In All Honesty ….

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     Today I’m struggling. I feel God is bringing Mark and I to a crossroads in our Christian walk. As many of you know, He has been drumming into our hearts and spirits that His harvest is great and He has far too few laborers to bring all the harvest in before He judges the world. He has brought a deliverance/healing ministry to us and clearly shown us that His Kingdom is at hand and He desires us to preach the gospel of the Kingdom.  We have loved every minute of sharing our passion for what the Word and the Spirit have shown us, and the past couple of years have seen our paths cross many people — both Christians and non-Christians. And that is where some of my struggle is coming from.
     Why is it easier to live the Kingdom lifestyle with non-believers than with the very people who read the same Bible I do? How can we Christians have so many different ideas of how we are to live Godly lives? I know a good many of the reasons and have most of the answers to those very questions — denominational doctrines; fear of deception; spiritual immaturity in the Body of Christ; and lack of knowledge of God’s full counsel, are just some of them.

     But why is that Christians don’t like to be challenged to step out of their comfort zones? How is it that they can even think [or expect] that the Christian life is supposed to be comfortable? And you can substitute “peaceful” or “joyful” or “secure”, or any other word that translates as pleasant. Why is it so hard to get them to hear what Jesus preached? I know that the majority of the New Testament is centered around the letters of Paul to the churches. And what Paul has to say is important. Of the 27 books in the New Testament, Paul wrote 13, which is more than any other writer in the Bible. His writings are to compliment and instruct a fuller picture of what the Gospels reveal about the Son of God. And it is obvious that Jesus appearing to Saul on the road to Damascus was to anoint him for a very important job for the Kingdom.
     Yes, Paul has taught us about how we are to treat each other with grace and love, not cause conflict or division in the Body, and to glorify our Lord and Savior. God inspired Paul to write how He desired followers of Jesus to conduct themselves in relation to each other, and to the world. Ephesians 3:8-9 tells us that Paul was empowered [by God’s grace] to “boldly preach this wonderful message to non-Jewish people, sharing with them the unfading,inexhaustible riches of Christ, which are beyond comprehension”. It was his passion to “enlighten every person to this divine mystery. It was hidden for ages past until now, and kept a secret in the heart of God, the Creator of all”. Just what that “mystery” is, is still being debated among 21st century Christians. 
     Most believe it is that God planned for the Church to spread His Gospel message across the world. In other words, the emphasis today is that “the unfading, inexhaustible riches of Christ, which are beyond comprehension” are all centered on the Church and how it is to be conducted. I believe that is why the practice of Grace, Love, Worship, etc. in the Church have taken priority in our spiritual lives.
     I want to make it very clear that those are indeed central to how God wants His Kingdom to be enacted upon the earth. But why aren’t we considering that the inexhaustible [abundant, everlasting, immeasurable] riches of Christ also include those things He commanded us to do as His followers and disciples? Jesus said in Luke 4:43 that He was sent to preach the hope of an eternal Kingdom breaking into this realm. “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand”. And this was God’s plan from the beginning to reconcile His creation back to Him. It includes all that Jesus preached and all that Paul taught about how to administer it … setting the captives free from sickness, disease, demons, death; the revelation of God’s kingdom realm available to us NOW to change our hearts; which results in Grace and Love and Worship and Glorifying God in a unified Body called the Church.  It is ALL those things! But somehow, we only want to look at the last part of that equation, and definitely don’t want anything to do with the first part.
     And I fully recognize that those characteristics of Grace, Love, Worship, and Peace in the Church are worthy aspects of our Christian experience. But are they to take precedence over what Jesus says are the two greatest commandments? He very specifically tells us to love the Lord our God with “every passion of our heart, with all the energy of our being, and with every thought that is within us [heart, soul, mind, and spirit]. And to love our neighbor as ourselves”. And how does Jesus then say we show Him we love Him? By obeying His commandments! And that is emphasized again in His Great Commission to His 12 Disciples [and to all His disciples who would follow him in the centuries to come]: Now go in my authority and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And teach them to faithfully follow all that I have commanded you. 

     Here is what is at the heart of my struggle …. we can show grace and love, and experience worship and peace and joy while obeying His commands to go out and make disciples, baptize people, set them free, which is all part of Kingdom living. But if all we want to do is experience the grace and love and worship and peace and joy without doing what He commands us to do, then are we truly obeying Him? Are we living a full Kingdom life?
     I truly and fully understand that not everyone (whether Believer or non-Believer) desires to step out of their comfort zone to do ALL of what Jesus and Paul taught. But how do I continue to walk further on my path without leaving others behind, or offending them because I can no longer limit my experiential relationship with Christ? I know that I can glorify Him in a number of ways — by the love I show others; by my testimony of what He has done in my life; by extending the Grace He has shown me to another who has stumbled; by even using my God-given talent to write for Him. But that is not all He has commanded me to do! And it is my heart’s desire to commit my every act to Him. But my spirit is very clear — I cannot ignore His commandments to go out and do the things that He did — no matter how uncomfortable or scary or “against the grain” of modern Christianity it is to do. 
     And, so I now see my Father in Heaven opening new doors to join with others who are interested in going beyond the normal Christian/Church experience, and who are willing to take the next step. I will never stop loving my fellow Christians, but if what Mark and I have shared over the last two-three years does not link our hearts and spirits and Christian walk together, then perhaps we are not the right people to carry His message to them. I do not want the devil to use our differences to alienate us [which would break my heart] or insinuate condemnation [which would be a lie used to separate us]. 
     I simply want to embody the freedom in Christ that He died to give us all. I want to live a life that is pleasing to God, obeying His commands, and being empowered to make His Kingdom a reality to all whom He is calling. That’s going to look different for me than it is for you — after all we are not all going to be hands or eyes or toes. God didn’t use the same cookie cutter mold to create us all the same. We are not the same — our calling may look different, yet none of us are greater than another. But we can give each other permission to be all that God has designed us to be, with no limitations or conditions on our service to the Kingdom. Finally, it is my heart’s desire that the Body of Christ be encouragers, not discouragers; teaching each other how to grow in a holy and sanctified understanding of God, and not limiting knowledge to doctrinal theology; and finally to walk in the fullness of a true spiritual relationship with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and not just what makes us feel comfortable in our minds or emotions. 
     I celebrate the journey each of us is on, and praise our God for growing us in His timing. It is my desire to respond to His specific invitation on my life, while encouraging others to seek the path He has designed for them. Our paths may intersect and then separate for a time, and that’s okay. In the end, if we stay true to our calling in Christ, we can be confident that we are being joined together [in harmony] to become the dwelling place of God by the Holy Spirit. Let each of us live faithfully to the calling on our lives to follow Jesus, and extend His love and grace to those on a different path. 

1 Corinthians 7:17     May all believers continue to live the wonderful lives God has called them to live, according to what He assigns for each person…