Monday Morning Meditation: And All That is Within Me

“Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And all that is within me, bless His holy name. 103:1” Psalm

I have just finished 30 days of concentrated prayer, something that Mark Batterson suggests in The Circle Maker. I asked a few of my closest friends what they would like me to pray about for them, and prayed for those things most days. Somewhere in that process I was reminded of Psalm 103, and read that psalm out loud many of those days.

This psalm has special meaning to me. Long before I knew much about Jesus, I loved using the gifts He gave me. One gift He has given me is music. When I was a tormented high schooler, ostracized among my peers because of my sexuality, I auditioned for the musical, Godspell. I was given the part in the production that sang, “O Bless the Lord, My Soul,” a song based on Psalm 103.

During a time of turmoil, God gave me moments of peace among my musical peers and even my non-musical ones. We performed pieces of the musical in front of the whole school. From that moment on, I may not have been liked by some, but in my small town, they respected me because of my talent.

Godspell

Oh bless the Lord my soul!
His praise to thee proclaim!
And all that is within me join,
To bless His holy name!

God’s truth is still truth, no matter what its source or circumstance. Despite the fact that I didn’t know much about God, at this early age, God began to allow His truth to take root in my heart.

I auditioned again for another production of Godspell 5 years later at a theater company where my girlfriend worked. I was once again given the same role and sang the same song.

He will not always chide
He will with patience wait
His wrath is ever slow to rise
And ready to abate
Oh bless the Lord

Psalm 103 begins with self-directives. David sings (as psalms were sung) that he is to bless and praise the Lord with all that is within him.

As I have repeated this psalm many times in recent past, I recall the truth God began to weave into my soul decades ago. I am reminded of His faithfulness and sovereignty in a time when I did not recognize Him as Lord.

I also plainly see that there is much within me that does not bless Him at all: my complaining, my procrastination, my fear that paralyzes at times, my unloving and prideful attitude.

Oh bless the Lord my soul!
His mercies bear in mind!
Forget not all His benefits,
The Lord, to thee, is kind.

How would my life change if I were to choose to allow “all that is within me” to bless His holy name? No allowing the negative thoughts to take over my mind but instead, pressing my fears into God’s heart and choose to praise Him?

Take this thought with you for the week. Ask yourself: are my words, whether spoken or thought, allowing all that is within me to bless His holy name?

*Words in italics are from the song, O Bless The Lord My Soul, by Stephen Schwartz and John-Michael Tebelak.

Empty Shelf Challenge Book #6: “In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day” by Mark Batterson

I finished my 6th book for the #EmptyShelf challenge.


In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day: How to Survive and Thrive when Opportunity Roars by Mark Batterson

This book was a little different because I actually listened to the audio version. Every month, Christianaudio.com has a free download. All you have to do is sign up for their email newsletter, and they will let you know what the free download of the month is. You go to the site, enter your email, and it downloads. This month, the free download is When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. I’ve downloaded in the past The Hiding PlaceGod’s SmugglerGod is in the Manger, and quite a few others. You can’t beat free!

That said, I’m not sure I absorb as much from audio books as I do from actual hold-in-your-hands books. I also don’t absorb as much when I read on Kindle. Perhaps it’s because a hardcopy of a book is more conducive to taking notes and jotting things down in your journal.

The book was inspired by the following passage of Scripture:
2 Samuel 23:20 (NIV): “Benaiah son of Jehoiada, a valiant fighter from Kabzeel, performed great exploits. He struck down Moab’s two mightiest warriors. He also went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion.”

Notice he followed the lion into the pit.

The book addressed regret and risk-taking. Most people, at the end of their lives, do not regret the risks they took. They regret playing it safe. The book addresses risk-taking and overcoming some of the challenges that come along with it, such as adversity, doubt, and fear. It also discusses how to seize opportunities and overcome your concern with looking foolish.

One main thing I took away from this book is that most people never feel 100% sure that the risk they are about to take is the right choice. In a study Batterson quoted, most people only feel about 50% sure they are doing the right thing. That made me feel better!

I thoroughly enjoyed this book! If the concept sounds intriguing, you can download the series of messages that the book is based on here.

