Even When You Are Scared to Death

Do not be afraid. Even when you are scared to death.

Isn’t fear the obnoxious substance of our very lives? Isn’t it fear that cripples us in the moments of greatest uncertainty? When we have every natural reason to fear? And when we don’t have any reason to fear at all?

Seven churches received admonishment, rebukes, and encouragement, in the first three chapters of the New Testament book of Revelation. It is an apocalyptic book, common to a long-standing and accepted writing style which preceded it. A mixture of real historical comments and steep symbolism, we have nothing that comes close to it in current literary genres.

But there is something real about what God, through the Word, and through John, shared with these seven churches. Because they each, in their own right, received the same encouragement.

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For the church in Ephesus:

To him who overcomes … (Revelation 2:7; NIV84)

For the church in Smyrna:

He who overcomes … (2:11)

For the church in Pergamum:

To him who overcomes … (2:17)

For the church in Thyatira:

To him who overcomes … (2:26)

For the church in Sardis:

He who overcomes … (3:5)

For the church in Philadelphia:

Him who overcomes … (3:12)

For the church in Laodecia:

To him who overcomes … (3:21)

This is the central mission of the believers. To overcome. Remain faithful. In spite of what will happen.

To him who overcomes …

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And then, we turn the page, to today’s reading, from Revelation 4 through Revelation 6, and we, along with John, and these believers, get a glimpse into what will happen.

John sees it all through a door, already opened for him.

He was expected.

The vision was prepared for him.

Nothing was a surprise.

Nothing was spontaneous.

Everything John would see had a succinct purpose.

Moreover, according to Revelation 4:1, the events he would see were future events. They were things that had to happen “next.”

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It is dangerous, though, to try to interpret each individual sign with a literal, physical, historical marker. That doesn’t seem to be the intent of the letter. If those believers, along with you and I, are encouraged, in spite of our weaknesses, to remain faithful, then let’s keep it there.

I write that, simply, because I believe that the power in John’s vision is completely lost when we try to make assumptions about who each person, or beast, is. We rob the text of its power and its mystery when we do that.

Look carefully at what John sees.

An angel, with a mighty voice, asks, for all of creation to hear, who is worthy to open the scroll in the hand of God.

It is here, then, that John weeps. The vision is so overpowering, and he is so enraptured by the scene – by all that he had heard, and now, all that he had seen – that all he could do was weep. Of all he had witnessed so far in this room, of the elders and the creatures, it was obvious to him that no one there, even how remarkable they appeared, could open it.

Yet then appeared the Lamb.

It was no ordinary Lamb. It looked as if it had been slain. But it was alive. And it had horns of strength and eyes of wisdom.

The Lamb took the scroll, and at that moment, every angel, thousands upon thousands, and every living creature on planet earth began to worship the Lamb. No moment in the history of worship in the kingdom of God will ever compare to the moment when every created thing claims, with one voice, the worthiness of the Lamb.

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The scroll had seven seals, and when the first four are broken, four horsemen are loosed, bringing with them, upon the earth conquering and death and famine.

Yet remember: each of the believers in the seven churches were to overcome, regardless of what would happen.

These events are not meant to frighten the believer at all.

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The martyrs cry for justice when the fifth seal is broken, and a violent earthquake happens when the sixth seal is broken. The stars fall from the sky, and every ruler and every slave runs and hides.

It is a terrifying scene. Yet two things are immediate.

One, this vision of what happens when time is over, is superseded only by a God who cannot be removed from his throne. All praise, and all violence, are under his sovereignty. That is why you and I, dear reader, are to not be afraid. We serve a God who controls all of the calamity, and all of the blessing.

And two, the very prayers you offer God, prayers filled with requests for blessings and prayers filled with praise and worship, are so special to God, so sacred to him, that they are placed in golden bowls, and are offered to him by the elders around his throne. Not one prayer spills from those bowls. Not one. Our prayers are incense before God. Every prayer is a sweet aroma, and fills the throne room with the scent of beauty and gentleness and peace. It’s true.

