“To a Mature Man”: Stage 5–Community

Now, dear brother, He who has been born a human, taught of God, reborn of the Holy Spirit, and proven in his heart to be for God, has come out of the Preparation stages and into the Kingdom stage of the Christian Walk. There will be some overlap in the following 4 stages.

While he still needs to remember his humanity, keep learning, and being filled with the Spirit, and spending time alone with God, the man of God now has all the resources he needs to take his stand among the other believers in the body of Christ.

The First Stage where the action really starts is in the Community. Both Israel and Jesus gives us an example of this.

Israel

Last stage, we examined how Jesus and Israel both had time in the wilderness. Israel came out of the wilderness with a Covenant, and crossed over into the promised land to take possession of it in Joshua. This is the beginning of Israel’s Kingdom stage: inheriting the land. Israel however, did not succeed in the wilderness, or in their inheritance of the land, because they did not fully drive out the people living there. They did not make a clean separation between themselves and all the nations, and so the nations became a snare to them.

Jesus’ Example

Jesus on the other hand, came out of the wilderness, he was filled with the Spirit’s Power, and because he was in-tune with the Holy Spirit, he knew what he was empowered to do. Because he knew the Scriptures, he knew what his mission was. Because he was humble, he committed to do it completely. He taught in the synagogue, and started in his home town, but his home town rejected him.

His mission was this:

THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME,
BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR.
HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES,
AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND,
TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED,
TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD.

Notice that after he shares this mission, the people in the synagogue were oooh-ing and ah-ing at him, until he started to tell them that they did not have the faith to align themselves with God’s mission. As a result of this they cast him out of the synagogue.

The World and the Mission

The Mission of the Church will unavoidably divide the church from the world. The Peace Corp, United Nations, etc all have their own ideas of good things to do, but this mission is rather specific. The Holy Spirit anoints his man to do specific things: preach good news to the poor, set captives free, give sight to the blind, let the oppressed go free, and proclaim the time of God’s acceptance. This is the mission Jesus was about, and this is also what the church is to be about.

Now that the believer is empowered, he must join God in his supernatural work along side other believers, but to do so, will also mean a decisive break from the “dis-empowered” community. The one who has the Spirit of God will be operating under a whole different set of objectives, values, and principles. Paul told the Corinthians that the community of Christ must be set apart from the world, “Come out from their midst and be separate. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will welcome you.” (2 Corinthians 6:17) The one who bears the Spirit’s power will also be led by a spirit different from that which motivates even the most humanitarian organizations. The supernatural work must be done, in the community of faith.

One of the major pitfalls is the approval of humankind. Notice that right before Jesus is separated from the community, “And all were speaking well of him, and marveling at the gracious words that fell from his lips.” (Luke 4:22) The approval of man almost limited him to merely, “Is this not Joseph’s son?” There is a reason why a Prophet is not welcome in his own hometown. If the Christian allows himself to be pinioned in places where he is not able to realize the Spirit’s full power, he will be chained to the will of man. The Spirit will not support the works of mere man but he will support the works of God.

Another major pitfall is to so remove oneself into a community of believers who have no contact with the outside world: the abandonment of humankind. Jesus when he was in community still ate with (meaning shared close hang-out time) tax-collectors and people know to be sinners. Jesus remained aligned with his mission which was to be as salt in the world, not as salt in a salt-shaker not in the world.

The Church and the Mission

That being said, the Christian is in a community of empowered believers now, and so the same Spirit in him is the same Spirit in the community of faith. This means that he will, for the most part, not be acting alone. He is a fellow citizen of a kingdom of priests. One grain of salt does nothing, but together all the grains are able to bring the flavor.

This is where the Christian must be: he must plant himself among the body of Christ where the Holy Spirit plants him, so that he may be nourished by the body, and may nourish the body in turn. The Spirit will make clear to the individual, and to the church what each person is to do. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty to live this out.

Application:

  1. One step along this stage, is joining a group of believers to live with them and worship with them. Since God has called us to peace, let us follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in the Body of Christ.

2. Another step is to find out one’s mission. We can examine one pattern given in Acts        13:2-3.

While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.

If a person does not know what God wants them to do, then “minister to the Lord, and fast.” This means spend as much time in fellowship with God and communing with him, depending on him, until you both are ready to work together on whatever He wants to work on. He will show you what to do. You can go to your pastor or your church leaders to fast and minister to the Lord with you. Perhaps they can have jobs for you to do in the body, but in the meantime, continue seeking the Lord for what He wants you to do, and once he has shown it to you, and the church, go and do it.

