January 2016 …. The Abundant Life

Introduction
It was in 1957 that Christian Literature Crusade first published the initial work of Watchman Nee.  That this – then unknown – Chinese author became an almost overnight success in England as well as America is not surprising. It can probably be said simply: it was Mr. Nee’s immovable commitment to scripture that caused his work to become widely read so early on.

For us at Crossroads, there was another aspect of Watchman Nee’s expositions that drew us to his early books: It was his insistence that any serious seeker, who properly unpacks the Gospel, will earnestly strive to do anything and everything to enjoy the experiential nature of the biblically revealed  “Life in Christ”.  The key word here being “experiential”.

Watchman Nee’s “Sit, Walk, and Stand” commentary on Ephesians is a magnificent example of his powerful teaching. The 3-part outline below of Ephesians says it all.

            1. The believer’s position in Christ ………… SIT,
            2. His life in the world, attitude toward …..WALK
            3. His attitude toward the enemy ……………STAND. 

It was Nee’s insistence on the nature of the genuine seeker’s behavior or lifestyle that drew us to him in the early 1970s.  In fact, it was Nee’s published work that caused us to begin to read and dig into the work of “Christian Literature Crusade’s”  

I opened this website article to make this point: almost from the incorporation of the Crossroads’ ministry in 1972, we have sensed a clear call. Crossroads was being called to study the scriptures: with an emphasis on those truths that are clearly taught throughout the NT that pertain to the believer’s daily life and lifestyle. 

The chart below depicts some of the so-called paradigms (or word-constructs) created to give the true seeker a framework upon which to prayerfully learn the revealed truths that produce the Abundant Life that Jesus described in John 10:10.

   1957            1980s         1980s        1990s                        1996                         1996-2015                        2016
    Sit,               Come,          Grace,   Expeiencing God    Simplicity,           Abide,                           Crucified with Christ
    Walk, and  Take, and   Faith,                                        Solitude,              Fix Your Eyes, and     Christ Lives in Me, and
    Stand          Learn           Focus                                        Silence, and        The Exchanged Life    Union with Christ
                                                                                                  Surrender 

This website continues to make available resources, teachings, articles, and testimonies that reveal the nature of the life and lifestyle that derive from word-constructs like those shown above. 

The Importance of Adopting a Biblical Life-style Paradigm
Reflecting on our 40 plus years of the Crossroads ministry … and our long-term relationships with the many, seriously committed believers, we have been blessed to know several who have embraced an intimacy paradigm and gone on to develop cosistent spiritually intimate lives iin Jesus Christ. But we have also witnessed many believers who have not persevered, and have not succeeded in seeing their lives transformed.  

The secret to the transformed life is clearly seen in the lives of those who have learned to now enjoy intimacy with Jesus Christ.  

Many of the articles on the sidebar elaborate on this fact. Most anyone reading these words today would agree: the draw of our culture as – described by Swindoll in his “Intimacy with the Almighty” as far back as 1996 – has grown by leaps and bounds since his writing.  

One of the riches of the Gospel is embodied in the biblcal call to a life of spiritual intimacy.  It is only by living a consistent life in Christ that one can enjoy the "Abundant Life" that Jesus taught.    

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December 2015 .. A Blessed Merry Christmas

And a Joyous New Year !

          It’s Christmas and Christmas is all about Jesus.  Jesus is Christmas and Christmas is Jesus.  
           I started this article two weeks ago, but our doctor and hospital visits interrupted this effort.
            
           If you’ve been to this website before you know that Crossroads is also all about Jesus.  More 

           specifically, Crossroads is all about the mystery of Jesus’ indwelling Presence in believers. 
           That this mystery is about believers experiencing his Presence is the wonder of the Gospel.
            

           This article is about Dr. Charles Swindoll’s little book, “Intimacy with the Almighty”.  Please 
           read and enjoy Life to the fullest this holiday season.

Seasons Greeting and Merry Christmas. For the believer, Christmas is more than a celebration. It’s a time of significant opportunity: a time in which we can fine-tune our spiritual lives. This article is written to encourage any and all serious seekers during this holiday season. 

