Right Here, Right Now!


Imagine Once More…

Imagine your planet. It is still fallen. You are still waiting for the day when “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” But here and there, invading the cities and towns and villages scattered around the globe, are outposts of heaven’s life. They are ekklesias. Let’s take an imaginary spiritual snapshot of the planet. If we pick a moment in time and zoom in on four of these divine outposts, what might we see?


The city is just waking up. To the east, the sun inches over the horizon, bathing the foothills with a rose-colored dawn. To the west, the Canadian Rockies are barely visible against the still darkened sky. The five men in the living room are oblivious to the morning’s beauty. Instead, their hearts are glimpsing the splendor of heavenly realms. They are huddled on their knees. In a few minutes, two of the men will hop on the train into the city to the large chemical plant where one of them works as an accountant and the other as a research technician. Another will drive his car to a large retail store nearby, where he works as the manager. The two young men are students at the university. Neither has a class until the afternoon. They don’t have to be up so early, but they want to be in that room. Like the others in the huddle, they sense life when they are together with the brothers and sisters. That life can happen any time in any place, but this morning, for these five men at least, it is happening in this room.

This particular gathering came together rather spontaneously the night before, when one of the men asked if some guys could pray with him about challenges at work. When they arrived an hour ago, they grabbed a quick breakfast and began to talk quietly. One of the brothers shared an encouraging scripture; another told of what he had learned during a similar experience at his own job. Now they are on their knees, praying first about the brother’s challenging day. But their simple petitions quickly change to a sincere thanksgiving in words of praise that are free from religious jargon. Inside each man’s heart, the “Morning Star” has risen, just like the sun!


We zoom in on another outpost eight time zones to the east. The sun, just past its peak in the clear sky, sends its shimmering heat on the small city below. In this Mediterranean country, the mid-afternoon is a time for rest. Shops and businesses close for a couple of hours. The employees head home for their main meal of the day and some welcome relaxation. They will return to their offices and shops soon and will work into the evening. For now, they rest. But the brothers and sisters of a local ekklesia in this city have discovered that mid-afternoon is an ideal time to gather. Often they congregate in small groups in their homes, sharing food and encouragement and song. Today, however, some of the brothers put the word out that everyone should meet at a small park near the center of town. So it is that while the five men are praying in the living room in Canada, a considerably larger group of believers has converged on a park in southern Spain.

The streets are quiet, so the gathering attracts little notice besides an occasional curious look from a passerby. The believers are content to have a moment of relative anonymity. Over the past few years, they have been the subject of escalating rumors and criticisms in the city. Traditions run strong in this culture. Some are literally thousands of years old. So when a group of people decide to live their lives differently, some neighbors and co-workers and family members feel a bit threatened. The ekklesia has been feeling the weight of some especially ugly opposition lately. That’s why a few of the brothers decided it would be wise to take advantage of the mid-day break and gather everyone for some needed encouragement and vision. Each person or household brought food to share. Someone prepared unleavened bread and wine, so they have spent much of their first hour remembering Jesus’ sacrifice for them, reminding each other why they love Him, and thanking Him for loving them first.

Now someone opens a Bible and begins to read 1 Peter. They read about their “new birth into a living hope” because of the “precious blood of Christ,” about how He is a “living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to Him,” and about how they, too, are “living stones, being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood.” They read about “suffering as a Christian,” “repaying evil and insult with blessing,” about “being prepared to give an answer,” and about “the Spirit of glory and of God resting on them” when they are “insulted for the name of Christ.” Spirits begin to soar in the Spanish park, just as they are soaring in the Canadian living room!


