Trust (Tuesday) A letter to my Family and Friends

As has often been the case, the Blue Book has not failed to amaze me in its timing. The theme for this week is Trust. The events of the previous week are helpful in processing the idea of trust. Here is a question the Lord perpetually has before our hearts; “In Whom (or in what) do you trust?” The following is a letter to my dearest friends and family regarding my week. Hopefully they will still claim me after I share my heart.
Dear Friends and Family,
I was scheduled yesterday for a two-level fusion at 4/5 and 5/6 in my cervical spine. Just before I went in for this procedure I got the word that our TPA had denied coverage because I had not taken enough conservative measures. Some of you who have been praying for me may be thanking God because this affords another opportunity for divine intervention. That would be awesome! 
Please, after reading this, be wise to who, how and why you might repeat my words to others. If it is simply to tell another about the inadequacy of my faith or the error in my heart please be patient with me. I may not be on the same road or as far along in my faith journey as you. I am doing the best I can to process the information and ideas that many of you have so thoughtfully offered to me. I have read most of the books that you have recommended. I have listened to most of the CD’s. 
As I have considered these materials, I have been reminded what sticky issues health and healing are. God’s Bride seems very divided on this issue. Because I endeavor to maintain a dialogue with so many people I am sometime overwhelmed at the myriad options in play regarding health as it pertains to Christians. I have learned that these are VERY important components to the belief systems of many. After surveying the options recently offered to me, this is the array from which I could choose. I could…..
1) Put my trust in deliverance; assuming that my spine has been decaying prematurely over many years in response to a spirit (or spirits of) infirmity. 
2) Put my trust in repentance; assuming that specific sins in my life are connected to the specific pathology of my spine.
3) Put my trust in confession; assuming that if I confess the right scriptures my body will conform to patterns of divine health.
4) Put my trust in prayer; assuming that if I (or others) pray the right prayer my spine will conform to the original divine alignment and spacing.
5) Put my trust in communion; assuming that if I take communion correctly that I will walk in a body that is immune to decay.
6) Put my trust in visualization; assuming that if I can just see myself whole, I will become what I envision.
7) Put my trust in Jesus’s name; assuming that if the kyphosis (reverse curvature) and osteoarthritis (bony growths) are cursed using Jesus’s name, then by this authority the spine will respond and assume the original divine shape and condition.
8) Put my trust in breaking ancestral curses; assuming that darkness has flooded in through doors open by my ancestor’s sins or that curses persist due to demonic assignment.
9) Put my trust in faith itself; assuming that if I exercise it I can have what I ask for.
10) Put my trust in praying for the peace of Jerusalem; assuming that obedience and attention to Israel as the object of God’s affection will produce the blessing of healing
11) Put my trust in diet: assuming that I am what I eat.
12) Put my trust in emotional health: assuming that my inner life is directly effecting my outer life
13) Put my trust in a Calvinistic-shaped God; assuming that my physical trial is a test that when and if passed will build my character, causing me to be a bit more like Christ. 
14) Put my trust in some combination of the above.
15) Put my trust in science and medicine; assuming that there is no supernatural remedy available.
16) Put my faith in my Father in heaven who knows my needs better than I do, who has heard my cries for help, knowing that I do not have the capacity to confidently choose from the above options; knowing that over the previous 27 years, I have trusted in most of these options at one time or another, coming away with a sense that I was often trying to leverage a technique or a method to get what I want from God. 
I am painfully aware what a disappointment my faith is to many people whom I love and care for. Because of your faith orientation, it is impossible for you to see me as one persevering in my faith when I have treated the right or the opportunity for divine health so lightly. 
I know many of you whom I deeply care about will not agree with what I am about to say, but I need to say it anyway. When I stand before the Lord which, in the eternal time line, will be here momentarily, there is something even more than divine health that I do not want to have taken lightly; that is simply who God is. I tremble at the idea of standing before Him, having given my energies to various techniques to get things from Him however biblical I may perceive them to be. I also tremble at the idea that I might spend my energies treating Him as one who dispenses blessings on a quid pro quo basis; (ie; when I do this, He does that). I simply do not have faith that God is waiting to be good to me dependent on how well I execute on options 1-14. 
I googled one of the authors of the books given to me. He was promoting one of the optional pathways to divine health. In the video I watched, this superstar was speaking to an arena of 30 to 40,000 electrified people. Before they passed the plate, he taught them about their right to divine health. Given the numbers in this auditorium, I would not at all be surprised if that offering exceeded well over $1,000,000!  
I wondered how the offering would have gone if this pastor had shared this story instead……(Reader’s Digest version)
Near a Christian village in Syria, Al Qaeda forces were gathering nearby. These forces hate Christians. They were becoming increasingly aggressive and antagonistic toward the villagers. Knowing what was about to come, a father gathered his small children to himself and said, “Listen very closely, someday soon men are going to force their way into our home. They will have weapons. They will tell your mommy and daddy to lie down on the floor and then we will be in heaven.” 
Where was this father’s faith? In what was he trusting?
What are our rights as Christians? If this superstar American pastor’s campaign had been in that Syrian neighborhood, what would he have had to say about rights? What would he have to say about trust?
I hear Jesus asking a couple of important questions to us; “What is that you really want from Me? And, “In whom (or in what) do you trust?
When I stand before HIm, I want life’s circumstances to have forged a heart in me that says, “Lord, You alone are all I have ever wanted and in You alone I have I trusted. You have become my all in all.”
Father of Life, fashion us into vessels of honor. Fill us with simple passion for you alone.

