Stress, we all have felt it, medical research shows that too much stress can be very damaging to the body, and in my opinion the soul. For example I just recently had a very “stressful” weekend, I had issues with my teenage son, I was talked into getting a puppy and yes the puppy sounds nice but as I am writing this the little thing is running around not giving me time to concentrate. When will I have time to write, do my podcast, or my promised weekly videos? On top of working a full time job, making sure my son stays on track to graduate high school and trying to maintain some sort of spirituality! Now you may be reading this thinking that I am overreacting, and I am sure I am. In fact I believe I have been sinning, as I have written in previous articles that to sin is to miss the mark of God’s perfect will for our lives, I believe I have not been in God’s will all weekend. On top of that my frustration and anger has created an even more mentally destabilizing atmosphere for my household. So in this, I repent, I will just breathe and know that everything will be okay. I know many may not agree with this, I do not even know if I am correct as if I know anything of the spiritual, but our lives seem to be as a record being played on a cosmic record player and when we sin it skips. As in my weekend it seemed to have been skipping for two days straight. God wanted me to be within the grooves which he had preordained and I chose to allow myself to skip and scratch the record until it came back in line. To do this I needed to acknowledge and accept what I have done, repent to God and those I have offended by my behavior. So I could get back into His groove. I like you desire to live in complete serenity and within the groove of Gods record of my life. Yes Jesus said do not get anxious, but He walked on water, calmed the storms, I cannot do that, or can I? It all boils down to choice, are you going to allow the situations in life create even greater stress through giving in to the fleshly urge of trying to carve out your own groove, or are you going to try to skip your way back into God’s grove in which He has already established for you, making life much more easier?
I call it the domino effect of stress and frustration. It can start out small or large but if you give in the dominos are lined up and ready to fall over creating a mess. It takes a lot longer to set up the dominos that it does to watch them fall. We all know that recovery is hard no matter what it is. Let me look back at this weekend. My son skipped half the day at school and is not doing so hot grade wise, my fiancée always makes sure to point these things out as I often overlook what I deem as trivial teenage mischief, all I wanted to do after work on Friday was to get ready, go out to eat and listen to some live music, we did that as well as talking about the kid all night, boy oh boy what a buzz kill! The next day while I was still a little upset about the night before I am informed of a puppy that she wanted to purchase. She is addicted to the animal pages on Facebook which I wish she would remove because I am constantly asked to let her get a dog. I was already talked into a cat which turned out great, cats are easy, but a dog, let alone a puppy! That’s a lot of work! I will spare you all the in-betweens let me just say I wasn’t the happiest new puppy owner. I like my quiet lifestyle and my alone time to read, pray, and meditate. If you have not noticed by now I had been running away from things and holding on to what I thought was important, I blew up more than a few times and did not spend much time in prayer, if any!
Rewinding the script, what could I have done better? Instead of knocking over the mental dominos of stress, creating a mess that I am picking up on Monday morning which by the way is much worse than any mess which the puppy or my son made, I could have acted completely different and stayed with God’s groove. First, Friday night could have been spent at home doing a family activity instead of wanting to do something my way, second the eventual getting a puppy was inevitable at some point, as I look at her now I cannot help but smile at the little precious. I was looking at my weekend off as something I could control, as if I were God and I could cut out my own groove on the record. I know we all try, and unfortunately I am sure I will sin in this way again, I am human. I decided to write this today because I think that you can relate. It may not be about a teenage son and a puppy, but many other issues of life in which you have tried to control but just could not. While we do not have to allow life to control us we must be able to carefully discern what we can control and what we need to allow. We need to control our actions and emotions instead of knocking over the dominos and doing things “my way.” Not just most of the time, all of the time when we try to do things “our way” outside of the will of God we will cause undue stress upon our bodies and soul. I know that it may be hard to discern these things even for the most mature Christian, which I am not. We live in the ultimate proving ground called earth, staying within God’s will for us is one of the hardest things we can do, but I will say most rewarding. My final thoughts, do not skip out of your groove into an awful repeating struggle of stress and misery, instead pray for peace and discernment as you follow along the path God has already established for you. Blessings my friends, I pray that you find a peace filled week and not allow this world to take you out of your groove!
Nate talks about the ongoing situations regarding the national anthem and police shootings. Of course the main message of this episode is based out of 2 Corinthians 12 involving “The Third Heaven.” Nate gives his opinions and understanding of the subject. I hope you enjoy!
What is the “third heaven” in which the apostle Paul talks about in his second letter to the Corinthians? Let’s look at the text.
