Someone challenged me a while ago with a question:
“If you were on a desert island, with just the book of Acts for your guide – would you build what we (the church) are building?”
These words rattled around in my brain for a few days, and then that thought was joined by another:
“If you were a 1st century citizen of Israel, and all you heard were Jesus’ words that we have recorded – what conclusion would you draw about what He was saying?”
Back to Basics
See, we read the gospel accounts with all kinds of preconceived ideas about what Jesus meant when He said certain things. So I’m going right back to basics. I mean, there would be some people who only heard Jesus speak once, maybe twice. So I’m looking at Jesus’ words in my bible, and just honestly asking Holy Spirit to help me understand.
I decided to start with Mark’s gospel. Purely because I have spent ages in Matthew and it was time to move on.
Jesus’ first words come in chapter 1 verse 15:
“The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel”
Now, remember what I said about leaving preconceived ideas behind.
What if you had no idea what “repent” means or what “the gospel” is? Let’s face it, I could ask a room full of christians that question and get several different answers.
The original greek words are “metanioia” – a change of mind,
and ” euaggelion” – meaning good news or glad tidings.
Now, reread the sentence.
“The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand. Change your mind and believe in the good news”
Where is the good news in that statement? I would argue that it is “the kingdom of God is at hand”
To the Jewish people who had been trying to reach heaven through their own efforts, the idea that it was actually within reach was indeed a change of mind and was VERY good news. It still is today.
Good news. God’s Kingdom is so close you can touch it.
It’s been 5 years since my husband and I left our last church, at God’s suggestion. (Insistance, actually). We assumed at the time that He would place us in another local fellowship near where we lived at that time.We tried out several local churches, but each time God said “No” very clearly. For a time we held small church meetings in our home, and a number of people came to faith or were encouraged through those meetings – but it put the family under considerable pressure and was not sustainable in the long term.
As I mentioned before, we have had fantastic support and fellowship over the last five years, through the wonders of the internet – we have regular contact and fellowship with believers from all kinds of backgrounds, and all kinds of places in the world. God has been good.
But it’s not the same as a local place where you can gather with other Christians. Where you can grow, and contribute, love, laugh and cry together.
In September of 2014 we relocated to Norfolk, because my husband landed a new job here. We had several prophetic words from folk, some who knew we were moving, some who didn’t, but they all pointed to us finding a church here. At first I admit I was a bit resistant to the idea. God has spent 5 years weaning me off of the dependance I had developed on Sunday mornings, corporate worship and being fed spiritually by other people. Plus, if I’m honest, I had got used to having a nice long lie in on a Sunday morning…
In the last three months we tried a couple of places, but nothing was really a fit. We prayed. We prayed a bit more.
Then this last week I had been reading a book called Divine Healing Made Simple by Praying Medic. On Saturday night I went to sleep and was praying as I fell asleep “God I want to be back in that place, where I used to be. Where words of knowledge and healing just happen everywhere I go”
We got up on Sunday and went to Gateway Church, King’s Lynn. The Pastor was sharing his vision for 2015, and to coin the current slang it was “every kind of YES”. The vision includes church growth (as it should) – and it was presented as something the whole church can do together – encouraging every member to pray, reach out to folk around them and share the good news of the gospel. To pray for the sick, to step out with words of knowledge. Everything in fact, that I have longed for. To be part of a church that actively encourages every member ministry. The cry of “You can do it!” was loud and clear. The church also has various practical ministries in the area, and more are being prayed about and planned.
So in short I’m excited about :
Having a local church family
Working together to meet practical needs of others.
Celebrating our successes and working through our failures.
The last 5 years have been very, very lonely at times. I wouldn’t change it for anything though – because now I really appreciate the benefits of a local church family.
I’m excited because I know that God has led us here.
Over the last few years, I’ve had a bit of an on-off relationship with church. I have made no secret of it either.
We left a church in 2010 at God’s suggestion, and were fully expecting that He would place us in another local body – I mean, that’s the way it should be, right? We visited several churches close to where we lived at the time, but in each case, God said “No”.
We found that rather confusing at the time, to be honest. So for five years we have been occasional visitors at one or two churches, and enjoyed doing church at different times in our home, and also online with our amazing network of friends around the globe. It was never quite the same though. The support we have had has been outstanding – I couldn’t have asked for more. There has been great fellowship and a depth of connection between myself and some of our online “church” that often is missing, sadly, in the usual Sunday gathering. We also formed close bonds with one or two more local, mature believers who have become dear friends with a clear mandate to speak into our lives.
It’s not really a substitute for in your face, one on one church though. If you have a disagreement online, or on the phone, its very easy to just avoid the person for a while until it blows over. Not so easy when you are in a local fellowship and the person is an ever present reminder that you need to straighten some stuff out.
So what am I saying? I’m saying that I think we’ve done our wilderness years. We have recently relocated and now live in an area where there are several possibilities church wise. We have made a connection with a couple of them and we are thinking and praying about where God wants us to be. Here’s the kicker though – I’m not excited about church anymore. Or rather – I’m not excited about what I will get from it. Over the last few weeks of exploring and talking this through together, my husband and I realised that our discussions were not based around what we would get from any given church.Our discussions have been about where we could be most helpful. Where we could make a contribution to the community that already exists. Which churches have any charity missions attached to them that we could be part of, and so on.
