Fitness Walk

Posted by on April 29, 2007 under Sermons

Unity (Ephesians 4:1-6)
Psalm 133: How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.

It may seem strange to us that oil running down the head and beard of Moses’ brother, Aaron, the High Priest, should be good and pleasant. Our experience is different, but the anointing oil poured out generously – so generously that it soaks the collar of the priest’s robe – is an image of God’s gracious blessings being poured out on us.
What immediately strikes us in the Psalm is that all this wonderful experience of goodness and eternal life is connected to God’s people living together in unity. Unity is really special, but sometimes we take it for granted or we overlook it because we are anxious or concerned about other things. That’s easy to do when we think that unity is our project, but the Psalmist and Paul (in Ephesians) agree that God has created unity.
We do not come together to create unity, but simply to proclaim it. We are bound together by God who pours out the blessings of life.
Unity is God’s work. He made it so. We simply keep it. We keep it by conducting our lives in such a way that we understand how we have this ones in God.
One Body and One Lord (We are united as the church with a single head over the church)
One Spirit and One Faith (We are united through our common faith with a single spirit)
One Hope and One Baptism (We are united through our baptism with a single hope)
We believe that there is One God and that shapes the way we live. Unity is oneness in God.

Diversity (Ephesians 4:7-12)
But unity doesn’t mean that everyone is exactly the same. Unity doesn’t come from making us all alike and having us do the same thing. In fact, the unity comes from gifting people with various sorts of spiritual gifts and roles in the body but having those diverse parts work together.
Let’s not confuse unity with uniformity. Uniformity is like Henry Ford’s old statement about the Model T – “You can any color you want as long as it is black.” Oneness in God doesn’t mean that we each get handed the same uniform set of gifts and talents.
Our diversity is just as much a gift of God as is our unity. Christ, who is triumphant over death, gives gifts. Some are apostles, some are prophets, some are evangelists, some are pastors and teachers.
        What’s Happening at West-Ark – Family Meeting tonight – Multiple roles and talents
1. God has given each one of us a gift.
2. The gifts serve a purpose within the body of Christ. They are not ends in themselves.
One role isn’t better than another; they all work collaboratively for the same purpose: maturity. God is working through these various gifts to gain the same single result: maturity

Maturity (Ephesians 4:13-16)
The body of Christ grows “organically.” The church is a growing organism. It can be healthy or unhealthy. [V. 14] When we are not growing, we are immature. Paul loves to mix his metaphors: we are “infants” thrown around by whatever wave or wind comes our way. The common element of this metaphor mix is that we are vulnerable. One of the hardest things to learn as a parent is that you cannot shelter your children forever. Really our duty as parents is to help our children grow up. As the old saying goes, we teach them to stand on their own two feet.
We often say that the leaders of the church are responsible for feeding the flock, but Scripture doesn’t say much about “spoon feeding” the flock. We are expected to mature. One of the worst ways to protect the people of God from false doctrine is to run around nervously reacting to anything that seems dangerous. The best way to protect the people of God is to help the people of God grow up.
The alternative to being vulnerable to the extremes and schemes is to become more and more like Christ. In the ancient world, the head was regarded as the source of growth. So also in the body of Christ, the head of the church (Christ) is the source of growth and the goal of growth.
As we grow in truth and love, we develop the character of Christ; thus our “health” as a congregation increases and we keep the unity that God has given us. And the diversity doesn’t mean we are unhealthy as long as the different gifts and talents and leaders and contributors work towards maturity.
1. Unity: The head directs the growth.
2. Diversity: Each part does its work.

Fitness Walk
The other metaphor in this text (other than growth and health) is “walking.” Going back to verse 1, we are to walk worthy of our calling. Walking is a biblical metaphor for the way we live. We understand this in phrases like “If you talk the talk, you had better walk the walk.” Our worthy walk is a health walk. Our “walk” should be worthy of our calling. We are walking toward maturity in Christ.

Keep this in mind for our Family Meeting: Our programs, budgets, policies, buildings, etc. are not sacred in and of themselves. We don’t contribute and maintain them simply for the sake of doing sake. They have a greater purpose. They are resources and therefore means to an end.
Something as simple as a hammer and nail are resources. But when is the last time you read a book or watched a program all about hammering? Why is that? Because hammering is not the end. It is a means to an end. It is a technique that serves the purpose of constructing: building a house. [But even a house is not the final goal. A house is subordinate to a home. A carpenter can build a house, but the carpenter’s family makes the home.]

Our goal is maturity in Christ and all of our resources and programs are aimed at helping us develop the character and virtues (see v. 2) that are reflective of that. Our “walk” toward maturity leads to a “fit body.” We are after all very diverse people with a diversity of gifts, but God has fit us together just as he sees fit.
Walking with a purpose and destination …

God gave us the unity. God gave us the diversity. Let us strive for maturity.

Holy Manners: Love (part 1)

Posted by on April 26, 2007 under Bulletin Articles

Godliness’ foundation manner is “agape” love. The Greek language (the primary, original language of the New Testament) used four words for love. The English language has only one word for love.

The Greek word often used in the New Testament is some form of “agape.” Its uniqueness is this: It is not based on feeling (emotion), but on intent. One treats others as he or she wishes to be treated. This treatment is not based on how the Christian is treated, but on how God and Jesus Christ would behave.

Four scriptures come to my mind quickly when I consider the loving Christian.

“For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:46-48).

Even if I do not feel positively toward you, I treat you with respect as does my God.

