Church

Acts 2 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Meet a good friend of mine: the New Testament.

It’s the top part of the Bible in the picture. The part with the pages curled so severely from use that it may never be the same and soon may be physically unable to be paged through to reveal the treasure it holds. It’s a beauty. Like aged wine, or Jesus’s wife, the church, that gets even more beautiful with time. I actually don’t drink wine lol but Jesus did.

Luke 5 39 And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, ‘The old is better.’

The New Testament part of my Bible is so worn because I have been reading it. I wanted to see for myself. Particularly, I wanted to see what it says about church. Now, many of you, like myself, think you already know what church is either from tv or stepping into church or even from church on tv. I thought I knew what church was from my life experience seasoned with a pinch of self-confirming evidence also known as intuition. Well, I was wrong. Big time. It took tearing up my New Testament to find out, but I am so glad I did.

It turns out church is what Jesus says it is. I do not think that the normal church in Laodicea- I mean America- would pass the New Testament standard. Why? For one thing, Jesus’s words and other parts of the New Testament say that being the church means selling your possessions for the benefit of others.

Acts 2 45 Selling their possessions…

1 John 3 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

Luke 12 32 ‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Acts 4 32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything the had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. 34 There was no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. 36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement) 36 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.

Believers in the book of Acts were taking God’s word for it, selling things they owned (maybe even things they were currently using) as a sacrifice to God and giving the proceeds to the poor. No receipt so no tax write-off. Purely sacrifice.

In america in what passes for church, there are plenty of needs and there is very little sharing of homes for instance, except maybe for small group with neat, clean, easily lovable people once a week but with the exception of week’s that have a christian-american holiday in the middle of them of course.

That reminds me of a testimony me and my husband have about church. We stopped going. Yes, you heard me correctly. Our testimony in Christ Jesus about church is that we stopped going to church, or doing church-whatever you want to call it-and we started being the church. Due to circumstances out of our control for months we could not make it to the normal american program called “church” that usually happens on Sunday mornings for about 3 months straight. Instead of going to church, we began being the church at the leading of our true Shepherd and Pastor in the faith, Jesus Christ

John 10 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. 11 ‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and care nothing for the sheep.

Ladies, have you ever been abandoned or not protected by a man? That is not like Jesus. Jesus stands and fights for his own! He is the Knight in shining armor who is the Worthy One and who is coming soon!

Revelations 22 12 ‘Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. 14 ‘Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. 15 Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

{song “Even So Come” by Passion https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fBHcvJhc6Pk }

During this season where we were not going to church, we would read the Bible to learn what in the world church was so that if we were ever set free from our Sunday confinement (I came to call it that) we would know what church was and where to find it. We began to listen to testimonies like the way we used to be able to watch episodes of our favorite tv series on repeat! The testimonies about Jesus would fill us up and make us able to do another week.

Revelations 12 10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: ‘Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. 11 They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.

My husband would teach me (really was forced to teach me because he literally could not pawn the job off on some other man by having us sit next to each other in a program for an hour and call that his spiritual leadership) from scripture, becoming the spiritual leader that God commissions men to be in both the Old and New Testaments.

Genesis 2 15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.’

1 Timothy 2 11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.

1 Corinthians 11 3 Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is the man, and the head of Christ is God.

We would pray in the Spirit and ask God for the comfort and consolation of His presence as we had no comforters in the flesh who could flash us a kind smile or give us a quick hug like what many people get from american church. We even prayed for divine revelation on tough issues because we had no earthly “pastor” to consult with during office hours and we urgently needed help for life’s issues (some of those issues were medical ones- we would actually pray about medical issues, ask God for special revelation as he is Physician in Chief, and then go tell the doctors who were stumped what was wrong based on how God answered us in prayer!). We sang to God from our hearts because there was no super amazing band to get us pumped up and “‘ready to worship” in our small apartment. We soon realized that Sundays alone were not nearly enough time for the life giving Spirit filled teaching on the Word that God allowed my husband to find from men of God who had sermons posted on youtube. We began to listen to teaching on the Word (or at least bits and pieces of full length sermons) on a daily basis. My husband started listening on his commutes and I began listening on my own at home while I worked, prayed, etc. Outside of what is popularly known as church in this country, we communed with Jesus Himself and were blessed beyond measure thanks be to God!