“I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know God knows. And I know that this man whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.”2 Corinthians 12:2-4
The term third is generally accepted as the heaven in which God lives. Some say it is the highest level of heaven contrary to the popular “seven or even nine heavens.” Paul is the man in which he is describing, it is interesting that Paul with all of his ambitions to change the world and win over the people with the message of Christ would not try to explain what took place during this experience. He does state he heard inexpressible things which he is not permitted to tell. What we do know is that the event took place fourteen years prior to his writing of the letter. This more than likely indicates many of his methods and beliefs about Christianity may have been based on this life altering event. It may have taken place a multitude of times, we just do not know. But why mention the event at all if he could not speak of them? Some in fact believe this was an event that defined his life, giving him even more legitimacy as an apostle of Jesus Christ, this was a struggle for Paul who was often looked upon as an illegitimate apostle. Many other preachers were critical of Paul, he expressed in the previous chapter a long explanation of his friction between himself and who he calls “super-apostles.” I think it is fair to say Paul is using this experiences to help bring legitimacy to his ministry and position. Paul seems to let go of his ego placing himself as just one part of an amazing experience, then going on to later discuss his “thorn in the flesh.” It is disappointing that Paul chose not to go into detail about his experience instead choosing to stay silent about the mysteries. Paul also could be using this discussion as a way to gain leverage with the Corinthians who were steeped in the mystical arts and mystery schools of the time. This would be appealing to the Corinthian church. I will just take him at face value and believe he could not speak of the divine experience, it may have been virtually impossible for Paul to explain what he had seen. So glorious and magnificent, words of such wisdom that what Paul witnessed is only the tip of the iceberg of the heavenly experience in which awaits us all.
Two other Biblical figures come to mind when discussing visions into the heavenly realms that is of Ezekiel and Daniel. The visions of these two men were much more detailed but still strangely blurred. Ezekiel sees God in some type of heavenly contraption or throne with descriptions of non-earthly beings. (Read Ezekiel chapter 1) Daniel similarly sees heavenly creatures and is shown mysterious visions in which many try hard to explain. But can we explain them? And if it was supposed to be explained wouldn’t it not be easier if God would have just gave us better instructions? I will answer that God did indeed send better instructions he sent them with the incarnation of Jesus Christ. All that we need to know of the father is found in the Christ, if you have seen him you have seen the Father. The gospels beautifully lay out the plan of God and the needed insights to live out a Christian life. I think we must remember that we are children of God, but the key word “children” must be understood as we have not yet completed our stay in the earthly proving grounds, we are still bound to the flesh and unable to fully be set free from it till it wears out and dies.
What about today, can we experience visions of Biblical proportions? My answer is yes, I think we are capable of connecting with the universal consciousness that is God through many different means while I am not 100 percent of any, nor can I completely verify, yet it is through faith that we believe anything at all. Some would say that DMT or Dimethyltryptamine which is naturally produced in the human brain is a sort of gateway substance which some say allows the connection of our Spirit to the divine. This chemical can be released both externally by smoking, or drinking the chemical, or internally through prayer, mediation, or various forms of yoga. Other psychedelic substances such as LSD and psilocybin mushrooms which may give the user a similar experience but at a much less potency, none the less the author believes that psychedelics and other exercises which release DMT into the body is some sort of gateway into the spiritual realm. The brain is a powerful tool in which our spirits use which this author personally believes we have only tapped into just the beginning of our psychic development.
So what does all of this mean to Christians? Well it means a lot. It means that our minds have the ability to look into the unknown, that God can reach out to us through visions both internally and externally as Paul himself did not know if he was out of the body or in the body. As Christians we do not base our Christianity on supernatural experiences but through faith. Although I think that it is honorable to seek out supernatural experiences for it is our place to do so as children of God. We are much more “powerful” than we think, we are not just a body, but a spirit. We are more than likely all interconnected with each other and God. Quantum physics is proving this more and more every day. Through mass communications and articles such as this, spiritual mysteries do not have to be something that only the few understand but something we humans can try to understand and practice in order to make a better world.
Often when we think of the ideal spiritual life we envision Jesus praying on the mountain alone with his thoughts, or his simple life of traveling from town to town healing the sick and giving hope to the lost. Oh how wonderful! I often wish I had the courage to leave everything behind and wander the earth like Samuel L Jackson from Pulp Fiction looking for adventure. To live a simple yet powerful life, full of spirit and love, changing the world one person or situation at a time. Yet the majority of us including myself are trapped, I love the video someone made of Joe Rogan giving a talk about life and named it Society Trap check it out here: https://youtu.be/zvfy5Enz6-c We have families, we must work because we are in this strange world of money and those who seek financial gain by destroying their fellow man. It is just so strange! I never looked at life this way before, maybe I am getting older, or maybe I would like to think more spiritual, regardless life is getting weirder and weirder. So my fellow Christians involved in busy schedules and family obligations can we ever find ourselves living within the simplicity of Jesus, or any of the other spiritual leaders including Samuel Jackson! I do not suggest taking the Pulp Fiction route to enlightenment. So can we find simplicity in complexity or is it more like complexity of simplicity? Well friends I think we can find a little simplicity within our busy modern lives.
