“The Power of Pictures and Pithy Paradigms”—9

Presentation1“The Power of Pictures and Pithy Paradigms” is a series of timeless truths—each of which will serve to reinforce the Feast of the Heart Vision, Mission, and the main motivation for my own life in Christ and love for those He places in my life.

Everyone reformed, revived, a constructive revolutionary!

Feast of the Heart exists to help bring about Christ-centered “reformation, revival, and constructive revolution” (Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City) so that God will be glorified and people blessed.

  • Reformation…we seek to abide by and serve up the true truth of the Bible.
  • Revival…we seek to model biblical Christians living in word and deed.
  • Constructive Revolution…we seek to spread the true gospel right where God has planted us with urgency, compassion, and radical self-abandonment.

Fellowship: A Feast of the Heart—Part 3.

Welcome back to the fellowship of marathoning and persevering Saints at the table, Brothers and Sisters! I dearly hope and pray that the race you’ve been running—the marathon in, for, by and through Christ—since we last supped together has been a glory to God and a blessing to you and to others as well.

As promised from last week’s feast at The Training Table, following is the menu for today’s banquet of God’s perspective on fellowship:

  • It’s Important: A Top Priority
  • It’s Satisfying: A Radical Pleasure
  • It’s Compelling: A Perfect Platform

If you have any interest or affection for reviewing where we’ve been thus far in this series on Fellowship: A Feast of the Heart, please take some time to feast on Part 1 and Part 2.

Christian Fellowship: It’s Satisfying; A Radical Pleasure

For me, at first pass, the volume and intensity of pleasurable spiritual, emotional, psychological-mental, and physical experiences of fellowship with The Triune God and my fellow Christians was too much to even begin to tell about. I didn’t know where to begin. The breadth and depth of stories, people, and places are so great that silence seemed to respect all the anecdotes that vied for the telling.

But now, as I sit a small coffee shop in an even smaller town in the middle of Cornfield, USA, the temptation to try and begin first at the highest level—the radical pleasure of fellowship with God—has been subsumed by a much more mundane yet radically pleasurable experience of fellowshipping with some tender-warrior men over many years.

1) “Fellowship: Feast of the Heart”—basking in beauty and digging deep in the desert

Not long after December of 1987, when our family had moved from Aspen Colorado to St. Louis, I called a Christian Brother, Carl Yarbrough, and asked him if he knew some men who might like to meet in Moab Utah for four days of mountain-biking and spending time fellowshipping in the late afternoon, and around the campfire in the evening.

To be clear, in my mind this specific and intentional form of fellowshipping with Christian men was inspired by the Holy Spirit within me to DigDeep and would encompass one thing, in two forms: 1) Digging Deep via, a) a Challenge—by means of mountain biking in some of the most beautiful yet demanding terrain on the planet and, b) fellowshipping at a high and deep level of Biblical truth, love, and transformation.

The fellowship of the Spirit within me encouraged me stretch my new-found [of four years] faith big time—and do so by being stretched physically, emotionally and spiritually by fellowshipping with men of the faith… in the desert wilderness: A sacred place that mirrored where Christ retreated to for hours each morning to commune with His Father (Mark 1:35).

A Feast of the Heart Beyond Compare

Well, suffice it to say that our first gathering of 15 Godly and gutsy guys grew and grew each year until the group of men pedaling in one of the most amazing desert wilderness areas on the planet and fellowshipping in the heart-shaped ring around a now VERY big campfire…

Our biggest of 25 years was 80 Bro’s on mountain bikes and around the blaze of the bonfire.

For me, being in this place with these guys is a foretaste of heaven—big time!

By immersing ourselves in the beauty and pain of mountain biking with some of the most fit and capable cyclists… By marinating in the Word of God, and solely by word of mouth, for 25 years Fellowship: Feast of the Heart was [and is on a smaller scale] the most amazing experience of the pleasure AND the pain of the most intimate Christian brotherhood I’ve ever experienced.