“So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith” (Galatians 6:10).

A Christian seeks good for all. He or she “goes beyond the anticipated” in doing good to other believing, repenting, baptized Christians.

“By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

The ability and willingness to show love’s respect is the primary mark of discipleship among Christians.

“… We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies” (1 Corinthians 8:1).

Few care what we know until they see what we know affecting our behavior, making us better people. Until a Christian’s knowledge leads to love, it produces arrogance.

Two of these statements were made by Jesus. Two were made by Paul. All four address extremely difficult situations: (1) the treatment of those you do not like; (2) the treatment of weak Christians who fall to temptation; (3) the understanding that service is superior to control; (4) idolatry [that affected most gentile Christians].

For 2,000 years horrible things have happened in God’s family when Christians have failed to understand the manners of love.

The Agony of Change (Part 1)

Posted by on April 24, 2007 under Sermons

I almost named this series, "The Agony of Failed Expectations." Among us as a church, things are not at all what we expected them to be. If fifty years ago people knew for a fact that the 2000’s would begin with: (1) more financial worth in buildings, parking lots, and property than we ever knew as a church in America, (2) the best-trained men in the ministry that we as a church have ever had, and (3) the most projects we as an American church have ever had, I wonder what anticipation and expectations those adult Christians would have held? Whatever their anticipation and expectations, such would not reflect the reality of today in the church.

Change always has been difficult for Christians! In every age those who dare to be Christians have some among them who are certain: (1) they understand, and (2) they have collected everything that is true. They are so certain of this that they will either confront or attack anyone or anything that is not in total agreement with their conclusions. The result is that they often fight against the Bible to defend what they are certain are Bible teachings. The irony: such Christians oppose the Bible to defend the truth of the Bible.

In every generation, human expectations demand conformity to those expectations. When Christians think they have found and understood all truth, they confront a major temptation. That temptation arises if they decide to tell others, "You do not need to understand scripture. You just need to accept and believe what you are told. Our understanding is correct and needs nothing other than what we know."

  1. We need to begin with some basic understandings that are critical to grasping what happened in the period of the New Testament when the church was born and spread.
    1. Understanding one: The Jewish people including Jewish Christians thought they had God correctly "figured out."
      1. They were certain they had "changed enough" just by understanding that God sent Jesus to be their Christ.
      2. To understand that God sent Jesus to be Savior of the world, not just the redeemer of Israel, was a huge transition in Jewish thinking!
      3. The Jewish people had known the Living God since the lifetime of Abraham.
        1. Certainly, there were times when they failed God terribly.
        2. But even in bad times, they knew God existed.
        3. After all, they always had the scriptures.
        4. From Solomon’s time they had the temple.
        5. The prophets arose from them and most of the prophets spoke to them.
        6. From the beginning of their existence as a nation, God gave them His law.
        7. God had never given anyone what He gave them!
        8. They, and they alone, were God’s people!
        9. Nobody knew God like they knew God!
    2. Understanding two: Jews thought gentiles had no understanding and no access to God.
      1. The Jewish people considered any person or people who were not Jewish to be gentile.
      2. A person could become a part of the nation of Israel in two ways.
        1. The person could be born of a Jewish mother (Acts 16:1-3).
        2. The person could be a proselyte [convert] to Judaism [the Jewish religion] (Acts 2:10).
          1. This person learned Jewish ways, traditions, and morals.
          2. This person, after lengthy indoctrination, went through a conversion process.
      3. Most people who were gentiles grew up in families who worshipped idols.
        1. Almost all of the world known to these people was idolatrous.
        2. They commonly had moral values that were quite different than Jewish people.
        3. They commonly lived and acted quite differently than Jewish people.
      4. Jewish Christians did not oppose gentiles being converted to Christ–they just opposed gentiles becoming Christians before they became Jewish proselytes.
        1. It was essential that gentiles learn Jewish ways of doing things.
        2. It was essential to get those idolatrous ways out of them before they entered the church.
        3. If a person did not know how to do things the ways Jewish people did them, he or she did not know how to belong to God.
        4. It was necessary to get all the idolatry out of them before you could put Christ in them.
    3. Understanding three: devout Jews and gentiles were radically different.
      1. They had almost nothing in common.
      2. Jews had scriptures they studied in synagogues; most gentiles had no scripture in any form.
      3. Jews worshipped in the temple of the Living God; most gentiles worshipped numerous gods in pagan temples or in private settings.
      4. Jews morally were not to steal; many gentiles could steal and be moral.
      5. Jews morally were not to get drunk; many gentiles could get drunk and still be moral.
      6. There commonly was a striking difference in the lifestyle of a devout Jew and a gentile–their worlds and lives were quite different.
  2. If you think I am exaggerating Jewish Christians’ rejection of gentiles, consider the reaction to Peter’s visit to and baptism of Cornelius in Acts 10.
    1. The most desirable gentile (to the Jews) was a "god-fearer" gentile.
      1. This gentile knew and respected the Living God of the Jews as unique.
      2. This gentile also respected Jews and Jewish ways.
      3. This gentile had adopted Jewish ways religiously–the primary thing he lacked in becoming a proselyte was circumcision.
    2. Cornelius was a "god-fearer." (Acts 10:1-2)
      1. He helped Jewish people in need.
      2. He prayed to the God of the Jews continually.
      3. Indication is that he prayed at the Jewish times of public prayer.
      4. He influenced his family and servants to know and worship God.
      5. Luke called him a "devout" man.
    3. The amount of "convincing" it took to get Peter to accept his visit to a gentile is amazing!
      1. First, Cornelius spoke to an angel and received a message just for him. (Acts 10:3-6)
        1. He understood the message was from God.
        2. He was told his prayers and charitable acts were a memorial to God.
        3. He was told to send for Peter.
        4. He was told where Peter was.
        5. He immediately sent two household servants and a loyal soldier to Peter.
      2. Second, before Cornelius’ commissioned men arrived the next day, Peter had a dream just before noon when he was hungry.
        1. A sheet was lowered to Peter filled with unclean creatures. (Acts 10:9-16; Leviticus 11)
        2. Peter was instructed to kill and eat some of the creatures.
        3. He refused saying he had never eaten a forbidden creature.
        4. This happened three times.
      3. Third, Peter awoke from his trance just as the men arrived. (Acts 10:17-23)
        1. Peter was thoroughly confused by his dream.
        2. The men asked if Peter was there.
        3. The Spirit told Peter to go with the men in full confidence because "I have sent them."
        4. When Peter asked the men why they were there, the men told him about the kind, Jew-approved Cornelius and the instructions of the holy angel.
    4. The next day Peter accompanied the men to Cornelius.
      1. He found Cornelius, Cornelius’ family, and Cornelius’ friends waiting for Peter to come.
      2. He understood something he never understood before.
        "Opening his mouth, Peter said: “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him" (Acts 10:34, 35).
        1. Until that moment, Peter did not fully understand why he was sent to Cornelius!
        2. Understanding that God wanted to save all people–including non-Jewish people–was a major insight!
      3. The Holy Spirit fell on his audience.
      4. He baptized them.
  3. Now I ask you to pay careful attention to the reaction of the Jewish Christian community to Peter’s visit to Cornelius. The reaction is found in Acts 11:1-18.
    1. The information of what Peter did got back to Jerusalem to the apostles and brethren before Peter did.
      1. "Those who were of the circumcision" would be Jews [remember that author is a gentile writing to a gentile].
      2. They "took issue" with Peter’s decision and actions.
        1. More is at stake than just Cornelius’ acts of conversion.
        2. Peter did things with gentiles that no devout Jew could or should do–he went into their house and ate with them.
      3. He told of his vision, and those Jewish Christians were not touched.
      4. He told of his heavenly instructions, and those Jewish Christians were not touched.
      5. He told of the message of the Spirit, and those Jewish Christians were not touched.
      6. He told of the men’s message, and those Jewish Christians were not touched.
      7. Only when they heard about the falling of the Spirit on those gentiles did the Jewish Christians quiet down.
    2. Consider:
      1. Before this incident, Peter was the most popular Christian in Jerusalem–he was the important Christian, a man of significant status in the Christian community!
      2. Cornelius did not worship idols!
        1. He knew and respected God!
        2. He was kind and helpful to the Jewish people!
        3. He was, by their standards, a good man–a choice prospect for conversion!
        4. But he was a gentile, not a proselyte–therefore he was unacceptable!
      3. Note that both of these men were prominent–this incident did not involve a couple of nobodies who were doing something silly!

