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Join The Conversation: Building Apostolic Communities

Fostering and Forging Apostolic Communities

Psalms 133:1-3(NLT) - Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, Running down on the beard, The beard of Aaron, Running down on the edge of his garments. It is like the dew of Hermon, Descending upon the mountains of Zion; For there the Lord commanded the blessing— Life forevermore.

This Thursday, August 20th, we are excited to have as a special guest at Coffee Shop Conversations, Apostle Jemma Duncan, the author of "Fostering and Forging Apostolic Communities". This will officially kick off, "Building The Church", our revolutionary weekend of meetings at The Body Church with both Apostles Jemma and Emanuel Vivian Duncan. For this week, this blog will serve simply to whet your appetite as we await The Word of The Lord through the Apostles.

Acts 2:1-12(NLT) - When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.” So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “Whatever could this mean?”

Our latest sermon series at The Body Church is called "One" and it's an intense study of unity in the local church first and then in The Body of Christ as a whole. When we look at the beginning of The Church in Acts 2 we see a couple simple things happen in a very specific sequence with fascinating results. Let's take a look.

How The Church Was Built!

1) Jesus left a group of 120 people to wait for The Holy Spirit in The Upper Room. This was the first step of the process. Jesus said wait for The Holy Spirit before doing anything else and they obeyed.

2) They were unified in one place until The Holy Spirit showed up and anointed everyone of them. The Bible said that they were in one accord in one place. That's the type of atmosphere that's ripe for a move of God's Spirit.

3) They all received a common language (The Language of The Spirit) which enabled them to say the same things (testify of God's wonderful works) with completely different tongues, none of which were native to them but were easily understood by the foreigners gathered around listening to them.

4) Apostle Peter stood up and preached the first church sermon ever and it was a long one. Someone has to say something even though everyone experiences the power of The Holy Spirit. Church communities cannot grow without good teaching. Talking in tongues, prayer, prophesying, dancing, falling out, etc. are all good but preaching is important too.

5) The message ended with an altar call during which the first 3000 people got saved. Peter taught the people about the crucified and resurrected Jesus and they responded by committing their lives. Jesus was lifted up from the earth and He drew all men to Himself. He just did it that time through Peter.

6) The Church developed from 120 people waiting for The Holy Spirit in a room to a community of at least 3,120 who engaged in some very specific activities outlined in the following verses.

Acts 2:40-47(NLT) - And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.

7) They devoted themselves to The Apostle's teaching. In other words, The Apostles kept teaching and the people kept doing what they were taught. One sermon from Peter, though quite effective, was not enough. The same applies to us.

8) They devoted themselves to fellowship. People spent time together which meant that even though they were different they learned to get along. We can't hate each other and fellowship. Church communities share life together. Lone rangers have no place in church. Plug in!

9) They devoted themselves to sharing meals including Communion. When people eat together it builds community. The same way families grow when they all sit at the table together, church communities grow when people eat together. Note that I didn't say churches grow. I said church communities. There's a difference. You can have a big church but that doesn't make it a community. 😉

10) They committed themselves to prayer. Have you ever heard the saying, "the family that prays together stays together?" Well, it applies to church families too. When it's time to pray we should all show up in the same numbers as when it's time to listen to The Word, hang out together or eat. All four are crucial to building the church community. You can't leave out any of them.

11) When the top ten were complete, God moved through miraculous signs and wonders among The Church. That was the order. The first miracle was The Holy Ghost falling upon everybody, then other miracles followed.

12) They helped each other out. Church communities take care of their own. We look out for each other first even before we try to look out for the community around us. We are a community already. It starts at "home".

13) They went to church consistently. You can't build a church community if people don't go to church. That's an easy step to follow because it's directly related to being devoted to The Apostle's teaching. People who show up on Sunday morning get something to follow during the week.

14) They hung out at each other's homes. This one's special for me because I grew up in a pastor's home where people would show up at our house uninvited, some of whom we did not even know. Thankfully, those days are over. However, church communities grow as people spend time at each other's homes when invited, of course.

15) They enjoyed each other. This seems too simple to make the list but it's pretty important. We have to enjoy each other's company. When people like each other, they enjoy each other. Truthfully, you don't have to like everybody you meet or even know, but at the very least, you should like the people at your church. To build the community you should enjoy each other's company.

