The Journey 2009-2011
The Journey 2009
Thanks be to our Father for the joy you now share together. A new year has come with testing and triumph. As the idols of this world are failing, our God is able in keeping us securely through all.
December of 2008, during my visit with Church of the Servant King, brother Mike Munk graciously referred me to a new church/community in southeast Portland, known as “Old Growth”. In part, I was drawn to know more of new monastic community because, from the late 1990s, New Monasticism [a.k.a., neo-monasticism] approached the healing of internal fragmentation through bringing our whole of life under the lordship of Christ; was to be inclusive of all people in Christ who live and work in many different contexts; re-invited us into joyful discipline in the practice of mutual exhortation, correction, and reconciliation; and all these supported with God-driven reflection and commitment. Yet by 2004, NM had begun its reduction to a set of “12 marks” or rules of life, which I found at Springwater community additionally reduced to a recipe:
- 1 abandoned area of town (for missional possibilities)
- 1 customizable set community rule
- 5 cup-o-hospitality
- racial reconciliation flavoring
- 1 pound humble submission to Christ’s body (local portion only)
- half-ounce dilute peace-making
- selected “monogamous couples and celibate singles”
- bonus pack earth garden plots to be
- wildcard invitations to a contemplative life
- quick shopper’s guide for our support of the local economy
- a trial-size market version of “sharing economic resources.”
All these being unpacked from a pantry furnished in “legacy church”.
When I first arrived, Springwater community in the Lents neighborhood of Portland was still known as “Old Growth”. This now former name stands as a hint to resolve an enigma. Founders Rusty & Mary Lou Bonham (Schmidt) had come to leave behind family & friends at the Fernheim Colony in South America. Though Springwater officially is less than 3 years old, the story of Old Growth in Portland actually begins some 80 years ago, when German-speaking Mennonites (fleeing opposition) traveled from North America to clear & build in the Chaco lands of Paraguay. And, out of their struggle to make a dry land produce sufficient, “bigger barns” and relatively comfortable living bloomed to fruit, feeding an economic apartheid [note: source artcle reference, http://realtravel.com/e-180233-loma_plata_entry-economic_apartheid_with_love, is no longer available on-line. 2nd reference: http://www.iniciativa-amotocodie.org/publicaciones/pdf/the-chaco-en.pdf] which binds the families of these Mennonites and the native people of Paraguay even to the day of this writing. One afternoon in Portland, at a Springwater community house then affectionately known as “The Beehive”, Rusty told a small group of us how the Guarani (i.e., chaqueños) would freely share their resources as need would be, while good-meaning Mennonites attempted to correct them away from this practice in favor of an attitude of personal preservation and conservation of private property. Today, heritage of the Chaco has become woven to Springwater. Before anyone renews their lease with the god of mammon, possibly a re-read of the New Testament would be in order? Separating people away from ourselves for sake of their poverty or against their generous heart cracks a loud declaration in where we sit. New life described from Romans 15:7 will languish when pressed against insistence that other people show our preferences, live like us, stay off our toes and out of our way, or pad our comforts. When the grace or the power of God is taken from you, eventually you stop believing that His is real or desirable in life. Thereafter, something of this world for you to now matter more?
5 houses within 5 minute’s walk; 3 with co-housing (roommates). It was good for me to again take labor for others in hand by day and night, while the wee morning hours lent time to keep up on correspondence, prayers shared, etc. I would be living among them for about 4 months, thanking God for every word & work from Him. Flickers of light would shine, even as we would gather Sunday afternoons. As first few weeks slipped by, I began to realize how old-fashioned deism, “open theism,” the “subversive covenant paradigm” of Walter Brueggermann; a progressive distrust of God’s acting or directing unequivocally as we walk together with Him, was beginning to identify me as peculiar of contrast; even as a difference unwanted by some; lauded by others. The mainstream of Springwater consists in meetings of various designations, often closed or concealed. A number of inset relational “boundaries” and the daily demand of personal objectives served day by day to keep most everyone at distance from one another. Doing great violence against the fullness of Christ is the practice of individualism and its related insecurities at Springwater: today a “dry well” that is visibly marked. “Fill us, Oh God!”
[Proverbs 3:5-6; Luke 12:15-31; John 14:26; Acts 13:52; Romans 9:12-21; I Corinthians 2:1-5; II Peter 2:17-22; III John 1:9-11]
“The entire evangelical Scriptures teach us that the church of Christ was and is in doctrine, life, and worship, a people separate from the world.”The Adversary is so very set to hold our status quo because he has as much invested with it. Against this, and within a few recent years, scores of house/home churches have now drifted into, or knowingly set sail for, waters akin to “church-community” as an expression of life together in Christ. It may have begun so simply in mid-week telephone conversation or e-mail that led to seeing one another at various times or places around town or in the workplace; working as one in our common purpose; bearing up together with difficulty or need; quietly lifting to rescuing endangered lives as a God Family team
however, for you, the Spirit set a spark to deeper, further koinonia (fellowship), we thank the Almighty One for bringing new life shared. All from Love no longer lived in what we each want for ourselves. To remember, community transformation comes forth from the life of Christ, though it is not that life. Transformation? Between the 2 men (or, 2 women) who live as you, one must die and be buried so that the other may live.
