Category Archives: Christianity

What Should the Church Look Like? (Part 3) — We Are One Body

In our last post, we saw that God uses the model of family for His Church. He also likens His people to a human body. The two ideas are similar in how they cause us to relate to one another, if we heed them. Let’s take a look at the main passage which describes us as a body, 1 Corinthians 12:12-27:

For as the body is one, and has many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are still one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body … and have all been made to drink of one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many.

If the foot shall say, “Because I am not the hand, I am not part of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, “Because I am not the eye, I am not part of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling?

But now God has set every one of the members in the body as it has pleased Him. And if they were all one member, where would be the body? But now are they many members, yet only one body.

And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you.” Nor can the head say to the feet, “I have no need of you.” No, how much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary. And those members of the body which we think less honorable, upon these we bestow more abundant honor; our less presentable parts are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts have no need. But God has tempered the body together, having given more abundant honor to those parts which lacked.

This is so there would be no division in the body, but the members should have the same care one for another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and members in particular.

In a healthy family, every member is valued. We share each other’s joys and sorrows, triumphs and defeats. When one hurts, the rest are empathetic to his or her pain. Little children are not disdained because they are small and weak; they are treated more tenderly. If a family member moves away, passes, or chooses to be estranged, he is sorely missed. A healthy family pulls together as a team.

In a healthy body, every part is also valued. If one part hurts, the whole body is affected. Parts which are naturally weaker and more susceptible to injury (such as the internal organs) are protected, not despised. If a part of the body has to be surgically removed, the rest of the body suffers great hardship. The left eye, ear, leg, or hand does not compete for dominance with the right eye, ear, leg, or hand. They work together.

So it is meant to be in the Church, the “body” of Christ. We are supposed to take special care of those who are weaker or less capable. Those who are sick should be tenderly nursed back to health. Those with less visible functions (like the internal organs of the human body) are vital to the life of the church as a whole, and should be valued accordingly. If someone leaves or passes away, it is like an amputation has taken place: the rest of the body tries to compensate for the loss, but it is not the same without the one who is gone.

In the church body, we should not be envious of one another, vying for dominance. Instead, we should pull together, recognizing the unique purpose God has for each of us. There is room for more than one “eye” or “ear” (the prophetic gifts of spiritually seeing and hearing). In fact, the sight range and depth perception of two eyes working together is better than what one eye can do by itself. In short, we need each other, each fulfilling our God-given purpose, in order for the church to be healthy and fully functional.

Appreciating each other and being willing to work together in the church body is not easy. It takes commitment to unconditional love, as we see laid out in 1 Corinthians 13. It takes dependence upon the Holy Spirit and a continual dying to our own selfish ambitions. Some members of the local body are not as easy to love as others, due to irritating personality quirks or character flaws. We may be tempted to wish they would go elsewhere. But if we can remember that they, too, have a unique, God-designed place to fill, and that the body will be missing a part if they are gone, it helps our own attitude. Many is the time I have asked God to show me the good He sees in a brother or sister, when I couldn’t find much to like. He has been faithful to that prayer, so that when I saw their value from the Lord’s perspective, I came to love them.

In our next post, we’ll look at the Church as an army. We’ll see how that can be good or bad, depending on whether we keep it within the biblical concept of family.

What Should the Church Look Like? (Part 1)
Part 2 — We Are Family
Part 4 — We Are an Army (Sort of)

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prophetic teaching

 

 

Growing in the Prophetic,
Audio teaching by Lee Ann Rubsam

 

 

nature of God, Christian discipleship

 

 

Before Whom We Stand, by Lee Ann Rubsam

What Should the Church Look Like? (Part 2) — We Are Family

familyIn our first post, we said the Church’s core job description is to be the expression of Jesus Christ upon the earth. We also talked about the meaning of ekklesia, the Greek word which is translated “church.” It is an assembly of called-out ones.

The Church is referred to in the Bible using several different metaphors, but I believe the Scriptures reveal that the Church’s primary way to function is as a family. This is true of the universal church, but its best practical application is within the local congregation.

God’s people as family shows up already in Genesis, beginning with Adam and Eve. We see the idea woven throughout Noah’s, Abraham’s, and Israel’s story. It is a continuous, consistent thread flowing through centuries of Old Testament history.

