Wilderness Survival

I once got a wilderness survival badge in Boy Scouts, my partner and I had to cook a meal and create shelter in the wilderness for one night, we were given a match, a lb. of raw hamburger, some water, a compass and I think that was it.

It was fun and I learned a valuable lesson about the properties of sandstone in the heat of a fire, but it was hardly a survival experience ..I suppose for a 15 year old it might have had the same emotional content but to be honest we were never at risk.

As I have begun to explore the language of my current faith walk as it is echoed by others the phrase “wilderness” seems to take preeminence as the best way to describe the journey.

But I need to clarify what some of this actually looks like from my world…it is not a wilderness of faith for me, I have no doubts about God, my belief in the Holy Scriptures and Orthodox doctrine has not moved or even wiggled, my faith in God is probably as high or higher than it has ever been.

I have read and appreciated the “stages of faith” study that Kathy Escobar has graciously made available and yes I have found myself there-in but I have also extracted myself back into something more primitive that I have learned from the faith movement and the likes of Kenneth Hagin, George Mueller, and St. Patrick…my crisis is not one of belief but one of models.

I really don’t give a rip what others believe about the power of confession, holding to the word in trials, and believing God for the impossible, this is my walk and I will hold to it until I die…I have seen far to many miracles in my own life for me to have a crisis of “faith”…for me faith works, there is no doubt about that issue, if it isn’t working I am not going to fall into some dismal doubt and depression, I am going to go to the Word, see what it says and hold to it regardless of what my five senses tell me.

My crisis, my wilderness exile has been primarily about the support structure I have invested in for nearly 30 plus years…the church models, the authority models, the mechanisms of power, control and how we even approach the Word in these models has been the crisis.

It is not my first rodeo…I have been here before where I challenged those in authority and said these things ought not to be and then became anathema to the crew I was rowing with.

I was actually told by one Senior Pastor as I left the church I had been hired at (but never paid) that he felt it was his duty to follow me anywhere I went with letters warning the brothers to not fellowship with me…at 30 years old I just looked at him and had nothing to say…I had tried every possible contortion to reconcile and nothing had worked…so exile is not a new experience for me.

This time though the wilderness has chosen to haunt me…basically telling me this is where I belong…and at first I have fought the intrusion by suggesting that everyone goes through this I just need bigger spiritual meds than most people because I’m too intense.

But as I scan the horizon and take in the view I am becoming convinced that this is not a “one-off” lesson, it is a path to a city whose builder and maker is God.

One of the things I have added to my current tool kit is a new understanding of the scriptures…I have done a fair amount of heavy lifting in the last 2 years of the original languages but also some very intense academic excursions into the culture of the scriptures…it started as I was writing my book on divorce and discovered the  heavy influence of the Rabbinical schools in the words and parables of Jesus…that led me to discover a load of cultural scaffolding that the Hebrews had borrowed form the surrounding civilizations…things like Pharaohs war tent being the EXACT dimensions and layout of the Tabernacle in the wilderness and this being evidenced almost 100 years BEFORE the Moses model was erected.

Discovering scholars like Ray Mayhew, or Ed Nelson people with deeper roots in academia that help me navigate a broader perspective on the Word has been a challenge, my brain has complained, but at the same time I have managed to track with modern mystics such as Ian Clayton and Justin Abrams into realms that frankly echo almost everything the academic quadrant has instructed me in.

So how does this relate to the wilderness?

Well…the thing that I am discovering is that all of our models hang upon some sort of skeletal structure, some underlying substrate that comes to us in less visible lines than our cognitive arena operates in, our very way of thinking is the product of a culture we have been groomed in and I have clearly seen that the wilderness is in fact the primary culture that God chose, God dwells in and God ordains and NOT the Greco/Roman/Western culture that we have accepted as the christian norm.

The wilderness is wild but it is precise in its definitions, because the definitions are not about form they are about function…here’s an example:

NASB: “So Jonathan rose up from the table in fierce anger”…

Hebrew: “And Jonathan rose up from the table with his nostrils flaring in anger”

In the sanitized Greek version it is possible for Jonathan to leave the table and no one really know how upset he is…you can be fiercely angry inside, which is how most of us born again folks would read it…but it is completely impossible to hide the emotional energy of someone who leaves the table so upset that his nostrils are flaring as he breathes in anger…and the Hebrew picture for this word actually looks quite a bit like the nose of a war horse.

