Saturday, July 31, 2010

My Time in the Garden

This blog is for sharing thoughts and ideas, profound or mundane, and so I share some thoughts on life that I had while weeding my garden this morning. I cannot help but think that these same thoughts have occurred in the minds of gardeners off and on since the first garden in Eden, they are that universal. They are simple truths, but truths nonetheless.

First, it is much, much easier to maintain something than to let it go completely to pot and then try to fix it all at once. I had let my garden go, and the weeds were numerous and large. If I had picked them while they were small, it would have been easier, and they wouldn’t have stolen so many nutrients, so much life, from the fruit I was trying so hard to grow. The more I let them take root, the more they entwine their roots around the roots of the fruit, the more difficult they are to remove without damaging those things that I am trying to save. Better yet, would that I had put something in place, some barrier, some protection, that prevented the weeds from germinating and taking root in the first place.

Second, at first glance, the weeds seemed insurmountable. There were too many, they were too firmly entrenched, I had let it go too long, I might as well just let them take over. A lie that could be so easily believed, so much easier to just give up, once I made the mistake of letting the weeds grow out of control. But something else became clear, once I did start pulling the weeds. Although they looked huge and scary, once I got up close, I realized that when I followed the weeds back, to ground level, what looked like many weeds was really just one, tied to one root. And when I pulled that root, and tossed the weed, a whole section of my garden was suddenly clear. I think some problems look huge from the outside, but they have a simple root. I think sometimes the sin looks so big and complicated, and people think they need therapy, or medication, or a divorce, or a miracle, to rid themselves of a problem that really has a simple root: pride, or anger, or lust. Because with weeds, you can’t tear away just the part you can see. You have to get the root, or it comes back.

Third, the plants that I let grow willy-nilly don’t do so well. Yes, they grow big, but they get diseased more easily because they are dragging on the ground, and the fruit they produce isn’t as large, plentiful, or tasty as it should be. But those plants that I prune, the ones I train up the trellis so they stay off the ground, the ones that I reduce the amount of foliage so the plant’s energy can go into fruit production instead of leaf production, those are the best plants that produce the best fruit, because they have been properly trained, properly pruned, and they direct their energy producing fruit instead of wasting their energy on things they don’t need.

Like I said, simple truths, but they spoke to me (or were spoken to me), and I enjoyed my time in the quietness of that morning, listening for a still, small voice to speak the truths of the ages. May God prune me as He sees fit, to produce the fruit He would like to share with His Church.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

"Like a Splinter in Your Mind"

Morpheus: I know *exactly* what you mean. Let me tell you why you're here. You're here because you know something. What you know you can't explain, but you feel it. You've felt it your entire life, that there's something wrong with the world. You don't know what it is, but it's there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I'm talking about?
Neo: The Matrix.

Well, no, not quite the Matrix! But I do want to tell you about the splinter in my mind.

Let me tell my story and how I came to this place. I was actively involved with an unconventional independent church that operated with the plurality of elders but one that for the most part was still pastor centric. Not by the pastors doing. But because in large part, he had a flock of spiritually weak Christians, and yes I was one of them. Weakness that came about because of too much pew sitting and listening rather than flexing of spiritual muscles by being involved in the functioning of the body is my assessment.

It was the Fall of 2003. We had a new couple join our church and my wife and I had them and their children over for dinner. In getting to know them the subject came up about something called "house church". As he described this to me, it kind of sounded like a bible study but he was quick to clarify the difference. A bible study most likely is a function of an established church and done as an extension of that church. House church, on the other hand was not an add on program to a church service on a Sunday but instead "was" the church meeting! It sounded a little odd but my wife and I agreed to try this with this couple for two months and only every other week, Wednesdays. That way if the experiment didn't really work out then we both had an out. By the second meeting my heart was totally in and there was no turning back! I guess it may have been the intimacy that grabbed my heart first. Then it was church striped down to the bare essence and simplicity that made it so desirable. No fancy furniture. No ceremonial accouterments. Just friends and family members that loved each other, and trusted each other so as to allow total vulnerability to exist. And the leader of these meetings is always the Holy Spirit. No agendas or schedules. His plans trump ours. Let me tell you, He does an awesome job too!

And it's more than just some emotional experience. My walk with God deepened more in a couple months than the previous 25 years as a Christian. The impact to me spiritually is too significant to describe in the space I have here. Suffice it to say it brought me to a point of personal revival. I am not the same person I was then. As people close to me will attest.

