Today’s selected reading is found in the second New Testament epistle written by the hand of the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Corinth. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the first four chapters of this New Testament book. “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation. For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: but we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that He will yet deliver us; ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the mans of many persons thanks may be given by many on our behalf” (2 Corinthians 1:3-11).
”But I determined this with myself, that I would not come again to you in heaviness. For if I make you sorry, who is he that then maketh me glad, but the same which is made sorry by me? And I wrote this same unto you, lest, when I came, I should have sorrow from them of whom I ought to rejoice; having confidence in you all, that my joy is the joy of you all. For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you” (2 Corinthians 2:1-4).
“But if any have caused grief, he hath not grieve me, but in part: that I may not overcharge you all. Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many. So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him. For to this end also did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether ye b eobedient in all things. To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ; lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Corinthians 2:5-11).
“Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of His knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: to the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things? For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:14-17).
“Do we begin again to commend ourselves? Or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you? Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: forasmuch as ye are manifestly declare to be the epistle of Christ ministed by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart. And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life” (2 Corinthians 3:1-6).
”…Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: and not as Moses, which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished: but their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away. Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:12-18).
“Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; but have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but my manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:1-6).
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be mande manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you. We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak; knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thranksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. For which cause we faint not; but though out outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:7-18).
[“For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised. Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; and labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day” 1 Corinthians 4:9-13)
When you come to this particular passage of Scripture you will find the second of two epistles written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints. Perhaps one of the most astounding and remarkable concepts surrounding the Corinthian congregation is that they were one of only two churches who received two letters from the apostle Paul. The church which was in Thessalonica would also be a church that would receive two letters, and would actually be the recipients of the first epistles written by the hand of the apostle Paul. With that being said, it’s worth noting that when you examine the epistles which were written by the apostle Paul—there were only two churches which received more than one letter sent unto them, which were the churches in Corinth and Thessalonica. Additionally, there was only one individual whom the apostle Paul would write two letters unto, which would be Timothy his spiritual son in the faith whom he would meet when coming unto Lystra and Derbe. In fact, it’s also worth noting that when you read the second epistle sent unto the Corinthian saints Timothy would in fact be with the apostle Paul. This second epistle would indeed be written by the apostle Paul from his own hand with Timothy included in the greeting—a reality which is intriguing considering the first epistle written unto this congregation reads: “The first epistle to the Corinthians was written from Philippi by Stephanas, and Fortunatus, and Achaicus and Timotheus.” When you come to the second epistle which was written unto the Corinthians you will find the apostle Paul including Timothy in the greeting, which is actually something that is quite remarkable when you consider the fact that Paul would invite Timothy with him on his missionary journeys, and Timothy would be with Paul in Thessalonica, as well as Berea, and even in Corinth. We must needs recognize and understand this, for Timothy would witness and experience first hand the tremendous opposition, the tremendous affliction, and the tremendous persecution the apostle Paul would face and experience for the sake of the gospel. Perhaps one of the most interesting truths regarding Timothy is that he would be a disciple whom the apostle Paul would encounter in Lystra and Derbe, and he would be a disciple whom the apostle Paul would bring with him, however, I would dare say that his discipleship there in Lystra and Derbe was perhaps unlike anything he would experience with the apostle Paul.
THE TRANSFORMATION OF COMFORTABLE DISCIPLESHIP TO CONFRONTATIONAL DISCIPLESHIP! THE TRANSFORMATION FROM CONVENIENT DISCIPLESHIP TO COSTLY DISCIPLESHIP! One of the most profound truths surrounding the narrative of Timothy is when you think about and consider the fact that he was undoubtedly a disciple located in Lystra and Derbe, and undoubtedly had a godly and Christian heritage, and was indeed well spoken of by the brethren, however, I would dare say that the discipleship he would experience prior to the apostle Paul’s arrival in Lystra and Derbe would be completely and entirely different from the discipleship he would experience after beginning to travel and journey with the apostle Paul. There is not a doubt in my mind that although Timothy was indeed a disciple whom the apostle Paul would see a great deal of potential in he would be a disciple who was perhaps used to following the Lord Jesus Christ without and apart from opposition, without and apart from persecution, and without and apart from affliction. I can’t help but look at the narrative of Timothy and how it wasn’t until the apostle Paul entered into the picture and entered into his life when his discipleship would take on a whole different level and meaning. What’s more, is that I can’t help but think about the fact that there are those among us whose lives—even their lives in Christ—are perhaps comfortable, convenient and easy until that one person enters into their life and seems to introduce an entirely different realm of discipleship. I firmly believe that although Timothy was indeed a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ his discipleship was one that was absent any type of suffering, any type of affliction, and any type of opposition and persecution. What makes the narrative of the life of Timothy so absolutely astonishing is when you think about the fact that although he might very well have been a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ his discipleship might very well have been one that was absent any type of affliction and any type of opposition, and it wouldn’t be until the apostle Paul entered into his life and took him away from Lystra and Derbe that he would begin to experience a different level and realm of discipleship. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the sixteenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts, as well as the seventeenth and eighteenth chapters of the same book:
“Then came he to Derbe and Lystra: and, behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus, the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek: which was well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium. Him would Paul have to go forth with him; and took and circumcised him because of the Jews which were in those quarters: for they knew all that his father was a Greek. And as they went through the cities, they delivered them the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem. And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily” (Acts 16:1-5).
“And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers, and brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city, and teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans. And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them. And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely: who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks” (Acts 16:19-24).
“Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came the Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews: and Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the Scriptures, opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ. And some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude and of the chief women not a few. But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also; whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus. And they troubled the people and the rulers of the city, when they heard these things. And when they had taken security of Jason, and of the other, they let them go” (Acts 17:1-9).
“And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who comint thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few. But when the Jews of Thessalonica had knowledge that the word of God was preached of Paul at Berea, they came thither also, and stirred up the people. And then immediately the brethren sent away Paul to go as it were to the sea: but Silas and Timotheus abode there still. And they that conducted Paul brought him unto Athens: and received a commandment unto Silas and Timotheus for to come to him with all speed, they departed” (Acts 17:10-15).
”After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth; and found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome) and came unto them. And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them,a nd wrought: for by their occupation there were tentmakers. And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks. And when Silas and Timotheus were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ. And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles. And he departed thence, and entered into a certain man’s house, named Justus, one that worshipped God, whose house joined hard to the synagogue. And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized. Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and holy not thy peace: for I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: For I have much people in this city. And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them” (Acts 18:1-11).
PHILLIPI! THESSALONICA! BEREA! CORINTH! It’s absolutely necessary that we pay close attention to these words, for the narrative that is found surrounding Timothy which began in the sixteenth chapter takes on an entirely different level and realm once the apostle Paul entered into the picture. Scripture is entirely and altogether clear that Timothy was indeed a disciple, and that he was well spoken of by the brethren, and yet I firmly believe that it was when the apostle Paul entered into the life of Timothy that his discipleship would take on an entirely different level and arena. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this tremendous and powerful reality, for I believe that Timothy’s discipleship would remain in a certain level and certain place until the apostle Paul entered into the picture. It would be once the apostle Paul entered into the picture that his discipleship would take on an entirely different level. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of the words which are found in these passages of Scripture, for in the sixteenth chapter we find Timothy being a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ who was well spoken of by the brethren. Even though Timothy was indeed a disciple who was well spoken of by the brethren I am convinced that there was something that was absolutely necessary within his life. It’s something truly worth noting and pointing out when considering the life of Timothy that he would be a disciple of the Lord Jesus the Christ who would perhaps lead a quiet and unassuming life within Lystra and Derbe, and it wouldn’t be until the apostle Paul would enter into the picture that essentially that quietness, that peace, that calm, and that comfort which he would experience would be entirely and altogether different. If you truly take the time to read the words which are found in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth chapters of the New Testament book of Acts you will get the sense that almost immediately after the apostle Paul would bring Timothy forth from that place he would be baptized into affliction, into opposition, into persecution and into suffering. Oh there is a part of me that couldn’t help but wonder if Timothy thought and believed one thing concerning discipleship and what Christianity would and should look like, and it wasn’t until the apostle Paul entered into the picture that he would experience an entirely different realm of Christianity and discipleship than he thought and even imagined.
We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of what is written and found within these passages, for I am absolutely and completely convinced that although Timothy was perhaps used to discipleship in one sense of the word and demonstration within one’s life—it would be the entrance of the apostle Paul into his life that would completely alter and transform his understanding and experience of discipleship. It is of great importance that we recognize and understand this, for I am absolutely and completely convinced that there are those among us within our churches who have been used to discipleship and following the Lord Jesus the Christ, and many are shocked when they find that walking with and following the Lord Jesus Christ may very well—and in many cases truly does even include suffering, opposition, affliction, persecution and the like. I can’t help but be absolutely astonished and amazed when I read the narrative of the apostle Paul and Timothy, for although Timothy would be a disciple of Jesus, there is not a doubt in my mind that his experience with discipleship would be one that would be vastly different from that of the apostle Paul. It would be almost immediately after setting forth with the apostle Paul that Timothy would begin to experience discipleship 2.0—essentially a discipleship that was not one of comfort and convenience, and one that was not of ease and calm, but one that was faced with opposition, affliction, trials, troubles, tribulation, suffering, and persecution. If you truly take the time to read and study the narrative of Timothy you will find and discover that it would be after he would begin walking and journeying with the apostle Paul that his discipleship would take on an entirely different level and meaning. Oh I can’t help but wonder what Timothy’s view of discipleship, and what Timothy’s view of walking with and following the Lord Jesus Christ was like prior to the apostle Paul coming unto Lystra and Derbe. It would be after the apostle Paul came unto Lystra and Derbe and would invite Timothy to walk with and journey with him that he would begin to see walking with and following the Lord Jesus Christ in an entirely different light. It would be after and upon walking with the apostle Paul—almost immediately—that Timothy would begin to experience discipleship in an entirely different and in an entirely different light.
