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Posts Tagged ‘gifts’

We live in a time of rapid technological advances, when staying in touch with one another through our phones and computers is easier than ever before. With just a few keystrokes or clicks of the mouse, we can bring the world into our living room. And with so much convenience, even devout churchgoers sometimes ask, “Why bother going to church?” If we can hear the same sermons in the comfort of our homes, or even watch church services online, and round it out with our own favorite worship music, is there any reason to actually go to church?

The answer is a resounding, “Yes!” Why?

    1. The Bible instructs us to assemble.
      The author of Hebrews instructs readers to “…consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25). Not only are we told not to forsake assembling together, but are also told why we should:
    2. It’s not just about us.
      You can get a lot of information from a sermon online. You can learn, you can feel closer to God, you can have your faith strengthened. What you can’t do by sitting at home and listening to sermons is help anyone else. The writer’s instruction in Hebrews 10:24-25 doesn’t stop at telling us to assemble; he explains that instead of forsaking assembly, we ought to consider one another to stir up love, to stir up good works, and to exhort each other. Church services aren’t just about getting our spiritual needs met: they are a way for us to make sure that others are getting their spiritual needs met, as well as their physical and emotional needs.
    3. The church isn’t just a place, it’s people.When we are baptized, we aren’t baptized into a building, or into an organization: we are baptized into the body of Christ. Paul writes that “by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body…in fact the body is not one member but many…” (1 Corinthians 12:13,14). In this chapter, Paul reiterates several times the thought that we are one body but also individual members. While he is talking about the spiritual gifts that God has endowed on the members of the body, he also brings out that we are to be a body in unity: “…God composed the body…that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another…” (1 Corinthians 12:24,25). We are not called to be isolated individuals, all doing our own thing: God called us to put us together as a united body.
    4. Spiritual gifts are used when we are together.
      Writing in Romans 12, Paul states, “we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another” (Romans 12:5). Again, Paul’s main point is to explain the diversity of spiritual gifts, but how they ought to work together to bring unity. The concept of spiritual gifts is an important one, individually and for the church. In Ephesians, Paul expounds on why Christ gave the gifts:“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:11-16).The gifts aren’t given to benefit the recipient: the gifts are given so that the recipient can benefit others, in the context of Christ’s body, the church. For every part to do its share, the body has to be knit together as one. And that can’t happen if various parts of the body scatter themselves away from the body.
    5. Christ attended church.
      Luke writes that Christ “came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read…” (Luke 4:16). If anyone could have claimed that church held nothing for Him, surely it would have been Christ. What need did the Messiah have for assembling together? But here we see that this appearance in the synagogue with the assembly was not a one-time occurrence: it was His custom.

When we choose to follow Christ, we are baptized into the body of believers, a unified group of individual members. We are given spiritual gifts to help one another and to help unify that body. We are told to care for one another; we are even told that we become members of one another. We are told not to forsake assembling together, but rather to use those assemblies to stir one another to good works. When we come together for weekly services, we also follow our spiritual Head’s example. We must bear these things in mind and then put them into practice. See you at church!

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Enough!

There is a story that, in the 1920s, a reporter asked the fabulously wealthy John D. Rockefeller, “HowImage much is enough?” Rockefeller’s reply, after a moment’s thought, is said to have been, “Just a little bit more!” Now, the story may or may not be true. But it does illustrate a characteristic of human nature: that of never being quite satisfied with what we have now.

When we look back over recorded human history, so much of it is dominated by wars and struggles over land, wealth and power: one group of people willing to go to war to have what they did not already possess, no matter the cost of obtaining it. Small wonder that James wrote, “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war” (James 4:1-2).

James uses a word that bears some examination: covet.  There are several words that are used in the Greek and Hebrew that are translated “covet,” but all carry the meaning of an extraordinary desire to have something. Often, the word “covet” is used to refer to wanting something that one doesn’t have and that, in fact, belongs to someone else. A clear example of this is found in Exodus 20, where the tenth commandment forbids coveting: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s” (Exodus 20:17).

The commandment is itself interesting, as it follows nine other commandments that—by and large—have to do with actions. This command has to do with what we think; it has to do with wanting more than what we have, than what we have been given. When we covet, what we have seems inadequate. We can see this principle in action at the very beginning of the Bible, when the serpent skillfully deceives Eve. Eve lived in a beautiful, perfect world, free of sin, worry, and trouble. What more could she want? Satan tempted her with the same thing he wanted: to be like God. His message to Eve was that no matter how good she had it right now, she was inadequate…she needed just a little bit more to be happy. God, he said, had something that she should have. “…God knows that in the day you eat of it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5).

Eve, seeing that the fruit looked okay to her eyes, allowed herself to covet that knowledge that was God’s alone to have…and that covetousness moved her to sin against the word of God. And her eyes were opened; but we know that this did not bring her happiness, any more than winning the lottery or becoming a dictator today is a recipe for happiness. But all the examples of the Bible, and all the examples of the world, are not enough to keep us from always wanting what we don’t have.

In the United States, we know that advertising plays on this craving of human nature. The commercials tell us that the clothing we have isn’t nice enough, the car we have isn’t new enough, the cable television service we have doesn’t give us enough options. We’re told that our neighbors have more than we do, that movie stars have bodies we should envy and try to achieve, that if we just bought this or did that or had this job that we would be so much happier. And it could all be ours with just a little bit of money per month.

When we start to look at all these things that our neighbors and friends have—the things we don’t have—we begin to feel inadequate. And then we start to feel cheated: they’re no better than us. Why should they have what we don’t? Life starts to feel unfair. Coveting begins. And little by little, it is too easy for us to get swayed from the things we’re supposed to be focusing on. The apostle Paul wrote, “…seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:1-2).

When we’re focused on the things on earth, life begins to be about the competition for resources: we have to amass what we can to please ourselves, because there isn’t enough for everyone. But when we focus on the things which are above—on Christ as our Savior and coming King—we remember what James wrote in James 1:12-17. “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.  Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. 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.”

There is no shame in wanting to better ourselves and to provide well for our family. But we have to start by remembering that all we are and all we have is a gift from God, not something to be despised as inadequate. When we begin with that idea, we can actually look at our family and its physical needs clearly, without being swayed by what someone else has. When we remember God as the giver of all gifts, we remove the need for competition; for, as Christ reminded His followers in Matthew 6:31-33, God knows what we need, and He will provide—as long as we put first His Kingdom and righteousness. In the end, “enough” isn’t “just a little bit more.” “Enough” will be the reward that God gives those who trust in Him.

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