“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not be entangled with the yoke of slavery again.” Galatians 5:1
A friend of mine recently told me about a conservation group in Zimbabwe that is taking captive lions and rehabilitating them back into the wild.
This is a difficult, four phase process, but they are having success with it. The rehabilitation process has many snags involved because of the effects of captivity on an African lion. When lions are bred and raised out of their natural habitat, some very abnormal patterns begin to develop. In short, they become domesticated. Yet lions were born to be wild.
In captivity, the lions basically forget that they are lions. The forget how to hunt. They forget how to live in the wild. And they forget how to live in a pride. The “pride” is the name for a community of lions. Lions are by and large social creatures and do not do well as loners.
The Effects of Captivity
You and I were born (again) to be spiritual lions. That’s who we are, but we have forgotten our true nature because of our captivity in the religious system. Captivity has conditioned us to believe things that are just not true. We have become something less than our true calling and destiny because of this conditioning. We have become domesticated.
We have become isolated pew warmers; a mutated race that sits and listens instead of participating and functioning. The clergy/laity system has made us passive and spiritually lazy. In other words, we have sold out our birthrights. Just like Esau we have sold out for the comfort of a bowl of lentil stew, that is, our warm and comfy pews. We no longer wanted to bother with functioning as members of the Body of Christ, so we sold out and instituted the clergy/laity system.
We Have Forgotten How to Hunt
This is definitely one of the most important aspects of a lion’s life. Without the act of hunting, how will you eat?
How will the pride eat?
We have forgotten how to hunt for our own food. Part of our conditioning has been that everyday (or every Sunday!) someone opens our cage and throws us a piece of meat. This bypasses the whole hunting process.
Who is this person that throws in that piece of meat? Where did he get it? Apparently, he went and hunted for it himself. But that is not my prey! And I never had to hunt for it myself.
Hunting is much more than just killing an animal and then eating it. There is the encounter of the hunt itself: finding the right place and time; having the right equipment; getting very quiet; smelling the prey; stalking the prey; taking aim, etc. Sometimes you come up empty handed, but the actual engagement is the thrilling part.
As believers, our food is Jesus Christ Himself! Not just teaching and doctrine about Christ, but the very Person and experience of Christ. You need to hunt for this “food” yourself. Sharing someone else’s food is alright at times. But there is nothing like you going out on your own “hunt” and capturing some new revelation or insight into your Lord. This is exciting. This is discovery. This is how you were born to live!
But then what? What do lions do after they have captured the prey?
They bring it home and share it with the pride.
As I said before, lions are very social creatures and they live in a pride. But in captivity there is no hunt and there is no pride. Lions are thrown their food everyday and they do not live as a pride. They are just individual lions living a mutant life of individualism.
A lion in captivity never has to hunt for his own food. He becomes lazy and complacent. He actually believes that this is normal. He believes that someone else is responsible.
We Have Forgotten How to Live in the Wild
“Because we do not regard the things which are seen but the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” II Cor. 4:18
There are two kinds of realms that exist. There is the unseen realm (or the eternals) and there is the seen realm (or the physicals). Both of these reams exist together at the same time.
One realm is spiritual and unseen. That is, it has no physical substance or what we would call matter. It has no size or dimension, and it exists without time or space. You could say that this spiritual realm is totally “other than” the seen, physical realm.
Of course, we know that the seen physical realm does have matter, energy, space, time, and dimension. Science tells us all about electrons, protons, neutrons, atoms, and molecules. We seem to know a lot about the seen realm. But the scriptures tell us that this realm is only temporary.
It is the unseen realm which is eternal, and yet, we really don’t know much about that realm at all. How do we live in that realm? How do we live in spirit?
The Creature of Two Realms
As lions, we are called to live in two realms at the same time. But we should live mostly in the unseen realm. This is the “wild” for us. And it is mostly unexplored. It really is the “wild.” It is our natural habitat. And we can never be fulfilled with anything less. And yet, because we have forgotten who we are, we have become comfortable in captivity. We have become comfortable in the seen realm. We actually start believing that the physical realm is everything and then we start investing our lives into it.