That reminds me of what we did for thanksgiving this year. We slept in and had good food we didn’t have to cook, praise God! We were grateful for that and for the quality time we spent with each other. But what was different for us was what we did with our gratitude. We didn’t praise ourselves but we put on jackets, grabbed devotionals about Jesus, and some insulated lunch bags I had filled several days before with non-perishable food and set out to find homeless people who weren’t invited to any rich person’s feast for thanksgiving to share Jesus with them and share some needed material provision. We met several people. One lady was clearly high on drugs or something like that. My husband chatted with her for a bit as she cried and told him about the hurt she had experienced by a pastor at church. Another young man appeared to be on the street that night because his girlfriend didn’t “want” him anymore. He had a place to go later than evening because a friend of his sister (likely secular) didn’t like the idea of someone having to sleep in the cold on thanksgiving. He was shivering by the time we walked up to him to talk. I asked if he was cold but he nodded and shrugged “no” and just kind of stared past me. I told my husband, “let’s go I want to get him a blanket.” We headed back to our place which was just around the corner, shivering ourselves as we had underestimated how cold it was. I found a freshly laundered blanket-a rare find in our apartment lol. We took it back to him along with antiseptic as someone had smashed his foot in a door at a gas station and it was bleeding pretty badly. When we arrived he was super grateful for the blanket and other items. We gave him a few numbers of shelters, etc and moved on.

So many issues! Where are God’s people?! Oh wait, they are meeting in buildings built for their own benefit hiding away from the cries of dying people in the street, keeping their children safely tucked away from cursing and the harsh reality of life without God, while keeping their hearts away too. The so-called church is in hiding while the hurting are dying without love and a hope of love. So-called Jesus people are holding love feasts in their homes with dear family and friends why they “bless the Lord” with their mouths and even go so far as planning cute little ways for those at the gatherings to share things their cold dead hearts are thankful for, while they eat and carry on contrary to the Word of the One they purport to be thanking!

Luke 14 12 Then Jesus said to his host, ‘When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.

Luke 11 42 ‘Woe to you Pharisees, because you give to God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.

Hypocrisy on the part of those so-called “thankful” people? I dare say certainly so. People who are “thankful” without any accompanying good works in the Name of the Lord really are just glad they are living the life they want as opposed to actually being grateful to God. If a person is grateful they share more of what they have because they truly believe they do not deserve to have it. A person who claims to be thankful but is not in actuality feels entitled to what they have so they do not give away their possessions lavishly because they believe they earned those possessions through hard work.

That brings me to another story about a woman we befriended on the street. The day we met here we were having one of our can’t-get-along-with-each-other Sundays so we went out for dinner to lift our mood. I was convinced I wanted to take my food in the car not even wanting to eat with my husband. Very mature of me, right? lol. Well God had other plans. About as soon as we had parked two women who appeared homeless walked past us. I turned to my husband and said “see those ladies. I think it’s go-time.” “Go-time” was our code for being in the right place at the right time to love someone in need for the glory of God. I grabbed the bags of toiletries I had packed while my husband went over to them and asked if they would let us buy them dinner. By the way, this is part of how we “tithe” and how we act like the church on Sundays (I am referring to the sharing-the-love-of-Christ-with-the-hurting part not the not-getting-along-with-each-other-part lol), hanging out with the hurt in addition to studying the Word which is exactly what Jesus was always doing in the gospel accounts. We bought them dinner and as I gave them the toiletries one of the women started talking about the street hardening her and drawing her away from the Lord. She was super scatter-brained though and appeared to have some mental difficulty so I had to listen for a while to understand what she was saying. It seemed like she really wanted to talk about the Lord so I asked if we could eat with them and so we did. Now that’s church. Not our will or our plan. This was us living life the way God calls people to in His Word. Jesus had touched our hearts with his generosity to us when we needed it. We were so incredibly happy to do the same for others.

