Bert Amsing I like this saying…very true….the problem is that most love, most of the time is not deep enough or strong enough or doesn’t last long enough….only the love of God can give us the strength to love always, to love anyway and to love our enemies…..only the love of God can overcome all circumstances, even sickness and death….the joy (and love) of God is my strength…..just saying. The Desert Warrior
TJ Sorry I disagree. I have seen the deepest and most compassionate love come from people of all and different faiths and people of no faith whatsoever. I have seen the most vile, evil cruelty and hate come from deeply reliigious people Christian, Hindu, Muslim, etc. Decency and compassion requires ethics and morals NOT religion. If it is done in the name of religion good for that person, but it is not a requirement.
Bert Amsing Interesting thought Tammy….however…..I never mentioned religion…..I was talking about God…not people….your point proves my point…..people (by themselves) are often vile, evil and cruel as you say…..some people (religious or not) are full of love…..good point….what makes the difference? Why are some people full of love and others full of hate…regardless of religion….is it simply a decision? You know better than that…..your original quote says it all….when we are loved, we are able to love…..the human condition is screwed up because there isnt enough love, for long enough, to everyone (regardless of whether they hate you or not…which is usually the definition for being an enemy)…..it’s called Attachment Theory and basically it says that if you did not receive love, it is difficult to express love…..true….but where does decision come in…..do you, Tammy, love the religious vile, evil, cruel haters out there? Is your love strong enough, deep enough to overcome the hate, the cruelty of the world? That is the question of the ages….all philosophers from all religions will tell you that love is the answer….but that isn/t the question….obviously, love is the answer….the question is why is our love (even the love of the good guys who received love as children) why is our love not deep enough or strong enough to give us the courage to love the haters, the vile, the cruel even while they continue to be hateful, vile and cruel….the Bible says that God loved us even while we were still his enemies….he loved the prostitutes, the sinners, the tax collectors, the outcast, the sick…..his only requirement was humility….the recognition of our need for his love….when we recognize our desperate need for God…
TJ God is not needed. If a person feels a need for a God then all the power to them. To insist that a God is needed is naive and abusive. You have a right to believe as you wish. You do not have any right to force your beliefs on anyone else. Religion/God is like a penis. You can be proud of it, but if you start waving it up in my face we are going to have a problem.
Bert Amsing Wow, that is agressive….someone must have really hurt you….I am sorry…..I am neither naive nor abusive and I am not forcing my beliefs on anyone…just sharing some thoughts on facebook….but, to be truthful, I am not feeling that deep, strong love that you say you have for those who disagree with you….and I don-t blame you…..not easy to love those you disagree with….which is why there are fights, terrorism, hate, spite, vile, cruel people in the world…they don’t think that they are cruel….they simply disagree with your way of looking at the world and often feel threatened….so they lash out at you because of a lack of commitment to the way of love….are you doing the same to me? Sorry to be so blunt….but you are proving the point….if you don’t want God/s help to love others or you have decided only to love those that agree with you or that you happen to like….then, certainly, your love is good enough for your purposes in your little world, but in the real world it needs a tougher, stronger source….love must become a virtue before it can become a solution….as a virtue it must be for everyone, always….who is up to that task on their own….once again, my apologies….I did not mean to offend. The Desert Warrior.
TJ Yeah, that is a very typical response from someone that likes to shove their religion at people who are in no way interested. Sort of like the JWs and Mormons that go knocking on the doors of strangers trying to get their God points to get into heaven. I do not believe in religion, or as you say God, because it is not necessary, not logical, and completely made up. You are totally free to believe as you wish and keep it to yourself and on your page. What you are doing is spamming.
Bert Amsing I don’t agree…but accept my apologies if I have offended you…..I don’t need God points just like I don’t need wife points….she loves me….he loves me….and it does give me strength and courage to love others. Thanks for listening…..Bert
CK Bert I’m glad you apologised-thank you. Saying that someone who is simply asserting that love doesn’t need a deity, relic, talisman, superficiality to exist doesn’t mean that she’s been hurt by someone, she’s not broken, or any less of a human than you or I. Disagreeing with you shouldn’t make you feel less loved (this by the way is passive aggressive behaviour that you are demonstrating). It doesn’t make Tammy deficient in any way or a victim to have her own beliefs and be solid in them – yes she’s direct and bold and it’s refreshing.
