The Church is a Family

I know not everyone can relate to my personal situation, but I have had the benefit of a wonderful and very rewarding family life.  I have extremely fond memories of childhood spent in a caring household surrounded by loving parents and siblings.  Of course we had our hiccups; every family does.  But being raised in a Christian home has made all the difference in my view of God, of family, and of life.

On the other hand, there are many who read this and would give anything to have the fond memories of a loving family as I do.  You may have grown up in a broken or abusive home, one from which you longed to escape as soon as you were old enough to do so.  Others may be facing family turmoil as we speak.  Your marriage didn’t turn out the way you’d hoped or your kids are in and out of trouble.  For whatever reason, many people think of grief and heartache when they hear the word family.

I believe this is what makes membership in a church family so difficult sometimes.  When people from all walks of life come to know God and are added to his church, we then have to learn what God calls us to as a family of believers.  We are, “no longer strangers and aliens, but…are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19).  We are meant to be a family, a group of loved ones who look out for one another (Galatians 6:10), and God has left us plenty of instruction on how to carry that out.

As a family, Christians are to…

As you can see, membership  in God’s family is a very active position.  You’ll also notice that our role as family members has us always seeking to take care of the needs of others.  Nowhere in this family is there room for selfishness or pride or jealousy.  Do those things happen?  Sure, for they are part of our human nature.  That’s why we must strive to stay in God’s word, learning his definition of what a true family looks like so we can apply that wisdom not only to our spiritual family, but to our family at home as well.

The church is a family that has joined together the saved of countless generations and whose head and leader is Christ himself.  Won’t it be grand to one day be reunited with all our brothers and sisters in Christ and to be called home by our Father to our place in Heaven to reside for eternity?  I hope to see you there!

-Joe Butler

 

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The Church is a Vineyard

Work.

It gets a bad rap doesn’t it?  For those of us who enjoy our work, it goes beyond a means of support and becomes a rewarding and valuable use of our time.  For many others, work is a drudgery, time wasted building the success and pocketbook of someone else.  Whether we like our work or not, it will always be a key component to how we spend our time.

But we must get beyond the simple definition of work just being how we support ourselves.  It’s much more than that.  We were created for good works (Ephesians 2:10) and God has a great purpose for the work he has us doing.  It’s not just busy work or a means to fulfill our time.  He has amazing things for us to do as we work in his kingdom.  God has designed the church for this very important function and we are to spend our Christian walk joyfully performing the tasks he has given us.

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. 10 Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. 11 And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, 12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13 But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first last.”

(Matthew 20:1-16)

In this parable, Jesus compares the kingdom of Heaven with a vineyard and gives us some insight into the very important work the church must complete here on earth.  We also see how God will reward those who do his work, regardless of how many years of their life have been dedicated to his service.  From this passage we see that…

  • The church is meant to serve God.  We have many things in this life that we could consider work.  Everything from our paid employment, to mowing the lawn, to ministering to the poor could all be considered work.  What makes them all important is that they can all be done in service to the Lord (Colossians 3:23-24).  Everything we do in life can be used to glorify God and show our gratitude for his saving grace.  We have not been saved because of work, but we’ve been saved for good works (Ephesians 2:8-10).
  • The church is meant to accomplish God’s work.  We have such a great example in Jesus with regard to working for God’s purposes.  On several occasions (John 4:34, John 9:4), Jesus made it clear that there was much for him to accomplish for God’s kingdom and he derived his sustenance and strength by doing such work.  God has given us the vital task of teaching the world about him by introducing more souls to the church and to the Bible in order to grow his kingdom (Matthew 28:18-20).
  • The church is meant to bear fruit.  Jesus used the example of a vineyard when speaking his parable because it would have been easily understood by the members of an agrarian society.  The sole purpose of sowing a crop is to eventually bear fruit, and the church has the same role today.  We are to bear fruit that is worthy of the Lord (Colossians 1:10) so that the world may see and know the one we serve.  When the church is working, the fruits of the Spirit should be evident in everything we do (Galatians 5:22-23).
  • The church is meant to glorify God.  Even if all our work for God goes unnoticed, even if all our efforts go unrewarded here on earth, our primary purpose of working is to bring honor and glory to God.  We should always be a light in dark places so that the lost of our generation may have hope that God’s love is real and that it is offered to them as well (Matthew 5:16, John 3:16).  God will never forget the work you do for him (Hebrews 6:10).  Your labor is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).

