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Saturday, June 1, 2013

“What church do you go to?”

I don’t know how many times I’ve been asked this question, but it’s almost always painful for me to answer.  Because we’re church-homeless.  Not in the larger “the-church-is-the-bride-of-Christ-sense”.  But in the smaller “fellowship-with-local-likeminded-faith-and-practice-believers-sense”. 

Inside, I’m thinking/admonishing myself:

Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.  Hebrews 10:25

Out loud, I generally answer: 

“We are not currently part of a local body of believers.”

Or:          “We’re backslid.”

Sometimes the conversation goes further.  When prompted, my answers to the inevitable questions & comments go something like this:

Our family is not looking for a perfect body of believers.  We just feel led to live our lives simply.  We prefer to stay together in worship service, not split up to gender-age-specific “classrooms” for indoctrination.  We’ve “home-churched” with other families, and I prefer that atmosphere to “institutional” church.  I like being able to meet in one another’s homes, break bread together, visit one another, serve one another, love one another, bear one another’s burdens… pray together.  I like the atmosphere of a group of believers where the men share the responsibility of leadership & teaching.

We take our walk with the Lord seriously.  We understand the eternal impact our lives have not only on our children, but on others we are in relationship with – believers and unbelievers.  Accountability is a very real aspect of a believer’s walk.

We have prayed earnestly over this issue.  We’ve visited churches within an hour’s drive of our home.  We've even visited a couple a little farther than that.  Inevitably, there ends up being some sort of doctrine we cannot embrace so we move on – not wanting to stay and be a stumblingblock in someone’s walk, or a seed of division in the body.

My husband has been in contact with some folks in the last year or so that have given our family hope in this area of fellowship.  The contact led to a real life “cabin church” meeting last weekend.  My husband was asked to bring a message to share.  There were to be several families getting together, sharing a meal, etc.  We’ve been to similar get-togethers over the years, so the format was familiar.  And most welcome.  We’d met some of these people when they visited us for a mini-farm-tour the previous month.

I asked my husband to share with me his notes/scripture references.  I’ll post them at the end.  Basically, the theme was the part in Mark 4 beginning in verse 3 where the Lord is saying “Behold, there went out a sower to sow.”  I like how my husband was clear to tell folks that if anyone had something they felt led to share on the subject, to be obedient to the Lord to do so.  Such a blessing to be part of a meeting of Holy Spirit led believers, willing to trust and obey!

My husband focused on the need for soil preparation when sowing seed.  He shared some of his experience in regard to our land and the lack of nutrients present, and the need to amend the soil.  Bryant talked about how he’s taken weeds and manure and dead vegetable matter, and turned them into compost, and how that helps to nurture growth in the seeds he plants.  I liked how he compared that to how God works in our lives.  When we allow the dead things to be taken away – the sin, the dead works, etc., then God can grow us – make us fruitful and beautiful for Him.

I was very much blessed by the message, the meeting, the fellowship.  There was a time towards the end of the meeting when the women (my girls & I stayed together) went to pray inside, while the men & most of the young’uns stayed outside.  I very much enjoyed the time with the women – to share, to encourage one another, to pray.  On the way home, the girls also said they enjoyed that time with the women.

So, why don’t we just meet with these folks every week?  Well…. Driving two hours to get there & knowing there’s a two hour drive back home is certainly a factor.  If gas wasn’t such a burdensome cost & if we didn’t milk our goats twice a day… it might be less of a challenge.  We’ll pray about it.  For now, Bryant said maybe we could try to swing it quarterly.  I’m agreeable.  And hopeful.  Maybe next time someone asks me what church I go to, I can answer:  cabin church.

Beginning of Bryant’s Notes

Accountability

Does anyone want to share, what God is doing in their lives concerning discipleship?  With whom have your shared your story? With whom have you shared God’s plan of salvation? New believers?  People who have undergone a change of heart, or experienced a shift in understanding what church is? Or what you are training a disciple on (share their own story and to explain to others God’s plan of salvation?)

Vision

What’s next for you?  Where are you going?

One of the lessons, insight I learned in preparing for today, is “the field” we’ve been called to is in varying states.  I am not the One who knows what those states are whether ready to plant, weed, or harvest.  Some parts of the field are ready for harvest now, already having been prepared by the Holy Spirit to receive Christ.  My task is to be faithful to go, sow the seed, and make disciples.

