Obedient or Absurd?

Absurd. Of course, the word means "ridiculous". What I didn't know, is the word comes from a Latin etymology that means "deaf".

There can be no obedience without listening. There is no real listening without relationship. Obedience is not taking the letter of the law and applying it with literal exactitude. Such inflexible "obedience" is actually a manifestation of not listening...it is absurd. Obedience is to hear, in the moment, the heart of the One who is in charge.

Sure, many rules never change. But the way we apply them, the way we engage them, is a huge issue of obedience. And there can be no obedience without being willing to hear. Not just hear words...hear heart.

At no time are we in more danger of defaulting into a deaf-absurdity, than in mid-life. After all, we've earned our many merit badges, like good life-scouts. We can now chart our own course, and do not have to listen. In our flesh, we can even become "hard of hearing" beginning in mid-life. My husband (who is a mere 46, and a tad hard of hearing, having been a drummer all his life) asked me, awhile back, with a baffled expression, "What is it about mid-life, for some people??"

He's right. At this turning point in time, we choose a certain perspective, and thus set the course for the rest of our lives. We either summon the courage to take the creative, relational path of grace and truth, or we, often precisely at mid-point, begin our descent into a rule-keeping, opinionated absurdity. Rigid in our inflexible opinions, we lose hearing, sight, smell, and we lose touch with people who used to matter to us. There is no fruit, no sweet smelling-tasting-beautiful harvest to be had in absurdity. Rigidity is simply a way to justify not hearing. This unyielding deafness does not deserve to be called obedience.

Mid-life can bring insensibility, or it can set us free to experience God and relationships with eyes wide open, ears attuned, head doused, dripping in the oil of gladness, and plowing straight into what God intends to be the harvest-time of our lives.

How do we know if we are living the life of obedient listening, or the disobedience of not hearing? Look for any signs of the ridiculous. Look for the extreme, absurd reaction - which is actually the cool, intellectual rigidity of the quid pro quo ethos: tit for tat. You are this way, I respond that way. You offend me, I withdraw. Your worth has been measured, your "work" evaluated, and I "pay" with excruciating exactitude. I do not listen for anything more, I hear nothing more as to your value beyond what I can quantifiably evaluate.

Absurdity. Deafness. Disobedience. Mercy triumphs over judgment, I want to adjust my perspective to be able to hear the sound of it. It is a sound of joyful shouting, coming from the family tent. After all, I shall be 50 years old in a few years...regardless of the lateness of the hour, I need the revelation of grace to make me soft and winsome....and able to hear.

Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! ...You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you.
~St. Augustine

My Full, Graced Life

I am a "daughter of God" and a "daughter of Abraham". I share certain spiritual likenesses that come from my spiritual heritage. Coming into this by faith has revolutionized my whole life. Consider Romans 4, beginning with verse 20 ~

"Abraham didn’t tiptoe around God’s promise asking cautiously skeptical questions. (And, by God, neither will I!) He plunged into the promise and came up strong, ready for God, sure that God would make good on what he had said. That’s why it is said, "Abraham was declared fit before God by trusting God to set him right." But it’s not just Abraham; it’s also us (me...Sheila Atchley)! The same thing gets said about us (Sheila) when we embrace and believe the One who brought Jesus to life when the conditions were equally hopeless. The sacrificed Jesus made us fit for God, set us right with God. By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us—set us right with him, make us fit for him—we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that’s not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise. "

Capturing Those Moments...

"Tim Atchley's Restaurant" (our back porch and fire pit)

Ribeye and swordfish - prepared last night by chef husband...

Flowers...table by the outdoor fire...yep. He did it all. For me.

On another note, this is my front porch, on any given day. Please note the three balls...

Flowers for me, from Jonathan and Sarah - perfect in that pitcher!

The table set last weekend, awaiting the arrival of our dear, esteemed Pete Beck.