First, just breathe, breathing is an amazing action our bodies automatically perform from birth until death, yet many of us forget to actually take our breathing to the next level. Many studies have proven the impact of meditative breathing, therapist teach breathing techniques to clients with anxiety, and meditation itself revolves around the breath. In meditation the breath is the anchor in which you set your mind upon when it begins to wander. I suggest you take time to meditate every morning. I have talked with many who say they cannot sit still long enough, or they do not have the time to give to meditation. I understand, that but you have time for the sugar filled, heart damaging energy drink! Start with just one minute and work yourself up to ten or longer I guarantee that you will become addicted and will not be able to live life without meditation. For me it is a time to sit in silence and allow God to speak to me. I make no request, I just sit and listen. Believe me this is a perfect addition to the antidepressants and benzodiazepines most of us are on.
Second, stop worrying, I know, I know this is easier said than done. Our Lord talked much about this, his famous quote which believers and non-believers alike know well, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Mathew 6:34, NIV) Jesus being incarnated into this crazy world understood how difficult it was and knew that life is not necessarily about tomorrow it is about the “right now.” The apostle Paul speaks to us in similar manner, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6, NIV) How do I even try to do this! We live in a fast paced, overworked, world which demands productivity to gain what we call money so we do not end up in a homeless shelter. On a side not I lived in a homeless shelter for five months and to be honest with you it was a very spiritual experience not exactly a comfortable one, but the simplicity of living out the words of Christ, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:20, NIV) The saying is true, “more money more problems.” Yet I do not suggest we sell everything and go homeless that is not going to help anything. The late great Napoleon Hill stated so beautifully, “There are myriads of forms of fear, but none are more deadly than the fear of poverty and old age. We drive our bodies as if they were slaves because we are so afraid of poverty that we wish to hoard money for-what-old age! This common form of fear drives us so hard that we overwork our bodies and bring on the very thing we are struggling to avoid.”1
Third, just give it to God, oh yes another one of those easy sayings. Sometimes I call it the, I do not give a crap, whatever happens, happens. Is that healthy? I think so, I think we try so hard to carve out a life from the chaos we miss the simplicity that is found in following the path of Christ. So let us do as the apostle said and cast our cares upon him. Some theologians, and I think I can agree believe that the past, present and future are all within God himself. So when you mess up at work, or do something stupid at home, embarrass yourself, get turned down, etc. Then I suggest don’t give a crap. God loves you with a love in which we cannot even come close to imagining, basically no matter what, you will be alright. One of the keys that I have found is to just keep moving forward, not allowing the negative influences of life to take up much space in my head and create within myself the ideal thought pattern’s to create if you will my own universe. That may sound strange but it is not, we are born as sons and daughters of the greatest creator so god forbid you do not use your own nature as a child of God to create your world. Largely this is done by giving this crazy chaotic complex world to God and then keep the simplistic world of Jesus on the mountain alive within ourselves. Remember everything’s going to be just fine regardless of the circumstances.
I do not say this without experience, I have gone through much in my 36 years. My goal is for us to find simplicity within the complexity of this life. Or in other words take away the perception or the illusion of complexity and focus in on the real, the simplistic, and the wonderful life found within the Christ. Amen.
Hill, Napoleon. The Law of Success: In Sixteen Lessons. Blacksburg, VA.: Wilder Publications, 2011.107.
Brothers and sisters, I first want to say that when I preach, I preach also to myself. I may point fingers yet these fingers are also pointed right back at me. I do not write these words to belittle anyone, but more importantly to encourage you in Christ so that his work may be accomplished through your love and kindness. As we all know the Middle East is war torn and in need of desperate help. We also are aware of the many terrorist which absolutely hate the West and what we stand for. We are saddened by the latest attacks in France yet we must forgive and love, we must not hold bitterness and hate. This is the power of Christianity and what draws people to Christ.
