Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Spot the Worship Leader!

Something curious is happening.

Though a captive, I still manage to journey out...sometimes at night, sometimes during daylight running errands. Though this itself is curious, there is something curious'r still, and it is happening alarmingly within the ranks of those who say they are of The Way... . Upon reflection of the matter I thought it would be best not to try to describe my curiosity but rather, present it to you in the form of a puzzle** - for I am curious and puzzled to be quite honest:





** There has been some demand that I actually do explain myself, apart from the 'puzzle'. So, for the sake of clarity, and that no one may put words in my mouth based on their own interpretations, I believe I should write further on my thoughts**


The other day I heard someone talking to an aquaintence of mine saying excitedly, "Hey, I saw you in church last Sunday doing worship!"

Doing Worship.

Buckle up, here we go!

I have heard many say they feel somewhat awkward singing certain Christmas carols that include the word 'gay', as that word in particular has recently in our history come to mean something else quite entirely than the sentiment the word actually entails, which is along the lines of 'Joyous', or 'Happy'. So, at the Church Christmas pageant, when everyone has invited friends and family for the singing of carols, you see a flurried look of corporate chagrin as the lyrics "Gay happy meetings!" comes 'round during 'The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year'. What's going on here, a happy Christmas gathering or a homosexual orgie?! So...The church grumbles as these things happen, and resents the infringement as the redefiniton of words advances into their 'territory'.

Yet - surprise - we find modern churchianity doing the very same thing. They complain, then do the same.

There is something that I too, resent, concerning the brazen and uncalled for redefinition of words. This one not from the big, bad world out there, but from within the ranks of those who call themselves the 'faithful'. This word is very popular right now, and the redefining of it has actually been the catalyst to create millions of dollars for corporate churchianity; you know -those entrepreneurial types that see godliness as means to financial gain (1 Timothy 6:3-5).

Those are strong words, but entirely provable in context as I shall explain: The redefining of a word that takes it's original meaning and discards it for an entirely new one makes the word a 'false word' in contrast to its original intent. In the terms of justice, the new word commits 'violence' to the old. So when you not only knowingly choose the new definition, but violently superimpose it over the old one, you have now become a partaker and teacher of something false. As some have said, " The skin of the truth, stuffed with a deadly lie" (all you butchers who make sausages will immediately understand that I'm sure!).

Or a modern reference: You touch up a digital picture, you know, flatten the tummy a little, and when you save it, you save it under the old caption. The computer pops up a little warning: 'Are sure you want to overwrite the old file and replace it with this?' "Yes, enter, whatever! Let's get that flatter tummy up on Facebook!". So, you have the same title, but effectively a new and altered image. This 'new perspective' changes the outcome of those who view your picture completely: "What a flat tummy!" they gush as they look at your pictures.

1st Timothy 6 says, "If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain."

As you can see in the above passage, it is the very people discontented with the 'boring old bible' who have a 'quarrel with words'; for it is them who must update and redefine words, 'robbing them of their truth' which in turn creates the 'false doctrine' which then can be exploited as 'a means to financial gain'. Some have tried to turn the above passage around in an attempt to convict those who 'agree to the sound instruction of our Lord' as the controversial and quarreling ones, but scripture context simply does not allow for that. If you are of that mindset, I'm sorry, but you've been caught!

So what is the word in question? Seen from the 'puzzle' above, it is the word 'Worship'.

Modern churchianity has firmly established for itself the 'golden calf' of alternate leadership in the forms of councils, denominational positions, statements of faith, etc, etc, right down to your personal pastor who stands above all of you at the pulpit. What we have seen for roughly 1700 years is a 'church' tossed to and fro by the wind, slipping and sliding along with pop culture, largely due to the changing views and opinions of those with agenda whom either have appointed themselves as leaders, or those appointed by their innate ability to soothe and tickle the continuously itching ears of the sheep of the pasture.