3. A third part of this stage takes the form of separating from the world’s system of doing things. To be honest, this one is possibly the hardest to apply in this stage. Part of the purpose of Stage 4 is to prepare you for this. Many times joining ourselves with the world–the human systems of culture, government, family and spiritualism– will lead to compromise of our beliefs. Example: I worked at a pharmaceutical company for six years, in which I let them know I don’t work on Sunday. However, there were times when that conviction was not upheld, and I still had to come in to work so as to maintain a fairness to all other employees who didn’t want to work on Sundays. I was spiritually anemic there, because the Holy Spirit requires total obedience, yea holiness itself in the believer in whom he dwells. It did not surprise me when He told me it was time to leave my job.

That being said, the Holy Spirit may be leading you to join with a group of people who are bound up in the cultural sins, and practices of those who do not fear God, as an example of dependence on him. Bottom line: Let the Holy Spirit lead you in your work. He is your bread and butter not your job.

A believer remains in this stage until the Holy Spirit has specifically shown him what he is to do. Until then, let him do what Paul said to the Thessalonians:

“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you.”~2 Thessalonians 4:11

Summary:

  1. As Jesus took his stand within the community, but still did not join himself to the world to accomplish his mission, so the Christian must do the same.
  2. Seek the Lord for the specific mission He has for you.
  3. Be about the church’s business doing what the Body of Christ is doing.
  4. Be lead by the Holy Spirit to the place he wants you plugged in and salting the earth.
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“To a Mature Man” Stage 1–Birth

Jesus

Okay. Jesus, Son of Man, Son of God. The account of His birth ties him to His heritage. Matthew traces it back to Abraham, the Faithful Father of the Promise, the Father of the nation of Israel. Matthew 1, the genealogy which in brief relays the story of the Old Testament. In Jesus’ line there is a lot of mixed-baggage. Here are a few examples:

  • Abraham–Faith, but a cowardly liar
  • Jacob– a God-grappling deceiver
  • Judah with Tamar– self-sacrificing, but ignoble
  • Rahab–God-fearing prostitute
  • David–After-God’s-heart wife-stealer
  • Solomon– Wise man with too many ladies
  • Rehoboam– Just a jerk
  • Jeroboam– Weakling
  • Hezekiah–God fearing naive king
  • Manasseh–baby-killer
  • Josiah– Rediscovered God, but too late for everyone else.

And more. Those are the main ones that stick out to me. Mary’s genealogy in Luke 3 has many of the same names.

At the end of this list is Joseph who has a dream that his virginal bride-to-be is actually going to give birth to a baby named, “Jesus.”

“For He will save His people from their sins.”

Jesus’ name was given before birth, which to me indicates that he was not disconnected from his heritage. On the contrary, he was going to fix the mess that everyone else had made. This baby was born to make good all that was made bad before him.

His birth, though he was of royal blood, was in an animal feeding trough. Humble I believe could be the best way to describe it.

In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus was driven to Egypt out of the land of Israel, a people who once lost all their new-born kids to the king of Egypt, by the King of Israel who killed new-born kids of Israel. Tragically ironic. Whereas the current King of Israel wished to seize and to slay, this humble king was content to sleep and to lay.

“Out of Egypt I called My son!” Matthew reminds us of the story of how Moses had to stand for God against the King, as God brought His nation out of the womb of Egypt with tremendous birth-pangs. They came out with the spoils of Egypt, decked in all the jewels and gold of the welcome to the world as a new nation with One God.

Christian

You, my dear brother, were born once. I often find that not many Christians (Believers in Jesus Christ) recognize things they have in common with Jesus. Part of the purpose of this series is to help recognize some of these things. After all, according to Romans 8:29, Paul said,

“God foreknew and planned out that Christians would be conformed to the image of his Son [Jesus] so that [Jesus] might be the first born among many brothers.” [and sisters]

If my father read this,  I would tell him, I am not laying any claim on divinity for us humans, as it is true of Christ. We are of the earth, and we are creatures: we cannot be divine in Jesus’ way. Even the on the other side of resurrection, the end of humanity isn’t divinity according to Revelation 22. What I am saying is that the humanity of Christ is human enough for us to relate with him and identify with him as his brothers and sisters. In fact, in some ways He’s more wholly human than we are brokenly. For instance:

  • While you and I have an earthly father and mother, Jesus did have an earthly mother.
  • “Whatsoever is born of flesh is flesh.” John 3:6 “Jesus Christ is come in flesh.” 1 John 4:2
  • He had a real physical body that breathed, bled, lived, died, felt pain, felt weakness, wanted things.
  • He had siblings growing up.
  • He had a community of people around him who knew, cared about, and at first spoke well of him.
  • He had friends.

