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Consideration of Biblical Scripture Preparing the Bride of Jesus Christ

Holiness: Church needs to Change (Part 8)

Holiness is

The more dead to myself I am, the more filled I am with the Holy Spirit; the more surrendered I am, the more room there is for GOD to live in me; when the holiness of GOD is moving in and through me, the more holy is my life. Holiness is less of me and more of GOD.

1 Corinthians 3:17 says, “… the temple of GOD is holy, which temple you are.”

We are the temple of the Holy Spirit. The temple is holy. But what is holy other than GOD Himself?

As we walk near to GOD, through the Holy Spirit, with Jesus as our shepherd guide, we walk in holiness. But other than GOD-speak, what does that mean?

Holiness is Godliness, meaning GOD-likeness: purity, peace, power…. simply put, all that is GOD. We discover it, not through striving but through surrender.

In the context of Jesus’ Church

No opinion. No gossip, back-biting or envy. A stroll through Paul’s letters to Timothy shows us what the church must not be: not gossips (1 Timothy 5:13), not slanderers or lovers of self (2 Timothy 3:1-3), to site two examples.

Rather, we are to look in the mirror much more than we are to judge one another. Love is at the centre of all of our relationships and we celebrate for one another and mourn with each other. True intimacy is at the heart of Jesus’ church. Today, there are snapshots of this church but we have to mature a great deal to capture it entirely. We mature through surrender.

Back in March of this year, I posted about Holiness (https://laruspress.com/holiness/). At its heart is love, because at GOD’s heart is love. GOD is love. And perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18). When we love perfectly, GOD is working in us perfectly, and we are perfectly Holy.

Jesus said, “… be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48) Perfection then is possible… through our surrender. Jesus did nothing other than what the Father asked him to do, said nothing other than what the Father led him to say. Jesus was perfect: a perfect servant, perfectly loving and perfectly holy. For those of us who take our walk with Jesus seriously, we too can become perfect: perfectly loving, perfectly holy, through our surrender to GOD.

Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the son can do nothing of himself, but what he sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the son also does in like manner.” (John 5:19)

When we walk in the holiness of GOD, and meet together as the Body of Yeshua/Jesus as his church, then the church will be holy and fruitful. Hallelujah. GOD has made a way.

All to the glory of GOD

We who are in Christ Jesus are saved from sin, and therefore we have access to the purity of Jesus, as we surrender as he did, to the Father. All things are lawful now, however, not all things are helpful or edifying (1 Corinthians 10:23). And so our behaviour is dependent not upon law but upon love.

I’d like to encourage you to read 1 Corinthians 10 with the view to relating it back to holiness of the church. By the grace of GOD and through the sacrifice of Jesus, by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in us, we are free.

But in that freedom, our action will not cause others to fall; will not act for self. Holiness points to Yehovah — our Father GOD. We are free and it is all for the glory of our Father, Creator of the Universe and Lover of Mankind. Our freedom points to GOD. Our holiness points to GOD. Our existence, our life, our church — everything now points to GOD.

This is all possible — not through our effort but by our surrender.

This is how Jesus’ church lives and breaths and ministers to a fallen world.

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Consideration of Biblical Scripture Preparing the Bride of Jesus Christ Torah Portion Examined

Genesis Creation Story: Richness of the Truth offered by Creation Scripture

Genesis Creation Story

Genesis 1:1 to 6:8

In the Genesis Creation Story we find a richness, a wealth of power and truth, and through this an added empowerment to our everyday walk of faith.

“In the beginning GOD.”

I was reading this morning the first Torah Portion* for this Hebrew year which has just begun. Reading the Torah Portion puts the entire Pentateuch** to our eyes and mind in the space of a year. Gentiles reading alongside the Jewish people can gain much in re-reading the Book of the Law over and over again.

In my re-reading today I realised several keys:

  1. “Let the earth bring forth grass…” By about 1:11 I realised afresh: Oh, what a creative Creator He is. From out of nothing, sprang the earth: beginning with light, the heavens and eventually bio forms, life forms of grass, living creatures… and finally Mankind. He created life forms in order that they may beget life. Wow! Let us never take that for granted. Though the planets and solar systems existed before the earth itself, in some sense, life as we call it, did not. No bio life existed before GOD called it into being.
  2. Then along the way of reading chapter 1 of Genesis, I realised what a disaster we have made of the beauty of the world. I won’t dwell on that here.
  3. “And Adam said… She shall be called Woman” in Genesis 2:23 and I realised as he called all the animals so he called Woman. Does that mean he has superiority over her? Ouch!
  4. Eve probably didn’t hear GOD say not to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, but only that Adam had told her GOD had said that, which would explain why she over-stated saying, “You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.” (3:3)
  5. The interminable struggle between good and evil, man and the devil, is synthesised in these words, “He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.” (3:15)
  6. Genesis does not share all the children borne of Eve, because there were many alive by the time Cain married (4:17), and this was easily accomplished since they all lived nearly 1000 years.
  7. Through Seth, men began to call upon the name of the LORD. This is important: i. Through Seth’s line came Noah. ii. the name of the LORD is important. This latter point will be made in future posts, just as I have referred to it before.
  8. GOD called human beings “Mankind” (5:2)… isn’t it remarkable how today, even this is being assaulted by those who wish to call us “humankind” or “people-kind” so as not to seem anti-feminine.
  9. Noah was the great grandson of Enoch, who never died but “walked with GOD; and he was not for GOD took him.” (5:23)
  10. “Sons of GOD” aka fallen angels (6:2) had sex with daughters of men and from these intercourses were mighty men descended. And there were “giants on the earth” (6:4). These offspring could well be the “gods” of ancient belief systems such as held in Greece, Rome for the West and others (I’m less familiar with) from the history of the East.

Contemplating Genesis Creation does not conflict with other religions or scientific belief. In fact, it enhances, explains from a Judea-Christian heritage how the earth and everything in it began, developed.

May I encourage you to read through the beginning of time to Noah. May I also encourage you to get a copy of the Torah Portions (free at: www.torahportions.org) and consider the Word of GOD deeply, richly and fully as you continue on your journey to knowing GOD more intimately.

Shalom and GOD Bless.

*Torah Portion: that part of the first five books of the Bible allocated per Sabbath Saturday. The Torah is the first five books of the Bible as written by Moses from GOD’s “dictation”.

** Pentateuch: the first five books of the Bible

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Consideration of Biblical Scripture Preparing the Bride of Jesus Christ

Empty Vessels: The Church needs to Change (Part 7)

We are empty vessels — or we are meant to be

Paul likens the Church of Jesus to a human body (1 Corinthians 12:17), and to each of us as pot or jug (2 Timothy 2:21). We are meant to be empty vessels, ready to be filled with the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, with no personal agenda, desires, or ambitions.

How are we doing?

I’m am surrendering everything. But at times the flesh does rise up; I do have preferences and sometimes strong emotions. But I’m wanting to lay down my life, every moment of every day, to be available to GOD for His purposes.

It isn’t easy for me. It’s splendid when it happens. I feel His presence surrounding, covering, filling me with energy and peace. But though I want to be filled daily, sometimes I get distracted…

How are you doing?

Church in the Community vs GOD

We are meant to be available to the LORD. Often times we can find opportunities to help in our communities, to help in our churches. Is that the same thing?

I’m working that one out. Good works are not necessarily GOD works. And yet, there is such need to hear the Good News, the true Gospel of Yeshua Jesus, and to see an outpouring of His Holy Spirit, as Jesus and then the disciples did. I wish He would simply give me a clear mandate, a vision for my own life, a way to minister to those in need. I am committed to being available, undistracted, patient and expectant, though I do see opportunities in my community pass me by. I’m torn.

More of Him, less of me

As I trust in His leadership, His guidance, His roadmap, I ask Him to keep me small, keep me empty, keep me available. Then, when He’s ready, I ask Him to use me, fill me, aid me to be the person, the presence in others’ lives, that will reveal Jesus to them.

Amen.

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Consideration of Biblical Scripture Preparing the Bride of Jesus Christ

Wisdom of GOD — Church needs to Change (Part 6)

Making the best of the Lockdown

All over the world, churches, like so many other institutions, have had to close down and/or alter their way of working.

Jesus is rebuilding His church. Covid has given Believers the opportunity to take notice, heed His presence, and pray. The direction we take will determine the substance and style of the new church as it emerges from the compulsory pause it has experienced world wide in recent months.

We, the body of believers, need to be unified in heart and mind, resting in His presence. We developed this insight in previous posts, Church needs to Change: parts 4 and 5.

We also need GOD’s wisdom to move forward, so that through His blessed Holy Spirit guidance — not our assumptions, impatience, or presumption — the church of Jesus will prosper.

From 1 Corinthians 2:10-13 we read,

“But GOD has revealed them [the things which GOD has prepared for those who love Him] to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of GOD. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is within him? Even so, no one knows the things of GOD except the Spirit of GOD. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from GOD, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by GOD. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.”

Jesus said he would build this church. Through the Spirit whom he sent to us, he shares with those who will receive, all those things GOD has prepared for us. Wisdom would suggest not to get ahead of Jesus’ lead.

In order to receive, we need to abide (John 14), rest in the presence of GOD through the His Spirit, and listen before we act.