Of church-community vis-à-vis “intentional” or “unintentional”, intentional has been popularized of late -- as to infer one or another method; while Acts 2-28 sincerely reflects unintentional community. Springwater is an intentional community that has adopted covenanting, as also does Wilderness Way Community, with whom I visited during their weekly gathering in Portland on May 3rd. Also meeting with the brothers & sisters of Southside Samaritan House, a “Summit-styled” (ref: “open church”) ekklesia, located in the Errol Heights neighborhood of Portland, which holds to an unwritten covenant of faithfulness. This “Summit” enjoys the blessing of a houseful of children coming into the knowledge of Christ while their parents look to care for one another and so honor the King. Nate, Teresa, Dennis, Marni, Ricky, Anna, Dan, Jodie, Isaac, Jason, Danielle
sweet fellowship on Tuesdays that vies to be an everyday experience. With a bit of Lutheran flavor, WWC is budding into full community relationships, possibly shedding some old forms inasmuch as the grace of God is sufficient to carry them forward. Although they had gathered together inside a building of meeting on this day, Dale, Esther, Solve, Betsy, Mark and others in the Wilderness Way are at heart more Family than organization; looking to doing the Word and with a pleasant theme against the norms of a confused urban world: their sign in front of the meeting place reads, “There is enough for everyone.”
Why would we seek specialized covenanting, given the covenant of the New Testament for all in Christ? Are we not fully persuaded that the covenant established by Christ, which binds us all together forever, is sufficient to wit? That His Covenant will truly bind us closely together with those whose hands & heart will be caring for us and we for them? To be sure, add-on covenants circulating today are often simply an agreement, intention and/or catechism and/or rule of life. Six months after members at Springwater signed “The Final Covenant,” most were prepared to toss or revise what would amount to the bulk of it. As followed after the Law & Precepts brought through Moses, rules & guidelines to adults soon get broken.
The modern phenom of local covenant may be attempt to patch & defend against the sabotage of private life & agenda upon Christian faith and fellowship. If my own life/blood matters most to me, that same weaker life will tend to draw me away from where I’ve been planted. In this way, a local covenant becomes an opportunity for the weak to sin -- like marriage with an eye for divorce. But when we have died to ourselves, we’re then no longer enabled in the loop of discontent, having been raised up and given a new mind to remain, work, love, endure until the Master reveals next steps. Instead of marking a paper covenant, we would best jump to put a signature to our own death certificate, so that an agreed termination may come to the willy-nilly, strife and flesh feeds within. “We have the certificate of death in ourselves, that we may be having no trust/confidence in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead.”
[II Corinthians 1:9]
By taking up one another, and for one another, we’re acknowledging that God has made/adopted us into the same Family: His. We’re glad to be family to me, and I to you; and not for a shipwrecked Family life, but rather of the very best. No need to be raising or maintaining defensive-volitional boundaries, as Christ has brought down the barrier and invaded our lives to the core. Embracing one another in Christ, we leave behind our former “Caesar adoration”, and early-acquired “ancestor worship”, and no longer instill trust with opinion collection -- especially not mine. The excuse that we are too young of Him to live in Him is a lie, because those who claim not to know or yet receive the way of Christ prove themselves “too old” -- not reaching to their own demise and promised New Birth. So then, now is the day to become young in Messiah’s true life blood!
[Matthew 9:17; Luke 14:26; Ephesians 2:13-16; II Corinthians 6:2]
[see also: Romans 15:7 in the Concordant New Testament]
word from ekklesias experiencing church-community today:
--- from southern California, USA:
the title Family is important to add to what we do/are because we've made a conscience decision to cling to each other. The sense of family is not something that can be felt just by showing up here a few Sundays. You may see it, but can't experience it. Only through the decision to remain do most sense the family dynamic. Meetings and gatherings are only one part of the family. In fact, I may venture to say that one may feel more like family when a brother or sister just picks up the phone mid-week, or shares some stuff on Facebook, goes for a bike ride with them, or has lunch with them.
--- from Idaho, USA
This idea of “finding where God is working and go there” seems to create a dilemma. As much as I want to go where the action is, and certainly not to stay where it is not, I wonder if the difficult times we face, the non-action is just as necessary as the times of action. Emil Bruner in “The Misunderstanding of the Church” reminds me that a church should be ready to support the ecclesia -- The Ecclesia. This support is not telling the ecclesia what to do, but aiding them in doing what they are called to do. So, in one sense, church is called to support me. On the other hand, I am to be the support to the others who are part of the ecclesia and needing support.