There is plenty of room in the image God: Jesus, for human you, also made in God’s image, to fit. He’s Humanity 2.0! 😀

“To tell you all of this again is no hard thing for me, and it is a safe guard for you.”

Church

And I want you to be aware that this view of Jesus as Human is not welcome in some churches. Gnosticism is, as my professor Dr. Ryan Reeves at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary said in his video, “Gnosticism and the Early Church,” a trend that affects the doctrines and practices of the church from even before Christ until today. It involves: three fundamentals:

  1. The tangible world isn’t real.
  2. The tangible world is hated or deprecated in value
  3.  One needs an elitist knowledge of how things *really* are in order to be saved.

It manifests in churches that do not value the material world around them, and have beliefs that God isn’t out to redeem the physical world, but rather to deliver our immaterial “souls” from this evil material world, and we need to know the truth that sets us free from our physical bondage to things like possessions, the temple of the Holy Spirit. “It’s an old garment anyway.” they say. “One day I’ll be free of my physical body and get to live forever with Jesus in a spirit-only world!”

Trends like this tend to hurt the church’s witness, because we value more thinking and experiencing than doing or accomplishing tangible results. Furthermore, it’s not in keeping with the overarching meta-story of Scripture. Jesus was just as much human flesh as you and I are, yet without sin. And it was THAT humanness that was the perfect representation of His nature. What’s more, the fact God became a physical tangible human being means that He has tied himself to our physical reality. And just as our bodies will die one day, this world will die one day. As our bodies will be changed, so the earth will be changed. The Spiritual is not at the expense of the tangible.

If however, Jesus was born, and the Church is the body of Christ, then the church is just as much human as it is spiritual, and that’s a good thing.

Pitfalls

In these stages, I plan to share a pitfall for each one, to avoid to ensure your own or someone else’s progress through the stages. At this stage in a Christian’s life, he is being exposed to the person of Jesus Christ, being reminded of true humanity through other Christians. The pitfalls he must avoid are false religion or False gods. Whatever we worship or believe comes to define who we are, and to believe things that are untrue, or fashioned after an ungodly spirit is to cheapen one’s own humanity. This of course presupposes that Jesus Himself is the True Human. If a person comes to believe something about humanity and the spiritual world that isn’t true, it will be a stumbling block and a hindrance toward their growing up into maturity. What a person in this stage needs is Exposure to Christ. To meet a Christian and be struck by their dissimilarity with the rest of the world. This gets a person started on their journey toward Christ. Let him avoid the paths that diverge from the Way after myths, false gods, and false religion.

Application (The part I know you really like)

  1. Take care not to de-human-ize Jesus. It’s really not honoring to him. His humanity was the perfect representation of God as the perfect image of God, and he has reset the Human race on a path to the full actualization of God’s character in the church.
  2. Be human! And base your definition on Jesus: humility. The apostle Luke was intentional to show the disciples of Jesus doing even the miraculous things Jesus did, like raising the dead even! Read Acts! Show kindness to your fellow humanity. Don’t think you’re something special. Be humble.
  3. Render to God what is God’s. Count your very being as a physical image stamped with the likeness of God. And recognize that you were born to represent Him on the earth, even as Jesus was born.
  4. Represent the earth before God. Not only is humankind the representative of God on earth, but the representative of Earth before God. Who better to be a mediator between these two realms of Heaven and Earth than one who smells of both homes.
  5. Avoid the Pitfalls.
  6. Read the Bible as a human. Here’s a logic puzzle:
  • If Jesus is both divine and human.
  • And Jesus is the Word of God,
  • and the Bible is the Word of God,
  • Then Why should the Bible be read only as Divine communication? Should it not be read just as fully as human communication? It was the resurgence of the humanities which helped Erasmus to translate the Greek New Testament, and Martin Luther to get a hold of the Word of God as it was meant. To read the Bible as a human means you read it as an author talking to a listener with pre-understandings and time-less eternal truths living in each of their hearts.

Final point: Every human who seeks to follow after Jesus must start at this point. To be human from birth. In short, a man must be born before he can be born again.

Exodus 40: The Tabernacle and the Glory

Exodus 40:33–Thus Moses finished the work.

