marriage

OUR MINDSET

In our Sunday morning meeting yesterday, we were discussing our place in Christ.  Scripture tells us we are "joint heirs" and "adopted" - Ephesians 1:4-6 reads, "For He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ for Himself, according to His favor and will, to the praise of His glorious grace that He favored us with in the Beloved."  I thought, "How does God the Father "adopt" us through His Son Jesus Christ - why not just adopt us right out?  If we are adopted children of God and joint heirs with Christ, would not God have to equally distribute His kingdom with ALL of His heirs?  Somehow this was not measuring up to the mindset I have held to for 40+ years.

CHANGE OF MIND

To wrap my head around this, I had to try and see this through God's eyes in light of His eternal purpose.  What has God always desired, from before time as we know it? 
  1. To have a permanent dwelling place in this, His creation.
  2. To have a physical expression of Himself within this creation and
  3. To provide for His Son a bride, holy and acceptable to Him.
I understand now that God accomplishes ALL of these purposes via the Church: 
  1. We are His dwelling place in this creation, living stones being built up together (1 Peter 2:4-5: "Coming to Him, a living stone—rejected by men but chosen and valuable to God - you yourselves, as living stones, are being built into a spiritual house for a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.").
  2. We are His physical body, visible to the world around us - the Body of Christ. (1 Corinthians 12:27: "Now you are the body of Christ, and individual members of it.") and
  3. We, the church, are the Bride of Christ. (Revelation 19:7: "Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.”
Jesus said: "I Am the Way, the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." (John 14:6)  According to Jesus, Himself, we cannot get to God the Father EXCEPT through Christ.  I am good with that.  So, how do I get "adopted" by God through His Son Jesus?  Only through marriage!  When Christ becomes one with His bride (the church - of which we  are only a part) then the church will become one with the Son.  Then she (we) will be the daughter of God the Father, by marriage and a joint heir with her Bridegroom who inherits all that her glorious Husband inherits from His Father.  No splitting the inheritance - but joint ownership between the two (Christ and His Bride) who have become one.  We, the church will find our favor with the Father ONLY because of our relationship with the Son of the Father.  Not because of pity that God feels "sorry" for us.  Not because of responsibility to take care of His creation.  Only because of the great love the Father has for His Son and the object of the Son's affections - His bride.

1 John 5:11-12 says it this way: "And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.  He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life."  God did not give His Son because it was the only way - He did it because it was the best way He could demonstrate His love for us.  He could have done anything He wanted, but He chose love.  The marriage relationship, adoption via marriage!