The man God is making/How can I help?

It goes without saying does it not, that at some point along our journey as a believer in Jesus that we have asked God or thought to ourselves this question, “How can I help?”

In the preceding posts I have hinted at how we have often went about attempting to help God accomplish His own work and how in almost every instance our help has actually become a detriment to what God is actually doing. I’ve attempted to note some of the ways in which we do this but here I would like to share the specific errors that most professing believers make and the results of making those mistakes. After this, we’ll spend some time talking about how and what we are capable of doing and actually commanded to participate in as co-workers in Christ.

#1 Error   Allowing any other human being to usurp the place of Jesus in my life.

“He who loves father or mother (can I add spouse, friend, pastor or priest) more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” [Matthew 10:37]

Jesus has made it more than plain that no relationship can become more important than our relationship with Him. It’s more than just the fact that this is due Him, it’s also because only Jesus will steer and teach us aright as He alone is perfect in every respect. To regard any other human being with the same love and willing submission is to invite trouble and likely deceive ourselves in some manner. Here’s what results when we do this.

  • Instead of seeking God Himself and asking Him where He wants us to serve and in what capacity, we are quick to run to those we deem to be spiritual “authorities” instead. In turn, those who think they have God’s authority over others will attempt to place us where they believe we belong. Sadly, that place will be somewhere within what they have and are teaching as God’s manner of service within an institutional paradigm. One adverse result of this is our serving not just other Christians but also the entity through which those authorities belong. The majority of professing Christians are caught up in this paradigm, one which stems from Old Covenant practices and which were never ushered into New Testament realities.
  • No man is a mediator between man and God but Jesus alone. The spirit which attempts to place oneself between man and God is the spirit of antichrist for it attempts to usurp the place of our reliance upon Jesus with someone else. This spirit of antichrist is all the more obvious with those who regularly make themselves or allow themselves to become the central focal point of any fellowship- the place of preeminence only Jesus Himself deserves. That is exactly what the majority of today’s “Pastors” and “Priests” do.
  • Thinking or allowing anyone other than the Spirit of God to be the primary teacher of truth in my life. We can and do learn from others, though no one person should ever become our primary source of information or biblical instruction. The result of this happening is all too obvious: We become dependent upon what God is supposedly speaking to and through this individual and rely more upon that person than our own dependence upon God and personal study. When enough people do this, that individual is exalted beyond their proper place and measure and the result becomes the promotion of themselves through books, audio tapes and conference circuits. The more other people exalt “their” spiritual heroes with praise and monetary gain, the more power and influence they have over other people.

#2 Error   Believing without evidence

“The naïve believes everything, but the sensible man considers his steps” [Proverbs 14;15]

I think I can confidently say that just about anything can and has become a part of a Christian’s belief system these days despite it not squaring with the scriptures. It seems as if even the “untouchable” doctrines such as Justification, Propitiation and even the nature of God Himself have been taken to the woodshed and reformatted to fit the likings of modern day man. Sadder still, professing Christians are found to be among those attempting to implement these changes. It is as the verse above makes clear, the naïve and senseless who would judge God’s very own words and truth.

It was once said that “evidence demands a verdict” and this is true. Furthermore, evidence is a absolute prerequisite in order to prove one’s case if indicted in any particular matter. In case we have forgotten, all of mankind is indicted due to the inherent nature of sin that they possess- a nature which breeds selfishness and rebellion in the hearts of men. No matter what you may think of yourself, we each need to know exactly what God says and how to escape the judgment of God upon ourselves. To stand before God Almighty without the slightest clue as to His righteous requirements would be to prove His justice as well as His condemnation of us just. We need to know NOW what those requirements are……the biblical facts He’s given for us to discover and embrace.

Just because religious men say or claim any of the following does not make that true:

  • That they are Christians
  • That they are called to a particular place or service
  • That they possess certain spiritual gifts or abilities
  • That they have authority over other believers
  • That the Bible says this or that

The Bible is chock full of warnings about false brethren and those who purposefully deceive others into believing lies. It doesn’t matter if you or I participate in all kinds of religious endeavors (going to church, talking about supposed miracles, jumping up and down praising God) if our lives do not coincide with being obedient to what God requires.

Does God require a Christian go to church? Does He require you give money to a financial institution? Does He require you to follow and obey any religious authority? If you believe any of this than you are both naïve and without sense. God Himself never mandated any of the above- men did and do and you believed them- without the facts.

#3   Following a previous precedent

When we fail to discover God’s heart by ascertaining biblical facts, by default we will look for a shortcut which will allow us to serve God in a manner we personally prefer. These shortcuts will circumvent many of the checks and balances God has placed in the midst of what He is building. Here are some examples:

1) Some individuals have been gifted to write spiritual songs and hymns and have a heart to praise God. These are gifts that God has given and yet they have been corrupted through these mediums God has never endorsed.

  • A religious position in church called a “music minister.”
  • Christian colleges having classes to prepare people for this “position.”
  • These same colleges preparing students for “music ministry”
  • Leads to said “ministers” and others pursuing “professional music careers.”
  • The above careers lead to the exaltation of certain musicians at the expense of others, selling what God has given them for free, naming themselves (exalting their name, advertising their name and selling their name) all to religious people who are also deceived.
  • Those who have succeeded in such endeavors praise God for something He never did nor sanctions and give hearty approval to others who practice them.
  • The initial lie that certain men and woman could have a special function among the saints led to this similar error and all of the “attachments” that stemmed from it. Needless to say, God doesn’t need professionals of any kind in His service and we see plainly the type of people He chose to make His name known to others- the least of these (that doesn’t mean they were not gifted, talented or even educated as many of them were) it simply means that all of these things were considered to be of little value compared to knowing Christ Himself.

2) A young man has a desire to teach the Bible to others. Instead of seeking God as to how he might be equipped to perform such a work in service he forgoes that and asks his pastor how he did it. He will now be steered toward:

  • A college where all manner of religious indoctrination will take place
  • Professors with their own opinions they will state as fact
  • A lie that convinces young men that a degree “qualifies” them to instruct others.
  • A similar lie that he or she has “earned the right” to have authority over others in a church due to a certificate given by men.
  • The lie that he is somehow “set apart” as different than the average believer now that he or she is educated.

