Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Body of Christ ... It's Here, so Now What? (11)

summarized by Dale Shumaker

The Body of Christ
by Dr. J. Robert Ashcroft concludes with Here, Now and How!. It is not good for man to be alone. Bird watchers note that birds find a mate, court, nest and raise offspring. The son of Man, Jesus, said that even birds had a place to nest but the Son of Man had no place to lay His head. He was building
a family connection so large that no one would be alone without close significant relationships.

The Spirit unites, while Satan comes to divide
. The Spirit bonds us to many believers. This bonding is more intense and secure than the bond of family relationships. Jesus himself indicated that man would leave father and mother and become followers of Christ. Jesus said, "Who is my mother and brothers. Whomever does the will of the Father is my brother, my sister, my mother." (Mark 3:33,35)

Being united to Christ we become united to each other.

Everyone needs companionship. Each of us needs a support system.
It is more than a need. It is a Divine challenge to creativity and productivity. Do we try to reach our full potential alone? When we do we limit our success. God has ordained that the greatest power available to His Children will be manifested when they have the spiritual unity of which He spoke in Matthew (18:19) that when touching anything, the two or three in agreement, will be done by all the powers of our Father in Heaven. Note that earth and Heaven are linked together when we are united. This unity is a Spiritual law. This law is equally binding in the Spirit as natural laws are binding in nature... physics, biology, etc.

In knowing this, we know we can feed ourselves by sowing and reaping. When we sow Spirit, we reap Spirit. So unity in our relationships work the same way. When family units of husband-wife, parent-child, brothers-sisters are united it creates a family power.

The union of husband and wife is such a meaningful life that Paul uses the relationship to explain the union between Christ and the Body of Christ. Just marriage is not enough. There is social marriage, legal marriage, biological marriage. Then there is Spiritual marriage. The oneness of this kind of relationship goes beyond procreation. It deals with matters of the Spirit. Here, with this close intimate relationship, we win against all forces. The Holy Spirit becomes our ally in spiritual warfare.

The most practical place for this unity of an intense level is with husband and wife. When two become one, all the powers of God's universe beckon to our commands. With the potential to change our universe through this relationship so strong, Satan's focus has been very much to divide families, put husband against wife, and children against parents. This takes the power right out of the home. Although, a husband and wife and family who prays together and forms close bonding relationships has exceptional power of Spirit at work in their times together.

If married, your spouse is your greatest potential for a prayer partner. Some things to keep in mind to take advantage of this potential is to agree on a time to come together for devotions, and establish a pattern of worship. This may include reading the Scriptures or a devotional together, singing praise songs, including your children to read or sing, pray for each other, share what God is impressing on you for each other, do as you felt led as one unit. All major decisions would be better served after this experience to reassure it is God's guidance with you within the decision.

Once Jesus took three of His disciples with Him when He prayed. Establish prayer partnerships in addition to your family. Or if we don't have this potential in your family, find two or three as prayer partners. We can see great power coming in our lives. Jesus sent his disciples out in pairs. In a business or an individual finding someone like minded in Spirit to become partners in prayer and in mission support, will highly affect all your efforts. (Dr. Ashcroft suggests everyone in the Body of Christ is called to minister or be a ministry of some kind.) What we are called to do in God's will is a ministry for the Kingdom of God. So prayer partners and prayer groups will enlarge your function of life in Spirit. This is the key to true Spiritual empowerment. It is critical to form these relationships and allow the Holy Spirit to bond them for His power.

From this we will see new ministries birthed, a compelling Spiritual Vision. We are empowered in what we do for others as directed by the Holy Spirit.

Note that as the number of people increases it increases the difficulty of having the quality of agreement. Agreement diminishes. The critical factor is unity. So being small with greater unity is better than large and lesser unity. When we look at the phrase "agree together" it comes from the same root word that means harmony. Like a piano that strikes one string, all the strings that are sympathetic to that note will vibrate also. They are in synchronization with one another. Where there is agape love of God, and we are in love with Jesus and man, it is possible that we function in synchronization with one another.

This unity is not possible by human means. Each person involved must be totally in love with Jesus Christ. When He is Lord of the lives of each person in the group, such love is possible. And where there is love, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are manifest. Obviously, where His love is there is healing of every kind.

What is needed for prayer groups to be highly successful, with all the Creative Powers of God's Spirit to be at work, is compassionate and sharing love. That's agape love, the love of Christ at the cross. This is a sacrificial sharing love. It is the true meaning of fellowship. It carries the true meaning of the Early Church and intentions of our relationships as One in Spirit. It is so close in relationship that they shared their possessions as their needs became known. It takes a Special grace for this ministry, for the actual manifestation of the gifts of the Spirit to meet the needs of the Body of Christ.

Bible study groups conducted formally and informally are great places for group prayer to be part of it. Leadership and training are most important forces in sustaining the effectiveness of prayer groups. It is important to remember that the unity of the believers, the flow of compassion as we serve one another in love makes the Body of Christ a conquering force.

Teaching is not learning. Something can be taught but not learned. It needs to be part of our behavior. Change must take place that is self evident and motivates a new desire. To achieve the highest level of discipleship it is necessary to train. This includes teaching, getting information, and training, making it work effectively in daily applications.

Intercessory prayer, the kind that gets individuals involved with the subject of one's prayers is a most critical factor in successful praying. Prayer includes that we obey the directions we get from prayer.

Too many times we only take time to tell God what is needed and fail to get His strategies for getting the answer. He gives Spiritual intelligence... Divine Strategies for accomplishing things Supernaturally. The ability and comfort to pray with others out loud is a valuable part of prayer training. Each of us must find a way to join with another believer (or other believers) to touch the lives of those around us.

Missions are as much across the street as they are around the world. The hurting or hungry family may be your next door neighbor, or the business just next to you. Take note, and always be available to pray for and help where you can.

The reality of the Body of Christ is that it reaches out to a perplexed and wandering world. Our groups should welcome as many as we can into the fellowship, koinonia, and experience as a group the love and practical caring we give to each other. That people find a place to find gifts and abilities, cultivate Spiritual gifts, and become empowered so strongly that others notice and want to be part of it too.

This is our challenge in becoming one with God and One with each other.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Body of Christ ... Ministering to the Lord (10)

summarized by Dale Shumaker

"He who is faithful in the smallest of things will be made ruler over many."

In Ministering to the Lord, The Body of Christ by Dr. J. Robert Ashcroft, the church was vibrant where ever it met. To remind us, a church meeting is when two or three come together in Jesus Name. In Acts in the Bible, the early days of ministry were by laymen.

The power in the church is more in the dynamics of small
, in close-bonded relationships, than in big groups. It is a network, a web of small cells, linking to others and the assistance each freely gives the other.

When reading Acts 11 and 13 we see in Antioch, the establishing of what is called today Christian. All the followers were unnamed laymen. Just men collaborating in concert with the teachings and ideals of Jesus, groups who united as followers of Jesus. This Gospel was being spread by new believers. Missions were established as they went everywhere to tell people about the marvelous possibilities of us being united with Christ.

Antioch is important as it illustrates the power there is in the unity of the Body of Christ... as the Believers connecting in Spirit as One. Another observation is that it came from such an unlikely place. The theme line keeps shouting out loud the power of unity and where there is unity God manifests Himself.

Each individual within the Body of Christ is important
. It's not just a gathering of people or not just a crowd. We are all very special people. We may be likened to cells in a body. Each one is different, but each one is important to the whole. Gifts, special ministries, were given to each member. It is possible for everyone to have a ministry to help meet the needs of other individuals of the body. (Note 1 Corinthians 12:27)

We must, as cells, be in the Body to be alive, but we must also function as unique individuals
. In the human body no cell can survive very long by itself. It needs to be joined by other cells. Cancer, it is said, are cells out of sync with the body. Cancer destroys itself and the body it invades. Cells out of sync in Spirit in the Body of Believers cause this same disaster to happen there too. These cells contaminate healthy cells.

