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Archive for November, 2013

What's a Part Compared to the Whole?

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”

– Romans 12:1-2, 4-5 (ESV)

Most of my life I have been taught to view the church as the body of God. When I was younger, at first, I thought it was the building that made up the body, for it was the place everyone gathered, where the pastor spoke, and the people sang. But as I grew, I learned that through attending Bible study and youth group, the body wasn’t the church building it was the people; the congregation. My youth group’s “slogan” or theme, is “We don’t GO to church, We ARE the church.” This is were it comes from – the idea that it’s us, we the people, who are the church, we don’t necessarily need a “special” building, in fact many people around the world worship in houses, caves, or even out in the streets. I will admit though, that it’s nice to have a roof over your head, sound equipment, microphones, and air-conditioning when it’s hot in the summer and heat when it’s cold in the winter. But those are just necessities.

The verse that I thought of that goes along with what I’m talking about. It talks about us, as individuals and us as a body of the Christ. In the first couple of verses it refers to us as individuals, how we must present our bodies as living sacrifices. Before you freak out at the phrase “living sacrifices,” let me assure you it’s not as if we’re putting ourselves on a physical alter and tearing our hearts out for God (like the Aztecs did)! The phrase means that we offer ourselves to God holding back nothing, and allowing him to control our lives; we enjoy a new life – for we are dead in sin, but alive (and worshiping) in Christ. Continuing on, we are warned in the second verse not to be allowed to be conformed to this world’s ways.

By just observing and using our senses we can pick out that this world is corrupt – full of hurt, poverty (both materialistically and spiritually), loss (and much more). Our peers, the press, and marketing all put pressure on us. We must act a certain way, dress a certain way, wear this brand of clothing, etc. to be accepted or deemed worthy enough to be considered to be “cool.” I know a lot of people, including myself, struggle with how people think about us. For the teens reading this: our generation/age group is the most targeted group out off young children, adults, and seniors for marketing. We are emotionally unstable, trying to find that “group” we belong in, and we also have jobs – jobs that really just support ourselves, we don’t have to take care of a family or pay a mortgage. People study psychology and they know all we want to do is conform or fit in. Referring this to our faith and mindset, we need to break away from that longing. We must stand out and not follow the crowd – we must allow Christ to transform us, so that our minds and bodies can be renewed; revived. Trust me, standing out is hard, especially when most of the time you’ll get picked on or casted out. But that is what is to be expected – we will be tried, we will be tested. We’ll be tried and tested and through it all, hopefully, we’ll be able to pick out what is right in God’s eyes and plan for us, which is perfect in every aspect.

In the last couple of verses of the passage given, it talks about us as a body of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 12 (verses 17-20, 22, 24-25) Paul references the church body to the human body. After discussing the importance of each part of our body, he makes the comment of, “‘If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?…God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. On the contrary…God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another… For the body does not consist of one member but of many.'”

Just as a human body has many parts to it -all of them extremely important for the body to function – so does the church. Each part is significant, though some parts may operate in different ways – the brain telling the body what’s going on, the heart beating oxygen and blood through our veins, the lungs allowing us to breath – they all serve the same purpose; to keep us alive. The church just like that – there’s the pastor, elders and deacons, volunteers, and missionaries – all serve in different parts of the body of church, some in different parts of the world, and though there are many of us – we make up one body of Christ, living to serve him and spread about his love and sacrifice he made to make a way for us to live eternally with God in heaven.

To answer the question of: What’s a part compared to the whole? A part compared to a whole is small, but that one part is what makes up the whole (the whole body of Christ). Without that one part there would be no whole. We, as different parts of the body, make up the whole body of Christ. But for us, we would be no body without Christ at the head of it.

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Speaking Of...

Recently, I’ve encountered a lot of talk on “relationships and love” with people – and it got me thinking about God’s love. How his love sets us apart (as well as himself) from all the other people and their religions/beliefs. This also made me think of how even when we fall into chaos and unknown territory – he is there; he’s always there, for us. And he’s never mad, even when we fumble big-time, or turn out backs on him, or even commit a serious wrong or hold a grudge against someone that we need to let go of – he’s always there calling to us. And when we find him – his bright and ever-lasting light in the darkness of our lives, he opens his arms wide and embraces us, crying or laughing, or smiling with us.

There’s a verse my youth past told us and taught about to us on Sunday (11/3). This is about God’s love and relates to all the things I’ve said. Luke 6:27-33:

“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do no withhold you tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.

If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.”

Now, I want to first point out that the first phrase of the verse says “to you who hear.” Why do I point this out first and foremost? Because Jesus is calling people to really listen, as what he’s about to say hasn’t been said before. He knows – as well as you and I, that some people just zone things out or do that “half-listening” thing when people preach/teach on a topic that’s been heard before. He wants to get everyone’s attention, letting them know that this is a new topic, it’s a topic that people really need to whole-heartedly pay attention. Make sense, right? I hope so.

Okay, with that covered, let’s talk about the rest of the verse. This verse is obviously about loving our enemies and treating others how we want to be treated, right? In fact, one of the verses (vs 3) – “do to others as you would have them do to you” as many know it by – is a very well-known verse to many people (not just Christians). And at a first glance of the verse, people get the obvious theme (which I pointed out at the beginning of this paragraph) – be kind to people I don’t like/are considered my enemies, treat others fairly, and take care of the needy. Easy right? No. Is there more to the verse? Of course. Now, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t tend to those who need help or turn the other cheek, or treat others wrongly – their all great and wonderful things to be practiced, but I want to focus on the last bit of the verse plus a few in-depth details about the first part verse.

