The road out of Laodicea.

 

One of the main motivations that I feel in this current drive towards vintage reconciliation is my deep desire to help correct what I view as fundamental flaws in the churchian system and to provide genuine alternatives for those who feel trapped inside of it. As this generation gets older, I see that we are less and less willing to just accept the spiritual hand-me-downs of our predecessors. The armor doesn’t fit us, the system is all wrong and we just can’t get used to it. Like being in a bed when the sheets are too short, after awhile, you just want to replace them all and start fresh.

Personally, I have always been a bit marginalized, counter-culture, non-conformist, give it a name. When Christ found me all those long years ago, I was not a poster child for Christian virtue, anything but. I was a real mess in every possible way. And yet, He was pleased to find me and to lavish upon me a love and concern that frankly I had never truly experienced in my life, who has?

When He did this, He bought someone who loves Him back, viciously. The scripture that reads, “Zeal for your house consumes me” (John 2:17) certainly has always applied to me, as my entire being has been focused on God and His work ever since. Now, my zeal has been imperfect at times (let the reader sense understatement here) even damaging to myself and others in particular. In other words, I have never done everything right but everything that I have done, I was sure was right at the time. Selah.

I have always been quite sure that God was somehow amused by my awkward attempts at zealously pursuing what I felt that He wanted from me. Like a teacher who gives children hand-outs of perfect cursive and tells them to copy it exactly, what do they feel when they view the awkward and imperfect attempts at carrying out their wishes? Not anger, to be sure, unless they are a tyrant. So, I have always felt God smile when my baby deer legs didn’t quite hold me up or when I picked fights too big for me, certain of His bigness.

My sureness of His hand on my life stems primarily from the fact that He doesn’t let me get away with much. God always lets me know when I have been or am wrong and that has become one of those things that I genuinely fear, I really don’t want to be wrong because I really want Him to be pleased with me. This being said, I always find that I doubt, above all things, the sincerity of my own heart. I know myself, that is, my flesh, and am convinced as to its reckless and selfish nature.

And so I am generally the first to apologize, even when the other person’s wrong far exceeded my own and they have never apologized for what they did. I do this, not because I am über but because I fear God. I want to make sure that He is pleased with me and I will let Him deal with the others, He is after all, really good at that.

What bothers me most, therefore, is not the fact that men can be wrong, even grievously. What bothers me is that they never see it, repent for it, make amends or even apologize.

For instance, ever since I first came to the “church”, I have been shocked at the deluded and Christless state of many in the Church both systemically and personally. I have traveled and preached all over and it never ceases to amaze me that so many could never question or care that what they promote or do is contrary to the truth of the Word. It is actually quite scary when you think about it; how many of those who name the name of Christ can do things that are humanistic at best and downright satanic at worst, all without ever seeming to even care?

Some are loyal to “you four and no more” above all else, believing that God is interested in you in particular and so it does not matter what you do or whom you do it with or to. Some shamelessly build their own Kingdoms using gimmicks and humanist programs. Some think that their “calling” gives them the right to get to where they are going all on their own, even trampling ministers and ministries along the way. Some “serve” Christ while fostering satanic ideals of division, rebellion, selfishness, self-centeredness, gossip, malice, character assassination, bitterness and despising authority. Talking about Christ while hating and trying to destroy ministries in His Body is not a mistake, it is satanic.

The concept of community, Body life and brotherly love has all but disappeared in our every-man-for-himself culture. We have equated love with emotion and lost the notion of love as an act of volition. We have mistaken community for pot lucks and movie nights and missed the entire point of New Testament community.

The laundry list of faults goes on and on.

To understand how we got here, you must understand that the main focus of what we do is first of all numbers and secondly, self advancement.

This is how we judge our own success and other’s as well. If you have numbers, God is pleased. If you do not have numbers, God is obviously not pleased with you or even “with” you at all. This flies in the face of both the Gospel and history and has been one of the main causes for the declension of the modern Laodicean church. Because the proclamation of truth searches hearts and the motivations of the heart, something Laodicean Larry and Laura do not want. They want their best life now, justification of sin without justification of the sinner, prosperity without divine purpose and no guilt trips to bring them down.


Moo.

In the clergy’s pursuit of the American dream, we are happy to give them what they want. We want numbers, they want Jesus-Lite (all of the taste, none of the guilt!) and so we fashion them whatever God they wish. They hand us their gold, we get to building them an idol that they can sing about, feast to and fornicate in front of without fear. Big churches want to hold onto their power and money, middle churches wish to get more money and power and little churches dream of having money and power and we sell our souls to satan for it.

Gone is all talk of sin, the depravity of man, the sovereignty of God, the wrath of God, Hell, the atonement, regeneration as mandatory, repentance, sacrifice, martyrdom, consecration and the judgment seat of Christ. In their place are self-help, practical lessons on life, prosperity without purpose, greasy grace, antinomianism, Pelagianism, egalitarianism, seeker-sensitive non-religion, no cost, no discipleship, no guilt, no works, and humanist propaganda.

For those of us who feel that something is rotten in Denmark, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the problem. In this culture, size makes right and so if you have numbers, it must be God. Subsequently then, if you don’t have big numbers, you really cannot speak on issues until you have proven that God is indeed with you by big numbers.

So to cry out that you feel that something is amiss when you are not on Christian television (a sure sign of the favor of God) is frowned upon. Small town local pastors should not have a say in the state of the church because that right is reserved for certain special leaders. I imagine many of the same arguments were made in Luther’s day; how can the whole church be wrong? Why would God give you an answer? Aren’t there good things that are going on to outweigh the bad? Why would God reveal truth to a little nobody monk?

And we, like Him, only know what we know. Namely, that this monstrosity looks nothing like the First Church, Geneva, Herrnhut, The Foundry, Red River, Ulster, Northampton, Wales, Hebrides. And our current crop of Adonijah leaders look and sound nothing like Knox, Calvin, Augustine, Luther, Edwards, Whitefield, Zinzendorf, Wesley, Moody, Spurgeon, Tozer, Reidhead, Paisley and most importantly, Yeshua Ha-Mashiach.

So, regardless of numbers or popularity, we hear the voice in the middle of the night telling us to  “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee”. We only know that something is deeply flawed and we have to leave. Like Abraham, we travel from Ur not knowing where we are going but certain of the call to go anyway.

God’s natural law states that a body in motion will stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force and the force that acts upon it must be an unbalanced force. In other words, in order for us to make a difference to the church at large we must hit the problem as hard as we can from one direction and at a different trajectory than what it is currently on.

So, here we all are. We are stuck on a bus with no driver, heading as fast as it can towards a destination that we want no part of. And yet, we feel helpless because all that we know is on that bus.

We want to continue mostly worthless worship services because we don’t have any better ideas. Never mind that particularly in the Charismatic circles, it is all emotionalism, humanism and flesh. We just don’t have any better ideas and besides, our flesh really likes to sing and imagine that God is listening, he is, of course, so desperate for any affection that he breaks down and weeps when even the biggest hypocrite, who denies His name six days out of seven, sings along with our worship leader.

We want to continue with all of the Laodicean 21st Century inventions because that is what we are comfortable with. And as that revolutionary war guy said, “Give me comfort or give me death”! We know, deep down that something is wrong but we are afraid to make the changes to something better because we don’t really know what that is.

And so, like the people who do wrong, consistently, even brazenly, sowing discord, division and character assassination and so on, we never think of repentance or reconciliation because we want what we want. God will get over it, right?

One of the best ways to understand the concept of sin is that sin is rebellion against deity by saying that you want what you want, regardless of what deity says. Alternatively you can say that Christianity therefore is the practice of saying that you want what God wants, regardless of what your flesh wants. This is basic elementary everyday normal Christianity.

Using this simple bit of truth, when we know that changes must be made and yet we do not do them, that must be sin, at least as much as those who seek their own and curse, bite and devour others on their way. We want our way with the church, we want society to be pleased with us and we don’t want to rock the boat. It all starts, continues and ends with self.

I have seen this particularly with charismatics. They are fine with all manner of heresy, heterodoxy, error, sin, humanism, self love and narcissism. But don’t change their changes. Whatever little “advances” and modifications they have made generationally to the church are off-limits. You can rant and rave all day about religious people (everyone not charismatic), but don’t you dare change their changes.

So here after a few months of pursuing vintage reconciliation, we find ourselves not really looking very charismatic at the moment. But we are feeling a whole lot more like Jesus. I suspect the same can be said for all of the churches here locally that have been undergoing real transformation.

It has been hard, we have lost some people that we loved, have seen numbers fluctuate. But we know that God is the wind in our sails and so we press on. We do this because it is better to not be safe than to be silently wrong. To leave Ur and head out, even not knowing where you are going feels a whole lot better than sitting there and complaining about all of the wrong that is around you.

So, Pastor Abraham, wherever you are right now just get up and go. Sure, numbers may drop, people may hate you for rocking the boat, fleshy Christians high on greasy grace may bite and tear at you but shouldn’t you follow your own conscience? You know that something is amiss and in order to change it, incrementalism simply will not work now. We are too deep into the Humanist age; the consumer-based Churchian mob rule of Laodicea. No, what it is going to take to awaken the sleeper out of their slumber is a full on carpet bombing mission of shock and awe. And no one else can do it except you.