At that precise moment, two men are walking together steadily towards the main crossroads in an African town. They pass by the small open air market where they set up shop most mornings, selling eggs and sometimes chickens from their small poultry operation. They smile and nod at several of their fellow believers and continue walking. They know their brothers and sisters are praying for them. Right now they are partners in something much dearer to their hearts than their business. At the town’s main intersection is its only petrol station, which services any vehicles that pass through—the occasional truck or government car or tourist’s van. It is also a prime location for the town’s beggars to gather, in hopes that a tourist will hand them a coin or a bit of food. The two men walking to the petrol station are looking for one specific beggar. They saw him for the first time yesterday. He was a newcomer—a young boy, perhaps eight years old, with a huge, ugly white scar on his forehead. Yesterday, he had said nothing—only motioned at his mouth to show that he was hungry. They had given him the only food they had, their lunches for the day. He had flashed a grateful smile at them and run off. As the day went on, the men had frequently spoken about the boy. They had seen beggars before. But there was something about this boy. One image they simply couldn’t get out of their minds was his filthy, ragged tee-shirt, decorated with a sneering caricature of the devil and a blasphemous phrase. It was probably the only shirt he had worn for months, if not years. Last night, the men had called the ekklesia together to ask Jesus for wisdom about what to do with that boy. The gifts of the Body were evident that night—discernment, helps, generosity, leadership, teaching. Someone finally put into words what they all seemed to be thinking. Everyone nodded and smiled and clapped.

So today, the two men are going back to the petrol station to find that boy. They are carrying a parcel of fish and rice, along with a clean white shirt. They will speak with him today. And if they find out that he is an orphan or an abandoned child, as they suspect, they have something else to offer him: a new home.


Six times zones farther to the east is a nation of islands. The sun has long since set in the direction of the Asian mainland, but a group of several dozen believers—old and young, male and female—are gathered on the beach. Overhead, the tropical night sky puts on a display of sparkling beauty, but the group scarcely notices. They are focused on the silhouettes of a man and a woman wading out a few meters from the shore. The man is a trusted brother, a strong but gentle leader who has been known to take courageous stands in the shanty-town community where most of the ekklesia lives. Like most places on our planet, this nation is steeped in religious tradition. This ekklesia has received its share of opposition and slander.

Some of the antagonism has been coming from the woman who is now wading out into the water. Her biological sister has been reborn for a year now. To her family, it has felt like a betrayal of their heritage. The more the new Christian has spoken of her faith in Jesus, the angrier her parents and siblings have become. The most vocal critic has been the woman who is now up to her waist in the warm waters of the Mindanao Sea. She has been the source of vicious rumors, accusing the members of the shanty-town ekklesia of exploiting and abusing her sister. The slander has hurt many. The new Christian herself has essentially been driven out of her parents’ house and is now living with a young couple in the ekklesia.

A short time ago, however, the angry sister’s infant son became seriously ill with a bad fever. The woman and her husband watched hopelessly over the next week as their baby’s condition deteriorated. In desperation, the woman went to her Christian sister, begging for prayer. The young woman brought six members of the ekklesia with her, including the older brother who is also now standing in the water by the baby’s mother. Together, they prayed for the infant. In fact, they knelt around his little bed far into the night. Finally, in a dark hour after midnight, the boy’s fever broke. The next morning his appetite returned, along with the sparkle in his eyes. The woman broke down in tears, kissing the hands and feet of the believers who had interceded in heavenly realms for her child. Over the next few days, the believers had shared the good news of Jesus with the family, a Jesus who is alive and well and accessible to His people: Immanuel, “God with us.”

The woman now is surrendering her life to this Jesus. Her husband also seems “not far from the Kingdom.” Standing in the water, she renounces her life of selfishness and sin, asking Jesus to forgive her for persecuting Him. She confesses Him as Lord. The man standing next to her “buries” her in the water, then “raises” her to walk a new life. The assembled ekklesia bursts into song!


Does this snapshot of twenty-first century ekklesia life look good to you? It should—you were born for it, if indeed you have been “born from above”! We realize that if you are like most people, your existence doesn’t look very similar to these pictures. We also realize that you can’t just snap your fingers and change your environment to look like what we have described. But do you long for it?

Imagine and Ask!

If you want to experience a “right here, right now” life with Jesus in His ekklesia, the place to begin is not with the latest religious movement or fad. Sorry! You are free to try if you want, but we’re here to tell you that it just won’t work. The Kingdom of God isn’t built that way.

