Why “Go to Church”?

We’re continuing to look at Paul’s admonition to the church in Ephesus in chapter 4. Last time we discovered that we are to walk or live in a manner that is worthy of who we are as called sons of God. The last thing we talked about was the fact that the Spirit gives unity to the body.  We are to maintain this unity as we live and worship together. Just as our spirit pervades our entire body and gives unity to it, the Spirit of God does the same for Christ’s body, the church.

I have a concern that we have developed and maintained a cultural view of the church. We hear people ask, “Where do you go to church?”  Sometimes people will refer to someone who has stopped “going to church.” Church is more like a club to join rather than a living body that has the life of the Spirit flowing through it.

Let’s take a quick look at what Paul writes in Ephesians 4. In verse 11 he tells us that God has given gifts to the church, namely apostles, prophets, evangelists and teaching-pastors. Why are these individuals given to the church? He writes that they are given so that the saints are equipped to do the work of the ministry. This tells me that there should be no fringe members. By fringe members I’m talking about those who show up for a worship service and leave again and are not involved at all in the ministry to one another that occurs within the body of Christ. I’m not just speaking about ministry that happens in the church building but among the members of the body throughout the week. The kind of ministry or service to one another that should occur within the body requires equipping or training. We all need to be taught how to minister to one another.

In any area of life where there are skills that need to be learned, we need to be taught and shown how to do it by someone who knows how – the teacher. Sometimes there are things we don’t know we need to know and so we are coerced in some way to be trained. This happens for children in school and it happens sometimes at the workplace. In the church setting, we rely on the working of God’s Spirit within the hearts of his people to seek the opportunities for the equipping needed in the local church.

The purpose of this equipping is so that the body will be built up until we call come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God with the goal of reaching the stature of the measure of the fullness of Christ (Eph 4:13). This is a lofty goal. And in this context it is not so much an individual goal as a body goal. He goes on to elaborate on this in the next couple of verses.

For our purposes today, let’s jump down to verses 15 and 16. Here we see in this edification and growing process we are to grow up in all things into him who is the head of the church, which means Christ.

But verse 16 I think is crucial for expanding our vision of the church and its functioning. The first words in verse 16 are “From whom.” The whom is Christ. From Christ, the whole body…. Now we need to access the English grammar part of our brain. What is the main verb of this phrase? And yes it is important to know this. From Christ the whole body causes the growth of the body, for the edifying of itself in love. So Christ, working throughout the whole body causes the growth of the body. The implication is that this occurs when the body is functioning effectively and properly.

How does it do this? First we notice it is the whole body, not just part of the body. That means everyone who is truly a member of the actual body of Christ, not those who simply gain membership in the local church. Next we see that it is “joined and knit together by what every joint supplies.”  Each part of the body is described as doing its part. “Every joint” is a phrase used to stand for each member of the body. But Paul makes this more explicit as he goes on to speak of the effective working as each part does its share. It is this functioning of each individual part doing its share that enables the body to cause the growth of itself. This is analogous to our human body. When each part is functioning and doing what it was designed to do, the body grows and is strengthened.

When there are “members” of a church that are not functioning according to the gifts the Holy Spirit has given them, the church will not be building itself effectively. It might be possible for individuals who are members on paper not to actually be members of the body of Christ. They may be members by profession but not in reality and practice. It seems to me that one of the things we as church leaders need to focus on is building the understanding necessary and the patterns and procedures that will enable and encourage a biblical view of church life. In such a climate, easy church membership without actual functioning in that role would not occur as frequently as it does now in many churches.

I believe that part of this process is establishing an effective and church-wide climate of disciple-making. If a church were to have a dynamic, effective and ongoing practice of discipleship so that actively engaged Christians were the ones admitted into membership, perhaps those who don’t really have an interest in growing together in relationship with others and who don’t have an interest in serving together in the local church would weed themselves out. But if people continue to see church membership as meaning merely somewhat regular attendance at a worship service, we will continue to perpetuate a non-disciple-making climate and the body will not be edified and the glory of Christ won’t be displayed the way God would have it to be.

 

Thoughts on Psalm 104

Take some time and read Psalm 104 thoroughly and carefully. It will help you in your appreciation of God and his might power and creative design. I’m not going to discuss every verse but just reflect on some of the things that stood out to me.

Verse 1 “Bless the Lord, O my soul!” Take time to talk to yourself. Encourage yourself to be focused on the praise that God deserves. Acknowledge God’s greatness to him. Don’t just rest on the fact that you know it in your mind. Tell him, “O Lord, you are very great!”

Verse 5 “You laid the foundations of the earth…” We realize that the Bible is not a science book per se. We recognize that the earth does not have foundations or pillars to rest on. But its stability is amazing when we think about the fact that it is just floating in space obeying the laws of gravity which God designed for it.

Verses 6-9 speak of God’s control over the waters. This could be a description of creative action at the beginning or of the great flood of Noah’s day. All of this is attributed to God’s active involvement.

Verses 10 and 11 give evidence of God’s active involvement and design and planning to give water and nourishment to the animals. God is not just far away in some corner of heaven. He is involved and aware and observant of all of his creation. Jesus encouraged us not to worry but to trust God because he takes care of the birds and clothes the field with splendor,  Matthew 6:28-31.

