Learning to love the Church

Over a year and a half ago my wife and I left the church that I grew up at to find a deeper relationship with Christ and His body outside the four walls of the institutionalized church. Since then, to my surprise, we have had very few encounters and conversations to where friends, family and other believers tried to get us to go back or find another church that better suits our needs. At the same time there have been some. I’m thankful however that most of these conversations have been out of love rather than offense and were very respectful.

I have recently noticed that my feelings toward the Church (Christ’s body, not a building) have grown over the last year and a half. I’m far from perfect and apart from Christ I am unable to love or understand love but I’ve noticed Christ’s love in me. Since starting this journey I have noticed that I’m often less judgemental of other believers. It’s much easier for me to have a truly Christ-exalting conversation with another believer regardless of what their “church life” looks like.

When we get together with other believers our discussion is more centered around Christ Himself. Rather than talking about a service we recently attended or what’s going on with the worship band we’re in we talk about truth that reveals Christ to one another in a deeper way. I am able to see Christ in my brothers and sisters in a way that I never saw before. I’m also able to see the junk in their lives that I never saw as well…and it’s beautiful. I’m able to hear from Christ through believers’ voices in a greater way.

I’m simply thankful for the many brothers and sisters that God has surrounded my wife and I with. Without them I wouldn’t know Christ the way I do. The Christian life is a corporate life, not an individual life. I’m simply thankful.

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Stuck in Colossians

For the past couple of weeks I have been stuck in Paul’s letter to the Colossians. Every time I open up the Bible I seem to go directly to that letter. Even when I attempt to read something else I lose focus and am quickly pulled back. Clearly there’s something in Colossians that I need a better understanding of, a revelation of Christ that’s waiting there for me. I’m just not quite sure what that is just yet.

Considering the above makes me think of something else I’ve been reading lately. I recently started reading The Temple Within by Milt Rodriguez again. The main theme in this book is fellowship with an indwelling Lord. Essentially understanding our place in Christ both individually and corporately as well as His place in the Father and in us. Something Milt mentions early in the book is our tendency to know so much about Jesus, to have a large amount of biblical knowledge, yet not truly know Christ himself.

Perhaps this is why I keep coming back to Colossians. Maybe I simply know it by memory and understand the truths in theory but I’m still missing a revelation of Jesus Christ. Head knowledge is overrated and doesn’t result in much more than being able to give quick answers to questions and debate with individuals who have a differing view and belief system than us. A revelation of Jesus Christ himself however is a whole different story. Understanding that Jesus himself is our peace, hope, joy, rock, love, salvation, patience, strength and all the other things that Christ is is something much greater.

I want to approach Colossians, and all other reading for that matter, with a search for nothing more than Christ. I don’t want to read the Bible like some blueprint, I want to read in order to allow Christ to reveal himself to me in greater and deeper ways. I want to find Him in the scriptures, not material for this blog and information that becomes useless apart from Him.

 

My experience reading The Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee

So this is the first blog I’ve posted since last week, and it’s a
short one. However, this post will be leading right into the blog that I will be writing tomorrow.

This is not a full book review. It is simply a brief synopsis of my experience with this book.

A couple years ago a friend told me about this little book called The Normal Christian Life by a man named Watchman Nee. I found things that my friend was saying to be very interesting, much deeper than things I’ve read and teachings I had heard in the past. After a short time I went to a local bookstore to find this book that seemed to have so much truth in it. Sure enough the bookstore had it, and it was even really cheap. So I started reading The Normal Christian Life for the very first time. I was amazed at how difficult it was for me to understand what Watchman Nee was talking about. I’ve never had to read a book so slow, read such small pieces at a time or re-read so many pages and chapters, every page was like a new revelation. I carried this book with me everywhere I went for about a year. If I had my Bible with me, sure enough that little book was with me as well. So after about a year of reading, thinking, meditating and talking about the teachings contained in this book I finished reading it, and have since then read various sections of it over and over. When I step back and look at the truths contained in The Normal Christian Life I realize that they are basic Christian truths, at least they should be. Points such as our death in Christ, our new life in Him and the fact that we can’t please God so we should stop trying should all be very elementary in the Church, but yet I had a hard time understanding them at first, even after growing up around Christianity nearly my entire life. The Normal Christian Life is a book that I recommend to every Christ follower, no matter their background, doctrines, church practice, age or even their denomination.

