Celebrating our oddity

on Thursday, 28 April 2011. Posted in Blog Archives

I came back from China this past Friday. After a meeting in Johannesburg straight from the airport and a trip to Secunda of all places over the Easter weekend, I am back in my small house in the mountains.


I hate to admit it, but I quite missed Facebook and Twitter when I was in China. The internet just isn’t the same without social media. The Chinese government has severely limited access to these and other social networking sites for fear of public unrest and what not. You can bypass this via certain proxy sites, but the free ones are a bit unstable whilst the pay-sites wanted something from me that I didn’t want to give them: my credit card details. I actually had to stay updated with what is going on in the world through Yahoo. I’m sorry, but Yahoo is so 1998.


The next few posts will be reflective in nature as I look back on some of my experiences in China and how they tie in to the kind of things that I have been sharing, and still plan to share, on this blog. From a 28 hour train ride across China to spending a night in Beijing with prostitutes from Uzbekistan, I want to let you into the journey and thoughts that have been mine the last couple of weeks.


One of the first things that struck me as I stepped off the plane and into Hong Kong is the plain and simple truth that I was a foreigner in this country. I didn’t look, talked or behaved like most of the people that surrounded me wherever I found myself. This realisation became even more apparent as I journeyed into mainland China; reaching its zenith the further I moved away from the CBD’s toward the industrial or rural parts that surround the impressive cities.


The stares and smiles and pointed fingers I received as I travelled through these parts all served as a constant reminder of my otherness. This experience gave a new depth of meaning to that portion in Holy Writ where Peter calls the believers of his day God’s own special people, or as the King James translates it, a peculiar people. It should be no surprise to us that when we are rescued from darkness and transformed into light there is bound to be something foreign and outlandish about us.


A lot has been said in recent years about how we as Christians should be relevant to the world in which we find ourselves, and rightly so. But I think a lot has been lost and compromised in our quest for relevance and influence. I for one cringe whenever I hear people talk about formulas that apply equally well to business matters and church matters, as if making your first million and becoming a spiritually mature individual is reached by following more or less the same principles. You know what I am talking about right? To be quite honest with you, I look at many preachers today and see very little difference between them and a typical motivational speaker or life coach, except for a few references to Jesus every now and again. If find it quite ironic because this same Jesus made it quite clear that we are useless without Him, whilst the main thrust of those motivational life-coaching types seems to be that we can achieve just about anything if only we believed in ourselves.


The point I am trying to make is quite simple: Instead of shying away from our otherness, our newness and our God-likeness, we should accept and celebrate our radical oddness. We are different and we do things differently than those who have yet to wake up. It’s one thing to get in bed with those who are sleeping in our attempt to wake them up; it’s an altogether different thing to fall asleep next to them. That’s why it is so important to ask the question that I highlighted a few blog posts ago, the one about how Jesus will go about doing things. Part of how He did things and continues to do things is rooted in his other-worldly wisdom which we often mistake for foolishness and in His strength which we often mistake for weakness. If we are following in His footsteps then we too will partake of His foolish wisdom and compassionate strength. To assume that this Jesus-way of life will work equally well in dreamland as in the world of those who have woken up makes no logical sense.

Is this the future of Christianity?

on Thursday, 07 April 2011. Posted in Blog Archives

It is early evening as I write these words. Tomorrow this time I will be in the air on a 13 hour long flight to Hong Kong. This afternoon I spent some time doing research on the essentials regarding my upcoming trip: what to do in Hong Kong; what’s the best way to exchange money; where to shop and what to buy; how to smuggle electronic goods over the border without getting caught. You know, the usual stuff.


But I have also been thinking about something else. If any of you are familiar with Brother Yun and the story of the underground church in China, you will know about the massive work God has done amongst our Chinese brothers and sisters the last several decades. I don’t want to get into it right now in great detail, so if you are clueless about what I am on about, Google it.


A few weeks ago I read Brother Yun’s second book, Living Waters. Like his world renowned book The Heavenly Man, this is not a book that you can read without being profoundly challenged. One of the things that both confronted and encouraged me as I paged through the book is the radical way in which the Chinese house church movement differs from the general trend that is found in the Christian movements, denominations and organisations of the West. Yun, in referring to the general state of the church in the Western world, goes as far as saying that ‘the wineskin in its present form simply won’t do.’ And he is not being a bigot about it either, qualifying this statement with the following: ‘I don’t believe the setting is as important as the spiritual dynamic that operates in your meetings. There are many church services that have the presence of God, and many house church meetings where individuals have gained control over other believers. It’s not the kind of building you meet in that is the issue, but the kind of system you are part of.’


