1991, 01/01-02/14. The Year of the Sheep

The title of this section comes from when I was worried that I was not one of Jesus’s sheep. In response to this worry, I seemed to be shown in some unusual and amazing ways that I was one of Jesus’s sheep.

Also the noose continued to tighten with the continual high-pressure meetings and punishment sessions, in which Stewart Traill accused us of sin and rebellion and railed against us like an angry judge. I didn’t write much in my journal what was going on in these meetings, not to the degree I was writing about meeting dynamics and the psycho-pressure later, in 1993.

These journal pages form the background of my book, Captive Congregation: My Fourteen Years in the Church of Bible Understanding, which is available as a Kindle book or in paperback.

January 1

I want to write about some things I experienced during the meeting. One being that Stewart said, “How do you know you are called?” And, “How do you know that you are one of Jesus’s sheep?” He said that it comes down to “I just know I hear his voice.” Well, I think I do hear his voice.

During the meeting, while sitting in the chair guarding, it seemed God said to me “I understand you.” Also during the Lord’s Supper, when we were praying, I was begging Christ for his life. I heard these words: “I will and I don’t lie. You may have it. Only on one condition. That you love me (!)” Also he seemed to say the same thing, as I also asked about whether it was permissible to do my interests, “You may have it, only on one condition. That you love me.” This seems to point to the real issue. I still worry about this some, but I seem also to have an inward calm about it, just accepting it, just like with the question I had about marriage. It just seemed to sink in and affect me in ways I don’t realize until I look closer.

I have received correction about the value of Jesus death on the cross for me and being thankful for it more than anything.

Now, let’s look at the real issue. Am I loving Jesus? It’s so easy to forget that when I am debating about the non-essentials.

[I was talking about my anxiety over my salvation. The questions “how do you know you are called?” and “how do you know you are one of Jesus sheep?” (as well as about being “one of the elect” and about “predestination”) were subjects that Stewart introduced in the meetings, but this never seemed to produce a feeling of reassurance on the part of the brothers and sisters, but rather anxiety and fear that they were not chosen by God or that they were not one of Jesus sheep, and not one of the elect. I was troubled over the issue and seeking reassurance about it.]

January 4

I was thinking that if God created 99% of humanity in order for them to be tormented forever, how can God be said to be loving to the lost souls in hell? Or to anyone lost and not in heaven? How is he loving? Or if he only loves 1% of humanity, how can I know I am one of them?

I was thinking about this. I looked at a newspaper here on a job site. I flipped it over and there was a half page picture of a sheep on it.

And I think of other things like: Stewart says that we are had either way. In other words, you could say God sets us up. He loves us, but he sets us up. (We don’t desire salvation, but, he made us that way, predestined to hell.) Yet, this is love, because God loves them. (The point that God doesn’t get his desire.) [Stewart said that God doesn’t get his desires fulfilled of having everyone in heaven with him.] This “love” sounds like deceit. I don’t think I want this kind of love.

Now, these are wrong thoughts. But Luther is always praised for having these kind of thoughts, and about how he came to the point of hating God. (But he had a wrong view.) He was having a crisis in his faith. Doubts. Hey, this is hopeful, because I go through this too. (But I am not allowed to say it, because I already “know better.”) Luther had these thoughts, but God didn’t kill him. (Except for: yes, but Luther was trying as hard as he could to serve God, what about you?)

Somehow I think a person has to get down to the end of his rope to get any help, because I think I see God helping me. I am always trying to be so good. Maybe I’m trying to have a righteousness of my own, instead of honestly crashing and crying out.  I suppress all my doubts, fears and questions. Because I am already supposed to know it all and have it together, which is diametrically opposed to my need for Jesus. I wouldn’t need a Savior then. I am supposed to have it together, and to be okay. Then and only then, can I have Jesus. Can’t I be a lost and straying sheep and call for my shepherd, or wait for him to come help and find me? (Not as an excuse to lay around, but just to be honest? Maybe I can’t have help until I do.)