While I do not believe for a single moment that Timothy’s discipleship prior to the entrance of the apostle Paul into his life was by any means shallow, I would dare say that there are countless men and women who might very well be disciples of the Lord Jesus the Christ, and their discipleship is one that is incredibly shallow. I am absolutely and completely convinced that there are men and women who are disciples of the Lord Jesus the Christ, and are as such because of the relative peace, rest, comfort, calm and convenience that is found within their lives. There are men and women who are walking with and following the Lord Jesus the Christ who have not and who do not have a true expression and understanding of discipleship—at least not the discipleship which He spoke of concerning denying oneself, taking up their cross and following Him. I firmly believe there are countless men and women among us in this generation and in many of our churches who cannot and will not be able to handle suffering, persecution, opposition and affliction within this nation when it does in fact arise among us. There is not a doubt in my mind that there are countless men and women whose discipleship with and before the Lord Jesus Christ is incredibly shallow and one that has absolutely no context or framework for suffering, affliction and opposition. I firmly believe that the “Christianity” which many men and women profess among us in this generation cannot and will not last, nor will it hold up in the coming days when true persecution rises up among us. Oh I feel strongly within my spirit that there is a tremendous and powerful call in the Spirit to make ready and prepare ourselves—not only physically, but also spiritually, emotionally and mentally for the days which are coming. I believe with all my heart that the Spirit of the Lord is instructing and inviting us to build up our physical strength, as well as build up our spiritual endurance for that which is about to come upon this nation—and not only the nation, but upon the whole world. I firmly believe and am convinced that there are countless men and women among us in this generation and in this nation who might attend church week in and week out, and yet their “Christianity” cannot and will not hold up when true affliction, when true opposition, and when true persecution and suffering rises up among us. Oh we must needs pay close and careful attention to this tremendous truth, for I believe with all my heart that there are countless men and women whose Christianity is completely and utterly shallow, and who would and could not know how to survive in the depths of true discipleship and walking with and following the Lord Jesus the Christ.
As I am writing these words I am firmly convinced that although Timothy was indeed a disciple of the Lord Jesus the Christ in the midst of Lystra and Derbe, his discipleship and experience as a follower of the Lord Jesus the Christ would be one that would largely be without any type of inconvenience, any type of discomfort, any type of trials, and type of troubles, any type of tribulation and the like. It would be when the apostle Paul would enter into his life that His Christianity and discipleship would take on an entirely new and different level, as he would almost immediately be baptized and immersed in suffering, in affliction, in persecution, in trial and trouble. What so amazes me about the narrative of Timothy is that his life is one that proves that even if his Christianity and discipleship would in fact be tested after journeying and walking with the apostle Paul, his faith would be strengthened, and His walk with the Lord Jesus the Christ would take on an entirely different level and meaning. If there is one thing I so absolutely love about the narrative of Timothy is that although he would almost immediately experience the manifestation of trial, troubles, and tribulation after journeying with the apostle Paul he would neither grow offended, nor would he turn back and walk no more with the apostle Paul. The very fact that we have two epistles which were written by the apostle Paul unto Timothy aptly and powerfully show and demonstrate that Timothy would not only learn to embrace trials, trouble, and tribulation, but they would also make him stronger in his walk with Christ and in his faith in the living God. We must needs recognize and pay close attention to this, for you cannot and will not understand how true and how solid one’s Christianity and discipleship truly is until it is baptized in trial, until it is baptized in trouble, and until it is baptized in tribulation. One of the most remarkable and astounding truths and realities we can and will experience in the coming days within this nation is just how deep and just how sure the discipleship of many men and women truly is. It would be the Lord Jesus the Christ who would emphatically declare and proclaim unto His disciples concerning the last days that many would indeed grow and become offended—and would become offended because their interpretation of Christianity would be one that was absent any type of suffering, any type of persecution, and any type of affliction.
YOU’LL EITHER BE OFFENDED, OR YOU’LL BE STRENGTHENED! I am sitting here tonight and I can’t help but believe within my spirit that in the coming days which are ahead of us that there are those who will be offended within their hearts and minds, and there will be those who will be strengthened. I continue to believe that two of the greatest needs that is found within the saints of God and disciples of the Lord Jesus the Christ is endurance and discernment. When speaking unto each of the seven churches there were two things Jesus spoke unto them and declared He would require of them—namely, to those who overcame, and those who had ears to hear and being able to hear what the Spirit was speaking unto the churches. We must not miss and lose sight of what is written and found within each of the letters which were written unto the churches of Asia, for I firmly believe with all my heart that there are men and women among us whose greatest needs are endurance, stamina and strength that they might be able to overcome, as well as discernment that they might hear what the Spirit is speaking unto the churches. There is not a doubt in my mind that one of the greatest needs for the church in the coming days is that of endurance—endurance in prayer, as well as endurance in persecution. I believe with all my heart that in the coming days we are going to see how true, how real, how deep and how secure the Christianity among us within our churches truly is. There are those who have grown offended when the church buildings shut down, and when men and women could no longer meet in the church buildings, and when church had to be done within the homes. Perhaps one of the greatest truths I feel so incredibly strongly within my heart and spirit is that what we are currently experiencing with this pandemic is indeed a dry run for that which is going to come in the days ahead. There are those who have cried out that their rights have been violated, and have cried out that they have been persecuted in the recent months because of being unable to meet in the churches.
I have to admit that I am incredibly grieved within my heart and spirit when I hear men and women cry out declaring that what we have experienced since the start of the pandemic is indeed a form and a measure of persecution. One of the greatest questions I can’t help but ask myself and you who are reading these words is whether or not you can still do church without the church building. I am asking myself and you who are reading these words whether or not we can still be the church without the church building. I am absolutely and completely convinced that there are countless men and women whose Christianity and relationship with the Lord is so wrapped up, bound and consumed with the church building, that when you remove the building from the equation their Christianity falls apart. One of the greatest things we have witnessed in these recent weeks, days and months is the Christianity of countless Christians falling apart and collapsing—much like the house of that one who built it upon the sand. SHALLOW CHRISTIANITY AND SANDY DISCIPLESHIP! I am writing these words and I am absolutely and completely convinced that there are a number of men and women who are not only guilty of shallow Christianity—Christianity that only survives in the shallows—but also of sandy Christianity—Christianity which is not built on the solid rock, but that which is built on the sand. I believe with everything inside me that as I am writing these words there are men and women whose Christianity and discipleship of the Lord Jesus Christ is entirely and altogether based on a certain degree of comfort, a certain degree of convenience, a certain degree of freedom, and a certain degree of ease within and among us. I believe with everything inside me that Timothy is a powerful example of one who might very well have experienced a form of discipleship and walking with the Lord Jesus Christ, and yet it would take on an entirely different level and meaning. Oh what I so love and appreciate when reading the words found in the second epistle written unto the saints which were at Corinth is that Timothy would be with the apostle Paul when he wrote these words. There would be a tremendous amount of language within this epistle that would center upon trials, and trouble, and tribulation, and Paul would not write the apostle alone and by himself, but would be writing this epistle with Timothy present with him.