Many people, me included, are questioning the ways in which we have generally understood and practiced church – the system of which we are or have been part of. For many of us the accepted ways of doing church that are typified by the resource intensive, clergy-led, place-based programs quite simply no longer resonate with what we believe the Spirit of God is doing in our lives as individuals and as communities. Some of us are also summoning the courage to explore new avenues that are both culturally relevant and Biblically sound.


That said, I am very cautious to say: ‘Don’t do it like this. Let’s do it like that.’ Simply changing a form won’t do. God has never been into the business of changing the fruits of a tree without addressing the roots thereof. For this reason the transition that many of us are undergoing is by necessity slow, thorough and painful. It is a road filled with questions and corresponding conversations that arise in our exploration of these questions.


Which brings me back to the house church movement of China and the future of Christianity. I believe that the future of Christianity will be defined more by an immeasurable and largely uncontrolled number of smaller groups which loosely associate and network amongst each other as we live our lives under the guidance of God’s Spirit (as is the case with the house church of China and the early church as found within the pages of the New Testament), and less by the resource heavy machinery that has become part and parcel of large denominational movements and Christian organisations.


Saying this, I don’t mean we should simply all become part of some house-church movement. What I am saying, though, is that we should reconsider the spiritual dynamics at work within our practiced definitions of church. Are they in-line with the New Testament pattern or are they obscuring it? Are they promoting unity with other believers who may not think and worship as we do, or are they creating distance amongst us? Are they empowering and enriching a few at the expense of the majority, or are they liberating the body to minister to one another in such a way that there is equal care amongst all the members?


These and other questions need to be explored if we are serious about how Jesus goes about building His church on earth today.

Why asking 'What Would Jesus Do?' is not enough

on Monday, 04 April 2011. Posted in Blog Archives

In my early days as a Christian the WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) bangle was quite hip amongst young evangelicals. Do you remember them? They came in different colours and eventually spawned a whole industry of God-bracelets that eventually attached themselves to the wrists of many Jesus followers across the globe. I remember one of them read FROG (Fully relying on God) and another PUSH (Pray until something happens).


I’m not quite sure if this trend is still going on, but if it is then I would like to propose a new five letter armlet: HWJDI (How will Jesus do it?). Unfortunately it’s not really a sweet sounding acronym, so I don’t think it will sell all that well. Regardless, I think it is an important question to ask in our quest to live our lives as disciples of Jesus Christ.


The last few posts I have been exploring the why of church. This is all good, but it is just as important to discover the how thereof. Most of my Christian friends and I are more or less agreed on why the church exists. In fact, when I read the vision statements of most Christian organisations and churches I find a common theme amongst most of them. I think it is safe to say that most of our disagreements do not hinge on the why of church but on the how. Not that these disagreements are altogether unwelcome. In fact, they are often conversation starters that enriches my life, and hopefully also the lives of those who disagree with me. In the words of C.S. Lewis, ‘nothing makes an absent friend so present as a disagreement.’


That said, we need to temper our confidence in our established practices with a critical eye that continually measures what we do in light of God’s ways and patterns in the New Testament. The Christian philosopher and theologian Dallas Willard, in his book The Divine Conspiracy, touches on the powerlessness and ineffectiveness that is often associated with contemporary Christianity, and makes the following poignant observation: ‘Should we not at least consider the possibility that this poor result is not in spite of what we teach and how we teach, but precisely because of it?’


Here’s a point in case. After Jesus Christ emerges from the waters of baptism and the temptations of the desert, He sets off on a quest to establish a kingdom. Now establishing a kingdom was no new invention based upon an original thought. Many people before, during and after the time of Jesus Christ made it their life’s pursuit to establish a kingdom of some sorts. Many of these men, like Herod Antipas who reigned in Judea during the time of Jesus’ adult life, promoted and expanded their kingdoms through violence, manipulation and deceit. What makes Jesus unique in the equation is not simply the fact that He built (and continues to build) a kingdom, but how He went about doing it. Can you see what I am getting at?


