May 2008


This is from a member of our community, Debbie Basehore’s blog:

“…the older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father,’Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'” – Luke 15:28-32

We are all the prodigal son. There is not one of us that is without sin and therefore there is not one of us who has at one time or another not been separated from the Father. But so often we take on the air of the older brother in relation to those in the body of Christ around us. We assume that since we have given longer years of service or have not been lost in the same manner that we are due a greater pleasure or service from God. When we enter into this mindset we lose sight of the Spirit of grace. Grace is that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, and loveliness; to have favor, elegance, and acceptance.

The bitterness of the older brother ran so deep he would not even recognize the prodigal son as his brother. Do we do this? Do we acknowledge some fellow believers as children of the Father but fail to accept them as our brothers and sisters, harboring instead resentment and jealousy? I see this attitude a lot in the organized church – the spirit of eliteness. It is nothing other than pride and is a foul and evil spirit.

Romans 5:20 tells us that “where sin increased, grace increased all the more.” Grace can be measured in the distance covered in the return to the Father. The passage goes on to explain that this does not mean we continue in sin. But where sin has been dealt with and forgiven it is not our job to dig it back up. This is also a result of an evil spirit. The Holy Spirit is a spirit of conviction, not of guilt. Conviction leads to repentance but there is no place in God’s family for guilt.

We have all experienced grace and should take joy with our fellow brothers and sisters when they too can experience and partake of the grace of God. Acts 20:32 defines words of grace as words which build up and give an inheritance. Instead of being selfish with our inheritance let us share in the inheritance by building each other up. This is the true Spirit of Grace and a spirit we should all desire greatly to have in our lives. The next time you find yourself wanting to bite with words that hurt and question the validity of a brother or sister’s experience with grace, remember your spirit of grace – it is the most valuable gift God has given anyone, and it is meant to be shared. We are all prodigal sons. There is no one who is self-righteous. Jesus came to us in grace and truth. We should aspire to be full of grace and truth as well.

This was posted by Kristi on her blog recently, as an open letter to The Gathering…

friends. you have been much on my mind. i speak to you as a sister and a friend. i know these words are nothing new, and much of them are the words of A. W. Tozer. but ultimately i hope them to be an encouragement to you as you continue in the pursuit of Him and His will for the community.

yesterday i began reading the pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer:

in this hour of all-but-universal darkness one cheering gleam appears: within the fold of conservative Christianity there are to be found increasing number of persons who religious lives are marked by a growing hunger after God Himself. they are eager for spiritual realities and will not be put off with words, nor will they be content with correct “interpretations” of truth. they are athirst for God, and they will not be satisfied till they have drunk deep at the Fountain of Living Water.

the above quote captures the heart which drives the gathering – people thirsting after the Lord Himself.

Tozer continues (i will summarize – italics are his words). the problem, however, is in Church there is no lack of teaching on “right” doctrine – fundamentals of the faith – yet there is a lack of Presence. It is a solemn thing, and no small scandal in the kingdom, to see God’s children starving while actually seated at the Father’s table.

the gathering was birthed out of a disconnect that was occurring between Church and our desire to know God Himself. something wasn’t working. starvation was occurring; we were hungry for more.

There are millions of people who hold “right opinions,” probably more than ever before in the history of the Church. Yet I wonder if there was ever a time when true spiritual worship was at a lower ebb. To great sections of the Church the art of worship has been lost entirely, and in its place has come the strange and foreign thing called a program.

Sound Bible exposition is an imperative must in the Church of the Living God. Without it no church can be a New Testament church in any strict meaning of the term… but it is not mere words that nourish the soul, but God Himself, and unless and until the hearers find God in personal experience they are not better for having heard the truth.

The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men and women to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him and they may delight in His Presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and center of their hearts.

more than “right opinions,” searching, pursing, loving, worshiping the Lord must be the highest priority.

Tozer goes on to explain the reality of possessing nothing. losing life to find it (Matt 16:25). having everything, but possessing nothing.

we are often hindered from giving up our treasures to the Lord out of fear for their safety. This is especially true when those treasures are loved relatives and friends (our goals/dreams for a community). But we need have no such fears. our Lord came not to destroy but to save. Everything is safe which we commit to Him, and nothing is really safe which is not so committed.

i must be honest with you. i have seen too many people in Church fighting for their own agenda, and in doing so much was lost – not the least of which was the primary focus being the seeking/finding/worshiping of God Himself. and looking back i wonder – where was the sacrifice of self? and what was gained in possessing?

the Lord desires to be known. know Him. the Lord desires to be loved. love Him. the Lord desires and is worthy to be worshiped. worship Him. may this be your focus. may you not be distracted by your own agenda. your own vision.

But seek first His Kingdom all these things will be added unto you as well. Matt. 6:33

O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need of further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be make more thirsty still. Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, that so I may know Thee indeed. Begin in mercy a new work of love within me. Say to my soul, “Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.” Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long. In Jesus name, Amen

This is from Tim and Kristi’s blog (on our blogroll) posted recently by Tim…

Conversion comes to be thought of as ‘being saved’. The accent falls on the privileges of membership in the saved community. The eschatological dimension of the biblical idea of salvation slips out of sight; one forgets that ‘being saved’ means being made a participant in the mighty saving work of God which is not complete until all things have been summed up in Christ. And in this context, where the Church is seen simply as the exclusive association of those who have been rescued from perdition, an anxious discussion about whether others too might be saved becomes inevitable.

Surely the perspective is wrong. Conversion means being turned round as so to be by faith and in foretaste a participant in and an agent of God’s reign. The proper question is not: Are there few that be saved? The question is: Who is doing the will of God?

To claim finality for Jesus Christ is not to assert either that the majority of men will some day be Christians, or to assert that all others will be damned. It is to claim that commitment to him is the way in which men can become truly aligned to the ultimate end for which all things were made.

-Lesslie Newbigin in “The Finality of Christ”