Church is ‘Risky Business’: ‘Buying In’ Implies More Than Agreement. It Implies ‘Commitment’

I recently connected to a local congregation in our twin cities

connectbannerBelieve me, it was not an easy thing to connect with this fellowship, especially when I have a tendency to break out in “spiritual hives” whenever I want to “commit” to a particular congregation.  I have always had a phobia about “church membership” and it centers around true believers and followers of Jesus Christ are already members of the universal church, and in study on the matter, I have concluded that localized affiliation and belonging through a rite of connection, is foreign to the Holy Scriptures.  It is an invention of organized Christian denominations for growing, developing and extending their “membership rolls.”  I just don’t like that in the least and find it very intrusive and I seek to avoid getting tangled up in it.  I have never believed actual “membership” was the same as actual “commitment.”

More reticent than committed

connectI have been reticent to “buy in” at times simply because I really don’t want to over commit to something I am not prepared to deal with all the “stuff” of what it means to “belong”

body-of-christI have found in the past that there various degrees of “belonging.”  Along with “membership” come along the general “expectations” which are all biblically explained and supported by their allotted “proof texts” so that you know the sober reality of what it means to “belong to the community.” Being an “adherent” and “non-member” seems so much less taxing and demanding and legalistic, and yes, it is rather like “common law marriage” which is really a comical irony of sorts if you think about it. “Common law” only refers that according to the common law of the land, the union between two consenting adults means you want “some” of the perks of what a real “marriage” has to offer, without the full “commitment.” In that sense, being an attending adherent church goer and active in some of the ministries of the local church, implies that you are not a serious church member, but you want the perks of participating in some of the ministries of the congregation. Oh, the irony. But I believe that this is true spiritually.

Caution & self preservation are hindrances to authentic community

connectsafeforyouPart of my own issue with this thing is that I am overly cautious with committing to something that may not end the way that it ought to end. It is part of my psychological and spiritual awareness that to be a member of a local church is to me as serious as my marriage vows. I would never and have never broken the vows I made before God to my wife and all the hundreds of witnesses who were there that 11th of June 1983 when I pledged my life for my wife. I really hold dear and treat that relationship seriously. Outside of my relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, I find the most important and responsible relationship I have is the one with my darling Lori-Anne.  I am in covenant with God and my wife and the witnesses who were there that incredible day.

Comparing marriage to community commitment

ekklesiaIn the same sense, our commitment to a local church is as serious as our marriage vows to our spouses. I came to realize this even more over the years, as I think upon those Scriptures that pertain to Jesus and the Body of Christ.  I have always held these up as the ideals of what both Christian marriage between a man and woman means as well as the relationship between Christ and the Church universal. But when it comes to the “Church universal” I believe I deliberately look upon that as more theory than practice. By that I mean, that my relationship with my wife I take solemnly serious. It is for life. No breaking of covenant “until death do us part.”  I feel the same way about the new covenant relationship I have with God in Christ Jesus. I am one with Jesus the very same spiritual way as I am with my wife spiritually, emotionally, and physically. That “union” with Christ has been sealed in the blood of Jesus in redemption.  I can truly embrace that as an eternal relationship, where the bond is strengthened throughout my life as I walk with God, study the Scriptures and am transformed through the renewing of my mind (Romans 12) and through serving God as I serve others through the leading of the Holy Spirit (Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12-14, Ephesians 4). The implication in the Scriptures is that the relationship with Jesus is expressed in community. Being a believer is not about being the “lone Ranger” or the “lone stranger” for that matter. Just as God spoke of humanity when addressing the need of man to have a woman and said, “It is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18), God also said through the apostle who scripted the letter to the Hebrews (I believe it to be Paul) when he said, “Do not forsake assembling with the saints as some do” (Hebrews 10:25).

So do I take “gathering with the saints” seriously?

