I had an odd dream the other night. Odd not only because of its content, but because I vividly remember it still.
I'd been thinking a lot about the church the week of the dream and had been asking God to reveal to me how He wanted people to worship Him.
In the dream, my family and I were in a fairly large, modern city. Surrounding the downtown glass and steel skyscrapers, however, were structures very reminescent of old Jerusalem -- except that they were clearly new in construction.
The city was surrounded by ornate walls. Normally, it appeared to be a peaceful place. But on this day everyone was in an uproar because we could see small volcanic eruptions on the horizon, and red lava was flowing gradually closer to the walls.
We were looking out one gate of the city toward the approaching firestorm and I noticed a wide, clear stream flowing out of the city.
It was flowing uphill.
God told me to put my family in a boat and launch it into the stream. It would bring us safely through the fire.
I didn't get the dream at first. But now I see the city as our human attempts to build the church, first under the old covenant, then under the new. The stream of water, flowing miraculously uphill, is God's church, built on faith.
I remembered that it was when Peter professed his faith that Jesus responded, in Matthew 16:18, "... On this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it."
The gates of Hades are drawing closer these days. The church built of bricks and mortar, on foundations of numbers and statistics and actuarial tables; that church is on sinking sand.
In recent weeks, God has been showing me the countless wounds inflicted by this man-made church over the centuries -- the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the intolerance and injustice done in the name of Jesus, as if He had not suffered enough on the cross.
When Peter, who had anguished over denying Christ three times, insisted he loved Jesus, what did the Lord tell him?
"Feed my lambs."
There is only one church, one bride that Christ will redeem. It is the church comprised of His followers, united in love for one another. Those are the building blocks that will endure.
That uphill-flowing river should be crowded with boats, and every boat should be filled with laughing people holding out their hands to pull others out of danger.
But as we look at the shore, so many of God's precious lambs have their backs turned as they lean over to put one more sandbag on the levee; pour one more coffeecan of water on the approaching lava.
Christian songwriter Derek Webb puts it all in perspective in a song titled, appropriately, "The Church."
"There is none that can replace her
"Though there are many who will try
"And though some may be her bridesmaids
"They can never be my bride
"I haven't come for only you
"But for my people to pursue
"You cannot care for me, with no regard for her
"If you love me you will love the church"
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