Our guest room...we found a beautiful antique bed last week, and bought a new mattress for it. I had fun decorating the room for Pete's arrival...Pete, who is an Alabama fan. Ahem.

Lastly, my husband's filing cabinet. That's a card he received from the owner of an area business, thanking him for his steady, friendly ways, and his unrelenting Christian witness. The owner said in this card that several of her employees are considering coming to Harvest as a direct result of Tim's unassuming manner, together with his constant sharing of the gospel. Trust me, you can go many, many years and never get a card quite like this. How very encouraging! I'm proud of him - there is no one I respect more. He is consistent, no matter who he is with, his word is his bond, and he will always be honest with people. He refuses all church politics, and expects those who lead with him to be down to earth and honest as well.

Acts 13

"Be it known to you, men and brethren, that through Jesus Christ is preached to you the forgiveness of sins: And by Him all that believe are justified from all things, from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses. Beware, therefore, lest that come on you which is spoken of in the prophets; 'Behold, you despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which you will in no wise believe, though a man declare it to you!"

Truly, Lord, "Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord." (Luke 1)

Fulfilling God's Law?

Are you fulfilling God's Law?

- by David Ord

A great many Christians believe that the law has been "done away." All that God requires today, they tell us, is that we show love. But what is love?Would it be love, for instance, for a counselor to leap into bed with his client in order to demonstrate genuine acceptance of a woman who feels rejected?Love can be very subjective. What one person considers an expression of love may seem like gross immorality to another.

Because of the risk of whitewashing sin by labeling it "love," one branch of the church insists on varying degrees of obedience to moral law. Not only the ten commandments, but other moral "ought-to's" concerning Christian dress, smoking, worldliness, and so on. Another sector of the church reminds us, as one put it, that "love is to fulfill the law."One thing is sure: Paul was no advocate of sin. Whatever he taught with regard to the law, it was not to encourage license.

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?

We are all agreed that sin is a "no-no," but are we agreed on what is sin?I noticed years ago that Christians rarely come out with a clear biblical definition of sin. To one it is card-playing, drinking, dancing; to another these things are fine, but wearing a bikini swimming suit, or dress that is more than an inch above the knees, or smoking a cigarette would constitute sin. It seems that sin is usually defined according to the particular church tradition you have been exposed to.

Since sin is a biblical term, we might expect to find it defined in the pages of the Bible. And though it isn't often quoted, the apostle John does clearly state that "sin is lawlessness." Not, as the King James version inaccurately renders it, "sin is the trans gression of the law"; but as more modern translations rightly put it, "sin is lawlessness."What law are we talking about here? Few of us would argue that John had in mind the law of Moses. We recognize that we are dead to that law.

If a person wishes to take up with the law of Moses, he ought to make sure that he performs it in its entirety, because the rule-of-thumb for law-keepers is, "Cursed is every one who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them."

And yet - many of us still want to retain something of law in our Christian lives. We are not prepared to capitulate to the total subjectivity of "love." We have heard of the terrible abuses of the "love" way, and it seems to be a very dangerous doctrine. So we find ourselves hovering between the moral "ought to" of the law, and the complete freedom of the "love" concept. What is the answer?

When a young ruler asked Jesus how he might inherit the kingdom he was proclaiming, Jesus pointed to the command ments. Of course, the young man felt he had kept these from his earliest days. He was technically righteous by the law's standard. However, Jesus went on to illustrate the much more stringent standard that was required for entrance into the heavenly king dom and eternal life. By this standard, it would have been easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for the young man to enter the kingdom.So difficult did Jesus make the "ought to" seem that He provoked consternation in His disciples:And when the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, "Then who can be saved?" And looking upon them Jesus said to them, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible"

Jesus had explained that the gate into life was extremely narrow and difficult to find; few had so far entered. Out of the millions who had lived from Adam until His coming, just a handful of Old Testament characters had really come to know God and enjoy an intimate relationship with Him. Men such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David and the prophets were few and far between.The "ought to" route is a hard way indeed!

