Nothing They Plan to Do Will Be Impossible

Doing the impossible sounds like something God would cheer for, right? However, this phrase was actually recorded as a spiritual concern in Genesis 11:6. It seems that mankind had sought to reach the heavens by way of a large tower in the plain of Shinar. You may know the story as the Tower of Babel.

Babel of course references the confusion of languages, thought necessary by the host of heavens to stop these post Deluge entrepreneurs, who interestingly were using “brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar.” Perhaps the flood in Noah’s day had proven the efficacy of tar, though not sure when brick making came into being. Perhaps it began in the building of the great city of Nineveh referenced in Chapter 10. It seemed that mankind was finally regrouping after leaving the Ark in Noah’s day.

So why this heavenly intervention, and if such a world changing event, why only nine verses tucked away in the entire Pentateuch? First it seems contrary to the positive desire for God’s people to prosper, at least based on the message of today’s pulpits. Secondly, if that was not the case, what was the reason for the confusing? Perhaps to scatter families for their good, now clustered in such a space that extreme vertical construction had become a goal. Most likely however, to create a pause in their lives for a spiritual adjustment? I find that to be necessary for me when I get carried too away with my own enterprises!

What interests me more is that just after Christ’s resurrection, at Pentecost, a common language was restored by way of the church.  Could the church have finally been able to communicate with every tribe and tongue by way of the Spirit? Speaking in unknown tongues was introduced by the Spirit with no limitation on the church apart from the Roman government. It is interesting that within 300 years the government would negotiate a more acceptable means than persecution and once more institutional religion, which Jesus had contested with his own life, was on top again.

As a fourth generation Pentecostal, I know the beauty of a prayer language and the phenomenal prophetic edge that a message in tongues to an unbeliever can bring…particularly if delivered in a language the hearer recognizes but knows to be foreign to the speaker.  Of course all done in order, with an interpretation or Word of Knowledge delivered in sync.

Most churches no longer accommodate such bizarre spiritual interludes for fear of loss of income and attendance. God’s intention at Pentecost was surely not just another religious denomination. Perhaps tongues, signs and wonders were a means of bringing the Gospel message to a people eventually reunified, “His Kingdom come, His will be done, on Earth as it is in heaven?” Then, a New Heaven and a New Earth brought about through the unity of His creation?

Was Babel a hiatus in the plan, until righteousness could be restored through the Son of God Himself? Have we as Pentecostals stopped far short of our heritage, while the institutional church still kicking and screaming has for the most part become irrelevant?

Is our postmodern culture now more self-assured than even in Babel’s day, convinced that nothing is impossible through the common language created by technology?

If so, stats like the following cause me pause, when culture and the church seem content to leave “the least of these” behind, right here in my own county: Children under 18 living in high poverty census tracts, 52%; Living in concentrated poverty census tracts, 30%!(1)

Thank God there are those, like Love Out Loud(2),  who desire a better country, “whom God is not ashamed to be called their God.” (Hebrews 11:16 NIV).  Men and women engaging as never before in true marketplace demonstration of the Spirit.  Their lives and hearts focused with Christ on those left behind by a world that now seems maddened by success, greed and power.

Selah!

1 http://www.forsythfutures.org/indicators/com-indicators.html

2 http://www.loveoutloudws.com/

Posted in Being Loved, Church Foreclosure, hope, Institutional Church, Leadership, Political posturing, Post Christian, Press on, Prophecy, Reformation, scripture, Spiritual Revolution, Transformation | Leave a comment

A Camel In Our Tent?

This ancient proverb has been on my mind since early Friday, after hearing the story of a leader in his fifties. He fortunately had heeded cautions offered to him early on in life. The reference is to what can occur when one let’s down their spiritual guard. I find it applies both individually and corporately.

This sage advice is a reinterpretation of the ancient caution offered to Cain in Genesis 4:7; ironically the text of my reading this morning. When one’s heart is not attentive to the Spirit, distracted perhaps by unconquered temptations, “if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.” (NIV).

Unlike the gentleman who shared with us, I know what it is like to share life with a camel. It usually begins when we sense the nuzzling of the beast around our tent. Annoying perhaps, but occasionally we pat its warm moist nose as it nudges the underneath our spirit; always in strategic places, where life has made us vulnerable. That stubbornly intrusive nose once petted is only encouraged, and the beast then pushes a little further into our camp. Eventually unless conquered, one finds the camel inside their “living quarters” and from there on, life becomes about managing the camel for the sake of the tent.

