You may not believe this, but some days I have few words. In my eternal quest for wisdom, I know I’m getting it when my words run out. It’s in the silence that God breathes, readies our minds, and speaks. When I let my words run out, it makes more room for His. As you are reading this, let my words run out . . . and hold this paper in silence for a few moments . . .
. . .
. . .
And take His words in:
“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” Zephaniah 3:17
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” John 15:9
“The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still.” Exodus 14:14
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” 1 Corinthians 13:4
"It is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose." Philippians 2:13
“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye. shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” Matthew 7: 7.
God wants to talk to you. If you’re trying to figure it all out all the time like me, give it a try: quit trying to figure it out and let Him show you, tell you, and guide you.
See you at the watering hole.
Happy New Year! After a good “reflection” on the meaning of Jesus’ birth 2000 years ago and into the world (through us) today, we will find ourselves cleaning up the final scraps of wrapping paper, taking down the lights and decorations, and getting back to our daily and weekly routine.
The days will finally be getting longer and the hope of new growth in Spring is getting closer. But the coldest days of January and February still loom. It’s a great metaphor that ties in to what we have been and will be talking about.
After a willful invitation for Jesus to be born again in us, we must recognize that if the presence of God is going to grow in our hearts and minds some things are going to have to change. Otherwise, we’re walking around eternally pregnant with hope but never realizing it. The apostle Paul wrapped up our year with the segue “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind. . .” (Romans 12: 2).
In this New Year we will be continuing the renewal of our minds and baby proofing our hearts with the words of Jesus in Matthew. As we enter the coldest part of the year, we also enter some of the harshest words of Jesus. Woes and laments, the end of the world, the thief in the night, the final judgment, and finally the crucifixion.
But just because it’s going to get cold and uncomfortable doesn’t mean it’s not valuable. After all, the colder the freeze, the fewer mosquitoes there are in the summer! Jesus’ words may be uncomfortable and might even seem cold. But in our search for transformative wisdom and truth we cannot skip over any words Jesus speaks just like we cannot bypass the cold fronts of our short winter.
I pray you join us in the walls where the church gathers and allow yourself to be a part of it. I pray you join us despite the cold, and find a warmth in it as we unpack the harshest words of Jesus and find the hope and love in them.
See you at the watering hole.
Over the past year, our articles have focused on a metaphor of the church being a body of believers, and that we ought to have a goal of being a fit body for his service. We (1) recognize the need to be fit, presentable, and sustainable in belonging to the Lord and His will. We (2) recognize the need to be motivated (1 Cor. 9: 24-27).
We begin the workout with (3) rest. When we’re working out with Jesus, His strength carries our weakness (Matthew 11: 28-29). Rest is paired with (4) prayer and that’s really the bulk of the workout. When our knees hit the ground, his strength is allowed to work (2 Cor 12:9)
Our fitness depends on (5) devotion to each other, to the cause, and to the continued workout (Acts 2: 42-46). Our fitness is not just for ourselves or just the present time. (6) Bring the kids, teach them where the strength comes from and what the body is used for.
Workouts are repetitive, and (7) it’s important to be intentional about what we think of and where we focus while our bodies go through the motions (Philippians 4:8). Endurance is important, but so is (8) strength, so don’t avoid the heavy topics or difficult times (Romans 15:1). Each of our strengths will depend on what workout we’ve been assigned, so it is important that (9) we work together with our different abilities (1 Peter 4:10-11).
With our fit (church) body, it is important not to limit our exercise to exercise, but actually (10) put it into action in our daily lives OUTSIDE the building (Isaiah 58, Matthew 28:19), recognizing that (11) God wants everyone to belong to His gym (Isaiah 56:7-8).
Finally, as we wrap up this exercise, let us consider the words from Zecheriah 3:4 - “Take off those filthy clothes!” As we utilize our fitness in the world, let us always remember to clothe ourselves “with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” When people see you, let them not see a worldly stud but instead a fit member of the active and working body of Christ.
See you at the water fountain.
What would your ideal gym be like? Would you want talkers on the treadmills or headphones? Upbeat, dancy music or hard and heavy rock? More yoga or Cross Fit? What about the gym membership? Everyone the same level as you? Strong and good looking? Spaghetti arms but trying? Absolute beginners?