Two days ago I picked up a small book by Charles Swindoll.  It was published in 1996.  I remember reading thislittle book over a decade ago; in fact, I remember reading it in a single sitting.
                                                                                                                                                                                       
Small Swindoll Pic

As I held this little book, I was conscious of my clear recall: this little gem was something that I handed out to several people years ago.  Now!  Years later, I realized two things that drew me to it in the first place: it was its very attractive cover and it’s title.  To find a book, labeled,“Intimacy with the Almighty” was a find!  

Apart from Henry Blackaby and his, “Experiencing God” material, very few authors were writing about anything experiential when considering the Gospel during the mid-90s.

My mind was jumping from thought to thought. It was clear: I had to stop everything I was doing. I had to sit down and read once again Swindoll’s book. Yesterday I finished my re-read of “Intimacy with the Almighty”. 

As I put the book down, an overarching thought surfaced. I needed to use the message of this small, dusty, library book as a significant part of the December opening page of our website.

If you’ve been on this web site before, you are aware of the passion that fuels Crossroads.  After many years of busy ministry, Nancy and I cherish our present calling.  To share our lives with serious seekers who need encouragement, or to listen to anyone – young or old – who are looking for a genuine ear:  that’s the indescribable blessing we enjoy everyday. 

I finished the book, and as I closed the last page, I was moved by a growing inner conviction.  Not only is the message of this little book powerful and profoundly relevant; it speaks clearly today: December 2015.  It is a message that encourages any earnest believer. It’s message is especially poignant at this Christmas season.

I am writing these words after arriving home from a quick shopping trip.  On my way home, my mind was focused on two thoughts: my recent reading of Swindoll’s book, and what I had just experienced in the stores I had just been in.  It was the five lines inside the cover of Swindoll’s book; and, it was the pandemonium of the Christmas shoppers that flooded my mind.  This is the five lines inside the cover of his book.

 NOISE AND WORDS  
 and frenzied hectic schedules    
 DULL OUR SENSES
 closing our ears to HIS STILL , small voice
 and MAKING us numb to HIS Touch

Using the cliche .. Swindoll had hit the nail on the head.  I had just experienced Swindoll’s overpowering “noise and words” of our culture.  AND !  My senses were “dulled”.  

Now I can say simply, this is the every day experience of every believer living in the 21st century.  These are crazy times.  Dr. Charles Swindoll’s little book is written to counter the consuming nature of this upside-down world.  More specifically, it’s written to help all of us who are hungry to experience more of Jesus’ indwelling Presence in our daily lives.

This article will briefly lay out the 4 part lifestyle paradigm that Swindoll develops in “Intimacy with the Almighty”.  The message of this small book is worth its weight in gold. It is a masterpiece in simplicity and it’s easy to understand.  

As we begin to examine Charles Swindoll’s book it is help to have an idea of what a believer who is enjoying a life of “intimacy with the Almighty” looks like.  The apostle Paul’s words to the church at Galatia is a wonderful succinct statement that describes just such a life. Even if you’ve read this verse a dozen times or more, take time to slowly ponder again the essence of what Paul is saying in Galatians 2:20.  

    “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. 
    The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me 
    and gave himself for me.”  

 
The life described here has been given names: “The Exchanged Life”, “The Surrendered Life”, or simply, “The Galatians 2:20 Life”, and there are many more.  Whatever name one uses to describe this life …. every true seeker of spiritual intimacy will be repeatedly returning to these four disciplines – this paradigm – that Swindoll develops in his book. 
                             

The Swindoll Spiritual Intimacy paradigm
This paradigm uses an alliteration of 4 S words to form an outline.  Then Swindoll unfolds the Galatians 2:20 biblical life-style, one discipline at a time. We will examine each of these four words separately, but first we will note a few things about these four words as a set or complete paradigm of disciplines.  Each of these four disciplines is really dependent upon each of the others, but it helps to think about them one discipline.  (Obviously, as believers, this set of words is nothing new.)  If one has been a Christian for any length of time, he or she has been introduced to the subject of discipleship.  And, discipleship is often built around regular quiet times that practice these disciplines.   
 