We are now as a country accepting thousands of refugees from war torn Syria. We must remember our commission given to us by the Lord himself. The majority of these people are undoubtedly Muslim and I understand people are fearful yet there is no need to be. Your life is not your own, it was bought with a price and you have been called to be an evangelist. The great commission is still in effect. Instead of having to travel to a war torn environment to share Jesus, we have the opportunity to reach the unsaved with the love and kindness of Christ to those coming to our own backyards. We do not need to fear their culture or convert their way of life, what we need to do is obey the Spirit of God to show love, even if they hate us. Remember while you were still a sinner Christ died for you. We have been extremely blessed in this country. We should look at our blessings as a way in which we can be an blessing to the world. Abraham was blessed as was Israel in order to bring forth the light to the nations (Jesus). So let us do likewise. Do not get me wrong, we are at war with Islam, yet not with the people who profess Islam. We do not need to fight with hate or weapons of war, but with prayer. If we believe the Bible and follow Christ we shouldn’t be concerned but grateful for the upcoming opportunities to serve.
I am saddened by so many on social media who are living in fear of the refugees. So many who claim to be Christian yet I cannot imagine Jesus acting in such a way. I remember the parable of the banquet (Luke 14:15-24) in which a man invited certain people to a great banquet. Yet Those in which the man invited did not come. Because of their refusal the master decided to invite all people, the poor, crippled and lame. Are we refusing to invite those to the banquet of the Lord because of our fears? Are we trying to hold onto our lives that have already been purchased by the blood of Christ? Do we really think we are superior because we are citizens of the United States? I can understand this way of thinking from unbelievers, but it is unacceptable as believers. It is selfish to think of your safety over the salvation of souls. Many missionaries who went to serve overseas packed their belongings in coffins because they knew they would probably not make it back home. Their lives were not anything to hold onto, but like Christ something to give so others may be saved.
I have had the great opportunity to meet with many wonderful Muslim men and women in the Quad Cities. These men and women live in the projects as refugees from the Middle East. I have been able to freely place Bibles into their hands only because they were here. I could not have done this safely in the Middle East. I have seen dozens of children with smiles on their faces because Christians went to these same refugees to simply be a friend and give them an afternoon of joy. These children may always remember these acts of kindness and instead of being bitter they may grow to love. This is right here in my hometown. I am sure there are projects housing refugees all over the United States, and there will soon be many more. Such a great opportunity to be a missionary without even leaving the city!
Yes I understand the very real possibility that some refugees may use violence against us. Yet so what? Christ knew that he was going to be put to death when he came to earth yet he still came. The selfless missionaries I mentioned above didn’t think of themselves when going overseas, but accepted death before stepping on to the boat. None of us get out of this life alive. We can hate or we can love. We can be like Jesus and seek to unite all the nations in the worship of God, or we can be like the enemy who only wishes to divide.
I write this with all the love in my heart to The Christians of the United States.
Do you have enough time? For most of us the answer is probably no. Time is an interesting concept. Physicist look at time as the fourth dimension of the universe. Without time we would either be a disorganized society or a society that is worry free. Humans have found the need to keep a measurement of what happens within our life, early man created calendars of stone, today we have computers. We all possess have a time of birth and will receive a time of death. Time is what it is, and while theoretically time can be altered we are trapped in it. Time is like marriage vows, till death do we part. So when did this marriage to time begin? Was it during the creation? After Adam was created? Or I would propose possibly after the fall. While we may understand time from the book of Genesis through the seven days of creation, remember God did not write those words. It was man presumably Moses who most likely learned of them through oral tradition passed down to him.
It is said that after the fall of man that God struck humanity with death. As far as we know Adam and Eve could have lived millennia before the fall and only after started recording the dates of their life. So, Just as sin came into the world, so did time? I do not really know. I am just a theoretical theologian making guesses. Yet it is fun to think about. One thing that I believe most Christians can agree on is that God does not live under the constraints of time. He is the Eternal. This is the premise my assumption that time did not exist before the fall. Adam was eternal, there was no practical reason to measure time. Remember modern man used God’s creation the sun, moon, and stars to help in the measurement of time. In an eternal state, time would be irrelevant. Isaiah prophesized of the future when the sun will no longer be needed because God will be the light. (Isiah 60) This is restated by John in his revelation “There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.” (Revelation 22:5, NIV) So now in our mortal bodies that we now reside in we live under the concept of time. From time immemorial people have used the given tools of nature to keep their time on the earth. Each one of us only has so much of it, and God implores us to use it wisely. In this state of man we must work with the dimension of time and take full advantage of what is given. We must also understand that God lives outside of this dimension and for him time does not exist is as we measure it. The psalmists writes “A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.” (Psalms 90:4, NIV) Peter restates this in his epistle, “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” (2 Peter 3:8, NIV) This takes us to a whole new level of patience. Yet what persist is the fact that we live in a time operated world we must maneuver through in the most effective way possible for the glory of God.