God doesn’t need men nor woman who are gifted or educated. He needs and desires to use people who above all things want to know Him and by becoming identified with Him can be of use in His service. In other words, the less you are the more you can be in Him. If you want to be a professional please keep God’s name out of it.

3) Every truly born again believer desires to be useful and effective in their service in Christ. Due largely to the abandonment of following the pattern of co-laboring with one another in a geographical location to discover and express Jesus as the Christ, instead we’ve allowed ourselves to be carried along by the mandates of men that amount to little more than the religious traditions and practices above. It is not just that the practices above have no scriptural warrant, it’s that they do not, indeed cannot fulfill the need each of us have in sharing life together as Jesus would have us. Can I share a personal example of how I became sidetracked into attempting to start a ministry of my own because of my frustrations with the status quo of religion? I think you might just identify with this.

From the very beginning of God’s call upon my life I was very passionate about the things of God. I wanted so desperately to be found faithful and I was willing to do anything if I could just prove my loyalty and love for Him. I remember participating in everything I was asked and joined every group I could find to seek after God and participate with my brothers and sisters in Christ. I often found myself “going beyond” even what I was asked and even challenging those who were supposedly wiser and more mature than I. I can remember many times when I believed my Father had spoken to me about a particular thing only to be shunned and silenced by others who towered over me. Year after year these thoughts would arise and my hope would return only to be crushed by someone telling me “we didn’t do things that way” or “we don’t allow that around here.” For a while I was wondering whether I had lost my mind or whether this really was the voice of God I was hearing.

I was blessed to a degree over these years by one particular thing that set me apart from the practice of many other professing Christians. I was not born again through an institutional paradigm but through a para-church group that shared daily fellowship. For me, “For me to live is Christ” was a very real reality, so much so that every church service I ever attended barely raised my eyebrows. I was used to the real thing interacting outside in the real world in real life situations. Eventually I left this group of men on the west coast to return to my home here in Michigan. Although I tried to find a similar “ministry” I could not and was surprised how difficult it was to find anyone who wanted to fellowship along the lines of what to me seemed to coincide with what the scriptures taught as daily interaction with the saints.

What made this even more difficult was the ability God had given me to see the state of things around me and what would be viable solutions to those problems. It was at this time I decided to take a drastic turn that many others before me had also taken. I was to start my own ministry and in the process solve not only many of the problems amongst believers but also my own need to be led of God without all the hindrances of so-called leaders within institutionalism. I had never been more convinced that I had finally discovered both God’s will for His people as well as His individual call upon my life as well. In the end it was His will, not that I succeed in my endeavors, but that I come to the end of myself and come to realize what is God’s responsibility and not my own. He allowed me to succeed to a degree, then crushed every hope that I had placed in my own strength, ingenuity, imagination and ministry in an instant. I had never been more shocked than in that moment, the moment His reality came knocking upon the door of my heart to see what I had so often overlooked.

“Blessed are you, ____________, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are ____________, and upon this rock I will build My Ekklesia; and the gates of hell will not overpower it.” [Matthew 16:18]

I made clear in an earlier post that co-laboring with Christ involves helping to build what Jesus is building in local ekklesias. This far exceeds just getting a few people together in an area for Christian fellowship just as the verse above has meaning far beyond Jesus being the foundation of what He builds. What we need to see and understand in order to be a co-laborer with Christ is this:

1) Jesus is building something upon Himself as the foundation. He is building ONE BODY, though found throughout specific geographical regions. In whatever manner my building attempts to divide HIS ONE BODY I can be sure I am out of sync with what Jesus is building.

2) He is building something in the Spirit so only Spirit derived resources can be used in building it. Where the emphasis of my building is upon the natural I can be sure I am out of sync with what Jesus is building.

3) He is building something in which the gates of hell will not prevail over. If sin and failure permeates what we’re building that is the proof our building is either defective or being done improperly. Continual failure indicates I am out of sync with what Jesus is building.

A picture of heaven

It might help us all to think what will be transpiring when we finally arrive at our final resting place in the arms of Jesus. In that place all that will matter is Him, what went before will be completely overshadowed and forgotten by the reality of His Person in our midst. Just as sin cannot be present in the brightness of His glory, so only will that remain that coincides and is in harmony with His character and intentions. I think we can rest assured that all that will remain is the souls of men and the Words of God Himself. All of eternity will devoted to knowing Him more and more and discovering one revelation after another of His marvelous mercy and grace.

Sometimes reflecting upon the conclusion of a matter can help us see a clearer picture of the manner we are to arrive at our destination:

“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power He has even to subject all things to Himself” [Philippians 3:20, 21]

In the above verse we can find several pertinent points as they relate to God’s intentions for us.

1) We have been given a spiritual position in heaven and should live in a manner consistent with that reality. Paul states it like this:

“Therefore, if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” [Colossians 3:1, 2]

Attempting to build the kingdom of God with bricks is not only impossible it is entirely conflicting with this verse above and exhibits outright disobedience.

2) Our relationship with Christ and toward other saints raised above is one of humility. The instrument that keeps us humble is the daily cross of Jesus Christ in which we are called to embrace. Peter states it like this:

“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He might exalt you at the proper time, casting all your care upon Him because He cares for you” [1 Peter 5:6, 7]

This is the exact opposite of attempting to be known or recognized by our own efforts among men. When we remain humble, God calls us into service as we are prepared for the tasks which He has prepared beforehand. (Ephesians 2:10)

1+2=3: Setting our minds on the things above with a spirit of humility is subjecting ourselves to Him. Just as Jesus will culminate this process of conforming us to the body of His glory, so we too now participate in this very process one to another for Jesus’ sake. It is His power working through us as individuals (as we abide above) and corporately through various forms of mutual expressions of love whereby Jesus is expressed among us and outward towards a needy world. The only thing which remains is the centrality and preeminence of Jesus in our midst and learning how to express that through multiple acts of “one anothering” as those opportunities present themselves.

