The Body of Christ

Date

July 27, 2022

Categories

Gospel

The last several weeks have seen a lot of death for my family.

On June 18, Leslee lost her uncle. On July 2, I lost my brother and on July 8, we lost a friend.

In Ephesians, Paul talks about and prays for our lives to grow together in Christ through his love. In the midst of pain, suffering and death, this truth has shined with renewed opulence. My hope is that my comments here encourage you not only in your pursuit to know the love of our Savior, but more importantly, how our personal growth in that love impacts others—for good.

Last Saturday, Leslee and I attended the memorial service for our friend. He was 35 years old and left behind a young wife and precious little girl. His death was unexpected and tragic. No one enjoys memorial services or funerals. They are somber reminders that because of sin, death awaits all of us until Christ returns.

As Christians, we know that because of Jesus death has lost its sting. It’s not the end but a new, glorious beginning. (How anyone can face death without Jesus and the support of a vibrant church is a complete mystery to me.)

Our friend’s service was unique from any I had experienced before.

Many people—mostly young but some old—shared their memories of our friend. Clearly the most prominent thread that masterfully wove throughout the tearful testimonies was that he was a joyful person. I was amazed at how that theme surfaced over and over again. He was joyful because he knew Jesus Christ as his Lord, Savior, and friend. That sounds cliché but it isn’t. His joy was contagious to those around him. It was like he was a magnifying glass through which those around him could see the details of Jesus’ love more brilliantly.

That love built a tight bond with a community of people. I sat for two hours among 400-500 of these people (many of whom I knew) truly in awe of how the love of God binds each of us together in a community that while sometimes painful and difficult is absolutely irreplaceable and precious.

This realization is often hard to appreciate until we’re in moments like this when God has our riveted attention. These moments should strike us with awe and gratitude for what Jesus has done for us and his mercy in providing us with fellow believers to walk with us. We are sojourners in a dangerous world. But we are not alone. We have each other. Our relationships at church and home truly have eternal significance.

So, I move from one memorial service to the next sad but also exalting in the provision God has given us as fellow believers. As we each imbibe of the love of God as seen in the person and work of Jesus Christ for us, we can’t help but impact each other’s lives for good. Do we binge on God’s love? Do we love the Lord the way my friend did? Seeking to know that love has benefits that extend well beyond us to others and that remain long after we are gone

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Ministering to Neighbors, Part 3

Date

May 21, 2016

Categories

Gospel

Home

Part three: Be Willing to be Taken Advantage of

Read part two here.

My sweaty neighbor was standing in my garage asking to borrow a drill. (It had something to do with his daughter’s swing set). Turns out, the battery to my Ryobi cordless drill was dead as a doornail –as usual. But then, I remembered that I had another drill, a much better drill. A Craftsman electric drill to be exact. I was about to offer it to him when the thought hit me, “Will I ever get it back?”

While I don’t believe for one moment that it was in my neighbor’s heart to take advantage of me, was I willing to suffer loss in order to demonstrate the gospel through this act of kindness? Let’s suppose this neighbor’s motives were of a devious nature. Let’s also suppose that I even knew he had the type of project that could cause harm to a drill, and although he had a drill, he chose to ask to use mine in order to save the wear and tear on his own drill. If you were in my situation, would you still loan it out?

Perhaps the issue is not loaning. Perhaps there’s resistance to simply give something away. Or, perhaps the situation calls for you to buy something for them that you feel pretty sure they could buy for themselves?

I remember a moment when a neighbor needed cat litter. (I don’t have cats, but have you ever checked into the price of cat litter? It isn’t cheap!) Can I afford to spend $ 50 on cat litter? Was I willing to do it whether or not he paid me back? If we’re honest, in our worst moments, we do these mental calculations.

No one wants to be taken advantage of. But are we willing because we will be taken advantage of—eventually. Jesus was willing to be taken advantage of. He fed thousands of hungry people who came for the bread, but not the Bread of Life.

Jesus was willing to go far beyond being taken advantage of; he died for us, the Bible says, “while we were still sinners”. When Jesus died, he was shown absolutely NO sense of appreciation by the people he did it for. He knew this and did it anyway…and did it with joy.

If we’re going to reach our neighbors for Christ, we need to be willing to be taken advantage of. It is as we first find our own joy in what Jesus has fully accomplished for us, despite how we’ve taken advantage of him, that we will be willing to serve others, at great cost to us.

Ministering to Neighbors, Part 2

Date

May 14, 2016

Categories

Gospel

Home

Part Two: One Thing You Must Forget When Ministering to Neighbors

 

Read Part One of this series here.

In my last column, I suggested that we need to remember Christ’s love as the key to ministry to our neighbors. Indeed, without Christ’s love compelling us, we will fizzle out if we ever take a step. So, remember Christ’s love for you. This time, I’m going to tell you the one thing you should forget: convenience.

