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Over the next few months I traveled, conducting television interviews in
studios, and on the streets throughout the United States and a number of nations.
I also participated in church events, read books on church history and prayerfully
studied Scripture attempting to decipher what it was I was wrestling with.
I could certainly identify with the person Jesus described when He said:
"Your ears are open but you don't hear a thing. Your eyes are awake but you don't see a thing."
(Matthew 13.14 -- The Message)
This led me to one of my prayerful dialogues with God.
"You're right Lord. Like the people who followed you around, and heard You tell parables, I don't hear, see or understand. What was it about that demonstrative meeting as it relates to the larger Church that has me so unsettled?"
And then one morning I awakened with the thought of one of Jesus' parables running through my mind. The thought, "It's the soil, the seed and the sower," continued to turn over in my thinking. To make sure I wasn't just hearing a weird voice, leading me off on some sort of tangent, I went to the thirteenth chapter of Matthew in the Scripture and read the following story, beginning with the eighteenth verse:
"Study this story of the farmer planting seed. When anyone hears news of the kingdom (of God) and doesn't take it in, it just remains on the surface, and so the Evil One comes along and plucks it right out of that person's heart. This is the seed the farmer scatters on the road.
The seed cast in the gravel-this is the person who hears and instantly responds with enthusiasm. But there is no soil of character, and so when the emotions wear off and some difficulty arrives, there is nothing to show for it.
The seed cast in the weeds is the person, who hears the Kingdom news, but weeds of worry and illusions about getting more and wanting everything under the sun strangle what was heard, and nothing comes of it.
The seed cast on good earth is the person who hears and takes in the News, and then produces a harvest beyond his wildest dreams." (Matthew 13.18-23 -- The Message)
And then Jesus went on talking about good and bad seed sown together, a real mixture, but eventually there was coming a "weeding out."
Reflecting back on the early years of our journey, a lot of seed had been scattered during that time and certainly in subsequent years. What many of us didn't see was the secret seed that had been scattered and had been growing in the soil of the road. Jesus explained in this parable, that there is an inviolate principle; scatter seed and eventually there will come a harvest season. But consistent with the seed, the return crop will be either good or bad. "Whatever you sow...." you're going to reap it, one way or the other; and that can be a mixture. In a phrase a real "mish mash."
The dictionary defines mish mash as a "confused mess; a hodge-podge; a jumble." A more refined word is "syncretism." This is defined as a mixture of different beliefs and practices.
So, binoculars in hand and a prayer on my lips, I asked God to "Open my eyes and help me see." And as with John the Revelator open my ears to "Listen, listen to the Wind Words, the Spirit blowing through the churches." In my mind I climbed the mountain and cast my gaze across the field of today's aggregate church. As one 19th Century writer put it:
"It was like hilltops of different heights scattered over common territory. As we climb each in succession, many points in the landscapes seen from their summits will be found included in different views, but always in a new light with a fresh horizon." (Note 1)
The insight I had at that moment left me with no doubt: one finds a real
Thus, "I began to write down everything I heard and saw. Things that are, and things about to be." (Revelation 1)
A caring friend will be there to pray with you in your time of need.