A Response Explaining “Why?”

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This is a letter that I wrote to a friend back in AZ who had written me a long letter expressing his concern.  I am sharing it, because I believe there are others who might have questions.

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My dear brother!
I am so sorry you are going through these struggles.  My heart ached for you when I read what you are going through.  Father is so very faithful & will meet you in the midst of this.

All day my mind raced here & there as to what I wanted to share with you.  First, I want you to know brother that I have read & have been “influenced” by many people including several “no names” in the body of Christ.  The list of authors are as follows: Gene Edwards, Frank Viola, George Barna, T. Austin Sparks, Tony & Felicity Dale, Neil Cole, Jon Zens, Wolfgang Simpson, Floyd McClung, Robert Fritts, Watchman Nee (I may have forgotten a couple).  So you see ____, this is not just something that just “happened”.  As I said in my post, it actually started 26 years ago.

So ____, I don’t see myself as “part of a movement”, but rather a life….HIS.  I have a deep longing to experience “living stones” being built by HIM into a house for HIM!!!  For years (unknowingly for a long time) I’ve craved the body life He speaks of in His word.  I desire to see “God get what He wants: a Bride, a body, a building and a family – a corporate expression of His glorious Son.”  This is not just positionally it’s a reality NOW that was born in the heart of God from before time.

(btw…in ALL of the authors/speakers mentioned above I have not read/heard any of them attack the body.  As a matter of fact they all – especially Viola – constantly encourage those already involved in organic fellowships, to NOT discuss or make it all about “those institutional churches”.  They are encouraged to keep their focus on JESUS….period)

I love the body deeply & really desire to be a part of that “corporate expression” of Jesus.  To watch the body’s members EACH functioning as God intended, with Jesus as the ONLY head; to truly experience the “priesthood of the believers” (which we say we believe) in action each week.  Meeting for one purpose….Jesus; to discover & display Him in real life; not sitting there week after week watching just a few people exercise their gifts & then each “living stone” going back to their individual lives; separate from the other “living stones”.

____, I think I do understand what’s going on inside you right now, but brother please understand I deeply love the “brethren”, but I am appalled at the manmade system they find themselves caught in.

I was thinking of you today in regard to this all, and realized that this is nothing more than experiencing REAL intimacy in the ecclesia; the very thing I believe your soul longs for.  I love you brother & appreciate your honesty and desire for truth.

“To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through THE CHURCH [ecclesia] to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him.” Ephesians 3:8-10

“He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.  He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.” – Col. 1:17-18
Resting In Him,

Anthony

WE ARE ALIVE! AND FREE???

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(This is a great follow-up to my post entitledFeelings……What’s Up With ‘em?”)

As I meet and observe the ecclesia (Church), I’ve come to realize that so many are living in bondage today.  We have become spiritually weak and anemic.  Please here me!  I am not saying this out of condemnation, but from a heavy heart burdened for the body of Christ; for I too lived a life in bondage for almost 20 years.

This is why this message is the cry of my heart to so many brothers and sisters in Christ I meet.  It is a message I believe today’s Church needs to here: we were born for freedom!!!

IN [this] freedom Christ has made us free [and completely liberated us]; stand fast then, and do not be hampered and held ensnared and submit again to a yoke of slavery [which you have once put off] Galatians 5:1 (Amplified)

Are you living in bondage?  What is YOUR “flavor” of bondage? Is it a behavior? A substance? Another person?  An attitude? Religion? etc…etc…etc!!!!  Why are so many of us living in bondage and therefore living a life of fruitlessness?

In John chapter 11 there is a story that beautifully illustrates the predicament many believers find themselves.  It is the story of the resurrection of Lazarus.  Now, although I know there is much to learn from this chapter, I merely want to paint a picture for you.

Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days (so by this time he had stinkith…lol).  Jesus then “cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth.’ ” It is at this point I want to focus.

“The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth.  Jesus said to them, “Unbind him,and let him go.” John 11:44

So, when he came forth he had to be hopping, because it says he was BOUND UP still.  Here are the questions I want us to consider (thanks to Dennis Jernigan for these???):

1)      Was Lazarus as alive as he was ever going to be?  YES!!!

The bible says he did come forth.  Can’t you just see him hopping out?  Just picture a mummy hopping all bound up.  He was definitely alive.  So, if you are alive, you can’t get any more alive can you? J

BUT……..(AND HERE IS THE POINT)

2)      Was he as FREE as he was going to be? NO…..NO…..and a resounding NO!!!

