The Early Church: A Compassionate Community

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[This is a repost by Jason Whitehurst here: http://jasonwhitehurst.org/2013/11/12/early-church-compassionate-community/%5D

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The early church got it right.

Sociologists marvel at how a despised movement that started in a corner of Palestine, could become the dominant faith of the mighty Roman Empire.

The Apology of Tertullian in 197 AD sums it up.  The most amazing pagan observation of the early church was, “See how they love one another.”

This wasn’t a coincidence.  Jesus gave His followers a new commandin John 13:34.

The early church did not set out to build great buildings or “mega-churches”.  They just set out to do what Jesus taught them to do.

They kept things simple.  They did four main things, according to Acts 2:42-47.

1.  They taught what Jesus taught.  
2.  They fellowshipped.  
3.  They ate.  
4.  They prayed.

Through these four things, they were led to sell what they had and give to each other as each one had a need.

They gained favor with the people in an urban part of the Roman Empire, known as being a harsh and brutal society.

Through this love they had for another based on the command that Jesus gave them, they lived together in community, gained favor with people, and the Lord added daily to their number those who were being saved.

To those who were homeless and impoverishedthe early church offered food and shelter.

To the widows and orphans, the early church offered a family.

To the outcasts of societythey offered a place of acceptance.

To those who were sickthe early Christians offered nursing and medical services.

Through their radical acts of love and kindness, the early church gained a foothold in a brutal and barbaric culture.

Rodney Stark, a modern sociologist who wrote “The Rise of Christianity”, said about the early church,

For what they brought was not simply an urban movement, but a new culture capable of making life in Greco-Roman cities more tolerable.” 

They did not just start a movement, which they did do, but more than that they changed the culture.

Justin Martyr wrote that it was the consistency of their lives that caused non-Christians, to become Christians.

Over the course of history, once Christianity moved from being a movement to the dominant faith of the Roman Empire, it began to become a “baptized-form” of Judaism.

Buildings started being built.  Rules and regulations started being added.  Structure was put into place.

None of these things in and of themselves are bad.  But these things began to change what had given Christianity a foothold and traction in society.

Fast-forward 2,000 years and look at the churches in our culture today.  They do not enjoy the same leverage and favor that the early church did.

Which begs the question, where did the church go wrong?

At what point did the church move from being a compassionate community to becoming what it is today?

The church has lost it’s voice.  The church has lost it’s authority in society.

The church, at some point, took for granted the God-given favor it enjoyed with culture and society.

The church for a long time was able to speak from a place of majority and authority.

Today, the church has lost the majority and cannot speak from a position of authority.

The early church got it right.

What They Don’t Tell You About Motivational Speakers!

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anthonyverderameWe’ve all heard them before, Zig Ziglar, Jim Rohn,  Tony Robbins, Brian Tracy, et. al.; motivational speakers.  My personal all time favorite was Zig.  These speakers are both entertaining and enlightening.  I have always thoroughly enjoyed listening to people like these.

When I begin talking about motivational speaking, I am reminded of a quote by Zig.  He said, “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.”  We hear that and chuckle.  When I first heard that, I remember thinking, “Yeah….right on Zig!” Yes it IS right.  Hence my concern.

This is the difference between motivational speaking and  speaking. It is my heart’s desire to seek out and hear transformational speakers.  It is the reason I describe myself as “transformational.” But what really is the difference? A brief note: I am speaking of a difference NOT necessarily right & wrong; bad or good! 

First, let’s let dictionary.com help us with definitions!

MOTIVATE: to provide with a motive or motives; inciteimpel.  They further provide us with telling synonyms: inducemove, provokepromptcause.
TRANSFORM: 1. to change in form, appearance, or structure; metamorphose.  2. to change in condition, nature, or character; convert.  3. to change into another substance; transmute. Here are some great synonyms: 

Did you catch the subtle, simple and yet profound difference.  It’s as simple as the difference between “extrinsic” and “intrinsic”; and the difference between “doing” and “being.”

A motivational speaker may inspire and entertain with the result of a prompting from without to DO!  A transformational speaker may inspire and entertain as well resulting in an inner change of the person to BECOME!

A transformational speaker has an ability to share life!  It is a transference of life principles and TRUTH that so inspires, convict and moves a person from within that a paradigm of theirs has shifted.  This might be a huge shift or can be a simple truth like, “I really AM loved!” which may change the person’s view of themselves.

So, Zig IS right! We DO often need to be prompted or provoked to do or achieve. But when a person has experienced a change from within often the direction and action of that life WILL be effected as well.

GOD SHOWED UP! (really?)

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Have you ever heard someone say this about God?  What does that really mean? Well, this morning He displayed Himself for me…again!

Have you ever had those serendipitous meetings or those wonderfully “odd” circumstances that are unusually “weird” and it just bless your socks off?  What’s up with that?

This morning a friend showed up at church that was so unexpected and out of context that we knew it was “a God thing.”  Ann and I were truly shocked and almost speechless (ok I don’t think that’s possible for either  of us.)  We had a wonderful time of sweet fellowship, and then we left, but what’s up with this “God thing” we often hear about?