We should truly be thankful for those brief moments in history when a leader emerged with actual allegiance to God, prophets if you will, who actually strived to keep God's Assembly (ekklesia) from fully losing their footing. But what do you do when people purposefully set out to change the faith already established; redefining and re branding the Holy things of God for their own purposes. What do you do? (spoken in your best Keanu Reeves)

You get back to basics. Even the sum of the highest and most complex Harvard level mathematical equation would utterly disintegrate nonsensically if you altered and created a new outcome of a simple constant, for example, 1+1=2. Say for example you arbitrarily redefined 1+1 to still equal 2, but just 2 & 1/3.

"That's not so bad is it? It still equals 2! Well mostly 2... and a 3rd. Close enough for me!"

But now, from this simple beginning point, the sum total of the continuing equation will be completely out of whack to the point of being completely unrecognizable from the previous sum total when the basics of not only mathematics but the integrity of the equation itself were held to correctly.

"Enough about math. Get to the point!"

The modern church has arbitrarily, with forethought and intent, redefined the meaning of the word 'worship' for their own purposes - which has in turn changed what worship looks like in action (in truth), which has in turn changed the *outcome* of said actions, which when all combined has created an entire new concept (doctrine) of what is called worship. This new concept has now so predominantly lodged itself in place of the old one - in such a complete and accepted way - that changing it back is about as likely as regathering the feathers from a ruptured pillow in a windstorm.


A Scenario:


It's Sunday morning, and you sit comfortably in the 2nd service awaiting your pastor to disclose the secrets of heaven. Then, heads turn and excitement builds as they approach. Yes, they slink up on you - silently gliding gracefully up on stage. They adorn their musical instruments, and with hooded eyes give a brief but penetrating gaze about their audience. It is quiet...almost...too quiet. Quiet enough that one could almost hear a still small voice... The air of expectation is now soaring (this is just like 3rd row last Wednesday when U2 came through town!!) That's when they make their move. Almost uncannily, those on stage seem to move at once, that is with the exception of the one up in the foremost position. The hooded eyes and penetrating gaze suddenly give way to a broad smile - with such a flurry of motion you barely process the ensuing scissor kick and 3 foot leap in the air! "Come on, Church! Let's Worship!" That's your cue! All the pent up excitement exposes itself in joyous abandon, as you rocket from your chair with arms lifted higher and holier than even you expected! "This is it!" you think to yourself, "the spirit of worship is here!" Coffee cups get knocked over and bibles get kicked on the floor (some even being danced on - "Wow! What incredible thing is God doing in our midst that we are prophetically dancing on bibles?!" you think in utter amazement). Then, during one of your own worshipful 3 foot leaps you catch a glimpse over Esther's head (who you remind yourself to pray for as her leaps of worship aren't quite as high as last Sunday - but then again there was a lot of excitement that Sunday when Esther found out the church corporately got the first 5 rows at U2, only 3 days away!) you see that person again.

Yes - the killjoy in the corner who seldom claps, dances, sings, leaps or, for that matter, any other form of worship at Sunday service. They always look tired and sometimes they don't even show up! You faintly remember last Sunday them sharing something in the church hallway about long nights of study, the years spent in missions, etc, somewhat interrupting actually, as you and your church at large were trying to get down to brass tacks about how you would all be traveling to see Bono..."The church bus, of course" you remember saying authoritatively. As an esteemed 'tither' you well knew a church need when you saw one-

-Oops - you knew this was coming but find your timing a bit off as your thoughts wandered. The three uptempo songs went by in a flash! As was custom, and from the return of the 'hooded' look in the performers eyes, it's time for the customary two down tempo songs. "Ahh, the meat!" you think - no less excited - just more subdued..more, 'worshipful'. A tear rolls down the cheek of the worship leader (or is that sweat from all his praise kicks?) as you worshipfully sing the lyrics laid out for you to follow on giant projected screens - based almost prophetically on all the felt needs you experienced the prior week. "Wow! They're really 'reading my mail' this morning! This worship music really speaks to me!...yeah, almost about me even...man, I sing 'me' 23x in this song. Worship music makes me feel so special!"

