Among the Barbarians…

I’m done. Finally. The withdrawal period from Churchianity ran its course awhile ago.

If your church teaches things I don’t agree with, I don’t care. You will believe what you want to believe and you will see what you want to see. I no longer feel a need to create a blog post regarding something that I see as “incorrect” with the church. I no longer feel the urge to engage in an argument over the same stuff all the time on Facebook. What’s funny to me is that I notice people still argue over the same things: tithing, worship, dress code, alcohol, cussing, legalism, etc., ad infinitum.

Literally, same shit, different day.

It reminds me of the song lyrics of “What it’s worth” which go, “Singing songs and carrying signs. Mostly say, hooray for our side”. That’s what it feels like and I just don’t care anymore. It’s a big joke and I’m not laughing anymore. Not even going to listen to the same old lines.

Literally zero fucks given.

 

Here’s the thing: I want the real thing. The real Christianity. I haven’t found it. I’ve seen glimmers of it, like the sun being reflected off the water in a fast flowing stream. Here one moment, gone the next, here again, gone again. The closest thing I have come to in regards to a real “picture” of our Lord and Savior, our Elder Brother, our One True Reflection of the Father, is in the book “Beautiful Outlaw” and in the audio series “The Life of Jesus”, both by John Eldredge. On the whole, they are a “retelling” of the Gospels. It’s the most riveting description of Jesus that makes me want the real thing. I’m not saying it’s 100% accurate, either. There are things I don’t necessarily agree with him on in his writings, or teachings, however he has been a great help over the years. This isn’t a book review. This isn’t even to praise John Eldredge. I mention those things here on the off-chance that you even care about what I am getting at.

You see, I don’t see that Jesus being discussed and shared in the Institutional Church. When I was a leader, I tried to bring that Jesus in. Some took to it, the majority didn’t. They wanted gentle lover, school boy, creepy religious Jesus. Enough, it’s not about that.

Inside and outside the Institutional Church has profited me about the same, spiritually, within being outside profiting me slightly more. Why? All I know is that I know enough to know that I have more planks in my eyes than I thought I did when I was in the IC.

Let me try it this way.

The early converts to Christianity from Ireland used to call the Holy Spirit, ‘The Wild Goose’. Because the call of the Wild Goose was haunting and to follow it over the moors and foggy areas into the Wild could be dangerous. Forgive me if I am slightly inaccurate here, just stay with me. In ancient Greece, the term “barbarian” could refer to anyone of a different culture. In Roman times, it was used for many peoples, Germanics, Celts and Gauls to name a few. They were the people “outside” the protection and borders of the empire. Outside the city gates.

Those outside the gates of the IC are barbarians.

I don’t hear any semblance of the call of the Wild Goose inside the borders of the “kingdom” of the IC. Once outside the city walls and in barbarian territory, venturing ever outward, away from the IC, I could barely, barely hear it carried on the wind.

Does the word picture make sense?

I want the real thing. The real Jesus of Nazareth. I know more “of” Him than I actually “know” Him. Do you know him or are you just leaning on your theological degree, or your latest euphoric worship experience? Just because we know His words in the Gospels doesn’t mean we know him. Do you know him like you know your best friend, or your close neighbor, or your brother?

Isn’t that the offer? To know Him?

Why would He say, “I never knew you.”, if that wasn’t the offer.

And honestly, it should scare the living shit out of us that we do not know Him!

I think I am looking for a different kingdom, a different city. Where the battle hardened soldier and the young choir boy can agree on the character and nature of Christ, because they know Him. Where the career criminal and the old lady who sits in the second row of your church can relate to each other about their experience of Jesus, because they know Him.

It’s probably out there, amid the lands of the barbarians. And I am content being out here in the wild, among barbarians for now. To paint another word picture: Their lives are unfettered, their communities are close-knit, their words are true, their mead is good, their feasting is magnificent and their tattoos are pretty damn epic.

The truth is that none of us escape this life alive. The only one that we know of that has come back from the grave is the one we place our mustard seed of faith in. And all we know is that He is preparing a place for us.

That’s it.

You and I have to deal with this black wall of Mortality that creeps ever closer to us each and every day. Not a single one of us knows the day that we will meet our end. We just know it’s coming. And if we are truly honest with each other and ourselves. We would admit that none of us, not a single one, can see past that curtain. You don’t get to. I personally suspect anyone who boasts of being able to see through that curtain as trying to manipulate or sell me something.

If He truly is preparing a place for us, then we need to know him. Really know him. He would be our only glimpse of what is over there and only because He came back.

I can’t settle for anything less than actually knowing Him.

Really.