As my wife and I were reflecting on this wonderfully unexpected meeting, I was telling her how in awe I was of our Father.  You see, I began learning years ago that these pleasant circumstances was God’s way of “showing up”; of reminding us that He IS and that He is still involved in my life. Yes….the God of this universe. WOW!

We ARE in relationship with Him! It is times like this that I am swept away by the fact that HE is mindful of ME…always!  He even used this unexpected fellowship to encourage and confirm something in my life (but even this is NOT the point of this little tale).  He DOES desperately love us!!!

So, this “God thing” is actually a way for Him to say to us, “Hey there! I AM here and I’m thinking of YOU!” Let that sink in! Oh…and the cool thing is we are often blessed too.  But remember, our encouragement, blessing, good feelings is NOT the point.  It is ALL ABOUT HIM! His nature, His love, His work, His presence, His heart, etc.!!!

The challenge for us is that we’re often just not expecting to “SEE” Him show up.  I believe our Daddy is constantly demonstrating His presence in our lives, but we are often so caught up in OURSELVES that we miss HIM!!!

I challenge you TODAY to start looking for, expecting and becoming more mindful of Him…..because you are always on His heart and His mind!

 

A Tiny Verse – A BIG Message!!!

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Yes, John 5:41 is a tiny verse but it truly packs a punch.  Jesus was speaking, and He said, “I do not receive glory from men;” Read that again and chew on it for a few moments. 

If there was a man alive at that time who deserved “recognition”, “honor”, “glory”, etc. it was Jesus.  Lives were healed, changed and transformed after encountering Him, and people therefore began following Him.  Yet, He says, “I do not receive glory from men.” Why?

First, He knew WHO He was while on earth.  Earlier in the chapter in vv 19-20 in tells the people that He doesn’t go anywhere or do anything unless the Father tells Him to.  He walked in dependency upon His Father, because He understood it was ALL for His Father’s honor and glory…period.  He was His Father’s Son, and it was His Father’s life He lived by.

Also, notice He made a choice.  He decided to not let the glory “stick.”  If someone gave you a gift, you don’t HAVE to receive it.  You can simply say, “That was kind, but not thank you.”  This is precisely what Jesus did while here on the earth.  He knew that He couldn’t control the actions of others.  He knew He couldn’t stop their choice of wanted to glorify Himself, but He COULD make a choice; to decide to take upon Himself the glory due His father.

Sadly we as humans do the exact opposite.  Whether you are leading a family, teaching a Bible study, on staff at a church or ministry, pastoring a church or whatever, are you willfully accepting the praise and glory that is due Jesus?  It is HIS life, His ministry, His love, His blessings, His wisdom…….HIS GLORY!!!

So, the next time someone mistakenly tries to GIVE you glory first believe that it really is NOT about you and then next simply say, “You are so kind! Isn’t Jesus wonderful?  Our Father loves us so desperately!” (or something like this) Thereby, you will be deflecting the praise and glory to our Father!

Now read the whole passage from John 5:41-44 from The Message Bible:

“I’m not interested in crowd approval. And do you know why? Because I know you and your crowds. I know that love, especially God’s love, is not on your working agenda. I came with authority of my Father, and you either dismiss me or avoid me. If another came, acting self-important, you would welcome him with open arms. How do you expect to get anywhere with God when you spend all your time jockeying for position with each other, ranking you rivals and ignoring God.”

OBEDIENCE AND THE NORMAL CHRISTIAN

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[This was a letter I wrote in response to an online conversation of our organic fellowship I am a part of]

Hey Matt & body!
First, I am concerned that those who may not know you as well as I do, may read the below email as if it was written with a spirit of contention.  I know your heart & because I do, I know you wrote it in love.  Anyway, I just wanted to make sure no one was distracted by a misunderstanding. Blessings!!!

Let me start by stating publicly how much I appreciate Matt & Elisa’s heart for the lost AND for Jesus’ body.  Matt, I have always appreciated your lens from which you see Jesus & His body.  You are right on when it comes to “obedience” (daily sanctifying walk) and it is born out of and rises from our new life (finished work of Christ IN us). Both your heart & Dave’s heart regarding truth are desperately needed, because it helps us be a healthier body.

I want to briefly further weigh in on this discussion.  First, it is a beautiful illustration of Jesus’ body in action. Only when we share life together do we get the complete picture of HIM.  Both Matt & Dave are right on.  We work OUT that which WAS worked IN!!! Phil. 2:12b-13 says, “…but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”  

Our life in Christ is not “positional” nor is it “legal”. It IS what it is. A new life for a dead man.  As this new person, according to Col. 3:1 & Eph. 2:6, I have been raised (past tense-finished work) with Jesus and I am seated with Jesus in heavenly places. I AM forgiven…sanctified…holy…righteous…etc. etc. So…..now what?