Explanation: In this passage, the LORD, Yahweh, God of Israel speaks to Moses and tells him, “Arrange everything in the Tabernacle just as I have instructed.” Vss. 1-15. Then in vss. 16-33 Moses does what the LORD says. Vs. 33 says, “Thus Moses Finished the work.” The amount of detail that went into Exodus 25-31 where the Tabernacle instructions are given, and then from Exodus 35-39 where the instructions are carried out sounds redundant in that they are so similar. And once “Moses had finished the work” then the glory of God filled the Tabernacle. Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting.

Principalization: There is a pattern to the spiritual principle of life which seems evident in multiple Scriptures– a natural order in which God works.

  • In Genesis 2:7– When God made man, it said, he formed man out of the dust, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. And Man became a living soul.
  • In Genesis 7:1-15– Noah did everything according to what God commanded, And in vs. 16, Yahweh closed the door of the ark behind him.
  • In Genesis 14 and 15, it was after Abraham refused the reward of Sodom that God deepened His covenant relationship with him.
  • In Joshua 1-6, God’s directions were followed precisely, and God miraculously brought down the walls of Jericho.
  • In 1 Chronicles 28:11-19, the Temple instruction was passed from David to Solomon, and once the temple is completed in 2 Chronicles 7 the Glory of God comes down.

The order that seems to be shown in these passages is this:

  1. God gives a commandment.
  2. His servant obeys.
  3. His servant finishes the work.
  4. God’s glory and power show forth.

If there is any lack of even one of these first three elements the fourth cannot be. A complete obedience to the God who commands is the prerequisite for God’s glory and power showing forth.

Interrogation: In light of this pattern– First all on earth must be arranged; then Heaven comes down, the question I posit here is the same question Phineas’ wife asked in 1 Samuel 4:21 when she named her son after she heard the Ark of the Covenant was taken and Eli the High priest died:

Where is the glory?

In Exodus 40:38 the writer said, “Throughout all their journeys, the cloud of the LORD as on the tabernacle by day, and there was fire by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel.”  If we are in a time of spiritual day, where is the cloud? If we are in a time of spiritual night, where is the fire?

If Jesus came to be Immanuel, God with us, and promised that he would never leave us or forsake us, where is the presence of God which shattered fortified walls? Where is the breath of life in the body of Christ? Where is the power from on high with which the first church was clothed in the upper room at Pentecost? Where are the tongues of flame that melted all languages barriers back into one people like before Babylon?

When I as a citizen of America attend the local assemblies here in my hometown of Ocala, FL my answer is this:

Wherever it is, it is not here.

My father once told me there is a very fine distinction between faith and presumption. I believe that in these passages I recognize that the difference between faith and presumption in the following stories:

In 1 Samuel, King Saul lost God’s precious anointing for Kingship, because he disobeyed God. Samuel rebuked him and said, “Has Yahweh as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of Yahweh? Behold to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. For Rebellion is as the sin of divination, and insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry.” Saul lacked faithful obedience.

In Isaiah 1, The Kingdom of Israel was mocking God by worshiping Him while living a disobedient life. God’s response was, “I hate your worship! Clean up yourselves!” and he gave them the key to their redemption in vs. 27. “Zion will be redeemed with Justice, and her repentant ones with righteousness.” What the people lacked in societal obedience, the Lord would restore them through their obedience.

In Matthew 9, Jesus ate with the tax collectors and sinners, and the Pharisees said, “How dare you?” But Jesus said, “Go learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.'” He then goes on to work Miraculous wonders in the community by raising Jairus’ daughter from the dead. What Jesus did have was the obedience, relationship, and love of His father.

From these examples, I can see that the difference between presumption and faith is something that combines righteousness, justice, love, and obedience together:

Humble devotion to God.

Exhortation: I weep with Paul as he recounts the scriptures, “There is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God.” Who has a heart after God? Who seeks Him, and Him alone? Who wishes only to know Him, yea still to be known by Him? Such a man will pursue The Lord with prayer. Such a man will refuse the bribe of the rich, such a man will despise public fame. Such a man will hate any allegiance or alliance with Evil. Such a man will often walk alone, yet not alone. Such a man will be poor in worldly esteem, but in Christ will know true contentment. God is looking for just one man who will seek Him. One man who will stay with Him. One man who will obey, who will follow, who will weep with Him, and rejoice with Him. One man who will do as he sees his father doing. One man. That’s all He needs. With such a man, the glory of God will rest in his heart, like a seed in the earth. With such a man, the power of God will work in his weakness. With such a man, the holy Spirit will smell of God on him, and he will be that aroma of life to life, and death to death.

Where is the glory? The hope of it is Christ in you.

 

Bride

There is a bride
Who’s paralyzed.