We would be tempted to think this was the end of the matter, but it was not. As we shall see in coming lessons, this was a major problem in the early church.

When people are so certain they understand absolutely all of God’s expectations, it is hard for them to learn anything different–even when God Himself tells them.

The Lord Speaks

Posted by on April 23, 2007 under Sermons

God always has communicated His desires in a manner that the listener and seeker could understand. In times past, there have been occasions when God communicated directly with individuals or bodies of people. For example, God spoke directly to heads of households with such people as Adam, Noah, and Abraham.

Through Moses and Joshua, He spoke to the nation of Israel.

Later, God spoke through prophets. Sometimes God spoke about specific persons, circumstances, or conditions through the prophets. Sometimes He evaluated, sometimes He illustrated, sometimes He compared, sometimes He declared assurances and blessings, and sometimes He expressed anger and displeasure.

In one instance, God spoke directly to Christians in the New Testament through the resurrected Jesus Christ. He addressed the churches in Asia Minor in Revelation 2 and 3 through John. In those messages to specific congregations, God through the resurrected Jesus was specific about what was happening and about His reactions to those events.

How would you like for God to address us individually or as a congregation so directly today? Initially, some might think it would be nice, but I do not think the majority would even initially desire that to happen. That would terrify most of us!

Whether God speaks to us directly or not, He knows what is happening in our lives and in our congregations. How He communicates to us has no bearing on His knowledge of us. Hebrews 1:1, 2 reminds us: "God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world."

