Reflections on the Tree of Life

12 Oct

Have you ever been in Church or on a ministry team where you or others are clearly hearing from God on a decision or issue, but the leader simply will not listen because he or she has their mind made up? One clear thing that spoke to me about organic church was the idea that The Head, Jesus, expresses Himself through speaking to all the members of the body. I was eager to participate in a group where all members were allowed to share what they hear from the Head, and not just one leader.

Later on, I came across a teaching under the category of “Eating from the tree of life.” Some refer to this as the deeper Christian life. I admit I really liked what I was hearing. One of the affects of The Fall was that people were no longer able to eat from the tree of life. So redemption ought to restore us to eating from the tree of life, right?

The “tree” teaching I was exposed to sounded quite attractive. It basically poses that Jesus is the tree of life, and that we can now eat of it. This teaching mixes in some scripture from John 6: 53-56, where Jesus talks about eating his flesh and blood, and some from Revelation 22 that speaks of this tree of life at the fulfillment of time.

This teaching further goes to say that when we use the scriptures to simply discern good from evil, or right from wrong, we are eating from the other tree, the tree of knowledge of good and evil. This also made sense to me, as I have read a few too many Christian “how-to” books, you know the kind with titles like 7 Steps to Being a Better Father, or 3 Steps to Success, and so forth. I had also experienced the frustration of trying to apply truths like these outside of biblical community, which is much of why seminary at times can be so brutal. Truth without the grace and power to live it out is pretty frustrating. Therefore, when I heard about the power of God in eating from the tree of life, I was excited and eager to apply what I was hearing in community with my organic church brothers and sisters.

I am all for eating of Jesus’ flesh and drinking of his blood. I am all for walking by the power of His Spirit in community with a family of believers. Trying to live out truth without this is futile. But to call this eating from the tree of life seems to forget that if we actually did this, we would physically live on forever (Gen 3: 22-24). Furthermore, Revelation 22 still refers to humans only having the right to eat of this tree if they endure in faithfulness to the end. Eating from the tree of life is the reward for walking in faith until the end. Although we are to eat of Christ, and walk in His Spirit, the Bible itself does not refer to believers eating of this tree until the final resurrection depicted at the end of Revelation.

While learning about how to do organic church, we were taught to come to church to eat from the tree of life. Than later we heard that much of the rest of Christianity is eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If true, a reality is depicted where the organic form of the body is hearing from the Head, but many other institutional parts of the larger body of Christ are hearing from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. With this new teaching, participants in organic church no longer perceive that Jesus is expressing Himself through the entire body, but most often through their local expression of organic church.

The idea posed in the first paragraph was no longer in operation. Instead of Christ speaking to His whole body, I found myself in a group that in theory aspires to this, but in actuality practiced the opposite via this tree of life teaching.

Why some of the “how to” books and wisdom parts of the Bible did not sometimes work for me had nothing to do with what tree I was eating from.  It simply does not work to live the Christian life alone.  It must be lived in community.  But we must never subjugate wisdom to “eating from the tree of life.”  God gives richly all things for us to enjoy.

So how do we understand the tree of life versus the tree of knowledge of good and evil? Eating from the tree of life is the reward of living a life in faithfulness to our God. It simply is being given physical eternal life, and we get to eat of it in the resurrection. Eating of the other tree can be selfish desire, wanting good things our way instead of God’s way, or even wanting good without God. It can also be pure evil. This is done sinfully or in defiance of God. An example might be having sex outside marriage; taking something good, but not going about it God’s way. In sum, eating from the tree of life imparts eternal life and eating from the other tree is sin and death.

God indicated that if Adam, Eve or any other humans were able to eat from the tree of life, they would live on indefinitely but knowing both good and evil (Gen 3:22-24). Not allowing them to eat of it was in a sense placing a cap on how long their fallen nature could go on living, and like giving them clothing, was a blessing. This was step one in God putting a cap on evil.

Last, we also must remember that more than 2 trees are mentioned in Genesis-God gave Adam and Eve permission to eat of every tree except one. So to boil down every possible action of humanity as eating from these two trees is inconsistent with the very narrative that describes them. Wisdom may not necessarily be eating of this tree, but eating from many of the thousands of other trees God gave to bless humanity. Let’s enjoy all things that God gives to bless us!