Bert Amsing hello Carmen, welcome to the discussion….let me also apologize to you if you thought that I was saying in any way that tammy was broken….or less of a wonderful person for her beliefs….but, let’s be honest here….it wasn’t her beliefs that I was referring to….but rather the aggressive nature of her comments….normally people don’t show such strong emotion about a topic without having an emotional history behind it….in addition, my apology is directed to the emotional situation not the intellectual one….your comments seem to be less emotional and you, apparently, agree with her intellectual position….good for you…..but I disagree….intellectually…..I hope that is alright…..athiesm is not taking over….in fact, it is back on its heals and having a hard time recovering from the onslaught of overwhelming evidence that evolutionary theory is just that….a theory…and that the Big Bang theory strongly suggests an intelligent, purposeful design of the universe….many atheists in the past 30 years have either become Christians or agnostics….check out my blogs at www.desertwarrior.net for more information. Sorry, but your position is about a generation too late….I like your last statement…science is the way forward….true for things like poverty, health care and the like…but for some strange reason….human nature seems to stay the same…greater technology seems to bring greater evil….love is always a choice but few people seem to take the road less traveled and love not just their neighbor but also their enemies….that’s the truth…..not a judgement…..everybody knows it….love is the answer but somehow we humans dont have enough of it to go around….or do you really think we do….not that we COULD but that we DO….not POTENTIAL…..ACTUAL LOVE….for those who hate your guts….what is your solution to that problem?…..would love to know. The Desert Warrior
Bert Amsing Why do you bring up the man/woman thing? Frankly, I am confused…..why is this not simply a disagreement of beliefs about the existence of God and his role in inspiring humans to greater efforts at love? You make it about a lot of other things…..I appreciate your position that it is assertiveness and not aggressive….I don’t agree but that is all right…..no problem…..thank you for a wonderful discussion. I truly hope that you experience the deep strong love that will give you the courage to give that same love to others, whether they deserve it or not, whether they love you back or not…at the end of the day….real love in the real world is what matters….if you think we can do it on our own, please be the first to demonstrate that truth in your own life….deeply love your enemies….and you will inspire me and others to do the same…..thank you for your committment to the greatest power on earth….the power of love as a virtue, for everyone, at all times, no matter who they are or whether they even deserve it….who of us, do? The Desert Warrior www.desertwarrior.net*****Here are a few things that I would have liked to say…..First of all, if someone posts something on my facebook, I assume that they are interested in a conversation. I certainly don’t mean to offend…..Secondly, last time I checked, Lao Tzu is not a Christian and yet he is the one we are discussing…..interesting. I truly like his reflection on love….the two key words are “strength” and “courage”. Love can give you strength because it meets your needs, it gives you security which frees you up from worrying or even thinking about yourself and your needs and allows you to love…..but love can still be risky….that’s why I like the second part as well….that love can give you courage…..the motivation to risk in the face of fear….nicely put….I think we all know that his comment is true…and many of us have experienced in some degree that kind of love from our family, friends and lover. My point was not that we don’t experience that love or that we are not capable of that love to some degree….my point is that we don’t love ENOUGH….enough to love our enemies….enough to love when we are not loved in return…..yes, it takes courage…..but the truth is that neither, I, nor anyone else, loves ENOUGH, neither deeply nor strongly nor long enough….Third, maybe….just maybe….God isn’t really happy with religious people who are cruel and vile and hurtful either……maybe God is as angry and upset and sick to his stomach with our lack of love for one another. I think that he has a special place in store for those who, on top of it, try to hide in his church, under his protection, while continuing to practice their evil….that kind of arrogance is sickening. I agree. Not that those people can’t be saved from themselves and the consequences of their evil….they can….if their arrogance becomes shame and humility and if that shame is nailed to the cross of Christ and transformed into love for God and others…..or do you know of another way to find the courage to forgive someone for being a pedofile or abusing your children