Simplicity – Today’s Key to the Kingdom

Why was the early church so effective at spreading the Kingdom of God?

  • Life was slow and simple, people had time for each other
  • Communities already existed, enthusiasm spread quickly by word of mouth
  • People were commonly under suppression by a legalistic religion
  • The Gospel was taught in it’s entirety and brought immediate relief
  • The competing idols of the gentiles were no match for Jesus
  • The church had the ability to manifest the power of Christ 
  • Church members took the responsibility of mentoring new and existing members

The American Dilemma – The Spirit of the Age

The enemy has the majority of Americans right where he wants them. Most Americans have made an agreement of rugged individualism, or independence, that we must accomplish life on our own. Asking for help is a sign of weakness according to the enemy and we agree with it. This is ingrained in American ideology. Another tool of the enemy is the American dream. How many people are in jobs where they have to put in long hours and they dislike what they do, all to pay for a big house a couple of expensive cars, and toys of all sorts. Both husband and wife have to work to keep up this lifestyle, which with the responsibility of family leaves zero time for anything else. The pace of life is so fast because of cellphones and computers, that we find no quiet time, and very little time for relationship with God or with other people. This is the Spirit of the age. It steals our hearts, destroys our dreams, isolates us, drives us to insanity at the worst, to poor health from stress at best. Some go to church on Sunday and get hit with an incomplete Gospel that makes us feel we must earn God’s approval by doing dead works to keep the organization afloat. Of course not all churches are like that, but there are many that add to the enemies pig pile. If you see yourself in this hamster wheel of the enemy’s the only answer is to simplify your life.

The Consequences of Simplicity

In this day and age freeing up time, for a relationship with God, your family, and creating community around you, is key to your wellbeing, or getting your heart back. To bring in the Kingdom, this is priority number one. God will do the rest, if we ask him for wisdom. We must bet prepared to follow through, though. Jesus will make us whole again, he is the great restorer. We must be prepared to make some big changes, some may seem drastic, but you can be assured they are all geared to your becoming a loving and whole person again. The positive consequences? Peace, community, fulfilling relationships, help with living, a relationship with God, a purpose, inner healing, good health. All these things take focus, and we must make time to do so. The negative consequences? Possible loss of material things.

Making Time for God and Each Other – Ushering in the Kingdom

The above synopsis might seem extreme to you, but I hope it makes a point. Christianity started with one Man who we are called to be like. In His short lifetime he rewrote the ideology of the ages, and impacting lives 2016 years later. We must strive to be like the early church making it a priority to spend time with God and each other. We must become spiritual mothers and fathers to mentor the young or newly found. We must teach the Gospel in it’s intirety and spread the realization of the emense love of God that he would give us everlasting grace and full righteousness in his eyes. The only way to do this is through the practice of simplifying our lives, making time for others a priority, and getting rid of our idols.

“Would you like to get well?”

“Inside the city, near the Sheep Gate, was the pool of Bethesda, with five covered porches. Crowds of sick people—blind, lame, or paralyzed—lay on the porches……One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?””

‭‭John‬ ‭5:2-3, 5-6‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Why does Jesus ask this man such an obvious question? Could Jesus be uncovering to the man the state of his heart. The man, after 38 years, still had the desire to be healed and whole again. This seemed to be a pre-requisite. How many of us cling to our disabilities and illnesses because, to be honest, it is serving us well in some form or another. Either we are avoiding having to change our disposition, and constant searching for the pity of others. Sometimes this is totally a subconscious thing, but we must see it in ourselves. We must ask Jesus for healing, but only after we decide in our hearts, that we truly want to get well. If we can’t go there yet we must ask Jesus to change our heart, or heal us there. The first step in healing is truly wanting, in your heart, to be whole. 

The labels or diagnosis we receive as patients in the mental health system paint a picture of how we are in the moment, but why do we have to stay there. I’m not saying these labels don’t serve a purpose, they do. They describe a current state of mind. (I do believe in chemical imbalances, I had one for 20 years before I found the right medicines. So, I am not advocating relinquishing medicines either. I believe God put those medicines there to heal us.) Once we get our balance back though we must ask ourselves, “Would we like to get well.” Sometimes we are “sick” for so long we fall into subconscious behavior patterns that keep us from experiencing the Kingdom of God. These behavior patterns become our poser personality if you will. It is not the true us. Only Jesus can make us aware of who we truly are, loving sons and daughters of God. Ask him for your personality back, he will heal you. I know, he restored my mind.

