Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Growing Up

Sunday morning we had the rare pleasure of attending a home in Oklahoma City that is part of a house church network, stretching all over the state. The Fenns of Supernatural House Church (also known as The Church Without Walls International) facilitated the meeting (no one person has the floor at all times in a house church meeting, ever). They started planting house churches about twenty years ago and continue to maintain relationships with HC plants all over the world.

I have to admit Jarrod and I were a little gun shy when we first heard about this ministry, Supernatural House Church. "Supernatural" has become a buzz word in grossly unbalanced teachings but after browsing their website and articles, it was clear balance is what they are about. As a friend of ours put it, "Not crazy but not spiritually constipated either."

The meeting was incredibly similar to ours with the exception that there was no off topic conversation and rabbit trails (which we sometimes fall prey to), though there was plenty of "let down your hair" fellowship during the greeting time and over a meal afterwards. I really liked that the conversation stayed focused on the subject but that didn't prevent people from sharing personal stories or asking questions...all of it was related to the core of what God was saying that morning.

I also enjoyed the very sensitive nature of the worship. Each song ended followed by silence to sense the Lord's leading. Are we finished singing? Does anyone have a tongue/interpretation, does anyone have an encouraging word? As Paul said in 1 Cor. 14 "let all things be done in order."

"As the Spirit" gave utterance, several spoke up between songs and actually foreshadowed the discussion that followed worship. For example I'd written in my journal, "How many of my decisions are based on my own desires and how many based on pleasing You by doing what You want, Lord?" There were several other things that I wrote down during the meeting that either expressed itself in song by someone else or by an exhortation or prophetic word of encouragement.

The "sermon"?

Pleasing God. Do we live our lives everyday to please God...or do we approach God with the idea that we pray and plead for God to bless our own will, ideas and desires?

As Fenn pointed out, when we first come to Christ it's usually for some immediate benefit. Salvation brings joy and peace and the assurance we will see Christ at the pearly gates...but, as Jarrod pointed out, we mature as we plunge deeper in the experience of His love for us. We naturally begin to love Him so much more that we yearn to please Him!

Of course the sheer absurdity is that this has somehow been twisted into legalism by those who would rather bear His name while living for themselves. We can't possibly please God...or can we? With Christ's energizing grace and power of the Holy Spirit, we are expected to!

As John Fenn brought out in several passages, Paul urged us to live in a way that pleases God. "Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. (Rom. 8:8)" and "without faith it is impossible to please God...(Heb. 11:6)" and "we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. (1 Thess. 4:1)

Nearly everyone spoke up and one by one added truth from the richness of Christ and His Anointing and His Word from within them! Brief personal testimonies brought humility and openness to the meeting. We all shared this incredible love for Christ and longing to please Him.

We were refreshed by the entire meeting and enjoyed meeting other believers in this setting. "Cross pollination" as Steve Queen said to us is a great thing. We thank God for the connection and look forward to sharing it with the Ekklesia in Shawnee.

Thanks to the Queens, the Fenns, and the Lassiters for the warm welcome and inspiration. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Children Are Members of Christ

Jesus had a special place in His heart for children, one so counter-cultural at the time that He was forced to answer the crowds when He was giving them more attention than He gave the adults. I believe that Christ recognized children as just as much a member of His church as adults. We believe they have a purpose in the church meeting, with their own callings and gifts and they should contribute to the meeting in their own way. 

It seems Jesus thought so too. Let's remember that it was the children who were crying 'Hosanna' to the Lord. "But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple area, "Hosanna to the Son of David," they were indignant. Do you hear what these children are saying?" they asked him. "Yes," replied Jesus, "have you never read, "'From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise'?" Matt. 21:15-16

Last Sunday night we had an idea to get the kids more involved in the meeting. They're all about the same age, ranging from 12-14 years old. We asked them to anonymously write down on a piece of paper what they struggle with. It could be anything from getting along with a sibling, temptation, peer pressure or even doubts about their faith. Then after putting the wadded papers into a bowl they each selected one. In two weeks, after searching for the answers to those problems in Scripture with the help of their parents, they will preach their own sermon (or simply read scriptures or accounts of people who had to deal with those same issues) in the church to us all.

