My Spiritual Journey

This, in Christian terms, is my “testimony” I’ve translated it into more common speech, which I hope will be of help to people who are seeking a place to start.

My personhood is where I’ll start. My family was a father and a mother and two older sisters, with extended family still largely intact. At home, I was scheduled, given quiet time to be on my own, and given limited time in front of a screen. I had fairly consistent parents who disciplined not just actions I did, but also called me out on attitudes I held.When I reflect on my childhood, I felt safe, loved, and full of respect for my parents. They took me to church, where my discipline as a child proved useful in making me very well liked in the Homeschool Co-op and Baptist Bible Belt communities I found myself a part.

The selfishness was in me from the beginning. I can retrace places in my heart where I acted out of selfishness and was punished, and my pride caused me to make un-punishable error after self-destructive decision. I wouldn’t check my work, I would find ways to twist things to my own advantage, I would use the good behavior and things I did right to make me more prestigious in the eyes of people so that I would be praised. Silly boy. My Mother I’ve long understood has been much more caring than I, and my Dad knew what it was to be led by something greater than him.

Now that I have started with the setting and the problem, when I was 5, I prayed to ask Jesus to become my Savior, which basically means I knew I had done bad things, and I wanted to go to Heaven one day. But this hasn’t felt like the biggest part of my spiritual journey.

One of the big moments was around 7 or 8 years old: a moment when I made a promise to God, and refused in my heart of hearts to break that promise. I had lied to my parents about cleaning up my room, and lay awake that night unable to get past the promise I had made to God that I would tell them, so I told them. That was a pivotal moment when my heart decided that God, or at least my integrity before Him was the most important thing.

I got baptized around 12 years old, and for some reason it was around this time that I felt an acceleration in my spiritual journey. I started journalling, after the pattern of MYST and Riven, complete with the number system. Dad, who claims to have been led by God for many years (not that he has ever claimed it. He hasn’t really needed to claim anything to me), told me that God uses men who journal, so I journaled. He also told me two things that have greatly shaped my life. He encouraged me to pray two prayers:

  1. Give me a heart completely and utterly devoted to You.
  2. Speak to me in a way I can understand you.

To a reader, it may seem like the deck was stacked pretty heftily in God’s favor as far as shaping who I was going to believe in. Granted, I was steeped in Bible verses from the AWANA program, and my Dad almost always had a Proverb for anything he was doing, but I started pursuing it for my own sake. I dabbled in systematic theology, listened to the Bible on tape, Christian artists. When it came to sealing the deal for the direction of this spiritual journey, I had one main thing I can point to.

As I journaled, I became fascinated with the idea of what true manhood means: what it means to be a real man. I read John Eldredge’s “Wild at Heart” and it really got me excited about the battles to fight, adventures to live, and beauties to rescue. It gave my heart room to fly. I wanted to be mature as a real man so badly, and I knew I would have to leave my childishness behind.

A climax to this initial stage of my spiritual journey where I think I was completely convinced was thanks to Norm Wakefield, of Spirit of Elijah Ministries. His tape series of Equipping Men, had one particular lesson that brought me to my knees.

In his lesson “In Search of Happiness,” Norm explains that a person will try everything he can to be happy, except just Jesus, and Jesus only is the only answer. In a moment I saw my idolatry, and my fleshly pride. I saw my sin utterly, and I confessed to the God who I believed was real how I had been trying everything to make myself happy, instead of looking to Jesus alone to meet all my needs. Basically, I turned over full control of my life to God at that point. From that point forward, I wouldn’t want to do anything, make any decision unless it was what He wanted me to do. In Christian terms, Jesus became, “Lord of my life.”

I believed God wanted me to do vocational ministry in some way, though I’m not entirely sure what kind. My Dad continued to call me out to manhood, especially to being like Jesus. He gave me some books which continued to shape me into College: Refiner’s Fire Volumes I and II, and The Existence and attributes of God Volumes I and II. After those two books, Christianity had taken on a very interesting characteristic. I would compare it to colors: the Christianity that glows amber. It’s Christianity with a smell to it. It reverberates with the heart, mind, and soul in ways that only melted and broken hearts can. This vein of Christian tradition has taught me to prioritize God as a person, rather than prioritizing doctrine, tradition, or expressionism. (Blue, Purple, and Yellow respectively). These are subjective terms, but the point is that through my journalling, my listening for His voice, and the writings of those who had been with God, I had a pretty steady grasp in my heart of the God whom the Bible attested to.

