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True Koinonia

Greetings,

”I thank my God every time I remember you.  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.  It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me.  God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.  And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ-to the glory and praise of God.”  Philippians 1: 3-11

It is extremely clear from this passage of scripture that Paul believed that he was in a total partnership with the believers that he was serving.  The Greek word for partnership used here is koinonia and it clearly means fellowship and partnership.  It also means mutual participation.  Paul did not support the idea of hierarchical leadership or a Clergy/Laity division. No, he believed in total mutuality in the Body of Christ.  He knew that he was partners with the believers that he served.   There was no Spiritual caste system that elevated one believer over others.  Paul’s Spirit inspired writings do not support a system that places a Pastor over the rest of the flock.  Paul considered everyone in the Body of Christ to be equal in Christ and he knew that every believer was also a minister of the Gospel.

Paul had a real deep heartfelt connection with the church in Philippi.  He held the church there in his heart and he had great affection for them.  If you get the chance please read Acts chapter 16 and it will tell you of Paul’s visit there. It was there that he encountered a group of women praying by a river, that included Lydia a leading businesswoman in that region.  The Lord opened up Lydia’s heart to Paul’s message and then Lydia opened her home to Paul and Silas. (my youngest daughter is named Lydia)  Soon afterwards Paul and Silas end up getting stripped and flogged and thrown into jail.  While in jail Paul and Silas just prayed and sang to God until an earthquake shakes the whole Jail.  The jailer thinking that the prisoners had escaped was going to kill himself until Paul informed him that no one had left the jail.  Because of this the jailer and his whole family came to The Lord.  Then before leaving the city Paul and Silas return to Lydia’s home and they encouraged everyone before they left town.  Of major note in this passage is how important women are in the whole scope of things and also how the early believers met in homes.  It seems that when one opened their heart to Jesus their home was automatically open for fellowship also.

Paul had a partnership with those he served and he realized how important it is to have a real intimate connection and relationship with other believers.  He prayed that love would abound in them, more and more, in both knowledge and depth of insight.  He wanted his fellow believers to be able to discern what was best for themselves, instead of being THE ONE who always had to tell them what to do or think.  Paul equipped other believers, but he also wanted them to be able to function on their own without him.  To Paul the church is supposed to be mutual and participatory.   Paul’s message was NOT.. I will LEAD and you will follow.  No, it was that Christ will LEAD and we ALL will follow.  As in “follow me as I follow Christ.”  So to me partnership, koinonia, fellowship and mutual participation are the way to go if you really want to be a vibrant and healthy church.

Love and ……

Kirk Out !

 

 

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When Is A Church No Longer A Church?

Greetings,
                     “God sets the lonely in families….”  Psalm 68: 6
 “..for we are members of His Body.”  Ephesians 5: 30
 “…for the sake of His Body, which is the church.”  Colossians 1: 24
                     Today’s blog post is going to be very short.  The Lord gave me these words one night and then told me not to add or subtract anything.  So here it is…..
                     The church becomes an institution instead of the living Body of Christ when it runs like a business instead of a family, when some members are elevated with titles, offices or positions, when someone starts making money by “serving” it, and when it desires tax exempt status from the state.  The Institutional “church” system is wrong and perhaps at times even evil.  When one follows traditions instead of the Spirit’s leading things go all to hell very quickly.
                    Love and….
                    Kirk Out !
P.s.  However, I do affirm that I have believing brothers and sisters still within the system.  Jesus in Revelation cries out to those still in the Babylon system, “Come out from Her My people!”  So some of HIS people are definitely in there.  I just feel that not every gathering of believers qualifies as being church.  I love the people, but hate the system.

The Nuts And Bolts of Relational, Organic, Simple, House Church

Greetings,

“…..When you come together, EVERYONE has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation.  ALL of these MUST be done for the strengthening of the church.”  1 Corinthians 14: 26

Recently a brother asked me a couple of questions concerning how we fellowship in the housechurches I relate to, first he wanted to know what happens when we gather:

As far as “how to” it varies greatly.

The most important thing of course is to be led by The Holy Spirit.

None of the hc’s I relate to have a “PASTOR” or any paid ministers, however
a lot of pastoral ministry takes place anyway.  We just take care of one another as needed.

We see our LEADER as Jesus and all the rest of us follow Him as best we can.
Although some leading takes place as we totally try to live out “follow me as I follow Christ.”

The leading in our gatherings is shared, and we hopefully follow moment by moment whoever (regardless of age, sex, race, etc.) has The Spirit’s anointing at any given time or moment..  One time a 9 year old excellently taught us about Cain and Abel and acceptable sacrifices.