My books so far on the #EmptyShelf challenge:
           

Monday Morning Meditation: Safe with the Lord (Psalm 25 series)

Today, I’m beginning a series on Psalm 25.

This is a psalm of David. It’s interesting to note that this psalm is an acrostic poem, the verses of which begin with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet (as seen in the footnote).

The psalm begins:

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul;
in you I trust, O my God.

As I read this passage for likely the 100th time, I stopped there, wondering, What does “soul” mean?

The Hebrew word Nephesh can mean “soul, self, life, creature, person, appetite, mind, living being, desire, emotion, passion, that which breathes, the inner being of man, seat of the appetites, emotions and passions, activity of mind, activity of the will, activity of the character,” among other things.

The Hebrew word Batach, translated “trust,” can also mean “to be secure, to feel safe.”
It seems as if the psalmist is in essence crying out to God, Lord, I take to You my passions, the place where all my appetites sit, my life, my very breath – I carry it to You. These things are all safe with You. I am safe with You, Lord. All that I am and desire and hope for – I take to You and trust You with these things.
 
Stop for a minute. Pause and take a breath.
Do you believe your emotions are safe with the Lord?
Your deepest dreams, desires, and passions can rest in His hands?
Your thoughts, your appetites, your very breath can be lifted up to Him?
As you journey through this week, pause and remember these 1 1/2 verses. When challenges come, emotions that feel overwhelming, remember you can lift them to the Lord. They don’t scare Him. He can be trusted with them.

Freedom Friday: Brenna Kate Simonds at Exodus Freedom Conference, on Minnesota Public Radio

I’m at the Exodus Freedom Conference. The theme this year is “Made for More.” As I write this, we’re not even 24 hours in, and I’m already amazed at all God is doing.

On Wednesday afternoon, I had the opportunity to be interviewed by Laura Yuen for Minnesota Public Radio.

The interview aired this morning. You can listen to it here, or read the text of the article, which is almost a word-for-word transcript of the story.

I am asked frequently about repression. It seems to be a favorite question for those trying to understand why someone who experiences same-sex attraction would make a daily choice not to act on those feelings.

I think Ethan Martin explained it so succinctly in his Wednesday night testimony (not an exact quote): “Jesus gave up His sexuality for me. He could have been married by age 33, but instead He was dying on a cross.”

This is a theme that has continued to come up at the conference, though I gave my interview prior to the conference start. Sacrifice. Pursuing Jesus above all else. Surrender. Laying down everything for Jesus.

Too often, we focus on what we have to give up and sacrifice to follow Jesus. What about all that we gain?

When I am asked about repression, I try to turn the question around. Jesus gave up everything for me. God spared no expense to restore relationship with me. The things I want to hold on to pale in comparison to what Jesus did and accomplished while hanging from that cross.

It is a privilege to follow Jesus. An absolute honor. Rather than focus on the things I may have had to release to Jesus in order to follow Him, I choose to focus on all the things I’ve gained. Unconditional love, real peace, pure joy, abundant life, and true freedom.

Last week, I mentioned this Freedom Friday would be about owning your choices. I am postponing the writing of that until next week. Thanks for understanding!

Freedom Friday: Do You Really Know God?

I am a Judges slacker.

I have lots of good reasons, as we are leaving tomorrow (I’m writing this Thursday) for a road trip that will end at the Exodus Freedom conference (at which I will speak). I’ve been preparing my workshop, along with packing all the stuff we will need for all those hours in the car & all those meals out (kids with food sensitivities, after all).

So, I’m going to briefly share about something else that’s been on my heart. More Judges later.

At the conference, I’ll be giving my “Learning to Walk in Freedom” teaching to just the women attendees. Though when I was initially asked to tailor my talk for women, I was excited by the possibility! And I still am.

As I began to re-work my talk for this specific audience, I just happened to be reading chapter 7 in “Breaking Free“, a book I mentioned in my hopelessness post. The chapter is entitled “The Divine Caricature”.

It asks the question, “Do you really know God?” Do you really know His attributes, His character?

