certain of the
scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a
sign from thee.
Some if not most of the pastors I've seen and met appear to know the Scriptures very well, and they're very abreast of current events. They see the direction the world is taking. They seem to me to be excellent examples of family men, dedicated to their wife and family, even extending this consideration to their neighbors. They seem to be adept at and willing to share their beliefs with those outside the faith, hoping to bring them into a saving knowledge of the Lord.
I can't fault any of them I know. Yet I do. Why?
The people I've seen in the churches, those who are more than pew fillers, appear to me to be well versed in the Word, and they seem anxious and willing to not only serve the church, but to help others wherever they can. Again, I can't knock them on any count. I highly suspect they are living a more loving and righteous existence than I am. This isn't saying much in itself, seeing as how my life has been and is a fundamental mess. But I mean my statement to be taken on a high level, quite above mediocre.
If I was to take a check list with all the things the Bible tells us to do and grade those of my church, and of many other churches as well, I suspect most of them would be given an "A" or a "B," none that I have in mind less given less than a "C+". This being the case, what's my gripe?
How many of you have seen the movie "Close Encounters of a Third Kind"? I suspect most of those of you with greying hair have seen the movie. What is the most striking thing about that movie in you're opinion? To me it's the incredible obsession the main character had with that mountain he saw in his vision. He made that mountain of everything. Nothing else mattered but the mountain. Have you ever had an obsession like that? I highly suspect you have, if none other, with that cute girl (or boy) you had a crush on when you were a young teenager. You couldn't concentrate on your homework or school work, because your head was always in a cloud, and you were busy peeking around every corner (even in your mind) hoping to get a glimpse of that special one. If you haven't had this experience, then I feel sorry for you. It leads to a terrible heartbreak to be sure. But the experience and the lesson learned from the experience is invaluable.
Those who haven't experienced such an obsession might as well stop reading here because you won't be able to relate to what I'm about to say.
In the churches today Christianity means having been baptized and maybe having repeated a few words, and possibly attending church when there's no Super Bowl, or it's raining and there's nothing else to do. The concept is that if you've performed the minimum, then you're eternally saved, and salvation is all that matters. Because of this attitude there is no need to seek anything farther than the minimum. This being the case, why preach or talk about striving for anything beyond entering the door to the sheepfold? In the churches I referred to above (those seeking to be more than church of nominal Christians), there's an effort to strive to be the best person one can expect to be. This effort isn't an attempt to gain salvation by works, but they see, and feel, the need to be a good citizen. Is this good? Of course it is. But is this what Christianity is all about? There are many Atheists and "heathen" religions that encourage their adherents to do the same. In fact, before I was a Christian (decades after I was baptized) I strove to be the best person I could be. I failed miserably, but that was my attempt. They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Well, I find the prisons are mostly filled with similar people, those striving to be the best they can be, but who have found themselves crashing to the bottom. You might be surprised how many people I've met in prison settings that would put most Christians to shame. I found far more fine people, people I would want to associate with and that I would trust, who had been in prison than I found in the Army. This holds true with the various jobs I've held as well, the low-class worker was often more reliable than the one placed over them. The old saying "You can't tell a book by its cover" I find to be true. This is equally true of a Christian, you can't tell a person by the label or the suit of clothes they wear.
The man in Close Encounters was so obsessed with his vision that he neglected his family and his job. Nothing else mattered but the mountain, and understanding the meaning of the mountain. Everyone thought he was crazy, and in fact, I suppose what he was experiencing was a form of insanity. My being an impulsive-compulsive-obsessive person I can relate to the insanity that takes over a person when they become enveloped with some thought or project. It just takes over one's life. The obsession this man was experiencing is essentially harmless, other than the mess caused by the clay he kept heaping on his model mountain. And of course the understandable abuse he had to endure from his wife and friends.
Why does a person become so obsessed? Or more in keeping with this story, why did this man become obsessed? He had a vision. We learn farther on in the movie that the obsession he was experiencing was not something of his own making, but rather he had the vision "implanted" in his mind (for lack of a better word) by the aliens who were in the space ship he saw at the beginning of the movie. He was being controlled for the purpose of something bigger than himself, and for the good of the alien's project.
You might well be asking "What is this guy getting at talking about a movie about a crazy man who had a stupid obsession?" A good question, I'm glad you asked.
In the Old Testament we read of some crazy people who were obsessed, and who did things that would get them put in the booby hatch today. For instance we find a man spending 120 years of his life building a big boat and then loading it with a bunch of animals. What do you suppose his neighbors thought of him? Kind of crazy, don't you think? Later we have a man who went by the name Lot telling his family to get out of Dodge because God was going to destroy the city. Of course his sons-in-law just thought he had taken a bit too many nips of the wine skin, and let him go his way. Job seemed a wicked fool to his friends when he tried to defend himself, saying he didn't deserve what he was going through, and that it was God who was doing it to him and not the consequences of evil doings on his part. How about a man who claimed to have lived in a fish for three days? Ezekiel lay on one side out in public for a great deal of time, then turned over and lay on his other side for longer than most of us could lay in bed. Then just to make sure people gave him some attention he ate a sandwich cooked with cow's dung. How is that for a display of insanity? Then, to top it all, we have Jesus who besides claiming to be able to work miracles and to be the Son of God, the Messiah, He said to His disciples that if they wanted to see Heaven they had to eat His flesh and drink His blood. Yes, there were people in the Bible who have had visions, and they're obsessions smacked very near absolute insanity.