I went to give the bill to the man in the restaurant. [I was on a night job in a Japanese restaurant, cleaning the carpets with a crew of brothers.] He was reading Japanese magazines. One of the magazines had pictures of sheep all over it. I went away thinking. And I wished I could have the magazine to remember this. Later, I struck up a conversation with him, thinking that some day, maybe I’ll go to Japan and that Japanese people are especially without God. He didn’t understand much English, so without really thinking about it, I pointed to the pictures on the magazine and tried to talk to him about sheep and shepherds. He didn’t understand and began to tell me about animals – rat, cow, snake, sheep. It is a Chinese tradition, he said. Then I realized that he had misunderstood me and that he was telling me about the Chinese years and that this year is the year of the sheep(!) I was pretty amazed at this.

Our conversation went on to things like the Japanese language and Japanese cartoons. (The magazine was a comic book.) Then he offered me the magazine. I had tried to talk to him about God and he ended up talking to me more about God than he will ever realize and more than I could have ever thought. So, this was a type of reassurance I experienced today. Possibly God is trying to tell me that I really am one of his sheep. So, I give up these thoughts. I am glad to just be a humble sheep, nothing more. I need reassurance like this to keep from going off the deep end.

This is the cover of the magazine that the Japanes man gave me that night in the restaurant. I've kept it all these years.

This is the cover of the magazine that the man gave me. I’ve kept it all these years.

January 9

Today, I heard the Shepherd’s voice at least three times. I was thinking about marriage and how I was going to get out of these thoughts. (Due to the subject of marriage being brought up Sunday. I had been very free of anxiety about it till then.) I heard, “I will make a way out.” Also when thinking about this and about Brother Stewart: “You live with respect to man. You should live with respect to Jesus.” Also: “Read Hebrews 2.”

When praying tonight, I heard many things. After praying a while, I thought, I am just a noisy gong [1], but then I heard, “Your wishes, your fears, your problems.” So I began to speak to God about all these things. After a while, great peace flowed over me. It felt like strength and power flowed over me. I heard the words, “my mercy” many times and was directed to pray about God’s love for me. (I also prayed about my interests, and heard “keep them.” Although before when listing all the usual interests, I heard, “you fear, you fear, you fear” after each one and didn’t understand.) I confessed many wishes and fears. So, I ought not to give up on prayer, but persevere in it, not losing heart. Because for a while it seemed as though I was going nowhere and speaking all over the board. I think I may have received mercy in this prayer. The real kind.

[1] This strange sounding phrase, a “noisy gong,” comes from the “love chapter,” 1 Corinthians 13. The verse says, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” (1 Co. 13:1 RSV.) I was praying to God, but that in all of my crying out to him, I felt I was just making a lot of vain requests, that is, a lot of empty noise – though actually these were real concerns. In COBU we were taught to negate our real selves and to “put to death” our lives, our feelings and our thoughts. And to negate our rational thinking, except insofar as our rational thoughts agreed with the teachings of Stewart Traill and could be used to follow his teachings. Current COBU members say that they fully agree with and accept the teaching of the Church of Bible Understanding, and that they were not forced, pressured, bullied or coerced into believing it.

As I read back over the last paragraph, I think about how my struggles and anxieties in my Christian life at that time were often not the usual ones that Christians face, such as overcoming temptations and the like, but rather the confusion and disorientation caused by the so-called pastor of the church I belonged to. According to Stewart, I was supposed to “put to death” all my earthly desires, ambitions and interests, whether marriage or the desire for accomplishments, and to not develop any skill that could not bring in money to the church (the church had wood floor work, painting and carpet cleaning businesses at this time), because, according to Stewart, “we have died to this world” and we were supposed to “lay down our lives.” Part of my struggle was that I continued to desire these things and it seemed that God himself was reassuring me it was okay to do these things. It was still going to take me time to be able to leave there and to come to realize that what was being taught by Strewart Traill was ungodly and extreme Christian heresy.]

