Fellowship and giving

What we have seen and heard we also declare to you, so that you may also have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in him. If we say, “We have fellowship with him,” and yet we walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth. If we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

-1 John 1:3-7

It is a blessing to have fellowship with fellow Christians, but we always have fellowship with the Lord.

Fellowship is sharing life.

“What is God doing in your life?”, is the question of fellowship.

“But I say to you who listen: Love your enemies, do what is good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If anyone hits you on the cheek, offer the other also. And if anyone takes away your coat, don’t hold back your shirt either. Give to everyone who asks you, and from someone who takes your things, don’t ask for them back. Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. If you do what is good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High. For he is gracious to the ungrateful and evil. Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.

-Luke 6:27-36

We don’t give to get, but when we give we do get.  Giving to people is never “tit for tat”, or always reciprocal.  Giving is voluntary and obedience based.  There will always be people we give to who won’t give or can’t give back.  If we only give to those we expect a return from, we have missed the heart of God.

In every way I’ve shown you that it is necessary to help the weak by laboring like this and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, because he said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”

-Acts 20:35

So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.

-Matthew 5:23-24

“Worship is our highest priority”, right?  And giving your tithes and offerings is a form of worship.  But, reconciliation is actually more important than worship.  Is Jesus addressing disciples of whom fellow believers hold grievances against?

This is a hard word.  Baby steps towards reconciliation might be, leaving the door open, or sending a Christmas card, if you have their address.  Giving up on someone, washing your hands of them, cutting them off, or purposely remaining estranged, even when the opportunity for reconciliation arises, is not the way of Christ.

Runover Christians

Reject a divisive person after a first and second warning.  For you know that such a person has gone astray and is sinning; he is self-condemned.-Titus 3:10-11
Have you ever met someone, who seems like all they want to do is argue?
Have you been that person?
A nice event or gathering is ruined by a person who is obnoxious with their words and tone.

They might be condemning, or judgemental; harsh or attacking.

Some people seem to purposely say things to get others annoyed or angry.
It is one thing to hold a differing opinion, but quite another to purposely stir up strife.

Why would a person want to and even enjoy getting someone’s goat?

This is the kind of thing and the sort of person that Paul is talking about here, to Titus.  A divisive person.  

What were these foolish debates?

Examples of these kinds of controversies that the Jewish commentaries have preserved are the following. Should a Jew eat an egg laid on a festival day? What sort of wick and oil should a Jew use for candles he burns on the Sabbath? The genealogies in view were speculations about the origins and descendants of persons, which some thought had spiritual significance (1)

Does that sound familiar, if not in content, but in tone, to someone you have met?  People came to church and wanted to quarrel over these matters.

Wiersbe opinied:

I have learned that professed Christians who like to argue about the Bible are usually covering up some sin in their lives, are very insecure, and are usually unhappy at work or at home. (5)

Paul says, “avoid”, which means to turn away from, so as to face away from it.  And the reason why, in a nutshell, is that such debates are unprofitable and useless.  A waste of time and energy.

But why?  Because they are divisive.

Simpson, writes that the word here, translated ‘divisive’, is:

An opportunistic propagandist who promotes dissention by his pertinacity. (2)

The King James Bible has ‘heretic’ here:

If a man is a heretic, after the first and second admonition reject him,

Heretic is an overused word today.  I’ve also never liked the misuse of words like ‘highjack’ or ‘crusade’.

Simpson’s definition is closer to the original meaning, than how we use heretic today.  The point is the divisiveness of such a person, and not their ‘heresies’.

We need to say, “you are being divisive, and you need to stop”, and not say, “you are a heretic, and you need to leave.”  We are quick to call people names: racist, bigot, ____phobe, luddite, liar, nazi, socialist, or misogynist.

Divisiveness is the problem.  Debate, differences, discussions, and disagreements are totally normal- a healthy part of life together that we expect and embrace.

But divisiveness is different.

The divisive person can not agree to disagree.

They can not mix in and be part of a family of people who hold different opinions or see things differently or have different traditions- ways and practices to express their faith.

In a group, everyone does not believe everything and all that the others believe.  Some have stronger faith.  Some have come to different conclusions.  Yet we live together and are able to discuss, debate, and disagree on things.

A divisive person is not able to do this.

Not able to live at peace and in love with differences between us, but seeks to constantly divide over those things.

A literal translation of that word could also be sectarian.  Sectarianism is a sin.  It’s wrong.

Sectarianism is when you do not recognize the body of Christ, but want to remake it after your vision of what it should be.

A sectarian is a person who, when they come into contact with you, notices the differences and wants to fight over them.  ‘Chip on their shoulder’, or ‘axe to grind’, are phrases that might describe these people.

We all have differences of opinions.  A group of people can all believe in Christ, who he is and what he did, but come from different traditions of how we worship, how we celebrate communion, how church services are run, and how to live out the life.

The divisive (“stirs up division”, ESV) person enters into a group of Christians and divides them in a harsh way.

I think one of the keys is that this person is not making disciples of Christ, but of him/herself and of their doctrine.  They make doctrinal arguments, but where is the love for Christ and the desire to see people work out their lives with the living savior?

This is the character of the false teacher that Paul warns Titus about.  The key is their character.  A person can even have seemingly good doctrine but bad character.  Seeming gifts without fruit.

Jesus said, you will know them by their fruit (Matt. 7:16).

Debate, discussions, and learning through questions; are all good.  But this is something different.

Have you ever had a discussion in a classroom, or with friends or family. or in a fellowship situation; that was edifying?  You enjoyed the company and learning something new.  You might be frustrated and say that you understand the other point of view or you may be persuaded to change your mind.  You may end the discussion saying, “wow, now I have to think about this”.

But a toxic conversation is something else, where you are not edified.  With a divisive person, you walk away feeling bad to worse.

The person to avoid and reject, after two warnings is pertinacious:

a steadfast adherence to an opinion, purpose, or course of action in spite of reason, arguments, or persuasion (Webster’s)

If you say, “he’s obsessed with this”, of “she just won’t listen”, it might be petinacity- an unhinged, twisted obsession with an opinion.  Making something, ‘a hill to die on’, that should be set aside, for the sake of unity.

What does it mean to reject this person?

It is a vague term (cf. 1 Tim. 4:7) which does not convey the idea of excommunication, but means merely ‘to leave out of account’.  The first approach to these false teachers is to be by means of admonition… The lenience advocated is striking, for it is only on the third occasion of admonition that the more serious action of avoidance is to be taken. (3)

I hear tolerance from Paul.  We are not ‘hair trigger’ in kicking people out, of a conversation, of fellowship, or our lives.

But after the third time, they are out.  If that seems harsh, here is the reason Paul gives.  Guthrie’s further comment:

Titus must realize that the stubbornness of the man is evidence of a perverted mind.(3)

 For you know that such a person has gone astray and is sinning; he is self-condemned. -Titus 3:11

  • has gone astray (CSB)
  • is warped (ESV)
  • is twisted (NET)
  • are warped (NIV)
  • a corrupt (Voice)
  • is perverted (NRSV)

The sinning referred to must be understood in light of the previous verse, i.e. the desire to promote dissensions.  It is useless to contend with men of twisted minds, and there is no need to condemn them for they are self-condemned.  The reference, however, seems to be so much to a deliberate act of condemning oneself, which is admittedly rare, but to the fact that perverted and sinful action in the end automatically condemns the doer. (3)

When I was in seminary, in my preaching class, we had a brother who was a Seventh Day Adventist.  We each delivered two sermons.  His first one was on keeping the sabbath.  We all heard him out and discussed his sermon with him at the roundtable afterwards.