The wilderness definition leaves nothing to guess about, it is brutal in its emotion and numbing in its transparency, but the cleaned up Greek version allows us to be polite, to be reserved and remain in control, to be “Christ-like” and non-confrontational…the wilderness view does not allow you a perspective void of judging something…it forces a decision because the wilderness will not allow for passivity.

If you remain passive in the wilderness, you will die…you are forced to keep moving, to grow and to find the next watering hole or you are buzzard food.

And this is why I am finding the wilderness is more in line with Gods nature…He wants a decision, not some kind of indifferent posturing, the desert demands action.

If we approach the wilderness as an exile from the structures we have been married to rather than a new country with a new language and a new culture, it will be impossible for us to see the glory of transformation that awaits the sojourner into the wild…because God is here.

Well isn’t God in the old structures?…of course He is…as much as we let Him be…but in the Wilderness He’s calling the shots and not us…

This balance between a dramatic raw faith-walk and a brutal open sky that demands trust go hand in hand…and with it goes a demand to see the scriptures in a new light…the wilderness demands that you listen to both the scholar and the scoffer, the scientist and the outcast because a huge part of the experience is dealing with our fears so our doubts have no power.

Or…

You can stay in a safe church, listening to the same old behavior control messages that demand submission to a model without question, you can remain in a safe environment where certain questions will never come up because the person asking the question has the wrong credentials…you can be safe or free, but not both.

There is a certain safety in not asking hard questions, feelings remain intact, the veneer of culture stays in place and everything remains predictable down to a twenty year cycle…I can say without blinking what is happening in the structures I came out of, what people are doing and what is not ever going to happen because the structure has rules to follow.

Am I suggesting that people in the traditional church model are not free?…sure…why not…I might as well since eventually that is where the logic will lead us, why hide it anymore? But I ma not saying it as a commentary on people, simply pointing out that the culture of the system cannot allow for hard questions…

But in my perspective it does not make them any less valuable, nor does it require I look down my nose in disdain, in fact, it might require that I join them at times and give them the wild honeycomb I am eating for free…how will they know whats possible if I refuse connection?

I can judge architecture without judging the architects…

The wilderness requires hard questions…what do you do with a hope that has been around for 20 years and has not materialized?

Abraham brushed past it, denied its right to take up anymore landscape and turned it into faith because he had no choice…he was looking for a city whose builder and maker was God, he lived in tents…you can’t get much more wilderness than that.

There is no more room in a nomads tent for a microwave than there was in Abraham’s world for a hope that would never come to pass, he was forced to face it, kill it and resurrect it all in one spot, the Bible says in hope AGAINST hope he believed…in other words avoiding the question became his enemy, he refused to do it and thus became the friend of God…friendship born out of absolute trust.

That’s why one of the primary tools in my bag right now is that raw faith-movement belief in Gods abiding promises, it is apparent that any man or woman who has had any impact in the world operated in this level of raw faith, Hebrews 11 is about what they accomplished with FAITH, not hope.

And for those who might wonder, no I am not wounded, I am not hurt, I realize it was a model of life that burned me and not people…I am not blaming anyone but myself here…but I am no longer tame either…I cannot be domesticated into some program because by definition I am following a Lion who is a Lamb…

And this tension between a raw faith and a transparent trust in a wild God is absolutely invigorating…

DOMA, and dominion…

This week the US Supreme Court is hearing arguments about the constitionality of the “Defense Of Marriage Act” or DOMA…

As the standard rules apply this means all of my facebook friends from the evangelical tradition will be posting endlessly about our Courts making laws rather than interpreting them and a whole load of other kinds of post defending “Adam and Eve” not “Adam and Steve”…

As I stand back from the political fray and evaluate what I believe, it lands somewhere far away from the common debate and in another land altogether.

When scripture instructs us to pray it is not directing us to pray for better laws to protect our christian culture, it does not direct us to impose holiness upon the masses or even morality, it directs us to pray for our leaders and to pray for a peaceable culture so that we can live and influence in quietness.

This does not strike me a a popular metric in the church, quite often we want to shout the loudest and defend everything from owning guns to promoting wars and criminal executions…and this posture makes the world look at us and think that we are the barbarians who need exclusion rather than a people with a message of hope.