Would any of that matter so long as the gym did what it was supposed to? It’s supposed to make you stronger, more disciplined, healthier, and more fit for life in a body. A good gym for me would be one that makes getting uncomfortable enjoyable and rewarding.
Couldn’t I say the same thing about church? What would the ideal church look like? Soft pews and ceiling fans? Old hymns or new praise music? More light sermons or heavy theology? What about church membership? Everyone a mature Christian? Faithful and loved? Raggedly weak but trying? Absolute beginners?
Would any of that matter so long as the church did what it was supposed to? It’s supposed to make you stronger, more disciplined, healthier, and more fit for life in a body. A good church for me would be one that makes getting uncomfortable enjoyable and rewarding.
Too often we want church to be enjoyable without the discomfort. We want to become strong Christians without iron sharpening iron, without mild conflicts, without self reflection and bearing with one another in love. Or we want everybody who comes in to work as hard as we are and get the same results. Or we want them to stay just because we want them to be healthier even if they don’t want to lift a pencil.
A healthy church body will have a mix of it all. Strong, weak, new, and old Christians - even some coming in for a trial membership. What is important for a healthy church will be to remember that EVERYONE is invited to be a part of it. God spoke about Jesus through Isaiah in chapter 56 verse 7-8, “My house will be a house of prayer for ALL nations . . . I will gather still others to them besides those already gathered.”
Let us be as inviting as Christ, and to allow the Holy Spirit to work us out and yet find it enjoyable. As Hebrews 12: 11 says, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those that have been trained by it.”
See you at the water fountain.
So we’ve mixed metaphors a little with this exercise and healthy body metaphor. I’ve talked about church being both like a body and like a gym. As the body of Christ, we are to be connected to each other to the point of movement. We are to be a healthy organ with a functional purpose. A gym is where you go to work out, have spotters, be encouraged, and strengthen your body while burning away excess fat. They’re good metaphors, and I’d like to mix them a little more.
Rather than a gym being where you go to be healthy, it should be just one place you go to be healthy. Not the only place. Church (the Sunday morning building) should not be the one time and place you challenge your mind, purify your soul, and strengthen your relationship with God.
If a person joins a gym, it’s because they recognize the need for a healthier body. They don’t go to the gym for a big one hour workout, then go home and dip fried chicken in Rocky Road ice cream the rest of the week. By no means! When a person recognizes the need for health, their whole life changes. There’s a difference between a gym member and a healthy person, just like there’s a difference between a Christian and a healthy soul.
That healthy soul is called a “disciple.” Jesus didn’t say with his final commission, “Go out and sell the idea of church membership to the ends of the earth.” He said in Matthew 28: 19, “Go and make disciples of all nations.” A disciple is someone who follows Christ day in and day out, striving to line up their mind and their soul and their actions with the example and perfect teachings of Christ.
Why? Because he is the head. If we have purpose, it’s only in his body. If we have value, it’s maximized in his body. And he’s on the move. Buy into the body, but not just once a week. Take some time to read Isaiah 58, the prophet makes clear what pleases God - not a once a week show, but a daily life of love and compassion, dedication and discipline, justice and holiness.
None of those things are easy, and they’re not just for our own chiseled spiritual abs, but so we may be a limber, ready, and fit group of cells awaiting the activating call to bringing His kingdom in this world as a part of His body. See you at the water fountain.
Each part of the body has a unique form and function. The pinky toe keeps us from falling over sideways while we walk. The rib cage protects the lungs and heart. The spinal cord organizes neural transmissions and is in charge of reflexes. The pancreas creates digestive enzymes.
Not all get the same glory as the pumping heart or flexing biceps, but all get the glory of heaven when they work together to make a healthy human that is able to walk the earth and claim the Kingdom of God in words and in action.
You were each given a talent, skill, or purpose that is unique to you and your role in church. You can’t fulfill it on your own without the body - what’s the skin without the rest of it?! What’s the heart without the veins? What’s a preacher without a congregation? What’s a Sunday school teacher without a class? What’s a team of cooks without a crowd to eat it? We were given these talents, skills, and purposes to work together in the same way a body works together to do the will of God.
