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Turn (4)

By Lanny Swaim

 

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

2 Chronicles 7:14 (emphasis added)

 

And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart.

Acts 2:46-47

 

And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.

Acts 5:42

 

In our last teaching on 2 Chronicles 7:14, I wrote about attending a house church in the early 1970’s.  In that teaching I mentioned a vision the Lord has given me for networks of house churches connected into apostolic hubs.  The following is how that vision came about:

 

Several years ago my wife and I were attending a local church that met on Sunday mornings and had cell groups that met in various homes during the week.  I had hoped the cell group meetings, like the house church I attended in the early 1970’s, would be times when we could practice and learn to flow in the gifts of the Spirit, ministering to one another, being led by the Spirit to do so.  However, the cell groups were very controlled by the leadership of the church.  At best they were Bible studies and social get-togethers.  Bible studies and social get-togethers are good, but I had hoped for more.

 

During the time we attended this church I had a night vision.  I was asleep but it was too real to have been a dream.  I saw Jesus sitting on His throne.  I couldn’t see His face because His head was as bright as the sun and yet, I knew He was looking at me.  He said, “The (name of the church we were attending) has it backward.  They think the church comes together on Sunday morning and breaks up into cell groups during the week, but the cell groups are the church and they come together on Sunday morning.

 

A friend later pointed out to me that this was the pattern of the Jerusalem Church of the first century (see Acts 2:46-47 & 5:42).

 

We know from the Book of Acts and Paul’s letters that the churches he established also met in homes, coming together in larger groups from time to time, like when Paul was in Troas (see Acts 20:6-8).

 

Later I had another night vision in which the Lord appeared to me in the same way He did in the first one.  This time he said to me, “It is time to start that church.”  I said, “But Lord, I’m not a pastor,” thinking most of the independent churches I knew of were for the most part started by pastors.  He said, “You are an apostle.”

 

The next morning I asked the Lord, “What is an apostle?”  I knew apostles started churches and nurtured them but I felt there must be something more I didn’t know.  He led me to 1 Corinthians 3:9-10:

 

For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.  According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon.  But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.  (Emphasis added)

 

The word masterbuilder in Greek is architekton.  It is where we get the English word architect.  So an apostle is the one with the blueprint.

 

Through a series of events, in addition to the two night visions when the Lord appeared to me, He has confirmed to me that I am to start networks of house churches connected into apostolic hubs.

 

Many believers are aware that we are now entering into the third Great Awakening in the United States, which will impact the entire world.  I believe this awakening will be the greatest of all awakenings, occurring simultaneously throughout the world.

 

When I first met Darrell and Lorrie Fields, authors of “The Seed of a Nation,” in a house meeting in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania a few years ago, I shared with them the vision I have for networks of house churches connected into apostolic hubs, and my belief that we are entering into the greatest of all spiritual awakenings.

 

Darrell commented to me that networks of house churches connected into apostolic hubs will sustain this awakening. www.theseedofanation.com   

 

All the other spiritual awakenings/revivals of the past only lasted a short period of time.  But this greatest of all awakenings, which has now begun, will not end, being sustained by networks of house churches connected into apostolic hubs, where believers will be discipled and mature into powerful ministers of the Gospel of the Kingdom.

 

So this awakening, while incorporating the signs, wonders and miracles plus the social impact of former awakenings, will be accompanied by a new reformation of the Church, taking the Church far beyond the limitations of the Protestant Reformation of around five hundred years ago.

 

We will become the true Ekklesia (Greek word translated as Church, meaning a governing body), literally changing the world.

 

To continue to operate in the manmade church system, and not embrace the Biblical pattern established by the Holy Spirit in the first century, is twisted (wicked) thinking.

 

There is a remnant of believers discovering this truth, and coming out of that manmade system, simply unable to do church as usual anymore.  As this new reformation of the Church is established, I pray and believe many more will see the error of their ways and make the necessary adjustments.

 

It’s not that the people in that system are bad people, and good does come out of that system.  Wherever God’s people are gathered, He is there in their midst, moving and working as much as possible.

