On December 14, 2013 I engaged in interactive prayer. I was led to give a blessing: Blessed are you Jehovah our God, Sovereign of the Cosmos, who gives life. The Divine responded:
You are here because I gave you life.
As a believer, to me that seems like a general observational truth, because I believe that life exists because the Divine gives life. But it is what the Divine added that I find intriguing:
Your life is a testimony to my grace of life
For me that is difficult to ascertain, all believers receive grace, so what exactly does that mean? How is my life a testimony?
The only thing that comes to my mind is that I am giving a testimony about how the Divine has become far more directly involved in my life. So consider that the Divine added:
life you have, life you are
Again, that is somewhat difficult to ascertain. I can understand that I have life. I know that “I live and breath” which is far more than “I think therefore I am”. I know that I am not dreaming. I am not caught in some kind of matrix.
I have life, life means I get to participate in the unfolding of my life. In that sense, perhaps that is what is meant that by “life you are” my personal participation in this grand experiment in living. The Divine then added:
Live life my son.
That is an admonition to be engaged in life. That means that I am to abstain from being passive. I can’t simply observe that live occurs. Instead, I am to be active in the events of life and it’s unfolding.
Later in the prayer, the Divine added:
Your task is a simple one, but challenging.
That right there is enough to make me pause. Something can be quite simple, in the sense, that one understands what they are to accomplish. Yet, there is more, the simple task is also challenging.
It’s kind of like knowing that you have to swing the bat to hit the pitch thrown toward the plate. But the challenge is reading the pitch and knowing where the ball will be when it approaches the plate so that you can swing making effective contact with the ball in order to make it to first base, and hopefully, all the way around. Simple concept. Implementation is challenging.
The Divine described the simple yet challenging task:
Manifest the beauty of my love in your family, grow your family into the assembly that represents me, this is the church I want established.
As I look at that task I can’t help but consider many things, the first of which is the enormous dynamics that are involved in marital and familial relationships.
I have observed countless marriages and countless families. I have ministered to the unmarried, to the married, to the widowed, to the divorced. I have spent countless hours studying the Scriptures, including marital and familial relationships. I have my own experiences as grandson, son, brother, husband, father, cousin, uncle, nephew, and disciple.
If there is one thing that is difficult to manifest it is the beauty of God’s love in the family. Simple task really. Can it be done? Sure it can. But that doesn’t make it easy, because God’s love is so much more infinite and dynamic than we as finite creatures have the ability to grasp, understand, or demonstrate.
The other major thing that what the Divine conveyed made me consider was my experience with the church. If the dynamics of manifesting God’s love in the family is challenging, then the challenge is, at least multiplied, if not exponentially increased, with the church.
One of the reasons it is difficult for both marital families and church families to manifest God’s love is for no other reason than the individual. No two individuals, no matter how similar, are the same, not even fraternal twins see the exact thing in the exact same way.
Each person has unique experiences, unique education, unique ambitions, unique skills. This means that it is difficult for two people to read John 3.16 and arrive at the same conclusion about what it means. They can agree that the verse says what it says. But they have difficulty coming to agreement with each other regarding the magnitude of the meaning contained within that verse.
So I am quite aware of the challenges of both marital family and church family. And to make it more challenging, there is always that one individual or one group of people who are not just uncompromising but also ridiculously overbearing by having to have things their way, making it difficult to manifest God’s love.
The task is simple. Implementation is challenging.
Recognizing that, it is intriguing that the Divine added:
your words have power to create and destroy, so create, destroy not.
Even though several members of my immediate family and friends truly cannot understand or cannot abide the direction of my life, some people would find their rejection reprehensible and would subsequently terminate association and then speak deridingly about said family and friends, that is destruction. At a minimum, it is a destruction of their character.
I have several personal reasons why I don’t seek to destroy their character, one of which is in the realm of personal liberty. They have the right to conduct their lives as they see fit, even if it means they choose not to interact with me.
But that is not specifically aligning my self to the Divine’s leading. The Divine conveyed the concept of creating not destroying. So even though I have had intense interactions with my family and friends, my goal is still to create. If nothing else, create an environment where such distinct differences can be discussed.