January 10

I need Jesus today. I’m trying to think of scripture. But this doesn’t last too long.

January 12

On the job last night it was almost as if Jesus came and spoke to me, saying “your warning” and “you are in rebellion” and it became obvious to me that the rebellion is over not laying down my life. (Then I remembered the dream about heaven, but that may have been wishful thinking.)

When I got home, I prayed a while. (I got back out of bed because I thought he wanted me to pray again.) It seemed like he came to me, over and over again, telling me to hold out my hand. It seemed as if, in spirit, he was holding mine. Maybe for an hour.

Today, there was much correction about the club. I hear a voice saying “your warning,” but also “repentance” or “your repentance.” I don’t know. I am scared. At some point I gave up my speeches. I thought maybe “when I was brought low, he saved me.” Even now, “you’re repenting.”

The club, or the “Dinosaur Club” is what Stewart Traill accused the Older Brothers as being a part of. He said that we were set in our ways and that if we even wanted to change ourselves, we’d do it “in a dinosaur way,” which means it would be utterly pointless. Within a few days, Stewart was about to implement his plan to break up the older brothers’ fellowship by taking us out of our “strongholds” and redistributing us in other locations in the church, and setting us under the authority of the newest church members, many of them with street and gang backgrounds. Stewart did not reveal the extent of what he had in mind. If he had, I might have left from Brooklyn right then. Stewart portrayed this move in glowing terms and as something for our good. He said that we were helpless and too bound up in our degenerate condition to offer much help to others or to help ourselves, but that the church would work on us and put us in program and monitor us. Maybe a way could be found for us. (Really, there was nothing wrong with us. Stewart wanted to restructure the church businesses which were run by the long-term members and to put the new disciples in charge of it, and of us.) During a voting session in the Woodruff basement, I got voted to move to the “Lamb House” in Philadelphia, a large institutional building on Woodland Avenue that the church owned. I had hoped to move to the Staten Island house, which was a residential area. And I dreaded having to move to “810.” (810 North Broad Street in Philadelphia, a four story building the church was renting to house the street people (and gang members) we “swept up” and which had been, until recently, run by several older nrothers, including Jay. It now was in charge of the new people, including the gang members. I knew it would be a jail-like situation and crossed my fingers and prayed I would not have to go there. When I was selected to live at Woodland Avenue, I felt better.

The night before I got on a church bus and to go Philadelphia, I had an interesting dream. I dreamed that I was in the first floor hallway, talking to George. (a new brother). I told him cheerfully, “I’m going to the Lamb House!” He looked at me and said, “No you’re not! You’re going to 810!” And he began to laugh. And the laughing got louder and louder until it was a roar. Then I awoke.

The next day, I packed my clothes and some possessions, including a bookshelf, into an old school bus owned by the church and watched 162 Woodruff disappear around the corner as we drove away. I shouted, “Good riddance Woodruff!” I had lived in Woodruff for 8 years. In a dirty, noisy neighborhood where there were gunfights between drug dealers several nights a week. I had adjusted to life there as best as I could and even went jogging in Prospect Park (until 1989 when Stewart started up with us again) which was just around the corner.

Soon I was at the Philadelphia Lamb House with a few other older brothers who had been selected to move there. There was a phone message from Brother Stewart to the new disciplies running the place, asking “What are these older brothers doing here?” (I had just put my duffle bag in a second story room in the dormitory wing, which had a window overlooking a tree lined lawn. It might not be so bad here, I thought.) We were told to leave the Lamb House immediately and to go at 810 to be with the other older brothers there.]

Right now, we’re in the middle of the heaviest correctional meeting I have ever been in. Maybe this is the end. The subject of the meeting is about who is and who is not an older brother.