With these 15 characteristics in place The Church community grew daily as God kept adding people. Additionally, miracles and wonders were done consistently at the hands of The Apostles. If that does not describe your church community, you're invited to Coffee Shop Conversations on Thursday night. If it does, you're also invited because we would love to hear how you do it. Today's blog is just a quick introduction. It doesn't do justice to what my mother, Apostle Jemma Duncan will teach from her book, "Fostering and Forging Apostolic Communities". If you live in the Atlanta area, don't miss it. What are your thoughts? Join the conversation.

Dedication Flyer

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Hearing God's Voice

Date - Sunday, August 2nd, 2015

The Body Church
3015 Rainbow Dr,
Suite #142,
Building #3009,
Decatur, GA 30034

1 Corinthians 12:12(NLT) - The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ.

Sundays
10:00 AM - Worship With Prayer

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Divine Encounters With Jesus - Only Believe

CLICK HERE TO SEE "HEARING GOD'S VOICE"

Date - Sunday, July 26th, 2015

The Body Church
3015 Rainbow Dr,
Suite #142,
Building #3009,
Decatur, GA 30034

1 Corinthians 12:12(NLT) - The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ.

Sundays
10:00 AM - Worship With Prayer

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Identity "Christ-is" (Part Two)

Date - Sunday, July 19th, 2015

The Body Church
Courtyard Atlanta Midtown/ Georgia Tech
1132 Techwood Dr NW, Atlanta
GA 30318

1 Corinthians 12:12(NLT) - The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ.

Sundays
10:00 AM - Worship With Prayer

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The Body Church: Identity "Christ - Is" (Part One)

Date - Sunday, July 12th, 2015

The Body Church
Courtyard Atlanta Midtown/ Georgia Tech
1132 Techwood Dr NW, Atlanta
GA 30318

1 Corinthians 12:12(NLT) - The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ.

Sundays
10:00 AM - Worship With Prayer

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Ask Donnell: How Should The Church Address Homosexuality?

Crown of Thorns

We received the following question;

"Good morning Pastor Donnell. The question I have is for you and Pastor Angel. It’s a sensitive topic which has been present in my mind for a great deal of time. In what way is the Church of Christ to deal and treat with homosexuality in the church? To be more specific, if there may be an individual or individuals struggling and battling with homosexuality in the church, and he/she knows it is wrong but can’t shake off that spirit, how should a pastor or any one in particular support and help heal that person? Also, what do you recommend if he or she is afraid to ask for help?"

Yes, this is a sensitive topic. You hit the nail on the head with that one. Thanks for being bold enough to submit the question. Pastor Angel prayed for God to help me answer your question. This is one of those topics I know I have to address at some point but I rather delay it as long as I can to avoid the inevitable controversy. However, you have effectively forced my hand. Homosexuality has slowly developed into an acceptable lifestyle choice in popular culture and the only safe public position in the eyes of the world is to support it. If you take the risk of publicly opposing it you position yourself for intense backlash and are likely to be called insensitive, unloving and/ or a bigot.

Regardless, as The Church of Jesus Christ, we only have one position on every issue and that's the truth. Hence, Jesus prayed in John 17:17(KJV); "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth." So before we get into how to deal with the issue let's establish what the truth is through The Word of God, the source of truth. In 1 Timothy 3:15, the Apostle Paul calls The Church of The Living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. It's better to keep any discussion on homosexuality within the confines of scripture than to start throwing personal opinions around triggering useless and tiring debates about nothing. We'll see what The Bible says and leave it there. If someone disagrees with The Bible they can seek The Lord for better understanding.

Let's start from the beginning. The first point we must establish is The Bible's position on homosexuality. This has come up for vigorous debate in both secular and religious circles. Does The Bible support it? Does it condemn it? Is it silent? Does it send mixed messages? If we can't establish a solid scriptural foundation any arguments we present will be shaky and need not be considered. If The Bible has no position, The Church, as a whole, has no position and the issue will be left up to personal interpretation. If The Bible has no issues with homosexuality neither should we. So unless there's a problem with it, we don't need to try to help anyone who's living that lifestyle because they should be just fine. So here we go...

Genesis 18:20-23(NLT) - So the Lord told Abraham, "I have heard a great outcry from Sodom and Gomorrah, because their sin is so flagrant. I am going down to see if their actions are as wicked as I have heard. If not, I want to know." The other men turned and headed toward Sodom, but the Lord remained with Abraham.