When he was up a second time, he preached the same message, from a different text.  This brother seemed to be deliberately divisive.

Reject a divisive person after a first and second warning.  For you know that such a person has gone astray and is sinning; he is self-condemned.
-Titus 3:10-11

When a man or woman resists Christ, but promotes their doctrine about Christ, there is the potential for a problem in that and with that person as far as their teaching goes.

The larger context of the letter to Titus, is that there are a bunch of new churches in Crete, of which Titus is overseeing, for Paul.

The problem for which the letter was written, was the need to strengthen these young churches.  An exacerbating problem were the false teachers circulating into these church plants.

The prescription Paul writes is to raise up elders and teach sound doctrine.  Weak leadership gives you weak congregations.

Strong leadership means Christlike.  Paul gives Titus a list of what to look for in a man who can be an elder in the church. (Titus 1:5-9)


  • must be blameless: 
  • the husband of one wife, 
  • with faithful children who are not accused of wildness or rebellion. 
  • As an overseer of God’s household, he must be blameless: 
  • not arrogant, 
  • not hot-tempered, 
  • ot an excessive drinker, 
  • not a bully, 
  • not greedy for money, 
  • but hospitable, 
  • loving what is good, 
  • sensible, 
  • righteous, 
  • holy, 
  • self-controlled, 
  • holding to the faithful message as taught, 
    • so that he will be able both to encourage with sound teaching 
    • and to refute those who contradict it.

Elders are leaders and caretakers.

Paul then makes a contrast, showing what an elder is not like, showcasing the false teachers (Titus 1:10-16).

I would argue that the people Paul is upset with are the opposite of the qualities in the elder list.  For example, bullies.

False teachers (the Cretan formula):

  • rebellious people, 
  • full of empty talk and deception, 
    • especially those from the circumcision party. It is necessary to silence them; 
  • they are ruining entire households 
    • by teaching what they shouldn’t 
      • in order to get money dishonestly.

The rest of Titus (ch. 2 and 3) is how to live, based on what God has done, for us through Jesus.

The thesis of Titus is:

The essential connection between evangelical truth and the purest morality. (6)

 A false teacher is someone who does not have this.  They have a truth, a doctrine; and maybe part of or a lot of the real truth, the core truth about Christ.  But that is not what they are selling, and this is the problem.

From a veteran pastor’s perspective, listen to how Eugene Peterson states the passage from chapter three that we opened up to today:

I want you to put your foot down. Take a firm stand on these matters so that those who have put their trust in God will concentrate on the essentials that are good for everyone. Stay away from mindless, pointless quarreling over genealogies and fine print in the law code. That gets you nowhere. Warn a quarrelsome person once or twice, but then be done with him. It’s obvious that such a person is out of line, rebellious against God. By persisting in divisiveness he cuts himself off. -Titus 3:9-11 (MSG)

And listen to how Peterson, again, from a long-time churchman’s perspective, handles the rebuke (reprimand NLV) passage in chapter 1:

For there are a lot of rebels out there, full of loose, confusing, and deceiving talk. Those who were brought up religious and ought to know better are the worst. They’ve got to be shut up. They’re disrupting entire families with their teaching, and all for the sake of a fast buck.          -Titus 1:10-11 (MSG)

I was struck by the line, “brought up religious and ought to know better are the worst”.  Do you know that person?  This is Peterson’s take on the line where other translations have it, “especially those of the circumcision party”.

To me, I hear Paul saying that these guys were obsessed with circumcision.  Their message was not even about Christ, foremost, but about circumcision.  “You must be circumcised”.  I am not sure what they said about Jesus, but they were coming into these new churches, with new Gentile Christians, and saying, “you gotta be circumcised”.  Paul touches on other things they talked and taught about, but Paul gave them the label, ‘circumcision party’.

What would this equate to today?  Imagine a group of new believers, learning about Christ and walking out the life.  And then someone joins their fellowship and starts saying, you can’t be a Democrat and must change to Republican; or the opposite.

Some theologians say that circumcision in the old covenant, equates to baptism, in the new covenant.

The false teachers in Titus, might be like believers baptism advocates (propagandists) entering a fellowship of Christians who believe in baptizing children, and arguing obnoxiously, to try to change their minds, or tell them they are wrong, or even tell them they are not saved.

The habitual practice of holding a pet doctrine and then of critiquing the doctrine of other Christians, that is not in the center; is what is going on with these people.  I have cited political party and baptism as examples.  It could be a dozen other things.

The Cretan agitators may or may not have believed in the right things about Christ, but the point is that they  divided what they believed and taught.

And the reason why someone would make something peripheral into ‘a hill to die on’, or to divide over, is rotten character- a personality that is not taken over by Christ and beginning to live in him.

Have you met people that just argue, that find fault, that put people down or peripheral beliefs down, that they don’t hold?  They seem to need to attack those beliefs or viewpoints, belittling and smearing.

This is essentially, bigotry:

A stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one’s own. (Dictionary.com)

This is not what Jesus calls us to.  They will know we are Christians (that Christ has come and is real) by our love.  The Pharisees loved their doctrines so much that they killed Jesus.  That’s how we don’t want to be.

I have read some of Eugene Peterson and seen him on video and he seemed to be a gentle (pastoral) man.  About this divisive person, he translates Paul as saying, “They’ve got to be shut up” (1:10) and, “Warn a quarrelsome person once or twice, but then be done with him” (3:10).

If you are a leader, in the church, you are going to have to face divisive people, disruptive people, and  bigots.  These people can be redeemed and reformed, reset, recalibrated, and transformed by God.  But, at the moment, they are acting up.

And the proper thing to do, is for the leaders to reprimand them.  Peterson bluntly puts it, “shut them up”.  Or, “warn the person once or twice, and then be done with them.”  Done does not mean irredeemable.  It means, done with their antics, done with them doing their schick in your group- done with them being allowed in your fellowship.

I have, more than once, had a disruptive, divisive person in my group; and I pretty much did nothing.  It was like at one of those monster truck rallies, their huge tires drove over us.  When we are in a group with someone like this, we feel beat up.

We have to say, “stop it”, because it is unedifying and hurtful.  They either need to stop or they will have to leave.  For myself, I am relieved to have studied Titus and finally seeing this great advice.

It’s neither ‘one strike and you’re out’, nor ‘anything goes’, in that we have to bear with the divisive, disruptive, argumentative person, out of the love of Christ.

I have read Proverbs, and I know about the foolish person who is a brawler, that loves arguing and spouts off about things they don’t know.  But, I have always been too tolerant, and thought that the rebuke or reprimand was unloving, or not Christ.

But I was always bothered by this, as in, there must be a better way.  And here it is, right here, in Titus.

There are going to be tons of new Christians, soon; and we need to know how to handle this sort of thing.

And here is the irony.  The people who do this, who are problems for leaders are not the new ones, but the old ones messing with the new ones.  Exactly what Peterson said, from Paul, “Those who were brought up religious and ought to know better are the worst.”

In my experience, I see this.  The ones that do this are never the new believers, but people who have been long-time believers.

C.S. Lewis said, “Of all bad men, religious men are worse” (Reflections on The Psalms, p. 32)

And they often would not qualify as elders, because their lives are not in order, not under Christ’s order.

I say this, because the worse case is that the false teacher becomes a leader in the church.