How often have we heard and chuckled at the phrase, “You can’t take it with you when you go?” Well friend, why are you still here building for God? You’re not getting settled in this awful place are you? Get up at once, throw off those earthly chains and fly to your heavenly rest in Him, that is, IF you have been raised above. It is from this perfect place of rest and peace that He truly becomes our one desire, our one true love- our everything.

Jesus and His Words, heaven can hardly contain them. Can that be said of you?

-to be continued in Part 2

The man God is making/The heart of a co-laborer with Christ/Part 2

“We have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him” [2 Corinthians 5:9]

“For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; (Christians spiritually in the person of Christ) and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf” [2 Corinthians 5:14, 15]

A foundational principle of the Christian life is this: We are not our own. [1 Corinthians 6:19, 20] How this principle gets lost in the midst of what people are calling Christianity these days is truly remarkable.

If we are to walk in obedience to the commands above we must ascertain exactly what it means to co-labor with God through Jesus Christ. Just like it is possible to please and displease our earthly mother or father and bring shame upon our parents and family name, so it is with our actions as they relate to our profession of being a Christian. As those claiming to be representatives of a heavenly family we must be certain that the things we choose to say and do in relation to our faith in God do actually please Him.

As of first importance

If we took a poll and asked every person who professed to be a Christian what they thought their primary responsibilities were as a Christian, what do you suppose these people would say? Would that include one or more of these:

  • Making this world a better place by attempting to solve the most pressing problems with humanity
  • Making peace with those who subscribe to other religions
  • Changing “Christianity” to fit todays cultural standards
  • Forcing through legislation moral standards that teach and enforce “Christian” principles
  •  Spreading one’s version of “Christianity” through a type of religion around the globe
  • Saving the “Christian” nation of America for our children’s sake by supporting and endorsing select politicians and agendas
  • Being tolerant of other people’s beliefs, choices and lifestyles (attempting to keep or make peace)

I think most people know that many, many people who claim to be Christians support one or more of the items listed above- despite NONE OF THE ABOVE having anything whatsoever to do with what Jesus Christ Himself taught and exemplified during His 33 years here upon this earth. If this is true, how do so many people get caught up in these other issues and causes? Simply put: they are not focused upon God’s interests whatsoever, they are focused upon what they deem to be right, reasonable and necessary to them. In other words, they are still acting as if they are LIVING FOR THEMSELVES and prioritizing what they deem to be most important to them. That is the exact opposite of what characterizes a true believer in Jesus. As such these individuals are only “Christian” in name and neither please nor glorify God.

Let’s lists some things Jesus Himself said were imperative and characteristic of those who truly serve and live for Him:

  • Being born again spiritually (John 3:1-21)
  • Abiding in Jesus (John 15:4-8; 1 John 2:28)
  • Cannot love any other person more than Him (Luke 14:26)
  • Cannot love themselves, but rather deny self (Luke 14:26)
  • Must carry a daily cross (Luke 9:23-26; 14:27)
  • Love one another (John 13:34, 35)
  • Proclaiming the gospel (good news) to others (Matthew 28:18-20)(John 20:21)(Romans 1:14-17)
  • Defend the one exclusive manner of a relationship with God- through Jesus Christ (John 14:6) (1 Timothy 2:5, 6)

Despite the eight things listed above, most of which Jesus said WILL BE EVIDENT and MUST BE EVIDENT to even be one of His disciples, one in a thousand who claim to be a Christian heartily believe this and live as if they do. What matters is not whether individuals claim to believe in Jesus or even whether He was raised from the dead or even if they claim to be trusting in His sacrifice for sin. What matters is HOW WE LIVE AS INDIVIDUALS because this is the proof of whether we have genuine faith in what God actually says is true- not what we think is true.

“Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it. For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard” [Hebrews 4:1, 2]

A perfect example of a man falling short of entering God’s rest, at least initially was Nicodemus. You can read about his meeting Jesus at night here: John 3:1-21. Nicodemus “believed” that Jesus was sent from God (verse 1 & 2) and yet he could not understand what Jesus was saying to him. After answering several of Nicodemus’ questions Jesus asks one of His own which is very telling- “Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things?” In other words, he was a religious leader responsible to teach the people about God and yet was clueless about what mattered first and foremost. Like most people today, his confidence was in himself and his own ability and in what He saw outwardly. This was the very place Jesus stuck down when He said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” [John 3:3]

Another foundational principle of the Christian life is this: Just as we entered into this world with no resources of our own, so we must enter into this new realm of the Spirit by an act of God- with entirely empty hands and with absolutely nothing to offer whatsoever. If we continue to believe wrongly that we can offer or add anything whatsoever to God’s gift of mercy through Jesus Christ- that we can offer anything to contribute to Jesus’ one time sacrifice than we are not accepting nor believing what Jesus actually says is necessary to “see the kingdom of God.” We may believe as Nicodemus that God really exists although that merits us no favor whatsoever. We may go to church, give money to feed the poor and do a hundred other charitable activities- all in vain. Jesus says, “You MUST be born again” (spiritually). This is where we start on the road as a co-laborer with Jesus Christ.

What matters most

We might wonder why Jesus places such an emphasis on seeking and loving Him above all other people and things. Why would He make what seems like ridiculous demands above? We know He’s not needy and we have no ability to provide for Him:

“The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is he served with human hands as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they might seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him…….” [Acts 17:24-27]

God is Spirit- and only those in the Spirit can truly have fellowship with Him. Jesus says it like this:

“God is spirit, and those who worship Him MUST worship in spirit and truth” [John 4:24]

Where does this worshipful relationship begin? Jesus says, “You must be born again.” Until then, absolutely nothing you or I do, regardless of our motives or in who’s name will matter for eternity.

That was the long way around to getting to the following points. I know most of you reading this are quite familiar with the previous thoughts and truth and are well on your way “in the spirit.” That being true, our next concern should be to discover how we go about walking “by the Spirit” so we can ascertain 1-3 below.