The more I think about and consider the words which are found within the New Testament book of Acts—and not only the words which are found in the New Testament epistle written unto the Corinthian saints—is the fact that Timothy was indeed a disciple of the Lord Jesus the Christ, and yet it would be his beginning to walk and journey with the apostle Paul that his discipleship would take on an entirely different manifestation in the earth. Oh I can’t help but wonder what it was like for Timothy when he began walking and journeying with the apostle Paul and he started seeing a discipleship that would include suffering, opposition, affliction, and persecution. There is not a doubt in my mind that when Timothy walked with and served the Lord Jesus the Christ as a disciple in Lystra and Derbe his manifestation and his experience of discipleship would be entirely and altogether without and apart from any degree of suffering, any degree of affliction, any degree of opposition, and any degree of persecution. Oh how I would absolutely love to know what would go through the heart and mind of Timothy when he began walking with the apostle Paul and began seeing that discipleship—and not just the profession of discipleship, but true discipleship—might very well include trials, troubles, and tribulation. It would be the apostle Paul who would emphatically declare that it is through much trial and much tribulation that we enter into the kingdom of heaven. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this reality and truth within our own hearts and lives, for there have been many among us who have thought that entrance into the kingdom of heaven would and could somehow be without and apart from trial, trouble and tribulation.
I am sitting here writing these words and I am absolutely and completely convinced that there are countless men and women among us in this generation and in this nation who might very well profess discipleship, and who might very well profess Christianity, and yet their interpretation, their understanding, and their expression of discipleship and Christianity has absolutely no context or framework for any type of suffering, any type of affliction, any type of persecution, any type of trial, and any type of trouble. I firmly believe with everything inside me that there are countless men and women among us in this generation and in this nation whose physical bodies are not ready for trials and tribulation, and whose Christianity and discipleship is not ready for suffering and persecution. Oh dear reader—mark these words and mark them well, for trials, trouble, tribulation, suffering and persecution can and will arise and be manifested in the coming days. I do not believe that persecution is going to be relegated to those countries in the Middle East where ISIS is, nor even those Asian countries where Islam has a stronghold over, within and upon it. I believe that we are entering into a tremendous time of trouble, tribulation and trials, and there are countless men and women among us whose Christianity is so incredibly shallow that there is absolutely no context and framework for a discipleship that actually asks them to deny themselves and take up their cross. What’s more, is I would dare say there are men and women among us who have not yet begun to take up and carry their cross and are going to be in for a tremendous shock and surprise when they find themselves entering into the place where they are all of a sudden being called to take up their cross. There are men and women have made the profession and declaration that they have taken up their cross, and yet they are going to be in a for a rude awakening and a complete and utter shock when Jesus begins to call upon them to actually begin experiencing the manifestation of the cross within their lives. There are those who realize and recognize that the cross is a symbol of Christ’s suffering, and the cross is a symbol of Christ’s sacrifice, and yet they have absolutely no understanding and knowledge that the cross is also a symbol of discipleship and their own suffering. Oh there are countless men and women among us whose discipleship is one that is entirely and altogether absent and void of any type of manifestation of the cross within their hearts, within their minds, and within their lives.
I write these words with a heavy heart and with a tremendous burden within my spirit, for these words bring me face to face with the awesome and powerful truth that there are countless men and women whose Christianity and discipleship is one that has been absent any testing and any trying. Oh dear reader—what are you going to do in that moment and in that hour when the Lord begins to turn up the heat within your life? What are you going to do when the Lord asks you to walk through the fire—and perhaps not only walk through the fire, but also walk through the flood? What are you going to do if and when you find out your expression of Christianity has been nothing more than a farce, and nothing more than smoke and mirrors? I am absolutely and completely convinced that there are going to be countless men and women who are going to be in for a rude awakening and reality check when they begin to experience trials, trouble, and tribulation within their lives. Mark these words and mark them well, for there are men and women among us right now who won’t be able to handle suffering when it arises. There are men and women among us in this generation and this nation who won’t be able to handle persecution when it does in fact, and when it does indeed arise. There are men and women among us in this nation who won’t be able to stand in the coming storm, and who won’t be able to withstand the tremendous force and pressure of suffering, and as a direct result—not only will their entire house crumble, but they will also stumble and become offended in Christ. This is perhaps the single greatest reason why Jesus spoke unto John the Baptist and declared that those who were not offended in Him were blessed. These words would be spoken unto John the Baptist while he was in prison, and I can’t help but get the strong sense within my heart and spirit that John was wrestling and struggling with becoming and growing offended within his heart and spirit because of the affliction, the trial and trouble he was experiencing having been cast into prison.