                    Simplicity
                    Silence
                    Solitude, and 
                    Surrender

To begin .. Swindoll makes no apology in calling the reader to a definite resolve … a serious commitment to prayerfully do whatever is necessary – to reorder his or her daily life.  In fact, this paradigm is of little use to the inquisitive reader who wants to just pause for a moment to look over these disciplines. This paradigm does not give one an outline to a “quick-fix” to becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ.  

Based on our few years of sharing this spiritual intimacy message with others,  we would add this: to be willing to literally “reorder our lives” is an absolute must;  this is the singular starting point.  Those that Nancy and I have seen desire to adopt this Intimacy paradigm .. and .. go on to develop a genuine lifestyle of intimacy has wrestled through this lifestyle decision.  

It is helpful at this juncture to reference Matthew 11:28-30.  This is the first time in the New Testament that the subject of spiritual intimacy is even hinted at. The phrase here that is key to intimacy is the two word picture of “being yoked”.  In this brief passage Jesus offers a clear teaching.  And ! He issues a blanket invitation to everyone.  

It is interesting that He speaks these words during the first year of His public ministry. And, it is more than interesting that He utters this invitation as a blanket invite to anyone hearing His voice.  Indeed !  This is a magnificent passage!

            “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you 
            rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and 
            humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is 
            easy and my burden is light." 

Simplicity
Swindoll’s first discipline word, simplify, is the proper starting discipline for anyone who truly desires to develop this intimate lifestyle. The paragraphs above uses strong words:  resolve, reorder, and yoked to make the essence of this life crystal clear.  To actually adopt this intimacy life one must establish a definite intent. One needs to make use of this paradigm the top priority of his or her life.  For most of us this is not an easy assignment. 

To digress for a moment. For Nancy and me, this initial decision involved several unsuccessful attempts; and there were  several repeated resolves. Fortunately we had two close-friends who ministered consistent, loving, encouragement to us for a considerable time. If it hadn’t been for their always-available ears and big hearts we might well still be “seeking”. 

Moving on …. As the two of us began to enjoy a genuine sense of the Lord’s Presence, our faith-lives showed more evidence of His Hand.  And quite unexpectedly we began to see a change in our ministry.  With increased frequency, long-time believers – some brand new friends, others people we had known for years – began asking us to share our journey with them.  Clearly, a new calling was emerging.  

It wasn’t long after we started sharing our experience with others, that we realized that other new seekers were just like us: they too needed the support of like-minded, trustworthy “fellow-travelers” friends.  Once we had acknowledged that we were entering a new ministry we began to see a number of believers who were serious about a deeper life in Christ ask us to begin a monthly group meeting.  As this idea took route we were amazed at how many would travel from NH or ME to MA to spend a day together with other genuine seekers.  

Once these meetings became a planned happening the phrase, “Fellow-travelers” began to have a special meaning. Concurrent with the increased interest in monthly meetings, we began to have more phone calls and email inquirers. What we learned from those we spent serious time with was helpful.

Several inquirers told us that they had had to reach a place of near-helplessness before they were ready to think seriously about lifestyle changes; but, as difficult as a change seemed, they knew that had to come. Some shared with us that it was a matter of losing their job; others told us about difficulties in their marriage; and, still others told us, with tears in their eyes, about their serious struggles with teenage kids.  

The common thread that ran through out this interaction with these other believers was “need”.  Almost without exception .. several good, solid, long time believers, made the decision to willing to simplify their lives and establish new priorities.

At this point it was crystal clear, although the SIMPLICITY factor was by far the most difficult obstacle for most believers, the powerful motivation of real need was able to bring about a significant change. But the second big obstacle was also very real. Every new seeker needs to find another seeker with an open ear and an understanding heart.  

But at this juncture it is important to say this: this support person has to be a true “fellow-traveler”.  He or she must be an intimacy seeker who is further down this faith-road of intimacy than needy believer.  It is easy to see: it is the witness of others who have experienced the life of spiritual intimacy that can seriously alter one’s resistance and willingness to change. 

