Christianity

The Invitation

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The Invitation

Come in, man!

Come in and know me better!”

— The Ghost of Christmas Present, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens


Ultimately the Christian world is divided into only two groups: those who believe that this invitation is at the core of the heart of God (and therefore all human existence), and those who do not believe it.

Or did you even know about the first group?

We believe a great many things about God, but, for the most part, topping the list is not the belief that He is offering Himself to us in an open, present, engaged, knowable way.  

If there is anything that is deeply (if unconsciously) believed about the God of all Creation, it is that He is unsearchable, that He is unknowable.  "His ways are not our ways" we are constantly reminded, and after all, "Who can understand the mind of God?"  Not that we needed any theological support for this feeling that God is, well, hiding from us.

How different would your take on Life be if you thought the One who designed the whole shebang...well...wanted you to find Him? To know Him? Intimately, like a friend, or like the kind of Daddy you wish you had but never really did?

It was during the Christmas holidays (not surprisingly) that during some time alone in prayer, I felt this phrase from the Dickens classic leap to mind: "Come in man! Come in and know me better!" If you are a fan of the George C. Scott film version, you will have the same mental picture I had of the Ghost of Christmas Present, in all is warmth and jocularity, practically laughing out his lines as he summoned the terrified, self-centered, lonely old miser Ebenezer Scrooge into his happy presence.

Sure, I could have conjured up the words out of my own memory cells. Maybe I did.

But, oh, the thrill in that moment of thinking that it was God that brought this to mind, that this was what God was saying to me! 

Really, Father? You really want me to throw open the door and come closer? You wont snuff out the light and disappear into the darkness like elves caught unawares in the forest at night? Could I dare believe it?

Do you?

In the midst of all the hustle and clamor of your life, what have you come to believe - not in theory, but deep in the unspoken places of your heart - about God's attitude towards intimacy...towards drawing close and becoming increasingly knowable...towards sharing Himself with you?

Oh, I know a lot of people who are growing in their theoretical knowledge about God. 

But who do I know that is living out this invitation to "come in and know Him better?"

Who do you know that's living like that?

It's arguable, you know, that if this Christian thing is remotely accurate, then the whole purpose of our existence is to know God. Personally.  Intimately.  Increasingly. 

The fact that this is just about the last thing happening in most people's lives is one more VERY BIG claim for the worldview that fuels the Warrior's Path:  quite simply that spiritual warfare is the context of our Story; that, like it or not, we are at War.   Assailed.  Besieged.  Opposed at all costs from discovering all that God is offering.

"Come in man!" (Said with cheery welcome and abundant mirth, you'll remember!)  "Come in and know me better!"

Or, as Jesus said, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him..."

When I think about all the lies about God that I have come to believe in...

 

Where The Streets Have No Name

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Where the Streets Have No Name

I want to run, I want to hide,
I want to tear down the walls that hold me inside;
I want to reach out, and touch the Flame,
Where the Streets Have No Name

I want to feel sunlight on my face
I see the dust cloud disappear without a trace
— U2 - Where the Streets Have No Name

The Warrior's Journey is not a child's game - not something to be embarked upon lightly.

Even in the best of times it is staggering how quickly a "dust cloud" of doubt, disappointment, abandonment and confusion can rise up and envelope our horizon in a suffocating haze. In but a moment the sunlight that seemed it would never fade can suddenly feel years away...like something from a beautiful dream that was never quite as real as the present cloud.

In those times we find our entire outlook on our lives redefined along the lines of numerous subtle agreements. We don't speak them.

We wouldn't admit to them to even our closest friends, because they attach themselves to our hearts at a level lower than conscious thought, and most of the time we do not even know they are there.

Sure, we know that we are currently thinking something different about God than we were a month ago, or five years ago -- but it almost never enters our minds to think that the issue might be that we have made an agreement with a lie. “No way,” we protest, “that’s not it at all: we're just calling it like we see it.”  Don't you dare turn this back on me, we shake our fist to the Heavens, the problem here isn't with me! If I've got some serious doubts about some Scriptural promises, it's only because You haven't been coming through! I'm only responding to the reality of the situation I'm in here!"

It hardly seems fair. Trust me - we know. God's goodness, His heart towards us, His involvement in our small little affairs, His concern for our ultimate joy...most days the bulk of the evidence seems to fall against such wildly happy hopes that this is the fabric from which the Universe has been woven. And then to be told that our lack of faith and trust is only increasing the desperation of our situation seems...well, a little unfair...and that's putting it politely.

So what are we to do?