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As a musical performer and traveling minister, a certified certificate holding 'worship leader' (U of N, Los Angeles campus YWAM, School of Worship Grad, under direct tutelage of Paul Baloche, Marty 'as the deer' Nystrom, among other greats), and as someone who actually has adorned the printed page of CCM magazine, I can tell you that from my travels, tours, and attended services spanning 5 countries & literally multiple churches per state and province in and across North America, that what is described above is not only a reflection of my generations church experience, but also a modern pop culture church normality (since pop culture churches are the ones that effect the most change in immediate church history they will serve as my example). In other words, the majority of readers immediately identify with the story and need little or no explanation of the events. They 'get it'.

So there you have it. 'Worship'. A worship 'service'. A worship 'concert'. A worship 'CD'. A worship 'retreat'. A worship 'invasion'. All in all in a nutshell, when you say 'worship' today that is what leaps to mind. A band; Paul Baloche, Brian Doerksen; the guy or girl with the perfect hair who's got 3 chords down on guitar already, or the newer humble versions with messier longer hair wearing plaid - yeah, just like from your church. The person who magically appears with an instrument at the utterance of "Let's worship now". In fact the last recorded artists making money today are worship bands, artists, and record labels because after all good christians still buy cd's and don't download.

Worship = singing = guitar/piano, etc. It is the first entry in your Google search, so to speak.

But is it worship?

no.

As a friend shared with me, it *is* in fact all about the change in the meaning of the word. Think of the hymns. Those old out-of-touch grey haired fogeys actually got something right! They didn't call their songs worship because they knew they were just songs. Songs dedicated to God, songs of praise, but a song is still just a song in the end. In fact in the new testament people even taught and admonished one another using the sword of hymnry (Col 3:16). A tool indeed, for God's people. But today, we have worship schools to lead you out of those bad habits of making people uncomfortable in song. No - you gotta make them feel good, make them feel special, make them come back... people will pay, I mean, tithe for something like that!

But worship? As the Greek word, 'proskuneo', in its general sense means to "Kiss Toward", which is describing not necessarily an action in and of itself, but a spiritual 'position'. To 'Kiss Towards' was a common occurrence in older times of Emperors and Kings as people knelt in absolute humility reaching up in trembling fear only to kiss the hand or ring of the 'deity'. And that is the nice translation - pressing in further the very same sentiment is described in other places as a dog cowering under a table begging for scraps. This is our unseen spiritual 'position'. That is the internal 'position' of worship.

So how is the worship above acted upon in the new testament? How is it seen? By consolidating the various points of reference throughout the bible we find an interesting picture.


A second scenario:


Look at the scenario in the book of Judges, chapter 7:13-15. Gideon is told by God that he will have victory over the oppressive Midian people. Gideon in effect says, "Yeah, Right!". So God, ever patient, tells Gideon to go down right to the edge of the Midian camp and see for himself. So, in the middle of the quiet night, Gideon grabs a buddy and sneaks down to the Midian encampment and hides in the bushes. He overhears a conversation by two enemy Midians about a dream one of them had, where he saw in his dream that they would lose to God's people. Gideon and his buddy are overjoyed. God was right after all! Then... oh, the bible must be wrong! For it says the very next thing they did was 'worship' God. Ok, listen - if Gideon and his buddy were in earshot to overhear two guys whispering at night about their nightmares then those two guys must be in earshot to hear Gideon and his buddy rev up their fiddles! At least those 3 foot jumps and scissor kicks would have rattled the bushes!

So, you can begin by defining what worship isn't. It is not a band, a singer, or a song.

To get to the point, the encompassing portrayal of worship in the new testament is direct acknowledgement of God. This is predominantly seen by "deeds done in direct relationship to this acknowledgement" (Vines Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words). Yes, the spiritual 'position' is to revere, but is seen in " to serve, to render service", "to serve, do service to". You can look this up for yourself to get the points and the Greek translations. It's all readily available...just past the Milk Bottles, that's right, the part of the fridge that says 'Meat'.

Romans 12:1 describes it this way, that giving yourself as a living sacrifice is your *reasonable act of worship*. What does that mean? Well sacrifice implies dying to your own needs so that the needs of others may be met. No, not giving away your old rusty lawnmower because you bought a new ride on one in the shape of a Hummer. That's easy - the bible says, 'sacrificially'.