What it takes is simply stepping off of the bus, period. Just get off and stop the madness altogether. Nix everything in your service that has been contrived in the last hundred years for starters, you have to go back before Laodicea. I would counsel not trying to go back to the Apostolic age, even they were rebuked in the Book of Revelation. Instead, go back to the Philadelphian Age, brotherly love and missions. Just start there. Kill the lights, close the computer, shut down the PowerPoint and the tragically hip praise team. Then, kill your suit, kill your sermon, kill the altar call, kill the offering.

After it is all gone and the room sits silent, just the sheep and yourself, talk to them and let them talk to you back. Talk about Jesus and talk about discipleship. Serve communion, feed some hungry people once a week. Actually help people who come by your church, get involved in your community and fight for what is right and for those who can’t defend themselves.

Chuck the show and the entertainment and just demonstrate what Christianity is. Then begin to add again what people have forgotten from that wonderful Philadelphian era. Our services have begun to look like services again but with a major difference; they don’t look like we are living in Laodicea. And by the Grace and favor of the Lord, we won’t ever wake up in Laodicea again.

And so, my dear Pastors and leaders out there, do you really want another day at the Laodicean Christian Center, Inc.? If you don’t change now, you may die right there. You were meant to be a preacher, to exemplify Christ, to reach out to a lost a dying world, to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. You were not created to be a religious CEO but a prophet. Leaving Laodicea doesn’t take a five year plan or a twelve step program, it takes just simply leaving Laodicea and being true to what God has called you to be, even if it is true by yourself in the desert heading to a future that is uncertain.

I do not believe that anyone who reads this blog would be the sort to say that there is not something rotten in Denmark. So what we are doing is looking for some active solutions, those inspirations from God that reveal His answers to the quandaries that currently beset us on all sides.

Most of us are quite aware that many of the mainline churches are in imminent danger of closing within a 15-20 year period. As the current membership gets older, there are not many young people coming in to carry the torch. I truly pray that in response to this problem, the fallen heads at the top of the ivory towers don’t repeat their mistakes of the past by simply attempting to compromise more with a world system that is inherently Anti-Christ. We saw this flawed reasoning in action in response to Modernism here in North America. Many of the churches felt that their only chance for survival was an all-out surrender to the Modernist mindset. Of course, this has had interesting consequences beyond the immediate fallout of their compromise. Today, in a Postmodern, or Post-postmodern age, Modernism is considered to be the enemy in every way possible, hence the gulf between attendees and non-attendees in those churches. In other words, these churches compromised with a worldview that seemed to be gaining steam at the time in order to save their own tukhus’ and ended up completely alienating a future generation by it. And what appears to be their solution? Get more postmodern!

Compromise with the Zeitgeist will never be the answer of God, ever. As Watchman Nee said; “This world is to us when we are alive, a journey, when we die, a tomb.” That is all that it is, a place that we pass through as strangers and foreigners. To compromise with the ideas of the world only ever landed Israel in trouble and at times, in bondage. It is no different for us today. The seeker-sensitive, positive self-image Gospel has landed us in a much more dire position than we were before it began.

Consider; we have never had bigger churches than we do today. And yet, 90% of the people who make decisions for Christ leave and never follow Him. On top of this, look at the moral condition of our nation at the moment. It seems to be teetering on the brink of anarchy at times and immorality and crime are ever increasing. How do you reconcile these things? We have plenty of bubble gum churches with atriums and amusement parks and yet we have made not a single dent on the moral condition of the world in which we are here to save? I could argue that getting the message out of the necessity of repentance and the mandatory nature of regeneration is the sole reason for the existence of the church, not the tending of the 99 sheep. The church has become the land flowing with milk and money and we simply must just stop all of it immediately.

We have found some solutions that genuinely seem to work. For us, we have very few people over the age of 40 and so if there were ever a suitable mouse maze, this is it. The churches where I serve are primarily Gen-X/Y Churches. I see this as only increasing as we go along and that suits me just fine. So, what solutions has God led us to so far?

If we are to reach this world, let us first take advantage of the desire for anchoring among the current generation. As everything around them spins off into confusion and disorder, people are hungry for something solid and reliable. There has possibly never been a time in the church when people were more desperate for the old paths than today.We have implemented several things here that serve this end.

First, we distribute index cards at the start of service when people are coming in. They are encouraged to write down any prayer requests that they may have on these. The very first thing that we do in the service is to pray for these problems so that people can focus on the message and have their needs taken before God. Now there are other branches of the local church who do this and the prayers are different from church to church, to be sure. The Baptists pray for the people to have the strength to endure their time of trial and the Pentecostals try to lay hands on them directly. Sorry, just a joke, couldn’t help it. At any rate, the needs of the people are taken before God first.

At the Churches where I serve, we have temporarily taken out all worship songs from the service. I wrote about this elsewhere and so I won’t reiterate it here. Suffice it to say, if you can’t stop gossip, backbiting and not serving widows and orphans, God doesn’t want to hear you sing (Isa 29:13). We need to stop thinking that love is an emotional feeling that we extend towards one another, it isn’t. It is not hugs, smiles or picnics. Love is a verb, an action in laying down your life for others. So, until we start operating in true love, why sing? I know, real Gen-X there, right? Hence the exodus of the Boomers.

Boomers truly desire a meaningful worship service and no guilt trips. The same can’t be said of Gen-X, they want the hard stuff. During service, people are free to ask questions and we always close with question and answer so that no one goes away confused. The service is followed by Communion and a weekly Lovefeast.

Also, anyone who needs some food is taken to our pantry and given food for their family, after every service (and during the week if need be). We have also started a weekly soup kitchen on Mondays where we feed those from the surrounding area who just need a bit of a helping hand through the week. This is one of the most satisfying new things that we do.

The latest addition has been Wesleyan Classes, Bands and Select Societies. I will write more on this a bit later but it is easily the single greatest area of fruit that we have, so much so that people would much rather just do Class meetings than Church meetings, go figure.

We have decided that radical changes must take place if we are to reach this generation of souls on the earth. To this end, we have begun to change our thinking in many, many ways as God has led us deeper down this rabbit hole.

I truly believe that we are in desperate need of the passionate communication of doctrine in these churches. The true and fiery preaching of the fundamentals needs to be restored to the pulpits once again in our mainline churches. Nothing else will do except a genuine revolution among the pastoral corps here because for far too long these pulpits have sat as bleak reminders of the better days of years gone by. They simply must remember what it was that stirred the people originally in their churches and do those things again.

Now, whether you are a bit to the left of the political spectrum, or a bit right, is not the issue. We can learn to operate together and build the Kingdom of God. The right side desperately needs to employ aspects of the Social Gospel in what they do and the left desperately needs to employ the Spiritual Gospel in what they do. We truly can learn from one another and allow our diversity to be our strength.

Here, in the town where we live, we are learning to come to terms with the idea of “Church by Locality”. That in essence, God only has one Church in our town. It is not the Baptist or Methodist, Lutheran, Catholic or United Church of Christ. It isn’t even the Spirit-Filled Churches (curiouser and curiouser). Instead, it is all of us together and each of us is only a branch of that greater system of things in which God is moving. This is a revolutionary idea and in chasing hard after it, I see not just the only solution to the problems currently plaguing the mainline churches but also the only solution to the increasing problem of the marginalized 18-35 demographic.

For us, this is still in its infancy to be sure. We pastors have been meeting together to pray for revival once a week now for the last seven months or so. And though it started off quite awkward at times, it has gelled into a unity among us that I did not know was even possible in 21st century America. We are all very different (major understatement here) and have very different views of ministry, church and God. But we are all passionate about Him and His Kingdom and that has seemed to trump all reservations. Currently, we are starting to take some baby steps towards a more visible “Church at Darlington”. We want the congregations to experience the same unity that we have and for them to become involved in the growth of the Church and serving the Community at large with us.

What are the next steps for us here?

1. I think that ideally we would begin to pray for revival together on a regular basis as a single church.

2. To be able to recognize strengths in each branch of the Church at Darlington and use them towards common goals.

3. To willingly sacrifice members, talents, resources and time from our stronger areas to make up for weaker areas in the other churches.

4. To begin to operate more like a single church with many branches rather than a collection of individuals who are either building our own Kingdoms or extending the reach of our sectarian denominations.

If any of you readers want further information on any of those things or would just like to talk with Nate or myself, please drop an email to us or comment on here. We would love to serve you in any way we can.

J.

Dear caretaker of God,

I’m just checking in, as a good American does, with the caretaker of the God who founded this nation and our churches. Is He responsive today? We’re not sure, but we think we’re doing what the last people did who checked in with you. I think it was you. You’re a pastor, right? Don’t pastors talk to God for us? We voted to hire a pastor at our church, and think he should do all the “ministry,” while we make the decisions. Same with you, right? No, we’d rather not talk directly to God, because we don’t have enough time to stop by. Let him know we’ll stop by and visit when we get a break from doing church work. How’s the Alzheimer’s doing? You asked in your last message what makes us think that you’re His caretaker. Doesn’t someone need to take care of someone with Alzheimer’s? You asked what made us think He has Alzheimer’s, and again I say it’s because we haven’t seen or heard anything. You understand that’s also why we don’t try to communicate too much with Him. During the Enlightenment Era, people discovered God was old and getting older, and humans were getting smarter, and we’ve been told we’re climbing the evolutionary ladder. Some believe we’ve outgrown God.