This new lay church was made up of regular people, not specifically called to a particular position in ministry.
They had gifts of the Spirit and began to minister to each other. The church is not the Body of Christ if it is a place where each member is not ministering in some way to other members of the Body. The differences in the Body is a paradox. It actually enhances the Body to function at peak levels when unity exists. As the body, or gathering, submits to the Holy Spirit, in humility, every reason for conflict will be subordinated to God. Some groups allow their differences to separate them from others who do not share their views. Paul, the Apostle, had to deal with this kind of discrimination as it diluted the group of its Power in Spirit. Antioch was not like this, and Paul noted that great grace was there. Great grace implies great giving and forgiving.

One of the chief purposes of the leader of a group is to strive for unity as given by the Holy Spirit. What is the basis for a great Spiritual life in a gathering...
"They ministered to the Lord, and fasted." (Acts 13:1)
The two points are revealed:
1. Ministry to the Lord

2. Fasting (discipline of the self)

Ministry to the Lord
is significant, and exercised in choice of primary importance. It is adoration, surrender, commitment and obedience in service.

Adoration is the concentration of the heart. Plus it is a longing for more of knowing Him, praising Him for who He is. Such a pre-occupation with the Lord drives us away from all of the detrimental influences of the world.

Adoration is the key to our unity.
When each of us is making Christ the Lord of our lives, it is no problem finding unity among us as believers. When we are oriented to self, unity becomes impossible.

On the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:8) they saw no man but Jesus. The vision of Jesus was compelling and their concentration was only on the brightness of Jesus. In our gatherings no expression of the Lord is left out... art, music, vocal or physical demonstration.

There is more... fasting.
It goes beyond abstinence from food, this fasting is abstinence from any dependency on physical gratification. This may include abstinence of mind and body. Such fasting makes us break from being co-dependent to the physical demands and desires of the human body. It makes us forget our own program of interests. It makes us forget our criteria for social relationships. All demands of our person or place are submerged in the total denial of self and absence of self-awareness. Can we achieve this same depth of communion with the Lord? Yes, but it won't be easy. It takes decision, training, discipline and often spiritual leadership to bring us in such communion with the Lord.

With such worship to God and denial of self, there is a readiness to do whatever the Lord commands. True worship encompasses full submission, and obedience. It is service to others in need. Obedience is better than sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22). It is easier to write and talk about this than to bring it about. The Holy Spirit gives directions to the believers... as individuals and as a group.

When those who meet in Jesus Name center their lives around the Holy Spirit, a common mission and purpose emerges from the group
. This mission uses the talents, Spiritual Gifts, of the group as One orchestrated concert in action to complete the mission and vision set before them.

Know your target and how to move in the direction of such High Achievement.
We need to keep reminding ourselves that visions from God may seem impossible in the natural but we are super-charged by the Supernatural to accomplish what God puts on our hearts. We can then as One Body, as a group, do all things through the Powers of Jesus Christ being manifested through us. It requires a discipline in lifestyle for the cause we are in. It will take hours of meditation, completely concentrating in the Spirit, and prayer to the Lord to bring us on the journey to achieve such Lofty Goals.

Like Barnabas and Saul were separated to go into new territory. We may be separated by the Holy Spirit to go into new territory. This direction will come after much fasting and prayer. That's taking time to be completely focused on the Holy Spirit's direction for us... and leaving normal activity that is part of our lives for a while to hear what the Holy Spirit is saying...and allowing time for The Spirit to assist us in crafting the strategy He has in mind for it to be carried out.

After fasting, after denial of self, there comes consideration for others. It naturally follows
. This is the climate of obedience. Worship is not worship if it does not culminate in obedient action in the interest of those less fortunate than ourselves. When sent by the Holy Spirit you can be assured of the Spirit paving the way for your ministry (and this includes all laymen in the church... everyone has a ministry).

When faced with opposition, the opposition is immobilized as in the case of Elymas (Acts 13:6-12), the sorcerer. He was made blind by the Spirit so Barnabas and Saul could not be deterred.

In a mission that is directed by the Holy Spirit we will be directed by the Spirit along the way
. If it is made up by men and organizations outside the Spirit, we may not be assured the Power of God with us. But if we go in obedience to the clear direction of the Holy Spirit and with the covenant community, we are assured of the results.

Our relationships, covenant relationships, in Spirit are essential
for all that God sends us to. As One in Spirit we are very powerful and nothing can stop these advances.
All Things Are Possible!

(Scripture references, Acts 11:19-30, 13:1-3)

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Body of Christ ... In Action (9)

summarized by Dale Shumaker

In the second part of the Body of Christ in Action, Dr. J. Robert Ashcroft spends most of his time in 1 Corinthians 13 and 14.

The fulfillment of all the functions of the gifts rests on the power of the love
the Holy Spirit gives us. To be in one accord and have pure unity is the central nerve of the best of everything. John expresses this in 1 John 4: 8-13:

"But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us. And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us." (NLT)

Paul refers to love as the most excellent way.
We should follow the path of love, especially in the Body of Christ. It is a sacrificial love as every one considers others more important than themselves. This is the cement that holds, creates a bonding unity, in the relationship of the Believers. Then in this Agape love of God all the Supernatural power of God can be manifested. God is there in all of His Supernatural power, if we are in His love.

All the eloquence we possess is nothing without love. Without a demonstration of love in all we do, all we do amounts to nothing.

As we consider the Supernatural gifts of the Spirit of eloquence, prophecy, understanding mysteries, all knowledge, faith, meeting needs of the poor, even becoming a martyr, if we do not have love it amounts to nothing and we profit nothing by it. Within the Body of Christ it accomplishes nothing. Our highest priority is to be completely yielded to the Holy Spirit.

In our own humanity it is impossible to achieve this quality of love. So we are locked into a total dependence upon the Holy Spirit. The emphasis and practice of waiting on the Holy Spirit must be our first consideration. Such a challenge must be kept ever before us in our present environment.

These rudiments of love must never leave our conscious and functional times
...love is patient, always kind, not envying others, or boasting about ourselves, being constantly unselfish, mild and even tempered, not being suspicious of others, unhappy with evil, rejoicing in truth, surviving in pressure, full of stubborn faith, with an unwavering confidence in God's power, enduring to the end in all challenges and goals, and refusing to relent in love, love never fails.

To attain love is to grow up in our faith
, have a clear vision of Jesus and what He has done for us, holding an honest knowledge of ourselves, practice this highest and greatest virtue throughout all we do, making love supreme. To have unity in and among believers is the key to our power as the Body of Christ in Spirit. Love must be practiced first, last and always by those in the Body of Christ in their actions and attitudes to each other.

To further the unity of the Body of Christ, these mandates will preserve the unity... to be informed, be unselfish and be courteous.

Be Informed

Follow after love. With love we have no divisions between those who put love up front in all they do. The Supernatural is free to work as it expands to the levels only it can. Desire Spiritual Gifts. So it requires to wait for them, wait in God's presence. Tarry until they come. It is important to give time to tarry, or wait for, the leading of the Holy Spirit to show itself. Of all the Spiritual Gifts desire to prophesy. Make this a top priority in order to communicate the Word of the Lord to the Believers.

Be Unselfish

In 1 Corinthians 14 Paul suggests that if someone has a message in a tongue not known to the group, to share it... only if there is an interpreter. Otherwise keep it in private and not for public expression. Although, if more than one has a message as such, it should be kept to two or three at the most. Paul goes on to say that we should not forbid people to speak who have a gift of tongues. The point being made is that we should be considerate of others and cooperation should rule the operation of the Gifts of the Spirit in a group.

Above all prophesy... then everyone can understand you.
Again, if you have a Word from Spirit it should be limited by two or three as well. The Spirit of the prophet is subject to the prophets. What this implies is all things are in control and there is not a spirit of things being out of control. All things should carry with them a sense of agreement among the group and the unity then brings the manifest presence of God's Spirit. As we agree together in His Name we can expect all kinds of unexpected workings of the Spirit among us.