I pray that you find in your heart the true desire to be well and whole…

Putting Yourself in a Box…

How we create the situations that limit our reach and capacity…

There are four things that restrict and suffocate our lives:

  • Living or acting out a label or trying to satisfy a societal description 
  • Self generating major life decisions on our own without the help of God or others
  • Not taking to heart or realizing what God has already given us, and in turn are ungrateful or thankless
  • Getting caught up in a cycle of self-condemnation  

My story,

One of the problems I have had was being framed and defined by the strong label of a serious mental illness. I worked with it for years and finally was so discouraged I quit and went on disability. I couldn’t see any value in any of my abilities. I in essence “gave up” on myself because I was so wrapped up in self-defeating thinking that I told myself I could no longer function in a work environment. I was socially detached but could still work. I was so distraught about the label that was put on me, I told myself, “a person with this disorder can’t possibly work.”  As I learned coping mechanisms and started to trust people again, I attempted about six times to work full time again. Each time when things got tough and stressful I immediately looked at the labels and symptoms and “chickened out” and went back on disability. In essence I was dwelling on my illness and not giving myself any room to think out of the box. Of course the decision to go on disability in the first place was made on my own without asking God or anyone else’s advice. I was astranged from God at the time so I didn’t take any leading there, I was blind to it. I then for 22 years worked part time and collected disability telling myself, “this is your only solution, the only way you can cope and make ends meet.” Again “putting myself in a box.” Then after 18 years, of being on disability, I rekindled a relationship with God. God brought me through many healing moments, and I became acutely aware of having my sanity back. I became so thankful of the mind and spirit God has given me I became stronger and stronger. Four years later having such a confidence and trust in God and His gift of many friendships, I have gone off of disability and am now working full time. I am now free from the label, for I don’t even think about my disability any more. I still take my medicine, after asking God if I should stay on it, but usually it’s the only time of the day I think of my label again. Three minutes a day is now all I think of it, thank you Jesus.

I hope my story  and the conclusions I have made help you in your walk with God. Labels can be anything…job, slander, any kind of illness (mental or otherwise.) They can be self-imposed or awarded to us by those we give authority over us. Always remember the only person having full authority over your life is God, and he wants you well. It is done, Jesus performed this miracle for us. We just have to receive it. He came to heal us. (Isaiah 61)

May God Bless You!

The Way We Were Created To Be…

Imagine how are inner thought processes were before the fall. Adam and Eve were purely spiritual beings with no separation from God. Adam and Eve had no shame or guilt, because there was no sin. They lived in constant joy and bliss. They had no sin consciencnous. They lived in a natural and pure relationship with God. Everything was provided for them. They had to strive for nothing. Everything was a gift from God. They had no reason for self condemnation, it didn’t even cross their mind. They had no reason to doubt the love of God. They knew God.

The fall came and everything changed. Adam and Eve found themselves immediately separated from God. They instantly knew shame, guilt and fear. Their lives and the lives of all of their descendants became cursed. From that point on mankind was consciencnously aware of his sins. A unnatural fear of God took possession of our souls. We consistently felt we had to win Gods approval to be loved again. Isn’t that the battle we fight day after day?

But wait! Jesus changed all of that! We can now have a natural and pure relationship with God again. Jesus put the Holy Spirit in each one of us, not to convict us of our sins, but to remind us not to live in sin consciencnous. The Holy Spirit gives us the pure wisdom to recognize that we can do nothing to win the approval of God, for God sees us as he saw Adam and Eve before the fall. He adores us. His gift is a pure and totally free, no strings attached, love for us. We now have the opportunity to know God again, if we will just let ourselves.

Can you see how important this is? If what we do has the motive of winning God’s approval, God isn’t in that. That is the farthest thing from his desire. If we run our lives from the standpoint of obeying the law, to win God’s approval, we only will not succeed, but we will displease God. The works of Jesus must be received freely, without striving or pandering. This is what pleases God. If you sin, God does not want you to dwell on it, he wants you to accept the works of Jesus, and forget about it. Once you see how much God loves you, you will naturally sin less and less. If you remove the sin from your conscienceness you can live in the joy and bliss that Adam and Eve did before the fall. There would be no room for shame, guilt, fear or self-condemnation. The devil won’t be able to touch you, for he preys on self-condemnation.

We can have the Kingdom back now, and this is the key. Live free!

The Perfect Church?