Obedience without life (resulting in an intimate loving relationship) is religion and breeds death. In the NT, the phrase “bond servants” is used 12 times after the resurrection. What a glorious picture of our life in Jesus.  You see a bond servant was considered as a true part of the master’s family. His gratitude & love was so strong for his master when he was an indentured servant that he wanted to spend his life in lovingly service to his master.  True obedience IN CHRIST therefore, is a natural by product of the life we DO have as HIS SON’S/DAUGHTERS.  What are we obeying after all?  His voice…His heart…His passion…His desires!!! It is born out of a deeply intimate life with Jesus.

I spent a long time in my walk with Jesus “working hard for Jesus” and to be obedient & was also taught & told to so. This kind of life sent me deeper into a life of addiction and sin. Why? Because the law produces death…period.  Yes obedience should definitely be a part of our lives, because it is the natural by-product of the life we receive.  Hence the beauty of living in community together as His body.  We should be sharing our passions & desires that Jesus has placed in us to encourage and stimulate growth in HIS body.

I think the challenge is somewhat semantical. Obey is a verb; Obedience is a noun.  If you do a search, obey as it is primarily directed to the disciples, is used by Jesus prior to the cross & resurrection…hence under the old covenant. Whereas obedience (what we have in Jesus) is used in the New Covenant.  Jesus was burying those He taught under the burden of the law in order to accomplish the work of the law which is to lead them to their Savior (Himself.) (Also read Gal. 3:24-25.) We need to be careful regarding the preaching of “obeying” that is not born out of life in Jesus (intimacy.) Why? I Cor. 15:56 says, “…and the power of sin is the law.”

As for 1 Jn. 2:6, the logical question is how did Jesus walk? He walked in absolute dependency on His Father as the very sustenance of life.  Remember Jesus said He only spoke & did what Father told Him too. Again, this was born out of that intimate, real life that He experienced with our Father.

Therefore, brother Matt & Dave we must encourage each other to be diligent to DO somethings:

Eph 4:3 = “…to preserve the unity in the bond of peace.”
2 Tim 2:15 = “…to present yourself approved [accepted/pleasing] to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” 
[my favorite] Heb. 4:11 = “…to enter that rest [Jesus], so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience [like the Jews who did not enter His rest]”
[I believe we should be “striving” and “working” to encourage & stimulate each other to walk in the REST that IS ours IN Jesus]
2 Pet. 1:10 = “to make certain about His calling and choosing you;”
2 Pet 3:14 = to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless,”

I am not writing this response as a defense to anything or as an indictment on anyone.  I love the body & long to see us walk in love and harmony in the truth.  We are ALL unique parts of Jesus body (life) and we each provide a glorious balance to each other.  Let us walk in the obedience that is ours & walk in truth and total dependency on Jesus who IS our life.  There is so much more that I would like to write, but I will spare you my beloved family…LOL!

I want to conclude with Peter’s words:
“You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”

AN OPEN LETTER TO ALL CHRISTIANS REGARDING HYPNOSIS

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Dear ____,

Your e-mail upsets and angers me.  My feelings are NOT directed at you, but at this system of religion that has so blinded us all. You are a dear sweet sister and I know you are merely speaking from a heart of love.  Yet out of the overflow of ignorance that is out there amongst Christians, many speak out.  How can you make such strong claims if you, by your own admission, are “by no means…an authority on the subject”?  This is the type of legalistic blindness I had that led me away from pursuing a psychology and/or hypnosis at the age of 18.

Having said all this, I will answer your message point by point.  You’ll notice as I go through, that your comments/questions are based on many flawed presuppositions.

1)    “Is being under the influence of another’s suggestions, while in a hypnotic state of mind, being of sober mind?” 

Your presupposition is that the person is UNDER the influence.  This is furthest from the truth of what hypnosis is.  Hypnosis is a natural state of mind that we ALL experience at least twice a day & often many times a day.  I will define it later.  You are presupposing that the person is submitting to another’s will. NO….NO….NO!!! The client is absolutely in control at ALL times….period!  There are merely agreeing to be led by someone to their desired goal.  They are NOT under anything but rather are IN a natural AND common state of mind.

2)    In order for this kind of “therapy” to be effective must the subject/patient be willingly susceptible to suggestion?

Again, your question is presupposing that the client is “subject”.  THEY ARE NOT!!!  THEY are in control & are merely following the direction of the hypnotist or being willingly guided.  For example, just like a midwife assists the mother in the NATURAL birthing process, so do I assist someone like a “mental midwife” in the  natural process of how the mind operates, in order to “give birth” to the transformation they desire.  Also, your presupposition is flawed in that EVERYONE is “susceptible to suggestion”.  It’s not right or wrong, bad or good.  It is merely the human condition.

3)    The power of “suggestion”? Is this the way of Christ? 

Again, do you see what you are assuming???  The power of suggestion is NOT the way of Christ.  Why is that wrong or evil?  If a police officer runs in to the room & yells, “Get in the basement! There is a mad man with a machine gun!”  What would we do?  Our heart rates would jump; fear would grip some; some would cry; we would run; etc., etc.  Why?  Aren’t they “succumbing” to the “power” of suggestion?  Is that the way of Christ?  Just the mere questions sounds silly now doesn’t it.  But guess what?  I just described people who were in a light state of hypnosis.  You see the “trance” state as many call it, is VERY normal & natural.  You experience it every day as you are about to fall “into” natural sleep & when you are “waking” from a natural sleep.