It seems as if I've left the track of my story, that is, what's missing in the churches today. In the churches everything on the surface seems to be just what it ought to be. And I find below the surface the church, for the most part (people-wise) is as it should be. But there's something missing, but no one seems to be aware of that missing part, and they surely are not looking for what is needed to fill it. Do you experience this vacant spot in your church? What do you think is causing the lack?
I suspect that any of you who regularly reads what I write, other than perhaps the Radio Forum, has had experiences similar to my own or else you'd just write me off as some loony or a kook. And I suspect, if you've had such an experience you've had the same reception from others, and reactions to your telling others of the need for such an experience that I've had. That's my assumption. I hope my assumption is not wrong.
The man in the movie with the obsession could not be swayed from his insane pursuit. No amount of logic could convince him that his behavior was unreasonable. He had an awareness of his obsession, and he was equally sure it was not something that made any sense. But in the end, it was proven that his obsession was not out of insanity. It was for a purpose that proved to be understood by only him and a few others who had been "called" to something they didn't understand. While he thought he was totally alone in his pursuit, he later discovered there were many others who had been given the same vision and believed they were totally alone. Elijah, when he was hiding for his life, lamented that he was the only one left to stand up for God. God then told him there were 7,000 others who had not bowed the knee to Baal. I have that feeling as well, that I'm the only one who has seen the vision, who has had a close encounter with the Lord. But although I find no one I know that has even an inkling of what I'm talking about, I know there are many others around the world who are building their "mountain" as am I. And I suspect that very soon there will be a coming together of us, in what way I don't know. I don't think it will be a physical calling as it was in the movie, but rather an intellectual and a Spiritual gathering.
In the movie the man was completely taken over by his obsession to understand the mountain. I have had, and still do to a degree, have this feeling about the Tabernacle. I've come to understand the Tabernacle somewhat, but the Word of God is a mystery and an obsession that I doubt I will ever begin to satisfy.
Do you hunger and thirst after the Word? Do you find that no matter how much you learn, that you've been shown, you're still at the bottom rung of the ladder of understanding? It's been over 35 years for me and I'm still as fascinated, if not more so, with the Word than I was the first year of my being given an awareness of its depth. I can't build my mountain high enough, nor can I get enough material to make it clear enough in my mind.
Jesus said those who thirst will be satisfied. That we're to hunger and thirst after righteousness. These are two elements that were placed in me from the moment of my encounter with the Holy Spirit. I can relate to how the man felt in the movie. I can imagine him having been indwelt with the Holy Spirit and seeking to know the Lord better, and to strive for perfection in order to be worthy of the calling. That's a poor simile to be sure, but I hope it helps clarify my point.
Earlier I related the Christian life as being similar to one's first love, to the obsession we feel toward that loved one. I find my Christian experience to be the same as that first young love. I see the disciples, they follow Jesus, but they don't understand Him, nor do they really feel a part of what Jesus is doing, even when they did the same thing as He was doing. I kind of relate those in church as being like the disciples. They do the right things, they do all they know to do, they certainly are Christians, but they are missing something, something important. Then came Pentecost. Now the disciples are filled with the Spirit of God, and they're indwelt and led by the Spirit, therefore they're led by Jesus. We see a totally different person when we see the Apostles, led by the Spirit, then we do the disciples, being with the one who is led by the Spirit. It takes that personal encounter with God to understand the purposes of God, and to become obsessed with God and His will for us. We can strive to be the best Christian we can, but if we don't have that close encounter, we're merely playing the game, pretending to be a Christian.
Someone who has not experienced the close encounter has no way of understanding what that encounter entails, or that it is a reality. The churches teach that every person who is baptized has received the Holy Spirit to its fullness. They're told there is no change to be expected, nothing to indicate the indwelling of the Spirit, so nothing is looked for. There are some churches who believe there will be a sign such as talking in tongues. I can't say one way or another if tongues is a sign of the Holy Spirit. I've seen people who can talk in tongues, and they show no sign of having had the experience, therefore there was no hungering and thirsting. And as for talking in tongues, I never have, nor do I have a desire to do so. I like the signs I've been given, and I need no other.
I go to church. I like to go to church. I like the preaching. And I like the people. But in spite of all this, I feel like an alien in church, and I feel there is a lack of the Holy Spirit in the church. I hear Him talked about, but so do I hear about the weather talked about. It seems to me that Jesus and God has been relegated to the classroom and the sermon. They are not discussed except at those times.
When a person is obsessed, all they can think about or want to talk about is that which they are obsessed with. It's useless to try and change the subject. How much more so would that be with someone who has had an encounter with the Lord? How much more would those who are filled with the Spirit want to talk about nothing else but their experience, what they've been shown, and to learn what others who have been filled have been taught?