The wonder of the life-transformation that intimacy brings can not be over stated.  Swindoll puts flesh on the bones of what we have been discussing.  He comments particularly about the value of our determined purpose. He says “However valuable such a determined purpose may be, it is neither easy nor automatic. Furthermore, you and I will find no encouragement from the world’s system”. 
               
Silence
Those of us who have grown up hearing the words “Quiet Times” in describing our regular times of prayer and Word time know well this word Silence.  All of us can recall the many scriptures that speak to the need to be still.  One of the most prominent and most loved verses is Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God”. Swindoll quotes this verse and then states the following.  “I am more convinced than ever that there is no way you and I can move toward a deeper, intimate relationship with God without protracted times of stillness, which includes one of the rarest of all experiences: absolute silence”.

Further on in his treatment of Silence, Swindoll makes reference to Matthew 11:28-30.  He points out that we are commanded to “stop (literally) … rest , relax, let go, and make time for Him.  The scene is one of stillness and quietness, listening and waiting before Him”.  Swindoll closes his section on Silence by saying, “Knowing God deeply and intimately requires such discipline.”

Solitude    
The discipline of Solitude is so closely related to the disciple of Silence that it is nearly impossible to unpack either one by itself.  Swindoll does a wonderful job of demonstrating the difficulty of practicing both disciplines, but he does offer several helpful ideas that apply to both.  

He shares this: “Solitude has been called the furnace of transformation.  I don’t have in mind mere personal privacy for a 12 second pit stop where we get a quick fix to re enter the race. It is more than that. It is an oasis of the soul where we see ourselves , others, and God in new ways….  Soul surgery transpires as serenity replaces anxiety”. 
    
In his 79 pages of magnificent teaching Dr. Swindoll closes his treatise by addressing the subject of Surrender. But before we think about surrender I want to digress briefly and focus on what the apostle Paul calls the mystery of Jesus indwelling Presence.  These are his words in Colossians 1:27. 

    “To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the
    glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” 

In this verse Paul defines the indwelling life of Christ in believers as a mystery.   As we probe this biblical word mystery it is very important that we recognize a most important truth.  Back in the 1990s the idea of a “quiet time” was very prevalent among many young believers.  This practiced idea of “quiet time” was really a distinctive of Campus Crusade and Intervarsity Christian Fellowship.  In this article we need to pause long enough to see … and understand … that this particular type of quiet time is not what Swindoll is talking about.  And!  It is indeed it is not what Crossroads describes as its passion.

This mid-1990se time of quiet was a part of something quite different than what we are talking about here when we think about spiritual intimacy or “Intimacy with the Almighty”. It is important that we understand this difference . 
                        
Indeed!  More often than not, when an IVCF student had his or her quiet times, intimacy was his or her purpose. Rather, the quiet time was spent in bible study and the prayer.  And, the widely practiced desire was to earnestly pursue in a prayerful study of scripture with a genuine commitment to apply what has just been studied to everyday life. 

When an intimacy-seeking believer develops a regular time of quiet he or she is not seeking the how to do to do anything.  The nature of this type of quiet time is the seeking of an intimate faith-relationship with Jesus Christ.  The time of Solitude and Silence is, of course, one of the keys in developing such an intimate faith-relationship. 

At first glance, its may appear that the time of quiet in both of these disciplines are the same, but indeed they are quite different.  For the intimacy seeker, it is Jesus Who is the focus of his regular time of quiet and prayer. And! The end objective of time spent in developing the disciplines for the seeker is experience.  

This use of the time in scripture and bible study and the time in prayer is not a matter of information – even wonderful biblical instructive piece of information.  It is about this mystery that Paul mentions to the church at Colosse.  It is this mystery that continues to fuel the Crossroads passion.   

Before moving on again … it is important to explain that this Crossroads website is a compendium of articles that exist to help anyone who is seriously investigating the life of spiritual intimacy.  
 
