His name was Joe Flores. He was one of the most unique cases of a changed life I have seen. I only knew him after his conversion but his story is one of amazing grace how sweet the change of a life. The world looks upon glory as rags to riches but to everyone who understood the story of Joe Flores, glory was seen far more in riches to rags. When I met him he was a poor man.
But what about before his conversion? He was a drug pusher. He had four houses and one of them was located in Beverly Hills. The only house that I saw of the four was the one he had started payments on for his mom but at the time I saw it even that one was being fore closed on and eventually his mom lost it.
He had all the women he could ever want. He was rolling in money. Had the drugs he wanted and on and on. What more could a man want? What could stop such a life in its tracks and turn him so drastically into such a drastically different path - the path of a street preacher who wouldn't quit preaching for anybody?
Jesus! Plain and simple. The Lord Jesus appeared to Joe in his room one night. The Lord never said a word to Joe that night. He didn't have to: the expression of grief on His face out of His heart of love and compassion was all it took to arrest Joe. Not long after this someone shared the faith of Christ with him and not long after he was re born of Spirit from above was set aflame with love for his Lord.
Rivers of living water began to flow within him and people began to be saved from his street preaching right and left! He spent his time mainly preaching on the streets of San Fernando, CA. Set aflame for God. I was one of the older brothers in the Lord that he respected and learned from and I taught him some of the things of God and ministry but then he surpassed me in the area of evangelism being he was a single brother and was given over to it.
But I mention all of this only because it pertains to my story. Things that happened at his house.
These events must be understood within the context of the Reagan administration. My wife and I lived in the Los Angeles area. We had just been married a little over a year. It was tough times because of unemployment during those days. To top it off we lived in an area of the country that was one of the hardest hit by Reaganomics at that time: Los Angeles with an 11.5% unemployment rate.
During these rough times we went to stay with Joe for awhile. His house with the Spanish style roof was so big we had our own room. At the time we moved in the house was the only one of the 4 he had left and even though he had got it for his mom it was being fore closed on. Joe had for a time gone to the same church (Evangelism Today Out reach started by Paul Whitcomb) I had gone to and both of us had left it under different circumstances. You see, so many times when there is real fire in a man those of the "leadership" sometimes feel threatened so they try to squelch it. Big mistake! And in Joe's case … well, he just up and left. About the same time frame I was at Joe's house and finally got to reading a book God had tried once before to put in front of my face (when I was laid flat on my back for a time) but I had paid attention to the TV instead. Such a shame! That's one reason I don't have one in my house anymore. It's too much of a waste of time.
What was the book? It was by Watchman Nee. It's title was "Further Talks On the Church Life." Much of its content concerns the problem of unity and what Biblical unity is as opposed to what man's mere opinion or thought concerning the subject might be. If you hear me quote any scripture more than any other it is this: "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are My ways your ways." In that revolutionary book (which I have to honestly recommend by the way) Watchman proves according to the Bible that New Testament unity is LOCAL. In other words the singular form of the word "ecclesia" always referred to an group (or many groups meeting in many homes!!!) of believers who lived within the bounds of a city, town, village etc. etc. The plural word? Always a group comprising a group that included people from more than one city, town, village or "locality." A province did not qualify as a locality as can be plainly seen in Galatians chapter one where Paul speaks to the "Galatians" --- that is not the same as the Corinthians as Corinth was a city so Paul said the "ecclesia" that is in Corinth but to Galatia it was the "ecclesias" plural as Galatia was not a city but a huge province with many cities.
Well finally the truth of what Christian unity was according to God's Word and God's thought and not just my thought or yours hit me full force and I realized that if you take all the names of all the Christians in the world and put that list next to the list of which cities or towns they all live in THEY DO NOT HAVE A CHOICE ACCORDING TO THE WORD OF GOD AS TO WHICH ECCLESIA THEY BELONG TO. IT HAS BEEN ESTABLISHED ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES A LONG TIME AGO THAT THOSE BELIEVERS WHO LIVE IN THE SAME LOCALITY BELONG TOGETHER WHETHER THEY LIKE IT OR NOT IN THE SAME ASSEMBLY AND THAT IS BIBLICAL UNITY!!!!!!!! Well when you put it that way it seems God did not give us a choice (heeee-llo! Wake up and smell the coffee!), BUT when you look around you in this confusing mess we Christians find ourselves in today it seems there are many choices or differing kinds of meetings to choose from. And how can you be one with all the different believers in the city where you live? That is impossible. It is also impossible these days to maintain fellowship with all believers even in such a practical situation as a locality because there are so many different divisions among the children of God. The 4th Chapter in Watchman Nee's book on the 5 different kinds of unity in existence really hit me hard and has hit many others these last 75 years since it was written. Anyway to put it in short Nee basically states the only concepts of unity that really exist.
1. Congregational: namely that each congregation of believers must maintain their own unity amongst themselves. The problem with this is that you can splinter in one city as many times as you like and there is no restriction. (Hello, wake up and realize what world you are living in! It is happening lawlessly with no restrictions and it is spiritual fornication: THE LORD ONLY HAS ONE BRIDE! NOT 10,000!) Of course this unity is contrary to the New Testament as it is smaller than the scriptural unit for an assembly and that is their locality which is the town, city or village.