GraceDeterminesI think the gravity of being “committed” to God in relationship extends to our human relationships with fellow believers in more profound ways than I am willing sometimes to acknowledge.  I believe part of my own problem is my own journey where my relationships with fellow Christians have not been the best. In fact they have been some of the most problematic.  I have experienced more sorrow and pain at the hands of other Christians than I have from anyone who would never claim to be a “born again Christian.” That kind of spiritual abuse and rejection can over time dull your spiritual awareness of the importance of really putting in deep roots in Christian community. Sometimes it is so excruciating that you want to scream your lungs out!  You want to pull up the stakes, pack the tent, and leave the campground in the middle of the night!

The internal relational issues of the heart

heb10_24-15There are those of us who have relationship issues when it comes to people of faith, which we rarely ever have with people who do not acknowledge Jesus as their Lord and Savior.  I believe this is because over time we develop a mindset that has certain “Christian expectations” when it comes to relationship and community with other believers.  Those expectations can get in the way and hinder as much as they can motivate. The issue lies within each of our hearts in all the “internal junk” we carry from our past that has not been processed or dealt with appropriately.  We often carry the residue of past relationship issues and they are often below the surface only to explode to the surface when someone happens to be the trigger of an encounter, person, or even that bear a similar resemblance to the situation at hand. I have seen this happen to people with sometimes devastating effects simply because the person never worked through the issues and never dealt with their own heart situation and come to reconciliation with all the issues, with God, and the people involved as well as their own hearts.  The same manner in which an open wound can be seared by a heated instrument to close a wound so healing can begin, the fire of God will often burn our hearts which includes pain and sorrow over a broken relationship and the disappointments that accompany that fractured relationship. Sometimes the heat of conviction from God hurts more than the wound, just as the heated blade that sears our open flesh can cause momentary pain that is beyond definition or expression. It is a necessary pain to go through in order to begin to truly heal.

Being part of the Body of Christ is more than the 31 flavors you find at Baskin Robbins!

baskingrobbins2My wife and I used to go for walks and stop for an ice cream at Baskin Robbins when we lived in a particular neighborhood when we were newlyweds. We loved looking at all those different flavors and mix and matching different scoops and toppings. Being part of the Body of Christ is not like being in a spiritual Baskin Robbins. We do not get to create our special treats of flavors and toppings. The people that make up each and every local congregation of Bible believers that constitute the authentic true Christian universal church is comprised of every ethnic, language and cultural group you can imagine.  We do not create these people. These people already are in the local body of Christ and have come just as they are. All we can do is come alongside and accept one another as we are, and begin the journey of faith, by integrating and building relationship and community with all of this diversity of people, many of whom come from diverse places around the globe, especially so in our more cosmopolitan city centers. The point I am trying to make is that as Christians, our spiritual DNA is the DNA of God  where through renewed hearts and minds, we embrace people exactly for who and what they are and we love them through the love of God that dwells within our own hearts.  Whatever heart issues may arise, those triggers are cues for each one of us to deal with that internal junk that should be removed by repentance and trust in God to heal our hearts, so that we mature in character and life as we walk with the people God has put in our lives.  We can commune when we come together in unity and purpose to love God and others intentionally, with trust and faith and a resolution to not run away when relationships become difficult.

So “buying in” implies that I really do put traction to my “commitment”

heb-10-25-with-addressSo after these few words on commitment and belonging and community really puts the onus on the individual to do all he can to connect with and engage with people that are part of the local Body of Christ.  I am reminded over and over that the New Testament church gathered in all kinds of contexts and situations and it was never about having a “religious meeting.” There were apostolic meetings that were the “bigger event” and that event had little to do with regular church life. Regular church life is implied in the narrative of the Book of Acts as a “daily” coming together of those who were believers. It was that way in Jerusalem and when the persecution began under Paul and the Jerusalem religious establishment, the Sanhedrin, the believers dispersed by default, and in so doing began to fulfill Acts 1: 8, going to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the outer regions of the known Mediterranean world. When You read of Paul’s inner circle, with people such as Aquila & Priscilla, you see them going all over the Roman world, going from Greece (Corinth) to Rome working in tandem, complementing the work of Paul, and even going ahead of him to Rome to set up the base of operations for the spread of the Gospel there. They were known for their hospitality and for mentoring leaders like Apollos. The church gatherings were in homes, estates of the wealthy, in the woods, anywhere a cluster of people could meet. Their faith was an intimate and personal one that permeated all the relationships each believer developed in their daily walk with God.