I believe those teaching this are sincere, Christ loving people, who are simply teaching what they have been taught.  Some of them are my friends.  But regardless of that, this does not hold water Biblically or hermeneutically.

I am so glad to have broken out of this thinking, and to be blessed by the many great followers of Christ who are sharing what the Head is teaching them amidst the many various forms of Church they participate in.  All believers in all churches occasionally share things that are life giving, as well as ideas that deserve more testing and yes, perhaps rejection.  Testing the spirits ultimately edifies the whole body, and I hope this discussion will fulfill that aim.

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Church And Kingdom Part Two

30 Jul

Part Two: The Church and The Kingdom

So how can we understand Christ and the Church?

When I go swimming, I occasionally gulp some of the water into my mouth.  When this happens, I am in the pool, and the pool is in me.  If I get out of the pool, and I spend time with a few others who just swam as I did, it could be said that wherever 2 or 3 swimmers get together, the pool is in their midst.  This does not mean the swimmers are the pool, in its entirety, or that the pool is the same as the swimmers.

Or imagine a bunch of us belong to a club.  A famous celebrity is head of that club, so it is quite an honor to be in that club.  Membership has privileges.  He is head of the club and uses it for His purposes, and in some sense shares membership in that club with the other members.   For instance, I belong to an organization that Bono is the head of.  Its kind of cool to occasionally get an email from Him and other celebrities he uses to mobilize his cause.  We are part of the same body.  But He has more power, devotion, authority, and influence in this organization than I do who am one of its members.

When someone leaves a job, they sometimes say, “Accounting just was not me.”  Or when someone likes a sport or activity, they might say, ”Tennis is totally me.”   We understand that some activities express certain people while others do not. Similarly, we can say the Church is Christ in the aspects that it expresses Him, and not in other aspects where it does not.  We do not have to make an absolute statement that does not universally apply.

Why is this important?

The Church is special. It is the body and along with Old Testament Saints, the bride of Christ.   Many people do not treat it that way or give it much priority.  It is worthy of devotion, but perhaps not the same as we give the Head.  Out of zeal to reclaim its importance, this one verse is sometimes cited to state that Christ is the Church.  Absolutes like this leave out the finer details that affect our lives in gigantic ways.  People take it further and infer that a particular local church is Christ and the Kingdom.  This can lead to many problems like those experienced by those at the front of this blog.

We must remember that the creation is not the Creator.  If Christ does not share His deity with the body, it would make sense that our devotion to the Head has some distinction from devotion to the body, and that the body can take numerous valid expressions.  Some denominations and fringe Christian groups lose sight of this and even teach that the bride will become a member of the godhead, and that we are all becoming gods ourselves.  Pretty scary!

When people absolutely conclude that Christ is their particular local expression of church, it can lead to elitism, even unconsciously.  It can become more important than other expressions of church, like the Church of their family.  People equate time spent in the local church as the same as putting Christ first.  Some even worship it.  When this happens, I believe we are mistaking the wineskin for the wine.

Sometimes when we try to correct one problem, we over correct.  When this happens a new problem is created that may be even worse.

The Christian life is to be lived in community with others.  We can’t go it alone.  But this is not the first building block.  It all starts with recognizing that the Lord of eternity has chosen our bodies as holy temples (1 Cor 6:19), and invites us to fellowship with Him today (Rev 3:23).  Out of that grows the possibility of fellowshipping with two or three (Matt 18:20), or even a houseful.  And we are all building blocks of a temple in eternity that God describes in Revelation 21.  But let’s not mistake that a local attempt at Church is not intended to replace our own intimate fellowship with the Lord.  Rather the latter is meant to flow out from the former.

But is not the Kingdom supposed to come first in the life of a believer, and is not the Kingdom the Church?  When Jesus said this, He was saying place the reign and rule of God ahead of our own personal needs and desires.  He was really saying the King comes first, and He takes care of all the other things.  The Kingdom is the reign and rule of God.  It includes all those saved, Old Testament Saints who were not in the Church, angels, heaven, and even the Earth wherever his reign and rule extend.  So while a local Church is part of the Kingdom, even the universal church is not the totality of the Kingdom of God.  The Kingdom is bigger than that.  In light of this, it is sometimes possible for the Kingdom to be first in our hearts in multiple courses of action.