Well, maybe you could sing 'Onward Christian Soldier' to him over the fence as he pushes that stalling, leaking rustbucket around his yard.

Let's get past our neighborhood streets and think bigger. Do your neighbors end at the end of your street? When an expert in the law challenged Jesus' teaching to "love your neighbor as yourself" saying arrogantly, "who is my neighbor?" Jesus tells the parable of the Samaritan on the road to Jericho. Samaritan's were only partly Jewish, and were hated by the Jews in Judea and Galilee.

They also worshipped differently than the Jews in Israel.

Boy did they ever!

Read for yourself: Luke 10:25-37. After a fellow man from Jerusalem was beaten within an inch of his life and robbed, first a Priest, then secondly a Levite walked past him and didn't do anything as he lay there dying in agony.

Do you think Jesus picked a Levite for his parable accidentally? Remember, the Levites were those guys in the old covenant who knew little else than sitting around the Temple strumming around on harps all day that David made for them (remember what God did with their temple?). Kind of sounds familiar, doesn't it? According to Jesus, the Samaritan who was hated by these folks, was the only one to help, actually getting down and dirty: dressing the wounds himself using personal and expensive oils and wine and then paying with silver for extended medical care. Jesus says that this fulfilled the greatest commandment, to "Love the Lord Thy God with all your heart, Soul, Strength and Mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself". This was also in answer to the question of "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Luke 10:25

You may very well say: "Well, I just want to sing and express to God how cool he is and that I have all this love for him - not wander around scary, not to mention dangerous - back alleys looking for beat up people. After all, I do have this amazing voice and can play a mean 'A2' on my acoustic guitar...all gifts from God, of course."

Listen - if you try and do that with either sin in your heart, or in your self proclaimed worship band, you have only mocked God instead.

"Wait! You can't say that all these singing worship leaders have hidden sin."

No - but neither do you see the unseen spiritual position of 'proskuneo' to call them a worship leader in the first place! Think of it. Just a few years back they were calling them types 'super apostles'... (2nd Corinthians Chapters 11 & 12). I dare say Paul the Apostle would have similar concerns over a term like 'Worship Leader'.

I can tell you this however:

James 4:17 says, "Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do, and does not do it - sins."


Show me the... fruit!


Can you say you have sacrificially even loved one neighbor as yourself per one song sung to God about how much you love Him?! Jesus said our love for him, the greatest commandment, was tied inextricably with that very commandment.

That's like standing on the shore of the lake with your guitar singing ever so sweetly that your going to rescue the drowning guy splashing and gasping in front of you. Then suddenly, to your right and to your left, others show up with instruments and begin singing that they too are going to rescue the drowning person who is still thrashing about gulping down lungfuls of water. Then, you assemble an awards ceremony to single out and elevate the singer who best sung about saving the drowning victim. **Wild applause**

And that poor gurgling wretch in the lake? He drowned (sometime during the 'best runner up' category of the awards).

I don't care how eloquently, passionately, or fervently you sang about it - until you drop your guitar and run out and actually do it, it is all meaningless.



You say your love for God has given you a 'heart for worship'?

1 John 5:3-5 says:
"This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world."

So, his commands are not burdensome for those born of God... and here you made skulking around those dark alleys sound so fearsome! You are born of God, right...?

Then what are God's commands? Look at the parable of the Sheep and the Goats:


Matthew 25:31-46 (excerpt):
"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 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, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

If you have read this far, then please - indulge me one last time. If you are a current worship leader so saved by grace that reading all this has not affected you, then just... one more.

Today 'famous' worship bands now charge almost $40,000 (yes, forty thousand dollars, go ring up a booking agency of todays worship stars) to come to your church to strum their guitars and sing/tell you what you already know; namely that God is pretty nifty. I know this because they come rolling through town and say "God is awesome! Amen?" and you yell "Amen!" all excitedly like you have it all figured out.