--- from New York, USA
We have seen and continue to see Christ in our midst and His love being manifested as brothers and sisters love and care and serve one another. We actually desire to be together because we are growing in love for on another. Some getting together to study the Word, intercede, worship, having a meal, breaking bread
--- from Georgia, USA
We accept the Lordship of Jesus in our lives, individually and as a people. He has destroyed our isolation and joined us together. We commit ourselves fully, as brothers and sisters in the Lord, entrusting our lives to Him and to each other in Him. We build up, exhort, admonish and listen to one another; to be quick to forgive and to ask forgiveness; to assist each other in seeking His perfect will in all things.
--- from Denmark
We live in relationships, and there is no common agreement like “We are a house/simple church”. We are just brothers and sisters living in relationships. There is prayer and help for each other. There is teaching in a very informal way. As family, we celebrate the Lord's supper, and if there are brothers/sisters visiting us, they join us. We are not a church. We live and experience the life of Jesus. That means we live and are His church.
--- from Virginia, USA
It has been a joy and privilege to see the Holy Spirit change lives, mend broken hearts, encourage the weary, release the warriors and teach us all to pray without ceasing. We are truly family!
--- from Africa
What God teaches the church is the marvelous way that he overcomes the flesh through love. We had incredible power in Kenya and Uganda. Pastors showed up asking us what made us different from all the other muzungus (white men) that visit and preach to them. Hearts were opened, and no one could deny the power or the need of our message. What did we do? We lived the way God taught us to live, which is to be a friend to everyone, and people who saw it were moved. They knew that it was good, and they knew that it was from God, and they showed up and asked us how we learned to live with such power. We knew we weren’t there for words. We were there to bring the life of God because that Life can teach Africans just as well as it has taught us. So we simply showed up and did what we always do.
--- from Nebraska, USA
We have some set gatherings, but the best gatherings are of a spontaneous nature. We’re learning to relate in a true and sincere way, which includes supporting and encouraging each other through the daily life dealings. And, the religious grave clothes are continuing to come off
--- from Israel
There are all sorts of messianic streams and Christian Arab streams all across Israel. The amazing thing is that the messianic Jews and the evangelical Arab Christians are very much in unity even in our differences. We take care of each other and love each other. Here in Beer Sheva, in the past month my wife and I have seen several new babies and those babies have already had other babies, etc., in a discipleship chain and simple church context.
--- from northern California, USA
We have an open meeting with no formal teaching except words of instruction. We have times of worship and eating together. Our purpose is to build-up one another and our focus is on the Lord Jesus Christ. This, plus spending time together helps us develop “community” in a biblical sense.
--- from Georgia, USA
We have become a group of home-based communities of faith working together to extend the kingdom of God in our neighborhoods and around the world.
For this Journey letter, sent to you a few times within a year’s span, about 4 dozen written responses are received by us. Here is copy from 3 recent replies to The Journey:
--- from Texas, USA
I find it very unsettling but also normal that the house church movement in America has been bogged down in the same lack of Holiness, Righteousness, and Purity with a definitive LACK of obedience no different than the organized church from which they all came. Only Jesus living in us as Jesus will ever bring true deliverance as He told the Pharisees to clean the INSIDE of the cup and the outside would naturally be clean. Unfortunately, most still prefer to be in control, controlling their behavior with their own will power instead of submitting to the Lord utterly and allowing HIM to cleanse us as the scriptures say in Colossians 2:11, cleansing us completely from the corrupt, carnal nature with its appetites and lusts.
--- from Ohio, USA
It is sad to see the body divided by names, man-made practices and fleshly displays rather than being one under the Head. Paul saw it coming in his day. If we would focus on getting the good news out to our neighborhoods and have His love for one another the enemy would not have any ground. We must be pure, without wrinkle before Him so He runs back for His bride. In a great house there are vessels to honor and some to dishonor. I pray He works swiftly in His body by turning up the pressure to transform us. I get the sense from the Spirit that is what He is doing these days.
--- from Washington, USA
We have been part of this church now for 9+ years, the Lord having led us to initiate a grouping of likeminded brothers and sisters, for the purpose of being a church in keeping with our best and ever growing understanding of what Jesus intended them to be. Call them house churches, simple churches, biblical churches, or such like; we do, with all our shortcomings, identify with such attempts to define and characterize what we believe we are to be part of. We also believe in the need and privilege to encourage others in leaving the weak and beggarly things of man’s design, and to follow after Christ and His ways in all things, with “what a church ought to be” as just a portion of our focus. So, again a big amen to your statement “Odd, how we may be inclined to re-invent what has already been brutally tried and failed by those who have already lived before God and us.” We desire to leave such things behind by God’s grace.
to clarification: at WorthyHouse.info, there are 24 emblems positioned along the “roof”. Unlike the new monastic “12 marks”, content at W|H best serves as simple reminder -- not as rule, method, qualifications nor “covenant”.
