Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, on 2/27/05
"Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?" (Amos 3:3).
"Unmet expectations" (See link at end), is a common problem in our interpersonal relationships, as was evidenced by the response from a recent writing by the same name. One of the thorniest areas of unmet and unrealistic expectations among Christians is the need for and/or the lack of fellowship. We often get e-mail from folks whom God has called out of organized religion, who long for someone to relate to, some group with whom they can share common ideas and values. They ask if we know of any fellowship groups in their area, which for the most part, we do not. They ask how we get our fellowship needs met, which is one reason for this writing today.
One brother whose thoughts I have shared with you before, wrote about the angst of his heart on this subject. He put it in such compelling terms, that I feel led to share his entire e-mail with you. His comments are in italics. He wrote:
"Dear Jan, I enjoyed reading "Unmet Expectations." Parts of it stirred up something in me that is not going away. Let me highlight what you wrote and then ask my question:
"There comes a time, I personally believe, when, if agreement cannot be found, the feuding parties may have to part company, at least for a time. If that must happen, how much easier to bear would it be if they admitted that they wanted their way more than they wanted fellowship with each other? What usually happens, however, is that each party blames the other for failing to meet their obligations."
"The gap between me and organized religion has only grown more distant since I ceased teaching in September 2003. At first, I used to "drop in" and "visit" once every couple of weeks. That became every couple of months. Now it's been quite a while. What you wrote above caused me to ask if my unmet expectations were superseding my desire for fellowship with those I had fellowshipped with for so long? "My way?" "Blaming the other?" If that's what I'm doing (and it may well be), then there's very little about that which has His blessing. Yet (here's my question), is it possible to return to fellowshipping with those with whom our views of God, beliefs about total reconciliation, hell, and a host of other key spiritual issues are now soooooooo very different?
"Let me share a brief story to illustrate: Having not been in church in quite a while, I heard through the grapevine that two dear brothers in the Lord were in the hospital; one following heart surgery, the other with pneumonia. On the way into work I diverted my route and stopped in to check on them. The brief time of fellowship we enjoyed was sweet. Both men (after overcoming being startled to see me in their hospital doorways) were genuinely glad I'd stopped by. We shared stories of times past; we caught up on happenings in the lives of our families; mostly we just smiled and felt the love of Christ pass between us. During those two brief visits, I almost broke down in tears spending time with Kenny, the dear old saint who was in for pneumonia. Ken is a senior saint with which I served on the church eldership. What stirred within me were memories of the times Kenny and I had co-labored together. I also recalled the many years of hospital calls I'd made on members of my church, the church I no longer was connected to. What was clear to me sitting there with both men was how much I missed not "connecting" with fellow Believers with whom I'd previously connected. When I shared this story with my wife, she wondered why I didn't just begin "dropping back in" at the church on occasion just to touch base with those whom I'd known through the years. I wouldn't have to "reenlist," just say "hi."
"I tried explaining to her that when one's core views of God changed as radically as mine had, it just didn't feel right "dropping in." When I'd done that in the past, I could see the looks of bewilderment and confusion on the faces of those I used to teach, lead and minister to: "Why aren't you here anymore?" "What changed?" "What's wrong with us? with you?" "Why are you back? Is it to stay? Are you just 'passing through?'" Words posed some of the questions; most of them, however, came from the looks.
"I genuinely miss the fellowship, I really do. But when you come to believe that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself; that somehow, someway He will save everybody; and that He is most likely returning to earth through His people instead of an escalator through the clouds, everything changes. EVERYTHING! You wrote:
"Only God can and does meet all our expectations, but He does not do this because we are "good servants," or because we obey Him, but rather He does this because He loves us unconditionally, and has since before the foundation of the world. He never expected we could keep the commandments on our own, which is what the Law of Moses so eloquently proved. He always knew that He in Christ would pay the price to reconcile the creation to Himself. Therefore, laying blame, accusations, guilt and shame on another are useless activities, because it is all God's responsibility from the getgo. In the midst of the pain, He reveals Himself. Ultimately, we will all be reconciled with each other. How do I know? Because THAT'S WHO GOD IS. Behold, He makes ALL THINGS new (Rev. 21:5)."
"It's revelations like those and a whole bunch more that make me feel like a bird bouncing off of a window, trying to get back into a house that I'm no longer a resident of. Missing the "connecting" as much as I might, I just can't return to believing as I once believed. And not believing as I once did and they still do makes a world of difference in our ability to fellowship. Maybe "these feuding parties" will have to remain parted at least for now. Still and all, it leaves me bewildered and very sad believing that "Christ is all and in all" and that we all are One in Him, yet for this present time, it's seeing that Truth from a whole new perspective that leads to this awful experience of separation and broken fellowship with those who also claim Him as Lord.