Genesis 19:4-11(NLT) - But before they retired for the night, all the men of Sodom, young and old, came from all over the city and surrounded the house. They shouted to Lot, "Where are the men who came to spend the night with you? Bring them out to us so we can have sex with them!" So Lot stepped outside to talk to them, shutting the door behind him. "Please, my brothers," he begged, "don't do such a wicked thing. Look, I have two virgin daughters. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do with them as you wish. But please, leave these men alone, for they are my guests and are under my protection." "Stand back!" they shouted. "This fellow came to town as an outsider, and now he's acting like our judge! We'll treat you far worse than those other men!" And they lunged toward Lot to break down the door. But the two angels reached out, pulled Lot into the house, and bolted the door. Then they blinded all the men, young and old, who were at the door of the house, so they gave up trying to get inside.

2 Peter 2:6-9(NLT) - Later, God condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and turned them into heaps of ashes. He made them an example of what will happen to ungodly people. But God also rescued Lot out of Sodom because he was a righteous man who was sick of the shameful immorality of the wicked people around him. Yes, Lot was a righteous man who was tormented in his soul by the wickedness he saw and heard day after day.

Jude 7(NLT) - And don't forget Sodom and Gomorrah and their neighboring towns, which were filled with immorality and every kind of sexual perversion. Those cities were destroyed by fire and serve as a warning of the eternal fire of God's judgment.

I'm sure you heard the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. God destroyed those cities with fire and brimstone but rescued Lot's family because of his faithfulness. One of the many issues highlighted by the scriptures concerning Sodom and Gomorrah was homosexuality. Pay close attention to the sequence of the scripture excerpts listed above. This can be considered as one of the foundational accounts of homosexuality in The Bible. I deliberately chose this account because it precludes Mosaic law and the endless arguments which surround the applicability of any of the resulting Levitical precepts in the modern age of grace.

Starting with Genesis 18:20, God specifically said that He would go down to Sodom and see if the wickedness matched their reputation. Fast forward to Genesis 19:4-11 which recounts what happened when the two angels who accompanied God to visit Abraham left to visit Lot in Sodom and Gomorrah. What did they see? What type of wickedness was highlighted in their visit? I will reserve my opinion. You can answer that question for yourself by reading the scripture. Then, when you read 2 Peter 2:6-9 and Jude 7, you will have a solid grasp of The Bible's position. You can also read 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10 for some supporting scriptures. That's the foundation. Now let's move on to what's going on right now in our society.

Romans 1:21-27(NLT) - Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn't worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles. So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile and degrading things with each other's bodies. They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen. That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. And the men, instead of having normal sexual relations with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men, and as a result of this sin, they suffered within themselves the penalty they deserved.

Welcome to the 21st century. When people reject God for who He is, they create their own idea of God. For some strange reason the scripture presents a direct correlation between a rejection of God's truth and the rise of homosexual tendencies. I don't mean to beat a dead horse but before we find a solution, we need to diagnose the problem. The first issue that must be dealt with is whether or not The Bible supports the homosexual lifestyle. If it does not, then we can reach out and help those who are caught up in it. If it does, then they don't need our help. Obviously, it does not. Hence, the question of whether or not homosexuality is a sin is a non-issue. With that out of the way, let's move on to answering your question. How do we address homosexuality in The Church?

Galatians 6:1-3(NLT) - Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other's burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.

In your question you outlined that the person you are referring to is struggling with homosexuality and is fully aware that it is wrong. As a result, the discussion of whether or not homosexuality is wrong is irrelevant to that person so you can leave that out of the situation completely. Someone like that, who is fully aware of their sin does not need to be reminded that it is sin. They know that already. According to Galatians 6:1-3, they need support. They need love. They need someone to share their burden. They also need people around them who are not currently struggling with the same sin and can possibly fall into the same temptation. That's the primary responsibility of brothers and sisters in Christ.

When a Christian is struggling with a sin like homosexuality it's tough to deal with it. There is a lot of shame attached to it. That's another reason why the scripture reference above says those who are Godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. Pay attention to the specific criteria listed. First, this role is reserved for those who are Godly, otherwise referred to as spiritual in other translations. People who are spiritual manifest the Fruit of The Spirit as listed in Galatians 5:22-23.