Paul did not tell the Romans to pray that the Senate would outlaw the rampant homosexuality, he did not instruct them to pray that Caesar be assassinated and a godly Emperor be installed , something that did happen and actually hurt the church more than we can measure…frankly I think Constantine has done far more damage to the cause of Christ that Nero could have dreamed about.

So where do I come down on the debate?

Well I don’t…Jesus is not an American so my interest in American politics has taken a minority focus lately, I am interested in following the Lamb and not much else.

I think there is an illusion that most politically inclined believers seem to ignore, and that is this, our culture is not going to change by changing its laws, it is only when we change its heart that real results will manifest and arguing in the center of the political arena will never win hearts that are not already on your side…its zero sum game as far as I can tell and so I will wait with a distracted sigh as everyone around me freaks out that our Courts are not Christian.

I have a voice in that I vote, but its only one vote in a sea over nearly 200 million, however I can influence far more of my culture by demonstrating an accepting love and peaceable posture for those who would cast me as the enemy, if I can disarm the argument with kindness I will have accomplished as much or more as my vote did.

So what the Supremes rule is relatively irrelevant in my actual world, it is my posture that determines whether or not I live in peace….and the whole point of this peace is to have an answer for the hope I have.

I have hope for this nation, but this hope is not that we will become a Christian Nation and enact moral laws, heck Israel had all of that and still managed to impose capital punishment on the gift of God who lived a perfectly innocent life, the courts thought they were right and justified in the sentence…it was probably Gods wisdom that Israel did not have a right to bear arms at that time or Jesus would never have made it to Jerusalem in the first place…

And I think that’s the crux of the matter…our rights…we have the right to love…that is the only right (other than authority over the demonic God never grants us authority over other people) scripture will give us…any push for more might actually be outside the bounds of our higher constitution.

We are called to love…so what does our culture see in the middle of this “moral” fight? Do they see love or exclusion? Love or bigotry? Love or fear?

Do I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman? Absolutely…but that is my belief based upon what I understand, and if it is not the belief of the rest of my culture then it is up to me to demonstrate why I have found life in this belief…

You do not demonstrate life by ruling against death, like the old wisdom says it is better to light a candle than curse the darkness and most of what I see in the religious political arena smells a bit like a curse.

Your mileage may vary.

Sand Castles

Image

“And on the pedestal these words appear: My name is Ozymandius, King of Kings, Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair! Nothing beside remains. Round the decay Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

Ozymandius-Percy Bysshe Shelly

I generally enjoy Shelly although for the most part I find him a bit depressing…this poem is a fun thing to read…in explicitness he reminds us that nothing is permanent except the stuff in our lifetime that claims to be (which we have no way of seeing for sure at this moment).

The Sands of Time

As humans we all have a set amount of time (our lifetime) to journey and engage in where we think life will reward us, but since none of us have actually been beyond death and returned we have to take the words of others who have suggested what life looks like beyond our five senses, history, and current progress.

It is here where faith causes us to choose or not choose the kind of life we want to live today, with an eye for something beyond it (or not depending on what you choose to believe) on this timeline of our own life we must build, but it is a lot like trying to build on a line of sand that is slipping through the hour-glass, how is it possible to build anything of permanence using impermanent material?

All of us get to choose and you can choose a life of faith, or a life of “no-faith” based on your conclusions, but what you cannot choose is the time you have spent building the life you now have, that my friend is sand on the other side of the glass you cannot get back.

Shelly will suggest that like Ozymandius all kingdoms will end up simply as monuments in the sand, with no real legacy or proof that they had any viable life beyond their own time…time itself will erase the memory and any greatness that once existed will simply be a miserable record in the desert somewhere.

A New Pope

The Vatican chose a new Pope this week, as a general rule I pretty much ignore all things Catholic, especially having grown up in a Pentecostal tradition that at times bordered on belligerence towards people I now consider my brothers and sisters in the Lord…(I still have not  gotten around to forgiving the Catholics for stealing John Michael Talbot away from us, something I am working on)..but this time my journey has made me perk up my ears and say…

“I wonder…?”

I wonder if the Empire of Catholicism can survive much further into the new century wihtou some kind of evolution happening to its core?

Which makes me ask…

I wonder if Evangelical Christianity is much further behind the Vatican in becoming irrelevant to the shape of the world that is coming…?