In this way, we receive guidance, wisdom, strategy — all things needed to serve in a way that will create the Church of Jesus: not by might, nor by power but by My Spirit! (Zechariah 4)

He who waits upon the LORD will renew his strength (Isaiah 40). And not only strength, but also wisdom, direction and the plans of GOD can be given to us when we wait upon Him.

Why follow the Spirit?

Jesus said, “it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.” (John 16:7)

In order for the church to be re-built, we need to do so under the direction of Jesus. It is his church, and through the Holy Spirit who came after him, he will equip us.

How do we follow the Spirit?

How do we learn the wisdom of the Holy Spirit? Through dreams, visions, promptings, words and scriptures. But if we do experience dreams or see visions, how can we discern they are of GOD? How can we depend upon the Holy Spirit to speak to us?

GOD promises to will speak to us when we wait upon Him. He spoke to Abraham. He spoke to Joseph. He spoke to Jesus and He will speak to us… And if we listen, trust and obey, we will be the vessels who advance the Kingdom of GOD, not through man’s church, but through the church of Jesus.

When we wait upon GOD, He will speak to us. He says He will and is not a liar. We test what we receive, by looking at the Word (nothing of the Spirit of GOD will contradict His Word), through sharing with others (it is known that GOD may share the same dream with more than oe person, for example), through stepping out in faith (with care, put into practise what you hear and watch what unfolds), for GOD will not ‘give us a serpent’ when we ask for a blessing (Luke 11:11).

The church needs to be given fresh vision and new life. This will come from Jesus. It doesn’t mean all that has gone before is wrong, but it does mean we’ve lost our way and spending time with the LORD will allow us to recalibrate and allow Jesus to initiate the way forward.

 

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Consideration of Biblical Scripture Preparing the Bride of Jesus Christ

In His Presence examined — The Church needs to Change (Part 5)

When I wait upon the LORD He renews my strength (Isaiah 40:31) . Hallelujah!

What about everything else that needs doing in life?

Following on in the Series “Church needs to Change”, I address the second point on the list, that of engaging with GOD’s presence.

I Corinthians 1:29 says, “that no flesh should glory in His presence”.

Basking in GOD’s presence is a glorious experience: a spirit to Spirit encounter as ours meets with His.

But is it for its own sake? As we spend time with the LORD and when He chooses to anoint us by His Holy Spirit, is it only to draw closer to Him? Is it not also to walk under His direction, to offer solace to others, or healing, or words of wisdom… as and when He may direct us?

In Psalm 119, the Psalmist asks, “Direct my steps by Your word, And let no iniquity have dominion over me.” Amen.

Our Walk is Revelation

Jesus loved both Mary and Martha, but it was Mary who sat at his feet, whom Jesus defended against Martha’s criticism that her sister did not help with the practical household duties (Luke 10:38-42).

I have been “sitting at Jesus’ feet” of late — or to say more accurately, I have been spending a lot of time reaching out for GOD’s presence, and receiving. But it has meant I’ve had little else on my agenda. Indeed, I didn’t even post a newsletter last week (as those who usually receive it will be aware). Am I being distracted? Or perhaps it is simply that the LORD has my full attention, at last.

It is difficult to navigate the matter of seeking GOD’s presence. Society is busy and offers plenty of duties and distractions. Covid-19 Lockdown across the world has offered GOD’s children time to spend with him. How have we spent that opportunity, or what, in this regard, can we do going forward?

Day Jobs, Family Ties, Responsibilities and Choices

Paul of Tarsus built tents for a living. He did receive some payment for his preaching and teaching, but by and large, he supported himself — he had a day job. He encourages all who can to work, to be self-respecting and self-sufficient, and in turn to support those who cannot work.

He has also written to us about family ties being a blessing, though singleness he sees as better, being without the distractions of spousal obligations (1 Corinthians 7:34-38).

We all have our responsibilities, yes, and we can make our own choices. There is, after all, “no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1)

But…..

Luxury of the presence of the Holy Spirit

But my current thinking is, we cannot afford to ignore the opportunity of GOD’s presence in our lives. Spending time with the LORD and resting in His presence is a luxury; it is a luxury we must take. How else can we grow and walk continually “according to the Spirit”? How else can we become more like our shepherd, Jesus?

When I rest in His presence, I find my experience sometimes daunting, sometimes sleepy, sometimes like a wave (or waves) of His glory pouring over me. Sometimes I sense peace, other times I gain wisdom. Always it is a bit scary yet totally lovely. I do it for the sake of intimacy with Him, and then I seek to encourage others.

Baptism of Holy Spirit

We all must work out our own salvation “with fear and trembling,” as Paul writes (Philippians 2:12). But our journey needs to have encounters with GOD personally, sometimes through His word, but also through the intimacy of His Spirit.

Jesus prayed. He did nothing His Father did not direct him to do. He is our model.

