Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Body of Christ - V

Bodies need rest too. Time is required for healing, for building up reserves and for gaining a renewed perspective. Sometimes, rest means to stop being active for a while. Sometimes, rest is not a cessation of activity, but a change of activity. In the US, we call this kind of rest a "vacation."

And a cessation of activity does not necessarily mean "a cessation of activity." Sleep is, for all purposes, a regular, voluntary cessation of activity. But research shows that sleep has cycles, involving varying degrees of activity. People progress through stages of less and less physical activity, until they reach a stage called "REM sleep." REM sleep is characterized by the least amount of physical activity, but also a sudden upsurge of mental activity. It is the stage when dreams happen. Scientists still don't fully understand dreams. A person seems somehow to process recent events while dreaming. Sometimes, scientists see more mental activity during REM sleep than when the person is awake.

People need the right kind of rest too. Restoration of some reserves, in the form of the manufacture of some hormones by the body, take place after 75-80% of the entire sleep cycle. (Meaning it occurs after 6-7 hours of continuous sleep.) So, if we don't get enough sleep, or we get interrupted sleep, these reserves are not manufactured, and it could be detrimental to our health over the long haul.
There are some similarities between physical and spiritual rest. Both provide healing and restoration. With spiritual rest, a person is removed from the "war." There is a release from stresses. There is a renewal of perspectives and expectations. It will bring peace.

Now, as one person put it, "sometimes, the most spiritual thing you can do is take a nap." There is a crossover between physical rest and spiritual rest. Sometimes, to get spiritual rest, we need physical rest.

But, there is also true spiritual rest. We discussed the spiritual disciplines as part of getting exercise. The disciplines can also be part of getting rest. They can challenge our thinking and force to change our world view -- thus forcing us to move, to become stronger, to change, to exercise. They can also uncover truths that comfort, encourage, heal and restore -- in other words, provide rest.
There are also spiritual "vacations." They go by various names. Conferences and retreats are the most common. There are also walks, camps, and connects to name a few. No matter the name, a person removes himself from normal concerns and impending crises to give himself exclusively to his relationship with God and, possibly, God's family. He takes the time to put the clutter of life in a box (no doubt, to pull it all out again at a later time) and to review, clarify and prioritize what is important in life. And this might not be done in an overt manner.

No sane person would consider going weeks without sleep. So, every child of God ought to provide opportunity for regular rest, and probably, include both varieties, 

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Body of Christ - IV

Bodies also need exercise. There is a video posted in several places on the internet called “23 and ½ hours.” It was produced by a doctor named Mike Evans, and describes “the single most important thing we can do for our health.” That is, it describes what modern research demonstrates to be the multitude of benefits of a daily half-hour of exercise. Human bodies were designed to move. And this is true spiritually as well as physically.

There are a number of activities that lead to spiritual health. Spiritual disciplines (prayer, worship, Scripture reading and meditation, etc.) have been encouraged by influential Christians for hundreds of years. And “discipline” describes a regular, consistent (maybe daily) practice of these things.

But disciplines, sermons, books, videos, podcasts, or any other form of communication used by God’s people currently are not for the accumulation of merit, knowledge or brownie points. God intends for this communication to change our world view. And, as a result, it should change our actions and lifestyles as well. If activity in keeping with God’s standards and character do not result from any form of “spiritual input,” it’s not worth the time, not God’s, not ours. If we spend time with God, or with God’s people, at the end of that time, we should be different. And not just different, more Christ-like. Then, we should be engaging in activity that overtly or privately expresses God’s nature. We should be engaging in activity that overtly or privately advances God’s purposes or mission. We should be engaging in activity that overtly or privately fulfills our special place or special function in God’s family.

And all this activity, not just the disciplines, advances God’s kingdom, and our personal growth.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Body of Christ - III

Bodies also need to be fed. Food provide material to:
  - create energy for work and movement;
  - build, repair and improve.