No wonder it seemed to the disciples that no one would ever make it into the kingdom! But the impossible for man becomes the possible for God, and so for those who were tired of striving to please God and constantly failing, Jesus' announcement of "good news" was like a breath of fresh air. The narrow, difficult way was about to be opened into a broad highway:Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and 1 will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you shall find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and My load is light.

What did Jesus mean by "learn from Me"? Why did He point to the fact that He was "gentle" and "humble in heart"? Though Jesus was the Son of God, He freely confessed: "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Him self... I can do nothing on My own initiative." He was humble in heart because He recognized that no human being can accomplish the will of God. God Himself must indwell a person and perform His will through the person as a vessel.

It was the Father in Him who did the mighty works, and that is how it must be with us if we are ever to please Him. We must "learn of Him" -be indwelt as He was indwelt.Jesus was also "gentle." He refused to strive in His own strength.

He was one with the Father, so that the Father's life and power coursed through Him. "The Father is in me, and I in the Father," He told His critics. "If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father." "My Father and I are one." He did not try to do the will of His Father, He simply allowed Himself to be in-dwelt as a vessel so that the Father could manifest His life through Him. Though great work was accomplished, it was all from a state of spiritual rest.This was the "rest" hinted at in creation week, in Israel's weekly keeping of a Sabbath day, and in the rest of the earthly Promised Land.

All of these Old Testament shadows pictured the time when Christ Jesus would come to this earth to demonstrate how God can live in human beings and fulfill His will in them without their own effort or striving.Once we recognize that we can do nothing righteous of our selves - that all our righteousnesses, before and after con version, are like filthy rags - we are ready to allow Christ to live through us. "There remains therefore a Sabbath rest for the people of God." Not a day, not a physical place on this earth, but a rest which comes from being yoked in union with Christ. The fulfillment of the Sabbath type:For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His (Heb. 4:10).

The external "ought to," whether it be of the ten command ment law or of our own making according to our church tradition, shows us our inability to please God. It convicts us of fail­ure and weakness. When we are about to drown, after we have wallowed in our own self-effort and failed miserably, we can finally cease from our own works and enter into rest in Christ.

This "rest" is not a rest of laziness. We have been set free from the law of "ought to," but it is not a freedom to live as we please in the flesh.

Rather, we have been joined - yoked - to Christ and "the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him." Not two, but one; just as Jesus and his Father were one, so that for Him to live was really the Father. And for us to live is Christ! When He indwells us, He lives His life of tremendous works through us. The proof of His oneness with the Father, He said, was the works that were being accomplished.

If we are one with Him, He will live that same fruitful life through us today! Collectively, we will do even "greater" works than He did while on earth, because then He was limited to one human body, whereas now He lives in many.In John 17 Jesus prayed that we might enjoy that same one ness He enjoyed with His Father. He manifested the Father, and we manifest Him. No one ever saw the Father, but in seeing Him they saw the Father; so also the world does not see Christ, but it does see Him through us.

Now, see how this fulfills the law, even though we do not try to keep it! The evangelical friend I quoted earlier said that love "is to fulfill the law." But that is not what Paul actually wrote. He wrote that "love therefore is the fulfillment of the law" (Rom. 13:10). He did not say that if we do certain things, that is love; he said that if we have love, we have fulfilled the law.What is love? A Person. "God is love." Love is not doing something, it is a Person expressing Himself.

When God gave the law to Israel, He gave them a set of rules, for children as it were, that embodied some of the essential traits of His nature. But you could perform all of these things and still not love. Striving to do these things, trying to live up to the standard, is a long way short of the One who is love indwelling you and ful filling all that the external code pointed toward in outline, shadow form.God does not function by a set of rules. He simply is. And He is love.

Any code of rules can only be a shadow of the reality. Not to murder, steal, commit adultery, nor covet is wonderful. But it is a long way short of being one who by nature is the very opposite of all of these evils!

