…. they were unschooled, ordinary men …. they had been with Jesus …. the crippled man healed standing with them – Acts 4:13,14
Recently had dinner with a dear friend who recently came to know the Lord. Inspired by his new found faith, he found other believers in his office. However, …. most of them do not attend church.
after all, …. there’s social media, youtube and streaming sermon videos anytime, anywhere … one can survive as a Christian on our own.
Similar to watching a streaming ‘live’ video of an overseas church service, … we too can walk in and out of a church or Christian meeting without meeting anyone, or knowing anyone,
… much like in a cinema or live theatre … a passive spectator of a well-choreographed, polished performance;
a weekly activity.
Hopefully, this is not a case of :
Up in heaven with God’s people
… its glory!
But, … here on earth,
that’s a different story.
… a lack of love? … authenticity?
disappointment? … a bad experience? ..
out of sight, out of mind? … etc, etc?
What then is church?
Jesus describes his church family as,
3:34 Then Jesus looked at those sitting around Him
and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!
3:35 My true brother and sister and mother are those
who do what God wants.”
13:35 “Everyone will know that you are my disciples
because of your love for each other.”
Mark 3:34, 35 (NCV), John 13:35 (NOG)
Focused, centered around Jesus,
disciples who … do what God wants, … love for each other,
authentic, real, honest community family … in His presence
The Lord’s desire is for us to belong, and be a vital part of a body of believers
… imperfect, in need of grace,
rescued by a Savior, lovingly adopted by the Father.
Father, I pray that they can be one.
As you are in me
and I am in you,
I pray that
they can also be one in us.
Then the world will believe that you sent me.
John 17:21 (NCV)
Whenever we meet, we bring our gifts to bless one another, and we in turn are blessed by the gifts of others – a bountiful potluck feast bursting with refreshing flavors of God’s gifts, inspiration & blessings.
1 Corinthians 14:26 (NLT)
Well, my brothers and sisters, let’s summarize.
When you meet together,
one will sing,
another will teach,
another will tell some special revelation God has given,
one will speak in tongues,
and another will interpret what is said.
But everything that is done must strengthen all of you.
Paul wrote to the believers in Rome,
When we get together,
I want to encourage you in your faith,
but I also want to be encouraged by yours.
Romans 1:12 (NLT)
Paul, the Apostle desired for the believers in Rome to encourage him too.
When we get together …
Therefore encourage and comfort one another
and build up one another,
just as you are doing
1 Thessalonians 5:11 (AMP)
Mutual encouragement, … one another, … relationships.
He makes the whole body fit together perfectly.
As each part does its own special work,
it helps the other parts grow,
so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
Ephesians 4:16 (NLT)
We flourish and grow in the tender care, sincere prayers and loving encouragement of others … strengthened by their support, prayers and sharing, …
friends who express a deep interest to know us personally, .. who walk alongside us, … steadfastly stand with us through the pouring rain with a kind, thoughtful umbrella,
and rejoice with us when the sun shines, … authentic, strengthening friendships.
By believing and following Jesus, we become a child of God,
by living & belonging in a community, God shepherds us.
A communion of God’s family of fellow believers,
through love and humble service;
in mutual respect, consideration, care, concern & prayer.
Carry each other’s burdens,
and in this way you will fulfill
the law of Christ.
Galatians 6:2 (NIV)
… rather than independence.
John 13:34, 35 (NASB)
34 A new commandment I give to you,
that you love one another,
even as I have loved you,
that you also love one another.
35 By this all men will know that
you are My disciples,
if you have love for one another.”
A church in Christ is a body of disciples who love one another, … a living, caring community, … (not an activity),
of imperfect us, saved by His grace, empowered by His Spirit, following His Word, … strengthening, encouraging, comforting one another,
loving one another,
that all men will know and see that you are My disciples, followers of Jesus.
Proverbs 18:24 (MSG)
Friends come and friends go,
but a true friend sticks by you like family.
Truly, I need you to survive !
10 Show family affection to one another with brotherly love.
Outdo one another in showing honor.
10 Be devoted to each other like a loving family.
Excel in showing respect for each other. (NOG)
13 Share with the saints in their needs;
Romans 12:10 (HCSB, NOG)
An example from the gospels, … of coming together for fellowship, church
Mark 2:3-5, 10-12 (NIV)
2 They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and Jesus preached the word to them.
3 Some men came,
bringing to him a paralyzed man,
carried by four of them.
4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd,
they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on.
5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” … he said to the man, 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 12 He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all.
This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying,
“We have never seen anything like this!”
Jesus was present. God’s word was shared.
4 friends boldly brought their beloved friend to Jesus.
Nothing was going to stop them from bringing their friend’s need/burden to Jesus.
Jesus saw their faith … their love, their compassion.
Jesus healed their friend.
