Tuesday, April 29, 2014

April 29, 2014 - Along the way ...

I've been thinking a lot about the body of Christ, lately.  I fear we might be missing the point.  Often when we think about the body of Christ (which the Bible says is the church - see I Corinthians 12:27), we limit the scope of our thinking to a local congregation, but what if there is more?

Consider Article 27 of the Belgic Confession (a Christian testimony used by the church with whom I serve) and its understanding of the term The Holy Catholic Church -

"We believe and confess one single catholic or universal church - a holy congregation and gathering of true Christian believers, awaiting their entire salvation in Jesus Christ, being washed by his blood, and sanctified and sealed by the Holy Spirit.  ...  And so this holy church is not confined, bound, or limited to a certain place or certain people.  But it is spread and dispersed throughout the entire world, though still joined and united in heart and will, in one and the same Spirit, by the power of faith."

I am struck by two things: "catholic or universal", and "this holy church is not confined, bound, or limited to a certain place or certain people".

What if by emphasizing a local congregation as the body of Christ, we have missed what God intends for us to embrace, which is the worldwide body of Christ?  If so, what have we missed?

I serve on the World Missions board for my denomination, the Christian Reformed Church in North America, and we have seen for years how missionaries partner with Christians from all different traditions to advance Christ's reign around the world.

What if God intends the same thing for the church in North America?
What if there is only one body of Christ (see Ephesians 4:4-6) and each one of us who have chosen to place true faith in Jesus are part of it?
What if my role as a pastor is not limited to the congregation, who has called me but is to serve the church as a whole; the whole body of Christ in Albuquerque and beyond?

I am not sure I have fully worked through what all of this means, but I thought I would invite you into the conversation.   I would like to hear your thoughts.   Have you ever considered the meaning of the body of Christ as one, worldwide communion?  If so, can you help me understand?  If not, what do you think, are we missing the point?

Let's continue to discuss as we journey together along the way ...

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

April 22, 2014 - Along the way ...

Last week was a roller coaster of emotions for me as we made our way through another Holy Week.

On the one hand, I confessed that Good Friday is one of the most awkward days of the church calendar.

Its hard to know what to say when confronted with the reality of Jesus' cross.   Words fail to capture the immensity of that moment.  Besides it seems strange to be excited that Jesus died, and yet as Jesus Himself said, "the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again." (Mark 8:31)  It had to happen in order for us to be saved, but I still feel awkward being happy about it.  Do you feel the same way?

On the other hand, Sunday I confessed the opposite.  Sunday we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus from the dead!  We announced, "Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!"

Whereas Friday is awkward and words seem inappropriate, Sunday is completely different.   When I consider the implications of Jesus' resurrection from the dead, I just can't stop talking about it.  There are never enough words to explain and relate all the benefits that are ours through faith, or all of the sad things that are coming untrue because of Jesus' resurrection from the dead.

I highlighted three benefits; three sad things coming untrue as taught by the Heidelberg Catechism (a tool we use to teach the Christian faith - it covers the apostles' creed, baptism and the Lord's Supper, the ten commandments, and the prayer Jesus taught us to pray sometimes referred to as the Lord's Prayer).  Those three benefits are: righteousness; Christ's righteousness which is imputed to us through faith, new life; the new life we have because the Holy Spirit is alive in us and we are already being made new, and resurrection; not simply Jesus' resurrection, but also the assurance of our own resurrection after we die.

I admit that these three benefits are all amazing, but this year the hope of the resurrection struck me most.  Since my dad died 6 months ago last Sunday, the hope of his resurrection through faith has brought me and my family comfort and has given us peace.  That has been the goodness of the good news that has impacted me most this year.  

So what about you?  What benefit of Jesus' resurrection from the dead means the most to you?
How will you complete this sentence: "Because Jesus rose from the dead I have ..."?
I invite you to share your own testimonies that we might encourage one another as journey together along the way ...

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

April 8, 2014 - Along the way ...

What does it take to be a disciple of Jesus?