The first Eden, when man and woman walked and talked with God in humble submission and trust, wasn’t produced by a religious movement or a five-step program. Man creates programs; God creates Eden. Genesis 1 is a majestic, sweeping portrait, painted with broad, vibrant brush strokes, of a God who by His own counsel decided to create an entire universe out of nothing. He chose to plant a Garden on one planet and place the man and woman in it. He decided to come to that Garden and walk with them. After the fall, mankind tried (once) to “build a tower to the heavens.” Man’s first “program” had high ambitions, but it failed miserably. God made certain it did.

The second “Garden” experience, when men and women walked and talked with God on the dusty roads of Palestine, was also His sovereign act. No one brought Christ to earth. “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down)” (Romans 10:6). Instead, Jesus, “being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (Philippians 2:6-7). Jesus came of His own volition. His love and humility brought Him into fellowship with man once more.

The third “Eden,” when people enjoyed intimacy with God once more within the ekklesia, likewise was His creation. The first church was not produced by religious zeal; in fact, religion opposed it relentlessly. It came into being when Jesus sovereignly poured out His Spirit on mankind. This was no “church planting,” informed by the marketing principles of the church growth movement and equipped with the latest in religious technology. What we call Pentecost happened when an “unschooled, ordinary” man stepped forward to explain that he and his friends didn’t have a drinking problem—and a few minutes later, three thousand people pledged their all to follow an executed felon. The church was birthed by Holy Spirit power. No program, however well intentioned, has ever been more than a cheap imitation of God’s sovereign might.

“I will build My church,” Jesus has declared. He has built before. He can build again.

After all, the church was God’s idea! “His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to His eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ephesians 3:10-11).

God’s surprising intention is to demonstrate His wisdom through redeemed human beings, joined together through intimate relationship with each other and with Him. God’s wisdom is manifold. It is a jewel with countless facets. Somehow, someway, the network of relationships in the ekklesia is to demonstrate each facet of that jewel. The “rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms” are quite accustomed to the sad spectacle of a humanity that is “foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures,” living “in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another” (Titus 3:3). But when the rulers and authorities see an example of redeemed humanity joined by bonds of love and devotion and humility, they take notice, and they marvel at God’s wisdom that He could conceive and accomplish such a miracle.

And so it is right to imagine God’s ekklesia, as we have done. What is even more right is to ask Him to accomplish His intent in your city and around the globe. “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).

God’s intent is to build the church. He invites you to imagine and ask Him to accomplish His purpose on planet earth, including the nation and city where you live. His plan is to do immeasurably more than you are capable of asking, not by “blessing” some movement or program in some external way, but by working within His people.

So imagine…and ask!

The Kingdom of God is Within You

When Adam and Eve fell, there was serious harm done to the material universe. It was cursed with thorns, pain, and death. But the greatest damage of all was done inside human beings. They had wanted independence from God, and they got it. Their hearts, which once had been brimming with trust and love and submission, were now overflowing with pride and fear and alienation. If we want to return to the Eden-life of walking with God, it is this inner damage that first must be undone.

The ekklesia is an inner Kingdom:

Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:20-21)

In the ekklesia, the curse is reversed. It is a realm men enter only when they renounce their independence from God and acknowledge their deep, deep need of Him. Instead of compartmentalizing their lives into the “sacred” and the “secular,” they bring all of life under His authority and blessing. Instead of vainly trying to meet with God in a temple made of stone, they meet with Him in a dwelling made of submitted human lives. In the ekklesia, men and women “unmake” the horrible decision that Adam and Eve made in the Garden, and which truthfully we have each made in our own lives. In the ekklesia, people go back to the fork in the road, but this time they choose the road less traveled by.

There was a time when people didn’t “get religion” by repeating a rote prayer or mentally agreeing to a set of principles. “Conversion” was viewed as changing kingdoms. It was renouncing one set of loyalties and embracing another. It was being “buried with Christ” in His death and “raised to live a new life” in His resurrection. It meant being a different person, a new creation.