[In these next journal entries, I went completely under and believed everything Stewart Traill said was wrong with us, the older brothers. I wrote a lot of self-incriminating statements and “conclusions” about my life and about how I had rejected Christ and had refused all the help he tried to give me. It took me a while to recover and to come back up to the surface, to begin to question this extremely condemning view. We were under extreme pressure at the time and soon I gave into it the overwhelming power of it. It was to take 810 blowing apart and the failure of Stewart’s plan to replace the older brothers with the street people, and an awareness of the danger Stewart put us in while claiming to help us, for me to start thinking clearly again. Stewart obviously still needed the older brothers, for financial reasons and I saw him “sell out” on his “truth” about our worthlessness when he pressed us back into service in the church businesses. But for a time, there was nothing for me to do but run from the lightning bolts of Stewart’s wrath and to beg God for mercy, as a worthless vile sinner who was not only a rebel, but who had even further rebelled against all of God’s help, stiffening his neck and refusing correction, making him doubly a candidate for eternity in hell. Everything in and around me seemed to confirm this view. My thoughts, my dreams. I think also that people can be pushed about their sinful condition (those who are willing to admit that they have a sinful condition) and after much guilt tripping, fire and brimstone, be willing to accept the “cure” offered for that condition.  t can be done by pressing the right buttons in the right circumstances.

Later, when I read Robert J. Lifton’s book on Through Reform, I realized (not that I did not know already from experience) how all-encompassing an environment set up for “re-education” and “thought reform” can be, even if that is a religious and not a political system. I also read about the Christian revivals that took place in the United States in the 1700s and 1800s and how conversions happened in long meetings where preachers decribed the terrors of hell in great detail. Even Jonathan Edward’s revival (which broke out during his famous sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”) had to be called off after several months, after a man committed suicide by cutting his own throat because of the despair and the pressure he was put under in the meetings and in the village where this revival was taking place. And, I also have known the utter despair that can come during these times, as well as the desire to accept the cure, the way out that is being offered along with the description of your sinful condition and disease.]

I have been fronting so heavily, but now the cover is blown. In a way, it is “rest” (by comparison), but not much. Really right now, I am waiting for Stewart to do something with me.

This now reminds me of the fall of 1988 before the first Backslider Meeting when all seemed impossibly hopeless. I wish I had hung on and not given up. Now I realize all the amazing things God did for me back then to help me not leave the church, although I had given up. (Dreams about meetings, the time he spoke to me, saying, “I will make a way for you.” I remember these things.) This probably is looking at it nostalgically. I used to be able to jog, I had time to do what I wanted. But I also remember the terror. And it’s only in looking back that I now see God’s providence. Then, I didn’t know. I didn’t know the good things and help that were coming. And I kick myself for giving up. (But now also I have refused all my opportunities, and have really only complained that “my” time and interests were taken away or encroached upon, and that more and more new people came in to the church. I guess I am now hoping that God will be merciful to me again, but I don’t know if he will. The truth is, I miss those things I used to be able to do, but then again, not that much. I could do without these things. I can’t jog and do all those things forever anyway. I sort of knew that then and even when I do get to do those things, it still leaves me empty anyway.)

Well, I hope again that God will make a way for me. Maybe if I am brought really low, no more fronts. I hope that “when I was brought low, he saved me.” I guess this is useless. I remember some of the good things God did for me back then and hope he will do it again for me. I remember also how back then I was honest with myself, and I would admit to myself that I was not right with God and that I knew I was going to hell. Not saying that is better either, but it was more honest than my present attempts to religify myself and shine before the older brother’s club and the new disciples. Back then it was so obvious that there was no way I could hide it from myself and we all also knew.