Mankind was originally created in the image of God. “And God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness'” (Genesis 1:26). Family is God’s very nature, with two of the Persons of the Godhead being Father and Son. Since we have been made in His likeness, it should not surprise us that functioning as family is part of the Lord’s plan for His people.

In the New Testament, it becomes still clearer that God’s people are to follow the pattern of family. Believers in Jesus are referred to as the “sons of God” six times, including 1 John 3:1: “Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God….”

Romans 8:15-17 explains that we have been adopted by God the Father. As His adopted sons and daughters, we enjoy the same privileges and inheritance that Jesus does:

For you have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God. And if children, then heirs: heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ, if we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together.

Throughout the New Testament epistles, members of the Church are referred to as “brethren,” “brothers,” and “sisters.” Those terms are used approximately 190 times in the apostles’ letters to the churches. Paul reminded the Corinthian church, which he had founded, that he was a father to them (1 Corinthians 4:15). He called Timothy and Titus his sons, although they were not biologically related (1 Timothy 1:2, 18; 2 Timothy 1:2; Titus 1:4). John repeatedly referred to the Church as “little children” in 1 John. Paul also instructed Timothy in how to treat fellow believers: “Do not rebuke an elder, but entreat him as a father and the younger men as brothers; the elder women as mothers, the younger as sisters, with all purity” (1 Timothy 5:1, 2). The portrayal of church as family is clearly primary.

You may already be thinking, “My church experience is not very much like family. I wish it were.” Sadly, that is often the case. It is one of the things which needs to shift, in order for our congregations to be healthy.

Or, perhaps you are thinking, “My family life growing up was a total mess! Why would I want my church experience to be like that?” You wouldn’t. None of us would. But, because we are made in God’s image, each of us has some understanding of what family should be, even if we have not had the opportunity to enjoy it growing up. There is a knowing in your heart what family done right should look like, and you long for that. And that is what God wants His church family to demonstrate to each other and the world.

In a properly functioning family, children are not valued for what they do, but for who they are. All the sons and daughters have equal value in their parents’ eyes. Younger children do not have the same responsibilities and options as the older ones, not because they are less important than older siblings, but because they do not yet have the maturity to handle those responsibilities or choices well. In larger families, older children often help care for the little ones, even teaching them some of the basic skills they will need to possess.

In the same way, God values all His sons and daughters, not for our deeds, positions, or functions, but simply because each of us is His own dear child. In the Church, we must learn to see each other as God sees us. Yes, there will be mature members who pastor or mentor newer believers. Some will have more visible ministries than others. But their position is not a measure of their importance. Neither maturity nor individual function within the congregation has anything to do with value, so may God help us to stop acting as though they do!

In our coming posts, we will examine other biblical aspects of what the Church should look like. We’ll also see how each of them can, and should, fit with the family model.

What Should the Church Look Like? (Part 1)
Part 3 — We Are One Body

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prophetic teaching

 

 

Growing in the Prophetic,
Audio teaching by Lee Ann Rubsam

 

 

nature of God, Christian discipleship

 

 

Before Whom We Stand,
by Lee Ann Rubsam

What Should the Church Look Like? (Part 1)

church buildingMany articles are being written in our day which are highly critical of the modern Church. Often the criticism is well-founded, especially in our Western culture. Truly, we seem to have drifted off-course, so that many church gatherings look more like entertainment clubs or feel-good social gatherings than the Church we see in the New Testament.

There’s another side to this, though. Some critics are proposing an opposite extreme — a so-called New Testament Church which is narrowed in scope to their own particular vision or preferences.

The two extremes spark a question. What is the local church really supposed to look like? It’s not a question with easy answers. In this series, we will look at some of the main components of church life and purpose, as we see them in the Bible.

Let’s start with a core job description:

The Church is the expression of Jesus Christ upon the earth.

That’s pretty simple, isn’t it? — even overly simple. However, in the end, it all comes back to this. Romans 8:29 tells us that God predestinated us (both individually and corporately) to be “conformed to the image of His Son.” Whenever the Church deviates from being the same as Jesus Himself would be on earth, we have missed the mark. Likewise, when we accomplish looking like Him, we’ve done what we were intended to do.

In the New Testament, the word translated “church” is ekklesia (ecclesia in Latin). Literally, the word means “the called-out ones,” but the common understanding was that it was an “assembly” or “congregation.” (See end notes.) So, a reasonable, combined definition would be, “a called-out assembly.”