Has that experience been yours? Have you been cut to the heart when you learned that God made “this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ”? Have you rejected the old way of being in control of your own time, money, relationships, and priorities? Have you placed all of those things under Jesus’ control? Have you entered into a relationship of loving trust with Him, so that when you do disappoint Him, the first thing you want to do is run back to Him and lose your life in Him again?

If that hasn’t been your life, it can be now!

That is the only way you can “walk with God in the cool of the day.” The experience Adam and Eve enjoyed with their Creator in Eden, or that Peter and James and John and Mary Magdalene enjoyed with Jesus in Galilee, or that thousands of redeemed men and women experienced with Jesus and with one another in the early church, can be yours. But it can only happen if you personally reject the way of independence—reject even religious self-sufficiency—and return to the state of heart you were created for.

Any “church” that isn’t based on each member having Jesus rule in their hearts as King is not the ekklesia we read about in the New Testament. In the final analysis, it doesn’t matter if you have the most informal, friendliest, least traditional life-style of any religious assembly on earth. If the Kingdom of God isn’t within you, what you have isn’t the Kingdom of God.

So begin there. Imagine the ekklesia. Ask God for it. And position yourself to be a part of it by submitting your own heart to His reign. Then call others to do the same!

Kingdom Seeds

The “Kingdom of God is within” the hearts of people who have truly received Him there as King. Hopefully, you are one of those people. And hopefully, you realize that you need the Spirit that has been deposited in other hearts as well. It is the interconnected network of relationships that constitutes the “holy place” where you can walk with God.

Imagine a beautiful mosaic portrait of Jesus. It is a masterpiece, capturing the courage, tenderness, humility, nobility, authority, and love in His face. Any individual tile by itself conveys very little of the portrait. Each tile makes its contribution, but they need each other, and they need to be joined by the hand of a master to create the picture.

That mosaic is the church. As Paul wrote, “We [plural] are God’s workmanship”—literally, His masterpiece—”created in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:10). If you are born again, you are one of those tiles. Christ is in you, your “hope of glory.” But the image of Christ you can portray in isolation is very limited. The Holy Spirit has deposited a gift, some aspect of Jesus, uniquely in you. But for the full picture to emerge, you need to be placed side-by-side with other “tiles.” That’s the only way that you and they can experience Jesus’ presence in a full, complete way or demonstrate His presence before an unbelieving world.

Jesus commanded us, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13-34-35). When Jesus came to earth, He rejected the temptation to demonstrate His greatness to the unbelieving world through some impressive publicity stunt, such as casting Himself off the temple roof. He knew His Father’s will. He understood that God’s intent was to demonstrate His manifold wisdom “now, through the church.” Jesus lined up His heart fully with His Father’s. He invested His energies, not in proving Himself through impressive displays of miraculous might, but in building a church—a network of loving relationships.

The love Jesus spoke of—the agape of New Testament Greek—wasn’t some shallow feeling or fleeting emotion. It was a practical, dynamic devotion and dedication to seeking the good of another person, despite any feelings or emotions to the contrary! Jesus demonstrated that life day in, day out, for forty months with His disciples. He fed them, taught them, rebuked them, forgave them, and washed their feet. He opened His life wide to them. He denied Himself comfort and privacy and preferences just to be with them. He laid down His own legitimate needs to meet their needs. And then, after three and a half years of demonstrating that agape, Jesus called on them to live that way with each other. Only then could God’s wisdom be manifested “now, through the church.”

That is your mission, should you choose to accept it: to lay your life down for others as Jesus did.

Of course, many genuinely re-born people find themselves very much in the position of that tile we spoke of, whose colors are bright and true, but who isn’t joined side-by-side with other tiles in any meaningful way. There may be other tiles around you, but it’s hard to be sure who they are. You can’t really tell what another person is made of just by staring at the back of his or her head in the pew in front of you once or twice a week, or by watching him or her raise hands and sway with a worship song, or even by hearing his or her insightful comment in the “house church” living room. What are you to do?