Verses 13 and 14: He waters the hills and causes the grass to grow. The earth is satisfied with God’s provision and care. His provision for mankind is included since man is able to bring forth food from the earth with which he can provide himself with bread and wine for his sustenance.

Verse 18 : God provided specific habitats for the creatures he had made.

Verse 19: He uses the sun and moon to mark off the days and seasons and to allow the various animals to follow their instincts for hunting and sleeping. Some sleep during the day and hunt at night. God has created, designed and provided for all of these differences.

Verse 23 shows us that his provision includes man and the provision for him to go out to work and return for a night’s rest. Psalm 127:2 tells us that God provides his beloved sleep.

Verses 24-26: How manifold are God’s works. He created innumerable creatures for the sea as well as the earth. Many of these man has never seen. And yet they are there, playing. I believe God enjoys watching what he has made, even when we can’t see it.

Verses 27-30 explain how all creation waits upon God for their food. Just as in Jesus’ parable, God provides for every sparrow and every other creature as well. We need to learn to trust him. I’m also impressed to see God’s continuous creative process at work. He takes away their breath and they return to dust. He sends his spirit and new ones are born renewing the face of the earth.

Verse 33: The response is one of rejoicing and praise demonstrated by the outburst of song.

 

Do we pay enough attention to all that God s created? Do we meditate on the amazing wonder of his works displayed throughout the earth and sky? Perhaps if we did, we would be more prone to praise and magnify his name and be thankful for all he is and does.

Thanksgiving – How Important Is It?

How important can the giving of thanks be? And to whom should the thanks be directed? On TV and other media we hear comments such as, “Let’s be grateful for all we have.” Or we hear that we are truly blessed. But seldom do we hear who it is we have been blessed by or to whom our thanksgiving should be directed.

However, the Bible tells us this about God:

Acts 17:24–25 (NKJV) God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. 25 Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things.

James 1:17 (NKJV) Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.

So it is God who deserves our thanks and since everything good comes from His hand, our thanksgiving ought to frequent because we are constantly receiving life, breath and all things from Him.

The root of all sin is lack of thankfulness and for this persistent ingratitude God has judged mankind.

Romans 1:20–21 (NKJV) For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

So this Thanksgiving let’s recognize God for who He is and be overtly thankful to Him recognizing Him as our creator and the giver of all we have. And let’s joyfully worship Him together with others when our churches gather each Lord’s Day because He is worthy of all praise.

Hymn for Today – Thanks to God

  1. Thanks to God for my Redeemer,
    Thanks for all Thou dost provide!
    Thanks for times now but a memory,
    Thanks for Jesus by my side!
    Thanks for pleasant, balmy springtime,
    Thanks for dark and stormy fall!
    Thanks for tears by now forgotten,
    Thanks for peace within my soul!
  2. Thanks for prayers that Thou hast answered,
    Thanks for what Thou dost deny!
    Thanks for storms that I have weathered,
    Thanks for all Thou dost supply!
    Thanks for pain, and thanks for pleasure,
    Thanks for comfort in despair!
    Thanks for grace that none can measure,
    Thanks for love beyond compare!
  3. Thanks for roses by the wayside,
    Thanks for thorns their stems contain!
    Thanks for home and thanks for fireside,
    Thanks for hope, that sweet refrain!
    Thanks for joy and thanks for sorrow,
    Thanks for heavenly peace with Thee!
    Thanks for hope in the tomorrow,
    Thanks through all eternity!

Hymn of the Week – Thanks to God

1 Thanks to God for my Redeemer,
Thanks for all Thou dost provide!
Thanks for times now but a mem’ry,
Thanks for Jesus by my side!
Thanks for pleasant, balmy springtime,
Thanks for dark and stormy fall!
Thanks for tears by now forgotten,
Thanks for peace within my soul!

2 Thanks for prayers that Thou hast answered,
Thanks for what Thou dost deny!
Thanks for storms that I have weathered,
Thanks for all Thou dost supply!
Thanks for pain, and thanks for pleasure,
Thanks for comfort in despair!
Thanks for grace that none can measure,
Thanks for love beyond compare!

3 Thanks for roses by the wayside,
Thanks for thorns their stems contain!
Thanks for home and thanks for fireside,
Thanks for hope, that sweet refrain!
Thanks for joy and thanks for sorrow,
Thanks for heav’nly peace with Thee!
Thanks for hope in the tomorrow,
Thanks through all eternity!

Hymn of the Week – Spirit of God, Descend Upon my Heart

Spirit of God, Descend Upon my Heart by George Croly

1.	Spirit of God, descend upon my heart;
	wean it from earth; through all its pulses move;
	stoop to my weakness, mighty as thou art,
	and make me love thee as I ought to love.

2.	I ask no dream, no prophet ecstasies,
	no sudden rending of the veil of clay,
	no angel visitant, no opening skies;
	but take the dimness of my soul away.

3.	Has thou not bid me love thee, God and King?
	All, all thine own, soul, heart and strength and mind.
	I see thy cross; there teach my heart to cling.
	O let me seek thee, and O let me find.

4.	Teach me to feel that thou art always nigh;
	teach me the struggles of the soul to bear.
	To check the rising doubt, the rebel sigh,
	teach me the patience of unanswered prayer.

5.	Teach me to love thee as thine angels love,
	one holy passion filling all my frame;
	the kindling of the heaven-descended Dove,
	my heart an altar, and thy love the flame.