Jesus said, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” (John 14:26) And he said, “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of me.” (John 15:26)

Jesus departed so that the Spirit might come to us. He told his disciples, “…if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.” (John 16:7)

We need the active presence of the Holy Spirit in our day-to-day lives

Let us no longer engage in our journey without the Spirit of GOD… not only as He resides in us through the act of our salvation when we made our commitment to Him, but also through His repeated anointing, infilling and indwelling, to lead and guide us.

Questions remain

I am aware I’ve not answered my own question about how we use the anointing He brings. I believe it is all dependent upon Him. As He engages with us, He’ll let us know where we walk and when, how we proceed with others. Nothing is meant to be in our flesh, not by our will but by His.

I think we are to wait as long as we can, listening, abiding, allowing Him to fill us.

As for me, as I manage to live in His presence, then my next steps will be directed by Him. That too will no doubt be daunting, exciting, peaceful and enriching. For in His presence “is fullness of joy” (Psalm 16:11).

May we all drink deeply of Him, abide with Him, and grow in Him, Amen.

 

 

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Consideration of Biblical Scripture Preparing the Bride of Jesus Christ

I will build my Church — Church needs to Change (Part 4)

“I will build my church”

Jesus said, “I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18)

The whole scripture includes reference to Peter, the rock. Peter and the other apostles faithfully did follow Jesus’ call to make disciples. But from the third century onward, the development of the Christian church was taken over. Constantine made Christianity the official religion under Rome. Putting the church into Man’s hands has ensured the building of brick and mortar churches, where the people inside have become reliant upon what a priest or pastor ministers, rather than those followers of Jesus all becoming ministers as he intended, all reaching beyond the walls of the buildings to those who do not know the Gospel.

Elements of Jesus’ Church

I’d like to look one-by-one at the fourteen points I devised in a recent post ( https://laruspress.com/the-look-of-the-new-church-church-needs-to-change-part-3/ ) to discuss what Jesus’ Church is meant to look like and how we might give him room now to build it. Today I shall look at the first quality, that of Unity.

Unity

From 1 Corinthians 1:9-10 “… that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from great death, and does deliver us…” As we trust Him, He works in us — not only person by individual person, but also in us collectively. Oh let us capture the value of being a part of a whole, not only an individual saved by His grace.

Psalm 133:1 “How good and pleasant it is when brethren dwell together in unity”. There is no room for argument in that clear statement. But I want to define Unity, to take this a step beyond the obvious. In doing so, I draw attention to Jesus’ words and prayers as testified in the Gospel of John.

John 14: “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in me?” Just as we know through the Spirit of GOD, that Jesus is in us who believe, so too is the Father in us.  And since we all have the Spirit of Christ, are we all then through the Spirit, not also with one another? How important is it then, and valuable and critically beneficial for the Gospel, when we who abide in Christ, are also in unity with one another. Just as in the physical world, working in unity is superior to our individual endeavours in our witness and effectiveness, so too in the Spiritual realm, unity must be hugely important to the Father. Remember, this whole journey of salvation is about the glory of GOD; it is not about us. Once we are saved at the cross, we need also to move through the cross who leads us to deep intimacy with Jesus our Saviour, but also with the Father of Creation. GOD made us and put us in the Garden of Eden to be in relationship with Him.

We are not to be like the Hebrews who told Moses, ‘You go talk to God and report back to us’. Rather, we collectively and individually are meant to seek relationship with the Father. How important then to be in unity: being gracious with one another, reflecting GOD’s goodness, love and purity, which extends in and through one another.

Unity then is not copying one another; it is not being the same or thinking the same as each another. It is discovering and abiding together with GOD: It is allowing the Holy Spirit to indwell us and fill us — individually and corporately. This brings glory to GOD. And further, as we become entwined spiritually with Jesus, our intimacy with him as a body of believers exposes the love of the Son and the Father to the world.

This is my prayer: that the body of believers in Yeshua Jesus will grow together in intimacy and love, that our understanding and relationship with the Father will grow and deepen, and that — at last — mankind’s purpose for GOD’s creation of us will be fulfilled.

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Consideration of Biblical Scripture Preparing the Bride of Jesus Christ

The look of the New Church (Church needs to change Part 3)

A friendly reader asked me what I thought the church would look like as we allow Jesus to develop his church. I didn’t know…

So I prayed.

First, the LORD showed me a blueprint in the Spirit, which I didn’t understand. I said, “I don’t want a blueprint for ME but for You, LORD!” As I stared at the spiritual blueprint, various aspects grew as part of a potential 3D model of towers in the LORD. It became clear to me that the blueprint in the picture was Jesus’ Church.