Everyone was amazed and they praised God
I need you to survive.
So then, … what is church?
Matthew 18:19-20 (NIV)
“Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth
about anything that they may ask,
it shall be done for them by My Father
who is in heaven.
For where two or three have gathered together
in My name,
I am there in their midst.”
I am, .. in your midst
… of 2 or 3 gathered together
in My Nam
I am, .. in your midst
I am …
So, maybe …. a simple answer is …. where we find the presence of Jesus,
when 2 or 3 friends come together and agree in prayer,
… to seek God the Father for His presence, His word, & His blessing
The Greek word for ‘agree‘ in this verse is symphōneō,
to be harmonious (Strong), … from which the English word ‘symphony’ is derived from,
A harmonious expression of love, … through a bouquet of diversity & variety.
A glorious pot, .. a symphonic blend of complementary colorful contrast – sweet, sour, savoury, bitter, spicy, unmani of sheer delight !
in My name – under the authority of Jesus, in the character of Jesus,
gathered together, agree — Bringing forgiveness, healing & reconciliation in Christ,
… to a divided, hurting world.
if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask,
it shall be done
for them by My Father who is in heaven.
And whenever we agree in prayer,
our Father answers. (see also Psalm 131),
Just like when Jesus miraculously healed the paralyzed man;
when his 4 caring friends agreed together,
lovingly lifted him to Jesus (Mark 2:3-12);
‘he ain’t heavy, … he’s my brother’
Hence, church is not an organization or hierarchy,
or a sacred building, or social club, or brand,
or a concert, or lecture, or performance,
or an activity …
.. its a simple gathering,
a fellowship of loving followers of Jesus,
a community of caring friends,
friends of Christ,
where Jesus is present amongst us,
exalted in power & glory.
… My house shall be called a house of prayer
for all the nations …
Mark 11:17 (NASB)
God meets us … anywhere
… whenever we honor Jesus,
two or three,
… or many more others
in fellowship, in collaborative, loving community
in symphōneō agreement
in prayer, … meeting Jesus,
“… I am there in their midst”
Matthew 18:20 (NIV)
… the kingdom of God is in your midst
Luke 17:21 (NIV)
… you yourselves are God’s temple
and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?
1 Corinthians 3:16 (NIV)
The presence of Jesus, … the presence of the Holy Spirit,
the presence of the kingdom of God,
where our Father answers prayers,
… wherever, whenever God’s people are present.
a house of prayer for all the nations
where lost sheep are saved & found,
prodigal sons forgiven, accepted, & restored,
and good samaritans reach out and bless strangers in practical ways bringing hope, restoration and healing
the presence of Jesus:
Jesus preached the word to them,
Jesus said to the paralyzed man, carried by four friends,
“Son, your sins are forgiven.”
.. He got up, took his mat and walked ..
and they praised God
Mark 2:3-5, 10-12 (NIV)
God’s word is taught, .. healing,salvation of people, … praise/worship of God,
Jesus presence in our midst
Amen, … that’s church !
How’s this possible?
Luke’s account adds an important and indispensible detail to this story,
16 But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness
17 One day He was teaching;
… and the power of the Lord was present
for Him to perform healing.
18 And some men were carrying on a bed a man who was paralyzed; and they were trying to bring him in and to set him down in front of Him. ….
… Jesus was teaching,
the power of the Lord was present
God’s Word, … God’s presence, … God’s power
…. in God’s house of prayer (anywhere with 2 or 3, .. not a building)
if two of you agree on earth
where two or three have gathered together in My name,
I am there in their midst
the power of the Lord is present
… wherever, whenever God’s people are present in prayer, in worship, in service … in love, in agreement, in community
After this the Lord appointed 72 others. He sent them out two by two ahead of him …
16:20 Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere. The Lord worked with them. And he backed up his word by the signs that went with it.
Luke 10:1; Mark 16:20 (NIRV)
whether its at a home (Acts 10, 12:12-17),
or by a busy street (Acts 3),
or on a ship in a storm (Acts 27:21-26, 33-36),
or by a river (Acts 16:13-15),
or even in a prison in Philippi, … & later at a home,
25 About midnight Paul and Silas
were praying and singing hymns to God,
and the other prisoners were listening to them.
26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose.
29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked,
“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together
with all who were in his house. 33 And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household.
Acts 16:25,26, 29,30, 33 (NIV)
Amen, that’s church!
We need You to survive.
“I am there in their midst”
I’m asking the Lord for only one thing.
Here is what I want.
I want to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.
I want to look at the beauty of the Lord.
I want to worship him in his temple.
Psalm 27:4 (NIRV)
Like the psalmist, we seek, thirst, long, look for the tangible presence of the Lord in our midst,
To see Your power and Your glory in our midst,
O God, You are my God;
Early will I seek You;
My soul thirsts for You;
My flesh longs for You
In a dry and thirsty land
Where there is no water.