Make the most of your time
As stated above, before the fall time was of no real value. Today we live with a limited amount of time. If we look we can find beauty in this. In the East Tibetan monks create beautiful works of arts out of colored sand called mandalas. These works of art can take weeks in order to create, at the end of their creation they are brushed away into a pile of sand. It is as the life of man a beautiful creation who matures and becomes more complicated and complex. Then at the end of life all of the beauty that was formed on this earth is wiped away. I can hear the great king Solomon “vanity, vanity all is vanity.” James tells us, “You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (James 4:14, NIV) Life is crazy like that, just when we seem to get it all together it is over. Yet for us who are Christian life is never truly over, only life on this earth. We just transition from our earthly garments to the garments in which the Lord has prepared for us. That being said we cannot live this life as if there is no work to be done. We must get rid of the attitude of “pay taxes and die.” Remember the parable Jesus gave of the talents, recorded in Matthew 25:14-30. Jesus uses the word talent which would have been equivalent to one year’s wage; a lot of money! They were expected to use what they were given invest and multiply what they had been given so upon the Lord’s return they would have proved themselves worthy. One of the men chose to do nothing with this large sum of money and only return it, and for this he was cast out. We might say well that is unfair. It is not unfair, God gave him a great opportunity and he did not use it. I believe that even if the man invested the talent and lost it all, the Lord may have praised him for having fortitude to take the risk needed. God gave you and I great abilities and we are required to use them for his glory. We will stand before the Lord one day and give an account for what we have done with what we were given. I am not saying that we need to work ourselves into heaven, what I am saying is that we will be judged for what we have done with what God has given us. While we should not be in a constant worry about this, it should encourage and motivate us to take risk, use our gifts, and to pursue our dreams and passions in life. I could use the old saying, “you only live once.” Many use this phrase to justify self-destruction and immorality. Instead I suggest use it for the motivation to use the abilities God has set in front of you. I am serious when I tell you to start doing all that you only see in your dreams. Start living out the dreams in your life as if nothing will stop them from being fulfilled. Write that book, make a movie, apply for that job, plant a church, write a song, start a business, do it all and more. Imagine if the world would take the attitude the Lord desired of his servants in the parable. We wouldn’t just have a few visionaries who create the latest and greatest, the world instead would be filled with visionaries who are multiplying their God given talents.
Time to start believing
Some might say this is too difficult of a task to accept. You may say, I am 40, 50 years old and have done things a certain way my whole life. We may feel like we are losers because of the actions we have done in the past. Every day many of us wake up to the same old grind just holding on to life. The once sparkle our young eyes are gone and only misery remains. Let me say this, all of these thoughts are lies. I do not care if you are 40, 50, or 60 years old. I do not care about what you have done in the past, and life does not have to be just one long painful event. Sure there will be some pain, life is not easy but it doesn’t necessarily always have to be hard. Most of the time we make it hard because of our perception. You can make the decision today to not live like you have been living. It is not too late to have a new beginning, God is all about new beginnings. One of the biggest steps involved in taking advantage of our time on earth is laying our will and our lives over to God through Jesus Christ. This is a huge hurtle and by no means is it an easy step, but you can do it! Start telling yourself today, you are who you wish to be, and start acting like it. Be the hero of your own life. If you want that good job, go get it, if you want to get sober, put the drink down, if you want to get closer to God, pray. All of these require action, and this action becomes your story in which you are the hero of your life. You are doing what others choose not to, you are called out from among them. You have taken charge over your own personal slice of time. It is time to start believing in yourself. Paul tells Timothy, “If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13, NIV) The thing is God has your back. Most of the time it is us who do not realize or accept this fact. God did not just put you on this rock to suffer. You may feel like you’re doing time in prison waiting for your exit date, but God is waiting for your conversion date. We only have so much time on this planet, you have been given the talent now go and use it! If you do not it will be taken from you and given to another. Be who you want to be in life. Do not let society dictate who you are. Do not let your past define you. If you have today than you have the time. Be the hero!
Many of us may come from different church models and traditions. I am not writing this article to undermine any of these. My desire is to present my thoughts on a model of “doing church” that I have not seen practiced before. I had searched the web, and it took me a while to find an article that was similar to my idea. I say this because I do not believe in original ideas. There is essentially nothing new under the sun. I did find an article by David Fitch which I will share here. http://www.churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-how-to/168717-david-fitch-church-gathering-should-be-like-a-good-aa-meeting.html my article is in no way meant to be a copy of his, but one expressing my thoughts on the subject. I do love many of the points in which he expressed and will follow a similar format. I will admit I have pondered a model of doing church this way many times. Especially when I sit in an AA meeting and listen to those who speak ill of the church, but find God in the rooms of AA.
