Why Leadings?

Not to lead, but to be led            -- by the Holy Spirit.

See Leader, Servant, or Slave? in the section below, "Walking the Walk".

Jack in Denali National Park, 2012.

God's Wrath

Why was Sodom destroyed? Ezekiel tells us in chapter 16, verse 49: "This was the sin of your sister, Sodom: Pride, full-ness of bread, and abundance of idleness. Neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy."

That's also why Jerusalem was destroyed.

And now, with greed as our national virtue, what hope is there for the United States of America? We are afflicted by imperialistic pride, obesity, and entertainment addiction, and we are all called to do our part to "strengthen the hand of the poor and needy".

"Strengthen the hand" is the King James wording. Modern translations say "help the poor and needy." And there's a world of difference between the two. Helping the poor = as little as throwing some cash in the Salvation Army bucket at Christmas time. That's charity. It's doing for, not doing with.

My Grandmother was right about charity. On a below-zero day, she went out on the back porch with a skillet to throw hot grease on the back-yard snow. She shivered as she re-entered the kitchen and said, "Wooooh, colder than charity."

Strengthening the hand is much different. We get personally involved with another person who needs help, and we work with her or him to get the needed help. That's risky. You're vulnerable. It takes prayer, time and patience. You need knowledge and wisdom from the LORD. There are great rewards, however. You get a brother or sister.

Strengthening the hand is great work for our churches -- which we ignore far more often than we perform. Why? Because we're afflicted with the Ameri-can curse of individualism. Christians are to be a tribe -- a tribe that takes care of each other. In Galatians 6:16, Paul calls us "the Israel of God" -- the new 13th tribe.

Jesus said, "The poor you shall always have with you." He didn't mean that as a curse -- the notion that the poor are an inevi-table nuisance and expense, to be hidden in the slums. Rather, He was saying, "You shall always be among the poor."

When you strengthen hands, you fulfill Deuteronomy 15:4-5: "However, there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the LORD your God . . ." It's a glorious responsibility and promise.

And how do prosperous Americans fulfill that promise? Generally, by making sure they have no contact with people who are poor -- and we have been that way from our beginnings in the 17th century. Early villages in Massachusetts solved the problem by out-lawing poor people. Today, we deal with the same problem by confining the poor in urban reservations, our slums.

As the Supreme Court Bailiff says at the beginning of each session, "God save the United States of America..." 

Tuesday
May132014

BECOMING A MATURE CHRISTIAN

We’re a self-help nation. (Check the Self-Help section in any bookstore.)

Since receiving Jesus on February 19, 1967, I’ve been stuck in self-help, trying to control my cravings—tardiness, lust and others--unsuccessfully. Only in the past month have I truly realized—

Jack, you’re incompetent!

You can’t renovate yourself.

Only Jesus can do that.

“Odyssey of a Spiritual Klutz” is the title of this book. If you thought the title was false modesty, please reconsider. For the past 47 years, I’ve been trying to change my ways. and  I’ve been a sorry failure, still—

“How to become a mature Christian” is the most significant issue we face as Jesus’ followers. Yet, I seldom hear it discussed in our churches. American Christianity tends to focus on “what” questions. All my adult life, I’ve wanted answers to “how” questions.

So, I have been astonished in March and April when the LORD brought together elements in my life that answer the question of how to become a mature Christian. And the answers have come from China and India.

China Source: Watchman Nee

Earlier this year, I found a real treasure at Goodwill—an audiobook of The Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee—an eight CD set in mint condition. (Living Stream Ministry, Anaheim, CA)

Finding this audiobook at Goodwill beat the odds. I’ve seldom seen a Christian audiobook at Goodwill, and none that I wanted to buy. Since then, I’ve listened to Nee’s work while driving around Seattle. I discovered that it indeed answers the question, “How Can I Become a Mature Christian?”

Here’s the irony. I own the book. I read and marked it up in the 1970’s. And I remember very little from the reading. Now I’ll reread it.  The Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee, Christian Literature Crusade, Fort Washington, PA, 1970.