Galatians 5:22-23(NLT) - But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

Carnal folks who are overcome by their own sins tend to magnify the sins of others to draw attention away from themselves. Jesus said in Matthew 7:3-5 that they see the specks in other people's eyes and ignore the logs in their own. Homosexuality is wrong. The person gets it. It's a struggle that the person's losing so help out. Christian people caught up in that lifestyle are in the fight of their lives against a relentless enemy. They need the rest of us to jump in and fight alongside them. When someone is drowning you don't describe the water, you reach out and pull the person in. Now let's get to the heavy stuff.

Mark 3:27(NLT) - Let me illustrate this further. Who is powerful enough to enter the house of a strong man like Satan and plunder his goods? Only someone even stronger—someone who could tie him up and then plunder his house.

2 Corinthians 10:3-69(NLT) - We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.

Homosexuality is a strong man. It's a spiritual and mental stronghold that's not easily broken except by the power of The Spirit of God. It is not to be taken lightly nor treated frivolously. A person under the influence of homosexuality is under a powerful influence and it's no joke. There are few among us who operate in the kind of spiritual authority it takes to attack it head on. I once visited a church that had opened its doors to minister specifically to the homosexual community of Atlanta. It was housed in a beautiful building that continues to stand today.

I believe it was a labor of love at the beginning but in the end, the church were completely overrun with homosexuality to the point that even the pastor and elders were visibly struggling with homosexuality. Those precious brothers and sisters came to The Church in response to a show of love which fortunately, they did receive. However, what they they did not receive was deliverance. Therefore, I learned a valuable lesson that I will teach you today.

There are at least three parts to this process. One is an outpouring of love, the second is the establishment of truth and the third is a demonstration of the power of God for deliverance. If we are to properly respond to homosexuality in The Church we must love people like Jesus loves us, speak the truth in love and let love drive us to operate in the power of God.

John 8:32(NLT) - And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

2 Corinthians 3:17(NLT) - For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

Now let's get some balance. What sets people free? Truth! And what is truth? The Word of God. It may come in the form of a prophetic Word. It may come in the form of a sermon. It may come in the form of a song of The Lord. In whatever form it comes, the truth will set you free. This is important to understand because love does not preclude the need to speak the truth. You need both. Hence, in Ephesians 4:15 we are instructed to speak the truth in love. There's no point in loving people but leaving them in bondage. They need the truth so that they can get their freedom. The truth for someone in denial is to show them their sin but for someone who accepts their sin, show them the solution.

In addition, once the presence of The Holy Spirit is strong in your church, that's a great place for deliverance from any kind of sin. God has His ways of dealing with certain issues in the fullness of time. As a result, anyone struggling with any sin including homosexuality just needs to keep showing up in an atmosphere of love and truth that's teeming with God's presence. Sooner or later, the combination of love, truth and the presence of The Holy Spirit will jumpstart the process of freedom that may have stalled for years. If any of these three fundamental elements of deliverance is missing there won't be much success.

John 8:36(KJV) - If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11(NLT) - Don't you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don't fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

James 5:13-16(NKJV) - Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.

Last, but definitely not least. For anyone struggling with any sin, these three preceding scriptures outline the process of cleansing right there. Call on the name of Jesus and allow the Spirit of God to move freely through your life. Call on the elders and let them anoint and pray over you. Find someone full of The Holy Ghost that you can talk to about what you're struggling with. Let that person pray for you too. God does not condemn you and neither do we. We love you. We give you the truth. We pray for you. That's our job. That's how we deal with homosexuality. That's how we deal with sin. That's how we deal with life.

If you want to learn more, read this blog; "Ask Donnell: Why Can't I Stop Going Back To This Sin?"

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Ask Donnell: Has The Church Replaced Israel In God's Plan?

Ask Donnell: Has The Church Replaced Israel In God's Plan?

We received the following question;

"Some people believe that The Church is spiritual Israel. Has The Church replaced Israel in God's plan? If so, what's God's plan for The Nation of Israel?"

Is The Church spiritual Israel? That is a fascinating question. I've heard the concept before and definitely understand why anyone would believe that to be the case. This idea has been referred to as "Replacement Theology" or some version of it by its critics. It purports that The Church replaced Israel in God's plans, prophecies, etc. especially when it comes to Eschatology or End Time Prophecies. The New Covenant with The Church replaced The Old Covenant with Israel. Circumcision of the heart replaced physical circumcision, etc., etc. Therefore, after The Book of Acts, anywhere we see the future of Israel in The Bible we can put The Church in there. Here's two scriptures that could cause some to start thinking along those lines.