As I prayed about this, the LORD led me to 1 Corinthians, which I began to read with Jesus’ Church in mind. Several elements were revealed…elements of Jesus’ church. All of these elements are supported by Biblical references, primarily from 1 Corinthians. These are the towers that could rise up as we allow Jesus to build his Church.

So, get your Bible…

  1. 1 Corinthians 1:10 UNITY
  2. 1 Corinthians 1:29 HIS PRESENCE
  3. 1 Corinthians 2:10-13 WISDOM OF GOD
  4. 1 Corinthians 3:9 VESSELS (empty building)
  5. Matthew 25:19 DISCIPLESHIP (verses the oak trees which are taking existing nutrients = existing church)
  6. 1 Corinthians 3:17 HOLINESS (also supported in 1 Corinthians 10)
  7. 1 Corinthians 4:2 FAITHFULNESS
  8. 1 Corinthians 4:8-16 HUMILITY
  9. 1 Corinthians 6 INTEGRITY
  10. 1 Corinthians 9:4, 7, 11, 14 SELF SUSTAINING
  11. 1 Corinthians 13:10 LOVE/PERFECT LOVE (the aim)
  12. 1 Corinthians 14:3, 5, 12, 25, 26 EDIFICATION (and CONVICTION)
  13. 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 GOSPEL
  14. 1 Corinthians 16:2 on COLLECTION (none as Paul represents)

Products which will result from the establishment of Jesus’ Church

  1. INTIMACY (family; in Matthew 12:50 Jesus says, “For whoever does the will of my Father in Heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”)
  2. FEARLESSLESS (fear of GOD, not man; Proverbs 1:7 & Psalm 118:6)
  3. OBEDIENCE and HEALTH (Deuteronomy 11:22)

I could break this down into more detail, but I encourage us all to mediate on scripture for ourselves. Please challenge me if you do not agree or see something else in the scriptures I’ve presented that contradict what I’m suggesting. And certainly, let us pray that the church of Jesus becomes manifest as we pray, seek GOD, surrender fully, and wait to do as He leads us.

Shalom, dear friends.

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Consideration of Biblical Scripture Preparing the Bride of Jesus Christ

The Importance of Intimacy

What is intimacy?

I’m talking about emotional connectedness to another person when I use the word intimacy. All people crave the opportunity to be closely connected to another person. Sometimes it is expressed in physical closeness such as sexual intercourse. But that is just one aspect and it is possible to be intimate in a purely platonic way. In fact, emotional intimacy is needed by us all, and sexual intimacy is a fraction, sometimes used as a mere substitute for the satisfaction and fullness shared through personal intimacy.

Intimacy with GOD

Psalm 63:1 states, “Joy in the Fellowship of GOD.”

When we first become “born again” we discover intimacy with Jesus (1Corinthians 1:9). Fellowship with him is profoundly comforting, interesting, fulfilling. But that doesn’t remove our craving for human intimacy. It is natural and in fact encouraged to fellowship with other Believers (Acts 2:42). As we share in our journey, we strengthen one another (Acts 16:5).

Intimacy with the people of GOD – the Fellowship of Believers

We are designed for relationship. When GOD saw Adam was alone, it was “not good” and so He made woman.

People were created for relationship with GOD and with one another. And so in our spiritual walk, we yearn to share our experiences with others who also are on a journey with GOD. Intimacy is what arises out of those relationships, when we are real with one another, open, sincere and vulnerable.

Quest for Intimacy

In our walk through life, we can become desperate for intimacy. We can seek to share and find no one to share with; this is tragic. Fellowship in a church body is meant to satisfy that need for intimacy. If the church doesn’t do it, who will?

At the same time, life experience often provokes us to develop self-protection, which thwarts intimacy; we may block the very thing we crave in order to protect ourselves from the threat of embarrassment, vulnerability or judgement. In western culture, we say to the casual question, “How are you today?” — “Oh, I’m fine” when actually we may be suffering in silence.

I used to think that fellowship was encouraged so that we would grow in Christ. This is true, but this is only part of it. When we fellowship, our need for intimacy is satisfied (or should be) through healthy, sincere relationships with other believers.

But sometimes — for any number of reasons — that doesn’t happen. Then what?

Which comes first?

Fellowship with Jesus or Fellowship with his Followers — which is our priority?

For me, it’s fellowship with Jesus. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to have personally intimate relationships with other Believers. In fact, Paul in his various letters touches on this… He encourages people to get along (Philippians 4:2), he longs for the company of friends (Romans 15:24). Like anyone, Paul recognises the very human need for good friends.

Jesus had his twelve disciples, but three: Peter, James, John, were particularly close to him.

How do we find intimacy?