Step 1 of learning to walk in freedom is to spend time with the freedom giver. As I re-read what I’ve said on this topic, the following excerpt from “Divine or Distorted? God As We Understand God” by Jerry Seiden came to mind:

One day as I walked through my favorite park, I recited the 12 Steps as was my custom. This day I stopped at Step Three: “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.” Something inside me asked, “Who do you understand God to be?” I responded by reciting all the wonderful characteristics of God, but the voice within me said, “No! That’s what you’ve been told about God in school and in books. Tell me what you really believe God to be.”

Just as if a dam broke in my heart and mind, I began to cry, grit my teeth, and curse. I was angry. I believed deep inside that God was unconcerned with my life, unforgiving of my sin, impatient with my weaknesses, intolerant of my failures, very angry with me, and more. I believed I deserved all of God’s wrath and nothing of his grace. Nothing good could or should happen to me. I wept until I was ashamed.

Then came silence followed by that voice in my heart again. It was God’s voice. It said, “You have described yourself and the way you treat yourself. And I am not like you. I am none of those things.”

“You thought I was altogether like you!” These are God’s words, found in Psalm 50:21.

When you envision your Heavenly Father, do you imagine an angry man with furrowed brow, wagging His finger from up in heaven, waiting to punish you at any mistake? Or do you imagine a caring Father, who is slow to anger, quick to run to you with love, even in your pain & brokenness?

Do you know who God is? Who He really is?

The prodigal son, when he was close to his father, living near him & spending his days with him, knew his father’s character. He knew that if he went to his father & asked for his inheritance, it would be given to him. As he walked further and further away from his home, through distance and action, he slowly lost sight of the nature of his father’s character, to the point where when he decided to go back, he thought the best that could happen would be to become a hired man.

Have you lost sight of God’s true nature? Or maybe you never really knew it & are only learning who God really is now?

For some of us, it might be more accurate to say we think God is like our parents or other authority figures who were imperfect (just as I am) or maybe even mistreated us. The New Living Translation says in Numbers 23:19 “God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through?

Do you know who God is? Who He really is? Do you know the nature of His character? If not, will you allow yourself to absorb the truth of Scripture & what it says about His relationship with you and His heart for you?

I will likely next be posting from the Exodus conference. Hope to see you there!

Freedom Friday: God’s Specific Plan


I recently had an interesting conversation with a group of friends about whether or not God has a specific plan for our lives.

It seems many were brought up in a generation that was very focused on uncovering your specific “plan & purpose” that God created you for. Having prayed for years, hoping to discern this purpose, some have given up on finding it.

As you all know, I’m reading Joshua. Slowly.

I have to admit that getting in the later chapters, it can be a little tedious to read all the town names and valley names and which tribe got what land, etc.

But as I read, I can’t help but think about how specific God’s plan is. He spelled it out for them. It was His job to make His plan clear, not their job to somehow locate it.

I used to kill myself trying to find God’s plan. I understand the brand of frustration my friends shared about. I’d get on my knees and tell God I wasn’t moving until He spoke to me & told me everything I wanted to know about my future.

Then, one day, in May of 2004 while teaching at a student ministry conference, He spoke. Here is part of what He said.

“I do have a plan for you – a wonderful plan that will shock, delight and surprise you, a plan that will blow your small ambitions out of the water.” He then went on to tell me I wasn’t ready to hear about that plan.

This wasn’t what I wanted to hear.

God spoke to my heart that day that I needed to be still and experience Him as God, that He is so different than any other relationship I’ve ever experienced. He called me to climb up into His lap and allow Him to change me, to lean back & rest my head against His heart so I might know & experience all the wonderful things He feels for me.

God didn’t primarily want to “use” me, as in have me do great things; He primarily wanted to change me. His goal for me in that time was to deposit in my heart His love, the new identity He died to give me, and His vision for my wholeness.

It’s amazing to look back on that time in my life, and see what God has done in those 7 years. When I look at His children now, I wish I could literally take what God has deposited into my heart (His deep & passionate love for each of us, His tender care & compassion, His desire to see us walk in freedom & live abundant lives) and transplant it into someone else’s heart. I now do this little by little, bit by bit, through teaching, writing, and blogging. I would not be able to do that now if I hadn’t allowed God to work in me for the past 7 years.

Let me be clear. I absolutely believe God has a specific plan for each of His children who call Him by name.