He was alive yet still bound up in the grave clothes.  Therefore, he could NOT enjoy the resurrection life Jesus just gave him.  He was restricted by the clothes of death.

There are several points that need to be made that are very liberating.  They are all centered on IDENTITY!

First of all, the grave clothes are symbolic of your flesh.  Please note….they are separate from Lazarus.  For years in my sincerity for righteousness fueled by legalism, I was confused by what I identified as thoughts, actions, desires, etc. and IDENTIFIED myself with them and by them.  Why?  Well, did Lazarus’ grave clothes have the stench of death? Absolutely!  So, just because he stunk like death didn’t mean he was dead.  NO!  So too, because my thoughts, actions, etc. were very real and stinky, I would condemn myself because of them, and would beat myself up.

Like Lazarus, our flesh stinks, is filthy, (please get this) it CAN NOT be cleaned up (changed) and IT….IS….NOT….YOU!!!!  Your “flesh” is not a “sinful nature” as though you have another one.  You do NOT have two natures if you are in Christ.  You have the NATURE OF JESUS!

The Greek word used for flesh is “sarx”.  It is used 126 times in the NT and is ALWAYS used for the body (“flesh and blood”) or the “carnality” of man.  Now hear me, our “flesh” is merely what is left over from our OLD MAN.  It is the “grave clothes” if you will, of your old nature that is now dead.

“knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.” Romans 6:6-7

If you are in Christ “you are a new creation”……period.  This is your new (and only) nature.  Lazarus, who WAS dead, was now a new alive man, but he was not enjoying this new life.   Like Lazarus, many of us are identifying with the flesh because it APPEARS to be real……to be part of us.   But in reality, like the grave wrappings, they are all together separate from you.  They are NOT you!!!  You are not what you do….what you think…or what others say.  You are who Jesus made you to be:

“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that WE might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Cor. 5:21

BELIEVE IT!!!

“for we walk by faith, not by sight—“ 2 Cor. 5:7 [nor by feelings]

The story continues.  Lazarus was brought forth to life in order to WALK…..to MOVE…..to function as he was intended.  So, too were you.  But how do we walk free from bondage.

“…you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” John 8:32

If the truth sets you free, what binds you? Lies…..period!!!  Figure out what lies you are believing and substitute them with truth, and my dear friend you WILL walk in freedom.  The grave clothes of bondage will fall free not as you work hard in a 12 step program, or by utilizing psychological strategies, etc.  NO! We live free as we walk in truth.

Finally, Lazarus had a little help did he not?  John 11 says that Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” WOW! What a beautiful picture of the ecclesia (the Church) today!  When we see a brother or sister in bondage, are we supposed to condemn them, talk about them, and shun them?  Absolutely not!!!  If we TRULY understand this message of grace and freedom, we will excitedly and with joy, share the truth of their new identity and of their LIFE in Jesus with them…..all the while encouraging them to simply believe.

As the body of Christ here and now we desperately need each other to help “take off” the each other’s grave clothes.  How?  By walking in truth ourselves and simply and lovingly share that truth.

My dear family Jesus IS “the resurrection and the LIFE,” and if you are truly born again, then you were dead and bound, but now you are alive; alive to walk in freedom.

Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?  Jesus answered and said to them, This is the work of God that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” John 6:29-30

Will you believe today?

DISCIPLESHIP??? REALLY???

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As I look at Christendom today my heart is burdened for the ecclesia (church) and the lack of re al gr owth; not in numbers (quantity) but in maturity (quality).  What is one of the greatest needs of the body of Christ today?  It is my conviction that we are desperately lacking in real disciples and real disciple-making (discipleship).

We live in a revolving door experience of Christianity.  As fast as believers are “joining” a “church” down the street, an equal amount is quietly slipping out the back door.  The modern day church or what I like to call the institutionalized church has as its focus the building of its organization, i.e. increased numbers.  But what is God’s heart’s desire?

