My Life

I’m not in Africa starting a new church every week. Most days, I face nothing remotely life-threatening. I’ve recovered from leukemia and a marrow transplant better than most people do, and my “new normal” is a lot like my old normal.

In other words, I don’t consider my life all that exciting. It’s great, but not exciting.

As a result, I don’t think much about writing about my life. I need to, though. I say a lot of things about the Gospel, the real church, and the life of a disciple. How do I live?

Not perfectly, and I’m pretty certain you would not be awestruck by my holiness.

But I am in the church.

I went to California for two weeks, mostly to provide some encouragement for the church in Rick’s house. They were feeling a need for direction.

I rushed to the rescue!

Well, no, actually I didn’t. I did what I always do, whether I am visiting a big church, a small church, a “building” church, or a house church. I showed up, tagged along with them as they tried to follow God around, and I joined whatever they were doing with my whole heart, providing whatever help God was able to provide through a marred vessel like me.

The first night, I sat with one of the leading couples, and we talked about direction. I’d felt led to read Ephesians that day, and I was explaining the grand picture I sawe there when the wife told me she’d been reading Watchman Nee’s Sit, Walk, Stand, which is based entirely on Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus.

We, or at least I, left there pretty satisfied with what God was saying to us. The church is an eternal, grand, and glorious thing, and we should be aware of it, but our response to that knowledge is simple. We have to walk worthy of the calling with which we are called.

Don’t get distracted. Don’t despise the day of small things. Don’t entertain delusions of grandeur.

Instead, stop stealing and work so that you can give. Stop lying, and tell each other the truth. Honor each other above yourself. Forgive.

Diligently maintain the unity of the Spirit, and devote yourself to helping each other obey Jesus … in the simple things just mentioned.

This is sound teaching, according to the apostle Paul. Titus 2, which explains sound teaching, and it doesn’t get into glamorous things. Be sensible, love your wives, raise your children, work as unto the Lord, deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and look for the appearance of the One who gave himself to gather a unique people, zealous for good works.

I know that people like dissect the atonement, then explain why it gives them the right to sin. We prefer to give thanks for the atonement, then spend our time being careful to maintain good works. That’s borderline heresy in Protestant churches, but Paul called it a faithful saying that should be affirmed constantly (Tit. 3:8).

On the first Friday I was there, we talked about that idea. Yes, we talked about it. I didn’t preach it, nor did the sister who was reading Watchman Nee’s book, nor her husband who was part of that discussion. We brought it up, and God let it sink so deep that on Sunday morning, at least 3 people (I think 4 or 5) said they’be been thinking about Friday’s meeting all weekend.

On both Wednesdays I was there we wrestled (verbally) for hours with a brother who had some important questions. Each time, it took 2 or more hours to get to the root of the problem, to find out what was really bothering him. Both times, we found our point of misunderstanding, broke through into mutual joy and understanding, and left delighted at the answers the Lord provides and the work it sometimes takes to obtain those answers.

I did teach on the last Friday night. I got results that can be typical for me. Most folks are speechless. It takes minutes or even days for them to get around to talking. When I talk I get dead silence–with no one asleep, no eyes closed, and everyone looking at me–more than any speaker I’ve experienced.

Friends tell me it’s because there’s nothing to say. Everyone is thinking, “I guess I better go home and deal with this.”

I sure hope that’s true.

I live a lot of my life finding the next step. What’s next? What is God saying now? Where am I failing him?

Thus, when I show up somewhere, I don’t just sit down and teach. I get to know the people who are going to give me their precious time to listen to me. I pick their hearts to find out what God is saying to them. Then, when I’m in front of him, I simply put together what’s on their heart with what God has put on my heart, and I show them from the Scripture and from what’s going on around them what they ought to be doing next.

I’m not wrong very often. God is always talking to his people. If we will talk to his people, we’ll start finding what he’s saying to all of them. All I do is gather it up, put it together, and give it back to them cleaned up and easier to understand. Usually people are pretty excited about it because it’s what was already in their hearts.

I like exploring the will of God with his people, not telling them what to do. If they’re already at the point of realizing that God has called them to live just like their older brother, Jesus, then they’re as hungry to do nothing but the will of Jesus as Jesus was to do nothing but the will of the Father.

Sometimes those wonderful disciples don’t know there’s always a next step for them. I just work at helping them find it.

I am terrified of this post because I say “I” so many times in it. It’s what I feel like I was supposed to write, though. I suppose that if this post does nothing but expose how self-focused I am, then there’s benefit in that, too.

But maybe it will help someone else who is looking for the next step when our corporate or individual walk with God feels stagnant.

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6 Responses to My Life

  1. D says:

    Great post–succinct, to the point. I always have much to say and think about after reading your posts. And usually, I sit quietly, absorbing, stretching, considering. I have reached a tipping point of inertia that has galvanized me to do more. It is not enough to sit passively in a service, or even to host a group of women in my home where we sit and self-congratulate over our beliefs and faith that I know fall far short of where such attributes are supposed to lead us.
    But I have met with doors.
    Knowing this to be the likely outcome, through having read your posts, I have not been too discouraged, but I am not without frustration. Our ability (and obligation) as a group of Godly women to do “more” has been countered with suggestions to “bring it before the Lord” even though this I have already done, and that “if you feel called to do it, then you should, but that’s not for me.” This last argument would be fine if they were actually doing anything (heaven forbid should I use the word “works”), but I’m finding there are a lot of folks who simply use the excuse to “wait on the Lord” to do nothing. They’ve said the magic words, and it’s “finished.”

