Here is a funny – A friend recently pointed out that on the back side of our Christmas card Hallmark printed someone else’s message saying; “We spent our 12th anniversary in Cancun.” At first we were horrified and then just laughed it off, wondering who spent their 12th anniversary in Cancun, and thankful Hallmark didn’t print their picture!
Barb and I spent our 12th anniversary, which was in 1990, in Rocky Ford, Colorado, where I was a pastor at the time, lol. Our Christmas card picture was taken last fall at Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness, Scotland, a far cry from Cancun, lol. (Now some are looking for those cards to read the back, lol)
House church is much more than ‘Simple church’
Back in the Charismatic Renewal of the 1970’s people came and went from home based ‘prayer & praise’ meetings at will, with commitment expected neither to the meetings nor to the people in them. It fit well with the culture of the day as the US was coming out of the hippie movement and into the Jesus people, then to the informal home based prayer & praise meetings of the Charismatic Renewal.
When you heard of a new prayer and praise meeting starting you’d race to it, often finding people you had seen previously when they too had visited some other new meeting in town, but no real relationship came of it.
It became the thing to do. When friends met socially the talk was what new prayer meeting they had gone to and what happened in it. Visiting the various meetings around town was like walking the aisles at a big store picking the best produce or product, and then having sampled, move on.
The independent charismatic churches of today didn’t yet exist and prayer & praise meetings were popping up everywhere. People came and went out of those prayer meetings like kids moving from one ride at an amusement park to the next – nothing was required or expected of you.
A funny observation of the day was after a person received the baptism with the Holy Spirit they should be locked up for 6 months because many did more damage by their zeal with zero knowledge than they did good. It was the wild, wild, west of Charis-mania.
What goes around, comes around
In our day the modern equivalent of these come and go as you please prayer & praise meetings is called Simple Church, and most have the same no expectation of commitment as the prayer meetings of the 1970’s, and can be just as wild and crazy.
But, if you examine scripture for what defines a Bible based house church, and look at the common thread down through history to our day, those were and are still founded upon Christ laying down His life for us which in turn means members of a house church lay down their lives for each other.
In Acts through Paul’s letters we see people laying down their lives by giving of their resources and skills to help others to such an extent not a single person had a need among them. When Dorcas died in Acts 9 they showed Peter the garments she had made for them.
Disciples often rotated homes they met in and rotated who led each meeting, and as they outgrew one house and multiplied out to start another home based church, they stayed related to one another and continued the relationships. So much so, that when Paul wrote to them, his letters said ‘to the church at…(Rome, Corinth, etc)’, indicating though the disciples met in many homes, there was just one body as they all remained related to one another. I’ve seen estimates the body of Christ in Ephesus was as many as 25,000 people, yet he addressed them all as one body, all related to one another.
House church is founded upon a higher purpose for the gathering – to further the discipleship process. House church is not a come and go as you please prayer & praise meeting – while it can include all those elements that make those meetings to alive and flowing in the Spirit, it is much more, it is much deeper – people in house church are committed to meeting regularly together, walking through life together, and growing in Christ together.
A person may say they are born again or love Jesus, but there is no way to prove that. God therefore designed His righteousness to be proven, revealed, and perfected within relationships. The proof of our walk with God is found within our relationships with other disciples.
Some proponents of simple church teach a spiritual free-for-all like in the 1970’s, with no expectation of commitment, so we see the same immaturity now as we did in the charismatic renewal – people looking more for spiritual goose bumps and to have a wild and crazy time in the Lord than actually growing up to be more Christ-like.
The first ‘church’ in a home was Adam & Eve with the Lord in the Garden of Eden. Where 2-3 are gathered He is in the midst and we see that first in the Garden. We don’t meet in homes because of persecution, but because we are family. Families are committed to one another: Family gathers around a meal, family provides a home and clothing, and walking through life together is part of what makes a family, a family. So also is the family of God. We meet in homes because God established the home as the primary source for spreading the knowledge of God across the earth.
We are not orphans, running from home to home begging for a morsel here, a crumb there, yet spiritually speaking that is exactly what many Christians are like, distracting themselves by going to this meeting or that to mask the fact they have no one in their lives. We are family, but to be part of one requires purpose of heart and a willingness to grow as a person and as a person in Christ.
