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.