Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Ali McLachlan on "The Red Pill Syndrome".

I would like to mention an incredible man who came up with a revelation that had a deep impact on my life some years ago. Ali McLachlan is ministering in Liverpool at Belvidere Road Church. We are even more blessed because a number of his sermons are online here. The man is even an accomplished songwriter - my friend Mark Heath has done some outstanding work with his music that is available here. Why did he impact me? He is a radical. He's a man who isn't afraid to believe what he believes and make his beliefs so clear. And he is passionate about what he believes! Even more rare. But the thing that "got" me most of all was that when I was back in Dunstable, he had time for me - this is the most rare thing of all in my experience. "I don't have the time" is a phrase I hate. Well Ali made time for me and some friends.

He wrote a couple of newsletters called "A Small Circle" and in it he shared something that I've never forgotten. He called it, "The Red Pill Syndrome" and said this:

"In the highly philosophical sci-fi film The Matrix, Neo is offered an unpleasant choice: take the blue pill and wake up as if nothing had happened (and continue with the splinter in his mind which drove him to Morpheus in the first place); or take the red pill and face the unknown. It's a matter of trust and desperation.

[If the red pill = seeking God until He uses me to glorify Him on earth.] Only trust in the Father and a desperation to make our lives count in His service will prompt us to take the red pill. True, we do not know where it will stop. We don't like the thought of how 'deep the rabbit hole really goes'. If we had the choice, we'd all opt to be Stephen instead of Paul. We can trust God to get us through a day's trial and execution but can we really trust Him for a life of dying?".

I believe that there is strength in companionship. I believe that God's men in the Bible needed other people for encouragement and accountability. Moses needed an Aaron. Joshua needed a Caleb. David needed Jonathan. Barnabus needed Saul. Even Jesus rejoiced at this and took strength in the light of His forerunner, John.

You have known the aching feeling that you get when you try to unburden your heart like this - only to find that people have glazed over and lost you early on. You know what it is to feel that noone seems half as stressed by living an excellent life for God as you. Do you know what I'm talking about?

Yet for all the possible avenues of risk (eg. pride, compromise and failure) in taking the red pill of seeking God until He blesses us we share something with Neo and his companions. We are an unusual grouping of serious, unsatisfied men".

I don't really know what I'm trying to say. But "unsatisfied" seems to be the character of my life at the moment. I feel like I'm constantly hungry for ... more. Constantly looking to the horizon. Constantly waiting for something that I'm not even sure is. And I sometimes wish that I wasn't like that. I wish I could be a pew member that is just happy to sit in church every Sunday, pay my tithe and smile beningly at the "precious" message of the pastor. But I can't. Because at the moment, Ern Baxter is bellowing upstairs about "marching from Hebron to Zion"! Unsatisfied? Yes! We sing "You are the Lord, the Famous One!" ... but He isn't! He isn't famous! They don't even care about Him! Unsatisfied? How can I not be with a hero like Terry Virgo saying that he HATES church that isn't church! Unsatisfied? Oh I am SO unsatisfied. And sports? How is sports going to satisfy? How is sports going to play a part in spreading and covering the earth with the glory of the Lord? How is sports going to make Him the Famous One?

Unsatisfied? When I read of accounts in the Bible when Moses saw the back of the Lord and came down from the mountain with his face burning and shining?! When I read accounts of Enoch walking with God and simply "was not"?! When I read accounts of Elijah being taken up into heaven in a chariot of fire??! When I read accounts of the glory of the Lord filling the temple so that the priests simply couldn't move!?!? When I remember standing in the halls at Stoneleigh Bible Week just motionless as the Spirit of God moved over the worshippers?!?


I remember a final quote from the Matrix when Neo realises just "what" the red pill entails. He said to Morpheus, "I can't go back can I?". Morpheus said, "No, but if you could - would you want to?". And when it's put like that - no. I wouldn't.


apbwd said...

Amen!! My dear bro - this smacks of Hebrews I think. "Looking to that ...". The greats weren't satisfied either!! They were constantly looking!

You're in good company and you're not alone!!

Mark Heath said...

thanks for pointing me to Ali's sermons. I had no idea they were available online. I'll be in Liverpool in a couple of weeks time and will be paying him a visit. I'm also working on a remix of one of his songs, hopefully available on my site soon.

jul said...

I'm with you--unsatisfied. I don't think the problem is on God's side, he's made it clear what he desires, so I've come to the conclusion that there is something in me getting in the way. Not to say I don't get glimpses of better things, but I want to live there. But we are on a journey, and ultimately we will have all the desires of our hearts, or at least, we will finally know all that we have in Christ. I feel like somehow, I just don't understand what I have, so I'm living like a beggar. Or maybe like those dwarves in the last Narnia book. They were sitting in Aslan's land thinking they were in a dark smelly barn eating bits of cabbage and turnip. So I need revelation, lots of it. Well, not of that makes sense, but for what it's worth, I know what you're talking about anyway!

Don said...

This is great -- I'm passing the link to this post on to others.