or stealing your life’s savings……that kind of love isn’t possible without forgiveness and forgiveness isn’t possible for the evils of this world unless it has a strong foundation in justice as well as love…..throughout the history of the world, the cross has been the only force strong enough to act as the foundation for forgiveness…and therefore, love….Fourth, maybe….just maybe….if God is real…if He is there…if He is listening (or rather reading) this conversation….then maybe He considers it also arrogant for us to think that we have enough love to deal with the problems of this world without His help…..if we do, then why don’t we….our arrogance condemns us….And finally, a thought on the whole human condition as we live out our lives in the presence of the God who is there….“There is no greater embarassment in heaven or on earththan the arrogance of those who ought to be ashamed of themselves.Sadly, that applies to all of us.” The Desert WarriorWe like to think that we can handle things without God, that we can love enough without God, that we can be good enough without God……if so, then why is this world and our individual lives so full of hatred, cruelty and pettiness (not to talk about the real, daily terrorism that we inflict on each other). I have never found a single philosopher, thinker or religious leader that can explain how to get humans to love each other rather than hate each other. That’s the truth. The virtue of love is a rare bird….Of course, if God doesn’t exist….no problem….don’t worry about it….the little bits of love that we do manage to generate for our families, friends and loved ones…..is the best we have….in the face of the great evils that plague this world…..poverty, discrimination, religious bigots, pedofiles, crime, abuse, and the like…..frankly, that depresses me beyond words…..I no longer believe in the fantasy of my own goodness or the power of my own love to solve my own problems much less anyone else’s….Is my love enough? No. Only the love of God can save me and change me….“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son..” John 3:16That’s still the good news as far as I am concerned…..The Desert WarriorCopyright © 2013 by vanKregten Publishers. All rights reserved.
The darkness was so complete that I didn’t dare move.
“Who’s that?” A voice came out of the darkness. “Here, over here. Where are you? Who are you?”
“John, my name is John.” A tentative step, then another in the direction of the voice. “What’s your name?” I said. “Where are we? What’s going on?”
“Hey, I don’t know. I just got here. My name is Charles.” Reaching out, groping, finally touching with arms outstretched.
“There you are. Be careful,” Charles said. “I have no idea what’s underneath us, so watch where you step.”
“Well, ok. I think I have you. Let me grab your sweater. You can grab my coat.”
“Ok, I got you,” Charles said. “So, what’s going on?”
“I have no idea.” I turned toward his voice. “You sound familiar, though. Do I know you?”
“Don’t think so.” He seemed to hesitate. “Where are we, anyway? Any ideas?”
“Well, all I can remember is…..” I stopped. A jumble of memories collided in my mind like a train wreck.
“Well, I was driving home from work. The roads were icy. I can’t remember anything else.” Something was nagging at me, a persistent thought that, for some reason, I wasn’t too eager to pursue.
“Yeah,” Charles said. “I seem to remember icy roads too. And it was dark and some jerk had his brights on and I couldn’t see a damn thing.”
“Maybe we’re in the hospital,” I said. “Maybe we had an accident and we’re in a coma or something.” That couldn’t be right. I felt around my face for bandages. Nothing.
“That’s a load of crap,” Charles said. “We aren’t in a hospital. I don’t feel a thing. No pain, nothing. What about you?”
“I still have the same clothes on,” Charles said. “You know, from when I was driving. I put my coat in the back seat like I always do.”
“Well, I’m not cold so we can’t be outside,” I said.
“No pain. Same clothes. Think maybe we’re hallucinating or something?”
“How would I know?” Charles said. “I ain’t no shrink.”
“I think you were right about the accident thing.” I didn’t like saying it out loud, but it was the only logical explanation.
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Charles Benton. Neighbor. by Bert A. Amsing. Used with permission.
Excerpt from Jesus was an Alien (and Other Stories of Faith) by Bert A. Amsing
Copyright © 2012 by vanKregten Publishers. All rights reserved.
She had been playing with the new neighbor kids and she looked upset and frustrated as only an eight year old can. “They can’t go to hell,” she said. “I’m going to tell them about Jesus.” And with that she grabbed her NIV Discoverer’s Bible and put it under her arm and marched out.
Vero, my wife, turned to Melanie, our eleven year old, and said, “Do you think she realizes that her Bible is in English?” We live in Argentina and the neighbors, of course, speak Spanish.