Well, I hang on to little things, small hopes. Like, possibly the dream I had about the New Property is not yet completely fulfilled, because there was the part where the brothers in Philadelphia said, “You ones in Woodruff are so unreal and religious. We see it as God’s will that you move here.” (I mean, the first part of the dream came true.) Also dreams I had about leaving the church and someone said to me, “Remember your need for Jesus.” Also another dream about how I left the church and suddenly walked into a meeting full of brothers and sisters.

Sure, they were only dreams, and I have had worse dreams, about going to hell, that far outweigh these, but I try to still hope, because some of these things did come true and still yet may come true. I am tempted to throw it all away. I really am tempted to do so.

Look at this. There are so many new disciples here now. We have the new “U” tracts. I am sitting here in pity and hopelessness, griping about how I have to give up this and that. And it doesn’t seem I have to give these things up and that I have received some reassurance on that when I pray about it.

Well, there really is value in writing this. I might not realize what I am writing at the time and its context. But then I realize that I either saw or was convicted of things by God that Brother Stewart later said at a meeting. (Like how I am do not even behave in a human with new disciples and I don’t ever communicate with them and have no heart toward them. God was already showing me these things, so why fight about them now? Why not keep a personal diary and review it?) I pray that I could get more serious and not go away just because Stewart says that the new disciples and the sisters will be getting on our case to be serious.

January 14

If this is the help I get when I am rebelling and turning away, how much more help will he give me if I am honestly trying to serve him?

[I was soon to find out just how unhelpful this “help” Stewart said he was planning to give us was going to be.]

January 15

My conclusion though, is that I am deeper in this than I ever thought. I had a dream last night that we were all saved from a shipwreck. We were saved because God loves us, but some brothers began grumbling because we were packed in the hold of a rescue ship (I was too), but I began to pray that God would help me be patient until I got out, because this is better than being shipwrecked. Bob M. was in the rescue ship too and he was explaining about how he was repenting and how what he had done was wrong. But there was some doubt on the part of others whether Bob was being genuine. (Then the ship went under and then resurfaced. When it came back up, the brothers dove overboard. I thought, swim for it, it’s better than drowning.)

I am down pretty low. I wonder if this is “when I was brought low, he saved me.” Or if I’m just digging in more and playing games.

The middle brothers called in a message saying that the older brothers are not speaking of their thankfulness. (We have now been renamed the “older brother rebels.”)

[Stewart announced to all that we were to be called the “older brother rebels,” and the “ex-older brothers.”]

I am glad for deliverance, but it seems like I’m being hypocrite or it’s just a performance to go around speaking of my thankfulness. But I guess that is games. Really, I am glad to be delivered from sin and grumbling, even if for mostly selfish reasons, such as I can’t have any respect for myself and have no peace that way. But I am greatly tempted to play around today, then come to the meeting and make a repentance speech, that nobody usually believes anyway. But by God’s grace I will look to Jesus’s blood and his mercy and live with respect to that. Besides, everybody really wants me to do good anyway. And not be like Ron H. who I hear is threatening physical violence toward new disciples. This is a cheap and beggarly way to deal with your problems.

January 16

Right now, I am in pretty bad condition. This is an understatement. Not able to endure a little “trial.” The older brothers seem to be making a comeback, being glad servants. I could have held on.

I am in fear because of something I said to Eileen F. The last time I got fired from the Business was for saying something to a sister.

All I know is that I try to fix up the outside and I never change on the inside. I have heard over the years that the real truth on us will come out sooner or later and I secretly fear that. That if we are not a real Christian, it will come out and I have been figuring this is it. I have been very foolish. Christ has been throwing me a life preserver and I have been declaring war on him!

Many times when I wanted to walk off from the flyering team yesterday (saying I was going to get the van), a new disciple, of his own accord, would volunteer to go with me. I knew it was Christ.

I have been so determined to fight against love, mercy, grace, faith, hope and love.  Brother Stewart says that the older brothers have been acting as if they have no minds.