What is your definition of the perfect church? We can look at the two greatest commandments to get a starting point. To have a relationship with God and love Him with all are hearts and souls. To love each other like we love ourselves. It’s all about relationship. It is amazing to me how we like to take control of our lives and spend all of our time entertaining idols. We go to church on Sundays and check off our box to earn our way to heaven and think little about God through the week. I was caught in this cycle for a period of time and finally realized I wasn’t getting enough out of my church. I was even volunteering weekly but I felt no connection to other people and more importantly God. Then I got involved with a church that is closely modeled after the early church. The technical description of this church is a cell church. We have no building, just a few groups that meet once a week. The big difference I guess you could say is commitment between the members of each group. It all comes from the dynamics of our meetings. Because we are small groups we all can participate freely in our discussions, prayer and worship. We all have gotten to know each other so well that we hold each other accountable to our own feelings and walk with God. The Holy Spirit reveals himself at each of our meetings and we get instant feedback from each member of the group. This has built a great bonding between the members of our groups which causes us to actually live life together as a family helping each other at all costs. We help each other get closer and closer in our walks with God. We don’t hold our pastor to ridiculous standards, he is a human being and he doesn’t feel he has to put on a facade with us. He is real, and he is a true brother to each one of us. We are a church that is through with religion, we try to live out the true love of God in everything we do. We reach out to poor communities and try to have relationships with the families. We try to build relationships within the communities. We try to build cell groups within these communities. The big difference between then and now is that I feel like I belong. My relationship is stronger with God than it has ever been. I feel I have people I can turn to in time of need. I can truly say I have many close friends. If you are ready for this kind of commitment, not everyone is, and you live in the Cincinnati area contact me at jbily58@gmail.com. To me this is the perfect church.

Laws and Principles

“Are we beginning to praise ourselves again? Are we like others, who need to bring you letters of recommendation, or who ask you to write such letters on their behalf? Surely not! The only letter of recommendation we need is you yourselves. Your lives are a letter written in our hearts; everyone can read it and recognize our good work among you. Clearly, you are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you. This “letter” is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on tablets of stone, but on human hearts. We are confident of all this because of our great trust in God through Christ. It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God. He has enabled us to be ministers of his new covenant. This is a covenant not of written laws, but of the Spirit. The old written covenant ends in death; but under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life. The old way, with laws etched in stone, led to death, though it began with such glory that the people of Israel could not bear to look at Moses’ face. For his face shone with the glory of God, even though the brightness was already fading away. Shouldn’t we expect far greater glory under the new way, now that the Holy Spirit is giving life? If the old way, which brings condemnation, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new way, which makes us right with God! In fact, that first glory was not glorious at all compared with the overwhelming glory of the new way. So if the old way, which has been replaced, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new, which remains forever! Since this new way gives us such confidence, we can be very bold. We are not like Moses, who put a veil over his face so the people of Israel would not see the glory, even though it was destined to fade away. But the people’s minds were hardened, and to this day whenever the old covenant is being read, the same veil covers their minds so they cannot understand the truth. And this veil can be removed only by believing in Christ. Yes, even today when they read Moses’ writings, their hearts are covered with that veil, and they do not understand. But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.”‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭3:1-18‬ ‭NLT‬

This chapter speaks for itself…I invite you to meditate on it…

What is your Concept of Church?

  • Do you go to church out of a sense of obligation?
  • Do you feel powerless in your walk with God?
  • Do you go to church expecting to hear from God?
  • Do you feel you have close relationships with your fellow church goers?
  • Are you involved in the lives of many in your church on a regular basis?
  • Can you rely on, or would you ask for help from the people of your church?
  • Do you get excited about, or look forward to Church?
  • Do you feel like you are special among your church peers?
  • Do you feel, or do you feel others, are committed to your church?
  • Does your pastor discount emotions?
  • Does your pastor preach constantly about sin?
  • Does your church believe in the supernatural?
  • Does your pastor preach a loving image of God?
  • Does your pastor preach about the possibility of having a real relationship with God?
  • Does your church focus on tithing as the main way to serve the Lord?
  • Is your churches theology all about following law?
  • Do you feel like you can’t live up to your churches expectations?
  • Is your pastor held to unnatural expectations?
  • Does your church have a viable plan to grow and reach others?

How you answer the above questions could very well be shaping the way you live your life as a Christian. We don’t often think that our church can have a negative impact on our lives, but it can. Each of these questions have distinct ramifications in a persons wellbeing and general view of life. In my next series of blogs I will discuss what church could be, and how the early church addressed these questions. Also, how many of today’s churches are missing the mark of following Jesus. Do any of these questions stir anything in you? 

If so, stay tuned…