Listen to Hayne Griffin on this:

Failure to confront problems within the church, whether theologically or practically based, may be indicative of a basic indifference with regard to God’s truth or the nurturing of truly Christian relationships. The fear of giving offense and a highly individualized view of personal faith may discourage church leaders from following the biblical mandate to rebuke. The restoration that is possible both in fellowship and in sound doctrine is compromised by this reluctance to confront. Loving, sensitive, yet firm confrontation can result in stronger relationships and restored unity or perhaps a needed purging of those who deny the truth. (7)

I have to care enough to confront (8), be willing to be assertive (9), and set boundaries (10).

Both Jesus and Paul would tell us to look at someone’s life, their fruit.  Bad acts, with whatever you want to say: good, interesting, intriguing, thoughtful, moving; teaching, in a life, means a bad person.

A person’s walk, not their talk, really reveals who they are.  People can talk up a storm.  “Wow!”, we say after hearing them.  But what about who they are outside of their ‘show’?

Let me also note this, that it is a lie, a deception to say that what you believe and how you live (act and behave) are seperate.

The whole idea of the Christian life is that obedience comes out of salvation.  We live like Christ, because Christ has saved us.  To not live like Christ and in Christ, but to believe and preach Christ, is antithetical and deceived.

That person becomes a false teacher, because they are living a double life, and are selling religion, but not the living Christ.

Something terrible happens to a man or a woman who comes in the name of Jesus, but secretly and deliberately does not live their lives in Christ and for Christ.

For you know that such a person has gone astray and is sinning; he is self-condemned.              -Titus 3:11

You don’t want to be that person.  This is a person that should be warned to stop and if they don’t, asked to leave.  Their behavior is not appropriate.

“Gone astray”, means they are more than “out there”, or “free range”, but rather:

  • Out of line (MSG)
  • Turned away from the truth (NLT)
  • Twisted (CEB, CEV)
  • Such a one is entwined with his sin (TPT)

The person who gets this way is a Christian in name only.

Because they simply don’t have Christ living through them.  They don’t die daily.  They have not taken up their crosses and denied themselves, because we can see there is no fruit.

Self-condemned simply means that by their own actions, by their own unbelief, they condemn themselves.

The seemingly harshness of asking someone to stop and then asking them to leave is simply meeting the stubbornness of that person.  There are some people that you can not argue with, because they have a closed mind.  They only want to change your mind to their mind, instead of arriving at the truth together.

If someone is running people over, we need to tell them to stop.  And after warning them twice, and they persist; the only thing we can do, as leaders, is tell them to leave.  Their own actions precipitated their ejection.  All we are doing is protecting people from abuse.


1. The Pastoral Epistles (The New International Greek Testament Commentary), Knight, p. 353
2. The Pastoral Epistles, Simpson, cited by Guthrie, p. 208
3. The Pastoral Epistles, Tyndale NT Commentaries, Guthrie, pp. 208-9
4.  1, 2 Timothy, Titus: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture (The New American Commentary), Lea & Griffin, p. 328
5. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, 2:268
6.  Hiebert, “Titus,” in Ephesians-Philemon, vol. 11 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, p. 424.
7. Ibid., p. 290
8. Caring Enough to Confront, David Augsburger
9. When I Say No, I Feel Guilty, Manuel J. Smith
10. Boundaries, Cloud and Townsend


The harsh word for Cretans

Paul tells Titus to be assertive with these people who are ruining the new Cretan churches.  Paul even engages in a harsh word for them in these verses:

One of their very own prophets said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.”  This testimony is true. For this reason, rebuke them sharply, so that they may be sound in the faith  and may not pay attention to Jewish myths and the commands of people who reject the truth.   -Titus 1:12-14

Did Paul (and this is scripture!), just call these people, “always liars, evil beasts, and lazy gluttons”?  Think about if you have ever been taken aback by an insult that a leader leveled, and then look at this scripture.  Apparently, there is such a thing as sanctified name calling.

Paul (Gal 1:9) and Peter ( 2 Peter 2:12) and Jude (12-13) have very harsh words for false teachers.  Why?  Because leading people astray about things relating to Christ or how to walk with God, is a very serious sin.  Why?  Because they lead people astray.  James says don’t become a teacher in the church lightly, because we will be judged more scrupulously (James 3:1).

Fun Facts:

  • Titus is one of the three people that Paul called his sons.  The other two were Timothy and Onesimus.
  • Titus and Tim were not pastors. (D. Edmond Hiebert, Titus and Philemon, p. 7.)
  • Titus is Paul’s second to last letter, written between 1 and 2 Timothy (Philip H. Towner, 1-2 Timothy & Titus, p. 19).
  • Homer said that Crete had 100 cites (Barclay, p. 268.).

Disillusionment: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

Now that same day two of them were on their way to a village called Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. Together they were discussing everything that had taken place. And while they were discussing and arguing, Jesus himself came near and began to walk along with them. But they were prevented from recognizing him.Then he asked them, “What is this dispute that you’re having with each other as you are walking?” And they stopped walking and looked discouraged.

-Luke 24:13-17

My favorite movie, growing up, was The Wizard of Oz.  And I was also a big fan of Elton John.

Elton John’s song, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, is about disillusionment.  That’s what The Wizard of Oz is about too.

We think that we need to go on a fantastic journey to find something.  But we find out that we we already have it, right at home.  We go on a journey, and get over our illusions.

In The Wizard of Oz, the key phrase is, “There’s no place like home.”  Dorothy had a dream about finding the answers outside her surroundings.  But, everything she needed, was right at home.

I get the idea that I need to be this to be happy.  And it does not do that.  That’s disillusionment.

We also get into a fantasy about how things are when they aren’t that way and that is an illusion.

People who have ‘stars in their eyes’, are people who are overly optimistic and idealistic and naive about set-backs, suffering, human depravity, perseverance, and real love that is sacrificial.  These folks are in for a rude awakening and disillusionment, when reality set in on them.

When disillusionment comes, it is an opportunity the get in touch with reality and grow in authenticity towards yourself, God and others.

We are supposed to dream.  Dreaming is natural.  We are supposed to have passion and follow it.  We do need to find our destiny.

But this is all natural with the supernatural.  Illusion is not natural or supernatural.  Illusion is not real.

Who I am, what God has made me to be, and where God is taking me is real.  My destiny in God is real.  And my inheritance in God is real.  God’s design for me is real.

Same thing with the church.  God’s design for the church is real and authentic, Jesus shaped you could say.

We get into illusions when we use our imaginations outside of God.  When we think about ourselves, the church, or God; outside of interaction with the living God, we might get into illusions.  Illusions are things that are not real and are not true.  They may be well-intentioned, but not real.

The two guys who were walking on the road to Emmaus were disillusioned.  Things did not turn out, they way they had imagined.  They were discouraged.

Jesus asked them why they were discouraged.  Then he was direct with them, calling them foolish and slow.  He taught them through the Old Testament, about how the Messiah had to suffer before his glorification.

Then he asked them, “What is this dispute that you’re having with each other as you are walking?” And they stopped walking and looked discouraged.

The one named Cleopas answered him, “Are you the only visitor in Jerusalem who doesn’t know the things that happened there in these days?”

“What things?” he asked them.

So they said to him, “The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet powerful in action and speech before God and all the people,and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him. But we were hoping that he was the one who was about to redeem Israel. Besides all this, it’s the third daysince these things happened. Moreover, some women from our group astounded us. They arrived early at the tomb, and when they didn’t find his body, they came and reported that they had seen a vision of angels who said he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they didn’t see him.”