When I heard about it the next day, I was full of curiosity. “What happened?” I asked my wife but she didn’t know. Maybe twenty minutes later she saw Michelle playing in the pool with the neighbor kids as if nothing had happened.
I would have given my right arm to be a fly on the wall when she walked into the neighbor’s house to tell them about Jesus. Was she going to talk to the kids or to the parents? I didn’t know but I bet God was wearing one of his biggest smiles that day.
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The Eight Year Old Evangelist by Bert A. Amsing. Used with permission.
Excerpt from Jesus was an Alien (and Other Stories of Faith) by Bert A. Amsing
Copyright © 2012 by vanKregten Publishers. All rights reserved.
I remember the day when I decided to write the story, The Eight Year Old Evangelist. Obviously, the story is about my daughter, Michelle, who was eight years old and had more evangelistic zeal than our entire church put together.
We were living at Villa Los Pinos in Tigre, Buenos Aires. Now, that sounds better than it was. It was a beautiful property for sure. Two thousand five hundred square meters of back yard, fifty four pine trees and fruit trees (yes, the girls counted them, every one), and grass everywhere. A bear to take care of but a real pleasure nonetheless. The swimming pool was falling apart but useable, but the house (and apartment) were almost unliveable when we first arrived. Still, it was a real pleasure to live there. It was a gift of God in a difficult time. Low rent, no downpayment, but, boy, did it need a lot of TLC. We painted, cleaned, fixed, scrubbed, and looked the other way until it was liveable….. and we were grateful.
We had visions of Villa Los Pinos becoming a spiritual retreat centre and headquaters (as well as a home) for our ministry. So far, that hasn´t come to pass and we no longer live there. But that´s another story.
Part of the deal for moving into the house was that we had to move out again a few months later (in December of that same year) since they had already rented it out for one month during the summer. There was a small one-bedroom apartment (also a disaster) that we fixed up. We stored our furniture and lived on the basics for a month in the summer while the other family enjoyed the back yard, the pool and the house. Still, it was a blessing.
Michelle had gotten to know the kids and she was invited to play with them and use the pool when they were home and generally have a good time. I wasn´t there when she stormed into our small apartment and said to my wife that the kids she was playing with were not Christians and that she would take her Bible and go over there and tell them about Jesus. Absolutely precious.
Of course, we were curious about what would happen…..
But it got me to thinking about our church. We were going to an English speaking expatriate church in Buenos Aires. Everyone who knows us and lives in Buenos Aires knows who we are talking about. That´s an issue. They say that you aren´t supposed to write about real people and events. That you can get sued. But our God is a God of reality and ministry is about dealing with reality. So I wrote the story, told the truth, but changed the names (and sometimes the gender) of the people involved so that it would be a general rather than a specific story.
Still, I don´t think anyone over there even cares. We don´t go to church there any more. We go to the OTHER English-speaking expatriate church in the North Zone of Buenos Aires. Everyone knows who they are too.
What do I mean, they don´t even care? That is the sad thing. They would probably agree with everything the story says, maybe add a few details for clarification, but not be ashamed of any of it. The capacity of the human heart (including mine) to decieve itself is so great, it scares me.
The church building and grounds are beautiful. The gardens and trees are a real treat. The people are nice and friendly, but the church is as dead as a doornail. No, that is not a judgment on individual people. Many of them continue to be our friends. It is discernment. I believe that the difference between judgment and discernment is involvement and we were very involved. I supported the pastor, my wife worked in the church as the Director of the preschool. I preached. We sang, cleaned, fixed, helped. We came early and stayed late. We did whatever was necessary.
We were identified with the poor and homeless that came to the church because we ministered to them, gave them money, clothes, shoes and lots of acceptance and love, and we got into trouble for it. And they were a pain. Some of them were real characters. Scotty, Charles, Julio. They ate more than their share of facturas and tea (with lots of sugar) after the morning service. They smelled and they interrupted the worship service. They asked for money. They cried. They laughed. They sang (mostly out of tune). They invited more of their friends off the street, because they knew that there was a friendly word, a helping hand, sometimes a few pesos or at least a bit of food that could be had on a Sunday morning.