I know you say that’s because we aren’t listening, or we aren’t reading the Bible, but honestly, we’ve perfected church. I think you’re saying this because you have a personal axe to grind. I mean we had church perfected in the Enlightenment Era, then the PostModern Era took it to a whole new level. We’re so nice we don’t expect anything from anyone, and agree with everyone who has any kind of opinion whatsoever. We’ve perfected positive thinking. Truthfully, we’re getting pretty hammered and pressured by everyone around us and their agendas. They have a lot of sway. Some of them  have high political offices and others have a lot of money. Some have even lived in this area all their lives, and are the fourth generation in their family! Since we haven’t listened (strike that) heard from God, it must be the sender, not the receiver, thus many have assumed silence is concession.

Besides, trying to talk to political leaders is getting us only on a watch list, and we don’t want to rock the boat. You understand, we care about safety first, as a good Christian should. So what do we do? We’re pretty sure we’ve got God figured out based on what He wrote (and our smart interpretation of it), so we’ll go with that. We are convinced (everyone agrees) that we only need to pray a prayer once and can live how we want. So by doing all this travelling to get people to pray prayers, and building bigger buildings, and having more people in our gatherings who pray prayers, and paying the best musicians, we’re doing above and beyond what’s required. Some people even give 8% tithe. In the age of Grace! We will just do things the way they’ve always been done, taking parts of Scripture that are relevant (though no one knows that that means in a postmodern world where structure is irrelevant, thus when you strategize to become relevant you are irrelevant. Don’t try to become unirrelevent or you definitely aren’t relevant. Don’t try to figure it out, or you most definitely are no longer relevant. Head in the clouds, no demands, come as you think you are, and you might be relevant). I mean taking parts of Scripture that we have been told are relevant in the new books we’ve read. Other parts were cultural, such as verses against premarital sex, gossip, homosexual behavior, male leadership and headship, talking about Jesus’ death on the cross (is He there with you and God still? Some doubt it).

Please pass all this onto God. Thanks for doing what your people hired you to do. It sounds like you’re going to stay longer than our pastor. He doesn’t pass our complaints (strike that) messages on as well, and spends too much time visiting people. He can’t get it that he’s supposed to just do what we tell him. I’m sure you do, because you’re close to God. Write back soon.

(Response)

Dear writer,

Your irreverence is astounding, but I’ll pray God understands. You are a product of American church religion that used to be Christian. God has already spoken about this, in Isaiah 57 (NASB) “The righteous man perishes, and no man takes it to heart; and devout men are taken away, while no one understands. For the righteous man is taken away from evil, He enters into peace; they rest in their beds, Each one who walked in his upright way. But come here, you sons of a sorceress, offspring of an adulterer and a prostitute. Against whom do you jest? Against whom do you open wide your mouth and stick out your tongue? Are you not children of rebellion, offspring of deceit, who inflame yourselves among the oaks, under every luxuriant tree, who slaughter the children in the ravines, under the clefts of the crags? Among the smooth stones of the ravine is your portion, they are your lot; even to them you have poured out a drink offering, you have made a grain offering. Shall I relent concerning these things? Upon a high and lofty mountain you have made your bed. You also went up there to offer sacrifice. Behind the door and the doorpost you have set up your sign; indeed, far removed from Me you have uncovered yourself, and have gone up and made your bed wide. And you have made an agreement for yourself with them, you have loved their bed, you have looked on their manhood. You have journeyed to the king with oil and increased your perfumes; you have sent your envoys a great distance and made them go down to Sheol. You were tired out by the length of your road, yet you did not say, ‘It is hopeless.’ You found renewed strength, therefore you did not faint. Of whom were you worried and fearful when you lied, and did not remember Me? Nor give Me a thought? Was I not silent even for a long time, so you do not fear Me? I will declare your righteousness and your deeds, but they will not profit you. When you cry out, let your collection of idols deliver you. But the wind will carry all of them up, and a breath will take them away. But he who takes refuge in Me shall inherit the land and shall possess My holy mountain.”

So you see, writer, you are in a dangerous place. You see, American Christian, you cannot use the excuse of God being silent. You cannot use the excuse of God being still. It is not God who has changed, but you. I am not His caretaker, and to think so is blasphemous. Yet in your heart, you believe He does have Alzheimer’s, and is not responsive, otherwise you would be afraid of Him instead of fearing men, money, and monarchs. You are walking down a well worn path that Jesus called the wide gate of destruction, and your good company cannot see the green meadows giving way to fire and refuse. Turn back your life to once again walk the narrow road towards the narrow gate. Dig in the ground behind you and pick up your dropped cross, then carry it. But until you do that, do not write back! Do not include me in your failure! I don’t want any part of the American church that has cut off her ears and gouged out her own eyes, sniffing in the wind for the nearest scent of an idol to mate with. It is apparent by the choosing of large crowds over finding lost sheep that you have lost your first love. Do lovers who cheat on their beloved blame the faithful spouse? Yet you have blamed God when it was you who had the affair. God has already spoken, and the Almighty need not repeat Himself for your sake. He owes no one an explanation, and, contrary to what you have been led to believe, He is not silent.

God is moving in the hearts of those who are faithful to Him, raising up a new generation of people who will obey Him and not excuse His commands. Jesus’ voice rings in the ears of His sheep and they desire more, not less. Against the juggernaut of selfishness, dehumanizing others and yourselves, and atheistic political movement, the ancient Rock of Ages is not afraid. He has always and will always have a remnant of faithful ones. He can do more with one than 7 billion can do without Him.

I urge you, writer, to examine yourself for the answer to your problems, not God. After you have discovered your weaknesses, see if you can hear Him better. See if you can see Him then. If you do this, and only after you do this, write me back. As to me talking with God on your behalf? God decided (written in the Bible) that you could talk directly to Him yourself. You should enjoy this.

With Concern,

Servant of the Lord

ps Please leave your pastor alone before you turn your prophet into a professional.

The Naaman principle: that if God’s people stop following Him, He will find another people who are obedient to Him.

In this entry we’re taking a look at the ministry of one of the greatest prophets in the Old Testament, Elisha. God used Elisha to accomplish more miracles than anyone else in the Old Testament; in fact, anyone else in Scripture next to Jesus. Elisha was used to perform fourteen miracles, but our focus is not on him. Our focus is on a non-Israelite, foreign, ungodly man named Naaman. How does this relate to our need to get back on track? You’ve probably figured out the thesis, but read on just to make sure.

The story unfolds in 2 Kings 5. His name means “beautiful or handsome one.” He was the commander of the army of Aram (also called Syria), under king Ben-Hadad I or II.

He was mighty in battle, and God had used him already (whether he knew it or not, we are not told). He came to Israel because he had heard from his servant girl that there was a prophet in Samaria who could cure him of his leprosy.

We’re told that the Lord granted Naaman success in battle. During one of those campaigns, Naaman capture this Israelite slave girl. Sometimes God places His people in positions of lowliness, suffering, humiliation, or forced meekness for His greater purpose. I wonder how many times the slave girl doubted God’s sovereignty. If you’re in a position like this, God still has a purpose for you, just like He intended this unnamed slave girl to direct Naaman towards His prophet, Elisha.

Naaman came from Aram, to Israel, with the blessings of his king. He brought a small treasure to pay to the king of Israel for healing him. King Joram didn’t didn’t see any way for him to be healed, and tore his clothes in distress. Elisha heard of it, and sent word that Naaman should come to Elisha and he would know there was a prophet of God in Israel.

The leader of God’s people, the king, should have known where to find the prophet of God. Instead, he saw Naaman’s approach through his own personal values, namely as a threat to his power. So Elisha texted King Joram just in time, telling him he’d take care of it.

Naaman arrived at the doorway of Elisha’s house with his entourage. Elisha didn’t go out to meet him, but sent a servant telling him to dip in the Jordan River 7 times.

Naaman, expecting to speak with Elisha himself, and expecting more ritual, was furious. His pride was wounded.

(vv. 11-12) “He turned and went off in a rage.”

Sometimes people are upset at God or God’s mouthpiece because they were expecting something different. You probably have faced this as a Christian before. When I was an Associate Pastor in Dallas, TX, one Sunday morning a lady called our church and asked, “Are women allowed to wear pants there?” We were a Baptist church, but not that kind. One of the greatest compliments I’ve heard was a friend telling me, “Nate, when I’m with you, I can’t imagine you as a pastor.” He goes to our church and is an active leader there. He further explained that he had a preconceived idea of pastor as an aloof, anti-social, stoic fossil who loved crowds but hated people.

I hope I don’t ever see one more briefcase-toting, coat and tie wearing, professional occupying his dust-free office, operating a 9-5 workday, preoccupied with programs and ministries as the solutions for sin. We need no more professionals writing how-to books. We need prophets of God, who will tell people not to promote a mosque at ground zero, or to be ashamed of themselves if they’ve never helped the poor while never missing their favorite TV show. We need people who are willing to be slandered as “friend of tax-collectors and sinners,” not excusing Jesus-style ministry in the name of “above reproach” or avoiding “slippery slope” lifestyles.