Now During the time of Amos the prophet, there were other ministers in the church who were musicians living really much the same way (just not in Nashville). For example, "You trample on the poor and force him to give you grain. Therefore, though you have built stone mansions..." (Amos 5:11) It looks like these ministers were getting the poor, or you know, average joes, to pay them large amounts of dough so they could build mansions (just not in Nashville). These guys were real worshipers, obviously because they played balalaikas and harps and must have had such a heart for worship because they yearned and longed for the day of the Lord.

But God got all confusing as usual and told them, "Why do you long for the day of the Lord? Woe to you who long for the day of the Lord!" Huh?

Man, God can be a trip!

"Ok, Then. God'll looove this! Let's write more songs and have bigger conferences! We'll hold 'Cornerstone' in Palestine this year and then maybe-"


Enough, God says. Enough. Amos 5:21-26


I hate, I despise your religious feasts;
I cannot stand your assemblies.

Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them.
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,
I will have no regard for them.

Away with the noise of your songs!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.


But let justice roll on like a river,
righteousness like a never-failing stream!

Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings
forty years in the desert, O house of Israel?

You have lifted up the
shrine of your king,
the
pedestal of your idols,
the
star of your god

which you have made for yourselves.


Why did God *hate* their religious assemblies, filled with songs? Was it that they were insincere in singing them? Not at all. In fact they longed for the day of the Lord (Amos 5:18). But God said, "Away with the noise of your songs, I will not listen to the music of your harps!". Well, they must have been pretty good harp players because God at least calls it 'music'. But he calls their songs, 'noise'.

The most important part of a song are their lyrics (I learned that in worship school). Here they are, with gigantic hearts of worship uttering profound love for God, and He calls it noise. Maybe God was thinking of what he was going to say a little later on, things like, "Not everyone who says to me 'Lord, Lord' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he does the will of my Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 7:21).

Or, "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say? ...But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete." Luke 6:46

It must get old hearing so many 'Lord, Lords'. God hated their "worship music" because they believed worship could be sold for a song... which it couldn't then, currently can't, and never will. Yet we keep churning it out by the iPOD full. It must sound like noise as God puts it, after a while.

Wake up people, I'm not saying you can't sing your songs. Go sing them. But what your doing on stage only comes close to worship in Bizzarro world. Don't think for one second you are extravagantly worshiping God. You are at best singing a hymn.

If you must sing them in public, make sure you fully understand Matthew 6:5-8, because if your 'acts of righteousness' are publicly displayed - 'Standing in the (churches) and on the street corners to be seen by men' - then Jesus calls you a play actor (hypocrite). Someone pretending, or acting out the real thing, all the while knowing nothing of it's depth and richness. He says go into your room and close the door.

How many jumping scissor kicks do you do for Jesus in your closet? Or is it just onstage?




God has already revealed to us what is acceptable worship. A sacrificial life. Feed the hungry. Give drink to the thirsty. Invite the stranger in. Clothe the naked. Attend to those in captivity.

But we changed it. Redefined it. Altered it. On purpose. Now, worship? It's as comfortable as the fresh coffee and pastries Sunday morning. It's all rock 'n roll, magazine covers, and $40,000 fees. There are tiny little groups of people in Nashville and Texas and Abbotsford who write all the songs that you sing and make all the profit. They even want more profit so they start worship training schools and write books, to instill these new ideas in you to perpetuate the - business - of worship.

Yes, you can still be worshipful to God singing a hymn (yes, a modern relevant one, not some funeral march). But remember earlier, the small alteration of the math equation 1+1 still equals 2? Just 2 and... ?

CS Lewis wrote in 'Mere Christianity' that this was one of the Devil's greatest tricks: Christianity, plus... Christianity, and... it didn't matter and what, just that you added anything would be a distortion.

Like the equation being radically and unrecognizably different if 1+1=2 became 1+1=2 (and a 1/3). It still equals 2 -with just a wee bit more... The end result?


A wrong answer. Period.


'Worship plus' has truly invaded God's people with a vengance and it's like a new soda campaign: "Remember 'Fizz'? Well now ladies and gentlemen, we give you 'Fizz Plus!' " There is wild applause and fervor until one day someone realizes 'Fizz Plus' is garbage and they want the old Fizz back. "Whaat? They stopped making it?!"