As co-conspirators in the empire of God, we need to be asking ourselves how Jesus goes about establishing His kingdom on earth. Because I believe the church is the primary way through which God’s kingdom breaks into this world, I have been asking myself the following question lately: How does Jesus build His church? The next few posts will touch on some of my ideas in this regard.

Church as an expression of God's eternal purpose

on Monday, 28 March 2011. Posted in Blog Archives

In this post I want to explore the why of church a little further. The last few weeks I have once again been pondering about the phrase ‘the eternal purpose of God’, a concept Paul touched on every now and again in his writings, especially in the book of Ephesians. It’s also a phrase that pops up every now and again in the books and blogs I am reading and the conversations I am engaging in of late. When I attended a Frank Viola conference about two years ago, I remember him laying great stress on the connection between the church of Jesus Christ and the eternal purpose of God.


In short, the eternal purpose of God is an idea that seeks to discover the timeless and unchanging purpose of God from eternity past to eternity coming. It presupposes that God’s actions in this world are determined or influenced by a certain purpose that He seeks to play out in this world and/or universe. His actions, therefore, aren’t random acts based upon whatever mood He is in on a given day, but arranged and chosen and such a way so as to lead creation to a point that satisfies His purposes.


Of course none of us live outside of time, so we can only deduce the purposes based upon God’s past, present and promised actions in history. Hence we can go back to the book of beginnings (Genesis), or fast forward to the book of endings (Revelation), read the books in between or have a look at God’s history in this world outside and beyond the confines of Scripture. As we do this we can discern certain patterns in the story of God with humanity, what’s more, we can discover a certain underlying narrative that governs God’s actions with humanity to some extent.


As I do the above I recognise a certain truth repeating itself over and over again in the lives of God’s people, a truth that can be summed up in the following words of Paul in 2 Co. 6:16: ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.’ Here Paul was drawing on the Biblical witness that reiterated this truth time and again. It’s all over the place when you start to notice it: Ex. 6:7, Lev. 26:12, Deut. 7:6, Jer. 32:38, Ez. 37:27 and Rev. 21:3 to name but a few. Peter also gets in on the act by declaring in 1 Peter 2:9: ‘But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light.


So what does this have to do with church and, more specifically, what does it have to do with you and me? In short: everything. God gathering a people to Himself for His own glory is neither His plan B nor a thing that will fade away in time. It is my strong conviction that the church is essentially the embodiment of this purpose on earth today, and if we lose sight of this we will soon find ourselves on shaky ground. C.S. Lewis, in Prayer: Letters to Malcom, even went as far as saying that ‘in every Church, in every institution, there is something which sooner or later works against the very purpose for which it came into existence.’ This realization should be both sobering and humbling. Our expressions of church are constantly changing, evolving and even disappearing all together. I welcome this, if only for the fact that change is really the only constant in this world. But whichever way we express this shared brotherhood as a people living under the care and guidance of God, we must remain sensitive to this pattern and identity of being God’s people in this world. To the extent that we stray from this identity to that extent we will start patterning our expressions of church life based upon something that is not in accordance to God unchanging purpose, and it should be obvious that such a thing should either change or will in time simply seize to exist.

The why of church

on Friday, 11 March 2011. Posted in Blog Archives

I am going to get right to the point and kick start this post with a quote from C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity:


‘This is the whole of Christianity. There is nothing else. It is easy to get muddled about that. It is easy to think that the Church has a lot of different objects – education, building, missions, holding services…the Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became man for no other purpose.’


According to Lewis, whose opinion I trust nine out of ten times, the church exists for individual transformation. And not just any sort of transformation, but one that will change us to become more and more like Christ. We shouldn’t take this to mean that we must become more like Jesus of Nazareth, in the sense that we are called to wear sandals, grow a beard a relocate to Palestine. But we are called to become more Christ-like, not in the sense of divinity of course, but in the sense of character, motivation and mission. This Christ-like way of life proceeds from a healthy understanding of what it means to be in Christ by virtue of the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ, as well as a deliberate practice of abiding in Christ on a day to day and moment by moment basis.


But the church exists for more than just individual transformation. If we read Scriptures such as 2 Co. 3:18, Romans 8:28-30 and 1 John 3:2, all of which talks about this process of transformation into the likeness of God, we cannot help but notice the communal context of it all: we all together are being changed into something or someone. Hence I want to adapt Lewis’ words a little bit and say that we aren’t simply called to become little Christs individually, but as a church we are called to become like Christ corporately. It’s not so much about a million little Christs as it is about the one and only Christ. The New Testament, and especially the book of Ephesians, makes this abundantly clear.


Obviously we shouldn’t ignore our individual calling to transformation, but if we fail to locate it in the greater context of communal life and transformation we will end up with a bunch of disconnected individuals all existing for their own individual missions of glory instead of a company of people connected with God and one another so as to bring glory to the Father.


Here I want to quote another dead Englishman, one who is a not as well known as Lewis but who nonetheless needs listening to. In his book, The Stewardship of the Mystery, T. Austin Sparks notes the following:


‘The Lord Himself can never reach His end by individuals, and you and I can never reach that ultimate end as individuals...The trouble with so many people, or the cause of their own delayed maturity, is that they are merely going their own sweet way; that is, they are butterflies, simply flitting from one thing to another with no corporate life, no related life...It is the corporate man that grows to that stature; individuals cannot do so. Only in relatedness do we move into the fullness of Christ.’


So then, why does the church exist? A big part of it, I think, is for us to become the embodiment of the ongoing presence and ministry of Jesus Christ in this world today. In the same way that Jesus pointed to Himself and said ‘If you have seen Me then you have seen the Father’ (see John 14:7-11), I believe God wants to point to the church and say with confidence: Look at them, that is how I look like. Let this realisation sink in and simmer for a while.

Why? How? What?

on Tuesday, 08 March 2011. Posted in Blog Archives

Every now and again I am asked something along the following lines: ‘So, what exactly is it that you do for a living?’ Since moving to the mountain I have been asked this question with increasing frequency. Because I spend a lot of time doing what I love – reading, writing, mountain-biking, spending time with my friends and so forth – some people seem to think that I am freeloading off my parents or that I have won some kind of lottery, neither of which is true.


When I am asked this question, I have started responding to it of late by pointing out the fact that why I do what I do, and how I go about doing what I am doing, is much more important than what I actually do. Some years ago, when I was in my floundering years of being a business owner, I adopted a principle that has become the backbone of my ‘why’ of business: To give away more than I keep and to keep only that which is necessary for more profitable enterprise. Freedom, both time wise and money wise, as well as the ability to bless others became the defining ingredients in my ‘why’ for business.


This brought about certain ‘hows’ in my approach to life and business, and I can only touch on some of these here. For starters, it meant making a deliberate decision to stay out of debt. The borrower is servant to the lender after all. Secondly, it meant saying no to all the employments offers that did come my way as well as some business opportunities that may have resulted in more money but not necessarily more time. Thirdly, staying true to this principle meant that I gradually had to let go of my identity in regards to what I do or don’t do for a living. As a follower of Jesus I am simply not afforded the luxury of building my life and finding my identity in what I do for a living. His Spirit, not the demands or privileges of my socio-economic position, should determine the rhythms of my existence.


All this brings us to our usual topic: church. Whether we like and embrace it or not, a lot of people from across the globe are questioning the way we have generally done church in the Western world. The what and the how of doing church have come under close scrutiny in recent times by many people. I am one of those people. But I am also cautious, because a lot of what I see is simply about replacing one way of doing things with another way of doing things, and I don’t think this really gets to the heart of the matter at all. Before we ask ourselves what we should do and implement to make a church both Biblically solid and culturally relevant, we need to back-peddle a bit and ask ourselves why the church exists in the first place. To the extent that we grapple with and clarify the why, to that extent we can go about implementing the how and the what.


I have been deliberately slow on this blog the last few months to get to this particular intersection, because I didn’t want to be quick in pointing out the flaws of one way of doing church and then simply suggest a new way of doing things without being clear about our why. That said, we must be clear and critical about our what and our how, about our way of doing things, especially if they hinder and contradict the why. The next few posts will explore these three questions in relation to church in a bit more detail.

Getting into the river

on Thursday, 03 March 2011. Posted in Blog Archives

I have this standing joke with some of my friends that I am going to become so holy whilst living in the mountains that very soon I will be speaking only in parables and metaphors. It remains a joke because in all honesty I am no holier now than I was a few months ago.


What’s startling, though, is that I am indeed beginning to think more along the lines of similes and stories and less along the lines of clear cut theories and irrefutable data. After all, this is my second post in three that uses a metaphor as the underlying structure for what I desire to communicate.


During my mountain bike ride yesterday afternoon, I started following a path that winds along a stream that’s a couple of feet deep and about three meters wide. I got off my bike to catch my breath and enjoy the beauty of this peaceful scenery, and as I did so I got caught up in a living metaphor of sorts. Sitting on the side of the river, I started doing what most boys do when we are bored: I started picking up stuff to throw into the river. First a stick that eventually got lodged between some rocks a few meters downstream, then a few pieces of grass, then a dead and dried out pincher of a crab.


I became aware of my ability to change the landscape of that small piece of the river. If I kept at it long enough, I could even alter the flow of the river somewhat. But then I realised the foolishness of my attempt. This river was made for swimming, nourishment and life, and its invitation to me is not to pollute it but to jump into it and get my body wet.


I started thinking how this truth relates to the Christian life as well. There’s a river flowing, the embodiment of God’s purpose from eternity past to eternity coming, and it calls us to jump into it. Sometimes we get so stuck on trying to figure out exactly where this river comes from or where it is going, that we never accept the invitation to simply jump into something that we cannot fully understood. At other times we get so preoccupied with the landscape and our ability to influence it with our words and actions that all we ever do is sit on the sides and throw our junk into this river.


But neither of these are truly satisfying alternatives. The fact is that the river is flowing, and we are called to jump into it and not simply sit on the sidelines trying to figure this thing out. In time the steady current as well as an occasional flash flood will simply erode all our attempts to stop this river from flowing in its intended direction, so we might as well stop with this futile endeavour. Many of use prefer to speculate about the river: its origin, its destination, the nature of the rocks within it, the makeup of the riverbed and so forth. But if we are not actually getting wet, getting into the flow of the water and allowing the river to move us as we surrender to its current, then we are simply wasting our time and taking up space.


In a time of increasing religious turmoil and doctrinal disputes, I think we would do well to heed the message of those who are actually more concerned with getting wet than getting it right. I think this is what Thomas Merton was on about when he observed: ‘The message of the contemplative is not that you need to find your way through the language and problems that today surround God, but whether you understand or not, God loves you, is present to you, lives in you, dwells in you, calls you, saves you, and offers you an understanding and light which are like nothing you have ever found in books or heard in sermons.’


It is my prayer that God will raise up more people who speak from the river, who challenge us not to see things exactly as they see it from a vantage point of standing on the edge of the water’s flow, but who invites us to enjoy and explore for ourselves the river that has swept them off their feet.

Church: The dream that's captured my heart

on Wednesday, 02 March 2011. Posted in Blog Archives

When I started blogging I really took Michael Hyatt’s advice to heart that advises bloggers to keep a post within the region of 500 words, which I usually do. Due to the nature of this post I am going to break that rule today, so please bear with me.


Many people in my life have a hard time understanding my preoccupation with church. Some of my non-Christian friends are generally accepting of the fact that I believe in Jesus, but I can see them getting uneasy when I drop the word church into our conversations. Some of my Christian friends, on the other hand, find it a bit confusing that I keep on talking about church as something I believe in and value even though I don’t attend church in the classical sense of the phrase. I am just conjecturing here, but I sometimes sense that what some of my non-Christian friends try to tell me is ‘just get over this church thing of yours already’, whilst some of my Christian friends sometimes leave me with the impression that I should either return to the fold or go the whole nine yards and ‘backslide’ all the way.


But something has grabbed a hold of my heart that makes it impossible to satisfy either of these two options. The more I walk with God the more convinced I am that His church is His preferred method of playing out His purposes in this world, chief of which is to form a people under His lordship that exists to glorify Him. That said, as I mature I also grow increasingly convinced that much of what we have been doing under the banner of His church falls way short of His intended eternal purpose. As already discussed in some of my previous posts, I think this aforementioned departure is closely linked with our inbred tendency to associate church with a place and a program rather than with a people. It’s not that the people can’t ever be associated with a certain place that may or may not have a program; it’s just that we have tried to squeeze body life into a fixed liturgy that plays out in a fixed time instead of enjoying and edifying one another within the course and context of everyday life, epitomised by the meal that is the Lord’s Supper.


As a Christian, I have always been one who practices a radical kind of inclusivity: if somebody has put their trust in Jesus somehow or another, then that is enough grounds for fellowship for me. I reckon that if God’s accepts someone, it’s arrogant of me not to do the same. Thus as the years of my short life have flown by, I have spent my time with a wide variety of Christians from various faith traditions, ranging from Catholic monks to Protestant pastors and almost anything in between. Now don’t get me wrong, not all of these people actually knew God. I am not being judgmental in saying that, I am simply stating the obvious. But what I have realised is that a person’s doctrinal viewpoints or denominational affiliations have very little to do with whether or not they actually know God. I have found that meaningful union with God and one another runs much deeper than this.


Even now, the people whom I share life with on a regular basis in a deliberate way are wide and varied. One of these people is the manager of a Dutch Reformed church. Another one is a pastor at an independent Charismatic church. Some of my Christian friends go to church on Sundays whilst some of them haven’t seen the inside of a church building for years. Just yesterday I struck up a friendship with a bunch of people who take this idea of a common life and mission very seriously, so much so that they have chosen to live on the same property and have their goods in common. As a bachelor living on my own in a mountain house this is quite a radical lifestyle, but I can fully see where they are coming from and commend them for their courage to put their faith into practice in such a drastic way.


What’s rather noticeable about all these friendships is that I don’t agree fully with any one of the people that I share life with on a regular basis. For instance, some of my friends believe in infant baptism whilst others of them believe in tithing, both of which I think are ridiculous ideas without any biblical, or at least New Testament, backing. But that’s my point of view, and just because we don’t share the same belief on these things doesn’t necessarily negate the fact that we can enjoy genuine fellowship. True, these kinds of differences often bring an unfortunate rift in many of my relationships, yet a handful of individuals and I have somehow experienced enough grace in our lives to look beyond our differences to focus on that which really matters: union with one another in Christ. As I am experiencing the joy and edification that come from these friendships, it is becoming more and more apparent to me that as brothers and sisters in Christ we are not primarily called to agree with one another. Our clearest and most irrefutable calling is to love one another with the same kind of love that God has for us, whether we agree with one another or not.


Now here’s the really exciting part, and this part of the dream of God has really arrested my attention of late. Because I strongly believe that a community of love is possible in Christ, and I should add that I believe it’s only possible in Him, I no longer see our different denominations and doctrinal points of view primarily as an impediment to our unity. In fact, I see our obvious differences as opportunities to choose love and understanding over and above our own pride that undergird so many of our fixed assumptions. What’s more, I see it as an opportunity to unify our often scattered lives around the presence and person of the Lord Jesus Christ as we experience Him both individually and corporately through the indwelling Holy Spirit. I think this is better than endeavouring to unify ourselves primarily on the grounds of assumed correct beliefs and practices. It’s not that the latter are unimportant as such, it’s just that they are not as important as unifying under the headship of Christ as we surrender our whole lives to the guidance of God’s Spirit both individually and corporately. It’s crazy that we will choose to badmouth and backbite one another because we disagree on certain beliefs and practices that aren’t clear to us for whatever reason, whilst we ignore that which should be clear to us without a doubt.


What excites me about what is happening in the body of Christ these days is that there are a lot of people who are catching this vision that we are called to love one another despite our differences. Almost every day without fail I talk to someone or read an article or a blog post or get reminded in some way or another that God is uniting His church by calling us back to this simple truth of loving one another in Him. This love is becoming less of a theological concept that forms part of our doctrinal statements and more of a day to day reality that is slowly but surely beginning to play out in the lives of people who have heard the call to simplify their lives to that which ultimately matters: loving God and loving one another.


Sure, loving one another is so much more than a mushy feeling that simply lets any fault or error slide due to our desire to keep the peace. But I do think that if we can grab a hold of the vision of truly loving one another in Christ then we will be slower to defend and eventually divide ourselves based upon our beliefs and practices and quicker to seek unity and fellowship in Christ based upon the reality of His presence and work within our lives. The prerequisite for experiencing this reality of God’s Spirit alive and active in our lives, in turn, has more to do with willingness, surrender and attentiveness, and less to do with ticking all the right boxes in some cosmic doctrinal quiz. Is such a life possible? I truly hope so.