I can’t waste my time on anything less.

I won’t.

A bit cynical…

I’ll admit, I am a bit cynical with the way “church” is in the institution. This “jaded” view comes from 12+yrs of my own adult experience in two separate churches, knowing the drama behind the scenes at both places.

Add to that, looking at scripture and seeing things ENTIRELY different from how the pastor is preaching.

Add to that, comparing notes with many, many others (some still in the institution and some not) on the goings on behind the scenes at their churches, their experiences and what they are seeing in scripture vs what their pastors are preaching and you start to see a pattern.

Then add observations of fake baptism shenanigans by Furtick and others inspired by him in order to help promote “spontaneous” baptisms.

Heap on that multiple large named preachers/teachers/evangelists using fear and intimidation as tools to keep “their” sheep in check… 

Add to that when I say: Christ is enough! People quickly agree but then just as quickly add their “yeah, but…” and add everything else back on…

Add to that when I ask questions like these…

Why are you not satisfied with the simplicity of the Gospel?
Why must you heap on the extra bells and whistles (or in some cases Shofars and Angel Dust)?
Why do you believe that you must bribe God with worship for His Presence?
Why do you believe that you must pay-off God to bless you?
Why do you let one woman or one man (or both) have exclusive rights to tell you what God is saying or not saying to you?
Why do you let these same people have exclusive rights to interpret the Bible for you?
Why do you disregard and ignore historical fact in your end-times views?
Why do you believe that a “sinner” can negatively “rub off” on you or diminish “your” anointing when the Anointed One (Christ) never had that problem and His Spirit lives in you?
Why do you hold a nation or race above others spiritually when Christ has made all equal in Him? (Yes I speak of Israel)
Why do you believe that the Spirit of God in you is not enough?

…there isn’t a response and they just keep plodding along…refusing the red pill and taking as many blue pills as they can with their shot glass of grape juice.

Is it any wonder why I am so cynical? Is it any wonder why more and more people are drawing a line in the sand, saying ENOUGH and leaving the institution? 

After confronting for myself, the ways things were taught to me (and so many others) vs what scripture is telling me, trying to keep ego at bay and honestly, objectively look at scriptures and seeing certain things taught as false (hence many of the Sacred Cows I’ve grilled)… one starts to wonder: What else is false?

I’m not necessarily looking for the false, mind you, well not any more. But I am definitely keeping a guarded stance and cynical eye at anything coming out of the institution.

It reminds me of the problems the early church fathers had. They battled and confronted time and again people trying to add to, water down or further complicate the simplicity and power of the Gospel. I am not them, and I do not think I am that type of influence on the culture. I just wonder how they kept on? What would they think of everything we have now… from catalogues to order everything from communion wafers and trays to books on “7 ways to hear God’s voice” (a random title but I am sure there is one just like that…wasn’t intentionally pointing that out)? From shepherding the growing body of believers in the beginning, would they really be pleased, at all, with what they would see now if they were able to?

I think we’d be put to shame if we were to get a talking to by some “unknown” believers in beginnings of the church, not to mention how much of a tongue-lashing we’d get from Paul! We bicker and squabble over the smallest things (some of which I’ve taken part in just recently). We make big things small and the small things big. We don’t love unless they are “one of us”, we project an ego of “elitism” and are afraid to go to the world and love them.

Even though I am trying, I know I would be found lacking in love and patience, for example. I do extend it as often as I should, and I am aware of that.

However, I have zero faith that the answer, no, The Source of what I need is found in the institution. Regardless of how many of my brothers and sisters in The Body congregate there.

Within the deepest parts of me, all I want is Christ. Nothing more.

Sigh… end rant.

Serving Sliders of Sacred Cow

Recently, I’ve been posting short little snippets over on the LITQM Facebook page. I lovingly refer to them as “Sacred Cow Sliders”. They aren’t the large, BBQ pit-master meals that I’ve served up over here, just small little snacks.  Here are the recent ones.