"Even so, come Lord Jesus..." End Quote
This brother has expressed so well the pain and discomfort he and many others feel about leaving a group of people who had formerly met so many needs. He also explains quite well what keeps him from going back. As the prophet Amos said, it's very difficult to walk and fellowship with those who don't agree with us. I'm sure that some members of the local church I grew up in cannot understand why I don't join them as I did in childhood. It caused me a great deal of emotional trauma and angst until I realized that it is God at work here, not my choices. He called me out of this church, a journey I've shared elsewhere (My Sheep Know My Voice, link at end), and until He sends me back, I dare not go.
Shortly after we came to Neosho, MO, Gary Sigler sent us a little booklet he had published for Stephen Jones, called "The Purpose of Wilderness." I didn't know Stephen Jones, but because Gary sent it, I read it. To my delight, the book was about this very thing I was confronting now that we had moved back to my hometown. In it, Jones points out that the reason God called us out into what seems like a wilderness (out of church, in other words), was not because we would now be offended by them, but for the opposite reason. He called us out so we would not offend them! Lenny has always said that people do the best they can with the light God has given them. When He gives us greater light, it is not so we can amend the theology of everyone we know, but so we can grow according to His plan for us. We often hear from folks who have been given the revelation of God's reconciliation of all, and have decided that it is their job to deliver the message to the ETers (believers in eternal torment). When the rocks are pelting down and the tar and feathers flying, they wonder what in the world went wrong. This response to their decision to amend someone's theology without a divine mandate is sadly predictable, which is why Jesus admonished His followers "Do not give dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under foot and turn to attack you" (Matt. 7:6). This sounds excessively harsh as many of Jesus' teachings do, but it follows in the context of His admonition not to judge, and not to try to get the speck out of your brother's eye until you get the log out of your own.
Christians who would never commit adultery, murder, steal, lie or cheat, nevertheless fall flat on their faces over Christ's commandment not to judge, and the more legalistic the denomination is, the more judgment they give out, with the result, according to Jesus, that they reap judgment unto themselves. The verse reads like this: "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you" (Matt. 7:1-2). I have seen this happen many times. Judgment is like a cancer of the soul. It lurks in the unseen depths of the mind, and springs out unexpectedly, causing pain and wreaking havoc on friendship and fellowship alike. In fact, it is the real problem in trying to fellowship with those whose ideas we used to share, but have now been called higher. They judge us for being apostate to their idea of truth and we judge them as being too stupid to get what's patently clear to us.
Both churches and marriages split over differences, brought down by judgment, resentment and condemnation. In both situations, Jesus would call for each party to address the beam in his own eye before condemning the other for the speck in his eye. If you insist that everyone you fellowship with must agree with you on all things, you'll soon find yourself in a group of only one! In Romans, Chapter 14, Paul talks about judging others who don't see things the way you do. They were feuding over what they could eat, because the Jewish Christians still carried in their psyche the dietary prohibitions of the Law, while Gentile Christians had no such constraints. Paul said to them, "The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand" (Rom 14:3-4). The Apostle of grace concludes, "For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men" (Rom. 14:17-18).
Christians who are dependent upon the pastor, preacher, elders, or others to pray for and minister life to them are still children, needing someone to teach them "the elementary truths of God's word all over again" (Heb. 5:12). The Hebrew writer gives the answer to the problem: "Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so" (Heb. 6:1-3). You'll notice here that the elementary teachings he mentions are the foundation of what is taught in most churches today. Notice also, he rightly concludes that our ability to move on comes from God, not from self effort.
We were talking about fellowship this morning after reading the brother's e-mail, and Lenny observed that the real fellowship we need in order to grow, is our fellowship with the Lord through the Holy Spirit. We don't depend upon a man to feed us, for God Himself feeds us, though of course, He may use people to do it: "God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful" (I Cor. 1:9). The Apostle John adds: "We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ" (I John 1:3). These verses affirm what I believe, which is that human fellowship always goes south when we expect from people what only comes from the Father and Son through the Holy Spirit. John continued to say, under what circumstances fellowship will continue: "if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses from all sin" (Vs. 7). It is another example of the power of Light in all aspects of our lives. When the Light illuminates us, we see that THE PURPOSE OF FELLOWSHIP IS TO SHARE THE LOVE. Should you find yourself a quart low, go to the source so that His Love may flow through you to all men everywhere, regardless of where they are and what they believe.
Love is the answer to all men's needs! The day will come, when the Light will shine so brightly in the hearts of God's children, that all darkness, division and judgment, disputes and disdain will flee away. Nations will come to our light and kings to the brightness of our rising. Lord, haste the day.
Father, we thank You that You chose to fellowship with us from before the foundation of the world. May the brightness of Your Light shine in our hearts to show the path home to those struggling with darkness, death and disease. We rejoice in the Light that meets all our expectations, body, soul, and spirit, and Your Love which flows through us to all men. Amen. Jan Antonsson
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
"My Sheep Know My Voice"
The Glory Road
We always enjoy hearing from you!
This page was uploaded to the web on 02/24/05
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on 10/13/08.