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Discipleship, Master, Servant, Ministry

This is a first for me.

I am uploading a “Podcast”.

I wish I could say it were mine, but it’s not.

I wish I could even tell you whose it is, but I’ll not.

He would not wish it so. Rather, he would have you focus on the words alone, without any distractions of himself, his career, accomplishments, or credentials. Therefore, simply judge the “words”, not the biography of the speaker.

There is a great deal of really healthy lively discussion around two topics these days among committed brethren in Christ, that I’ve been “pondering heavy”. This sermon just resonated deeply in my heart when I heard this, that I simply had to share this here in this way… without trying to edit, synthesize, or re-speak what was said.

The two topics in my mind/heart were/are:

“Discipleship: What is that and how do we promote it?”

and

“How do we rightly deal with differences of view, among committed servants and brethren in the Lord?”

When ministers start to think, “I am ‘more right’ than that other minister, and it is important for me to ‘fix’ him/her…” are we not re-stating, in 21st Century theology, “Lord, please set me…” [and those who believe just like *I* do]… “at Your left and right hands when You sit on Your throne!”?

Let these words from an old friend, resonate for you… [33 minutes, I think. Great investment of heartbeats.]

Grace to you! — The Little Monk

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When Steel Doors Clang!

Prison Bars Twas the Night Before Christmas, and all through the Big House… earsplitting sirens blared, the clank of great steel doors slamming shut assailed us from every direction, and a stentorian voice bellowed down every corridor, “Everyone stand still, stop where you are, and wait. This facility is now under Lockdown.”

For 70 or so good-hearted church volunteers, carolers, and choristers, there crept the growing realization that they were now, however briefly, actually incarcerated in a State Penitentiary. Corrections Officers on high alert, conducted civilians from our several buildings and ushered all into the Cafeteria where I (as the only Staff Chaplain in the Facility that night) was asked to help all remain calm and host our visitors, explaining what was going on.

Simply put, there had been an escape(!), we were now in Lockdown, and these wonderful church folk who had intended nothing more complicated at 10 p.m. than bringing comfort, Chapel services and worship, and music to cheer inmates in the late hours of Christmas Eve, were now the unexpected guests of the State, unauthorized and physically unable to exit the facility or get to their cars.

Why am I telling this story? Because that night utterly changed the ministries of some of those people.

An Inmate had escaped and was thought to be somewhere on the grounds. He had access to the Parking Lot, and could now be secreted in any of the MANY cars and vans crowding the asphalt on this busy night.

In order to leave, one carload at a time had to be escorted out of the Cafeteria, through a number of Control Points with an armed team, be escorted to their vehicle, wait while the vehicle was carefully searched, and follow a Prison Vehicle out the drive and off the property. Only thus, were we assured that they were not accosted by the escapee, possibly forced to give transportation away from the Prison.

  • This was a bit frightening
  • This was NOT what they’d signed on for
  • This was tedious and frustrating, with all the stop and go
  • One vehicle at a time, this was going to take a LONG TIME.

And so it did. It took hours, and I was the last to leave. But in those hours two amazing things happened.

First, there were longer conversations and interactions between these visitors and Prison personnel, and even the Inmates (who had been assigned to the Cafeteria for the evening), than these loving Church members had ever had before, or expected to have. Many had the chance to actually make FRIENDS with these “Prison People”.

Second, for perhaps the very first time in their lives, they were truly INCARCERATED. Granted, they’d done nothing wrong, but they COULD NOT LEAVE. It was no longer their choice, not in their control. There are few such feelings short of aircraft travel, for we who live lawful lifestyles. Of course, the few hours of inconvenience do not compare to years of imprisonment, but for many, the experience of hearing those doors slam, seeing (now) armed officers preventing them from leaving or getting to their cars, did a work in their hearts.

After such a traumatic adventure, frankly, I never expected any of them to return, but in that I was quite wrong. For many, the experience had the exact opposite effect. They’d found themselves, for the first time, imagining what it would be like for this to be an “every single day” state.

Some of these visitors became our most faithful chaplaincy volunteers, as the social isolation of incarceration had become concrete and real to them. They teamed up in projects of Prison Ministry, and came to conduct Bible Studies, Tutoring, Literacy or other classes, and provide worship and music.

The Church (Body and Bride of Christ), and YOUR Church (no matter where or how big), can make a difference in the lives of incarcerated people, in the lives of former inmates returning to re-enter the community, and/or in the lives of families (and children) of those in jail or prison.

Over time, I hope to document different ways any Body of Christ can lift Him up in the community, and share grace, love, light all around them. It’s amazing how many creative ways Jesus has found to touch others through churches of any size and composition.