You have to begin somewhere. And if you haven’t “begun” already, what are you waiting for? Like Jesus, you need to deny yourself and open your life wide, making room for others in it. You’re going to have to ignore all the instincts of your flesh and begin de-compartmentalizing your life! It’s not that you need to “get more committed” and dedicate more hours to your “church life” at the expense of your “family life” or “devotional life” or “work life.” It’s that you must begin to merge your worlds into a single life!

Practically, you must begin rearranging your priorities and habits so that other people can fit in. Is there a way to get face-time with brothers or sisters during daily life? Can you arrange car-pooling or lunch hours to be with believers? Can you do the shopping or banking or other errands with another disciple this time? Can you go to the little league game where your friend coaches, and his son plays ball? Can you even volunteer to help out? Can you sign your child up for the same soccer league that the child of a believer plays in, even if it means a few minutes extra driving? Are you willing to do these or a thousand other “little” things to begin de-compartmentalizing your life, and to begin merging your world with someone else’s? And as you are opening up your life, will you open your heart as well? Will you be vulnerable, confessing your sins and asking for prayers as the Bible says? Will you risk, asking caring questions about genuine concerns you have about your brothers’ and sisters’ lives? And will you take the time to help them?

Of course, it goes without saying that “it takes two” or more for this “dance.” One sad heritage from the history of Christendom is that almost everyone claims to be a Christian. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, every country in the Western world thinks of itself as a “Christian nation.” Scientific surveys conducted by the Gallup and Barna groups in recent years bear witness to these facts. Nearly nine of ten Americans (88%) say they feel “accepted by God.” Almost all of them (84%) claim to be Christians. A huge majority of Americans (72%) claim they have made “a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is important in their life today.” Most American adults (62%) feel that they are not only religious, but “deeply spiritual.” They think religion is “very important” in their own personal lives and say that they “believe that religion can answer all or most of today’s problems.” Two-thirds say they belong to a religious assembly of some sort. At least half attend services nearly every week. Half of all Americans say they’ve been “born again or had a born-again experience”—that is, a “turning point in their lives when they committed themselves to Jesus Christ.”

The sad truth is that most of these people are wrong. We aren’t being judgmental; we’re only stating the obvious. Think about it: over a quarter of a billion Americans think they are Christians and fine with God. But according to Jesus Himself, they simply can’t all be right. In fact, most of them have to be wrong. If “wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it,” it is inconceivable that only a tiny fraction of one of the most populous nations on earth are on that broad road. And if “small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it,” then most of the hundreds of millions who believe they are on that narrow road are quite tragically mistaken.

So don’t be discouraged if many of the people you invite into your life say, “No thanks.” And don’t give up if the ones who initially seem enthusiastic later wither away when the going gets tough, or if others can’t really find the time amid their own personal obsessions with life’s riches, worries, and pleasures. Jesus said a lot of people were going to be that way (Luke 8:1-15). So when you run into folks like that—and you will—you’re going to have to have the courage and discernment to move on. Maybe things will change in the future; you’d love it if they would. But for now, you need to sow the seeds of the Kingdom as widely as you’re able with the people in your environment.

You can’t control the choices others make, but you can control your own. And you can begin pleading with God for the emergence of His ekklesia and positioning your life to be a part, by erasing the compartmentalization and inviting others in.

Raising Vision

For the rest of your days, you can devote yourself to raising vision in the people around you. Your vision for what is called “the Christian life” or “the church” need not be limited by what you have personally seen or experienced. The spark of faith in your own heart need not—indeed, must not—be extinguished by someone else’s low vision in this or any other century. Your vision should not even be limited by what the first-century church experienced. Consider their faith in and experience of Jesus, then aim for something higher—and settle for nothing less—than what they lived out.

God’s word sets the standard. Make stepping into the life described there your goal. Set the bar at that level and refuse to lower it. Don’t let your failures, inabilities, poor track record, or questions talk you out of believing God. “Let God be true and every man a liar.”

His word describes a church where His gifts “prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12-13). That’s right—it says “the whole measure of the fullness of Christ”! There is an entire universe of potential in that phrase. But it needs to become reality on planet earth. And God’s word says that it can!