We were a thorn in the flesh to the flesh of the church. It´s not a role we wanted or looked for, but it seemed to happen by itself. We were gentle (we thought), but we wouldn´t back up on the basics of the faith, like the cross, like feeding the poor and standing up for the powerless (even if they smell). But nobody promised that we wouldn´t get into trouble for it. Sometimes we have this idea that everything will have a Hollywood ending in this life (though it certainly will in the life to come). But, often, you get into trouble (even with the church) when you try to follow God (however imperfectly).
So, there you have it. The Eight Year Old Evangelist is a true story, a sad story, a story of the shame of the gospel (or not).
Frankly, we have found that many of the poor and homeless (like Scotty and Charles) do more evangelism on a weekly basis than the entire church on a yearly basis.
What does that say about us? Yes, we are ashamed of the gospel. We don´t need it desperately enough. We still rely on our own resources and power and we have not yet been destroyed. Our true flesh and arrogance and pride has not yet been revealed to us. We haven´t yet understood that we are all homeless, we are all losers, we are all addicted to sin, pride and ego. We are all in desperate need of the good news. It is that humility, that awareness of our own need for grace, and the thankfulness that God has given us that grace in Jesus Christ, that is the foundation of the ministry of the church and our spiritual walk with God.
Jesus made the standard of obedience to him how we deal with the poor, the needy, the least, the last, the lost (yes, the LOSER). There is no question about it. The Bible is abundantly clear on this issue.
Perhaps he did so because only in that context would our humility or our pride be shown for what it is. The things we learn about ourselves and our faith in God are revealed in how we deal with those around us who smell and are inconveniences and different and a bother. Forget about our enemies (yes, that too), it is how we deal with our brothers and sisters in Christ (especially the lowly ones) that is the litmus test of our faith.
Yes, the sad thing is that they don´t care. If they would be upset about the story, if they would protest their innocence, if they would claim it wasn´t so, that would be good news. It would indicate that there is some awareness of God´s standard of obedience in dealing with the poor and that they don´t want to fall short of it. Then you can talk, you can discuss, you can even argue, about how, and when and where and what happened, and “you don´t understand, and what I was trying to say or trying to do was”…..that conversation would be wonderful. I have no problem disagreeing with someone who is zealous for the things of God. That would be a welcome discussion, a necessary process, like iron sharpening iron.
What I have a problem with, is people who simply don´t care.
So they got rid of us. Had an official meeting. Came up with some bogus reasons, some half-baked accusations, some misunderstandings. Yes, there were other things going on about evangelism, pluralism and preaching the cross of Christ but that is in the story itself and I don´t want to give it all away here. Suffice it to say, that it was more of the same. And the process was a disaster. No conversation, no heart-to-heart. Just……go away. So we went. Who are we to defy the leadership of the church? We never intended to do anything wrong. So, we left.
After two years in the new church, we are leaving again. Lord, how heavy my heart is. It must be me. It must be my flesh, my zeal, my lack of gentleness, my pride, my ego, my sin. Forgive me for my blindness. Restore to us the joy of our salvation and the favor of a fellowship dedicated to you.
Yes, we have left. We were kicked out, again. Basically, for the same reasons. The poor seem to follow us around. We have been identified with them. The leadership comes to us to complain about them or to ask us to deal with them for some imagined (or real) slight or embarrasment. Thank you, Lord, for that priviledge.
But when they publicly kick someone out because he asks for money (wouldn´t you if you were broke?) and they threaten to call the police if he comes back and he only wants to meet with me on the street because he is afraid to come into the house of God…..we are talking here about a Christian brother who is a street evangelist…..and he cries on my shoulder …..a grown man….not able to handle, on top of everything else life has thrown at him, the rejection of the church, his own brothers and sisters in the Lord…..where else can he go? He is alone, rejected, worthless…..noone sees his true self in Christ……my family surronding us and laying hands on him as he weeps…..yes, even my children and my eight year old (now ten year old) evangelist……and praying on a street corner near the church because there was no room, no place, no acceptance for him in the fellowship of believers……..then there comes a time when a public rebuke is necessary and the church as a whole needs to know what is going on and decide what kind of church it is going to be.