Applying the New Testament model of relationships

heb10If I am to model myself after the believers I find in the pages of the New Testament, I need to engage in whatever means I can with what is taking place in the larger context of church body life and ministry as well as engage in the smaller clusters of people that meet during the week, and those whom I meet one on one. You need to have all these facets express themselves to have a healthy personal walk with God, and even more so as you come alongside what God is doing in the local church body.

getconnectedSo for me to really commit I need to come alongside with what is going on. I want to encourage the servant leaders there, and offer them my assistance in any way that I can help in the life and ministry of the church congregation. For me to do this requires commitment and risk.

Committing to a local church body is “risky business”

encourageIn life we assume risks every moment of every day.  We balance them out and evaluate them, sometime logically and over a process, and sometimes we don’t give it a second thought. No matter how we assess and assume the risks involved in being a part of an organized enterprise like a church body, you are going to have to assume the risk.

connect2In the insurance industry of which I have been a part of over the last nearly 20 years, the whole industry is based on analyzing “risks” and the costs involved in reimbursing those people who have had a claim for damages done to an assumed risk.  The same way your property is valued and assessed as a viable risk assessment for an insurance policy on your property, you and I analyze and asses the risks involved in engagement in the lives of people and in church ministry.

In the end if I am going to truly buy in I need to agree to and assume the risk that I will get hurt

serve1anotherThere is no escaping it.  I will get hurt, get disappoint, get rejected, get used by someone. Name it and it has already happened and it will happen again. I cannot do the “turtle” and be engaged at the same time. I need to intentionally walk with people in relationship and deal with the issues that arise as they come.  Buying in means I am assuming the risk.

Beach Family Portraits

drawnearI haven’t been this way before too often in the past, but I think that now, I can assume more and more of the risk. I want what God has for me in community and I want to contribute to the community. That is my risk assessment and I am buying in! How about you? Are you committed where you are? Are you buying in? Are you willing to assume the risk?

Peace & Grace

~ Samuel M. Buick

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Bloody, Bloody, Bloody Friday: Remembering The Cost of Salvation In Christ Alone

4431-crown of thorns_edited.630w.tnA Bloody Day For The Dark History OF Humanity

When I was a child…

IMG_5412When I was young and began to comprehend the meaning of Good Friday and the death and the burial and resurrection of Jesus, I had a fascination with the death of Jesus. I can remember vividly how the sight of blood affected me as a boy of seven years of age.  My parents at the time were missionary pastors in France, in Alsace Lorraine, in the Vosges district, in the town of Saint Die.  There was a butcher there, and I got to accompany my father to the butcher shop. I was there in the midst of carved up carcasses, sides of beef, pork, poultry, and those French delicacies such as wild boar and venison and lamb.

Bloody-butcherI remember seeing the blood pouring out of one of the cattle hanging on the hook. It was grotesque. The blood just ran, and I remember seeing it thicken as it congealed. It gave me the creeps back then, and my retelling it gives me the creeps all over again. Seeing the entrails and other organs taken out, some to prepared and eaten as delicacies just gave me the willies. They still do. There are some animal parts and organs I still refuse to eat because of what happened on that day when I was seven years old.  This I know, taking an impressionable seven year old child to a butcher shop is nothing more than a great trauma to cause a child to endure, for the child will remember the images, the smell, the sensations and all that goes with that scene forever. It is forever ingrained in the person’s psyche, and it is impossible to wash the memory of it away. It is there forever. It becomes a part of you and shapes the rest of your life in many different all-encompassing ways.  We can never minimize or trivialize its effects on the life of a human being.