The word ‘Christian’ means ‘follower of Christ’ or ‘follower of the anointed One’. Jesus said that they would know us by our love* and that we should lay down our lives for others. So to be a follower of Christ means to love one another within relationships. Love is a quality of the heart, and the only way it is known is by actions demonstrated within relationships. * John 13:34-35
I encourage you to meet in homes even if you start with just your family, but by all means invite others when you feel it is right. At the start the way you meet doesn’t matter as the Lord often builds a core group who are committed to one another, living intentionally towards one another, and then He often adds others sometimes a year or more down the road. Meet with purpose and intent. Often a meal is involved, discussion, prayer, study, and a lot of fellowship and sharing of lives. God moves in seasons, not minutes and seconds, so allow a season of getting to know one another, a season of working through difficulties and misunderstandings, a season of seeing Him binding people together in His love.
Some will recall what I shared the Father said to me in September 2003: “Watch out when Hillary takes office.” She was a US Senator at the time and I knew the only 2 ways ‘up’ were Secretary of State and/or President, so it will be interesting to watch the coming months if He meant President as time will reveal what He meant. The ‘Watch out’ makes me consider the possibilities for a possible administration of hers in 2017-2021, and I will write more about that later.
Consider also how I shared during the Bush/Kerry Presidential campaign of 2004, when I noticed a different spirit about it I asked the Father what it was. He said: “It is the spirit of socialism. It can be delayed, but it won’t be stopped.” I asked where it came from and He said, “It came from Europe for there are those in this nation who think the US should be more like Europe, but that’s not what I’ve called this nation to be.”
Each nation has its purpose in the Lord and that wasn’t a criticism of social policy, but a statement that isn’t how the Lord intended the US to be structured. But with the latest proposal to turn the Internet over to the Federal government we can see the forces at work to federalize every aspect of our lives, yet it is only a fraction of what is to come. (More on that later too)
I’ve taught a lot about the coming Ezekiel 38-39 war between Russia and her allies and Israel and her allies. What I find fascinating is considering what must happen between now and then in terms of Middle East, Russian, and US politics. There are several basic conclusions we can draw from scripture, here are a few.
For instance, the first ally of Russia named in 38:5 is Persia, which is modern Iran. That means whatever headlines we may read about an Iranian arms deal, the fact is it will be one of the nations that goes to war against Israel. In 38:8 & 11 it says Israel lives in peace and safety before the invasion, so look for a local or regional peace either by treaty, election, or even perhaps merely by being distracted by a common regional foe like ISIS. But realize the war won’t come until Israel is on a local level, at peace. This shift in the coming months is something the Father has shown me, a shift from concern about the local peace to concern for the peace of the whole region. In fact, the regional conflict may lead to news of local peace – we will see – but the focus now is on the region as a whole, and at some point Russia and her allies will shift focus and blame to Israel and seek to destroy it.
Ezekiel 38:12 says the enemies of Israel will ‘ascend like a cloud to cover the land’, which (I believe) refers to air power – so watch for Arab nations to become much more active in their air power, because some of them will join in the future attack.
All these however must be tempered with our life in Christ. His economy is not dependent on the world’s economy, for His economy (an economy is much more than just money) works within relationships for all we need in the natural is here on earth, not in heaven. He has given us the kingdom, but He lives in people, so it is through those people He moves to meet needs, whether material needs or the need to grow in Him, it is all about relationships.
Chris’ room – We are finally down to the handicapped capable sink/cabinet being made! Handicapped sinks are shallow at the front and deepen at the back so a person in a wheelchair can roll right up under it without hitting their knees. We hope to order them later this month, and then decide on a counter top with the roll-under cabinet being built around the sinks, and it all should be installed in March. Wow, the final $2000 to go and we are SO relieved. Chris loves his new bath and shower, the bath especially as at the group home they only have showers. The other day he said, “I like my new room dad. Thank you”, he said it in such a sweet tone of voice I knew he appreciated all the work and effort that went into it, even if he has no concept of money and those who gave to help us do this, nor even of his own need for such a specialized bath and bedroom. And Barb and I thank you too!
Thank you for being part of our lives, it is a privilege to have you part of ours.
John and Barb