Archives For House Church

Already In Him

November 23, 2009

This poem – actually, a hymn written by Watchman Nee – was shared at our church gathering the other night. It spoke volumes to me, and I wanted to share it. (I removed the KJV style from it, except where it would have affected the rhyming.)

You have said You are the Vine, Lord,
And that I’m a branch in Thee,
But I do not know the reason
Why I should so barren be.

Bearing fruit is my deep longing,
More Your life to manifest,
To Your throne to bring more glory,
That Your will may be expressed.

But I fail to understand, Lord,
What it means – “abide in me,”
For the more I seek “abiding,”
More I feel I’m not in Thee.

How I feel I’m not abiding;
Though I pray and strongly will,
Yet from me You seem so distant
And my life is barren still.

Yet You are the Vine, You said it.
And I am a branch in Thee;
When I take You as my Savior,
Then this fact is wrought in me.

Now I’m in You and I need not
Seek into Yourself to come,
For I’m joined to You already,
With Your flesh and bones I’m one.

Not to “go in” is the secret,
But that I’m “already in!”
That I ne’er may leave I’d ask You,
Not how I may get within.

I am in, already in You!
What a place to which I’m brought!
There’s no need for prayer or struggling,
God Himself the work has wrought.

Since I’m in, why ask to enter;
O how ignorant I’ve been!
Now with praise and much rejoicing
For Your Word, I dwell therein.

Now in You I rest completely,
With myself I gladly part;
You are life and You are power,
All in all to me Thou art.

One of the things that is so striking about this song, to me, is how honest it is about struggling to feel like God is present. Which is something most Christians struggle with, if they’re honest with themselves.

But the response is so full of truth, yet in all my life it lacked power – I am already in Christ, and He is already in me. I’ve heard this probably a million times, but I’ve never been able to rest in it. God’s presence has always been a pursuit, whether something I was supposed to attain through Bible study and prayer, or by attending (or creating) a stirring worship experience, or by seeking His presence through intimate worship. All of those approaches miss the point. We are in Him. He is in us. There is no work for us to do to attain it. We can simply rest in Him. When we gather, we are giving expression to that reality. What a blessing!

Take care! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired, because then you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. When you give a gift to someone in need, don’t shout about it as the hypocrites do – blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I assure you, they have received all the reward they will ever get. But when you give to someone, don’t tell your left hand what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in secret, and your Father, who knows all secrets, will reward you.

And now about prayer. When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I assure you, that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father secretly. Then your Father, who knows all secrets, will reward you. When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered only by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, because your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him! (Matthew 6:1-8, NLT)

Kind of puts Matthew 25 into a different perspective, doesn’t it? I ask you – how does campaigning for public charity fit with the private, secret approach to charity commanded us in Matthew 6?

So it’s December. And yes, I know I’ve been silent lately. I do plan on finishing my thorough review of Viola’s book. But this post is not about explaining why I haven’t been writing much lately.

Josh Brown asked me to write a guest post on his blog, titled The Consumptive Church: The Model Speaks Volumes. If you follow Josh’s blog at all, you probably know that I comment on his blog frequently. Usually trying to push the conversation here or there. Josh and I are quite opposite politically, but it’s fun and helpful to see where we intersect spiritually. In any case, he did a great job describing our blogging relationship in the introduction.

I won’t repost my whole article here, but here’s an obligitory quote:

Jesus’ approach to ministry, and the realization of the early church, went directly against the norms of the Jewish religion (as well as the similar Roman/Greek pagan religions that were abundant outside of Israel). The church continued to be a counter-cultural movement until Christianity found favor with the Roman government and was subsequently polluted and corrupted by becoming the “official” religion of the state.

But the New Testament is clear. We are called to live simply. This is not so that we can give all of our money to the church so that the church can be extravagant. That basilica/cathedral style of religion is simply the Jewish and pagan systems repackaged with a new name.

Head on over to read the full post. Thanks to Josh for giving me a guest spot. And I’ll be back here with more stuff soon.

Divisions and Wisdom

July 29, 2007

Some of you are saying, “I am a follower of Paul.” Others are saying, “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Peter,” or “I follow only Christ.” Can Christ be divided into pieces? Was I, Paul, crucified for you? Were any of you baptized in the name of Paul?

For Christ didn’t send me to baptize, but to preach the Good News – and not with clever speeches and high-sounding ideas, for fear that the cross of Christ would lose its power. (1 Corinthians 1:12-13, 17)

Even in the early church, people started picking one “leader” over another. Some were trying to align themselves with Paul, Apollos, or Peter. Basically, these were different guys, they had different approaches to ministry, and some people thought one guy had it “right” moreso than the other. Early on, the church was in danger of being divided. So this is Paul’s attempt to prevent what would eventually become our present-day denominations.

Paul goes on:

As the Scriptures say, “I will destroy human wisdom and discard their most brilliant ideas.” So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made them all look foolish and has shown their wisdom to be useless nonsense. Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never find him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save all who believe.

Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes, or powerful, or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God deliberately chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose those who are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important, so that no one can ever boast in the presence of God. (1 Corinthians 1:19-21, 26-29)

The main point in this passage is that Christ “is the one who made us acceptible to God” (v30). But there is another implication here.

Where did the divisions start? The division started because Paul, Apollos, and Peter each had a unique approach to ministry. And though they each pointed people to Christ, they were influential to the point where people were following them instead of Christ.

Paul is indicating here that the wisdom of man is useless to God – meaning that God will use the foolish and the weak to spread His gospel. Yet our modern-day pastors ensure that their leadership skills are top-notch. They utilize the best statistical methods to make sure their worship services are having an “impact” by tracking attendance, monetary giving, or even the number of cars in the parking lot. They employ the best consultants to help them tweak their message and presentation to be friendly to their target demographic. This kind of approach is the exact same thing any modern-day CEO would do. This is the best of human wisdom. If it can grow a profitable company, of course it can grow a church.

But the proof is in the pudding, as they say. Or in the fruit, as Christ said. In his research, George Barna paints a bleak picture that the “churched” population is still lost. This is the result of human wisdom – building large buildings, filling them with a lot of people, but the end result being that you can’t tell them apart from the rest of the world. And on top of that, division between believers is stronger than it ever has been.

Paul seems to paint a different picture. But in order to get there, we have to learn to not rely on human wisdom. Which means a lot less of acting like a CEO would, and a lot more acting as Jesus did when He chose the twelve and told them to train others in a similar fashion.

“Clever speeches and high-sounding ideas.” Doesn’t that sound exactly like what a typical approach to church is today?