Be Courteous
The Spirit is gentle. The Spirit came on Jesus like a dove. A dove can be easily frightened away. We are to be building up the community of believers. We will see this accomplished if we find the grace from the Holy Spirit to treat one another with respect, neither grieving the Holy Spirit or our fellow believers.

When we apply the love in 1 Corinthians 13 and the etiquette expressed in 1 Corinthians 14, we will go a long way to insure the unity of the Body of Christ. Thus we make ourselves candidates for the manifest presence of the Lord. Where He is, the Power of Jesus looms in all His mighty power.

(Scripture references are from I Corinthians 13, 14; Colossians 1, 2; Ephesians 1.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Body of Christ ... Equipped for Greater Things (8)

summarized by Dale Shumaker

God manifests Himself today through the Body of Christ.

This is the theme for Chapter 8, In Action, from The Body of Christ by Dr. J. Robert Ashcroft.
We see as we move through 1 Corinthians 12, 13, 14 that the Body of Believers is being equipped for Greater Things.

Jesus was the ultimate witness to all mankind.
"He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God. So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son." (John 1:10-14, NLT)

"God wrapped all of Himself in the womb of Mary. 'We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life. '"
(1 John 1:1, NLT)

Then Jesus said it was expedient that He go away so that greater things will be done which may not be done while He was still present on earth.
It was God's plan from all this is that the Spirit we saw with Christ is now with us as the Body of Christ as One in Christ.

What was expected of the physical Body of Jesus while on earth is also now expected from the Spiritual formation of the Body of Christ of Believers which is now presently manifested on earth.

"‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent.’ You are witnesses of all these things."

(Luke 24:47, 48, NLT)
The forgiveness factor, individually, uniting us in Spirit with others who have chosen to ask God to forgive them. They merge to one in Spirit, those who share in this experience. This is the critical step each must take before bonding can begin, which is where the power is.

For this reason, the forming of believers into the Body of Christ, the bonding, yes Bonding of Believers, is absolutely necessary for the fulfillment of God's purposes... to see the Power of Spirit manifested on earth.

Water Baptism suggests burial, death to the control of the physical nature in our lives. When we come to Christ, surrender our lives to Him, we end the rule of the natural man over us and come under the sovereign rule of the Holy Spirit. Just as Jesus did. We are to be completely oriented to the Holy Spirit and dedicate ourselves to service to the needs of others. We die to a life of selfishness and come into a life of sharing. When we die to self, we minister to others. All this is contingent to our sensitivity to the needs of the believers or of humanity at large.

The manifestations of the Holy Spirit are not possessions by a certain person, but are functions of the Holy Spirit. It is for the good of all and are not given as an exclusive possession for the use of one individual. There is mutual sharing of need and supply. When Believers as the Body of Christ are in unity there is opportunity to communicate a specific need, and receive an answer to any specific need.

The Body of Christ is the instrument through which God has chosen to reveal Himself and to accomplish His work in the world.
All of it is under the administration of Christ Himself, as the Head of the Body. Jesus is The Body's chief administrating officer, our CEO, as the Body of Christ. Note that a gathering or congregation may not be the Body of Christ. It takes being knit together. Where this exists, this is a true, or the true Body of Christ. Where there is love, mutual sharing, a heart of agreement, Jesus as we know Him manifests Himself not just to the level for while He was on earth, but now to even greater levels.
.. through His Body of those of us on earth.

What we must watch are things that Divide. If it be doctrine, loyalties, sacraments, spiritual gifts, these are faults to power when they become issues of conflict and separation. We are to be reconciled to one Body
(Ephesians 2:16). What brings a group to total unity from their hearts and the love of Christ in action in them... only the Holy Spirit can do it. Talk and negotiations may get minds to agree, but hearts can be distant, and the close knit fellowship not present. Only as we pray together, and the Holy Spirit welds our hearts together as one can divisions be dissolved.

It's equally important that we be not be led away with sensuality in our meetings
. That's emotions that make us feel good, but not motivated by the Holy Spirit. We can be drawn under the spell of the self-life and pleasing one's own sensual desires. Spirit induces a spirit of love and self-sacrifice for the good of others. We are not to be carried away by sense-related experiences. They worshiped dumb idols, but were not aware of the Holy Spirit in some meetings in the New Testament. We must guard against that too. Their objects of worship were material things, or oriented to physical pleasure.

It is so important we become Spirit-led, Spirit-controlled, and that Christ be our consciousness, our life as directed by His Holy Spirit. Simply, Christ lives in us and He must be allowed to run us, to navigate life through us. He is the boss, we are the employee to carry out His orders. Just because we can say the word spirituality and relate it to our ideas, we may not be Spiritual. Only when we are controlled and run by Spirit are we then genuinely Spiritual.

Diversity is allowed to flow in Spirit. We have the same spirit but diverse and different gifts.
There are differences, but not divisions. As orchestrated by the Spirit and we allow our diversities to blend, we create an orchestra of great music, precision in how we do things. We become refined in being efficient in Spirit.

Spiritual Intelligence, communications, physical needs, material necessities are provided under the leadership of the Holy Spirit to the believers in the community: the Christian community. As believers come together in worship they must be sensitive to the Holy Spirit to learn from whom and to whom ministry is to be given
. The Holy Spirit is the administrator of all the manifestations which meet the needs of the members of the Body of Christ.

Each time the believers gather in the spirit of unity and koinonia (that's a spirit of sharing), each believer looks about to see whom he may minister to in the Body of Christ. It will be obvious at once that humility and meekness are an absolute necessity for such a fellowship to have God's blessing and approval. There is no room for any self aggrandizement or self exaltation at all.

The human body is what Paul used to impress upon the Corinthians how the Holy Spirit will fulfill the ministry. As we look at 1 Corinthians 12, we see these patterns for us to follow:

1. The believers are intricately woven together. Any action or inaction inevitably affects every other believer.

2. Each part of the body has a unique role to play.

3. The default of any part of the Body to perform his or her role limits the Body in its ministry.

4. To suffer is the degree to which each member must be prepared to participate.

We should have the same care for one another. The manifestation of the supernatural for the benefit of the Body of Christ is a priority. The world outside becomes a beneficiary of the powers of the Holy Spirit. So much hinges upon the practice of caring for one another. "If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad."

(1 Corinthians 12:26, NLT)

This implies the degree to which each member participates in the need of other members of the Body of Christ... the entire Body.
This is also the price of discipleship. So much depends upon the application of this practice.

“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me."
(Luke 9:23, NLT)

To implement these marvelous miracles, we have the ministries and gifts within the Body of Christ for that purpose.

Each of us has a distinct ministry to each believer
. The Body of Christ has been given these glorious provisions for the meeting of needs of each member. To be used by God in His Supernatural provision should be the desire, the higher goal of every believer. Once this spirit of ministry prevails within the Body of Christ, it creates the basis for successfully reaching those outside the Body of Christ.

(Scripture references are from 1 Corinthians 12.)

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Body of Christ ... Covenant Connection (7)

summarized by Dale Shumaker

Every group that meets, a purpose evolves from it
. The Spiritual pattern is it starts in prayer, seeking God's ways, getting His Divine insights. As love abounds in the group and covenant connections are cemented and grow, the power for Divine revelation and Divine Purpose increase.

The crucial thing to know is Covenant Connections increase the Power that goes with Divine Purpose... as we discover it and execute it.

We can hold on to The Apostle Paul's thoughts in Ephesians:
"In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession—to the praise of his glory." (Ephesians 1:11-14, TNIV)

All this has been created for us long ago. We tap it in Spirit.

The promise continues for the Power to accompany it, as is continued in Ephesians "I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that can be invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way." (Ephesians 1:17-23, TNIV)

In Chapter 7, The Body of Christ , Dr. J. Robert Ashcroft expounds on this more. It is the Body, The New Body of Christ, now as a corporate unity of all the Believers as one, that this is fulfilled through. Thus, Covenant Connection takes on a very important characteristic to make it all work to the level the Scriptures exhort it will.