The Kingdom gives rise to the Church.  We were placed into the Bride and Body and Church the moment we were saved.  Our status in God’s eternal purpose has been settled, regardless of what expression of local church we are now involved in.  We must continually put His Kingdom first, but understand that the rule and reign of God extends to all areas of life and does not merely apply to one local Church.  By contrast, if we simply say that my Church is the kingdom, and the Kingdom comes first, then we then can let our marriages, our own devotion and fellowship to the Lord, and even our own family go untended in the name of the Kingdom.   I believe this is a big mistake, and ripe soil for religious addiction and familial resentment and dysfunction.   In conclusion, let’s really put His Kingdom first, extending His rule and reign to all areas of life, including the Church wherever and whenever that local expression happens to be.

Church & Kingdom

27 Jul

Part One: The Nature of The Church

Tony and Ellen were desperate.  Called to organic church, Tony left a successful ministry career, moved to a new state, and mortgaged the house to start a business.   Along the way their local organic church broke apart due to a lack of common vision.   Now desperate, they are travelling the county in search of a healthy organic church.  They had been taught that Christ is the Church, and the Church is the Kingdom.  Despite placing Church first, authentic church seemingly eluded them.   Tired from being on their own, they are willing once again to put down jobs, their house, and anything that seemed to be in the way.  After all, they are putting the Kingdom first, aren’t they? 

 A young single man in his twenties has found a healthy church that he really enjoys and considers family.  They hang out almost daily.  But he was just accepted into a graduate program in another state, which would mean leaving.  He feels guilt when he thinks about moving.  Doubtful he would find another church like this, he feels great pressure that he is putting his own desires ahead of the Kingdom.  Is he really?

Cindy has taught Sunday school for 40 years.  She has 3 grown Christian children and 8 grandchildren.  But she has hardly met several of her grandchildren or spent time with them.  Now in her late 60’s, she cannot fathom the thought of being absent even occasionally from her teaching post, and therefore has not gone to visit her grandkids in another state.  She tells her children she is putting the Kingdom first. Is she? 

All these cases above describe people who made great sacrifices to put church first in their lives, in the belief that this is what it means to put Christ and His Kingdom first. 

The bible refers to the Church as the body of Christ, the royal priesthood of Christ, the bride of Christ, the temple of Christ, and even the city of Christ.  Some say these are not pictures or metaphors, but actually define who Christ is in reality.    Is the Church the same as Christ?  Is the Kingdom the same as the Church?  Many have been taught the answer is yes. 

Those that believe this cite 1 Corinthians 12:13-14.  So is Paul’s aim to say the Church is Christ, or is he describing the body that both He and us belong to?

To quote my friend John White, “There are ways in which the church is an expression of Christ and ways in which it isn’t.  If I ask the question – is my body me?  In one sense, the answer is “yes,” but certainly not all of me.  My body is the vehicle through which the will of my head/brain is expressed.  If my body is no longer responding to my head, my body is still me, but only in a very limited sense.  Isn’t it the same with the body of Christ?”  John implies that he is more than his body, perhaps his mind or spirit also need to be considered.  This seems to describe how Christ is connected to the church. 

What is the Church?   The Church is the body of Christ in this present age.  This is well developed in 1 Cor 12-14, in Colossians, and Ephesians.  What does this mean?  It means that Christ manifests His presence in the world by inhabiting individuals (1 Cor 6:19) through His Holy Spirit (Eph 1: 13-14).  These individuals are in the Church, and are placed into it when they are saved.   Christ still has a physical body (Luke 24:39-40) that sits at the right hand of the Father (Acts 2:33) in heaven.  Yet His presence in the world is manifest through placing His Spirit into His followers. 

The scriptures tell us the Church, and even all things, are in Christ and held together by Christ.  They also affirm that Christ is in the Church.  They tell us that whenever two or three are gathered in His name, that He is present.  Cool stuff.  So is the Church Christ? 

Let’s look at the English taken word by word from the Greek. 