Jesus was a man obsessed. His life was dedicated to fulfilling the Father's purpose here on earth. We are to be as Jesus was, and as we see the Apostles to have been. Instead we, the churches, are more like the disciples after the crucifixion as they hid in an upper room, saying nothing to no one. They certainly were not witnesses to the world. I have no doubt but they did a lot of talking amongst themselves about Jesus, but not a word to those who needed to hear what they had to say. It took the Holy Spirit to cause them to have courage and to obsess as they should have. Once they had their encounter, they shouted their message from the rooftops and spread their light everywhere they went. They no longer had a life of their own. Their own wants and desires to be entertained was left far behind them. Is this the way you feel since your own encounter with the Lord? I suspect it is. And if it is, I suspect you see this lack in those you deal with on a daily or weekly basis who claim to be all the world a Christian in high standing.
There's an expression that states: "God has no grandchildren." Just because our parents were great Christians does not make us a Christian any more than their being college professors make us educated. Each of us has to have our own experience. This I believe is the vacant hole in the churches. They're filled with second generation Christians. The Apostles had their own experience, then just as what occurred in ancient Israel, those who actually experienced God and what He could do, died off and those who had only heard what their parents had experienced played at what they had been taught until it became tiresome to them. Then they drifted away. They continued to play-act what they saw in their parents, and blended it with what they wanted to do, with the world they were supposedly separate from. Today we see this, a church of nice people, playing church, then going home and participating in the world and its attractions. In our time we've witnessed this event as well. Our grandparents went through a period of what was called a "Latter Rain Movement" where miracles were taking place. There were denominations started at that time by those who had participated in this movement. Then came the next generation who had only heard of the experience of their parents and those who began the denominations. There was none of the drive and the obsession in this new crop of "believers," who only knew to imitate what they had seen in the true believers of times past. Each of us has to have our own "Latter Rain" movement in our heart. We can't fall back on what our parents have experienced.
It seems to me that if a church actually was in possession of the Holy Spirit we might expect the sermons to be centered around the activity of the Lord and of how He is working to cause us to be just like Him. I would expect the congregation to speak of nothing else but what the Lord had been doing with them during the past week. Imagine such a church, one in possession of the Holy Spirit, and truly working to fulfill God's purpose. Would it be anything like what we see today?
There has been no encounter, therefore no obsession. And because there has been no obsession, there is no understanding or acceptance of those who have had their close encounter of a Spiritual kind.
Is a person who has gone through all the motions and begun to walk with the Lord (build a tower as Jesus put it), then backslides to becoming the worst of criminals, just as saved as the Apostles (which is the question I put to the class)? The closest to the truth that I heard was a reply from one of the men who said we can't know at this time, we'll have to wait until we get to Heaven (which of course is somewhere way up yonder). But as you can see by what Paul and Jesus is saying here, we can know right here and now, if we accept what we're told.
A little off the subject, but appropriate to the reasoning of this story, one of the men said there is very little written about Heaven so we can't know what it's like until we get there. He was of course voicing the popular opinion. Is it your opinion as well? Jesus gave us parable after parable that was for no other purpose than to make it perfectly clear what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. The first words we see written of Jesus after His baptism is that He preached the Kingdom of Heaven, and it's for this reason He came to us. We see where Jesus, the very last thing He did, was to send the Apostles out in the world to preach the Kingdom of Heaven. We are supposed to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom. Yet no one knows what the Kingdom of Heaven is, because they don't think it's been described to us. We have missed the whole purpose of Jesus coming to earth and have pinned our attention to one thing, that of the cross, and we've distorted that part of His mission, causing it to become a stop sign rather than the booster rocket it was intended to be. Don't you find this to be so? What was Jesus talking about? Because doctrine has blinded people to the point they have no eyes with which to see, and they are taught that Heaven is up in the sky somewhere rather than here, in the Church, and in our heart, these very clear messages are lost to oblivion.
Just in case you're wondering, when I ask people a question like this, I don't use it as a means by which to present what I see as truth. I just accept what they say and thank them for their responses. That was all I was after, both to see what they are thinking, and to get them thinking on something they had been overlooking. If I were to present an argument I would only cause contention and disrupt the class, and I would lose all my influence. I only want to make people think outside their bubble, not to agree with me.]
5And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. 6Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. 7And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? 8And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? 9Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, 10Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, 11Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. 12And they were ALL amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this? 13Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine. (Acts 2:)
This is just the beginning. Guess what verses the pastor used to support his assumption that the girls were saved. If you guessed Romans 8:12 to 14 give yourself a gold star. That's right, he used the very Scripture that speaks against what he was purporting as support for his declaration. This is the blindness we have in the churches, and in the people within the churches. And what else is there to believe? Nothing else is taught.
The lady on the phone was astounded that a pastor could lead someone astray as he had. She didn't understand how he could do such a thing. I explained that it's because it's what he had been taught to believe. When a person is not led by the Spirit, they are led by their own carnal nature, and by those who have been taught by carnal people. It's the way of the world, and the churches.]
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