He said to them, “How foolish and slow you are to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Wasn’t it necessary for the Messiah to suffer these things and enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted for them the things concerning himself in all the Scriptures.

-Luke 24:17-27
Their illusion was that Jesus would redeem one way, but the reality was that he redeemed Israel another way.  We have a good goal in mind and think we will get there through a certain way, that becomes an illusion.  But there is another way that is the authentic way, without illusion.
An illusion is when we see something that is not there.  We say, “He fooled himself into thinking…”  That’s an illusion.
We fool ourselves into thinking something about someone that is not true.  We think they are good when they are actually bad.  When we find out the truth, we become disillusioned.
We enter into to a relationship.  Maybe a friendship, maybe a romance, maybe a business relationship.  We assume things are all good, but then something not good happens, maybe even a betrayal.  Then we get disillusioned.
This can happen with church.  We have high hopes and together we are engaged in a very nobel purpose.  Then bad things happen and we get disillusioned and don’t want to play anymore.
I was just thinking about all the pastors out there, who suffer failure, and go into disillusionment with the church.
Disillusionment is painful, but it is actually a good thing.  We need to not be illusioned.  We need to be in touch with reality.
Suffering is reality.  Betrayal is reality.  Love and forgiveness is reality.  Broken people is reality.

God has no illusions about us, so he never gets disillusioned about us. We walk with God without illusions.

There is a paradox in that the path is where we find ourselves, but it is at home where we are our authentic selves.

All of life is a journey towards our ultimate home in and with God.  Life is not a time of just waiting for the event, but becoming the person.  Life is about knowing God and knowing who you are.

To think that we are going on a journey to becoming famous or powerful is a misconception and illusion.

Being the person God created you to be and being loved by God and then loving other people, is the simple calling for everyone.  God can choose to elevate us or not, for a short time or for a long time.

Jesus would not allow himself to be lifted up into the illusions that some people had for him.  Think about it.  Jesus lived in the tension that each of us are called to, to be ourselves and to let God elevate us.

Negative disillusionment goes into cynicism and bitter criticism, that has its root in a distrust of self and a feeling of alienation.

Sometimes a rude awakening precedes a breakthrough into authenticity.  It requires humility.  Humility sometimes only comes through humiliation.

Much of the pain of disillusionment is self-inflicted.  We ran with something that really was a lie, it was not true; and we built our reality around it.

People constantly suffered from disillusionment towards Jesus.  He never caused it, but they did it to themselves.  We have Judas and we have the other eleven misunderstanding him.  We have the fact that at the very end of the gospel account, it says that some people, who had seen and heard him, still did not believe.  And then there is the fact that only a portion of the people that saw him, after the resurrection, made it to the room where the day of pentecost happened.

We can be disillusion with the church.  Jesus has no illusions or fantasies about ideal church life, and neither should we.  If we are idealists, we need to let that go, be disillusioned, and be realists, with Jesus; based on love.

Many of us are disillusioned, disappointed, and distrusting of the church right now.  A great dissatisfaction is out there, among people who are unhappy in church, done with church, or have no regular meeting of the church to call home today.

The danger, which is toxic and poisonous is for us to be overly idealistic, perfectionist, and under an illusion that is elitist about what church has to be like.  I think we have to take people where they are and stand between them and our living God.

The bare bones, simple, and foundation of church life is, Christ, you, and I.  One way or another, we will end up eating and talking together, and then praying together, then being grateful together, and serving each other and then spilling out to serve the world around us and welcome them the table, where Christ is among us.

These are some notes and quotes from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, from his book about Christian community called Life Together.  Bonhoeffer says that God actually hates our idealist illusions about what church life should be.  These are my thoughts mixed in with what Dietrich wrote.

  • A ‘wishful image’ of church life will shatter Christian community, if that is the basis on which it is lived.  Idealism.
    • Serious Christians bring with them their ideas of what Christian community should be, when they enter into it, and are anxious for it to be realized.  One person says, we need to take communion, another says we must worship together, another says we must pray either laying on hands or interceding, and still another says that we should be evangelizing.
      • I have been in several groups where one member came on very strong about how, in order to be an authentic Christian community, we should be engaged in evangelism.  The majority of the community was not interested in that.  There was a tension around this and it would have been better if the group reached a consensus, but instead, the evangelists felt rejected and ‘vetoed’, instead of enfolded and loved.
  • The grace of God is at odds with our dreams often.  Our dreams often are not God’s dreams, not from God.  God is more concerned with our ‘one another’s’ than our success.  
    • Many church planters have started with a dream, encouraged, supported, and cheered on by others.  When things don’t work, when people resist, they have a lot of frustration.  In their disillusionment, they might get angry at the people, and even bitter with themselves and with God.
      • All through this, God is after something bigger and deeper, in grace.  God wants us to really know him and know his love and to know each other and know each other’s love.
  • God’s desire is for us to be disillusioned.  That means to let go of illusions and walk in the real.
    • Disillusionment is good, if it is riding us of our idealism.  Disillusionment is unpleasant and even appears evil, but it is the pathway to authenticity, reality, and durable community.
    • Every idealism is a hindrance to genuine community and must be broken up.
  • “Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest, and sacrificial.”
  • God hates our wishful dreams, that are really idealistic illusions, because they breed pride and pretense.  
    • Idealists carry a delusional sense of entitlement towards God and fellow Christians, demanding that they get on board with their vision.
      • Their ideal replaces the living Christ as the center of community, with themselves as ‘god’.
        • My vision.
        • My way.
        • I am the builder of it, the creator.
    • When things do not work, they accuse others, God, and themselves.
  • Disillusionment with our brothers or sisters should always drive us the Christ, from whom is the only way that we can live and function together.

(From Life Together and Prayerbook of the Bible, Bonhoeffer; pp. 34-36)

Imposing your control on others, supposedly as a function of leadership, is the essence of spiritual abuse.  I thought of controlling leaders, as I read Bonhoeffer.  When your leadership goes to controlling, you have moved into the dark side.

I am an idealist.  I have gone through disillusionment over and over.  A number of times in my life, I thought that if I believed the word and prayed hard, I would get results.

No dice.  Disillusionment.  Back to reality and authenticity.  Suffering, cross bearing, death, burial, and resurrection.  Living with the risen Christ.

One of the most painful disillusionments for me was my parents divorce.  My ideal for them was shattered and the hurtful brokenness of that was all I could see or feel.  The only way I could see was escape.

I was praying for God to make the pain go away.  And then I got ministry from a beautiful group of  prayer warriors, who ministered Paul’s word from Jesus to me: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).

I never really comprehended that verse before that.

Jesus has proven to me, over and over that in my disillusionment, he has grace for me to experience and be transformed by.  And to receive it, I must go low.  “Little ones to him belong, they are weak, but he is strong.  Yes Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so.”

When we try to make the case for our ideal, in the midst of shattering brokenness, that is pride, bitterness, and cynicism.  We blame, complain, and judge; having no grace for others, ourselves, or God.  No gratefulness, no forgiveness, and no happiness.  Just anger, control, and narcissism.

Shattered illusions that do not give way to grace, which is had by humility, becomes cynicism.  Cynical people believe that all of us are only motivated by self-interest.  Cynical people project their own brokenness onto the whole world.

The back-story of a cynical person is a broken heart that did not heal right.  They became deceived, they began to believe a lie.  They made a choice to go on the wrong path, in the wrong direction.

And the only way to get back on the right path is to go back to where you made the wrong turn.

The man who is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, was not always like that.  He may have once been a faithful shepherd, or a sheepdog.  But he got his heart broken and it did not heal right.