1 Cor 12: 12-13

For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of the body, though many are one body, so also the Christ, for indeed by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all given one Spirit to drink.   (Literal Greek to English)

The above verses are quite hard to translate and do not flow right off the tongue when looking at the literal Greek to English.  Having eight clauses, it is not easy for translators to put this into a flowing English sentence.  Paul is famous for this in his writings.  I believe this difficulty results in some proponents of organic church concluding that the body is Christ. 

1 Corinthians 12 describes the body as having many parts and that we all need one another.  The context reveals that the whole chapter is a description of how the Church functions.  Paul was trying to help a group of people to get along and consider each member indispensible.  During Christ’s earthly life, He used His physical body to carry out the tasks His father had given Him.  Now that He is in heaven, He uses another body, or vehicle, the Church, to carry this out, and it is in this sense that the Church is His body. 

Most of us agree that Christ the Head does not share his deity with His body.  This means that while Christ is the Church in some aspects, it also means He is more than the Church in other aspects.  Verse 12 may have said, “So this is how the body of Christ functions.”  Why did he not just say it like that?  Paul gets wordy, and probably chose not to get any wordier than he had already.  By using  “For as,” Paul uses the literary device of a simile to describe how Christ works.  Because this is a simile, it means He is comparing Christ to something.    While we display Christ to the world, this does not seem to say that Christ is only His body, especially when the Church fails to express the will of Christ.  Therefore, in some aspects, He is more than His body. 

So how might 1 Cor 12:12-13 verse sound in light of the prior discussion?  I would paraphrase it as:

“Here is what Christ does.  He is Head of a body that has many parts that function together as a whole.  By one Spirit, we were baptized into one body regardless of our old upbringing or background, and that same Spirit feeds us in our various functions as body members.  “(Steve Scheller paraphrase). 

Part Two will continue this discussion on the Church and The Kingdom.

Holism

5 Jul

Holism

In the early 20th century, a great schism occurred in America between liberals who advocated the social gospel and fundamentalists who advocated the personal gospel.  Liberals looked to the Bible and religion to address systemic issues causing poverty, becoming more dismissive of the authority of scripture on personal matters.  Fundamentalists countered this by standing for the personal implications of the Gospel, and rejecting the social gospel.  In their own ways, both were right, and both were wrong.  Often when one movement reacts to another, the greater truth of the big picture is missed.

A similar thing happened with the Scopes monkey trials when a schism pitted those with faith in the Bible against science.

Gnosticism in the 2nd and 3rd centuries pitted the physical against the spiritual.  Although rejected as a heresy by various church councils, Greek gnosticism made a lasting impact on Western culture in our tendency to compartmentalize and separate spiritual things from physical matters.  This compartmentalizing tendency found a good friend in the liberal / fundamentalist schism of the early 1900s.

By contrast, Hebrew culture in biblical times was Eastern.  Eastern philosophy and spirituality does not compartmentalize life as much as we do in the West.  For example, it would be more common for an Eastern people to evaluate a philosophy or a course of action as a community rather than as an individual.  It would also be more intuitive to consider the holistic impacts of a course of action.  In this sense, it is perfectly logical for an Eastern person to think Christianity has a physical as well as a spiritual impact on a community, because these are intrinsically inseparable realities.

To describe holism more clearly, consider a piece of bread.  It is made of yeast, sugar, water, and salt.  Yet simply putting these ingredients in a bowl will not give you bread.  Similarly, you cannot take a piece of bread and simply tear out the sugar, the salt, the yeast, or the water.  Why?  While they are all present in the bread, the bread is not compartmentalized into sugar, salt, water, and yeast segments.  Rather, they are part of an inextricable whole.

How does this apply to how we look at the Gospel and scripture?

Mark 2: 1-12 describes Jesus healing a paralytic at his home, which we learn from the earlier chapter was Peter’s home.  Does Jesus just heal the man’s inability to walk?  Does he just forgive his sin?  The context reveals that he healed the whole man.  The only prerequisite was that there was adequate faith, and he and his friends had enough faith in Jesus to have the boldness to tear through the roof of Peter’s house!  Jesus heals the whole man as Jesus, who Himself is the Gospel, is holistic.