4)    Is it possible, that while under such loss of at least a certain amount of control, perhaps even willingly giving up our will temporarily, we could be opening the door for something other than what we intend?

___, you can see that I don’t even have to answer this because it has been answered.  A person is NOT under anything!  They do NOT loss control of anything!  Their will is NEVER surrend….period!!!  They are actually in MORE control than in a “waking” state.  In other words, your SM is in a state of HIGHTENED awareness. So, theoretically speaking ____ if a person is truly IN Christ, then they would be MORE opened to Jesus NOT the devil or evil, because our identity is newly created IN Christ Jesus!

5)    In what way is this being of sober mind?

I was excited when I read this.  The Greek word for “sober” is nafo.  Here is a brief definition of this word: 1) to be sober, to be calm and collected in spirit; 2) to be temperate, dispassionate, circumspect.  Hmmm?  Sounds a little like hypnosis to me.  In what way is what I just explained (above) NOT sober minded.  As a matter of fact, when a person is experiencing the wonderful state of hypnosis, their awareness is extremely heightened as well as all of their senses.  Could this not be defined as “sober minded”.  When you are “seeing” or experiencing your past or a recent past event, everything becomes much, much clearer.  Sounds a bit like a sober minded person.

6)    Is it not Christ Himself who changes us from within? Can we (ourselves) or another person change us, as regarding the increase of Christ in us; the Life of Christ? If not, what is being changed in us and by whom? If it is so that it is not Christ, then all other would only be considered other than Christ, be that the will of man or a different other. What is the point if it is not Christ? 

I am SO glad you asked all of these questions.  First YES…Jesus recreates us within our spirits into a NEW CREATION.  Hypnosis has nothing do with our new life in Jesus.  This is NOT what I am speaking about in regard to hypnosis. 

Believe it or not THIS is the very reason why I decided to pursue & use hypnosis.  Case in point…..YOU!  Why do you still struggle with the fears you have; and maybe some other issues?  I know you love Jesus & you ARE being conformed into His image, and yet you STILL have serious fears and anxiety.  You see, we ALL have had our “organic” computer (subconscious minds- SM) programmed since we were young by events, comments, traumas, etc. Because our SM’s job is to protect us from things real OR imagined.   Like the hard drive of a computer, ALL we’ve ever experienced and learned is stored there.  We then spend the rest of our lives responding according to this “programming” AND we don’t even realize it.

This motivated me to pursue hypnosis, because although Father has used me in the lives of many, many people, what I saw was people would often have an issue (like a habit, fear, addiction, depression, etc.) that seemed to “hang on” EVEN THOUGH they had experience a large measure of freedom.  Now, not only will these folks be eternally set free in Jesus, and become a “new creation”, but their soul can be set free AS WELL from those old “tapes” programmed in the SM!!!

Is it evil or spiritually unhealthy to go to a surgeon to repair something that is physically malfunctioning after you are saved? Of course not!  So why is it so wrong to pursue surgery for your soul? (I’m NOT talking about your spirit….please see the difference)

Simply put here is the best definition of hypnosis I have arrived at (with a lot of help from Dave Elman):

“Hypnosis is a natural state of mind in which the critical factor of the conscious mind is bypassed, and  an establishment of acceptable selective thinking (resulting in physical & mental relaxation).” 

Here’s another one by Gil Boyne:

  1. An extraordinary quality of relaxation.
  2. An emotionalized desire to satisfy the suggested behaviour: The person feels like doing what the hypnotist suggests, provided that what is suggested does not generate conflict with his belief system.
  3. The organism becomes self-regulating and produces normalization of the central nervous system.
  4. Heightened and selective sensitivity to stimuli perceived by the five senses and four basic perceptions.
  5. Immediate softening of psychic defenses.

­­­___, hypnosis happens ALL the time in life.  Most folks just don’t recognize it.  For example: “highway hypnosis” where you miss an exit; “zoning out” while the teacher is talking; “day dreaming”; “in the zone” are some obvious ones.  There are several biblical examples (words) used that support all that I said above as well (but that’s for another time).

The bottom line is this: hypnosis is neither mysterious nor nefarious; neither unnatural nor supernatural.  It IS as certain as gravity and as scientific as turning water into ice.  The fear Christians have in hypnosis is mistaking that which is unknown for that which is evil.  My dear sister like gravity, just because a person doesn’t believe it exists or they think it’s evil does not protect them from its effect. 

I wasn’t intending on writing so long, but it is extremely important that the truth be told.  Again, I know your intentions were pure and motivated by love in writing what you wrote.  I am not upset with you.  As a matter of fact, I’ve been waiting for someone to ask those questions.  You just happened to be the first…LOL!

Sincerely In Jesus!

Anthony

The Key to a Liberated, Fulfilled and Productive Life…

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I found this post on Facebook and had to re-post it here.  I find so many Christians “trying hard” and they are still living a life of unfulfilled bondage, and it just breaks my heart. This short post answers the question, “But HOW do I enjoy this life I’ve been given?”