There must be a balance between yearning and satisfaction, or we'll come unhinged. The more the state of the world and the lack of God's fame bother us, the more time we must spend in prayer. And not primarily laundry-list prayer -- totally "wasteful" prayer in which we gaze upon the face of the Beloved, sit in His presence with wordless awe and delight, and are totally satisfied with Him and the grace He pours into us.

I read an article on Mother Teresa's Sisters of Mercy working in inner-city Washington, DC, taking filthy, sick and sometimes deranged people off the street and bathing, clothing and caring for them. The journalist asked one sister how she could do all of this work, much of which must be physically disgusting.

Spending six hours each day in prayer and Scripture, replied the nun -- that was how she received God's love and passed it on to the wrecked humans she was helping God save from the streets. Six hours of delighting in His presence and His Word -- being daily changed into the very image of Christ by sitting, soaking, worshipping.

Heidi Baker ( calls it her "snorkeling" time with Jesus. And He is so delighted with Heidi's loving obedience in Mozambique, that He's sharing with her in her snorkeling times His love for even more Mozambican tribes, and asking her -- in fiery love -- to bring those tribes into His family and His kingdom so He can lavish even more love upon them.

It's only through such loving relationship with Jesus, that we will have *God's* love for the lost and the Church implanted in our own hearts, and guide us in being His messengers of reconciliation on Earth. Else it's just our frustration and our flesh doing the work, and it will all come to nothing.

Don said...

One more thing -- I followed your "sports" link, and have to disagree with your point there. Our older kids played on county sports teams coached by Art Shenk, a CLC pastor under Mahaney. CJ's points in his blog post were Art's points to our kids and assistant coaches. And I'm so grateful for those emphases.

You might not believe the amazing Christian witness the CLC-based teams' behavior was to the other parents -- but especially to the county sports officials who worked with us on the games. They consistently praised Art and his teams, year after year, for excellent sportsmanship and for making their officiating a joy. It was just the Kingdom of God "errupting" into the Earth, and making people hungry for God himself. The kids' and coaches' excellent behavior set up numerous opportunities for casual witnessing during the games.

Not only that, but during training times with the kids, Art clearly taught them in humility how his lack of these godly attitudes hurt his own performance, as a college soccer player. So this was one more opportunity to build godly character into impressionable young men and women, consistent with the messages they were receiving from the church and their parents at other times during the week.

My older son played one year on another county baseball team, on which he was the only Christian. The other boys had higher skill levels, but they were selfish prima donnas who self-destructed during the playoffs. The coach didn't know how to deal with the bad attitudes, even in his own son. However, he repeatedly told me how much he appreciated my son's maturity, teachableness and patience -- he wished the other boys had those qualities. I just thanked God for what my son had learned in five or so years of Shenk-coached baseball and soccer.

Baxter's Boy said...

Thanks for the challenge Don, I appreciate it and welcome it. I think we always approach issues from our own biases and I quite simply just hate sports. (Apart from running - I have just entered into the Bristol Half Marathon!!).

In all the sports functions I have endured at church functions and at Bible Weeks, I have seen the worst of competitiveness brought out - to me the height of ungodly behaviour! You know the score - Christian men shouting at each other as to whether it was "in or out".

But I really do appreciate and accept your point that it can indeed be used to God's glory. I was in the middle of a rant and so it just "slipped" in - so point taken!

Baxter's Boy said...

By the way Jul - I LOVE your Narnia citation! The dwarves were very much on my mind as I wrote it! Maybe we should have some posts on Narnia typologies - aside from the over-used "He's not a tame lion" of course.

Yes that is so true! Are we actually sitting in the middle of a lush land but persisting in eating our turnips and stable rubbish!? Is that why Paul prays that the eyes of our hearts may be opened!?!

Thats so great. Thank you for that - I'm going to read Last Battle again!

Ollie said...

I like that - red pill and blue pill ... I think when I watched the Matrix, I always knew there had to be a type in there somewhere!

But perhaps has your friend Ali been a little cautious in his type? Could we advance "Red Pill Snydrome" a little further maybe? In comparison to the blue pill? And of course that raises a whole heap of discussion about are those who take both pills Christians or non? Is it deluded Christians that are still plugged into the Matrix?

Aagh I'm getting carried away!

Sheila said...

I know how you feel, Dan. And I think I know what it is you are looking to the horizon for! You are searching for the manifest glory of God. "Show me your glory!"

I was a little girl when the Charismatic movement hit its peak in the U.S. I saw a baby with a club foot healed - I saw my own mother healed, I saw demons cast out, I myself rec'd dramatic deliverance from a tormenting spirit of fear! I went from hearing voices, and not sleeping at night, to never again another voice, and slept blissfully from that very night forward! (tho' newborns and a snoring husband would spoil this miracle, in a later season of my life!)

At 11 years of age, I was filled with the Holy Ghost, and God revealed Himself to me tangibly a couple of times.