Ever do and be as God enables in you!
Thank you for sharing prayers forwarded via PrayerServant and your Charis newsfeed among those whom you also share together life in Christ. Thank you also for the “God reports”, praises to His name, wisdom & patience paid forward in the Name of the Lamb of God. Remember also the ekklesia in every place.
In Service of the Living-Loving God,
P.S. e-write us regarding more about anything here, or call: (541) 864-9114
The Journey 2010 - part 1
now The Journey, and letters, are in transition, so that there is no longer a single letter being sent to everyone. Instead, letters are written with regard to needs and in the lead of the Spirit of God toward each recipient. Text follows from the common paragraphs
Time in La Pine, eastern Oregon:
Delighted to frequently visit Michael & Rachel in such a rural place, though they were soon en route over the mountains into a new church-community gathering at Willamina, near Oregon's Willamette Valley. Michael had been in a business arrangement with another brother; an endeavor that had soured, and we talked in days for our Master's wisdom & power bringing us through relationship sacrifices & conflicts. It was during this time that the Spirit of Christ re-opened tired eyes to His work of reconciliation amid & among the ekklesias. Traveling out among
The living room was filled with family. We're greeting men of a mixed gathering, where some had fully laid down their self-lives for our King; others on their way still. All here seems open & honest regarding their sojourn. Thanks be to God, we can begin to recognize the Body and blood of Christ in Culver, Oregon. A number here had been formerly associated with Bend Bible Church. I often pray for a complete revelation of Christ, as I pray for these brothers & sisters. Yet, I lack faith because, what if our King did arrive in full presence to our being? Such fire, clearing all that is not of Him away. For today, The Spirit's work in progress, and, the thing that snagged me at Culver evoked a memory from 25 years ago -- a Calvary Chapel. It was Chuck Smith's California experiment that first showered me with "speculation theology". Today, Matt teaching a mix of what the Word & Spirit says and what men envisage to the ekklesia. This day, I had come with a friend who had been with these brothers for a time, and was himself midst a significant relationship tussle. As much as I could ascertain, for months these men offered a number of contrasting, "I think you should...", though little by way of the power of God. Have we together received the Lord's gift of power; the witness of the Spirit, with power over sin? So essential to reconciliation!
[Luke 9:1; Acts 1:8; Romans 8:16-17; 15:13; I Corinthians 2:4-5; 4:20; II Thessalonians 1:11-12; II Timothy 1:7; II Peter 1:3]
In Tumalo, another full house. The Johnson's have a substantial spread, where they sometimes also host BBQ & conference-style "evangelistic" events. In talking with Bernell, the Spirit did not reveal to me how this may have here come about; simply "event-driven". The presence of the Spirit of Christ juxtaposed with things that men believe they can do (for God). But this state of affairs, common today, is to change as we grow/mature in the nurture of the Spirit. May all that the Father has planted in and among us bring to blossom and fruit!
Bend Bible Church, said to be transitioning out from legacy church, portrayed an IC in ICU, assaulted in reformation's tears: much division, weakness, in the world's mode. To irony: "I Peter 4:10-11" hung upon the front of BBC's pulpit. Holding back tears a bit, "How may our Father deliver these?" Yet, with nothing as impossible to Him, and sure that the hearts & minds of some here belong to Christ (rather than to a stumbling religious system).
One day in La Pine, answering e-mail, but to look up and face a wall of water with hail approaching at the window; the storm's intensity slamming into the building, with flashes of lightning such as we had experienced while in Iowa. Nearby, 14-year-old Austin Melton ignores a friend's warning and heads out into the storm. "What's the worst that's going to happen? I'm going to get struck by lightning?" Austin was struck by lightning, moments later in that storm. Though scorched & bewildered for weeks following, he did survive that day.
Then time arrived for me to cross the mountains westward, for what came to be a 2-day bicycle ride. Near Crater Lake, I met a young man who asked that I might join him for a few miles with conversation. He was himself returning from a distant visit with family. Into his lorry, and he shared of venture in spiritual things and of learning through faithfulness. Our chat shaved a whole day off the journey.
This was a return to the Umpqua after 4+ years, with the winter season appointed that I should help build bridges and refer saints & seeking hearts from a physical distance. The house of God being shaken so in these times, and excitement within me to visit as many as Father would allow. Maybe for why my sister, Chrystal, often sends from the Portland area to remind me of "patience".
This prayer request came from Bristol, UNITED KINGDOM.
from Martin: Exciting Times
Recently, I discovered my Dad is terminal with cancer; then I lost my job; and now I've lost the house, without a dime to my name. Only God can resolve this one. Exciting, but at the same time scary!
Losing everything to gain Christ and His Kingdom. These perilous days lend to drive toward the Kingdom more winning losers.