    I have tried to guide this group of women to take on more than women’s get-togethers, women’s desserts, women’s crafts (all great things, but what an opportunity to bring us closer so that we can take on real work of the Lord) but am met with platitudes, and not a rise to action. My questions, comments, and thoughts either meet with dead silence, or rouse emotions and I am left feeling somewhat outside the modern church box, and that I simply don’t belong. We spend more time planning our Christmas dessert, what we will wear, how we will decorate, what food and drinks to serve (in short, mostly self-focused) than we do giving real consideration to walk our faith.

    Any suggestions?
    How can I know if God means for me to move on to something else, or to persevere despite resistance? Do I move forward and see who follows? I feel a group of Godly women could do so much….locally, regionally…frankly beyond any boundaries. And I think I have to be willing to lose “friends.”

    • paulfpavao says:

      To other readers, I would be happy for help answering this question.

      There are things I can say. I know the feeling. You definitely have to be willing to painfully lose friends when you go forward. In fact, what you describe makes me think of a non-Christian situation in the movie “Blind Side.” Sandra Bullock has to walk out on friends over taking a homeless black giant into her home.

      If it happens with doing good in the world, how much more will it happen for disciples who have been told by their Master, “If they hated me, they will hate you.”

      One of the most supernatural experiences I have ever had happened when I joined myself to “the Church at Bethel Springs” in late 1995. I experienced stunning turnarounds from people I thought were my friends. They told me the craziest things, and some took the time to start false rumors about me. These are people I thought were godly, committed Christians, openly lying about me. I was stunned. As I thought about it, though, it turned to awe. God was doing something, and choosing to follow him led to lines being drawn in the sand whether I wanted to draw those lines or not.

      I’m not saying you’re in anything extreme, and I’ve felt that lonely feeling, thinking no one will listen to the obvious. Disciples can be hard to find because we’ve been taught for centuries to stay in fellowship with those who are fans of King Jesus, but neither friends nor followers. The danger of living satisfied and without need is worse in the USA than almost anywhere in history. Unbelief and wealth, a deadly combination.

      We don’t really know how to do things from a distance. We always suggest to people like you that you get a chance to experience being with folks that are willing to obey no matter what the cost. I have several places you could visit, pour out your heart, and get advice.

      A quick story. Last year a man with a ministry to the homeless in Memphis came to one of our meetings. I had heard about him, and I was excited about what he was doing, so we spent the gathering asking him questions. He told stories, and I just wept. I’m a big chicken. Walking down the street talking to homeless people takes a great deal of courage for me. Here, though, was a way in with help and mentoring. I asked him, “How can I help?”

      The look on his face was strange. I didn’t know what to do with it. Then he said, “Are you serious?”

      “Of course,” I answered, “why would you even ask?”

      “No one says that to me,” he explained. “People listen, and some of them give money, but no one offers to get near the helpless with me.”

      I had trouble believing him. I assume, however, that he has to be telling the truth. The interesting end of that conversation was, “You could tutor.”

      I was surprised and thrilled. I told him, “I’d be glad to. I’m the best tutor in Memphis, you know.”

      He pulled out his phone, called a number, then said, “I found a tutor for you. He’s the best in Memphis.” He looked at me and smiled a “you better have been telling the truth” smile.

      My first, and only so far, student reported back that I really was the best tutor in Memphis, even though that’s almost certainly an exaggeration.

      The point, to me, was the amazing “coincidence” that I would run across a ministry to the homeless that would ask me to do something I enjoy, I’m good at, and that I have long experience with. This isn’t about us striving on our own. This is about trusting God, who always has a next step for us. May God grant you someone to come along, and please let me know if I can direct you to others with a like heart.

      At christian-history.org is a “contact me” button (on the navbar) that allows anyone to email me.

  2. David Noah says:

    You may not be planting churches in Africa, but take it from a brother who is … listen… you are not doing anything different than we are doing here in Kenya. You are obeying His Spirit and encouraging the Saints just like we are here in Africa. Without you doing what you do … we could not do what we do.So my dear and beloved brother …. keep doing it… with all your heart … with all you might …and for the Kingdom of His beloved Son…keep on doing it. Press on!

  3. Paul, this is one of the most profound writings you have done, in my opinion. Someone, and I do not remember who, once said that when all was said and done, what we had was our testimony. This witness you have written down of how God works through you, detailing the process of listening to people, finding out where they are in their hearts and minds, addressing specific issues, and then teaching, is so kind and loving. I feel you are truly following in the footprints of your ‘older brother’ and walking the path that you have been called to walk in Spirit and in Truth.

    I think the reason that this post terrifies you is because it is Truth, which when recognized can be very unsettling. So, too, is it unsettling to let God use you in such a way, to let your will be yielded so completely. This is Kingdom building work and you can only tell your experiences. Thank you for sharing in such a clear way what your walk looks like; you have helped light the Path for others.

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