In short our gatherings are open and free and many, hopefully all, share what Christ has put on their hearts and minds for our progressive mutual edification.
We see our gatherings as an ongoing conversation and hopefully this is following Jesus’ example of using dialogue instead of monologue or sermon to best share the truth in love with one another.

Now what does this look like from week to week?  SIMPLE

We gather for a meal and pray.  The meal is our communion and everyone contributes a dish to share.  We have many conversations going on during the meal, eventually we will gather in the livingroom for a more focused time of song and sharing.  Whoever is musical leads in praise and we all join in and anyone can suggest a song or play their instrument.  Eventually this usually leads to some more prayer and then someone will begin sharing about something that has been on their heart this week and from there IT’S ON and we all share in turn, often using the bible as our resource, and reading whole passages together.

The whole gathering usually takes several hours or more from meal to finish.

Let me stress this.  I have been meeting this way for over 41 years, and in all that time I have NEVER witnessed a gathering get “out of control” or into deep heresy.  Somehow it just flows and The Lord blesses it. However, in this flow very rarely the more mature among us may need to redirect the sharing into a more positive direction.

I don’t know how else to describe it.  It’s simple, it’s a flow, it’s relational, it’s family.

The other question that this brother asked was if we held to any creeds or other tests for fellowship:

In over 41 years of fellowshipping in homes, I have never been part of a house church with a test for fellowship other than a desire to meet with us.  Because of this we have had many non-believers become believers.  And those who held to non- Jesus like beliefs weeded themselves out or changed in a very short period of time.

I will meet with anybody willing to dialogue concerning the faith.  And in a totally open and free, Spirit led meeting it is impossible to hide any real personal heresies for very long.  Most folks who have fellowshipped with us over the years usually grow out of their problem theologies in time.  When all things, including leadership, are open and mutual things just have a really neat way of working themselves out for the benefit of all involved.  That at least is my experience and hope.

If anyone else has any questions please feel free to ask anytime.

Love and ……

Kirk Out !

 

 

Even Paul Needed The Body Of Christ For Accountability And Redirection

Greetings,

“After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth.  There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome.  Paul went to see them, and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them.  Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.  When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ.  But when the Jews opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, ”Your blood be on your own heads!  I am clear of my responsibility.  From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”  Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God.  Crispus, the synagogue ruler, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized.  Acts 18:1-8

I believe I see something in this passage.  Something that can be easily missed in everyday reading, but I still see it now.  What I see is the Body of Christ reaching out and giving accountability and encouragement to Paul.

Before Silas and Timothy arrived in Corinth Paul was going to the synagogue and REASONING with the Jews and Greeks trying to PERSUADE them and it seems like he was not getting very good results.  However, as soon as Silas and Timothy show up Paul completely changes his message and method away from human reasoning and persuasion to EXCLUSIVELY PREACHING and TESTIFYING that Jesus was the Christ.  I contend that it is quite possible that Silas and Timothy corrected and encouraged Paul and brought about this change in his ministry in Corinth.

I know I may be reaching here, but when I have shared this with others in the Body of Christ over the years it has been for the most part well received.  One thing for sure is that something changed when Silas and Timothy came to Corinth.  I also know that human reasoning and persuasion never bring the type of results that simple sharing and testifying in The Spirit do.  Here we see Paul changing his message and method and right away he gets a response.  Sure the initial response is opposition and abuse, but shortly thereafter Paul moves his ministry to a home and then many Corinthians believed and were baptized.

There is a huge difference between using our heads and using our hearts.  Knowledge puffs up and can often stand in the way of real Spirit led sharing.  I know this because I have been there and I have gladly received correction from the Body of Christ many times.  Paul was human just as we are and he made mistakes just like we do.  When we gather with other believers for totally free & open, Spirit led fellowship perhaps the main question we should ask ourselves when we are about to share is…..Is it me, or is it God?  Quite frankly the only way to find out is to go ahead and share and allow the Body to judge our offerings.  (1 Corinthians 14)  Many are afraid to share because they might be wrong, but in our fear there is so much pride and in our pride so much fear.  The only way to work through this with one another is to be honest and allow those we have come to love and trust to judge our sharing.  So I say when you think you have something to share… GO FOR IT!  Because we can all share in turn and allow the Holy Spirit to work among and in us.  It takes the whole Body Of Christ fully functioning as it should to determine what His message is to be on any given day.  Me?  I want encouragement and accountability.  When we all share our Christ given portion of the truth in love, the message is beautiful and bears much fruit.  So please share away and allow the Body to determine what is excellent and of The Spirit of Christ on any given day?