Well, that kind of thinking will get anyone in trouble.
Perhaps the point is, that following God is not an easy task. There is no guarantee that even the church will not reject you, or throw you out. The status quo is precious to people even though God has condemned the status quo as a deception of the Devil. God wants us to grow in obedience and spiritual maturity. Spiritual growth and the status quo are not compatible. At least, not in this world, with the power of the flesh, the world and the Devil against us…..not when sin is automatic and the spirit takes dedicated effort…..not if you want to be useful to God and get your hands dirty and make a difference in the lives of real people in the power of the Holy Spirit as you share the good news of the power of God in the hearts of man through the cross of Christ.
Of course, that assumes that you actually want all this……but why bother? It´s not very comfortable. It´s rather inconvenient. Takes up a lot of time. It´s a lot of work and requires a lot of sacrifice…….
This time new accusations are made. I am spiritually immature (of course, aren´t you?). I lack self-control (I keep asking for forgiveness for my sins, so obviously I don´t have any victory over sin in my life…..or is the victory in the confession and repentance of the sin in the first place?). But, even worse……I am machavillean (with evil intentions) and “the Bible warned us that people like you would arise in the church.” (I am now either a wolf in sheeps clothing or the anti-christ). Lord, please forgive them. And show me where I am out of your will and how to conduct myself so that you are pleased with me. Do I really give them that impression? I always say that their list of accusations is shorter than my own list against myself and both of ours are nothing to the list of accusations that the Devil brings against us. Thank God that all of the accusations are covered by the blood of Christ. We do not deal in justice but in grace and that grace was bought with the blood of Christ because of the justice of God.
The problem is that kicking Scotty out of church was a line that I could not cross. Sure, there are lots of things that I might disagree with the elders on. Of course. I have opinions but I can write about them here, in my blog, and get them off my chest. But how do I condone kicking the poor out of the church? How can I be in agreement with the corporate sin of the fellowship? How can we have the anointing of God on our ministry, if we don´t minister to the poor (and everyone else)? I just couldn´t find a way to continue working on Desert Warrior Ministries, much less be a part of the fellowship in the church, if I just let this go.
Sure, I could have handled it better. I apologized for that later (again with the confessions of sins, how weak I must be). I find that there is some flesh in everything that I do, so I end up confessing whatever the Lord makes me aware of…..but, the truth is, I could not let this pass. I brought Scotty into the church after the service (he was waiting outside and scared to come in) and found the elder talking to a bunch of people, gentle and friendly, shaking everyone´s hand, a great preacher of the Word actually, and a genuinely good man. Someone that I like and respect as a community and even a church leader. I harbored the hope that it was all a big misunderstanding.
I brought Scotty to him and told him that Scotty was under the impression that he was not welcome in the church and that he, the elder, had threatened to call the police if Scotty showed up again. He said that it was true and glared at Scotty as if to say “what are you doing here”….perhaps that is where my flesh got the upper hand in my own heart. It was the arrogance of the leader, the bold faced assertion that he had the right to kick someone out of the church on his own authority if he wanted (without even consulting the rest of the elders, who ended up agreeing with him anyway after the fact). He claimed that Scotty had lied to him about coming from Canada (Scotty´s english wasn´t that good), but who cares? I don´t know if it´s true or not. Even the elder didn´t know, really, if it was true or not. He suspected that Scotty lied to him. So what? Are we kicking all liars out of church now? Then I have to go and the leader has to go, in fact, all of us have to go…..what was this? And it got worse from there. People had gathered around and I raised my voice and made it clear that this was not of God.
He wasn´t so much embarassed as angry that I was challenging his authority. What authority? Last time I checked, no one had the authority to do anything in the church that Jesus would not do. I can´t see Jesus kicking Scotty out and calling the police. In fact, Jesus said, “Whatever you do to the least of these my brothers, you do it unto me.”