IN THE SPIRIT

Without going into detail here, walking in the Spirit (or being led by the Holy Spirit) is a command of God to all believers. Although no specific process addresses the manner in which we do this, we will find that regular communion with our Father and other Christians will result in living in a manner consistent with a life lived in the Spirit. We may cultivate these relationships in a variety of ways but what matters most is this: Are we continuing to believe what God Himself says is true and are we walking in obedience to those truths. This is what separates the individual who really continues to serve himself from one who truly seeks to serve His Lord and Master.

Note: The failure of professing Christians to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit or be misled by spirits masquerading as the Holy Spirit is the reason we fail to “see the kingdom of God” as Jesus is building it. The result of failing to see almost always results in our own attempts to BUILD FOR GOD in a manner we think is proper or best. We have never been called to build anything for God but simply to cooperate with what Jesus says He will build. If you fail to agree with or accept this then none of the following will make any sense to you.

1) What Jesus is doing or building in our day

2) Where I belong and how I might help

3) How to interact with other believers

WHAT JESUS IS BUILDING

We covered this a couple of posts back. I hope you come to see and understand that ANYTHING you or I build contrasts and competes with what Jesus is building. Seeing that I’m personally done with pleasing men, I’ll offer these quick examples of what men DO FOR GOD and continue to justify without heaven’s endorsement.

  • Any named “Christian” entity whether that be a hospital, college, church or “ministry” of any kind. Oh I forgot the other idol- “Christian music bands.” Having a spiritual gift is great and sharing that gift with others is better yet. Claiming something you started is “yours” by naming and titling it and appointing yourself the founder or leader is self serving. Charging money to others for what God has given you (the gift) for free is, well- prostitution. It sets a precedent that is completely opposed to what God sanctions and commands in His Word, the Bible. I’ve got worse news for you too: most professing Christians don’t and won’t believe this which to God amounts to disobedience.

WHERE I BELONG AND HOW I CAN HELP

Seeing that our God is a God of order, it goes without saying that He teaches us some truths prior to others. I walked in the futility of my own mind and manner for many a year until I really saw and understood what really pleases Him these days. By the way, I accept absolutely no credit for that.

The Bible talks about having a foundation and building upon that foundation.

“For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building” [1 Corinthians 3:9-11]

Notice several things here:

1) We are God’s fellow workers in building. Even though this verse talks about Paul the apostle and his fellow apostolic and prophetic laborers laying foundations consider this in Ephesians 4:15, 16:

…but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love”  As we cultivate our personal relationship with Christ, we gain supply through Him for the benefit of others and the others do the same. It’s this proper working together that brings out the expression of Jesus Christ among the saints and causes spiritual growth to occur.

2) The individual’s themselves are God’s building. Here’s another way Paul described this:

“For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” [2 Corinthians 5:1]

Now if we retreat to John 3 again we find this statement of Jesus;

“That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” [John 3:6]

Then this:

“For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in OPPOSION ONE TO ANOTHER, so that you may not do the things that you please” [Galatians 5:17]

Now might we say that despite the supposed “good” that modern day churches and their participants claim (often called the building or house of God by men) that this is contrary to where God Himself says this house is located? In fact, wouldn’t such a claim by men be in total OPPOSITION to what Paul here is saying as well as Luke in the verse in Acts quoted earlier? Of course it is and why? Because men and their so-called good intentions are attempting to build something for God in the flesh He doesn’t require nor has He commanded- all the while neglecting to teach the truth about God’s spiritual household of living stones! Here’s the proof:

“….you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house (there’s those words again) for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable (there’s this word again) to God through Jesus Christ” [1 Peter 2:5] 

Do you “see” it? Men are building earthly temples (churches) made with their own hands while Jesus is building a spiritual household of living stones. Not only is the origin of each different and opposing, so are the methodologies used and the fruits thereof.

Once it is understood and accepted by those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, these will stop building earthly edifices and kingdoms of men and seek out the manner Jesus is building His spiritual and heavenly kingdom. If you or I truly desire to become a co-laborer with Christ, that will take an outright rejection of what men are building and an entire reliance upon Jesus and His ability to build what only He can.

Once again we find ourselves in a most humbling situation. Just as we could not have contributed to the grace and mercy God initially extends to men, so now we find ourselves once again with nothing to offer. We have to learn and this from beginning to end the ongoing principle and living truth of the Christian Life: not I, but Christ.

Where I belong and how I can help……..where you belong and how you can help. This we will continue to discover. Let us rest in Him and His abilities to make that known in His time and His way, ok? I’ll just help with the details.

-to be continued/How can I help?

The man God is making/The heart of a co-laborer with Christ/Part 1

When asked about their particular Christian service before God a man once said;

“If I knew I had 100 years to live, I would pray for 95 years and work the other 5.”  Although this is not an exact quote but simply a word I heard about a particular individual, I think I’m hearing the deeper message my Father is speaking to me about it. How about you?

The above quote is relatively simplistic as is the Christian life. That said, the quote above says so much more that emphasizing the importance of praying or for our need to be praying a lot. No real Christian can live effectively in God’s service who fails to pray- in relation to, well- everything.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” [Philippians 4:6]

A born again Christian hopefully realizes that their resource for the Christian life is Jesus Himself. It is not that “prayer is powerful” or that “our faith moves mountains” as if their is some intrinsic value of prayer or faith outside of God. Those who make such statements fail to recognize and emphasize who stands behind our prayers and whose power makes those prayers effectual.

“In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” [Romans 8:26, 27]

“Therefore He (Jesus) is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” [Hebrews 7:25]

Note that despite Jesus having completed the work of redemption for us (it is finished) that He still has an ongoing work in heaven on behalf of His children as a priest- as the one and only mediator between God and man. We see here and above that Jesus as well as the Holy Spirit are both interceding on our behalf according to the will of God. Also note that despite Jesus being the exact representation of the Father’s nature, He still is in submission to His will.

As of late a few of us have been discussing and learning to implement the principles in Philippians 2:3, 4 that deal with looking out for the interests of others. But may I ask, “How do we really know what is in the best interest of others?” Is it always best to give someone money who asks us or meet any need they claim to have just because they ask?

The Practice of Faith

“Therefore as you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, (by faith) so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being  built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude” [Colossians 2:6, 7]

Since the very beginning of our new lives as Christians we needed to learn a whole new way of thinking about ourselves, others and most importantly about God Himself. All three were and are influenced by a variety of factors and through a variety of the following methods or manners we attempted to discover either God’s general or specific will for our lives.