As we grow and mature in Christ, we naturally gravitate to others who have a similar perspective. Generations and cultures are crossed. When we delve deeply into the Word of GOD and we grow in maturity — from milk to meat — and as hunger for the knowledge of GOD is fed, we naturally discover relationships with others who are on a similar path. But we don’t really find intimacy, rather it finds us. When we are open to whom GOD gathers, we may become friends with those of a different culture, different generation, different socio-economic background. All this is the unifying power of the Gospel in action. Remember, when others who do not know Jesus see us, they should recognise us for our love (John 13:34-35).

We have to be willing to take risks to develop relationships… Taking a calculated risk, through observation, openness to others and gauging compatibility, helps us to build healthy relationships in as safe a way as possible. This should be possible within the family of Believers. When it isn’t safe in a church environment, then how has Christian society gone so wrong?!

“Home Groups”, Holiness, Openness… and is there a Vacuum?

The Church that Jesus started met on hillsides in the thousands. He also had smaller gatherings of 12, 70 and more. As we build our relationship with Jesus, we are encouraged to meet in large gatherings, customarily aka “church” and smaller groups — often called “cell groups”, “home groups” or “fellowship groups”.

In the smaller group, it is the intention to have prayer and share times where we can be more real and vulnerable. Such groups are intended to be like “mini – families” aren’t they, where we can be ourselves as we grow closer to GOD and develop in holiness. But does this work? Do we feel safe or real as we do in a family? Do we have the courage to be “messy”: genuine and open as we explore the Gospel and grow in total vulnerability? Or is our openness limited as it is in a social group where we enjoy one another’s company, but not wholly as a fellowship of Christians seeking to grow and share fully?

Let’s be real in our expression of intimacy

When we are open to the Word of GOD, we naturally become vulnerable as His word opens our hearts and our minds. It’s important to be self-aware of our needs, our desires. But wisdom says: be aware; emotions can get entangled with our growing spirituality. That’s part of our humanity.

Most of us come to GOD with baggage. He heals. When we allow Him to do the healing, and walk in the wisdom of His righteousness and moral fibre, we are protected from damaging that process for ourselves and for others.

Intimacy, vulnerability, these are aspects of our humanity. But the Bride needs to be open to the bridegroom first and foremost. His Holy Spirit touches us in ways we could never imagine. As we allow that process, as we connect with him on a deeply personal level, we grow in His likeness. And we are healed, set free, and are truly alive.

As we express ourselves with Jesus, we should be able to express ourselves with one another; but truthfully, this is more difficult isn’t it?

Let’s be wise, understanding our need, sharing our love

When we understand the human need for intimacy and GOD’s desire for us to fellowship, we can better accept ourselves and one another as we expose our weaknesses and celebrate our victories together.

In these circumstances, we must not judge — not ourselves, not one another. For if we judge, GOD’s judgement will bear down upon us. We will clam up, just as others will clam up around us.

Let us also be aware of guilt, shame, anger and hurt. Explosions of emotion can come out when we have pent them up. We store our emotions, hiding in our shame. But GOD wants us to allow the light to shine into all of our hidden corners, so that we can be healed and restored. There is no one without failure, and only those who have overcome are truly free from the condemnation of self and fear of others. In the process of breaking free, we can rejoice for those who share until we are ready ourselves to be transparent.

Beware the critical heart

Like anyone, I have wanted to be close to others, sharing in joys and sorrows at a deep and sincere level. Sometimes it has been easy to find a fellow who is likewise inclined. But I’m sure we have all been in circumstances where we are disappointed, where there doesn’t seem to be camaraderie.

There have been times when, in my frustration, I have become critical. Unaware of the source of my disappointment — experiencing a lack of intimacy — I have forced intimacy by expressing criticism. Even a negative expression of emotion feels better than none to one who is deeply lonely or feeling isolated. This is not good!

I have learned and I share this with you so that if this “rings true” for you, you might recognise your need for intimacy that is not being fulfilled. May I encourage us all to discover our need for intimacy and to find a humble, sincere, transparent way to express ourselves in a safe environment.

When we see others give and take in a setting of openness, then it would seem to be a safe place to share ourselves.

Share with me

When have you experienced the intimacy of the fellowship of Believers? It would be great if you could share about it to encourage others.

If there are times when you have you been denied the opportunity to draw close with fellow believers, would you share that too?

You can comment below or simply share with me privately by emailing me at: sarahtun@laruspress.com

Shalom and GOD bless.

Categories
Consideration of Biblical Scripture Preparing the Bride of Jesus Christ

What IS the Church of Jesus Christ? (Church needs to Change Part 2)

Torah preamble

On Saturday morning, I read the Torah Portion Plus… ie the Torah portion allocated for Jews this week as through the year, including a part of the Pentateuch (first five books of the Bible) plus an Old Testament portion and a New Testament Portion (for Messianic Jews and Gentile Followers of Yeshua). The whole consisted roundly of: Deuteronomy 1 – 3, Isaiah 1 and Matthew 24 (to verse 22).