Romans 2:25-29, 3:1-2, 9-10, 29-31(NLT) - The Jewish ceremony of circumcision has value only if you obey God's law. But if you don't obey God's law, you are no better off than an uncircumcised Gentile. And if the Gentiles obey God's law, won't God declare them to be his own people? In fact, uncircumcised Gentiles who keep God's law will condemn you Jews who are circumcised and possess God's law but don't obey it. For you are not a true Jew just because you were born of Jewish parents or because you have gone through the ceremony of circumcision. No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by God's Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people....3:1 - Then what's the advantage of being a Jew? Is there any value in the ceremony of circumcision? Yes, there are great benefits! First of all, the Jews were entrusted with the whole revelation of God... 9 Well then, should we conclude that we Jews are better than others? No, not at all, for we have already shown that all people, whether Jews or Gentiles, are under the power of sin. 10 As the Scriptures say, "No one is righteous— "No one is righteous— not even one.... 29 After all, is God the God of the Jews only? Isn't he also the God of the Gentiles? Of course he is. There is only one God, and he makes people right with himself only by faith, whether they are Jews or Gentiles. Well then, if we emphasize faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law? Of course not! In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law.

Galatians 3:26-29(NLT) - For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on the character of Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God's promise to Abraham belongs to you.

So what do you see in those two scriptures? Has The Church replaced The Nation of Israel as God's Children? It may appear so to the untrained eye. However, what we're really seeing here is that the believers in Christ out of The Gentiles combined with the believers in Christ out of The Nation of Israel make up The Church. Together, we are God's Children. All who are in Christ are one and God doesn't distinguish between us when it comes to His promise of blessings. We, The Church of Jesus Christ don't replace Israel, we just join the believers in Christ from Israel. Hence, those who accept Christ of Jewish or Gentile heritage are treated the same.

Also, those who reject Jesus, both of Jewish and Gentile heritage will see the same fate for eternity. It's no longer good enough just to be born a Jew. Everyone has to get saved through faith in Jesus. Let me say it another way to drive the point home. Jews who reject Jesus go to hell. Gentiles who reject Jesus go to hell. Jews who accept Jesus are in God's family and spend eternity with Him. Gentiles who accept Jesus are in His family and join the Jewish believers in God's family. However, that doesn't mean Jews aren't special in God's sight. Jesus said in John 4:22(KJV) - "Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews."

God's plan of redemption was fulfilled in Jesus who was a Jew and continued with The Apostles who were also Jews. They preached the gospel in Jerusalem to Jews who were the first to get saved and establish The Church. It was all about Jews getting saved until God directed several Apostles to take the show on the road and preach the gospel to the Gentiles. Therefore, The Gentiles who received Jesus joined The Jews who believed in Jesus in The Church. So, the concept of The Church replacing Jews won't make sense because The Church is full of Jews. Nonetheless, ethnic Jews still exist, so what's God's plan for The Nations of Israel and Judah?

Isaiah 45:17(NLT) - But the Lord will save the people of Israel with eternal salvation. Throughout everlasting ages, they will never again be humiliated and disgraced.

God plans to save the people of Israel also. However, let's not get carried away and think this means they don't need Jesus to get saved. Fast forward to The New Testament for more clarity concerning God's plan to save His people Israel and Judah.

Romans 9:22-29(NLT) - In the same way, even though God has the right to show his anger and his power, he is very patient with those on whom his anger falls, who were made for destruction. He does this to make the riches of his glory shine even brighter on those to whom he shows mercy, who were prepared in advance for glory. And we are among those whom he selected, both from the Jews and from the Gentiles. Concerning the Gentiles, God says in the prophecy of Hosea, "Those who were not my people, I will now call my people. And I will love those whom I did not love before." And, "Then, at the place where they were told, 'You are not my people,' there they will be called 'children of the living God.'" And concerning Israel, Isaiah the prophet cried out, "Though the people of Israel are as numerous as the sand of the seashore, only a remnant will be saved. For the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth quickly and with finality." And Isaiah said the same thing in another place:"If the Lord of Heaven's Armies had not spared a few of our children, we would have been wiped out like Sodom, destroyed like Gomorrah."

