Archive for the ‘Church’ category

Spiritual Practice 4: Identify and Use Your Spiritual Gifts

November 2, 2016

bodyOn Sunday, which happened to be Reformation Sunday, we talked about faith – faith as gift, as trust, as faithfulness, as risk, as obedience, as perseverance, and finally, as freedom. This week’s spiritual practice zeros in on one of the most important and specific ways we exercise faith. The apostle Paul writes:

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

So it seems that there are particular ways God assigns each of us to exercise our faith. And those ways and ministries aren’t the same for everyone.

But here’s the deal. We’re going to be hesitant to invest time and energy to explore and use our gifts in the body if we don’t have much faith in the body. There are so many things we can do with our talents and gifts and lives, and if we don’t believe that the church, the local church, is that big a deal, we’re going to understandably be cautious about directing very much of our time and talent there. Our motives for not engaging may be selfish – i.e. there are the things I want to do with my life – or they can be unselfish – i.e. I believe there are better, more efficient, more effective ways for me to make a difference in the world. (more…)

What’s Worship?

October 20, 2016

dancersIn my last post I talked about how worshiping together – physically and weekly – builds up the body of Christ. But there is a problem with making that the focus — we may miss the actual point of worship. Stopping where we left off yesterday, we might get the impression that worship is more about us than it is about God.

Apart from whatever it does for us individually or as a body, God simply deserves our worship. In fact, God is the only One who deserves out worship. And worship is happening, all the time it’s happening. Take in this scene from Revelation 4:8-11:

Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’
who was, and is, and is to come.”

Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:

“You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being.”

So why do we gather for worship on Sunday mornings? First and foremost because God deserves it. This is our opportunity to corporately and publicly acknowledge his worth and to praise him for it. His “worth” includes both who he is and what he’s done. It’s a blessing to us to savor this knowledge and to love him for it. Yes, God wants our knowledge of him to bring us joy and to make us feel secure going into the future. But this can only happen if we focus on him rather than our feelings during worship. Feelings fluctuate. God’s character and promises don’t. (more…)

Covenant Renewal: Spiritual Practice 2 – Gather with God’s People Weekly for Worship

October 19, 2016

churchsunriseThis week’s spiritual practice for building up the body is “Gather with God’s People Weekly for Worship.” Let’s take that statement apart.

First, we gather. One meaning of the Greek word for “church” is “gathering.” In other words, coming together and being together is fundamental to what it means to be church. Ultimately, this understanding of church grows out of how we understand God, especially God as Trinity: three Persons so “together” that they’re one God. It’s this actual, practical, physical togetherness on Sunday mornings that helps us hold on to our sense of being one body when we go our separate ways. Jesus got physical when he took on human flesh. He gathered around himself men and women who physically lived with him.

Then he sent them out.

We gather with God’s people. Our’s isn’t a random gathering. In other words, we don’t just gather with whoever happens to be at worship on a Sunday morning. This is our family. These are our people. More importantly, this is God’s People, and we are Christ’s body. (more…)

No Offense

October 5, 2016

Friends holding hands outdoors

A line from this morning’s gospel reading: “Blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.” So why would anyone take offense at Jesus? Frankly, I can think of a number of reasons. Here’s a couple of them.

In this instance the “someone” is John the Baptist. He’s pining away in Herod’s dungeon, no doubt wondering why Jesus hasn’t done anything to remedy the situation. Then there’s the fact that John’s reputation is on the line. John had predicted that the one coming after him would come with a winnowing fork in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, and then burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. John probably figures that if Jesus was in fact the Messiah, there should have been some winnowing and threshing by now. (more…)

Clarifying the Mission

January 7, 2016

MagiYesterday was Epiphany. It’s easy to miss. I’m even a day late talking about it. Part of what’s challenging is that it always happens on January 6, so it rarely falls on a Sunday. (It doesn’t help that we’re all still recovering from Christmas.)

The historical backdrop for Epiphany is the story of the Magi. The official line about the meaning of Epiphany is that it marks the manifestation of Jesus to the Gentiles.

So, given how infrequently I’m writing blog posts these days, why am I writing a day late about a day in the church year that has already come and gone (especially since I have yet to start my sermon for Sunday)?

Epiphany reminds us of our mission. Mission isn’t just one of many other things we do as a community of disciples. It’s why we do all the other things, especially until Jesus comes back. (more…)

John’s Baptism – Getting Ready for Sunday

October 8, 2014

JohnBaptizingThis coming Sunday our community will have the honor and blessing of baptizing the Smith’s baby daughter. Reformed churches, like most Protestant denominations, reserve the word “sacrament” for two community events – baptism and the Lord’s Supper (or communion). Recently we’ve begun a discussion about the Lord’s Supper, especially in the context of our current experiment of celebrating it weekly. We’ve discovered that many of us are confused about the meaning of this meal. I wonder if the same may be true about baptism. I thought that a good way for us to get ourselves ready for Sunday would be to do some thinking together about baptism over the next few days. (more…)

Acts 29 Church – Beginning the Journey

January 30, 2014


At last night’s Acts 29 Discussion Group we began to unearth how the earliest Christians understood church. In order to keep everyone abreast of what we’re learning, I’ll just briefly list the clues we discovered in just the first chapter of Acts:

1. The church is a community (not a religious organization or institution).

2. The church is a Jesus community.

3. The church is a Spirit community.

4. The church is a suffering community. As we discovered this aspect of the church’s identity and wondered how that might play out in our country and in our generation and in our church, we were given help that surprised us. Pat O. offered two words that had surfaced for her with some insistence. The words were bolder and stronger.

5. The church is a Kingdom community.

6. The church is a witnessing community.

7. The church is a praying community.

Even as individuals we are Jesus people, Spirit people.

What would you need to do at this very moment to shift your self-awareness to being a Jesus person, a Spirit person?