I get scared because I see that Jesus shows me a lot of things on my own, long before Brother Stewart says them. In this case, Stewart was speaking of the Christian Brothers business with reference to the Book of Ecclesiastes. How working in the Business is motivating in and of itself. “Do it with all your heart,” Solomon said, “because you are going to Sheol.” I have thought like this before.

[We were not allowed to take time off from the church business and we had to work in it every day, except when we were at meetings. Yet Stewart often condemned us for making the business a central part of our lives and for being “really into it” and said it was an idol. In this case he telling us to work hard at it, because we were going to hell anyway. I had been thinking that I was forced to work all the time, yet that this work was not getting me any closer to God.]

I was sitting here thinking, is there any hope for me? I was thinking about asking Jesus about that and I remembered the dream I had about that and then get hopeless feelings. Suddenly a verse jumps out of the page of the Bible I am looking at. Ephesians 3:20: “Now to him who by the power at work in us is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think.”

[In this dream I was mentioning, I was with some brothers in a church residence, which was about to be stormed by non-Christians, who were going to come in and kill us. We were in great fear. Then, in the dream, Jesus appeared among us and spoke to us. He said to Paul S., one of the brothers there, “Endure patiently and after a short time, you will wear the crown of life and be with me in paradise.” I asked Jesus, “Is there any hope for me?” He turned to me, angrily, and said, “There is nothing for you but tribulation and death!” I woke up in a cold sweat.]

January 19

The truth on me is that I am in deep rebellion. I am really in trouble. If I survive, it will only be because Jesus got me out of it. I may not be here very long. I probably will have to leave soon anyway. I will be put out of the church, and then well, according to dreams I’ve had, I left the church and went to hell, or I left and ended up in a meeting at the church. Or I left from a meeting and then was killed and I went to heaven.

[This had been a rather interesting and comforting dream. I had left the church. I was working on airplanes and someone trapped me inside one and set it on fire and I died. Then it was suddenly the end of time, and I saw the stars falling from the sky. My killer and I both rose up from the ground and we walked together on a path to a door, which I understood to be the door to heaven and I could see a crowd inside. This person became suddenly meek and said to me, “Ask those people if I can come in.” I said to him, “You ask those people if you can come in.” After this, I went in and saw crowds of brother and sisters who used to be in the church. (We were always told that people who left the church were going to hell.) People were shouting and greeting one another, saying they hadn’t seen each other in such a long time. Then I saw a portrait of Abraham Lincoln on a wall and when I turned to the side, and he was there, standing next to me.]

I have been thinking that on September 4th, 1988, I dreamed I had left the church. Then I came back to a meeting and ended up in a room full of brothers and sisters and they were all happy. I just hope this is the outcome of my life. I hope God has mercy on me.  It seems hard to prove myself to the other church members. I’m just too weak for all the proving stuff. I guess that’s all excuses.

February 7th

I am now living in 810 North Broad Street in Philadelphia. During my last night in Woodruff (which was rather uneventful, I always thought it would be a glad occasion), I had a dream where George told me I was moving to 810. I asked Tom in the morning where I was going (because I missed the meeting due to work). He said the Lamb House.

Well, the dream was true. Laying in bed last night, it seemed like Jesus came to me, and said twice, “Be patient.”

[It was a shock for me to end up in “810.” Until I got to Philadelphia, I thought I was moving to the church’s “Lamb House” on 6713 Woodland Avenue. 810 was like being in a prison.]

I went soliciting today. I had an unmotivated start, but it always seems to turn out good. I like doing it. I like pushing myself and being productive in this way. I have a problem with missing some things in my old life, like being able to read a book. I had some anxiety about my personal possessions, but it seems as though George will put them in his room at the Lamb House. My possessions, that is about my only real anxiety. I feel pretty free otherwise and do desire to start a new life. I wonder if Jesus worked out some of my interests. I’m getting to walk a lot.

