One of the most disturbing elements in modern evangelical church life is making evangelism so very hard. By leaving people without the understanding, which says the greatest blessing in this world is leaving it, they end up clinging too much to life and all the weaknesses of the flesh. From that ground, Christian Mysticism is impossible to understand, much less embrace. So without the full power of the Spirit, people are left with a mere alternative lifestyle, a better brand of middle class pursuit of worldly success. Evangelism becomes a sales pitch.
If we understand the goal of faith is earning our departure from this life, it changes everything. Evangelism is merely being friendly, knowing no enemies. It won’t matter a whit what these others may think about you or the situation. Your worst oppressor is still a friend, one to whom you will act according to a genuine positive regard. You have nothing to lose. The same goes when you face someone against whom the Lord requires you to guard some duty on this earth. Should you be required to commit a violent act, say in defense of your infant child, you still do so from the perspective of a friend trying to do what is in the attacker’s own best interest.
There simply is no place for animosity. The worst you can do is avoid someone for that length of time the Lord requires it of you. Otherwise, even your worst psychotic nightmare you are to encounter with cheerfulness.
That is the sum total of evangelism. The rest is simply speaking the truth to which you are already fully committed. About the only part we have to learn is how to grow up and stop talking to others the way children do. That is, we aren’t seeking approval, and we don’t load up the air between us with chatter about all the things we know and can do. We let the Spirit guide us to saying things which meet the context, and no more. We don’t descend to their lower level, even though we understand it and remember all too painfully being there ourselves. We stay up in the sky, as it were, with our eyes on our commitment to Christ. That sort of learning is more than enough to make each of us the most powerful evangelists on the earth.
This year my family has been studying wild foods here in Central Oklahoma. We started off the season this summer with blackberries and sand plums, both native to our area. I got four gallons of berries and one of plums. We made a jelled syrup from the plums, but the berries we jammed and some we just froze. There was also a fresh cobbler.
This week I ran across a pear tree along someone’s driveway, and a sign beckoned all comers to take as much as they liked. While pears aren’t native, I believe, this one is prospering and healthy. We took two bushels. But the local persimmons are native, and ripening now, and I got an easy twenty pounds in just a half-hour. We did several things with the pears: diced and canned with a bit of sugar, some jam, and there will be pear sauce next (like apple sauce). The persimmons are pretty much good only as jelly.
We have also experimented with acorns. The big thing is leeching out the tannins, which are toxic in large amounts, hard on the kidneys. The lore says you have to boil them and keep changing the water until it quits turning brown. Then they are dried and ground up like meal. Not real tasty, but somewhat nutritious. At least we know how to handle them.
Eventually we will begin discovering other wild foods. There are a couple of good reasons for this. One, your body responds well to stuff which grows where you live. Barring outright toxins, your body is more likely to accept without complain stuff which is exposed to the same environmental mix as your body. Two, as the economy continues to decline, you may be lucky to get food of any kind. Knowing how to identify and prepare what exists in your area — find out what the primitives ate way back when — may be the difference between survival and starving to death.
What does holiness look like? Let us think for a moment what would be noteworthy differences in the first century world where the New Testament was born. Within Judea itself, it would be quite subtle, a difference only locals would notice. That’s because the more obvious things were unchanged; standard Judean practices in the main were quite acceptable in Christ.
But Judean lifestyle was certainly different from the rest of the Mediterranean world. How much of that was necessary for following Christ? Paul’s letters in particular are loaded with admonitions which, while not all inclusive in detail, do serve to indicate the differences were substantial. We have a pretty good idea of what was common in most regions Paul traveled, establishing churches. We tend to forget the issues were quite thorny because we don’t stop to think Paul wasn’t simply pushing his own preferences, but those of Jesus Christ. Western Christians tend to agree with the assessments of those to whom Paul aimed his messages, those who did not like it, and this is simply wrong.
We should not seek in any way to draw attention to ourselves. We don’t keep up with the latest fashions. We don’t struggle to make ourselves seem respectable by worldly standards. Do I have to state we don’t try to draw attention to ourselves by looking pretty? We draw attention to Christ by avoiding it for ourselves. Evangelism isn’t a talent contest, nor a sales competition. Evangelism means being transparent so His glory shines through.
Paul was a stickler about not showing too much flash or flesh. He didn’t wear the finest gentleman’s haberdashery, no jewelry or marks of nobility, and didn’t adopt the Grecian style of showing some leg. Grecian style was all about portraying the human ideal, as the entire culture was man-centered. And we are even worse today in the West.