Scripture refers to the Word of God as bread, or the most basic of foods. But, in order to receive any benefit, it has to be applied (fed) to our hearts. Scripture does not stand alone. The Spirit does not stand alone. The Spirit applies Scripture to our hearts.

In the same way, our bodies could have an iron deficiency, our spirits could have a deficiency. The Spirit applies different "nutrients" to our hearts. He applies encouragement, sometimes discipline, and always adjustments to our world view. We need to see the world with two world views, the ideal and the real. In other words, we should see the world as it should be working; and we need to see the world as it is really working. The Spirit teaches us, and we move our values, our expectations, our reactions, our goals and our desires away from what they are currently to what they should be. So, we move step by step to living in reality like Jesus.

I have heard people say they were going to leave one church for another, because they were not getting "fed."

It is important to be wise when joining a church. We are born into the family of God. But there are numerous "branches" of that family. Just as physical families are organized differently, these "branches" are also organized differently. Some take the roles of the Spirit and Scripture more -- or less -- seriously. Some are organized with mind-set more in keeping with clubs or businesses. And people have the right to choose which "branch" to belong. We should choose a "branch" that takes the roles of the Spirit and Scripture seriously, and gives strong priority to God's priorities, purposes and mission.

But no matter which "branch" we associate with, it is not responsible to "feed" us. Ultimate responsibility rests with God. It is the Spirit who creates the channel into our hearts, and initiates the flow of God's grace and love to us. It is the Spirit who knows our state, our needs, the nutrients that are best for us, and the best way to communicate with us, so that we hear his word to us.

Secondly, responsibility rests with us. Life, love and grace do not flow to our hearts unless we have focused our hearts on God. And no one can communicate with us, if we do not make ourselves available to listen. We need to set our hearts and our "ears" to receive from him ... or we will not be fed anywhere.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Body of Christ - II

What does the body of Christ need? It is a "body" and bodies need certain things to survive, to grow and to flourish.

Bodies are living,breathing things. If something breathes, it needs "air." It is interesting to note that the word in the original language for "spirit" is "breath," including ths Spirit of God. (The breath of God.)

The first thing the body of Christ needs is the breath of God. It is the Spirit of God, who is the immanence of God. God is everywhere, but sometimes we do not experience his presence. Immanence is his presence that we do experience. It is the "right here-ness" of God. We focus our hearts on God, and he becomes immanent. He feeds our hearts. He is the channel of God's grace and love. He is our personal guide and teacher.

He is our connection to God. He is like a powerful generator, producing life and grace in our hearts. He is also like the wires, because he is the connection between us and the Source.

Scripture also says that he is like a down payment. When someone buys a house or a car, there is often a down payment. Money given to the seller by the buyer which says "I am really serious about this. I have to go get the rest of the money, but I am coming back." The Spirit is God's down payment to us saying that he is really serious about making us his family and returning to take us home with him.

And he is active. And we need him to be active in our lives. And it is possible to hinder the activity of the Spirit. The least we could do is stop focusing our hearts on God, and the Spirit will cease his flow -- and his activity -- in our lives.

We want the Spirit to be active. The more activity there is, then there are more hearts focused on God, God is more focused on his children, and there is a greater flow of grace into the world. There is a greater impact by God and his kingdom is restored more. His children live as they were designed more, with more love and more fruitful results.

A while ago, I wrote about a man ( Here ) who equated more Spirit with more of the miraculous. Now, I am not against the miraculous. In fact, more of the miraculous would be a good thing. But, my point before was the miraculous without love is not the miraculous. It is just card tricks with glitter. It has no substance and no worth.