An open letter from my heart to my family in Christ

Dear Friends and Family in Christ,
I am writing for three reasons. The first is to expose and destroy some of the places I believe the enemy exploits us. He feeds off of the darkness of our bitterness, resentment, speculation, fear, anger, judgements and contention. I believe by being honest (even if I am wrong), I am eliminating at least some of the areas where he has successfully divided us. If we speculate about each other’s motives privately or in the presence of others; if we pass judgement on each other; if we hold onto and nurse grudges; if we complain to others about each other; if we receive and entertain complaints about each other; if we fail to take initiatives of reconciliation, we are inviting evil into our hearts and into our community in Christ. Keep in mind that spirits rooted in rejection are magnets for bitterness. I am speaking from experience. Like attracts like and as one offended spirit takes up the offense of another a faction is formed. Factions are cancerous to community. A factious spirit originates in our flesh. It is rooted in Adam not Christ. It is typically hyper-relgious.
If we do not guard our hearts diligently from these things, unwelcome spirits will continue to undermine the joy and abundance God has purchased for us and desires that we collectively discover and enjoy. (I think this is why the process of Matthew 18:15-17 has been given to us.) If its ok, I am going to switch on my little flash light now. I know its not the only light in the world but it is the only light I have to offer. I am praying that it will merge with other lights out there and ultimately serve the Church in some way.
One of the little networks I am privileged to be joined to is my Harvest Time Brothers. The 3 brothers I have come to know and to trust there have helped me identify my mission in the kingdom. (That’s what brothers do.) One of them (the irreverent one) said, you are connective tissue (fascia) in the Body of Christ whose mission it is to stir *!#t up. While I am repenting for even thinking the “s” word, it doesn’t seem, if I am to be myself, that I can prevent from stirring things up. (Jack Taylor; one of my my wise spiritual fathers told me the kingdom’s sons were called to be catalysts. This little word helped preserve my sanity!) The irreverent one also proposed that I tack this communique on the door of GWO in the same vain that Luther was purported to have nailed his 95 Thesis to the door of All Saint’s Church in Wittenburg, Saxony in 1517. I chose the internet route instead. It seemed slightly less presumptuous and defiant. (Wow! After looking up “fascia” on Wikipedia, I think with Christ in us, we are called to be fascia!)
One of the big words that God has planted in my heart in the past two decades is ownership. While most associate this word with capitalism and free markets, I think of it in a broader sense. It is a word that has to do with connection, trust, responsibility and community. When we claim something as mine or ours something dynamic begins to happen. When ownership happens at Cummins Construction, equipment is maintained, that same equipment produces with efficiency; policies are adhered to and we work more profitably, safely and harmonious with our governmental partners like ODOT, OTA, DOD, ODL, EPA, FHWA, ODAQ, (just to name a few) so that we don’t have to work with the FBI and the DOJ (again). That some of you claim the group that meets in my home as yours is also a dynamic thing. The second reason I am writing is simply to stay connected to those I love and care about. Here is some backdrop to the gathering at the Cummins’ home that may be helpful.
You should realize that at the inception of our group, *!#t was stirred up. The pastor of my local assembly, one of my closest friends, was told by me that his presence would not be constructive to the formation of our group. He had no way to process this statement. It pained me to say it but it had to be said. It was also was quite unpopular that this group was not formed with the traditional sign-up sheet at the back of the church auditorium. The people who came to our group were invited. They were invited for the simple reason that Daneille and I felt safe with them. Why, you may ask was the pastor dissuaded from coming? It was for the simple reason that, in our religious culture, the title “pastor” carries baggage with it; concepts that are alien to the gathering of the NT church (still an important reference point for me). In our tradition, “Pastor” is presumed to be the primary authority and voice of God where in the early church everyone was expected to come together with own their unique contribution. In our current tradition, Pastor is the primary one that takes ownership of the local Body and he spends tons of his energy (with another 20 to 30% of the church membership) trying to get others to take some ownership for the activities and programs sanctioned by the church which are often thought of as extensions of the pastor’s ministry. In the NT, as a functioning priesthood of believers, the Body itself, with mostly its own home-grown leaders, took ownership of the corporate (usually quite small) gatherings and affairs of the Church.
While many pastors may agree with the biblical references I have just made, they still defer to traditions which I believe contribute to the lack of ownership the Body actually takes toward its own healthy existence. I believe it can actually contribute to a spiritual welfare culture where the flock has inordinate expectations on Pastor. And, too often, Pastor has inordinate dependency upon the flock for their approval. He is placed in a no-win situation where he is expected to be to the Body what the Body was actually intended to be to itself. (It may just be the wiggly tail, but this issue is actually a part of the current elephant in the room some of us are becoming more intimately acquainted with.)