The biblical culture also doesn’t call for us to reverse that by adopting any alternate fashion and style for some other brand of respectability, particularly by embracing something simply from an earlier decade or two. Nor should we strive to create our own “Christian Chic.” There is no correct and godly haircut, but it shouldn’t be like Absalom’s long locks, either. Women need neither burkha nor bling. There is no one right style, but we should strive to be pretty much without any particular style.
For my own use, I would pretty much say cover up between the knees and neck, and out to the shoulders, both sexes. Nobody should have to tell you skin-tight attire is wrong, as is see-through materials. In general, women have more hair and men have less. Do something reasonable to differentiate your gender from the other. Don’t ever catch yourself choosing something for the purpose of impressing someone. Ask the Lord to show you when you might be doing that, so you can stay humble and modest. The vanity of human adornment is evil. Neither your church meetings nor any other place in your life is a fashion show. Just keep your flesh covered without too much ornamentation.
These general comments should help make a point: If someone has to specify rules for you, something is already wrong. This is voluntary by the leadership of the Spirit every step of the way. There is no coercion of any sort, no nagging and wheedling, no ostracism — that is, unless someone adamantly persists in something too obviously disruptive and self-centered. If you can’t find a graceful way to advise someone who seems out of line, stay quiet. If you can’t absorb a comment from someone who disagrees with your choices, fix your attitude. No one walk in the Spirit demands uniformity in that sense. Rather, they demand a peaceful sense of cooperation over a ton of things which aren’t essential.
This post is a couple years old still getting lots of hits. I now recommend you move the installation within your own Documents folder and work from there. You’ll have to change the paths below to match that, but you’ll find it less heartache in the long run.
Running Win7-x64 has lots of advantages, but I find much of my favorite software is playing catch-up. In the case of the Lynx text-mode browser, it gets pretty dicey.
The work-arounds depend on how you use it. The latest packages available in a convenient format from Invisible Island (2.8.7 and 2.8.8) won’t work for me on Win7. I’m not sure of all the details, but on many sites Lynx will get an error about reading the compressed file. Even if you run in circles making sure you have gzip and bzip2 in your PATH statement, Lynx won’t find them and won’t unzip any webpages fetched in compressed format.
However, the slightly older 2.8.5 release from CSANT doesn’t present the compression issue. Click the link labeled “Lynx 2.8.5rel.1 installer (1.68MB)” and download. I chose to install it in “Program Files\Lynx” instead of the default “Program Files (x64)\lynx”. During installation you have a chance to get a desktop icon, which I recommend. It is linked to a batch file which needs significant editing over what works in XP. Mine looks like this:
@rem command /C
set home="C:\Program Files\Lynx"
set temp=Program Files\Lynx\tmp
set lynx_cfg=C:\Program Files\Lynx\lynx.cfg
set lynx_lss=C:\Program Files\Lynx\lynx.lss
"C:\Program Files\Lynx\lynx.exe" -center %1 %2 %3 %4 %5
Parsing that, we note Win7 in the commandline environment doesn’t recognize the ‘command’ line, so we ‘rem’ (remove) it out. Setting the “home” parameter, simply use the location where you installed it; I had to use quotation marks to get it read as all one item. The next item doesn’t need the leading ‘C:\’. But the next two parameters do. I prefer to use ‘lynx.lss’ with a few modifications to suit me. There are several color schemes pre-packaged and you can try them to see what you prefer.
The ‘lynx.cfg’ file I edited somewhat because I don’t like webpage paragraph lines justified in a square block (‘JUSTIFY:FALSE’); I prefer ragged right edges with standard spacing between words. I also changed my STARTFILE to a bookmarks file I made up and use with all my browsers as the page loaded at startup — ‘STARTFILE:file://localhost/~/bookmarks.html’ which tells it to look in my Documents folder for ‘bookmarks.html’. Also, I don’t like the double status line in the bottom of the window, so I set the file to load in advanced user mode (‘DEFAULT_USER_MODE:ADVANCED’) which shows where the link points. You’ll also notice there is a line regarding rejecting cookie domains, and you can add to it if you know enough advertiser domains. Take your time editing this file, and make sure everything is set to your preferences. I left most of the defaults alone. If you prefer to make it simple, copy the ‘lynx.cfg’ to your Documents folder and rename it ‘lynx.rc’, then edit it all you like.
The last line in my batch file requires putting the full path in quotes, but the ‘-center’ switch must be outside them. What this does is reduce the number of times you’ll find webpage paragraphs centered for no apparent reason. Mostly this has to do with Lynx’s habit of rendering what it reads as table data centered by default.
Finally, I modified the icon properties on my desktop. I prefer to view the window with 10×18 font, and laid out 80×50. There are plenty of other tricks I don’t know about, but perhaps I’ve pointed out some you can use. I’m hoping soon the developers will find a way to compile future versions of Lynx specifically for Win7.