My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. ~ Galations 2:20 (NLT)

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The Wink of Faith..Excerpt from Bill Volkman’s book…..

Galatians 2:20 is familiar to most Christians, as it is probably one of the ten most quoted and memorized verses in the Bible. Through the years no verse has presented more of a challenge to “deeper life” seekers.  Countless pamphlets and pages of books have been written about and around this verse.

The key to a liberated and fulfilling, productive life is recognition — recognition of who we are. For forty-one years I was unable to answer the question, ” Who am I?” I glibly talked about being ” a new creature in Christ, but those were only words. No wonder my apparently ” successful” life had been marked by periods of questioning, unrest, spiritual drought and what I considered to be “hidden sins”. No wonder I had such a poor self-image.

I had answered the question “are you born again?” , but I had never answered the more fundamental question: “Do you know who you are?” I had not yet adequately nor correctly seen who I really was.  I was more than the Bill Volkman I thought I saw when I looked in the mirror.

The big breakthrough in my understanding came when I suddenly saw that the King James Version of the Bible reads, “I live by the faith of the Son of God, rather than, “I live by my faith in the Son of God,” as I had memorized it from the New American Standard Version. All along I had the impression that my spiritual success was related to my faith in Christ (which always seemed to be faltering!). Now I could relax. In my union with Christ I would live by His faith — His perfect faith was expressing itself through me!

Do you see the difference? As long as your perception of spiritual success is contingent on your personal performance as an independent self, sooner or later you will fall short of your personal goals and expectations. Once you see that Christ in you is more than a “positional” truth -that He, as a living Person, with the attributes of faith, hope and love, actually lives His life through you, as you — then rest and creative freedom is attainable.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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THE NORMAL CHRISTIAN LIFE IS A LIFE LIVED IN UTTER DEPENDENCE ON JESUS’ LIFE TO BE LIVED IN AND THROUGH YOU!!! It IS His life given FOR you and TO you AND to be lived THROUGH you.  Stop trying and start simply TRUSTING my friend!

A PROCLAMATION TO THE PEOPLE OF GOD

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Together, we are to be One,

By One, for One, and in One—

Jesus Christ our Lord.

We are the Bride of Glory,

The Dwelling Place of Father,

The Ecclesia Family,

The Sons of God,

The Body of Light, Truth,

Resurrection Life and divine Unity.

Unite in Life, not in religions,

Nor buildings of institution,

Nor by programs, nor missions,

Nor interpretations, nor religious doctrines,

Nor politics of the nations,

Nor organized ways of man,

But as God’s free people

Living Him within one another,

Expressing only Jesus Christ.

He is our Head, our body Life

In everyday experience;

Every moment of our existence.

Let’s turn around now, and see Him.

Not His things we admire,

But focus upon the Face of Jesus Christ.

This is a proclamation to unite

As One people of God, and see Him as One.

If you are listening with the eyes of your heart,

You will hear the words cry.

Author, Kathy Marie Huff

50 Things the Holy Spirit Does

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I am reposting a blog entry by Frank Viola that I thought was too good to pass up.  He posted it today on his blog located at http://frankviola.wordpress.com/2010/11/18/50-things-the-holy-spirit-does/.  Frank is the author of a number of books three of which I would highly recommend are as follows:

From Eternity to Here, Pagan Christianity & Reimagining Church.  If you read these 3 in this order, you will find it amazingly eye opening & enlightening.

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1.      He convicts the world of sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16:8).

2.      He guides us into all truth (John 16:13).

3.      He regenerates us (John 3:5-8; Titus 3:5).

4.      He glorifies and testifies of Christ (John 15:26; 16:14).

5.      He reveals Christ to us and in us (John 16:14-15).

6.      He leads us (Rom. 8:14; Gal. 5:18; Matt. 4:1; Luke 4:1).

7.      He sanctifies us (2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:2; Rom. 5:16).

8.      He empowers us (Luke 4:14; 24:49; Rom. 15:19; Acts 1:8).

9.      He fills us (Eph. 5:18; Acts 2:4; 4:8, 31; 9:17).

10.   He teaches us to pray (Rom. 8:26-27; Jude 1:20).

11.    He bears witness in us that we are children of God (Rom. 8:16).

12.    He produces in us the fruit or evidence of His work and presence (Gal. 5:22-23).

13.    He distributes spiritual gifts and manifestations (the outshining) of His presence to and through the body (1 Cor. 12:4, 8-10; Heb. 2:4).

14.    He anoints us for ministry (Luke 4:18; Acts 10:38).

15.    He washes and renews us (1 Tim. 3:5).

16.    He brings unity and oneness to the body (Eph. 4:3; 2:14-18). Here He plays the same role that He plays in the Godhead. The Spirit is the life that unites Father and Son. He plays the same role in the church. When He is operating in a group of people, He unites them in love. Therefore, a sure evidence of the Holy Spirit working in a group is Love and Unity. Not signs and wonders (those are seasonal and can be counterfeited).

