At 18 years young I was determined and focused on following what I now know to be my spirit man’s quest for my spiritual inheritance. I joined the way of thousands of other pilgrims throughout the decades, responding to the inner call to seek out the origins of my faith. With guitar and bible on my back, I left the comforts of North America, journeying into the mysteries of the Middle East; to that tiny, yet magnificent nation of Israel. It was the 1970’s and after 2 years of identifying deeply with the destiny of the Hebrews, my life would never be the same.
As a girl, I had dreamed of child soldier populations and when I stepped off the plane it became a full-blown reality with the added sound effects of war on Israel’s borders. Now Bible history had become my history. One year earlier I had toured Germany as a vocalist, performing in the many religious cathedrals. As part of the tour we were given one day to spend at a historical site and we chose the ovens of Dachau, one of the infamous Jewish concentration camps. It was there amidst the museum, that historical hallway of horrors, where my pilgrimage truly began. The film footage, ovens, barracks and walls of innocent people’s names and then pictures of piled up dead children broke my world-view and I was completely overcome.
Now I stood, just one year later, in the land of Israel and I was compelled to discover why would there be such an attempt to destroy Jesus and his people. The contrasts in the two world-views were many. North America was young and free, Israel ancient and always defending itself. Our worlds could not be further apart and yet I had a conviction that the horrors of World War II and the Jewish Jesus were two massive pieces to history’s jigsaw puzzle. Nevertheless, as young as I was with all of the cultural shifts and shocks, the ancient land of Abraham Isaac and Jacob seemed strangely most like home to me.
I had secretly embraced Jesus at the age four being the first Christian in my family line but was forbidden to attend Christian fellowship of any kind. For several months before leaving for Israel I experienced the average North American church but it wasn’t until I lived in Israel that I understood the foundations and birthing of the New Testament church. These are the two worlds I want to discuss on this blog. I hope you will join me in travelling back in history.
Did you know that for the most part that Western institutional Christian church practices are actually pagan? Since 313 AD, Emperor Constantine legalized our faith but at a great cost. Once Christianity was legalized, he then began to use his power (Roman) to remove all Messianic Jewish festivals and feasts. The N.T. biblical culture was family life and sharing in homes, Constantine set the stage for power, religious hierarchy and coliseum style worship, a passive faith. Sitting in rows in a building regularly, handing over your money to hierarchy, the pulpit with only ‘holy set apart ones’ teaching…all these are but a very few of the Roman and Greek culture. None of these are part of Jesus teachings, which he laid out for the foundations of Christianity. Yet for 1500 years we have followed and not questioned.
Did you know that there is a largely hidden but growing phenomenon that is changing the face of Christianity in the West? Believers are becoming disillusioned by the lack of New Testament realities and abusive authority within large portions of institutionalized Christianity. Thousands of Christians across North America, the UK and New Zealand are returning to the simplicity of the New Testament church by gathering in homes, offices and outdoor venues. Actually the church is strongest in countries where Christianity is against the law. In these nations the New Testament church is a grand symphony of the economy of motion as all believers are functioning as a live organism that can change venues, has no pre-conceived program and that has all parts of the body alive.
God is calling his bride back to radical Christian living, to the origins of Christianity where ‘the priesthood of all believers’ is in motion. This is characterized by a movement away from clergy dominated services to assemblies of believers mutually participating in the call to repentance and submission to Christ as Lord. There is a historical move of the Holy Spirit flooding the church as the angels call to those who will have ears to hear what He is saying. We are moving from a one-man leadership to the plurality of servant leadership gatherings. Jesus and his disciples, the prophets and apostles suffered much persecution. All but a few were martyred for living in the grace and freedom Jesus brought them.
A student is not above his master. Who is your master? Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth and the LIFE’. Do we live by Jesus’ teaching or the temple and its governmental hierarchy?
Jesus told the woman at the well in John 4 that the time was coming that the worship of God would no longer be confined or connected with a sacred place, but that worship was a whole lifestyle. In fact the martyrdom of the first Christian martyr Stephen was centered over the very issue of temple-based religion. When Stephen’s teaching was directed against the temple, the Hellenists along with the high priests who depended economically and politically on the temple could not stand by idle. In challenging temple-based religion, Stephen stated in Acts 7:48 ‘the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands’. The Greek word for “made with hands” is “cheiropoieton”, which is a term used by Hellenistic Jews to condemn idolatry. This would have enraged the Jewish audience since he was insinuating that they worshipped the temple and its duties as an idol (Acts 7:41). Stephen set a precedent for many martyrs to come.
The writers of the New Testament seemed to have a much clearer understanding of what constitutes “the church” than those of us in the West. Note “God’s building”: I Cor. 3:9, Eph 2:19-22, “God’s temple”: 1 Cor 3: 16-17, “Christ’s body”: Romans 12:4-5, “God’s house”: 1 Tim 3:15. Our brothers and sisters of the New Testament didn’t ‘go’ to church; they were the church, the temple, God’s house and His building! In addition, Christ was the head, not the local institutional hierarchy.
Today the vast majority of churches are leaning towards the one-world, ecumenical religious system that ultimately will be sanctioned by governments all over the world. Now is that time in church history where we need to discern the season shift. There has been a growing demand to conform to the world religious community and soon we will be forced to oblige or lose tax-free and socially acceptable status. If we are a discerning people we will see that hard times are upon us and it is time to get off the pew and rise up. The politically correct forms that have functioned since the Reformation have now grown increasingly inadequate. We the church in the West must look anew at our form and function and embrace the wisdom of the testimonies of those who are presently suffering for their faith. We are compelled to look at history, God’s records both of the foundations of our faith in the New Testament church and also recent history. Many believe that we are experiencing the early stages of the underground church movement in North America. We would do well to heed the testimonies of our brethren in other nations who experience daily persecution and honor their counsel. In the West, we experience persecution and martyrdom in diverse ways, currently the most popular being stonewalling and isolation. These are but baby steps to where we are heading.
Our ancestors fought in World War II for the freedoms we enjoy and our Jewish brethren suffered atrocities for their belief in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the great I AM. This is the first name that God revealed Himself as, which means the generational God. Our Lord Jesus, born a Hebrew, came to earth and wrote His story in the handbook of heaven. Despite what traditional monetized religion tells us, when we do not worship God as outlined in the Bible we will end up in bondage. May we not be found casting stones at those who are going before us to lay again the foundations of our faith. Rather may God grant us the courage to see, discern and know the times in which we are living.
Do you know what time it is? Will history repeat itself? Will you throw a stone or will the stone fall on you?