"We're not indestructible baby better get that straight

I think it's unbelievable how you give into the hands of fate

Some things are worth fighting for, some feelings never die

I'm not asking for another chance, I just wanna know why?

There's no easy way out, there's no shortcut home

There's no easy way out giving in can't be wrong."

Robert Tepper, "No Easy Way Out"

A great song...with a terrible conclusion. Despite admitting that there really is no "easy way out" from underneath certain dust clouds, and certainly not formulaic "short-cut home" to Life and joy and restoration of spirit, the one thing that our Journey along the Warrior's Path has taught us that can be of help to you in your own Journey it is this:

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Giving in

is ALWAYS wrong.

“For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the whole earth that He may strongly support those whose hearts are completely His."

— II Chronicles 16:9

There can be no agreements with the dust cloud, no agreements with the "walls that hold you inside." You were meant to tear down that wall; you were meant to reach out and touch the Flame; you were meant to feel the sunlight on your face again. And the process of getting there begins with the breaking and repenting of all the subtle little agreements that have clamped onto our hearts like barnacles.

And that is...so much easier said than done.

There's a reason this Road is called the Warrior's Path.

(In case you've ever wondered...)

image credit

 

A Seat at the Table Round

A Seat

at the Table Round


"You are well aware that since the advent of Jesus Christ the world has seen Three Great Fellowships. The First was the table of Jesus Christ, where the apostles broke bread on many occasions...thereafter was instituted another table in memory and in likeness of the first. This was the table of the Holy Grail...that table was succeeded by the Round Table: for from every land where chivalry resides, knights are seen flocking to the Round Table. And when by God's grace they are made companions, they count themselves richer than if they had gained the whole world..." 

(The Quest of the Holy Grail, 13th century)

Fellowship.

The way it was meant to be.

Not as another religious duty. Not even as a matter of mere survival.

Not because you should.

Not even because you must.

(Although for most of us, even this is the eye-opening step that we have long needed to take. To move from the churchy "I should" to the Epic "I'm dead if I don't" is a great step indeed - a step we will certainly take when we begin to see the world from a epic perspective).

You awake to find yourself in the midst of a great and terrible war. It is in fact our most desperate hour...You are given a quest, a mission that will take you deep into the heart of the kingdom of darkness...Of course you will face many dangers; you will be hunted. Would you try to do this alone?
— John Eldredge, Waking the Dead

As we said, it's a big step, and already much is beginning to shift. Using our Epic Imagination, we are able to perceive our true situation in a way that we haven't ever quite received from the pulpit or the pew. Something BIG is happening here, and we've been thrown smack into the middle of it. Surprisingly to a dyed-in-the-wool individualist, it turns out that we don't have much of a prayer of surviving against the firepower that's been marshaled against us if we try to take on the kingdom of darkness alone.

Granted, if your version of the Christian life is still about 'hunkering down' and minding your own business, then it may be that the life you have set for yourself IS something you can handle alone. "Who me? Take on the kingdom of darkness? Why would I want to do a silly thing like that? Isn't that God's job anyway? Besides, things are just beginning to 'settle down' in my life! It's all finally beginning to come together for me. Can't I just be happy about that? I'm no fool: I'm not about to paint a bulls-eye on my chest! Me? Pick a fight with the devil? And risk messing up all of this?"

Thankfully, those of us who are treading the Warrior's Path have begun to awaken from that deadly enchantment, that heart-breaking bad dream in which we are destined to live insignificant lives in the midst of a meaningless and story-less universe.

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Insignificant lives lived in the context of a story-less Universe.

That is the core Lie The Warriors Path exists to refute.

Instead we are coming to see that we truly are embroiled in something deeply significant, and the opposition to our discovering a full life of purpose and joy is heavier than we can even put into words. To borrow one of Eldredge's favorite historical examples, our lives feel for all the world like God's promises and the fulfillment of our heart's deepest desires are right there before us simply waiting for us to reach out and grasp them...only the “day at the beach” we were hoping for turns out to be Normandy Beach on D-Day, and all the might of Europe's fiercest war machine stands between us and the life we long for.

And so it is that the religious appeal to pursuing "fellowship" as an act of obedience now turns into something much more elemental, vital, a matter of survival.

Just look back through the ages: in Romantic, historical, and fictional example after example we learn again and again that it will only be in fellowship that good will overcome evil...

Arthur has his Knights -

heroes one and all, but more eager to hold second-billing in a company of great warriors than to be a Prince alone in some distant land..

Robin has Little John, Will Scarlet, Allen A'Dale -

a small band of merry men who would rather be outlaws with Robin than free men making their way in the world alone.

