Tag Archives: Discipleship

What Should the Church Look Like? (Part 8) — Conclusion

balanced churchWe started this series by looking at what “church” (ekklesia) means — a called-out assembly. We are called out of the darkness of this world into God’s family and kingdom, not as individuals only, but as a united body of believers, meant to live and carry out our purpose together.

I also gave you a core job description: The Church is the expression of Jesus Christ upon the earth.

Throughout the series, I emphasized that healthy church life means we function as the family of God. When we forget that we are family, some of the other components of who we are — an army, discipleship center, or even a house of prayer — can get out of whack. But if we stay in the context of family, the many purposes God has for His Church work beautifully together. When we overemphasize one aspect of the Church to the exclusion of others, we become like a wheel out of round, or one missing some spokes, but properly balancing who we are and what we are supposed to do causes us to thrive.

There is one more element of the Church that I would like to mention. Really, I’ve saved the best for last:

We are Christ’s bride.

It is definitely a “now, but not yet” part of who we are. We are betrothed to our Bridegroom Jesus, but the wedding celebration will not take place until He returns for us. While we wait for Him, we are in a two-fold preparation time. We are already spotless in the sense that we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ, blameless and pure through His atonement for us at the cross. But Jesus is also bringing us through a wedding preparation process, “that He might sanctify and cleanse [His bride] with the washing of water by His Word, so that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:26, 27).

We have our role to play as well. Just as an earthly bride goes through much preparation to look her most beautiful on her wedding day, we are to give great attention to readying ourselves for Jesus. Revelation 19:7 says of the marriage supper in heaven, “for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.”

In this present hour, the Lord is doing His part to cleanse His Church, even sometimes through the painful, public exposure of sin. We must do ours as well, in setting aside every encumbrance, every distraction, which would keep us from looking eagerly for our Bridegroom to come for us. We must get our attention off the temporary pursuits and cares of earth, and firmly fix our gaze on Jesus. He is coming. Let us be eagerly anticipating Him.

Summing things up:

The expression of love, mercy, and compassion should always be prominent in the Church. We carry out the practical functions to which we are called as Christ’s body on earth, but forever in the context of these three attributes. This is why the Spirit led the apostle Paul to insert “the love chapter” (1 Corinthians 13) between the the gifts and church order chapters (1 Corinthians 12 and 14).

We must also remember that our Sunday morning services are only a slice of what it means to be the Church. If that is all we ever experience, we are missing out on a great deal. The early Church not only met together in large gatherings; they met “house to house” informally, eating and fellowshipping with one another (Acts 2:46), receiving teaching (Acts 20:20), and praying together (Acts 12:12) too. We can do the same in our day. They also lived out the life of Christ in the world around them, including showing forth the power of God through miracles, signs, and wonders, which are supposed to “follow those who believe” (Mark 16:17). “For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power” (1 Corinthians 4:20).

I hope you have enjoyed this series and that it has provoked some new ideas for you. I would love hearing any additional thoughts you have!

What Should the Church Look Like? (Part 1)
Part 2 — We Are Family
Part 3 — We Are One Body
Part 4 — We Are an Army
Part 5 — We Are a House of Prayer and Worship
Part 6 — We Are a Healing Center
Part 7 — Other Church Attributes

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nature of God

 

 

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

 

 

Christian character

 

River Life: Entering into the Character of Jesus,
by Lee Ann Rubsam

 

 

intercession, prayer

 

 

The Intercessor Manual,
by Lee Ann Rubsam

 

 

 

What Should the Church Look Like? (Part 7) — Other Attributes of the Church

Supreme Court buildingWe’ve talked about the Church being a family, a body, an army, a house of prayer and worship, and a healing center. Here are a few other attributes of the Church which should not be neglected.

 

The Church is a governing body upon earth.

We carry out our governing function in a couple of ways. One is by bringing the power and presence of God with us wherever we go.

We are meant to influence and bring change in our world through our words and actions. We are “ambassadors for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20), meaning that what Jesus did to demonstrate the Kingdom of God, we do also. Jesus “went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil” (Acts 10:38); we do likewise. He spoke light and truth; we are to do the same. Jesus said of His disciples, “You are the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world”“a city set on a hill [that] cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:13, 14). Paul worded it, God “makes manifest by us the savor of His knowledge in every place” (2 Corinthians 2:15). So, we govern by bringing the Lord’s kingdom to our world in how we do life.

Each of us can do this in the process of going about our daily occupations. But in order to be as effective as possible, we should stay aware that this is why we have been placed by God in our particular spheres of influence. We must not miss our opportunities!