Jesus spoke of a church that overcomes persecution, betrayal, hatred, and deception. It “stands firm to the end” and even “takes the gospel of the Kingdom as a testimony to all nations” before the end comes (Matthew 24:4-14). He said that He would build a church that could bust down the very gates of hell (Matthew 16:18). Whether you or I have seen such a church doesn’t change what Jesus said. The only begotten Son of God was never wrong!

The last book of the Bible foretells a wedding between the Lamb and His bride, the church:

Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear. (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) (Revelation 19:6-8)

That church is coming. You may not be able to mark it on your calendar, but you can mark it in your heart. Are you the kind of person who “looks forward to the day of God and speeds its coming”? Then you are also someone who can live “a holy and godly life” in preparation for it (2 Peter 3:11-12). You can trust God and ask Him diligently to ready His church for that day. You can fully surrender your own heart and will and life to Him, welcoming Him to reign as Lord over each moment. You can reach out and learn to love others. And you can nurture in your heart—and in the hearts of everyone around you who will listen—a vision for what God wants to accomplish on this planet, “now, through the church.”

In practical terms, you can share these and other scriptures with those around you and call them to pledge themselves to see the words become reality. You can share carefully selected books or recorded teachings that will also cast a vision for a genuine walk with Jesus in the church.18 And you can watchfully, with wisdom and diligence, explore relationships with brothers and sisters in other cities or nations who share your vision for experiencing Jesus in the ekklesia.

If we may offer you our unsolicited advice: steer clear of anyone who wants you to join something or who “peddles the Word of God for profit.” Do not jump on a bandwagon that encourages you to abandon your responsibilities of helping the people you already know in the place where you already live. And it hopefully goes without saying that if you surf chat rooms and bulletin boards in search of “Christian fellowship,” you are “looking for love in all the wrong places.” Still, you do need relationships with people who will help you keep your own vision raised as you in turn help others. So reach out!

Seeking a Better City

The first-century ekklesias were born through suffering. Paul wrote something quite remarkable to the Colossians: “I am glad when I suffer for you in my body, for I am participating in the sufferings of Christ that continue for His body, the church” (Colossians 1:24). Just before He died, Jesus declared, “It is finished.” His sufferings and death on the cross were overwhelmingly more than enough to pay the price for all of our sins. To secure our salvation, no other sacrifice will ever be necessary. Yet to establish and build up the church, much pain is still required. Jesus still suffers today for the church, but now He suffers in the bodies of men and women whose hearts are His home.

Dear reader, this means you. Jesus will build His ekklesia. But if you want to “serve the purposes of God in your generation,” there is a price that you personally must pay.

Part of that price is persecution. Paul told Timothy, “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). To experience persecution, you don’t have to become an apostle and travel to some foreign land. All you have to do is desire to live a godly life, and you will be guaranteed to experience harassment and maltreatment.

Persecution will happen to you, and when it does, it will not make sense. It will seem so unfair. It will be impossible to fathom how someone could believe the slander and rumors and gossip about you, let alone start them. You will find yourself lying awake at night, staring at your bedroom ceiling, begging God to show you what you did to deserve this pain, and crying out to Him for the strength to go forward.

There’s nothing anyone can write in a book that will make it feel any better when it happens. Just be prepared, as best as you can; it will happen. And run into Jesus’ arms when it does. Be humble enough to learn from your mistakes, but don’t be crippled by them. Correct what needs correction in your life, but reject the temptation to blame yourself for everything. Opposition doesn’t mean that you’ve failed; it very well could mean that you are doing something right. At the very least it can mean that you sincerely desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus—and that’s not such a bad thing, is it?

When persecution happens, search the scriptures for how to handle it. (Jesus and Peter and John all gave really good advice on the topic!) Dive into the Psalms of David; they will come to life for you as never before. Pray. Remember that your enemies are not flesh and blood; they are the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Don’t lash out against flesh and blood. Fight back against those spiritual forces of evil; hit them where it hurts, by embracing faith, hope and love in your heart and continuing to sacrifice your time and passion and energy and life for the ekklesia. That is, after all, what the enemy is trying to put a stop to.