I'm not going to get into the corrupt lives of many well known worship leaders. I will not get into the staggering amounts of cash being pilfered out of the 'business of worship'. You say your songs are worship because that is how you express your love for Him.

I will simply say what worship is not: the rockstars on stage at your church.

I will leave you with this: 1 John 2:3-6, 5:3-5

"We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in him."
"This is love for God, that we keep his commandments"



Think about it - look at the puzzle again.



For further study, please read "So you wanna be a Rockstar" by Keith Green posted right here: http://www.keithgreen.com/

For further, further study: Mother Teresa and your Church's Worship

For Further, further, even further reading: Rockstar Worship Leaders

Deeply, and from my captivity,

Richard the LionHeart

Friday, June 19, 2009

Unity - Don't even bother!

It is a quiet night here at Durnstein Castle.

Unity. The new testament talks about it quite a bit, yet it is the thing most sorely lacking in modern 'churchianity'. In fact, the more people strive to create it, the more elusive it becomes...

This is absurd, morbidly humorous even, but eventually it becomes an observation of the pathetic and pitiful. Why? Because the strivings of a fallen race and culture trying to produce something beyond and above itself is as humorous as someone donning a red cape and telling you they can fly - and horrifying as they jump off the roof to prove it. Pathetic and pitiful so far that as they lay there on the ground broken and in the throws of death, they proclaim to you through fits of blood gurgling coughs, "Look - I'm flying!". Yeah, I believe you...

Unity.

A red herring? A carrot on the end of A stick being waggled by a corrupt and vicious god who delights in the futility of man?

Unity.

We have spent roughly 2,000 years as self proclaimed followers of Jesus with the bulk of our testimony proving that we are incapable of such a thing. Yet - we find in the new testament:

"Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment."
- 1st Corinthians 1:10 (you may just glean a little insight reading the whole chapter)

**I am about to speak of things of which I have yet to understand, for I know little more than swords, breastplates and helmets.**

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You have, say, 100 people who need to get to a specific destination.

You provide a box full of GPS' that they may take as they get into their vehicles. These GPS' are brand new, remotely updated, speak clearly and plainly, and have the destination firmly ingrained/formatted/downloaded in the system.

So - on their way to their vehicles, the drivers stop by the box of available GPS' for their journey to this destination. Some of these drivers pause to think for a moment.

One driver says, "I don't need one of these! I have a map book in the glovebox that I've used since 1971. I'll just use that."

Another: "I have a GPS from just a couple years ago. I found Grandma's house using it, so why upgrade?"

A couple drivers even have such a keen sense of direction that they scoff at those who even need things such as map books and GPS'. They just jump in the car and hit the gas.

And they're off, Ladies and Gentlemen! A little while later, we get an update on our travelers:

The one with the mapbook is pretty upset: Not only does the map clearly show a road, but they remember having traveled it even, years ago. Now - they sit dejected fully stopped in front of a yellow and black striped fence. How can the map be wrong - the little road is printed in it right there!

The one with the old GPS is traveling still, albeit with quite a bit of difficulty. There are road crews everywhere; the pavement has all been ripped up, bulldozers are pushing dirt everywhere, and the people with those red and yellow flags were flailing all over the place way back there when the traveler went zipping past them all. Now miles forward it hardly resembles a road anymore - just rocky unkempt turf that is getting harder and harder to 4x4 over. Oh well, at least they're still moving, right?

Oh, and those guys with the keen sense of direction? Who cares about the destination. They just found the Beach! Whoo Hoo!

Guess who made it to their destination.

Let's put together a little table of contents:

- The destination is 'unity'

- The mapbooks, old GPS' and the surf dudes represent a mixture or combination of denominations, traditions and human wisdom. Take your pick at what's what. Over the course of time, denominations come and go, traditions are reformed, and human wisdom - well that depends on the popular thought of the particular age one finds themselves in.

Only a few travelers of the 100 ever made it to the destination. When a road closed, the remotely updated GPS knew and created a new path ('Knew' path). When a road was under construction the remotely updated GPS knew, and found a suitable detour - and only the handful that took it ever arrived at the destination. What a shame for the others!