Jesus' teachings applies to this New Body, which is now His Body reformed or could we say morphed into another kind of Body of people in a covenant connection with each
other. As we look at how this New Body functions in the Early Church a lot can be learned from this. They had problems in almost every conceivable form of fellowship... messages, ministers, morals, marriage, money.

One of greatest sections in the New Testament which deals with corporate operation comes from 1 Corinthians 11, 12, 13, and 14. The chief concern of this section is the Covenant connection. References to the theme here are from Luke 22:14-27 and John 6:53-63.

When He told His disciples that this is "my body given to you" Jesus had something more "world changing" in His mind. They would literally turn the world upside down. It is a proclamation relevant for us today.The synagogue needed 10 men to function. But Jesus said that that there can be just two or three. Again the issue is the unity of the believers is what is most important versus the number.

The early Church had four main elements. Reading the Scriptures; expounding on the Scriptures; singing of hymns and Psalms; prayers and intercession. They had a mandate to celebrate the Lord's Supper. What was the significance of the Lord's Supper?

Paul in the Corinthians letter was attempting to correct the loss of unity and oneness that belonged to the Body of Christ. One of the differences was how they celebrated the Lord's Supper. This sharing had to do with the Covenant Connection they shared.

Covenant is a powerful word. A covenant is the binding of two parties.
The Bible has many covenants it refers to... covenant of circumcision, covenant of promise, everlasting covenant, first covenant, old covenant, covenant of blood. The covenant of blood suggests the binding relationship of the Body of Believers in the Body of Christ.... Christ's New Body now representing Him on earth.

David and Jonathan had a covenant relationship
. Jonathan gave up his robe and sword giving up his rights. This is a love covenant and prime example of how the Body of Christ is to be. They would cut their wrists and rub their wounds together to form a blood covenant or bond between them. They were known to squeeze their blood into glass of wine and drink it jointly. Today we may use a written contract, but then these actions became binding covenants between them.... to the point of being willing to give their life for each other.

Many times the Blood Covenant was accompanied by a meal to celebrate the binding agreement. So the Passover meal that Jesus asked to be prepared as His final statement of his relationship to them would continue in Spirit. It is the relationship we are to continue with each other on earth. This is referred to as the New Covenant in the Bible.... the true meaning of the Communion service... a reminder of our binding in Spirit to Christ and our binding in relationship to each other.

When Jesus talked about eating His flesh could very well be His reference to the truth of His miraculous birth, sinless life, teaching and message, and the Power of His redemptive and healing ministry. The drinking of His blood appears to be about His death. We participate in Christ to bring His vicarious blessings to us. Intercessory prayer is a place of where we sweat drops of blood in our spirit for others. We shed our blood when we serve at the expense of self. We don't bless until we bleed. This is drinking His blood.

He washed the disciple's feet to demonstrate His humility in service.
We should demonstrate the same humility in how we serve each other. Jesus said to serve one another. This is His love in action. His act is an act of service in the time of need. As we take the role of a servant and serve each other we practice the spirit of foot washing Jesus illustrated. We should practice acts of serving members of the New Body of Christ and others when they are in need. If we do not have a serving attitude toward those in need, we suffer the loss of the manifestation of His Presence. Only as we share with others do we have Part with Him.

In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul points out the infections coming into their times of communion. He said when they came together, they came together not for the better, there were divisions. It was not for the Lord's supper but to eat and feast. He told them they were to tarry one for another and minister to each other. Instead they lost value of their covenant connection and need for unity. Satan's goal is to divide. The Holy Spirit can't work when there is not unity.

When there is absolute unity, the windows of Heaven open for us and all of God's blessings fall on us. That's why Jesus pronounced heavy judgment on those who cause divisions.
When people do that, they kill the Spirit and it doesn't manifest in the group. So we can't overemphasize the significance and value of the unity among the Believers.

We could say there is malpractice in communion when there are divisions,
intoxication in other things than Spirit. When the lesser fortunate are not taken care of, and there is a glutton spirit among the ones there who indulge in overeating, then the sense of koinonia is lost.

Communion is an incarnation. It is when the Body of Believers are in Spiritual relationship to one another and in Christ. The relationship of believers is the residency for the presence of Christ. It is the Spirit affinity of the believers that Christ wishes to be present. To eat His flesh is the when we are feeding on His Spirit. We eat off of each other's personality. In that we are becoming like those with whom we associate. When we are asked to examine ourselves, we are asked to examine our relationship with each other. We are to correct wrong attitudes and adjust our attitudes to be loving and tolerant, understanding and accepting to each other.

Love heals.
Love heals the loneliness away, it heals the negative emotions away, it heals blood pressure, ulcers, it heals all there is that surrounds us and in us both emotionally and physically. Our covenant connection between believers provides a way for healing love that heals the sick.

The covenant connection also brings to our attention our relationship with other believers. What comes into play are our relationships of servanthood. Are we willing to serve our associates, our fellow believers, even our enemies? When we unite, it connects us to heaven. Believer plus Believer equals unity with the Father. The Power of the Spirit is again present when we do this.

As Jesus said in John 13, a New Commandment I give to you. As I have loved you, you love each other. This is a lofty goal that is out of possibility of man. But not with God. Through God all things are possible. God knows our limitations and He has provided the Holy Spirit as One who we can make this possible. With men many things are impossible; with God All Things are Possible.

(Scripture references are
Luke 22:14-27 and John 6:53-63, 1 Corinthians 11.)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Body of Christ ... In Intercession (6)

summarized by Dale Shumaker

In The Body of Christ, Dr. J. Robert Ashcroft discusses the church in intercession in chapter 6. Historically, Spiritual movements have been more powerful with loose organization and strong commitment to each other... those centered around gathering daily in a routine environment. The main activity was prayer. Those proactive in prayer, when meeting continually, would find a mission begin to surface from their praying. God then equipped them with power as their cohesiveness grew. The more they met, the more they were led to creative solutions to problems they faced, saturated with the Power of the Holy Spirit creating a miraculous path.

The main references for this chapter are from the Scriptures in Acts 3 and 4. It would be beneficial to read these chapters first or after you read this summary.

By going away, Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to come and be in our meetings where prayer and the center of attention is Jesus-based issues. In John 16, Jesus promised that when the Holy Spirit is at work in and among us.
The Holy Spirit will convict the world, guide us, show us things to come, glorify Jesus, and take what Jesus knows and tells us. Jesus among us secures the Power of His Spirit at work through us and God's Spirit making Himself known to the world... in tangible ways.

In Acts 3 it says Peter went up at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour or middle of the afternoon. Prayer is the priority of all believers and
even after great events like Pentecost, the Disciples always went back to prayer. Prayer is the priority of the believers all the time. Prayer includes all kinds of personalities with all kinds of customs. Tolerance was the rule of the day, most did not have a clear understanding of why each other did things a certain way. Love abounded and was the number one rule of the day.

When we pray, we can relate and find cohesiveness among many. When love and prayer are at the forefront,
we accept each other and don't spend time talking about our different views on things. Prayer will foster unity in a group faster than anything else, as our focus is on God and not us. As we humble ourselves before God and others, the Power of the Spirit manifests in power to the level we will humble ourselves before God and to men.

Sin and unbelief blind us. They deaden our sensitivities
. Our desires maybe misdirected for the wrong things. With Jesus Christ, as our mediator, we put our sins on the altar of God, forgiven, and our faith rises in belief because we depend on God's power and not ours. Prayer then becomes very powerful.

In agreement (centered around Jesus) being in harmony with each other, the Power of the Holy Spirit thrives under these conditions

In Matthew 18:19, the significance of In My Name stands out... "Where two or three are gathered In My Name there I am."

What is the significance of using His Name?

First, we are in harmony with the instructions of Jesus. There is perfect unity between Jesus and the Father. All the authority of God is transferred to the Son of God, Jesus. What importance did Jesus place in using His Name? There is reverence in the Name of God.
Blessings and cures were attached to the Name of God. Not using the name of God in vain is a commandment. Jesus started His prayer with "hallowed be thy Name." We are standing on Holy Ground when addressing God, with the authority of Jesus with us.