  1. God’s word, the Bible, repeatedly declares itself to be "alive."
    1. It is not a dead book with a dead message from dead men.
    2. It is the source of spiritual truth that frees, sanctifies, and purifies.
    3. Regardless of how alive it is, how much power it has, or how it can bless, it cannot and will not significantly bless a person if he or she does not study it.
  2. With that understanding, I would like to ask you as a Christian, why do you study the Bible?
    1. Different people study for different reasons.
      1. Some study for purely academic reasons.
        1. It is an ancient writing.
        2. They study it as a book from antiquity that had a profound impact on people for centuries.
        3. They study to seek an understanding of why some people acted as they did (and do).
      2. Some study to discredit its message.
        1. They resent the Bible’s influence.
        2. They see it as a destructive hoax.
        3. They search for flaws in an attempt to destroy its influence.
      3. Some study to find trivia information.
        1. They are committed to finding the small, the obscure, and facts of little significance.
        2. What was Adam’s last name?
        3. Where was Moses buried?
      4. Some study to fulfill a requirement.
        1. They do what they were told to do–read the Bible.
        2. They were told Christians had to read the Bible, so that is what they do.
        3. They read to be able to say they read.
      5. Some study to sharpen arguments.
        1. They had rather argue than teach or confront than share.
        2. They study to strengthen their position or weaken another’s position.
        3. They especially seek ways to counter arguments that weaken their position.
      6. Some study in search of correct doctrine.
        1. They want to know which teachings are right and which teachings are wrong.
        2. While such a search is proper, unfortunately, it is the only reason they search.
      7. Some study to grasp God’s purpose.
        1. They have studied enough to know God has a purpose.
        2. They want to understand God’s purpose better.
      8. Some study because they want to understand proper Christian conduct.
        1. They understand God through Christ wants them to be a specific kind of people.
        2. They know they were re-created in Christ to be new creatures.
        3. They know this new life is expressed in the way they live.
        4. They want to know who they are and how they should live.
      9. Of all those reasons for studying the Bible, one reason combines the best of all the positive reasons.
    2. To me, that reason is declared in Hebrews 4:12:
      For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
      1. Again, God’s word is alive, just as it was when it was first spoken.
      2. It is neither powerless nor passive in our lives–it is instead active, powerful, and dynamic.
      3. It was like the sharpest instrument they knew–the double edged sword.
        1. It cuts in any direction it moves.
        2. It can make the finest distinction imaginable, distinguishing between soul and spirit.
      4. To the serious student, it will expose private thoughts, motives, and intentions.
    3. I have seen people moved by ignorance and conscience to become more serious in their Bible study.
      1. I have watched some grow and develop spiritually.
      2. I have seen some quit because their lives were too full.
      3. I have seen some stop primarily because they were afraid to learn.
    4. It seems to me that the fear of learning discourages many from Bible study.
      1. Scripture does three things to the serious student:
        1. It reveals who you are.
        2. It takes you apart.
        3. It puts you together again.
      2. Too many people do not study enough to let scripture bless them by putting them together again.
    5. We think we can hide "who we really are" from everyone and from God!
      1. We think we can deceive people about our true intentions.
      2. All of us (definitely including me) stand amazed when the Bible begins to reveal us (personally) to ourselves.
        1. When I get aggravated with other people’s attitudes, the Bible reveals mine to me.
        2. When I get frustrated with other people’s weakness, the Bible reveals mine to me.
        3. When I am hurt by other people’s inconsiderate words or acts, the Bible reveals my inconsiderate words and acts to me.
      3. When you study with a godly attitude, the Bible will work on you more than anyone else.
    6. When we truly understand who and what a Christian is, we study because we want God to take us apart and put us together again.
      1. God knows who I am all the time, and He is 100% correct.
      2. Jesus Christ knows who I am all the time, and He is 100% correct.
      3. The person least likely to know who I am is me, and what I know about me is never 100% correct.
      4. I study because:
        1. I want to know accurately who and what I am.
        2. I want to know what is wrong with me.
        3. I want to know what is correct with me.
        4. I want to know what needs attention in my life.
        5. I want to know what God would change in me.
        6. I want God to show me how to change me.
      5. If I do not know those things accurately, I am the only one who is ignorant.
      6. I want to learn now while I can give attention to those things.
    7. If you are afraid to study because you fear finding out about yourself or discovering God’s view of you, you need to change your perspective.
      1. God and Jesus already know about me and you–truthfully, accurately!
      2. You can discover what you need to know about yourself while there is opportunity to change.
      3. Or, you can find out in the judgment when it is too late.

I wish I had an effective way to help us all understand that God’s purpose, Jesus’ purpose, and the Bible’s purpose are to change us. God did not send Jesus to teach us how to hide from Him. Jesus did not come to teach us how to hide from God. God sent Jesus and Jesus came to teach us the blessing of coming to God. Changing to belong to God is a good thing, not a bad thing!

Our purpose in Christ is to allow God to make us new creatures, His new creation, by understanding righteousness. The Lord speaks now. Are you listening to Him?

The End

Posted by on April 22, 2007 under Sermons


  • from the Greek σχατος, Eschatos (meaning “last”)
  • concerned with the final events in the history of the world and the ultimate destiny of humanity, commonly referred to as the end of the world.
  • eschatology related concepts – judgment, end time, and the end of days.

End of Days

  • The “Left Behind” Series
    • Rapture
    • Millennium
    • Anti-Christ
  • Times and Dates:
    • End Time Fears and Hopes:
    • Fascination with the way time and earth will end.
    • The scenarios are often speculative and include more detail than Scripture intends.
    • They are often dark and fearful.

End Time Texts — Daniel, Zechariah, Matthew 24, Mark 13, 2 Thessalonians 2, Revelation

    These texts are sometimes run through a blender to fit a predetermined end time scenario, but there is still something going on in these texts. What is it? What is the actually eschatology? What is apocalyptic?

    The object of this literature in general was to solve the difficulties connected with the righteousness of God and the suffering condition of His righteous servants on earth.