This article will not be able to speak to every ecclesiological concern. It is my own personal belief that regardless of how one “does church” we probably are not doing it perfect. Or should I say, there is no perfect church. Or maybe church isn’t supposed to be perfect, after all it is operated by humans. Jesus said, it takes two or more in his name, seems pretty simple, but boy do we know how to complicate things. One of my concerns in writing this article is the enormous task that the current church places on its pastors and leaders. Read the shocking statistics here http://www.pastorburnout.com/pastor-burnout-statistics.html we have all heard of the latest scandals within many of the denominations in the world. I also believe that the body of Christ is the church; which is all of us, is not as active in the world as it could be. The “AA model” for lack of a better name at the present is a basic model that I would gladly see used by church planters across the world. In fact it probably does exist somewhere out there already.
So what is this ecclesiological model that I think may be so great? I am a member of a self-help group called Alcoholics Anonymous. As I have attended meetings throughout the years and I have often thought that this would be an excellent way to have a gathering of believers. I attend many meetings and I always leave feeling like I have been blessed by God. Many times I enjoy going to AA meetings more than church. I guess that doesn’t say much about me. What I will say is that AA doesn’t promote yet is often filled with people every day of the week. It is a very simple model which includes a servant leader not a paid professional, a body of people, chairs, tables, and coffee. Think of how much money would be left over for actual ministry in the community with that kind of set up! No rock star like worship service, flashy lights and videos, not one person who addresses the congregation over and over every week. Just people in unity sharing in the hope of Jesus Christ through teaching, fellowship, and prayer. It probably would not be so far from what the last supper or early church gatherings were like. Let me also make it clear I am not against flashy lights and videos, or minister preaching on Sunday. I am just here to express some thoughts for future church planters.
First I want to address the body of believers who gather together on Sunday mornings. Many churches have a time of fellowship and then sit and listen to the leaders of the church. In an AA meeting there is what is called a chairperson, a servant leader who gives a reading or small teaching that is normally about five minutes in length; sometimes less. The members of the meeting go around the room and give their thoughts and insights on what was read. I suggest that the same could be done within the church. A servant leader a non-professional clergy man or woman gives a small teaching, then allow the body of believers to give their thoughts and insights of the teaching to one another. Often during an AA meeting it is not the actual teaching or reading itself that I learn from, but the thoughts and insights from others. The apostle Paul refers to this in 1 Corinthians 14:26 “What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.” (NIV) How many times have you been asked in church if you have a word or a hymn, or much less a word of instruction? Yet this is what the church is about. Often times in AA meetings people will say that “God uses people to speak to them.” I completely agree, I have heard God speaking to me through people in many places outside the walls of a church building. Through the words of each believer the body is edifying each other and being edified. The message is given by all of the people not just a single person. The church is the body of Christ, how appropriate that Christ himself teach us. Obviously I do believe even within this structure that competent leadership is needed to guide the body. We still need pastors and deacons, yet the pastors and deacons will be tent-makers. With an emphasis on the priesthood of the saints sharing in the work of the Lord. In AA they have what is called sponsors, a sponsor is someone that takes a new member under their wing and guides them on their journey. The AA model of church would call on its members to be active in the discipleship of new members. The discipleship is not only conducted by the elders of the congregation but by all of the people within the congregation. Everyone serving each other as Christ served his disciples. I believe this is not a new way of doing church but actually a way in which church was done from the beginning.
Fellowship and the Breaking of Bread
Next I want to address one of the most important sacraments in all of Christendom. The Holy Eucharist also known as the Lord Supper, and communion. A side note for my fellow Protestants the word Eucharist has been used since the first century and simply means in the Greek giving thanks, being thankful, or gracious. As an Evangelical Protestant I know there is a vast difference in beliefs from our Catholic and Orthodox brothers and sisters. The AA model which I propose until a better name is given will look at the earliest Christians and examine how they conducted the Lord supper. We all know that the early church loved to eat. Also we the modern church loves to eat. I would never want to change this! Many people have different ideas on how the Lords Supper should be conducted. The earliest writings state that the Supper was conducted on the Lords day. These are non-canonical such as the Didache and writings by early bishops yet have been proved to be trustworthy in regards to the historical record. This would be once per week. Often in our churches we celebrate once per month. Obviously an AA meeting does not conduct a Lords Supper. So how do we implement this commandment into an AA model of church?