In His Name, is saying we respect the agenda of Jesus and are praying in light of His Will. Jesus said what we ask according to His will, we can be confident He will answer us.
Jesus did what He did in the authority of the God. God, the All Powerful Creator, responds to the requests of Jesus. We now share in Jesus' authority. What a powerful thought. When we walk as Jesus directs us to walk, and fulfill the Father in Heaven's will as Jesus did, we can expect miraculous results along the way.

Jesus said He would do nothing outside what the Father told Him to do. Jesus was so tuned into His Father's will that what He did was identical to the Father.
Here's another outstanding revelation.... What we see in Jesus is God!

Jesus now commissions His disciples to do the same.

So in using the name of Jesus is using His authority, we now have in God as He had with God. Using His name demands we be in Christ as He is in us and in the same way the Father was in Him and He was in the Father.
God is trinity. Trinity is Relationship. This reveals to us the value of relationship and effectiveness of relationship. That's why Jesus emphasized..."that they may be one, even as we are one." (John 17:22)

This is a very high calling
. Anything less than this is religion without power, form without substance. The power they had did not come from themselves or what they had. Their lives were totally on the side of the Spirit... not material goods. When Spirit guides us we stretch out our hands to the needy, we share our bread in fellowship. Spirit turns loose the material. His blessing multiplies the bread.

All we need is the Spirit to move us, and we will experience His promise that if we agree together as touching anything that we shall ask, it shall be done.

The Spirit is manifested into the temporal, creating the tangible. This is in contrast to those who try through the material world to accomplish Spiritual ends.
Our lesson from Jesus is that we should never attempt anything in our natural selves, but always begin with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit then creates the material, changes the emotions, mends broken hearts.

We see the Church as it formed, that is the Body of Christ which emerged after Pentecost, does the same things as Jesus. Corporately, we are the same as Jesus, so unity as One is essential to see the release and manifestations of Power Jesus demonstrated on earth.
His plan is to do it now through a Body of Believers... versus just one person. So we all need the interconnections and relationships.

The place for prayer is not geographic. It is wherever God's people assemble together
. But, it is always where believers (two or three or more) are gathered together in the Name of Jesus.

The Prayer of Intercession begins in God.
It is not in us to shape prayer. It begins in God and is God. Its focus is on what He wills and what He plans to do. The action of the enemy is not against men, but against the plans of God. We rely on God's power for continued power, miracles and victory.

We know God is available, when we are in one accord
, one mind and in the Spirit of God. The results...the place is shaken when people intercede and everyone gets excited about what is happening. They were filled with the Holy Spirit. One filling is not enough. They went back to prayer for a continuous flow of Spirit in Power in their lives. Jesus, when going to the mountain to pray, was transfigured anew by God. We can have this too.

They spoke the Word of God with boldness
, a result of their times in prayer and through the inner presence and power of the Holy Spirit. As they shared bread and fellowship, there was no difficulty in having success when God is working in the hearts of people. Sharing all things in common, this loving fellowship and communion with each other ripped open the gates of Heaven for all the Mighty and Power of God to be seen at work all around them.
Spirit manifested in everything, in every way.

(Scripture references are Acts 3 and 4, and John 17:22, 23.)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Body of Christ ... The Practical (5)

summarized by Dale Shumaker

In The Practical (chapter 5), The Body of Christ by Dr. J. Robert Ashcroft, he says that everyone hungers for reality. We must go beyond theory. The program for practical ministry in the Scriptures is expressed in Acts 2:41-47. When Jesus' disciples gathered, they were centered in the Scriptures. They continued steadfastly. It means they devoted themselves to the study of God's Word.

We are to be doers of the Word, James 2:22 , and not just hearers. To accomplish this daily devotion is necessary. A personal discipline is required with specific times set aside just for this... every day. A personal Bible reflection time done daily is just as important as group discussions of the Scriptures. Their goal was to learn and obey the Scriptures. Deuteronomy 6 says we were to do this all day long, and then all would be well with you.

The early church learned the apostles doctrine through kerygma.. the proclamation of Jesus. We learn it, become the Word and the proclamation is natural when it's naturally part of us.

Deuteronomy 6:7-9. Instruction is vitally important to make the Scriptures a walking, living, breathing part of us. "Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." It is vital to be a powerful proclaiming group. We proclaim it to each other and all we come in contact with.

Staying continually in God's word and God's presence yields great power. It transforms our minds to be Minds of Christ. The apostles spent 10 days in prayer. Peter gave a 3-minute sermon and 3000 people were converted that day. In the modern day we may give a 3-minute prayer, have ten days of preaching and not have one convert. We may very well be doing things backwards. Prayer must precede and exceed our proclamation times.

Then in addition to being centered in God's Word, they continued in fellowship. Their fellowship was immersed in the power of Spirit. It was an unconditional sharing, sacrificial love. They were gathered together in His Name. Jesus promised when we do that, He will be among us, in person, right there with us. It made koinonia possible... the intimate sharing of fellowship.

People were more important than property or policies. Needs were common. Communion is more than a ceremony to acknowledge Jesus as part of our lives. The sharing of bread with those who are in need is the spirit of communion. The bread the world wants, is hungry for, is both physical and spiritual. When it was necessary to meet the needs of others they sold their possessions. It's not as important to know how they met needs but that they did it. Their willingness to do it is what stands out. Such willingness proved the unselfishness of those members of the Body of Christ.

The role of Koinonia is found in Ephesians 4:2,3 and 1 Cor 1:9,10. "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful. I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought." (NLT)

Some think just having a place to meet fosters koinonia. The assembly is just ecclesia. The Church centers around koinonia... a close knit sharing of all things in common, and looking out for the well being of everyone there. It's not a legislated thing. But it comes from Spirit in and among each other as expressed in Love they have for each other. They are gathered together in His Name.

It is important again to remind us that unity is what is important; not the specific number.

In Acts, there were a number of homes mentioned where they met. The home was their central meeting place. They met together in the Word and in the Name of Jesus. He was there. They were internally and externally blessed. They faithfully went from house to house, breaking bread, and eating with gladness and with singleness of heart. It is most dramatic to see the sacrificial love they had.

Paul found such sharing in as well with the Macedonian Christians. They were people persecuted and disenfranchised. With no source of income, they had to find ways to feed themselves. In the midst of this abject poverty they were willing to share with other saints. When they needed to, they would liquidate a portion or all of their assets for the benefit of the dependent members of the fellowship. They did not consider what they had as too valuable to sacrifice for those in need. The real truth that should shine through all this is the spirit of sacrificial sharing, the willingness to give up our self-interests was the top priority.

"If anyone should come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow me." (Luke 9:23)

An expression in the early days of the Pentecostal movement was "being sold out." Being sold out was that you held nothing back. To hold something back illustrated our selfish priority. It meant physical death to Ananias. It means Spiritual death to us. These people recognizing their desperate need, sold their possessions as they saw the desperate need of the community to know Christ in a living, vital relationship. Is it any wonder they had such a response from the people?

In the midst of sharing they were praising God and enjoying their food with gladness.
This puts into perspective the unity of the mind of each and all. They were not split between the sacred and secular. The supernatural result of people who are sold out, committing all that they are to Him, is that many come into the Kingdom of God. This is the supernatural result of koinonia. Such love was a magnet that drew people to Christ. Power exuded all around them. With great power they gave witness of the resurrection.

The unity of the believers in koinonia caused the presence of the Lord to draw near. As they acted in unity, they became the manifestation of the presence of the Lord. The early life of Jesus was the bodily form of God on earth.The unity of the believers becomes a new body of flesh where God manifests himself in the world, now in the place of the physical presence of Jesus. We, as a unit, now walk the earth as the physical presence of Jesus. That's why unity is essential to see the power of Jesus, when on earth, to be manifested now.

"The works that I do, you will do even greater works than these."

This new man of Jesus, the believers unified in the Body of Christ, will do the works even greater than Jesus
when He was on earth.

