I began this present journey in 2005 and in a state of lethargy and disillusionment with “church” as I was encountering it. I had been involved with the ministry of Art Katz and his view of today’s “Christianity”. I was a part of the attempt at community life in 1975, known first as “Dominion (Farms)”, then later as “Ben Israel Fellowship”. As a brother in a responsible position of leadership I was faced with both conflict and blessing. This lifestyle lasted for ten years of my life. When I and my family were forced, or “invited”, to vacate the premises, I returned to living like most of today’s church lives ─ with secular employment and the routine of neighborhood living.
About five years ago I was in a state of nearly being “blinded”, spiritually. I had been reasonably successful at the employment the Lord had provided, and recently “downsized” from my job. I wasn’t consciously calling out to God, but somehow he arranged circumstances to get my attention. A small booklet arrived in the postal mail addressed to my wife, Mary. I don’t know if she read it at that time, but I saw its cover as I walked by the table where it had been placed. It was titled Christ and the Powers, by Hendrik Berkhof. It was small, and I was bored, so this should at least relieve some of my boredom. Little did I realize this little book would start me on a journey that is exciting to this day!
This book from a friend had exposed me to an area of Jesus’ life and ministry that either I had not been aware of, or I had ignored it if or when I might have seen it earlier.
As I recall, I can’t remember it ever having been taught or referred to. It raised a question within me: “If Jesus had such a struggle with invisible powers and overcame them, why haven’t I learned to do the same?” Perhaps they don’t exist today or, having been ‘‘vanquished’ by Jesus, they are forever removed from our arena of life.
“No wonder I and others encounter so much ‘trouble’ every day of our lives!“
The problem is, Berkhof didn’t agree with that view. I had a decision to make ─ remain ignorant or explore the subject further. My personality will not allow me to remain static for very long. The more I read and reread this little book, the more my understanding came alive. It is not a book or teaching that will be conquered at the first reading. Each time I opened it I would find a nuance that I had not previously seen. I discovered the scriptures teach that there is an invisible government beyond our human eyesight that is constantly arrayed against all mankind, like a huge army under the command of a personality out to destroy and take over what has been meant for our enjoyment. No wonder I and others encounter so much “trouble” every day of our lives!
If such a large segment of my understanding of scripture is missing, then I needed to play “catch-up”, and very soon, because time was running out for me. I had already passed my 75th birthday.
The short verse in the Bible at Ephesians 6.12 begged for understanding. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places”.
“We wrestle…”? I soon found this verse was not an isolated occasion where the apostle Paul and other New Testament writers referred to the “unseen” world of forces opposing us, as well as an array of good forces assigned to help us. It is packed with valuable information to which few, to my knowledge, pay attention.
Yes, I had seen those verses before, but since they were seldom taken seriously I supposed them to be just “filler” in the saga of Biblical explanation of man’s journey. Not so!
“The ‘powers’ …do not care what brand you wear, so long as you do not live up to it!“
As I devoted some time to studying this little explored theme, I became aware of how much I had personally suffered because of my ignorance. I also observed that others, especially my now grown children and other family members, were being devastated and defeated over the same ignorance. It is not a matter of being a “Christian”, or “believer”, it is a matter of awareness and equipping to do something about it ─ to “fight back”.
The next year would be one of decision-making. The news that Art Katz had died brought a need to make arrangements to meet former friends, and relatives, who would gather for his funeral at the Ben Israel property to pay their respects. Another year would pass before I was faced with a new challenge and decision.
Today I find myself back at “Ben Israel Fellowship” with its disarray and shrunken form, only a mere shadow of what it once was. Mary and I had been “invited” to return, to help out with “peace-keeping” and administration, since Art’s passing had left a void which a number of persons were trying to fill.
At first I wanted no part of it, having remembered my former experiences at BI. Yet, the appeal came not because of what was needed, but on the basis that most of those involved “respected” my input, or “voice of experience”. I was acquainted with the people and the problems, from a distance. But I soon discovered upon my return, that the “respect” aspect was greatly exaggerated. It would take more than “reputation” to overcome such deep-seated differences that existed. I would assume a low profile for the next few months, as circumstances allowed feelings to surface.
It was during this period that I became acutely aware of the devastation being caused by the “unseen” forces which Berkhof was addressing. Here was an opportunity to see firsthand if there could be a solution to this disarray.
I discovered that human beings are held captive by these forces, and the forces do not go willingly or quickly. Yes, these were “Christian” people operating as a “Christian fellowship”. But the “powers” (the Greek word for them is stoichiea) do not care what brand you wear, so long as you do not live up to it!
“The idea of a “War College” seemed to be a proper fit“
A year after our return here, the brother that had sent the booklet to us joined us on the property. That began a time of exchange of thoughts and ideas, reading of related materials, amid the day-to-day chores and maintenance tasks. Our conversations invariably returned to the “principalities and powers” in Ephesians 6 because they were everywhere evident in common life, national politics, economy, religion. No area was exempt.
This past year we started to realize that if we were so ill-informed and ignorant, perhaps there were others who could benefit from what we have discovered. “Bible schools,” conferences, prophetic schools, etc., have all been tried but the benefits have been dubious. Somehow the idea of a session of coming together under the idea of a “War College” seemed to be a proper fit. That idea prompted a new enthusiasm not experienced around here in quite some time.
So, here we are…
– Art Beebe