So it’s time to write it…I’ve put it off for some time now, but recently I got one of those phone calls that brought up the question of my heritage and legacy and well…my walk with Jesus.
First let me say “thanks”, thanks for all the prayers and concern over my journey, I know many of you are deeply disturbed and think I’ve probably gone of the deep end, maybe lost my faith, perhaps given up on God…nothing could be further from the truth.
Let me be upfront and honest with you, I am not even slightly interested in defending my journey…and frankly your criticism of it is none of my business…you are where you are and I am where I am, if you believe I have ever followed Jesus trust that has not changed…what HAS changed is the way I see the Jesus I follow now.
Since we’re being honest now, let’s take the gloves off and look at the truth from all sides shall we? Cards out on the table I’m gonna call your bluff…
Let’s start with the way you believe the Bible is the infallible word of God, it is inerrant that the only real issues are how we perhaps are not wise enough to truly interpret it…at least that’s what you say you believe…you might even mutter an “amen” inside your head…
I admittedly do not believe that, the Bible still has the same authority in my life as it always did, it’s just not a magic perfect book that somehow was dictated to men from God to me anymore, it has grown it is now my brother, I have a very reasonable and honest (and historically sustainable) reason for this position, your position (my old one) is the new kid on the block…it is new to christian doctrine in terms of a historical arch of Orthodox beliefs, if you want me to prove it I can but it’s not really the issue in the way you think it is.
Let me be frank with you…you don’t really believe that…if you did you would renounce all wealth and simply follow Jesus…you would not own a computer or cell phone or tablet to read this on because the Bible is quite clear you cannot serve God and Mammon…and all those things…they are purchased with Mammon…you do realise that if you are reading this on a computer you are in the top 5% of the world’s wealthiest people right? Ever wonder if Jesus words to the wealthy apply to you? Stop wondering you are rich, even if you are struggling to pay your mortgage on your air conditioned house with running water and a paved driveway with an automobile in it. You are rich…time to admit it.
Is it hard for you to follow Jesus since you are not truly submitted to authority like you say you believe in…Oh you are, really? Do you always obey the speed limit, pay all your taxes, do you fully support your government after all they do not bear the sword in vain, it’s ok that they spy on your email and cell phone and you have no problem giving up your privacy?
What if Hillary wins, you gonna submit to her? I mean according to your model she would be your highest authority…you got no problem with that right?
How about spiritually, can you clearly show me the line of spiritual authority you are currently submitted to, and no I don’t mean in some casual fashion, can you show me how you have COMPLETELY submitted to some head somewhere and are absolutely transparent with your WHOLE life at all times with them? If you said yes you are lying and we both know it…we all know how to play the game of spiritual submission…there is no way you can fully agree to EVERYTHING your spiritual “head” believes because…well…you think differently on some issues now don’t you?
Where in the text does it allow you to disagree by any degree? So really you don’t 100% believe in total submission to some authority now do you? Be honest…cards are on the table remember?
So since the bible is infallible and all that…do you still believe there are male and females? Because the bible says there isn’t.
Do you believe that if Christ died for all that ALL have died? All…even Hitler…? So all doesn’t mean ALL?
How about the verse that says that through the Ones’ act of righteousness justification and life has been brought to ALL men? Do you believe what it clearly says that All have been given life and are justified…? Its infallible remember? what about the part that says God never changes and then the verses that say he changed his mind? Which one?
Oh I get it…you believe those verses with conditions attached to them…yes I understand…we can’t simply take those verses and apply them willy nilly to everyone…but you can the fall of Adam? So in your reading of the Bible what Adam did is more powerful than what Jesus did? See I didn’t get to choose to be in Adam…no one chooses that…but choosing Jesus, well that’s another story…but really since cards are on the table…that means Adam’s act is greater than the action of Jesus…that makes Adam bigger than God, since Jesus is God, right?
Do you see a problem here? That infallible book is subject to how we read it, seems like a pretty vulnerable way to do things doncha think?
Which of us is right?
“What do you know Mark you’ve forsaken the gathering together of believers, you’re a rebel, and we know that the sin of rebellion is like witchcraft right?”…
One verse…you’ve taken that one verse completely out of it’s context and smeared like a net over me because I am pushing back…I don’t believe that verse was written to me a Western believer about 2000 miles and 2000 years from the audience it was intended for “That day” has come and gone in my book and I have history to prove it, and you simply have a way of reading the verse that says, “Huh uh”…
And what makes you think I have forsaken believers? Stop it.
Here’s the deal, full disclosure, I think my questions make YOU uncomfortable and you cannot handle it except to find some way to accuse me…this hasn’t been a dialogue for a LONG time…you found a reason to disqualify my ideas and nothing I can say will change that.
Want me to prove it?
Are you willing to let me ask you honest questions about the text and are you willing to even consider that I could be right or have you already made up your mind?
If you’ve already made up your mind let’s cut the bullshit, this isn’t a conversation it’s about you getting in the last word and telling me off so you have some sense of “I did my part, I tried to warn him”…cut the crap, that’s not a conversation it’s a judgement seat and you get to be the judge.