I read the words which are found in the opening chapters of the second epistle written unto the saints which were in Corinth, and I can’t help but encounter and come face to face with the awesome and wonderful reality that Timothy might very well have been a disciple who was well spoken of by the brethren, yet there needed to be a deeper and fuller expression and experience of that discipleship. There is not a doubt in my mind that when Timothy made the decision to walk with the apostle Christ he perhaps had absolutely no idea, anticipation or expectation that discipleship and walking with Christ would include trials, troubles, and tribulation. Oh despite the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto Timothy in each of his epistles I can’t help but wonder what Timothy’s discipleship and Christianity was actually like prior to the apostle Paul coming unto Lystra and Derbe. I can’t help but wonder what Timothy’s discipleship and Christianity was like in the midst of that time period as it was undoubtedly one that had not been tested and one that had not been tried. This actually leads me to something quite intriguing and quite powerful—namely, that there are a number of men and women whose Christianity and discipleship hasn’t yet been tested. There are those among us whose discipleship and Christianity hasn’t yet been called into the fire where it is tried by the Holy Spirit and by the Lord Jesus the Christ. There are men and women among us within this generation who have not known the manifestation of the cross within their hearts and lives, and who are going to grow and become incredibly bittern and offended in the upcoming days, weeks, and months. With this being said I feel absolutely compelled to emphatically declare that we must needs prepare and make ourselves ready for what is coming, and what lies ahead. Even with that being said I feel compelled to emphatically declare that we don’t have a lot of time to make ready, prepare ourselves and get ready for the trial, the trouble, and the tribulation that is going to come in the days, weeks and months ahead. What’s more, is that I don’t even believe we are talking about years at this point, but are actually talking about weeks, and months. I can’t help but be the strong sense within my spirit that there are a number among us who can and will hear the call of the Spirit to make themselves ready and prepare themselves for that which is about to come and be manifested among us, and those who will truly indeed make themselves ready.
Oh dear reader—as you read the words which are written and recorded within this writing I strongly urge and implore you to hear the sound and voice of the Holy Spirit speaking within these Last Days and guiding and directing you to make yourselves ready, to get unto you strength, and to acquire endurance. MAKE YOURSELF READY, GET UNTO YOU STRENGTH, ACQUIRE ENDURANCE, AND QUIT YOU LIKE MEN! I feel very strongly within my heart and spirit that when reading the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Corinth that there is a great and powerful need for us to get unto ourselves strength and to acquire endurance, for only those with strength and endurance will be able to stand and withstand in the coming days. There are countless men and women who need to make themselves ready, and who need to quit themselves as men, and quit themselves as women that they might be able to stand and withstand in the coming days. Oh there are those who have used the phrase “take it like a man,” or “take it like a champ,” and yet I can’t help but ask myself and wonder how many of us can take trial like a disciple of the Lord Jesus the Christ. How many among us can truly take, endure and withstand trouble like and as a disciple of the Lord Jesus the Christ? How many of us can take trouble and tribulation like a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ and are actually able to bear up under and in the midst of it? How many of us have truly devoted and given ourselves to being able to stand and withstand in the midst of trial, in the midst of trouble, and in the midst of tribulation within our hearts and our lives in the coming weeks, days and months?
IN ALL OUR TRIBULATION! THEM WHICH ARE IN ANY TROUBLE! THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST ABOUND IN US! WHETHER WE BE AFFLICTED! EFFECTUAL ENDURING OF THE SAME SUFFERINGS WHICH WE ALSO SUFFER! WE WERE PRESSED OUT OF MEASURE, ABOVE STRENGTH, INASMUCH THAT WE DESPAIRED EVEN OF LIFE! WE HAD THE SENTENCE OF DEATH IN OURSELVES! WE SHOULD NOT TRUST IN OURSELVES, BUT IN GOD WHICH RAISETH THE DEAD! THAT THE EXCELLENCY OF THE POWER MAY BE OF GOD, AND NOT OF US! WE ARE TROUBLED ON EVERY SIDE! WE ARE PERPLEXED! PERSECUTED! CAST DOWN! ALWAYS BEARING ABOUT IN THE BODY THE DYING OF THE LORD JESUS! THAT THE LIFE ALSO OF JESUS MIGHT BE MADE MANIFEST IN OUR BODY!
We dare not miss and lose sight of the words which are found within the opening four chapters written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints, for the words which we find here bring us face to face with the awesome and incredible fact that when the apostle Paul was writing these words they were written with a tremendous emphasis placed on suffering, on affliction, on opposition, and on persecution which they had experienced during the missionary journeys of Paul. Perhaps one of the most striking realities surrounding this epistle is how in the opening verse of the opening chapter we find the apostle Paul mentioned, as well as Timothy whom the apostle Paul referred to as “our brother.” I find this absolutely and incredible astonishing and captivating when you truly take the time to think about it, for what we know concerning Timothy according to the words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts was that he was a disciple in Lystra and Derbe who was well spoken of by the brethren. Scripture makes no other declarations concerning Timothy outside of the epistles which were written unto him by the apostle Paul. I continue to be absolutely and incredibly astonished when reading the words found in the second epistle written unto the Corinthian saints is how directly connected and associated Timothy was to the sufferings of the apostle Paul—and not only to the sufferings of the apostle Paul, but also to suffering present within his own life. We dare not and must not miss this truth, for I am absolutely and completely convinced that when Timothy walked with and followed the Lord Jesus Christ there in Lystra and Derbe he did so with a certain level of comfort, a certain level of ease, and a certain level peace and calm. This is something quite interesting and worth noting, for when the apostle Paul entered into the picture and brought Timothy with him on his apostolic and missionary journeys he would introduce Timothy to an entirely different level of discipleship and Christianity. Oh, what do you do when you have believed yourself to have been a disciple and follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, and begin walking and fellowship with someone, and upon walking and fellowshipping with them they begin to introduce you to a Christianity that has directly linked and connected to it affliction, trials, trouble, and tribulation? How do you react when the Christianity and discipleship you have found within your life has been one which was absent any form or measure of trial, trouble and tribulation, and all of a sudden you begin to be introduced to that which tries you in the fire?