Of course, we already had a history of discussions in private and with the elder board about my involvement in the church. This wasn´t the first time that they have accused me of doing something wrong. He didn´t like how I prayed in a prayer meeting. How I cried and was upset in a Men´s Bible Study because we pretended that everything was all right in the church when no one is ever saved and lives are not transformed. How I rebuked this same leader in a more private setting for suggesting that Charles was a danger to the church and could not come to a congregational meeting when we talked about money as if he was a gangster or would hold up the meeting with a gun or something. Who knows? We just don´t want him there, was the position taken. I had just prayed with him for safety on the streets because he had been threatened in the group home he was living in at nights……he leaves his extra meager possessions in my house, a few shirts and pants and a coat so they don´t get stolen……In any event, now I am an evil man. Apparently, in their eyes, I have no respect for the church elders and their spiritual authority, my goal is to destroy the church and I have evil, machivillean intentions towards the leadership……Lord, how did this all go so wrong? Yes, my flesh got the better of me. Yes, there was probably a better way to handle it…..but since when do we throw people out of the church and then throw other people out of church for standing up to defend them?
Now, a few months later, there is a new pastor in the church. My wife refuses to give up on the church even though she is in full agreement with what I did (minus the flesh parts). She is a true spiritual warrior. She believes, as I do, that God can use this situation to teach the church (and us) the value of spiritual unity on the basis of confession, repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation. Not just sweep it under the rug. Not just let time heal the wounds. Not just let sleeping dogs lie. No. God confronts sin and pride and ego and demands confession and repentance. God confronts pride, we negotiate, compromise, even ignore it. After all, it is the most difficult thing to do, take the journey from pride to humility. You can´t make anyone do it. It is always a miracle of the grace of God.
For us, it is impossible to imagine that these leaders would ever confess their sin in this matter. But what is impossible with man is possible with God. Now there is a new elder and a new pastor and they want to talk. My wife will meet with them first (at their request). Will the miracle of the grace of God prevail? or will this just be more political maneuvering? Psalm 133 tells us that the blessing of God rests upon those who are in unity with each other. We know that spiritual unity is based on confession, repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation. It is not the unity of compromise but the unity of obedience and loyalty to the same Master.
I don´t know the end of the story yet.
The Eight Year Old Evangelist continues to inspire me. It has led me to the story of Scotty (which I have yet to write) and perhaps the story of the triumph of God´s grace in our church fellowship and a renewed commitment to the priorities of God and the centrality, necessity and value of the cross. It may lead us to a growing, changing, developing ministry rather than the status quo. And that would please you immensely, Lord, I know. We want to be useful to you, Lord, in building your Kingdom and revealing your glory.
One of those same elders, an older man, who has been a Pastor for the Spanish service for many years, asked me once, why the church doesn´t grow. I told him what I honestly thought.
We, as a church and especially the leaders, do not seek the anointing of God with all of our hearts. If we did, we would crucify our pride and confess our sins one to another, help each other to repent, forgive one another in Christ and treat each other as we are in Christ not as we are in the flesh, which brings true reconciliation and spiritual unity. On that basis, in humility and spiritual power, we can minister in the anointing power of God to everyone who comes to us without shame or discrimination.
We lack the power of transforming lives because our life is not transformed. Frankly, that is always the answer and the solution. (I found out later that he was offended by my answer and that, too, became another reason why I was asked to leave.)
Lord, will they even care that I write these “truths” about them. They can hardly deny that this is what happened but, hopefully, your Holy Spirit will stir up some anger, some concern, some sort of explanation or justification why this interpretation of the facts is not so. Hopefully, they will care enough to fight back and then, perhaps, your new servant, the new pastor, can say something, do something (bathed in prayer and dependence on you) that will help the scales to fall from their eyes, so that they can see and repent and be restored. And then there can be reconciliation in the church. That is always the way that division in the church must be handled. Anything else is fake and powerless.
Lord, I pray for them with all my heart. It doesn´t matter whether or not we go back to church there (although we would like to if it is in the context of true spiritual unity). Lord, I pray for them because they are your children, they truly have good intentions, they are good people. They simply haven´t learned the power of the flesh to keep you in ignorance, blindness and willfulness. Lord, help them to learn that they can be good people, love you and have good intentions and still mess up big time and be blind to it, even (especially) as elders. After all, there is a spiritual war going on. Things are not what they seem and each of us, especially the leaders, has a crucial role to play.