But we can kill ourselves (and kill our faith) trying to “find” it.

Jesus said my sheep hear my voice. Period. The God who spoke the whole world into existence can make His voice heard by you when you need to hear it.

God does not give us a road map. It would be easier in some ways if He did, but then we wouldn’t have to trust in Him and cling to Him so tightly; we’d simply have to trust in the map.

I don’t want to get to know a map. I want to purpose to know my Creator, the One who shaped me & formed me & laid out my life.

I’m not going to argue over whether or not God literally maps out every minute of every day. What I do know is that God created each of us with gifts & talents, passions & desires, that He wants to use in specific ways.

Rather than strive to find the map, it’s been much healthier (as my friends mentioned above have also realized) for me to try and follow His commands and teachings, to love Him and continually surrender to Him, to dream, to live out Proverbs 3:5-6, trusting He will make my paths straight as I go, rather than always seeking after the next big thing or sign. In the midst of that, as I cling to God, as I read His Word & spend time with His people, God will show me what He has for me.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

If you’re looking for help discerning whether or not you are hearing God’s voice, this blog post might help.

Good Friday: The Original Freedom Friday

It’s Freedom Friday. It also happens to be the day many in the church celebrate Good Friday.

I wrote this on Good Friday of 2009 in my paper journal:

It’s Good Friday & I’m 8 weeks pregnant.

Today is a bittersweet day. This is my 3rd pregnancy. My 1st pregnancy was relatively smooth and resulted in my beautiful son, Bear. We always hoped to have many children. Being that I was 32 at Bear’s birth, we only waited just over a year before trying to have another. After less than a month, we found out on our 6th anniversary that I was pregnant again- with a baby we called Bunny Boo.

At 8 weeks pregnant, Bunny boo was lost by miscarriage.

I was pregnant again 2 months later with Monkey. I felt peace about my 3rd pregnancy, but felt bittersweet relief when I arrived at 8 weeks.

If I hadn’t lost Bunny Boo, we wouldn’t have been celebrating 8 weeks of pregnancy with Monkey this Good Friday.

How appropriate! This weekend, whether you call it Easter, Good Friday, Resurrection Sunday or Pascha, is also bittersweet. On Good Friday, we can celebrate and reflect because we know the end of the story. We can mourn as the disciples mourned as they watched their leader be arrested, led away, flogged, taunted, punished and murdered by crucifixion. We mourn that our sin put Him through all that. Yet we rejoice in knowing that because of God’s love, He made it possible for us to have abundant & eternal life.

Thankfully, my 3rd pregnancy has a happy ending as well. I have a cute little Monkey, 17 months old, running around the yard as we speak 🙂

That doesn’t erase the pain of the bittersweet reality of Monkey’s pregnancy and Bunny Boo’s loss.

We also know the end of the story we are celebrating today. Just like my 3 pregnancies, Easter does not erase the bittersweet reality of Good Friday. So before before we rush on to the Resurrection, let’s sit here for a minute.

As I type this, the 100 Portraits song, “Around my Neck“, plays on my iTunes. An amazing song. I’ll let it speak for itself.

The cross I wear around my neck
What does it mean if it does not mean death.
Please tell me if it doesn’t mean blood,
or nails, or crying or loneliness?

The cross I wear around my neck
What is if for, if it is not for breaking
And if it’s not for pain, or nakedness, or hammering?

The cross I wear around my neck
is being raised above my head
I think this time it’s wearing someone else
I see it drop into the ground and when it falls
I hear the sound, someone crying, “I love you!”

The cross I wear around my neck
What does it mean, if it does not mean love.
Please tell me if it doesn’t sing of hope and healing,
and forgiveness?

The cross I wear around my neck
Who is it for if it is not for me, if it’s not for sin,
and all my searching for the innocence?

The cross I wear around my neck
is being raised above my head
I think this time it’s wearing someone else
I see it drop into the ground and when it falls
I hear the sound, someone crying, “I love you!

The cross I wear around my neck
is being raised above my head
I think this time it¹s wearing someone else
I see it drop into the ground and when it falls
I hear the sound someone screaming, “I love you!”