Earthquakes in Haiti & Chile have now put people to work, while in the USA there are new millions unlikely to soon resume employee labor. A time of opportunity from the Lord to receive as many as who will be received by Him on earth and in heaven, and setting their hands to work for righteousness and peace. Lost and disheartened we also were, while building the towers to society in Babylon.
weakness from a metaphor:
Not a starfish, The Vine with His branches.
When divided, a starfish creates more cute individuals; lives headless, sluggish and aloof. A starfish may live for 3 to 5 years.
Grape vines live for a very long time. Their fruit quality often improves with each passing year. Grapes produce fruit, and are pruned rather than divided.
A few years in reformation in the surf could not match the transformation and renewing of your mind.
"The Kingdom is like..." [Matthew 13 & 20]
HE RESTORES US:
As Paul has written us, God "gave us the ministry of reconciliation." Despite dim eyes and some stubborn hearts, it remains the will of God for us to walk & breathe in His complete peace; His wholeness. Today, no shortage of short-falls or conflicts for His resolution! This work for us has already begun. We joyfully commend those sent in the Spirit to help clear bridges, and to rebuild the wall of reconciliation.
[I Corinthians 5:4; Colossians 2:5; I Thessalonians 2:17-20]
There is a very strong streak of independence and fear of entrapment within some branches of the simple/house/organic church movement. They have drunk deep from the well of separatism. Please pray for release, that they and we may come together in one heart and mind. Pray for Apostolic, sent, missional workers to build bridges.
--Stephen; Florida, USA
Are we independent or isolated, withdrawn or guarded from full fellowship with ekklesia in other places or across town?
[John 17; I Corinthians 1; Ephesians 4]
What unfortunately often happens is that once we convince ourselves that we have given Jesus some place of 'centrality', we are free to arrange the rest of our lives as we desire. I do not believe that this is really Jesus' teaching or desire. He primarily calls us to follow Him on a daily basis by the Spirit. This is unsettling, but leaves us with no other option than to keep our whole lives simplified and focused on Him.--Johan Boot; Cape Town, South Africa
All things that He desires for you, do you also desire those things?
a portion in LETTERS:
There is an incredible amount of wonderful Christian music that came out of the charismatic movement of three and four decades ago, which I was very much involved in, and I am very thankful to have been a part of it. But they, like most, have gravitated back to a basically Old Covenant practice of a separate priesthood, with pulpits, sermons, and a 'worship team' with microphones, electronic amplification and such. I have separated myself from all of that, since in my opinion it is nothing less than full of controlling spirits that do not in truth exalt the Lord Jesus Christ, that is, the Christ that is truly in each individual believer.---our brother, David
from Tennessee [USA]:
The main thing He's been showing me..."the faith", in it's truest sense, is an all-or-nothing proposition, and that the vast majority, myself included, are not willing to walk it out as if it's really all about HIM, and not about us. We choose some version of religion instead, in which we can be "comfortable", although I find little comfort in it any more.
also, from Tennessee:
The biblical house church is much more common in the rest of the world. In Europe, out of desperation because the religious climate has become so totally dark, and in Asia [and other places] because of persecution. Where Christendom (official church) is openly practiced, and where national leaders claim to be religious, the house churches are few in number and have to be very dedicated to stand up against the image they have as [appearing to be] radical and strange.
from Maryland [USA]:For the first time I'm beginning to feel like I'm really a part of the body of Christ. People in the ekklesia seem to be much more Christ-like. The spirit is much different from when I was attending regular churches. The people are even acting like those in the 1st century church. I've been reading Acts. This is all so beautiful. It really is. I feel like I'm getting to know the real Jesus now.
You know His great Love for you,
The Journey 2010 - part 2
there is no longer a single letter being sent to everyone. Instead, letters are written with regard to needs and in the lead of the Spirit of God toward each recipient. Text follows from the common paragraphs
2010 has been a journey of incident, to share with you in many places, and during a time for me to let the asphalt highways rest. We are witness to restoration far beyond the 19th century ambitions of Campbell-Stone.
Matthew 18's recover a lost sheep is in blossom! Search & rescue can seem overwhelming for the faint of heart, while the Holy Spirit is not faint. Example? Since last writing, as I recon, there's been a man from Texas who wandered off into personal of-fences, and for whom we just could not coax up and out of a fearful pit; wouldn't let any of us get near him. So, I went out by telephone on a 6 State mid-west roundup to see if we might bring along another familiar hand to stand-in with this man and his family. No takers then, but I did hear more than one account to how this had all come upon our friend, time & again. For many years, he had put his trust in the Assembly of God posse, working the sect ranches, and well, there were there some bad men who branded & chased him off for his preachin' which had not exactly been to their liking. So, he's taken us all the way out to the scrub pasture of verse 17, with most everyone who knew anything of him having seen it all by him. The Master's able to drive our brother home. We're all just kingdom hands doing what we've been asked by Love. But truly, it don't happen this way so often. Anyone riding Spirit can bring back seven a day, if you catch site of 'em early.