I read the Torah Portion scriptures every Saturday, the actual Sabbath of Yehovah Father GOD, and recommend it thoroughly. He speaks through His Word but with the Torah Portion He speaks particularly loudly, clearly, timely; that has been my experience. But I digress….

Today, marking through the failures and successes of the Hebrews in the desert, then the opening of Isaiah’s prophetic word to the Jews, and finally, the end of the age according to Jesus, I suddenly had a revelation of minute data I’d been gathering and contemplating for several years. I am not special by the world’s standards at all. I used to hope I was but that longing search for expression that would be appreciated by man has died, along with the will to live my life my way. So, I am not one of note. And I am a woman. And I am approaching retirement age. So I am surprised He has shared with me this morning but I must pass this on to all who will read.

To all who are searching for GOD’s will to be done on earth as in heaven (Lord’s prayer: Matthew 6; Luke 11), read on. For the LORD has seen fit to show me me the entirety of His plan through His Kingdom and the Church designed by Jesus, and how the Gospel of the Kingdom and the Gospel of Jesus Christ are meant to be woven together. It is so simple, you might even miss it, or think you’ve known it all along.

Others must, of course, test this Word, to ensure I am correct. The Spirit of the LORD will convict us of all truth. When we allow Him to direct, we are small and He is great, and His kingdom will come on earth as in heaven.

Two Gospels, One Truth

The Gospel of the Kingdom of GOD is not the same as the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the Gospel of personal salvation. Jesus came to earth, born of a virgin and by the Holy Spirit, lived perfectly as the son of GOD, died innocently and rose again by the power of GOD and overcame sin and death for all who believe and follow him. Believing this and committing to following this Jesus brings us salvation from our own sinfulness and everlasting death.

The “Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14). What is this gospel?

The Gospel of the Kingdom

The Gospel of the Kingdom is how earth can be run when GOD is in charge; when people live their lives as unto GOD, we are in an Eden, as GOD intended us to live.

The Gospel of the Kingdom is the love, justice, mercy and grace of Jehovah GOD, which we Believers are meant to live, as described in Acts 2 and 4. It is how earth is meant to be run, with people living their lives unto death in the name of Jesus. It is living as Jesus builds his church… which has little to do with the church we attend on a Sunday morning (I will share more shortly).

The Gospel of the Kingdom is the earth running as it would if it were heaven, with GOD’s judgement, truth, mercy, grace, integrity, values, peace, and love being the hallmarks of society in word yes, but in deed also.

Throughout the ages of man, since Jesus returned to the Father in heaven and sent the Holy Spirit, man has been attempting to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ through missionaries, testimony and preaching, often by coercion and physical force. But this is not Jesus’ way. His way is through the living, breathing church; as it was in the beginning when the early church, primarily led by Jews, was established, many gentiles also came to believe. In the same way now, this is the way forward for the church, if the church is to influence those who do not believe to recognise Jesus as the way to GOD.

Recently in a prayer group, a brother urged others to meditate on the LORD’s prayer, for all its nuances; every word, he rightly said, is for us to digest. Well said.

“Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven” is the focus here.

While we attend church on a Sunday morning, as prescribed by Constantine in approximately 300 AD, we miss Jesus’ church almost entirely. Even though in the reformation, theology became more closely linked to the Word of GOD, yet the structure of church changed little.

Paul in 1 Corinthians addresses the idea of meeting together. There is his plea for order and for courtesy. Do not forsake meeting together, but when you meet together, don’t “pig out” (eat excessively) or blab uncontrollably. But rather, have time to listen (to the Holy Spirit and to one another), allow order and sequence. That’s about it. He did not presume to adopt or prescribe a set structure. Why do you suppose that is?

Jesus said, “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” didn’t he? (Matthew 16:18) I believe the church we witness today and have witnessed for some 1700 years has little to do — perhaps even nothing to do — with Jesus’ true concept of his church.

Church on a Sunday has been man’s way to “do church”, just as religion across the globe and throughout cultures has been man’s way to get to GOD. On the other hand, just as Jesus is GOD’s one way for man to get to Him, Jesus’ church is GOD’s way for us to be church.

Preparing the Bride

What has all this to do with preparing the bride for Jesus’ return? We are to live as though for heaven… fully surrendered to the Holy Spirit.

As we live and pray GOD’s will be done on earth as in heaven, the kingdom of GOD and the kingdom of heaven will influence the whole earth; GOD’s will on earth can be done as it is in heaven, through our corporate lifestyle of surrender to Him and in our love, justice, mercy and grace. As we are the church and as we live as the church of Jesus, the will of GOD is done. OUR LIFESTYLE IS CHURCH. And this will bring more of heaven to earth, touching the lives of humanity around the globe.