(Scripture references are Acts 2:41-47, James 2:22, Ephesians 4:2, 3 and 1 Cor. 1:9,10, Acts 4: 31-33, John 14:12.)

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Body of Christ ... In Baptism (4)

summarized by Dale Shumaker

The banning together of Believers after the Acts explosion (Acts 2:1-4), brings us into a new understanding of this dynamic element which now exists called the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. Dr. J. Robert Ashcroft elaborates on what this all means in his chapter, In Baptism, The Body of Christ, chapter 4.

If anything is to be accomplished for God's Glory and the overall well being of mankind, it must be done through the direction and orchestration provided by the Holy Spirit. It will require the collaborate cooperation of the Believers called the Body of Christ... where Christ's Spirit now exists on earth through man. This union when unified, is so powerful and magnificent, that this is truly another incarnation of God manifesting himself through men and women.

Exploding into civilization, coming and never leaving, the Body of Christ (Believers as one group) is now referred to as The Church. It's all who believe in Jesus as their Lord and ban as one with each other.

God's presence then moves within us rather than something on the outside like ceremonies, temples, altars. We, now as connected Believers are the new Temple where God exists in all the Power just as Jesus had when on the earth. That's why being in unity in heart and Spirit is absolutely necessary. This is where all power is now.

The Scriptures say we are built together as the place of habitation of God's Spirit. (Ephesians 2:21-22)

So the believers in unity is the power and significance for seeing the manifest presence of Jesus in our lives today. In the Bible the word manifest means to open to sight. The Holy Spirit has people through whom He can show himself. When the Body of Christ is in proper relationship to God and to one another, The Holy Spirit works through it.

This is no secret of what happened. God forecast it through all His prophets in the Old Testament. Jesus is not a stand alone person. We as a unit, united, cooperating, loving each other as One, are Now Jesus. Jesus went from one person to now a Corporate Unit of many who believe in Him connected by God's Very Own Spirit. God's plan could not be aborted by anyone. His people were ready to receive His plan.

They met in one room and waited for this baptism or explosion of Spirit to deluge over them
. Those in this room were different nationalities, sexes, religious backgrounds. Yet they came together and waited as One. They were in one accord, in harmony, one mind. The reason it took ten days for all this to happen was maybe it took that long for them to work out the differences, put them aside, and become one. They probably spent much time in self examination.

The power became internal, but manifested itself externally. The word incarnation is an appropriate word here. Its meaning is to embody in Spirit as an earthly form. It is God, Himself, now dwelling in those who received the Holy Spirit.

Then the explosion of the Holy Spirit came.
1. There was sound. It came as a strong wind going through the place.
2. There was something to see. It looked like fire on top of their heads.
3. There was compound reaction: They spoke in languages unknown, but each person hearing His own language. This noise went abroad. Everyone was amazed and marveled at what was happening. All the17 dialects represented heard people praising God in their own language.That very day 3000 more people became Believers and were added to the Body of Christ.

Koinonia emerged.
They were no longer just a group meeting together, but an intimacy among them became obviously apparent. It was an intimate sharing fellowship as all things were considered to be in common and shared by all. This was done to such an extent, no one person in the group was without. All needs were met. Individuals seemed to lose individual identities in the group. There was a vicarious unselfishness to share all blessings with each other.

Unity in all things was the word of the day.

1. They were in unity as One with God.
2. They were one in themselves, one with the Holy Spirit now working vigorously through them. They turned over selfish ambitions for God's directives speaking unceasingly through them.
3. They were one with each other. As Peter spoke to the crowd afterward... He was speaking as the whole group of 11 disciples. A unique occurrence.
4. They were in unity with all Believers. Togetherness was the characteristic of the group, as well as the condition behind why they all had so much power now.
5. They were in communication. The Spirit was communicating through them from the Spirit within them. They had God's voice in them speaking to them.
6. They were in unity in material things. They shared things of value with each other... food, clothing, shelter, houses, transportation. Even though most were in poverty, in their sharing they all become a group without any lack among them. Prosperity seems to promote individualism... individualism weakens Spiritual power. Their power came from their sharing... a new concept of power's origins.
7. They were in unity in witnessing. They had favor with all people and people listened to them. They were amazed that they seemed to know so much, and were bold as an authority in their field even though not educated. The warmth and love they had among each other, attracted many to them.

All this centered around the unity of Spirit as One Group they had. When there is disunity, the power is zapped. We should avoid disunity at all costs. Satan's premiere tool to make the Church powerless is to create disunity. When that happens, Power is diluted, exponentially, from the group. To the same degree, when their is unity, power is added exponentially to the group.

The Unity of Believers Brought the manifestation of God's Presence
. A common ministry emerges when we are in unity in any group. As one in Spirit, the specific directives of Spirit become apparent for that particular group. Again, that's why Satan attacks to create disunity. Then power wanes.

From this outpouring of Spirit, all forms of power ministry became evident.
The Word of God was preached. The prophetic words of God were expressed through common men. As a group they guarded doctrine so it was stable, and there was fellowship.They ate together and shared together.

Believers were without livelihood due to persecution and ostracism. Those were times of deprivation of family and food. They shared the basics of life with each other.

During all this, they were in constant prayer and worship
. As one in worship the powers of the Supernatural presence of God created all forms of Supernatural gifts, healings and miracles of immediate manifestations.

The Very World-Creating Spirit of God was at work... regularly. This is our challenge today.To find ourselves completely lost in our Lord Jesus Christ so that we lose sight of all that brings individualism, division, unfeeling relationships within the fellowship. With the Baptism of Spirit in our whole group, many will come running to us.

(Scripture reference is Acts 2.)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Body of Christ ... In Revelation (3)

summarized by Dale Shumaker

In chapter three, In Revelation, The Body of Christ by Dr. J. Robert Ashcroft, he leads us to the realization that as a body we are Christ, the same as Christ with all of Jesus' power on earth plus more. John the Baptist said this of Jesus, "He speaks God's words, for God gives him the Spirit without limit."( John 3:34, NLT)

So we have, as a Body, One, united, sharing in the Same Spirit, we have all of Spirit that was freely Given to Jesus on earth. We, still on earth, have all of this too... as a Body. Separated from each other we are powerless.

What is so astounding is that Jesus comes to us, even when we lock Him out. The doors where shut and Jesus was locked out. "That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them!" (note John 20:19-23)

In the middle of our turmoil, disheartening experiences, grief, Jesus is there. He comes through all the things that may block Him. He loves us so much, He comes even when we are blocking Him out. They had closed the doors for fear. Their leader was assassinated. Because of their association to him, they may be in jeopardy. Their fear could very likely be, "Am I next?" They just witnessed one of the most horrible deaths, or executions, one could go through. Fear overwhelmed them.

Fear always closes the doors. Fear kept them from seeing the resurrection. Our negative emotions trips our minds up. We need to be aware of what strong negative emotions can do to us. Jesus healed the blind more than likely to heal us out of our own blindness, both physical and spiritual. We can easily be led astray by depending on our limited resources when making decisions. When we lean on our own "flesh," the makeup of our mind and emotions, we limit the very power of God that wants to work in our lives then.

The principle to see is that Jesus came to them when they were gathered together. The secret to Spiritual Power is here: get with other believers when things get really bad, in every crisis and disturbing situation. It is the sure way to take advantage of the law of manifestation... He Will Be There.

When things get bad, we go back to what we have been doing before... Peter went fishing. Being fearful, the thoughts of God had gone out of their mind.They could not sense His Presence. Nothing could stop His coming to them, even walls and locked doors. He breaks through our fears, our flimsy plans to protect us. He will break through our locked up emotions and give the peace of His Presence.