I haven’t even started on the stuff you might believe with little to no support from the actual text, like the idea that your model of hell is based purely upon not receiving Jesus as your Lord and Savior, the parable about the rich man and Lazarus lays that myth to rest the rich man went to hell because he was wealthy in this life, not because he failed to say the magic words…there is no mention whatsoever of believing or faith in that story, simply a rich guy and poor guy…go back and read it in context…according to an infallible bible you are more in danger of going to hell than someone who has never heard the name of Jesus because you are rich and they are probably poor, you HAVE your reward…but that’s an uncomfortable way to approach the book isn’t it…better stick to cherry picking our verses or all bets are off.
I’m telling you, that you THINK you believe the bible is inerrant but you don’t really and I can poke holes all through that argument so the best thing you can say is:
“Let’s not get too intellectual here, we have to follow our hearts”…
… which is Western Platonic thinking dressed up as doctrine, no first century Hebrew would even entertain such a disconnect without admitting it, the head and the heart are not two separate parts of our lives we can pretend have no affect on each other that is a convenient illusion to shut down thinking…as a man THINKETH in his heart so he is..the heart according to scripture DEMANDS thinking…that’s the infallible bible demanding you think right there.
You’ve already made up your mind though.
So let’s move inerrancy off the table and deal another set of cards…let’s talk about following the Spirit.
How does that work?
Pray in tongues, read your bible, spend time with Jesus, worship…yep got it…done and doing those things…for 50 years now…still do.
Nothing has changed here except the way I understand what the Spirit says.
But how is it the Holy Spirit can tell me one thing and you another and those things can be polar opposites? Which of us is hearing from the Spirit?
Right the one that lines up with the bible…got it.
So how is it that I can hear the Spirit of Jesus say there is NEVER a time for me to own a gun for the purpose of self defense and you can hear different? How can I hear the Spirit of Jesus say it has always been God’s will to welcome the aliens into our land, illegal or not and you can hear something else?
How can I hear the Spirit of Christ say that there is NEVER a justification for violence, not from man, and certainly not from God, that there is no such thing as a “just war” (meaning what America is doing in the middle east is a violation of Jesus teaching)…wait, remember our deal…the one closest to the bible wins?
How many verses do you want me to provide? Because I can pretty well promise you I will be bringing quite a few more verses to the Voice I hear than you will to yours…still want to play or do you want to hold the cards you have?
If you think you can justify our nation’s activity and square that with the beatitudes then man we are reading different bibles because I read Jesus saying turn the other cheek, give to those who ask, lay down my life and drop the sword and he says it a LOT more than those handful of OT verses that suggest God is a warrior or some misplaced interpretation of the book of Revelation that is a blood thirsty Rambo who looks different than the Jesus in the gospels…is it possible for you to be wrong?
Then why suggest this has ever been a dialogue?
“Oh no Mark we all know you can quote the bible, no one wants to get into a debate over the Word with you”
Do you see my problem yet?
You get to use the bible to condemn my questions but when I use the bible it’s disqualified because…why?
You never wanted an honest discussion…you just wanted to tell me that I was in danger of disagreeing with your position and that of course meant I was in some kind of rebellion or danger, I’m sure you meant well…I have never questioned your intentions like you might have mine, but let’s be honest…these are not issues you are willing to hear from me.
You simply want me to agree with you. That’s it. Everyone knows these things, there’s no reason to question this stuff, just agree with what we’ve always agreed with and things will be fine…again.
Apparently fifty plus years of following Jesus faithfully doesn’t play here…those chips are not welcome on this table unless they are on YOUR side of the table. It doesn’t matter that I have played the exact same hand you are playing about a thousand times (and often with better odds), you seem to think that I have lost my mind or forgotten God and need to crawl back up to some lofty place of belief…but what if my faith is just as strong ever?
What if I love Jesus more today than ever before?
What if I am more at peace than I have ever been and more confident in the voice I am hearing than ever before that nothing has changed except a handful of traditions that are frankly pretty new to the whole Christian table of doctrine?
There’s really only a handful of cards that I am really opposed to, the card that says one human has authority over another human, the card that says we can draw a line and exclude someone else for ANY reason, the card that says our current system of church is what Jesus meant, the card that says God works from an economy of exchange and sacrifice is what he demands of us, the card that says God is not in me now just as fully as He has ever been or ever will be, the card that says the bible is a magic rule book that is perfect with no human influence…I’ve looked at those cards and they are all paper thin.
I can clearly show you an honest way to look at those cards and say “bunk”, it is not some failure of my faith or bitterness or hurt or any other nonsense that is all a convenient way to discount my position and say, “well he used to be such a warrior of the faith, I guess he’s just too hurt by the past…”
Let me call “foul” on that argument right now, we have ALL been wounded by others, no one is exempt, not admitting that is known as “enabling” and I refuse to play those odds anymore, not because I am afraid of getting hurt, no, just the opposite, I am past the hurt and am no longer afraid of you or your authority or any such card you want to pull out of your sleeve… I know how the trick is done because I’ve been at this long enough to know how to do the sleight of hand myself so cut the crap…you cannot hurt me, that ship has sailed.