There are numerous other examples where Jesus heals holistically and addresses the whole person, and even whole communities.  At times, however, he just fed people, or just healed people.  Some people only followed him for physical bread, and He acknowledged this.  Only one of the ten lepers came back to thank and worship Him.  Sometimes whole communities rejected Him, while other regions were rather fruitful.

Furthermore, holism also impacts how the bible views people.  Orthodox Christianity has recognized for centuries that people are holistic.  Jesus mentioned loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, while most the Old Testament refers to a person in terms of a spirit and a body.  To the Hebrew, these are not separate distinctions as much as ingredients well integrated into a whole.  Therefore the soul is interwoven with the body, and the body with the soul.  Millard Erickson, author of Christian Theology, affirms that orthodox Christianity recognizes that people consist of a body and soul, noting that the soul and spirit are used interchangeably within the bible. The soul is the unity of the spirit and flesh in Gen 2:7.  It is often used to describe the non-physical aspects of humanity (Matt 10:28).    Furthermore, The soul is used in various ways throughout Scripture as referring to life in the body” (Mt 6:25; 10:39; 16:25-26; 20:28; Lk 14:26; Jn 10:11-18; Acts 15:26; 20:10; Phil 2:30; 1 Jn 3:16).  The thing to keep in mind though, is that these are integrated concepts all discussed in context of a whole person.

What about trichotomy?  This is the belief that people have three somewhat distinct parts to their nature, a soul, spirit, and body.  First, the New Testament twice refers to body, soul, and spirit in the same thought, but makes no consistent use of these terms as three separate compartments. 1 Thes 5:23 and Hebrews 4:12 are often used by trichotomists to defend a strict division of the spirit, soul, and flesh.  But 1 Thes 5:23 is no more an argument for trichotomy than Luke 10:27 is an argument for a four-part human constitution.  The emphasis in both scriptures rather is on the whole person.  Hebrews 4:12 properly analyzed in the Greek is not referring to the soul and spirit being separated from one another as though separate entities, but rather affirms the ability of God’s word to shape and organize our being.  Whether you call it soul or spirit, the author is saying the scripture can properly divide and discern it.  Last, a spirit, soul, flesh trichotomy was not used by Jesus who spoke of the heart, mind, soul, and strength.

I have heard trichotomists say that the spirit is the part of you where Christ lives, that the soul is the mind, will and emotions, and the body is the physical component of a person.  In contrast to the holistic Eastern perspective, this is very compartmentalized.

However, suppose one accepts trichotomy.   The fact remains that the scripture with no consistency defines the soul as the mind, will and emotions.  Scripture simply does not affirm these speculative definitions often attached to this term.   In the same sense that you cannot easily extract sugar from bread, you cannot simply separate the emotions from the mind, from a body, in a person.  Are they all in there?  Yes, but not in separate compartments.

A holistic understanding of people also concurs with recent science that locates emotion, love, and spiritual awareness in the brain and systems of the body.  In this sense, we can no longer separate the emotional from the physical, nor the spiritual from the physical.  They are an integrated whole.  While they may be separate concepts, they are intrinsic to our being.

Trichotomy is Platonist Greek in origin and was rejected as heresy by the early church from the time of Apollinaris onward that correctly regarded it as a key ingredient of Gnosticism.  The overwhelming testimony of scripture is that the terms for soul and spirit are used interchangeably, and that God is concerned with the whole person.  The emphasis on the spirit to the denial of the soul is a theme in some ministries that I believe has gotten off base from orthodox Christianity.  Deny self, yes.   Deny the old creation, yes.   But to equate this with denying the soul caves to the Gnostic tendency to equate most if not all human emotion and thought with evil, not recognizing that these are part of the very heart where God himself lives and has raised to life.  In some of these circles, becoming emotionally mature becomes irrelevant, and critical thinking is dismissed as being part of the soul-life, leaving people very susceptible to the power of suggestion.  Of course not all thoughts and emotions are of the Lord either, but to say they are all evil or all of the old man is to deny parts of our own raised humanity.  But don’t take my word for it-simply do some research on this topic and you will see that trichotomy does not have the same advocates among orthodox theologians as it does now in some ministries.

