Here is a synopsis of the wonderful teaching and preaching at the Texas Ashram as shared by our roving intern, Tom Dearduff.
Genuine love shared between brothers and sisters in faith should be free from apprehension and judgment. Christian love is real and risky, and I do not think we really understand this until we cast aside our illusions and assumptions and experience it wholly. Let me say: for God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son. Because of this absolute love, the Kingdom of God is at hand; alleluia! I was privileged to witness the Kingdom first hand that week. Here are just three examples how the will of God is embodied on earth as it is in Heaven.
I am very arrogant. I struggle to understand that education and opportunity are blessings. I struggle to see that nothing is of my doing. I am quick to forget to thank God for everything. And I realize that far too many of my sentences begin with the letter “i.” But love is humble. And God has such a provoking way of opening eyes.
Bob Utley, an Old Testament professor and our Texas Bible Teacher, preached the Word in such a profound way without a hint of pretension. I fear who I would be with Bob’s credentials. But he set an example for how we can approach our faith academically, emotionally, and simply in one stride. He helped me realize how I’ve lived the past four years of my life in fallacy by creating a dichotomy between faith of the head and faith of the heart. While discussing the importance and overarching purpose of faith, he ended his sermon abruptly and in tears: “I wanna say that I love Jesus enough to die for him, but I’m not sure what I would do. And history records that Nero was upset that the Christians he killed died smiling.” It was in that moment that I realized—more than intellect—I should want the faith of Matthew 16:24: Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.”
The Holy Spirit moved during that Bible Hour in a way that opened my eyes to my corruptible intention to serve Christ and my weakness to pride. The reintegration of my head and heart came through Bob’s incredible humility and humanity.
My artificial dichotomy of head and heart faith was further shattered by the words of John Hobbs, our Texas Evangelist. John taught me that love is true. He told stories that reiterated that God is reality. John would hear God’s guidance like a broadcast on the radio; he would wrestle with what he heard, but in the end would always follow what “Daddy” commanded. John taught me that I must listen whenever God calls, no matter how successful or satisfying my path may seem. Daddy will use any means to keep me afloat, even if that means getting swallowed by a big fish and spit out in the direction of Nineveh. God is everything we need.
And more than this, John taught me the importance of studying the Bible and unfailingly falling back on the core truth of the Gospel. The depth of my theology is not the depth of my faith. Theology and religion do not save us; only faith in and of Christ redeems. This is what is true. Books and brains may overwhelm my understanding of the reality of God by placing my Creator between chapters.
Faith and love come before all else. The teachings of both Bob and John worked together to open my eyes to how faith should be realized and how the Kingdom is lived on earth now.
If the Texas Christian Ashram is any indication, everyone in heaven gets along. More than this, everyone is authentic in they’re getting along. The Kingdom of God is expressed in Texas sincerely and amiably. It was Rusty and David offering me a place to sleep when I was without a bed, having forgotten to register. It was John approaching me during a prayer exercise saying, “I noticed that you weren’t a part of a family. You are a part of this family, and I am going to bless you.” He placed his hands on my head and blessed me right there in the middle of the sanctuary as a father would a son.
It goes without saying that I witnessed the Kingdom of God in Scottsville. It goes without saying that I loved the week I was able to spend in community with people that took their faith seriously. I am stunned as the United Christian Ashram continues to bless me with inexpressible experiences. I am rejuvenated, my spirit reclaimed for Christ. Jesus is Lord!