2. Worldwide unity. This is the meaning of the word Catholic. It is true in one sense. That is that there is only one Catholic or the synonym word Universal Body of Christ in the whole ,not just world, but universe and that includes all times and all places. (so for believers to talk of a "body" that meets here or this "body" or that "body" is sheer nonsense as talked by those who don't know what they are talking and about and prove to all who hear them that they have never had a revelation of the Body of Christ. The problem with the Catholics (besides their false doctrines and abominable idolatries) is that they forgot the word "ecclesias" ("churches") in the PLURAL. This plural does not mean the universal one Body of the one Head Who is our Lord is divided but that there is a practical separation for practical purposes of fellowship (not that we should not travel outside and beyond our localities for further fellowship : in fact you will see this many times in the Bible. You can see plainly that this unity is BIGGER than the scriptural boundary which is the city, not the universe, county congregation or world.
3. National unity. When the reformation under Martin Luther and others started in the 1500's or that about time frame the first break off from the Catholic monstrosity was into The German Lutheran, the Dutch Reformed, the English Anglican churches, etc. These were national churches with a National government --- in fact the Anglican churches head was considered to be the Queen of England, etc. This is still wrong. It is still larger than the scriptural boundary of a locality.
4. Local unity. This is the true Biblical version of unity, like it or not. And you probably won't!! BUT, you'll grow in Christ a lot faster than you ever will any other way! I will not go into the references too much at this time but if you'll study the BIBLE NOT SOME PHARISEE'S concept and doctrine of man or side wall interpretation you'll find to your shock and amazement that the only kind of assembly that can ever even anywhere anyhow any size etc. etc. etc. any way shape or form be found anywhere in the scriptures were local and ONLY local. In every reference to the Greek word for what we call "church" that is in the singular in EVERY instance was referring to an assembly in a particular city and every instance where it was plural was referring to an area that was larger than the border or boundary of a locality. Anyway, you'll find that when the Lord told John to write to 7 assemblies in Rev. Ch. 1
5. There's one more concept but Watchman Nee didn't deal with it in that chapter but in the same book in a later chapter. It's the concept of "house-churches" being assemblies. It may be true that apostles started meetings in houses and it may have been one main house where they met at first BUT a house is NOT the boundary of a N.T. assembly or there could be even MORE divisions than the denominations (notice that word "nations" in there - hmmmn. It must be something of the world) have! This would mean the so-called "house church movement" of today could wind up being more divisive than anything else! In some ways this element is in some of their groups.
Back to the story. I HAD to leave the "church" I was in because it was a division. So some say today: "if you leave these divisions you are just more divisive and making just one more division." But, as I have said before, it is impossible to be with ALL the children of God in this day and age because the divisions already exist. In fact, 99.99% of us were born again inside of the walls of one of these divisions which these days are almost endless. So you have to divide from them to be obedient to God. Maybe you'll see Christians at work or next door who go to other denominations and free groups and have opportunity to fellowship with them as much as possible, but you are not going to have the practical fellowship or as much fellowship with them as God meant for you to have. The point is I must obey God and be one with Him even if that means dividing from everyone else in the whole universe!!! God says there is one assembly of believers for every one city or locality. I must say amen to Him and meet on that basis and on that basis alone! Enough said.
So here I was for the first time outside the organized church but I was at Joe's house and there was so much life and prayer and worship happening etc. that many young believers were being attracted to that house. One day Joe and I were fellowshipping and got into the subject of how we do things differently than they did it in the book of Acts and wondered what would happen if we tried to do some things the way they did! One of the things we had found was that we were one Body and that that one Body was one bread and that they partook of this bread (Christ in us!) daily and even broke bread (communion?) daily from house to house in Acts ch. 2. Of course the NT seems to depart from that practice later and make it once a week etc. but why not try it? (I have not since that time but it would still be interesting.)
So in that old stucco Spanish style house with about 7 or 8 of us we broke bread there and passed around the grape juice. We had a time of silence for repentance and heart searching and I then introduced a practice, which I had learned from the local churches I had visited (started by Witness Lee in this country, which I will get into in the next chapter) of taking the cup of salvation by calling upon the name of the Lord. Well this communion daily and calling upon the name started a revival in that house. Even Joe, who was a fire ball needed it. If you have never tried it, (calling "Oh. Lord Jesus" try it. You'll be refreshed, revived and filled but don't stay in these mere shallows: there are oceans of depths of experiences of Christ for you to discover! Of course the basis of that experience must always be maintained just as you must always drink water. Calling is drinking! I will take the cup! And Call!) try it! The scripture says "no man can say "Lord Jesus" except in the Spirit!" It is the fastest way of getting into instant contact with Him.
This was the start of much fellowship and experiencing of the sweetness of Christ in deep communion with Him in that house and many came to Joe there. Me? Joe came to me. But my unemployment situation was such a problem I didn't spend as much time as I would have liked. However, what a blessing to watch! It had its impact on my life.
Joe testified that the daily communion and heart searching confession of sin took the monkey off his back and freed him from the nagging temptation to take Cocaine! The temptation was far far gone!
One day, however, I went to him and tried to share what I had been discovering about the boundary of locality concerning how we should take the stand in San Fernando (where Joe and I lived) of being "the assembly in San Fernando" as no other Christians were doing it and I believed it would bring further blessing. He got mad! He would not accept this. He almost cussed me out and told me to leave him alone and get out of his house.
I have seen in years since that this way is the way of the cross. This is because there are so many who will not accept the restriction this puts upon them because they'd have to be with believers who are different members from themselves(hello!)! This brings many lessons of the cross as you cannot maintain your "group flavour" or "specialty". Rather there are many different members of Christ's Body with many different functions so HE can be expressed. HE is so special!!
Well!! ……That didn't last long. I had to move on. And Joe? He started some kind of church where they had communion every day and called it by a name (UN scriptural! DI-visive!) …I think it was "The Church How you Knew it Should Be" or something like that, I can't remember and then I never heard much about him. He seemed to go no where .. but who knows?
………………………….. life went on ……….