“There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need.” Acts 4:34-35 The task of Jesus’ Church is stated simply; to preach the good news of the kingdom in word and in deed. Jesus delighted in spreading the good news to the hurting, the weak, and the poor. We are commanded to follow in Jesus’ footsteps and reach out in places of brokenness. The church is to care for others. This was also the command that God gave to Israel to take care of the poor. “There should be no poor among you, for the Lord your God will greatly bless you in the land he is giving you as a special possession.” (Deuteronomy 15:4) “Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.” (Isaiah 1:17) Israel did not listen to God and obey. “If you will only obey me, you will have plenty to eat. But if you turn away and refuse to listen, you will be devoured by the sword of your enemies. I, the Lord, have spoken!” (Isaiah 1:19-20) God sent Israel into captivity because they would not obey Him. When people look at the church, they should see the Kingdom of God and how the church is working to bring that Kingdom to earth. Caring for others is the way that God’s Kingdom looks on this earth. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother or sister in need, but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?
“The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 If I don’t want what you want, please try not to tell me that my wants are wrong. Or if I believe other than you, at least pause before you correct my view. Or if my emotion is less than yours, or more, given the same circumstances, try not to ask me to feel more strongly or weakly. Or if I act, or fail to act in a manner of your design for action, let me be. I do not for the moment at least, ask you to understand me. That will only come when you are willing to give up changing me into a copy of you. Paul tells us that we are one body with many parts and all of these parts are so important. Let us realize that we are all different drummers.
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.” Matthew 16:24 If we are going to have true community, we must have emptiness. Emptiness is simply we need to empty ourselves of anything that is a barrier to communication. Until we can empty ourselves of expectations and stop trying to fit others and our relationship into a preconceived mold we cannot listen, hear, or experience what God has for us. We do not go easily into a new situation with an open mind. As I stated before in my devotions, I had preconceived ideas about what Jesus’ Church should look like. As I did my research and prayed, God has changed my mind. At this point I don’t know what Jesus’ Church should look like. I am still learning. If I am not open to God, I will not grow. I would still be thinking that I knew all about church. We need to be empty of the need to control. We all want to control. We need to give up controlling and allow God to move in our churches and our community. True community is giving it all to God; allowing Him to help us understand what He is doing and what He wants us to do. This is resting in God. This is giving up our way and taking up our cross daily. In our walk with God, humility is the most important thing that we can have.
When Jesus heard this, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners. “Matthew 9:12-13 What does the word pseudo mean? It means something not real. The prefix pseudo- is used to mark something that superficially appears to be (or behaves like) one thing, but is something else. This is what most communities are; they appear to be community but they are not a true community. This is what most churches are. We put on our masks, go to church and we are all so nice and polite. We just don’t want to offend anyone. Jesus offended the church of His day on a regular basic. We hold back our real feelings so that we can avoid conflict. Conflict is not bad; it is the only way that we grow. We grow during conflict in our lives. If we never share our feelings about what we think about a matter, how do we know if we are right or wrong? If we don’t share what we think, how will we know where we stand in a community. In this community, they are pretending they all believe the same. How will we know if we don’t share, if we don’t talk seriously? True community is conflict resolving. If we don’t talk, how are we going to grow? When I was working, one of my duties was to close out projects. At times this could be difficult. My first task was to sit down and talk about the problems that needed to be taken care of. At times this caused […]
“When they heard this, the people in the synagogue were furious. Jumping up, they mobbed him and forced him to the edge of the hill on which the town was built. They intended to push him over the cliff, but he passed right through the crowd and went on his way.” Luke 4:28-30 This story in Luke 4 was the start of Jesus’ Ministry. What a way to start a ministry. His ministry started in chaos. Chaos is defined as complete disorder and confusion. How much more chaos could there be than to have people wanting to kill you. Jesus was not a stranger to chaos in His ministry. His ministry was a ministry of chaos. The church of Jesus’ time was always disagreeing with Him about His teaching. Why should we think that we are free of chaos in our churches? One of the stages of community is chaos. Sooner or later, individual differences surface or someone foolishly begins to practice honest communication, and the group will almost immediately be thrust into conflict and chaos. This stage is often a time of unconstructive bickering and struggle. And it is no fun at all. Yet it is crucial to move through this stage if we are ever to find the kind of community connectedness we long for. There may be some hurt feelings. There may be times when we say its just not worth the fight. We come back to the point of our ego. Our ego is the thing that gets hurt. It is so important that as we move through this stage of community that we don’t give up. Unless community goes through this stage, we will not move forward. “But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 24:13) I am willing to move […]
“That is why I use these parables, for they look, but they don’t really see. They hear, but they don’t really listen or understand.” Matthew 13:13 Jesus taught in stories because the people did not listen to Him teaching, because they had their own preconceived ideas. They just could not believe that Jesus was the Son of God and had all wisdom and knowledge. Just as we have them today. We live in our own environment. We live in our own world and at times this world is truly not the real world. In true community, we must face realism. We must be living in the real world. Accepting that we have problems and we are not right about everything. In being real, we embrace both light and darkness. We embrace our own brokenness and the brokenness in the lives of others. We are accepted for who we are, who God sees us to be. In being real, we must remove our masks. Only by removing our mask can God start the healing in our lives. “Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 18:3-4) No one is more real than children. Children have not learned to put on a mask. What you see in a child is what you get. They are truthful to a fault. If we become as children, Jesus tells us that we become greatest in His kingdom.