That is how a wolf is born that ends up hurting and destroying sheep in the church.  Disillusionment that did not give way to grace through humility, but stayed proud and went to cynicism.

Judas is an example of bad disillusionment.  Intimate with Jesus, but had a different ideal or ideal of who Jesus should be.  And in his cynicism, he betrayed Jesus.

When he realized his mistake, he again did not find grace, but judged himself and executed himself.  He made these decisions, for which he has responsibility.  Satan was involved with him, looked for and found a road into his life, from which he could tempt Judas to do wrong.

Every disciple is tempted to sin and betray Christ.  In our disillusionment, we can turn to the dark side or just give up.  That way of Christ is the receive grace, in humility.

God knows that we will be tempted to go for fame, fortune, success; or just finding ourselves or our destiny.  Maybe we just want to go to school, find a job, find a spouse, and have kids.  Maybe we just want to pay the bills and have a decent grocery store to go to.

Along the path of life, we need to stay grounded in reality, under no illusions about ourselves.

What happened next, in the story of the two men and Jesus, on the road to Emmaus?

They came near the village where they were going, and he gave the impression that he was going farther.  But they urged him, “Stay with us, because it’s almost evening, and now the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

 It was as he reclined at the table with them that he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.  Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him, but he disappeared from their sight.

-Luke 24:28-31

There is something profound here, in when Jesus broke the bread and gave it to them, that at that moment, their eyes were opened.  He is the bread of life and his body was broken for our life.  When we receive his life, broken and raised from the dead, for us; we can see him and become disillusioned.

His life and he as the truth, is our reality.

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, sung by Casey Crescenzo:


When You Meet Together

What is the outcome of this, brothers and sisters? When you meet together, each one has a psalm, a teaching, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. All these things must be done to build up the church.
-1 Cor. 14:26

I have a question.  What is a meeting?  Is a meeting just a gathering of people, where anything happens; or does every meeting have one thing in common; that you meet there?

Is going to a movie theater a meeting?  What if it is a film festival and there is a panel discussion and interview with the filmmakers, including questions and answers?  Is it a meeting then?

I believe it’s a meeting if you meet.  If you can say, “I met someone”, you were at a meeting.

There are “meet and greet” times built into events that are not meetings.  It’s not a meeting, but an event.  The organizers know people like to meet; so they build the meet time in.  That does not make it a meeting, but an event where meet time is built in.

We have gatherings where the main thing is a speaker who speaks in a monologue.  But it it is not a meeting in the truest sense, because a meeting is where we meet.

Meeting means face time.  It means I see your face and you see mine, but it’s more than that.  It means we all see each others faces and each person has a chance, many chances, to speak, to share and to express.

Meeting means we all meet each other.

Monologue and performance is not a true meeting.  The more you break up and stop the monologue or performance, the more meeting can take place, because meeting is about, “I met people”.

It is true that in order to hear and be clear, we do need solo speech time.  I might say, “I need y’all to hush while I share, so you can meet me and hear what I bring to the meeting.”

But the whole ‘meeting time’ is not my monologue or performance, because real soon, someone else gets to share or ask me a question or respond to what I just said.  You might not want to ask me something, but you might want to ask or say something to the person seated next to you, and that is ok too.

A meeting is about meeting.

The scripture from Apostle Paul says, “When you meet together, each one has…”  Each one has means, each one has.  It means that everyone gets to play.  It means everybody gets to share.  It means all can participate in the meeting.  It does is not say, “when you meet together, the speaker will speak or preach for 30, 60, or 90 minutes”.  But that is what many meetings are. 

In this text which is descriptive, Paul describes a different kind of meeting, than what most western Christians are familiar with.  From our modern (modernity), western (Grecian-euro) influenced culture; we might look at the Corinthian Church Paul writes to as aberant (naughty and off the rails).  We might view the whole letter as correction with some beautiful side notes, like the love chapter.

When Paul says, “when you meet together”, we might hear it as a rebuke.  This was a mess, chaos.  But, if you read all of chapter 14, or chapters 12 through 14; you will find out that there is much commendation, with some rebuke or correction.  The only way to see the Corinthian church or what they were doing as all bad, is to come to the text with a gigantic bias and we don’t want to do that.

The meeting of the church that Paul describes here is a meeting where everyone gets a chance to participate.  We are so used to going to church meetings where we go to hear monologues or see the “one man show”.

We have lost the art of leadership which is to create a space where everyone gets to participate.

The job of the shepherd is to protect the sheep from wolves and lead them to pasture.

“When you meet, each one has.”  The meeting is a pot-luck buffet.  Each person brings something.  If one person has had a bad week, they might bring a sorrowful song of lament.  We want to hear them, acknowledge them (get them), and comfort them.  We might want to come along side them as they trade their sorrows for the joy of the Lord, or we might just sit beside them in their grieving

Each person may bring something.  What did you bring to share?

We come to church, the church meeting, having spent time with God.  We might have been on assignment, or we might have received something from God, we want to share.  ‘Each one’, means more than one, everyone.

What is the outcome of all this meeting and sharing?  The building up of the church.  The variety of sharing and caring, meeting and receiving each other is mutual edification.  There is a spiritual nutritional benefit from the variety of sharing that all the people bring.

Notes on Suffering From Job, By Chambers & Peterson

Then Job stood up, tore his robe, and shaved his head. He fell to the ground and worshiped, saying:

Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will leave this life.
The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away.
Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Throughout all this Job did not sin or blame God for anything.

-Job 1:20-22
This is a follow-up on why we can not and should not try to fix people.  (You Can’t Fix People)  There is a whole book on this in the Bible, called Job.  It is the story of a good guy who had bad things happen to him.

Here are notes and quotes, full of sage advice and Christ centered wisdom about how to approach suffering, from first Oswald Chambers, then Eugene Peterson.