And when [the Lamb had taken the scroll], the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. (Revelation 5:8)

The encouragement to overcome will naturally be filled with prayers of protection when whatever calamity befalls any believer. God welcomes your cries for his name, and yearns for his throne room to be sweetened by their scent.

Yes. The Lamb is worthy today. Yes, he is so worthy.

So do not be afraid. Even when you are scared to death.

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Today is day 85.

The One Thing That Keeps You From Truly Worshiping

It is guilt that keeps us from worshiping God in freedom and celebration.

Guilt is so heavy. It is smothering. And it leads us to all sorts of places. We find it awkward to confess our sins to other people, for fear of judgmental behaviors. We are afraid of losing things we hold dear, because losing relationships, because of our own personal sin, is too great a price to pay for our own various struggles.

Private, secret sin is so personal. And so destructive. And so heavy.

And it leads us to some strange form of penance. It leads us to become vigorous in our own traditions in our own churches. We become almost vitriolic in those traditions. We make a stand for those traditions, and declare, solemnly, that we are right. Guilt pushes us to hold fast to what has always been there, and has always made us comfortable.

Yet, when we respond to guilt like this, we have given guilt more power than it is due. We give it the power to determine what, in our lives, will become an idol. Many of us have never been taught the true release found in Jesus. We think, instead, that true release is found in a human system that seems comfortable and right. Guilt binds us to those traditions, and we become enslaved by them because of our personal guilt.

I’ve done that. You’ve done that. I know people, right now, who are doing it. They are so bound to the traditions of their church that they have sacrificed their own personal integrity to uphold a system that is inherently flawed. Instead of running to Jesus, they are running to the idol they can see, can attend, and can critique.

The freedom Jesus offers, though, is complete. We can walk away from our addictions, from our sins, from our secrets. Only this freedom can release us from guilt. It releases us from guilt. It supersedes all traditions. It overwhelms all human systems. It exposes our own idolatry.

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The book of Hebrews teaches this much better than I can, though. Today’s reading, from Hebrews 8 through Hebrews 10, exposes the flaws of tradition, and the maintenance required when we try to burden our own sin, instead of releasing it.

There were sacrificial requirements for sin, in the Old Testament, that Hebrews completely exposes as unable to cleanse people from guilt. Here they are:

Sacrifices were ineffective.

… it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. (Hebrews 10:4; NIV84)

Sacrifices were endlessly repetitious.

The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. (10:1)

Sacrifices could not permanently relieve the burden of guilt and sin.

… indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings — external regulations applying until the time of the new order. (9:9, 10)

Sacrifices were forever tainted by the sin of the priests who offered them.

But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year,and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. (9:7)

It’s not a small step to take, to find that these things could never cleanse the heart.

The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. (9:13)

In other words, these sacrifices only made a person think they felt better about their sin and their guilt. It never took it away.

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Our great tragedy, though, is not necessarily understanding these things. Our great tragedy is finding ourselves back in the same situation as the Israelites.

We don’t sacrifice bulls and goats and such. Obviously, we don’t. But we do sacrifice a lot of other things.

We “sacrifice” our gifts and talents. We “sacrifice” our time. We “sacrifice” our money. We “sacrifice” our resources.

We don’t give them. We “sacrifice” them. We place them on the altar, and by doing so, we start thinking that we feel better about our sin and guilt, because we start to think that our “sacrifices” our so needed.

But we still live with the tremendous load of guilt. “Getting involved,” or “being recruited” to work in some church program cannot relieve our guilt, regardless of how hard we work, or how talented we are. Nothing we can offer, of value, can replace the grace of Jesus.

As sobering and hurtful as that sounds, our gifts and resources and talents and money and time are not needed. When we start thinking we are needed, we start thinking that we have something that can compete with the full atonement and release and forgiveness Jesus gives us.

