Thursday, April 29, 2010
Saturday, April 24, 2010
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. (Romans 8:18-22 NASB95)
- For the beauty of the earth
- For the Glory of the skies,
- For the love which from our birth
- Over and around us lies:
- 'Lord of all, to Thee we raise
- this our grateful hymn of praise.
- Alternative refrain:
- Christ, our God, to Thee we raise
- This, our sacrifice of praise.
- For the beauty of each hour
- Of the day and of the night,
- Hill and vale and tree and flow'r
- Sun and Moon and stars of light
- For the joy of human love,
- Brother, sister, parent, child.
- Friends on earth and friends above
- For all gentle thoughts and mild.
- For each perfect gift of Thine
- To our race so freely given.
- Graces human and divine
- Flow'rs of earth and buds of heav'n.
Friday, April 16, 2010
As He was going along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. Going on a little farther, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who were also in the boat mending the nets. Immediately He called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went away to follow Him.
(Mark 1:16-20 NASB95)
Monday, April 12, 2010
Then Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the law. Then he said to them, “Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:9-10)
Nehemiah is commenting on what has just occurred in the life of Israel. The exiles have returned from Babylon and have rebuilt Jerusalem. In celebration Ezra has just read from the book of the Law. The people are "cut to the quick" by the reading, which has not taken place, ever, in their memory. In the words of scripture are power - for they carry the weight of the Holy Spirit as the Word of God. The crowd is brought to tears as the scripture is read, for the Spirit is at work in a powerful way. What is happening? Why the tears? Maybe the tears come the conviction the Spirit brings... Maybe the tears come from an experience of holiness... Maybe the tears come from the sense that for so long they have waited to know God's presence in their midst again... Maybe they are truly tears of joy.... Probably it is all of these things.
Yet Nehemiah responds with an interesting turn - "the joy of the Lord is our strength"...
We have confidence in our God when the night is darkest and the world is set against us. God sent the Word to become flesh in Jesus so that he might experience death for us. He has gone on before us and shown us the way. We need not fear man or world. We need not fear the principalities and powers, or the spiritual forces of darkness in this world, for Jesus has already seen them "nailed to the tree" (Col. 2:14-15).
For Nehemiah and for us, we need to understand that the Spirit not only convicts of sin, but fills us with "joy." The world wants you to be happy; God wants you to have joy. Happiness comes and goes; joy is God's favor, and lasts a lifetime (Psalm 30:5).
Friends in Christ, as Paul tells us in Philippians 4:4, exercise your "joy" today and chase the darkness away!
Saturday, April 10, 2010
For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function,
so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
Romans 12:4-5 (NASB95)
¶ For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
¶ For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
¶ Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.
1 Corinthians 12:12-27 (NASB95)
So what can we draw from these scriptures about church health?
1) The church is Christ's body today. It is a living organism that breathes (Holy Spirit), walks and talks (ministry, witness and worship).
2) The church - as an organic body - has members. The term 'members', literally means appendages, organs or parts. Each member has a role to play, a purpose or function that is important to the life of the body. Paul makes this very clear in 1 Corinthians 12:21f.
3) The church as a body, needs exercise. If the church does not walk and talk consistently, regularly and according to function, it will atrophy and become ineffective. Just like the middle-aged person who does not pursue some type of physical and mental exercise and becomes over weight and unhealthy, the church as the Body of Christ must do what it is called to do. Matthew 28:19-20; Luke 10:27...
If this is how we are to understand the church and its function, why do churches "go wrong?"
1) People today do not view the church as a body. The 'church' is a building we meet in or a group of people that share a common interest. "Church" is an activity that we do for a couple of hours during the week in order to pay homage to God. Church, like so many other things in a our materialist culture is something we 'consume'...To view church as a body though is something that is foreign to people living in Western culture.
2) A body can get sick. If the different parts or members of a body do not function correctly, the body become sick and unable to fulfill its function. When it becomes 'dysfunctional' it becomes focused on the internal problems and ceases to do what it was created to do - walk and talk - ministry, witness and worship. Slowly but surely, it ceases to engage in healthy ministry and passionate worship. As these two aspects begin to fail, the church's witness becomes feeble or weak until it becomes non-existent. Eventually, when the body fails to address its illness, it becomes so weak that it dies.
What are some of the illnesses that the Body of Christ can experience?
1) Cardio-Vascular Disease. The body does not get enough exercise because it is focused on a sedate life style - it focuses on the place instead of the people, the style instead of the substance and the inward instead of the outward. It prioritizes a style of preaching and worship over actual ministry and mission. It focuses on making the members happy, rather than making them healthy. After a while, actually being the church becomes too difficult, so it begins to wither, hoping that someone can come into transform it with a miraculous pill, without actually performing open heart surgery and a life-style change.
2) Ocular Diseases: myopia and presbyopia. The body neglects the value of its vision. It becomes near-sighted over time, looking only at its present situation and failing to look far enough ahead to see future problems or opportunities. Over time this myopia turns into presbyopia, which is far-sightedness: the church focuses so much on future redemption that it fails to see the ministry opportunities right in front of them. Either disease, either focus can contribute to a collapse of function.
3) Cancer. Cancer occurs when malignant cells begin to grow within the members of the body, eventually causing members to become dysfunctional or to cease function totally. What does cancer look like in the Body of Christ? Just like in the human body, cancer takes different forms and can attack different members:
a) Benign - this is not 'cancer' per se, but rather a tumor that may grow, but stays in the same place. It is a part of the body that does not function; it simply takes up space yet it may keep other members from functioning by degree.
b) Malignant - this is cancer. It is an uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells within a body. It causes massive dysfunction in the member organ causing function shut down and ultimately could spread to other members causing death of the body.
In the church, cancer takes the form of a member with either a poor attitude or a poor theology caused by individual sin or undiscerning discipleship. This attitude or theology at some point becomes viral, infecting other members and causing strife within the whole church. Poor or weak leadership allows the attitude or theology to go unchallenged until it is too late and the church hemorrhages members or simply splits and dies. No cancer is ever good... My personal opinion is that "lung cancer" can be the worst however in a church. It is the cancer that destroys the work of the Holy Spirit in a congregation until it can no longer breathe.
4) Dementia. Dementia in a church is caused by the teaching of unorthodox theology at best or heretical theology at worst by a leader. It causes an inappropriate understanding of the church, usually manifest in exclusivism or radical liberalism and fundamentalism. When a church is experiencing dementia, it will hold its own for a while and even experience modest growth, but ultimately, it begins to die, hemorrhaging members slowly at first, but quicker and quicker as time passes until their is only a remnant left.
Does your church manifest these symptoms or diseases? I hope not. In any case, it is best to pursue a healthy body life by staying faithful to the teachings of Christ, the guidelines of scripture and always manifesting "the joy of the Lord."