17.    He is our guarantee and deposit of the future resurrection (2 Cor. 1:22; 2 Cor. 5:5).

18.    He seals us unto the day of redemption (Eph. 1:13; 4:30).

19.    He sets us free from the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:2).

20.    He quickens our mortal bodies (Rom. 8:11).

21.    He reveals the deep things of God to us (1 Cor. 2:10).

22.    He reveals what has been given to us from God (1 Cor. 2:12).

23.    He dwells in us (Rom. 8:9; 1 Cor. 3:16; 2 Tim. 1:14; John 14:17).

24.    He speaks in and through us (1 Cor. 12:3; 1 Tim. 4:1; Rev. 2:11; Heb 3:7; Matt. 10:20; Acts 2:4; 8:29; 10:19; 11:12, 28; 13:2; 16:6,7; 21:4,11).

25.    He is the agent by which we are baptized into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13).

26.    He brings liberty (2 Cor. 3:17).

27.    He transforms us into the image of Christ (2 Cor. 3:18).

28.    He cries in our hearts, “Abba, Father” (Gal. 4:6).

29.    He enables us to wait (Gal. 5:5).

30.    He supplies us with Christ (Phil. 1:19).

31.    He grants everlasting life (Gal. 6:8).

32.    He gives us access to God the Father (Eph. 2:18).

33.    He makes us (corporately) God’s habitation (Eph. 2:22).

34.    He reveals the mystery of God to us (Eph. 3:5).

35.    He strengthens our spirits (Eph. 3:16).

36.    He enables us to obey the truth (1 Pet. 1:22).

37.    He enables us to know that Jesus abides in us (1 John 3:24; 4:13).

38.    He confesses that Jesus came in the flesh (1 John 4:3).

39.    He says “Come, Lord Jesus” along with the bride (Rev. 22:17).

40.    He dispenses God’s love into our hearts (Rom. 5:5).

41.    He bears witness to the truth in our conscience (Rom. 9:1).

42.    He teaches us (1 Cor. 2:13; John 14:26).

43.    He gives us joy (1 Thess. 1:6).

44.    He enables some to preach the gospel (1 Pet. 1:12).

45.    He moves us (1 Pet. 1:21).

46.    He knows the things of God (1 Cor. 2:11).

47.    He casts out demons (Matt. 12:28).

48.    He brings things to our remembrance (John 14:26).

49.    He comforts us (Acts 9:31).

50.    He makes some overseers in the church and sends some out to the work of church planting [through the body] (Acts 20:28; 13:2).

Summary: The Holy Spirit unites us to Jesus Christ and to His body. He reveals Christ to us, gives us His life, and makes Christ alive in us. The Spirit takes the experiences of Jesus … His incarnation, ministry, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension … and brings them into our own experience. Because of the Holy Spirit, the history of Jesus Christ becomes our story and experience (see Chapter 3 of JESUS MANIFESTO for details).

GOD IS CHANGING THE CHURCH

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The following article can be found at the following website: http://www.housechurch.org/basics/simson_15.html.  This is one of the most concise and accurate expressions of my hearts longing for Father’s ekklesia.  This is definitely worth a read.

15 Theses. Wolfgang Simson

God is changing the Church, and that, in turn, will change the world. Millions of Christians around the world are aware of an imminent reformation of global proportions. They say, in effect: “Church as we know it is preventing Church as God wants it.” A growing number of them are surprisingly hearing God say the very same things. There is a collective new awareness of age-old revelations, a corporate spiritual echo. In the following “15 Theses” I will summarize a part of this, and I am convinced that it reflects a part of what the Spirit of God is saying to the Church today. For some, it might be the proverbial fist-sized cloud on Elijah’s sky. Others already feel the pouring rain.

1. Church is a Way of Life, not a series of religious meetings

Before they where called Christians, followers of Christ have been called “The Way”. One of the reasons was, that they have literally found “the way to live.” The nature of Church is not reflected in a constant series of religious meetings lead by professional clergy in holy rooms specially reserved to experience Jesus, but in the prophetic way followers of Christ live their everyday life in spiritually extended families as a vivid answer to the questions society faces, at the place where it counts most: in their homes.

2. Time to change the system

In aligning itself to the religious patterns of the day, the historic Orthodox Church after Constantine in the 4th century AD adopted a religious system which was in essence Old Testament, complete with priests, altar, a Christian temple (cathedral), frankincense and a Jewish, synagogue-style worship pattern. The Roman Catholic Church went on to canonize the system. Luther did reform the content of the gospel, but left the outer forms of “church” remarkably untouched; the Free-Churches freed the system from the State, the Baptists then baptized it, the Quakers dry-cleaned it, the Salvation Army put it into a uniform, the Pentecostals anointed it and the Charismatics renewed it, but until today nobody has really changed the superstructure. It is about time to do just that.

3. The Third Reformation.

In rediscovering the gospel of salvation by faith and grace alone, Luther started to reform the Church through a reformation of theology. In the 18th century through movements like the Moravians there was a recovery of a new intimacy with God, which led to a reformation of spirituality, the Second Reformation. Now God is touching the wineskins themselves, initiating a Third Reformation, a reformation of structure.