Write this phrase on your heart in preparation for that day: “So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good” (1 Peter 4:19). In the final analysis, that’s the only response worth having.

Of course, most of your “participation in the sufferings of Christ that continue for His body, the church” won’t take the form of persecution. When Paul listed the “troubles, hardships and distresses” that commended him as a servant of Christ, he did mention “beatings, imprisonments and riots.” But that wasn’t all! He quickly added “hard work and sleepless nights” to the list and concluded that he was “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything” (2 Corinthians 6:3-10). Most of the suffering you experience for the sake of the ekklesia will be of that kind.

Whether you are sowing seeds for the future or experiencing the ekklesia in present reality, much of your suffering will come down to nitty-gritty decisions of self-denial. Will you give up that quiet evening you were looking forward to for the sake of someone who is hurting and needs encouragement and help? Will you fast for others? Will you stay up late or get up early to pray for them? Will you have the courage to go to others when you have concerns about their lives? Will you have the humility to listen to others when they have concerns about yours? Will you share financial resources to help brothers and sisters who are overburdened? Will you deny yourself your preferences—favorite foods, preferred entertainment, tidy living room—to make a place in your life where others can fit in? A life built from such small decisions will never earn you a prominent place in future editions of the “Book of Martyrs,” but they will position you for a place in the church Jesus is building.

Your motives will be tested! If you want relationships for their own sake, the whole experience will eventually turn sour for you. The “alternative Christian lifestyle” that you dream of will be outside your reach. If you are spiritually ambitious, wanting to be in on “God’s cutting edge end-time movement” and go down in history as “doing great things for God,” you will fail—and likely take your place among the persecutors of the ekklesia. But if you simply want to take up your cross daily and follow Jesus, how can you “fail” at that? That kind of life isn’t a question of “success” or “failure”; it’s a matter of trust and obedience and resiliency. If there’s something you want to get out of it, you can (and hopefully will) fail. But if you are simply trying to obey the two greatest commandments—loving God with all you’ve got and loving others desperately and self-sacrificially—no person or thing on earth can stop you.

Whatever role God means for you to play will require perseverance on your part. You’ll have to keep right on obeying Him, even if it doesn’t seem like it’s “working.” As the Hebrews writer said, you must continue being “sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see.” You must imitate the examples of faith who have gone before you:

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them. (Hebrews 11:13-16)

So persevere! Refuse to sell out. Refuse to be coerced or shamed or bribed or frightened into silence. Keep pressing forward. Keep seeking the better city!


“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

18 This book, for example, will always be distributed free of charge. You have permission to copy it without changes and give it away to others. Together with many similar resources, this book will continue to be available in both electronic and hard copy formats from HeavenReigns.com, as God provides the resources. There will be no cost to you, nor will your donations ever be solicited or accepted. These materials are our offering to you and to Jesus.


Note: The points of view expressed in Right Here, Right Now! are the author’s own. The following sources provided factual information only. We warn the reader that many of the sources listed below are written by non-Christian scholars and may contain passages with offensive words or imagery.

Aveni, Anthony F. The Book of the Year: a Brief History of Our Seasonal Holidays. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Barna Update contributors, Barna Updates, http://www.barna.org. [Please note that The Barna Group has strict policies regulating the use of their statistics in for-profit publications. Right Here, Right Now! is never to be sold at any price; as the copyright indicates, it must always be distributed free of charge.]

Bellenir, Karen, ed. Religious Holidays and Calendars: an Encyclopedic handbook. Detroit: Omnigraphics, c2004

Carroll, J. W. How Do Pastors Practice Leadership? Research Report from Pulpit & Pew. Durham: Duke Divinity School, 2002.

Castelli, Elizabeth A. Martyrdom and Memory: Early Christian Culture Making. New York: Columbia University Press, 2004.

DeNavas-Walt, C., R. W. Cleveland, and B. H. Webster, Jr. Income in the United States: 2002. U.S. Census Bureau, September 2003.

