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Someone visiting our community once commented that they were surprised that people members of our community put up with being criticised by their leaders, even though they are adults. On the whole, I disagreed with the sentiments behind this observation. I think that accepting criticism is one of our community's strong points. Listening to criticism is how we learn to grow, even after we become adults. It is a sign of our sincerity that we are willing to accept criticism.

But lately I've been thinking of another side to that comment about criticism. There comes a time in the life of the average systemite when no one in the whole wide world takes any serious responsibility for them any more. Warnings pretty much cease, and correction (apart from matters to do with their employment) rarely comes from anything softer than a police uniform. If they do something stupid, they bear the consequences, whether they be large or small; and just knowing this seems to get most people disciplining themselves to stay out of trouble.

The Bible says, "Let each person bear their own burden." (Galatians 6:5) In other words, "Grow up and take responsibility for yourself."

I'm prepared to do all I can to help people in this community, and I don't want to shirk my responsibility as a leader. However, it really seems to me at times that we just move from one crisis situation to another, and from one person to another who is seriously out of the spirit over something that really is pretty basic. More often than not, the problem is something that has already come up over and over in the past; and yet the person persists with staying out of the spirit despite plea after plea from me or from someone else. And then, finally, we get to a third stager, and sometimes even then they kick against the truth for a while.

I had a dream this week. In the dream I had won a huge shipment of goldfish, something like a million of them. But then God spoke to me and said, "What good are they? You don't have any place to put them." It seemed to me like he was saying that there are heaps of potential new disciples out there, but he can't trust us with them because we don't have people who are prepared to take responsibility for them. We're flat out finding people who will take responsibility for themselves.

Or, as Paul put it when writing to the Corinthians, "When you really ought to be eating meat, I still have to feed you milk." (1 Corinthians 3:1-2)

Everyone seems to envy me, because I generally don't have to answer to anyone but God. But all you have to do to get in much the same position that I am in, is to start answering to God yourself, and stop waiting for someone else to tell you when you are getting out of the spirit.

In other words, "Grow up!"

If your problem is dishonesty, then perhaps it is time to get serious about being honest. If your problem is not sharing, then start sharing. If your problem is bitterness, then confess it and ask for forgiveness. If your problem is poor-me's then start thinking of others instead of yourself. If your problem is impatience, then stop making excuses for it and start changing! It's all a matter of taking some initiative in disciplining yourself.

It seems like most of you will turn around when backed into a corner with a spiritual gun to your head; but you won't do it until it reaches that stage. In the meantime, you sabotage everything that we are doing by working as a secret agent for the devil. See, that's what happens when you let yourself get out of the spirit, and when you won't discipline yourself to get back into the spirit before others notice. Your attitude disrupts everything positive that is happening around you.

Really, taking responsibility for keeping yourself on the rails is only the very first, most basic step toward becoming a spiritual adult. Paul said, "Let each person bear their own burden." But then he said something that seemed to contradict it. He said, "Bear one another's burdens." (Galatians 6:2-5) This harder command is the next step. You need to become an adult so that you can help the babies. First you start getting your own life in order; and then you start helping others to get their lives in order... not just as a self-righteous preacher, but as someone who really cares.

I'm not saying that all of you have trouble with this. Some people seem to be making good progress. But really, you must know that there have been quite a few serious problems recently that I have had to pretty much recognise on my own from over here, and try to make others aware of over there, so that you could help with them. At this very moment, someone appears to be going through a serious problem that could very easily mark the end of that person's membership in our community. Last week it was someone else, and a few weeks before that it was someone else. Perhaps if you guys started thinking a little more of someone besides yourselves, you would stop getting out of the spirit yourselves, and you would spot needs in others (and in yourselves) and deal with them in Christian wisdom and love. If that happened, certainly we would have fewer of these problems.

One very serious observation that I have made: When someone is out of the spirit, they rarely ever mention God at all. They lose sight of what God wants. All that matters is what they want, how they have been hurt, what their opinion is, as opposed to someone else's opinion, etc. Think about it: You really can't get much more backslidden than that, now, can you? Until you bring God back into the picture, and get serious about finding his will and obeying him, you're pretty much useless to us and to him.

We are committed to a lot of projects and programs at the moment. But none of it matters if the people involved are not working in obedience to Jesus and his spirit of love. If you've lost touch with God, then I want you to consider yourself fired. I mean it! Drop everything, and get serious with God or get out!

I know that we all have weaknesses, and that some habits are hard to change. But even that would be helped if we would just confess our weaknesses and ask for help from others in overcoming them. But while we cover up and justify our weaknesses, we will never get anywhere. So if you won't help yourselves, and you won't ask for help, then what point is there in staying around? We would be better off without you.

NOTE: We had a little discussion here about that last line above. Someone feeling sorry for themselves could take that line as an excuse to leave the community and commit spiritual suicide. But we decided to leave it in, because it's a classic illustration of the kind of problem we are trying to address.

Adults know that if they commit suicide, they have no one to blame but themselves for doing it. We've just recently seen a whole group of disciples jump off a cliff spiritually, shouting abuse at us all the way to the rocks below. What it should have done is to sober us all up to the seriousness of where selfishness leads people. But still we continue to see people playing such silly games. So go on! Jump! And keep on jumping until all we have left are people who are prepared to live and act as adults and stop feeling sorry for themselves every time things don't go their way.

We won't get as many projects done if our numbers drop further; but at least we won't be guilty of acting as a cover-up for your loss of contact with God. It's that personal contact with God that matters most in this community, not how many books we can print and distribute. So don't be afraid to drop anything and everything until you are sure that you are right with God.

If you don't, we will.

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