4. From Church-Houses to house-churches

Since New Testament times, there is no such thing as “a house of God”. At the cost of his life, Stephen reminded unequivocally: God does not live in temples made by human hands. The Church is the people of God. The Church, therefore, was and is at home where people are at home: in ordinary houses. There, the people of God: -Share their lives in the power of the Holy Spirit, -Have “meatings,” that is, they eat when they meet, -They often do not even hesitate to sell private property and share material and spiritual blessings, -Teach each other in real-life situations how to obey God’s word, dialogue – and not professor-style, -Pray and prophesy with each other, baptize, `lose their face’ and their ego by confessing their sins, -Regaining a new corporate identity by experiencing love, acceptance and forgiveness.

5. The church has to become small in order to grow big

Most churches of today are simply too big to provide real fellowship. They have too often become “fellowships without fellowship.” The New Testament Church was a mass of small groups, typically between 10 and 15 people. It grew not upward into big congregations between 20 and 300 people filling a cathedral and making real, mutual communication improbable. Instead, it multiplied “sidewards”, like organic cells, once these groups reached around 15-20 people. Then, if possible, it drew all the Christians together into citywide celebrations, as with Solomon’s Temple court in Jerusalem. The traditional congregational church as we know it is, statistically speaking, neither big nor beautiful, but rather a sad compromise, an overgrown house-church and an under-grown celebration, often missing the dynamics of both.

6. No church is led by a Pastor alone

The local church is not led by a Pastor, but fathered by an Elder, a local person of wisdom and reality. The local house-churches are then networked into a movement by the combination of elders and members of the so-called five-fold ministries (Apostles, Prophets, Pastors, Evangelists and Teachers) circulating “from house to house,” whereby there is a special foundational role to play for the apostolic and prophetic ministries (Eph. 2:20, and 4:11.12). A Pastor (shepherd) is a very necessary part of the whole team, but he cannot fulfill more than a part of the whole task of “equipping the saints for the ministry,” and has to be complemented synergistically by the other four ministries in order to function properly.

7. The right pieces – fitted together in the wrong way

In doing a puzzle, we need to have the right original for the pieces, otherwise the final product, the whole picture, turns out wrong, and the individual pieces do not make much sense. This has happened to large parts of the Christian world: we have all the right pieces, but have fitted them together wrong, because of fear, tradition, religious jealousy and a power-and-control mentality. As water is found in three forms, ice, water and steam, the five ministries mentioned in Eph. 4:11-12, the Apostles, Prophets, Pastors, Teachers and Evangelists are also found today, but not always in the right forms and in the right places: they are often frozen to ice in the rigid system of institutionalized Christianity; they sometimes exist as clear water; or they have vanished like steam into the thin air of free-flying ministries and “independent” churches, accountable to no-one. As it is best to water flowers with the fluid version of water, these five equipping ministries will have to be transformed back into new, and at the same time age-old, forms, so that the whole spiritual organism can flourish and the individual “ministers” can find their proper role and place in the whole. That is one more reason why we need to return back to the Maker’s original and blueprint for the Church.

8. God does not leave the Church in the hands of bureaucratic clergy

No expression of a New Testament church is ever led by just one professional “holy man” doing the business of communicating with God and then feeding some relatively passive religious consumers Moses-style. Christianity has adopted this method from pagan religions, or at best from the Old Testament. The heavy piritualizationon of the church since Constantine has now been a pervasive influence long enough, dividing the people of God artificially into laity and clergy. According to the New Testament (1 Tim. 2:5), “there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” God simply does not bless religious professionals to force themselves in-between people and God forever. The veil is torn, and God is allowing people to access Himself directly through Jesus Christ, the only Way. To enable the priesthood of all believers, the present system will have to change completely. Bureaucracy is the most dubious of all administrative systems, because it basically asks only two questions: yes or no. There is no room for spontaneity and humanity, no room for real life. This may be OK for politics and companies, but not the Church. God seems to be in the business of delivering His Church from a Babylonian captivity of religious bureaucrats and controlling spirits into the public domain, the hands of ordinary people made extraordinary by God, who, like in the old days, may still smell of fish, perfume and revolution.

9. Return from organized to organic forms of Christianity

The “Body of Christ” is a vivid description of an organic, not an organized, being. Church consists on its local level of a multitude of spiritual families, which are organically related to each other as a network, where the way the pieces are functioning together is an integral part of the message of the whole. What has become a maximum of organization with a minimum of organism, has to be changed into a minimum of organization to allow a maximum of organism. Too much organization has, like a straightjacket, often choked the organism for fear that something might go wrong. Fear is the opposite of faith, and not exactly a Christian virtue. Fear wants to control, faith can trust. Control, therefore, may be good, but trust is better. The Body of Christ is entrusted by God into the hands of steward-minded people with a supernatural charismatic gift to believe God that He is still in control, even if they are not. A development of trust-related regional and national networks, not a new arrangement of political ecumenism is necessary for organic forms of Christianity to reemerge.

