Ephesians 5:25-30 New Living Translation (NLT)
25 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word.[a] 27 He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault.28 In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. 29 No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church.30 And we are members of his body.
We left our local church again.
Short answer: God said.
Long answer: We came to a fork in the narrow road where we had to choose to be loyal to a church system or submit to what Scripture and the Spirit were saying.
After many months of searching Scripture, praying, sobbing, contemplating, receiving visions and dreams from the Lord, and wrestling through my selfish desire to remain in fellowship with my friends, we divorced the church system.
We LOVE the church, the body of Christ, His bride. But we can no longer submit to man’s system of doing church. The cry of our heart is to BE THE CHURCH, worshipping the Lord in Spirt and in Truth.
John 4:21-24 New Living Translation (NLT)
21 Jesus replied, “Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem.22 You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. 23 But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. 24 For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”
Charming and I were raised going to church, long before we became part of the Church. I was part of the Presbyterian system and we have been part of the Methodist system, the non-denominational Baptist system, the non-denominational Pentecostal system, and the non-denominational mega system.
We had fantastic pastors and not so fantastic pastors. We had pastors who shepherded these stupid, stubborn sheep! And we had pastors who became power hungry, prideful dictators that pursued their own empires. Honestly, I don’t think they knew what they were doing. They didn’t realize they were neglecting the sheep because they were too busy managing the system. They didn’t see the enemy sneak in to steal, kill and destroy the flock. They didn’t hear the cries of the wandering sheep who needed to be led back to the safety of the sheepfold. The sheep became just another number. Just another servant of the system. As my friend said, “just a cog in a wheel.” Just another passenger on a runaway freight train; who’s tracks were already laid, who’s schedules were already made, and who’s conductors weren’t concerned with a few passengers hopping off at the station, because greater numbers would jump on at the next.
I have forgiven those shepherds.
Just as the Great Shepherd has forgiven me.
I’ve never been given the title of pastor, but I understand what it means to pastor people, to shepherd the sheep. Charming and I have led others in service teams and small groups for over two decades in local churches and in ministry through the non-profit we founded in 2010.
I understand wanting to be used by God.
I understand wanting to serve people.
I understand wanting power.
I understand wanting a position.
I understand wanting to please others.
I understand wanting to be on a platform.
I understand wanting the praises of others.
I understand wanting big numbers; people and dollar bills.
And, I understand grieving the Spirit by obeying the system instead of obeying Him.
But I also understand that God’s kindness led me to repent.
Repent for the lust of my eyes, the lust of my flesh and the pride of my life.
And a result of His revelation, He required a response: divorce the church system.
Jesus said, if I love Him I will obey His commands.
I do. And I did.
The divorce has been painful for our family.
But the Lord has been faithful. We are no longer bound to a system. Instead, we are free to worship the Lord in Spirit and in Truth with other parts of the body. Gathering at home each week, we’ve gone back to the simple way (Acts 2); worshipping, praying, studying Scripture, and sharing communion and meals with one another.
If we believe, receive and confess Jesus as Lord and Savior…
We are His church.
We are His body.
We are His bride.
We believe in the Father.
We believe in the Son.
We believe in the Spirit.
We believe in the baptism of water and fire.
We believe the Father gives good gifts to the church.
We believe the Son gives good gifts to the church.
We believe the Spirit gives good gifts to the church.
We believe the church is to be disciples and make disciples.
We believe Jesus is the head of His church, His body, His bride.
We believe the Spirit is preparing the bride for the Grooms return.
We believe Jesus will present His pure and spotless bride to the Father.
Ephesians 4:1-16 New Living Translation (NLT)
4 Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. 2 Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. 3 Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. 4 For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future.
5 There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
6 one God and Father of all,
who is over all, in all, and living through all.
7 However, he has given each one of us a special gift[a] through the generosity of Christ. 8 That is why the Scriptures say,
“When he ascended to the heights,
he led a crowd of captives
and gave gifts to his people.”[b]
9 Notice that it says “he ascended.” This clearly means that Christ also descended to our lowly world.[c] 10 And the same one who descended is the one who ascended higher than all the heavens, so that he might fill the entire universe with himself.
11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 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.
Revelation 19:6-7 New Living Translation (NLT)
6 Then I heard again what sounded like the shout of a vast crowd or the roar of mighty ocean waves or the crash of loud thunder:
“Praise the Lord!
For the Lord our God,[a] the Almighty, reigns.
7 Let us be glad and rejoice,
and let us give honor to him.
For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb,
and his bride has prepared herself.
Acts 19:1-6 (NLT)
19 While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul traveled through the interior regions until he reached Ephesus, on the coast, where he found several believers.2 “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” he asked them.
“No,” they replied, “we haven’t even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
3 “Then what baptism did you experience?” he asked.
And they replied, “The baptism of John.”
4 Paul said, “John’s baptism called for repentance from sin. But John himself told the people to believe in the one who would come later, meaning Jesus.”
5 As soon as they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.6 Then when Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in other tongues and prophesied.
Like so many things in my strong-willed life, I was saved bass ackwards.
I was a privileged kid that grew up in a middle-class household with married parents and a sibling who went to church every Sunday (and sometimes other days of the week).
I was a privileged teenager who moved to the bible belt and got “saved” and “sprinkled” in a “sanctuary” adorned with stained glass windows and golden lacquered name plates of financial donors on the pews.
I was a privileged bride who married a groom whose parents were also married believers.
I was a privileged college graduate who lived in a big city with a variety of denominational and non-denominational churches to choose from.