The miraculous can be a sign of the Spirit's activity. But so can cooking a meal for a neighbor in need. And we can be more sure of the meal than we can of the miracle.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

The Body of Christ

A couple of days ago, I was heading out the door, dropping someone off at their job and, then, going to mine. It was early in the morning and still dark. There are six steps going from our living room down to the front door, and some silly person left a pair of shoes on the steps. (Before we go too far, they were my shoes, I left them there, and, to make matters worse, I knew they were there. But, because it was dark, I couldn't see them.) So, I stepped on the shoes. My feet went one way; my body went another way; and I had an upclose and personal experience with the steps. Specifically, the ribs beneath my right shoulder blades. Fortunately, nothing is broken, but my ribs have been complaining a lot since then. They complain when I sit down. They complain when I stand up. They complain when I walk up or down stairs. They really complain when I lie down to sleep.

Is anyone surprised I have been thinking about the body a lot? Yes, I have been thinking about my body. Painkillers? Doctor? Improving? Bend over slowly.

It has caused me to think about the body of Christ too. The Bible says the family of God is like a body. We all are different parts. Some parts are generally more noticeable, for example the eyes, hands and mouth. Some parts usually stay in the background. (I tend to think of livers and kidneys at this point. But ribs stay in the background too. Especially, the part of the ribs in the back underneath the shoulder blades.)

Scripture goes onto say that it is the "in the background," unnoticed parts that are most necessary. I have never given much thought about my ribs ... until very recently. Now that they are not functioning at their "optimum," I am realizing how important they are. I can't perform most normal functions in a normal manner.

If you go to most churches, and ask people who the most important person in the church is, most will say it is the professional leader. He leads the Sunday meeting. He delivers the Sunday teaching.

Now, the professional pastor might be the most important person in the church, but it is not because he leads and teaches on a Sunday. That's like saying the CEO is the most important person in a company, because he sets the agenda for the monthly director's meeting. Or that the father is the most important person in a family, because he passes out the presents at Christmas.

A church is part of the family of God. And each local church is a microcosm of the entire family of God, even though each one has unique features. And holiday celebrations can be an important part of life in each family. But it is such a small part of life as a family.

If you are a follower of Jesus and you believe that attending the Sunday meeting is the ultimate or only expression of obeying Jesus you ought to be involved in, you are robbing yourself. If you say you are too busy to do anything else, Satan is robbing you blind.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

God's Heart - II

There is another prayer mentioned in the letter I referred to in the last post. In this letter, Paul recognizes that these people have recently entered into God's family. They have recently started their relationship with God. There is a lot they need to know. There are a lot of adjustments they need to make. So, because he know "life" originates in the heart of people, he prays that God will teach these children of his, and that understanding and the basis of making right decisions would settle firmly as a foundation deep into their hearts.

Of course, he mentions some specifics. First, he prays for understanding of the Father. The gods of the Greeks and Romans were nothing like the One, True God. What pleases him is nothing like what pleased them. He is a God of holiness and a God of love. Both of these are qualities that God wishes his family to practice.

Second, he prays for understanding of what their hope is. They need to understand their destiny, their future. God's children are his inheritance. They will be his possession for eternity. There will be an eternal relationship of mutual love and enjoyment. The Father of All enjoys being with each of his children. He will enjoy being with them in eternity. And eternity starts now ... once a person chooses Jesus as his allegiance. So, God's enjoyment begins now. So, our destiny is not only being citizens of God's kingdom, restored and freed from the polluting effects of sin, but also a relationship of a loving father who delights to be with his children.

Third, he prays for understanding about the power he exercised in Jesus, and the power he can and does exercise in and for his family. For it is the same power.

The effect of God's power in Jesus was not just raising him from the dead. God placed him in the ruling position over the universe. He rules over every king, president and despot, from Obama, to Putin, to Xi Jinping, to Kim Jung-Un. And his family is his body.

I suppose a lot of speculation could be done about the effects of Jesus being in the preeminent position in the universe. (Eg. The presence of evil, the shape of politics and society, etc.) But what is written is that his family will be made full and complete. Jesus fills all things with himself. Which means, while Jesus' family will certainly fail, stumble, misread him and misrepresent him, they will also grow by being filled with his nature. Jesus' family will become more holy; Jesus' family will love more; and the world will see Jesus more and more in his family.