When I think of Good Friday, I think of two things: Darkness & Blood

I think of sin and the dark world in which humanity exists, still, now two millennia removed from the actual day of this historical life altering event

The_Rebuke_of_Adam_and_EveI think of the radical fall of humanity when through the actions of Adam & Eve (yes I believe they were real people, and not an allegory as some would suggest), in rebelling against God and the instructions they were given while in the Garden of Eden.  I think of how the government of God was usurped by the great usurper satan and his minions that followed him in his rebellion in heaven and they were cast down to the earth below, only to inflict their harm on the image bearers of God, Adam and Eve. I think of how Eve was deceived by satan in her desire to be like God and receive knowledge to be akin to, alike to God. I think of Adam, the gullible, mindless dweeb of an incompetent oaf, that was seduced by Eve to play along and eat of the forbidden fruit in order to know and understand and be akin to God, even though he knew along that it was forbidden.  I think about why Adam could not resist, and confront Eve and go to God and seek God’s help and intervention, rather than enabling Eve in her deception. I think how deception by satan has continually plagued the human race since that rebellion in the Garden from so long ago.

good-friday (1)I think about the darkness, the sin that has been unleashed throughout the generations of people, who over and over, prove and verify the veracity of the truth and the extent of the “fall of humankind” every day through every action and decision in which a man, woman, or child is confronted with, and in their quest for making a decision are continually faced with doing what satisfies their ego, their fleshly desires, what is expedient rather than what is right, and often going against what they know deep within their being, in their conscience and heart of hearts, and they do it any way.  Yes, I think of the extent of the human condition, the sinful human condition, that is core of human existence and as much of a core and the DNA of which we are composed. There is no escaping the generational effects of being born in sin. And all of this was started by an act of rebellion by Adam and Eve and every offspring from the first couple, the first family, is born dead in sin.

Death_row_titleAll are born alive in the flesh, but all are born already dead because of the effects of sin. We who are born, are born to die, because of sin. All of us who are born, are on a spiritual “Death Row,” needing to choose a godly response to salvation through repentance and saving faith, or if we refuse or neglect responding we face that day of reckoning of being a “dead man walking” waiting to cross from this life into an eternity of darkness and separation from God and suffer judgment. Our “dead man walking” needs to walk toward Christ and salvation. This is what Good Friday enables us to do… though being dead in sin, we can arise and walk toward Christ, and in repentance and faith we can embrace life that is freely given by Jesus. We can be liberated from death row. The choice is ours. The means have been provided. All we need to do is appropriate it by faith.

When I think of Good Friday, I think of all that blood that was shed for the remission of sin

Bloody, bloody, Friday. 

yomkippurLet that sink in. Think on the imagery I gave of what I stepped into at age seven, in that butcher shop with all that blood flowing from the cattle on the hook. All that sticky congealing blood on the concrete floor.

passion2Some people are casual when it comes to blood. In our day, through the entertainment industry we have become desensitized to it all. So much fake blood through special effects all over the screen in increasingly violent portrayals of violence, which directors believe is a requirement in the telling of a story that has violence as part of the story. The problem again is the toleration effect to the graphic violence and our desensitization to it all which studies show lead us to develop a calloused psyche and deranged soul, especially when it comes to dealing with people who have encountered horrific life altering violence at the hands of another. There are studies that reveal that contemporary soldiers who have been avid RPG gamers, are so desensitized to the violence, that they barely blink when there is collateral damage and innocent civilians are killed in a combat incident or conflict. Some of these acts of violence are perpetrated by soldiers on our own side who just treat non-combatants and enemy personnel as a glorified shooter video game. The military now uses video games to train their soldiers, so more and more virtual reality (VR) is coming into the mainstream. The effect of all that again is the desensitization of individuals who become literally dead to the extremely violent portrayals in the narrative.