Yet we have a Lord who is both Lion and Lamb. He is definitely gentle. But make no mistake about it, He is not tame! He is as wild as they come and the wild realm that is our home is inside of Him (Eph. 1:3).
But our natural habitat is not lived alone. This is a place of community. This is the place of the pride.
We Have Forgotten How to Live as a Pride
The “pride” is the social unit for the wild lion. They do not live alone. They interact in small groups know as prides.
Dear believer, a very important part of your natural habitat is the spiritual “pride.” This has been lost to us as well. Lions in captivity don’t live in prides. That is a special feature only found in the wild. When you discover that you are already free and begin living in the other realm, you will see the need of community life. This wild life is a shared life. Shared with your Lord and shared with His people.
But we are not used to sharing our lives with others. We have been isolated (held captive) for so long that we have forgotten that this is just the normal life for wild lions. In a true pride, you all share your food, share your joys, share your sorrows, and share everything in life with one another.
The big question is: how do we get to this place of freedom? How do we remember how to hunt? How do we remember how to live in the wild? How do we remember how to live in a pride?
Our great God has already provided a solution to this situation. And this solution was in force as early as the first century.
God’s Solution: Walking with Lions
As I told you in the beginning of this article, there is a conservationist group in Zimbabwe that is successfully rehabilitating lions back into the wild. But how do they do it?
They take the young cubs for walks everyday in the wild. An experienced lion “handler” (not trainer) will take a cub on long walks everyday to introduce the young lion to life in the wild. Eventually, the lion’s natural instincts will begin to kick in. They will begin to respond to their natural prey and eventually begin to stalk them. Then, one day, they will learn to hunt for themselves. The lion handlers will also introduce them to a pride in the wild so they can be socially integrated.
God does the same thing with His people. He re-introduces His “lions” back into the wild by the use of “handlers.” These are men and women who are called, prepared, and sent by Him for this difficult task. They do not become caretakers of the believers, but their job is to be re-introducers. Then the believers re-discover their spiritual instincts and habitat that has been long forgotten in captivity.
We can see these people at work in the first century. They were sent out by God as itinerant apostolic workers (or church planters) to lay a foundation of Christ for the assemblies of believers. Their job was to work themselves out of a job. Peter, John, Paul, Barnabas, Titus, Silas, Timothy, and others did this work or re-introducing God’s people to the wild. Then they would leave them on their own to live as wild lions! Every one of these workers had already experienced true “pride life” for themselves and knew about the hunt, the wild, and the pride by personal experience.
In the Zimbabwe program, the handlers have less and less contact with the lions. The goal is to completely release them to the wild, not to control them and keep them domesticated.
Christians are leaving the religious institutions in droves. They are seeking more reality, a deeper spirituality, and freedom. They are being set free from the captivity of the religious system and it is a beautiful thing to see. But that creates an altogether different problem.
Now that all of these believers are being set free from captivity, what will happen next? How will they now be re-introduced to the wild? How will they remember how to hunt? How will they be introduced to the “pride” life?
God’s own rehabilitation program must be the answer. We need to pray that God will raise up many “handlers” who have been called, prepared, and sent to walk with the lions.
You are a lion and you have a divine right to be free in the wild with His pride!
If God has been speaking to you about these things and you would like help finding an organic church, click below:
If you are part of a group and would like help discovering your spiritual instincts, go here:
This was a really good article. Our group in in the process right now of learning how to operate as Lions set free. It is not easy to learn how to hunt and live together in the wild.
Do you guys have a “Lion Handler” helping you?
Great post, Milt.
I would imagine that these domesticated lions have a deep, somewhat hidden sense which cries out for liberation.
I know that I did, and I believe that is part of your point in this message.
By the way, I don’t think we’ve ever met….possibly briefly in Jacksonville in ’04 (or ’05) maybe.
All grace to you in Jesus Name,
Ray Brensike said:
The tree of life….it had the fruit that was after it’s kind,
didn’t it? It’s fruit was good. It’s fruit was right. It’s fruit
was pure. It’s fruit was kind. It’s fruit remains. The tree
And what of the tree of knowledge of good and evil?
It knew good, as well as evil didn’t it? It once was good.
It became evil didn’t it?