Alan Hirsch will give us a resounding NO, reminding us that AT BEST on any given Sunday, the VERY BEST church will only reach the highest possible 39% of its community and that number is sliding into lower figures every week…and everyone is trying to copy the very best, so what Evangelicals are doing is trying to reach 39% of our culture with an ineffective approach and we are losing that battle as well.

Its as if we are aiming so low we cannot see the target anymore.

Which makes me ask:

“What in the sam-fat have I been building myself for the last 30 years?”

Is all of it simply sand castles on a beach somewhere that the coming tide will wash back out into the ocean?

Now mind you I am not depressed, far from it, but I am waking up to realizing that a lot of things that were part of my foundations and “felt” like bedrock have been turning up as sand lately…

Stumped

I had a dream recently where my little brother, who has moved to heaven, told me “that’s why you are stumped financially, you thought all that money you’ve been tithing was required, it never was, it was always your money”…what was amazing about the dream I was in, was the church and big part of a platform there was built on an old tree stump that had not seen growth in 30 years but was built into the support structure of the entire building.

The next day when I woke I had some errands that required driving and the exact same stump that was in my dream was dislodged in a hill not a block from our residence, someone in the night had crashed a car into the hill and uncovered a stump that matched the one in my dream.

There were two other things of note in the dream, the leader of the church had borrowed my car because he didn’t have one, and my car was a a very powerful vintage convertible Thunderbird that was mint green….the second thing was Bill Johnson was in the dream and commented on how powerful my car was, I said, “Its so powerful its a culture of its own” and he said, “Yes that’s exactly the way to say it, it creates its own culture”…

I think the car that dislodged the stump might have been driven by Martyn Shenstone…his book on the tithe and the other one about authority and submission are bothersome reads if you are still building sandcastle empires…

More Questions than answers

So what if just as my dream has suggested you like me have spent 30 years investing in something that will not give you a return? What if you are simply loaning your “mint” green car to someone else to drive and create a culture with, but it was yours all along?

The verse that immediately came into my spirit in the dream was 1 Cor. 3:21 “ALL THINGS ARE YOURS”

ALL.

THINGS.

ARE.

YOURS.

There’s no one to blame but yourself, and that does not lessen the pain, and immediately I see that hand in the back asking for a response to the thought that will shout “But God see’s my heart that I had good motive, He will reward me I am sure of that!!!!”

Will He?

On what basis do you think God is obligated to pay you back for money, resource, time, life, SAND, that was always yours and you spent according to your own choices?

How is it any different than suggesting He pay you back for eating vegetables your whole life therefore you should not get old?

Time. Waits. For. No .One.

Time. Does. Not. Care.

Time is simply an extension of Gods mercy, the fact that you have any at all is a declaration of His goodness, not some arbitrary random pile of sand that has no meaning.

Sowing and reaping.

I once complained to the Lord that for 30 years of ministry I had never ever been paid, whats the deal Jesus? His answer startled me…

He said “I did not want you to have to give an account of what you did with the widow and orphans substance”

I immediately saw, for me at least, it was Gods grace that had not allowed me to get paid for all those years of faithful service and sacrifice, because a good portion of the money that I would have received came from those disenfranchised people who were giving in hope out of their substance. (I make NO comment here about others in ministry who have gotten paid, this was His answer to MY question and it is personal and has no bearing on others)

So whats the trade-off? Isn’t there something you should expect from the Lord? What about sowing and reaping? What about “the workman is worthy of his hire”?

These are areas I have not sorted out yet…I am to busy moving my lunch pail further up the beach to be bothered with that right now, the tide is starting to wash in and the old stumps are going to be washed out and I only have so much sand to work with anyway so why waste it on debates of where the servants quarters should go in this sand castle empire?

Do I think God rewards faithful people? Absolutely… I have banked my entire life on that and Hebrews makes it clear that you MUST believe He is a REWARDER…and the truth is I haven’t suffered much…I live in one of the richest nations on the planet, eat a very healthy diet, live in relative ease compared to a good portion of the planet, what have I got to complain about?

I will admit to being frustrated a bit discovering that it has been my own car that has contributed to a culture of sand…I could have been enjoying a much different journey, but the truth is, I enjoyed making some of those sand castles, they were fun and I had fun with the people who I worked along side of…

But ultimately I want to build something on the other side of the glass…that side has a lot more than sand…it is eternal and full of real castles that I can live in…

So I’m trying to get my own car back…but I want to do it in love…because love is one of the few things we know that builds on both sides of the hour-glass…and then offer up some hope…and keep building your faith…

What does that look like? I don’t know yet, lots of people on the planet are building things some in sand and many who are not…

Jesus said he came to seek and to save the lost…then he said “as the Father sent me, so I send you”…

It is my belief that if I want any joy I need to build the  way Jesus built since he’s the only guy who claims to have come back from the other side of time…the foundation he said to build upon was his words…

Doing the things he did…seeking and saving that which is lost….