Perhaps the experience with my own camel, has made me more sensitive to the odor of the beast?

I truly find it interesting that God would speak to my spirit as often as it seems. Could that be God’s way of working evil (my sin) for the good? I know I will get push back from the more righteous and even offers for needed deliverance, but I will take that risk.

“In 2007, there were 227 million adults in the United States, and a little more than 78% of them – or roughly 178 million – identified as Christians. Between 2007 and 2014, the overall size of the U.S. adult population grew by about 18 million people, to nearly 245 million.7 But the share of adults who identify as Christians fell to just under 71%, or approximately 173 million Americans, a net decline of about 5 million.”1

Those of you who have been reading long enough may know that my mornings are an intense use of time from scripture reading, social media, emails and of course the local newspaper. That then transcends to what I might pray about before re-entering the community to which I am called. This morning as I read the statistic cited above, just on the heels of my current scripture read in Genesis, the title still resonating from Friday, I could not help but go to my workstation and “think out loud,” the nature of my blog.

I had also had read an editorial by a local teacher, Stuart Egan, proudly from my own community:

“One in five children in North Carolina lives in poverty and many more have other pressing needs that affect the ability to learn. Some students come to school just to be safe and have a meal. But imagine if students came to school physically, emotionally, and mentally prepared to learn.”2

Stuart’s passionate plea for help in the classroom was starkly on point per my thoughts and given another report on Executive salaries. 3 Some total compensation ranging above one million per month, though only a portion of that received as cash, perhaps for tax purposes.

My objective is not to throw stones at those who have learned how to make capitalism work, but to simply pose a question for my readers. The church is in decline while our national security is on high alert (ISIS now regularly in the headlines).   Our schools are struggling with a bourgeoning population of young lives, full of potential but grossly underfunded or the model broken.  Meanwhile, the economic gap between the haves and the have-nots widens.

America, is there a camel in our tent?

1 http://www.pewforum.org/2015/05/12/americas-changing-religious-landscape/

2 http://www.journalnow.com/opinion/columnists/stuart-egan-teachers-are-not-the-root-of-the-problem/article_2cd9c780-f9a4-11e4-9fa3-3fde506a82e1.html

3 http://www.journalnow.com/business/business_news/local/base-salaries-account-for-smaller-portion-of-total-compensation-for/article_ca97700e-6437-5aa7-b9eb-cf778e3edb0b.html

Posted in Being Loved, Church Foreclosure, hope, Institutional Church, Leadership, Political posturing, Post Christian, Press on, Prophecy, Reformation, scripture, Spiritual Revolution, Transformation | Leave a comment

Life Still Unfolds Whether We Like It or Not

It has been a while since the cacophony which I call life has moved me to write. Each morning feels somewhat like I would perceive the life of a groundhog, peeking up from his hole in a moment of discernment. Should he move further into the day or duck back down into dormancy? Yet in his gut is the gnawing hunger for more of what he found outside the hole the day before, so he pursues life once more.

I find this somewhat different than my earlier years, when I truly sprang from the bed, grabbed life by the throat with a passion, intent on strangling every ounce out of every day. I actually didn’t desire more sleep but when I did sleep, I got more rest. Something is happening that I cannot deny. Even those around me are adapting.

I am not proud of what is happening, for it is not what I would have ever aspired to, nor dreamed that I would concede to. My wife contends with a sharper tone in my response, my daughter, a more hurried attention, as I move from minute to minute. I sense it, but seem unable to change the next time around. This may be God’s strategy behind grandkids, for John Luther can shut it all down with one look and a smile.

The pressure is actually less than before, yet now seems greater than I know it truly is. The pull at my leisure time is greater as well, for I have more people in my life, more things do and a growing awareness of less time with which to do them.

This morning, I have the privilege of going fishing with my kid brother. The time has been long planned, since his recent hospitalization. His life is now on the upswing from a near death experience. Yes, he is a senior citizen as well!

Simultaneously, I am reading a book that seems to be speaking to my generation. “Being Mortal” by Atul Gawande. The author confronts his readers with the reality that we have lost sight of our humanity. Longevity has become our pursuit, supported by a trade that was once more guided by the Hippocratic Oath than the financially incentivized “managed care.”

Meanwhile, a similar morphing has occurred in the institutional church. Repeated feedback from the next generation demonstrates a deep need for transformation, society reinforcing our failure. Our generation has acquired more wealth, enjoyed more toys than any before, and yet done far less than the former at making the globe safer and more accommodating for all.