Portions of prayers shared at PrayerServant:
- "that all of us here would continue to seek first the Kingdom"
- "eyes fixed on Y'shua/Jesus"
- "hearts humble"
- "Christ as supreme over all"
- "to remain unspotted from the world"
- "gain awareness for needs"
- "pray for our growth together"
- "Father's guidance and His hand in all things"
- "gain our liberty together"
- "re-learning how to experience everything in Christ"
- "this community respond to Christ in us"
- "for the ekklesia here, that we will resist the temptation to control things or to make things happen"
- "minister to the young professional people coming in"
- "to treasure the Presence and fellowship of Christ together"
- "hearts are directed only at Jesus"
- "the overflow of His Spirit"
- "that out of everything we be united, rooted and grounded in love"
- "that we may be led to find people who are receiving of the gospel and life of Christ"
- "deliver Your people from [dead] religion. Bring revelation and reality home"
- "pray as we overcome. Traditions are hard to break free from"
- "safely through against division that is trying to come in among us here. May the Spirit and the Word triumph together"
- "as we fight battles and overcome in all things by the name of Y'shua"
- "to demonstrate the love of Christ to our enemies"
- "that we may be 'salt and light'"
- "to yielding much in fruit of the Spirit"
- "not to miss any of the gifts/graces He would have for me to share"
- "for the Oneness that exposes the sins of envy, pride, and lust, and the big lie that says, 'we can all be of different denominations and still be one body'"
- "at times we just wanna drop off the face of the earth than face these trials "
- "Him as the Word of Truth to those with ears to hear", Glory to God in The Highest though! He will keep us"
- "May the Lord strengthen and maintain His unity among us"
beyond the transitional Church of 1... 2... 3... or CORE4...
With ekklesia (those called out, coming together), there is also sunagoge (gathering together of the scattered): a simpler assembly which may see Family come from near & far. Inclusive to some joint-regional gatherings today, sunagoge emerges from [II Thessalonians 2:1; Hebrews 10:25; James 2:2]. Yet, with 30 times more New Testament mention for our life together in Christ, ekklesia oversees. All in/with/for/by/through Christ, our Beloved.
A Moral Philosophy?
Someone has left the back door open, and Ethic is in the house. (Well, not in every house.) Ethic is the lost neighbor's dog, and he is back to steal from the Table again. About the world, he sires darling pups with Legalism, Segregation, Elitism, Humanism, and big dog Religion. This mutt gets around --- look here! Corinth renting the dog house:
My defense to those who examine me [Paul] is this: Do we not have the right to eat and drink? Do we not have a right to take along a believing woman/wife, even as the rest of the apostles, and the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?...
[I Corinthians 9:3-5]
To the chagrin of Paul, borrowed hounds barking up the wrong tree. Have you seen them in the neighborhood, running circles of guilt, chasing little kids into the street? Have you been bitten? Been run into a corner? See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy...  Moral Philosophy tears up the more excellent way we have been furnished from above; and a moral breed can take down the vulnerable, as when a woman is advised to leave an abusive relationship. Ethic would be lying with Convenience again, breeding in the world's litter, while Jesus appeals that we might lay down our own lives. Can't live without Ethic? Pray not you be the next sorry soul to have Ethic or Philosophy running loose in the mind, blindly mauling the teachings of Christ or gnawing on your preparation of the gospel of peace. With Christ as our full realization, the former ideals meet with eviction: Hedonism, Epicureanism, Stoicism, applications in Psychology, Aphorism, Utilitarianism, Rationalism, Fallibilism, Prescriptivism, Egoism, duty, obligation, "common sense"... all & more trumped into abandon for a more excellent way, Love.
[Colossians 2:8-10; Ephesians 6:15]
from a house church in Oregon [USA]: "one of the things that is common to people who are bereaved is the need to hear from others that their beloved was worthwhile. It is a validation that helps to soften the pain of the loss."
How may we be bereaved in Christ?
How are we validated?
from Aristides Apology [chapter 15]:
"And if any righteous man among them passes from the world, they rejoice and offer thanks to God; and they escort his body as if he were setting out from one place to another near. And when a child has been born to one of them, they give thanks to God; and if moreover it happen to die in childhood, they give thanks to God the more, as for one who has passed through the world without sins. And further if they see that any one of them dies in his ungodliness or in his sins, for him they grieve bitterly, and sorrow as for one who goes to meet his doom."
Strong evidence we are all psychotic? Or more conclusively, the clear difference alive in us between life and death. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. Outside of Christ, who would rejoice at death of their flesh? While in Christ, who may count it a loss? Social validation (via the influence of people's opinions), a moral philosophy, has lost its validity for all being born again/anew in Christ: the proof of our faith. Therein, encourage one another.
[II Corinthians 5:1-17; I Peter 1]
from a house church in Maryland [USA]: "God created sexual relationships and his intended means of satisfying sexual pleasure. Without marriage, there would not be sin for satisfying sexual pleasure since it would just be same as drinking ordinary water to quench thirst."