We are REALLY excited this because it will accomplish the following things (although the list is endless):

  1. It will teach them to minister to each other!
  2. It will teach them how to search the Scriptures for answers both on someone else's behalf and their own. 
  3. They may end up discerning by the Spirit (using a gift they didn't know they had) who this person is that needed this solution. They may discover they love bringing a teaching or being an evangelist or whatever is in them. 
  4. It will open up deep conversation between parents and children, possibly leading to confession about what they personally go through in their lives. 
  5. It will make them more aware of how important it is to think of others and what they go through, not just focusing on themselves and their own troubles. 
For the first time in weeks I saw one of kids get their bible and notebook. We saw them actively participated in a way I don't think we've ever seen and it was almost as if they realized they were an important part of this journey. They started asking questions that belied things they deal with like kids at school who are openly gay. That lead to talking about the Christian's response to that (with love and the offer for repentance and supernatural deliverance, healing, etc NOT hateful rejection).

It was such an amazing time! Rather than making them sit there and "be quiet" and just aimlessly bringing scripture to them, it ended up being very dynamic with their participation and questions about the Scriptures the adult read that evening.

In two weeks, one of these kids will be ready to bring their teaching or exhortation. We're excited and we can't wait to see what God will speak to them!  

No matter where or how you gather among God's people, challenge your children to begin exploring the Word of God to answer their problems and discover their spiritual gifts. You'll help them have a relationship with Christ that is personal but isn't self focused and set them on a path to be used by God now and for the rest of their lives. Don't raise a pew warmer, raise a contributing part of Christ's body!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Get Your Glasses On

We have a new family coming to our house fellowship and the subject of tithing came up. They said they knew they needed to be tithing and it was something "on the list" they really wanted to get checked out. Their sincere hearts to obey God in every aspect of their lives led them to believe the common misguided application of an Old Testament Law practice. Tithing 10% of your income. We explained that according to Acts and the Apostles letters that giving was an altogether different thing in the early church. They gave according to specific needs, not an Old Testament code.

Now before you get yourself all riled up, hear me out. If you are in an institutional church, you are obligated by virtue of using that building to pay some form of support. It's got to be paid for somehow, right? Just as institutional church models the Old Testament model (paid priest, maintained building, caring for the poor through various programs)...giving money should be part of what you contribute to a church in a building.

Ten percent? No. "Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." 1 Cor. 9:7 As I said...not under compulsion or threats that you will be cursed. Not under promises of 100 fold return. According to what God has laid upon your heart...could be less or more than 10%. Just obey God.

First century church didn't have that 10% mandate ever. They didn't have paid ministers or buildings because Christianity was illegal. So there was no need for a rigid tithe. However, tithing is also not a new testament practice not just because there were no real buildings but because this was Old Testament law, along with ceremonial washing, observing Saturday Sabbath, etc. It's intention was to pay the priest (who could not work to support himself and his family) and also to care for the poor in a similar way that our taxation system pays for welfare (this research is clearly laid out in "Pagan Christianity: Exploring Our Roots" by George Barna & Frank Viola). The tithe was reintroduced by the Catholic Church in Rome, who even went so far as to demand everyone pay that regardless whether they subscribed to the faith or not. It's been in place ever since.

There is not ONE mention of tithing in the Apostle's letters. Not one.

Now that we have THAT aside, I will assert that New Testament giving was an "over and beyond" what a mere 10% was. In Acts we see them selling their precious possessions to give to the needs of each other and the poor. "And they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. 46Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, 47praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved." Acts. 2:45-47 (See also Acts 4:32-37)

We explained that we take up need specific offerings and cited an example of a church member whose glasses were literally being held together by tooth picks (in place of tiny screws). The frames, which where the only ones he could afford when he broke his glasses a few months ago, were too small for the man's face, rubbing against his eyelashes, and eye sockets. Sweat, dirt and tears were chafing this elder all the time he was working and he works hard.

As this new couple was leaving the house, they came back inside with a $100 bill and insisted they pay for the glasses. This week, on his birthday, he got himself a new pair! This kind of giving fosters a sense of family bonding and sense of unity through demonstrated love. It blesses both the giver and the receiver. It's a sacrifice you're offering before God on a saint's behalf and THAT is giving with generosity, from the heart, for the right reasons.

It's important for all of us to have our glasses on when it comes to what we're taught. Examine the Scriptures for yourself, devote yourself to studying God's word carefully. You might be surprised on what you're missing out on, whether you're blessing your church or someone on the pew...or your couch. Give as God leads you, not the Old Testament and not a man!