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Category Archives: If Jesus Did Church

Imagine what church or any ministry might look like, feel like, if Jesus were actually in charge of it. What would He think of ours, here, today?

Martian Chronicles: Respect

Mars OneWell! Here we are again, assembled in preparation for a first expeditionary missionary trip to Mars, scheduled for sometime between 2025 and 2040.

Today I want to look at what some would call a “meta-issue”. Neither content nor context, but the process we are using.

Over the past several weeks I have been amazed at this project. Amazed at the number of people reading it… at the number of people commenting… at the amazing diversity of readers, commentators, participants… and at the “fragrance of grace” that has perfused the commentary.

In case you are a “casual” or “intermittent” reader of The Postmodern Mystic, let me assure you… we do NOT all agree. Many of these commentators and the bloggers that cross-talk among our blogs come from extremely different traditions, worship in vastly different ways, and even differ on some generally hotly debated topics of theology.

And yet… it takes very little time indeed to sense the great sense of “amity”, “harmony”, “accord”, and “familiality” (not familiarity) that exists in these writings and among these opinionated disciples. (And believe me… we ARE “opinionated” disciples, indeed.)

So… if we’re all so opinionated, dedicated, fairly passionate… how does all the “amity” and “accord” come about? Well, obviously, the “textbook answer” is “the grace of God”, the “spirit of Christ”… all that. That’s a GOOD answer. That’s the RIGHT answer. But sometimes even a good and right answer, isn’t terribly helpful. My peculiar ministry, pastoral counseling, teaching, healing of heart… rests in my effort to take what is “good and right”, and find words to make it “helpful” and “pragmatic”.

For example: take the question… “How do I live a righteous life?” Answer: “Stop sinning.” See? True, good answer, right answer. Not necessarily helpful for most people. I myself have needed a bit more pragmatic structure to an answer to work for me. The ultimate answer I’ve found that helps ME (not to say it should work for you or anyone else), is “treat all people as the sacred children of God, fashioned in His image by His hand in His love”. Doing that seems to avoid most “sin” in my life, and address my challenge of righteous living.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Now, I am manfully resisting the impulse to launch into a detailed essay about “one accord”. One of the most challenging passages of Scripture ENDS in what are among my very FAVORITE verses, describing the nature of Jesus and His relationship with the Father. But that same passage BEGINS with the most challenging and difficult verses that I have struggled with my whole life, let alone career…

Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. [Philippians 2:1-11]

It’s this “regard for one another” thing… this defeat-of-the-ego thing… that so arrests my attention. It’s not to say that one’s own view is wrong, or another’s more right. This passage really treats such issues as irrelevant. It’s all in the relationship… it’s all in the context, not the content.

Ignatius of Loyola, in his manual of exercises for spiritual growth, sets out what he called a “Presupposition” as he opens his work, thus:

In order that both he who is giving the Spiritual Exercises, and he who is receiving them, may more help and benefit themselves, let it be presupposed that every good Christian is to be more ready to save his neighbor’s proposition than to condemn it. If he cannot save it, let him inquire how he means it; and if he means it badly, let him correct him with charity. If that is not enough, let him seek all the suitable means to bring him to mean it well, and save himself.

Please bear in mind that Ignatius was writing in Spanish about 500 years ago, and some phrasing does not translate smoothly.

Anyway, I said I’m not going to prolong an essay here, so I shall not. But suffice it to say that one of the most difficult truths I’ve ever had to learn was that someone can disagree with me, even profoundly… and still be “right” because of their own experiences and understanding, without me necessarily being “wrong”.

Herein, I think, lies the mystery of the “amity” and “harmony” of this table and discussion. We all seem willing to grant respect to one another, to consider one another’s views as valuable as our own. In doing that, our words “give life” and “give value” to the other… rather than taking it away.

I work to bring this view into the everyday world around me, but it seems much easier when directly discussing God and obvious matters of spirit.

Anybody else out there find this to be so? Or is it the opposite? lol. Is it easier to be “calm and understanding” in matters of “the world”, and more adrenalin-filled when dealing with discussions of God?

 

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Martian Chronicles: Water Shortage

Mars OneWell! Here we are again, assembled in preparation for a first expeditionary missionary trip to Mars, scheduled for sometime between 2025 and 2040.

