During one of many visits to a church member with health issues she told me she had heard that I once was a teacher. “I can’t imagine that. You have always been just ‘The Pastor’ to me.”
Some people have trouble imagining us in any role other than the one we are in. Sometimes we may have trouble imagining ourselves as anyone other than who we are now. But in truth we can be many things, at times being more than one thing at one time – mother, daughter, sister, friend. Or we may be a father and farmer, while also being an expert in giving encouragement.
In 1 Corinthians, Paul is reminding the people in the church at Corinth of who they really are. What are two tasks mentioned at first? To what three things does he then compare the believers? In verses 16 and 17 Paul makes a familiar comparison. What is it?
Most of us have heard that our bodies are temples to God. The expression or comparison has been used mostly on a physical level. As God’s temples we are to preserve our bodies – do no harm to ourselves. Don’t smoke. Don’t drink. Don’t eat bad foods. Don’t injure ourselves.
But God’s temple is more than just a physical building. God’s temple is a spiritual place, a place where we can all go to intentionally encounter God.
If we are God’s temples, if we are sacred, then we can be a place where others might encounter God. How can that be? Knowing we are each a temple, a sacred entity, then we must behave accordingly. We must work to be good and holy, like any other temple, allowing others to experience God – His mercy and love, His grace and compassion – through our own behaviors, words, and attitudes.
Just as few people would willingly desecrate a house of worship, a house of God, so few people should be willing to cause harm to themselves or another living person, for we are all temples of God. And just as people may come to a house of God to find the presence of God, people should be able to come to you and experience God. After all “God’s Spirit lives in you.”
But it also means that you may look for the Spirit of God in others around you as they are God’s temples too.
DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you show another person that the Spirit of God lives in you?
This past summer Peggy bought me an MP3 player so I can listen to music in my car (my radio antennae is broken). I was taught how to turn it on and press “play.” And that was wonderful, but over time I needed to learn more about it. That was when my two sons gave me lessons on all the things this handy, little device can do.
Nearly fifty, a former school teacher, a pastor, and I was learning from my teenage sons. Before this there was little they could teach me, but now they can teach me things. Why? Because they know things I do not. They have experiences they can share and information they can impart.
Similarly, with this letter Peter is encouraging believers all over the area to share their faith. How are these people special? What were they before? What are they now? Do the same statements apply to you?
It can be so frustrating to see a congregation in front of me every Sunday and know that when they leave the church so many will take their faith and hide it in a pocket like a folded piece of paper. When I encourage laity to be part of a ministry – any ministry – I still hear “I can’t do that. How could I do that?”
We are no longer “nobodies.” Once we were not a people, but now we are a people. And what a great and wonderful people we are! We are the people who have experienced firsthand God’s mercy and grace and forgiveness. Who could be a better witness for God than you?
Christ died for you. He knew you and he died for you, willingly sacrificing himself in love. He did it just for you. You are a chosen person, part of a group of chosen people. You are part of a priesthood. All Christians are part of this priesthood.
And what are you supposed to do? You are supposed to declare the praises of our Lord Jesus.
We can celebrate our history. We can celebrate our past. But we need also to celebrate our future and who we are. We are a royal priesthood called to declare the praises of God.
DAILY CHALLENGE: Look in a mirror and say out loud “I am a chosen person, a royal priest. I belong to God.” I know it seems silly, but do it anyway.
Many years ago we were involved in a project for the local newspaper which featured the large churches of downtown Hamilton. Our friend Frank did the photography for the project, and he shared with us about a time he was trying to capture the cross on one of the steeples. The sun was striking it such that it glowed a bright gold, but he didn’t like the angle. So Frank moved.
Guess what? When he moved the sun was no longer reflecting off the cross. To get the reflection Frank had to be in a certain spot.
Sometimes we can feel that way about worship and prayer. We may think we have to be in just the right position in order for God to hear our prayers. Solomon’s prayer in today’s passage certainly implies that. What does it mean to you that “God’s name is there?” What do you think it means to “pray toward this place?” What is the first thing Solomon wants God to do when He hears?
And with this attitude comes the mistaken belief that the church is the only place where God exists. We know that God exists in all places at all times. But it is so much easier to put ourselves in a holy mindset when we are in a house of worship.