Naaman didn’t expect to be talked to by a servant, dismissed to wash on what he considered a dirty river. Sometimes the simple message of “believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved,” is insulting to your pride. Sometimes you expect God to acknowledge your physical, mental, or spiritual eliteness. Sometimes you expect God to come to you on your terms, at your time, in your place, and do things your way.

Isaiah 55:9, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than  your ways, and My thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Today one of the weaknesses of our churches is trying too hard to meet sinners on their terms. God doesn’t even try hard to meet sinners on their terms and offer compromise. All people must meet God on His terms, which necessitates thinking less of self and more of Him.

We must meet God on His terms. Today He says to you, your best righteous works are not valuable to Him. Only the righteous work of Jesus on the cross, Jesus in the tomb, and Jesus resurrected in the air!

Some people have been disappointed in the church because they believe the church needs to come to them and be more seeker sensitive. That is not God’s plan for His church. I recently read a great list of reasons people don’t attend sports events, if the same excuses applied as are used for leaving church. So here are reasons people leave churches applied to sporting events:

1. Every time I went, they asked me for money.

2. The people with whom I had to sit didn’t seem very friendly.

3. The seats were too hard and uncomfortable.

4. The coach never came to see me.

5. The referee made a decision with which I could not agree.

6. I was sitting with some hypocrites–they only came to see what others were wearing.

7. Some games went into overtime, and I was late getting home.

8. The band played numbers I had never heard before.

9. The games are scheduled when I want to do other things.

10. My parents took me to too many games when I was growing up.

11. Since I read a book on sports, I feel that I know more than the coaches anyway.

12. I don’t want to take my children, because I want them to choose for themselves what sport they like best (Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart, s.v. “excuses.”).

God doesn’t want to make a deal with you regarding your cleansing. He doesn’t take bribes, accept acts of penance, or need our offerings in order for us to be healed. It is only by God’s grace—His giving us what we didn’t earn and should not have—that we receive healing.

It is only by God overlooking Naaman’s status as outside the covenant people, that Naaman received God’s mercy. It is only by God overlooking our status as sinful people that we receive God’s mercy. It is only God giving good works, God giving righteousness, God giving all that we are healed. Jesus’ death and resurrection are the only good works that can pay for ultimate healing, and God did that for you. Free of cost!

God has a storehouse of treasure and He wants you to withdraw out of His account, freely!

What happens next with Naaman?

For the second time, his healing is influenced by his servants. It was an Israelite servant girl who gave him the idea of going to Elisha, and now God again used the humble to influence the mighty.

Notice what Elisha did and did not do:

He left Naaman alone for God to deal with him. Too many times, when we tell someone about Jesus and the need to follow Him, we break out our spiritual first aid kit and rush like a paranoid field medic to the scene. We believe we will be the influencing force for their salvation. God is the only influence for salvation.

Elisha did not chase Naaman. God did. Pastors, church leaders, those who have family members who reject Christ, and all who have told the Gospel while being mocked and jeered: God is still able to save, and He’s the only one who ever could in the first place. Don’t chase. Let God chase.

As this applies to winnowing out the wheat of our churches and making disciples like Jesus Christ, there will be seed that falls by the wayside, on thorns, on rocky soil, and on fertile soil. The fertile soil seed is what we must focus on. If some drop off and decide to reject the tightening of the screws, and the harder practice so that the chance of winning the game is greater, then we must let God chase them.

Naaman put his pride aside and followed Elisha’s advice.

What was his response? After seeing the results he praised God!

5:15, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel.”

Gehazi, witnessing God work, could only think of the money Elisha was passing up. Gehazi desired the money, and snuck later and lied, taking the money. Gehazi then lied to Elisha about taking the money. God cursed Gehazi with leprosy and all his descendants.

Note: Sometimes the people on the outside understand more about God than the people on the inside

What does this have to do with following Jesus? Jesus gave a commentary on this passage, saying it applied to Himself.

Turn to Luke 4. Jesus told us why God healed Naaman and Naaman came to recognize the One True God, about how God chose to heal a foreigner and be glorified through that man’s healing rather than healing one of the many leprous Israelites. Why did God choose to do this? Jesus said it was because of the very reason Nazareth rejected Him.

Luke 4:22–27 (READ IT)

Part 1 of what Jesus said is this:

If God’s people reject Him, God will go outside and find those who are faithful.

If you tell God “No,” God will find another to take your place who is willing to say, “Yes.”

Romans 11 tells us about this happening to Israel, God’s chosen people:

Romans 11:7–12 (READ IT)

Today we stand at a crossroads, where we have the decision Naaman had.

Are we similar today to the Israel Elisha lived in? Are God’s people today giving into idols and derailed from the mission of the church?

Jesus said to go into all the world and make disciples of every nation. Are you doing that?

America used to be the most involved in training and sending people for the Kingdom work. Now God is doing that work in Asian churches, and African churches, and South American churches. Before America, it was England who birthed William Carey, Hudson Taylor, and the 1800’s missionary movement that sent thousands all over the world.

Today South Korea has the largest church the Yoida Full Gospel Church which averages 800,000 people in attendance every Sunday. That means nothing, unless there is more. And there is. They purchased a mountain called Prayer Mountain, where anyone can come and pray. They send out missionaries all over the world and send out church planters all over the world.

In China, the underground church is training missionaries to go into Muslim countries that are closed. This is a closed country where Christians are persecuted, sending missionaries to countries where Christians are persecuted.

What are you doing with all the comforts and freedom you have?

We can:

1)      throw away the words of God Who is saying to do something different and possibly uncomfortable

2)      accept what is an unexpected word from God in an unexpected way

We can trust that God really does want you to take seriously Jesus’ requirements for following Him.

Part 2 of what Jesus said about Naaman is this:

Jesus had a habit of stirring the pot. He could have walked out of Nazareth with their lipservice approval. But he knew they were telling him what he wanted to hear. Like where we live sometimes. You and I would have to be foolish to believe everything people say about us, especially what people say to me.

#1 question you need to ask is not “What will people think about me?” but “Am I converted?” If you’re saved, then from what? Do you do those old sinful things? If you do, can you really say God saved you from it? John Wesley wrote after years of ministry, that he was not a Christian, but he desperately hoped to become one. Where are the ones who will consider that part of their salvation is their cross?

 

Separating wheat from chaff

 

These are strange days.

It seems like the Lord is requiring more and more from us with each passing day. All of those things that are not pure must go from our lives and from our churches. These are the days of the solemn assembly, where the people of God gather themselves together and are purified by Him.

Those things that have been in our church services that are man-made have been required of Him. That is not to say that they are bad, they are just flesh.

The worship service with its 3 fast songs and 2 slow songs had to go. And God showed how real worship was you laying yourself upon that altar, caring for widows and orphans and remaining unspotted from the world. And until we do those things, we can no longer offer to God the lies that we sing to Him week after week. Because our lives showed our love, our real love. We sing “I Surrender All” when we surrender nothing but that which we can easily do without. We sing “He Touched Me” when at the very moment His hand touches us to be sanctified or sacrifice, we recoil and beg for mercy. And here at these churches, we were no longer allowed to sing, but rather, to show the poiema of what God has done in our lives. Someday we will sing again as congregations and on that day, by the grace of God, our lives will be sung first, a sweet sacrifice, pleasing unto God.

The altar call and ‘sinner’s prayer’ that has been used for so long has been required of Him. Because it became form and we have worshipped it as a third sacrament in the church. But what prayer can you pray without the inner witness that you have been brought from death to life? When did we stop the altar, the time when you sought God with your whole heart until the ‘strange warmth’ of Wesley filled your heart and you knew, beyond any contestation, that you had been born again? How long have we taught people to bear the false witness of salvation, your own witness without any corroborating evidence?

“Are you saved?” we have asked.

“Yes, I am saved.”

“How do you know that you are saved?”

“I just know. I prayed a prayer and accepted it by faith.”

“Have you repented of your sins and made restitution where it was possible?  Have you been humbled by His grace and now your life has become a repayment of a debt to God that you have no hope of ever repaying?”

“No.”

“Then have you become aware of your inner sin and been filled with the knowledge that it is no longer your master but that you have been given mastery over it, that you no longer have to obey it?”

“No.”

“Well, do you have the joy of lowness? Are you hungry to go lower and lower for God, to be spent, wrung out for Him? Do you aspire to be the lowest of all, to serve, to reckon others better than yourself, to give up all? Is your constant prayer, ‘Lower, Lord, lower’?”

“No.”

“Then surely you have the joy of instant, literal obedience to God with no consideration of the personal cost, right? You are prepared to sell all that you have, distribute to the poor, to travel far from hearth and home to serve God in a remote village or foreign land, if the call should come? When you see a need, do you sacrifice what you have to fill that need? Do you live with only the necessities so that you have more to give into the Kingdom and for the care of those who are hurting and needy?”

“No. But I prayed a prayer and I believe that Jesus died and rose again”.

“So do the devils, and tremble at the thought.”

We have sacrificed conversions for decisions and disciples for numbers. We have lowered the bar until nothing is required and nothing has a cost and then sat back and wondered why we have no disciples, no missionaries and no sacrifice.

God help us.