 

Chia, Chai, New old things…

I love to cook.

I did not always love to cook, when my kids were at home I usually disliked it, mainly the mess I think.

The church community I was once part of was very fond of big holiday meals and I ended up developing some recipes that were expected at those celebrations, so I really began to experiment and found out how much I really did enjoy cooking.

I love it when someone else enjoys something I have created that I also enjoy.

Recently my journey into food has been more of a healing and health focus, eating to maintain the right weight, eating to replenish the nutrients that are destroyed by our current cultural diet, but as always it needs to be enjoyable or I won’t keep it up for long.

Two things I recently discovered that I really like, chia seeds and chai tea (read slow the two are different words)

Not together, just as experiences.

Of course both of these are ancient products that have been in use in other cultures for centuries, but due to my mid-western/southern upbringing I had never tried either of them.

Chia seeds were used by the Aztecs as a portable super-food, quick energy, easy to carry, it has been reported that a runner can sustain full energy for 24 hours with nothing but a hand full of chia seeds to empower him.

Chai tea if mixed with the spices of origin and traditional ingredients is actually quite healthy for you.

When I was researching the chia seed I discovered that unlike flax seed the chia seed does not need to be crushed to release its nutrients, it has a much less resistive outer shell and mixes well with any solution…it also carries a higher concentration of the Omega-3 fat ALA, which is a natural fat that helps your body, this is the fat your body needs and creates a hunger for, unfortunately the food industry has learned how to exploit this need and has created substitutes that are very bad for you but “feel” good.

Chia grows naturally in South America, mainly Mexico and a few other places…it is a friend of the desert and belongs to the “Salvia” genus of herbs, meaning “saving”…

So here’s what I’m thinking…a good portion of the desert is meant to re-tool us into ancient and oft forgotten supplemental companions for our journey, companions that do not require a lot of stress to be solubale in our life, companions that can provide nutrients that our past culture has been robbing us of.

I never really ate a lot of junk food, my weight has not been a huge issue, when I turned 50 and got the typical belly roll of most men I decided I would change things and get rid of it and I did, I managed to drop two pant sizes and 30 pounds…but I found that in order to maintain this I needed to change my eating habits.

So I began to ask “whats going into my body?” “Is it really good for me or just convenient?”

“Am I eating out of routine or intention?”

I think one of the major issues in the body of Christ here in the West is a total lack of intention by the average believer…what are you intentional about? What is the intention of what you are ingesting in teaching, worship, community?

This lack of intention makes us obese. Fat with the wrong kind of weight. We are naked and say we are rich but the truth is our relationships are shallow, nutrient starved and freakishly HUGE in terms of the resources they require to maintain.

I can remember the emotional and life energy required to do the average worship service, it required planning, trying to get quiet and hear a “list”, getting down to the church for some practices with the other team members, carefully avoiding offence as I tried to direct us to a joy experience, fighting the sound board in mortal hand to hand combat every week, then getting up early the day of soaking in His Presence for others, (my own time with Him not-with-standing was much more enjoyable and preferred), being cognitive of other leaders egos and where they felt like things needed to go, bringing every thing to a reconcilable close after serving up the worship “meal”…sheesh I get tired just thinking about it.

I’m not complaining…there is an experience of community and anointing that goes with the corporate worship event that is unique and invigorating…but the weekly expression and energy really starts to feel like a lot of the “trans-fats” that are man-made and incredibly bad for you.

There is nothing natural about the average worship service in a western church, the closest you can get perhaps is something that was earned and that would be the spontaneous songs that were prophetic in nature…and that was always something I strove for and hit a lot because its exactly the way I cook…I just make it up mixing ingredients I have encountered during the week in an unusual combination of grace.

Now I am finding small connections that are giving me lots of nutrition, helping reduce the trans-fattiness of my spiritual life and they give it up with out some heavy crushing process…they are the spiritual equivalent of chia seeds.