God is calling all of his followers to be workers in his kingdom.  The role you play is vitally important to his overall purpose for mankind.  You don’t necessarily have to be a well-studied Bible scholar or vibrant public speaker to be used by God.  Just take the talents He’s given you and use them to the best of your ability to honor him.

-Joe Butler

The Church is a Body

Anyone who spends enough time studying the human body will probably find it extraordinarily fascinating.  It truly is amazing that the cells, tissues, organs, and systems that exist in our body all work in conjunction with one another to make up the most well-designed machine ever made.  Nevertheless, some of the body’s parts seem to be a little odd to have been included in the design.  Even so, they have very important functions that God saw fit to include and that we couldn’t live without.

Take, for instance, the uvula, that little flap of tissue hanging down at the back of your throat.  Seems a little strange to be there until you learn that it helps secrete saliva during the digestion process.  Or what about the hyoid bone?  This horseshoe-shaped bone, which is located in the throat, helps to work with your voice box (larynx) to make the broad range of sounds that we humans can produce.  It’s also the only bone in the body that is not attached to any other.

While there is an endless supply of facts and trivia regarding the human body, we can easily see that we were designed in such a way as to be able to operate at our utmost efficiency when all of the parts of the body are working together.  The same can also be said of the church, the body of believers who follow God and his Son, Jesus.  The church is a body and every single member, or part of it, plays an integral role in its health and well-being.  God knew, in his design of the church, the vital role of every member, and he used the analogy of the human body so we can better understand how we should function.

“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 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? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

21 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.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”

(1 Corinthians 12:12-27)

In the passage above, we can see the design of the church, the body of Christ, and how it is meant to work properly.  Several things are evident when we study this passage of scripture:

  • There are many members in the body (1 Corinthians 12:14, 20).  Just as the human body is made up of many parts, the body of Christ has many important parts as well.  We may not notice all the inner workings of our own physical body, but they are there nonetheless, carrying out their functions and making the body run smoothly.  So it is with the church as well.
  • Everyone is valuable in the body (1 Corinthians 12:15-17).  It’s common knowledge that some of our body parts steal all the headlines.  The heart, brain, lungs, and other vital organs seem to be the most important parts of the body.  But lose a toenail or have a major infection of the lymphatic system and you’ll soon realize how important these hidden parts really are.  Likewise, every member of the church family is valuable.  The church cannot completely fulfill its function without every part working as it should.
  • Everyone has a purpose in the body (1 Corinthians 12:18, 24).  As the previous point has eluded to, each member of the body of Christ has been placed purposefully in order that the church may operate efficiently and effectively.  It is God who has placed us as he chose and given us the talents to perform our assigned tasks.  We shouldn’t take the liberty to attempt changing his design or assume that we can improve upon what he has so perfectly created.  Our job is to respect one another as equals and do our best to fulfill the next point in this post.
  • Everyone should care for one another in the body (1 Corinthians 12:25-26).  It doesn’t take us long to realize when something is wrong with our physical body.  When we are stricken with illness or a debilitating injury, we quickly understand the importance of all the parts of our body.  In the church, God desires that we exhibit a common purpose of serving him and his kingdom here on earth.  In order to do that, we must look out for one another, sharing in each other’s sufferings and joys so that we may be stronger and more capable of facing the difficulties that Satan throws our way.