What have you seen, experienced, or heard about folks doing through their church that have touched lives in an unexpected way?


 

32 All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; 33 and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 38 And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39 When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’

41 “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; 43 I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ 44 Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” [Matthew 25]

 

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Spiritual Warfare – The Medieval Meets High Tech

candle book Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give. [Matthew 19:8]

But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ [Matthew 28:16-20]

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I have… “struggled” seems too dramatic a word… but I’ve seriously pondered whether or not to pursue a line of discussion that I’ve felt called to engage for a very long time. I’ve decided to open the question to you, Gentle Reader, and listen to your response(s). Feel free, if you wish to remain private, to direct any thoughts to me directly by email at Little_Monk_60@yahoo.com if you wish.

Spiritual warfare is real. Personalities of darkness and shadow are real. All of us interact with such shadows daily to some extent or another. (Do we experience temptation? Yes? Is that from God or any other entity of Light? No? Well then…)

K, now, having said that… there is lots and LOTS of drama that can be made from this fact, and lots and lots of stories, books, movies, and (nowadays) reality TV that can exploit that drama.

Right about there, all consensus falls apart on this subject. From that point forward, worldviews vary along a spectrum of “the collective consciousness of human ‘bad intention'” to the wildly frightened seeing of horned beasts behind every closet door and the need to wrap the self in bubble wrap and cotton wool before getting out of bed.

THEREFORE, the general “polite Christian response” to such matters… is to ignore them utterly. Pray privately, yes… preach by strict scriptural quotation, yes… go with the flow of the politically and socially correct fotm on matters of Halloween or the hottest paranormal movie, yes… but, in general, just hope all this goes away quietly when it comes up.

THIS, ladies and gentlemen, is a real problem.

This “blind eye to the glass” approach leaves lots and lots of hurting people, really struggling in battles of spiritual warfare, cast off out there in a sea of uncertainty as to where and how to get help or support.

As a counselor, a minister, a pray-er, I am periodically deeply involved in spiritual warfare. Whether in the dramatic or the mundane, I feel that it is of paramount importance that Christians be aware and knowledgeable on this.

The problem is… how? The fundamentals of worldview difference means that “dialogue in common language and understanding” is very difficult. Holding the “respect line” when speaking with someone of a radically different worldview is challenging. Denominational, historical, cultural difference… both on the fundamentals of cause, effect, etiology… and in the response and mechanics of ministry to need… The challenges to meaningful dialogue can seem insurmountable.

At the same time, the reality that there is “something there”, and the adventurous spirit of the young and their boldness… combined with the “spiritual vacuum” so often experienced from the public face of the Christian community… have made a situation where this deeply religious matter is more and more entering our homes and minds through the “scientific” application of technology to spiritual entities through prime time television.

For professional reasons, I watch such programming fairly diligently. I’ll be frank, some episodes just scare me to death. NOT as to the “reality” or “power” of the entities involved… I’m painfully aware of that quite on my own, thank you. Rather I am terrified for the risks many of these adventurous and curious persons are taking, often with only minimal awareness or acknowledgment.

Ironically, the “young and the bold” who undertake such endeavors, within a season or two, quite apparently “learn” to have respect for these risks and dangers, as “on the job training” bears fruit. You see initial postures of arrogance or omniscience, fairly quickly be tempered by learned respect for significant forces beyond one’s own control. My general response is to pray for these investigators, and those they help.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This blog seems a unique venue, if any exists, gently and carefully to begin such a dialogue. But I seek your input on how to meet a number of challenges…

How do we discuss such things without offending one another’s traditions or worldviews?

How do we discuss “experiences” without concern for mutual judgments of one’s “sanity” or lack thereof?

How do we discuss mechanics and realities of such warfare, as a matter of “equipping the saints”, and not see such discussion devolve into either a set of lessons on “DIY Exorcism” (disastrous)… or encouragement to “fear” (which is no part of the Christian walk)?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I don’t have the answer to these questions, and I’ve known I didn’t have them for a long time now. This is not a “comfortable” area for discussion.

But now, I feel better at least to throw a light on this “elephant in the room”… fling it on the table (a big, sturdy table for this mixed metaphor)... and open the DISCUSSION to possible discussion. I don’t have a solution, but I’m at least “brave enough” (at last)… to ask the question.

So… *BONK!*… ball is served and in the air… heading for your court. Any ideas? By the way, about half our readership is “professional” in ministry, and about half is not. That’s PERFECT! It’s that MIX of viewpoint I so seek to hear!

So, please let me know what you think!

Grace to you — The Little Monk

 

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