Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Restoring The Early Church ~ Lesson 5

Sorry for the delay! We're working on a plan that will help with some of the technical difficulties some folks are having with being able to download the lessons. While we get the details worked out, let's go ahead with the next lesson.

Lesson Five is here.


( Please note: this post is part four in a study series we are beginning on Discussing Restoring the Early Church, in which you are welcome to join. You may find Lesson One HERE and the other lessons are posted on the sidebar.)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Restoring The Early Church - Lesson 4

( Please note: this post is part four in a study series we are beginning on Discussing Restoring the Early Church, in which you are welcome to join. You may find Lesson One HERE, Lesson Two HERE and Lesson Three HERE.)

He was trembling as he heard the words, his every muscle taut with the tension of the moment. As Shaphan finished the reading, all was still, the only perceptible sound the throbbing of his heart. The realization of all that the newfound scroll comprised struck fear in his very soul. His quivering hands subconsciously moved to clutch his throat when a wave of emotion enveloped him. The words of the law had been read. He immediately sensed the guilt that was upon himself and all the people.

Fearing the wrath of the God of Israel, he frantically ripped at his garments, violently tearing them asunder. The people, drawn by the sounds of his groaning agony watched in astonishment at this outward expression of the rending of his heart. Dropping to his knees King Josiah cried aloud, "Great is the wrath of the LORD that is poured out upon us, because our fathers have not kept the word of the LORD, to do after all that is written in this book." Echoes of his weeping reverberated throughout the palace and to the ends of the land...

The Holy Scriptures had been lost, and now were restored to Israel. He humbled himself, repented and received mercy. After the scroll had been rediscovered, King Josiah gathered the family leaders to hear the Word of the Lord so that they could rededicate themselves to their covenant with the Lord.

This is the place we are finding ourselves now. In a sense, the Word has been lost to us, buried in the doctrines of men. Adding to, changing, and reinterpreting the Word is a place we never want to be, and yet...

22,000 "Christian" denominations...

Hundreds of "Church Fathers"...

Councils, Edicts, Creeds, Doctrines...

Father, help us find our way back to your Word alone...for your glory.

Lesson 4, How Was The Word Lost? is HERE. Thanks for joining us!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

On Your Mark…Get Set…Pause!

The word on the street is that we need to slow down a bit with our study. Sounds good to me, too. I have gone through the study before, but really, Mr. Visionary and I were so thirsty the first time that we flew through it in a weekend or two. It is richer this time, as Father has grown my understanding more since then.

We'll pick up with the next lesson on Sunday, October 21. That will give us all time to catch up with the lessons, gather our thoughts and converse and fellowship in the comments. Then, Lord willing, we will try out an every-other-day plan for new lessons. I will post the lesson one day, then we can have that day and the next to allow time for incubation and apperception.

Welcome to the new folks! This break is partially for you, as well, so that you have a chance to get on the same page as us. If you just got here, know that you are welcome to jump in with us at any point, but the lessons are much like mathematics in that each lesson is built on the ones before it.

For the ones wondering what is taking us slow-pokes so long, you can use your extra time to go over this article that Mike and Sue recommend:

The Gospel of the Covenant is the Pilgrimage to Salvation.

P.S. I am putting together a list so that I can pray for all those joining us in the study. If you have not commented, please let us know that you're here, either in the comments or e-mail, so I can pray for you as we walk through this together!

Restoring the Early Church ~ Lesson 3

Please note: this post is part three in a study series we are beginning on Discussing Restoring the Early Church, in which you are welcome to join. You may find Lesson One, the introduction, HERE, and Lesson Two, HERE.

Whether you are still plugging away, hoping beyond hope that somehow it will get better, or you have stopped going altogether...know this: you are not alone. The fact that you are reading this is proof that He is wooing you back to Himself. You're tired of going there for what feels like no good reason. You're "burdened by the meaninglessness of so much that is traditionally a part of our churches", and you no longer even "come away with a warm feeling"...just busy emptiness.

I know.          Me, too.          Me.          Too.
We say that our faith must be lived- that Christ invades us to transform every aspect of daily life. Yet we teach this faith in formalized classes or sermons far out of a life context... We say that every believer is a priest, gifted and responsible for building up others in the Body of Christ. And we bring adults to church, set them down and tell them to listen to a teacher or to the pastor. They have exercised no ministry, held no responsibility but to be quiet and orderly, and have helped no one by their presence...