Just like the human body, the church is a complex organism designed to work properly when we work together.  We are to always remember that Christ is our head, the lifeblood who we could never survive without.  It is he who guides us and directs us in our endeavor to pursue righteousness and in our mission to seek and save the lost through the gospel message we’ve been entrusted with.  We must all play our part in the body in order to make that happen.

-Joe

What is the Body of Christ (Part 3)

Today, we finish our study of the fruits of the body of Christ.  Please make sure to read Part 1 and Part 2 where we looked at the first ten fruits that are evident in the functioning body of Christ.

The body of Christ is…

  • MOTIVATING (“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,” – Hebrews 10:24)  I have gone through many stages of maturity of faith in my years as a Christian, and one of the key factors that has led me to where I am today is the motivation I’ve received from others.   I have had brothers and sisters in Christ stir me to grow in my knowledge of God.  I’ve had people who’ve encouraged me to write and preach more and told me how beneficial my work was for the Lord.  Christians should be in the business of motivating one another to work for God.
  • PRAYING (“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.– James 5:16)  I’ll be the first to admit that my prayer life has some room for improvement.  I imagine most of us feel the same way about our ability to pray consistently.  We don’t give the power of prayer the respect it deserves, but God teaches that a righteous man’s prayers have the ability to affect great change in our lives.  The body of Christ should be known for its desire to turn to God in prayer for our every need.
  • TEACHING (“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” – Colossians 3:16)  This fruit in the active body of Christ is near and dear to my heart.  As an educator for the past 12 years, I see the effect that good teaching has on the minds of the children in my care.  It is the same for Christians as well.  While many people would shy away from opportunities to teach, it is a sign of spiritual maturity when God’s word so richly dwells within us that we can passionately and coherently pass along that message to others.  I believe God calls all members of the body of Christ to be working towards teaching others about Him and his saving grace.
  • WEEPING/ REJOICING (“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” – Romans 12:15)  Let’s just get right to the point.  Life sure has its ups and downs doesn’t it?  One day we’re on cloud nine, and the next we’re walking in the valley of the shadow of death.  What better way to walk through life’s victories and defeats than to have others along for the ride.  As the body of Christ, we should be that shoulder to cry on when times are tough, and we should cheer one another on when times are good.
  • RESTORING (“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” – Galatians 6:1-2)  I don’t know a single Christian who hasn’t been challenged by the lies of Satan.  Sometimes, we’re strong and persevere through the temptations that we face.  Other times, we stumble and succumb to our sinful nature and the challenges that the Devil presents.  We must gently help one another to pursue righteousness and pick up the faltering Christian who falls into sin.  If not, we may be led away by the Great Deceiver and lose our opportunity of an everlasting life with Jesus in Heaven.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed and been challenged during our study of the body of Christ and how we can reflect Jesus in our daily walk with him.  Make the effort to put these things into practice and encourage other Christians to do the same.  It can only help in growing the church in our lifetime and honoring God in the process.

The body of Christ is…

  1. Caring
  2. Loving
  3. Accepting
  4. Giving
  5. Serving
  6. Instructing
  7. Forgiving
  8. Encouraging
  9. Honoring
  10. Comforting
  11. Motivating
  12. Praying
  13. Teaching
  14. Weeping/ Rejoicing
  15. Restoring

-Joe

What is the Body of Christ (Part 2)

*Be sure to read What is the Body of Christ (Part 1) as we are examining the fruit evident from a church working for the Lord.  Part 1 contained the first five fruits.  Today’s post will look at the next 5.