Here, we have been asked to give up self-importance and to become aware of the myth of fingerprints. To look and see that we are fascinated by the world and all that it has to offer us, the clothes, the homes, the stuff that we surround ourselves with. The desire and hunger for things that we consume upon our own lusts, new this, better that. We are sanctified consumers, spending our lives in service to Wal-Mart and mortgages, television and the internet, our cell phones and text messages. We are surrounded by the world on every side and live with a constant hunger for more. We live as if we are defined by what we possess, the amount of money in our bank account, the success of our fleshly lives.

We need new clothes, fashionable ones, the trendiest haircuts and the expensive gadgets.

We are so busy worshiping at the Cult of Me, a religious order built upon the foundation of the life of the individual and all that defines you in this world (that looks strangely like a great golden calf) that we have utterly forgotten about body life and the servant’s heart.

“Pastor, I can’t give much for the poor or evangelism or for your food or even to keep the lights on at the church. You see, I have a mortgage, two car payments for our new cars, a cable bill so I can watch my shows, internet, insurance, the grocery costs; the kids need haircuts and new clothes. Little Jimmy has soccer and Susie has Ballet. We have to put away for retirement and get a new TV (ours is so old now, it’s practically an antique). I like to have some spending money for hair, nails, tanning, hobbies, and to shop a bit on EBay. So you see, Pastor, we just don’t have much. Believe God with us that we will get better jobs so that we have more to give. And pray that we will have better hours so that we can be at the Church more without cramping our lifestyle. And by the way, if you could do a series on having your best life now, that would be great. I really wish we could help the poor or help support a new church plant or a mission but we just have nothing left after our flesh is completely sated.”

The true life for a Christian is the life found in the body and the joy of spending and being spent in service to the King. Nothing that this world has to offer can compare with the feeling of sacrificing what comfort you have so that others do not experience lack.

1Ti 6:7  For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.

Shouldn’t the question be “How little do I actually need surrounding me in order that I can give to others and serve God with my time”, rather than, “God can have the tiny bit left over after I have all I want.”? And we thought this pleased Him, that we gave anything at all. Why not rather have far, far less? Friends, I think that the world has us lock, stock and barrel. This I believe is what Jesus meant by ‘the deceitfulness of riches’.  Is this world our home or isn’t it? Are we passing through or residing permanently?

God has required all of these things from us as we have progressed; He has asked for a sacrifice of the pride of life and the satisfaction of conformity that you gain from the world. To sit back and have very little and give what you do have has brought great joy and great freedom to our hearts. Will it last forever? I am not sure. I have told the people that I am growing a big bushy beard until I learn to stop being so self-important and begin to love it. But it is more than that.

Revival is coming and God has called for a sacred assembly, a fast and a time of sanctification from His people. These are the days of purification, sanctification and consecration. To put feet to our faith and show God that we are serious about drawing near to Him. We desire Him so much that anything in our lives that does not tend to godliness must go.

Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not  lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.

These are strange days but they are days of cost and fire and I would not trade it for anything in the world.

Prosthetic Christianity, part 2

Posted: August 25, 2010 by natewhiteside in Nate Whiteside
Tags: , , , ,

Prosthetic Christianity defines much of church life in the western world. It is prosthetic because of two reasons:

1) it replaces the original

2) it is not as effective as that which it replaces

That may be a really hard pill to swallow. It was for me, as a pastor leading a healthy church in rural America. I understand if you reject it right away because I did. Yet, at some point we have to admit when something isn’t working. We aren’t seeing churches make disciples. We’re seeing crowds and entertainment, activities and recreation, concerts and monuments, but few churches making disciples . (pause while tomoatoes are thrown)

Reading this blog, someone likely will say what many Godly people have said in my conversations with them, “I recognize there is a problem, but don’t want to change.” Or perhaps another comment is like your thoughts, “What change? Everything you’re saying is everything the church is already doing?” The first comment reflects knowledge of the problem, and the need to do the difficult work of change. The second reflects a deeper problem: ignorance of one’s shortcomings. I know that may offend, but anyone who claims to arrive has to deal with pride. I deal with it as a part of my nature being changed to transform towards the image of Christ, and so must every Christian everyday. Yet, someone may still be saying, “I’ve done enough. I just got comfy with Church on Sundays. Haven’t I done enough? I give money, time, head committees, mow grass, serve, cook, clean, and all that for God. Isn’t it enough?”

Augustine wrote, “The interior life, like love, is destined to grow. If you say ‘enough’ you are already dead.” The thing is, we’re not suggesting someone  do more of the same. We’re suggesting changing and doing the same amount with more. How can a busy Christian afford to do more for God? If you change to a higher quality of discipleship, it takes less effort to accomplish more spiritually. This is part of the solution to getting back to the original, which is more effective.

I have heard concerns about whether or not the Holy Spirit is involved. It is the Holy Spirit who authored this, and I believe He authored this very blog entry. How can I say that? I have never felt such a push and drive from God. No matter the response, I cannot divert. It is affirmed through the Bible, and through other men and women of God who also see God speaking in this way. Everywhere I turn, pastors from all over the U.S. are recognizing that the way we do church isn’t working. We’re concerned, and instead of doing the typical route of finding a new program, we’ve had enough. We want to see disciples for Jesus Christ.

The churches who open in the Name of Jesus Christ will dwindle as we watch the economic and political collapse continue in the western world, unless there is reform. Unless we return to Jesus’ teachings and take them seriously (not say, “what He meant was _______, because taking it literally was a cultural thing, you see.”) we are doomed to see inflated numbers of church membership transfers causing increase in attendees on Sundays at certain churches, yet without fruit. Church growth because of transfer will grow and church growth because of conversion will shrink, but we will not react soon enough because we have mistakenly placed too much value on the numerical growth. We equate numbers with spiritual growth, therefore we won’t see the problem. The trend right now shows mega churches growing and some smaller churches, emphasizing numbers, and the leaders are happy with numbers going up. As a pastor I know that is a secondary sign of spiritual growth and only sometimes. New members or converts usually do not give at first, so financially it doesn’t equal growth. New members take time to get to know and get involved. In desperation, I think churches will seek to continue operating under the numbers paradigm and do desperate things that don’t offend unbelievers, compromising the teachings of Jesus. I wish this wasn’t true, but I have seen example of this in actual churches who will remain anonymous (because we are promoting the growth, not demise of the Bride of Christ).

What should we do? It isn’t enough to see a wolf coming, or to see the flock of sheep wandering. A shepherd must intervene. As the Holy Spirit leads us, we must examine ourselves individually. We must read the Gospels and ask if we are doing those things Jesus taught and modeled. We must resist the urge to dismiss things as cultural. We must then look to the application of those things in the early church, from the time of Jesus through the 4th Century before it was westernized (which was good for that time, but no longer).

As an example, I’ve paraphrased the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5-7. I would encourage you to read those chapters first before reading my paraphrase, so I don’t unnecessarily influence you. Seek the Holy Spirit’s illumination as you read what He inspired for your growth before seeking any man or woman’s opinion. Then consider what you should do. All of these things are challenging and some extremely difficult, but it is a start. I am examining my life in light of this and urge you to do the same:

Here is my short summary, paraphrased, of Jesus’ teachings from His Sermon on the Mount

  1. You should be happy with Jesus (not emotional, but inner joy, at very least contentment) when you are poor, grieving, being taken advantage of, searching for truth, when you have to forgive someone, when you work hard to stay pure, when you make peace, and when you are mistreated because you follow Jesus
  2. Your identity should be Jesus Christ, or else you cease to be a Christian
  3. Your good works that you do because of Jesus Christ cause people to glorify God, so boldly do them
  4. Your righteousness should be better than a Pharisee’s (legalist’s)
  5. If you hate it is murder; if you lust it is adultery, if you divorce without infidelity it is adultery
  6. Keep your word
  7. Do not take revenge. Leave that for God
  8. Don’t do good deeds to get the praise of people; only the praise of God
  9. Pray like the Lord’s prayer

10.  Pray, give, and fast in a way so that only you and God know, not to be seen by others

11.  If you don’t forgive others, God will not forgive you

12.  Replace worldly treasures with heavenly ones, so that your heart is in the right place

13.  Serve only one Master

14.  Do not worry or give into anxiety

15.  Search for God’s Kingdom (“Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done”)

16.  Judge other people when they sin as if you were being recorded, and it will be played back the next time you do something wrong; That’s exactly what will happen

17.  Don’t waste your time investing heavenly things in people who don’t take it seriously or are looking to hurt you

18.  Ask, seek, knock, because God is a loving Father who wants to give you great things

19.  Love everyone around you like you want to be loved by them. This sums up the Law and the Prophets which you must do to enter the Kingdom of Heaven (ch 5 and 7)

20.  Enter through the narrow gate (Jesus showing you the way)

21.  Watch out for false prophets. How do you recognize them? They say the right things, but they don’t have any fruit. They don’t have any fruit. They don’t have any fruit. False prophets have this mark—they don’t have any fruit!

May God keep us so we are not like Ephesus in Revelation 2 losing her first love, or Pergamum who tolerate offerings to false gods, abundance of sexual immorality, and the heresy of the Nicolatians, or Thyatira who tolerate Jezebel, or Sardis who are checked out snoozing, or Laodicea who have gone room temperature. Let us be like Smyrna, even though there is persecution, knowing God will be with us. Let us be like Philadelphia, who God will keep from the hour of trial if we continue to endure patiently. Like Smyrna and Philadelphia, let us even endure the synagogue of Satan and the slanders of Satan.