Since we have decided that “rituals” and “traditions” are too heavy to take along, and we are a multi-denominational team of Christians determined to share leadership subject to the Lordship of Christ through the Holy Spirit…

Let’s consider how we intend to “practice ministry” according to scriptural guidelines only, without yielding into parochial debates of traditional practices and interpretations.

Let’s use this example…

Let us suppose one of our colonists comes to profess faith in Christ and seeks to enter fully into the life of Kingdom.

  • Need we baptize that person through a physical ritual?
  • If so, must that involve WATER? (H2O)?
  • If so, how much is necessary?

As I am certain the engineers and technical briefings Don has endured have made clear… the two most critical substances we will deal with in this expedition will be Oxygen, and Water. Water will be valued far above its weight in platinum. The Biosphere we will help create and stabilize will be needed to help produce and purify both water and oxygen, and electrolysis and other highly inefficient means will have to be used to produce them. We’ll not be able to afford wasting even a molecule if we can avoid it, and our use will be severely limited.

Even hygienic “baths” as we are accustomed to here, will be luxuries beyond imagination there. Bodily cleansing, in the colony, will be exercised through non-aqueous solvents that can be synthesized readily, purified, and reclaimed rapidly.

So… how do we want to approach this with scripture alone as our guide? Do we ask the engineers to design a “misting suit” that a candidate can wear, simultaneously moistening them in an instant while we speak words of induction into the Body of Christ? Do we anoint them with a moistened towelette on the forehead? Do we immerse them physically in a bath of fluid representing water, but not water, to stand in for our evangelical “baptistries”?

What do you think?

* pours coffee, tea, and cuts pie. Wonders how many at the table believe ‘abstinence’ to be an issue? Wonders if this may be the moment to check that out? *.

 

 

Martian Chronicles: Ritual, Rites, Runes

Mars One Well! Here we are again, assembled in preparation for a first expeditionary missionary trip to Mars, scheduled for sometime between 2025 and 2040.

All righty then, having established that we gather in mutual respect, and seeking the means best to express the love of Christ among and around us…

Let’s consider a “knotty” question then…

Taking Scripture as our only “Gold Standard”…

How should we approach the issue of “Ritual”?

God expresses Himself to us through “spirit” and “truth”, through revelation by inspiration of the Holy Spirit; expression of the Word of God “Logos”, the words of Christ through the Holy Bible; and through relationship of love and mutual encouragement through others and godly counsel. This is not an “exhaustive list”, but it’s the list of means I have experienced that God “speaks”. Are there more? Discussion open.

But people, social creatures that we are, tend to group together and express our response to all that… not only through the privacy of prayer and secret worship, individual worship, but also through the congregate enterprise of “religion”. A major part of that is the development of “ritual” or “congregate practices of devotion” that we engage in.

Historically, these practices codify into one or another form of Codex, or Rituum, or set of Rites that identify a group and its cohesion. Ultimately, it devolves into a clan or a tribe, identifying with one another as being “right” and “good”, and with others or alternative practices as “wrong” or “bad”. Terrible wars, intense bloodshed, have been pursued among Christians who have mutually inflicted martyrdom upon one another.

We, at this table, seem dedicated and determined not to follow such a path…

So my question is… how?

What elements of congregate practice, group cohesion, mutual encouragement in worship, prayer, and mutual support… reflect the heart and mind of Christ? What is “good” about “ritual” (if anything), and thus should be kept? And what can we properly eliminate (if anything), as NOT reflective of Christ and the revelation of God’s heart in the Bible?

How do we DO this “church” thing?

Coffee’s poured, tea’s up… Pie sliced… and this time, I brought some cookies, too!

 

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Martian Chronicles – Who Are You?

Mars OneThe last post opened the question of leadership of this project, to establish the First Church of Mars.

As comments and discussion has ensued along this series of posts, I’ve found myself often stilled and humbled at the quality of commentators. All different traditions and denominations… heck, even different continents… and yet, so much the same. So willing to listen more than speak. To ponder more than pontificate. To seek rather than dictate.

It ought not surprise you to hear that I am seldom stunned into silence by an overwhelming wave of humility, but that’s what happened to me towards the close of last week. As I reviewed these discussions, these comments, related comments on other posts on other blogs in this little “network” that seems to have developed… I was stunned with…

An overwhelming sense of the privilege of being counted among such a company.

Don, Paul, VW, ChapLynne, Messenger, Paula, Cate, Levi… so many others… I was gobsmacked by an incredible sense of privilege. The weird thing was, there are times I’ve been overtaken by a sense of “unworthiness” to minister… I’m accustomed to that kind of humility from time to time. But this was quite different. This was to look around the table in great joy, and a sense of amazement at belonging to such a company.