People like Paul Leader, Martin Scott, Jane Almond, Cindy Hansen, Coleen Bucks, Mindy and Kirk, Andrew and Angela, Bob and Laurie Kimball, Kerri and Shawn, Mark Neale, Paul Woods…some I have known for 20 years some I have just discovered and the connections all seem small and common but they are powerful when you are running across a wilderness landscape with nothing on your back but your shirt…chia is small and portable and easy to carry…but make no mistake, real pure chia is expensive…and oddly enough…during this season relationships that fed me for years are painfully absent, completely cut out of my diet and yet I still long for them.

These small, ignoble and easy to pass over connections are bringing nutrients into my life that are helping eliminate the fat…the fat of empire, the fat of a church culture, the fat of not living intentionally.

If we really told the truth…most of our relationships are not providing the kind of life that is visible and vibrant…we are trading in a lot of superficial one-offs that require eating high trans-fat spiritual energy (burns out quickly no lasting value), complete with tons of emotional white processed sugars (unable to be transparent,  sticky sweet communication devoid of true feelings).

Eating healthy requires raw food that is not invented by man, God said “See I have given you every herb that yields seed, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be your food” , but like the food industry we have created a culture where we take some of the stuff God gives us and reprocess it until it is no longer healthy, let alone safe and we wonder why we are obese and can’t lose weight, we assume its because we don’t exercise enough and that’s what the church will tell you…feeling blaw? Invest more energy into the machine…

I saw a note that said “My greatest fear is in succeeding in something that does not matter”…you can actually eat a ton, be obese and nutritionally starving to death…just look around in our culture.

Obesity is more related to what you eat than how much.

I am learning to love the wilderness and on occasion I still miss the dysfunctional energy of the corporate junk food diet…but it is highly addictive and frankly making the church look obese and meaningless.

Time to get “mean and lean” in the desert…thanks to the chia…

Stay healthy friends, and thank you so much for offering up the nutrients of your experience without requiring some huge trade-off on my part, it does not go unnoticed, it has tremendous value in my world.

I’ll save the chai for another time, but it has relevance as well…but will make this observation about my own weight and how I managed to stay within some target weight all my life…it is related to an ancient practice known as fasting.

Jesus and the Easter Bunny

That moment is soon upon us, which in my estimation should be the greatest point of reference in all of the Christian faith, the resurrection.

I think the resurrection is the greatest creative act in the history of the universe, mainly because in it God pre-empts the original creation as we know it, and trumps it with a new creation, a new kind of life that comes out of the tomb.

The resurrection of Jesus was not simply a re-animation of his earthly life, it wasn’t the same kind of miracle that he performed during his ministry days, else Lazurus would have been a greater event because he was dead longer, no his resurrection was the power of heaven coming and raising up a new kind of life that had never before existed, (not even in Adam before the fall).

The Bible says he was raised for our justification…in other words when Jesus came out of the tomb it was heavens signature on the court documents (his body) that declare a new creation is available for anyone who calls upon His name in faith, this body now resides in the Highest Court of the Universe as a living document and continually intercedes for us because Jesus blood testifies of greater things than Abel’s (Abel’s blood demanded justice, Jesus blood was offered freely in covenant love).

When you read the early church testimony their preaching and documents you will find that the focus of the early church was upon the resurrection as both a physical and a political/religious act, it was as if they were saying to the most powerful empire on the planet, “Empire is over, you want proof, then here ya go, Jesus was raised from the dead by God himself”

We tend to focus on the cross…and unfortunately it makes us sin aware and insecure in our stance towards anything empire, and consequently we never see the resurrection as a political statement, and often because we have focused on the cross we have emphasized an elite and power- based punitive event rather than the covenant victory and corporate event as the early church saw it, but they also endorsed the resurrection as a new kind of power that had come into the world, therefore they were completely fearless when their lives were threatened by empire, they knew the resurrection demonstrated the end of the old powers.

This lopsided emphasis is in my opinion one of the largest frustrations to growth I have encountered in the life of believers…if you ever truly get a hold on the truth that a new kind of life dwells inside you, and that life has the power to raise the deadest things from the grave, it will destroy fear and passivity and remove the conscious power of sin to intimidate you, God is NOT focused on sin, He is finished with it, he is focused on life and that life is the resurrection element that the Holy Spirit has brought into you…why do you think we have verses like “If the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead dwell in you, He will quicken (give new life) to your mortal bodies”?