The Manifest Presence of Jesus the Christ with us has these components active and intertwined.
1. Two or more

2. Gathered together

3. In Jesus' Name

That includes the Spiritual interaction of loving each other as Jesus loved us, sharing with each other in thoughts and goods, and serving each other with the attitude of considering others more important than ourselves. When you have all these components in the mix, you can expect the manifest presence of the Lord, that's all the creative powers of God's Spirit at work. (note Matthew 18:18-20, Acts 1-4)

With this, Jesus personal presence is there. Jesus came to His disciples with door's locked and afraid. He addressed their fears first and said, "Peace to you." When clouds of grief surround us we close our eyes to the reality of His closeness. At the Mount of Transfiguration, a cloud kept Jesus' out of sight. Clouds often obscure our vision, although, God is in the clouds. God was in the cloud at the Tabernacle in the wilderness. When clouds of grief or fear surround us, we can know God is in this phenomenon.

In this Manifest Presence we encourage one another and are in intimate fellowship with each other. We, from our hearts, easily enjoy the laws of His manifest presence. He is God and nothing is so comforting as His Presence. In our deepest of hearts, we just want to know He is there. Knowing this we are comforted, we have peace, and His Power comes over us.

The Manifest Presence provides peace. Jesus rebuked the winds when He was in the boat with His disciples and a storm raged around them. He simply said, "Peace, be still." Jesus, now through the Holy Spirit in our lives, says this to the storm that ranges around us, just like when He was there in the same boat. He says to our hearts and emotions, "Peace be Still."

The Manifest Presence provides pleasure and a deep gladness. When the disciples saw the Lord they were elated, ecstatic, spiritually wrapped in intense pleasure. Nothing that man can do can hinder God's purposes from being fulfilled. Healing is ours, eternal life is ours.

The Manifest Presence provides purpose. It seems selfish to be so concerned about our own happiness when the world is in grave misery. God wants us to be glad for a purpose. He sends us to share in His Purposes.... to bring peace, joy, and power to all around us... to bring hope, life and a future to every one we come in contact with. What a tremendous purpose... to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to earth! To accomplish this, God used and uses ordinary people. It can be farmers, janitors, factory line workers, waiters, nurses, tax accountants, carpenters, mechanics, salespeople, a handyman, check out attendants, lawyers... all play a part in this purpose of being the Kingdom of God on earth. He has something special for all of us. When we think of what God sent Jesus to do, and its meaning and impartation to us, the magnitude of this assignment is staggering. As we follow in the life pattern of Jesus, we share in the great mission Jesus was on... to bring hope, salvation, love, power, and eternal wonder to mankind.

We have the assurance that as united believers we have His presence, and if we have His presence all things are, in a true reality, possible. God's callings are His enablements. He enables us to the assignments He gives us. We can expect supernatural signs to follow. As the Scriptures say, "These signs shall follow them who believe in Him." It's up to us.

We have a choice, to use His Presence or lose it for sake of inactivity in Him. If we think we can just take Him, to soak in His Presence in prayer and worship and not share, we fail in the task God has commanded each of us to perform. We are to share all the love, joy, power that is coming into our lives. Those who hoard the gifts God gives them will lose them. The faithful servants who invest His Gifts in others will have even more and those who don't use them will have them handed over to those using them.

Our lives are about finding needs and filling them. As we attempt Great things for God, He is there backing us up and filling us with His Power. We are being filled with a Divine supply. As we unite with another believer we see this being true. Then we become the manifestation of Jesus, as the Body of Christ.

The Manifest Presence provides power. We are not called to do the impossible, but to know that Jesus will provide the power to be and to do His will. Jesus breathed on them and said "Receive the Holy Spirit," which is Creative, Energizing, Exciting. This is the same Spirit responsible for the original creation of man that was breathed into us. We are to participate in redeeming action which takes personal sacrifice and transforms it with ability and power to share and serve our generation. His Spirit makes it all possible. His Spirit with us is His Presence with us. Thus we have the power to be and do. (Acts 1:8)

Hopefully, the awareness this brings is finding a newer and greater significance to our meeting together as believers. Greater awareness may result in our recognizing the presence of the Lord with us. The Body of Christ manifests in these times of fellowship. Whenever two or more believers meet in the name of Jesus in Prayer, the potential is immeasurable.

The importance that lies in how we relate to each other cannot be stressed enough. It must be a sacrificial love, a compassionate love. Love implies a giver and a receiver. The Body of Christ gathered together, one in Spirit, manifests the presence of the Lord. When His Presence manifests, the Body of Christ increases in love, power and size.

(Scripture reference is John 20.)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Body of Christ ... In Mystery (2)

summarized by Dale Shumaker

In Mystery, chapter two of the Body of Christ, Dr. J. Robert Ashcroft takes us down the road to Emmaus. It is a lonely road thinking the most important person in our lives is gone. As they communed together on this road these two followers of Jesus didn't even recognize it was Jesus with them. (Note Luke 24:13-18).

They were intense in their conversation. They were so intense that the one they loved appeared and they didn't even recognize Him. The point here is Jesus pays particular attention to believers in Harmony and meeting in His name. They were so in the natural, that the Supernatural was apparent but not obvious to them. We fail to identify the presence of Christ in our daily lives and activities. We have not suffered the cross, thus we are not able to fully appreciate the Spirit and identify it at work in our lives. So, the presence of the Lord escapes us as it normally would seem present.

What the cross means for us is death to the self-life.
As we are able to disconnect the sovereignty of self, we are able to enthrone the sovereignty of the Spirit. The New Testament and the Body of Christ helps us to become sensitive to the Holy Spirit.

On the road to Emmaus, the two were preoccupied with their thoughts... of the temporal, the natural, and were blinded to the presence of Jesus, the Spirit of God. In so many instances, the Lord is with us and we don't even know it.

Can anything separate us from the Lord? We are promised of His presence when two or more meet and Jesus is the center of our interests. We can be blinded by grief like these two and fail to see Jesus being with us in our human circumstances.

If Christ came to them in the midst of their doubt, he will come to us in our time of anxiety. As we understand the powers of Spiritual relationship among believers, our anxieties in the face of loss will be calmed.

Jesus after His death, resurrection and even appearance to the disciples stood on the shores and they again didn't recognize Him. (John 21:1)

This Spiritual blindness that afflicts us from time to time is caused by inattention, panic, grief, even ecstasy. It keeps us from seeing Jesus who is with us. We must allow Him to teach us to "see" Him in all the ways He may manifest himself to us. We can become so self-absorbed we are indeed blind to Him being beside us.

The point is that Jesus was with them. He has promised to be with those who meet in His Spirit and in His name. He keeps His promises even though we don't recognize it. When we don't recognize Him we become people of despair and a sad countenance. Like us, they were trying so hard to figure things out, in their own human thoughts, they totally missed Him.

We cannot see God when we limit seeing Him to our own intelligence. Our own intelligence, in absence of Spiritual intelligence, makes us sluggish, and dull-witted simpletons. God said His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8)

We have one solution: the Holy Spirit must totally over take our lives so we can be responsive to each occasion of His Presence with us. We must turn our eyes from the temporal, natural, and be fixed on the Heavenly, the Supernatural. "I will teach you all things," Jesus. (John 14:26)

Our part is to desire Him, seek Him diligently with all of our hearts. He has told us that in the day we seek him diligently with our hearts we will be found by Him. (Hebrews 11:6)

Once you have felt the presence of the Lord you hunger for more, continually. Once you have recognized Him you long for His communication. It is in the time of the evening shadows when we may feel that Jesus is not with us. We want His presence in the dark times of our lives... times of uncertainty...times of loneliness...times that are threatening.

His promise: "where two or three are gathered in My Name.... there I am." (Matthew 18:20) If we desire Him, He will not disappoint us. It is comforting to know that if we call on another believer friend, meet in Jesus' Name, the promise of the Holy Spirit, creative power of everything, is guaranteed.

When does He meet us? He meets us in the common activities of our lives. He is the center of our focus. He blesses our bread. It is in our sharing that He is revealed to us. When did they recognize Him... during the breaking and sharing of bread. When we are broken, and then share, His power erupts.

Additional emphasis should be placed on that it is in the sharing that He becomes known to us. We cannot keep Jesus to ourselves as our own little treasure. Jesus must be shared to be ours.