Peter writes, "Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts/desires [επιθυμια; on what you feel], which wage war against the soul." Did our Maker give marriage [γαμεω] for the purpose of satisfying sexual pleasure? Why does He bring woman to man? And of His desire, "She is your companion, and you (together) seek godly offspring/children." Justin Martyr writes, But whether we marry, it is only that we may bring up children; or whether we decline marriage, we live self-restrained.
[I Peter 2:11; Malachi 2:14-15; Justin Martyr First Apology 29]
Does the neglect of a flesh-gratification arrangement seem too difficult for you or me? Responding to the ekklesia in Corinth, Paul writes, "Yet if they are not controlling themselves, let them marry, for it is better to marry than to be on fire." Shamefully, I recall receiving counsel during my youth to consider Paul's "7:9" remark as sanction for purposing a marriage in sensual gratification. Walking their moral pup, these legacy church pastors/teachers were handing us the word of God torn/shredded from its own volume of context! Yes, if [God forbid] you are not controlling yourself, to yourself drawn near a spouse and prepare to learn the worthy purpose of God in making one flesh from two. The flesh is never truly satisfied, while there is pleasure to/in the doing of Father's will, self-restrained.
[I Corinthians 7]
Sometimes without food to eat, a young brother from Chennai, India, writes, I have explained everything to my church leader and to my elders but they told, they can't help me. When I called them to pray for me, they didn't come to my home because they told my area is like a slum place. Can't come? Dog-sitting? Writing from II Corinthians 8, Paul lends to explains something precious in the Holy Spirit that overtook the saints from Acts 2 & 4: equality becoming of us. In the USA, our portion of equality is tenaciously molested by Ethic; dragged off and buried among the bones of Socialism. To discipline this dog's admirer, as Paul writes, For this is not for the ease of others and for your affliction, but by way of equality. At this present time your abundance being a supply for their want, that their abundance also may become a supply for your want, that there may be coming to be an equality; as it is written, "He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little had no lack."
Are you with these men at Chennai? Jesus is saying, "I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me..."
Pressing On To Maturity
Glad to commend an increasing number of ekklesia visiting ekklesia:
Oklahoma Weatherford, Omega, Stillwater, Oklahoma City
Washington State Kent, Edmonds, Burlington
Texas Conroe, Spring, Huntsville
California San Diego, Escondido; (more still).
How refreshing to see & hear the care of widows, and of the meeting of necessary needs without budget or benevolence committee; patiently helping the seminary-trained to clear all the leaven from their minds; moving out from under the covering of leadership, with double-honor ready for ideal leading. It may have been told from an early church in Asia,
Paul came to our town with the λογος & ρηματος of Christ, yes, but he didn't stay around long. The time he was here could hardly be described as leadership. Oh, his letters were to be weighty, while Paul in-person is unimpressive. At first, he expected that the graces of leading would be brought along by the Holy Spirit among us. Only later sending a bother to expressly identify in whom.
Today with thanksgiving to God who completes all these things: commending the ekklesia who, without presumption, recognize the gifts & appointments of God without Timothy having to call. Also, may grace flow ever more in you who abandon snake oil sheep attractants, that we might instead compel them to come in to our Father.
Though relatively weak as a language, English does allow for flexible pronunciation. To example, if in Mexico my name is Alfonso or Marcel, those names also hold in English. But if I travel to Mexico, Marshall becomes Marcel. Languages have their rules. English names are largely abstract; just labels or tokens, really. So, what's with Jesus? Languages, translation and transliterations have altered Bible names. Would English allow us means to a phonetic restoration? Verily?
Now I hear some quarrel about Hebrew names, and I realize the temptation to frustration. We see no one, save the Holy Spirit, an ear-witness to Hebrew names when spoken 2 millennia ago. If we apply a Greek translation ideal to our English, Jesus would rather be Salvation. Have you sometimes called or described our King by this name? Attaining to ancient Hebrew phonetics (or, disputing same) can lure us in for using English or Hebrew as a means to speaking elitism as faction. Do we not already avoid chronic Christianese tongue on this account? No need to take up a phonetic agenda nor reduce Salvation to a shibboleth, knowing that YHWH our EL presides over all languages; He knows the limit of each our understanding. Someone knocking at the door... but know that I will delight in His Name, always looking forward to the day we shall see Him as He is.
Do not fear for news of troubled times. He on whom we have set our hope; He will yet deliver us. The Spirit of Christ be upon you always.
The Lord is Risen!
LETTERS from LIVING EPISTLES
You are very accurate concerning the tendency toward isolationism among many house groups. It's cliques, isn't it? A bit like what happens in the IC. But people who have a mind to share the gospel everywhere don't tend to be clique-ish, they are open-hearted, and their homes are open.