Yes. I said that. The full atonement and sacrifice of Jesus can never be replicated, even in our petty “sacrifices.” God may call us to a certain place, to give our time and resources, but he does so because it will transform us, not because we are needed. God has given millions of people the same talents he has given you and me. We aren’t unique.

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This is full and complete absolution of guilt and sin:

The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says: “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” Then he adds: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” (10:15-17)

God has penetrated all rituals, programs, and sacrifices that could only make us feel better, and has, himself, written his law upon our hearts. And he remembers our sins no more.

No more.

That is freedom. That frees us worship. To serve. To bless. To praise. To pray. To share. To offer. To give. To live. To love. To endure. To teach.

Because we have nothing — not one thing — to fear. And we have nothing that could ever compete with this.

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This is my 75th straight post, in 75 straight days, while reading and blogging through the New Testament. God is continuing to do something supernatural in me. If you want to check out the other posts, click here. Thanks for reading these meager wonderings.

Epic Church

There is an epic sense to the beginning of the letter to the Ephesians.

You can almost hear an awesome soundtrack while you read the first three chapters of the letter. Big themes of salvation and history and grace, long sentences, and images of the heavenly realms. It’s a big opening to such a small epistle.

But then the soundtrack stops in Ephesians 4, and the letter grounds itself. The big orchestral music of  the opening credits gives way to the tinkling of a piano while the plot is hatched.

And, of all things, the plot is hatched by a church that needs to think about how it walks.

There are five references to walking in the final three chapters. And by the way, you’ll have to refer to the original language of the letter for the correct wording — most English translations, and certainly the more popular ones, completely disregard the word walk, and, instead, translate the word as live.

Anyway, here they are, as they are addressed the community as a whole:

  • Walk in a way worthy of their calling (4:1).
  • Walk not like the unbelievers (4:17).
  • Walk in love (5:2).
  • Walk as children of light (5:8).
  • Walk wisely, redeeming the time (5:15).

In other words, we have a responsibility to walk right.

We’ve been introduced to the far-reaching plan of God. Knowing that plan, then, should make us change how we walk.

There is a corporate sense of responsibility, and there is a uniting ideal that has already been achieved. Grace is the ultimate gift of God, and that should make us be different.

Our community walks together.

It is gifted, by God, for the sake of its strength (4:11-13).

It is transformational, in that knowing Christ has given us new lives (4:17-24).

It is selfless, built upon a walk of love, and not selfish desires (5:1-3).

It is proof that a different life can be lived (5:8-13).

It is full of wisdom (5:15).

Remember, too, that this letter was written to gatherings of believers, to churches, to be read aloud in churches, thus to make these passages individualistic may be a stretch. This letter is chiefly concerned with the community of God, the kingdom of God, in a realm currently ruled by dark powers.

It is the bride of Christ, cleansed for marriage (5:26), ready for its walk with God.

Even the final passage of weaponry, in Ephesians 6, speaks to an idea of community, and the way we’ve always read it changes when we change the context. Read the previous few verses about relationships within a home, and see that relational context as evident when you transition into 6:10. It’s powerful.

What if the church, instead of the individual, donned this armor?

The church would stand against the schemes of evil, instead of trying to fight them. Because there is no fight. Read here, from Ephesians 1:19-23:

That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

We spend too much time fighting, I think. Political fights. Cultural fights. City fights.

There just isn’t a need to fight. The victory of Jesus’ exaltation is supreme, and complete. Nothing can contend with that.

But there is a need to stand in confidence. There are struggles. We are not called to fight. We are called only to stand.

Scholar Martin Kitchen indicated that this passage, of standing, in Ephesians 6:13-18, was meant to be heard by believers who stood, together, often, in worship and prayer. Wow! What if that’s the real meaning of this passage? What if we are called to stand in worship, praising God for our security?!