Speaking of His voice, I don’t actually remember the first time I heard Him “speak” to me. This is one of those mystical experiences that many of the ancient Christians attested to, and many of today in various branches of Christianity also experience. I know what it is to hear His voice because, this voice miraculously sounds like the Bible, and he says things that I do not yet know or understand. I’ve recently learned that there is more for God to say to people who are willing to take the time to listen, but it seems so few truly are interested in listening to Him. I’ve found precious few.

From there, College met a lot of trial and error as I tried to walk out this very personal faith on a campus of very doctrinally solidified individuals (PCA Covenant College) My heart’s fire was not dimmed though. However, I had a continual source of personal revelation of God: the Scriptures. This has been the most fundamentally important pieces of my spiritual journey. The more I studied the Bible, the more I got a clear picture of God, humanity, me, and Jesus. This religious text is far more than that to me, because of who I have felt breathing in it page after page, word after word. Like thrusting my heart back into the fires from whence it was forged over and over again until I am shaped more like my maker.

Anyway, as you can tell, I start to get passionately excited about this journey. It has grown sweeter. He keeps showing me how there is so much more to Him even in the Bible for people who truly want to know Him. He is real, and does ever so desire a relationship of close intimacy with those who are honest of heart.

This is probably one of the main points my testimony asserts: God is real, and really interested in intimacy with the honest of heart. I’ve genuinely wanted to know Him, and my spiritual journey has led me to conclude that He is real, and He has matched my desire with the purest responses of genuine love that keeps me changing to be more like Jesus.

Now that I’m married, a lot of things about God that the Bible said have made a lot more sense as I get to experience them in relationship with another human being. The Torah has given me a greater appreciation for the depth of human (my own) depravity and the depth of God’s goodness in response, and the power and importance of the Cross. This is where I find myself currently on my spiritual journey: married, teaching Bible to children, and growing in my faith by following God’s leading, studying the Scriptures, and journaling what I’ve learned. I also do a lot with music, but maybe that’s another story.

I hope this has been helpful to you, dear reader. It’s not a testimony of which I am ashamed. I am nothing, an insignificant proud guy who has learned to lay his life down for the pursuit of God’s pleasure in all my life.

Thanks be to God. He is absolutely amazing!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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To a Mature Man: Closing Remarks

To a Mature Man:

The Ten Stages of the Christian Walk

# Stage Do Acquire Avoid
1 Birth Meet a Christian Exposure to Christ False Religion/ False gods
2 Temple Listen to God’s Word Blessing/ Understanding Traditionalism/ Formalism
3 Baptism Repent and Obey Holy Spirit’s filling License to Sin
4 Wilderness Depend/ Trust/ Devote/ follow him Confirmed power of Spirit Compromise
5 Community Testify/ serve/ seek Mission announced Man’s approval
6 Service Meet physical and spiritual needs Power’s achievement Worldly concern
7 Justice Stand against evil man for God Refute and remain

disentangled

Appeasement/ Cowering
8 Persecution Endure; forgive The Cross’ victory Apostasy
9 Resurrection Stand and give thanks To see His face Deception/ Disobedience
10 Ascension Rule Heaven & Earth A good world Pride

Insights:

  • You may notice that the beginning stages of walk with Jesus are quite individual, but the middle stages are communal. This is not by accident, nor intentionally. I think it is discovered design. It is because the life of a Christian is a life in conjunction with other believers. God will need to have his time alone with you, but you will need to be with the body of Christ if He is to use you to the fullest.
  • It may seem superfluous to write about the last two stages, since beyond the grave, we will have fewer cares and concerns. But I see that when they are all laid out, certain patterns and relationships emerge.

Example.