Enter the Easter bunny…

To be fair I have hidden eggs and bought the chocolate bunnies for all five of my kids and now watch in mild amusement as my grandkids pick up the traditions handed down by fathers.

But I do want ask the question, what’s the bunny got to do with the most important event in the history of life?

I know many would place the cross and the removal of sin as the highest event, but the Bible does not, Paul says that if Christ be not raised we are of all men most miserable, in other words the resurrection is the final seal on the removal of sin, the resurrection is the Father proclaiming in technicolor life that we have been accepted in the beloved and now are part of the family with no stain of sin, the cross is the covenant that Jesus offers the Father that includes us, the empty grave is the evidence that the covenant has been accepted forever in heaven (and that’s the primary reason Jesus ascended and sits there as the mediator of the new covenant, otherwise he would have stayed down here).

These are not simple celebrations in my opinion, it isn’t simply that Jesus is Victor, it’s not simply that he wins, it is a declaration that we have been accepted into the covenant, he is the first of many, many sons…no one came into this life prior to this moment.

As I visit a gospel of grace and acceptance I really cannot find room to condemn the Easter traditions we follow, I am not willing to embrace the law and stand in some kind of judgment over the circus of pagan influences that Constantine sold us and we have faithfully paid for for over a thousand years, it is painfully clear when you research the history of these traditions that they are indeed rooted in pagan fertility religions and have no real connection to the Hebrew model that Jesus invaded…but the gospel message is not one of condemnation, so I am hesitant to visit that metric simply to appear more holy or improve my standing with God, the kingdom does not come with observation, and certainly not by observing rules and days, the covenant is new or it does not exist, it is not the old one on steroids.

So where does that leave me? Well I think the Easter bunny falls into the same category as the unleavened bread and bitter herbs used in Passover, I am firmly declaring that the Old Covenant has been superseded by a newer and better one, and the Priesthood has changed, therefore I am not at all interested in seeing a revived Levitical Priesthood and sacrifices and all the do’s and dont’s that go with it, so I am not in the business of cursing or condemning anything by anyone.

Let make it painfully clear, the resurrection declares a new kind of life where rules, rituals, religion and all the old ways be they pagan or otherwise have been trumped, so any investment in enforcement, laws, observances, traditions, days or even gender assignments is a distraction.

The resurrection declares a new KIND of life…a life not subject to any of the old powers, especially the religious ones.

That might bother some of my more intense friends, but I have honestly thought it through and waded deeply into the texts and while I am in complete agreement that we have neglected the primary Hebrew model that God declared Holy, I am also fully convinced that God is going way beyond establishing some kind of ritual experience based on a set of rules, I am fully convinced that what the resurrection offers us is a new kind of life where religion has been left behind like some Tim Lahaye novel, that the new covenant is written on hearts and not visible paper and it is a kind of life that cannot be fathomed in tradition and anything past experience has offered.

When I read the book of Acts and then read about people like Smith Wigglesworth and John Lake it becomes apparent to me that we have barely begun to scratch the surface of this new life potential…and the Easter bunny, whatever else you make of him, is at best an illusion and at worst a distraction…he deserves no more attention than a fly does on a charging wildabeast.

So frankly I don’t care how you celebrate Easter…because mainly celebrating it at all is a bit under-whelming…it’s like celebrating day six of creation with a special service on Sunday…because that’s the day God made mankind…

Celebrate it if you want, or don’t if you want what’s important is that you begin to live it, because the point of the resurrection is not celebration it is life and living it fully connected to the source.

If you do celebrate…at least do this much…see yourself coming out of that empty tomb, because it was just as much about you as it was about Him, you were in Christ during the entire event, and now you are with Him in heavenly places, don’t let some pagan ritual or some Christian tradition dislodge you

Here’s the reason I think most of this is distraction…because frankly even our “Christian” traditions on Easter are a bit under-whelming…so really if you’re going to be lame what difference does it make in which lame you are…and let me drive the point home for everyone…

This new kind of life that the Father has birthed through the resurrection is different from all the old kinds we are so used to…it is a life that has love as its source, we have been given the Fathers heart of love and that is what the resurrection so boldly declares…this new life is love…

So yeah the Easter bunny is an illusion, but so is a message that does not let you experience that love has been shed abroad in your heart…you are a new creation…and as such you now have the capacity to love in a way that is no longer intimidated by death or a slave to fear and religion…any Easter message that does not drive that truth into your heart has missed the point.