The thing about knowing who you are in Christ is that generally speaking, you stop looking for the next “fix” from God. I’m not seeking a spiritual high any more. I live spiritually high, because I’m seated in heavenly places.
Sure I have days when I feel it more than others, but that has nothing to do with the reality that I am in Christ, and He is in me. Now, do I fully understand the what I have? Not even close. Can I learn something new in church – ABSOLUTELY! But I can also learn something new at home, in the bath, whilst I’m doing the ironing.. anywhere in fact, because Jesus is everywhere.
Church isn’t about me anymore. I don’t go to meetings anymore excited about what I will “get” from God. I’m excited because I get to share what I already have. (What we all have) Either from the front or just by hanging out with other believers. I still get blessed, of course, when I go to church. Because church is community, loving and ministering to each other. Learning from one another. I just don’t go there with a “what’s in it for me” mentality any more. That said, I would value your prayers as we move forward.
We haven’t yet made a decision and are still very much seeking God about what to do and where to go. Please feel free to share in the comments section – input is genuinely welcomed!
I’ve been thinking alot lately about the whole “I’m right, you’re wrong” thing that goes on between Christians who interpret the scriptures slightly differently from one another.
I’m writing a book about our family’s testimony of healing in 2009, and going back over it all in my mind has made me realise how different my beliefs were then, than they are today. Yet that doesn’t make my experiences, or what God did, any less valid.
God doesn’t work in our lives because of our correct theology. Mostly He works around it, or even in spite of it.
I have the privilege of knowing quite a few folk who operate in God’s power. Some I know better than others, and most of their ministry happens “as they go” – without the aid of a public platform, and with nothing to prove but the love of God for the person standing in front of them.
As a group of people, the only thing most of them have in common, is that they are friends with me, and they know Jesus.
Theologically they are a VERY mixed bag.
But then the scripture doesn’t say they will know us by our doctrinal uniformity.
I think as human beings, when we start seeing people get healed when we lay hands on them, our tendency is to think “I’m right. I’ve cracked it. My theology must be right because, look! I get results!” (Or was that just me that went through that phase?) The problem is, that as we move forward, we tend to bump into alot of people that we might not agree with in every area, and then realise that they, too, are seeing folk set free and healed. It’s a bit of a conundrum, that, isn’t it?
It’s not about your right believing. It never was.
It’s not even about your believing. You can’t believe HARDER or MORE.
You just believe enough to lay hands on someone, and stuff will happen. Not because of who you are, because of who HE is.
Do I have all the answers? Not even close. The moment I start thinking I do, is the moment I fall.
I had a dream last night.
I was witness to an almost comedy dog fight scene between old fashioned air craft. There was a pilot who was involved in the most outlandish exploits, and it seemed he was trying to stop the fighting. At one point I saw him hanging on to the back of a plane by his finger tips yelling “Yes, but they love the Lord our God, we must stop this!”
The feeling was that although those on the opposing side were doing dreadful things, they were doing them out of misdirected love of God, and so it was wrong to attack them.
I seemed to be party to the outlandish pilots thoughts, who was thinking “If the manufacturer of this plane saw what I’ve been doing, my brave exploits, they would let me go really high ” Then I overheard him telling someone else and saying that he could get the plane up to around 100,000 feet. The other person was saying that he’d better not be pulling their leg, because it was a childhood dream of theirs to go that high.
So often we see folk, and ministries, attacking one another. From the outside it can look quite amusing, at times. It is comical to watch people get so hot under the collar about things that no-one can prove either way. After all, you can argue most things in the scripture from several angles, if you know which scriptures to go to. Both sides is convinced that they are right. Both sides is convinced that they are doing it all for “the glory of God” , and that their “exploits” will lift them to the next level of ministry. Meanwhile there’s a large crowd gathering to watch the aerobatics.
Sadly many folk (I have been guilty of this) get caught up in a particular ministry’s way of seeing things, and think they have “found the one and only truth” that will take them to the higher place in God/level of ministry/big platform they have always dreamed of.
The reality is, of course, that the moment you get in that plane, the moment that you “choose a side”, is the moment you have become part of the problem, rather than the solution. Ultimately you are doomed to crash and burn, because at some point you will bump into someone else who is seeing healings, miracles etc… yet believes slightly differently than you do.
At that point, one of two things will happen.
You will either jump in your own plane, so to speak, and start fighting. Or you will stay on the ground, realising that no one has all the answers, and that’s ok.
I used to think that to be part of the answer, I needed to join the debate. In actual fact, all that does is fuel the problem. There’s alot to be said for staying on the ground. I’m hanging up my flying goggles. Permanently.
I’ve been thinking alot about the connection between the wine and bread of communion, and the multiplication miracles in the Gospels, recently.
Bread and Wine represent His body and His blood.
26 While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and [h]after a blessing, He broke itand gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” 27 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you;28 for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.
