I would like to respectfully share the experience that my husband and I encountered this past Sunday. As those of you who have followed this blog for some time are aware, my husband and I are blessed to be a part of a small home church group who study the Bible together, celebrate the Lord's Feasts together, worship and praise His Sovereignty in our lives together, and pray and love each other through the good times and bad. This is what we like to call our "little ecclesia"; they are our "church family" as modern Christianity likes to call any devoted group of Christians who worship together.
You may also remember that after years of being "in the building", we feel that God has called us out of the box and to experience Him in this smaller, more intimate, and purposeful manner. I am in no way making a judgment on those who choose to worship in the traditional manner; if you are being fed and growing in your understanding of God and your relationship with Him, then I would urge you to continue in that manner, with one small caveat ... don't become stagnant, "lukewarm", or afraid to step outside your safety zone. We are living in times that call for those who are bold and fearless in their faith.
All that being said, my husband's parents have slowed down in their lifestyle, and were becoming more isolated from people. They are a part of our home church group, but we usually meet only once a month due to the extreme distances between us (nearly 100 miles). So we suggested that perhaps they should seek out a church in the small town in which they live; or at least a Bible study class. We agreed to go with them for a few Sundays to get them acclimated and help them feel comfortable, before bowing out to continue with our intensive home study.
But not so fast! This last Sunday was our second visit, and we were thrilled to see that the leader of the class brought in the Jonathan Cahn film on The Isaiah 9:10 Effect: The Harbingers, comparing God's judgment on the ancient nation of Israel with what we have seen in our recent history, beginning with September 11, 2001. (These videos are available on YouTube). As many of you know, Cahn shows that when Israel turned away from God, they suffered invasion and captivity; and then in their arrogance declared that they would rebuild in their own power and abilities -- still refusing to humble themselves and repent of their sins.
We were thrilled that this kind of Biblical conversation was being introduced in a brick and mortar church. The only other time we had experienced that was when we were members of a class in a mainstream mega-Church and held to be somewhat "radical" by the main body of congregants. It was nice to see such boldness in the Body of Christ. And it led to the beginning of a conversation, suggested by Jonathan Cahn, himself, (in the film) that our God is a God of order, dates, times and seasons; they are all important to Him. In fact, Cahn pointed out the significance of the Hebrew lunar calendar and the 29th day of the month of Elul. This was the day, coincidentally, that we first suffered the economic fallout of 9/11, and then seven years later -- on the 29th of Elul -- was the stock market crash of 2008. So, can we expect something to occur on the 29th of Elul, seven years later -- which just happened to this last Sunday, September 13, 2015?
The question had no sooner been proposed, than a member of the class spoke up and declared that we were wasting our time listening to this... we are not Israel and we Christians have nothing in common with the Jews. It was obvious that he is a believer in Replacement Theology, a misinformed (in my opinion) Christian theological opinion that the Church has replaced Israel (and the Jews) in God's Divine Plan of Redemption for mankind. Of course, we could not remain silent in the midst of this man's diatribe. And my husband, whose name literally means Peace-Loving Warrior (PLW), lived out his name -- calmly, but firmly, correcting this fellow Christian, and pointing out that we are "grafted in" to Israel, and are Abraham's children and heritage because we share the same faith in YHWH.
Unfortunately, the other member of the class refused to listen and his response was heated and dogmatic. Sadly, the entire class missed out on the opportunity to see Proverbs 27:17 in action. This important verse in Scripture tells us that As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. I love how Matthew Henry, a 17th century minister and theologian, expresses the weight of this proverb: "Wise and profitable discourse sharpens men’s wits; and those that have ever so much knowledge may, by conference [debate and dialogue], have something added to them." In other words, when we are open to listening to each other [and what we have each gleaned from our studies], we each have the opportunity to add a greater dimension to our understanding of the Bible. Just like iron striking against iron, we remove the dullness and inactivity that can come upon our beliefs and study, and file away the rough edges, sharpening our perception and understanding of the Word.
It makes me sad that this man has decided, under his own tutelage, to disregard the entire Old Testament. He is willing to dismiss what it has to say about Jesus, and how it points us to God's final outcome in the Book of Revelation. Don't get me wrong -- there is room for disagreement amongst diligent Christians; and we must certainly guard against accepting false teaching. But to discourage debate or conversation among fellow sincere Christians is to limit the counsel and enlightenment that can come from the Holy Spirit's participation in the Word. And it is to totally discount the interests, thoughts, or comments of the rest of the class.
Needless to say, we both felt as though God was telling us one last time, "Come out of the Church!" But it's funny ... if you wait for God's instruction instead of making a decision in haste, you often get a different answer. PLW felt he owed an apology to the Sunday School class teacher, and we did not want to cause dissension within the Body of Christ, so we would bow out of the class. It took a day or so to locate his phone number. As it turned out, he had been trying to get in touch with us, and enthusiastically invited us back. He and the class are encouraging us to share what inspired knowledge we have acquired and to engage in mutual heartfelt and earnest conversation over our shared love of the Word. That is exactly what the Early Church was all about!!! This has certainly given us a spark of hope that all has not been lost in the organized religion of the Church. There is still room for us to edify and encourage one another; and there is no limit to the revelation we can receive when studying God's Word; just as there is no limit to the number of small groups with which we are willing to engage.
I really feel that in this season of God's Feast Days, He is awakening the True Church. It is a small number, but His remnant is seeking Him and for that I am so grateful. Praise the Lord!!
2 Corinthians 12:19 "All this time you have been thinking that we are [merely] defending ourselves to you. It is in the sight of God that we have been speaking [as one] in Christ; and everything, dearly beloved, is to strengthen you [spiritually]."