2 So I have looked for You
in the sanctuary,
Your power and Your glory.
Psalm 63:1,2 (NKJV)
A lover of God, a worshiper’s heart:
I seek You, .. thirst for You, … long for You, …
look for You,
Your power, Your glory
God’s manifested tangible presence and glory in our midst,
the one thing
Then Moses told the Lord,
“If your presence does not go with us,
don’t bring us up from here.
Exodus 33:15 (ISV)
In Revelation, John was told,
Then I was given a measuring stick, and I was told,
“Go and measure the Temple of God and the altar,
and count the number of worshipers.
Revelation 11:1 (NLT)
23 … the true worshipers
will worship the Father
in the Spirit and in truth,
for they are the kind of worshipers
the Father seeks.
24 God is spirit,
and his worshipers must worship
in the Spirit and in truth.”
John 4:23, 24 (NASB)
We need you, Lord, to survive
Through fellowship and serving one another in a loving community,
iron sharpens iron.
We learn and grow to be more like Jesus;
… as we graciously let others help us,
and we help them in return by His grace.
John 13:34,35 (MSG)
34-35 “Let me give you a new command: Love one another.
In the same way I loved you,
you love one another.
This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples
—when they see the love you have for each other.”
Sometimes when iron sharpens iron, … sparks fly,
… smouldered by our forgiveness for one another.
Proverbs 27:17 (NLT)
As iron sharpens iron,
so a friend sharpens a friend.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called
sons of God.
Matthew 5:7, 9 (NASB)
Because of you … I have been changed for good
Proverbs 10:12 (ERV)
Hatred causes arguments,
but love overlooks all wrongs.
1 Peter 4:8 (AMP)
Above all, have fervent and unfailing love
for one another,
because love covers a multitude of sins
[it overlooks unkindness
and unselfishly seeks the best for others].
Sometimes, … love hurts, … love may end in disappointment,
He has personally been there too.
In his toughest hour, … He was betrayed by a close friend,
another denied Him,
and all His friends scattered
in a hurry.
Let’s keep our eyes on Jesus,
and with His agape love, & strength,
continue to do good,
loving, serving & blessing others,
Love, bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things.
Love never gives up on people.
It never stops trusting,
never loses hope,
and never quits
Love: Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
1 Corinthians 13:7 (NASB, ERV, MSG)
“love one another,
as I have loved you”
On a side note,
Church as a performance or activity
with its Christianese jargon and rituals,
is a far cry from
developing authentic, caring, trusting friendships,
putting real life
onto the stage (sunday)
taking ‘the stage‘
out of real life (rest of the week)
… i.e. we, ourselves being real, authentic, caring, loving
in the common and everyday.
In his letter to Corinth, Paul wrote about God’s family,
of how diverse & different parts nurture a sense of belonging & edification,
strengthening one another,
like a body.
1 Corinthians 12:13, 14, 24-26 (NASB)
13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized
into one body,
whether Jews or Greeks,
whether slaves or free,
and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
… the love of God has been poured out within our hearts
through the Holy Spirit
who was given to us.
Romans 5:5 (NASB)
Everyone is welcomed, … embraced,
irrespective of ethnicity or social class, etc
no one is ignored,
… the love of God through the Holy Spirit
poured out within our hearts
Like Zacchaeus the cheating, dishonest tax collector,
the Samaritan woman with 5 husbands,
the criminal on the cross next to Jesus,
by His amazing grace,
… God receives each one of us,
no matter what background
— the least church of the lost and the last,
restored by Jesus’ precious blood,
… changed lives.
12:14 For the body is not one member, but many.
not one … but many …
Everyone & anyone is empowered by God’s Spirit to be a blessing to the body,
by sharing each one’s gifts to bless others,
collaborating, complementing with others & their gifts
to bless the body of Christ.
Not just the ‘chosen few’ or ‘qualified few’
or ‘charming few’, or ‘talented few’,
or ‘successful few’ or ‘smart few’,
or ‘articulate few’, or the few in front … etc …
Whether goalkeeper, or striker,
every team member matters;
even those off-field supporting the team.
12:24 … But God has so composed the body,
giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked,
Its God who composed the body, … put the body together;
.. mix, blend, unite together into one functioning body,
from diverse, different, dissimilar parts.
You and I bring a vital part,
every part is honored and appreciated by Jesus 🙂 ,
no matter how small or insignificant.
… like the poor widow‘s mite,
or the small boy‘s 5 loaves and 2 fishes.
Jesus honored … the weak, … the least,
… the lost, … the last.
Each one … delightfully, extraordinarily special in His eyes !