The most obvious implication of this is in how we regard fellow brothers’ and sisters’ thoughts and emotions.  Are they to be valued or dismissed?  Is listening to them a part of our spiritual journey, or are they rubbish associated with the old man?  When we place little value on thoughts and especially emotions of others, the whole notion of “God loves you,” no longer means much.  The some times general insensitivity people perceive from Christians is entirely incompatible with loving the whole person, each other, and the world.  Granted, not every thought or emotion is God-given or God inspired, but some are, and the scripture certainly affirms that God demonstrates His love in loving sinners.  In short, devaluing thoughts and emotions is entirely counter-intuitive to baring one anothers’ burdens and listening in such a way as to love others.

Am I talking about dualism?  Isn’t that just as gnostic?  A holistic view acknowledging the scripture’s descriptions of body and spirit is still quite distinct from a dualistic view that emphasizes their distinctions. I am saying these are inextricable.  Gnosticism, by contrast says they are quite able to separate.  I am also saying that God is not opposed to healthy emotions and making use of critical thinking.  I see this as important as compartmental tripartism is the bedrock of groups where critical thinking is dismissed and emotions are considered something to die to as part of the old man.  Last, recognizing the soul and body does not exclude that there could be many parts to the human constitution.  The main idea is that all that we are is included in our soul and body, in our whole being.   Overall, the idea is focus on the whole person, the bread, not on the parts to the exclusion of others.

Simply put, if people are whole, in ministry we are to love the whole person.  This is what Jesus did.

Last, if people are whole, this points to why resurrection is considered so important to the Christian faith.  The body dies in death, but a soul without a body is simply not how we were created.  Jesus did not simply rise from the dead as a spiritual, disembodied being.  Neither did Lazarus, nor the Roman Centurian’s daughter.  They were resurrected to life, fully present physically and spiritually.  Similarly, our eternal destiny is to be fully resurrected to life, having a body and spirit.  In sum, our destiny is wholeness.

The Answer

31 May

The following link’s title may surprise you, especially coming from me, but hang with it.  I think he gets at a bigger reality.

House church, or any Christian movement that prescribes a course of action without a deep fellowship on the Son, will eventually prove empty.  A deep personal fellowship on the Son, however, is a wellspring of life, and wherever 2 or 3 or 10 share the overflow of it, it is a beautiful thing.  Amidst a search for the new wineskin, let us stay focused on the wine!

http://truthforfree.com/html/article_housechurchnottheanswer.html

About Me Part II

16 May

OK, so continuing from where I left off, a continuing theme is that we can only do what The Father is doing, including organic church.  If the Spirit only does what glorifies the Son, and the Son only does what the Father is doing, it does not matter if we believe all the right things about church, practice all the right things, use outside apostolic leadership, or try real hard to minister to our neighbors.  All that matters is what the Father is doing.  All else is secondary.  We can only join Him in Church if He has prepared others to form one in a particular place.  When we started this journey in 2006, I never would have guessed it would be six years before we would a part of a healthy expression of organic church.

We began ministering in our neighborhood in Minnesota.  We walked our dogs each day, praying for the neighborhood, meeting and forming relationships with others.  It was great.  We joined in prayer with one woman fighting cancer, shared God’s love with many neighbors, got to minister to a 90-year-old woman right after her husband died while mowing the yard, and led one neighbor to commit his life to the Lord.  When I asked Him what God was telling him to do, he said he sensed he should start going to his Lutheran Church again.  You see, this is what the Father was doing in my neighborhood.  Regardless of what my desires were about starting a church and when.  Is it OK that all these things happened without a Church starting?  We can only do what the Father is doing.

We visited the closest “organic” church to our house in Minnesota.  One organic church author suggested just going somewhere and being a brother and sister first, so this was our most apparent opportunity.  We learned quickly that this was an institutional church except it was in a living room, complete with a pastor who did all the talking, a denominational liturgy, all full of people who never asked why we were there nor who gave us the opportunity.  I was happy that a few people there had recently come to the Lord through the Pastor.  I was also glad to share some books on organic church with the leader.  Yet our search to go somewhere and experience the fellowship of the godhead and use our gifts of the Spirit continued.