In case the reader is growing concerned, there is a refreshing fountain in my life, the scriptures. They continue to bring hope each morning, with a much simpler message than religion has made it out to be. Here, I find a retreat, an untapped reservoir of understanding for the complexities of life. How can that be, given that I have read this same book so many times?

How do I unpack what I have learned, benefit those whom I most love and reserve time for the relationships that are so dear?

It’s time to go fishing again!

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The Gift of Alone-ness

This morning began early as I awoke even before 4:00. Early morning restlessness is not uncommon among the elderly and is often shaken off, slumber regained. That was not the case this morning.

Today was jammed packed from what seemed like necessary appointments, all meaningful to my life personally and professionally. I would have plenty of time to get my morning devotionals behind me, even communicate back with a few on line late night requests, made after I had left for bed around 10:30. I would then hit the road for a day overly scheduled.

Yet in one of those slots was a request to spend time with a dear servant of God, home from the mission field. She, her husband and now five children, the youngest born in May of 2014, had been serving The Shan Dai peoples in Thailand. They just received a most devastating prognosis regarding the lumpectomy that had become her reason for returning from the field early this year. The longer I considered her need and the power of prayer, the more I realized that my calendar needed to be free from distractions both before my visit, so I could pray, and after so as not be rushed!

Why go over and mumble words of prayer, without the full presence of mind and spiritual capacity to shift the forces of evil that have come against her. I would need to spend time with the Lord, if my time with her was to avail anything other than friendship. This young servant of God deserves much more and in fact needs a visit from the God of Lazarus.

These words may sound strange, even radical to the American Christian but there is a God in heaven and we do have access to Him through Christ Jesus. We have been instructed to pray, to wait upon the Lord so that He might renew our strength. When we desire to be a part of the supernatural, we have to move above our own strength and that can only come through prayer.

It was during my prayer time that I began to realize the gift that her challenge would soon bring into my life. I found myself pouring out my heart before the Lord, my heart broken and tears flowing. During these precious moments, I realized how few people must even know this as an option. In fact, perhaps my reason for writing this is the realization of just how long it had been since I cleared my calendar from all the good things that clutter my life and really sought after the Lord.

The last thing I want is to be misinterpreted. My highest purpose in writing is to just express the joy of being alone with the Lord and the difficulty of getting there. Missing my standard Friday morning meeting with NCS was not a tough decision because the speaker will also be with us tonight. Cancelling my 9:00 real estate listing was just as simple, another broker could handle that. The long scheduled out of town lunch to celebrate a dear business friend’s honor was admittedly more difficult; she has always been there for me! She too understood.

Having done all that, I was ready to engage in prayer. Once into my place of prayer and given the urgency of the need for my friend, I began to pour out my heart before the Lord. It was there that I realized how difficult it is to get alone with God. Not just being alone in a room, but getting alone! Escaping life and making the connection, spirit to spirit, so vital for effectual fervent prayer. That is no easy task. I am not even sure but what it may take a lifetime, perhaps generations to fully understand prayer.

Am I truly so blessed having been raised by those who believed in prayer, practiced prayer, and demonstrated the power of prayer? Now, to have the grace to know how to get there myself?

I think so! May I practice it more! It’s not about all that I do for others that counts in this world. It is about learning who He is, and how to become like Him, even suffering with Him and His own.

We then occasionally experience an other world with Him. That was my privilege this morning.

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A New Place

This weekend has been quite a wakeup call for me spiritually. It all began with my participation in a very strategic planning process with a group of fellow Christ-followers. I then participated in a very enlightening community gathering around the topic of marriage, primarily with Christians, but from a much broader context than ever before. Not only were there pastors and congregants from the full spectrum of traditional American Christianity, but also a representative of a culture foreign to most in the room. It was eye opening to connect the dots around at least three approaches to co-habitation: the government’s definition of marriage; culture’s definition of marriage and that of the church. The interesting phenomena were the variants within each.

All this was sandwiched between a growing awareness of the doctrinal shift in my own life. As well, I must mention my daily exposure to my wife’s convincingly radiant demonstration of Christ’s love, though some would see her bent as “hyper-grace.” I must say her love for others, as our neighbors and friends daily attest, is convincingly like Jesus!

Mornings of late have begun with the writings of Paul to Timothy and now Titus. My personal reading from scripture has for some time been conjoined with a daily reflection on the writings of Paul by a Franciscan monk by the name of Richard Rohr. Rohr, if you are not familiar with him, is a Franciscan friar ordained to the priesthood in the Roman Catholic Church in 1970.