I’ll say it this way:
You have no authority in my life that I do not give you, not one ounce…not from God, not from the church, not from our history, not from your “anointing”…nada…and I am only willing to offer you authority to speak if that is a two way street, your authority is based upon a conversation, if you think it should be a monologue you are sadly mistaken.
You want me to listen to you, then you have to HONESTLY listen to me, but if you have already made up your mind that I am close to becoming a heretic then this is not honest and your authority is worthless to me…I did not get where I am now by some accident, I have not fallen away or any other such nonsense…
Let me make this clear:
The Spirit of the living God that is inside both of us led me here, if you do not believe that then you never wanted to have a conversation you wanted to have a monologue and we are not equals you are in some sort of economy that says your ideas are more valuable than mine…how does that work?
Explain it to me…I’ll wait.
So let’s take our chips to the cashier shall we?
Here’s the payout…MY eternal salvation is not, nor has not ever been in question, if you think that please see the manual, it has never depended on me getting doctrine right and thank God for that because we all suffer from our bad doctrines, if you doubt it just go read your journal from 20 years ago if you still believe exactly the same as back then then you have not grown and you have another set of problems.
YOUR eternal salvation is more secured in my mind today than EVER before…it is not in question either..I believe you all make it and you make it in a grand way…
My influence is being spilled out into a much greater arena than ever before…atheist, LGBTQ, Muslims, satanist, New Agers, etc…I am connecting to these kinds of people and they are finding me a source of great light and hope pointing them to God’s love…
What about your influence? Still hanging with the same group of saints, the same circles of faith as always? Same charismatic crowd following revival and praying for the fire or the rain or the flood or the heavens to open up?
Still doing missions trips and introducing Western Christianity to other countries so they can imitate your desire for wealth and your model of celebrity leadership?
Or maybe you’re standing with the same crowd standing against evil in our land and fearing that judgement is just around the corner, let me introduce you to some of those folks who believe that MORE than you do…they’re generally not paying taxes and hiding on a commune somewhere.
In the meantime, good for you, enjoy your group…I personally stopped wasting my time with a lot of that…because frankly when you go to cash out that chip you are going to find it doesn’t pay the value we assigned to it…
I dare you…just take ONE of those chips and see what the payout is…here’s a clue…Redding California has one of the worst social stats of all of California…and according to the value stamped on the chip that city has been in continuous revival for nearly 20 years…but Redding is one of the most violent cities to women in the entire state…and if you think you can take YOUR chip to a different cashier than they have think again.
But since we’re being honest and all cards are on the table let me tell you what I really think…
I think most of you are doing the same thing and getting the same inconsistent results that you’ve always gotten…sure there’s some miracles and healings, same here, but for the most part you are doing exactly the same thing you were doing when my journey parted ways with yours…I’m not saying my journey is better, I’m just saying yours isn’t (better than mine)…and you need to be honest and admit it.
A handful of the faces have probably changed for you, but for the most part you’re still doing what we were all doing five years ago…nothing has changed except time.
Go see how much that chip is worth.
Some of you who are close have the earned the right to speak into my life as long as I have it…you know who you are…
The rest of you should probably go prepare your hearts for three fast songs, three slow songs a few minutes of silence, maybe a “word of knowledge” or a “prophecy” if the Spirits moving (or 5 songs of each depending on how dedicated you are)…then some teaching…probably about how to grow as a believer, or spiritual warfare, or sacrifice, or Gods goodness…or any number of one-liners that are popular now…you might even have a discussion time afterwards if you are really progressive…maybe some food or communion…and that is what you will live out as church even if you call it something else.
And I will stand here and let you live your life with no criticism from me…but those cards you’re holding close to your chest?
I’m gonna continue to call ’em the way I see ’em, you got a problem with that take it up with the pit boss…you don’t get to call your Ace an Ace and my Ace a Joker…that’s not how this works. And here’s my final response to the last accusation you are probably levelling at me…
“You’re just to critical Mark”…”You should be more loving, if it was more loving we would probably listen”…
I’m gonna call your bluff…and here’s why…
If I am right, then a lot of what I am criticising is putting people into a form of slavery…so how loving should I be to the idea of owning slaves? You think it’s ok to own slaves, I am honestly asking that question, do you right now think it is ok for one human to own another human?
But it’s right there in the bible…I can defend it, heck our civil war which cost more blood than any other war was based on a handful of legitimate scriptures and a moral code of the day…
But neither of us believe that is a valid moral idea right? We have imposed a higher moral code on the bible than our forefathers did…
Now lets suppose you had a voice in the days of our civil war history…the accusation you are currently using to disqualify my voice could just as easily be employed to silence your voice in condemning slavery back then…you would be labeled as “too harsh”, “critical” “divisive” by believers who held that slavery was sanctioned by the text…
All of the reasons you are suggesting my voice is disqualified now…would apply to your voice then…
But let me ask you, would you soften your tone if you were there and saw people being sold into slavery or a system that dehumanized your brothers and sisters?
My best guess is the cries of “Too critical” would roll off your back and you would continue to criticise a system that you knew was nigh upon ending…
At least I hope you would…
As usual your mileage may vary, frankly I hope it does.