This is a question with which you and I have probably wrestled at times.   We know that we are included in Christ by faith because of God's grace, and that it is only in Christ that we are declared righteous and that we are saved.

But what about following?  What about being a disciple?

In Mark 8:27-38, Jesus issues a call to discipleship.   Following Peter's affirmation that Jesus is the Christ, the chosen one sent by God to redeem His people, Jesus begins to explain all that He must suffer, how He will be rejected, be killed, and then after three days rise again.  

Accomplishing Jesus' mission will require a huge sacrifice on Jesus' part.   But what about us?  What will it look like for us to follow Jesus?

In Mark 8:34, Jesus tells us what discipleship looks like.  "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves, and take up their cross, and follow me."

The words are very plain, but what does that look like for you and me today?

I imagine Jesus' own disciples were caught off guard when He spoke these words, just as Peter was caught off guard when Jesus described the way in which He would accomplish His own mission.  And I imagine many of us today are still caught off guard when we hear these words.

Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me.

So there will be sacrifice; a willingness to sacrifice even what is good for what might be better; a willingness to suffer; even a willingness to die; so that we might be raised again to new life in Christ, as we follow Him living by the Spirit.

In Ephesians 2:1-10, the apostle Paul describes this process - dead, but God made us alive in Christ, raised us up, and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms ... For we are God's workmanship (poetry) created in Christ Jesus to do good works God prepared in advance for us to do.

So as you consider discipleship, realize that it will require sacrifice, a willingness to suffer, and even die so that we might be raised to new life in Christ!   And it is the new life, which enables us to follow, doing the good works God prepared in advance for us to do.

So what about you?   What do you think it takes to follow Jesus?  Please take time to share your own thoughts as we journey together along the way ...

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April 1, 2014 - Along the way ...

Lately I've been thinking a lot about honor.   Given the things God showed me last week on my way up the mountain, I have been wondering what it might look like to properly honor God?

It is clear that God certainly deserves honor.  In the Bible, Jesus, who was often dishonored while He walked this earth, is crowned with glory and honor.  (See I Timothy 1:17, 6:16; Hebrews 2:7-9; Revelation 4:9-11, 5:12-13, 7:12)   The Greek word for honor is "doxa" from which we get our word "doxology" = words of praise/glory/honor

But is honor only about what we say?  

Jesus quoted Isaiah 29:13 to the Pharisees in Mark 7:6, "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me."  So it seems that honor goes deeper than offering mere lip service.  Honor has to do with our hearts.

So what does it mean to honor God with your heart?

In the Bible, our "heart" is the center of our will, our very being.  Our "heart" is the motivation; it is why we do what we do.  So if our "hearts" are far from God, then what we say is meaningless.

So what does it mean to honor God with your heart?

I believe, beyond faith, it requires submission and obedience.  Honoring God is not something we do to gain His favor.   We gain God's favor through believing in the life, death, and resurrection of His Son; trusting that His righteousness is the only righteousness we have before God.   So honoring God is not about gaining or earning; honoring God is about responding to God's love offered in Jesus.

So what does it mean to honor God with your heart?

Having believed in Jesus, submission and obedience go hand in hand.  In I Corinthians 6:19-20, the apostle Paul says, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  You are not your own; you were bought at a price.  Therefore, honor God with your body."  

Honoring God begins with recognizing that we have been redeemed!  Redeem means "to buy back"; to "purchase".  Jesus purchased us for God by offering Himself to God on our behalf.  Now all who believe in Jesus, belong to God.  On one hand, this is a good thing!  It means eternal security for all who believe!  On the other hand, it means we are no longer free to call our own shots.  We belong to God and He will have His way in us.  As we submit to His authority, we also seek to do what He wants us to do; i.e. obey.

So what will it look like for you to honor God this week?   Consider your life, your setting, your opportunities, your calling, and make a plan for how you will specifically honor God with your heart this week.  Then share your stories here!  Let's encourage one another as we journey together along the way ...