I’m telling you all of this because I be posting another blog tomorrow about one of the truths I learned from reading this book that completely changed my life and view on a lot of things. It was a truth that set me on a long journey which I am still on. What I’m going to share tomorrow is something that I believe should be one of the foundational pieces of truth for beginning this lifelong journey toward Christ and in Christ. I suspect that tomorrow’s post will be pretty long, longer than usual, so please feel free print it out and continue reading or simply keep coming back to pick up where you left off. I won’t be posting any other blogs after tomorrow’s until next week.

Abandoning our first love: What we have in common with the church in Ephesus

But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. – John (Revelation 2:4)

Prior to this statement, John wrote some good things about the church in Ephesus, he wrote that that he knew about their works, their toil, their patient endurance and how they can’t bear with evil. He noticed and pointed out all of these great qualities, yet he still still had something against the Ephesians, that they had abandoned their first love. He then called them to remember from where they had fallen and then repent. This first love that they had abandoned was Jesus Christ. This shows that it’s possible to do all sorts of great things “for God” or “for the Kingdom” without actually acknowledging Christ, which in turn makes these things that we’ve been doing pretty worthless in the end apart from that first love, which is Christ.

John saw a problem in the Body of Christ, he noticed that believers were losing sight of Christ, who is the center and point of everything. His gospel account was even written to believers to give them a fresh revelation of Jesus. I’m convinced that this same spirit of restoring Christ in all things is running rampant in our day as well. There’s this massive need for a fresh revelation of Christ, for simplifying our lives and church lives / practice. Again, it’s possible to do things for God and yet not know Him and not abide in Him. We have to find our place in Him, our rest in Him, to properly function in Him. The point is to know Christ and walk in the truth that He is alive in and through us and we are dead.

There are so many doctrines, ministries, books, ideas and programs, so many things being thrown our way that it’s far too easy to lose sight of Christ himself. Speaking from experience, there’s lots of “good” things that I’ve done, having been formerly involved in ministry at a traditional church, that I know were more of a distraction at times. Did God give grace? Yes. But the truth was I had lost sight of Christ because I was focusing on “Christian things”. Christian things can and should never take Christ’s rightful place on the throne in our lives and ministries. We have got to be more mindful of Christ and walk this life out truly in Him.

My prayer is that I can center all things around Him in order to know Him. My hope is that we (His body) can build each other up to reveal Christ to one another and to ultimately become the bride that He is preparing. Let’s simplify what we do and how do it. Let’s find our place and rest in Him so that we can simply know Him in experience.

What are your thoughts, observations & lessons you’ve learned on this subject?

The most difficult leg of our journey so far

Well over a year ago, maybe even two two years ago, I began a journey. Over a year ago marriage became part of my journey and it was no longer just my own, but it now became my wife’s journey as well. It all started when I began feeling a discontent with the current state of the Church, both the one I was a part of and even the universal way of doing church. It began with a simple statement…”There has to be more to church life than this.”

I’m sure you know this story well, we started testing and questioning everything we were accustomed to, something that was a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember. We read books about other ways “doing church”, we read the New Testament a lot, we read blogs and we had long (many times negative) talks about the church over coffee. Around this time, God gave us a glimpse of organic church life and a fresh revelation of Christ as the Head of the church and center of all things, and since then we have seen many glimpses of Christ, His eternal purpose, and authentic community. He has changed our hearts and attitudes toward our brothers and sisters and their thoughts, beliefs and practices.

And with all that God has shown us and done, I feel like we are staggering in our building up of one another. I feel like when we’re together we are unfocused. Well, we’re focused, but not on Christ, lifting Him up, or growing into Him with each other. So here we arrive at the most difficult part of our journey. We struggle to keep from being “religious” and trying to make things happen in our own power because we only want Christ and what He wants to do, and then we forget that Christ dwells in us, is active and living, and it’s His will for us to grow up into Him with each other, therefore we’re not intentional in glorifying Christ together but we wait around for something to happen. Are we afraid to share Christ with one another and therefore forsake one of our highest calls because we’re too scared to make mistakes? Do we really have that little faith in a Lord that dwells inside of us?

I don’t want this to be condemning whatsoever, either for my wife and I or our brothers and sisters in Christ whom we love. What I want is to step out in faith and forsake whatever junk is in me that is keeping us from growing and seeing Christ together in greater ways. I am extremely stoked about Christ and His body. I am stoked and blessed to have an amazing wife/best friend who is in love with Jesus and amazing friends who so are loving and beneficial to my life in Christ. Thank you Jesus for the world and surroundings that you have placed me in, even if I sometimes get annoyed by our situations.