He writes in today’s devotional, “The first stone temple of the Jewish people was built around 950 BC. On the day of the dedication of “Solomon’s Temple,” the shekinah glory of Yahweh (fire and cloud from heaven) descended and filled the Temple (1 Kings 8:10-13), just as it had once filled the Tent of Meeting (Exodus 40:34-35). This became the assurance of the abiding and localized divine presence of Yahweh for the Jewish people. This naturally made Solomon’s Temple both the center and centering place of the whole world, in Jewish thinking.

When the Babylonians tore down the Temple and took the Jews into exile (587 BC), it no doubt prompted a crisis of faith. The Temple was where God lived! So Ezra, Nehemiah, and Jeremiah convinced the people that they must go back to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple so God can be with them again. N.T. Wright points out there is no account of the fire and glory of God ever descending on this rebuilt temple (515 BC). This “Second Temple” is the only temple Jesus would have ever known and loved.

The absence of visible shekinah glory must have been a bit of an embarrassment and worry for the Jewish people. Wright says it could explain the growth of Pharisaism, a belief strong in Jesus’ time that if they obeyed laws more perfectly–absolute ritual, priesthood, and Sabbath purity–then the Glory of God would return to the Temple. This is the common pattern in moralistic religion: our impurity supposedly keeps Yahweh away. They tried so hard, but the fire never descended. They must have wondered, “Are we really God’s favorite and chosen people?” (This is a common question for all in early stage religion.)

Knowledge of this history now gives new and even more meaning to what we call Pentecost Sunday (Acts 2:1-13). On that day, the fire from heaven descended, not on a building, but on people! And all peoples, not just Jews, were baptized and received the Spirit (Acts 2:38-41). Paul understood this and drew out the immense consequences. He loved to say, “You are that Temple!”1

That rather long insertion from Rohr seemed necessary this morning, and as well, in that my entry into church culture came by way of a Pentecostal pastor. I met this pastor at a community prayer breakfast shortly after my “living room” experience with God in 1973. I was only about a year into my walk with God after a ten year hiatus from the church. This man’s extraordinary walk with God, and the powerful manifestations of God evident in his testimony, struck a chord with me.

Another, piece of information for my readers, my family was third generation Pentecostal, so this pastor’s profession of healings and miraculous interventions by the Holy Spirit were not foreign to me.

It seemed that I was finally living into what Rohr continues to “tease out” of church history: God’s intention to redeem His Creation and in fact live intimately within each being. This logic is found in scriptural phrases such as: “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?” (I Cor. 3:16 NIV); “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col. 1:27 NIV).

Alongside my new found mentor, I would experience many phenomenal “God Moments” in my early Christian walk. In one case, perhaps the most dramatic, an elderly gentleman was literally raised out of a near comatose state. I had gone to the hospital to pray for him, in obedience to the Spirit. After a simple prayer, the man sat straight up in his hospital bed. When asked “what had happened” by his already grieving, would be widow, the first words from his lips were, “The Lord has come over me.”

Moments like that seemed the norm as I enjoyed the benefits of walking in the Spirit as a new believer, local school teacher and community citizen. However, it wasn’t long into my formal church experience, with leadership opportunities offered both locally and nationally, that I began to see the political back scene that builds within any institution. As a younger and less experienced leader, I always justified what I watched the “elders” do as necessary for the sake of unity and continued propagation of “The Gospel.”

Today, as an older believer, I find myself in a much different place. This place seems to require a measure of truth-telling on my part that is becoming quite uncomfortable. One friend describes it as an “inconvenient love.” His thoughts come from his reflection on Calvary, a place of suffering, exposing a rare requirement of love and compassion, captured in Jesus’ words from the cross: “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”

Titus 2:2 (NIV) offers the recommendation that “the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.” That is certainly my aspiration, but the discomfort of truth telling and my growing internal struggle seems oddly contrarian to this honored passage. Surely, there were men in my younger days, both of the character described by Titus and of sufficient maturity to have discerned the challenges that now lay just beneath the surface of the institutional church. Perhaps, they simply did not speak up. If they did, I missed their message and thus find myself embedded in an institution sorely in need of transformation.

As each day passes, though our cities are well exposed to the leadership of our churches and her congregants, many who profess a spirit-filled experience, our nation continues its political and moral drift. Racial injustice abounds and now religious radicalism literally lifts the heads of our fellowman in many parts of the globe.