But as my gaze widened beyond just THIS table, there was this tremendous sense of the joy of belonging, the sense of family, among LOTS and LOTS of brethren. A sense of oneness with everyone who simply loves God, and loves in the name of God. Didn’t matter whether “professional” minister or not… not a whit. Didn’t matter what the nature of the gift, or the calling, the vocation, the denomination, none of that. Just the oneness of the love, and the service in and of love.

It’s as if my gaze expanded to include all of Kingdom, all of humanity, all of everyone who God loves and particularly who loves back. Faces upon faces upon faces, all glowing.

And I didn’t know what I was seeing. It was wondrous, breathtaking, startling, and altogether fabulous… but what was it?

And ever so quietly, it seemed Jesus answered so simply, saying… “Saints, Little Monk. You are seeing ‘saints’. These are the people Paul so often addressed in his letters. These are the people of My true church, My true body and bride. These are My children, they populate My kingdom and love in My name.

“Enjoy the moment, Little Monk, you sit at a table populated by saints, and the feeling you sense is simply what *I* mean by… communion.”

Thought you’d like to know. I’m still gobsmacked to sit here.

*As I pour and pass the coffee and tea, and slice some more pie to go around.*

 

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Martian Chronicles – The Company We Keep

Mars OneWell! Here we are again, assembled in preparation for a first expeditionary missionary trip to Mars, scheduled for sometime between 2025 and 2040.

We’re gathered in the common room of our quarters with 9 other anchor couples or individuals, planning our establishment of work and organization of our project. We have extraordinary freedom and blessing of our denominations to establish this new work according to scriptural lines as led by the Holy Spirit, as a cooperative and collaborative effort, rather than trying to “plant another church” according to our own parochial model.

We have met and gotten acquainted. We’ve posed a few questions to consider, and even considered a couple of them.

The first question we talked about was: “What are we here to do? What is our purpose, our mission?” Lively discussion ensued. Thus far, it seems the best response has been posed by Susan Irene Fox in a comment to “Martian Chronicles: Who’s In Charge?”.

LM, to go back to one of your questions, “what is the ‘point’ of church” as Jesus/Scripture sees it. In my reading of it, (and forgive, I’m a new believer – only eight years in), isn’t it to edify, to encourage, care for the poor, orphans and elders, to gently correct brothers and sisters when needed, but primarily to reflect the image of God to others? To show God through being salt and light? To build His kingdom by making disciples?

That about sums that up for me, no? If anyone can, feel free to improve on that definition. Otherwise, I’m good with that. Thank you, Susan.

The next question we have considered is “Leadership”.

Given that we are all Spirit led servants, with an immediate sense of the intimate presence of the Lord Jesus, how should this project’s leadership be structured? Discussion is open.

One thing that has interested me is… Denominational tradition, whether liturgical or evangelical… appoints a Chief Executive Minister. That may be the church pastor, senior pastor, senior minister, or other title.

It seems, though, that looking at the First Century Church, we always see leadership and ministry being a “team” effort, whether “pastors” (which I’ve never seen as a singular noun in Acts or epistles), or even apostles. Now, certainly, apostles traveled solo from time to time, bringing the Gospel to a new area and helping establish new communities of faith. But even so, it seems decisions were made or discussions held on matters of leadership and practice, by conferring together.

So, how do we want to structure leadership in this new project?

Coffee and tea are hot. Juice and soft drinks are chilled. Pie is sliced. Discussion is now officially open. What do YOU think? (There’s no right/wrong answer here! :))

 

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Whatcha Know?

244px-messier-42-10-12-2004-filtered-e1401834586474All right, Gentle Reader…

Today I’m going to request your patient indulgence. Just go with me here a moment, ok?

Now, here is an interesting idea that followed my discovery of Gentleness last week. Ready?

Content Warning: I’m about to say an outrageously arrogant thing. (At least on first blush.) But bear with me. This may surprise you!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“I know everything.”

I mean that. I know ALL. All there is to know and be known.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Now, if that were said boastfully, said in a tone of “neener”, said as children sometimes say, “I know something you don’t know…”, then I’d be in a great deal of trouble right now. That would be a prideful arrogant lie, said to exalt myself and put others down. Perhaps that would offend you (which I would not do), and I’d certainly earn some “quiet time” with the Lord. He does not do well with His children in boastful ego games.

