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.

Revelation: written before or after 70AD?

Well, I’m not a scholar, I haven’t gone to university and I definitely haven’t dove headfirst into the old texts to date them myself and compare the subtleties of the wording, etc etc etc… so I don’t know.

HOWEVER…

Adam over at Pursuing Truth shared an illustration that Jonathan Welton put together that might assist you on your path towards making your own decision.

Take a look.

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?

Grilling Sacred Cows: Is the “One Pastor” system Scriptural?

Well, my dear readers, you are in for a two-fer treat today!  As I was going about my day, doing my work, I came across this article over at Web Truth and the smell of sacred cow grilling was absolutely intoxicating.

So, a second article I share with you today.  Another one of those Miles Finch, “YES!” moments.

WebTruth asks:  Is the One Pastor system Scriptural?

Bon Apetit.

Conversations: Paul & Timothy

A letter that Paul never wrote to Timothy…

“Timothy,

I‘m writing this letter to you in order to help you lead the congregation during your weekly church meetings, especially regarding understanding the Lord’s presence and worship.  There are also some important issues you talked about in your last letter regarding this very subject that I wish to address.  As I have traveled recently, I have observed certain things that I believe you need to be made aware of .  For one, I know that you are not including certain things in your worship services that help the everyday believer feel the presence of God.  The using of a Shofar, or interpretive dance or the waiving of flags and banners.  I am witnessing other churches do this and I say that this is a must.  In my explanation below, you will find the answers to your previous letter.

People aren’t satisfied with knowing and understanding that it is God within them, the very Spirit of Christ within them that is their hope of glory!  It is a very frustrating thing, but if we want to continue growing the numbers of your church congregation, we need to focus more on exterior factors to help people grasp God’s presence. 

To put it another way, how can people know if God’s presence is there unless we blow on the Shofar, shout, raise our hands, run around, dance or wave some flags and banners?  How are they to get excited about God if none of these things take place?  It is definitely a good idea to have your announcers or elders ask the congregation if they can feel His Presence and challenge them to ‘press in’ to His presence and to ‘be hungry’ for God and His Presence.

You see, Timothy, as if I needed to repeat myself with you, people need external assurance and signals that God is present.  We have witnessed in countless towns and gatherings that our teaching that God now resides within the believer is fruitless to a point because of this excessive need for an external assurance.  They quickly receive it with gladness but the ‘novelty’ of that teaching, for lack of a better word, seems to fade quickly.  So hopefully you can see, Timothy, how we need to have these indicators in the church services to let people know God’s Spirit has ‘arrived’ or that His Spirit is ‘moving’.  We don’t want them to miss out on God now, do we?

For men such as you and I, it is enough to have faith in and rest in the hope that we no longer have to do spiritual jumping-jacks to please God or to ‘bring’ His Presence in to any place, for He is with us always.  Our hope resides in the resurrected Christ and His indwelling Spirit never leaving us nor forsaking us, even if we cannot ‘feel’ anything.  This faith, this hope and knowledge brings forth a natural form of praise and worship that takes many more forms than just song and dance, even though you and I have shared in a hymn or two in fellowship.  This being said, I have full assurance that you will honor me in this request and do as I am instructing you to do with your worship service.  In doing so, I guarantee that people will feel more fulfilled during worship time and be more excited to hear whatever you decide to talk about.  And more importantly, church attendance will definitely grow.

I look forward to hearing your report and seeing the growth of your church when I return to you again.

Grace and Peace in Christ.

~Paul”