So, let's start with the good news. God has a plan for the Gentiles and a plan for The Jews. His plan for The Gentiles was Jesus. His plan for the Jews was Jesus. Are they saved just because they are Jewish or from The Nation of Israel? No! Is Jewish salvation automatic? No! They need Jesus just like we need Jesus. Let's dig in some more into God's plan for Israel.

Romans 10:1-11(NLT) - Dear brothers and sisters, the longing of my heart and my prayer to God is for the people of Israel to be saved. 2 I know what enthusiasm they have for God, but it is misdirected zeal. 3 For they don't understand God's way of making people right with himself. Refusing to accept God's way, they cling to their own way of getting right with God by trying to keep the law. 4 For Christ has already accomplished the purpose for which the law was given. As a result, all who believe in him are made right with God. 5 For Moses writes that the law's way of making a person right with God requires obedience to all of its commands. 6 But faith's way of getting right with God says, "Don't say in your heart, 'Who will go up to heaven' (to bring Christ down to earth). 7 And don't say, 'Who will go down to the place of the dead' (to bring Christ back to life again)." 8 In fact, it says, "The message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart." And that message is the very message about faith that we preach: 9 If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.

So Apostle Paul's prayer was for Israel's salvation and the only way they would receive that salvation is through confessing with their mouth that Jesus is Lord and believing in their heart that God raised Him from the dead. It's a simple plan and it works for everyone. It was Apostle Paul's prayer that the remnant who would we saved would go ahead and accept the path to their salvation by grace through faith in Jesus. Let's now bring this discussion to a close with a powerful scripture.

Romans 11:7-31(NLT) - So this is the situation: Most of the people of Israel have not found the favor of God they are looking for so earnestly. A few have—the ones God has chosen—but the hearts of the rest were hardened. As the Scriptures say, “God has put them into a deep sleep. To this day he has shut their eyes so they do not see, and closed their ears so they do not hear.” Likewise, David said, “Let their bountiful table become a snare, a trap that makes them think all is well. Let their blessings cause them to stumble, and let them get what they deserve. Let their eyes go blind so they cannot see, and let their backs be bent forever.” Did God’s people stumble and fall beyond recovery? Of course not! They were disobedient, so God made salvation available to the Gentiles. But he wanted his own people to become jealous and claim it for themselves. Now if the Gentiles were enriched because the people of Israel turned down God’s offer of salvation, think how much greater a blessing the world will share when they finally accept it. I am saying all this especially for you Gentiles. God has appointed me as the apostle to the Gentiles. I stress this, for I want somehow to make the people of Israel jealous of what you Gentiles have, so I might save some of them. For since their rejection meant that God offered salvation to the rest of the world, their acceptance will be even more wonderful. It will be life for those who were dead! And since Abraham and the other patriarchs were holy, their descendants will also be holy—just as the entire batch of dough is holy because the portion given as an offering is holy. For if the roots of the tree are holy, the branches will be, too. But some of these branches from Abraham’s tree—some of the people of Israel—have been broken off. And you Gentiles, who were branches from a wild olive tree, have been grafted in. So now you also receive the blessing God has promised Abraham and his children, sharing in the rich nourishment from the root of God’s special olive tree. But you must not brag about being grafted in to replace the branches that were broken off. You are just a branch, not the root. “Well,” you may say, “those branches were broken off to make room for me.” Yes, but remember—those branches were broken off because they didn’t believe in Christ, and you are there because you do believe. So don’t think highly of yourself, but fear what could happen. For if God did not spare the original branches, he won’t spare you either. Notice how God is both kind and severe. He is severe toward those who disobeyed, but kind to you if you continue to trust in his kindness. But if you stop trusting, you also will be cut off. And if the people of Israel turn from their unbelief, they will be grafted in again, for God has the power to graft them back into the tree. You, by nature, were a branch cut from a wild olive tree. So if God was willing to do something contrary to nature by grafting you into his cultivated tree, he will be far more eager to graft the original branches back into the tree where they belong. I want you to understand this mystery, dear brothers and sisters, so that you will not feel proud about yourselves. Some of the people of Israel have hard hearts, but this will last only until the full number of Gentiles comes to Christ. And so all Israel will be saved. As the Scriptures say, "The one who rescues will come from Jerusalem, and he will turn Israel away from ungodliness. And this is my covenant with them, that I will take away their sins." Many of the people of Israel are now enemies of the Good News, and this benefits you Gentiles. Yet they are still the people he loves because he chose their ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For God's gifts and his call can never be withdrawn. Once, you Gentiles were rebels against God, but when the people of Israel rebelled against him, God was merciful to you instead. Now they are the rebels, and God's mercy has come to you so that they, too, will share in God's mercy.