Due to the autonomous nature in which I would want each congregation to possess, the churches may receive the Lords Supper how they wish. As long as it is done in reverence and respect. Not a regular meal, or done without inspection of your soul. I suggest a service once per month which is only dedicated to the Lords Supper. A time for reflection and prayer among the congregation. Followed by good fellowship and a meal. The whole meeting being dedicated just for the Lord’s Supper. Fellowship takes place throughout the week, but there is just something about fellowship when we are gathered together. A time to talk, eat, pray for one another, and just enjoy each other’s company. We need each other in many ways and celebrating the Lords Supper and having a lengthy time of corporate fellowship is important for the health of the church. The unity that I believe that will take place within the church through the Lord’s Supper will heal and strengthen the body and keep our eyes focused on the Lord and his soon return.
Cult of Personality
The last section was not so controversial. Unfortunately this next section addresses an issue that I may receive some grief from. The cult of personality of most congregations is the pastor. I do not know the exact statistics of the matter or think that there is any way to really solve the problem of cults of personality even the early church had them. We all love a celebrity preacher. Many of whom are called and used of God greatly. It is we the people who follow the man or woman forgetting the head of the church is Christ. How many times do pastors leave a church to serve another only to be followed by a section of the congregation in which they left? Or many people will find another church altogether. The only reason for their appearance on Sunday morning was for a show and speech from the same guy over and over.
I propose in the AA model that elders selected by the congregation be in charge of the pastoring. These pastors would not be full time professional clergy but clergy whose responsibility is spread out so that no man or woman may hinder the congregation financially. Nor a cult of personality formed. Also no one man or woman would be the only “leader” but all the elders work together for the edification of the church. Essentially the elders may come from all walks of life. None should be forced into leadership but only if moved by the Spirit. The elders are subject to the congregation and accountable to one another. I have not thought far enough ahead if bishops over the congregations would be appointed. I suppose that upper leadership would be necessary if the model caught on. Speaking in this way it seems I am creating a denomination although that is not my intention.
Issues of concern
Obviously this article is very limited in nature. There are many issues involved in church planting and even more when planting a new style of meeting. Or maybe an old style that is rebirthed. Much work would have to be done while the congregation developed. It would be an exciting time for a new church. Just as in AA meetings which have many meetings throughout the week, the AA model would have many meetings. This is truly a family that doesn’t just meet on Sundays. A place of no condemnation, no judgement, a place of freedom and joy in the Spirit. Rich, poor, sinners, and saints, we are all the same.
So many times I have heard in actual AA meetings how they were drove from the church for their behavior and held in condemnation by legalistic attitudes. It truly breaks my heart. I know that there is a major section of society who are not even in recovery that feel the same way. I have often said that recovery, AA, and treatment would be good for anyone regardless of addiction. It would be my desire to see an AA model of church offered to the unchurched or those leaving the “traditional” church.
Some may say, what about sound theological teaching? If you do not have a professional pastor how would sound teaching be taught? Well the early church made due than so can we. In fact all of the body should be able to “pastor” for a day if need be. We created a profession of professional preachers that the early church condemned. Paul went to great efforts to not take any monies from congregations he served. Also out of thousands of denominations around the world that claim the will of God, I know for a fact not a single one has the whole thing right. In a sense we are all a little bit heretical because true orthodoxy is lost. I think that the canonical scriptures and creeds of the early church give us a guide in how we should live out our lives as Christians. That being said none of us will get it 100% right. This was the struggle for the early church and the reason why a New Testament was even put together and creeds developed. The focus should always be on Jesus and his people, the body of Christ on earth. Our salvation through the cosmic action of his death and resurrection. The Holy Spirit and his guidance on earth giving the people comfort and power to live our lives as followers of Christ. If we stay submitted to the Spirit in the best way we know how, everything will work itself out.
Vision into reality
I have always felt called to preach the word and pastor his people. Often within my denomination one must plant a church in order to be able to do such. Not planting a church for my sake, but for the people. Especially those in society who are on the fringe and maybe wouldn’t feel welcomed in the current church models. The whole idea would be pointless without a passion for people and a desire to see others come to the knowledge of Christ in their lives. A church without a lot of doctrine which hangs us up, a church that comes together with all our uniqueness. Do I plan on planting a type of church such as this? Yes, I am. I would love to turn this vision into a reality. I am in prayer and waiting for the time in which I believe God will say go, and I will go! If you like this idea and have the opportunity do it. Plant an AA model church or call it whatever you want. Contact me with ideas and suggestions I will humbly receive them all.
What is possible? What is impossible? If you were to ask these two questions many people would give you dozens of answers. I am here to explain in this article that nothing is impossible! I truly believe that the laws of physics are just man made labels given to our understanding of the working universe. While these labels are useful they can also prevent us from breaking the boundaries between science and faith. There was a time in history in which it was said that man could not travel faster than sound. A day will probably come when man will travel faster than light.
