Your Gifts, Your Church Family (Hill)

A Place to Belong: Learning to Love the Local Church - Hill, Megan - 9781433563737

I’m halfway through this helpful book: A Place to Belong: Learning to Love the Local Church by Megan Hill. Each chapter is a short exposition and application of the various metaphors in Scripture for the church: flock, body, saints, etc. It’s good biblical resource on the nature of the church and what it means to be a living member of a local church family. Here’s one section I highlighted this morning:

Thankfully, the particular composition of the church doesn’t depend on us. Continuing the image of the church as a body, Paul writes, ‘But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each of them, as he chose’ (1 Cor. 12:18). The truth of 1 Corinthians 12 is that however it might appear, the people and gifts represented in our local church are exactly the people and gifts we need. A few verses later, Paul flatly dismisses any suggestion that some people or gifts are more necessary for the body’s well being than others: ‘The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable” (12:21-22).

This truth should give you confidence: your particular gifts have a valuable, God-appointed place. It should also humble you: your particular gifts are simply one part of the body, and you desperately need other people with their particular gifts (see Rom. 12:3). Finally, this truth should increase your love for the local church: the gifts in the body are exactly what God knows your congregation needs. Because of God’s sovereign choosing, no part is missing, and every part is valuable.

That’s so true! If you’re a follower of Christ, God has given you gifts to use in the service of other people, including his family. You and your God-given gifts are needed in the local church. But don’t get proud, because you also need the gifts of others to help you along in following Christ. In other words, a local church family is a felllowship of Christians who need one another!

Megan Hill, A Place to Belong, p. 80.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

Women, Gifts, Church, Blessings

In the past twenty years or so I’ve been to several different events for Christian men: retreats, meetings, workshops, etc. They’ve been a blessing in various ways. However, sometimes someone will comment on how great it is to hear men singing together in a Christian setting. Yes! It is! However, my thought is always this: “But it’s an incomplete choir! We’re missing a vital part: the women’s voices!” Maybe it’s not the best example as an intro, but it is important to note how Scripture describes women as being an essential and important part of Christ’s body. Christian women and their Spirit-given gifts are a major blessing to Christ’s church! It’s always been this way.

One example in Scripture is Romans 16:3-5a, 6, & 12: “Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who for my life risked their own necks, to whom not only do I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles; also greet the church that is in their house. …Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you. …Greet Tryphaena and Tryphosa, workers in the Lord. Greet Persis the beloved, who has worked hard in the Lord...” (NASB)

I appreciate how Aimee Byrd commented on these verses in chapter 5 of her book, Recovering from Biblical Manhood and Womanhood:

As Paul further demonstrated the fruit of reciprocity in his following greetings, we continue to see women laboring with him under the ministry. He first greeted Prisca (Priscilla in some versions) and Aquila, whom he called ‘coworkers in Christ Jesus,’ noting how all the Gentile churches are grateful for this wife-and-husband team. Paul said they risked their own necks for his life. Then he greeted the whole church whom they hosted in their home…. I want to note the significance of Paul calling them coworkers or fellow workers…it’s a special term he used to describe specific people who were working synergetically with him to advance the gospel [Rom 16:9, 21; 1 Cor. 3:9].

Paul continued to show the fruit of Christ’s gifts in the early church’s life by showing coed labor, even giving special status to women. He used a special commendation for Mary, Tryphaena, Tryphosa, and Persis as women who worked hard in the Lord (Rom. 16:6, 12). Paul often used the words ‘work hard’ to describe his own ministry, as well as to characterize the labor of other preachers and teachers of the word. …They were equipped with the gospel and knew how to handle its truth in serving others.

Indeed, the Lord Jesus has gifted men and women in various ways so they might together be a blessing to his body, the church!

The above quote is found on page 149 of Recovering from Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54002

Jesus “Our Apostle” and the Family of God (Brown)

Hebrews 3:1 calls Jesus “our Apostle”. The whole verse goes like this: Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest (NIV). That’s something we might not think about as we contemplate who Jesus is for us. But it is good to remember this verse and truth! I appreciate how Raymond Brown commented on this reality, that Jesus is our apostle:

They are to consider Christ as apostle. He is God’s envoy, messenger, or ambassador, sent by the Father. In first-century thought and practice the specially appointed envoy possessed the full powers and was regarded as the personal representative of the one sending him. Jesus has been sent to fulfil a definite mission for God. He was sent not only to proclaim the truth but also to manifest it (1:2–3). Moreover, in this passage we may also discern a further aspect of his work as God’s apostle. He is also sent to form or establish a house, or household, a redeemed community (3:6). The preceding chapters of the letter have already hinted at the writer’s doctrine of the church; in Christ we are sons, brothers, children and partners. But here we begin to realize the importance of the Christian family in the thinking of the author. Christ came not only to save fallen individuals but to gather a vast company of his followers, the redeemed people of God. This epistle has little time for the spiritual individualist. Believers are to recognize the immensely important ministry that they can exercise towards other Christians and to take such responsibility seriously: ‘Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.’ The regular meeting for worship and fellowship must not be neglected and Christian people must give all the encouragement they can to other believers. Christians are here described as those who belong to God’s house, and Christ was sent into the world to save them and bring them into this enriching, secure and eternal company.