The Emperor doesn't have on any clothes, and it is about time somebody said so. Much time is spent in this lesson assessing exactly how far off the mark modern Christianity is today, but not for the sake of pointing it out alone. This isn't church-bashing, this is taking stock. Until we individually realize, deep down, the state of affairs in the church, and in our own hearts and lives, we are impotent to make any changes more lasting than Band-Aids. How long can we stand to "merely go through the motions of the ministry, having a form of godliness but no power"? See the problems. Notice the lack of fruit from all the effort. Grieve over the emptiness. It is a step not to be skipped over.
You think you're pleasing God for all your activity and its results, yet beneath the programs and entertainment lies an emptiness that few will admit. Institutionalism deceives you into feeling good about yourself even after your responsiveness to God has ceased.

Once we have a clear vision of our state of affairs, only then can we move on to the next step. Making a decision. We can either continue to "effect repairs", adding Band-Aids on top of Band-Aids both personally and corporately, or we can accept the challenge of restoring the true biblical foundations of the early Church.

Going once again to the model of relational priorities, we know that the depth of our personal relationship with our Father and Jesus is of utmost importance if the Holy Spirit is to guide us into the truth God wants us to live by. We need to remember our first love...whom we love because He first loved us...and who saved us while we were wretched sinners.
Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works... Revelation 2:4-5a

I was so encouraged by the closing statements in this lesson. It is my prayer that this will be the fruit of this study: that His children will search and discover truth through His Word alone, and not the traditions of men.
If you understand that Jesus is the only Head and Builder of His Church, you need to search the Bible. Discover that which He and the apostles presented through the Hebraic framework in which it was initially addressed. Those who are willing to do this can work together in agreement with the Holy Spirit and in our time see a true expression of the Church of Jesus Christ. Will it be popular? Probably not. Will it be powerful? Yes, exceedingly so!

Father, by your Holy Spirit, please help us to see. We need You to breathe life into our tired souls, and lead us through your Word into a deeper, truer relationship with You...for Your glory alone.

Here is the link for Lesson Three.

We'll wait to hear from you. However, know that this is a lot to think and pray through. I do not want us to go through this study too quickly. If you're feeling that we should slow down, or pause for a day or two, before moving on, let me know in the comments. I do not want to rush a move of the Spirit...and Father is in charge of the timing.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Restoring the Early Church ~ Lesson 2

Please note: this post is part two in a study series we are beginning, in which you are welcome to join. You may find part one, the introduction, HERE.

This is a study that made me rethink a lot of beliefs I held tightly but did not own...things I believed because I was told they were true, rather than because I studied them myself. I had to slaughter a lot of my 'sacred cows', and tear down many high places as I went through this study the first time. Because my memory is intact concerning my own experience with the study is the reason we will move slowly through this. It just takes time to digest it all.

Before we begin, I want to encourage everyone to do your homework! What...there's homework? Well, not officially, but in order to own beliefs, one really needs to study for themselves. So get out your Bibles, pens and notebooks, and let's do the Berean thing.
"And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so." Acts 17 : 10-11

So often it is a temptation to skim over Scriptures that are familiar to us, because, well, we've read the same ones a thousand times over. I want to encourage you to really meditate on the Scriptures in the study. Use your concordance to look up the words in the original Hebrew or Greek, make notes, and allow yourself some time for what you're studying to sink in. Ask Father, through His Holy Spirit, to confirm what you are reading...He will.

Here are a couple of quotes to notice as you go through this lesson:
Keep this in mind: Religion in itself would not exist if people weren't mislead into believing their distinct religious ritual and creed made them acceptable to God. And note:
Religion can exist without any relationship with God.

And regarding the two charts at the end of the lesson, Mike and Sue urge:
It's vital that you examine and judge your own faith practices. In the next few pages, we contrast different aspects of the Hebraic, relational way of interacting with God and each other, and Hellenistic, religious forms. Prayerfully go through the comparison to discern if you have been told the whole truth during your faith pilgrimage.

And one more:
One of the main difficulties in any discussion about "faith" is to admit that you might be wrong.

Throughout the study, I'll be sharing several areas where Mr. Visionary and I realized that we were indeed, dead wrong, once we compared "what we believed" to the Scriptures.

Here's the link for Lesson Two. Remember to come back and post your thoughts after going through it. We all will.