1) By following in the train of popular “Christian” thought and present “Christian” practices. (Going to a church, being guided spiritually by one or more individual men or women, using Bible “studies and books” that steered us in specific directions and thought patterns) This more or less amounted to adopting the status quo of a particular religion and forced us to conform or be ostracized from that particular “Christian” community of believers.

2) By following the “doctrines” (primary teachings) of those who initially spoke to us about Jesus and salvation.

3) By following the “acceptable” and rejecting the “unacceptable” practices these same people adopted as truth.

There is little doubt that many of you reading this were taught in one if not all of the above manners. We had become “rooted and established” in these things- many of which were and are inconsistent with the Father’s will for a son or daughter. For those who were and now reject this formal indoctrination, you have begun to discover many things anew, you’ve begun to see things in a new light as you have sought out the Person of Jesus Christ for yourself. In a very real sense you have been set free, not from the chains that bind us to the Redeemer Himself which we’re learning to accept and embrace, but from those burdensome requirements of religion that only bound us and kept up from flying free in our service to Him.

In order to truly live out what one believes, one’s actions must follow what they say they believe. In order to effectively influence others one’s actions must echo what they say they believe. This is mere common sense. The problem most of us have had or continue to have is the manner in which we discover what is and is not truth and the manner in which we share those “truths” with others. When it comes to what we say we believe, “What is and is not an acceptable Christian practice before God and man?” Who decides what is acceptable or unacceptable? How do encourage others to practice what God deems acceptable and reject what He deems unacceptable?”

 

-continued in Part 2

The man God is making: A heart steadfast upon what Jesus is building/Part 2

I want to reiterate here what most professing Christians refuse to believe and trust Jesus to accomplish:

“The vehicle God desires to use in building His kingdom are local ekklesias Jesus is raising up in specific geographical locations.

Why this is so important

I was once asked by a young man who attended “church” why it was so difficult for (he and I) to work together for the sake of the truth. It appeared he desired to spend some time together in the furtherance of the gospel and yet I decided against that. Here’s why:

“For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building” [1 Corinthians 3:9]

There is a fundamental and vital difference between an individual who sees and lives in their high and lofty heavenly position in Christ and one who through their actions deny their inheritance. An individual believer who sees their citizenship in heaven now will not live in nor emphasize that which is earthly. Their desire is to snatch others out of the superficial shallowness of religious shadow and draw them near to where Jesus Himself resides. Earthly distinctions and designation only distract from the reality of Jesus’ finished work through His ekklesia.

The professing believer whose life revolves around “church” is held back and bound to variations of religious tradition- each one which binds them to this world and hinders them from the freedom which resides through the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, the best this individual can do is lead others to where they themselves have been led- to bondage through religious hierarchy, formal routines dictated by men and all manner of abuses.

Both of the individuals above may both be “saved” but only one is living in the fullness of what Jesus accomplished on their behalf. One is building with gold, silver and precious stones while the other with wood, hay and straw. Note the results of both types of building:

“If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire” (3:15)

Then notice the immediate warning that follows in 1 Corinthians 3:16;

“Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are”

Many years ago I thought this verse was talking about Christians as individuals and there may be some merit to that in verse 16. That said, the context of verse 16 and 17 appeals more to a corporate assembly of the saints as the immediate context seem to denote. Furthermore, the previous chapters talk in detail about how some believers were dividing themselves by those they knew:

“Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” (1:12, 3:4) Note this very important distinction here in 1 Corinthians 3:8;

“Now he who plants  and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor”

It appears obvious that the man that God “will destroy” is the individual who destroys the nature of the corporate assembly ( the oneness or the spirit of the one body) Why? Because the corporate assembly (not necessarily individuals) are holy- this passage in Corinthians parallels perfectly the passage I used last time in Ephesians 2:19-22 where Paul reiterates us being a holy temple in the Lord that is being fitted together in the Spirit. Needless to say, whatever words or actions hinder or disrupt this process would be synonymous with “destroying the temple” would it not? Isn’t that exactly what all institutional religions do- divide and disrupt the one body?

It is not as if we cannot talk or even pray with those who still attend church or promote institutionalism. Some Christians still reside there and are yet to be called out. Despite this, any real fellowship along the lines of that which Jesus is building is impossible. Only those building with spiritual materials and fighting with spiritual words and weapons will be sustained and established in the end- the rest will be burned. Our primary responsibility with those on the inside is not to attempt fellowship or even comfort them in their temporary building projects. The call must be this and this alone: Come out of her!

How this applies to you and me friend

Provided those who understand the above are indeed born spiritually from above, then we have a basis for pursuing this one purpose together. We have already established that those of us online have encouragement in Christ, love and fellowship in the Spirit. And for those who really believe “we are one” than we realize just how small of a world it really is and even how we can make it smaller yet. Before I offer some practical considerations, I want to add this one thought first:

Just like a father’s primary responsibility is to his immediate family and those responsibilities, so must each of us never fail to neglect our spiritual responsibilities among the local fellowship of saints.

“So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith” [Galatians 6:10]

Some of us online are presently part of a local ekklesia that Jesus is building where we live. That must always take precedence over any other service and interaction with other saints that may be available and despite my personal care for you all- that is my desire for you. I only ask that as “one” that you give us occasional glimpses into specifically what God is doing there through you all. A geographical disconnect does not mean we cannot or should not participate with you all as you have need nor continue with you along those lines our Father has established for you in your locale.

On the other side of these above, a few of us find ourselves more or less alone. That means we could use a little encouragement at times and “stopping by” or sending a short note does make a difference. The important thing to remember is that despite distance that we “are one” in co-laboring with Christ in building His Ekklesia. As we know, what Jesus builds in the Spirit has no bounds and cannot be defeated.

 

-the end

Next: The heart of a co-laborer with Christ

The man God is making: A life that brings heaven to earth/A heart steadfast upon what Jesus is building

I’m going to risk making a statement that I am relatively confident most if not all of us who meet online are in agreement with as Christians. It is this:

“The vehicle God desires to use in building His kingdom are local ekklesias Jesus is raising up in specific geographical locations.”