Hey - WAIT - does God care about unity for the sake of unity? Does He? For that matter, does God care about *any* issue for the sake of itself? The answer is both alarming and simple: "No"

- save one...

The 'one' issue that God has pursued relentlessly with us, His creation, is relationship. All other things fall in line behind this almost effortlessly, when relationship with God is faithfully established.

We modern group of 'churchists' certainly love to scoff at the Pharisees - right along with Jesus, right? (Matthew 23:1-36) We love to wave the flag of Martin Luther at those silly Catholics! Yet we cannot produce unity to save our lives. We are arrogant and conceited - all the while remaining failures - and do this all in the Holy name of GOD.

Some Anglicans are fighting to save 'orthodoxy' against other Anglicans who are trying to save 'orthodoxy' in Vancouver at St. John's Shaughnessy. I love St. Johns - it is one of my 'church homes' - but they are not innocent. Their problems don't necessarily sprout from the certain situation that they say it is about currently, but from a just as pervasive concept they accepted freely centuries ago.

In the same passage quoted above that calls us to, demands even, as faithful believers to be in 100% unity (agreement with one another) also forbids something else, the very thing we accepted so long ago... Factions...*ahem*, er, denominations.


"For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, that there are quarrels among you. Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?...
Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere men?
What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building...
Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and YOU are that temple. " - 1 Corinthians Chapters 1 through 3, condensed.

Oh yes, the table of contents... what exactly did the remotely updated GPS represent??


As many of you have most likely figured - The Holy Spirit.

'Wait a second...

if we just hang out all hippy style 'listening to the spirit' won't we all fall under hukster Todd Bentley's spell or a 100 just like him?! Yikes! We need people to organize and write out statements and form parties that we can agree to - yeah, like Martin Luther! Then we can be Lutherans and conform and then we will all agree and have unity!' ...or like John Wimber! Or John Calvin..wait...or Jacob Arminius - whatever! Or like Billy Graham! Or Brigham Young...ummm...er...uh...'

Lets see, we have spent since 312 A.D. in complete contravention of the new testament creating and/or joining denominations and the rule of man from Constantine to the Pope to the emerging church to the Toronto Blessing to Todd Bentley. All without unity, one with another. 'Man - if Jesus just hung around with us a little longer! We could've got all this worked out but he just took off... What a bummer!'

Yet, the Apostle Paul says, "I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought."

So - unity is commanded but we cannot create it. Nor is unity found by 'agreeing to disagree' whereas you agree with something actually disagreeable for the sake of unity. That is insincere and self defeating, as it ultimately breaks down; EG: Your name is Bob, and you like to 'agree to disagree' for the sake of 'unity'. Someone says everyone named Bob should pay more taxes. You agree to disagree, that is until they come to collect. Now what?

The GPS does bring us all to the destination, however. But not of our own designs. 'What! well, where do I get one then? I'm tired of this ratty old out-of-date map!'

John 16:5-15

“Now I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief. But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.
“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you."

wow. *sigh*

The Holy Spirit - not a man, denomination, tradition, or popular opinion - will guide you into all Truth. Further evidence is seen in Jude 18-20 when the only teaching given in response to those who will cause division is simply: "...These are the men who divide you...but you dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit." *Not* 'run to your pastor', 'check the denominational guide book', no - not even 'run to the Torah'; Pray in the Holy Spirit.

'But what about Todd Bentley!? He SAYS he is hearing form the holy spirit yet there is so much controversy! This is just as confusing!!'

You know what? Todd is one man. If he is wrong, he will stand accountable to God. So guess who is to blame: the FOLLOWERS. The 300,000 people who go to seminars to 'hear a fresh word from the spirit'. This is hardly different from the millions that sit in church buildings, designating for themselves a 'pastor' to tell them everything. Yes, this is the lazy, discontented rabble known chiefly to the world as 'christians' who have never passionately pursued a real relationship with the creator of the universe. These are people who would also create for themselves a 'golden calf' because Moses was talking about some crazy confusing notion that God himself would lead them.