 

However, there is a better system, established by God.  Why would any true believer not want to be in the center of God’s will, instead of on the fringes of it?

 

It has been several years since the Lord told me in the night vision to start that Church, and I feel as though I am just beginning.  The time between then and now has been a time of learning, preparing and getting positioned.  And I am not alone.  Others have similar visions or the same vision.

 

This is not something I am doing.  It is something the Lord is doing.  He is the builder of His Church (Ekklesia), and He will complete what He has started, glory to God.

 

Surely we were born for such a time as this.

Turn (5)

By Lanny Swaim

 

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

2 Chronicles 7:14 (emphasis added)

 

No man, having put his hand to the plough [plow], and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.

Jesus in Luke 9:62

 

In our last four teachings we have been studying what it means for God’s people to turn from their wicked (twisted) ways, in order to have their nations healed (set on a Godly path).  

 

So far we have addressed two issues.  The first one we looked at is the unscriptural clergy/laity system, which has been the foundation of most church organizations for many centuries and is still the case today.  The other is the way most believers assemble together.  This is often referred to as having church, doing church or going to church.  We are the Church and to speak of the way we assemble or the place we assemble as the church, is incorrect thinking and very misleading.

 

In our last teaching, I posed the question, that if there is a better system than the one that is currently in place, and if that better system is in fact the way God originally established the Church to function, then why would any true believer not want to be in the center of God’s will, instead of on the fringes of it?

 

While there may be numerous reasons as to why believers stay on the fringes of God’s will rather than in the center of it, perhaps the greatest is that people simply get comfortable with the status-quo, and it is just easier to keep on doing the same old same old.

 

But true Kingdom seekers cannot afford to settle in and get comfortable, taking the easy way instead of the road less traveled, especially when that road leads to the center of God’s will.

 

Those of us seeking the Kingdom are trail blazers, cutting a path for others to follow.  We are pilgrims and not settlers.  We are those Isaiah spoke of.

 

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.  Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: and the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.

Isaiah 40:3-5

 

We are those who set our hand to the plow and don’t look back.

 

As a teenager, I had the experience of plowing behind my grandfather’s mule.  That mule had blinders on its eyes to keep it from looking to the left or the right, but instead straight ahead, plowing a straight furrow.  I held the reigns guiding the mule, so I too had to look only straight ahead, not to the right or left and never behind.

 

So it is with Kingdom seekers.

 

Seeking the Kingdom of God is not in any way about an afterlife.  It is not about going to Heaven someday.  Rather, it is about bringing Heaven to Earth.  It is about establishing God’s Kingdom as His Ekklesia (Greek for Church, meaning a governing body).

 

To accept the status-quo is to be unfit for the Kingdom.  Those are not my words.  They are the rather blunt words of Jesus (see Luke 9:62). 

 

To take our rightful place of authority, as the Ekklesia, we must continue forward, forsaking that which was not God’s perfect will, and pursuing nothing less than the center of His will.  Only then will we see the healing of our nations.

 

In our next teaching, we will look at how most church organizations and Christian ministries in the United States have submitted, probably unknowingly, to the national government first rather than to the Kingdom of God, seeking monetary gain rather than seeking the Kingdom. 

Turn (6)

By Lanny Swaim

 

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

2 Chronicles 7:14 (emphasis added)

 

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.  Ye cannot serve God and mammon [money].

Jesus in Matthew 6:24

 

Earning income and doing business in the United States was much simpler before The Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution was ratified in 1913, which enabled the building up of a powerful federal government by making it legal to enact a nationwide income tax.

 

Even after the implementation of the federal income tax, church, religious and charitable organizations were allowed to exist as non-taxable entities, without the interference of government regulations and oversight.

 

But all that changed in 1954 with the Johnson Amendment, which regulates what tax-exempt organizations, such as church organizations, can do in the political arena.

 

Under terms of the 1954 legislation (named for its principal sponsor, then Senator Lyndon B. Johnson), church and other nonprofit organizations that are exempt from taxation are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.