I am absolutely and completely convinced that there are countless men and women among us in this generation and within this nation who would have an incredibly difficult time with language such as “in all our tribulation” and “in any trouble.” There are those among us who like their Christianity and their walk with the Lord to be polished, to be peaceful, and to be of such a nature and character that it is absolutely absent of any trial, trouble, and tribulation. With this being said, I firmly believe there are countless men and women among us—perhaps even well meaning men and women who might truly walk as saints of God—who are walking with Him on the basis and assumption that He will make their lives easy, and that there won’t be any trials, any trouble, and any tribulation that can enter into their lives. There are those among us within our churches whose sole means of discipleship and whose Christianity is based on the lie and the deception that walking with and following the Lord Jesus the Christ will exempt them from any manner of suffering, affliction and persecution. YOU’RE NOT READY! THEY’RE NOT READY! Even as I am writing these words I feel very strongly within my heart and spirit the eternal voice of the Spirit declaring of many within this generation and many within our churches that they’re not ready. I feel incredibly strongly that while there is a great need to make ourselves ready, and while there is a great need to prepare ourselves for the suffering, the trouble, the trials, the tribulation, and the affliction and opposition that is about to come upon the whole world, there are countless among us who are not ready. What’s more, is I am absolutely convinced there are those among us who wouldn’t know how to handle, who wouldn’t know how to bear up, and who wouldn’t know how to endure suffering, affliction, opposition, trial, trouble, and tribulation. The more I think about and the more I consider this truly astonishing truth the more I find myself believing within my heart that there are a number of men and women who aren’t ready for any manner of suffering, for any manner of affliction, for any manner of trial, for any manner of trouble, and for any manner of tribulation when it does arise among us—even within this nation. Oh dear brother, oh dear sister—please make no mistake about it, for we are about to enter into a period of intense trial and trouble, and the likes of which we have not known since the inception of this nation.
Can I be incredibly bold and honest with you who might be reading these words—particularly and especially you who might be reading it within the United States? I am absolutely and completely convinced that two of the greatest deterrents to truly walking with and following the Lord Jesus Christ are the Constitution and our rights as citizens. I fully realize these words might come as a shock to you who are reading this, however, while there are incredible benefits of the Constitution, and while there are incredible benefits to our rights as citizens of this nation, I am absolutely and completely convinced that both provide us with a false sense of security in this nation. I firmly believe that there are going to be a number of men and women within the church who when trial, when trouble, and when tribulation arises among us will appeal to both the Constitution and their rights and will cry out that they are being treated unfairly. There are countless men and women who will begin rising up in this nation and will begin crying out that they have rights, and that their rights are protected by the Constitution. Loo, at what took place during this pandemic when church buildings shut down and when gatherings were no longer able to take place. What happened within many of our cities and states within and throughout this nation? When the church buildings began shutting down and men and women were no longer able to gather together in the church buildings men and women absolutely and completely lost their mind. What’s more, is that there were countless men and women who did not know how to function without and apart from the church building because their walk and their relationship with God was so dependent on the church building, so dependent on what the church building afforded and provided. Please note that this doesn’t just reference congregants and constituents, but even references pastors, ministers, teachers and leaders. There were countless ministers and leaders within this nation who threatened to sue state and local governments because of a feeling that their rights were violated. What’s more, is there were countless ministers who cried out “persecution” when church buildings shut down and cited the fact that liquor stores could remain open and were considered essential businesses, while church buildings were forced to shut down and remain closed.
I continue to be drawn to and captivated with and by the fact that one of the greatest lessons we as the church within this nation haven’t learned is how to do church without the church building, and how to be the church without the church building. If and as you read the New Testament book of Acts you will find that they didn’t meet in a building with four walls as we know them today in our culture and society. If you read and study the book of Acts and the early church you will find that they met in houses, and how they broke bread and fellowshipped within and from house to house. I am absolutely and completely convinced that there are countless men and women among us who would not be able to function without and apart from the church building. Oh dear reader—permit me to ask you a very pointed and powerful question: What will you do if the church buildings never opened again? What will you do if you never get to sit in a pew or in a chair in the church building ever again? What will you do if you never get to worship with a group of individuals leading the body of believers into worship? What will you do if you can no longer move and interact within the church building among others as you have in times past? What will you do if you can no longer sit in the church building and listen to someone preaching from the pulpit? Oh as surely as I am convinced that the Constitution can indeed be one of the greatest stumbling blocks and means of offense for those within our churches, I am also absolutely and completely convinced that the church building itself can indeed and as in fact a great stumbling block and means for offense for countless men and women. There is not a doubt in my mind that there is a great connection between the Constitution and the church buildings, and how what we have witnessed amidst this pandemic has brought us face to face with just how much of a strangle hold democracy truly has within our hearts, within our lives, and even within our Christianity. As much as we would like to think and consider that this isn’t indeed and isn’t in fact true, we must needs recognize and understand that this simply is not the case. It is completely and utterly false and deceptive to think that democracy—specifically democracy within this nation—is not and has not been one of the greatest stumbling blocks and strangle holds among us within our generation.