So you go down this road and you wonder, "Is there anyone else on this road?" Well rest assured there is, by the millions! The more passionate I became about this "new wineskin" the more I saw God's hand prints all over it. This was not about rebels leaving church and running from authority. It was completely the opposite. We were simply following the leading of the Holy Spirit and running to the complete authority of Jesus over the church. And living out what He called us to be, "a priesthood of believers".

I'm in love with this experience more now, 7 years later, than the day we started down this path. I hope you enjoy this article about others being led toward this experience. When I read this, it was as if I, or someone from our house church, had written it. The church meeting described almost mirrors the way ours also tends to flow.

It's very fulfilling to be involved in a movement that God's doing. If your contemplating sticking your toes in to test the water then here is my advice, JUMP IN! The waters fine.

God bless.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Church as Gulliver

I remember as a little boy a cartoon that I enjoyed watching. It was entitled Gulliver’s Travels. In short, it tells the story of a sailor named Gulliver whom, after a treacherous storm, is washed ashore and barely escapes death by being stranded on the beach of a remote island. When Gulliver starts to wake up he finds himself bound up and tied down to the beach by many small strands of rope, each one staked to the beach. In his unconsciousness, he had unknowingly become prisoner of the inhabitants of the island. Only 6 inches tall these people were called Lilliputians. These very small people had taken this giant captive, one strand at a time.

This thought came to me recently after having a conversation with the pastor of a church in Ohio. He was calling me and another gentleman seeking information and guidance on how to start cutting the strands. What strands you ask? The strands that have been required by government to operate his church! One strand at a time the church has found itself encumbered by a partner that I don’t believe God ever intended for his bride. How did it happen? Let’s talk about that.

When a person, or group of individuals, in the business, world seek to operate at a certain level they most generally become what is known as “Incorporated”. What this corporation, in a legal sense, becomes is an individual that now can be responsible for dealing with issues such as liability, mortgages, insurances etc. In large part it creates a buffer between individuals and circumstances that can arise in the process of doing business. In the context of the litigious and complicated society we live in it makes sense for businesses to seek this structure. But does it make sense for the church? I have some strong doubts on that.

Let’s first establish some points here. I believe that most people would agree with this premise. The created must answer to that which created it. Obviously this will have no relevance to the atheist being that they believe they evolved from a monkey that earlier climbed out of pool of oozing slime. Although I must tell you some that I have met just may be taking their marching orders from the monkey! Just a little humor. But think of it. The block of wood answers to the craftsman’s hand that shapes it into a beautiful piece of furniture. You and I, being created of God, answer to our creator. And a corporation, being a creature created by government, answers necessarily to its creator. That has purpose and application in the secular world for sure. But the church, who’s Creator and lead Pastor is Jesus. Does it really make sense, from a biblical perspective that the church should be yielding over to government any say in its functions and operations. If you’re thinking like a business person it makes total sense. But regarding the church are we supposed to be thinking like a business person?

The world tells us that if you are going to enter into agreements such as mortgages, insurances, contracts, payroll deductions and withholdings then you have to play by the rules. Their rules! So as a church you have to let them create one of their creatures called a corporation. Hear that? Their creature! That creature answers to its creator, government. The church that should answer to no one but Jesus Christ and God almighty has someone else they have to answer to, government.

Let us return to the pastor from Ohio. The Holy Spirit has been revealing this to this man. He now realizes that over time his church, one strand at a time, has yielded authority over to a partner that is starting to show his hand. He has found himself bound down to the beach so to speak. The same predicament Gulliver awoke to find of him. You see when you make a deal with the enemy there comes a time to pay up. The church will, and is now, finding itself in a position to take some marching orders not from Jesus the Churches head, but from that other creator. You know the creator of the Corporation. And guess what, I agree. I will always believe the created should take its cue from its creator. The question to think about is this. Is there really any place for a corporation in the church as Jesus intended it to be? I fear that as society/government becomes more hostile toward Christians the church will be finding itself somewhere it would rather not be. The 501c3 status may take on a whole different perspective at that time. Have we been duped by the intoxicant of “your tax exempt contributions?”

Was it supposed to be so large as to need mortgages? Was it to be so large as to be concerned about liability? Was it supposed to be so large as to have large payrolls? I believe the traditional church as we know it in America has gone astray. It started acting like a corporation instead of what it was supposed to be acting like. A body of believers that is small enough to know each other, care for each other, love and pray for one another.

I want you to be aware of something going on in the church here in America. There is a stirring by the Holy Spirit revealing this perspective too many. Like this pastor in Ohio. Their eyes are opening. God is calling his church out of these worldly encumbrances. He is a jealous God and gives no place for any other to take authority over His Church. He is preparing His bride. Will we hear and obey?

Many are! Thank God.