The cross I wear around my neck
Who is it for, if it is not for us:
the lame, the blind, the ones held captive,
and the fatherless?

What is the message of Good Friday? It’s a message of surrender. Imagine if Jesus had chosen to follow His feelings & desires in the Garden that day. Where would we be? It’s a message of suffering. And it’s a message of hope, abundant life and mercies new every morning.

The message of the cross is the Father God crying out to a broken world, “I love you and I am willing to do whatever it takes to hold you in my arms, love you, heal you. I’m willing to give up everything I have, my Only Son, that you all may have the opportunity to be called my sons & daughters, that You no longer have to live in bondage.”

“Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;
it was our sorrows that weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God,
a punishment for his own sins!
But he was pierced for our rebellion,
crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed.

All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him
the sins of us all.” Isaiah 53

We have freedom in Christ because Jesus did not use His own freedom to choose to step outside God’s will. He instead chose to step right into His Jordan for you and for me.

How then should we respond? Take a moment to be silent. What would God have you do in response?

I challenge you today to respond with that same level of surrender. My prayer is that you, and I, will make the same declaration of trust, that we will take the next step toward living in the fullness of abundant freedom that is available to all believers.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” Amen.

Lent: Moderation & Consecration

Lent is upon us.

Recently, my kids were quite sick. During that time, I was surprised by an unexpected blessing: I had to slow way down.

When I was sitting with a sick kid or stuck under a sleeping baby, my iPhone options were boring me. Thus, I got back into the habit of actually reading books!

We were also unable to go to church due to lingering illness, so I read Acts 22 (no special reason – I’m reading through Acts and that’s the chapter I was on), as well as that day’s reading from My Utmost for His Highest. Then we watched a pastor friend’s church service over the internet.

As I found a few minutes to pray, I was thinking of the upcoming Lenten season and what, if anything, God would have me do during that time. The line “Make My Life a Prayer To You” came to mind.

So I began to sing through the lyrics:
Make my life a prayer to You, I want to do what you want me to,
No empty words and no white lies, no token prayers, no compromise
I want to shine the light you gave Through Your Son, you sent to save us,
From ourselves and our despair. It comforts me to know you’re really there.

Oh, I want to thank you now, for being patient with me
Oh, it’s so hard to see when my eyes are on me
I guess I’ll have to trust and just believe what you say
Oh, you’re coming again, coming to take me away

I want to die, and let you give Your life to me, so I might live,
And share the hope You gave to me – The love that set me free,
I want to tell the world out there You’re not some fable or fairy tale
That I made up inside my head: You’re God, The Son, You’ve risen from the dead.

I want my days to be free of rituals and compromise of any sort. I want my entire life, every moment, to be a living sacrifice, wholly devoted to serving Him and others. I know there are areas that I do still falter or willfully disobey. I want to learn to submit them to Him.

This Lent for me will be a time of moderation & consecration, a time where I ask God to cleanse my life of any idolatry (the song “Give Us Clean Hands” also keeps coming to mind), a time to continue on the journey of becoming all God created me to do so that I can do all the things He has called me to do.

And when I falter and I am not able, I will choose to remember that He is able.

Freedom Fridays: Embrace Grace, Part 3

What have we covered so far in Freedom Fridays? (I’m only included the posts that are actually in this “Learning to Walk in Freedom” series).

Intro: What is Freedom? Part 1 & Part 2

1. Spend Time with the Freedom Giver: Part 1 & Part 2

2. Spend Time with Freedom Seekers

3. Act Like a Free Person, part 1 & part 2

4. Embrace Grace, part 1 & part 2

And now, Embrace Grace part 3.

We often talk about grace being how we believers are saved. And that’s a good thing! It’s so important to remember that we can’t come to Christ in our own effort or by following rules and we can’t continue to abide in Him through rules & effort.

But what else is grace? Is that all the word means?

I will preface this next section by saying I am not a Greek scholar. I have taken some Bible classes through our denomination, but no language classes at all and certainly not Greek. So the information I’m sharing is based on what I’ve learned through concordances, commentaries, and the teachings of others who have studied Greek. So take what I have to say as my experiences and the knowledge I have at this point and run with it 🙂

The Greek word that is often translated grace is “Charis“. It’s used about 148 times in the New Testament. Let’s take a look at a few examples of where this word was used in the New Testament, with the English word that Charis is translated into bolded (all passages are from the NASB).