Meanwhile, we continue to gather in silos, pouring billions into facilities that for the most part are seldom used apart from staff offices and the occasional warehousing of children. This sounds harsh and even perhaps hypocritical, for I know the benefits of child care and even Christian education. The finest is often found within our churches. In fact, my own dear grandson is provided for by one of the best.

Meanwhile, parents, at least among those with whom I gathered this weekend, struggle for sanity, as they work to provide means for their children. Their life is driven by the mass marketing of materialism that has engulfed our nation’s psyche. That too is compounded by the technological revolution, with its myriad of devices that rape families of relationship, playtime and in many cases, their very imagination.

The Huffington Posts reports: “Free time” for kids has been steadily declining since the 1950s. In one particular study, from 1981 to 1997, kids experienced a 25 percent decrease in play time and a 55 percent decrease in time talking with others at home. In contrast, time spent on homework increased by 145 percent, and time spent shopping with parents increased by 168 percent.”

“A research project by Jean Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State, looked at psychological trends in youth during a similar period and noticed a sharp increase in anxiety and depression. Our kids are more stressed out than before. And that’s not the only change. Another Twenge study shows a surprising shift in motivation over the years, with kids in the 60s and 70s reporting being more motivated by intrinsic ideals (self-acceptance, affiliation and community) while kids today are more motivated by extrinsic ideals (money, image and fame).” 2

Not sure if I have arrived at a good place, certainly not a comfortable place. Both change and comfort begin with “C’s” but neither can occur in the same moment! My new place, though not comfortable is perhaps necessary to stir up the grace that dwells within those vessels wherein the Spirit does live!

The Church triumphant has never been one that could be contained in walls, nor remain irrelevant to its culture. Neither has it been static in its model. Perhaps she too is in a New Place and though Christ’s love is never convenient, it is quite necessary given the challenges facing this globe!

1 http://campaign.r20.constantcontact.com/render?ca=7ff2eee8-2a69-48a2-841e-91640c14c09e&c=d34a34d0-eef9-11e3-b593-d4ae52754b78&ch=d4304f10-eef9-11e3-b60f-d4ae52754b78

2 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/scott-dannemiller/the-one-question-every-parent-should-quit-asking_b_6182248.html

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Needy

This morning has been absolutely amazing. I arose early, though not unusual these days. However, when I walked outside to pick up the newspaper, things seemed almost primordial. It was somewhat overcast, the air filled with a fine mist but not enough to cause one to feel concern for the rain. I had to stand for a while in the darkness of the driveway, just to contemplate the serendipity of what I was now a part of. Getting up early has its beautiful moments.

Interesting to me was that I had to touch the plastic wrap on the newspaper to determine that it was in fact misting. I then came back inside to do my scripture reading, now in the Book of Timothy. I’ll sound even more dramatic here, but it suddenly seemed that same environment was now present within my soul. I had been set up by creation. This was going to be a good day in the Lord!

Paul’s letter to Timothy is such sound instruction for those coming into the faith, and perhaps for the many Millennials now trying to figure out the faith? Both seem to be my focus of late. Aging has brought on an awareness of the duty we seniors owe toward those coming behind. I daily pray that God would give me the courage to talk about things which I have learned, that are not new, but because of their perceived potential to unseat the status quo upon which our institutions are anchored, few men will share openly. Yet, there is really nothing new under the Sun. “Do justice, love mercy and walk humbly” if I may paraphrase the prophet, Micah. Nothing new, but something difficult for every age!

After my trip through First Timothy, I offered a prayer of thanksgiving for the richness of God’s Word, its very preservation and ever emerging revelation a true mystery.  After my devotions, I often simply flip through this precious leather backed companion.  This morning, I noted an earlier underlining in I Corinthians 15:56. “The sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” I needed that!

Of late the ole ticker at times offers faint reminders of my aging; even my eyes are becoming more difficult to focus. As well, I have just walked through a bout with a virus brought home from daycare by my wife after she picked up our new grandson. It is not pretty when ole people get new people illnesses!

What triggered this morning’s blog post was when I glanced across to the next page, II Corinthians 1:3. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles….” Bam! There it was again, the faithfulness of God! With this I walked down into my basement office, opened the sliding door, and flipped the mouse to awaken my word processor.

As the door opened to an emerging sunrise, my magical outdoor setting had by now become even more enchanting. This time the woods that surround the rear of our home resonated with the songs of hundreds of birds, each singing their song to the “top of their lungs.” I had to walk outside once more and literally lift my hands in Thanksgiving.
As I stood looking around at the blessings God has given us, I wept in praise and the awareness of His Presence. It was then that I sensed my true neediness, though accompanied by an “in the moment present-ness” I had not felt for some time.