It was barely 8:00 am and my neighbor was standing at my front door. Pajama clad, she said that she feared her husband was dead. I ran over to see what had happened. Indeed, something was wrong with her husband and we called 911. So, began our Tuesday at the Emergency Room. (Thankfully, her husband was not dead and he did in fact recover from a stroke).

You’ve heard it said, “Life wouldn’t be so hard if we didn’t expect it to be so easy.” Same is true for outreach. We expect it to be easy; to fit within a nice, scheduled block of time in our overloaded schedules. But usually, the most meaningful service is also the most inconvenient—and costly.

Should we be surprised? Jesus was not only willing to be inconvenienced, he was willing to die. Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me” (Matt. 16:24).

If we’re going to be effective, we’re going to need to come to grips with the fact that effective ministry is usually inconvenient. I doubt this is a newsflash. We have been sensitized to personal inconvenience and conditioned that we don’t have to put up with it. (If we don’t like the wait, we can always go to another store.) But God’s love was willing to be inconvenienced.

Are we prepared to be inconvenienced in order to reach our neighbors and the world? This is why we need to marinate in the truths of who we are in Christ. When we see how “inconvenienced” Jesus was for each one of us –and the wealth of what He has so freely and graciously given us because of his “inconvenience”– it gives us the strength to actually lay aside convenience to help others.

Read Part Three of this series here.

 

Ministering to Neighbors, Part 1

Date

May 7, 2016

Categories

Gospel

Home

Part One: The Key To Reaching Our Neighbors

“You shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem…” (Acts 1:8). We are witnesses for Christ—first—right where we are. Certainly, this includes our neighbors. Does the thought of that scare you? Perhaps you don’t even know your neighbor’s names. My hope is that this mini-series on ministering to your neighbors will be of encouragement to your family.

The first point I’d like to make is that the love of Christ must compel us to reach out to our neighbors.

We Are All Busy

We are all very busy. We are often busy doing “good” things; things that seem or may in fact be necessary. But many good things we do will not survive the fire of judgement (1 Cor. 3:13) and each of us under the Holy Spirit’s direction needs to judge what we’re busy doing to make the wisest choices possible.

Because we’re busy, we often don’t want to do outreach. So, we do it under duress. We risk undermining our purpose through half-heartedness or we just plain fizzle out.

Christ’s Love is the KEY Motivation

Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 5:14 how important Christ’s love is as a motivation for service. The love of our Savior is seen in his death and resurrection and the glorious riches that are ours because of his finished work. Ephesians 1 and 2; and Romans 1-8 are just several of many, many excellent passages that describe what we have in Christ.

A Practical Example of Christ’s Love

For several years now, my family has been helping one of our neighbors through stage 4 Alzheimer’s and other health issues. The help they’ve needed has been multi-dimensional and intensive. Our primary assistance has been periodic usually in response to various medical emergencies. One morning not long ago, I was tired and had too many other things to do, and frankly, I had no strength in me to do anything for them. The conversation around the breakfast table was not one I would want repeated. It was pretty sad and what’s more sad is that this was not an isolated incident.

Then the Holy Spirit, as He has done before in this situation, reminded me of 2 Corinthians 5:14. I shared it and discussed it with the family and we were able to do what needed to be done…with a joyful heart. This was no work of my own. No set of steps about how to minister could have changed my heart and moved me to action. This was the Holy Spirit alone in me, bringing the gospel to mind. I was a recipient of God’s love in Christ! What he did for me was far more difficult than what I needed to do for this couple. Because I had received God’s love, I could love, too.

If we are struggling to reach out to our neighbors, we should resist knuckling under to a sense of duty and instead, dwell on the great love that we’ve been shown in Christ (Phil. 4:8). His love for us is causative. Jesus said in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

Dwell on The Love of Christ!

Dwelling on his love as demonstrated in all that we’ve been given in Christ will convict us and lead us to repentance which then frees us to reach out to our neighbors. It’s not our normal default to think about God’s love. But we must be intentional in doing this.

Read Part Two of this series here.

Three Ways to Live Joyfully in Life’s Tensions

Date

Nov 16, 2020

Categories

Parenting
Anxiety

Why can’t life be a relaxing, sunny day at the beach?

Home life has a way of arousing tensions, doesn’t it? From granular tensions such as whose day is it to clean the kitchen, to who gets to go the store with Mom, or which movie to watch; to moderate tensions such as which car to buy, or how to get through a disagreement with a spouse; to the most serious tensions job choice, whether or not to get married, or what house to buy. Ironically, I think we struggle more from the daily granular tensions than we do from the serious ones. Someone; a spouse, a child, a mother-in-law: people could be or will be upset with whatever we decide to do which makes any choice seem unacceptable leaving us indecisive.