Or, maybe better said, that worship and prayer are our defense mechanisms?! Wouldn’t that change a few things!

I’m placing this passage here, and want to challenge you, for a moment, to read these verses in this context — to see this passage as a church, as a community of believers, standing together in worship, praising God for this amazing security.

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

Reading this passage as we’ve previously read it, as an admonition for each individual to wear this armor, always made me feel alone and isolated. I often asked myself these questions: What if no one else wore the armor? What if I was to be the only one?

The constant reading of the New Testament, though, attests to the community of the believers, not the isolation of each believer. Reading this passage as a church wearing God’s armor (it is God’s armor, by the way — remember, no part of salvation is ever earned, and neither is our defense in a fallen world — even the armor we wear belongs to God) is so refreshing, so powerful, and is the realization of the mission for the church.

And so, as the letter ends, the orchestral music plays again. Sweeping cinematography and landscapes, with a group of believers, standing fast, as battles rage around it. It stands in worship, as the dark powers in the landscape try to overcome them. Yet their praises rise to a God who is seated above even the worst of what life can be.

This is the treasure of this letter. This is the peace in this life. And this is the mission for the church.

Your Faith Is Not Alone

As you read this today, I would love for you to do so as you listen to this song. One of my favorites, I think it completely encompasses everything Paul writes in our reading today. It’s a song called “Let Our Faith Be Not Alone” by the Robbie Seay Band.

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There is a kind of love that makes a person give pause.

It is poetic. It moves in your soul, like the air you breathe. It sings sweet lullabies to you in your darkest hour.

Powerful, this love is. It protects. It is steadfast. It does not waver, even when life sinks to the moors. It is the hope, in this life, that God is real and that he is alive, for only he can enable someone to love you like this. And only he can enable you to love others with the same force.

When we gather, then, as the full body of Jesus, our love is on display. It is the only gift that should keep making us want to come back.

People, together in utter anticipation, wait for the voice of God, because there is great strength found in knowing how God works in the lives of everyone else.

I lead a small group of students on Wednesday nights. I grew tired, long ago, of trying to teach students in these settings. God was calling me, last autumn, to embark upon a different type of gathering. No more curriculum. No more hours of research and writing for a thirty minute lesson. Instead, our hour-long meetings would be filled with only one thing: revelations. I wanted all of us to experience at least one part of this type of gathering, encouraged by Paul:

When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. (1 Corinthians 14:26; NIV84)

My challenge was for each student, and each adult, to spend the entire week searching for God — looking for God. They were to do so, by prayer, by reading, and, most simply, just by listening.

When met together, we would allow each person to share those revelations. And they were awesome. They were awesome, in part, because each person began to seek the gift of prophecy. Every Wednesday night was anointed.

Prophecy. That may have made you stop reading for a moment. But it is true, and it is biblical, and a gift available to all of us. Here are Paul’s words:

Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy. (1 Corinthians 14:1; NIV84)

It is a gift that requires no interpretation (14:4). It is used to encourage others (14:3). It can speak into the depths of another’s heart (14:25). It is not a sermon, and can be given to anyone, by the spirit of God, in a moment’s notice (14:29, 30). It is a gift to be given, and used, by both men and women (1 Corinthians 11:4, 5).

It is an incredibly biblical gift few of us have ever been taught to receive. Yet God speaks to all of us, all of the time. I simply encouraged our group to listen, and share. That, friend, is prophecy.

And I was deeply moved by these revelations, in fact, i was deeply moved most every meeting. My faith was not alone. My struggles were not done alone. God was moving, and I, like everyone else, became an eye-witness to the doings of God in the lives of everyone else. Age didn’t matter, for we were all children of God, sharing the depths of our own struggles, and sharing how God was constantly renewing our hearts.

It seemed that when I no longer let the hour be dominated by just my voice, God finally was given the spotlight.