February 10

I think I am convicted during the day by God that I am alone. I mean, the idea of not remaining alone still stands. A lot he asks me, “Do you fear?” I also hear, “My mercy.”  He shows me that I must plead for his mercy. I must be diligent to hear and obey what he is saying to me and commanding me. Also to be attentive to those things that “occur” to me.

[Stewart told us to “not remain alone,” and to be “united with our brothers” instead. Yet now, Stewart’s instructions to the new disciples was that if they saw any two older brothers talking together, they were supposed to end the conversation and break us up.] 

I know that I have been fronting and driving to go through the motions since I have been here in Philadelphia, mostly out of protecting my flesh and to not be asked to leave. Even now, I am concerned about getting my ten file cards – not out of concern for the new brothers or obedience, but just to cover up that I am living for the flesh.

[Stewart told the older brothers to speak to ten new disciples a day and to write a short file card about them and to hand these cards in every day. This often produced an anxious set of interviews at the very end of the day to get those cards. I feared I would get come down on for not having my ten cards. I found out later that Stewart never read the cards, because after 810 closed and we went there to clean out the building, I found a large cardboard box filled with all the cards.]

That is my only motivation, not urgent repentance. My real treasure is living here in this world, not heaven. My biggest fear is being thrown out. That’s why I will try to keep the standards, so no one will have anything to use on me. I always thought I went to works because I was so afraid of going to hell, but now I think it is to cover up living for the flesh (or some combination thereof). My biggest fear is being thrown out of here.

The word “Kathari” keeps coming to my mind, over and over. I wonder if it is God’s Spirit reminding me. The Kathari were a group of Christians who committed themselves to being totally honest with one another. God knows everything anyway.

Tuesday

I’m not pushing myself today. I started out trying to run Bible verses through my head, but this didn’t last very long. The odd thing that keeps running through my mind is the idea of the Pacific Garden Mission. I don’t know, about something real and not all this imaginary stuff in my mind. Something useful and not old COBU stuff.

[The Pacific Garden Mission hosted the “Unshackled” radio show about dramatic Christian conversions. I was probably thinking about missions and shelters that actually perform useful work for society, as opposed to what it was like in COBU. Also, because of the stress and duress of COBU life, I was often disconnected from my thoughts and didn’t know why I was thinking about things or why things occured to me.]

February 14

I feel very sluggish today. It’s hard to keep my mind on anything spiritual. I’m drifting from the basics.

I spent the last few days in pleasant flyering in nice quiet residential areas and I wish I could do it more. I am anxious about my personal possessions. They’re still in the Lamb House. I think I should get them.

I was thinking of leaving the church today and how I would do it. My attitude is not urgent. I am building up to the suicide thing or that I am bad, because now others see me as not urgent. I’ve thought lately that verses such as “they do all their deeds to be seen by men” apply to me. I think I am at least willing and wish I could get worked on. I wish I could at least have a room to keep my stuff in, let alone to live in.

I had a dream last night.  In it, I heard a voice saying, “My son, judgment is set.”

February  17

I was praying while guarding the New Property about repentance, asking God if he can use other people or send other people to help me. The verse came to me: “Not from the east or from the west comes uplifting.”

Others say they see me more concerned about my belongings than repentance.

I was thinking about my life in Woodruff, how is was all wrong. Not that I didn’t know that before, but I have been looking at it more closely. How I accumulated all this stuff.  Books I will never read. The whole basis was wrong. I was living that way because I figured I was in prison, and that since I couldn’t get out, I might as well put flowers in my window, paint the walls, build shelves and settle in there. I had no present, no future, only the past. I certainly wouldn’t have built this in other circumstances. That is why now I am considering discarding all language books and getting rid of lots of things except my essential core belongings. Only keeping necessary clothing only and certain books. The only thing I don’t want to get rid of are pictures I’ve taken. They aren’t replaceable should I want them again. I’m still confused about this. “If I build up the things I once tore down, I make myself a transgressor.”