I wonder, have we become so desensitized to the graphic nature of the cross of Christ?

passion-of-the-christ-nailWhen you move about the business of your day today, will you be thinking of the betrayal of Jesus and his unjust trial done in the darkness of the night, as a sham to expedite the death of an innocent victim of those who plotted his demise and destruction? Will you think about how Jesus knew he came to be born of a virgin in order to be the perfect and last sacrifice for sin, the perfect Lamb of God, and the perfect High Priest, offering himself as the sacrifice and the priest over his own death? Will you think of all the weight of the sin that was upon Him as that sacrifice, the weight the sins of the entire breadth and depth of humanity, every soul ever born over all the ages of time, all to be covered for, the shedding of his innocent blood? Have you and I become desensitized to the death of the holiest person to ever walk the face of the earth, dying your place and my place, for our sin?

hebrews9_22If you are a believer or a religious person and on Good Friday, you partake of the Lord’s Table, communion, taking the bread and the wine in remembrance of this Day of Atonement, where the perfect atonement, once and for all time is remembered, will you remember, really remember, the shed blood of Jesus of Nazareth, shed for you, for me? Will you remember His broken body hanging on that tree? Will you remember the driving of the nails into his hands? His feet? Will you remember and think about the crown of thorns placed upon His head? Will you remember the tearing of his flesh from the cat of nine tails that pulverized his back? Will you remember and think about the blood pouring from all those wounds, and the blood coming from his pierced side where the legionnaire pierced His side to verify if Jesus was dead yet. Will you think on that?

Good-Friday-Message-700x525Today is as good a day as any to think about darkness, the darkness of our own hearts. Today is as good a day to think about the blood, the blood of innocent Jesus of Nazareth, the son of the living God, that shed his blood for the remission of our sins.

good-friday-wallpapercopyToday is the day to think about darkness and blood. Think on it. Think on it for a while. After a while take a moment, if you know Jesus Christ, to thank Him for what He has provided you as a believer. If you don’t yet know Him, then take a while and consider asking Jesus to reveal Himself to you. The best way to know and understand Him, is to read the Gospel narratives. You read and ask God to reveal Himself to you as you read. It is that simple. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These four have become my friends on my life journey. They can become your friends too.

It’s all about the darkness and the blood. The blood that washed away my filthy stains. Have you been washed clean by the blood of the Lamb? 

Peace & Grace to you.

~ Samuel M. Buick

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Here I Stand, I Can Do No Other

A lot transpired on my sabbatical from Facebook ~ A spiritual cleansing

I have rededicated myself fully to Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the ONLY Mediator between God and man, and the only means of salvation for all of humanity, the only Saviour of those who have ever lived, currently live, and those who have yet to be born. He is God in the flesh, fully God and fully man. There will come a day of accounting for all people, a day of reckoning where by those who die in faith, will go into everlasting rest, and those who die outside of saving faith in Jesus Christ, will go to judgement.

I have recanted and repented from many things over the last month:

1) Repented from all the influences of Roman Catholicism
, Catholic mysticism, the Catholic understanding of saints, icons, the Desert Fathers, Sacramental theology, centering prayer, meditation, the Catholic Ecumenical Movement, Pope Francis and the Roman Ecclesiastical system, Roman Catholic charismatic movement, and non biblical Catholic dogma.

2) Repented from the influences of the Eastern Orthodox belief system, mystical theology & experience, Eastern Orthodox beliefs & practices, icons, meditation, and the Eastern Orthodox view of the church and the offices and ministries within the church.

3) Repented from all the influences of the Emergent Church Movement
, including centering prayer, meditation, post-modern narrative theology, convergence movement toward one world religion, dialogue with other world religions and movement, the pax-religious dialogue obsession, the world peace & harmony movement, all the New Age gnosticism , beliefs & practices entering the Evangelical Church through the deceived Emergent Church Movement.

4) Repented from the Hyper Charismatic Movement, the extra biblical beliefs and practices which have New Age origins, such as visualization in prayer, naming it & claiming it, self-actualization practices, the “god within” paradigm mirroring the New Age understanding of the “Christ consciousness within,” astral projection, third heaven encounters, heavenly realms, lights and crystals, harmonious sounds, seeking hidden knowledge, seeking experiences in the spirit, conversations with dead saints and people, trances, kundalini manifestations, the five fold ministry gifts, revivalist movements centred in encounters and not presentation of the Gospel unto salvation.