These are some notes or quotes from Oswald Chambers book on Job called, Baffled To Fight Better.
  • The sympathy which is reverent with what it cannot understand is worth its weight in gold.
  • It is not what a man does that is of final importance, but what he is in what he does. The atmosphere produced by a man, much more than his activities, has the lasting influence.
  • (A) man may utter apparently blasphemous things against God and we say, “How appalling”; but if we look further we find that the man is in pain, he is maddened and hurt by something. The mood he is talking in is a passing one and out of his suffering will come a totally different relationship to things. Remember, that in the end God said that the friends had not spoken the truth about Him, while Job had. 
  • All we can know about God is that His character is what Jesus Christ has manifested; and all we know about our fellow men presents an enigma which precludes the possibility of the final judgment being with us.
  • The pseudo-evangelical line is that you must be on the watch all the time and lose no opportunity of speaking to people, and this attitude is apt to produce the superior person. It may be a noble enough point of view, but it produces the wrong kind of character. It does not produce a disciple of Jesus, but too often it produces the kind of person who smells of gunpowder and people are afraid of meeting him. According to Jesus Christ, what we have to do is to watch the source and He will look after the outflow: “He that believeth on me,…out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38).
  • There are things in our heavenly Father’s dealings with us which have no immediate explanation.
  • There are inexplicable providences which test us to the limit and prove that rationalism is a mere mental pose. 
  •  The Bible and our common sense agree that the basis of human life is tragic, not rational, and the whole problem for us is focused on this (in the) book of Job. 
  •  Job 13:15 is the utterance of a man who has lost his explicit hold on God, but not his implicit hold, “Though he slay me, yet I will trust in him.” That is the last reach of the faith of a man. 
  •  Job’s creed is all gone; all he believed about God is disproved by his own experiences, and his friends when they come, say in effect, “You are a hypocrite, we can prove it from your own creed.”
    • But Job sticks to it, “I am not a hypocrite, I do not know what accounts for all that has happened, but I will hold on to it that God is just and I shall see Him vindicated in it all.”
  • God never makes His way clear to Job. Job struggles with problem after problem, and providence brings more problems all the time, and in the end Job says, “…now mine eye seeth thee” (Job 42:5): all he had hung onto in the darkness was true, and that God was all he believed Him to be, loving and just, and honorable…
  • Will I trust the revelation given of God by Jesus Christ when everything in my personal experience flatly contradicts it?”
These are notes from Eugene Peterson’s book, The Message: Job: Led by Suffering to the Heart of God.
  • Job was doing everything right when suddenly everything went wrong.
  • He refuses to accept the role of defeated victim.
  • Job does not curse God.
  • Neither does Job explain suffering.
  • He does not instruct us how to live so that we can avoid suffering.
  • Suffering is a mystery, and Job comes to respect the mystery.
  • Perhaps the greatest mystery in suffering is how it can bring a person into the presence of God in a state of worship, full of wonder, love, and praise.
  • Even in his answer to his wife he speaks the language of uncharted irony, a dark and difficult kind of truth: “We take the good days from God- why not also take the bad days?”
  • Sufferers attract fixers the way road-kills attract vultures.
    • These people use the word of God frequently and loosely.  
    • They are full of spiritual diagnosis and prescription.
    • It all sounds so hopeful.
    • But then we begin to wonder, “Why is it that for all their apparent compassion we feel worse instead of better after they have said their piece?”
  • The book of Job is not only a witness to the dignity of suffering and God’s presence in our suffering but it is also our primary biblical protest against religion that is reduced to explanations or “answers”.
  • Many of the answers that Job’s so-called friends give him are technically true.
    • But it is the “technical” part that ruins them.  They are answers without personal relationship, intellect without intimacy.
  • In every generation there are men and women who pretend to be able to instruct us in a way of life that guarantees that we will be “healthy, wealthy, and wise.”
  • He (Job) rejects the kind of advice and teaching that has God all figured out, that provides glib explanations for every circumstance.
  • Job’s honest defiance continues to be the best defense against the cliches of positive thinkers and the prattle of religious small talk.
  • Real faith cannot be reduced to spiritual bromides and merchandized in success stories.  It is refined in the fires and storms of pain.
  • We cannot have truth about God divorced from the mind and heart of God.
  • When we rush in to fix suffering (people), we need to keep in mind several things:
    • 1.  No matter how insightful we may be, we don’t really understand the full nature of our friends’ problems. 
    • 2.  Our friends might not want our advice.
    • 3.  The ironic fact of the matter is that more often than not, people do not suffer less when they are committed to following God, but more.
  • When these people go through suffering, their lives are often transformed, deepened, marked with beauty and holiness, in remarkable ways that could never have been anticipated before the suffering.
  • Instead of continuing to focus on preventing suffering… we should begin entering the suffering.
    • Entering the mystery and looking around for God.
  • We need to quit feeling sorry for people who suffer and instead look up to them, learn from them, and if they will let us- join them in protest and prayer.
  • Pity can be nearsighted and condescending.
  • Shared suffering can be dignifying and life-changing.

Preparing For the Harvest

As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, and day and night will not cease.

-Genesis 8:22
A whole bunch of people are going to get saved, become Christians, and will need to be made disciples of Jesus.  I believe a huge harvest is coming soon.  God has been preparing his people for this.  Are we ready?
These are some thoughts of mine, in no particular order, about being ready for and receiving the harvest of people who will flow into our lives.
A huge number of people are going to suddenly become pastors, who have previously been minding their own business and walking with God on the sidelines.  The pastors who have been pastors will step back and be equippers, coaches, consultants, and fathers & mothers to this whole new tier of pastoral ministers about to be released in the kingdom.
  1. Be ready for and willing for God to inconvenience you, with people.
  2. You can only plan to be open to what God does.
  3. The people God sends or gives you to care for will take up your time and resources.
  4. The people that God sends you will make your plans change.
  5. You will be surprised and at first think of who you could give these people to or connect them with, rather than caring for them yourselves.
  6. Become resigned to the fact that some of and even the majority of the people will be with you for years or a lifetime.
  7. See each person God sends to you as a gift.
  8. You will get less sleep and have to care after the people God sends you.
  9. There will be messes and your stuff might get broken by the new people.
  10. The first thing they will need is natural and spiritual food and shelter, then learning how to live.
  11. Get ready to be needed by people who will need what you have, to make it.
  12. You will have to learn and practice boundaries, in love.
  13. Expect fits and starts, relapses, and even betrayals.  Don’t quit over these.
  14. Also beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing.  Especially watch over and tend to the weakest ones.
  15. Also beware of inauthentic or false conversions: be wise as serpents and gentle as doves.
  16. Each one that God sends to you, hold lightly.  Every person has in them, through God, the capability to become a leader (servant leader) themselves.  Leaving your home and starting their own is the goal from day one for the majority.
  17. Many of us who have dutifully tithed and offered to others are going to shift to giving our whole lives to God.
  18. We are all going to shift into all being missionaries and pastors, rather than paying or supporting others.
  19. We are going to more live our lives for the sake of others, rather than for ourselves.
  20. “Give and it shall be given”, will come alive in your life, like never before.
My pastor, I grew up with, had a vision of potatoes on a conveyor belt.  Someone would separate the potatoes that did not look as good.  The Lord told my pastor that those would be his church.
Church is messy.  Community is messy.  Love is the key.  Love and grace.  Don’t be a perfectionist or idealist.
The most profound thing I heard and then read lately, that hit me, was a quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, from “Life Together“, that is this:

Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest, and sacrificial.’ (p. 36)

And here is more, from that same section:

‘God hates this wishful dreaming because it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. Those who dream of this idealized community demand that it be fulfilled by God, by others, and by themselves. They enter the community of Christians with their demands, set up their own law, and judge one another and even God accordingly.’ (p. 36)

‘Because God already has laid the only foundation of our community, because God has united us in one body with other Christians in Jesus Christ long before we entered into common life with them, we enter into that life together with other Christians, not as those who make demands, but as those who thankfully receive…. We do not complain about what God does not give us; rather we are thankful for what God does give us daily.’ (p. 36)

‘Therefore, will not the very moment of great disillusionment with my brother or sister be incomparably wholesome for me because it so thoroughly teaches us that both of us can never live by our own words and deeds, but only by that one Word and deed that really binds us together, the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ? The bright day of Christian community dawns wherever the early morning mists of dreamy visions are lifting.’ (p. 37)

‘When pastors lose faith in a Christian community in which they have been placed and begin to make accusations against it, they had better examine themselves first to see whether the underlying problem is not their own idealized image, which should be shattered by God.’ (p. 38)

‘…the Christian community has not been given to us by God for us to be continually taking its temperature. The more thankfully we daily receive what is given to us, the more assuredly and consistently will community increase and grow from day to day as God pleases.’ (38)

‘Christian community is not an ideal we have to realize, but rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate. The more clearly we learn to recognize that the ground and strength and promise of all our community is in Jesus Christ alone, the more calmly we will learn to think about our community and pray and hope for it.’ (p. 38)

‘Self-centred love loves the other for the sake of itself; spiritual love loves the other for the sake of Christ.’ (p. 42)

-I pulled these quotes from Tim Chester.  I first read Life Together 30 years ago.  It’s a great book.