Yes, every Lion has the “lion instinct” deep inside of him/her. It’s up to the “lion handlers” to remind the lions who they are and what those instincts are and how they function together in the pride.
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Ravi Philemon said:
Jesus is the ‘lion-handler’…
Thanks for your post.
Yes, Jesus is the “lion-handler” but he does this through those that he sends in his name.
Though having a “lion-handler” who has a first hand experience of the wild is of great practical value especially for a start, we must be constantly reminded of the real “Lion-Handler” who is in each and every individual lion and lioness, until we fully grasp the spiritual reality of the indwelling “Lion-Handler”.
Lion, butterfly, what’s next? 🙂
Let me start off by saying that I would much rather sit in someone’s living room to have church then sit in a pew. However, I can’t help but notice a few huge flaws in the philosophy of this article.
First, the sweeping condemnation of the “religious” structure shows both immaturity and insecurity. I feel almost as if I’m at a friends house listening to his new pyramid scheme product, and how it’s store bought counterpart is so dangerous. I get very suspicious when I feel someone is trying to sell me on something by tearing down something else.
I think the phrase that comes to mind is “it takes two to tango.” Church communities don’t work if people don’t want to live in community, open honest and judgment free of each other. I’ve seen church community happen, in a church, and I’ve seen it fail miserable in a living room. It all depends on the people.
The second flaw is the idea that you want community then you criticize the church structure for making a one size fits all message. How can you have community if the community is not addressed at times as a community? How is a handler and different then a pastor standing up on Sunday morning talking to the “flock?”
Indeed, Sunday mornings in many churches have become useless. But when done right, a Sunday morning is meant to be both ceremonial, and to be encouraging.
I say ceremonial, much like a wedding, because what happens hear is supposed to be intimate and beautiful, but communal. The bride and group share a kiss at the alter, but that only symbolizes a much deeper intimate act that would be totally inappropriate for a communal setting. Yes, most weddings are very similar, but when its yours (or someone you care about) it becomes memorable and special to you and your lover, and bonds you with the friends and family that came out. In the church setting, we are not their as individuals, but rather as a community, we are there to ceremonially express our worship, not have our most intimate times.
I also say church should be an encouragement because though the message may not speak to you right at the moment you hear it, it may be brought back to memory later on. Think of it as when a waitress comes by to refill your cup. You may have a little left, you may be empty. She may be by with a pitcher of coke, and decides to simply “top you off.” Our entire spiritual journey we should be picking up things, listening for God’s voice in everything, in all situations. It’s amazing if you (on your own) write down all the clues and things God is telling you, and watch how they come together to form a spiritual lesson.
With that said, are pastors doing a good enough job doing this? No. Is it possible? Yes. Is it possible in someone’s living room? Yes. Let’s not make sweeping judgments about where God can and can’t work, because in order to be a community we have to avoid judgment, and pursue mercy.
Thanks for your post.
Actually, that IS the task of the “lion handler”; to make the indwelling Lion Handler known. If the Body of Christ is going to live by the life of the indwelling Christ, then the members of the Body will need help to learn how to practically live by the indwelling Lord. The Body must express the Life (or Person) within.
The human “lion handlers” task is only a temporary one and is there for the purpose of laying the foundation of the lions rediscovering who they are and Who it is that lives within them.
Judgement and condemnation are not the issue here. The issue is prophetic challenge.
Let me ask you the following questions:
Were Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Ulrich Zwingli being judgemental when they challenged the Roman Catholic Church?
Were Jesus and Paul being judgmental and condemning when they challenged the Judaic religious system of their day?
Were the prophets of the Old Testament being judgemental when they challenged the nation of Israel?
God has always “challenged” His people when they have gotten off track from His will.
The Lions article is not about sitting in a living room.
It’s about FREEDOM!
Some of us no longer want the “shackles” that bind God’s people from the freedom of being lions. We want to be free to speak and to share and to be who we are: a priesthood of believers with every member functioning in a shared-life community.
I have many friends and relatives who are involved with institutional forms of church. I think that’s great and I do not judge them. God is meeting them where they are.
However, the things that I write about are what I believe God wants for His Church. It may not be for everyone, but it is for some. It’s definitely for me! 🙂
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