In Luke:
1:30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary ; for you have found favor with God.
1:40 The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom ; and the grace of God was upon Him.
2:52 And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

John 1:14, 16-17 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth….For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. 17 For the Law was given through Moses ; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.

Lots in the book of Acts. Many of the epistles begin and end with the author writing “grace” to the readers, as in Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, etc.

Other examples:
Ephesians 4:7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

2 Corinthians 12:9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

1 Timothy 1:12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service,

2 Timothy 2:1 You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

Hebrews 12:28 Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe.

We see through many of these passages that grace is not a one-time event, but an on-going need, as we’ve been taking about in the past 2 Freedom Fridays. We can also observe Charis is translated grace, good will, favor, thanks, the token or proof of grace, benefit, and expanded definitions from the lexicon I linked above, “the spiritual condition of one governed by the power of divine grace” and “of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues”.

These last 2 are really what we’re going to discuss today.

Luke & John talked about how God’s grace was all over Jesus. Well, He never sinned and didn’t need to experience God’s grace in the way we do, so they must have been talking about something a little different. Could they have been talking about the condition of being governed by the power of divine grace?

In Acts 6:8, it states “Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people.” Grace & power went hand-in-hand, enabling Stephen to carry out God’s supernatural works. Acts 7:46 talks about the Charis/favor David found in God, and Luke talks about the Charis/favor Mary had. Ephesian 4 talks about how the supernatural gifts and callings are given through grace as Christ gives/apportions it. James 4 says God gives grace to the humble and that grace enables us to submit to God and resist the devil.

There are a ton more passages that demonstrate the depth of this word Charis and the broadness of all that God means when He speaks this word to us. Beyond the forgiveness of sins, grace offers us some sort of supernatural power/favor for everyday life, for resisting sin, and for doing God’s work. Rather than discuss this further, I want to encourage you to go to the Word and pray that God would show you how to live in Charis, that He would reveal to you His Charis in your life, fill you with this power to live how He wants you to live, and that He would refresh you with His supernatural power and favor.

Do Today’s Christians Idealize the Early Church?


Some friends and I have been discussing a blog post of John Piper’s entitled Don’t Equate Historically Early with Theologically Accurate

I am neither endorsing or not endorsing (what’s the opposite of endorsing? rejecting? disapproving? anyway…) John Piper or what he has to say in his blog post. But it got me thinking:

Do today’s Christians idealize the early church?

I just began reading the book of Acts again (prior to that, I read all the gospels), so this question really hit home for me.

I think many Christians do try to “reclaim” the early church by trying to create a church service or environment that looks like what they perceive the early church to have looked like. So they meet in homes, sometimes without a formal leader, focus on the book of Acts and the epistles, abandon a lot of the structure and programs that have come to mean “church” today. I’ll be upfront and say I am not at all “anti-house church”. Not at all. I am aware of some of the dangers (many do not have strong oversight and accountability, for one) as well as the benefits (many don’t have a set leader, so all input is valued, family worship is encouraged, to name a few).

But I think trying to recreate the early church environment is missing the point.

I have been reading about Amy Carmichael, and something she said really struck me (if you follow me on Twitter, I quoted this a few weeks ago):

I don’t wonder apostolic miracles have died. Apostolic living certainly has.

Those who idealize the early church seem to want to live church as the early church had church, but they don’t want to live lives as the early church lived their lives. I don’t mean we have to live on a commune, having no possessions of our own and striving to figure out what it means to have “everything in common“. But we often are not willing to live our lives generously, sacrificially, reaching out to others often with the truth of the Gospel.

That is what identified the early church – not what their meetings looked like, but what their lives looked like. Read the book of Acts to get a full picture of what the early church looked like, as well as the epistles, to get an accurate idea of the challenges they faced.

May we commit to living lives that glorify God and put Him in the center, sacrificially, generously, devoting ourselves to the Word, to fellowship, to prayer and breaking bread, caring for each other and bearing each others’ burdens, as our early church fathers did.