Take us out of this human shell and we will have the ability to travel faster than light. Everything that we think we know about existence now, we will one day realize that we knew nothing. I see this within the many Christianities that make up my faith. So many feel that they have the right theology and practice the proper doctrine. Truth is most of us are probably off center; this is another amazing example of God’s grace. One possibility that many would deem impossible would be the church being able to unite as one putting aside our differences and embrace our unity in Christ. This will probably not happen till Christ comes in glory but hey, anything is possible.
I am of the Pentecostal flavor of Christianity. That basically means that I am a continuist, I believe that all of the gifts of the Spirit that are found within the pages of the Bible are still readily available to people today. The same Spirit that hovered over the waters of the young earth found in the book of Genesis is within you. This Spirit and desires to help you accomplish the impossible in Christ. We need to believe that we possess what we know we have in God before manifest in our lives. Take hold of the things in our lives that you know that are attainable for you and go after it. Even if it doesn’t seem attainable at the present, start taking small steps towards it. One of the biggest things that holds us back from achieving the impossible is fear. Fear eats us alive, we must be fearless! being fearless enough to know that you can do the impossible!
Do not listen to those that say it cannot be done. Or that you are not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, or strong enough. Do not let your past define you, let your actions today determine your future. Live in the now! I could go on and on but I am sure you get my point. What matters is if you are following God’s will for your life. God is a powerful, wonderful and amazing God, he desires us to do amazing things on the earth.
Some of us wish to have what we shouldn’t trying to attain what is outside of God’s will. This in many cases is why miracles are not happening in our lives. When we are being led by the Spirit the laws of physics do not apply to us; they are just suggestions. You say you have not, I say you haven’t asked! God can and will make what is nothing into something. The Latin term used by theologians is “ex nihilo.” This is to create something out of nothing. This is what God does; it is his business. Start to believe that you are already a successful person. Your thoughts become reality when you place actions in front of them!
You may say how this is done? Let us look at the book of Hebrews the writer list many great people of faith, and how they believed God.
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead. By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.
By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore. All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death. By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future. By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff. By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones. By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and the application of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel. By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days. By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient. And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions,quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised,since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. – Hebrews Ch. 11, New International Version.
Now I wouldn’t normally place a whole chapter from scripture in my article but this is an exception. I have been inspired throughout my entire life from the verses above. These great people of faith did what seemed to be impossible. Yet through faith the impossible became possible! They believed God, carried out the action and the results are seen. They were not out for themselves or their personal will, but for God’s will. “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.” This is how Jesus taught us to pray. Not Nate’s kingdom come, Nate’s will be done. (You can add your own name). We need to pray for the knowledge of God’s will in our lives. Most of the time we know already what God’s will is for us. Or at least we know what to do. We do what is right, what is good, and what lines up with scripture. Basically it is about doing the next right thing. Keep it simple!
Furthermore we cannot forget about God’s miracle working power in our lives. We may try to downplay God’s will and by doing so miss out. Remember Jesus fed the multitudes with just a small amount of food. He healed those who were sick, he raised the dead. Jesus commanded evil spirits out of men, and silenced their lips. He walked on water, and guess what, he said we can do the same as him! Start believing in the supernatural and start making the supernatural natural in your life.
I am far from a physicist, but I love hearing about the new discoveries that scientist in this field are finding. It has been brought to my attention that in Switzerland scientist at CERN were using the Hadron Collider and doing research into some of the smallest known particles. It turns out that they have identified particles that do not follow the “standard model” of how they should act. You can read about this here http://www.sciencealert.com/the-lhc-finds-evidence-of-particle-activity-beyond-the-standard-model
In my personal opinion science and faith can co-exist. The more science discovers the more they reveal the wonders of God. These scientists have found that certain particles do not follow the “standard model.” I do not think that we will ever be able to fully understand all of the mysteries of the universe even through modern science. Yet I am sure that we will continue to try. I bring up this article because the scientist found something that they did not think was possible. These particles basically did not follow the laws of physics in regards to gravity. The thing is our God does not follow the law of physics either. He doesn’t follow any law, he is the law. Whatever he does is law, and whatever he wills manifest. Ex nihilo takes place and we stand back in amazement and worship the God who created this universe and still cares enough to give the ultimate sacrifice for our sins, his son Jesus Christ. Today believe in the impossible, believe that there are no limits on what you can do in life. We will not always be able to understand it. Listen to the voice of Christ and just believe!