Her under-developed body
Is cold, weak, shoddy
From lack of Spirit’s animation

Her imbecile consciousness
Is slowed by dimming influence
From lack of Spirit’s illumination

Her frame too frail
To through travail
Give birth to Spirit’s progeny

Her heart cringing fear
She curls up to look “in here.”
Closed up to the Spirit’s guidance

Clothed in dirt
Worms her dessert
Mixing sin with Spirit’s holiness

Precious daughter
Where’s her father?
Where’s a lover to romance?
Where’s a coach, trainer, or brother?
Where’s the Savior?

Here comes a minstrel
His song is sweet,
Her ears receive
Her mind perceives
Her heart conceives
Her body breathes.

Then comes a play mate
His games are fun
Her feet can run
Her eyes see sun
Her heart has won
Her chains undone

Then comes a father
His name is hers
His words she heeds
His strength she needs
Her mind he feeds
Her heart he kneads.

Then comes a lover
He gives up Himself.
Her face beams
Her eye gleams
She races streams
Her heart sings.

Then the Spirit and the Bride say:
“Come!”

The Disciple and the Tree

In response to those in the church who say the primary purpose of any disciple is to make more disciples, I have this to say:

Jesus called the church to make disciples.
Jesus did not call the church to make disciplers.

Being a discipler is totally part of being a disciple,
But there is more to a tree than the seed which bears it;
Or the seed in the fruit on the branch which stretches out
With the leaves that take in carbon dioxide and give off oxygen
Shading the bark shielding the hart and the sap drawn up from the ground
Through the roots which stand the tree upright toward the heavens.

In the same way there is more to a disciple than the new convert;
Or drawing people to the gospel by the love of Christ
Which comes from humble submission to God in working as He does
Offering strength and rest to those in need, preserving the value of life in truth
Being grounded in a world from which we are inseparable, being dust
Standing upright before God for the good of all men.

There is more to being a disciple than being a discipler
Just as there is more to being a tree than a bearer of seeds.

The church must remember the tree out of which is made the cross they are called to carry.
The church must remember what it means to be fully human.
Only then will she ever properly represent the fully human Jesus Christ.

Who is the Second Adam.

A Vision about the Persecuted Church

Yep. Sometimes I have visions. Acts 2:17 is my justification for it. This vision came to me August 11, 2014 in the back room of my Grandmother’s house right before I visited with Grandmother before bed. I’ve heard it said that visions are not always to be shared because sometimes it’s just for the one seeing it to know how to pray. But this is one God has permitted me to share. I do not claim this as orthodoxy. It is a manifestation of artistic reflection upon the nature of the world, the Church, and God. Ultimately, may God be found true and every man a liar.


In my availability
I sought the Lord about evil’s rise.
And at Grandmother’s before our talk.

I asked if We could take counsel.
He said “We can now.”
And I saw with other sight.

I saw the World before me like a globe.
And saw the Darkness spread abroad.
Then a light gathered together,
It was pressed, squeezed by the darkness around it.
I cried out as I understood,
“O Lord the Darkness proves Your glory
You are greater than all Your Word
And what is built upon Your word rebels against you
(It raises its fist)
It proves that You are what You proved to be when victorious
Even the darkness: the light has been tinted,
Even that dark is great, it is not as Great as You!”

In my sitting with Grandmother I considered this,
And drew on the orb, a circle of the light in the dark
The result was the dark inside it turned to light.
Like Joshua surrounding Jericho,
Like Gideon surrounding Midian.
Your glorious light filled the void
Because the Earth is filled with Your glory.
Like the world filled with magma.

I continued to draw circles, and light filled them.
But the darkness retaliated and I saw orbs darken.
Darkness continues to prove its power
The only answer is God Himself.
Not a church, not a word, not a book,
But God Himself.
And Jesus came so that we might take part in God Himself
As the Bride of Christ in communion with Him.
And I am joined with Him, and He entrusts Himself to me.
For we shall be Holy as He is holy.

O God, I am Yours. I look to You.
Let none of it be of me, but You all in me.
As you make yourself known
I worship and praise You.
For my heart is full of Your grace
And it resounds with Praise.

O God, deliver us!
Be our Deliverer
Show Yourself mighty
Show Yourself worthy.
Rescue Your beloved.
Redeem her, yea even in blood.
The blood she readily spills
For the World Jesus bleeds for today.

With humble awe, I marvel at this:
Jesus is still bleeding for the World.

Such is the love of husband and wife
They as one bear love for the same thing.
And the love of the World Jesus feels
Is the love of God and the Church for the World.

O Lord, my beloved are dying!