May we look like Jesus,

Nate

When I survey the wondrous cross
on which the Prince of Glory died;
my richest gain I count but loss,
and pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
save in the death of Christ, my God;
all the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to his blood.

See, from his head, his hands, his feet,
sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were an offering far too small;
love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.

When I survey the Wondrous Cross
Isaac Watts 1707

A Japanese Christian widow was surprised one night by a robber in her home. Upon startling him, she took notice of how hungry he looked, he was obviously starving. So, she calmed him and prepared him a meal. After the man had finished, she handed him the keys to her home. By this act of normal Christianity, he became a believer.

Normal Christianity is not what we would consider to be normal today at all. How a truly normal Christian conducts their self will always be considered to be supererogation by abnormal Christians and the world. We must ask ourselves what can rightfully be considered to be supererogatory as it applies to the Christian life? As we look at who we are and how we conduct ourselves in this world, what is “normal” Christian behavior and what is above and beyond the call of duty?

A recent report concluded that the average Christian gives 2.3% of his or her income to the church. Based on those numbers, giving 10% would be supererogative to today’s average Christian.

Most of us spend our week working a job, taking kids to sports, shopping for groceries and watching television. For these people, going to church twice in a week might be supererogative.

We attend high school, college and amass huge amounts of debt in order that we can pursue the career of our choice. Once there, we try to succeed as much as we can in order to provide for our children and retire comfortably.

For these average Christians today, throwing all of that aside to become a Missionary would certainly be considered to be supererogative.

What about witnessing your faith? Selling your extra to give to the poor? Selling all you have to do the same?

Praying for an hour a day? A half hour? Praying at all?

Cleaning the church? Cleaning the church alone and telling no one that it was you?

Would these things seem supererogative to you?

What did Jim Elliot, the famous Missionary to Ecuador consider to be supererogation? He claimed that “He is no fool who gives up that which he cannot keep for that which he cannot lose”. He later proved that as he was martyred by the Auca Indians on the banks of a river in the jungle.

And what of Elisabeth Elliot, Jim’s wife? What did she consider to be supererogative? After her husbands death, Mrs. Elliot remained among the Indians that murdered her husband in order to win them to Christ.

For Christians, in our service to man, there can only be supererogation. Supererogation is the normal Christian life, everything that falls short of that is flesh, natural and human. We must continually go above and beyond the call of duty in our living example of Christ’s great love and sacrifice.

Watchman Nee relates a story of an event that he witnessed in his native China.

“A brother in South China had a rice field in the middle of a hill.In time of drought he used a waterwheel, worked by a treadmill, to lift water from the irrigation stream into his field. His neighbor had two fields below his, and one night he made a breach in the dividing bank and drained off all his water.

When the brother repaired the breach and pumped in more water his neighbor did the same thing again, and this happened three or four times.

So he consulted his brethren. “I have tried to be patient and not to retaliate, ” he said, “but is it right?” After they had prayed about it, one of them observed, “If we only try to do the right thing, surely we are very poor Christians. We have to do something more than what is right.”

The brother was much impressed. The next morning, he pumped water for the two fields below, and in the afternoon, pumped water for his own field.

After that, the water stayed in his field. His neighbor was so amazed at his action that he began to inquire the reason, until in due course he too found Christ.”

As Believers, we must never simply ask, “what is right?” Instead we must ask “What is Christ-like?” For in His earthly life, Christ never did what was required only, he did as His Father wished. His question never seemed to be, “what is right in this situation?” but rather, “what is like my Father?”

In the story of the Good Samaritan, the Samaritan did not just stop to check on the man who was robbed and beaten, did he? No, he stopped and bound his wounds with oil and wine. Surely, that was doing right, wasn’t it?

But he did not stop there. He then, placed the poor man upon his own beast and he took him to an Inn. Certainly, he had now done right and could walk away satisfied.

But instead of being satisfied with what he had done, after doing all of this, he then handed the Innkeeper two days wages for the care of the man he had rescued. Any one of us would very possibly never go to such lengths in our service to a stranger. And yet, this Samaritan was not quite done.

He proceeded to instruct the Innkeeper that whatever costs he incurred, above and beyond (supererogare) what I have given you already, I will repay when I return. This is the standard of our service to the world. And this is the example that Christ himself gave us in showing the great love of God towards mankind.

The world themselves operate in a basic understanding of simple right and wrong. When disaster strikes, they will begin to deploy aid, raise money and give generously to the cause. They will defend those who are wronged and champion the downtrodden. But simply spending yourself in a just cause and doing right is not a Christian trait.

Over-spending yourself until the world can see the Imago Dei, the image of Christ in your lavish sacrifice of all you are and all you have, that is a Christian trait.

Seeing this then, that all of our dealings with each other and the world must be supererogative, what then can be considered to be supererogative in regards to our service to God? What is enough service, enough sacrifice, enough suffering, enough self-denial? Can you go beyond the call of duty in regards to your service to God?

There can be no such thing, friend.

As it relates to our service to God, there can be no supererogation.

No price, no sacrifice, no struggle can ever be considered above and beyond the call of duty until your sacrifice surpasses that of Christ’s towards you.

“Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were an offering far too small; love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.”

Dear Saul,

Posted: August 19, 2010 by JC Smith in Reform
Tags: , , , ,

Dear Saul,

I am writing this to inform you that I am leaving your church system. I know that a letter is not the best way to do things but I figured that without my informing you, you may not have even realized that I had left.

It is really no surprise that you would not have noticed my being gone- I was not one of those that you seem to prefer for a member. It was hard for me to just accept everything that you said and my endless questions and idealism seemed to bother you from the start.

Although you may never notice my absence, I wanted to let you know why I am leaving your system because in my heart, I always find myself hoping that somehow you will turn things around.

1. For continuing to stay in position even when the bleating of the sheep can be heard. (1 Samuel 15: 13-14)

Performing part of what the Lord tells us to do while ignoring the rest of His command is not acceptable, Saul. I guess that you do this in order to please the people who are following you. But the Lord does not care about your good intentions towards the people- He cares about your obedience to Him. Have you forgotten that the word says that if you seek to please men, you cannot be a servant of God?

I see you so many times worrying about what the people want to hear. I see you providing every conceivable program and entertainment in order to draw them. But what happened to telling them the whole truth? You can’t exclude the cross from your teachings because the people don’t like to hear it, unless of course you have excluded the cross from your own life. If that is the case, you really have no right to teach it anyway.

The bottom line is that I cannot stay involved in a system where those that lead are doing it after their own imagination and not following the will of the Lord. Have you asked what His will is lately, Saul? Or have you just sought more power for your program from Him?

2. For bringing us into your churches as a novelty, so long as we pleased you. (1 Samuel 16: 17-23)

It took us awhile to figure out that you were doing this to us. We were always so pleased that you had “discovered” us that we just did whatever you wanted us to. We encouraged you, helped you in your ministry and defended you against every foe that we saw.

What we didn’t know is that you viewed us as a novelty that could be thrown away when we lost our “shiny”. Being rejected is not a good feeling for anyone and especially not for people like us. We put our whole heart into trying to help you, Saul. And we never purposefully did anything that we thought would hurt you. It seems that so long as we found favor in your sight, we were allowed to stand just behind you. But any time that your favor ceased- we were sent back to Jesse’s house.

We always found ourselves believing that there was something wrong with us personally when you had no more use for us. We would cry out to God to show us where we were so wrong that we should be rejected. The answer that we finally got from our Lord shocked us, Saul- He said that you were not Him.

No matter how hard we tried, we always seemed to lose your loyalty. Maybe that is because we love Jesus more than the system that you created.

3. For creating an effeminate army and then allowing the world to march out and mock it every day while you do nothing. (1 Samuel 17: 1-11)

Nothing that has been done sickens us quite as much as this one. When we came into your church system, we didn’t do so from some squeaky-clean background. We came up on the rough side of the mountain, so to speak. To be honest, when we came into your system we didn’t really know what a real Christian man even looked like. We had been brainwashed by your generation into believing that our parents couldn’t be trusted and that the “old folks” had been way too rigid and their way of thinking should be done away with.

We came in looking for an answer and for role models to pattern ourselves after but what we found was shocking. We found the “warriors” who were sent to stand against the enemy too afraid to even go to the battle.

We found that all of these “men” had become the products of the spirit of the age and were too soft to fight. They were like the tribe of Asher who abode on the seashore when Deborah called them to fight; everything seemed to be more important than the battle of the ages. These men of yours are more likely to huddle than engage in any meaningful melee.

The world has mocked Christ continuously on your watch, Saul. Every day they march out in public and shower Him and His Church with disdain and ridicule. And you just sat back and watched him do it. Worse that that, you have managed to sin so grievously that God was forced to expose you and distance himself from you so that no one could confuse your lack of holiness with Himself.

We are not of your generation and we hold no soft spot for your social commentary. When you talk of revolution, you mean love-ins and meaningless boycotts that produce nothing. When we talk of it, we don’t mean little token gestures, we mean kicking the enemy full in the face and rooting all of his garbage out of the church.

We have got some news for you, Saul; we are not the kind of men that you approve of. We have a profound intolerance for injustice and we will lay down our lives for the cause of Christ and to alleviate the suffering of mankind. We will run to the battle yelling “Blessed be the Lord who teaches my hands to war and my fingers to fight!”