IF YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT DEMOCRACY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHIN THE KINGDOM! IF YOU CANNOT DO WITHOUT THE CONSTITUTION YOU CANNOT HANDLE THE GOSPEL! IF YOU CANNOT BE WITHOUT THE CHURCH BUILDING YOU CANNOT BE THE CHURCH! Oh the more I think about and consider these three statements the more I am brought face to face with the fact that one of the greatest detriments to the kingdom of heaven, and one of the greatest hindrances to that kingdom is democracy—specifically within this nation and within this generation. Oh dear brother, dear sister—what will you do when the Constitution is no longer regarded, and when your rights are no longer considered? What will you do if the Constitution becomes more like guidelines and suggestions than actual decrees which need to be observed, and the rights you held to so dearly are no longer protected. LAY HOLD OF YOUR RIGHTS WITH LOOSE HANDS! I am sitting here today thinking about and considering these words and I cannot help but come face to face with the fact that one of the greatest pieces of advice I can give you who might be reading these words is to hold on to your rights very loosely, and to not hold on to them too tightly. IN fact, I would dare say to start living your life as though you do not have any rights. I firmly believe that we must needs recognize and understand that Christianity has never been and will never be about rights which we possess in this life, and nowhere in Scripture, nor anywhere in church history will you find the martyrs of Christ cry out that their rights are being violated. Oh with this being said I am absolutely and completely convinced that if you seek to hold on to your rights in this life and within this generation you cannot and will not stand when those rights are cast aside, disregarded and violated. Oh dear reader we must needs prepare and make ourselves ready now for that moment when the rights we hold to so dearly are no longer regarded within this nation.
I sit here this morning thinking about and considering what I feel and what I believe is about to come upon this nation and upon the world, and I can’t help but be absolutely gripped and captivated that one of the greatest hindrances to kingdom and kingdom living is that of democracy—and not only democracy, but the rights we hold to so dearly and which we will argue, and fight for and defend with every ounce of our being. What’s more, is that I am absolutely and completely convinced that for many among us the Constitution of this nation holds more sway and has more value in their hearts and lives than the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ does. There are countless men and women among us who place more emphasis and more value on the Constitution than they do the gospel, and it was the gospel which instructs men to deny themselves and take up their cross. It is the gospel that declares that those who seek to hold on to and gain their life shall lose it, and those who lose their lives for the sake of the gospel will find them. It is the gospel which emphatically declares that anyone who does not take up their cross is not worthy to be called a disciple of the Lord Jesus the Christ. It is the gospel that emphatically declares that in this world we will have many trials, many troubles and many afflictions. It is the gospel which emphatically declares that we shall be hated of all nations for the sake of the name of Christ. It is the gospel that calls us into a place of self-denial as we realize and recognize that we are not our own and that we were bought with a price. If these words which are found within the Scripture do not hold more weight, more value and more significance within your heart and life than the Constitution does than I would dare say that your Christianity and discipleship is incredibly shallow and cannot and will not stand, nor will it withstand the coming trouble that we will face within this life. Oh there are countless men and women who will spend more time defending the Constitution than they will defending the gospel, and they will spend more time defending their rights than losing their lives. If you are reading these words and you are one of those—even one within and among us within our church buildings—who spends more time defending the Constitution than the gospel, and you spend more time fighting for your rights than losing them and giving up your life than you might be one who is not worthy of Christ.
Stop and think about the words which are found within the fourth chapter of this epistle, for it is within the fourth chapter we find the apostle Paul emphatically declaring that we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We would like to stop there and not proceed or move any further, and yet if you continue reading you will find the apostle Paul beginning to write about realities and truths we would rather ignore and not come face to face with. It is within the following words and verses the apostle Paul writes and speaks about being troubled on every side, being perplexed, being persecuted, and being cast down. What’s more, is the apostle Paul goes on to write about “always” bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest within our bodies. Even still, the apostle Paul goes on to write how we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. Oh please don’t miss and please don’t lose sight of the words which are found in these words, for this language is such which many of us would not and could not understand and appropriate within our hearts and within our lives. There are countless men and women among us within our church buildings and within our bodies who would be completely and entirely unable to stand in the midst of trials, troubles, and tribulations when they arise among us in this nation. There are those among us who have been so used to the “freedom” we have in this life and within this nation that if that was ever taken away, attacked and removed from their lives, they would not know how to act.
With all of this being said, I would like to point out that if you cannot do church without the church building, and if you cannot be the church without the church building than you are not ready for that which the Lord will thrust upon this world in the coming days, weeks, and months. There were countless men and women who did not know how to function when the church buildings shut down, and when church buildings were closed, and never realized and understood that despite the fact that the church buildings are shut down—neither the altar and the prayer closets were shut, and the church never stopped being the church. Perhaps one of the greatest truths the Spirit of the Lord showed me early on during this pandemic is that even though church buildings were shut and the doors were closed the prayer closet—our prayer closets—were never shut and could never be touched by man. What’s more, is I felt incredibly strongly that this was a clarion and powerful call to us to allow ourselves recover, and rediscover the prayer closet and the altar of the Lord within our homes. Oh during this pandemic—although the churches shut down and the doors were closed, they were eventually opened to a certain degree and measure with limited capacity of those who were able to worship in the midst of it. I firmly believe that we must needs pay close and careful attention to this, for one of the greatest truths we must needs acknowledge within our hearts and lives is that of what will happen and what we will do if church buildings close and the doors are shut—and are not only shut, but don’t open again. How will you react and respond when the doors of the church building you worshipped in has chains and a lock around the handles and you’re no longer able to enter in? What’s more, is that I am convinced that even this virtual environment men and women have been using to do and be the church has holes in it, for we are living in such a day of technological advances and internet breaches and cyber security that Zoom meetings will not only be easy to censor, but also to hack and infiltrate. We would like to think that Zoom meetings and virtual environments are the answer for how to do and be the church in these days we are living, and yet I am absolutely and completely convinced that while they are nice, and while they seem good in theory, and while they have indeed helped us in recent weeks and months, they are not the answer—particularly and especially the biblical and scriptural example and answer.