Mark 4:3-8, 14-20A

3  Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow:
4  And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up.
5  And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth:
6  But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away.
7  And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit.
8  And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred. (see Mark 3:26-29)
14  The sower soweth the word.
15  And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts.
16  And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; (perhaps not unlike people who said “they enjoyed it”)
17  And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended (stumbled, occasion, or enticement to sin, or distrust the word.  Psalms 119:165  Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.).
18  And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word,
19  And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.
20  And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred.
Mark 4:26-29
26  And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed upon the earth;
27  and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should spring up and grow, he knoweth not how.
28  The earth beareth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.
29  But when the fruit is ripe, straightway he putteth forth the sickle, because the harvest is come.

What is our responsibility in field preparation?  Sowing?  Tending?  Harvest?  Discipleship?  Seed? 
We cannot forget each other, and ourselves in discipleship.  In other words, we are disciples too, some of us do not have someone who is discipling them, or with which we have regular fellowship and accountability. 

Field Observations - Guesses

Soil Layers

Put the dirt in the jar, shake it up and see how it settles.
Observe the soil conditions by examining the current growth or habitat:
·         Weedy
·         Bad fruit
·         Good fruit
A barren soil, is dead, with no life in it at all; no decaying self, no water retention.  Since we are talking about a person, maybe think of them as a heart that has no understanding of who they really are.  The “life” is still in themselves, no death to self.  God’s word, through the work of the Holy Spirit, can change a soil from barren to good ground.  But man’s choices may change that heart to Stony Ground, just like our choice of fertilizer which makes plants look nice, but burns and depletes the soil.  First crop good, remaining crops diminish.

Thorny

·         cares of this world, and
·         the deceitfulness of riches, and
·         the lusts of other things entering in

Stony Ground

No depth of earth
The ground is a hard, rocky ground, nowhere for seed to grow, or no ability to retain water.
Religion – like the use of artificial inputs into the soil, religion will act upon the heart of a person in much the same way as chemical fertilizers.  The wrong religion is like pouring concrete over the heart, and into a form, giving the outward appearance with all the right “specs” and conforming to the form where the concrete is poured.  Religion gives people the outward structure, the “right” answers, a heart encased in stone, and a life full of dead works.  Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof… 2 Timothy 3:5

Good Ground

Good ground is ready to receive the seed.  In order for the ground to be good, full of organic matter, something had to die, and break down into components needed for life, which is ready to receive the seed.
What I don’t see in Scripture, is much time spent on analysis, finding out what they need etc.  Just sow the seed, the word of God.

Adding Compost

How do we maintain good ground?  And encourage others to maintain good ground?   Compost piles for Christ!
I die daily…  He must increase, I must decrease.  God can use the “waste” in our life, for good.

Preparing ourselves for working in the field“Pray”paring the field - all soils need a covering

Keeps what is good and usable from floating or blowing away, or being snatched up by the evil one.
Softens hard soils, by keeping moisture in, water is a universal solvent.

Thorny ground

Needs clearing.

Stony Ground

Stony Ground needs soil  giving it ability to retain water.  Death to self, when we die daily, we in essence become the compost amendment to the soil. 

Sowing the Seed

Intentional act of a person expecting a harvest, why else would you go this far?  Seed is the word of God. 
Unlike physical seeds which grow plants, then fruit, then produce a seed, a spiritual seed once planted and sprouted in a believer can be re-sown immediately.

Warning about TransplantsField Cultivation

A time of waiting and watching for the seed to germinate, careful not to pull “weeds” which are either close to the seedling (uprooting both) or our erroneous expectation of what the seed should look like.   With seeds, an average germination period is known, not so with people.   Keeping the field protected with prayer mulch.

Field Harvesting

The question isn’t do you know the status of your field, but are you prepared to work the field(s) and respond to the fields that you encounter?  How do we get prepared for such work?  What is our part? 
Acts 17:23  For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.
Application:
1.       Not get bogged down in analysis while people perish.
2.       Work under God’s direction, through us and not the other way around.
3.       Use your observations to pray for the field God has given you, give it a good covering of prayer mulch.
4.       The Holy Spirit knows exactly what each person needs and where they are.  Our work, is to be faithful in obedience to God.  When we give a word, that word goes into the heart of the hearer.  The same word may be a tiller (on religious ground) or just a gentle sweeping away of the weeds just beginning to form in the life of the person we encounter (on good ground), or a soil amendment on barren ground.
5.       At the end of working in a physical field I stand back and see what I have done, same as working a display of furniture, or preparing a quarterly report.  When we work in God’s field we stand in awe looking and seeing what God has done.  If I took credit for God’s work, that would be like my rake, tiller and hoe taking credit for my work.
6.       Transplants – Grown in friendly, good ground environments (out in the field), set out in stony, religious ground, may die or become weak and lethargic.

End of Bryant’s Notes

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