Our Father desire’s is the building up of the individual as he or she functions as part of His body.  This is called discipleship (quality), and this can only occur as members of the Family of God experience life together as life “happens”.  The natural result of real discipleship (healthy body) is the adding to the ecclesia (quantity). Here is merely one example of God’s heart:

for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. – Eph 4:12-13

I’ve been reading a book entitled Houses That Change the World by Wolfgang Simson.  This is a fantastic book regarding “The return of the house churches.”  In this book on page 208 he takes a look at recapturing real discipling which can be seen as empowering others rather than exploiting others:

How to empower others: How to exploit others:
let them function give them functions
believe in them make them believe in you
delegate authority require submission
further God’s plan for them make them part of your plans
invest in them use them
love them and say so love the task more than the people
give them what you have take what they have
discuss with them preach at them
spend time freely with them require appointments
give them the keys now hold back until you retire
serve them let them serve you
praise them accept their praise graciously
transfer masterhood to them demonstrate masterhood to them

So, after reading the above list, we must ask ourselves, “Are we really discipling &/or being discipled?”  It is my desire to see the individual members of the body of Jesus begin to, “but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 3:18a.

What will be the result real discipleship?  What will our experience be?

A healthy vibrant body of Jesus…..here and now!!!

As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 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. –  Eph.  4:14-16

Oh, may we begin to function as HIS body today under HIS headship, and thereby be true disciples!!!

I would love to hear YOUR input or perspective and/or feedback.

FEELINGS….WHAT’S UP WITH ‘EM?

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As humans we are blessed with two capabilities that cause us to bear a resemblance with our creator.  As humans though, left to ourselves, these can also be a curse when taken outside the context of Jesus and His life and purpose in us.  As a matter of fact, there are shelves and shelves of books in stores dealing with these unique features of us humans.  What are they?

We can feel, and we have the ability to reason (think).  Together they can be an enormous blessing or a tragic curse; depending on whose “hands” they’re in.

Some of us are simply bundles and bundles of feelings, and some of us are like stone walls appearing to not have any feelings at all.  Human feelings are wide ranging.  We feel lonely, fear, grief, rejection, sorrow, abandonment, jealousy, hurt, weighted down, etc.  We can also feel joy, loved, elation, happiness, fulfillment, peaceful, accepted, understood, united in heart, goofy, playful, etc.

The fact is we do have them, but why do we have them, and what do we do with them?  This is the issue at hand!

To cut to the chase, feelings (ANY feelings) are a gift from God to allow us to experience life and subsequently HIM in so many unique ways, and thereby experience life to the fullest!  Jesus even said He came “that you might have life and have it to the fullest.” Fullness of life comes when we experience our Savior in the midst of our feelings; whether they are negative or positive (to our understanding).  They are also sweet reminders of our absolute need for dependency on Him.

Feelings are not right or wrong; bad or good.  They simply…..are!  We feel what we feel because we think what we think.  Case in point: if you are at a horror movie, why do you have feelings of terror?   You KNOW that guy can’t torture YOU.  It is because your feelings don’t know the difference between reality and fantasy. “As a man thinks within himself, so is he.” So, we can’t really trust them.

If then you have been raised with Christ [to a new life, thus sharing His resurrection from the dead], aim at and seek the [rich, eternal treasures] that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  And set your minds and keep them set on what is above (the higher things), not on the things that are on the earth.  For [as far as this world is concerned] you have died, and your [new, real] life is hidden with Christ in God.  (Col.3:1-3 Amplified)

PLEASE……chew on these verses awhile.

Here’s an example from my life.  If I’m feeling lonely or feeling really depressed, I acknowledge conversationally to the Lord (because I’m “alone”……with Him J), “Wow….I’m really feeling depressed/lonely.  Lord, what have I been thinking all day?”  I will quickly discover that I’ve been thinking/dwelling on subjects/circumstances, etc that are….well……..depressing/lonely.  I then substitute those thoughts with TRUTH!!!  This usually begins by thanking and thanking Him for all I have in Him, all He’s done for me, etc.  This is where our ability to reason can be a source of victory or a source of horrible bondage.

You have a choice:  Stand on the truth of who you ARE (identity) in Jesus and who HE IS in you (life) and His complete sufficiency for you OR trust and embrace and meditate on the feelings letting THEM become your identity.  If you choose to walk in truth you are now in a place to see God more clearly and maybe disclose what needs to be revealed to you about you!

It is in the midst of some of my strongest, deepest feelings of loneliness, pain, sorrow, helplessness, regret, self-hatred (I can truly go on) where God drew me to Himself and where He revealed Himself (His heart) the most AND He continues to, as I continue experiencing feelings.  His desire is for us to know and understand Jesus and thus become a display of HIS life!

“For in Him we live and move and have our being;” (Acts 17:28)

So my dear friend…….it’s ALL about Him and NOT about us!!!  What is amazing though is that WE are still the beneficiaries of His grace, His life, His love, His blessings, etc. in the midst of our feelings.