The Lord is going to have a Bride one day who has been weaned of all dependency upon anything but Himself. If He has to shake us and/or our old wineskins in order to expose our inordinate dependencies on circumstances, people and traditions, I suspect He will do it. While many pastors are looking at their organizational structures, God is looking at the heart, because its from the heart that all the issues of life (and I suspect His kingdom) flow; not from the structures that leaders oversee, which have tended to become central in our current and misguided dialogue.
What is in my DNA is to see the Bride of Christ (which includes all saints) living out her kingdom destiny out of the Life of Christ who resides in her heart, Who is vying for supremacy over everything that He might be competing with. While this will be controversial to the max, and  probably a regretful affront to my pastor friends and traditionalists, it is time for me to say some things point-blank, direct and honest. Out of respect to those I love, you need to know my vision because it may be something you want to intentionally steer way clear of. I need to give you (and your group if you are leading one) fair warning and first-right-of-refusal to have nothing to do with me. Most do not have an appetite for stirring things up. (Ironically, that is the club I wanted to be president of; The We Don’t Stir Things Up Club.)
However, it is the Lord and His words that are sharper than a two-edged sword that I believe are doing most of the stirring. For me, it is the narrative of the New Testament that I cannot escape. In that story, the early church, in her simplicity, was the most powerful community that has ever existed on this earth. It had no clergy/ laity distinction. It had no policy-making home office or headquarters. It had little property of its own. It had few programs or overhead budgets to support them. It did not have a bible as we know it. It did not have a moral majority or any political influence. It did not have a militia.
It did however have the Holy Spirit who had distributed certain supernatural gifts among them. They also had trials in abundance in the form of poverty, bad doctrine, false teachers, hostility, persecution and every other common threat to human life. They did have a few articulate ones who had spent serious time being proven and refined by the Father (some of them face-to-face with Jesus Himself – these we have traditionally called Apostles) They possessed none of the things, that in our tradition, most consider essential to the fulfillment of the Great Commission. My belief is that they understood in ways that our structures war against, the 50-odd one-anothering verses we are given in the NT. I think their superior command of these truths equipped them to take ownership.
Yet, we persist in our attempts to refine, reorganize our existing wineskin-structures. From my perspective, our traditional-western-church paradigm overburdens and isolates brothers and sisters, shackling them with titles and responsibilities that they were never meant to carry by themselves; matters the Body of Christ itself was intended to carry. It is really no surprise that pastors and their wives are lonely, hurting and burning out. They have been harnessed by tradition to a no-win situation. I am asked (sometimes in a hostile way); “Then why don’t you get off your fanny and go back to work in the church and help that pastor?!”
My answer; “Because, I do not think that would serve his best interest or the Kingdom’s.” The assumptions the local church has about itself and its practices are hardened and sanctified by time and are untouchable. As an elder at times, and as a brother and a friend at others, I attempted to speak into this arena for nearly two decades.  The ideas I proposed were alien and did not gain traction. In time, I came to understand that there are people’s identities and livelihoods that are tied up here making this turf holy ground.
For me though, I cannot remain a part of a system that perpetuates either intentionally or inadvertently, the clergy/ laity distinction. Originally, the Church was not run by professionals. I cannot be apart of a system that perpetuates the idea that some are called into full-time professional ministry and some are called to just attend church or support their pastor’s ministry. In the NT, there was never a track for a believer to follow that said – you can ask Jesus into your heart and fulfill your obligations of worship on a weekly or bi-weekly installment of attendance. There was never a track for disciples and another just for believers. Our traditional format accommodates these tracks to the Church’s and the attender’s detriment.
The Church that Christ died for; which we all belong to, is actually a network of people who have surrendered themselves to a sovereign King Who has bound us inseparably together in His Son. The saints are inside and outside traditional church settings. But they are all yearning along with creation itself for the kingdom at some level. (Regarding yearnings: Check out Wade Burleson’s blog offered at the end of this treatise.)