I’m going to start at the end – with verses 32-33 (the last paragraph of the given verse). Jesus is saying that when we love and treat those who are good to us and love us – what’s the point? What do you truly gain? Yes, it’s crucial for those who love you to love you and for you to love them back, but what about that kid who bullied or you really bad once – maybe more? It’s easy to hold a grudge against them, hoping something bad will happen to them, just as something bad happened to you, or if they try to apologize, you want them down on their knees begging for mercy while you have your arms crossed, foot tapping, and your head angled enough to look down on them making a disgusted face and refusing – until they collapse – to forgive (Jesus even points out that when we love those who love us – even murderers, prostitutes, etc. love those who love them – that’s what he’s referring to when he says “sinners.”) Why is it easy to hold a grudge and not “love our enemies” as we’re instructed? Let me tell you a secret – it’s called flesh; sin. We want to have revenge; satisfaction, making whoever made us feel unloved, unwanted, and not good enough… we those who weren’t good to us, have the same feelings, if not worse.

See, if we only love and do good to those who love us and do good to us, then we do not truly treat those how we want to be treated, we don’t understand truly what it is like to love our enemies. We don’t know what it’s really like to show them God’s love, and we don’t try to understand how to act or reply in a Godly way to those who wrong us. Just like in school, teachers teach and have the students practice the concept they teach – for without practice how can we truly learn and know the material?

Rewinding to the first section of the verse (vs. 27-31)… try applying what I just said about verses 32-33 to these verses. Have a different perspective now? What about a new plan or way to approach situations in relation to these?

Now, in verse 27, isn’t just loving loving your enemies that “Oh, that wasn’t nice – but all well” attitude, it’s about coming along side them, helping them; showing God’s true love, and forgiving them even if they haven’t asked forgiveness. As a Christian, we should always strive to go that extra step. And – or more – but, when these situations come up, we need to check ourselves – giving/praying (to) our hearts to hearts to God and letting him take those grudges and put them away – destroy them. We also need to make sure our actions are for self-glorifying reasons.

You know that sarcastic phrase that people (you) often mutter when in or towards a situation that comes up and is hurtful, benigning, etc.? The one that goes: “Well, that was a slap in the face.” Literally, it could of been – but that’s also when you show grace and turn the other cheek. Don’t lash out, don’t retaliate. Humbly offer the other side of your face. Either they will “hit” you again or be in shock from your actions. And even if it seems that your actions had no effect – let me assure you, they did. God is planting that seed in their heart through you. Some may often even come back asking questions, because their so dumb-founded, of “Why?” and “How?”. That is your opportunity to tell of the “why” and “how.” The same application can go for the second half of verse 29 – where it talks about offering someone your “tunic.” When someone begs – have a compassionate heart. Give to them – and don’t demand repayment or ask for what you gave to be given back to you. Whether is was simply loaning a money to a friend who forgot their lunch at school to food to someone needy… don’t ask for repayment. These actions and showing love sets us Christians apart (and God), as I said before.

You do need to be careful though, of people who have a false claim, do show them God’s love, but be wary, going to God and seeking counsel on the situation you’re in. It’s sad, but there are people who imitate and act in ways that are deceiving to gain things they are have and don’t need.

Referring back to the first paragraph – where I was talking about how we oh-so-often struggle, I want to conclude partially in reference to Tammy Maltby’s book, Confessions of a Good Christian Girl. In the book, she talks and tells of women who struggled – these were good Christian women, leading Christ-like lives and living well, or that’s what it appeared. Yes, they loved God, but these women were conflicted with suicide, cutting, addictions (drugs, alcohol, pornography), self-image and confidence. The book tells countless testimonies of how in the deep dark, these women found the light, the love. One of the quotes Maltby put in her book, which is by Angela Thomas, goes:

“Jesus wants you to know that when you are broken, shivering, alone, or afraid, with nothing left and nowhere to go, then you can turn in His direction and lay yourself at the foot of his love…. God wants you to know that when everything is gone, that makes more room for Him, and every time there is more room for Him, you are blessed.”

(pg 5, Maltby)

In this we can take an apply the concept of that when we hold on to grudges, hate, and hurt (etc.) when you give them up and lay “yourself at the foot of His love” we are revived with his love and forgiveness. This helps us make that step to forgiving those who may have hurt us or even ourselves. Because just as other people may be our enemies and slap us in the face, we can do just as much damage, if not more to ourselves; we can easily become our own enemy. We must learn to have compassion on ourselves and others and to have respect for ourselves and others.

I wish I could write on about this topic, but time is such an enemy to me lately, so short and demanding. Before I part, until next time, here’s some verses in parting. Don’t just go, “Oh cool, verses to look at!” and ignore them or think I’ll look at them later. Look at them now. It won’t take much time.

Psalm 36:5, 1 Corinthians 13:4-13, 1 John 3:1-2, 1 John 4:7-12, 16-18

Some questions for reflection:

  1. Are you able and confident that in times when people wrong you, you can stand up, humbly, forgive, and give your burden to God, even though it’s not easy?
  2. Even when you mess up, or others, are you able to go the extra mile for God’s sake?
  3. Loving your enemy will be hard, but will you be able to rise above the offense and “offer the other cheek?”
  4. In times of distress it’s easy to forget about God – it’s easy to blame him, and in times when you want something badly, and it may not be his will – are you able to accept him and trust him to lead you 100% through?
  5. Sometimes it’s our very selves that get in the way of seeing truly what’s right – having a personal conflict is hard to accept, confess, and be able to reason and respect yourself, but sometimes that’s the first step to forgiveness. If some of these questions were hard to answer, maybe start deep in your heart and soul. Really think about it.

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