Jesus Manifesto: A Book Review

So I have been meaning to start doing book reviews on here for a while now, and of course sometimes I can be a procrastinator….even about things I care about. But anyway, this will be my first book review on this blog, with hopefully more to come in the future.

When I first saw that Frank Viola and Leonard Sweet were going to be writing a book together after releasing their joint essay, I got pretty excited. The essay itself was a kick back on track for many believers, showing us that Christ is all and in all. Of course I was already a fan and beneficiary of both Viola and Sweet’s writings, so the fact that they were collaborating was a plus as well.

First, this book does not exist to give us a step by step guide for living a better Christian life such as many mainstream books these days. Instead, it gives us a glimpse of the beautiful, all encompassing Christ that we so often lose sight of. If there’s one thing that I know I walked away from this book with was the realization of how we all so easily lose sight Christ, the true Jesus that is, not the Santa Jesus, or the Civil Rights Jesus, or the Moral Teacher Jesus, but the one true Son of God, the life giving spirit, the Christ in whom all things are summed up.

This book doesn’t just give us more theology and more doctrine, but it shows that Christ is far too immense to be locked into a systematic theology. So many believers might say “I understand Jesus, but it’s time to move onto deeper things.” Point: You cannot graduate beyond Christ while in this life. Viola and Sweet show us that Christ is the one “thing” we seek, any other spiritual “thing” trembles in comparison to Christ, even good things. Jesus Manifesto proves that all spiritual things are found only in Him alone, and they can never be detached from Him.

Jesus Manifesto calls out the types and aspects of Jesus that so many believers get caught up in, the “things” that are in Christ, as opposed to the one true Jesus, and they reveal them for what they are. I believe that this is a very important book not only for our generation, but for for generations to come. We have to see Jesus Christ for who He really is and experience His life for what it really is. We have to obsess over this Christ, Jesus Himself, so that “…in all things He might have the supremacy.”

Frank Viola and Leonard Sweet have sounded forth a decree to the Body of Christ to return to its first love. Jesus Manifesto contains a heart cry that will speak for years to come, and yet it’s merely a glimpse of the vastness of Christ and His riches.

There are few books that I believe should be read by every Christ follower, and this book is one of them.

God’s antidote for His Church

whenever there is a departure from Divine thoughts, whenever there is a loss of the original revelation of God, whenever the heavenliness, the spirituality, the Divine power of that which is of God ceases to operate in the midst of His people, and whenever the glory departs, the Lord’s reaction to such a state of things is to bring His Son anew into view”
-T. Austin Sparks

Recently I’ve been reading a book called “The School of Christ” by T. Austin Sparks. In it he mentions that John’s gospel was one of the last pieces of New Testament scripture written. What struck me as more interesting was that it was written at a time where the Church had gone astray and lost it’s vision, or purpose, and needed Christ freshly revealed to them again…

After all else had been written, after all the wisdom God showed through His work in Paul, Peter and the other apostles, after all the miraculous works that took place and the communities that were planted, John states…

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God..”

This is where it all begins, and this is what John had to say to these people who had been believers for years.

I’ve seen first hand the dangers of losing sight of Christ, I’ve experienced focusing more on music, on organization, on institutions made by man, on various gifts of the Spirit, all sorts of things that may be good or bad, and losing sight of Christ. “But I’m doing this FOR God” some might say, and they, as I was, are truly sincere in their hearts, but that’s not what God asks for. Jesus said OUR righteousness is as filthy rags, how can we expect to give something to God of our own? We can do nothing apart from Christ, meaning anything that we do (even things for God) apart from Christ (which is all too possible and common) is worth nothing, because what pleases God is His Son. We can try all we want to implement new ideas and new programs, but they ultimately fail, what we need to implement is Christ and His eternal purpose.

In recent months God has shown and revealed His son to me in new and fresh ways, in simple ways. The Church as a whole, though often sincere, is deceived into not focusing on Christ, recognizing His Lordship but not recognizing His Headship. I believe the Body of Christ needs a simple, fresh presentation of Christ and His eternal purpose. We don’t need new direction or other revelation, we need Christ, at all moments, in all situations, for in Him all the fullness of God dwells.