Monday, March 28, 2011

Friends and Family

When I came home from college I shared the good news with my family. At first they did not understand. My parents attended church since childhood. They had me baptized as an infant, confirmed at age thirteen, and we all attended weekly during my growing up years. What did they miss?

I showed them the truth from God’s Word. Soon He saved them too.

Then my sister came home. She was the wayward one, the runaway, a true child of the sixties generation. I shared the gospel with her and God saved her too.

We found a Baptist church nearby and started attending. I earned a Bible degree from Liberty University through their Home Bible Institute. I graduated in 1990 and attended graduation with my fiancée. We came home and married in June. We settled nearby so that all our families were together, no more than about ten miles apart. It was a great thing to have such a godly mutual support system all the time.

As a writer, one of my favorite venues was note-taking in church. I wrote about the sermon. I wrote about the Sunday School lesson. If my mind wandered from them, I wrote what God was speaking to me about. I wrote my own lessons too. I filled dozens of blank books with my notes and muses. Eventually that process slowed down to a trickle. It seemed like the only notes I took were those coming from God. I no longer taught classes. The sermons lost their meat and barely retained their milk. For many years I starved in the church while never losing my hunger for God. So I satisfied it in a different way.

I stopped looking for Him in church and found Him in close fellowship with a few other believers. We started getting radical with the Christian life. We broke a lot of traditional boundaries common to the institutional church. We were closer to God than ever before and close to one another. As we grew, I wrote about our experiences. We relived them as I presented chapter after chapter to my friends. While they didn’t really provide much editorial or critique value, they did continue to grow in their faith as well as a result of remunerating on God’s Word and how He worked in our lives through our shared and unique experiences.

Those writings eventually became the manuscript for Christian Mythology.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


While still attending the church I grew up in and hanging out with my friends in youth group, I met a different kind of Christian in high school. Chip carried a Bible everywhere he went. He was very quiet unless someone asked him a question. One day I asked him why he carried a Bible. He explained that he was a Christian. I told him I was too. But something about his answer was different than my answer. Something that made me feel uncomfortable. Something that told me we weren’t really the same kind of Christian.

A few years later, off I went to college in the deep South. I met the guys on the hall. Charles was a Christian. He was always happy, smiling, saying “Good morning!” to everyone. Sometimes when I was having a bad day I would avoid Charles because a hearty “GM” was not what I was in the mood for.

Reggie and Jeff were also Christians. God saved Reggie as a young teen and called him to be a pastor. Jeff was more of a cowboy type. He chewed tobacco. Reggie and Jeff were God’s two witnesses to me. They answered every question I had. Their position never waivered. Salvation was all about Jesus saving me from my sin. I was a sinner. He is Lord. Salvation was a 100% commitment – all Jesus and no more me. I have tried in vain these last thirty years to find Reggie and Jeff. I almost think they were angels sent by God for they have simply disappeared. They’re probably off witnessing someplace else. Most of the other guys on the hall paid them no attention.

There were other Christians on the hall. Some of them were like me so they were the ones I hung out with. We did what everybody else did (like the world). There was one other brand of Christian in abundance. They were the stereotypical Bible-belt Christians. Christian in culture was their brand. They did everything that I and the world did. But they went to church on Sunday, Wednesday night prayer meeting, and Friday night para-church meetings like Campus Crusade for Christ or Baptist Student Union.

After God saved me I started going to all sorts of new meetings where every flavor of Christian showed up. Things became very confusing to me. I rarely saw Reggie and Jeff. I wanted to follow them because they seemed like the real deal. But instead I just found myself with a lot of Christians just like me, newborn and not very far removed from the world. I knew very little about Jesus and a whole lot about the world. It didn’t take long to get back in.

God gave me a holy whack on the side of the head at the end of four years of undergraduate college. I found out what repentance was. He led me to a church up the road from school. There were lots of Reggies and Jeffs there. It was a wonderful, growing, holy time of three years there while I attended graduate school. I found a new para-church group called Real Life and there I found a new group of friends. We did everything together and stayed close for years afterward. I often quote Randy whose hallmark farewell was, “Well, if I don’t see you later, then I’ll see you in a hundred years.” I loved that kind of confidence.