“Beware the description of a Pastor as “First among equals”. It is telling to see that this is “primus inter pares” in Latin, why Latin? Well this very title (yes, title) was given to Roman Emperors… things that make you go hmmm…” ~07/28/2014
 
 
“That’s funny, I don’t recall the apostles charging a substantial fee for the Gospel or for their disciples to learn about living in The Way, praying, being led of the Spirit, performing miracles, etc.” ~07/27/2014
 
 
“If you are focusing on receiving the anointing of Elijah or Elisha or John The Baptist or one of the Apostles you’re doing it wrong. Jesus is called THE Anointed One for a reason. try focusing on your namesake and what He has done for you for a change. #youarecalledCHRISTianforareason #otherpeoplesanointingsaresalestoolsandlies~07/27/2014
 
 
“To say that someone’s position on a topic, or their opinion, or viewpoint, etc. is “tainted” because they are speaking from a position of “bitterness” or “resentment” or “anger” is to dismiss them in a cowardly way. Even if that person is speaking from bitterness, resentment, anger or just plain heartbreak, does it really make their claims any less valid? Spiritual cowards would say that it does, and they speak from the seat of their cowardice: fear.”~07/22/2014
 
 
“You are not a spiritual battery that needs to be “recharged” to survive. You are not a spiritual electrical device that needs to be “plugged in” so you don’t lose power. Nor are you a spiritual gas tank that needs to be “refueled” so you can keep going.These are analogies of The System, The Matrix, The Machine.

These analogies are designed to keep you coming back to the refuel/recharge “stations” which keep the cogs of the machine moving along.

You don’t need to be recharged, The System does..

You don’t need to be plugged in, The Matrix does.

You don’t need to be refueled, The Machine does.

Pull. The. Plug.

Starve. The. Machine.”~07/13/2014

Peter: Out Fishing

The following is a fictionalized version of the account found in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 17.

The boat rocked back and forth gently in the waters of the Galilean Sea. The sun would be setting in an hour or so and Peter sat alone, listening to the gentle groan of the boat, the water lapping at its sides, the wind, the birds. The rest of the men and Jesus were back at the house. Peter realized he was hungry and his train of thought was broken briefly as his mind wandered to what they might be doing back at the house, what teachings Jesus might be sharing with them and the food that would be prepared by the time he got back, when he got back. Peter brought his attention back to why he was out here in the first place: to catch a fish.

One fish.

It had been awhile since he had been in a boat for fishing, but not long enough to forget the various tricks, techniques and approaches to fishing that he had gained over years of making a living at it. It felt good to be out on the water, real good. Things always seemed much simpler out on the water. He had been casting his net for a while now: nothing. He had seen a few successful fishermen bringing in good catches for the evening a little earlier and had set out to where they had come from. But, nothing.

A lot had happened recently.

Peter recalled going up the mountain with James and John about a week and a half ago. He didn’t think that he would ever forget the way Jesus looked up there. His whole appearance changed before their eyes. It was still him, but, even more so. There was so much light and brilliance. Where did it come from? It was all around Jesus, within him and without him. Yet they could still see him. Was that even possible? He looked powerful, too, so very powerful. Truly he had seen Messiah, the Son of God yet… they were still alive after seeing these things? So many things raced through Peter’s mind. His cheeks blushed with slight embarrassment as he remembered his request to build special places for Jesus, Moses and Elijah there on the mountain. Wait, how did he know it was them? Jesus didn’t tell Peter. The Prophets of old didn’t come over to John, James and Peter and introduce themselves. Yet, they knew. So much to take in!

Peter remembered the dreadful fear he felt when The Voice came out from the heavens, “This is my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” And just as quickly as he remembered the fear, it was replaced with the same comfort that he received when he felt Jesus’s hand on his shoulder telling him to get up and to not be afraid. God was not one to be afraid of? How could this be?

Peter, James and John did as Jesus commanded and didn’t tell a soul about what they saw and on the way down the mountain, Jesus clarified a few things they were concerned about. It was always interesting to watch how he answered some of their questions, sometimes he was serious, like going to war serious, and other times joking, or like this time, very casual but matter of fact.

When they were coming down the last stretch from their trek on mountain, they had noticed a crowd below them. John recognized a few of the disciples and Peter saw the others. They had been doing as Jesus instructed; preaching the Kingdom and healing the sick. They had come to one they couldn’t heal. Peter couldn’t remember who, was it Thomas? Philip or Nathanael? Basically, this poor kid was passed through each of the disciples. Sheepishly, they brought the boy to Jesus. The kid’s father told Jesus the story, the child was an epileptic to the point where he had severely damaged himself when seizures took him, falling into anything from cooking fires to water.

Jesus received the boy so gently, so openly; a welcoming smile on a face dirty from dust and sweat. Yet, at the same time, his response to the rest of them was firm, exasperated almost. Later that evening, after the crowd had left, the disciples were gathered around a small fire, sharing some flatbread and wine with Jesus. John prompted Peter to ask why they couldn’t heal him. Again, his responses were something to behold. He was firm, gentle, candid, matter-of-fact, insightful and encouraging all at once.

All these events were piling up in Peter’s mind. Jesus at one point just a few days ago was saying he was to be killed. What was that all about?

And then there was earlier today.