Indian Source: Mahatma Gandhi

My Indian source was Gandhi the Man, by Eknath Easwaran, Nilgiri Press, 1997. It’s a narrative by a fellow Hindu of Gandhi’s transformation. While Gandhi was not a Christian, he was a glorious example of a committed life. As he said, “My life is my message.”

Reading about Gandhi affected me in the same way as reading about St. Francis of Assisi when I was in my 20’s. My source then was The Saints That Moved the World by René Fülöp-Miller, Collier Press, 1945.  Both Gandhi and Francis led truly committed lives.

An American journalist asked Gandhi, “Can you tell me the secret of your life in three words?” “Yes,” chuckled Gandhi, who could never resist a challenge, “Renounce and enjoy!” Francis might have said something similar, but would have given credit to Jesus.

I needed the examples of St. Francis and of Gandhi to show me what a fulfilled life looks like.

The Normal Christian Life

Enough introduction. What has Watchman Nee taught me about Christian maturation? The Normal Christian Life (an ironic title about the extraordinary Christian life or a serious title to say what the Christian life should be) is a commentary on Romans, chapters 6, 7 and 8. Nee observes that the three chapters give us four instructions:

Romans 6:6

“Know this: Our old self was crucified with Him.”

Why? To destroy our sinful bodies and to free us from slavery to sin.

(This makes sense because dead people are freed from sin.)

Nee is telling us: “You were crucified with Jesus. Get that in your head.”

Romans 6:11

The King James says, “Reckon yourselves to be dead unto sin.”

What does that mean? “Count (or consider) yourself dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore, do not let sin reign in your mortal bodies . . . rather offer yourselves to God as those who have returned from death to life.”

So, what is the difference between “knowing and reckoning?” First, we have to be sure that we were there on the cross with Jesus, and He with us. Then, when cravings hit, we can recall-reckon-consider our death—both by crucifixion and drowning, That gives us power, in Jesus’ name, to rebuke the sin and be liberated.

Nee is telling us: “You’re dead to sin. Get that in your guts and in your heart.”

That worked for me this afternoon, I was driving near the north end of Renton Avenue when powerful lust-cravings hit me. So, I yelled aloud, “I was crucified with Jesus. I’m dead to sin. Jesus, bash the head of that craving on a rock.” And the craving vanished.

This is a sample experience of what Paul writes in 6:14, “For sin shall not be your master—for you are not under law, but under grace.”

Right now, my life is becoming so intense that I can’t afford to focus on lust. I don’t want to. Indeed, I want to die with Jesus and be led by the Holy Spirit, which brings us to--

Romans 6:13

Watchman Nee writes, “Present yourselves to God.” Other translations say, “Offer yourselves,” “yield yourselves” or “commit yourselves to God as people alive from the dead, and dedicate your various parts to God as instruments for His righteousness.”

Nee is telling us: “You’ve been a slave to sin. Now commit yourself to being God’s slave.” (The Greek word is doulos which means “slave,” but our P.C. Bibles today usually translate it as “servant.”)

So, we get to real commitment. Of course, when we receive Jesus as our Savior, he inhabits us, but as yo-yo Christians, we keep stifling Him with our sinning. But when we truly yield ourselves to Him, then He can freely act through us. And, we will be amazed by what He does.

For a year and a half, I’ve had Smith Wigglesworth’s Devotional, but many days I’m chicken to read it because the healing miracles that God did through Smith are so amazing that they’re a threat to me. Knowing that I’m a wretched sinner has made me sure that I couldn’t ever carry out ministry like that for Jesus.

But Gandhi encouraged me greatly on commitment, and I now commit myself totally, soul and body, to Jesus as my Savior and LORD. Yes, Jesus, I want Your will done in my life. Praise You, Jesus. Thank You.

So now, as it says in Luke 9:62, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

Romans 8:14  (And Romans 8, generally)

Nee writes, “Walk in the Spirit.”