Truly that is what the Church is, on both the local and world-wide level: we are called out of the world system, set apart unto Jesus, and we are an assembly of believers. By definition, no one of us can be the church all by himself. We need each other. “Ekklesia” cannot be separated from the concept of community.

This is why Hebrews 10:24, 25 (NKJV) says, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting [encouraging] one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Sunday morning services are one expression of how the local church can gather together, but by no means are they the complete picture, as we shall see as this series progresses. There are many facets of being the Church. If we tried to emphasize all of them in a single setting or time frame, we’d probably miss out on a lot.

In our next post, we will talk about the Church as family, which I believe is the starting point for restoring it back to what it is meant to be. If we get the family part right, our churches will become healthier, happier places, and everything else will flow quite naturally out of that.

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1. Ecclesia (Church). Simple English Wikipedia. https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecclesia_(Church). Accessed 5-18-19.

2. Jackson, Wayne. “What Is the Meaning of Ekklesia?” Christian Courier. https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/1500-what-is-the-meaning-of-ekklesia. Accessed 5-18-19.

3. Strong, James and Thayer, Joseph. Concordance. My Sword Bible app. Accessed 5-20-19.

4. “What is the Definition of Ekklesia?” Got Questions. https://www.gotquestions.org/definition-ekklesia.html. Accessed 5-18-19.

Next (Part 2) — The Church is Family

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prophetic teaching

 

 

Growing in the Prophetic,
Audio teaching by Lee Ann Rubsam

 

 

nature of God, Christian discipleship

 

 

Before Whom We Stand, by Lee Ann Rubsam

 

 

 

Strange Alliances

While in prayer recently, I received a warning for the Church:

Beware of strange alliances.

Typically, this is how strange alliances play out:

You become disgruntled about something happening in your local church — perhaps a policy the leadership puts in place. Suddenly, people whom you never quite liked or trusted before start looking pretty good. It’s not because you have developed a new, Christ-like love for them or they have dramatically changed. No, it’s because they are unhappy about the same things you are. You start to form friendships with them, based upon your common ground of disagreement with church leadership. The qualms you had about them are suddenly wiped away, but for the wrong reason: you have become allied in division.

I am not talking about disagreement over core doctrines. It’s usually about procedures, preferences, or approaches. To the person not caught up in the controversy, the concern over the issue seems trivial or illogical; yet it seems entirely logical and vastly important to those falling into the trap. It is the stuff of which church splits are made.

If someone mentions a gripe they have about how things are done, and it is the same thing troubling you, do not be deceived into believing it is “confirmation.” Whether the complaint is valid or not, it is the devil’s snare — the spirit of division attempting to draw you into an unholy alliance in order to tear apart what God desires to hold together.

What should we do if we are tempted with such a situation?

1.) If people start approaching you to confide their unhappiness about whoever and whatever is already your own area of discontent, run! The devil deliberately brings people across our paths to ensnare us into taking part in dividing the Body of Christ. Don’t fall for it.

The apostle Paul wrote, “Now I implore you, brethren, take notice of those who cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which you have learned, and avoid them” (Romans 16:17). While Paul was speaking particularly of doctrinal divisions, it’s a good principle to apply on lesser issues as well. Proverbs 6:12-19 speaks of behavior which God hates. Twice, those verses mention sowing discord as one such abomination.

2.) If you have a gripe, don’t talk about it with others. Do not be the enemy’s instrument of division. Proverbs 26:20 observes, “Where there is no wood, the fire goes out: so, where there is no talebearer, the strife ceases.”

3.) Instead, take the matter to God and pray it through until the circumstances you are concerned about change (if they even need to), or until you change. If you harbor little love for the ones you disagree with, the most important change which needs to happen is in you.

It goes beyond the church.

Forming unholy alliances is not limited to the local church, of course. Intrigues and power plays go on in all circles of life, large and small, from the workplace or family right up to national and international alliances. As believers, we must avoid them wherever they arise.

Joining with nonbelievers in social justice causes is one area to be wary of. While some seem noble on the surface, they can end up being perverted due to the flawed motives or beliefs of those involved.