But when our time of worship is dominated by the thoughts of one person, we inadvertently make the revelation of only one person the crowning moment. I know, too, we have centuries of traditions to erase if we want to change what happens in our gatherings on Sunday mornings. Yet if you meet in a small group, you can change that, through a time of prayer.

I have found that when God starts talking, nothing else really matters, anyway.

It will be messy, though. There were times that our own Wednesday nights were messy, and times when our own selfishness kept us from hearing God. Many of us admitted as much.

Even the Corinthian church had issues. Those who interrupted the revelations of others — both those who spoke in a tongue, in their own private conversation with God, without anyone to interpret (14:28), and women who seemed to ask interrupting questions (14:34) — were told to be quiet. Yes, it was messy.

But a gathering like this is wrapped in a divine love. It is a love that tears down our walls, and lets us be vulnerable to each other, and to receive the prayer, the spontaneous prayer, when God leads others to pray for us as we share our struggles.

This kind of love does not come from us. We do not have the capacity, or the ability, to love like this. We are so adept at selfish behavior that we believe only God can love like this … that only God can love without condition.

That is not true. The love, written by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13, is agape love. Unconditional love. God loves us like this, but God also enables us to love others with the same love. We can love without condition, because God gives us the ability to do so.

And when we gather, this is the supernatural love we bring. This is the most excellent gift.

This love  not our worship music, not our sermons, not or our facilities, and not our ministers — is what binds us with others in dark moments, and in moments of praise.

It is the more excellent way.

It is what levels our gatherings, because each of us only concern ourselves with the needs of others.

And it is the only gift that will outlast all of the others.

Worship may be about music. It may be about communion. But it should always be about love. The God who loves us without condition, and gives us the gift to love others without condition, is a God worthy of praise.

Does Your Body Look Like This?

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. (1 Corinthians 12:27; NIV84)

There is great freedom in this verse. Can we truly comprehend it’s implications?

No part is greater than the other. The body does not function in its Spirit-given way, even if one part is missing.

Let’s begin with Paul’s written words in 1 Corinthians 10 in today’s reading.

Destructive Divisions

He wrote of dire consequences that would befall the believing community, if any one, or any group, took sides and became divisive.

Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry.” We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test the Lord, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did —and were killed by the destroying angel. (vv. 6-10)

If Paul stressed anything in this letter, he stressed unity. As of the writing of this letter, the Corinthian believers looked no different from their culture. For a brief passage of writing, after the verses quoted above, Paul wrote about food. Again.

He first discussed this matter in 1 Corinthians 8. In chapter 10, he told the believers that meat from pagan temples became the food of demons. Much happened in those temples, and after these feasts, that often included various sexual behaviors the believers knew to be sinful. One thing, in those feasts, usually led to another.

(That’s probably why, in the passage above, he criticized the sexual immorality that happened after everyone ate and drank together.)

Paul, though, offered them the concession that they can eat meat, but they should be careful, and restrain if they are told it was part of a pagan sacrifice. Their identity was on the line.

Dangerous stuff here. Divisions over meat led to divisions over lifestyles. The church was in crisis.

Paul then turned to public praying and prophesying in 1 Corinthians 11.

Men and Women and Public Worship

Both men, and women, are doing so in public. That is not the problem Paul addressed. He had no problem with such public acts and displays of worship. Women and men did both, in public.

Roman pagan worship involved extensive displays of attire, and head coverings were part of such. Both men and women covered their heads, especially if they were active leaders in a sacrifice to their god. Paul’s words, in 1 Corinthians 11, were not so much about giving different instructions for men and women in public worship, but rather, that their public worship should be distinct from what surrounded them.

In Roman culture, both genders had head coverings. In the Christian community, those rules no longer applied. Not only does he suggest that only women should cover their head, in v. 15, Paul further seemed to state that a woman’s hair is sufficient. In other words, neither should have to cover their heads any longer.