I don’t know if it was God’s plan to allow me to grow up this way. Maybe it was my flesh taking me where I willed, but God’s grace was greater, always taking me back to Himself eventually. I came back with a lot of scars, lessons learned, but full of His Spirit in the end. I wish I did not have the scars and tough lessons. I wish it could have been an easier road. There was nothing godly in my deviations. But God used it for good in the end. He got the glory. I think the glory is not because He got me back, not because He made me a new creation, and not because He had to do it a few times. I think the glory is because He Is. I AM that I AM. Like Reggie and Jeff told me long ago, it’s 100% about Jesus and nothing for me.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

How Did it all Start?

Over the next few posts I want to share with you my story of becoming a Christian. This is not my testimony. That is a two-minute "elevator speech" focused on Jesus, not me. These posts are the earthly story of getting to Jesus.

Like so many Christians, I grew up going to church. I called it the "corporation". They ran it like a business. Whether I ever heard the Gospel there or not I cannot recall. But I went there faithfully every week, got confirmed there, and had many life events recorded there.

One highlight was my Jr. and Sr. High youth groups. I loved them. We were a great bunch of friends both at church and school. We had a great time going on retreats. For some reason I was always the "deep" one when it came to Bible study time and discussion. Although I was Bible illiterate, I had a lot to say about it anyway. As I look back now I could think, "How odd." But instead, I know it was God drawing me.

It seems like in every walk of life, I was always the one selected to do the spiritual thing. I led the chapel services at Boy Scout camp. I always volunteered for anything to do around the church. God's drawing? I suppose so. But these spiritual things came out of books. Boilerplate religious sounding stuff. I had no care nor concern for God or any other person or thing but me.

That was church. Not the kind of church I would ever go back to. I cannot recall the friends and associates there as those representative of Jesus Christ. We were just a group of good kids doing the all-American thing. Going to church, the church of our generations, was the thing to do. We never gave it a second thought.

It can be very hard to question tradition. Tradition feels right. It is bound by a lot of things, none of which may be God, but which God can use to draw us to Himself. Are we free to think that way and dare to challenge the course of natural life for that which is Highest?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Goodbye Elijah

From “My Utmost for His Highest”:

August 11th.


"And he saw him no more." 2 Kings 2:12

"It is not wrong to depend upon Elijah as long as God gives him to you, but remember the time will come when he will have to go; when he stands no more to you as your guide and leader, because God does not intend he should. You say - "I cannot go on without Elijah." God says you must.

Alone at your Jordan. v.14. Jordan is the type of separation where there is no fellowship with anyone else, and where no one can take the responsibility for you. You have to put to the test now what you learned when you were with your Elijah. You have been to Jordan over and over again with Elijah, but now you are up against it alone. It is no use saying you cannot go; this experience has come, and you must go. If you want to know whether God is the God you have faith to believe Him to be, then go through your Jordan alone.

Alone at your Jericho. v.15. Jericho is the place where you have seen your Elijah do great things. When you come to your Jericho you have a strong disinclination to take the initiative and trust in God, you want someone else to take it for you. If you remain true to what you learned with Elijah, you will get the sign that God is with you.

Alone at your Bethel. v.23. At your Bethel you will find yourself at your wits' end and at the beginning of God's wisdom. When you get to your wits' end and feel inclined to succumb to panic, don't; stand true to God and He will bring His truth out in a way that will make your life a sacrament. Put into practice what you learned with your Elijah, use his cloak and pray. Determine to trust in God and do not look for Elijah any more."

What good is repentance? Of what benefit is it to me? Why change my mind and why change who I am?

These are logical questions to ask regarding righteousness. They are the wrong questions.

God commands repentance at salvation. He commands it throughout life. But why? Should I be sorry for being a sinner? At salvation I indeed was a sinner. Utterly depraved. My heart was desperately wicked and deceitful. I could not know it. I could not help my sin nature and could not help but live in sin each day of my life before Jesus. As an unregenerate sinner, I had no idea how wicked I was.

The Jesus saved me and I turned from my wicked ways and God healed me. God’s Holy Spirit filled me for the very first time. I was sealed in His love and salvation forever. Jesus saved me from my sins and delivered me from my sin. Then He commanded me to go and sin no more.

He told me to reckon myself dead indeed unto sin but alive unto God through Jesus. He told me to awake unto righteousness and sin not.