Dennis, Matthew, ed. Encyclopedia of Holidays and Celebrations: a Country-by-Country Guide. New York: Facts on File, 2006.

Elliott, T. G. The Christianity of Constantine the Great. Scranton, PA: University of Scranton Press, 1996.

Fox, Robin Lane. Pagans and Christians. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1995.

Garscoigne, Bamber. Christianity: a history. New York, NY: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2003.

Henderson, Helene, ed. Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary: Detailing Nearly 2,500 Observances From All 50 States and More Than 100 Nations: a Compendious Reference Guide to Popular, Ethnic, Religious, National, and Ancient Holidays. Detroit, MI: Omnigraphics, 2005

Kalapos, Gabriella. Fertility Goddesses, Groundhog Bellies & the Coca-Cola Company: the Origins of Modern Holidays. Toronto: Insomniac, 2006.

Lee, A.D. Pagans and Christians in Late Antiquity: a sourcebook. New York: Routledge, 2000.

McMillan, B. R. “What do clergy do all week?” Research Report from Pulpit & Pew. Durham: Duke Divinity School, 2002

McMillan, B. R. and M. J. Price. How Much Should We Pay Our Pastor: A Fresh Look at Clergy Salaries in the 21st Century. Research Report from Pulpit & Pew. Durham: Duke Divinity School, 2003.

Moynahan, Brian. The Faith: a History of Christianity. New York: Doubleday, 2002.

Noll, Mark A. Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000.

Travers, Len, ed. Encyclopedia of American Holidays and National Days. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2006.

Wikipedia contributors. “Bahá’í Faith.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.


1 Please note that we are not advocating the “apprenticeship” model. Certainly these early believers recognized that only truly saved people should be regarded as members of the church, a priority that seems conspicuously lacking in most Christian circles in our era. Surely we can appreciate the very biblical concern of these early Christians for separation from the world (see, for example, 2 Corinthians 6:14-18) without imitating their rather legal and regimented implementation of this concern. At least they cared. Will we?

2 It is a true irony of history that a few generations after Constantine, when the emperors of Rome abandoned the pagan religious title pontifex (English “pontiff”), the “bishops” of Rome began using it! The term is still used today by one religious body for the head of its leadership hierarchy.

3 Jones, D. E., S. Doty, C. Grammich, J. E. Horsch, R. Houseal, M. Lynn, J. P. Marcum, K. M. Sanchagrin, and R. H. Taylor. Religious Congregations and Membership in the United States 2000: An Enumeration by Region, State and County Based on Data Reported by 149 Religious Bodies, Glenmary Research Center, 2002

4 Barna Update, June 19, 2006

5 Barna Update, January 8, 2007

6 Socrates of Constantinople, Historica Ecclesiastica

7 McMillan, B. R. “What do clergy do all week?” Research Report from Pulpit & Pew. Durham: Duke Divinity School, 2002

8 McMillan, B. R. and M. J. Price. How Much Should We Pay Our Pastor: A Fresh Look at Clergy Salaries in the 21st Century. Research Report from Pulpit & Pew. Durham: Duke Divinity School, 2003.

9 DeNavas-Walt, C., R. W. Cleveland, and B. H. Webster, Jr. Income in the United States: 2002. U.S. Census Bureau, September 2003.

10 Carroll, J. W. How Do Pastors Practice Leadership? Research Report from Pulpit & Pew. Durham: Duke Divinity School, 2002.

11 Barna Update, July 10, 2006

12 The Barna Update, January 10, 2006

13 Barna Update, October 22, 2002

14 David Wilkerson newsletter, 2006

15 Barna update, January 2, 2000

16 Barna Update, September 8, 2004

17 Barna Update, December 17, 2002

18 This book, for example, will always be distributed free of charge. You have permission to copy it without changes and give it away to others. Together with many similar resources, this book will continue to be available in both electronic and hard copy formats from HeavenReigns.com, as God provides the resources. There will be no cost to you, nor will your donations ever be solicited or accepted. These materials are our offering to you and to Jesus.

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