When considering whether to invest our energies in working side by side in these causes with those who do not know Jesus, it is wise to keep in mind the apostle Paul’s warning in 2 Corinthians 6:14, 15: “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship does righteousness have with unrighteousness? And what communion does light have with darkness? And what agreement does Christ have with Belial [the spirit of rebelliousness and lawlessness]? Or what part has he who believes with an infidel?”

While this does not mean that we can never work together with secular-minded people for a common good, it does mean we should proceed with caution, our spiritual ears sensitive to warnings from the Holy Spirit.

In summary, any alliances which would produce discord and strife, or would compromise our agreement with God and His principles, should be avoided. Such alliances raise red flags by how unlikely they would normally be, if we were to examine them objectively. Whether in our church relationships or in other arenas of life, we must stay spiritually attuned to the Holy Spirit, so that we can discern the tug of these attractions quickly and flee from them.

 

 

Yes, You CAN Be an Intercessor! (CD or mp3 set),
by Lee Ann Rubsam

 

 

 

Growing in the Prophetic (CD or mp3 set),
by Lee Ann Rubsam

 

 

Who Is on the Lord’s Side?

Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, “Who is on the LORD’S side? Let him come to me.” And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together to him. — Exodus 32:26

As Christians, we are called to be prophetic people — understanding and then speaking forth Christ’s heart to the world around us. We have a responsibility to consistently stand with the Lord. That often means we must first step back from the current issues of our day, not form or speak hasty judgments, and take time to inquire of the Lord about His perspective.

In our current world, the news media takes upon itself to be the judicial system. They indict, prosecute, and preside as judges, demanding that their readers be the jury. Sadly, the “jury” is often given unsubstantiated rumors, which we are duped into thinking are facts. The witnesses are anonymous “sources,” presented as tellers of truth, but they may or may not be accurate or reliable. No one seems to care anymore about vetting them to see whether their claims hold up.

As a result, many inaccurate or even false stories become the headlines of the day. And if they turn out to be untrue? There might be a lesser headline or a back-page retraction a few days later. Then again, maybe not. By that time, not only has the exposed person or people group been tried on minimal information; they’ve been executed as well.

Where do we fit into this mess? Many of us are quick to pronounce a guilty verdict based on rumors and incomplete information. We cry out, along with the non-believing world, for someone’s condemnation. How does that fit with grace and justice? How does that line up with 1 Corinthians 13:6, 7: “Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (NIV)? We are eager to crucify, even as the Pharisees of Jesus’ day were.

Just as bad, if not worse, is justifying someone’s sins because their agenda is the same as ours. Political ideology is an enormous idol, worshiped as much in the Church as elsewhere. It disturbs me that we are willing to compromise what God has clearly said in order to hand power to someone who fits our political persuasion. Some of our influential Christian leaders even twist Scripture to convince us that sin is either acceptable behavior, or at worst, of minor consequence (because everyone does it, after all).

What should the people of God be speaking instead of  immediate and vocal condemnation? The answer is found in the Word of God:

In the multitude of words there is no end of sin: but he who refrains his lips is wise.Proverbs 10:19

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:9

 And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand. Joshua went to him and said, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?”

And he said, “No. But as captain of the host of the LORD have I now come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and worshiped, and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?” Joshua 5:13, 14

Those three passages give us guidance on how to respond wisely to the events taking place around us:

1.) We must refrain from speaking hastily.

2.) We must seek the Lord for His perspective. His viewpoint is higher and more complete than ours, but we can attain to it by inquiring of Him. Only when we have His counsel on a matter should we offer our opinions. Even then, prayer should be our first response. We must not only find out how God sees things, but also whether He even wants us to speak into them — or, should we remain quiet?

3.) We must not align ourselves with any agenda but the Lord’s. God is not a card-carrying member of any political party. He is sovereign, far above political agendas and persuasions. He is neither a conservative nor a liberal. He is only concerned with how those agendas measure up against His holy Word.

Does that mean we should not affiliate with political parties or social movements? Not at all. But we should make certain that we are aligned with Him, rather than swallowing whole an agenda just because somebody of our party or persuasion says that’s the way it has to be.

Lovers of Christ, take up your mantle to be God’s prophetic voice to our world. Seek out His counsel and stick with that. Do not let yourself be manipulated by the other voices shouting so loudly around us. Do not be like the masses, spewing natural-minded opinions right and left. We are a holy, set-apart people, with a message of light to share. Let’s start doing that.