Surrender
Having said all of what we have considered thus far in this article, we can make this statement: the last of Swindoll’s four disciplines, Surrender, is for most of us nearly as difficult as the fist S-discipline. In fact these two lifestyle-truths, Simplicity and Surrender … that form the end pieces of the four discipline paradigm … are two life-long disciplines that every true seeker recognizes will always be at the top of his or her priorities. 

I feel the need to testify to a huge personal experience here .. this story illuminates my own personal intimacy faith-life.  For the last five years I have been blessed beyond words by having a dear, dear brother/seeker share his life with me.  I am referring here to Jack Fogg.  Jack is now in Heaven and with His Savior, Lord, and best Friend.  Jack died in September of this year. My story will help me unpack this word Surrender.  Some of you reading this have heard what I have said before.

During the last six months of Jack’s earthly pilgrimage … and especially during the last month of Jack’s life, he taught me more about the meaning of this word Surrender than I will ever find in any book on what it means to Surrender.  Through really just a few intentional and purposeful phone calls I just dialogued with Jack. I should really say, I just listened to Jack as we discussed the subject of “giving up”.  

The sequence of Jack’s and Gerri’s forced downsizing can be explained without painting in all the detail.  The downsizing involved having to part with a huge part of his life:  his custom-fitted boat, the Fogg’s wonderful home, and eventually Jack’s best friend, Hector.  As he sold and gave away the material things .. he continually shared with me the pain that he felt. (Bear in mind this process labeled downsizing was pursued while Jack was in literal pain throughout his body.)

The sequence of Jack’s parting with these huge things was always prayerfully carried out by focusing on his faith and what he saw as his mission.  Through a study of a passage in Luke’s gospel, Jack clearly understood that his cancer was simply a part of the “tools” the Lord was used to help him prepare for his home-going.  What that meant to Jack was that he needed to willfully surrender each of these life-shaped endearments in an intimate manner by seeking the Lord’s directions on the how tos of each separation.     

I listened to each phone call that pertained to these separations, and I was continually overwhelmed by what I found.  Without exception .. and sometimes after a time of difficult “waiting on the Lord” .. what I heard repeatedly was identical in every case.  What came forth from Jack was an absolutely, unmistakable, exclamation of joy … and always midst an obvious inner peace.  The purity of what I witnessed could only bring forth one response. I found that I could very easily shoot up arrows of deep thanksgiving to the One Who was the Source of his joy and peace. Every call was a profound inspiration.

To finish this short scenario.  It was Jack’s final earthly separation that capped his faith-walk.  After dispatching all of his material holdings, he had one HUGE, faith-struggle to conquer.  And!  It was the parting with family and friends that climaxed his earthly sojourn.  Some of you have heard this part of my story, so I won’t repeat it. But it was the last wonderful phone call from Jack that proved to me that Jack had reached the pinnacle.  

As emotional for me as this call was it was very clear.  I knew that a time of celebration was coming.  I sensed that Jack was prepared to go home.

I think this story that I have tried to tell says what I want to communicate about Surrender.  For me this discipline will always be a fairly long reach away. However I want to give the praise and thanksgiving to all that the Lord has done in my life and Nancy’s.  Nancy and I are learning.  And ! I want to continue enjoying every day and cherishing those moments when I feel as though I am smothered by the Love of my Heavenly Father.  Now, I can add this closing statement: what I had watched grow in the faith-life of Jack Fogg was his unembellished love for Jesus Christ.  It was the indwelling Life of Jesus in Jack that was his ever increasing portion.    

Closing and Summary comments 
The fact that I came across this little “Intimacy with the “Almighty” book by Dr. Charles Swindoll has made this Christmas an exceptional time of seasonal Thanksgiving.  But I want, as well, to use these last few comments to thank all of you reading this article for your gracious and loving support over so many years.

Nancy and I and our family have been blessed so abundantly by the Lord and His believing family that my vocabulary is totally inadequate to communicate the desire of our hearts right now.  Please know that our love for you the reader is rooted in an immeasurable Fountain of Love !!

Have a wonderfully, blessed, and Glorious Christmas !

Much love from the Crossroads Board and
Jack and Nancy and family