The body of Christ is…

  • INSTRUCTING (“I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.” -Romans 15:14)  One of my favorite acts of service within the body of Christ is teaching.  All Christians should pursue wisdom so that they may instruct others in the knowledge of Christ.  We all should take every opportunity to study God’s word, not just for our own spiritual growth, but for the benefit of the whole body.
  • FORGIVING (“ bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. ” -Colossians 3:13)  Part of being in a family is learning to live with one another.  The harsh reality is that it’s not always easy.  Just as Christ has borne with our difficulties, we should bear with one another.  Just as Christ has forgiven us through the shedding of his blood, we too should forgive others of their trespasses against us.
  • ENCOURAGING (“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:11)  How do you feel when you are encouraged?  How much more determined are you when people are cheering for your success?  My guess is that you’re greatly uplifted by the encouragement from others and others find strength in the encouragement you provide them.  The body of Christ was made for circumstances such as these because we will always be more effective together than apart.
  • HONORING (“ Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” – Romans 12:10)  Christianity is not about bringing honor to oneself, but striving to bring honor and glory to God.  One way to make that happen is by loving and honoring one another and treating the needs of others as greater than our own.  Jesus himself exemplified the heart of a servant, and we too should be zealous in our attempt to honor each other in the body of Christ.
  • COMFORTING (“ Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.” – 2 Corinthians 1:3-7)  If you take an honest inventory of the blessings God has provided you, you will most likely find that you will never reach the end of his goodness.  One of those blessings is the comfort that God provides us.  The most logical response to that blessing is to extend the comfort we have found in God to others, and especially those of the body of Christ.  Life is tough sometimes, and we need one another to fall back on in times of trial and affliction.

Be sure to return tomorrow as we look at five more fruits that the functioning body of Christ should show.

-Joe

What is the Body of Christ (Part 1)

What is the body of Christ?

The body of Christ is everyone who has put on Christ (Galatians 3:27-29).  The body of Christ is composed of those who live for Him, who are actively changing their lives to pursue the righteousness of God (2 Timothy 2:22).  The body of Christ is made up of those who have responded to the one call, God’s call (Ephesians 4:4-6).  In its simplest terms, the body of Christ is you, it’s me, it’s the church.

So you may ask, “How do I know if I’m part of that body?”  I think I’ll let Jesus speak in response to this question.

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” (John 15:7-8)

In order to be a part of the body of Christ, we must be his disciples and disciples bear fruit. Today, and in the next few posts, we will study some examples of fruit that the body of Christ should be producing.  I ask that you remain honest with yourself and be real about whether or not these fruits are evident in your life.  Since the body of Christ is made up of individual Christians, we must look first to ourselves and consider whether we are living in a manner that brings glory and honor to God.

The body of Christ is…

  1. CARING (“25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.”1 Corinthians 12:25)  How well do you care about other Christians?  Do you place more importance on yourself or do you seek to remain unified with the members of Christ’s body?  If there is no divisiveness among you, you will care deeply for every child of God.
  2. LOVING (“34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” –John 13:34-35)  Did you know that loving one another is such an important command to God that he placed it second only to loving Him?  This is how those outside the body of Christ will know if he truly exists and is a loving God.  If they see our love for one another, then they can believe that there’s a Father that loves them too.
  3. ACCEPTING (“Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” –Romans 15:7)  What is one way to glorify God?  By accepting one another the way Christ has accepted us.  No, this doesn’t mean accept a “live and let live” mentality that ignores the commands of God.  It means not to play favorites, but to treat everyone the way you want to be treated.
  4. GIVING (“And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” –Acts 2:45)  Just stop and think for a moment how generous God has been to you.  You can’t even count all the blessings you’ve received, can you?  Whether we like it or not, there are many in the body of Christ who suffer from want.  Who is to meet their needs?  We are!
  5. SERVING (“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” –Galatians 5:13)  God has granted us tremendous freedom in the body of Christ and that has been given to us for a purpose…so that we will serve one another.  The body will always have its needs met when we are looking out for one another and considering the needs of others before our own.  There’s no better way to emulate Christ than to have a heart of a servant (Philippians 2:3-8).

Be sure to check out the next post as we examine more fruits of the members of the body of Christ.

-Joe

Monday Motivation: Made One

“26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

(Galatians 3:26-28)

For all of the hatred, racism, and separation that are prevalent in our world today, we should be reminded that God wishes that not to be so. He has made us one through Christ Jesus. We must quit looking at how we are different as human beings and instead look for ways to stay unified.

-Joe