Their worship should look different. And their leadership structure should be different. Paul wrote that “the head of every man is Christ, and the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God” (11:2). But before we stretch that too far, and use it facilitate the leadership structure of a fallen world, remember Jesus’ words about leadership, when the mother of James and John wanted them to have leadership positions in the kingdom:

When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:24-28; NIV84)

The way of leadership is service and self-sacrifice. Not decision-making and authority. And those are Jesus’ words, not Paul’s. Earlier, in Matthew 20, Jesus said this:

So the last will be first, and the first will be last. (Matthew 20:16)

The fallen world takes positions of authority and “lords” them over others. Not so in the kingdom. Again, from Paul’s own words, he never took issue with men and women doing these acts of worship in public. He just wanted those events to be distinct from Corinthian pagan worship events.

They were to be united in their distinctive worship.

Paul then emphasized that the kingdom fellowship meal, as they currently practiced it, was a chief symptom of their disunity.

Sharing the Kingdom Meal

When they met together, or, perhaps when all the house churches met together at various times, their factions and divisions were visibly apparent. They had turned the communion meal into something similar to Corinthian meal celebrations which surrounded the worship of various gods. Meals led to drinking, which then led to a variety of awful things.

Paul has already written quite a bit about their meals. It’s almost so much, that it’s starting to wear me out.

The believers in Corinth, again, allowed so much of their culture into their practices, that they, again looked no different from their surroundings. Communion is a recognition of our own participation in the kingdom of God with other believers. If it is anything else, then it is dishonorable. We are all redeemed before God, all having sinned and been extended grace.

Our communion meal is a proclamation that the death of Jesus, and the message of the cross, is our only adhesive.

But here’s the point. For them, and for us.

One Gift-Giving Spirit

For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body. Whether Jews or Greeks or slaves or free, we were all made to drink of the one Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:13; NET)

We should bring no stress or worry to the body of Christ. We all belong, as God gifted us.

We should never be stressed or pressured or recruited to be a part of the body we were not meant to be. This verse shatters the myth of ministry recruitment.

Who are we to show others where their gifts are? We may lead them there, and they may, in fact, realize that God has, in fact, gifted them in that way. Even so, God gave them that gift, and they would’ve realized it, with or without our guidance.

And often, we lead them into a particular ministry, then struggle to keep them there. Is it possible that we are trying to force them to serve in an area where they are not spiritually gifted?

All sorts of companies have made lots of money by helping pastors recruit and keep ministry volunteers. According to this passage, though, there are no such things as ministry volunteers. Because if people are gifted to serve in a particular area, you won’t need to do anything to keep them there. The spirit of God takes care of that.

If you’ve been part of a ministry, and have since left, feel no guilt. That is not the gift God has given you. But don’t be quiet and isolated. God has gifted you with something, and you are obligated to use it, not just for your personal use, but to help the body of Jesus function in a broken world. If God has gifted you, he has also made a place for you, and your gift, in the body.

The spirit of God gives us the ability to know our gifts. No one needs to tell us.

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Our greatest failure is listening to God’s spirit in our lives, and in our churches. The body of Christ is not about divisions. It’s not about gender leadership. It’s not about cultural carbon-copied celebrations. It’s about a beautiful organism that only God can build.

Here is how The Message puts this:

God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! The variety is wonderful:

wise counsel

clear understanding

simple trust

healing the sick

miraculous acts

proclamation

distinguishing between spirits

tongues

interpretation of tongues.

All these gifts have a common origin, but are handed out one by one by the one Spirit of God. He decides who gets what, and when. (1 Corinthians 12:4-11)

There is freedom here! We do not have to search for a place to belong! God has already shown us!

As the body of Jesus, then, we should act in conjunction with each other, celebrating the differences, and not marginalizing them. Doing so is — as Paul wrote often in Romans, and now in 1 Corinthians — is politely telling God that we are much better at organizing his own church than He is.

May that never be so!

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You can read the previous posts here. Thanks for stopping by.