Lord, help them to see that there is spiritual warfare going on all the time and that the heart and soul of our church fellowship is at stake. Lord, help them to understand that our own hearts are our biggest enemy and that we need the fellowship of believers to help us uncover our blind spots as we are empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Being an elder isn´t about getting it right all the time. It´s about having the humility to go to the cross immediately when you become aware of your flesh and sin. That humility before the cross of Christ in the hearts of men and women, so rare and difficult to obtain, is the glory of God and the reason why nothing of importance can happen without prayer.
And you will reveal that glory in us, both as individuals and a church, both now and before your throne. That glory, the power of the cross in the hearts of men, is why the world continues on. It is the great adventure. It is the goal and purpose of creation. That ministry of reconciliation is the power of God for salvation and sanctification and it will empower our church to minister to the Spanish and English communities throughout the region. I know that is your will, Lord. Make us useful to you in your great rescue effort for the hearts of our families and friends and community.
Lord, we so desperately need your power and presence in our lives. Fill us with the certainty that we have your anointing because we dedicate ourselves to spiritual unity rooted in the cross. This ministry of reconcililation is the heart of what the church is and does. It is difficult to see our pride much less crucify it (me too). We need each other to help search out and destroy our blind spots and to keep each other accountable in humility and thankfulness, to help each other to stay at the foot of the cross in that sweet spot of grace. We need to keep our discipleship rooted in the humility of our own need for grace.
That is what I leaned from my Eight Year Old Evangelist. The simplicity of the truth, the humility of love and the natural result of evangelism and discipleship as expressions of the ministry of reconciliation. I truly wish we were all eight years old.
“I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” – Jesus (Matthew 18:3 NIV).
The Desert Warrior
An Adventure of Grace – Our Crowdfunding Journey by Bert A. Amsing
Copyright © 2012 by van Kregten Publishers. All rights reserved.
I remember when the inspiration for this short story came to me. Like usual, I was talking to Vero about something that Paul said in the book of Romans. He said that he was willing to go to hell for the sake of the Jews. Of course, God would never ask him to do that since Jesus already did it and he is the only stumbling block that will be allowed. Still, Paul says in another place, we participate in the sufferings of Christ, even if it has no redemptive value for mankind. So why suffer? In what ways do we suffer with Christ? He suffered the sins of mankind, became weak in order to give us strength. He was willing to suffer pain, mockery, and death for the sake of saving us. Am I willing to do the same?
That´s when I started thinking about a purgatory type experience in which you would have an opportunity to talk with Jesus about your neighbor with your neighbor present. From there…..
The interesting thing about this story is that, at the time, I didn´t really have any neighbors like that. But I did soon after. We moved into a duplex near the Christian school a few months later and the neighbor there was rude, obnoxios, invasive and difficult. He thought that he had rights to enter our house and make decisions regarding how we took care of the outside of the building because he was the original builder. Apparently, he had drafted up a special agreement when he sold the place to the current owner. We were the renters. She was a shy, timid sort, scared of everything and quite intimidated by him. But she had some backbone and took him to court and won. But that didn´t change the fact that he made life hell for us. His wife and two girls would have made great friends for my wife and two girls but there was no way. He was an ex-policeman, used to power and absolutely convinced that he was right about everything. There was a yelling match, cutting flowers that weren´t his, swearing and overall bad blood.
Obviously, the Lord convicted me to treat him as I would treat Charles Benton in my story…..but after the vision. I need to be willing to suffer his difficult nature in order to be a witness to him. In the flesh, there was no way. I needed to pray. I needed the divine help of Almighty God.
I wish that I could say that there was some sort of breakthrough, that he became a Christian or that, at least, we became friends. No way. Not even close. Not in this story or, at least, not yet. That´s not the point, anyway. We don´t do these things because of the guarantee of results but rather because God asks us to do it. It pleases Him. It´s a question of obedience.
I will let you know how it goes, but the miracle is already happening. God has me on the edge of faith, the very place where I need to pray and depend on his help and move forward in obedient faith. That is the message of Charles Benton. Neighbor.
The Desert Warrior
An Adventure of Grace – Our Crowdfunding Journey by Bert A. Amsing
Copyright © 2012 vanKregten Publishers. All rights reserved.