First Century churches were in essence spiritual Hebrew households. It was not exactly a carbon copy of the nomadic roots, yet incorporating many of the features to reflect the essence of the thing.
It is hardly necessary to prove we don’t know all those features. All we can do is estimate from archaeological research and a Hebraic reading of the Scripture. When we adjust our own thinking away from our modern Western assumptions and embrace the intellectual climate of the Ancient Near East (ANE), we are able to see the particulars don’t matter nearly so much as the approach. It’s not what you know, but how you come to know it, which is what distinguishes biblical mysticism from Hellenism.
Symbolic logical structures are not natural to our Western minds. We struggle with parabolic language and prescriptions which are indicative, not descriptive. We want to know the very nature of a thing, to analyze it from every angle. God’s ways do not yield to such an approach. We aren’t seeking objective information, but ways to obey the imperatives from God. The only proper approach is indirect and entirely personal.
Over the next few days I hope to explore here the implications of this approach, specifically in describing what a genuine biblical ANE church body, a household in New Israel, would look like. All I can offer is my own personal understanding; there is no pretense of establishing prescriptions which bind others. I actively invite comments, and hopefully they’ll be on topic as described above.
The first item to cover is leadership. In the first church in Jerusalem, half the leadership was built in from the start. Among the things not yet stolen by Hellenism was the basic social organization of the Hebrew people. They lived in the extended family setting. Each household had a head, an elder. A grouping of several households might be a clan, which had another elder at that level. It was basically hereditary feudal rights, in that sense. The New Testament term translated “elder” is pretty much restricted to this meaning.
These elders were the traditional leaders, blood kin or married into the family. The choice was not entirely hereditary, because truly capable leaders might be promoted over the titular heir. A critical element in gaining such trust was not simply talent in taking charge, but an absolute necessity of having earned that trust by demonstrating a devotion to the common welfare. This was leadership by sacrificial love.
The first organizational controversy in that first church was over the lack of eldership for a big slice of the membership. Most members came into the church, not individually, but by entire households. It was by commitment under the elders who repented and embraced Christ. Surely we know some folks in a given household separated because they were simply too much opposed. But there were quite a few who went along without an individual spiritual rebirth; they went because that was their support structure. Indeed, it was their whole life, everything they knew. We scarcely comprehend the depth of such necessity these days. For the large group of widows and others who lacked a support structure because they joined as foreign Jews (“Hellenists”), folks who didn’t originally live in Judea. They didn’t have elders because they didn’t belong to anybody.
So the apostles instructed the Hellenists to form their own households and appoint de facto elders. Lacking any valid blood ties, they substituted spiritual ties and probably various natural affinities. Thus, all the Hellenist Jews from Crete, for example, would gather in a spiritual household. The result was a clan structure which included everyone not already in a traditional clan, and seven men from this mixed Hellenist group were appointed to be their elders. So whether you call it deacon, elder, ruler, or whatever, these terms typically refer to the same basic function in the body.
We discover outside the traditional Judean households there were females serving in these roles in some fashion. Aside from teaching, we see the apostles didn’t balk at matriarchal leadership. We have the Greek feminine of deacon in several places, and several mentions of women in key roles of leadership. However, we note this leadership was restricted to the organizational roles, not spiritual roles. The organization of the church is a matter of spiritually discerned Laws. The Law Covenants, as taught by Jesus, are the living necessity of how humans implement spiritual imperatives.
The spiritual leadership was uniformly male, and Scripture explains it adequately — women aren’t equipped for that stewardship. Slice and analyze it any way you like, but Eve was deceived, and Adam was not. The spiritual leadership is far, far harder to describe simply because the calling is above logic. Granted, we find passages listing important character traits, but the actual description of the job is rather fuzzy. They are servants of the Word, keepers of the fire of truth, walking Scripture. While everyone in the Kingdom should be sensitive to the Spirit of God’s leading, these men were burdened with the teaching and preaching to the mind to make it ready to pull in the harness of the spirit.
Nobody is more anxious to avoid creating yet-one-more church denomination than me. The last thing I want is a personal empire, a little kingdom over which to reign. With all my ranting about how wrong it is to do things according to Western fashion, it would be the height of hypocrisy to build a Western organization around the idea itself.
The underlying need is developing biblical literacy on the Bible’s own terms. I typically use the academic term ANE (Ancient Near Eastern) as a general label to provide a contrast to Western (modern American and European). Once people pass through that gateway of understanding, there is still an awful lot of work to do. Typing or saying those labels gets to be extra work we can all agree is unnecessary, provided we are on the same sheet of music.