Yet here I am. In sin again. Feeling like the days before salvation. Feeling no better, no different than the sinner I was for eighteen years.

The years between were sometimes blessed with the presence of an Elijah in my life. These were men who led me, taught me, buffered me, listened to me, and most of the time, put up with me. Then they were gone. Each time I reached the banks of the Jordan, they were gone. I had to cross alone. I am disappointed in myself for how many times I have had to cross over, only to be thrown back and try again. Instead of God’s dry path across, the waters rose up and thrust me back upon the bank. Like an Egyptian in the Red Sea pursuing Moses, I was crushed by the furies of the water. Yet I noticed that this water was somehow different.

It was the water of the Word of God. Instead of killing me, it cut me like a sharp, two-edged sword. Instead of drowning me in its filthy mud, it washed me clean by its purity.

I lie on the shore panting, now raging. Beaten. Tired. Wondering. Why do you keep doing this to me God? Why can’t I cross and move on? Why doesn’t Elijah come back and help me?

God’s heavy hand pushes me deeper into the warm sand of the shore. It turns once more into a desert. “Come with Me and learn some more.” Like Paul, I spend a few more years in the desert, learning at the feet of Jesus. Elijah is not there, but Jesus is.

Why should I repent Lord? Why should I change my mind if I won’t get any better? What do I repent of if it will just happen again and again and again?

“You don’t get any better. Repentance is not turning from sin. It is turning from self. It is not a change of mind about sin, to see it as I do. You cannot. Your heart is too wicked, too deceitful, unable to fathom the very depths of sin. I do not want you to be overcome by that.”

Indeed I am not crushed by anything other than my own pride. The root. That is something God can show me and that I can understand.

From “My Utmost for His Highest”:

March 8th.


"I am crucified with Christ." Galatians 2:20

"No one is ever united with Jesus Christ until he is willing to relinquish not sin only, but his whole way of looking at things. To be born from above of the Spirit of God means that we must let go before we lay hold, and in the first stages it is the relinquishing of all pretence. What Our Lord wants us to present to Him is not goodness, nor honesty, nor endeavour, but real solid sin; that is all He can take from us. And what does He give in exchange for our sin? Real solid righteousness. But we must relinquish all pretence of being any thing, all claim of being worthy of God's consideration.

Then the Spirit of God will show us what further there is to relinquish. There will have to be the relinquishing of my claim to my right to myself in every phase. Am I willing to relinquish my hold on all I possess, my hold on my affections, and on everything, and to be identified with the death of Jesus Christ?
There is always a sharp painful disillusionment to go through before we do relinquish. When a man really sees himself as the Lord sees him, it is not the abominable sins of the flesh that shock him, but the awful nature of the pride of his own heart against Jesus Christ. When he sees himself in the light of the Lord, the shame and the horror and the desperate conviction come home.

If you are up against the question of relinquishing, go through the crisis, relinquish all, and God will make you fit for all that He requires of you."

“Your heart, the world, and the wicked one, these will tell you that you will get better. That life with Me makes you progressively more like me and less like yourself. It’s a lie. It’s a masterful deception. Your prideful heart craves it. It is the sin nature which so desperately wants it to be true. As it is, it makes you a god, constantly telling you that you have neither need nor want of Me. This is the thing to repent of. That thing which from the very beginning set mankind against his Creator.”

It’s all really that simple. Everything else will roar in disagreement. Try to do better. Feel bad about your sin. God will forgive you. He’ll make you feel better.

Oh yeah? Them why am I so miserable? God took away my Elijah. He threw me back time after time. He put me in the desert. You call that feeling better? Was Job the righteous about feeling better? Though He slay me, yet will I praise Him. Whether He slay me or I die at my own hand, the Lord is working a good, loving, and at this time, a heavy-handed work. A Father chastises the son whom He loves. It is good for me to be afflicted that I might learn to love and obey you. It is good that God works all things together for my good that I might learn to seek Him with my whole heart. There is no misery when we are One.

I sense that I am near the time when I can go on and not look back for Elijah anymore. He has transferred his cloak to me. He has taught me to pray. He has led me in wisdom. Though my heart may stray again, and surely it will, I will be on the other side of Jordan. Jericho will be in ruins behind me. I will abide in Bethel, the city of God, and dwell there forever. I will behold the beauty of the Lord there and inquire continuously in His temple.