…to the ekklesia of God which is at Corinth…to the ekklesias of Galatia…to the saints who are at Ephesus…

My definition of the above: A group of believers who live in a specific locale who gather together exclusively in the name of Jesus Christ. They have been called out of this world to serve God’s purposes, ie; proclaiming and living out the gospel of Jesus Christ together.

This is important as what will follow is based specifically upon this Biblical fact- one which despite the enormous amount of denial is actually quite evident throughout the New Testament. This next statement one or more of you may or may not agree with, and although relevant, is not as crucial as the one above to our discussion.

If the above statement is true, that means the reverse is also true. In other words, “Any vehicle or means outside of a local ekklesia that is being used to build the kingdom of God is in conflict with, and in competition against what Jesus is building.” We’ll return to these two statements in a few moments.

It likely goes without saying that each of us has had or has now our “special interests” when it comes to either knowing Christ or making Him known and the manner we carry these commands out. For example, if you have read much of what I write, I have a fixation on and about the cross of Christ and how that is lived out in the life of a believer. I talk of this and write about it often and this theme is found in most everything that involves my life as a Christian. For me, it’s the theme of the Christian life. For others their particular “theme” or emphasis might be a particular doctrine such as justification or sanctification and how these are lived out in our lives. For others, they have an interest with spiritual warfare, speaking in tongues or any form of the supernatural. By the way, all of the Christian life is supernatural. There is no such thing as part of Christianity being more supernatural or more powerful than other parts of it. Yes, it takes the supernatural to raise a life (both in the natural and the spiritual realms) but it also takes the supernatural to love in the manner that God requires. Just because men emphasis some gifts and actions as more spiritual and powerful than others does not make it so. It’s more of man’s obsession with the miraculous that makes him or her think so. Drop it.

For most of us as Christians, our little fixation upon parts of Scripture, doctrines or particular practices can hardly be kept to ourselves. Convinced that we have somehow received some special key upon which the Scriptures and the hand and heart of God move, we find ourselves intent upon telling everyone we know about our discovery and recruiting others into embracing our discovery. If your not following me, consider the books written on “how to study the Bible,” how to evangelize,” “how to grow as a Christian,” or even “how to get rich with God’s help.” We might get angry or even chuckle at the latter, but in reality each of the above is just as silly as the others. Each attempts to turn God into a supernatural vending machine with our own interests at heart. Although never contained in a single volume, “Christianity for Dummies is on shelves everywhere!” Before you laugh too hard, you yourself likely bought into those methodologies yourself at one time or another. I know I have. Oh the vanity of man and what he thinks he knows.

A particular focus upon some particular part of the Christian life is not a problem in itself and is likely indicative of one or more spiritual gifts that we possess. A problem occurs when we:

1) Attempt to turn our focus into some form of methodology (as when individual’s attempt to convince other believer’s they need to accept or adopt some man’s system of theology such as TULIP)

2) Turn our focus into a mandate for others to follow (a legal mandate for other Christians) (as when individual’s claim that speaking in tongues is evidence of being baptized in the Spirit and necessary to make a Christian mature)

3) An attempt to recruit others to promote one’s particular focus (as  through any man-made “ministry” such as Focus on the Family. They focus upon “family” despite that never being a Bible mandate.

What is the problem with 1-3 above? It certainly isn’t the fact that some individual desires to study doctrine or even write down doctrines they think they discover in the Bible. Nothing wrong with that. It certainly isn’t wrong for an individual to believe that Acts 2 is a formula for Christian maturity though this is easily disproved. It’s even ok if they want to think that everyone should speak in tongues although this is also easily proven to be false. Lastly, no Christian would have a problem with others having a desire to help others have and maintain proper family relationships. That would be quite the noble and necessary endeavor. So what is the problem?

A proper understanding of the Christian life and one’s service to God and others must include the boundaries and parameters of what Jesus says He is building as well as the manner in which He is doing that. Yes, we are co-laborers with Christ, but remember that He leads and we must follow. In any way in which our actions conflict with what Jesus is building then our efforts must be abandoned. Needless to say, this is the very thing man and his pride refuses to do. Frankly, man thinks he is wiser than God and attempts to prove that to the whole world by jettisoning God’s plain instructions and building without those instructions. Man may have the tools (Bible, people and even natural resources) but is clueless as to how the parts connect and work one with another. We all know this is true and the results are there for all to see.

Remember the verses in Part 1 found in Philippians 2:1-4? Did you ever notice the four “if’s” in verse 1 and how those precede and are qualifications for what follows? If there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion……….then the results that naturally follow…..being of the same mind, same love, same spirit and same purpose. Then the proof of this…….do nothing from selfishness.

Note that first comes mutual encouragement, love and fellowship which leads eventually to a likeminded purpose. We do well to keep this order in mind.

A typical church cannot keep encouragement, love or fellowship as primary as the participants are always coming and going and lasting relationships are not necessary. Even where a few relationships are established, the hierarchy churches employ destroy any real working out of any interactive and spontaneous fellowship among them. Despite this, a purpose exists, to grow the church and its influence in a given community. Because the participants change and have not taken the Spirit’s time for preparation, the purpose (the wrong one too) is introduced before relationships are adequately established. When such happens, trust is never fully established and therefore the participants jockey for the few positions of authority that exist. Needless to say, this is the opposite of God’s end result among His children: do nothing from selfishness. Why is this the end result? Selfishness is the evidence that self is still alive and reigning among individual believer’s lives. An absence of self is likewise evidence of Christ reigning within and among an assembly of saints- that’s what God is after. DO NOTHING from selfishness.