10. From worshipping our worship to worshipping God

The image of much of contemporary Christianity can be summarized, a bit euphemistically, as holy people coming regularly to a holy place at a holy day at a holy hour to participate in a holy ritual lead by a holy man dressed in holy clothes against a holy fee. Since this regular performance-oriented enterprise called “worship service” requires a lot of organizational talent and administrative bureaucracy to keep going, formalized and institutionalized patterns developed quickly into rigid traditions. Statistically, a traditional 1-2 hour “worship service” is very resource-hungry but actually produces very little fruit in terms of discipling people, that is, in changed lives. Economically speaking, it might be a “high input and low output” structure. Traditionally, the desire to “worship in the right way” has led to much denominationalism, confessionalism and nominalism. This not only ignores that Christians are called to “worship in truth and in spirit,” not in cathedrals holding songbooks, but also ignores that most of life is informal, and so is Christianity as “the Way of Life.” Do we need to change from being powerful actors to start “acting powerfully?”

11. Stop bringing people to church, and start bringing the church to the people

The church is changing back from being a Come-structure to being again a Go-structure. As one result, the Church needs to stop trying to bring people “into the church,” and start bringing the Church to the people. The mission of the Church will never be accomplished just by adding to the existing structure; it will take nothing less than a mushrooming of the church through spontaneous multiplication of itself into areas of the population of the world, where Christ is not yet known.

12. Rediscovering the “Lord’s Supper” to be a real supper with real food

Church tradition has managed to “celebrate the Lord’s Supper” in a homeopathic and deeply religious form, characteristically with a few drops of wine, a tasteless cookie and a sad face. However, the “Lord’s Supper” was actually more a substantial supper with a symbolic meaning, than a symbolic supper with a substantial meaning. God is restoring eating back into our meeting.

13. From Denominations to city-wide celebrations

Jesus called a universal movement, and what came was a series of religious companies with global chains marketing their special brands of Christianity and competing with each other. Through this branding of Christianity most of Protestantism has, therefore, become politically insignificant and often more concerned with traditional specialties and religious infighting than with developing a collective testimony before the world. Jesus simply never asked people to organize themselves into denominations. In the early days of the Church, Christians had a dual identity: they were truly His church and vertically converted to God, and then organized themselves according to geography, that is, converting also horizontally to each other on earth. This means not only Christian neighbors organizing themselves into neighborhood- or house-churches, where they share their lives locally, but Christians coming together as a collective identity as much as they can for citywide or regional celebrations expressing the corporateness of the Church of the city or region. Authenticity in the neighborhoods connected with a regional or citywide corporate identity will make the Church not only politically significant and spiritually convincing, but will allow a return to the biblical model of the City-Church.

14. Developing a persecution-proof spirit

They crucified Jesus, the Boss of all the Christians. Today, his followers are often more into titles, medals and social respectability, or, worst of all, they remain silent and are not worth being noticed at all. “Blessed are you when you are persecuted”, says Jesus. Biblical Christianity is a healthy threat to pagan godlessness and sinfulness, a world overcome by greed, materialism, jealousy and any amount of demonic standards of ethics, sex, money and power. Contemporary Christianity in many countries is simply too harmless and polite to be worth persecuting. But as Christians again live out New Testament standards of life and, for example, call sin as sin, conversion or persecution has been, is and will be the natural reaction of the world. Instead of nesting comfortably in temporary zones of religious liberty, Christians will have to prepare to be again discovered as the main culprits against global humanism, the modern slavery of having to have fun and the outright worship of Self, the wrong centre of the universe. That is why Christians will and must feel the “repressive tolerance” of a world which has lost any absolutes and therefore refuses to recognize and obey its creator God with his absolute standards. Coupled with the growing ideologisation, privatization and piritualization of politics and economics, Christians will, sooner than most think, have their chance to stand happily accused in the company of Jesus. They need to prepare now for the future by developing a persecution-proof spirit and an even more persecution-proof structure.

15. The Church comes home

Where is the easiest place, say, for a man to be spiritual? Maybe again, is it hiding behind a big pulpit, dressed up in holy robes, preaching holy words to a faceless crowd and then disappearing into an office? And what is the most difficult, and therefore most meaningful, place for a man to be spiritual? At home, in the presence of his wife and children, where everything he does and says is automatically put through a spiritual litmus test against reality, where hypocrisy can be effectively weeded out and authenticity can grow. Much of Christianity has fled the family, often as a place of its own spiritual defeat, and then has organized artificial performances in sacred buildings far from the atmosphere of real life. As God is in the business of recapturing the homes, the church turns back to its roots, back to where it came from. It literally comes home, completing the circle of Church history at the end of world history.

As Christians of all walks of life, from all denominations and backgrounds, feel a clear echo in their spirit to what God’s Spirit is saying to the Church, and start to hear globally in order to act locally, they begin to function again as one body. They organize themselves into neighborhood house-churches and meet in regional or city-celebrations. You are invited to become part of this movement and make your own contribution. Maybe your home, too, will become a house that changes the world.

You are welcome and encouraged to redistribute this article.

By Wolfgang Simson

http://www.housechurch.org/basics/simson_15.html

For further reading regarding the revolution of the church, please read the following: PAGAN CHRISTIANITY & then REIMAGINING THE CHURCHAlso, check out Wolfgang’s book entitled Houses That Change The World

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