Have you ever wondered,"How should I spend my life? How can I store up treasure in heaven and not on earth?"
I once asked myself these questions, and here is what I learned.
Dear Christian brother or sister,
I'm writing to you in the hope that what's in my heart is in yours also. I belong to a church of people who love God with all of their heart, soul, mind, and strength, and strive to love one another the way our Savior loved us.1 We have found the "rivers of living water" and are no longer thirsty.2 This doesn't mean that we have attained perfection or anything like that; it just means that we have found the place where we belong. It's like when many were offended by our Master's words and were leaving him, and he asked his twelve disciples if they were going to leave, too, but Peter said, "Master, where can we go? You have the words of eternal life."3 Those disciples weren't going anywhere, because they had found the True One.
Many people do this thing called church-hopping. Maybe you've never done that, but when a believer is not really happy with the church he goes to -- maybe it's the doctrine or maybe he feels as if the words being spoken aren't really being lived out -- so he looks for another church where he feels more like he belongs. Many people go from church to church and never really find what they are looking for. Sometimes they don't even know why, or what it is exactly they are looking for, but there's just something missing. Maybe they can't quite put their finger on it. Maybe the people are nice and the pastor really has a good message, but still it just feels as if something is missing.
That's how I and many in our church felt years ago, before we came here. Actually, about forty years ago the first believers in our church began meeting together. It started out with just a married couple and a few single people. They weren't so much trying to do anything sensational except to love people and tell them about the forgiveness they'd experienced and the Savior they knew. Their love for each other led them to start living together in the same house and share a common way of life. Pretty radical, isn't it? But it was so fulfilling. As our church grew, we started to understand things in the Bible that hadn't made sense before.
For example, at one point we were reading in the Book of Acts where it speaks about how the believers lived in the very beginning, because the Son of God had given instructions to His apostles, which the Spirit brought to their remembrance. on the Day of Pentecost. We read in Acts 2:44 that "all who believed were together and had all things in common." Whoa! That's what we were doing! It was so exciting and caused us to take identity with our brothers and sisters of old in a greater way.
All of a sudden our church started taking a different shape than what we were used to. Instead of just nuclear families living in our own houses, working our own jobs, and just loosely associating with one another, our whole way of life took on a new form. We really liked it, though. We were in awe that the Word of God could change our lives so much. We realized that this was exactly what we were looking for and couldn't find in the other churches.
You see, at one point all of us disciples would just hop in the back of a pickup truck and go down to the local church on Sunday morning. We didn't always feel welcome, though, and at one point the last straw finally came. We went to church one Sunday evening only to find the church closed because of the Super Bowl game. "Closed? What can this mean?" we asked ourselves. It got really hard for us to keep going to church, so we began having our gatherings in a nearby park.
Then we met a few couples who had the same thing in their hearts as we had! They were discouraged and even a little frustrated with what they had experienced in the different churches they had been going to, so they had stopped going altogether. It's not that they just wanted to give up on God and be unbelievers, but they just didn't feel as if they fit in, or that they could give our Father in heaven everything He deserved.
There was an immediate bond between us and these couples. We couldn't help but want to live together, so we could really get know to each other and encourage each other daily.4 It just so happened that one of the couples had a farm that they gave to our church. That is when another verse came to life. In Mark 10:28-30, Peter tells Yahshua, "See, we have left everything and followed you." Then Yahshua said the most amazing thing:
"Assuredly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brother or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for my sake and the gospel's, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time -- houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions--and in the age to come, eternal life."
We began to see the promises of the Gospel being fulfilled. We'd left our houses and now had new ones; we'd left our families behind (those who wouldn't come with us, that is), and now had a new one, which anyone could be a part of. Our life was inclusive. We began to really see our need for each other. We had deep relationships with people who really knew us, and who we could confess our sins to.5 And since we were all in it for the long haul, it gave us the freedom to be really honest with each other. And since we lived together and knew each other, we could learn to speak the truth in love to one another,6 telling our brothers and sisters just the right word they needed to hear in order to help them in their time of need.7 And if anyone was getting tempted to wander from the truth, we could go to him in gentleness and help him to see that he was going the wrong way.8
I don't know if any of this sounds appealing to you, but for us ex-church-hoppers, it was exactly what we were looking for. We are learning so much about being believers, and not just believers, but husbands, wives, children, brothers, sisters, friends, allies... Since we're always together, there's quite a demand on us to be the friend in Proverbs 17:17 who loves at all times. But this is so great because this is the command Yahshua gave His disciples: "Love one another as I have loved you. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."9 So if we all actually love one another every day, then it produces a very special atmosphere in our household, where there can be true unity, just as Yahshua prayed that his disciples would have.10
Then, when visitors come and spend time with us, they are able to see our Father's love with their own eyes. Then they can judge our "tree" by its fruit,11 and the ones who are convicted by the message of the Gospel, and a true expression of the life it produces, can die to their old lives and be forgiven of their sins,12 and have a brand new start,13 and enter into our church. Old things pass away and all things become new.14 This is not just another denomination; it is the beginning of the restoration of all things in the church.
It's not easy to all live together as we do. Actually, it can be very challenging at times, since we are all "birds of different feathers."15 But it is fulfilling because we see that as we learn to love each other, we grow to maturity as a Body,16 becoming more and more like Yahshua, the more we are purified.17 No wonder the Bible says, "If someone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen."18 We see from this verse that our Father doesn't just want us to get security from some sort of mental belief, or wonder whether we really love Him or not, but He has given us each other to love so that we can have confidence that we do love Him and that we are saved, having passed from death and into life.19
Yahshua said, "They don't light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."20 We don't want to be isolated from people outside of our church, but we do need a pure, safe place to serve our Father21 and raise our children,22 and to be healed of the hurts and scars of having lived life selfishly. This sets us apart as a distinct people,23 as well as helping us to overcome the temptations and distractions of the crooked society around us.24 It is really a deeply fulfilling life we have, with hope for the future.
So, if any of what I'm writing touches your heart and makes you want to come and see our church, or I guess you could call it our Bible-believing community, then I wish you would. We would love to get to know you. Our addresses are on the back of this paper, and you are welcome to visit us anytime. We keep the Sabbath, so we have a celebration every Friday night at sundown. Many of our neighbors and guests come to these celebrations, or other people who are interested in getting to know us. Also, we have cafes near most of our houses so that we can reach out and meet the people who live in our area. Most of our Yellow Deli cafes are open 24 hours so that we can be constantly available to anyone who wants to meet us, or even just needs a friend to talk to. We also have farms you can visit and get your hands in the dirt, working alongside of us. We just want to invite you to come and see. Bring a friend, bring a few, bring your mom or your pastor, or whomever!
I'm so thankful that I came to visit. I grew up thinking that somehow I was born in the wrong time and place. I believed in God, and that He loved me, and that if I believed in Him I'd be with Him after I died, but the question I just couldn't shake was, "How do I spend my life? How can I store up treasure in heaven and not on earth?"25 I am so thankful that now I have found the answer. I hope you'll come and see. And I hope that when you do, you'll see what I saw!