The Lord said that where two or more are gathered in his name, he is there also. (Matthew 18:20) And so, churches become sanctified, consecrated, holy places where God indeed exists. We should accept this reality of our faith – so many feel more comfortable praying when they pray in front of an altar. I am one who feels more comfortable in the Sanctuary than elsewhere, although I pray in all places.
If our church buildings are a place where God’s eyes are always watching, a place where God’s name resides, a place from which God will hear our prayers, then we should value these buildings. We should preserve and support these places.
What we must guard against, however, is the pitfall of thinking God is only in these places and that it is only in church where we can speak to God or that He hears us. We must also guard against preserving these places like a museum, where nothing is permitted to change or adapt.
The sun may reflect at only one angle, but God can see and be seen no matter where we stand.
DAILY CHALLENGE: Gather with another in the name of Jesus in a place that is not inside a church building and pray together. Make that new place a holy place also.
I have addressed in the past the common pitfall of misquoting the Bible. One that stands out in my mind, and one that I misquoted for a long time, was “All things work for the good.” It is a nice, warm, fuzzy, sentiment, but the quote is not accurate. It is not true that everything is going to work out for the best.
The same is true of any activity you may begin. And it is true of churches and all they do. According to this proverb, to whom should we commit our work so it will succeed? What does God do? What about the wicked?
I can’t think of a single church that is not confronted with a challenge. From the tiniest little chapel in the woods, to the oldest church, to the newest church, to the largest mega-church in the nation – all of them are confronted with challenges.
The first challenge is to answer the question, what are you going to do? Will you be in ministry? If so, what kind of ministry? How will you make this work?
For every good heart and good intention there is at least one challenge, one contradiction, one nay-sayer, one opposition. Sometimes there are more than one.
If you want to start a ministry or continue a successful one or revitalize a lagging one, odds are someone will tell you it can’t be done or that it costs too much. And having a Pollyanna attitude isn’t always the best approach either. Good intentions aren’t enough to ensure that good things are done. We need to commit ourselves to God, to working for His kingdom, to be certain we will have success. If we are doing work that serves God and we are committed to serving God, then God will be with us to be sure that it all works out.
If you are part of a church – new or old, small or large – you can work toward ensuring that the church is a success and is doing what is right if you commit your work to God. Churches that some may label as “failing” or “dying” can be revitalized if the church body will commit themselves to working for the Lord.
What is the exact quote from above? “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28.
Commit to God and God will help you work for good.
DAILY CHALLENGE: Does your church or a ministry in the church need to re-commit to the Lord?
This weekend, we'll be celebrating Maysville's 155th anniversary. I just thought this Psalm was so fitting that I wanted to share it.
I remember when our home church was celebrating it's 100th year. Once a month, there was a little summary of each decade's acheivements. But the one that surprised me most was about the 1950s and building the current church building. I had no idea of the struggles of many of the folk (who I saw as the "old sticks in the mud") had been through. It had never really dawned on me that the same people who were now so resistant to change had been the very ones who had the vision to build something with lots of classrooms, a huge sanctuary and room to grow.
It was an amazing story of leaps of faith and perserverance--of God's rich blessings and abundant resources. Sadly, that story wasn't being shared. And the people who had experienced it themselves seemed to have forgotten their own history. Somewhere along the line, that story had become lost.
So this week we will celebrate another church's history. I'm looking forward to hearing more stories of faith and joy! But why on earth do we wait for some milestone to tell it?
Verse 4 is so powerful in light of this. We are to tell what we have experienced about God to each generation. The Bible is certainly one way of recording the stories of ancient times, but I don't believe that God quit being faithful when the canon was closed in 367 A.D.
We should be telling our grandmother's stories to our own children. We should continue to share the great deeds that God has done in our own churches and homes with those who did not experience it themselves.
Of course, the benefits are two-fold. First the children learn the stories and know their own rich heritage in the love of God. Secondly, the tellers of the story are never allowed to forget what God has done for them. It's a powerful thing.
DAILY CHALLENGE: So go forth and speak of God so that others may hear and meditate on his amazing works.