“If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.” Matthew 10:38-39 Jesus is giving us some tough words in this scripture. He is telling us that unless we are committed to walk with Him, we are not worthy of being called His disciple. It takes commitment to take up your cross daily and follow Jesus. If we want only our way and not God’s way, we will lose our life. If we give our life to Jesus, we will find our life. Giving our life to Jesus is finding where you belong in God’s Kingdom and being committed. It is so important to have this commitment in true community. We have to be committed to the community if the community is going to move forward and work. This is one of the main reasons that we cannot find true community. We start out fine in our community and then what happens? It gets hard. We don’t agree with some of the others. We cannot get our way and our way is right. If you don’t believe that, just ask me. Jesus tells us, “But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.” (Matthew 7:14) If we feel that following Jesus is easy, then we will give up when the way gets rough. If we are going to have true community in our churches, we must be committed. If we hang in there, we usually find after a while that the rough places are made plain. We find that communities that learn to transcend its individual differences will […]
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.” Matthew 23:37 These writings on Jesus’ Church keeps getting deeper and deeper. The more I study and pray about this subject, the more I feel God’s leading. I feel that the church must be a true community. I don’t know totally what that looks like, but I am praying that God will show me. Our churches need God’s Revolution. If this is going to happen, we must make changes. Jesus wants to take us under His wings and love us, but do we really want that? Are we willing to pay the price for the love of Jesus? “Community is defined as a group of two or more people who, regardless of the diversity of their backgrounds, have been able to accept and transcend their differences. They are able to communicate openly and effectively; and to work together toward common goals, while having a sense of unusual safety with one another. We know the rules of community; we know the healing effect of community in terms of individual lives. If we could somehow find a way across the bridge of our knowledge, would not these same rules have a healing effect upon our world? We human beings have often been referred to as social animals. But we are not yet community creatures. We are impelled to relate with each other for our survival. But we do not yet relate with the inclusivity, realism, self-awareness, vulnerability, commitment, openness, freedom, equality, and love of genuine community. It is clearly no longer enough to be simply social animals, babbling together at cocktail parties and brawling with […]
“I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.” 1 Corinthians 1:10 I don’t believe that I have ever been part of a true community. What is true community? We use the word community to describe a group of people such as a church, a town or city, or just anytime we get together with friends. This is not what I am writing about. John Winthrop, the first governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony, in 1630, speaking to his fellow colonists shortly before they set foot on land, he urged, “We must delight in each other, make others’ conditions our own, rejoice together, morn together, labor and suffer together, always having before our eyes our community as members of the same body.” This is a good definition of community. Just as Paul told the Corinthians, let there be no division, being one mind in unity. This is so hard to do. It is hard for two reasons. The first is, we have a hard time getting our ego out of the way. The second is, that we carry so much baggage with us. Jesus tells us how we are to have community. Jesus replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40) The first one is not so hard. It can be easy to love God. The second part gets a little complicated. Some […]
“And this is God’s plan: Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children. Both are part of the same body, and both enjoy the promise of blessings because they belong to Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 3:6 When I started writing on the Jesus’ Church, I felt that our example should be the early church in the book of Acts. This is far from the truth. They were as messed up as we are. They felt that the Gospel was only for the Jews. They still worshipped in the Temple. They only socialized with Jews. The early church did not move far outside Jerusalem. Peter even had to explain his actions in Acts 11 for the fact that he converted a Romans soldier. “Soon the news reached the apostles and other believers in Judea that the Gentiles had received the word of God. But when Peter arrived back in Jerusalem, the Jewish believers criticized him.” (Acts 11:1-2) Then the church began to wake up to the fact that the salvation of Jesus was for everyone in the world. “However, some of the believers who went to Antioch from Cyprus and Cyrene began preaching to the Gentiles about the Lord Jesus. The power of the Lord was with them, and a large number of these Gentiles believed and turned to the Lord.” (Acts 11:21-22) Jesus’ Church must be inclusivity. The greatest enemy to the church is exclusivity. Our churches must accept all, the poor, the rich, the doubters, the divorced, the sinners. We must accept all, no matter of race or nationality. We must be a community. I will be writing more on what a community looks like. In John 17, Christ clearly defined His mission. He was sent to the world to […]