It can be readily seen and observed that men cannot fight over what Jesus Himself is building, only over what they themselves build. Man builds in the natural and yet Jesus builds in the Spirit:

“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are God’s household, having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit” [Ephesians 2:19-22]

It goes without saying that true encouragement and fellowship will not be established when one or more individuals within an ekklesia are attempting to recruit others into their ways of thinking and doing, especially if that “doing” involves any legal requirement or fixed earthly entity. Either option will divide believer’s into specific camps, and even if they remain together within the same group of people, still divide the one body dynamic and sidetrack others from the local nature of what Jesus Himself said He would build. These efforts often lead to recruiting others to join the wrong fights and take away local resources from the local body and saints. In a worse case scenario, the once sincere ministry pursuit becomes a “named entity” (formal and official worldly organization) that competes with any and every local ekklesia Jesus is building. Whatever purpose or function the “ministry” performs is completely irrelevant as is any “good” it may be accomplishing. If Jesus isn’t building IT, we shouldn’t be either.

An often overlooked and misquoted promise of Jesus is found in Matthew 16:18:

“I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock (Jesus Himself) I will build My Ekklesia; and the gates of hell will not overpower it”

Notice that:

1) Jesus is not building a church or churches. The word Jesus used in this verse is the Greek ekklesia which doesn’t mean church.

2) Jesus is building upon Himself as the chief cornerstone of a spiritual entity- not natural or earthly.

3) What He builds will endure and overpower hell and evil.

If this is true, than anything man attempts to build, despite sincere motives and need is opposed to Jesus. We are never allowed to build our own thing but simply cooperate with what Jesus Himself is building.

Now what…..?  

In the very beginning of our lives as Christians we trusted in God’s provision for we knew this to be the only hope available to us. In order to reap the benefit of that provision (justification, reconciliation, redemption, identification, sanctification, complete, secure, forgiven etc) it was necessary to relinquish EVERY EFFORT OF OUR OWN. Just as it was for Adam and Eve in the garden (only God clothing them would suffice) and our salvation (only Jesus’ body and His blood was an acceptable sacrifice) so here too we find only Jesus capable to provide that which is necessary among His people. We must surrender EVERY EFFORT OF OUR OWN if we are to both discover and cooperate in co-building with Christ. Our initial responsibility in this is simply to ask God to show us how and where His Ekklesia is being built. It is not a matter of whether it is (He promised that) or even who that might include. What matters is that you and I and every son and daughter rests solely upon Jesus’ ability and not upon our own. Stop looking to join the next thing or group of people and simply place your faith exclusively in Jesus accomplishing what He promised. He will do it.

Friends, we need to be in earnest about what Jesus is building. Praying, believing and anticipating Jesus building His own Ekklesia- here and now! Let us be about His business, in our hometown or among our friends where we already see His hand in motion in this manner. This is no time for doubt, but to hold the banner of truth high for all to see. Amen?

Abba Father, we earnestly desire to trust in Your Son and His promise to build His own Ekklesia. We confess our own failures in believing this is happening even now and how our impatience has led to us seeking out our own solutions to what only You can accomplish.

From this day forward, thrust aside and thwart any selfish efforts of those in my locality to overshadow or compete with Your Son in building what only He can. Open the eyes and ears of the professing Christian world to the abject failures of my own and their own efforts and that all such pursuits are not merely ineffective but truly sinful. Extend mercy upon those who turn, bring recompense upon all who though seeing, refuse to acknowledge the truth and suppress Your righteousness through their own efforts.

Take note of the few who rest solely upon You as, and for everything. Use us to open the eyes, heal the hearts and exalt the One in whom holds all things together for Thy names sake. Bring Your remnant forth, in humility, and then in power where necessary.

In You, and through Your Ekklesia,

The sons and daughters

-to be continued

The man God is making/A life that brings heaven to earth/Part 1

“First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world. For God, whom I serve in my spirit in the preaching of the gospel of His Son, is my witness to how unceasingly I make mention of you, always in my prayers making request, if perhaps now at last by the will of God I may succeed in coming to you.

For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established; that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine.” [Romans 1:8-12]

“It likely goes without saying, that the few times we meet up with a kindred spirit of spiritual descent, that something is found therein that is hard to put into words. It doesn’t even really matter whether the individuals in question have ever met one another before, the bond that is forged between siblings is strong, more so if a heavenly Father is the originator of them all.”

The above paragraph could be reminiscent of a handful of Christians who happen to meet at a local park, a neighborhood restaurant or those who occasionally gather on Sunday nights online in a video conference. The locale is more or less insignificant. What does matter though is the content and context of those relationships and the reasons for them coming into existence. This is what I believe is necessary to discover among us all- those of us who believe our Lord has sovereignly brought each of us one to another. It is likely true as is often proclaimed, “There’s more here than meets the eye.”

If you haven’t figured it out yet, this article is primarily directed toward those who have chosen to periodically or regularly fellowship online with one another or those considering doing so. It is written in the hope that these times of refreshing would exceed discussions about theology as important as those are at times, and drive us where our spirits really long to be- in deeper fellowship with our Lord and one another.

Being relatively mature believers, we each know that because we have been individually called by God through Jesus Christ and our having believed upon Him, we have been rescued from the domain of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. It is through the faithfulness of Jesus Himself that we have our new and high position, one in which we share a common faith, mind, purpose and inheritance among other things. Though we know this, rarely do we act in a manner which God demands and requires amongst His children- one which preserves the unity all Christians share and which forbids men to attempt to separate what God Himself has brought together. We do well to think and meditate upon these thoughts often.

In light of the fact that each of us has been directed away from institutional religion and into the wilderness with those “outside the camp,” their is a special bond that unites us in ways so few other believers have ever really known. We see and understand truths others do not and therefore have answers that this world as well as the people of God desperately need to know and experience. Like it or not, that makes each of you, that makes me one in a thousand among those professing Christ. This obviously doesn’t mean that you or I are “better” as if any bit of this wisdom derived from ourselves, those it does mean we have a responsibility that others who don’t see what we see do not.

There is one more thing I think each of us will quickly identify with and has been characterized in a title of a sister’s internet site called, “Now What?” The title and content of the site prompts us to think about what we do now that we have jettisoned religion for the lonely pastures of intimacy with Jesus in the wilderness. Although I’m not going to claim to have “THE” answer to the question above as so many before me, I would like to suggest where I believe God’s heart resides along these lines and why we so often get this wrong and how we become sidetracked away from the trajectory our Lord long ago previously established.