The resurrection boldly declares that you can now love just as the Father loved, just as the Son loved, and this love has been shed abroad in your heart by the same Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead….if you doubt this is possible, consider the early disciples and how they overcame the entire Roman Empire with simple love…

Jesus and the Easter bunny…love or something else…that’s the entire message of the resurrection…love conquers death

The wild, wild wilderness…

Namibia-desert

I felt like I needed to capture some thoughts bouncing around before I lose them, especially in regards to the recent “wilderness” assignment I have been loathing…

Yea I know good Christians are always cheerful about what the Lord is doing in their life…but I’m to honest to be a good Christian, sorry you can live with it and love me, or not.

Anyway for longer than I want to think about (many, many months now) I have been on a journey and the best descriptor available is “map-less in the wilderness”.

In the first few months I literally saw (for real, even killed a couple , one with my sandal) more vipers/poisoness snakes than in the previous 20 years combined…

The wilderness is wild, by definition.

Anyway I have discovered the fastest way to get here is let the Holy Spirit drive, hand Him the keys and then buckle up because He likes to go fast (mighty RUSHING wind)…and frankly I am not seeing a whole lot of the church doing this, so the wilderness is kinda vacant…probably by design.

The Bible says the Holy Spirit “drove” Jesus into the wilderness…and David was driven to exile in the wilderness by a mad king and the demise of his empire on the looming horizon.

At fist glance it seems kind of sadistic, morbid, “angry-God-like” to assume that the wilderness is to test you…but I am beginning to adjust my perspective a little and I no longer see it that way.

The testing comes AFTER a season in the wilderness, the actual test is probably near the end of the journey, and if you do a little study of ALL the guys God drove out here you will find in every case the major test came after the season of isolation and exile…

So that got me thinking…whats the point? Why send every one of your major movers into the wilderness? (Moses, Paul, Jesus, David, Elijah, etc…) Even the nation of Israel was first led to the wilderness before they came to the land of promise…and it was that thought that opened up a new paradigm for me…

I am beginning to understand that the wilderness is a huge isolated place of exile intentionally, and the intention is to open you up on the inside…its to get you ready for the promised land…God wants your internal environment to match the external one so that you are enlarged to receive the promise.

If you look at the questions asked here they are all related to identity…Mo asked the bush “Who are You?, then “Who am I”? The devil challenged Jesus identity, “If you are”…David was the anointed King yet there he was wandering about the back side of the desert surely asking God who he was himself…

If you haven’t gotten down to those core questions about who He really is, and who you are as well, I suggest you’re to close to civilization…

The wilderness is where God reshapes our identity, giving us a new name, and releasing us into an entirely different landscape with Him, He wants to know you in a different way which means you have to meet Him in a new environment.

The painful side of it is letting go of old identities, releasing them back to Him, but the pain is only because we don’t trust Him, He gave us those identities to begin with, He can re-gift them at the right time, and many of those things go beyond labels  they are who we have become, so really you never truly leave them, you just leave the emphasis of them.

I will always be a worship leader because I will always lead worship as I have done for years, not on a stage somewhere, but instead in private, times of devotion and war, I am a worshiper its who I am, not a job description or title, I am Mark the worshiper and I have a distinct identity in heaven as Mark the worshiper, they know me there and I know it…but I am no longer “dutified” with the responsibility of leading a congregation each week and planning/training/whatever…that goes with it.

Jesus was able to multiply the bread because He had become the living bread and had denied the shortcut of doing it from the wrong identity in the wilderness…it was no big deal to multiply something he was because in the wilderness He had given that to the Father…

So this is a bit of a meandering pre-able to the “Joy of Wilderness wildness”

Just a final thought that challenges me…I think the wilderness is supposed to be a place of joy…it is an upgrade from the identity of who you have been, what that means is God is “adding to” your identity not “taking away”, remember Jesus is “The Door”, “The Way”, “The Good Shepherd”,”The Son of Man”, “The Lamb of God”, “Emmanuel”, “Etc…ad infinitum” Jesus as our example has multiple identities as do we all, most of us though…get caught up in one or two and stop there, how bored God must be with all that, so He sends us to the wilderness to enlarge our identity.

Israel missed the lesson and remained stuck in a small identity until a generation died off, so apparently the maximum velocity allowed is the speed of generations…selah.