When you were a child, your parents and schoolteachers placed you under rules. You lived an externally regulated life. You were told when to go to bed, when to get up, how to dress, what to eat, what to study, and plenty of other instructions. That is how the law functioned:Now I say, as long as the heir is a child, he does not differ at all from a slave although he is owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by the father. So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world (Gal. 4:1-3).A child learns the elementary principles of life. Getting sufficient sleep; eating a balanced diet, instead of only sweet things; washing behind his ears, and cleaning his teeth regularly; the discipline of study and work, instead of all play.

These qualities are instilled into him from outside, enforced through a system of reward and punishment.When we are young, we are restricted to the playpen. We learn the ABC's, just the elementaries of living. But when we mature and come of age, we begin to function as adult sons. Though we were under orders and no better than a slave, now we become lords of all - masters of our own lives - no longer requiring the restrictions of the playpen.And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.

The external has become internalized. Only instead of a set of rules, it is the spontaneous outflow of a mature life. So the adult doesn't have to have a set bedtime; he is free to go to bed early when tired, or to stay up into the early hours of the morning, perhaps even working a night-shift and sleeping through the day. Yet he fulfills the external law that he was under as a child. Though free to live spontaneously, he gets enough sleep to stay healthy: and that is what the aim of the external law was.

A child can never become an adult by doing the things he is told to do. Going to bed at a fixed time, making sure he washes behind his ears, or studying when assignments are given, do not make him into an adult. But when the child matures into an adult, he will naturally fulfill all that the external regulations of childhood pointed toward, without actually performing those regulations.

In like manner, trying to be loving will never produce a loving person. Trying to please God will never fulfill His will. But when God lives through us, because He is love He will fulfill in us all that the "ought to" attempted to inculcate. Thus, "what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did" - and this was "in order that the requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit" (Rom. 8:3-4).

We do not try to live by "ought to's" - that is walking according to the flesh. But when we recognize that we are indwelt by Love, the inner voice of the Spirit prompts us in a thousand ways daily and we find ourselves living out the life of God, spontaneously fulfilling all that the "ought to" sought to bring about.

God is a specialist in simply being. He does not live by a set of rules. He just lives, spontaneously. He is the "I Am." He is - functions as - what He is. If we live as one with Him, we will be Him in this world. We will live the resurrected life of Jesus - not a life of do's and don'ts, but a life that is righteous because He is righteousness. "As He is, so are we in this world."We will do righteousness because we are righteous - yet "not I, but Christ."

John shows in his letters that it cannot be other wise. If He indwells us, living through us, the outward manifestation in the flesh must come forth. We are known by our fruits. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, even as a bad tree cannot produce good fruit. Though the manifestation may be a little while in coming, it must come.

This life of love is not lawless. It is not a self-pleasing life. It is not anarchistic. It is the most lawful life conceivable. It is the One who is the law - who is love - expressing Himself through the human vessel. We do not walk in the outer desires of the flesh, nor follow the whims and fancies of the material world. We walk the ascended life of the Christ, receiving His commandments in our innermost hearts and minds from mo ment to moment. Thus we are the will of God in every situation that faces us from day to day. And so the law is fulfilled in us.

Therefore cast out the "ought to," for it cannot inherit with the freedom of this spontaneous life of Christ (Gal. 4:21-31). It was just to lead you into the box-canyon of "I can of my own self do nothing," that you might come to Christ. The external "ought to" can never impart life; life is a Person. And when that Person indwells us and lives as us, in our human form, we do not "void" the law but establish it and fill it up full, living at a level far and above what the commandment could ever verbalize.

Instead of a written code we have the inner voice of the One who is our life - the constant flow of commandments that are He thinking His thoughts through us in every situation, for "we have the mind of Christ."

And whereas we did by nature the things of the evil one, according to the course of this world, now we do by nature the fruit of the Spirit.So it is not the "ought to" of the external law, and neither is it the wishy-washy external concept of trying to "love" everybody. Instead, it is the living Person expressing Himself through us, living as us. And that is safe! We can count on Him.

