The Primacy of God
“People don’t need self-help, they need abundance.” – Andy Bunch
…This is my story…
I began my journey as Andy, a humble writer on an adventure. I didn’t know what I wanted but I knew something out there had to be better than doing what the world (or the church) told me to do. I came to adulthood a slave to fear and security. I seemed destined to be just another cog in the wheel, though deep inside I couldn’t accept it.
Now I’m Sir Andrew, Cleric of the Most High God.
If this all sounds kinda ridiculous, especially the part about being a Cleric, don’t worry. It’ll all make sense in a bit. It won’t ever get “normal,” but it’ll make more sense as you go. The path to a better life will never be normal or easy. It’s something that you must wade into and eventually, all becomes clear. I’m not asking you to blindly accept everything I’m saying. Healthy skepticism is great. Just have the courage to suspend your judgment for a bit, until you’ve seen enough to get the picture clearly.
So, why refer to myself as a cleric?* It’s worse than that, actually. I walk the Path of the Postmodern Cleric and some people seem to be allergic to the word postmodern. Let me reassure you I’m a Christian. Not just culturally, I have a relationship with God through my savior Christ Jesus and he is my guiding light. I base my belief system on the scriptures. I fellowship with a church community on a regular basis.
I’m not trying to dress up the old religion in fanciful terms either. I refer to things a bit differently because I believe in having a personal definition for things in my life and it makes it easier to track what God is leading me through versus the culturally accepted norm if I use a unique name for things I’ve redefined.
Out of Egypt
As I mentioned, I began as a slave in Egypt. Of course, I’m being metaphorical, but that’s another tool I value highly. God provided the stories of others to help us and the journey of the children of Israel is powerful. It represents our personal journey from sinner to a new life in Christ through grace. But in order to really benefit from that story, I had to learn three super valuable things about that metaphor.
- It wasn’t just sin (doing wrong) to which I was a slave. Sin was actually a symptom of thinking based upon disconnection from God. My goal in leaving slavery wasn’t just to live sin-free; which every Christian agrees isn’t possible in this lifetime. The reason to leave Egypt was to think and live as a child of God, with decisions based in who I am in Christ not the habits of someone cut off from God. Coming out of slavery is about sin losing it’s power to compel you.
- Time in the wilderness is about learning to follow God. It’s difficult to live as a free person because at every turn you risk death to remain free. Risking death is the context of freedom. Perhaps that’s more dramatic than it’s usually stated but learning to follow God is a pretty accepted interpretation of the wilderness and I mention it because it leads to my third point.
- Entering the Promised Land is not about dying and going to heaven. It’s about the shift from following God to carrying God’s presence with you through an upgraded identity. It’s very telling that after leading the people around the desert to freedom, Moses never went into the Promised Land. Still, we accept that Moses went to heaven. In fact at Christ’s ascension, Moses is probably one of the two men who come greet Jesus to accompany his return to Heaven. Somehow Moses’ sin kept him from the Promised Land but not from Heaven. That’s HUGE!
If that portion of the story applies metaphorically then it means all this sinning we keep doing doesn’t cost us heaven, but on the downside, it means Christians can leave slave-mindedness and follow God their whole lives and never inherit the full gift of grace—new identity as a vessel of God.
Moses had a very unique and intimate relationship with God. His authority over the people came from the manifest presence of God in a fiery cloud descending to a tent out front of the community where Moses went and hung out with God daily. Yet Moses referred to himself as the servant of God. In his entire life he went from born a slave, to adopted prince in a slave world, to criminal on the run because he tried to fulfill his calling in his own strength, to shepherd in his own personal wilderness, to servant who fulfilled his calling to lead the people out of slavery through God’s power. From slave to servant. What a powerful story. What a powerful journey. But he stopped his earthly journey at servant.
I’m on my own personal journey out of Egypt. I believe we (Christians) all are. I don’t want to stop short of the full glory of Christ in me. Jesus said in John 15:15, “a master doesn’t tell his servants what he’s up to, but I call you friend, for I’ve told you everything.” We’ve seen the climax of the story now, and it’s Christ’s death on the cross in substitution for our own.
I market this book, basically as Christian self-help. I don’t blame you if you’re wondering just what you bit off by reading it. A lot of times we take concepts of “secular world” and “baptize” them into a Christian version. This isn’t that, but it’s not a devotional either.
Self-help for Christians makes a great shorthand category for labeling this book because we all know what I’m trying to say even if it’s clearly oxymoronic (we wouldn’t be Christians if we thought we could help ourselves).
As Christians, we struggle with a painful tension created by that paradox. We want life to get better and Jesus promised we could have life abundant, YET we accept that we’re powerless to stop sinning in our own strength, and will never, ever achieve a sin-free state until Christ returns for us.
Generally, the first two or three years after accepting Christ into our hearts life gets better. It gets better in a deep spiritual sense and it gets better in a very real world practical sense. But life seems to eventually stall out in the wilderness for most of us. We become frustrated and try to claw our way into the Promised Land in our own strength, but the moment we strive for it, life flies apart at the seams. We begin to wonder if God is holding out on us. Or put more familiarly, did God lead us out of Egypt to DIE IN THE WILDERNESS. I know I wondered that.
Is this all there is? Our hearts say, no. In fact the pain of having our lives not reflect what our hearts say God wants for us eventually causes us to disconnect from our hearts. We spend our time alternating between striving for more in our own strength to help God out, and resigning ourselves to the belief that this is all He wants for us until we die and go to heaven.
Well, I have good news.
Jesus didn’t die so you could sin a little less. In his own words, he died that you would have ‘life to the full.’ If you read on you’ll discover the real reason we don’t enter the Promised Land and live in fullness as Christ promised. I can tell you the keys God has shown me as I walk my path toward the Jordan River. You can even come with me as I get my feet wet. I’ve been over there several times. I keep walking around a walled city and then returning to camp south of the river. This is a process and I don’t have all the answers, but I can humbly tell you what I have learned. I know it’ll change your world if you have the courage to take it on with God’s help.
*I define “a cleric” as a person who pursues wisdom by adventuring with God, and sharing what he/she learns to help others.
(PS: Life is an adventure so some of this is your perspective on daily life, but if your life is boring…you’re not doing it right.)
*The wilderness is where we learn to follow God, not the world–the Promised Land is where we learn to carry God’s presence with you through an upgraded identity.