  • Humility–Stage 1 and Stage 10 are both largely concerned with Humility and avoiding Pride in exaltation.
    • Truth–Stage 2 and Stage 9 are both concerned with Heeding God’s word and not being deceived by anything less than him.
      • The Cross–Stage 3 and Stage 8 are the initial death to the world at Baptism, and the world’s fulfillment of that death in Persecution.
    • Battle–Stage 4 and stage 7 are the initial testing before God, and then the fulfillment of that testing before man as one stands against the people who are controlled by the Evil one who was faced already in the wilderness.
  • Love–Stage 5 and 6 are the community living together and fully operating in the power of the Holy Spirit as a witness to the world what community and love really look like.

So is the first Chiasmic pattern recognizable in these stages. In it, the emphasis on Humility, the Cross, and Love are emphasized as the beginning middle and End of the Christian life.

  • Another insight, looking back on the stages: you may notice the ordering of the stages from inner-most circle to outermost circle. Once a believer is baptized, he grows in the innermost circle of relating with God, then he grows outward to the next circle of inter-relating with believers, then the next circle out is relating to the world, and then the outer circle of standing against the forces of evil. Our ministry does indeed spread outward from this central locus of being with God, and extends outward to offense against the enemy.
  • This insight lends itself to another: This, for all believers is the order of ministry, and let it never be forgotten, as some tragically have forgotten, and have lost all power, life, and effectiveness, and courage for their ministries.
  1. Stage 4: Our first ministry is to the Lord
  2. Stage 5: Our second ministry is to the Church
  3. Stage 6: Our third ministry is to the World
  4. Stage 7: Our fourth ministry is to the Powers

Dear Brother, no matter where you go, never forget this principle! Minister to Him first, then give first consideration to the Church, then the world, then go against the powers of the enemy. This will render you fruitful in your ministry, and abundantly so.

  • I also hope that it has become obvious through these writings, how important it is for a believer to be set apart from the world to God. The Holy Spirit is what distinguishes a Christian from a non-believer. In stage 3: Baptism there is a clean break, in stage 4: Wilderness there is no compromise, in stage 5: Community there is a casting off man’s approval, in stage 6: Service there is an avoidance of worldly concerns, and in stage 7: Justice there is a disentanglement that must be kept. The reason for the separation at all of these stages is stage 8: Persecution. It is the most profound and most defined manifestation of the Gospel, and few are they who will endure to the end. This is the Cross the Christian must carry, and the world will seek to pull the believer back into its clutches from the day he says he will follow Jesus. And the world needs the cross every generation, in every place for the reminder of God’s love living in his followers.
  • Another word: some who read these stages may say, “This isn’t Christianity. This is SUPER-Christianity.” I would like to reply to such a person that any Christianity that does not measure itself by the standard of Christ isn’t Christianity at all. Therefore, there is no real Christianity without the Holy Spirit. Any Christianity that is assured in itself apart from the measure of Christ and leads others into the same folly is nominal and misguided at best and at worst blasphemous and diabolical.
  • Finally, there may be some who say, “What do I do if I have fallen into one of these pitfalls along the way? What do I do, if I am stuck?” One word: REPENT! Run straight into the arms of God, and out of the world’s (and thereby the devil’s) clutches. Just as Jesus told Peter who was opposing him when he said,

“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”

No matter what pitfall you are in, this is how we get back on the path with Jesus: by putting off the old life, embracing His new life, and following Him to maturity.

Closing

Ephesians 4:11-13

And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.

It has been my hope, dear brother, to equip you for the work of service, and to build you up with the body of Christ until we all attain unity of faith. The knowledge of the Son of God in these posts, will, I hope, grow you to a mature man, according to the measure of the fullness of Christ’s stature.

May you rise to the occasion of these posts and press onward to the prize of what awaits in the New Heaven and Earth for all who love His appearing. My heart is opened to you, and I trust that God will raise you up so that you will be able to soar with Him on wings of eagles as you trust in Him.

I look forward to walking with you for as much longer as the Lord will have us together. God’s grace and peace go with you, my friend.

Your older brother

“To a Mature Man”: Stage 10–Ascension

One of my favorite words, dear brother, is accession (more so than ascension)It is defined by Merriam-Webster as, “the act or process by which someone rises to a position of honor or power.” This is the final stage for the Christian as it was also the final stage of Jesus Christ on this Earth. Even in this stage, I propose that there is a pitfall.