So. I've recently been sharing with the women of my church how that "hope deferred makes the heart sick". I *am* heart sick. I long to see the Lord move in even greater ways. It is a form of is a "holy sadness", if you will. There is a deep longing inside my heart to see the glory of God. For me, on a personal, intimate level (as opposed to corporately) I don't so much want to "see" His glory, as Moses desired...I want to smell His fragrance. Just once, in a time of prayer, or even when I'm driving, I want to suddenly know the Lord is near me, because I smell what I imagine to be an unimaginably beautiful, other-worldly perfume.

"But when the desire comes, it is like medicine..." (herbal medicine - aka "a tree of life.")

God gives us these longings, and then I believe He directs our steps so that we encounter Him as the tree of life - He wounds us with desire, so that He can heal us with Himself. You will see His glory, Dan! (Or, if you so desire, we might get to smell Him one day!)

John Piper said something like this, "I am unsatisfied with a deeply satisfying unsatisfaction..." Er...uh...something like that. (Or was it, "I am satisfied with a deeply UNsatisfying satisfaction??" ) Suffice it to say our delights define us. I won't be happy till I smell Him. I won't be completely delighted until I see Him in my church, in all His glory.

But. B-U-T. In some cases, we have to face the fact that what we are really longing heaven. I love what Don said, about the balance between yearning and satisfaction, or "we become unhinged." Oh, I have known this to be true. We can become deeply dissatisfied with "church" as we know it today.

There is a fine line between a holy dissatisfaction, and a holier-than-thou lack of gratitude for the church. I close with a quote from my beloved Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

"In the Christian Community, thankfulness is just what it is anywhere else in the Christian life. Only he who gives thanks for the little things receives the big things. We prevent God from giving us the great spiritual gifts he has in store for us, because we do not give thanks for the daily gifts....We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet not really small) gifts. How can God entrust great things to one who will not thankfully receive from Him the little things? If we do not give thanks daily for the (church) in which we have been placed, EVEN WHERE THERE IS NO GREAT EXPERIENCE, NO DISCOVERABLE RICHES, BUT MUCH WEAKNESS, SMALL FAITH, AND DIFFICULTY; IF ON THE CONTRARY, WE ONLY KEEP COMPLAINING TO GOD THAT EVERYTHING IS SO PALTRY AND PETTY, SO FAR FROM WHAT WE EXPECTED, THEN WE HINDER GOD FROM LETTING OUR FELLOWSHIP GROW ACCORDING TO THE MEASURE AND RICHES WHICH ARE THERE FOR US ALL IN JESUS CHRIST.

Baxter's Boy said...

That's it Sheila!! That is EXACTLY it!! "Show me your glory!!" As Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, "We were NEVER meant to be content with a little!". We were never meant to be content with the pitiful expressions of life that we have at present - so yes, in everything we must have a deep divine contentment that He is God and He is good!

But ... !

On the other hand never rest, never keep quiet until Zion is glorious!!

jul said...

I am thirsty lifting up desperate hands
Only one thing I'm asking for
Let me touch your majesty
Even if it be the end of me
I must know you

Show me your glory
Even if I never breath again
I want to see your face
Even if I never live to see another day

I am failing falling down to my knees
Holy Spirit please meet me here
Nothing here has worth to me
I would leave it all to walk with you
I must know you

Show me your glory
Even if I never breath again
I want to see your face
Even if I never live to see another day

Until my face shines with the light of knowing you
I will not be satisfied...

Another old song of mine. Let me know if you get tired of me taking up all your comment space with my songs! Sheils's comment just brought this to my mind.

Baxter's Boy said...

No way - this website is one place where lingering, intimate precious songs of worship love and adoration will ALWAYS be welcome!! My favourite is still that one that goes:

Draw me close to You
Never let me go
I lay it all down again,
To hear You say that I'm your friend.

You are my desire,
Noone else will do,
cuz nothing else can take Your place,
To feel the warmth of Your embrace,
Help me find the way - bring me back to You.

You're all I want.
You're all I've ever needed.
You're all I want.
Help me know You are near.

Your songs are precious Jul! Reading it has sparked off a whole new thought process in me.

Thank you!

jul said...

I've always loved that one too, though I haven't heard it in a long time now. All of this interaction over these kinds of topics have been very inspiring to me, hopefully there will be more songs come out of it all. Thanks for providing this context for the many people who enjoy reading your thoughts and all the thoughts of other great believers from the past and present.

Sheila said...

How about this one (one of my favorites)

Give me one pure and holy passion!
Give me one magnificent obsession!
Jesus, give me one glorious ambition for my life,
To know and follow hard after you!

To know and follow hard after you
To grow as your disciple in the truth
This world is empty, pale, and poor
Compared to knowing You, my Lord
Lead me on, and I will run after You!"

jul said...

Hey , isn't that an old PDI song? It was on one of their old albums anyone, my mom loves that song too.

Sheila said...

Jul, I think the lyrics to the song you penned (and shared above) are *lovely*, poignant, and I hope you are ever writing more like this one.

Don said...

Thanks, Sheila! We used to sing that one, too, and it is one of my all-time favorite worship songs. And "Draw me close..." is one of my favorite Vineyard renewal songs.

O Lord, that you would rend the heavens and come down! (Is 64)