Growing in the Prophetic (audio series)

 

Growing in the Prophetic,
Audio Series,  by Lee Ann Rubsam

 

Before Whom We Stand, by Lee Ann Rubsam

 

Before Whom We Stand: The Everyman’s Guide to the Nature of God, by Lee Ann Rubsam

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Have You Lost Your Hope?

Do you find yourself battling frequently with a feeling of having no hope? I have felt this way, especially in the last year or so. Many are the times when I have prayed, “God give me hope. Restore my hope.”

I don’t think it is just a response to the current state of our world, although that is a factor. For those of us who know the Lord, it might be a deliberate spiritual attack. And we cannot afford to take it lying down.

First of all, we must understand that God’s will for us is to be filled with hope. If we are experiencing the opposite, something is happening which is against His will. That should be a signal that we need to stand in warfare to retake what has been filched from us.

Hope is such an important part of our covenant with the Lord that He calls Himself “the God of hope”: “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Spirit.”Romans 15:13

The God of hope desires to fill us with joy and peace as we believe on Him. He also wants us to abound in hope — which happens through the power of the Holy Spirit continually working within us. This verse has really come alive to me in recent weeks. I have meditated on it and prayed it back to the Lord frequently. As a result, I am sensing a fresh hope building inside of me.

Some people can pinpoint a specific disappointment or sorrow which caused them to lose their hope. If this is you, you may need to ask Jesus to heal the wound. Like blood oozes from an injured spot, an untended emotional wound can cause our hope to leak away. Maybe you cannot identify a specific cause. You just feel a general blanket of hopelessness weighing you down. No matter what the cause is, there are some ways we can fight back.

The Aggressive Use of God’s Word

Any time we are undergoing spiritual attack, declaring the Word is our prime weapon. It is called “the sword of the Spirit” in Ephesians 6:17. When Jesus was tempted by the devil (Luke 4:1-14), in each case, He parried Satan’s thrusts by declaring what the Scriptures said: “It is written.” The last verse of that passage tells us that when the assault was over, “Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee.”

In addition to quoting specific Scriptures to silence the enemy’s lies, meditate on uplifting verses about hope and the promises of God. Romans 15:4 tells us “that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” And Lamentations 3:26 reminds us, “It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD.” If you need some verses to get you started, I’ve got a great list of them at my webpage, Encouragement from God’s Word. Even better, ask God to bring to your remembrance verses He wants to personalize to you to rebuild your hope.

Repentance

Along with the aggressive use of God’s Word, we must also repent of the words we have already spoken which aligned us with hopelessness:

  • “I can’t go on.”
  • “I give up.”
  • “This is never going to change.”
  • “There is no hope for me.”

These are sinful utterances, because they are not what God says about our situation. We need to ask His forgiveness for fighting against ourselves and against His plans for us through our contrary words.

Assuredly, the opportunity will come up again to fall into the same trap. So, when the hopeless feelings resurface, we must commit ourselves to resisting giving way to those wrong declarations. While in a faith battle, the less we verbalize how we feel, the better. Pour out your weakness to the Lord in your heart if you need to, but then also tell Him you will trust in Him in spite of the feelings. Don’t spill from your lips anything which opposes what God says about the situation.

Worship

Worship and praise dispel darkness and bring the atmosphere of heaven down all around us. Our outlook can completely change, if we persevere in deliberate extolling of the Lord. It is not easy. Worship is a sacrifice (Hebrews 13:15). It goes against our flesh.

It is also a tool of warfare. Psalm 8:2 tells us, “Out of the mouth of babies and infants You have ordained [established] strength because of Your enemies, that You might still the enemy and the avenger.” Jesus quoted this verse, “Out of the mouth of babies and infants You have perfected praise(Matthew 21:16). We are strengthened to overcome, and the turmoil with which the enemy tries to afflict us is silenced, as we aggressively worship.

Genuine hope is not based on the temporary situations we face right now. It has its foundation in Christ. Ultimately, our hope rests in living from an eternal perspective, our eyes fastened on Jesus, so that we are not like unbelievers, who have no hope.

May we take back from the enemy of our souls the hope which is rightfully ours, and may we then be bearers of it to our hurting world, assuring them that the hope we possess can be theirs in Christ, too.

 

All-Surpassing Peace in a Shaking World,
by Lee Ann Rubsam