It is a new day and we look far in the past, before you came around, to find our role models. We look to the heroes of WWII, who did not shirk at the possibility of death in order to stop the oppression of the innocent. They did their duty and never thought of burning a draft card or running away. We do not look to your generation and your men that seem to need therapy after every battle and who are more comfortable in slippers than combat boots.

Duck and cover, Saul. David is running to the battle now. And we are taking no prisoners and giving no quarter.

4. For trying to force us to wear your armor when we are going to war to clean up your mess in the first place. (1 Samuel 17: 32-39)

If we were to have listened to you, Saul, we would not have even gone up to the battle. You were doing little, of course, except building ever bigger kingdoms for yourself but you said that we should not go because we were only youths. But when we came to this camp of the Lord, we did so with some past experience under our belt. We came to you full of the understanding that God had saved us from the lion and the bear and any uncircumcised Philistine that stood against God would end up just like these had.

You told us that if we had to go to war, we had to go just like you did. But your armor doesn’t fit us and it never will. You don’t understand why we aren’t content to just do everything exactly the way that you have done them. You say that we can’t even be a Christian if we don’t do Church like you. We must sound like you when we preach and sing like you when we worship. From marketing to altar calls, you dictated the way that we should go to the battle but in the end, we saw that it just did not work for the fight that we faced.

And so we beg to differ with you, Saul.

You have failed to reach our generation with your humanistic Gospel. They are dying by the multiplied millions while you pose and parade and practice the fine art of political correctness.

And we will wait for your approval no longer to do battle. If all that will stand up to the Goliaths of our day is we few socially questionable radicals than so be it. We will do so with 5 smooth stones and the battle song of the Lord on our lips. We will not look to you when we decide how a church should be run. We will not look to you when we evangelize our generation. We will look to the Lord and to the battles that he has already brought us through.

All of this being said really just boils down to this:

Goodbye Saul, we have a battle to run to. We tried to fit into your system; we tried to build bridges so that you could understand us. But you required more than you gave and in the end, it was always just about yourself and preserving your monument that you constructed. You were so intent on elevating your methods and protecting the changes that you introduced, you never even questioned if they even worked anymore.

And so we will ignore your system completely and seek God on how to build something after his heart so that our generation may worship Him freely without all of your baggage attached. And together we will see that the Ark comes back where it belongs.

See you anon,

David

Prosthetic Christianity

Posted: August 19, 2010 by natewhiteside in Nate Whiteside

I am reading Solomon as I write, in 1 Kings, and it is an amazing story. God gave this brother everything, because he asked God for wisdom and understanding when God offered him a blank check. We’re told in 1 Kings 3 that God said, because he didn’t seek long life, wealth for himself, or the death of his enemies, God gave him what he asked for so that “there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be.” Also, God gave him riches and honor, and more greatness than any other king in his lifetime.

I Kings demonstrates Solomon’s wisdom right away, as 3:16-28 tells of two prostitutes who came to him and one of their babies had died, and Solomon brilliantly discovered the true mother. The Bible continues and tells of how God made Solomon and Israel (including Judah at this time) so prosperous that “from Dan to Beersheba, lived in safety, each man under his own vine and fig tree,” (1 Kings 4:25). v. 26 tells of his accumulation of chariots and horses. 1 Kings 5-9 is all about Solomon building the first ever Temple to God, and the dedication (and Solomon’s own palace, of course), and then God’s blessing Solomon with a reinstatement of the Davidic Covenant (see 2 Samuel 7). In other words, Solomon was living the high life, Israel was because of him, and God was very pleased, to the extent that Solomon was blessed in exceedingly better ways than he could imagine.

Don’t forget the horses and chariots, though. That small root grew in Solomon. You ask “What’s wrong with that?” In Deuteronomy 17, when Moses was instructing Israel, he warned them that one day they would seek a king. The king was to write his own copy of God’s law and not accumulate 3 things for himself:  horses, wives, or gold and silver.

We already mentioned the horses, and chapter 10 tells of the gold and silver he accumulated. God promised to bless him with it, but he horded it. Queen of Sheba came to see him because of his wisdom and wealth. Strike three came in chapter 11, when we are told Solomon married foreign wives, and he had a few of them–700. He also had 300 concubines. The reason God didn’t want this was because, besides God’s design of one man with one woman for life, the many wives would lead him into greater sin (see 1 Kings 11:2). Sure enough, they did. 1 Kings 11 tells of how he was influenced by his harem to sacrifice to Chemosh, god of the Moabites and Molech, god of the Ammonites.

What does this have to do with Fresh Water from Ancient Wells? The whole time Solomon was accumulating horses, wives, gold and silver, his applause was getting higher. His fame was so great that we are told in 1 Kings 4:34, “Men of all nations came to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, sent by all the kings of the world, who had heard of his wisdom.”

Solomon had success because he followed the world’s system of success as a king did in his day. Instead of clinging to God’s way, Solomon caved and took God’s blessings for granted. It was just a matter of time before he started serving another god.

Today, Jesus Christ’s assembly, our church, uses the measuring rod of numerical growth, applause, money, decisions, and many man-made, sales-oriented, “do-it-yourself,” “how-to,” “I’ve got the power” ways of doing church because that’s all we’ve known. God is warning us, through pastors all over the country who have risen up with a fire in our bones like Jeremiah 20:9, and we cannot help but speak that the church has stopped behaving like the church and is about to crash.

What do you mean, Nate? You sure you’re not just upset because of criticism or lack of results? As I said in the last entry, I’m speaking from a ministry that has seen results, and I don’t see enough decisions becoming disciples.

Here are some specific problems with the way we do church today, and most churches will identify with at least one of these, probably more. We’ve put our pens together to come up with a few and accompanying solutions. Please add solutions if they are from Scripture:

  1. Lack of prayer and following the Bible as absolute truth for life and all decisions. Instead, spend at least 30 minutes each day divided into praying and reading the Bible.  Then go to 1 hour. Early morning or late night, or afternoon. The point is to spend the time. Discipline. If you’re not doing this, you can’t expect God’s guidance or to know when you are in God’s favor. You can’t expect much from your Christian life.
  2. More emphasis on the worship service than scripture gives it – worshipping the worship service. Instead, you need to come having prepared your heart, and leave with immediate fruit in your life—this is your responsibility. There is too much of the Entertainment industry values placed on Sunday morning worship. If someone leaves happy, they say, “that was a good worship service.” If they don’t, they say, “it wasn’t good. It didn’t move me.” Instead, focus when we gather on what we say, the words we sing, the Bible we read, the sermon that is spoken, the confession of sin and prayers, and the truth God reveals. You should be able to worship regardless of how everything is presented. The early church stayed as long as they could every Sunday.
  3. Programmed to make programs. Instead of creating our own methods and programs for every problem or opportunity, go and do simple acts of obedience (like take food to hungry, clothes to poor, old toys to kids without). There is a treasure there that you only understand if you go and do without over analyzing. So go now. Go now.
  4. Lack of remorse for sin. Instead of saying your sin is okay, believe that your sin cost Jesus His life and don’t add to what was nailed to the cross. Allow other Christians to know where you struggle. Start anonymous if you must, and move towards confiding with an accountable person.
  5. Capitalist mindset, which fundamentally departs from Jesus’ teachings on the important role of spiritual poverty. Believe me, I’ve grown up and loved capitalism. I know how to work it when necessary. This one pains me, but as I read Jesus, it contrasts Him. Instead of valuing money in our possession, value money by how much we give. God will certainly outgive you.
  6. Breeding ground for pride and cultural pollution because of the overemphasis on majority. Instead, think of how you can submit yourself to one another. Give in instead of gossip and lobbying. No pride.
  7. Lack of concern for the lost. Instead, pray for and spend time with the ungodly each week. Ask God to save the lost people you know. It wasn’t long ago someone prayed for you when you were lost.
  8. Lack of passion to hear the Bible read or preached. The early church didn’t each have their own copy of Scripture, so they only heard it on Sundays, and therefore stayed from Sunrise until they absolutely had to leave. We need that kind of passion for hearing God’s word, this “lamp unto your feet” and light unto your path.
  9. Neglect of Jesus’ teachings on the following and more (highlights, too little space here):
    1. Obeying the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets
    2. Behaving like a citizen of the heavenly Kingdom
    3. Enjoying hope of a future 2nd coming of Christ
    4. Maintaining happiness during suffering
    5. Sacrifice in order for God to gain at our loss
    6. Making disciples instead of decisions
    7. Importance of actions over words
    8. Importance of widows, orphans, and those who cannot help themselves

10.  Lack of submission to one another and to authority (Pastor, elders, deacons). I’m sorry, but if you’re reading this and believe you don’t have to submit to the pastor of your church, you’re wrong. If you don’t believe you have to submit to the elders of your church, you’re wrong. If you don’t have leaders because your church has done away with them in order not to have authority, you’re also wrong. Go to Hebrews 13, and if you can explain away that passage, I’m all ears.