(Matt 26:26-28, NASB)
Jesus turned water into wine and multiplied bread, right?
So His blood and His body is an inexhaustible source of life for us. That blows me away. There is always enough blood and body to “go round” so to speak. No sin too big, if you like. Never too many people.
It’s no accident that the body and blood of Christ are represented by every day consumables.
It’s also no accident that he multiplied those two things and then later said “Do this, in remembrance of me”.
I heard someone share recently that the original language implies affectionate remembrance. That really spoke to me. Think about a friend that you are close to – that feeling you get is “affectionate remembrance” – that’s the level of closeness we can have with The Lord.
Communion is not meant to be a ritual, or something we do because we are “supposed to” – it’s a personal moment between you and Jesus – It’s wonderful!
When Jesus said “do this, as often as you eat/ drink it, in remembrance of me”
“In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood;do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” (1 Cor 11:25 NASB)
When Jesus said that, He was saying “I want you to know, every day, that your sins are forgiven”
Live as a forgiven son today. Everything He has, is yours and always was. (Luke 15)
It’s proving to be an emotional journey, writing this book. I have found myself in tears more than once.
Tears of joy, as well as sadness, remembering the events of 2009 when God healed all three of our children of ADHD and food sensitivities. There was alot of emotional healing that happened in me, too.
I have also been reminded of just how far I have come , and of all the weird and wonderful ways that God has used to move me forward. In the years since 2009, I have continued to grow and overcome a lot of struggles, including (hard to believe, I know), low self esteem and a pathological fear of public speaking.
I met a lady at the weekend who so strongly reminded me of myself ten years ago, that it was almost like looking in a mirror. She is a new believer, with a quick whit and a witty response at the ready. I am looking forward to seeing that lady grow in faith, God has an amazing future in store for her.
In my case, I used humour as a way to deflect attention from my own (largely imagined) shortcomings. I think alot of folk do that – I still catch myself doing it now, sometimes.
As I have grown in my faith I have overcome my fears and nervousness. The more I have discovered just how much I am loved by Jesus, the less worried I have become about what others think of me. (Let’s face it, most of the time folk aren’t thinking about us half as much as we’d like!)
A joyful heart is good medicine (proverbs 17:22)
That process began with a “bang” in January 2009, when I began to get set free through worship, and spent several days of a conference unable to sing without collapsing into hysterical fits of the giggles. It even happened once in the shower in my hotel room (I like to sing in the shower) !
I know a lot of you reading might be a little skeptical about these kinds of phenomena occurring in churches. So was I, right up until Jan 2009 when it happened to me. Opinion is strongly divided as to whether this is from God, or not.
One of the questions most frequently asked is: “What was the fruit of it?”
In my case, I can only tell you that for me, it was a life changing experience and it was most definitely from God. The fruit, so to speak, was a complete transformation of my life. One for which I will be forever grateful.
So if God chooses to speak or move in your life in an unusual way today, or in the life of someone close to you, don’t be too quick to dismiss it as “unscriptural”. God is, after all, God.
Let us not get so certain of our theology that we are creating God in our image.
I’ve been reminded this week of the power of prayer.
It might seem strange that someone who has witnessed a major healing in her own children would forget, but in the busyness of life, I find that whilst I always pray, sometimes I forget to ask for the obvious! Our two older children both had deadlines for their studies this week, and both had struggles arising that neither myself or husband could really do anything about, except listen and make supportive noises. (It’s over 20 years since either of us was in school!) Today things came to a head for both of them. I have spent hours talking with them, offering advice, and sitting with my daughter helping her revise. We have even consulted friends with experience in the relevant fields to help us.
Then today, waddya know? I suddenly had a light bulb moment and thought “I know, I’ll pray for them both” Guess what? Both situations showed significant improvement, if not complete answers, within hours.
think I’d have learned by now wouldn’t you? It wasn’t a particularly eloquent prayer, and was said more out of desperation than anything else. But then as I often tell people : “Jesus, help!” Is a pretty good prayer.. 1 Peter 5:7 “cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you” I think maybe I should carve that in my forehead or something! 😉
So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36.
The two words used here for free have two different meanings.
The first – Eleutheroo means “to make free, to set at liberty from the dominion of sin”
The second – Eleutheros – means “freeborn – one who is not a slave, free, exempt, unrestrained, NOT bound by obligation. Free from the law (of Moses.)
So once Jesus sets you free from your sin, you are reborn as one free from the law. There is no more struggle to “measure up” and be good enough for God.
The meaning of the word “indeed” means “truly – in reality” (as opposed to what is pretended, fictitious, false or conjectural (theoretical freedom)
Freedom in Christ is not a theoretical freedom, or an “attitude of mind”. It is practical, complete and very very real.
What about the areas I struggle with?
To tell someone they are not yet fully free is to deny the work of the cross. We are ALL free.
If you have areas of your life that are not yet fully yielded to God, and we focus on this, then this will only serve to drag you down and prevent you from pushing on into the territory that God has already given you. As you press on in your freedom, any areas which God still needs to work in will be brought to the surface through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit knows what He is doing, let Him do His job.
So press forward today in your freedom.
“It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1