    The eschatological and apocalyptic texts are written in the context of crisis.
    They are intended to address situations in which the foundations of faith seem to be in turmoil. The evil seem to prosper, the faithful are persecuted, it looks bad for God’s people, some have given in to other powers and have been seduced by safety and security.
    These scriptures affirm that whatever you may think right now, no matter how inevitable the outcome may seem, God always gets the last word.
    The Scriptural texts are harsh, but they are always hopeful.
    We know the one significant eschatological event has already happened – and all else that happens is defined by this:
    It IS the life and resurrection of Jesus Christ and we await his return as he promised.
    This is no secret. God has made it plain.
    Why the mistrust of God? Fear of His fickleness.
    He is not fickle. God has told us what He expects and what to expect.
    We must live as those who know they exist between the resurrection and the return.

The Turn of the Ages

    Jesus Christ
    Crucifixion and Resurrection
    Parousia (Return)
    Judgment (Son of Man)

Christian Eschatology acknowledges that God has acted in Jesus Christ, but he …

    1) Continues to act in Christ and the church (Acts 2).
    2) He will act a second time once and for all and all things are done.

So, we live between the now and the not yet.

So the Christian emphasis will take you to the end, but then bring you right back to the now and ask how we ought to live in this interim.
Revelation does that (see especially Revelation 18) and 2 Peter 3 does that.

Living in the Last Days

  1. Strangers in the world (1 Peter 1)
  2. Holiness (1 Peter 1:15; 2:11-12)
  3. What sort of people ought we to be? (2 Peter 3:3-15)

Living in the Last Days:

  • Even in the first century, Peter knew what it meant to live in the last days.
  • In his first letter to believers he called them “strangers in the world” (1 Peter 1:1).
  • Although rejected by the world, they chosen by God (2:9-10).
  • And so he calls them to holiness (1:15; 2:11-12):
  • Just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy …” Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
  • In his next letter he reminds us that the return of Christ is not only important for the future, but for the present (2 Peter 3:3-15)


  • Because we acknowledge one lord, Jesus Christ.
  • Because we know that his resurrection and return is THE defining event of human history.
  • We are aliens and strangers in this world.
  • We are nomads, sojourners, and colonists.
  • We live here, but we don’t belong here.
  • If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. – C. S. Lewis

You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.

The Body of Christ

Posted by on under Sermons

Read 1 Corinthians 12

Wednesday, we did a little experiment in the Junior High Class. We began by labeling ourselves. “What do you do very well? What’s your gift?” I asked each of them. They gave all sorts of good responses: music, video games, creative arts, sports, hobbies. After that I asked them to argue why their giftedness was the greatest, most important, best of all. They did a good job. They made some outstanding arguments for why their gift was most important. They were subtle about it too: “Well, if it weren’t for my gift, then none of the others could exist.” And so on. We had a lot of fun. Yes, a lot of fun trying to outdo each other.

What we did in the Junior High Class for fun and education is what one church really did. And they were serious about it. This church had the habit of assessing church members on the basis of their talents and spiritual abilities. They were subtle. They claimed that this was nothing more than spiritual growth and maturity. They claimed that certain manifestations of the Holy Spirit in the form of a particular gift, say preaching or spiritual utterance or miraculous gifts of healing, was the peak of spiritual growth and favor with God. Of course they couldn’t agree on what particular gift was the peak of the mountain and that led to some serious argumentation and disagreement. You know the church – it was the church in Corinth.

For that reason and many others Corinth had become a mess. It was bad enough that some of the members of the Corinthian church sent messages to the apostle Paul. They asked him to give a lesson on a number of issues. Some of them probably want him to take their side so that they’ll have leverage over the other factions. Well Paul obliges, but he addresses the whole business of conflict and how they are mishandling it. In fact, every time Paul address one of the church issues that they have asked about, he answers it by demonstrating that unity in Christ is their only way of resolving the issue.

This is what the “body language” of 1 Corinthians 12 is all about. They have brought their debate about spiritual gifts to Paul and he has taken up the subject.
First, rather than picking out certain gifts, Paul affirms that there are many gifts and then points to the source: God is the source of all spiritual gifts. Different gifts, but the same God. Different kinds of service and ministry, but the same Spirit empowers them all.

Second, he follows this logic about unity and points out that if the same God and Spirit gives all the gifts, then we are all connected. And if we are all connected in this way, then the gifts are for the common good and not just for individual fulfillment. We are different parts or members, but we are the same body.

So this is where the body language comes in: Paul leaves it to them to classify the gifts any way they please. They can argue until doomsday about what gift is best, but they have to accept that they are connected to each other by the source of these gifts. And so it doesn’t matter whether they consider a particular gift to be up the scale or down the scale, they have to acknowledge that they must respect each other because God is the source of all works and gifts and he distributes them how he pleases.

The logic and the body language description does two things to their logic of division and arrogant superiority and the way it effects all of them:

  1. It upsets any notion that an individual gift is the only gift worthy of a real Christian. The body isn’t a single member. A human body isn’t all eyes or ears or foot. So everyone in the body of Christ isn’t equipped with the same spiritual gift. This is the message to those who would be so independent and individualistic with their giftedness in God’s Spirit that they would so far as to say, well if you don’t have this gift then you aren’t really part of the church.
  2. It dispels any notion that someone is less of member because they lack a few certain spiritual gifts. If God is the source of the gifts, then no one can say they don’t really matter. The body needs all of its members to function in a healthy way.

We are Christ’s people and we are bound to Christ and thus to one another by God’s Holy Spirit.