Many saints, as they are emerging from their own wineskin thinking, are growing restless in their traditions and are finding themselves at cross-purposes with their local leaders. Most have incurred wounds. Many are bitter and disillusioned. Nearly all are exhausted. On the surface this movement looks like defection and mutiny, especially to those who are trying to steer the ship and keep people aboard. These good people are some of the most needy souls in the family. They are not the enemy. The enemy remains; the world, the flesh and the devil.
Between here and the day that His Bride will emerge, vindicating the Truth, glorifying the King of Kings, the enemy’s lies will be exposed, making way for the kingdom of God. This is the earth’s destiny. And, it’s our destiny to participate as co-laborers and co-heirs in His Kingdom’s expansion. Between now and then, we will each have to take ownership where we have made peace with lies in our own hearts. Out of our repentance, when we have dealt with our hearts in His (and each other’s) presence, many of our problems will take care of themselves as institutions are transformed into communities of connected spirit-led and gifted sons and daughters of the Kingdom.
In the meantime, as things are stirred up, the first order of business is our hearts. Our well-disguised Sunday-go-to-meeting personas will have to be torn down in order for the Lord to build His house. Our participation in communion and our offerings of song and service, however sincere and passionate, are but a strange fire of pretense to Him until our hearts are right with each other. (See Matt 5:23,24) Until our hearts are right with each other, they are not right with Him, no matter what story we have sold ourselves.
I believe the leaders of the coming kingdom will be those who have humbled themselves or been humbled as the Holy Spirit leads them through the specifics of their own trials into new and fresh places of freedom where they have become disentangled from their flesh, this world and the devil; where their stories are updated and authentic authority has been birthed out of the inevitable pains of transition. This process of taking ownership of our hearts is how He ascends to His rightful place as Lord in our lives. The tide of battle will shift as Christ emerges as the glory of His Church and the radiance of His Bride. And, when the Bride has finally been made ready, we will collectively hear once again, for the last time, “Truly truly. It is finished!
While I am keenly aware my views are out of sync with tradition, I am dependent on the Body of Christ, you who also have the Spirit and the Word to show me where I am out of sync with the scriptures. Or, has the Spirit led His church out beyond the authority and narrative of scripture?  I am seriously asking if our pastor driven paradigm was officially adopted and sanctified somewhere along the way. I am not being facetious with this question. I am not a theologian. If you and I are joined relationally in any way, you will be doing me a big favor (and I think, the Body of Christ) by processing my questions and the questions my words may raise. Some of us know these are truly front-and-center issues for us in this hour. Please show me  (from scripture) if and where I am missing it. That is my third reason for writing.
Wade Burleson and another friend suggested that I read books by John Zens and Frank Viola. They too have helped restore peace to my heart. The “Subject” of this email was Revolution or Rebellion? This letter will have to be interpreted as rebellion or even heretical by the traditionalist who envisions Pastor as divine authority. When I read Revolution by George Barna, my sense was that a revolution was well underway and that it was my job to speak to my co-leaders about the nature of this revolution because I recognized the seeds of it in my own heart and in the hearts of so many who had come and gone from the local church with no real exit interview. Because I would want them to do this for me, I have continued to try and be honest about an upheaval that I believed might blind side them at some point in time.
Your friend (hopefully) and Brother in Christ,
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PS; To those attending the Sunday afternoon GWO leader’s meeting; I apologize for my vulgar language. I know its not constructive. The only good news is that I didn’t use all the bad words I am still fluent with. Reading this in advance of our next gathering will save time and hopefully promote a dialogue as opposed to a monologue. Remember, I love you.
Also; I know that authentic community exists inside many traditional churches of all sizes. I applaud the courageous efforts of those with the gifting of pastor or administrator in overseeing the communities that you have been entrusted into. Bless you.


4.21.13 Maiden Voyage of the Blue Book

Dear Friends and Family,

If you boarded the maiden voyage of in the Middle with Mystery – blog, last week, you will have discovered things such as; “Humbling Mumbling” & “About Rob” and to top that, what was written was in sanskrit or (as another friend said), “rigor mortis” language. I regret that upon boarding you were greeted by stiff and lifeless mysteries (of the wrong sort). They were merely an attempt at playful humor by myself and my technical / creative team. This site is just being birthed and is destined to change.

If you are curious though, wondering what exactly is in the Middle with Mystery (MwM), you may have to journey with us for a while to satisfy your curiosity. However, I will tell you up front, three things that are here in the MwM; you and I and God. Here, with our 2 or 3 who have gathered (where we have a quorum), Christ (in His Spirit) is in our midst. It is on that basis alone that we anticipate a safe journey regardless of the weather we shall face. Welcome. (more…)