William Wallace has his oldest friend Seamus, a half-crazed but loyal Irishman named Stephen, and a handful of Highlanders -

ready to follow their friend on the most hopeless of adventures.

D'Artagnan has Athos, Porthos, and Aramis -

and when the Three Musketeers become Four, all of European history is changed by their acts of loyalty and heroism.

Frodo has Sam and 7 others that comprise the Fellowship of the Ring

nine unlikely souls brought together as the world's last hope against the gathering darkness in the East of Middle Earth.

And what of Jesus?

He has 12 that he calls out of the crowd to "be with him" through all the ups and downs of three years of public ministry....and tradition tells us that all but one of them suffered and died a martyr's death as a result of that fellowship.

All these stories - and countless others - that grip you with a longing to share in something similar - they are telling you something about yourself. About how you were designed. About what makes you come alive. About God's plan for how life ought to be.

"And when by God's grace they are made companions, they count themselves richer than if they had gained the whole world...You have seen this happen in your own particular case. From the day you left your mother and were made a companion of the Round Table, you had no wish to go back, but fell at once captive to the sweet intimacy and brotherly love that binds its members." 

(The Quest of the Holy Grail)

Here then, is the final step, the one we are all to some degree needing to yet take - from religious duty, to vital neccesity, to last of all: the desire of our heart.

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We walk in sweet companionship and brotherhood because this is Life at its best…

Honestly: if it were somehow possible for you to receive an invitation to join any of the fellowships listed above, would anything in the world hold you back? A seat at the Table Round? A King's Musketeer and entree into the inner circle of binding brotherhood shared by Athos and like noble souls? Handpicked to walk, eat, sleep, heal, study, laugh and cry with the Son of God and his closest friends?

.If a longing and an ache for such a sweet fellowship isn't rising in your chest at this very minute, then either we have not communicated well enough, or you simply aren't really listening to your heart.

The church says you ought to have this.

The days of our lives tell us we need to have this.

Our hearts (if we dare to listen) tell us we long to have this.

.And what does God say? In Waking the Dead, Eldredge tells of his pilgrimage to the ruins of an ancient community of Celtic warrior-monks who helped to keep Britain a Christian nation during the Dark Ages. Standing there amongst the wind-worn stones between the northern sky and the crashing sea, he thought he heard in the deep places of his heart God saying these words:

"I'm doing this again."

May your heart be alive, your eyes on the horizon, and your bags packed when He does begin to do this again.  You might only have one shot at this.

You aren't going to want to miss it.

 

 

Don't Stop Believing

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Don’t stop believing

Tonight we are remembering why we ever thought it would be a good idea to publish this journal of our wanderings along The Warrior’s Path in the first place:

Because of you.

Yes, you.

You with the hungry heart that just won’t stop aching for Something More, no matter what tactic you take to drown out the cry of your heart. Believe me, I’ve been there, and I know in some small part what you are feeling.

Hungry - yes...

...but scared too.

Scared?

Yes. Scared that this ache for More isn’t a holy longing; that is not, at its core, something God intended you to feel. Scared that you just want too much – that God is not really offering you as much as you hope for, that His best is going to fall so far short of fulfilling the yearnings of all that your soul craves. Scared that the wild wonder of youth that once filled your heart with passion and your soul with awe is already slipping, slipping –never to be recaptured again for all the weary long years that lie before you. Scared that with the loss of Innocence some great piece of all you were meant to be was lost as well – and that all hope that God is still, in any practical way, on your side is gone as well. Scared that you stand dangerously close to the precipice of becoming someone you cannot bear to live with; and scared that the person you once hoped to be will soon be buried alive beneath the weight and burden of a life you never meant to have.

Do any of these words touch the inconsolable secret that haunts you every evening as you tumble into bed, stalking you through the restless dreams of a black night, waking you in the small hours with a rising terror, whispering that just about nothing in your life is going to turn out the way it should have – especially your relationship with God?

Is it you?

Are you the one that is just one more day away from losing Hope? From killing the restlessness in your heart the only way you know how — by killing your heart?

If so, God has something to say to you tonight:

You are right.

You are right.

Your heart is right.

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There is More. And it is beyond your wildest dreams.

Stop letting the world, your parents, or your friends tell you to lower your expectations and just get on with life. The longing in your deep heart does mean something. It is leading you “further up and farther in”. And no, you haven’t been “shut out” based upon where your life has taken you thus far. Your Father, whose image you bear, loves you with a blinding passion, and He is calling you back to Him.