Love and ….

Kirk Out !

 

 

By Our Stripes?

Greetings,

“But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds (stripes) we are healed.”  Isaiah 53: 5

The totally amazing response to my recent blog posts about overcoming PTSD and childhood sexual abuse continues.  Since Friday twenty five people with issues similar to mine have come forward asking for help and support.  It seems that freedom in Christ is contagious and I am hoping that it continues to spread like wildfire.  In Christ there is nothing that we cannot overcome together.

This past week has reminded me that our own personal stories and testimonies of overcoming serious traumatic obstacles in our lives can bring to others great healing and hope.  We all know that by the stripes and wounds of Jesus we are healed.  Beyond that I contend that by our very own wounds and stripes others can be healed.  How great and wonderful it is to know that someone else suffered as we did and then still came out clean and healed on the other side of their trauma.  Jesus endured and overcame suffering for us and in Christ we can suffer and overcome for the sake of others.  Our endurance in the midst of great trials, suffering and trauma can inspire others to hold on until their deliverance and healing finally comes.

This is the beauty of totally open and free, relational, Spirit led, organic fellowship.  Only in a atmosphere of free and open, Spirit led sharing and dialogue is there opportunity and room for all of our stories and sufferings to be told.  In a closed, sermon and Pastor centered “church” there is seldom, if ever, the chance for anyone to share their story and struggles with the rest of the Body of Christ.  In the middle of my very worst PTSD trials Jesus and those I share fellowship with carried and supported me until I was again able to stand and walk on my own again.  In free and open fellowship relationships are forged in the fire of love, truth and compassion.  Because of this fire we are able to trust and open up to one another in ways only the true family of God can.  I can share my deepest and darkest of secrets with my siblings in Christ, because they have shared their deepest and darkest with me.  Then together we can all seek His face until our healing arrives.  The true Body of Christ will go to war with you and have your back until victory comes, no matter how long it takes.  This is all about sharing ALL OF LIFE with one  another while holding nothing back, and not just sharing a pew on Sunday morning.

Love and…..

Kirk Out !

P.s.  Even in the light of good things happening the past 24 hours have been very difficult for me.  I received some troubling news last night and I have been struggling with depression and sadness since then.  I have been asking God why I have had to lose so much in this life.  HIS response was to tell me that I was fortunate to have so much to lose in the first place.  HE told me not to lose heart, but it has still been difficult to deal with and not feel great sorrow.  I sent a text to my children and several friends about noon saying that, “Because of the past I have no future.”  It alarmed someone so they called the police and requested they come here and do a safety check because I was not answering calls or texts.  I felt low for sure, but I was not suicidal.  I convinced the police and paramedics that I would be safe and fine and they left after about 20 minutes.  I am still sad, but I am lifting my head now with the help of Christ and I know I will be okay.  Thanks to everyone out there who prays for me.  I sure do appreciate it.  Life is sure filled with hills and valleys.

 

 

 

 

Forgive And Gain Peace

Greetings,

“Forgive others, not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace.”

“…and forgive us our sins, just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us.”  Matthew 6: 12

Forgiveness is a HUGE topic and what we believe and practice concerning forgiveness pretty much impacts our lives every single day.  As in all things how we approach forgiveness can either be a major positive force in our lives or a serious negative millstone around our very own necks.  I have found the best way to approach forgiveness is direct and head on.  For if we do not give our full attention to it…. unforgiveness can blindside us like a runaway freight train and leave us in ruins.

This was my fourth consecutive fall, winter and spring without a serious PTSD episode. Prior to this positive stretch were 16 years of living hell in those seasons, especially the falls. I am glad to report I haven’t had a significant flashback episode in over four years now.  Many factors contributed to my overall positive mental health this season including prayer, counseling, medication, and depth of fellowship with Christ and His Body.  However, perhaps the greatest single factor has been my ability to finally let go of the pain, shame and hate that I have held against my father for his horrific rapes and abuse he inflicted upon me as a child.  In short, I just forgave him.

Many times in the last 19 years I thought I had forgiven him, but each time I still held on to minuscule amounts of inner rage and hatred.  Letting all that go has lifted a very heavy burden from my life and right now I feel more open and free than I ever have in life.  Now when judgement against my father rises within my inner being I choose to forgive again at that very moment and the negative feelings are totally released into the care of God.  Because of forgiveness I am now free and the Peace of Christ floods my mind and Spirit and cleanses away all the negative thoughts and feelings related to the abuse.  Oh I still have memories, but the memories are now submitted to Christ and no longer hold any power against me.