Jesus

When Jesus had passed from life to death, and from death to eternity, where else could he go except right to where he belonged: “the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2) Notice, that he himself is not on the throne, but at the right hand. He has not supplanted God, but rather has taken his place at God’s side. This echoes back to the humility of the first stage of Christianity: the humility to submit to God to the end. And the one who is humble takes up his rightful place by God’s side.

And what is he doing there? He is interceding for us. (Romans 8:34)

Christian

At the end of the Bible, in the last chapter of Revelation, we have one concluding sentence for the end of the revelation of the New Heaven and Earth, “And they [God’s servants] will reign forever and ever.” And where will they reign? The New Heavens and Earth. Humanity will take its place which God intended from the beginning, the rulers of God’s good creation, walking in fellowship with Him, and serving Him, and representing Him on earth. No more curse, no more pain, no more death. This is the full grown humanity 2.0 in Jesus Christ that has fully come to its zenith with no setting.

And what is the Christian doing: Simply put, he is doing the will of the Father. In the beginning the human mandate was, “be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it.” Genesis 1:28. This sounds like the New Heave and Earth will need this too.

Pitfall

There will be no curse, but there is one sin left that could possibly contaminate even this good world. The last sin here is brought up the first sin: pride. Thanks to the Opposer’s pride we see how a good world can be ruined, and there are many spiritual powers who will have witnessed the full extent of the evil one’s works, and they will also recognize the Glory of Yahweh. (Ephesians 3:10-11) So, when you too come to the end of all things and the new beginning, settle in your heart that you will have no cause for rebellion in your heart.

Application

  1. Worship God with a whole heart. Serve Him faithfully, with no treachery of spirit against Him.
  2. Bear fruit for God as His image on earth. Fill the earth with His glory.
  3. Take heed lest sin begin in you also, and let the fear of the Lord keep you ever from doing evil.

Final thought:

God has destined humanity to rule, so long as they image Him well. He has a lake of fire for all who will not serve Him or thank Him for His goodness. His image will be restored, and all whom the Lamb does not record will be cast into the Lake of Fire.

“Praise the Lord! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God. His judgments are just!” Revelation 19:1-2a.

“To a Mature Man”: Stage 7– Justice

Dear brother,

– – Recently, I saw someone post on facebook that they didn’t believe the Church should be a platform for social justice. I can agree with this on one point as was discussed in the previous post: the Christian must avoid using God’s power to fight battles that are not God’s Kingdom battles. On another point, I disagree. The church should be the example of real justice under the One True Judge of all humanity. This idea of justice being the next stage beyond Spirit-empowered Service, has much that needs to be said about it:

  • The Biblical concept of Justice
  • The Activeness of Injustice
  • Jesus’ example
  • The Church’s Pattern
  • Application

BIBLICAL JUSTICE

It is rather unfortunate in many modern congregations at which I have attended, in popular musicals, and even popular music on the Radio, that Justice is derogated while Mercy is praised. It seems that Justice has come to mean, “rigid adherence to rules at the expense of people’s true benefit.” I am appalled at the misunderstanding, and find it rooted in a misapprehension of the Biblical meaning of Justice.

In the Bible Justice, as the Bible Project explains in their video on Justice, is “Retributive and Restorative.” That means that the purpose of Justice is to restore people’s dignity and right standing before God and man. This idea of Justice continues into the New Testament as a people of God are constantly identifying with the poor, weak, and oppressed and treating them as people made in God’s image. This idea has been lost in many Christian circles, but as anyone who has been wronged will tell you, it is vital to the Church’s mission.

Because of what happened in the Garden, we now have two forms of Justice: God’s Justice, and Man’s Justice. These two are split because of sin, and that split is the cause of all the conflicts we see in the world today. To stand for Justice means to stand for the Kingdom of God systemically and diametrically and fundamentally contrary to the system of sinful man’s justice. It is calling humanity to submit to God’s justice and do that justice to their fellow man.