For a long time, we referred to Church as “doggie church,” because Church many days was my wife, myself, and the dog.  And though we were hardly the fullest expression of church, we learned through experience that the simplest expression of church is wherever 2 or 3 are gathered in His name.  If you look at Matthew 10: 2-4 you will see the disciples are all listed in pairs.  Jesus sent out the 12, the 72, and the 500 in twos and threes.  A Church of two or three is not the lone expression of church in the New Testament, but it is the simplest.  We are not to underestimate Jesus among any two or three of us when it is Jesus.

We moved to Colorado, sensing the Lord was telling us to do so for the sake of being in organic church and for the health of our family life.  Once here, we twice we were part of failed organic church plants started by outside help.  We took our share of pain and abuse along the way.  Why did they fail?  Again, we can only do what the Father is doing.  I could list the problems in detail and we would come back to the reality-we can only do what the Father is doing.

After the last failed attempt at organic church, we decided to take a year and visit as many organic churches around the country as we could.  This usually meant going on a trip once a month.  During this time, we got to meet some wonderful brothers and sisters in the Lord.  We saw some wonderful meetings,  and saw people really using their gifts.  We decided that if God was not building organic church in our neck of the woods, we would move away to be a part of one He was building.

Toward the end of this year, I met with a leader in Denver who encourages a network of hundreds of organic churches.  We started attending a church in Denver.  At first, a few practices seemed different from what we had come to expect in our prior experiments.  But asking the Lord, He told us these were periphery.  We met a couple who lived blocks from us.  Another couple we met in the prior year also emerged, as well as a few singles we met along the way.  And in 2012, a Church of 8-9 adults emerged in Colorado Springs.

Some will say Church cannot be simple as long as God and people are involved.  That is the experience of many that try organic church, and was ours at times in our prior experiences.  But it seems to be much more simple these days, and I believe it is because of the prevenient work of the Lord.

We meet around the Lord, using 2 simple disciplines.  We check in with each other, describing briefly what we may feel sad, angry, scared, happy, excited, or tender about.  Why?  Family bares each others burdens, and we share each others hearts.  Our hearts are where the Lord lives, and emotions are the language of the heart.  But the Lord is the focus, and with that, we take time to listen to Him.  Why listen?  All other gifts flow from listening to the Head of the Church.

Habakkuk 2: 1-3 states, “I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint.Then the Lord replied: “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald[b] may run with it.  For the revelation awaits an appointed time;  it speaks of the end and will not prove false.  Though it linger, wait for it;  it[c] will certainly come and will not delay.”

The apostle Paul states in 1 Cor 14:1 ” Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy.”   He further says in verse 26 “What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.”

Desiring prophecy is desiring to hear the present voice of a lonely God who is dying to come fellowship with each one of us.  He lives within us.  Revelation 3 says he stands at the door of our heart and knocks, waiting to be let in to fellowship with us.  Jesus said His sheep would know His voice.  The fact is, we all hear God.  We just have not been trained to identify when it is Him, or when it is not.  Passing thoughts may come from the world, the enemy, other spirits, the media, but some of them are right from the Spirit of God.  He is speaking all the time.  How do we learn to discern what is from God?

The verses in Habakkuk speak of waiting before the Lord, focusing on Him, and writing down what He gives us.  Revelation 1 : 10-12 also refers to writing what God says when we are focused on Him.

The Lord said, my sheep will know my voice, and died to leave His spirit in our hearts that we might live by His present revelation.

Paul thought prophecy was important enough to single it out from all other gifts.  It pertains to the voice of the Lord, which is in every believer.  So we take time to listen to Him, and to write down what He shares.

Living by the voice of an indwelling God.  There is nothing else like it.  Of course everything perceived to be rhema must be tested by the logos.  So we broadcast what we hear with humility, seeking correction from the scriptures and the sharpening of what the rest of the community  is hearing from God.

It took six years for us to find a community like this.  I hope every follower of Christ will find the joy of hearing the voice of the Spirit, the parakleet (greek), or coach within, and be able to celebrate this in community with other brothers and sisters.  I am a beggar who found bread, and I am happy to share with other beggars where to find what I have found.