Can you walk in the Spirit if you have not yet been baptized in the Holy Spirit? Yes, you received the Holy Spirit in baptism, but it helps if you experience the overflow of the Spirit as well. And note, it’s a sure thing. If you ask for the Holy Spirit, you receive the Holy Spirit. See Luke 11:9-13.

Does the baptism in the Holy Spirit make you a mature Christian? Nope. Baptism in the Holy Spirit furnishes you with a tool kit for building up the body of Christ. Baptism in the Spirit and Christian maturity are independent, but complementary variables. Seek both.

I have written in Chapter 4 about my experience of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. If you want thorough, sensible, excellent works on the baptism in the Holy Spirit, I recommend—

Face Up with a Miracle by Don Basham, 1974

Nine O’Clock in the Morning, by Dennis Bennett, Christian Renewal Association, Edmonds,  WA, 1970.

Saint Francis and Walking in the Spirit

Now, about walking in the Spirit. It’s a daily thing. On his deathbed, Francis of Assisi encouraged his followers, “Come. Let us begin to be Christians.” If Francis saw life as a daily struggle into joy, shouldn’t we?

At a minimum, walking in the Spirit means turning over our decisions to Jesus for guidance by the Holy Spirit. Does He give me verbal answers. Very, very seldom. Usually He gives me a nudge, and I realize what He wants. And usually it’s not what I want. His nudges usually send me into acts of agape love—where I have to put another’s needs ahead of my own, where I have to take risks, where I’m vulnerable.

A Simple Example: It’s clear when I’m in my flesh and also clear when I’m walking in the Spirit. If I’m in the flesh, I arrive late. If I’m in the Spirit, I am loving others, and I arrive early.

Life and Peace Are in the Spirit

However, walking in the Spirit involves much more than decisions. St. Paul tells us straight-out—“Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.”  Romans 8:5 and 6.

Or, put it another way: Unless we’re walking in the Spirit, we’re in the flesh, in our sinful selves.

Romans 14:23. “. . . everything that does not come from faith is sin.”

So, when I listen to National Public Radio as I drive, I can get some good learning, but it can also obliterate thoughts of Jesus for an hour. I didn’t ask Him if that’s what He wanted me to do. I did it for the distraction. Like other addictive behavior, it gratified my longings, and it took me off the planet for an hour. While NPR helped me focus on driving, it also left me spiritually numb.

The solution? “Fix your thought on Jesus.” Hebrews 3:1.

Five Seriously Heavy Guides to Joy

Here are five books—seriously heavy teachings—that show the way:

The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence, 1666

Letters from a Modern Mystic by Frank Laubach, 1932

     Both books are found under one title, Practicing His Presence, Christian Books, Auburn, ME, 1973.

The Way of a Pilgrim and The Pilgrim Continues His Way, Image Books, NY, 1992.

And on the recommendation of the Pilgrim—The Philokalia, a collection of teachings on prayer by saints of the Eastern Orthodox Church. On a whim, I checked the Philokalia in my Kindle bookstore and was astonished to find seventeen entries. Rather than buying the full text, I’m buying excerpts with commentary.

Some Klutzo

Tom Muccio, one of my teachers said, “I don’t much care where you are on your walk with Jesus, but I do care which direction you’re going.”

Am I a mature Christian? No way. Not yet. But I’m on the Way. Are you?

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You can check back in Chapter 1, “Finding Jesus.” I wrote about my experience in 1967 as a new-born believer:

"When temptation hits, if I turn to Jesus and send up a quick prayer—'Jesus, help!'—the power of the temptation will be broken for a moment.

       If I choose to stay with Jesus, I can. 

             If I choose to go with temptation, I can.

                  Jesus can rescue me, but He will also let me decide."

Forty-seven years ago, the Holy Spirit taught me all I needed to know, but it took me forty-seven years to work it out and actually try to follow Jesus. I'm some klutzo.

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Purpose of this blog is to compile books for my grandchildren to read in 25 years.

Copyright © 2014 by Jack Towe

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