12:25 so that there may be no division in the body,
but that the members may
have the same care for one another.
have mutual concern for each other (NET)
feel the same concern for each other (GW)
12:26 And and if one member suffers,
all the members suffer with it …
the time when a tiny tooth ached, …
or if accidentally, … a blood-flowing cut on our little finger,
suddenly, … our whole attention is focused upon our little finger
to relieve the bleeding & pain.
When the smallest child accidentally falls down,
the family runs to his aid,
and comforts him.
12:26 if one member is honored,
all the members rejoice with it.
We win as a team!
No rivalry or envy.
In so doing, … no division in the body.
16 … Everything was created through him
and for him.
18 Christ is also the head of the church,
which is his body. …
Colossians 1:18 (NLT)
35 … I was thirsty and you gave me drink, …
36 … I was sick and you visited me …
40 Whatever you did
for one of the least of these brothers of Mine,
you did for Me
Matthew 25:35, 40 (ESV, HCSB)
just as the Son of Man did not come
to be served,
but to serve,
and to give His life—a ransom for many
Matthew 20:28 (HCSB)
Beyond the polished performance on stage,
the great coffee,
the door handshake,
‘see you next week’
We need your care,
just you … being there,
thru tears & joys,
We need you to survive.
stand with me, … agree with me,
I need you to survive.
“We ourselves feel that what we are doing
is just a drop in the ocean.
But the ocean would be less
because of that missing drop.”
— Mother Teresa
Was having fellowship with a brother from a country where believers are persecuted.
He shared that after he believed in Jesus,
his family disowned him,
and he’s not able to return back to his home country.
He continued, “This church is now … my family.”
When persecution comes,
And if someone overpowers one person,
two can resist him.
A cord of three strands
is not easily broken.
Ecclesiastes 4:12 (HCSB)
5 So Peter was kept in the prison,
prayer for him
was being made fervently by the church to God.
After Peter was miraculously released in the dark of night
12 … Peter went to the house of Mary,
.. where many were gathered together
and were praying …
Acts 12:5,12 (NASB)
16 May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus,
because he often refreshed me
and was not ashamed of my chains.
17 On the contrary, when he was in Rome,
he searched hard for me until he found me.
18 May the Lord grant that he will find mercy from the Lord on that day!
You know very well in how many ways he helped me in Ephesus.
2 Timothy 1:16-18 (NIV)
When times are tough,
many a times, you reached out
refresh, recharge, restored,
…. I need you to survive !
While visiting a Korean church,
there was a time in the service when they blessed one another,
and welcomed visitors in their midst,
… they sang this song to bless one another,
which translated to English is:
You are the blessing from God
God has promised to bless others through you
Nations will be blessed
because of you
They will return to Lord our God
inspired from a passage in Galatians,
Galatians 3:8,9 (NLT)
8 What’s more, the Scriptures looked forward to this time when God would make the Gentiles right in his sight because of their faith.
God proclaimed this good news to Abraham long ago when he said,
“All nations will be blessed through you.”
9 So all who put their faith in Christ
share the same blessing
Abraham received because of his faith.
At this church, during a water baptism service
they blessed and prophesyed over those who were baptised
with this blessing song.
When members or leaders were sent forth to mission trips, or moved on to mission agencies,
they also blessed and prophesyed over them with this blessing song.
You are truly the blessing from God
God has promised to bless others through you
“All nations will be blessed through you.”
all who put their faith in Christ
share the same blessing Abraham received
because of his faith.
“All nations will be blessed through you.”
You are important in the body of Christ.
We need YOU to survive.
You are truly the blessing from God !
Richard Halverson, former US Senate Chaplain:
In the beginning the Church was a fellowship of men and women who centred their lives on the living Christ. They had a personal and vital relationship to the Lord. It transformed them and the world around them.
Then the Church moved to Greece, and it became a philosophy.
Later it moved to Rome, and it became an institution.
Next it moved to Europe and it became a culture.
Finally it moved to America, and it became an enterprise.
We’ve got far too many churches and so few fellowships.”
Worship service, church as performance?
“The birth of the church was during a prayer meeting,
not preaching, not singing,
but prayer. ….
Does the Bible ever say anywhere from Genesis to Revelation,
‘My house shall be called a house of preaching’?
Does it ever say, ‘My house shall be called a house of music’?
Of course not.
The Bible does say,
‘My house shall be called a house of prayer
for all nations’.
Preaching, music, the reading of the Word – these things are fine;
I believe in and practice all of them.
But they must never override prayer
as the defining mark of God’s dwelling.
the honest truth is that
I have seen God do more in people’s lives
during ten minutes of real prayer
than in ten of my sermons. “
— Jim Cymbala, Brooklyn Tabernacle
by 林弟兄, bro Lim
March 15, 2015
Copyright © 林弟兄 bro Lim, Laymanointing, 2014-2016 – All Rights Reserved
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