It was this Justice which Israel was neglecting when they got away from the Torah after David and Solomon’s reign. They entered into greater, and greater injustice though the prophet cried out to them, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Preserve justice and do righteousness, For My salvation is about to come And My righteousness to be revealed.” Isaiah 56:1

THE ACTIVENESS OF INJUSTICE

And Man’s justice is riddled with injustice in the world today. This isn’t simply because of a lack of good, but it is due to evil people using their power for themselves, to build their own kingdoms on the back of those who lose much in the process. This is a justice taken out of God’s hands and placed into the hands of sinful men.

The reason why this stage comes later than Service, is because Service is an advance of God’s kingdom in smaller ways, which accomplishes a pillaging of the Kingdom of Darkness. A domination of the Kingdom of Darkness will require a more thorough dealing with the roots of the problems and binding the strong men that caused people to be spiritually and physically bound in the first place.

This justice can only be achieved by taking a stand directly against the ones who are causing the injustice. God’s justice vs. man’s justice.

JESUS’ EXAMPLE

Jesus faced the ones who had usurped their power and authority to leave people physically and spiritually impoverished: The religious leaders. Just read the woes against them in Matthew 23.

  • They keep people out of God’s Kingdom.
  • They have gotten people’s eyes on things of man rather than things of God.
  • They neglected the weightier provisions of the Law, Justice, Mercy, and Faithfulness.
  • They outwardly looked good while inwardly were greedy and wicked.
  • They claim allegiance to God, but put his servants to death.

They have changed God’s justice for a system of man’s justice. And when Jesus spoke these things, the Pharisees tried their own subtle tactics of power-bending. “Let us try to catch him in something he might say.” We see this episode unfold in Matthew 22.

Just as Jesus was in the wilderness and tested in three ways, so now, once again he is tested in three different areas. Indeed it was the three tests he had already faced and conquered that prepared him for this one.

  1. Political. Should we pay taxes to Ceasar or not? Here Jesus is given the question of whether or not he will submit to the rule of a fallen man, and council others to do the same. Jesus masterfully handled this by reminding the people and the Pharisees that they were to recognize the high authority of Ceasar, and the HIGHEST Authority of God who had stamped his image and name on his people. God’s Justice supreme to man’s justice.
  2. Theological. Misunderstandings about God cause debates. The debate in Luke 20 was about Resurrection and Marriage, and Jesus corrected their thinking in both instances by going back to the character of the One, and how he made what he made. Who is the God and what is His Character? You must submit all theology to the One who truly is God, and include Him in the conversation.
  3. Scriptural. Then the Lawyer asked him what the greatest commandment was, and quite interestingly, he combines the love for God and the love for neighbor, which is the fulfillment of the whole Torah. This is the Justice of God: to Love your neighbor. A far cry from man’s justice. This is the Kingdom of God coming in relationship with each other.

Jesus counselled the people listening to him in this way in Luke 20,

46 “Beware of these teachers of religious law! For they like to parade around in flowing robes and love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces. And how they love the seats of honor in the synagogues and the head table at banquets. 47 Yet they shamelessly cheat widows out of their property and then pretend to be pious by making long prayers in public. Because of this, they will be severely punished.”

THE CHURCH’S PATTERN

And so, we have people who submit to God’s rule and God’s Justice–the Church, and we have those who operate according to Man’s Rule and man’s justice. The church does not deny that there is a rule of humanity under God. It’s that the rule is under God that is so important. In stage 7, a believer must operate according to the rule of God, and oppose, and speak against the rule of man which hinder’s God’s justice from being done.

This will mean not just pillaging the villages of the conquest of man’s injustice by healing, preaching, casting out demons, and serving, but also going to the Capital City of the Authorities who are not submitted to the rule of God. As Jesus opposed the religious leaders’ rebellion against God politically, theologically, and judicially, so Paul the Apostle went the whole way to the highest authority in the land, the Emperor. Paul is an example of one who went all the way to stage 7, by seeking to right the Kingdom of Darkness back under the rule of the King of Light.

The Church also must operate under this same directive, but not without the Spirit’s power. The pitfall to avoid in this stage is Appeasement. This means submitting to the Kingdom of Man in a way that prevents a supernatural spread of the Spirit’s work in the world.