Listen.

Do you hear Him calling you back? It’s not as a second-class citizen with a dozen black marks against your name that He’s calling you back. No - it’s as the beloved son (or daughter). The son who gets His best robe. His best ring. The best feast the Kingdom has ever seen. The FULL inheritance. A co-heir with Jesus of…well, of everything that’s ever been made. A co-heir of the Universe. Every promise ever made to ANYONE still stands - for YOU. Nothing will be held back from YOU.

(We didn’t say it was beyond your wildest dreams just to sound cool or to merely take advantage of the author’s privilege of poetic license…)

Just come home.

It’s not too late.

Everything can change.

Tonight. No matter where you have been, tonight things can be different.

And tomorrow?

Nothing will ever have to be the same again.

To your Journey Home…

Hanging By a Moment


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Hanging by a Moment

Walking The Warrior’s Path doesn’t mean that you will always be fighting for others.

Not by a long shot.

Much of your time is going to be spent just fighting for yourself: fighting for your heart, fighting for your joy – or just fighting to hang on to the truth that the whole “battle” thing really is deep Reality.

We wish we could do justice in writing to how difficult hanging on to that truth is going to be, especially for those of you who don’t have much encouragement from fellow freedom fighters. After all, if devout believers of my own faith aren’t seeing the world through the lens of this invisible battle between the spiritual forces of darkness and light…well, maybe I’m just chasing dreams and fantasies after all?

Brothers and sisters, don’t let the difficulty of keeping a firm grip on this surprise you, or cause you to doubt the truth of it. We’re telling you right now that it is way out there. And by “way out there” we mean that it is not very perceivable anywhere near where we live. Most likely you are not going to be blessed with a whole lot of hard, physical evidence that this stuff is Real. It’s a pretty rare person (in western culture anyway) who gets to see a physical manifestation of this unseen war. Sometimes we think that going toe-to-toe with a couple of ferocious servants of the Dark Lord in some tangible way here in the material universe would really crank up the intensity of our commitment to this way of perceiving things. Maybe it would. We hope that is where our lives are headed. Who wouldn’t feel more like a real Warrior if they had the chance to physically cross swords with some foul beast from the pit of hell?

And yet, oddly enough, the people who I have met that have experienced some bodily confrontation with fallen and disobedient spirits seem just as prone to marginalize the whole spiritual realm as the rest of us.

Those rare encounters apparently can be neatly boxed and packaged in the category marked “people with serious demon oppression who come to our fellowship seeking prayer and counseling.” Yes, of course it’s real in those cases. But what about the other 98 percent of all the frustrations, disappointments, sorrows and temptations in the everyday lives of everyday people like you and me? That’s all part of it too – the hardest part to believe in, in fact, because these are the sorts of things that we always could, if we tried hard enough, come up with some plausible alternative explanations for.

Yes. Please hear it from us first, so you don’t think that you have discovered a valid and un-anticipated argument against the way of the warrior: the biggest struggle to living in the truth of The Warrior’s Path is the apparent insignificance of our lives - the meaningless monotony we so often see in our world, and in the flat, colorless, redundancy of the days of our lives. That’s what seems True.

And the other?

Oh, so hard to grab a hold of.

We have yet to meet anyone who can consistently live with the eyes of their heart fully fixed upon the Unseen Realm – the Realm that the apostle Paul assures us is more real than the physical realm which we so often are deceived into thinking is all there is – “the whole show” as C.S. Lewis used to say.

You are not alone in that struggle.

Does every single faculty of your brain, your senses, and even your very emotions cry out to you that nothing really important is transpiring in your world this week, this day, much less at this very moment? That life is just life – no less and no more than the endless succession of tasks and activities that we see unfolding here in the light of day with our own two eyes? Sleeping and eating and going from one thing that must be done to the next thing, never sure what it all adds up to in the end anyway? That any hope that there is Something More, something dark and deadly, something beautiful and romantic, something dangerously poised between “happily ever after” and an inescapable doom – that this is all a childish attempt to make a story-book adventure out of a life that has turned out to be so…well…boring?

If life, as John Eldredge says, “is a Romance set within the context of a Great Battle” – then why doesn’t it feel more like that is what is going on here??

Most of the time, you are not going to have to go looking for a battle to fight, because this is the battle: the battle to keep believing that this War is really happening, and that we are caught in the middle of it.

Lose this battle, and you will lose the War.

For if we lose our faith in the existence of the battle today, we will be useless for the fight tomorrow.

We lose 100% of the battles that we don’t enter.

Keep Holding On…