We just started a brothers meeting that I'm very excited about. We are learning to gather together to focus on Him [Christ] rather than Bible studies or an "order of service." Having been to several home meetings, I'm finding that many of such meetings have miniaturized the IC church and have the same "order of service" as the big boys.
We continue to meet in homes, and are encouraged by what we see God doing. I have been praying more for the last two years and am seeing a real response in both my own life and in the lives of others. We still do not operate in the gifts and callings that we should, but attempt to be faithful in our own calling and gifting, hoping to be a catalyst for others to begin to do so more.
Don writes, "Training and preparing disciples in ministry skills is important and should not be neglected, but it should never be considered the goal of discipleship. Discipleship's goal is to transform our lives so that we are like Jesus, imitators of Him, obedient to Him. This must be in the area of how we live, our character and how we respond to life and apply the truth of His Word to those situations. Therefore we must be able to hear the voice of our Lord."
--- from USA-VA via USA-WA
...be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
100% of the [material] giving goes out the door. No pooling for ourselves and calling it giving.
100% mutual, two-way communication [dialego]. Preach the Word does not mean lecture the word.
100% reproductive leadership. Everything is entrusted to faithful men who will teach others also.
100% intergenerational. Jesus said "Let the children come to me and forbid them not..." We all grow better together, learning all directions.
100% servant leadership. No power titles. Just example and word driven leadership.
---from ekklesia at USA-CA
We're finding that Gene Edward's comment is true: We drag one another to Christ. The context is that we need to be constantly turning into Him and expressing Him to one another, and when one stumbles or the fire dims, we grab hold of them and "drag them along" with us, by encouraging them and giving them the Christ that is in us.
The changes didn't begin until we got away from the Sunday morning service.
The Lord is so gracious and is answering our prayer of five years and forming a local body of believers here. ... After 6 months we are getting to know our negative [weaker] sides and are going deeper. Intimacy and vulnerability is growing as we open up to each other and humble ourselves. We have no agenda but want to see Jesus leading as He wants to.
"There is a very strong streak of independence and fear of entrapment within some branches of the simple/house/organic church movement. They have drunk deep from the well of separatism. Please pray for release, that they and we may come together in one heart and mind. Pray for Apostolic, sent, missional workers to build bridges."
--Stephen; Florida, USA
Are we independent or isolated, withdrawn or guarded from full fellowship with ekklesia in other places or across town?
[John 17; I Corinthians 1; Ephesians 4]
This was a timely reminder. I think that in our desire to be separated from the Babylonian spirit of religion that is so strong here, it may be easy to cut oneself off from others.
The church here continues to seek the Lord. It has been a fulfilling experience for me as I meet with many believers in various venues. We have the customary challenges and joys. We see the Lord at work in our lives and relationships. Recent twist is a study with a man that came to my door to offer a study of the Bible from Jehovah Witness perspective. That relationship is developing.
Some in the organic church movement think the assembly is like a blood-related household family and thus requires leaders to be like fathers, and thus end up requiring all sorts of rules and regulations for their 'households,' while others see the assembly as nothing more than just a bunch of brothers and sisters fellowshipping with everyone having the same spiritual authority and therefore they see no need for elders, deacons, etc.
Our older brother Paul, apostle and elder in the ekklesias, writes, wisdom we are speaking among the mature/complete; yet a wisdom not of this age, neither of leading men of this age, who are being discarded...
[I Corinthians 2:6]
I love the interaction and exchanges. We should not be afraid or apprehensive when we are challenged by any theological position or statement we have made. That is how we grow and that is what has been lacking in the evangelical church for years and should be a warning for the house church movement. We should study to show ourselves approved and rightly dividing the Word. Other brothers and sisters would help us in the process. Remember, In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
The Journey 2011
May the joy of the Lord Jesus Christ be yours today!
Through Salem, I arrived in Portland-Vancouver area early July. Father revealed a few basic needs, each specific among a handful of small gatherings. Pray for these, as the Spirit of our Everlasting Father unseats lingering institutional-industrial ways, agenda revelations, and human altars to intellectual faith. Such traps cleared away, for Christ to surely bring in His fullness here; the will of His Father, the ekklesia, and to us so precious: His discerning heart. Also in Oregon, glad to see beginnings together for Family at Woodburn and West Linn.
So much to gain in Christ, as we petition for the ekklesia and remind one another from a sincere heart. As Father wills, myself and others are posting short reports of journey at odio (view at-- http://bmd.worthyhouse.info/ ). Write or call me if bothers/sisters
in your village/city would be encouraged to visit gatherings nearby; or if you just need an RSS link to share something at odio; or have run into a snag to be overcome, or for whatever may be needful.
May The Lamb receive the reward of His suffering,
the Journey letters are now sent in more frequent portions via odio Live Post, a mini-blog format that is shared with other sojourners, and which may be viewed at http://bmd.worthyhouse.info and http://water2fire.worthyhouse.info
continue to The Journey 2012