The Apostle Paul settled the issue in this passage of scripture. Israel is the root and we, The Gentiles were grafted into the tree because Israel rejected Jesus and made room for us. Those who were grafted in have not replaced the original branches and we must stop saying that. They will be grafted in again to join us. God added to His family those who would believe and will add the people of Israel again when they choose to believe in Jesus. Israel will be saved. In fact, the time is coming when they will open their hearts to hear the gospel and everyone of them will accept Jesus.

WAIT? Did he also say what I thought he said? All Israel will be saved? How is that possible? I thought God would only save a remnant? Well, let's make sense of this. First, this scripture is referring to the end of time because it clearly states that a time is coming when the full number of Gentiles will come to Christ. Therefore, after that time no more Gentiles will be getting saved. However, there will be a mass revival in Israel when they will receive Jesus. They will finally understand that He was sent as The Savior to Jerusalem to turn them away from ungodliness. Obviously, those who are ALIVE at the time of the end will be able to accept the truth of the gospel. Those who are dead won't be in Jerusalem anymore so I don't see how this scripture refers to them.

Hence, when this scripture is compared with the others that say only a remnant of Israel will be saved there is an easy way to look at it. All of Israel at that time will be saved. Everyone will recognize Jesus for who He truly is and they will be welcomed into The Body of Christ. They will accept the Good News which is the gospel of Jesus Christ. So, in the end, only those who accept Jesus will be saved. Fortunately, the time is coming when the gospel will be preached in Israel in such a mighty way that all who hear it will believe. Perhaps, this is why God never gives up on Israel. He knows that one day a generation of Jews, referred to as the remnant in the last days, will get it right and accept Jesus.

3

The Cave and The Stone

Date - Sunday, July 5th, 2015

The Body Church
Courtyard Atlanta Midtown/ Georgia Tech
1132 Techwood Dr NW, Atlanta
GA 30318

1 Corinthians 12:12(NLT) - The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ.

Sundays
10:00 AM - Worship With Prayer

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Sharing Her-Story: While Searching For Truth She Found Jesus!

Date - Sunday, June 28th, 2015

The Body Church
Courtyard Atlanta Midtown/ Georgia Tech
1132 Techwood Dr NW, Atlanta
GA 30318

1 Corinthians 12:12(NLT) - The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ.

Sundays
10:00 AM - Worship With Prayer

4

Ask Donnell - Did The Resurrection Already Take Place?

resurrection

We received the following question from Charlene;

Hi Donnell, greetings to you in Jesus name. My son came to me asking me if I knew anybody other than Jesus raised from the dead. I said no. Then he quoted ..Matthew 27:51-53(NIV)…."At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to Bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life." Is this the resurrection that was spoken about? Could you give me some clarity. Thank you and God bless you

Charlene, this question is loaded. There is so much to say on this topic that I must force myself to be concise. Read my book, "I Curse Death" available now at the bookstore if you want the long answer. Yesterday evening I had a long talk with one of my friends about the notion of raising people from the dead. When is it appropriate? Who has the authority to decide that someone's death was untimely and premature. As a result, when is it a good idea to petition God to return a dead person to life?

Matthew 27:50-53(NKJV) And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.

After Jesus rose from the dead, several people followed him out of their graves. Was that The Resurrection? To answer the question directly, no! However, what did happen was a resurrection. In fact, resurrections were commonplace in The Bible both in The Old and New Testaments. The power of God to bring the dead to life has been on display since the days of old. The Resurrection of Jesus was just the highlight of them all and The Resurrection of every Christian at the sound of The Last Trumpet will be the grand finale.

So how should we approach Matthew 27:50-53? There are several ways that come to mind immediately. However, I'll start with the simplest. When Jesus rose from the dead so much resurrection power was released that it impacted many others in the vicinity. That's not so far-fetched because the precedent for such an eventuality was already set in the scriptures. Take a look at what happened when a dead man was thrown on top of the bones of the prophet Elisha. They shared a tomb for a very short time.

2 Kings 13:21(NKJV) - So it was, as they were burying a man, that suddenly they spied a band of raiders; and they put the man in the tomb of Elisha; and when the man was let down and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived and stood on his feet.

