Barb and I are back from our Finnish and Dutch conferences, and it was so good seeing old friends and make new ones.
For Chris, we were away from him a total of 3 of his work weeks
He goes to a workshop Monday-Thursday each week, and we dropped him off Sunday, April 10, and didn’t pick him up until Friday the 29th, and it was just too long, with a few ‘behaviors’ as they call temper outbursts in that last week. So in the future rather than back to back European conferences we’ll have to separate them to keep our total time away at no more than 2 weeks – They said the last week, each morning, he would refuse to go to the workshop, but just sit by the window looking out saying ‘Dad is coming to get me, I’m NOT going to work!’…
I remember when we placed him in the group home 13 years ago and felt like the worst parents in the world for doing so, and one night after Barb fell asleep I lay in bed telling the Father either heal him or take him home – and suddenly the Lord stood in our bedroom, and without greeting simply opened with:
“Would you have Chris miss out on the fullness of his reward by Me taking him home early, just because you feel bad for having to place him in a group home?” I humbly apologized saying “I’m sorry Lord, I never considered Chris’ rewards and his part in our ministry, of course I want him to have the fullness of his reward, but under one condition: That he not suffer any abuse or neglect.” He looked at me and with one quick downward nod of His head as He spoke, said, “Done”, and disappeared.
In between then and now has been great difficulty on both his and our parts, but the Lord never promised an easy life, just eternal life.
People are forever
The whole of the New Testament was written by apostles who started family based churches that met in homes,writing to people in those home based churches. To understand the New Testament any other way is to take scripture out of context - no matter how you celebrate the gathering of saints, from denominational churches to independent charismatic to house church - that is just history.
Their focus in the New Testament was on relationships, which followed Jesus' teachings that if someone sinned against you, go to them and try to mend the relationship. That principle is stated from Matthew 5 where Jesus said to leave your gift at the altar and be reconciled, to Matthew 18:15 to go 1 on 1 to make peace, to Galatians 6:1 to restore one who has trespassed in a humble spirit, to the James 5:16 exhortation to confess our trespass to the person we trespassed against and pray for one another that the relationship would be healed.
Relationships are the key no matter how you celebrate church, though some structures are better at the development of relationships than others. I remember what the Lord said to me in His February 4, 2001 visitation:
"See what I see, people running to and fro to this meeting and that, looking for the spectacular thinking that is supernatural, while they miss the supernatural work in their midst, even in their own hearts...As it was in the beginning, so it must be now; I'm moving in relationships."
We often misunderstand what the Lord is trying to do in our midst because we attach what He wants to our own experience or education and understand it through those eyes. As I like to say, we don't see the world as it is, we see it as we are.
People may think they are called to plant churches, or start a house church, but in reality we are called to develop relationships, and from the vitality of those relationships comes meetings in homes.
Come and go as you please?
A healthy family based church that meets in homes as depicted in the New Testament is very different from some who claim to be in the 'house church stream', but often call it 'simple church' or 'organic church' - there are some good and balanced house churches under those banners, but many are not.
A house church is not a miniature of the auditorium church, each week dictated by 1 person what will happen in the meeting, nor is it a come and go as you please bless me club with no sense of order or commitment.
In scripture we see people dedicated to each other in the Lord, meeting with purpose and working through challenges rather than leaving the group when challenges in personalities arose.
Acts 2:42 says "They continued steadfastly in the apostles teaching and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers." Note 'continued steadfastly'.
The Greek word translated 'continued steadfastly' is 'proskartereo', literally meaning 'to be strong towards', meaning perseverance continually towards a person or thing. It is also used in Acts 1:14 speaking of how the 120 continued in prayer during those 10 days between Jesus' ascension and Pentecost.
They were strong towards the apostles teaching, fellowship, eating together and in prayer/worship.
To have teaching, fellowship, food and/or the Lord's Supper, and prayer/worship without the 'continued steadfastly' element, you just have a come and go as you please, no requirement placed on you, bless me club using the name 'church'. The purpose of the gathering of the saints is to conduct the business of the kingdom, which is furthering the discipleship process, not just to make people feel warm and fuzzy inside.
I know what the Lord has said to me, that the days of church without purpose, including house church, is past and the body of Christ is being urged by the Spirit to grow up in our relationships.
That is why I say so often that house church is a lifestyle, not something we do. When you invest the time and effort in relationships, those people you are still going to know 100, 500, even 10,000 years from now and beyond in the ages to come, it requires purposeful commitment. But that is what the Spirit is saying. No matter how you celebrate church, invest in relationships in Christ.
2 new series
Our ordeal with Chris of this thing called life, along with a couple of requests to do so, prompted me to record the series “Why God?”, and will help you look at the larger picture when dealing with heart-rending issues like handicapped children, chronic physical conditions and such here on earth.
The other series, David the Future King, is the first of a 3 part series about the Psalms David wrote at particular times of his life - before being king, while king, and in exile when Absalom rebelled. You'll not only learn more about David, but gain insights into his emotions and spiritual ups and downs - and where some of your favorite verses and Psalms came from.
After the last 2 busy summers being so busy, this one is being taken at a slower pace, and we are enjoying it, Chris now settling back into a routine, which is so important to him, and us.
Thanks for being part of our lives, and remembering us in prayer and in your giving – thank you!
John & Barb, & Chris