  • This ought to put “membership” in a whole new light. We tend to think of membership as nothing more than signing up or keeping our dues current.
  • A member of a club or organization can leave or quit, but members of Christ’s body are like the members and parts of our body – when a member of our body is absent it is “dismembered.” That isn’t a pleasant thought, but maybe it illustrates how much the body of Christ is truly pained when some members leave or are excluded.

At the end of our little experiment in the Junior High Class we did one more thing after we read the Scripture that is our text for today. We grouped together and this time everyone had to explain how they with their particular gift needed the other gifts. I thought they were good at trying to argue for their superiority. They weren’t half as good as they were at describing their interdependence and connectedness. The difference may have been that they really believed in the unity they were describing. They showed me that they were pretty good at being “the body of Christ.”

May the one God who has equipped us through the same Spirit enable us to excel in unity.

Holy Manners

Posted by on April 19, 2007 under Bulletin Articles

In the elders’ and ministers’ retreat this past weekend and in the lesson Sunday morning, Charles Siburt called attention to “Holy Manners.” He emphasized that in our congregations nation-wide, many Christians do not know how to behave as Christians.

When Paul wrote 1 Timothy, he left Timothy in Ephesus to address situations needing immediate attention (1:3). Though Ephesus was one of the earliest Christian communities with an established eldership (Acts 20:17), some situations needed attention. This was principally a gentile congregation in a large, important city.

Ephesus’ reputation reached world-wide. It was one of Asia Minor’s oldest cities, likely numbering in the hundreds of thousands in the first century. The gathering place for Ephesians (the amphitheater) seated 25,000 people.

Ephesus was the home of the goddess known as Artemis [the Roman Diana]. Her temple was the largest building in the Greek world. Her existence in Ephesus produced a fierce loyalty among most Ephesians (see Acts 19:27-29).

Thus Christians existed in an idol-worshipping city where most people knew much more about idolatrous conduct than Christian conduct. Many Christians simply did not know how to act like Christians. They confronted two continuing problems: (1) It was quite acceptable to worship many gods. (2) Christians must not live like, act like, or behave like the majority who did not know or feel loyalty to Jesus Christ.

Christians simply needed to learn how to act like Christians. Idol worshippers acted in ways characterizing people believing in pagan gods. Christians should act in ways characterizing Christians. There were idol-worshipping behaviors and Christ-worshipping behaviors. There were moral standards attached to the gods and moral standards attached to Jesus. Christians must daily know and model the differences. People should be able to determine a Christian’s commitment by the way he or she lives every day.

In the above text, “household” meant family. “Church” referred to who they were 24 hours a day, every day, not a building at an address. It was men and women who believed in the resurrected Jesus Christ all the time. It was the “pillar and support of the truth” because it literally changed who they were. They learned the “new manners” of a person belonging to God through Jesus Christ.

American Christians live in a society that worships many things-materialism, pleasure, status symbols, material security, etc. Who we are and what we live for distinguishes us from those who do not know or feel loyalty to Jesus Christ. Questions: “Do you know ‘Holy Manners’? How does your behavior declare your faith in Jesus?”

Life Together

Posted by on April 15, 2007 under Sermons

Ecclesiology comes from the Greek ἐκκλησία (ekklesia), which meant a gathering or a meeting.

What is Church?
House and Home – We think these words means the same thing. But they are technically different. What is the difference?

Houses are made with bricks and beam
Home is made of love and dreams

Understanding the way we use these words somewhat interchangeably may help us understand the two ways we use the word church. Of course we will observe that one way (the way we use home) is more biblical.

Church as Vessel

  • A ship is a ship with or without a crew
  • House
  • Organization
  • Institution
  • How are we “part” of the church?
    Church is sometimes viewed like the concept of house. It is an empty vessel in which people reside.
    Church has also been regarded as a ship. What is flawed about these metaphors? They are flawed because they assume that the church is something other than the people who are its “members” (Here’s the church, here’s the steeple, look inside and here’s all the people). Even in our efforts to be exact about church and church building, we can still regard the church as a conceptual entity that somehow exists apart from the people who ARE the church. This is an organizational or institutional view of church.

    The Bible doesn’t describe the reality and experience of church in this way. In the Bible, church is more like a home in that it refers to the people that comprise the church through out time and space. So that you cannot have one with the other.

    This is why the teaching on unity is so evident. One cannot simply separate from the church and go to the church of one’s choice. There is an essential unity and connection to church. God has made us one.

    Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit-just as you were called to one hope when you were called- one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

    Mixture and Compound Analogy: It should be noted that compounds don’t necessarily retain the properties of their constituent elements. Water, for example, has very few of the properties of either hydrogen or oxygen.

    The Church is not “Chex Mix”

    Brass is a mixture of the elements of copper and zinc.
    Bronze is a mixture of copper and tin.
    Water is a compound of the elements hydrogen and oxygen.
    Cinnabar is a compound that contains mercury and sulfur.
    What is the difference between mixtures of elements and compounds formed when elements combine chemically?

    Images in Scripture that Describe the Church


    1. Romans 12:4-6
    2. 1 Corinthians 12
    3. Ephesians 4:25

    Children of God

    1. Romans 8:12-17
    2. Philippians 2:14-16
    3. 1 John 3:1-3
    4. Ephesians 2:18-20
    5. 1 Timothy 3:14-16

    Temple of God

    1. 1 Corinthians 3:16-17
    2. 2 Corinthians 6:15-17
    3. 1 Peter 2:4-8
    4. Ephesians 2:19-22


    1. 1 Peter 2:9-12
    2. Colossians 3:12
    3. Titus 2:13-15

    Life Together

    1. Identity and Behavior
    2. Church is a result of God’s saving activity in Jesus Christ
    3. We are connected to Christ and therefore connected to church – We are church!