'Ok, I'm not really into gold cows anyway - how do I know if it is really God's Spirit talking to me? I like this GPS/Spirit stuff!'

John 10:1-30

“I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them.

Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.a He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd."


Can you dig what this means? Unity is never strived for or created. When you persistently follow up and pursue God for relationship, you will be found by Him. You will spend intimate time together and you will know His voice. When you know His voice, He will guide you into all Truth.

There are those of you still terrified to give up your traditions, because you may not really be found by God if you seek him personally, but take heart - Matthew 7:8 "For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened." That's a promise. It's you who has to be the sincere seeker.

Then -

- Unity 'happens'.

Really?

Yes...it just...'happens'.

Miraculous, it seems? Well, it is! You must remember when you encounter 10 different 'churches' that have 10 differing positions on doctorine that "God is not the Author of Confusion" (1 Corinthians 14:33), but He is the "Author and Finisher of our Faith." (Hebrews 12:2). So where do disagreeing churches fall? The truth is, anything else - all the disunity, factions, divisions, denominations, or whatever you choose to describe them - are sadly not born of God but of 'mere men' (1Corinthians 3:3-4). Modern Christian faith, or 'The Way', has sinfully discarded God's very Spirit in exchange for leaders who by the fruit and testamony of the modern church condition, eg: double mindedness, instability, show themselves to be doubters of the very creator they confess:

"But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does." James 1:6-8

And so many have put their trust in these leaders!

Unity? Don't even bother. Really - don't.

Pursue your Creator.

"Seek First His Kingdom, and *these things* will be added to you as well", Luke 12:31.

Deeply; and from my captivity,
Richard The Lionheart

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Greetings from my Captivity

Greetings (from my captivity at Durnstein Castle)

After sitting on this blog for exactly one year - I am finally released to at least write to you. Some of you are of my tribe - my spiritual family as followers of The Way - some of you may be friends, strangers, even enemies; but in this brave new world of technology we are are all bound as neighbors.

As for me - I am sure who I am will present itself through my letters to you, the songs I write, and the essence & imagery of both combined. At the core of The Way is a Person, a Son, A King...the long awaited Messiah promised to the Jews. Am I part of the church? As surely as I have faith than I am (let the reader understand). Do we attend church or are we The Church? Ekklesia - the assembly, or in proper scriptural and historical context: The Body (1 Corinthians 12:5-31).

In the midst of this, I have surprisingly been called or labeled a 'Lone Wolf', an outsider. This has been a point of concern since I submitted to The Way and was 'Born Again' in 1994, at my beach flat in White Rock, British Columbia, Canada. Since then, I have attended and participated in literally hundreds of meetings, movements and services in as many buildings with all kinds of designations: Church, The Vineyard, Anglican, Charismatic, Emergent and the list goes on. Having had no previous religion, preconceived notions, traditions, or agenda for my first 20 years (other than being a broken, hardened selfish man), I had no other plan than believing and following The Way revealed to me (Acts 24:14).
It just so happens The Way seems to have been changed - purposefully, even - having been rebranded, reconstructed, and redefined, producing alarming alterations in name, function, and position. As these things dawn on you, it becomes horrifying - akin to walking in a room and catching a person trying to feed an infant child a bottle filled with bleach. One can excitedly & knaively point these things out, because surely it would be insane to let that continue.
Well, concerning myself, this matter of a lone wolf may be apparently so, but it is completely not the case and certainly not my desire nor my choice. I am a branch grafted onto the True Vine. I desire nothing more than to facilitate my function as part of the True Vine, or Body.

Another way: I am an organ transplant - but sometimes a body will go into rejection mode after a transplant. I have no other option/viewpoint on this matter, as I truly esteem the Body -which is the Messiah's Bride - and care for it's health. There is rejection, but it is one sided. Why has the way changed so much? It is not healthy to engage and promote falsehoods. It is not healthy to consume filth. It is not healthy to stagnate and atrophy. It is also not healthy to take pleasure in error - but the church is full of 'smiling happy people', who care not to have their pleasure interrupted.

I was once Lord of the Manor, but have become it's servant.
This is a good thing.

Deeply,

Sir Richard