Almost every decision we face places us in the crosshairs of complex and conflicting forces which raise tension, stress, and the wry if not resigned reflection, “Why can’t this be easier? Why does life have to be so hard!”

Inner and relational tensions come from living in a fallen world. But there are three positive sides to life’s tensions that I want to encourage you with today.

  1. Tension provides an opportunity to look at life from a godly perspective so that we can have joy. If we’re honest, we struggle to always remember God in our decisions, especially the most granular. Life happen so fast and we easily succumb to habit, whim, or someone else’s “wishes” er hmm, demands. If everything went the way we wanted, then we would have no need for God.

As Christians, we are sojourners, exiles, aliens because our real home is in heaven. Our primary allegiance to God is always challenged. If we’re living right, there’s a sense in which we should always feel tension on some level. Tension is a reminder that we need to look at situations from God’s perspective. As the Author of Life, he alone can tell us how to live joyfully in a sinful world.

  1. God is showing how dependent we are on him so that we can rest. As created beings, we all need outside help: God’s “help”. As The Creator and sustainer of life, we absolutely need God’s wisdom, understanding and guidance in all things. The rugged individualism that we prize in America exalts independence and self-reliance. In proper context and balance, there is value in these qualities. However, our flesh seeks to make these qualities ultimate and we easily carry these qualities over into other parts of our lives such as our spiritual walk and relationships often with devastating consequences.

All spheres of life require ultimate dependence upon God and his word. Tension is an accountability tool that calls us to examine what or who we are depending on. We can rejoice that God is a rewarder of those who seek, and hence depend, on him. When we depend on him, we can rest, even in distressing situations.

  1. God wants us to exercise our faith to apply his promises. In some cases, especially major decisions, we might cry out, “I want to do God’s will!” While commendable, God’s will is often not an easy decision that is made with complete clarity on all the factors involved—or the certainty of an ideal outcome. Seeking to make the right decision can also be a reflection of our own idolatry. We do not know the future, only God does.

Romans 8:29 tells us what the will of God is: conformity to the image of his son, Jesus Christ. Previously in verse 28, we read that God uses “all things” which includes good and bad, to accomplish his will. Life seems to teach us that we learn more from the situations that run the gamut from unpleasant to misery. They are opportunities to exercise our faith without which it is impossible to please God and to access the precious promises he gives us for life that carry us through tension.

Not every day can be a day at the beach. I’ve heard it said, “Live joyfully in the tension.” We can do that when we look at tensions from a godly perspective, accept that each tension reminds us our place a dependent creatures, and that each tension is an opportunity to exercise our faith.

Doing those three things may not make yours a day at the beach, but it will help you navigate the seas of life with resilient hope and the unwavering confidence that gives us peace and draws us closer to God.

Good News in Troubled Times: An Opportunity to Reset

Date

Apr 7, 2020

Categories

Parenting
Home
Gospel

Reset [verb ree-set] “To set adjust
or fix in a new or different way”

I’ll never forget my high school Physics class. We were four weeks into the first semester and the whole class was struggling. After a few disappointing quizzes, the first test proved dismal. The highest grade was a C. (And for the record, sadly that wasn’t mine.) I was particularly anxious about passing the class and I still have nightmares about it to this day—no joke. After discussing the horrible tests with us, our teacher decreed that she would throw out the test and quiz results and start over. That was a very refreshing reset: a new beginning for our class.

Perhaps in your homes right now, you’re seeing a lot of relational challenges and like my high school Physics class: a reset that will renew hope, confidence, and purpose seems like a pretty good idea.

Hope can be achieved through a reset! This reset can come by way of a change of perspective about how we approach family life. We typically look at life in a way that reduces it merely to right and wrong. What does the Bible say about marriage? What does the Bible say about raising children? For sure, we need to do seek and apply God’s wisdom. But there is often something missing that makes the difference between defeat and endurance that begins to see lasting change take place.

This change of perspective goes back to the foundation of the gospel itself. The gospel is more than the message that our sins are forgiven in Christ. Indeed, it is that. But it is more! Through the gospel, we learn all that God has done to help us live for him. This includes a new identity in Christ that we have been given that profoundly demonstrates God’s love.

Let’s take a very brief look at just a sample of what this identity includes: we are redeemed, adopted by God, hidden in Christ; made righteous, holy, blameless. We are dead to sin and alive to God, set free, and no longer under condemnation. (Download an A-Z List of our Identity in Christ).

Our identity is woven throughout the Bible and is intended to provide us with great joy and serves as a powerful motive for living the Christian life. Living out of joy in God is crucial to living for his glory and it is a far more effective tool than fear and guilt in our relationships.

Once you see these statements in your study of the Bible it will revolutionize your walk with God. It will change your perspective on living for him from one of oppressive obligation to glorious grace.

When we see how much God loves us, we will in turn love him and love others.