    In all of these texts and metaphors, we notice that identity calls for a certain type of behavior. So, being “in” church is not as important as “being church.”

    Church is not so much the way to salvation as it is the result of salvation. God’s saving action thru Jesus Christ, his desire to overcome sin and to be present thru the Holy Spirit results in the church. Church is the outgrowth and evidence of God’s mission

    But to ask a question “Can I be saved apart from the church?” misunderstands the whole concept of church. The saved are “church.” and the church is simply the saved.
    Likewise, when church membership is viewed as the way to be saved, then this too is a misunderstanding of the concept of church. God saves. Jesus saves. Those who comes to Christ in confession and humble penitence and submerge their life into Christ’s life are saved. They are added to the church (by God).

    We don’t go to church – we are the church.

    Church is a foretaste of the coming rule of God. A sign of the way it is going to be. Church is an eschatological realization of what is to come. Missional Church.

  • If God Could Change Me Any Way He Wished ?

    Posted by on April 12, 2007 under Bulletin Articles

    If God could change me any way He wished, what would He change? How would the way I think be different? How would what I value be different? How would my priorities change? What would happen to the way I use my time? In what would I get involved? What would I discontinue? How would my “to do” list be altered?

    Of this I feel certain-we all would change! The congregation, dating, marriages, parenting, job performance, and relationships would change! In fact, most of us-if not all of us-would be shocked at some of the changes God made in us. Not only would we be astounded at some areas of alteration God made, but when we knew and understood the reason, we would be even more astounded.

    Some changes we prize. Many prize becoming a teenager. Many prize becoming 16 so we can acquire a driver’s license. Many prize high school graduation, college graduation, qualifying for most anything, a first paycheck, a wanted job, a wanted engagement, a wanted marriage, a wanted birth, a first home, a first car, etc.

    Some changes we do not like. Many do not like turning 30 or 40 or 50 – need we go any further? Most do not like divorce, ruptured relationships, boring jobs, debt, traffic violations, unreasonable stress, being dominated by unbearable people, over commitment, impossible expectations, sickness, death, etc.

    Transformation is about changing us. Generally speaking, adults least like change when it involves “changing me.” “Do not mess with my body-I like it the way it is!” “Do not mess with my mind-I like it the way it is!” “Do not mess with my priorities-I like them the way they are!” “I am okay. I have no complaints with me! Why can you not just accept me as okay? If I am pleased with me, why can’t you be pleased with me?”

    Being a Christian is choosing to be transformed. Choosing to be transformed is choosing to change. It is choosing to allow God into my heart by changing the way I feel. It is choosing to allow God into my mind by changing the way I think. It is choosing to allow God into my body by changing how I use it. It is choosing to allow God to make me a person who never stops growing in His values and priorities. It is choosing to live for eternity instead of living for now.

    Transformation is not about joining an organization and conforming to expectations of others. It is about becoming the person God can make me. Transformation never stops!

    Thy Will Be Done On Earth

    Posted by on April 10, 2007 under Sermons

    The statement, "Thy will be done," is a familiar, acceptable, good statement. That statement to most of us is comfortable and non-threatening. It has a ring of loyalty and devotion about it that should be a part of every Christian’s prayer and hope. Most of us would agree that things are better when God’s will is done. God’s will is good, not bad.

    Most of us understand that statement. We agree that we are speaking of God’s will. We agree what God wishes should be done. We Christians agree that we should be devoted to achieving God’s will. We would say there is no mystery in that statement, that all Christians understand it.

    We not only understand that phrase, but we also use it. We most often use it when making a request of God for a specific blessing. It would be inappropriate and impossible to dictate what God must do. We do not wish to sound like arrogant, haughty people who feel superior to God. So, we submissively pray, "Thy will be done."

    There is a particular prayer we used to say often in which we used that phrase. We called it the Lord’s Prayer; it is found in Matthew 6. In the past it closed a school room devotional, closed a devotional at public functions, and often was used when churches gathered. Likely, most people did not think much about what they said–they just said the expected words.

    In that prayer, we said more than, "Thy will be done." We said, "Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." "Thy will be done," does not sound strange, but, "on earth as it is in heaven," may sound a bit strange. Have you ever given serious thought to God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven?