My role was one of organizing all the elements of the adventure: The theme [example: “Surrender: The Only Way into the Battle”], logistics, invites, schedule, food, lodging, wearables, and facilitator.

I loved this fellowship of great fortitude, faith, and friendship like it was the love of God flowing directly through my own heart. The breathtakingly beautiful, extreme and often dangerous and long—hot, cold, wet, dry—riding conditions was the perfect set-up for creating a spirit of humility among the men… even the best, world-class cyclists. Being in God’s creation while red-lining the heart rate is a level-setter:

All the men came to dinner and the campfire afterwards stripped bare of much of their physical and spiritual pretensions—ready to stare into the flames of the campfire as well as look more deeply into previously uncharted realms of their own heart.

Gathered around the fire pit following a feast of dinner and a pint of ale, the Spirit was always present and moving in unspeakably grace-full ways—some revealed on the spot, some not until years later.

God’s Metrics: The Ripples of Truth and Love Never End

Purely by how The Spirit of God works to expand His Kingdom influence until Jesus returns to bring Heaven back to earth-renewed, if the group of guys gathered in the desert was added-up to around 300 [including repeats] over the 25 years, many, many times that many have been joined in fellowship and God’s influence over the years.

How so?

Friendships and Christ-secured fellowship that began in that place with many men who never knew one another—and are, today, bound together in life-long friendships of heavenly and earth-changing realms!

To this day, by means of husbands and wives, fathers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, friends and friendships… God continues to reveal relationships of many, many kinds that were formed as Fellowship was organized and let free as a Feast of the Heart—and “Not for ourselves…” (Romans 15:1), but extending far beyond to many other hearts!

Even though there are many realms of the faith that we could explore by means of this annual gathering named “Fellowship: Feast of the Heart”, one realm comes mind that goes way deep and high with me:

If we will be “organically and habitually” [as a natural outflow of our faith and resistance to gratifying our stubborn selfishness] obedient to God’s calling to grow in the faith—if we let the Spirit by the Spirit and we be we—the Trinity will reward us with the flow of Fellowship [with a capital “F”—fellowship with the Spirit] that will move immediately, or very soon, move into the realm of fellowship [with a small “f”—fellowship with another born-again, Spirit-filled person].

As “Spirit speaks to Spirit” (Matthew 10:20; Romans 8:16), man-to-man, there exists “a bonfire of the Pentecost” within the heart… a spiritual feast of the born-again heart that is a foretaste of the Banquet Table awaiting us in heaven.

While we are obedient to the call and nurturing such relationships, we are rewarded by going HIGHER and DEEPER into Biblical faith than we could ever dare imagine or hope for!

And that’s the good news… The more challenging news is that, for me, it’s very hard to replicate this “perfect storm” of, a) God’s desert beauty and solitude, b) the extreme physical demands, and c) the fellowship of the heart gathered ‘round a bonfire at night. But try to replicate, I must… We must.

A Redemptive Rippling Anecdote…

Just last May four of the original “desert feasters” and myself met to pedal, pal, and enjoy the radical pleasures of fellowship in Sedona AZ. Our first dinner out for some great Mexican food included a gift from Mike: “Doz, I don’t want to forget to tell you a story. Just the other day our son and I were cycling outside Durango. We stopped along the way and out of the blue he said, “Dad, this is so beautiful… God be praised! This sort of thing reminds me of one of the highlights of my life when we were together in Moab many years ago. That was life-changing… Thanks, Dad.”

Obviously [at least to some of you], upon hearing this I couldn’t hold back my tears of deep joy and the honor of contributing to the work God was, is, doing. And I could offer many, many more stories of “God’s redemptive ripple effect!”

There are few more rare and radical blessings for me than the many years of “Fellowship: Feast of the Heart.”