What’s more, is that I am absolutely and completely convinced that the greatest trouble surrounding this pandemic is fear and anxiety. There are countless men and women who have been afraid to go out into public, and who have been afraid to be with and be around others for fear of contracting, coming in contact with, and being exposed to the virus. There are countless men and women whose hearts are so riddled with fear and with anxiety that the thought of going to someone’s home is entirely and altogether unfathomable and completely and utterly insane. It’s important that we recognize and understand this, for while I believe the virtual environment the church has been forced into and which the church has been forced to use has indeed been necessary during recent months—I do not believe that it is the answer for how we are to do church and how we are to be the church. I firmly believe with all my heart that this virtual environment we have been doing church within our homes is getting us on the right track to a certain degree, however, I believe that the greatest way we must needs do church among us in the upcoming days, weeks and months is not in a virtual environment, but rather in our homes as we are brought back to meeting from house to house and breaking bread in fellowship with each other. Even with this being said I fully realize that just as men and women would be unwilling to engage themselves in such means of doing and being the church due to fear in the midst of the pandemic, so also can and will there be men and women who will be unwilling to meet in homes due to fear of the government, and those bodies that seek to stifle, shut down, and silence the church. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this, for I firmly believe with all my heart that we are going to find ourselves—even in this virtual environment—experiencing censoring, experiencing these Zoom meetings being monitored, and even finding them being infiltrated by government, and agencies, and organizations, and the like.
As I prepare to bring this writing to a close I feel a very strong stirring within my spirit to instruct the church—the body of believers, the true disciples of Jesus Christ, and the true followers of Yeshua—to not grow comfortable with the virtual environment the church has been thrust into in recent months. We would like to think that returning to the church buildings is the answer, and the truth of the matter is that this simply is not the case. We dare not and must not grow comfortable with the virtual environment into which the church has been thrust, and we dare not think that returning to the church buildings is the answer. With that being said, I would dare say that for many among us the church building will be just like Egypt for the children of Israel in the wilderness when they desired to return to Egypt upon experiencing trouble, hunger, thirst, and the like in the wilderness. Oh I am absolutely and completely convinced that there might very well come a day—and it might even be upon us now—when the church buildings are nothing more than lands of Egypt which only the weak, only the fearful, only the unbelieving, only the offended, and only the complainers and grumblers will seek to return to. In all reality I am absolutely convinced that we must needs learn how to do church and be the church without church buildings, and even without and outside of any virtual environment, and truly learn how to do and be the church as they did in the days of the apostles and the book of Acts. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we understand this, for we cannot and must not go back to the way things were, and we cannot and must not think that the way things were is the way things need to be moving forward. WE must needs recognize and pay close attention to what has happened in recent days and recent months, for we have been brought face to face with how well we handle being inconvenienced, how well we handled the church buildings being shut down, and how well we handled being told to wear a mask and stand six feet apart. Oh there is not a doubt in my mind that what we have experienced is nothing short of a trial run for that which is coming among us in the coming weeks and months, and that we have great need to get ready and make ourselves ready and prepared for what can and what will come upon us. Oh for the longest time we have thought this nation would be exempt from trials, from troubles, and from tribulation, and yet this pandemic has proven that this simply is not the case.
If you read reading these words I would implore you to start developing means to fellowship with men and women in your home, or in their homes. I would strongly implore and urge you to begin to learn how to do church and how be the church without the church building, and even without the virtual environment the church has been forced to operate in. Not only this, but while on the surface it might seem that the virtual environment the church has been thrust in is the answer—what if it was a means to force the church into a place where it could not only be monitored, but also infiltrated? What if the church being forced into the virtual environment was a means to lure the church into a place where it can be monitored, censored, infiltrated, and where men and women can indeed be targeted for what they speak, what they teach, and what they preach. Oh dear brother, oh dear sister—I implore and entreat you to not grow comfortable with the virtual environment the church has been thrust into, for while on the surface it might seem like the answer for how to do church, I firmly believe that is not the answer. Even in the midst of this technological age full of knowledge, and wisdom, and advancement, and understanding, I firmly believe that it is not the answer for how the church is to do church, and how the church is to be the church. I firmly believe the Spirit of the Lord is inviting us back into the reality and manifestation of the church as it was in the days of the apostles, and as it was during the days of the book of Acts. We must needs recognize and understand this, for if we fail to do so we can and will miss out on that which the Spirit of the Lord is speaking unto us and inviting us into. Oh dear reader—please recognize and understand that you and I have been called into a tremendous place of learning how to be the church and learning how to do the church without and apart from the church building that the original design and intention of the church might once more be established in the earth—and not merely in the earth, but within this nation and in our midst. I am absolutely and completely convinced that we need to have ears to hear what the Spirit of the Lord is speaking unto us, and we have a great need to arm ourselves with strength and endurance that we might be able to stand and withstand in the coming days when trial, trouble and tribulation can in fact, and does in fact enter into our personal spaces, and begins to introduce us to a form of discipleship and Christianity we were completely and utterly clueless about.