    1. The most obvious fact in that statement is that God has a will.
      1. What does it mean for God to have a will?
        1. It means God has purposes that are important to Him, that will be accomplished.
        2. It means God has reasons for (1) what He does and (2) what He wants, and nothing is insignificant about any of His reasons.
        3. It means God is motivated or moved by His purposes and reasons–He has a specific objective in all He says and wants.
        4. The purposes, reasons, and motives are not given to God by humans.
          1. We do not assign God His purposes, reasons, or motives.
          2. God does not act or function because we decide what He should do or why He should do it.
        5. God is not some senile grandfather who exists in some remote sphere afflicted with a feeble mentality.
          1. He does not need to be told what He thinks or wants.
          2. He is not dependent on us to decide what He thinks or how He feels.
        6. The living God knows what He wants and why He wants it.
        7. His will is founded on good reason and wise purposes.
        8. In every consideration, God’s purposes, reasons, and understanding is superior to ours.
      2. What does it mean for God’s will to be done?
        1. God’s intent rules!
        2. His purposes determine the course and direction for people who belong to Him.
        3. His will definitely impacts all who respect and reverence Him.
          1. It has a negative impact: those people will not rebel against His wishes.
          2. It has a positive impact: those people will serve Him as they seek to accomplish His wishes.
      3. How is God’s will done in heaven?
        1. Scripture does not give us much information about the order of the heavenly sphere, but the little information given forms a specific impression.
        2. God is held in absolute honor and reverence.
        3. Heavenly beings are honored to fulfill God’s wishes.
        4. God’s purposes are fulfilled without questioning or resistance.
        5. His purposes are the only purposes.
        6. No angel would say,
          1. "We will think about it and let you know later."
          2. "We prefer not to do that."
          3. "We are not interested in your concerns because those concerns are not important to us."
        7. God’s will in heaven is done in total submission to His purposes and desires.
    2. It is God’s desire through Christ that the divine will be done in human life in the same manner it is done in the heavenly sphere.
      1. What would that mean?
        1. Human life would hold God in absolute honor and reverence.
        2. Human life would be honored and pleased to fulfill God’s wishes and desires.
        3. Human life would fulfill God’s wishes and desires without rebellion or resistance.
        4. Human life would consider God’s purposes as the only true purposes.
          1. God’s purposes would always take precedence.
          2. God’s purposes would always be the deciding factor.
        5. Human life would do God’s will completely through total submission.
      2. Your reaction: "Impossible! That cannot happen and will not happen under any circumstances!"
        1. If I asked, "Why?" what would be your answer?
          1. "Too many people will never submit to God’s will under any circumstance!"
          2. "Rulers, power merchants, world politicians, the wealthy, and the wicked will never seek any will but their own."
        2. Does that mean God’s will can never be done on earth as it is in heaven?
          1. Is the only way God’s will can be done on earth as it is in heaven for all people to surrender themselves to God?
          2. If the whole world does not agree to do God’s will on earth, does that mean no one can do God’s will on earth?
        3. At least once God’s will has been done on earth precisely as it is done in heaven.
      3. When was God’s will done on earth precisely as it is done in heaven? In Jesus’ life and death!
        1. Consider God’s will in Jesus’ life.
          1. In John 4 Jesus traveled through Samaria with his disciples.
            1. Jesus stopped at the well Jacob dug (near Sychar) to rest while the disciples went to get food.
            2. Jesus was tired, hungry, and thirsty when the disciples left.
            3. While the disciples were gone, Jesus had his famous conversation with the Samaritan woman.
            4. When the disciples returned with food, Jesus would not eat.
            5. He declared he had food to eat they knew nothing about.
            6. Jesus said in John 4:34:
              “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.
          2. In John 5:30, as part of a tense discussion about proper actions on the Sabbath day, Jesus said in verse 30:
            I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.
          3. In John 6, Jesus taught he was the bread of life just as was the manna. In verse 38 he said:
            "For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me."
          4. The absolute importance of God’s will to Jesus is seen beyond doubt in the Garden of Gethsemane.
            1. He knew his betrayal and death would happen soon.
            2. He did not wish to die and assume an enormous burden in death.
            3. He prayed fervently not to die.
              Matthew 26:39, And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.”
              Matthew 26:42, He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.”
          5. God’s will was the determining factor in everything Jesus did in life and death.
        2. Consider the emphasis Jesus placed on others doing God’s will.
          1. In Mark 3, his mother and brothers came to talk to him as he taught.
            1. He was informed his family wished to see him.
            2. This was his answer in verse 35:
              "For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother.”
            3. True kinship with Jesus is maintained by doing God’s will.
          2. In Matthew 7:21 Jesus said,
            Not everyone who says to Me, ?Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.
          3. In John 7:17 Jesus declared to people who doubted him:
            If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself.
          4. Jesus is the perfect example of God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven.
            1. He also is proof the choice to do God’s will is made by the individual.
            2. His world was even more wicked and discouraging than our society is.
            3. It is not what our world says; it is what we say!
    3. Christians need a clear understanding of God’s will in their lives.
      1. As with Jesus, the determining fact in our concerns and actions must be God’s will.
        1. It is God’s will that gave us our spiritual existence.
          1. James 1:18, In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.
          2. John 1:12,13, But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
        2. The moment we perceive God’s will in a matter, that perception determines what we should do.
        3. We conscientiously consider God’s will in every matter.
          1. "How does this choice affect God’s purposes?"
          2. "Will this allow me to function for God as I should?"
          3. "How will this affect God’s concerns and interests?"
          4. "How will this affect his kingdom?"
          5. "How will this affect me as His representative?"
          6. "Will this place me in rebellion to God?"
        4. God’s will is the Christian’s ultimate rationale and formative influence.
        5. All knowledgeable Christians acknowledge it is their responsibility to be living sacrifices.
          Romans 12:1,2 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
          1. We exist to seek and submit to God’s will.
          2. That is a lifetime, never-ending Christian objective.
        6. In practical terms, what does that mean?
          1. I want to grow where He wants me to grow.
          2. I want to change where He wants me to change.
          3. I want to learn from Him.
          4. I want to cease being what He does not want me to be.
          5. I want to become what He wants me to be.

    The question is not will there ever be a time when the whole world does God’s will as it is done in heaven. The question is will each of us do God’s will now as it is done in heaven? It happened in Jesus’ life when he lived in a wicked age. Will it happen in your life?

    It begins by your submission of your life and will to Jesus Christ.