“Knowing Christ IS Eternal Life. And knowing him profoundly, deeply, and in reality, as well as experiencing his unsearchable riches, is the chief pursuit of our lives, as it was for the first Christians. God is not so much about fixing things that have gone wrong in our lives as finding us in our brokenness and giving us Christ.” – from Jesus Manifesto, by Sweet & Viola

A Letter From a Burdened Heart!

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Here is a letter I just sent to a dear member of the Body of Christ.  I believe the Lord was leading me to share it with you, because it came from His burdened heart and it is a message the body of Christ desperately needs to hear!!!  For this post, I have added 4 verses and a just a few more lines for emphasis.

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My dear ______!
I often think of you and I have therefore “not ceased to pray for you that you be filled with the knowledge of HIS WILL, in all spiritual wisdom & understanding.” (Col. 1:9)  I realized that the reason for my burden is because when I look at you…….I see me!  I’ve proved it so many times.  I only share what I do because I love you & because you are so young in the Lord.  I so long to see you grounded in truth & consumed with Jesus & HIS heart!

I was reading today in Hebrews chap. 3 and I wanted to share it with you. Here is vv 6-19 in the Message paraphrased version:

6-11Now, if we can only keep a firm grip on this bold confidence, we’re the house! That’s why the Holy Spirit says,

Today, please listen;
don’t turn a deaf ear as in “the bitter uprising,”
that time of wilderness testing!
Even though they watched me at work for forty years,
your ancestors refused to let me do it my way;
over and over they tried my patience.
And I was provoked, oh, so provoked!
I said, “They’ll never keep their minds on God;

they refuse to walk down my road.”[a life of total dependence on HIM]
Exasperated, I vowed,
“They’ll never get where they’re going, [victorious Christian living]
never be able to sit down and rest
.

12-14 So watch your step, friends. Make sure there’s no evil unbelief lying around that will trip you up and throw you off course, diverting you from the living God. For as long as it’s still God’s Today, keep each other on your toes so sin doesn’t slow down your reflexes. If we can only keep our grip on the sure thing we started out with, we’re in this with Christ for the long haul.

These words keep ringing in our ears:

Today, please listen; don’t turn a deaf ear as in the bitter uprising.
15-19 For who were the people who turned a deaf ear? Weren’t they the very ones Moses led out of Egypt [salvation]? And who was God provoked with for forty years? Wasn’t it those who turned a deaf ear and ended up corpses in the wilderness[flesh life]? And when he swore that they’d never get where they were going, wasn’t he talking to the ones who turned a deaf ear? They never got there [victorious Christian living] because they never listened, never believed.

___, the Christian life IS Jesus……period!  Nothing more…nothing less!!!  It’s not about our pleasures, our lusts, our comfort, etc. NO! It is simply about Him….His desire, His pleasure, His way.  And His life dwells IN you and me.  It’s not HOW we live, but rather allowing HIM to live through us!!!  And corporately we all who are IN Christ make up HIS body. WE together are Jesus (literally) to a lost world here and now!!! Wow! This life IN Christ (the Christian life) is all about Jesus…….beginning, middle and end!!!

(These are all NASB unless otherwise noted. Emphasis is added by me.)
Rom. 11:36 says, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen”
Col. 1:18-19 says, “He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him,”

Heb. 12:2 says Jesus is “the Author and finisher of our faith.”

Phil. 3:10, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;”

1 Pet. 1:3-4 (Message) “Everything that goes into a life of pleasing God has been miraculously given to us by getting to KNOW, personally and intimately, the One who invited us to God. [Jesus] The best invitation we ever received! We were also given absolutely terrific promises to pass on to you—your tickets to participation in the life of God after you turned your back on a world corrupted by lust.”

And finally……let this verse sink in:
“for in Him we live and move and exist,…” Acts 17:28

As a fellow frail & weak human, I empathize with you, but I pray that you receive a real heart revelation of the LIVING Jesus (not an historical person on a page)…..just as I am praying the same for myself!  ALL of what’s good about life is found IN HIM!  This is why we MUST be occupied & consumed with JESUS!

To Him Be the GLORY!
Anthony

Smell Ya Later!

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My dear friend Kathleen always signs off her e-mails with “Smell ya later”.  I love her sense of humor and I think that is hysterical.  Believe it or not, this holds a tremendous lesson for those of us who are IN Christ!  Let me explain.

