The Body of Christ

So we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another (Romans 12:5).

We all know it intellectually, but somehow it becomes lost in our theological memories: The Body of Christ goes far beyond us and our tribe. In fact for American Christians, the vast majority of the Body of Christ isn’t like us. We are the minority.

I was reminded of that again as I sat in a church full of over 500 people – and I was the only one who didn’t speak the language fluently, the only one who couldn’t read out of the French Bible, the only one who didn’t understand the announcements, the only one who struggled to sing the familiar hymns, the only one who needed a translator just to communicate beyond simple greetings, the only one who looked – well like me, a blan (white person, maybe even a foreigner. I’ve know African Americans who were called blan in Haiti!).

The Body of Christ is vast and

diverse beyond our wildest

imagination. Not only here and now,

but someday there and for eternity.

And I was happy to be there, among brothers and sisters in Christ. And yes among friends.

It happened again as I drove home from the service with my friend and translator. We decided to stop in a small village to greet the pastor who has been a friend for many years. We didn’t know that they were celebrating the 80th year of their church and the (loooooong) service was still in progress. Before we could make a graceful get-a-way, the pastor spotted us through the front doors of the church as we stood in the road debating what to do and he wouldn’t let us go until we greeted the church.

It happened again last night as I participated in an open air evangelistic service in the city where hundreds of people gathered to sing and listen to the gospel message.

I used to feel somewhat uneasy being the only one who was different. The one who stood out like a sore thumb as the expression goes. But somehow I felt completely at ease in each of these situations.

That’s because I wasn’t just among friends, I was with the family – the Family of God.

Until you have been in the minority (in these cases the extreme minority), you probably think (unconsciously perhaps) that heaven is going to be filled with people just like you. If you are from a first world country – guess again.

The Body of Christ is vast and diverse beyond our wildest imagination. Not only here and now, but someday there and for eternity.

The old Gaither song has it right: I’m so glad I’m a part of the Family of God! I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

The Mystery of God

I want to go back to something I wrote ten years ago because I think it is so relevant for the Christian life (I have edited it slightly). Perhaps you need this reminder as much as I do.

The longer I write, the more I find myself addressing what might be referred to as the mystery of God. Let’s face it – God is not easy to understand. If He was, He wouldn’t be God. Be glad you have a god that you can’t understand. That means He’s more than the sum of your thoughts, greater than your problems and higher than your expectations. If you could understand all there is about God then He would be no greater than your IQ. I want a god who is vastly greater than my IQ.

One of the great mysteries related to God is why life happens the way it does. Why doesn’t God intervene in bad situations?  Why does He allow/determine things to happen to His children that bring sorrow and pain? Why does He seem silent . . . uninterested . . . uncaring? If God is sovereign, isn’t He in control of life? And if He is in control of life, why doesn’t He solve our problems? Why doesn’t He remove all evil? Why doesn’t He just DO something?

One of the great mysteries

related to God is why life

happens the way it does.

No one has all of the answers to such cosmic questions, but as I have reflected on this issue some thoughts came to mind. I need to hear them – perhaps you do too.

1. It may be that God has intervened and you haven’t yet recognized it. We are dealing here with not only what we can see, but what we can’t see. Remember Elisha’s servant who saw the mighty army of the Syrians but couldn’t see the army of God until his eyes were opened (2 Kings 6:17). Much of what God does in our lives is done in the realm of the unseen. Don’t think that just because you cannot see what God is doing that He has failed to act. Ask Him in His grace to help you to see.

2. Remember that God’s highest goal is His glory (Exodus 20:2, Isaiah 42:8, 48:11). We want God’s highest priority to be us. We want Him to spend His time (if we can even refer to God and time in the same breath) solving our problems. But that might not be the best either for us or for His glory. We need to keep the truth in front of us that when God acts, He ultimately acts for His own glory. That might mean that the trials we face are intended to enhance His glory in ways that we cannot understand. Ask God to glorify Himself through you.

3. God may use the bad in your life for the good in someone else’s. Life isn’t just about us – it’s about all of us. As Christians we are to live our lives for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31) and the benefit of others (Galatians 6:10). Joseph’s trials were for the good of his family and ultimately the nation of Israel. Paul’s prison experience was for the good of the Philippian jailer and his family. Christ’s death was for the good of those who trust Him as savior. Good often comes out of bad – and if the spiritual good of another person can come out of your pain, well isn’t that worth it?

4. God may be trying to change you. Real spiritual change rarely comes from pleasant circumstances. It normally comes out of hardship (James 1:2-4). When life is good we tend to sit back and enjoy it. It’s when life is painful that we begin to examine it and search for answers. That process will lead to change. In fact the Christian life is all about change – changing into the image of Christ. Take encouragement from your trials – they mean that God isn’t through with you yet (Hebrews 13:21).

5. God forgives all confessed sin but He doesn’t always remove the consequences of our sin. We tend to think that when God forgives, He removes the sin and the results of our sin. It’s true that He removes the sin and puts it on His Son. It’s also truth that He removes the eternal consequences of sin. But He doesn’t always choose to remove the temporal consequences. The alcoholic may suffer the ravages of a diseased liver even after confessing his sin. Many of our problems in life fall into this category. We suffer even though we are walking with God because of choices made in the distant past. When that is the case, ask God for grace to handle the trials (Hebrews 4:16).

6. The actions of other people impact my life. It may not be fair but it is reality. What other people do; the choices they make can have a significant impact – often negative – on our lives. While we may not be able to control what they do, we can control how we respond. This is where faith comes in. As Christians we walk by faith not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). That is we choose to respond in a Jesus imitating way instead of how we would like to respond.

God is a mystery, however the Christian life isn’t. He’s told us how to live. It won’t be easy but it is possible. Ask Him for strength to get you through.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve