Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Damascus Road

It is quite common that those who emerge from dysfunctional religious groups have many quandaries regarding just where they fit in and even what they believe. It is an arduous and painful process to re-orient oneself outside the group. This is highly correlated with the time within the group. It is akin to being a refugee no longer having the familiar places and people in one's life. There is life that has happened and many experiences that occurred when one was tenured in the group. Not all the experiences were bad and perhaps there were as many good as there were bad. Yet in the end, there was a breaking of relationships. The reasons for these are plethora and I believe each one has a unique quality to it that is the life experience of the person who has decided the group was not the way they wanted to pursue their life. Many who emerge lose their faith and so take a life on that excludes the Savior that bought them. I cannot believe this is the right course but I have to say I have seen others take this road and in a very basic sense by doing so, they are still allowing influence from the group from which they emerged. What about these? Before the judgment seat of Christ, it is clear that the blame is to be shared. For the one who left their faith shipwreck, they will answer for the Person they abandoned. For the ones who lead them, I believe a more severe penalty awaits them. The leaders of such groups should regularly re-evaluate their methods and even the 'truth' they so much cling to as the ways of God and repent of their methods. Perhaps if they did so, they would no longer be dysfunctional. What is an indicator this needs to be done? The growing casualty list. If a group is shrinking in size over time and the main line of defense of the teachings is the reason used for the mounting body count, something needs to give or the grinding judgment of God will prevail. What is final stroke of judgment on such a group?


I cannot tell you how many movements over time that espoused that their way was the true one and ended up on the ash heap of church history -- they have been without number. What is the conclusion that must be reached? Theirs was not the way and their lack of continuance confirmed this.

Those that emerge must see that in time, justice is served for God is not mocked and will not allow such to continue and if they do, to the trained Christian eye, they are no longer Christian in nature but have devolved into something else.

So, what about those who emerge? There is a choice to make and if one does not make the choice consciously, they have done so anyway. They have let others choose for them. My goal in this entry is to provide perspective to you friend that will allow the compass of the Holy Spirit to turn you towards Home. It is not a time to look backward and regret or grieve the past actions and decisions. They are done, they are over and there is no changing them. We either live in their shadow or in God's light. Look at it this way, if something had not happened to you personally you perceived at the time as injurious to your person, you more than likely would still be in the group taking doses of spiritual novocaine to deaden and obscure your clarity that something was amiss. No, the pain and the tearing separation shocked you from your stupor as you were expelled from the cocoon of an artificial spiritual life. Let's face it square, on your way to Damascus with orders from the leadership in hand and in pursuit of words whispered in your ears that caused your imagination to flush and your blood rush, Jesus intervened. It was unexpected and He came in a form that you did not recognize. In the Bible, there are countless entries of unusual means by which God makes His will known: from the gallows of Haman to the Jack-ass of Balaam each was the turn of the wheel of truth whose imprint in the dust led home. So it is for you friend. The truth, the meeting caused Saul to become Paul and a murderer of God's people to the titular head of Christendom.

A lot can happen on the Road to Damascus. Many of us on the road had other plans and visions and ambitions. Some we owned and others we adopted due to sweet-talk and the quest for position - it is the oldest trick and its source is our own inbred Adamic avarice. It is of this we need to repent for it is our own desire to be rushed to the head of the table where the honorable reside - this is a common form of seduction, it was the appeal of Lucifer in the garden and in the desert his offer to Jesus, the torch in the hand of Saul the King, the censer in the hand of Uzziah. We cannot know what was in Saul of Tarsus' mind as he slouched toward Damascus but being human and made of the same stuff allow me to speculate: Saul sought fame and honor from his leadership. He followed them in pursuit of his understanding of how God was to be served. Yet in essence by his own confession, he looked on while good men were beaten and stoned to death. This did not deter him, and if I might offer, it was this bloodlust that drove him to escalate the persecution to the point of seeking out the Christians and to lead them back to Jerusalem in chains. What is this akin to? The Roman captors and their parades of vanquished foes while the crowd roared adulation - this was the seduction of Paul by those who lead him. What was ringing in Saul's ears was the praise and position just within grasp at the cheap cost of the lives of these followers of Jesus. With another agenda in mind and in hand, the light struck as if lightning with a force that knocked Saul to the ground. Well now...this was unexpected. A voice rippled from eternity only distinguishable by whom it was meant to call from death and pursuit of a wrong way. Paul left staggering and blind and it was only upon his arrival at Damascus, he began to understand. Oh friend, will we stagger? Oh yes, we will. We will be disoriented and flap on the ground like a beached fish gasping for the familiar but it does not come. Yes. What is its purpose this blinding and tearing? It is the true calling of God. It comes unexpectedly and in forms we do not wish but come it does...thank God.

The form of deliverance God uses commonly is manifested in what would seem to be a secondary event. Moses as he entered the grandeur of Pharoah, a shepherd boy facing a Philistine with a stone and a sling, three starving lepers approaching the besieged city with wonderful news...a man riding the colt of a donkey. It will not come as you expected it...it may even be uttered from the lips of your enemies - their very words and actions only a tool in the hand of a loving God who has purposed to set you in the right direction. Why? Well you know the answer to that one: it is because you have intended to find and follow at all costs: this is true discipleship not blind compliance. Is it not true that you were made to count the cost and made the decision anyway? Has the way been easy since that point of decision? Well, you know the answers to those as well: He would not be the decent and open Savior He is without letting you know what lied ahead. But you went anyway, why? It was the way to Damacus - the trail prints left by a God-man you followed up to this minute. Look around you. You are probably alone and perhaps maybe a few with you -- yet is it also not true that there resonates a deep down confirmation that it played out as God wanted it to do. God has entrusted to you the trip because He knew you would follow -- He knew you and by so doing has it also not been true you have grown to know Him more than you had under any other tutelage. Why? When you left, He was all you had and it was Him you clung to on the Road when the mental storms came and the robbers of your treasured peace held knifepoint to your throat. But you did not die, you did not stop, you kept on: on to Damascus.

God's 'There'

Friend, what awaits you when you get 'there'? Will it be rest and relaxation? Will it be living on the laurels of God's deliverance and visitation? No. What lies ahead of you is work...hard work. God has gone through the extreme to battle-harden you and to put a right vision in you and make you a chief among debtors to the grace He has cast your way. God has changed you into another person...unrecognizable to those who formerly knew you and perhaps followed you. As they cast aspersions at Paul so they will to you. So many names: apostate, one whose faith is shipwrecked, a sinner, a blasphemer, a reprobate. Oh my, it is much more to ease their own decision to stay and continue than to take the road to Damascus. You have left the 'golden city' of the group but it is more like the flight of Lot before the judgment fell, it is no time to look back and ponder, it is in the past now and what lies ahead is Damascus. Now you will find the true callings of God in your life and not the dark whispers of the perhaps well-intended but mis-informed voices. Their mistake? They perhaps spoke as the oracles of God but in a very real sense mis-represented Who they spoke for and in the name of...this is their mis-step and this will be their judgment.

In Good Company

In time the voices and the faces fade. The sharpness of the break is dulled in time. What is real is where you are now...on the Road to Damascus facing the true and ever present task that waits for you at journey's end - a life of true service and a place in the ranks of the faithful who bent but did not break. Friend, this is our personal encounter on the Road. We have met, I have looked into you and you have into me. Turn forward with me and continue, no we do not know the full plan that awaits us there but wherever our 'Damascus' is and what we find out once we get there I know it will be fraught with peril but the accompanying miracles and deliverances will be there too. So it is, so it has always been to those whom God first struck and broke and sent falteringly on the road to Damascus - you friend are in the highest of company.

1 comment:

  1. I am on that road to Damascus. It took me 8 years to even get back on the road or want to continue after leaving the church I left. I told everyone I was done with organized religion and all its trappings. However, God had other plans for my life. He gave me a strong desire to further my relationship with him and improve my relationships with other people.

    The road has had its share of bumps and detours for road construction along the way. Damaged severly was my ability to trust "church leaders and parishioners". Determined to never allow others to dictate to me what I can have in Christ, I also pushed those away God sent to restore me. Realizing this now I have changed and the road has smoothed out some.

    Recently in a Wednesday night service, the pastor quoted Isaiah 43:18-19 Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. God is with me and has brought me thru so much that I can see the lights of the city of Damascus! How they sparkle with hope and promise!