I had someone in my life that was very near and dear to me, and whom I cared for very much.  She wore a particular perfume that I liked.  Although I have not seen her for a few years, as soon as I come across that aroma, I am reminded of this person.  I will then often simply pray for her.  On the flip side, sometimes the odor and memory may not be so pleasant.  Amazing how an aroma can bring us back to a person, a place, etc.

This is why I love 2 Corinthians 2:14-15.  It says:   “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing;” In context, Paul was referring to their ministry in Troas and Macedonia and the surrounding area.

This is true of YOU as well.  As you go about your day, living in dependence on Him, God will manifest (and probably has many, many times) THROUGH YOU the wonderfully sweet aroma of JESUS.  It is God doing the triumphing, and it is also God doing the manifesting.  Notice there is no mention of “being obedient” or “getting right with God” or any other Christian catch phrase. NO!  As we walk in a dependent love relationship with Jesus, others will catch a whiff of Him.

I can hear some of you asking, “We won’t give off a heavenly aroma if we just live like the devil.”  Interesting how we always want to go there.  It’s not about behavior but rather about identity.  First of all, to God, you ARE a sweet aroma…period! And the aroma is Jesus!!!

Those who are IN Christ (saved) have Christ IN them.  Thus the aroma of His presence will be released.  It is HIS work not ours.  Therefore, like cologne, I too can enjoy this wonderful heavenly fragrance of Jesus being manifested through me…..wow what a blessing!

In 2 Corinthians 5:21, Paul says that we HAVE become the righteousness of God IN Jesus.  So, when He sees me, He sees Jesus’ righteousness.  Therefore, when He gets a “whiff” of you, He (and the world) is actually smelling the sweet aroma of Jesus.  My dear friend, chew on that awhile.  We no longer have to work real hard trying to get ourselves “smellin good”.  We ARE the aroma of Jesus.  Enjoy it along with those being touched by it as well.

Rest in this truth!!!

So then, how can this wonderful fragrance be manifested more and more?  As we are being broken more and more, this sweet aroma of Jesus is released for more to enjoy.  It reminds me of the woman in Bethany who broke a vial of costly perfume.  The room was filled with this sweet perfume only AFTER it was broken.  Paul said in Romans 7:18, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh;” Let’s stop trying to clean up our “flesh”, and simply allow God to do His work in us (break us) and thereby manifesting HIS aroma through us.

Finally, there is another application I need to share.  When you are with your brother or sister in Christ, what do YOU smell?  Are you always focusing on their behavior and the outward appearance?  Or, like God, do you “smell” the sweet aroma of Jesus who dwells IN them?  Again, I am merely speaking of identity here.  There is always some aroma there….. take your time to get a whiff of it!

Gott go………SMELL YA LATER!!!!!

REAL PREACHING

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GREETINGS!

I just stumbled on to a blog entitled “…the Centrality & Supremacy of Christ” by a precious brother David D. Flowers who is a freelance writer &David D. Flowers blogger.  David’s heart beats with the same passion to let others know of this wonderful Christian life which is nothing more (or less) than “CHRIST IN YOU!”

PLEASE, you MUST check out the whole entry.  Below is merely an small excerpt from an entry on January 5, 2009 entitled The Problem with Modern-Day Preaching :

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“How far Satan will go even in bringing about a kind of devotion to Christ, and promote a mystical, physical “Christianity” with elements of moral elevation, and yet hide within that very thing something which is of himself and, being of himself, savors of that which was in him from that time when he himself was hurled out of heaven, that thing which would take from the Lord Jesus the absoluteness of His place in the Godhead.”T. Austin Sparks, The Centrality and Supremacy of the Lord Jesus Christ, p.38

“If you listen closely, much of modern-day preaching is an attempt to fill the void in people’s soul by taking the back door approach to living victoriously. In the end, it undermines the absolute centrality and supremacy of Christ. Instead of preaching the depths and riches of Christ, his principles are taught in its place (not entirely of course, just those principles that fit our accepted cultural and theological ideas). To add to that… mix some new age self-help heresy in there and you completely lose anything that comes close to resembling Christ.

Christ has made a way for us to come to him directly. We should not concern ourselves with the effect (his living), until we begin with the cause (his life). Beginning with Christ will in the end give us those things that we see in his principles. We must concern ourselves with the being, instead of the doing. The doing will come naturally… after we have locked on to his Person and understand that knowing Christ in spirit and in truth is our only concern.”

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