Monday, October 15, 2007

From Sick & Tired To Berean…Restoring the Early Church ~ Lesson 1

Sick and tired...all the truly no way to live.

We have become very diligent about being trustworthy stewards of our physical health, in order to keep as far from the sick and tired state as possible. We stay fairly healthy most of the time, but have, for those times we do succumb to the sick and tired state, learned what to make as well as how to administer our own medicine to bring ourselves back to health and vitality.

For physical illness, we use physical medicine.

Oh, that sick and tired in the physical were the only type of sick and tired there was! Alas, Mr. Visionary and I have been far more sick and tired emotionally and spiritually than we have ever been physically. We have spent years in "traditional church", spinning wheels, going through the motions of all the acceptable church-sponsored activities, doing all that we were told would bring fulfillment and a sense of intimacy with Father...only to find it all lacking. In a very real sense we felt as if we were merely rearranging furniture on the deck of the Titanic. We have come home from more than a few church meetings to simply weep...feeling as spent and broken-down as we could be...only to have no answers.

No homemade tincture could ever fix this kind of sick and tired.

How we longed for some answers, for something to infuse the empty activity with meaning and change our listlessness to vigor. How we cried out to Jesus to show us what medicine would cure this longing! We had no idea how He would do this for us, but we were certain that if we continued seeking, He would answer us in some way.

Fast forward to a bad virus that hit our home this winter. Although Mr. Visionary and I were laid out flat on the Family Room floor, unable to move because of the nausea, we were able to do research on the computer. At the time our church was going through a restructuring process, and we were searching for information to help our pastor walk through it all. We "coincidentally" came across a study that later proved to be divinely inspired timing...and the answer for which we had been crying out to Father. Our life has been so profoundly impacted by this study, that I felt compelled to share it with a few friends.

Several friends and I have been going, individually, but simultaneously through this study. We have been blessed so tremendously in our discussion and sharing based on the study! Further, since I linked to this study before, I have gotten so much e-mail about it that I have prayed about doing the study on the blog, with whomever would like to join us.

If you have ever felt sick and tired of churchianity...and felt Father drawing you to something else...something more real...more intimate...more simple, then please pray and consider joining us in this study. We will have the comments open, and I believe several blogging friends will be joining in the discussion through the comments with us.

What He showed us through this study was that He had no desire to fill the empty activity, as He never desired it anyway. What He intended was to show us His heart for His people from the start...and how we left His original plan. Mike and Sue Dowgiewicz, especially anointed teachers, have a heart for taking us back to the the church even before Acts, and walking us through history to see where things got off track. They teach the relational priorities from Scripture that Father intended for us, beginning with our relationship with Him, moving outward to the relationships within our own homes, and only then to our extended spiritual family and the rest of the world, as their diagram shows:






Here is the Introduction to the study. Read through it, and pray about joining us. You do not need to start right when everyone else starts ~ if you find out about the study after we have begun, jump right in at the beginning, and start commenting wherever you are! Father knows all about the timing...and we can trust Him in that. So a Berean with us.

P.S. I spoke with Sue Dowgiewicz, and have their full blessing for doing the study and using their files. Their ministry is 100% funded by donations, and they allow and encourage anyone to copy and share their PDF files, audio lessons, and DVDs. It is very refreshing considering all the $39.95 tape sets and encouragements to "buy my latest book" from the radio guys.

I'm just saying. Refreshing is good.


We will be posting the first lesson for the study on Wednesday morning, October 17. We will then be posting one lesson per day until we are through, Lord willing. It should be about 50 lessons total, which at first, seems daunting, but that is to make the study manageable for all. If you happen to get behind…DON”T GIVE UP…just keep plugging along with us the best you can, and comment along your way. We will discuss each lesson in the comments of that particular lesson.






Friday, October 5, 2007

I Actually Won Something!

You know that last post about the otoscope contest, well...I actually WON one!

Cool, huh?

Go see, and see some other neat articles that explain how to use them and why...HERE.

By the way, I am still planning to get back here and answer Lynne's questions, but I've been swamped. Mr. Visionary and I are speaking at a Missions Conference for four nights beginning Sunday and I have been frantically putting together a Power Point presentation, plus getting all of us ready to go. Pray for us and the Work, if you think of it! We'd be grateful.

Meanwhile...I'll be back as soon as I can!