Thursday, July 18, 2024
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Is the church REALLY a Body?

Peter Marshall has described 20th century Christians with the following words.  “They are,” he said:  “like deep sea divers, encased in suits for many fathoms deep, marching bravely forth to pull plugs out of bath tubs.” That's why when one reads the pages of the New Testament and tries to relate what he hears to the North American contemporary church, we are compelled to conclude that the relationship is sometimes more one of contrast, rather than of comparison.   In other words, today's church is not living up to its potential. 

Beautiful Bodies

In my last reflection, we took a look at beautiful pain.  We discussed how often our perspective is focused only on the external, the painful process in which we are involved.  But God sees the internal result that comes at the end of the process.  We see pain as an intruder, an enemy, but God sees it as the brush, the sculpting tool for the masterpiece.

Consider what the masterpiece will look like if we cooperate with the Master Designer!  The promise of God is that “He will make everything beautiful in its time.” But how can that be when the ending of life is often anything but beautiful?  The answer is obvious; this earthly life isn’t all the life that we as believers will enjoy.  We are assured of an eternal life in Christ.  2 Corinthians 4:16-5:5 affirms that truth.  In this passage Paul shares three great reasons why we know something more beautiful is coming.

Pain: The Gift Nobody Wants

Many years ago I read an article in Christianity Today that was adapted from a book entitled “Pain: The Gift Nobody Wants.”  I have for some time been interested in this subject, but it is especially appropriate now because so many of my church family are receiving that unwanted gift.  A number of my friends have family members who have died; and there have been many sicknesses, cancers, financial struggles, emotional upheavals, and relational and family dysfunctions in the lives of those I love as well.  I’ve also observed that pain hasn’t always come from the obvious sources. Sometimes it emits from affluence and overindulgence.  These have also yielded painful fruit in us and in our culture.  As a result, I have been tempted to say to God, “please, stop the pain.”  But I have caught myself and not prayed that prayer.  My experience is that pain (even though we seldom understand it’s purpose) need not be a doorway to despair, but it can be an opportunity for beauty to grow in us.

The Christ Follower's Hall of Reclaimed Failures

I would really like to meet a person who could say the following;  “I have walked perfectly with my God; I have never failed in my understanding of His plan, and my motives have always been completely pure.”

Most of us couldn't say that, could we?  In fact, only Jesus could.  Our lives at this point are not perfect reflections of our God.  We're growing and being conformed more and more to Christ's likeness each day, but only when we stand in eternity will we perfectly mirror our Lord--1 Cor. 13:12; Rom. 8:29, etc.  If that's the case, then it's going to be a common problem for all of us as believers, to live in the tension of not having our act totally together while attempting to walk with a holy and perfect God.

A Community of Grapes

“To dwell above with saints we love, oh that will be glory, but to dwell below with saints we know, well, that’s another story.”   I think this couplet speaks accurately to the struggle many churches experience at times, as they attempt to be a community of believers.  Our sinful tendency is to maintain our autonomy, demand our own way, and even reach out to take from, or pressure other Christians to get what we want.  Thus by our behavior and isolation, we avoid the experience of community.  In her book, Up with Worship, Anne Ortlund very clearly shows us the choices we have.  She says, “Christians can be grouped into two categories - marbles and grapes.  Marbles are 'single units that don't affect each other except in collision.'  Grapes, on the other hand, mingle; each one is a 'part of the fragrance' of the church body.”

Are We In a Rut?

Have we become a slave to the humdrum activities of our life?  When was the last time any of us broke away from our routine and did something unusual, adventuresome or even risky?  Has unbiblical instruction from well meaning people robbed us of enjoying life to its fullest?

I am so happy to report the good news; we don’t have to live this way.  The Lord has a much better lifestyle in mind for His followers.  Jesus said:  “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full”--John 10:10.  He wants us to stop existing and start living.  I believe God is calling us all to get out of our ruts and begin living the exhilarating life He has in mind for us.  He wants us to be bold, joyful and godly.  As I approach this stage of my life, I am impressed again with the commands of Solomon in Ecclesiastes 11-12:1 and Caleb’s words in the book of Numbers.  It’s in these passages I see a number of commands and an example that are reflective of the Lord’s heart for us today.  We must not go on as we have lived before.