Yes, this means we become fully aware we must live two lives, a foot in both worlds. This is hardly less dramatic than what it required of the First Century Church. We become strangers to this world even while we spend the remainder of our lives in it. Because of the dissonance between our new, higher natures and this fallen existence below, we often seek the soothing of our ragged nerves by withdrawing into the comfort of that social network which anchors on the higher spiritual plane. The language, thoughts, and whole orientation is divine, and we can relax somewhat because we are among our own kind.
Anything we can do to reduce the tensions and very human barriers within this other-worldly atmosphere is obviously going to help us make the most of our time left on this earth. The very nature of a spiritual congregation means not only are we not there yet, so to speak, nor can we ever be “there” in this fallen world, but sometimes we run into experiences which can pull us backward. These are entirely normal, central to the spiritual existence in conflict with a fallen world, so we have enough to do that we don’t need to struggle with anything which adds unnecessary complications. Most of Paul’s letters address the very human tendency to create even smaller, more tightly knit sub-communities, creating fractures within the divine assembly. A very fundamental element in our new divine life is removing the barriers of fellowship built into the Fall.
Part of the question also includes finding ways to both exclude the world of the spiritually dead, even as we hold forth the invitation for them to join. We hope to maximize the drawing power of living and doing what God says we should here, while keeping enough distance to avoid mixing in all those hindrances outsiders bear as part of their very nature. It’s not simply being winsome in the larger world around us, but letting them see how winsome we are when together. The tension between the need to withdraw where it’s safe to be our real redeemed selves versus the need to demonstrate a redeemed community publicly, requires a nimble soul ever watching for what God wants to emphasize at the moment, what is the best course of action in the given context.
Somewhere between the ways of this world and the ways of the Spirit we must remain connected even as we are jarring in our disconnection. Human words and procedures are necessary, but they must be ruled by the divine imperatives. Each of us must make our own best choices, utterly free within the context of needing to work together. This is challenging enough when the community of faith is tangible and local, but the game changes when we seek to make a virtual community by taking advantage of the Internet.
On the one hand, given the esoteric nature of my teaching, no one should be surprised there are no large supporting organizations of any sort in meat space. We live in a world highly distracted, as well as highly jaded by the vast number of fakes which sound, smell and look like what I suggest is the real deal. And Satan has had centuries during which he built up a vast world of resistance to this teaching. Moving into the Land Without Words is so naturally repugnant to humanity at large, it is truly a miracle any of us got here. Frankly, we need to have an online connection to give us enough critical mass to realize it can be done, given the bulk of my outreach almost has to be via the Internet, at least for now.
I’m praying earnestly for the Lord to reveal His own excellent planning for this. I’m willing to make any changes necessary in my own habits here in order to obey this urging call. The burning desire to teach a better understanding of the Bible, and to consider all the implications of that understanding, won’t let me rest until I make those changes. I don’t pretend to decide for others what they must do; it’s all I can handle making me behave properly. This thing I am doing must run on its own, or it will be only me. This readiness to be conformed to whatever it takes includes any part of the mechanism by which I communicate with anyone else who embraces the essence of what draws me forward. It’s the teaching and the spiritual life, and I can’t pretend to run the show, nor control the mechanisms. We have to discover in concert what God has in mind, because we come into it knowing our instincts have suffered much from the world’s perversions.
So this blog will change. I’ll continue to post thought pieces and teachings on my other blog, and this one will be more about practical matters. I can’t pretend to know right now all the things I’ll do tomorrow, but for now I predict there won’t be any more Linux and Unix posts. Those articles draw the most traffic here — success by the world’s standards — but aren’t what really matter to me. Last night I installed Windows on my main system, and on my laptop the day before, simply because I sensed the Spirit needed me to focus time and effort in other directions. I still have openSUSE 11.3 on another hard drive in the desktop machine, but I don’t expect I’ll dual boot that much. And if I sense His hand leading in yet another direction tomorrow, I’ll change it all again. I can’t say what difference it will all make in days ahead, but computer technology is merely the means, not the goal. This blog itself isn’t a goal, just a tool, and is wholly subject to what I can understand as God’s wishes.
I only know what burden rests upon me today. That burden is to prepare myself to teach, to reach out to others with a more single-minded devotion than before. I sense the time is upon us for things to shift in may ways we cannot begin to imagine. Since planning for such things is above my pay grade in the Kingdom, I am simply carrying out the orders I can understand. Yes, I could be deceived entirely, but it’s the best I know. I’m not in charge of the results.
That something big is coming should be obvious to anyone who shares this spiritual teaching with me. For our part, I believe we should consider ways to build and enhance an online community, to organize enough to commune in our ANE understanding of the world. That seems to call for a forum of some sort, a virtual place to meet and fellowship. This is not my baby, but I’m ready to contribute what I have to the process. If you are moved, pray with us.
(Great minds think alike, Brother Benjamin!)