 Raymond Brown, The Message of Hebrews: Christ above All, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 76–77.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

The Physical Presence of Other Believers (Perkins)

Dream with Me: Race, Love, and the Struggle We Must Win by [John M. Perkins, Randy Alcorn]

“Dream with Me” by John Perkins is a helpful autobiographical reflection on the Christian life through the eyes of a man who has seen much evil and darkness. Yet he did not give in to the darkness or fight darkness with darkness, but by God’s grace let his light shine in various ways and blessed many people. Last night I highlighted these paragraphs that I though were helpful and worth sharing:

At a recent conference some of the young people I had met tried to convince me that they didn’t really need a preacher. They’re frustrated with traditional church leadership but believe in the priesthood of believers, which is all well and good. But they prefer a virtual church over a traditional one.

I told them, ‘That’s going to be weak, because it’s going to miss the incarnation. It will not have a human touch.’

The writer of Hebrews gave this exhortation: ‘And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching’ (Heb. 10:24-25). That active presence of other believers contributes to God’s work within us. Again, it’s not that God needs us to complete what He is doing – but He allows that human dimension to be a part of His redemptive work. We are so quick, as human beings, to get our salvation and then make it personal. ‘It’s all about Jesus and me.’ What would happen if we organized with the expectation that God is going to use us in one another’s lives – if we recognize the importance of those around us to our own spiritual growth?

John Perkins, Dream with Me, p. 96-97.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

The Duties of the Church (Bullinger)

Henry Bullinger’s mid-sixteenth century publication, The Decades is a four volume collection of sermons on the main points of the Christian faith. The Decades is something like Calvin’s Institutes in structure, content, and character. These sermons by Bullinger are worth reading!

In the fifth book of The Decades, sermon 1, Bullinger wrote on the church. After discussing the church militant/triumphant, visible/invisible, the marks of the church and the power of the church, Bullinger gave a nice summary statement on the duties of the church. These paragraphs are a biblical summary of what the Christian church should look like. It is true that there is no perfect church, but by God’s grace we should strive for these biblical goals and duties. (Notes: I’ve edited the following slightly for length and readability. The two translations I have go back and forth using “it” and “she” to refer to the church.)

For the church executes that power which it hath received of God most carefully and faithfully, to the end that it may serve God, that it may be holy, and that it may please him. And that I may reckon up some of her duties specially: first of all it worships, calls upon, loves and serves one God in Trinity; and takes nothing in hand without having first consulted with the word of this true God.

For she orders all her doings according to the rule of God’s word: she judges by the word of God; and by the same she frames all her buildings, and being built maintains them, and being fallen down she repairs or restores them again. The assemblies and congregations of saints upon earth she fervently furthers and loves. In these things it hearkens diligently to the preaching of the word of God: she is partaker of the sacraments devoutly, and with great joy and desire of heavenly things.

It prays to God by the intercession of our only mediator Christ with a strong faith, fervently, continually, and most attentively. It praises the majesty of God for ever, and with great joy gives thanks for all his heavenly benefits. It highly esteems all and every the institutions of Christ, neither doth it neglect any of them. But chiefly it acknowledges that it receives all things belonging either to life, salvation, righteousness, or felicity, of the only Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ; as as the one who alone chose her, and then by his Spirit and blood sanctified her, and made her a church, that is, a chosen people, whose only king, redeemer, high priest, and defender, he is, and without whom there is no salvation.

Therefore in God alone by our Lord Jesus Christ she only rests; him she only desires and loves; and for his sake she rejoices to lose all things that belong to this world, yea, and to spend her blood and her life. And therefore it cleaves unto Christ by faith inseparably…for without Christ nothing at all in life seems to be pleasant.

It is exercised with afflictions, but yet never overcome. It keeps unity and concord carefully. All and every the members of her body she most tenderly loves. It does good unto all men, as much as power and ability will suffer. It hurts no man. It forgives willingly. It bears with the weak brother, till they be brought forth forward to perfection. She is not puffed up with pride, but through humility is kept in obedience, in modesty, and in all the duties of godliness.

 Henry Bullinger, The Decades of Henry Bullinger: The Fifth Decade, ed. Thomas Harding (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1852), 46–47.

My prayer is that we, as members of Christ’s church, do our Christian part to help the body of Christ reach these great biblical goals for God’s glory and the good of other people in – and outside of – the church. Churches that reflect these biblical goals shine brightly in the midst of the surrounding darkness!

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015