My Vacation Taught Me About Community

Live in harmony with one another.

-Romans 12:16a
I just got back from a family vacation.  We all lived in a condominium together for a week.  We had two sets of people who don’t normally live together, so we had to learn to be together.
Every vacation time puts us into a different routine, in a different place sometimes with different people.  This one was just like that.  No one or no thing completely ruined it, but there were challenges and joys.
Even though it was completely predictable, I was was caught off guard once by the difficulty in choosing what to watch on television.  Four out of the five of us are first borns, who like to dictate what tv shows will be watched.
After the first disagreement, I realized that I don’t need to control what we watch.  And I was immediately set free.  The next time there was an issue, we discovered the second tv and split into two groups.
You don’t have to do everything together.  This is stating the obvious, but I think being able to not only have good times all together, but to also be alone or in two’s or three’s; is all about freedom and gracious diversity.
In fact, the best times I had during the week were alone times with each of the other individuals.  The special one to one times, that went deeper and where there was undivided attention, sharing and conversation were gifts that deepened each of these relationships.
The all together times were great too!  We played charades together and we prepared food in the kitchen together (two at a time).  Sounds silly, but I told my brother in law, who made me my toast one morning, that it was so good, and that it was a special moment of the week; because he’s a guy who doesn’t cook, and he’s never served me food before, in all the years I’ve known him.
One of us was delayed because of an emergency at work and we adjusted.  We had to rearrange our packing of the trunk plans, because we changed who was driving with whom.
We got lost finding the grocery store to get supplies the first night.  And taking ‘the scenic route’ for our day trip to the mountains, led to a couple of wrong turns and about an extra hour in the car.  
One of us got sick and had to go home early.  Three of us got back aches from the severely firm mattresses.  
But we had a great time.  We went through each small problem together.  We grew as people and we moved to a deeper place with each other, because we now know and respect each other more.
All these positive things are little.  But little things make for big things.  
A little bit of kindness.  A little change in loving others.  A little bit of bridling the tongue.
Little ‘I forgive you’s’, saying you’re sorry, putting others first, not taking offense, listening, having fun, being patient, serving others, talking to and meeting strangers at the pool, living in and being one who creates an atmosphere of unconditional love, and saying ‘good morning’ and meaning it.
It is all the little good things that make life better and it really reflects and connects back to God.  God is there with us, when we gather; and we can commune with and participate in God’s goodness, even though that goodness runs counter to the popular me-ness all around us.

Hail The New

Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.

-Isaiah 43:19
God is doing something new.  You can miss it.  God is providing a way.
God is doing something.  But to experience it, we must see it.  If our eyes are shut or we do not look, we will not see it.
God is active.  We first have to get our minds around the idea that God is always on the move.  God is not just the God of the past.
God is also not just the God of of the past and of the future.  God is the God of the present.  He came and is here now.
God is doing something.  We should be looking for what God is doing today.  We are too often fixated on what God did and will do.
God is doing something today.  He is doing something new today.  He is not changing the past, but doing something new in the present.
God has always been actively working among people to help them.  Before Christ, God’s people got in trouble, faced enemies and fell into sins.  God both saved people outside Israel, bringing them in and also worked with Israel in bondage, getting them out, when they had lost their way.
The context of Isaiah 43 is a message to Israel, who is in Babylonian bondage.  God is going to show the whole world, again that He is the Savior and the one God.
God is going to deliver his people from their sins.  And God’s initiative comes from himself and not because of anything good in the people.  That grace, love, favor, mercy and kindness was true of God in ancient times and is still true today.

We need to see the new thing. We need to hail it. The new is here and we need to give it recognition.

The word says:

Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.
-Isaiah 43:19
The idea that I see in this verse is that God does new things for our benefit.  He does the new things because God is active and creative.  He moves to move us closer to him, his mission and for his glory.
We can miss it.  The first word, ‘look’ means ‘pay attention’.  The old King James says, “Behold”.  It means ‘see’ or ‘watch closely’.  There is a ‘preacher-ism’ or a phrase preachers say that is, “watch this”, and it means, “listen carefully to what I am about to say”, or “pay attention”, or “listen up”.
We are more distracted than ever.  We have to make an effort to see what God is doing.  We have to make an effort to see it and hear it.
Do you know that song that says, “Did you hear the mountains tremble?”  The point is that you can easily miss it, if you are not paying attention.  A friend of mine came home one day and put a blanket over her tv to remind herself to give her attentions to God more.
The thing that God is about to do and is already beginning to do is like making a way in the wilderness and streams in the desert.  The symbology of this means that God is going to do something that seems impossible and is impossible, but for not for him.
Being at the end of your rope and being tempted to feel hopeless means you need God and that is super good.  Being upset about things not working in your life and having tension and lack of peace about things is a good thing because it means you need God.  You need God’s move, God’s way and God to make a way for you where there seems to be no way and to provide sustenance for you where there is none.
The problems and the ‘it does not work’ and signs or pointers to God giving you a gift of a new way.  We want to be in the place of contentment in Father’s lap, being his kids and being taken care of by him.  We do not want to be in the place of proud, smug self-satisfaction that says to God, “I’ve got this”.
The message is that God is alive.  He is here now.  He is on the move.
God is doing a new thing.  Creating, renewing, revitalizing and refreshing has always been God’s business.  The question is, “Will we avail ourselves to God’s continual renewal?”
God is making a way by doing a new thing.  Same God, same Jesus and the same Holy Spirit; but a new to you way that will be a way where the way seemed impossible and sustenance where there seemed to be none.
Will you take God up on the offer?  Will you pay attention, look and see?  Will you lay down your preconceptions and prejudices and let God show you something and bring you into something New?
Will you let God move?  Will you let God change things in your life?  After you see it, will you walk into it and drink from it?
Will you let God be God?  Will you let your heavenly Father take care of you and lead you?  Will you serve Jesus by letting him lead you in a new way than the way you have walked before?
Jesus is still calling to his disciples, “Follow me”.  Will you follow him into the unknown, off your map and out of your comfort zone?  Will you let him save you and keep you, renew you, wash you and comfort you?
Will you step into the place of discipleship where you know him and he knows you?  Your savior is coming to save you in your life right now, in the problems you are facing.  He is Christ, Emmanuel, God with us.
Prepare the house of your life for his coming to make a way for you.  Decorate your house for a celebration of God’s gift to you.  Begin to be glad with great joy that God is coming and already here, to make a way in your life.
See what God has already done for you and be thankful.  Get your heart ready to receive more.
Listen to the joyful and thankful people in your life tell their stories of what God has done for them.  Let them encourage you.
Let go of your past.  Let go of your disappointments.  Release any bitterness.
Do not define your life today by the failures and missed opportunities in your past.  Do not wallow in your misfortunes.  Instead, see every liability or negative on your sheet as a place where God is going to move.
Cultivate a revelation of God as being beyond your wildest imagination and dreams, in his goodness and love for you that he will show you.  God’s very nature is kindness: love and generosity.  If you have a very low or small revelation of God this way, look and even stare at him to get it in your heart just how good that God is.
Share the goodness of God and let your stories be an encouragement to others.  The life is meant to be lived with God and with one another.  Whether you have one friend or confidant or many, share your story.
The whole life is about God’s story and then our stories and sharing them so that we can know and be know, love and be loved and then share, share and share some more.
On the new road, the new way and in the new thing from God, there will be opposition from people and from the dark spirits.  There will be bad weather on the new road, guaranteed.  Regardless of the push-back, keep walking, keep believing and keep worshipping with your life, giving thanks in all circumstances.
The opposition is a sign that you are indeed on God’s path and that God is with you and you are with God.  Sing aloud to God on the new path when the enemy opposes you, and find a partner or partners to sing with and give the enemy a hard time back.