I was a privileged citizen of a state and country founded on Christian principles in which the law allows freedom to practice whatever religion I choose.
But at the age of 23, this privileged girl was still going to hell.
Yes, I had heard the gospel.
Yes, I had engaged in religious activity that was required by religious leaders.
Yes, I had tried to obey the law of Moses (well, in action- but not in heart).
I did not repent.
My heart had not been made right with God (because I didn’t think that I had been wrong).
I just confessed Jesus with my mouth on a Sunday morning at the altar of a building (but the altar of my heart didn’t believe).
I just got a few drops of water on my head and a fancy certificate of baptism, but I wasn’t saved.
I was still a sinner- a deceived sinner that was wrongly identified as a saint.
Lord, forgive me! Forgive the church! Forgive the church leaders for not making me a disciple; teaching me to obey all your commands and baptizing me into the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Mercifully, however, God intervened, like He did on the road to Damascus with a sinner named Paul. Only my conversion was in our bedroom while sitting on our king-sized bed (yep- I met the King of kings on our king-sized bed!). Nine months pregnant and feeling like a beached whale, I was blinded by the light that entered my soul. I was deeply grieved over every sin I had committed against my Creator. I began to pour out the wretchedness in my heart, confessing in detail, every commandment I had rejected. I repented for my rebellion against the Father, which grieved His heart. At that moment, I believed Jesus died, was buried and resurrected for ME. I confessed Him as Savior and I was later baptized under water.
I was now saved from eternal damnation! I would live eternally in heaven when I died on this earth, but I had not received the Helper. I had not received the One who would lead me into all Truth (John 16:13). I had not received the One that would empower me to obey the Lord. I had not received the fire that would cleanse me from unrighteousness. I had not received the One who would gift me with supernatural power to minister to others. I had not received the One who would enable me to make disciples, teaching them to obey His commands and baptizing them into the Father, Son AND Spirit. Instead, I reverted back to religious activity in my own strength. Not only that, I was promoted to leadership in our church.
Lord, forgive me! Forgive the Church!
Mercifully, however, God intervened again, but not like He did with the believers in Ephesus when Paul asked if they had received the Holy Spirit. Instead, I was at home, praying in the living room with my husband when God answered my pleafor help in trusting Him as Savior AND Lord. Heaven opened and spiritual fire poured down all over my body. Overwhelmed with the force of power that was rising from the depths of my spirit, I ran to our bedroom, opened my mouth and began speaking in tongues. The unknown language I heard initially scared me; I didn’t know if I was possessed by demons or possessed by Pentecostals!
Yes, I had received the baptism in the Holy Spirit. I received the Helper. I received the One who would lead me into all Truth. I received the One that would empower me to obey the Lord. I received the fire that would cleanse me from unrighteousness. I received the One who would gift me with supernatural power to minister to others. I received the One who would enable me to make disciples, teaching them to obey His commands and baptizing them into the Father, Son AND Spirit.
Have you heard the Good News? Have you repented of your sin against the Father? Have you believed Jesus as Lord AND Savior? Have you received the Holy Spirit? Do not be deceived as I was. Don’t think you’ll inherit the Kingdom of Heaven by obeying religious laws. It’s only by His grace that you can be saved. It’s only by His power that you can be baptized into the Father, Son AND Spirit. Don’t wait! Repent. Believe. Receive. Do it today.
12 Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out all the people buying and selling animals for sacrifice. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves. 13 He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves!”
When I was born into the Kingdom of Heaven Jesus began driving out the merchants, money changers and dove sellers. Through the miraculous indwelling of His Spirit, the tables were overturned. After the Holy Spirit overflowed me, I received His power to evict all thieves. I had prayed before. But when I began praying with my spirit andmy understanding (1 Corinthians 14:15) this temple was no longer a marketplace that anyone could enter. It became a house of prayer.
As an infant believer, I met a few prayer warriors within our local community of believers. In my childlike wisdom, I quickly judged these adults as “weird.” Overly wordy. Overly dramatic. Overly excited about praying. I secretly confessed “I don’t wanna be those kindof intercessors. They pray all the time- and on every occasion. Who wants to do THAT?!” As I grew into adolescence and began submitting to the discipline of meeting with my Lord each morning, I started becoming one of thosechurch ladies!
In my youth, I hated to pray out loud with grown-ups who knew WAY more about God than me. I was intimidated by their eloquent words and ability to quote scripture. But the more I met with my Lord in private, the more courage He gave me in public. I began to realize my prayers were not an offering for people- they are for my Father in Heaven.
During my young adult years, I also learned to submit to people in the body of Christ for prayer. By confessing my sins to others, my temple was further delivered from evil. No more religious sacrifices. No more buying and selling. No more tables. No more chairs. Just the Father. Just the Son. Just the Spirit. And me- a house of prayer.
Scripture is God breathed and “is useful for useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,” (2 Timothy 3:16) but I believe prayer is the breath of God that gives life. Eternal and abundant LIFE! It’s the way we develop a relationship with Him. It’s the way we know Him. It’s the way we feel His love. It’s the way we hear His voice. It’s the way we see what is unseen.
Nearly 20 years ago, I met a man at a well. He knew every sin I had ever committed (and was still committing), and yet, in His great love for me, He offered me living water. I drank a bucketful that day, and I’ve been drinking from that Source ever since.
He can do the same for you. Meet Him at the well. He wants to talk to you. He wants to offer you a drink. He wants to fill you to overflowing. He wants to fight the merchants, money changes and dove sellers for you, through the power of His Spirit. Just be still- and get to know Him.