Peter was out on an errand for the people hosting the disciples in their home when he was approached by the authorities from the temple who collected the temple tax approached him. They knew who Peter was, and who he followed. A simple, pointed question from them, and then they walked away.

“Does your Teacher pay the Temple Tax?”

Was this a trick? Were they trying to trip up Peter’s master through Peter now?

“Yes, of course he does.” Was Peter’s response. They walked off, smugly, a look on their faces that said, “We’ll see”.

Peter had about all he could take for now; the glory on the mountain, the boy – both why he wasn’t healed and then why he was – then Jesus saying he was going to die and now these petty Temple tax collectors. Add to this, everything Peter had seen at Jesus’s side since he began following him. His mind was going into overload. The boat rocked back and forth as Peter pulled in his nets again. Nothing. An exasperated sigh coming out as he gathered them back up and recast. One bloody fish! Peter thought to himself. The sun was cresting over a ridge to the west.

Peter had finished his errand and had come back to the house to see Jesus helping one of the women with some of the evening meal preparations. A frustrated look and furrowed brow on Peter’s face, a playful smile and an inquisitive look on Jesus’s face.

“Simon, I’d like to know your thoughts. When kings collect duty and taxes… do they collect these from their children or from the other people?”

“Well, the others, of course.”

“Then the children are free from paying.” Jesus looked up from his task, letting what he just said sink in. Waiting for Peter to get the underlying message of the Kingdom. Peter’s look didn’t change much, but Jesus could tell things were starting to move. He continued, with a lightly sarcastic tone, “But…so we don’t offend those who do not understand such things, I tell you what…” Jesus walked over to Peter and put his hands on his shoulders. “Go out to the lake and go fishing. The first fish you catch, open its mouth, in there you’ll find a four-drachma coin, which is enough to pay my temple tax and yours.”

Jesus walked back to finish his task.

“Do I bring any fish back home for the meal?”

“Just do as I said Peter, you’ll find what you are looking for out there.”

From the boat, night almost upon him, Peter thought more about everything he’d seen and heard. He was taking a step back, looking at the larger picture as he heard again his Lord’s words, “The children are free…”.  The Kingdom was so much more than what the majority of teachers in Israel believed and taught. Peter recalled hints of it throughout the Prophets and the Law, and things Jesus had said clarifying the Scriptures. So many things were being turned upside down. Of all these things, Peter knew one thing, Jesus really knew what was going on. It was more than insight, definitely more. The very Spirit of God was with Him and in Him. He was the Son of the Living God.

Peter began pulling on the net and felt the familiar tug of the catch. At last! Peter pulled furiously on the rope, light was fading fast but there was still light enough for him to see what he was doing. He pulled the net up on the boat, it looked like a good handful of fish, twelve, maybe fifteen? Peter heard Jesus’s voice again, “The first fish…”

Peter open the net where he could crab a fish, he dove his hands in, not trying to pick one fish over the other. The first one he grabbed was a fighter, kinda large and heavy, reminding Peter just slightly of himself. Sitting back, he saw a small glint of metal as the fish’s mouth opened and closed as it fought for breath and freedom. Having done this many times, Peter easily opened the fish’s mouth and sure enough pulled out a coin. It had a little silt and filth on it, but Peter put the coin on the bench next to him and released all the fish back into the water.

Sitting back down, he wiped the coin off. The size was familiar to him, and was able to read the inscription as he wiped the small bits of filth and silt on the coin.

Four Drachma.

Enough for Jesus and Peter. He let out a laugh and held the coin up in the air, saying to no one in particular, “HA! The first fish! Hahaha!”.

Peter had not noticed, but some time ago, Jesus had come down to the shoreline to watch his friend and disciple fish and work out the things in his head. Jesus stood up and walked back towards the house, a smile on his face.

“You see Peter… I’ve got this. The children are free.”

After Peter had returned to shore and tidied up the nets, he walked back into town and found the two men. They were wandering about the local synagogue, still collecting the temple tax.

“Well, well…” Said one.

“So have you spoken to your Teacher?” Said the other.

Peter smiled. “From whom do the kings collect their duty and taxes? Their children or the people?”

“The people of course.” Said one.

Peter laughed. “So true. And the children are free!” He handed over the four-drachma coin. This is for me and my Teacher. Now, if you’re satisfied, I’m hungry and will be having my supper now.”

Peter walked off, a smile on his face. He looked back to see a puzzled yet clueless look on theirs.

“The Children are Free…”

 

Doubling Back on the Trail

“We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.” C.S. Lewis

 The quote above is from C.S. Lewis’s work, “Mere Christianity”, if I recall correctly. A very useful quote to keep in one’s pocket, so to speak.