Here is the song that inspired me for this message:

Come Dancing

My love calls to me:

Arise, my darling.
Come away, my beautiful one.
For now the winter is past;
the rain has ended and gone away.
The blossoms appear in the countryside.
The time of singing has come,
and the turtledove’s cooing is heard in our land.
The fig tree ripens its figs;
the blossoming vines give off their fragrance.
Arise, my darling.
Come away, my beautiful one.

-Song of Songs 2:10-13

Come dancing.  Have you heard God say that?

What would that mean?  I think that when we dance, we have stopped being passive and instead activated.  Dancing is moving.

When I am moving, I can be guided or ‘course corrected’.  The motion of dancing gives me the ability to be guided.  ‘Come dancing’ is similar to, ‘let’s take a walk”, ‘get up and go’, ‘now, run’.

If someone invites you to dance, they are asking you to join the dance, with them or with others.  The invitation implies the plurality of dancing.  People dance solo or privately all the time, but that is not what this is about.

In God’s story, shared in the Bible, His people are His wife and His bride.  God has always been like a husband who loves and shares with his bride.  This includes going away with God and letting God love us.

God would naturally say to us, ‘let me share with you’, ‘let us eat together’, and ‘come dance with me’.

The life that God has always wanted for His people is a close relationship, like in the old hymn, “He lives”, where it has the words, “He walks with me and talks with me”.  Our God is a relational person who walks with us and talks with us.

That is the backdrop of God saying, “Come dancing”.  And “Come dancing” is different than “Let’s dance”.  God is perhaps saying that there is a dance already in progress,  and He is inviting us to join in.

Did you know that the Bible views dancing as wholesome and is commended?

Did you know that God invented dancing?  Dancing is actually a godly thing to do.
You may not be a natural dancer.  One of the most awkward things I ever did was take part in an audition for West Side Story.  I soon discovered that this was not my thing.  
I remember a very popular Christian teacher, who opined about dancing  He said that since it would be awkward to lead someone to Christ, while dancing, we should not dance.  But he was giving an opinion about youth dancing to secular music: it it ok or not ok?  “Not ok”, he said.

From just listening to this one man, I never knew that there was legitimate, wholesome God-endorsed dancing, in the Bible.  Later, I did discover dancing in the Bible, and I thought that while we read of Jewish people dancing, from time to time, that it must just be cultural; because I never saw dancing in church or in any Christian context.

Dancing in the Bible is not liturgical.  Liturgy is the high church word that means ‘service’, and that is where we get the descriptive title for formal church gatherings called ‘church services’.  We say, “Are you holding services?”, to people starting a new church; and the idea is commonly held that ‘church’ means ‘services’ at a ‘building’, with people.  So, people + building + service = church, is what is commonly held to be the definition of ‘church’.  Only one third of that equation is correct or New Testament.

The NT teaches that the people are the church and the the gathering of the church is not about buildings, small or large, nor is it about service or liturgy.  The gathering is about people gathering in Jesus name, for Jesus mission and cause, in his love that we express towards other followers of Jesus, who have also left everything behind for him, to invite people who do not know him to also follow him.

On the other hand, churches, like synagogues, do have liturgies; ‘things we do when we gather’.

Liturgy equals ‘what we do’.  “What’s your liturgy, man?”

An easy example of liturgy or what we say makes a (real) church service, is singing.  It is hard to recall a church meeting without singing.

Many people, by far the majority in my experience, equate church with singing.  We also equate ‘church’ as being something we go to.  But the NT teaches that the church is something we are.

Today, many people think that church is something you go to, to sing.

But, singing is neither what defines or makes a church.  Singing is a liturgical thing we like to do.  And it feels good too.

Same thing with sanctified dancing.  But some Christians who love to sing, don’t see dancing as appropriate.  Yet, they are both things people like to do to both celebrate and worship.

If church is not a building or services, then what is church?  Church is intimate fellowship with Jesus and each other, around Jesus.  The communion with Him and his people involves sharing.  Sharing stories, sharing food, sharing life and sharing our stuff and money.

Church life may include dancing, but it is not part of the liturgy or service, because the duty, liturgy or service of the church that marks or defines the church is loving one another from Jesus love.

The only liturgy or service direction that we were given is to love one another and serve one another and to go out and tell others about Jesus.

Dancing has a place in church life, when if is spontaneous or celebratory.  The people danced in Jesus story of the two sons and their father, in Luke chapter 15.

And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

“Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing.
-Luke 15:23-5

If Jesus had dancing in a story he made up, that was an expression of celebration and spontaneous jubilation; we can take that as an example of when dancing is a good thing.

In Bible times and today, there has been pagan, cultic and erotic dancing that is not the kind of dancing that believers take part in.  When we suggest that believers can dance in life, or in church, some of us are chagrined, because we think of dancing as worldly.  But the job of the god of the world has always been to corrupt and twist what started off as wholesome.  And redemption means to take those back and put them back to their original function.

Have you ever thought about angels and dancing?  In the same chapter in Luke where Jesus includes the scene of the people dancing, he also says that when sinners repent, that angels experience joy in God’s presence.  The thread, in Luke 15, that ties the reality of angels experiencing joy, with Jesus story of the returned prodigal, is the joy in heaven and celebration on earth.

“What man among you, who has 100 sheep and loses one of them, does not leave the 99 in the open field and go after the lost one until he finds it? When he has found it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders, and coming home, he calls his friends and neighbors together, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, because I have found my lost sheep!’ I tell you, in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous people who don’t need repentance.

“Or what woman who has 10 silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she finds it, she calls her women friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, because I have found the silver coin I lost!’ I tell you, in the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels over one sinner who repents.”
-Luke 15:4-10

Jesus has music and dancing in his story.  Many Christians are uncomfortable with dancing and especially dancing in church.  Why would people dance in church, they ask.  The answer is Luke 15 and the admonitions to dance in worship in the OT:

Let them praise His name with dancing and make music to Him with tambourine and lyre.
Praise Him with tambourine and dance; praise Him with flute and strings.
-Psalm 149:3, 150:4

 Music with instruments and dancing, for worship, praise and celebration is from the Bible.  Anyone who would say that instrumental music or dance do not belong in the church, has either not read Luke 15, or they do not see Father God and his family there, of which every church is a part of today.  
In the Bible, there is wholesome dancing, that is commendable.  Dancing is also a metaphor.
If God is saying, “Come dancing”, to you; He might be saying, “Let’s go live”.  When we dance, we draw attention to ourselves, because of all the movements.  God might be saying, “Get up and shine”, like the word in Isaiah.
When you come out to dance, you may be dancing before God, with God or with others.  There is a ‘self-esteem’ lift to dancing, because you are out there and visible and vulnerable.  Others might laugh at you or commend you as you dance.  And when we dance, most of us must let go of our pride, because dancing is humbling.
Dancing, in its putting us out there, in humility, makes us recipients of grace.
There has been a time to sit and watch life go by.  But now is the time to get up and dance.
The voice of the bridegroom summoning you to come, is what empowers you to arise and go.
Jesus never planned to have us live passive lives.  Jesus never planned to have us be a holy people who are enclaved from the world.  And He never intended for us to be experts but not practitioners.

Hear God say, “Come dancing”.

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