With that in mind, consider what the Divine added:
This family assembly represents the most basic element of the church for without it the church does not, cannot survive, so serve and serve well.
That is observable truth. Whether persons become a part of the church as an individual or as part of a family, the church cannot survive when those persons walk away from the church or from their faith. As much as the individual and family need faith and the church, the church and faith need the individual and family.
So consider how the Divine continued:
Allow others to establish, debate, and ‘fight’ for ‘church’ ground, you simply do what I am saying.
For me, what I am to “allow” is difficult. So let me focus on the last part first, I am to simply do as the Divine leads. That means that I am to establish my family, manifesting the beauty of God’s love, and grow that into an assembly. What that means is that my efforts are not to worry about the events of the larger church.
That is why the Divine said “allow others to establish, debate, and ‘fight’ for ‘church’ ground”. This does not mean that I am not to engage other believers, no. I am to engage them, discuss matters with them, from God to Bible doctrines and interpretation.
But the Divine has guided me to understand that I am to let others determine the direction of the church at large. That may be because the Divine is guiding them, but perhaps not. In either event, what the church, at large, is doing is not of my concern.
Whether they do things properly or they don’t, it is not my task to address them. My task is to do as the Divine has led me. That is my task, none other, with regard to the church at large.
But there is another part of my task, the Divine added:
Teach, share, instruct, help others find me
always search the Scriptures, in your native tongue, and the languages of my text, learn them more deeply, more passionately, but know that it is I that writes my law, not you.
Important. Simple. Challenging.
Knowing that is true, the following holds a special place for me: Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2.12-13 ESV)
As much as some of the church and some of the Christians bother me with the manner in which they conduct themselves practically, doctrinally, or theologically, it is NOT my task to “police” them. The Divine has led me to a task. I am to do mine. God gives the directions, the leading, and the increase.
Pay particular attention to how the Divine ends that segment. The Divine encouraged me to teach, share, instruct, and help, and to always study. But the Divine claims “it is I that writes my law”.
I cannot overemphasize that. It is well known that ministers, teachers, missionaries, Christians themselves, Jews too but to a lesson extent, take a mantel to go convert the unbeliever to God’s ways, not simply sharing what they had learned, but inscribing onto the heart of the unbeliever the “law of God”. The Divine declares that right belongs to the Divine.
Do we want to know why our efforts of evangelism fail? Do we want to know why our efforts of teaching fail? Do we want to know why people “fall” from the faith?
Here is the answer. It is NOT my job, or anyone else’s job to “write” God’s law on the hearts of people. That job is for the Divine.
That makes my work, my task simple, accomplishable, and doable without heart break of seeing unwilling souls spurn the invitation to have God’s law written upon their hearts.
One of the many things I have learned over the last few years is the importance of 1 Corinthians 3.5-9a. The Apostle Paul was speaking to events and persons directly involved in that moment of time, but the concepts roll forward to today.
Here are those thoughts from the ESV:
What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers.
The church and Christians put so much focus on Matthew 28.19-20 that it seems that little to no focus is given to that passage from Paul. By focusing on the Great Commission to the exclusion of the balance found in the Apostle’s thoughts, as believers, we put this need into ourselves that if we don’t go, the world will die.
We, therefore, put an urgency to the Gospel that seems less urgent in light of Paul’s statement. To state it simply, God is not in a hurry. God does not view time and does not view eternity and does not view judgment the way believers do.
That doesn’t automatically insinuate that believers are wrong. But it does convey that we, as believers, only have part, P A R T, of the picture. We do not know exactly what is happening. That is why we STILL walk by faith.
Sadly, many believers have bought into the urgency of the gospel instead of the concept of being a servant who is a fellow worker with God in his vineyard. The latter is far more peaceable to the servant, and puts the burden where the burden belongs, on God’s shoulders, because it is the Divine that gives the increase.
At my constant prayer for something worth my labor, the Divine revealed the task. I balked. I hesitated. I fought. I considered. Then, I accepted.
The Divine was patient. I am waiting for the increase, as I work in my portion of the vineyard.
Blessings and Shalom