[This was a verse was about going back to the Jewish system of religious law rather than living by faith in Christ, not about having to give up the hobbies I once had as a teenager. But I didn’t realize that at the time. Stewart quoted Bible passages like these to us to get us to give up our aspirations in this life. The idea here was that if I still did things I liked to do before I came to the church, I was “building up the things I once tore down” – since I was supposed to get rid of all that – and I was making myself a transgressor. This is similar to another verse Stewart quoted to us, “He who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is not fit for the kingdom of God.”]

Yet, “obedience is better than sacrifice.” (In other words, how real is throwing everything away? One thing I know, that if the old basis of my life is gone, it should effect everything else, since it has been attacked at the roots.) If I find it’s okay that I can study French and Russian again, it’s easy to get another book on it. I don’t need the exact books I have now. But if I find out later that it was okay to keep my photographs, I won’t be able to replace specific pictures I have now, if I’ve thrown them away.

Sometimes I wish I had nothing, so I wouldn’t go through this. But I know it isn’t the real problem anyway, though it seems to be an issue. Yes, I am on a different  basis now, no matter what. I’m no longer living in Woodruff, no matter how badly I might want to be there.

(If it is God’s will that I discard everything, I only ask that he helps me do it. I am willing. There is nothing I own that is essential for my well being. Sometimes I think the only way I will ever really get rid of everything is if I had to pack my bags. Then I’d have to be really careful. Then I could only take what I could fit in two duffle bags. Obviously no books. I have been thinking about this lately, about what I would take, what I would leave, what I would want when I got back to my hometown. Keeping foreign language books would be pretty unreal. What would the point be? I would want just my clothes, a Bible or two, a few odds and ends. I think sometimes that is the only thing that will make me part with my vices and my covetousness and live like a refugee ever after.

Well, life here is a little unreal. Sometimes I think of it as a death camp, but there are so many people to help. But it also seems degrading to live this way.

About possessions, which I wrote so much about above: I will, by God’s grace, stop figuring it out and rely on him about it and submit to him.

I talked about these ideas while praying, especially about giving up languages. No solution, but I feel freer. I can say that for sure. I need a completely new mind. Well, no more hiding. I have been hiding these things because I figure I will hear what I don’t want to hear. But I am half thinking it would be good to get rid of it all anyway.

The meeting with Stewart was not the execution that I thought it might be. It seems as though God intends to be merciful with me. I always expect to get the boot and I would say that thinking about leaving the church is the fire I play with. God’s kindness is meant to lead to repentance.

There is a way I should relax, in a right way. I see how I am in more trouble if I don’t accept this offer. But for sure, it is not how I build it up in my mind, this dark thing I play with.

[“This dark thing I play with” was wanting to leave the Church of Bible Understanding. This was considered to be “playing with fire.” I was playing with going to hell. I don’t know how clear it is from what I wrote above, but I was living in an intense lock down situation that was like a jail, surrounded with street people and gang members who were put in charge of us. At the same time, Stewart was driving that the older brothers’ lives had to be broken apart and broken down. I was supposed to give up everything I hadn’t already given up, like my own desires and interests, whether language study or hobbies, that is, anything that would be an alternative life or temporary escape from COBU life. I was not supposed to have any private space or alone time – though ironically, Stewart’s directive that if any two older brothers were seen speaking together, they had to be broken up actually promoted more isolation. We were supposed to be helping the new disciples all the time, even if we were put in a subordinate position to them. I felt as if I were undergoing great punishment, like those in communist countries who were in jail for political crimes. What I was as a person was supposed to be destroyed. Whatever was left over of me after that process was supposed to be utilized as a broken down and abased laborer in the church who would not want anything for himself and just be glad to be allowed to be here. We were supposed to talk all the time about how we were rebels and to beg God for his mercy, which he probably wasn’t going to give us, because we were secretly rebelling anyway, as Stewart always pointed out to us.]

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