There is just one barrier to this flow of heavenly life: unbelief, That is all that can stop the reality becoming manifest.

We must come into "the obedience of faith." If God says it, though I can not see it, I believe it against all odds. I "fight the good fight of faith." I affirm that I am the righteousness of Christ, and that He is my life. I refuse to take condemnation while I await the manifestation in action. I say that what God says is true even when my soulish feelings tell me something different. And the life comes forth!

What is sin? Lawlessness. To fail to live as God Himself lives, for He is the law personified (Rom. 3:23). But thank God, we do not have to try to keep the law, He fulfills it in us. So we are freed from the "ought to," and freed from the license of just trying to "love," in order that we might be what we are - the righteousness of God in Christ.

A Few Personal Rules

Tim has been preaching foundational grace-gospel for ten months straight now. It has brought, and is bringing, a revolution into the lives of those who have ears to hear.

He has, in the last ten months, touched on terms such as "rules" and "lists", and there were some few who took him literally, taking offense as if Tim was aiming his entire emphasis on the fact that they personally loved to make lists for themselves.

Little did they know that what was being preached was not all about "their" lists or "their" rules, actually. What was being taught wasn't about making lists in some literal, letter-of-the-law, Pharisaical sense.

(The Pharisees complained, "This man Jesus said 'Tear down the temple, and I will raise it up in three days!' " Those religious ones were forever misunderstanding Jesus' words, because they were open to being offended.)

Little did these few know (nor did they truly seek to understand) that the idea of "your list" or "my list"....whomever's "list"...actually dates back to Harvest Church messages from ten or more years ago. In a defining set of messages, the concept of "the list" was forever fixed in the minds of Harvest Church saints:

"And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements (i.e. "THE LIST") that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross."

We learned, a decade ago, that we are to be imitators of God, and take our personal "lists" that we secretly hold over our relationships, and (in order to have sweet, continuous, right relationships) do the same thing to our personal lists that Christ did to "the" list: move it out of the way, and nail it to the cross.

The text was out of Colossians 2, and those messages became part of the DNA of a whole church. It saddens me, all the quiet, zealous but misguided lists we have, full of good-seeming personal preference ordinances, that get in the way of love and friendship.

This is where the term "the list" came from - any old-timer at Harvest will be able to explain that to you, if you care enough to ask them.

Having said that, I love to make lists. I live by them. I solidly believe that without a list, no one can be productive. I believe that an empty schedule equals an empty life, and a full schedule demands that we make lots of lists, because no one can keep all those details in his or her head. I have a list of potential Christmas gift ideas, lists of household chores, a grocery list, a phone list, lists of my lists, and a list called my "front-end list".

A "front end list" is a list of a zillion appealing things that I'd like to get done. Right now, this includes things like planting some pansies, painting a shelf, a few sewing projects, some new recipes I have not yet tried, and finishing my first watercolor painting. I keep a front-end list so as not to let myself get stuck and unhappy. When I begin to feel dull or peckish, I can pull out this list, and jump into a brand new happy project, big or small, and get the creative juices flowing instantly. Sometimes we don't need a nap, so much as we just need a new something to do.

I also have a few rules...personal rules. I don't hold you to them, I hold myself to them, as much as any flawed human being can hold herself accountable to her own unique, personalized standard. In this sense, "rules" and "lists" are not at all opposed to grace!

My rules?

1) Honor my father and my mother. Old fashioned stuff, timeless, Biblical, and necessary. We all have baggage where it concerns our parents, some more than others. But I have never...never...seen a man or woman lightly esteem their mother or father and wholly prosper. They may make money, but they don't prosper. A lack of honor towards parents, to hold parents up to criticism, is to ultimately hold all legitimate authority in light esteem, and you will become seriously self deceived in all things spiritual.

The eye that mocks his father, And scorns obedience to his mother, The ravens of the valley will pick it out, And the young eagles will eat it.