I seriously questioned the Lord and myself as to why I had not forgiven my father any sooner, and the answer was that I was neither ready or able until recently.  These things take time and should not be rushed.  In the end it was not at all about my father deserving forgiveness, but rather about me deserving peace.  Plus I finally understood that I am affected by the measure that I forgive others.  Holding back forgiveness for ANY reason, just holds us back.  It does not affect those who sinned against us at all.  If I truly forgive as Christ forgave me…it changes my whole universe for the better.  Like I said, forgiveness is a HUGE topic and I have only scratched the mere surface of it here today.  Give grace, give mercy, give love, give forgiveness, and it changes your whole world.  I know my world has been rocked by it for the better.  Today I choose to forgive and because of that I am at peace, joyful and well.

Love and…..

Kirk Out !

 

 

Reflections On A Former Life

Greetings,

“Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God, who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.  O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.  You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”            Psalm 51: 14-17

In February 1999 I had my first PTSD episode.  Waves upon crashing waves of horrible traumatic flashbacks of being brutally raped by my very own father flooded and overtook my entire being.  I was lost in my childhood past and I could find no route of escape.  Then when I thought I was fighting back against my abuser, I was in reality fighting off my wife and two of my best friends who were just trying to help and comfort me.  Then in the aftermath I had to try and deal with the guilt of punching my wife and nearly choking to death two dear friends as I lifted them off the ground and pinned them to the wall by their throats.

Episodes like this frequently invaded my life until I started having some breakthroughs in late 2011.  However, by then it was much too late to save my marriage of 30 years.  I don’t blame my ex-wife.  She hung in there for a good long time, but in the end how do you stay with someone who actually threatened your life several times because of his mental illness?  When I was lost in the flashbacks it put me into severe survival mode.  All things became very base and primal and all I knew to do was to try and fight off the abuser;  who in reality was only in my mind.  My life was reduced to continual shame, guilt, sorrow, numerous suicide attempts and fits of pure rage towards whoever dare step before me.  In my mind I was six year old Christopher fighting off his dad and other abusers.  However, in real life I was a 45 year old 6 foot tall and wide Christopher who weighed over 325 pounds, fighting off everyone who tried to love him.   In the end I scared everyone away, except Jesus.  And by the grace of God alone my children were always kept safe and loved.

In the quiet times Jesus always came to me; offering me total forgiveness and healing…reminding me of who I was in Christ, in spite of my affliction.  I spent most of the past 18 years in seclusion, hiding in my room for the safety and welfare of myself and others.  Jesus never gave up on me though..He always showed up in my lucid moments and told me I would make it through the deep dark pit to total freedom and healing on the other side.

So here I am now right smack dab in the middle of a miraculous healing.  PTSD left a wide damage path behind me, but I am happy to report that practically all my relationships have been restored to a place better than they were pre-1999.  All things in the right time I guess?   I still would not trade the brokenness of the last 18 years for anything else.  Jesus was with me through the long dark storm and I am now closer to Him than I ever have been.  In my brokenness I have become a much better person.  I am no longer angry, immature, and selfish to the extent I was before.  Christ has done a complete rework in my heart and mind and today I am truly free in Him like never before.  I now know the great depth of His grace, mercy, compassion and love.  As I sit here I am now reminded that the very first thing love is…is patient.  I know firsthand that Jesus will never leave or forsake us; no matter what we ever say or do.  For a few years there I was little more than a large, frightened, fierce animal, but today I am once again a child of The King and brother to all.  I have discovered that in Christ we lack nothing and whatever you think you may lack Jesus will make up that difference.

Love and……

Kirk Out !

P.s.  I know I have shared this post here a few years ago, but I just felt that someone else out there needed to hear this story of true redemption and healing today.  Jesus has afforded me a chance to start my life over again post PTSD.   I now have hope that I could be in another romantic relationship as a fully functioning adult.  Even if that is not the case I know now that I can be content and blessed being single the rest of my life. Because of Jesus my story has a chance at a very happy ending.  I now know that it is NEVER too late for ANY of us to be blessed beyond our wildest dreams by Christ.  If you are struggling please do not give up. Jesus is the Lord of second, third and fourth chances and more.  Our God is all about healing and redemption.  HE will meet you right where you are and mend whatever needs to be restored.  Trust Him?  I did and that made all the difference in the world.