First, I want to share a confession I made to a brother the other day in relation to this subject matter. Despite some awesome testimonies about how God has used me in past days, I’m having difficulty being content with my level of service before Him these days. Sure, we know there are various levels of growth and activity in our lives as Christians and these vary from time to time and from season to season. A couple of you have attempted to encourage me with such words and I won’t and don’t discount that. Still, I find myself indicted by the words of Paul the apostle who said;

“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as are mature, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained.” [Philippians 3:14-16]

The truth be told, I’m not even remotely living the standard to which I had once attained. This doesn’t mean I don’t faithfully serve God from day to day, I believe that I do, I’m just not living by that same standard I had once attained and that bothers me! Praise God though, I’m relatively sure I know why as well as the solution to my problem.

I occasionally make a statement to younger people such as this: ”

“When you really know you’re in the center of God’s will and your life is pleasing to Him, none of these other passions will ever be able to take center stage- nor will you want them to.”

I believe this to this day and I’ve often found it true in my own life. It doesn’t matter if that passion is a form of worldly entertainment or a simple hobby. That passion or pursuit will fade into non relevance the instant we become consumed with Jesus AND Jesus in those around us. These other things attempt access or I allow them space when I’ve lost my way in some manner, usually when I’ve become isolated from my family and my service among them. The very instant each of us met one another was a seed that was sown in the hope that we might “give and receive” some measure of Jesus one from another. In any relationship, we reap what we sow in the very measure we pour ourselves into others. It’s never been about what comes next or what do we do now- rather its about what has always been- that’s what matters.

Not too long ago I was asking myself which church I should attend next. I was completely oblivious to the fact that Jesus was building His Ekklesia at that very moment and I only needed to discover how and then align my life accordingly. I was always so busy adjusting my decisions and schedule to the circumstances in my life that I missed out on what was happening right then, right here, right now! Does not each day have enough evil of its own? If I could know, I probably wouldn’t want tomorrow…or parts of it anyway.

The power of a moment

Have you ever thought about how a single moment in time can alter an individual’s life forever? You should, it’s happened to each of us more than just a few times- none more powerful than the convicting power of God the Holy Spirit bringing the light of the gospel to bear upon our individual hearts. Lest we’ve forgotten, that same power and Spirit now reside within us, opening up that same convicting power and influence before everyone we meet.

The Three Questions

On the Welcome Home Page upon my site I ask three questions that I believe every professing Christian should ask themselves and attempt to answer honestly.

1) Who is Jesus Christ and what has He done?

2) What is Jesus’ Ekklesia and what part will I assume within it?

3) How do we specifically grow in grace with God and others?

Within our answers we will discover what comes next. I think it is safe to say all of us know who Jesus Christ is. It’s also likely we have an idea where we belong within the body and some measure of how we’re gifted. Now that we have a knowledge of the truth (about God and ourselves- 1, 2) now we must press on to maturity (3) in practical application! In other words, we each have to get beyond mere talking about the kingdom and our doctrinal distinctives and get busy being co-laborers with Christ and one another- despite our geographical locations. See: Hebrews 6:1-3.

If we really believe we have been united in Christ, if we really believe we share a special communion outside of institutions, if we really believe we are the “few” the Bible speaks about, if we really believe we have a shared testimony and that God Himself brought us together, if we really believe their is any encouragement in Christ, if their is any consolation of love, if their is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my (our) joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent upon one purpose (working with Him to see His Ekklesia established throughout this earth).

Now we have made some progress here in our short time knowing each other, but what do we know of this:

“Do nothing from selfishness of empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than ourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interest of others” [Philippians 2:3, 4]

Just curious? How would I know what your interests are anyway? How would I know anything about you unless you tell me. How can I pray for your work, ministry or family interests or cares if they remain unknown to me? How do I pray for your family, friends or contacts if I don’t know anything about them and if I’m not regularly reminded of them?

The Great Disconnect

Modern day Christiandom is filled with many supposed good things. We won’t argue those points here. But I am relatively sure those who participate within them lack this:

“But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. Having such a fond affection for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us” [1 Thessalonians 2:7, 8]

Did you get that? Why did Paul and his companions share both the gospel and their lives with their brothers and sisters? Because they knew those brothers and sisters cared for them and that care would be shared and shown one to another. With a little embarrassment at hand, I shared with most of you the fact that I had been homeless for many years- a fact that many where I lived used as a weapon to gossip about me. That hurt, not just such a lack of obvious concern for me, but the fact that it had completely escaped their notice that both Paul the apostle and Jesus Himself found themselves in such a condition. I suppose they also forgot the verse that talks about “as you have done it unto the least of these……”

It may have not seemed like much to you all having accepted me as I am, but to one looking and longing for a greater intimacy so many reject and despise among “believers,” I took the risk of imparting my life as it is and found that often reciprocated by you. Your responses and even encouragement in the midst made clear shows forth much wisdom and a recognition of what is for now “necessary” for me in the will and purposes of God. You see and saw not “the failures of a man” but the providence and sovereignty of a faithful God who is working all things according to the counsel of His own will. We can’t lose my friends, provided our eyes remain upon Him.

I’ve given you all much to think and pray about, but we’re not finished yet. I only hope that as we each continue to lift one another up during these trying days in prayer that we come to recognize  the necessity to express to one another the details of our lives and share in both the joys and the sorrows that we each do and shall face in the near future.

It was Paul’s desire on a regular basis to come and visit the individual believers and local ekklesias for the purpose of mutually encouraging one another. Paul had invested in these people and was anticipating some fruit as a result of his labors to the glory of God. It was never a one way street but a mutual give and take where all of the participants were blessed as they gave of themselves one to another. This isn’t just the command of Jesus, it’s the very manner Christians in the 1st century lived as if their very lives depended upon it. Don’t think for a moment that such a lifestyle is not equally imperative these days and that our lives also depend upon obeying Jesus in this manner- all the more as we see the day drawing nearer.

Some questions remain of course. Like this one:

To what degree am I willing to invest into the lives of my fellow brethren?

Now what? I’ll leave that for part 2 if you’re still struggling with that answer.

-end of Part 1