The light of the soul is the eyes...no honoring of parents equals no light, no understanding, no sure direction. I don't care how old you are, or (short of extreme abuse) what your parents have done, please consider finding ways to honor them. Love them. Include them in all the details of your life. You don't have to - you get to. One of my rules is that I honor my parents. (I happen to have incredible parents, but we had our share of dysfunctional moments early on. I was not an easy child to raise.) This rule has served me well, prospering me at every turn.

2) Value continuity. There is something to be said for the continuity of staying with the same traditions at Christmas, staying with the same spouse, staying with a best friend through thick and thin, staying with a morning or evening routine, staying with the same great perfume, staying with the same church....just staying in general. Sticking and staying. It alarms me deeply, how willing some people are to utterly destroy continuity in their lives.

Continuity is costly, but its rewards are comforting and profound. God created our souls to depend on continuity in some areas, not resorting to change for the sake of change. It is generally unhealthy to jump marriages, jobs, relationships, churches, or ships. Ride it out. Things always get better, and where else can you look back over years and years of memories, memories both good and bad, but from that place of faithful continuity?

Proverbs 24:21 "My son, respect the LORD and the leader; Do not associate with those given to change."

Putting confidence in a man or woman who does not value continuity ("an unfaithful man") is like having a bad tooth, or a foot out of joint, Proverbs says. When you most need that foot to work, or when you most need to chew that bite down, you will suddenly be in intense pain. It is most important for parents and leaders to value continuity. Sheep and children need to know that some things will never change - things like the love of a parent or shepherd.

3) Never own more than you can use, and can consistently care for. This is one I need to revisit, but it is a maxim I have lived by. I have gotten rid of as much "stuff" as I have bought or received. We have given away a car (it was old, but still a favorite of my husband's), truckloads of clothing and shoes, dishes, pots, pans, a puppy, school supplies, books, and to a lesser extent, money itself. (I could still use more money, but that is to be the lot in life of the wife of a pastor who isn't on television.) We typically don't re-sell it - we just give it.

I try not to own anything I don't know to be useful or believe to be beautiful. Ahem. Time to clean house again.

I live by a few more "yea, verilies", but this post is way too long now. Silly rules, some of them, but they define me, and they have been most healthy for my life, and have actually energized and enabled my growth in grace.

Never, ever keep some kinds of lists and rules. But always, always keep the right kinds of lists and rules. And know which kind your pastor is referring to, and if you don't know, ask him. That way you don't spend your time being unnecessarily offended.

Make sense?

Good Words From Other Places


Even though princes sit plotting against me, your servant will meditate on your statutes. Psalm 119:23

David had been slandered by Saul. He had been slandered even by his own sons. The true disciple who lives like Jesus will be vilified at some point during his life. Those who are most offended by the Gospel will be the ones who rise up to wage war against him with words. Fear fuels their energy; fear of the truth.

What can make this experience so painful and debilitating is who it is that vilifies. When the unfair criticism comes from someone I don't know, it's easier to shrug it off. When it comes from a well respected member of the community, it can feel debilitating. Jesus drew harsh words from religious leaders and heads of state. Their influence on the people was pervasive yet because He was grounded in His mission and lived in uninterrupted communication with His Father, He never lost His way because of it. Nor, it appears, did His disciples.

Even John the Baptist invited the hatred of Herod and his wife but that didn't dilute his message. He knew his own heart and he understood kingdom clashes.

To be the subject of scorn and not lose my way, I must have my head and heart in the scriptures. To be a successful Christian does not mean that I will always be popular and well thought of. In fact, just the opposite. I will be vilified.

Jesus prepared his disciples to be street smart. "The world hates me and they will hate you too," He said. I am a foreigner here and the alien's culture is at the very least, peculiar. For Jesus, living by the laws of the kingdom paved the road to Calvary.

~Christine Wyrtzen www.daughtersofpromise.org