The way to be church is the way to be as people who follow Jesus. It’s one and the same thing. Church is not a service nor a building. Church, you’ve heard it said, are the people of GOD. I’ll add one more element: church is the people of GOD surrendered and living as followers of Jesus, united in his love, justice, mercy, and grace; it is living in the power of the Holy Spirit rather than in the power of the flesh. It is living a lifestyle of service to one another rather than partaking in a service.

Meeting on the Sabbath (Saturday) is just the beginning

For about a decade, I’ve been saying privately that the Church Age is finished, and that GOD has fundamentally left the church and is waiting to send his son to return. (Yes, there are kingdom churches but they are rare; and there are moments of His glory descending in a service, but that is an infinitesimal fraction of what He has intended all along.) This morning I understand much more clearly: Jesus is asking us to allow him to build his church before he comes.

After 1700 years of our trying, isn’t it time we gave up our authority and allowed Jesus to take authority in our hearts and also in our “church”? For the church is not a building but fellowship and being together (see previous blog: https://laruspress.com/church-needs-to-change/ ). We are family and we are sent out ones, called to live as witness to what family is meant to be in the eyes of GOD our Father.

Coronavirus is a gift to the church, not a curse

What the devil means for evil, GOD intends for good. 

What lockdown and suspension of places of worship has done has given all people an opportunity to slow down, to contemplate our lives, to “smell the roses”. For followers of Jesus, it has been an opportunity to recalibrate our relationship with GOD. And to recalibrate the concept of church.

I pray we will do that, have done that, and that there is room now to let go, let GOD, and get out of the way to let Jesus build his church.

Will we do it?

Categories
Consideration of Biblical Scripture Watchman on Alert BLOG

The Bride of Christ

Who is the Bride of Christ and where does that phrase come from?

The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins

Matthew 25 begins,

“Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept.

“And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut.”

“Afterward the other virgins came along also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’

“Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.”

The bridegroom is Jesus, the virgins are brides; but what about men who follow Jesus? Although we are in an age of increased liberalities in society and some are taking those liberalities and applying them to the Gospel, am I advocating marriage between men? Nope. Nor am I proposing women take a  man’s role as groom so that men become brides. Well then, this bridegroom/bride analogy leads us, I think, to a reasonable question: How are men to relate the the bride analogy? Is it important?

The term “Bride of Christ” is a phrase that does not actually appear in the Bible. It suggests that the Church (ie the followers of Jesus) is the bride, since Jesus is the bridegroom, and this supports the Matthew 25 scripture above. The beauty, grace, and surrender of the bride offers a clear relational context to the bridegroom who is the faithful love, friend, protector of his bride. But is it masculine? Doesn’t seem so to me. So I wonder, do men have a problem relating to it?

Some phrases we adopt are not necessarily Biblical; an easy way to avoid assumptions and misdirections is to look up phrases we are keen on to see where they appear — if they appear — in scripture. In the case of the marriage analogy, I raise the question of masculinity because as we walk in the Spirit, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). In other words, gender doesn’t matter to GOD!

Finally, as an afterthought and in the desire to remove human assumption, it is possible that the virgins are a collection of people, both men and women, when Jesus refers to the virgins: innocents. For Jesus does not call these people brides — we have done that. He merely refers to the bridegroom who is coming and the virgins who are waiting. We have filled in the rest. Note however, Revelation 22:17 does seem to refer to the Church as a bride, and so this afterthought is most likely just a diversion.

The Bride is to prepare… for what?

To introduce this concept of “Preparing the Bride” and how I’ve come to the conclusion the emphasis in this Blog needs to shift in that direction, you might like to start here:

https://laruspress.com/preparing-the-bride-from-watchman-on-alert/

and then come back to this post.

This blog is for men and for women who seek to grow, to learn, to discover more about ourselves, our faith and our Jesus. Time does seem to be growing short and so I believe it is time I gear what I write to preparing myself and preparing others for Jesus’ inevitable return.

What do we need to prepare?

  1. total surrender to the Holy Spirit and the Word of GOD
  2. the oil of the Holy Spirit
  3. readiness for where GOD wants our attention and focus
  4. fellowship to help each other as we all prepare
  5. alertness to the truth and a willingness to lay down our assumptions about the Gospel and the Word of GOD.

The Remnant

As we live in the End Times, not knowing when Jesus’ return will be yet living as though it is tomorrow, we are the remnant, the ones who are sold out for Jesus. To walk in the Spirit, without compromise, without fear, without fleshly desires, is our goal. We pray, we praise, we trust GOD.

Come Lord Jesus, come.