The list goes on.

The more the Lord reveals, the more repenting I am embracing and doing

Those who genuinely come to saving faith in one of those three streams mentioned above, are saved by grace through faith, in SPITE of those streams, NOT because of them. It is only by the mercy of God that you are saved. The Scriptures say that if we are in those streams that teach anything other than the faith once delivered to the saints, then we are “to come out of her” and that is the Babylonian captivity of the Church.

My path to deception began in the turbulence of loss & suffering

My path to deception began in struggling with the pain, anguish of soul and heartbreak of losing our wee Carragh to cancer at age nine. We were in a conservative Evangelical church, and Lori-Anne and I did not know how to journey through the journey of pain associated with the death of a child. Our church family responded as best they could, but they did not know how to do that well either. At one level we wanted to scream, at another we wanted to feel. At another we wanted to have people come alongside and hurt with us, feel our pain and sorrow and just walk with us. We did not have anyone in that church that did that for us or with us. So we left. We moved away from stability and solid biblical teaching, and we got sucked into the hyper Charismatic needing to be able to experience God and feel alive and feel like it all mattered. But it led us to all this jumbled mess.

Unresolved personal pain within the institutional church unleashed more pain as I criticized the Church

In my own hurt and pain at what I found in the institutional church, I left and wandered for 14 years and was part of the house church movement. Much of what i did, I did, without realizing from a place of hurt, pain, rejection that I experienced within the institutional church. I slammed the institution and dismissed it as irrelevant and having nothing in common with the original blueprint of the Church found in the Book of Acts. As time progressed my judgments came back upon me and I could not find lasting good nurturing relationships, and that was the direct results of my criticisms and judgments. Yes Christianity is relational. Yes the institutional church has problems and its way of being the Church need to be more relational. But we can move in love and grace and compassion and seek to make Church more relational and engaging both in ministry and mission, inside and outside the four walls, be they the four walls of a cathedral or the four walls of your rec room. In the end it is about proclaiming and living out Jesus Christ and the Gospel and making disciples. My criticisms and judgments reaped a whirlwind in my own life. But no more.

When the “lights” turn on and expose the lies it is time to run!

Lori-Anne and I have chosen to run away from all the false teaching and deception that came into our spiritual lives over the last several decades. It all started with the wider Charismatic (non-Pentecostal – there is a difference) Movement, and entering into the Vineyard Movement, which led us in the Toronto Renewal and all its deceptions, the Prophetic and Apostolic Reformation movements, including the Kansas City Prophets, Todd Bentley, Lakeland Revival, and all the gamut of thing embraced within the current Charismatic movement.

Only the Jesus of the Bible matters!

I don’t care what spiritual gifts you have. I don’t care what mystical spiritual experiences you have. I don’t care about your callings and giftings. I don’t care about “doing the stuff” of ministry. I don’t care about healings and miracles. I don’t care about prophetic words. I don’t care about apostolic ministry. I don’t care about any of that.  I only care that Jesus is proclaimed as the only Saviour and Lord. I only care that if all these other things of “church” or “theology” or “ministries” are all taken away, and all you have left is your personal relationship with Jesus Christ, that Jesus alone is more than sufficient for you. Is Jesus enough?


For Lori-Anne and I, Jesus is more than enough

We are done with all of that other stuff, all the spiritual fluff with no substance or biblical grounding. We seek to know the God of the Bible, and proclaim that same God, and the salvation which is found in no other, Jesus Christ alone, Jesus of Nazareth, the Incarnation of God made flesh that dwelt among us and became the ONLY atonement for sin for all of humankind. If that same Jesus is not proclaimed, I am running as fast as I can the other way.

Like Luther said, “Here I stand I can do no other!”

Samuel M Buick
In the Eternal Grip of Jesus

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