Look here a moment, at these verses, and forget that you’ve ever heard or seen them before. Just let the words speak for themselves…

  1. John 12:50
    And I know that his command is eternal life. So whatever I say, I speak just as the Father has told me.”

    John 12:49-50 (in Context) John 12 (Whole Chapter) Other Translations

  2. John 17:3
    And this is · eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you sent.

    John 17:2-4 (in Context) John 17 (Whole Chapter) Other Translations

  3. 1 John 3:15
    Everyone who hates · his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

    1 John 3:14-16 (in Context) 1 John 3 (Whole Chapter) Other Translations

  4. 1 John 5:13
    I am writing these things to you so that you may know that you have eternal life—you who believe in the name of the Son of God.

    1 John 5:12-14 (in Context) 1 John 5 (Whole Chapter) Other Translations

  5. 1 John 5:20
    And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us discernment so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in · his Son Jesus Christ. This one is the true God and eternal life.

    1 John 5:19-21 (in Context) 1 John 5 (Whole Chapter) Other Translations

Let me repeat one of those verses, and then we’ll follow up with a couple questions:

“And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you sent.” Jesus said this to the Father as He prayed out loud in front of the Companion Disciples on their behalf and for all those who believed in Him based on their words. (Like us). I have always looked at that verse, John 17:3, in “One Direction”. That is… I have sought to know God, that I acquire eternal life. Like I had to “earn” eternal life by “acquiring” knowledge of God.

See the problem? See how it reflects in all those verses there? See how many of us in ministry suffer from this same malady?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

You know? I’ve just taken a few minutes break from this post. To pause. To be quiet. To listen…

I had planned to go into a big exposition thing. You know, moving through those verses focusing on “eternal life”, and “knowing”, and the Holy Spirit.

But you, Gentle Reader, have no need of any of that. You are an Indwelt Bible Scholar. Interested and literate.

Really, for me to do as I was planning, would rather deny the entire point, so here it is.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Here’s the critical questions, and then tell me what YOU think…

Are you, personally, Indwelt? Does the Holy Spirit reside in you? How much of Him… all… or part?

Do you have eternal life? Do you know that for sure? Good.

Then… WHAT DO YOU KNOW?

Or rather… WHOM do you know?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Look at Jesus’ words! Both of the Father and of the Spirit in those chapters. You KNOW GOD. He is IN you. And He cannot be “parsed” or “separated” or “dissected”. God… is a rather All or Nothing proposition.

Here is the shocking conclusion the Lord led me to…

I know everything. Yes. Because yes, I have eternal life… truly. And, with that IN me, I know God… fully.

But there’s no brag or boast in that, because all who have eternal life, know just as much as I do. And all who know Christ, who are Indwelt, have such eternal life.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So what does this mean? What is this all about? Is this just Little Monk playing with semantics and being cute with words? Trying to shock everyone?

No. By no means. May it never be!

What this is, is my own shocking realization that I’ve spent so many years trying to “acquire the knowledge of God”, like a pearl trying to grow by accretion of layer upon layer of truth. When God clearly said it doesn’t work like that.

The Holy Spirit brings All Truth with Him, along with eternal life and the assurance of that. THAT becomes like “treasure in one’s field”. The task then, is not to LEARN new “stuff”. The task is to settle quietly, and realize (make real), experience, and comprehend… what one already KNOWS!

It’s not to dash hither and yon through one theology after another, one book after another, one school after another, trying to “collect bits and pieces of the knowledge of God”.

The task is to stop, listen, align the heart, mind, will. Surrender to His love and trust to that. Allow His love, His grace, His priorities to soak through us, our psychologies and neuroses, our fears and insecurities… with trust and love. That we understand how firmly and securely He holds us in HIS embrace… that we then be equipped to embrace others in that same love.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So yes, I will again say the shocking thing I’ve come to understand…

“I know everything.”

BUT, Gentle Reader, so do you! Now let us carry on “bringing to our remembrance” what we already know, that we may understand and live it out, walking.

Amen

P.S. Whatcha know? 🙂 Everything!

 

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The Doctor is… “IN”

244px-messier-42-10-12-2004-filtered-e1401834586474Deepest apologies, Gentle Readers, for my absence the past week. Due to “technical difficulties beyond my control”, my internet connection was disrupted. Please forgive me. I trust to that. ‘Nuff said.