The second way we govern on earth is through prayer. In Matthew 18:18, 19, Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them by My Father Who is in heaven.”

In his book, Secrets of a Prayer Warrior, Derek Prince said this: “The Bible reveals that this world is not really ruled by presidents and governors and dictators. They only seem to rule. The people who really rule the world are those who know how to pray.” We need to grasp this idea and run with it!

Our governing function is carried out both individually and as a church body. While each of us should be an ambassador and a prayer warrior, when we join together in unity with other believers, our effectiveness is greatly multiplied. Corporate governing as a body ties in with what we already saw in Part 4 about the Church being an army. No man fights a war all by himself.

Ultimately, we will physically govern on earth with Christ when He returns (and we with Him) for His millennial reign as King. The governing we do now is a seed, a foretaste of what is to come.

discipleshipThe Church is a center for discipleship.

What did Jesus tell His disciples before He left earth? “Go, therefore, and teach [make disciples of] all nations… teaching them to observe all things which I have commanded you….” (Matthew 28:19, 20).

Paul called this discipleship “the perfecting [equipping] of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ, until we all come, in the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, into maturity, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we are no longer children, tossed to and fro, carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery and cunning craftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Ephesians 4:12-14).

Some of our local churches are fulfilling the discipleship function well. However, based on the amount of serious doctrinal error which has become commonplace in the Church today, apparently many of our churches are not getting the job done. In Charismatic / prophetic / apostolic circles, we often focus on “equipping the saints” in how to do the supernatural works of Jesus, but we have neglected to lay the firm foundation of the core doctrines taught by the original New Testament apostles. Indeed, we have neglected teaching the Bible as a whole. On the other hand, in fundamentalist / non-Charismatic streams, there is often a great adherence to Bible teaching, while not emphasizing pursuing intimacy with Jesus Himself. As you can see, the Church needs a lot of improvement in the discipleship area!

The discipleship function can be worked out in a variety of ways. The Word of God should be preached from our pulpits (in many cases, this is not happening as it should). Home Bible studies and Bible classes within the local church can further enhance the work. One-on-one discipleship, with mature believers mentoring newer Christians, is just as vital as what we receive through sermons and structured teaching.

I personally believe we should see more teaching from the Bible on God’s nature. If we understand Who He is and how He acts, we can then apply that understanding to develop Christlike character in our own lives. Too many believers in our day have little understanding of either God’s nature or how to live like Jesus. These things can be taught systematically, however.

It is a large task, and may seem overwhelming, but each of us can do our part by being connected into a local fellowship where true discipleship is taking place, and by being willing to disciple others who are just beginning their life in Christ.

In our next post, we’ll wrap up this series with one more aspect of who the Church is and a few final thoughts.

What Should the Church Look Like? (Part 1)
Part 2 — We Are Family
Part 3 — We Are One Body
Part 4 — We Are an Army
Part 5 — We Are a House of Prayer and Worship
Part 6 — We Are a Healing Center
Next: Part 8 (Conclusion)

________________________________________

nature of God

 

 

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

 

 

Christian character

 

River Life: Entering into the Character of Jesus,
by Lee Ann Rubsam

 

 

intercession, prayer

 

 

The Intercessor Manual,
by Lee Ann Rubsam

Misplaced Adoration

There’s a common trap which we can easily fall into — giving the adoration which should belong solely to the Lord to a Christian leader. It is an idolatry which has repeatedly afflicted God’s people.

Paul warned the Corinthian believers about it:

… One says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos” …. Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom you believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered — but God gave the increase. So then, neither is he who plants anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. … For we are laborers together with God. You are God’s field; you are God’s building — 1 Corinthians 3:4-7, 9.

People who carry a weighty anointing quite naturally attract us. We sense the presence of the Lord upon them, and it makes us want to be near them, to receive from them, to bask in what they have, to be in their inner circle. But no matter how bright their light, we dare not let ourselves forget that it is only a secondary, reflected light, while Jesus is the Source. Go directly for the Source.

We’ve all heard the excessive attraction of one person to another likened to a moth’s attraction to a flame. It’s a good comparison. Fluttering too close to the flame of a fellow, flawed human being will scorch you. It will eventually bring you pain, disillusionment, disappointment. By contrast, flying close to the Lord’s flame will destroy your soulish attitudes and desires, but you will be strengthened, healed, and made clean by His fire. He consumes the impurities, while in exchange giving greater life. No man or woman can do that for you. The best of them will fail you.

So, learn what you can from men and women of God. Let them impart what they are able to give  to you. But don’t slip into worshiping them. “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2) is a wise word to live by. If you have already fallen into the trap, ask the Lord to forgive you, and then guard yourself in the future. Refocus your attention on Jesus. Ask for the Holy Spirit’s aid in reordering your affections and thoughts. He will help you.