2) The Radical Pleasure of Fellowship with God: “On Christian Hedonism”

“Over the years the name that I have given to my understanding of the massive role joy plays not only in the Christian life, but in all of creation and God’s purposes in it—is Christian Hedonism. And the shortest description of Christian Hedonism is God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” (John Piper, What is Christian Hedonism?)

And I would add: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him…”—and in those who are in his Family as well.

The Westminster Catechism’s first question: What is man’s chief end? Answer: Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Isn’t the chief end of man to glorify God by enjoying him forever?

By taking great pleasure in God for time and eternity?

By doing things that glorify and please Him—and then by means of pleasing other Image Bearers of Him?

Consider, if you will, other words which mirror what taking pleasure in fellowship with God and His disciples is akin to: Bliss, comfort, contentment, enjoyment, gratification, joy, solace, satisfaction, thrill, felicity, gladness, relish, zeal, fulfillment, common purpose, identity, acceptance, delight, regalement, realization, and temporal and eternal reward.

That’s Christian Hedonism… and many other synonymous, unvarnished truths, and unashamed emotions that could [and will] go on forever.

“This truth—God is most glorified in us, or Christ is most magnified in us, when we are most satisfied [full of pleasure] in him—is not peripheral. … This is right at the heart of what it means to be a believer, what it means to belong to Jesus Christ, what it means to treasure and trust Jesus Christ. This is not icing on the cake of Christianity. This is at the heart of Christianity.” (John Piper, parentheses added]

A Pleasure in the Treasure of Fellowship with God and His Family

Psalm 37:4—Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

John 15:11—Jesus said, These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and so that your joy may be full.

Psalm 16:11—You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Matthew 13:44—The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

1 Timothy 6:6—Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment

2 Corinthians 1:24—Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith.

The Wellspring of Life

The manifold pleasures of fellowship with God is a wellspring of living water; it always results in an overflow of pleasure in the enjoyment of fellowship with our neighbor—beginning with The Family of God—and flowing, rippling out from there!

Any attempts to dam such a wellspring of life axiomatically, automatically, and organically results in LESS of the Blessed and Good Life God has in store for us, Beloved! And let’s be sure not to stop there: We’re not just “damming-up the flow of the Blessed and Good Life here on earth”—the details of our lives in eternity in heaven will reflect how we steward our fellowship with God and others on earth, and in time (Matthew 6:20; 2 Corinthians 5:10; James 1:12).

Net, net? Steward your love and fellowship with God and others well (Matthew 22:37-40, The Great Commandments).

The Satisfaction of a Radical Pleasure in the Pain: Counter-Intuitive but Non-Negotiable

In suffering, and for the born-again Christian [the only kind…], God gives us the chance to exchange our pain for His pleasure everyday: In some way, shape, or form we suffer from living in a horribly broken world everyday. But in each and every form of tiny and/or tumultuous suffering God’s plan of redemption offers us a chance to exchange the pain for more pleasure in Him and His Saints!

Please read and mediate closely on the many ways God offers us “Hedonistic Christians” pleasure, joy, peace, contentment, etc, etc in redemptive suffering:

Romans 5:3-5—More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

1 Peter 5:10—And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

James 1:2-4—Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Romans 8:18—For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

1 Peter 4:12-19—Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet, if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.

As Jonathan Edwards famously said of “Fellowship Shining Back and Forth”:

“It appears that all that is ever spoken of in the Scripture as an ultimate end of God’s works is included in that one phrase, the glory of God. In the creatures’ knowing, esteeming, loving, rejoicing in and praising God, the glory of God is both exhibited and acknowledged; his fullness is received and returned. Here is both the emanation and remanation. The refulgence shines upon and into the creature, and is reflected back to the luminary. The beams of glory come from God, and are something of God and are refunded back again to their original. So that the whole is of God and in God, and to God, and God is the beginning, middle and end in this affair.” (Works, I. pp. 119, 120.)

Amen. And Amen.

Can’t wait to meet you at The Training Table next week as we close this series on Fellowship: A Feast of the Heart with, Fellowship: It’s Compelling: A Perfect Platform


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