Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Seeking Jesus at Any Cost

I've known Jesus Christ for most of my life. Correction: I've known about Jesus Christ for most of my life. Christ Jesus never really made personal sense until the age of 17 when I had what I refer to as my first spiritual revival. My first baptism had occurred at the age of 11. All my friends had been baptized a year or months before I finally made my decision. It makes me wonder how the pastor could have baptized me when I answered his question this way: I want to be baptized because I want to go to heaven. He smiled and said I can't remember what, but since I had shown up at the pre-Baptism classes Sabbath after Sabbath, he thought it would do no harm to baptize me. I can't say I understood what baptism really meant. All I can remember is how I shivered in my wet baptismal gown as the air-condition blasted the changing room where all the other men, teens and young boys changed into warm, dry clothes. I seemed to be paralyzed with wonder and awe as I sat immobile in that makeshift dressing room which was the scene of perhaps the largest baptism I have ever been a witness to.

My seventeenth summer and its new-found consecration to Christ started what was to be a life-saving span of years for me when I really did become a new person. Nevertheless, personal problems took their toll and five years later I slid into the slipstream of young adulthood with catastrophic results.

Two years later the hedonism of New York City's underground clubs and above-ground temptations left me cold and I headed back to church and my second major revival replete with my first rebaptism. This time I really had something to repent of instead of the vague mini-sins of early childhood and its simple reasons for seeking baptism. In spite of being reintegrated into the fold of believers I never felt that I was an accepted member of the family of Christ. Some church members made me welcome, others did not. Nevertheless, I persisted as I had nowhere else to go.

Five years later, I had found a new maturity as an adult and had found a more rational approach to living my life which unfortunately led me further and further away from the Christian faith though not entirely. I could not ever risk not praying or asking for the gift of the Holy Spirit. My prayers were probably not heart felt, but they comforted me with the realization that I kept on saying them and that they helped me in some way. When troubles more acute than any I had ever experienced threatened to literally end my life, it was God's favor and mercy and the words of Psalms I had learned as a child that kept me from going insane and losing all hope.

Twenty years later I mercifully experienced my third spiritual revival and--yes, my second rebaptism. I had been told that one rebaptism was a serious thing, indeed, and that it seldom was necessary or should be entered into with great purpose or need, but a third rebatism was almost unheard of though I'm told that there are others who have been rebaptized more times than they have changed the make and model of their car. As five years came and went I felt relieved that this time the third time was for good.

Impatience with unfulfilled expectations threw me into experimental and foolish attempts at empowerment five years later. Five years later is where I am right now. Through all the challenging and perplexing changes I have been experiencing for most of this year, I am grateful and amazed that I continue to read my Bible every morning and most evenings along with the Spirit of Prophecy. In spite of old and new temptations jumping in and out of my life for half a year now, I still continue praying, waiting, holding on for dear life, and trying to make sense of the complicated Christian I have been for most of my self-aware life. The very fact that I have a desire to document all three major spiritual revivals and intervening crises of my life, is a miracle. You see I was supposed to have died at 17 on a twisting, wet and dark highway where the friend I was sitting next to died at 14.

God must have a mysterious purpose for my kaleidoscopic life. I am still waiting to find out what that elusive purpose might be.

Friday, June 18, 2010

How to Find a Near-Perfect Spiritual Group Experience

Imagine a group where everyone feels part of the group even when they are not. It is the main purpose of the group to welcome each new and continuing member. Every effort is made to address each participant's needs. Some may think it is too intrusive for the Adventist Futurism Fellowship to be so concerned with every need a member or visitor might have. For these individuals this concern about too much intrusiveness is also perceived as a valid need.

The first time one enters through the doors into an Adventist Futurist Fellowship seminar one wonders why no one had ever alerted him or her before to the outstanding cornucopia of benefits that one finds when one is welcomed into this unique group. Some find this somewhat elusive knowledge of the group as having a quasi-Gnostic quality in that knowledge of this group seems like--though is not in reality--an awareness or perception that is only available to the initiated or chosen few. That is not the case at all. What then is the source of this esoteric quality that renders this group almost invisible to the public-at-large?

The fellowship of the Adventist Futurists, or the initiation into Adventist Futurism and all its tantalizing benefits is that no one--or very few at any rate--can find information about the Adventist Futurists as one would when searching for similar groups. Some claim that they have found easy entry into the society of Adventist Futurists when what they stumble upon is one of the illusory doors that are meant to keep out the merely curious.

Only those who are dead-set on finding this once-in-a-lifetime experience and fellowship will ever find it. It is not understood by some why entry into the almost esoteric society is made so difficult. If the benefits of the Adventist Futurists are as valuable as are reported by those who have once participated, but for some reason, did not remain, then why the difficulty in gaining access into this quintessential group?

The answer may never be completely known. However, it appears that the commitment that each member of the Adventist Futurists has for each of his brothers and sisters is so complete--if one can classify the endeavor to fulfill each participant's every need as an attempt to confer completeness in this life--is taken so seriously, that only the true devotee can ever find and enter into this exquisite group of people.

I myself was serendipitously welcomed into the camaraderie of the Adventist Futurists some time in the recent past, but took a wrong step once inside and thought it preferable to venture outside the group and find my own way in the world. It is my earnest desire to once again--if they will accept me--gain entry into the beneficent care of the Friends of Adventist Futurism.

It is my hope that you too will somehow find your way into the indescribable society where each need is almost anticipated before it is fully expressed.