Leaders, if you don’t mind me saying it, often the problem of misplaced adoration rests at your doorstep. Don’t allow yourself to indulge in the heady flattery of being the center of someone’s world. It’s a snare to you and them. Refuse to be worshiped. Be like John the Baptist, who remained ever conscious that “he was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light” (John 1:8). He pointed his young disciples to Jesus: “Behold the Lamb of God!” (John 1:29, 30, 35).

Currently, there is a God-breathed emphasis on older saints becoming “fathers and mothers” to spiritual sons and daughters, with the purpose of raising up a triumphant Church army which moves in the miraculous, just as Jesus said we should do — the “greater works” of John 14:12. In the process, be watchful that they do not misplace on you the awe which rightfully belongs to the Lord. When the sons and daughters come to you with stars in their eyes, point them upward to Jesus, the bright and morning star (Revelation 22:16).

Not one of us is awesome. Only Jesus is awesome. He alone deserves worship.

Understanding Honor (Part 6) — Church Leadership

LeeAnnRubsam.com

Hebrews 13:17 Obey those who have the rule over [oversee] you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as those who must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief — for that is unprofitable for you. 

Honoring church leadership seems to be a lost art in our day, but quite frankly, God commands it – including obedience to them. 

I understand that there are abuses.  I went through the Shepherding Movement back in the 70’s and early 80’s, and experienced its extremes firsthand.  Yes, some church leaders are control freaks.  But a lot of them aren’t. 

Life in the Spirit is about freedom, not bondage.  “… Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17). We have to balance between not permitting controlling people to enslave us and humbly submitting ourselves in accountability to godly leadership. 

In order to rightly discern whether someone is “controlling” or whether we are the ones with the issues, we must understand what’s going on inside of us personally.  I’ve seen good pastors who were not control freaks be accused of that — but the real problem was that their accusers did not want to receive much-needed correction.  Know your own heart before you paste labels on your leadership.  But if you are in a control environment, you don’t have to stay there.  Find the church where God wants you to be, under a godly shepherd who knows how to honor his congregation. 

1 Timothy 5:17 Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. 

The literal meaning of “double honor” in this verse is concerning finances.  Corporately, the local church should honor good leadership by paying them well for the hard work they do.  Individually, we honor them by giving generous offerings to support their ministry.  If you don’t tithe and give offerings in your local fellowship, you are dishonoring your pastor.  You will inevitably put your money where your heart is. 

What we say about our church leaders is a strong indicator of whether we honor them in our hearts.  Having the pastor for lunch — shredding who he is and what he preaches at the dinner table — is not acceptable in God’s sight.  Numbers 12 is the story of Miriam and Aaron having a grumbling session, because they did not like some of the things Moses was doing.  God made it quite clear that He was not happy with their behavior.  I don’t think any of us would want God to deal with us similarly.

Our leaders are going to make mistakes — lots of them.  But give them grace.  Support them.  Love them.  “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7). 

Honoring God-ordained leadership by receiving their correction, embracing their vision, supporting that vision with our finances, and pulling alongside them in oneness of heart brings God’s favor upon us, while bucking their authority, withholding finances, and speaking disrespectfully of them thwarts our ability to come into the full destiny that God intends for us.

Previous: Understanding Honor (Part 5) — Those in Authority  
Next: Understanding Honor (Part 7) — Honoring Ourselves

 

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

 

Changing Your Negatives into Positives

Every one of us struggles with negative qualities in our character — flaws that we would prefer not to have to overcome.  Perhaps you feel badly about having certain traits, and you wish you could change them.  There is good news: your weaknesses can become your strengths, and God delights to help you with the necessary changes. 

Every character flaw is actually a good quality that has run amok.  Once we understand this concept, it is far easier to love ourselves as we are, and make the adjustments that will set things right.  You see, our less-than-lovable character traits are due to a marring of God’s image within us, a distortion of God’s original plan for us.  The distortion is there because of Adam and Eve’s fall into sin way back in the Garden of Eden.  But ever since Jesus redeemed all mankind through His atonement at the cross, He has been restoring all things.  He wants to restore you! 

Let’s take a look at some common negative character qualities, and see what God wants to restore us to.  Each negative quality has an equal and opposite positive side to it, the unmarred trait that was God’s original intent for us. 

1.)  Stubbornness becomes persistence and perseverance when the restorative hand of God is applied.  The persistence/persevering side is crucial for intercessors and Christian leaders. 