A week of virtual absence was almost a “retreat” for me, and the Lord made interesting use of the time. I want to share something rather incredible that happened, and it’s not really a part of the “Martian Chronicles”, so I just share it as-is…

First, without a lot of narrative or explanation, just know (if you don’t already) that for much of my life, my primary struggles with prevailing sin revolve around: pride, judging, adrenalin, and temper. Usually these are entwined in some way. When I treat someone else as “less than sacred” (my definition of sin), it is usually through pique, influenced by adrenalin, based on judging them or out of my pride and arrogance. Simple confession that, and for those who’ve known me for years, I can see you from here smiling and nodding.

Through years of practice, transformation, grace, training from others, and application of self-discipline, I have learned some degree of self-control on this. I have learned the PRACTICE of “Gentleness” in 99 cases out of 100. One percent of the time, I still fall and face restoration, but for the most part people see me as gentle. (And, for the most part, so I am.)

But always, especially regarding the heart and mind of Christ and the Father, their unrelenting love and embrace… there’s a “fire in my belly”, and a sense of impatience and frustration with those who cannot see this. My own life is poured out to find ways, means, words, to communicate and make His Presence and His Nature real and immediate for those who seek Him.

Anyway, enough of that. But, to put it simply… a week and a half ago I had the strangest thing happen. In my sleep. On a Saturday night… into Sunday morning. Sunday morning, I woke up and I was… well, I was… “Gentle”. I can’t imagine how strange that sounds, or seems, to read. But it’s simply true. I woke up, and as I began to pray, to think, to breathe, to focus my eyes… I was enfolded in a sense of “caring for” all that I thought of.

Not even going to try to explain it, let alone describe it adequately. But quite dramatically, it’s wasn’t a “feeling” or a “sentiment”. It was an “attitude”, that all people, everyone I could think of, friend, family, stranger, enemy (in their own minds), offender, client, survivor, victim, sheep, goat, sinner… everyone and anyone I could think of, was “sacred” child of God. I can approach such a child with either gentleness, or abuse (and my heart has never much been one for abuse).

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Not going to spend a lot of time here in theory, hypothesis, or speculative explanation. Here’s just a report… that God has transformed something in me from what I was, to give me His “Gift of Gentleness”. And it is different than I’ve ever known before.

My passion, that fire in my belly, is not “gone”. But it has moved aside to make way for this new thing. As the Lord has unfolded a bit more about this, it’s that here is a new aspect of the character and heart of God. Consuming fire? Yes. But also… Living Water.

Water yields, embraces, enfolds… without compromise. Water does not compact well. (Hence “hydraulics”). It maintains its volume and substance, but can adapt shape readily. Living Water. Embracing freely. Water can embrace and yield, without ever being reduced or compromising. Tricky, that…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I used to readily be gentle with “good guys”, with sacred children who live out their sacredness. But I would struggle with self-control with “bad guys”, who live in desecration of themselves and others. And that tendency, that set point, has now changed. There is no more distinction.

I wondered how “bad guys” had suddenly become “good guys”. I didn’t question the reality of what has happened. There’s scripture behind it, Jesus walk behind it, affirmation of spirit… all of that. But I just didn’t understand how this reversal had happened.

Until I came to a realization, and here is where I’ll end this…

I’m truly convinced that “righteousness” is to treat others (or self) as the sacred children they are, and “sin” is to fail to do so. I used to think of the “righteous” as comprising “sacred children”, and the “unrighteous” as “less sacred than others”.

The Lord addressed this… pointing out that (as so often I do) I was getting this upside down.

I was thinking in a very arrogant manner regarding “sacredness”. What makes a child “sacred”?

What makes a child sacred has nothing at all to do with how they handle their own sacredness, gifts, or behavior. WE, as observers, do not “define the sacred”. THEY, as actors and participants in their gift of life, do not “define the sacred”.

Only GOD “defines the sacred”, both in its nature, its structure, and its evaluation. All people are sacred because He fashioned them, He breathes life into them, and He loves them. That… is the end of the discussion. “Sacredness”… is bestowed by the Love of God. And there is no child, whom He does not infinitely love.

Apparently, having finally learned that and how truly not to judge… I have become capable of receiving the Gift of Gentleness, and experiencing it.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

There have been a couple more wrinkles to this epiphany and change… more to come.

Grace to thee, Gentle Reader!

 

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