See how far we’ve removed ourselves from Scripture? (There are more that my co-author came up with) If you read this and disagree, check the Bible and then comment. But after years of praying and seeking God for why our methods aren’t working, I believe we have a problem:

Prosthetic Christianity. There is indeed a problem, and it isn’t what we’re doing so much as what we’re not doing. The teachings of Jesus are extinct. They have been substituted by prosthetic slogans, such as “take up your cross” replaced by “the sinner’s prayer,” “whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will find it” is replaced with “your life of prosperity now,” “if you want to be great in God’s kingdom, learn to be the servant of all,” is replaced with “build your church and they will come.” I am tired of the game, where people leave church Sundays and don’t owe God anything else; where we forgot the Proverb, “He who shuts his ear to the cry of the poor Will also cry himself and not be answered,” (Prov 21:13).

Pray for us to find solutions to get back to the roots of our faith.

I urge you finally, to ask if you are like Solomon. Have you taken God for granted? Have you created your own church out of God’s blessing of Jesus’ assembly? If so, get off. Get back to the basics. Fewer things well. Small things. Simple things. Jesus’ things.

in Jesus,

Nate

At the new beginning

Posted: August 17, 2010 by natewhiteside in Nate Whiteside

Have you recently questioned the way we do church? You’ve probably heard “Here at _________ church, we’re a place for people who love God but hate church,” or something like that (probably more tame). You’ve probably heard of a small group of Christians who have stopped going to church, but love God passionately and are chasing their tails to try and find “true religion.” Here is a testimony of how I arrived at a potentially explosive conclusion regarding this subject (and I’m not the only one). This dialogue we’re having is something God is doing all over the nation and the world. The bus we’re riding on called “church” has developed some problems. It’s not taking us to church as the early church experienced it. I’m writing as one of the bus drivers, saying we need to get off. Off the bus, but not off church.

Story: For 10 years I have served as a pastor to adults, 5 years as youth pastor before that. I attended an internationally recognized school for missions and graduated with that degree. I attended an internationally recognized seminary for teaching the Bible accurately and graduated with that degree. Over the years, it seems that while we have been trying to do everything with excellence for God’s glory and reach our world for Christ, our best efforts aren’t having effect. We spent money and years training in homiletics for preaching, systematic theology, Hebrew, Greek, and other languages, and somehow the church is a square peg in a round hole. Along with many other people, I have had trouble balancing the words of Jesus with the capitalist, consumer-oriented ways of doing church. I learned how to captivate and draw crowds, have people pray prayers, count their decision cards after they left, and celebrate our spiritual victory. Then we never heard from those people again. I’ve experienced what many pastors have, in that ugly, scary, revolving back door at times. How do you market, compel, appease, and “sell” people not to use the back door?

It finally came to a head when I had a time of spiritual refreshment and prayer in July this year, and couldn’t sleep one night. If you can’t sleep, don’t count sheep, talk to the Shepherd (thanks Harv). So I talked to the Shepherd. That was at 11pm. At 3:30am my wife woke up (we have an infant who woke up first) and told me what time it was. I still wasn’t tired, prayed a little more and then prayed to fall asleep. God spoke to me about answers to questions our church (and especially me) has been asking for the last couple years. Mainly, “why do we do what we do?” and “Why do we emphasize the perfect worship service so much?” Why do we have fast songs first in our worship services, then slow contemplative songs, then announcements, then prayer, then offering, then a sermon, then a song, possible altar call, then dismiss? That’s church. When we say “Did you go to church?” or “Where do you go to church?” everyone knows we mean, “Did you go to a worship service?” or “Where do you attend worship services?” The word church, used by Jesus to mean “assembly” (used in Matthew 16 of Jesus’ assembly, and later in Acts of an angry mob), is a group of people He said He would build, and the gates of Hell would not stand against. He didn’t talk a lot about worship services, as much as relationships and changing the world.

Point: Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount describes the character of a person who is a citizen of His Kingdom. It doesn’t say anything about worship services. Go outside the Sermon on the Mount and what do you find? He was asked how people should treat one another, what the Kingdom of Heaven was like, and what the greatest commandments were like. He was presented with sick, lame, deaf, blind, leprous persons, and never emphasized worship services as priority. When we meet someone from a new church, or a new pastor, we always ask, “Where do you attend church?” and the second question is always either “how big is it?” or “is it growing,” or “how many people attend there?” Didn’t Jesus preach until He lost disciples in John 6? (Oh, Nate, you’re just a holy huddle guy whose upset because he doesn’t have the numbers–actually our average attendance is rising and has been rising since I came 3 years ago by God’s grace. So I write this having seen “success” but not satisfaction). Where is the success in filling a building so full of people that you have to build another one, just to talk about numbers? What if you lose accountability and as a pastor give account one day for the “very souls” of your people (Hebrews 13), and don’t have an answer as God Almighty looks you in the eye? Will Jesus ask how many were in your worship services?

Remember how the Gospel of John ends? Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me?” three times. Peter replies, “Yes,” and Jesus says, “have a better worship service.” Right. Read it (John 21).

Today, we worship the worship service. I haven’t seen a church that is exempt from this. I have been guilty of it, and if you’re a Christian reading this, you probably have too. When the worship service is just right, you walk away saying, “that was a good worship service,” and what you mean is “It made me feel good,” or “the music was good,” or “the speaker was good.” Define good.

Jesus didn’t teach that church life revolves around worship, especially the entertainment driven, consumer oriented version we stress today. With critical eyes I have participated in evaluations of worship services more than I care to admit, all to be a better church. I have failed to excel, and succeeded in excelling, and failed, and succeeded. I have a background in music, experience in small acting/theater, have been in public speaking since I was a teenager, and thought I was helping the church by making it more excellent. Currently I lead worship and preach every Sunday morning, and that has taken up much of my time every week as a Senior Pastor. We have used the standards of Western civilization and coporation models to gauge the health of the local church. Leadership books in corporate America (even the ones influenced by Christians) have come to influence the churches more than the church influences corporate leadership. Even within the last few years, with great excitement, the good people of our church where I serve as Senior Pastor have labored with me to enhance the quality of everything we do, with some success. Yet, at every turn when we try to improve, why doesn’t it satisfy?

Here’s the scary part. The bus we’re riding called church left the station, aimed at very good objectives for God’s Kingdom, developed purpose-seeker-radio-tv-podcast-powerpoint-rockstar church, reached people successfuly for Christ, and a generation later the process and method are as valued as the Word of God. That’s why we’re screaming all of a sudden “Stop the bus! Let us off! I don’t like where you’re taking me!” Phrases like “You can’t tell people about sanctification in our church,” are spoken by pastors to their congregations, “because it will offend an unbeliever.” (I wish I made that one up, but that is a quote). Some churches (again, I have specifics in mind) prohibit reading Bibles or using Bibles to varying degrees. I’m talking about evangelical churches, all conservative.

This peaked for me a year ago when I visited a church I’ll leave unnamed, in Michigan, and I brought my staff to learn from them about how to improve our Christ-likeness; no, I wish. I brought my staff to improve our worship service. Why? Because we believed that if we did that we’d attract more people, they’d get saved, they’d grow spiritually, keep the ministries going, tithe, increase chances for captial campaigns, etc. The service had excellent music, but I wasn’t able to worship because I didn’t know the songs (I think others did worship). However, the teaching time was about sex. It was definitely rated R, as the pastor and his wife sat up front and talked about (this is for adults) types of sex, even most popular ways to have sex, and when Scripture was quoted, it was used out of context and cropped for sexual jokes that I won’t repeat. I was so embarrassed and apologized to our staff, who were also embarrassed. Sadly, many people who were at that service enjoyed it and laughed (especially a group of elderly across the aisle), and left saying that they had church.

Our Journey from the bus stop, stepping off into the unknown: How do we reclaim our ancient roots of this faith that Jesus handed to the Apostles, who handed it to the early church? What did worship services look like in the early church?

First, they were a launching pad, not a landing pad as they are today. Keeping it simple, doing fewer things well, and focusing on what happens immediately afterwards. According to Pliny the Younger, who persecuted our ancient brothers and sisters, the believers would gather at sunrise, sing songs responsively to Christ as their God, pledge themselves by an oath (sacramentum) not to do any evil work, to commit no theft, robbery, nor adultery, not to break their word, nor sacrifice property entrusted to them (meaning not sacrifice it to the false Roman gods). Afterwards, (at evening) they assembled again, to eat ordinary and innocent food (the agape). Justin Martyr recorded in his First Apology, chapter sixty-seven, “And on the day called Sunday,all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability,and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given,and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need. But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead. For He was crucified on the day before that of Saturn (Saturday); and on the day after that of Saturn, which is the day of the Sun, having appeared to His apostles and disciples, He taught them these things, which we have submitted to you also for your consideration. (Roberts, A., Donaldson, J., & Coxe, A. C. (1997). The Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol.I : Translations of the writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325. The apostolic fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus. (186). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems).

We’re starting here, before the eastern faith of our ancestors was westernized. We’re reclaiming our worship gatherings as a launching pad, instead of a landing pad and the extent of our church life. We’re thanking those who developed this model for its effectiveness in the 20th Century and before, and recognizing that the 21st Century doesn’t run on the same fuel, use the same bus routes, or some of the drivers weren’t trained properly on the route. Do you know what? Each individual I’ve explained this to is so excited about it. God is doing something. Please pray and consider what I’ve written, and keep an open mind, asking God what we can do to focus on being transformed into the image of His Son, being true worshippers, in the ways of our God Jesus Christ.