 

Organizations claiming tax-exempt status cannot collect contributions on behalf of political campaigns or make any statement for or against a particular candidate. Clergy are not allowed to endorse candidates from the pulpit.

 

Since executives and employees of tax-exempt organizations are seen as representatives of those organizations, usually they are afraid of speaking out in favor of or against anyone in politics or any political issue.  In essence, their first amendment right to freedom of speech has been silenced.

 

In 1969, the Tax Reform Act added Section 501 (c)3 to the Internal Revenue Service Code, stating that every charity in the United States that fits certain requirements is a private foundation, meaning they have a principal fund managed by their own trustees or directors.

 

Under Section 501(c)3 not only are the charitable organizations, including church and religious organizations tax-exempt, donations from their donors are also tax-exempt.

 

Realizing that this tax-exemption on donations would be an encouragement for contributors to give, increasing donations, there was a surge in applications for the 501(c)3 status.  But with the development of an official non-profit sector came more rules, regulations and policies, or in other words, government control.

 

In America, our Constitutional Republic is set up to protect the rights of individuals, not corporations.  When a church or religious organization becomes a corporation, in essence, they have no rights, and become subject to the government weaponizing the tax code they have submitted themselves to.

 

So when a church or religious organization by choice becomes a tax-exempt corporation, they willfully become subject to the federal government, which is, in essence, a change of lords.

 

In the Book of Acts is a story of Peter and other apostles being arrested for preaching about Jesus.  When questioned about their actions, they replied, “We ought to obey God rather than men (see Acts 5:29)”.

 

A church or religious organization that has accepted the 501(c)3 status, has agreed to obey the federal government, even when that government orders them to go against biblical principles.

 

If you think the government wouldn’t do that, you are naïve and uninformed.  It has been happening for a long time, which is why the American Center for Law and Justice was founded.  The ACLJ has fought numerous court cases in defense of church and religious organizations for violating the rules and regulations imposed on them by the government.  But fighting these court cases is an uphill battle, since 501(c)3 corporations have already willfully given up their rights.

 

Perhaps many 501(c)3 church and religious organizations don’t realize the predicament they are in or the seriousness of it.  But ignorance is no excuse, and when the error is realized, action should be taken to correct the mistake.

 

Under present laws, to come out from under the 501(c)3 you have to give all the assets of the corporation to another 501(c)3 corporation.  While that may not entail a lot for some, for others it would mean a considerable financial loss. 

 

President Trump campaigned on doing away with the 501(c)3 and the Johnson Amendment for church and religious organizations, but he didn’t get it accomplished in his first term.  Should he serve a second term, and I believe he will, perhaps he will be able to persuade congress to pass new laws and do away with this government overstep of power.

 

With this possibility, it could be wise for church and religious corporations to wait, and see what actually happens.  If the Johnson Amendment and the 501(c)3 are done away with, that would enable church and religious organizations that are corporations to keep their assets, while no longer attempting to serve two masters.

 

If you represent a 501(c)3 corporation, and realize the error in doing so, I advise you to prayerfully consider how to approach coming out from under it.  The Lord may grant you the mercy and grace to wait, or He may require you to come out of it now, regardless of the cost.

 

Some ministries that I have great respect for are set up as non-profit corporations.  Being a non-profit corporation doesn’t invalidate their ministry, but it does present a problem with the potential to cause them major problems.  My prayer is that they realize they are attempting to serve two masters, which is, according to Jesus (see Matthew 6:24), an impossibility.

 

I strongly believe this is one of the wicked (twisted) ways that God’s people must turn from.  I know others of the remnant I am called to minster to agree with me, and I suspect others of that remnant just haven’t yet considered the serious ramifications of this error.

 

If you disagree with me, please at least seek God about this, with an open mind and surrendered heart.  In this new day, as we transition from the Church Age into the Kingdom Age, we can’t afford to be wrong.

 

Surely we were born for such a time as this.

 

May God continue to lead us into all truth.