It has been almost seven years since December 28, 2008, when I received a “word” about the church in foreclosure; along with a promise, that if I would repent, He would reposition and replenish my life. My life has been almost a blur since that moment. Now, after a hard push through seven years of politics and community service, multiple transitions in my approach to church leadership, several attempts at start-up businesses, and the wedding of my only daughter.  Shall I mention again  the life changing experience with a first grandson?  Perhaps I have finally realized what God meant in ’08!

If I would repent, He would reposition me, not in the church, the community, or even financially, though each of those arenas has surely been touched upon. His word to me has been so amazingly reinforced by this morning’s mist-filled moments. The repositioning was to be in Christ, alone. The replenishing not of my purse, but my soul! Perhaps all my neediness was necessary in order to understand what I already had in Him.

It’s good to come home and like the Prodigal, no longer needy!

Posted in Church Foreclosure, hope, Institutional Church, Leadership, Post Christian, Press on, Prophecy, Reformation, scripture, Spiritual Revolution, Transformation | 1 Comment

The Mystery

This morning as I read through the Book of Colossians, I was confronted with the reality of aging in Christ while within a religious body. Institutionalism is quite real, not only organizationally but individually.

Being a part of a Body is Biblical and not always bad.  In fact, there are times when one needs body life to survive the complexities that often take hold of our hearts and minds. After all, we are given to the tendency of falling into behaviors that do less than glorify God. By the way, that is the generic definition of sin, quite less specific than the list of rules for sinners that we, in Body life, often come up with over time!

The flip side is that the longer we are within a body, all of which have their own “pickings and choos’ins of sin,” the more we tend to focus on the “law” of that body. Yet, our only objective should be to “make known the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”1

Though there is debate as to who wrote the epistle, the author (most believe to be Paul) was addressing what apparently had happened over time to this small town outside of Laodicea. It seems that “while on a visit to Ephesus, a young man from Colossae named Epaphras evidently heard the gospel from Paul and was converted. It appears that he was not only saved, but that he was trained and prepared by Paul to go back and plant a church in his hometown of Colossae (1:7; 4:12).2  Apparently, sometime later, as often seems the case, they had begun to act differently than in their early days, reverting back to the rules that evolved within that particular community.

Paul reminds them that “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.”3

This was the point in my read that began my introspection and renewed desire to “think out loud” with my readers. I now have been a member of a local church and in fact, with one denomination for over 40 years. As well intended as we always are, our belief system can hardly avoid being skewed by the imbedded thoughts of broken men and women in leadership within any organization.  I’m not throwing rocks at church leadership, but broken is all we got as humans!

This morning, as I lay my life experience up against the words of this epistle, it became markedly obvious that of late, less of my life has been about the celebration of freedom that I once knew in Christ.  More it now seems is given to smoothing out the wrinkles of Church life; struggling to keep one foot in the institution, while truly making an impact for Christ within the real world. That can soon jade one’s joy.

The night of January 3, 1973 that I was “circumcised” in Christ, not some “harsh treatment of the body” (Col 2:23 NIV) but rather a glorious liberty from my then ultra-sinful nature, I could hardly wait to share my experience. In fact, my first phone call to a friend resulted in an inquiry as to “what I might be smoking!”

That experience in Christ led to a new framing of my life with a “joy unspeakable,” out of which would flow a more natural love than I had ever known; bringing with it an apparently contagious desire for a similar life among many of my friends. I must also add that most had been raised in church, my wife for one, yet had not known such love. Sure there was some rejection by those who loved sin more than life! Yet even so, I recall a heart of understanding rather than a mutual discord.

I can remember the early days, when we might do something that to the religious would appear stupid, but to us it was an easy repentance and a fast rebound. We had few to impress, as we were still unchurched; yet among those few there was an intimacy and transparency. We were walking into an unknown; in fact, music meant far more to us than scripture, though at that time, the Living Bible was a welcome translation to the KJV!

The mystery that I write about is very similar to the common jargon in Paul’s letters, this time from the KJV: “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?”4 How does one, once so gloriously set apart to Christ, over time revert to religion, which is such a poor substitute for intimacy with Christ?

Many of the Millennials now in my life have made this even more evident and their declining numbers in the institutional church may indicate that they see this much more clearly than we old folk!

1 Colossians 1:27b (NIV).
2 https://bible.org/seriespage/background-colossians
3 Colossians 2:13-14 (NIV).
4 Galatians 3:1 (KJV).

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