Over the past few months, you’ve more than likely noticed that I have been “dialing back” my posts a bit. As I said in a more recent post, I feel as if I am in the final stages of purging “bad” spiritual food that I’ve digested over the years.

Lately, maybe in the last three weeks or so, I’ve felt led to “go back” over some of the older things I used to do, study or listen to.

It’s a doubling back, of sorts. Retracing my steps, seeing if I left some stone unturned or if I took a wrong turn somewhere down the trail. Maybe I lost something along the way, a gem of wisdom or a nugget of good news that would help as I reorient myself. It’s like when you are out in the wild, topographic map and lensatic compass in hand and you are trying to find a specific trailhead that will take you on the rest of your journey. You are in familiar territory, but you aren’t quite in the spot you need to be. By all observation, you are close, but still… off somehow, somewhere. There were a few unfortunate turns as you tried to plot your azimuth and navigate your way to the trail head. After all, one or two degrees off on your compass and map can put you way off course, depending on how far you keep going. 

So, you double-back to the last point you know what sure and true.

One quote that helps me “hold true” is this one by George MacDonald, from his sermon ‘The Truth In Jesus’ At the beginning of his sermon, he quotes Ephesians 4: 20 – 22, ‘But ye did not so learn Christ; if so be that ye heard him, and were taught in him, even as truth is in Jesus: that ye put away, as concerning your former manner of life, the old man, which waxeth corrupt after the lusts of deceit.’ [Footnote: That is, ‘which is still going to ruin through the love of the lie.’]’. With this as his opening scripture, he goes on to say:

How have we learned Christ? It ought to be a startling thought, that we may have learned him wrong. That must he far worse than not to have learned him at all: his place is occupied by a false Christ, hard to exorcise! The point is, whether we have learned Christ as he taught himself, or as men have taught him who thought they understood, but did not understand him. Do we think we know him–with notions fleshly, after low, mean human fancies and explanations, or do we indeed know him–after the spirit, in our measure as God knows him? The Christian religion, throughout its history, has been open to more corrupt misrepresentation than ever the Jewish could be, for as it is higher and wider, so must it yield larger scope to corruption:–have we learned Christ in false statements and corrupted lessons about him, or have we learned himself? Nay, true or false, is only our brain full of things concerning him, or does he dwell himself in our hearts, a learnt, and ever being learnt lesson, the power of our life?”

How indeed. As I’ve shared my journey here on LITQM, the questions I’ve had and grilling sacred cows barbeques I’ve invited you in on, I’ve put certain things out. I don’t want to have notions of Christ that are “fleshly, low, mean human fancies and explanations”. I simply want him. And in a way, I do feel that this doubling back is a Spirit-led thing. Not something to be bragged about, or to lift me higher than others, no, this is my way of acknowledging what is happening.

So, I’ve started this doubling back process by being a little more frequent in my fellowship time with the believers around me, specifically in gathering together in a home to eat, discuss our lives, read and discuss passages in the Bible, pray, have communion, etc. I am furthering the process by listening to some of the audio series that I found very encouraging and useful over the years which have come out of Ransomed Heart Ministries and more specifically from John Eldredge. At least, I feel led to “start” there.

So far, I’ve listened to “Major & Minor Themes”, a “discussion” between four or five of the men at Ransomed Heart Ministries as they discuss the role of the “Major” and “Minor” themes presented to us in the Gospels. The “Major Theme” being: life, resurrection, restoration, victory. The “Minor Theme” being: suffering, loss, death. The conversation is a pretty good one, it discusses how the Body of believers, specifically in the institutional church, have replaced the one theme for the other, making the “minor” theme the “major” and vice versa.

I’m currently finishing “The Life of Jesus”, which is basically the early stages and beginnings of John’s book, Beautiful Outlaw”, which I reviewed last year, here on LITQM. There are some good things in this audio series. The stories and themes are presented differently and in a different order than the book, which I believe is a good thing, it’s not predictable that way. You can read the book and listen to the audio series and gain different things from them both.

It’s not that I have lost my hold on the truths presented in both of these audio series, rather, this is part of the reorientation process. Finding the landmarks, the immovable things on my “map”.

God is good. His heart is for us. Though suffering and hard times come, the Major Theme is Life, Restoration, Resurrection.

There are a few books I’d like to pour back over, too. Things I feel led to go back over. Specifically, “Waking The Dead”, “The Way of the Wild Heart” and “Wild at Heart”. However, as far as being led goes, I’m letting those come in their time.

How about you? Have you been doing some reorienting of your “map”? Have you done this before?