Just remember. Jesus' appearance may be a mystery. He appears in ways we least expect. He will come to us, but not as we may naturally think. He delights to surprise us, so be attentive to Him as He appears in surprising ways.

Live expectantly and Jesus will appear in the most unexpected ways...He truly delights to surprise you.

(Scripture reference is Luke 24.)

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

The Body of Christ ... The Power of Christ as a Body of Believers (1)

summarized by Dale Shumaker

(The Body of Christ was self-published in 1990 by Dr. J. Robert Ashcroft, a founder of Evangel University. After his first printing, Dr. Ashcroft died, and without it being with a publisher, the works have not been reprinted. Because of its timely value to our society today, this summary was made by one who spent a great amount of time with him during the last years of his life. When a person of importance, gives special time to a person not of great importance, that leaves an imprint burned into your heart forever.)

The Living Power of the Body of Christ (1)

The Body of Christ
by Dr. J. Robert Ashcroft was the life work of Dr. Ashcroft. He wanted the Church, the Body of Christ, the living organism of Jesus alive and well among us so we know what we really have. As an Inspired visionary, his hope was to help us all realize and live in the same power as recorded in the Acts Church of the New Testament.
Here's a beginning of a summary of the Body of Christ, a devotional study by Dr. Ashcroft... (introduction and chapter 1).

Jesus establishes a new body.

Dr. Ashcroft had a theme line which came out of the forward to his book. "How can we love God whom we have not seen if we do not love man who we do see." (1 John 4:20) "Inasmuch as you have done it to the least of these you have done it to me." (Matthew 24:40)

I recall the initial words in the beginning of what became a 7-year relationship... the last 7 years of his life. "The Power of the 21st Century Church will be in the home." At the time he didn't have the cultural research we have today. He was a man of Spirit and Spirit informed him that by 2000 with the Internet and new cultures emerging we long for connection and intimacy among each other. We connect in our homes via the Internet and smart phones keep us in touch in all places we go.

Dr. Ashcroft goes on to say in the forward, "It is my conviction that our churches will never enjoy the fuller measures of grace and gifts of the Spirit until there is Spiritual Affinity among the believers of our congregations." Today people prefer to relate in smaller environments like homes and offices. "Affinity" means to merge or progressively grow as one. "May they also be one as we are One."(John 17:21)

And Jesus said if we become One as He and our Father in Heaven are One, there will be greater things than ever in our lives. Jesus promised this. (John 14:12) This study is about the conditions we must meet to see this manifest presence of Jesus in the world around us, how we must prepare for this manifest presence. Our mandate is to seek out those who have strayed from the flock of Christ, and rekindle the fire that agreement sparks in our activities. "Where two agree as touching anything that they shall ask, we are guaranteed it will be done." (Matthew 18:18) The key word is what "agree" is. Ashcroft takes great care to define that.

Where does the Body of Christ begin? It begins with a child. "Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?" The child. (Matthew 18:1) Jesus saw the individual. He was aware of crowds, but it was the individual that was important to Him. We must see individuals, persons, not just audiences. Why a child? A child is most teachable. A person's best time for learning is as a child, in both speed and quality. A child is the Biblical quality of meekness. To be meek is to put oneself at the disposal of the Lord. It is this character that marks the leader that is put in charge. The seat of authority, the transfer of power is to the meek and teachable as a child; to those who receive these little ones in the Name of Jesus.

This means that a person must have an appropriate attitude about oneself, that is humble and teachable. And one must have an attitude of concern and acceptance toward others, especially the little ones. To offend a little one, the least of these, is a serious matter in the Kingdom of God. So the power to fulfill the ministry of the Kingdom of God is in the Relationship between the disciples in this way. The attitude is to be servant of all. "You cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven unless you become like (the meekness of) a little child." (Matthew 18:3)

What should be noted is the significance of receiving a little child. If we receive a little child in His name, it is as though we are receiving Jesus.
How we act and receive the humblest person or the most unlovable in the body of Christ may determine how we are able to "receive" Christ Himself. It goes back to our relationship, and including even the least of those around us. Each person is important to Jesus. Too often the abjectly poor, the unschooled, different classes and races are ignored. Those who ignore these, the least, may not be in the Body of Christ. So this first part is foundationally critical to establish as a base....the importance of the individual, relating to individuals in the Name of Jesus, what Jesus stands for.

Everything depends upon our relationship to each other. Where harmony prevails we know that God commands a blessing. "Where brothers dwell in unity, the Lord commanded the blessing..." (Psalm 133:1,3) We should be careful not to offend anyone, even the least or the most insignificant, and in the smallest matters. So we do not allow the smallest of offense to hinder the harmony we should hold up to maintain. All matters that create disharmony should be resolved quickly. When disharmony prevails, it prevents the power of Spirit to function fluidly. Condemnation is not a prerequisite of an individual. Every effort at reconciliation is to be made by the individual.

Too often we focus on the numbers (two or three) as the reason for the manifest presence of Christ. The critical issue is not the number, but the relationship between the two or three. It is easier to get harmony, too, between two or three than a mass of people. The real issue is: are we relating to each other? If not, the number means nothing. Most groups are really crowds. Most are there for individual interests. These groups are ineffective when relationship qualities are weak or don't exist. Spirit is neutralized and we do not see the benefits realized.

Note that action on earth is validated by action in heaven. This is the germ of truth for this principle. The key phrase to remember is when two or three are gathered together in my name. We involve heaven when we meet in His Name. (Matthew 18:20)

This truth is supported then by the promise in Matthew 18:20. This brings us to the universal principle in Spirit which opens the door for its Supernatural power. Our relationship to others On Earth Releases God's power in Heaven.

Why? Jesus also promises to be in our midst, In Spirit in our presence, when two or three agree. With Jesus right here with us, all the creative, healing, relational powers of God are in full operation, at work with and around us. This is A Super WOW, when we take a minute to contemplate the implications of this.

We can be sure when Jesus is in our midst, present with us, all of His wisdom for guidance is with us, loving forgiveness prevails, revelation is present, knowledge beyond our understanding comes to mind, and everything about God's literal creative powers is manifested. When Jesus, the Christ, is the center of our lives and in our efforts, we have all the potential of His manifested presence.

What builds relationships more than anything else... Forgiveness.
We are to forgive without limits (Matthew 18:21, 22) This is to be a permanent attitude. When in doubt ask for forgiveness. It takes a humble person to ask for forgiveness. It takes a person confident in the resilient power of the Spirit to seek forgiveness... even when it may be someone else's fault. We ask forgiveness, and relationships built around this one principle will then manifest
Spiritual Power.

The spirit of forgiveness is permanent. No individual condemnation. No grudges. No personal recrimination. This spirit of forgiveness is of staggering magnitude for creating great and invincible strength in the Body of Christ.
The foundation for power then is ...
do the Father's will,
love vicariously and sacrificially,
and be humble and forgiving.

When we are attentive to the Name of the Lord and are honest in our good attitude toward and sharing with one another, we can expect God to be joined with us in our purposes. Private or selfish interest cannot play a part in our enjoying the privilege of being a part of the Body of Christ. The private interests of any one must be sacrificed to the community. We need each other.

The word "agree" originates from the word symphony. The word "symphony" implies a harmony being heard as in a great symphonic orchestra where every instrument is in perfect harmony. They are under the synchronized directions of the conductor, being subject to the refined signs of the conductor. The conductor keeps everyone in tune, at the right volume, and with the right emotional quality to get the message across.

This is what agreement is about. A depth of spiritual agreement is much like an orchestra. When meeting in His name and this level of spiritual affinity exists, we create the power of harmony where we then see the manifest presence of Jesus among us. This takes humility and forgiveness. Thus forgiveness is the essential component of harmony among believers.

To summarize chapter one of the Body of Christ, the fundamental Spirit that guides us manifests itself in the humility of a child, a willingness to learn, and forgiveness of Jesus Spirit that is at work in us.

(Scripture reference for review, Matthew 18.)