One example of this in the secular arena can be seen in Tom Clancy’s Clear and Present Danger, when Jack Ryan goes all the way to the President of the United States and shows the president how crooked he is. How does the ruler respond? With submission to what is truly right and just? No, but with flattery, threats, and attempts at appeasement. First he says, “You’re not going to tell on me. You’ve got a chip in the big game now, You’re gonna tuck that away for a day when your a– is on the line, and I’m going to cash it in for you.” This tactic does not succeed, and in the second attack he basically says, “You can’t do this to America. America can’t afford another scandal right now. They’ll more readily blame you than they will blame me.” And Jack does not bite. Third, “And the rest of the blame will fall on [your honored friend] Greer.” Personal, Self-interest, National interest . . . it is the way of the powers of the world to threaten, manipulate, obligate, and enslave: all to keep the system of man’s rule in tact, without submitting to God’s rule, justice, and authority. As the President in the story called it, “The Potomac Two-Step.” But the Christian who would seek to grow up to full maturity, and the church who would fully live out their calling, must say, just as the protagonist Jack Ryan said, “Sorry, Mr. President. I don’t dance.”

APPLICATION

  1. Disentangle oneself. If the Christian is to be effective for the Kingdom, he must be humble, taught, filled, proved, commissioned, accomplished, and finally disentangled from the boundaries of the Justice of Man, which even find pigeon-holes for “church.” While many churches enjoy the small territory the government of man gives them, the government continues to perpetuate problems of injustice in society. If, however, God’s people, empowered by the Holy Spirit can function without the support of protection of the government, the government will have no control over it.
  2. Submit to the governing authorities. This may seem contradictory to the first application, but it is necessary to maintain the order God ordains. (Romans 13:1-7) The rulers of man, may be disobedient to their master, but we must obey them, so long as we can through obeying them obey our master in Heaven. Justice is not about doing away with man’s rule, but rather re-establishing man’s rule in submission to God’s rule.
  3. As rulers and authorities come against the Christian, they must avoid the pitfall of appeasement by not heeding their threats. Here indeed, Jesus’ words to his disciples whom he sends out are key. “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” This is the Christian’s call to Stand for Justice.
  4. Call forth the leaders of the rulers of men to submit to God’s rule, but do so in this way. Jesus continued in Matthew 10:18-20.

You will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles[Nations]. But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.

Thus shall the people of God do, who earnestly pray that God’s rule come as it is in Heaven so also upon the earth.

“To a Mature Man”: Intro

My dearest little brother,

– – We have been following Jesus together for a number of years now, and this Fall, it seems you will be moving out of my immediate range. While you are gone, I’ll miss your company, and talking with you, and sharing more insights into the mystery of walking with him. I know you’ll have plenty of growing to do where you are going, even as I still have plenty of growing to do here, but as you are going, I wanted to put these following blog posts in a place where you can get to them easily, and possibly share them with others who you get a chance to be a big brother to. It is an expansion on the 10 stages of the Christian life, based upon the 10 stages of Jesus Life, which you know has been my keen interest these last few years. In answer to the question, What does it mean to be a real, full-grown Christian?” I have arranged these reflections in a manner that I hope will be easy to understand, and appreciated for their ability to help you examine your own walk with the Lord. I know we both desire for the Church to be what God wants it to be. Thank you for your willingness to follow along with me as I follow Christ.

As Christ has loved us,

Let us love one another.

With Christ’s love,

Your older brother

Outline

The Stages of Jesus’Life as the Proto-Christian are these. The first four are Preparatory. The Second four are Kingdom. The final two are Post-Victory.

  1. Birth
  2. Temple
  3. Baptism
  4. Wilderness
  5. Community
  6. Service
  7. Justice
  8. Persecution
  9. Resurrection
  10. Ascension

I’ll write a post on each stage with a final post to conclude. Here are the links to the respective stages.

  1. Birth
  2. Temple
  3. Baptism
  4. Wilderness
  5. Community
  6. Service
  7. Justice
  8. Persecution
  9. Resurrection
  10. Ascension