Here's some quick context. Those were no ordinary bones because Elisha was no ordinary guy. He had a reputation for raising the dead while he was alive and kept that reputation even after his death. You can check out the biblical record of Elisha raising the son of the Shunammite woman who had been dead in 2 Kings 4:32-37! It's a very dramatic account of God's power to raise the dead in action through an anointed man of God.

2 Kings 4:32-37(NKJV) - When Elisha came into the house, there was the child, lying dead on his bed. He went in therefore, shut the door behind the two of them, and prayed to the Lord. And he went up and lay on the child, and put his mouth on his mouth, his eyes on his eyes, and his hands on his hands; and he stretched himself out on the child, and the flesh of the child became warm. He returned and walked back and forth in the house, and again went up and stretched himself out on him; then the child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes. And he called Gehazi and said, “Call this Shunammite woman.” So he called her. And when she came in to him, he said, “Pick up your son.” So she went in, fell at his feet, and bowed to the ground; then she picked up her son and went out.

So what does any of this have to do with the people who came back to life just after Jesus in Matthew 27:50-53? Perhaps nothing or then again maybe not. If Elisha's bones could raise a young man back to life just by mere contact how much more could the body of a resurrected Jesus affect an entire cemetery? The power on Elisha's bones pale in comparison to the power on the body of Jesus. Not only did Jesus raise the dead during His lifetime like Elisha did, Jesus Himself is the source of all life. Nonetheless, let's see how Jesus explains the nature of The Resurrection once and for all.

John 11:20-27(NKJV) - Now Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house. Now Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

While mourning the death of her brother, Martha found hope in knowing that one day she would see him alive again at The Resurrection at the last day. It's the event spoken of in Daniel 12:1-2 that was common knowledge at that time.

Daniel 12:1-2(NKJV) - “At that time Michael shall stand up, The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; And there shall be a time of trouble, Such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, Every one who is found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, Some to everlasting life, Some to shame and everlasting contempt.

This is what Martha was looking forward to and her faith was in the right place because it was based in God's Word. However, Jesus revealed something she or nobody else had ever heard before. The Resurrection was more than an event that would take place at the end of time. The Resurrection is really a person and His name is Jesus. As a result, those who believe in Jesus can experience The Resurrection at any moment. Jesus described it as such; if they die, they will live and if they are alive they won't die.

That's what happens when The Resurrection shows up. He puts an end to the power of death in the lives of anyone who would dare to believe in Him as The Resurrection. When Martha believed, Jesus brought the future event into the present by raising Lazarus from the dead right there on the spot. He didn't have to wait for The Last Trumpet because The Resurrection put on human form and called his name. I can go on and on about this topic because it's the subject of my first book, I Curse Death and it remains as my first love when it comes to revelation from the scriptures.

There's nothing I love to teach more than victory over death through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He died so we could live and that doesn't just mean at The Resurrection on the last day which is what Martha thought but right now because The Resurrection aka Jesus lives inside of us. Now, with that in mind let's take a final look at the event called The Resurrection through the lens of the person called The Resurrection.

1 Corinthians 15:50-58(NKJV) - Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

According to what we just saw in this scripture, The Resurrection will take place at The Last Trumpet. Read Revelation 8 and you'll see that there will be Seven Trumpets signalling seven specific events which will signal the countdown to The Resurrection. At that point, our bodies will change into glorified bodies and the thought of death would become a distant memory. We'll become physically immortal. Now, here's what The Resurrection looks like when it's seen through the lens of Jesus, who is The Resurrection.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18(NKJV) - But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.

Think of The Church as The Body of Christ then think of The Resurrection as the complete redemption or restoration of The Body. In an instant, Jesus, the Head of The Church will descend from heaven and at the same time His Body, The Church will rise to meet Him in the air. Those who died in Christ will rise first then the rest of us who are still alive will catch them in the air. The Resurrection therefore, is really the event that marks the return of Jesus Christ who is The Resurrection. In other words, when The Last Trumpet sounds, The Resurrection will return and His return will trigger an instant change in the bodies of every Christian and our ascension to meet Him which we also call The Resurrection.

We will no longer be subject to death nor any other physical limitation including gravity, time or space. Hence, just like The Resurrection of Jesus caused many saints to come back to life, on an even higher level, the return of Jesus as The Resurrection will cause every saint to come back to life. Those who are dead will live again and those who are alive will never die. Can you believe that? Lord knows, I believe.

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