2.)  Criticalness is the flip side of discernment.  Discernment is a vital tool in getting Kingdom work done.  When we understand the difference between these two, we no longer have to feel paralyzed by negative impressions received in our spirit-man.  (See my post, Criticalness or Discernment?)

3.)  Bossiness is the immature mark of born leadership.  Born leaders see the goal and just want to get it done!  Developing a heart of servanthood helps us overcome bossiness. 

4.)  Arrogance transforms into confidence.  Arrogance is all about me and what I can do in my strength; confidence is all about knowing who I am in Christ and letting His Spirit work through me. 

5.)  The tendency to be controlling becomes decisiveness and the ability to take the lead when a need presents itself.  Control has a root of not trusting God.  As we yield to Him and let go, He teaches us when to take the reins and when to restrain ourselves.  We learn to delegate, rather than manipulate, and to leave our hands off of whatever is not our realm of responsibility. 

6.)  Paralyzing timidity and fearful caution change into prudence that weighs situations in the balance and moves forward in wisdom. 

7.)  Blunt lack of tact, when redeemed, becomes a steady directness, a stay-the-course truthfulness, seasoned with grace. 

All of the above negative character traits become positives when they are remolded by the Holy Spirit into actions tempered by love. 

How does God bring forth the positive? Time with Him reshapes us into His image and imparts His heart to us. We become like the One we lavish our hours upon in prayer, Bible meditation, and listening to Him.

Suffering brings forth humility and compassion for others.  Yielding ourselves to His discipline, allowing Him to bring us through testings, and submitting ourselves to others are all necessary components for growing in Christ-likeness.  The refiner’s fire cannot be avoided if we wish to move forward in the Lord’s plans for us.  When we bring our known faults before God and actively ask Him to redeem them, we open the way for Him to transform us. 

There is a good future ahead of you.  Don’t let your weaknesses keep you down.  Instead, give the Holy Spirit free rein to work on them, and watch Him change them into strengths worthy of honor.

 For character building resources for children and adults, please see our website — Character Building for Families

Character Building Bible Study for Adults

River Life Student EditionToday, I’d like to talk about one of the books I have written.  I’ve been authoring and publishing for thirteen years now, under the name Full Gospel Family Publications.  We started with one book, a family devotional Bible study for parents and children, called Character Building for Families, Volume 1.  The book really caught on, especially among home school families, and we published a Volume 2 as well.  The  Character Building for Families web site is still our main site today. I’ve since written eight more books and booklets, mostly on the subjects of character and prayer, with a ninth currently in production.

A few years ago, our pastor suggested that I write a character building Bible study geared toward adults.  River Life: Entering into the Character of Jesus is the result of that suggestion.  It is an outline-based study covering nine main units, spread over 36 weeks:

  1. Obedience to the King
2. The Law of Kindness
3. Truthful Living
4. Unswerving Loyalty
5. The Servant Lifestyle
6. The Might of Mercy
7. The Humble Heart
8. Patience — Mark of Maturity
9. Joyful Generosity

There is a Teacher’s Guide, scripted with everything needed to teach and bring about group discussion, and also a Student Workbook, with an answer key in the back.

I like Bible studies that are simple to follow, easy for a group leader to use without gobs of prep time, that speak to where the newer believer is, and yet are meaty enough to provoke thought in the seasoned Christian.  Because that is what I want for myself, that is what I have put together in River Life.

I like to build a great deal of flexibility into how my books can be used.  River Life: Entering into the Character of Jesus works well within the adult Sunday School or Christian education class, or as a home Bible study.  The student workbook is also a complete, stand-alone manual, so that those who cannot attend a group gathering can still use the book for individual study.  River Life is written with the intent to allow about one hour, once a week, for each lesson.  Besides covering nine major topics, the 36 weeks are further divided into twelve week sections (which works well for many adult education courses).

Probably the best part of the River Life study is that it hits Christians where they live.  The goal is to transform each of us into the image of Jesus.  It is not just head knowledge. It teaches solid biblical principles, but goes beyond that to bringing deep heart conviction and real-life application.  I had to live through each of the character topics personally while writing about them — either through God working on my own attitudes or through having to deal with other people’s attitude issues pastorally.  (My husband and I are elders in our local church, which amounts to being lay pastors.)  I tell people that writing this book took the “stuffin’s” out of me!

If you need a character study, whether for your personal life, your church’s Christian ed. program, or for home Bible study use, please take a look at River Life: Entering into the Character of Jesus.  There are sample pages on the web site to give you a good feel for what the book is like.  There are also discounts available for multiple copy purchases.

River Life: Entering into the Character of Jesus