The lady who was open to the Lord, who we ended up befriending, was one of the people we ran into on thanksgiving. She was crying in distress on the side walk, worrying about Jesus and herself. We tried to assure her that Jesus is now at the right hand of God the Father now that His suffering is complete and other promises from God’s Word.

Acts 7 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’

Hebrews 12 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

She seemed so tormented and lost. We started praying loudly for Jesus to scatter evil spirits as she appeared to be being tortured by one and began reading scripture loudly too in order to calm her down while she cried and rocked back and forth asking “where was God in 1987?” Only the Lord knows what had happened to her in 1987… It was quite the scene. Honestly, this usually is not how I act in public but necessity called for it. Calling on Jesus like our lives depended on it and acting like we really believed He would show up to help and that we really believed there was an unseen spiritual battle going on that was bigger than all the physical resources we could throw at this lady’s problems was necessary to bring peace to this poor woman’s heart so we did what was necessary in the Name of God and didn’t think about “what we looked like.”

I don’t know what other people were thinking who saw us but at the least they probably thought the whole thing was interesting. One of the workers at the gas station we were sitting at had walked by us at one point with headphones in his ears to throw something out. He walked past us several more times during that hour and my husband noticed after the first time he had taken out his headphones. Some people who came over to give the homeless lady we were with money or food would offer us some too thinking we were homeless because we had perched on the sidewalk next to her for so long.

I do know that God got glory from it all. She called us a few days later, also during another can’t-get-along Sunday we were having. Wow, it seems like we have a lot of those lol. She left a voicemail on my cell phone saying that she wanted to come back to Christ. She sounded super normal and not mentally all over the place like the last several times we had met. I told my husband and he said, “well, let’s go see what’s going on with her.” We had time for this because our time is not taken up by a rigid Sunday church program that excludes time for actually doing what Jesus says to do in scripture. Additionally, our schedule wasn’t strapped by work. We rest from our usual work routine on Sundays as God commanded in the 10 commandments and as Jesus reaffirmed as documented in the New Testament. We aim, however, to submit our “rest” to the life and words of Jesus so as not to be legalistic about it or miss the point by merely focusing on ourselves and our own comfort.

Exodus 20 8 ‘Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbatha to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work…

Luke 6 5 Then Jesus said to them, ‘The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.’ 9 Then Jesus said to them, ‘I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath; to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?’

Mark 2 27 Then he said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.

When we arrived at where the homeless lady was she told us she had thrown out her drugs. Evidently she had been on drugs since the age of 13. She was now 52. On the day she called us she had thrown the drugs she had on her away for the first time. The next day I offered to drive her to the DMV to get her state ID and then I took her to her mental health facility where I watched her testify about Jesus and apologize to all the workers she had treated badly because of the effect of the drugs. She told them they had been right about saying she needed medicine and that she was sorry for not treating them with the utmost respect. AMAZING! God truly is amazing!

You will not see God do this kind of transformation that God did of me and my husband and this poor woman in your same boring devotional you do, where you do not need the power of God to do it, because you feel like you should. You will not see this kind of powerful transformation as you sit in your safe little church building singing the same old songs that don’t really matter to the people singing them instead of doing what is in those worship songs and going out to dangerous places and letting God write your story within His own beautiful one. Once you have endured danger and hardship and put everything on the line for Jesus those songs come alive live fire running through your bones. More exciting than the super bowl. More amazing than the pleasure money can by. Infinitely more precious than the prideful self-justifying satisfaction from being “right” about this and that bad thing that happened to someone you look down on.