Peter writes “Each of you has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks the Word of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies - in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 4: 10-11)
And that means that our body needs you. How? Well, what are the gifts God has given you? Can everyone preach? Can everyone teach or cook? Not everyone can do the big things we always think about when imagining roles in church. We need pinky toes who make sure we don’t get unbalanced in the expression of our service. We need pancreata, who might not teach lessons but attend them and make the information more easily digestable.
We need connective tissue, what holds us all together. The ones who call others or visit them outside the Sunday/Wednesday paradigm. The people who make sure guests are asked their names and made feel welcome. The ones whose skill is knowing a few things about every person or who makes sure no one is eating alone at a meal. We need people who are talented at inviting others to visit, or are representatives of Christ at community gatherings or functions.
And we need you healthy so you can function in such a manner. We get healthy by gathering at the Lord’s Table and taking His body and His blood as a replacement for our own, by sharing that life blood with each other, by cleansing our sins and accepting His grace, and by loving each other as He loves us.
If there is anything we can do to help you become healthy so you can be a productive part of this body, or if you’re having trouble discerning what your skill or talent is, or if you know what it is and you’re ready to be plugged in - please don’t hesitate to connect with us. See you at the water fountain.
I was always a tall scrawny kid growing up. Playing basketball, I tried numerous ways to put on some muscle to save me from being thrown around by the behemoths I was tasked to guard. Invincible and wily as I was, I couldn’t seem to put the protein into my arms and shoulders.
It wasn’t until later in life, when we began renovations of our coffee shop that I put on some serious muscle in my upper body. I think it was the sheetrock. Dozens of sheets up to the second floor, up the scaffolding, and into their places on the ceilings and walls. From there, lifting, moving, and even tossing my growing child around required much less effort.
It’s the same spiritually. James writes in his letter to the churches (1:2), “Consider it pure joy, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance have its full effect, that you may be whole and complete, lacking in nothing.”
The trials and sufferings of life, when approached like a fitness program (rather than the fear evoking memories I have of middle school dodgeball), have the potential to turn us into strong leaders of faith, initiators of change, encouragers of the weary, advisors to the lacking, and guides for the lost.
It takes these heavy moments, these hard situations that we work through like warriors in training to make us strong enough to be the same audience Paul addressed in Romans 15: 1. “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please our neighbor for their good, to build them up.”
If you’re going through a rough time right now, bring your workout to the gym. At the time of your struggle, struggle well. Grunt if you need to. Count your reps as you lunge into prayer. And know that somewhere in this church you’ve got a spotter who will cheer you on, get you a towel, and spot you so the weight doesn’t crush you.
If you’re just coming out of your trial, hydrate on the living water, fill up on the bread of life, and find the holy rest that God promises. Then, instead of relishing in the mirror - get out, look around, and find someone struggling to spot.
If you’re neither of the above, be ready for the workout, stay limber and healthy - you’ll need it. Become a trainer. And when it comes, don’t try to get through it on your own.
The task assigned for us is to be the body of Christ. We’re stronger together than any one of us alone. See you at the watering hole.
I used to go to the gym regularly back in my TCU days. You see, you had to go through it to get to the room with the ping pong tables. On my way through, I couldn’t help but notice the grunting sweat factories of men watching themselves popping veins in the mirrored walls. I often wondered, “What do they think about as they watch themselves work out?”
So one day I tried it. I went over to some light dumbells and started doing curls. “One, two . . . fifteen,” I counted to myself. Surely they weren’t just working out as an excuse to practice counting, so I tried again “ . . . Why am I doing this? Why am I doing this? Why am I doing this?” No, that probably wasn’t what they were thinking either. But that was all I had, so as I walked back toward the ping pong room I tried to pay attention without getting caught looking at them or misunderstood in my curious interest.
“Man I look good.” “She’ll be impressed.” “I’m going to be the strongest man in the WORLD!” Or “Just in case I ever have to lift a car off a mechanic.” What people think when they work out I may never know.
But in relation to a church working out for the betterment of our individual and communal spirit, the endurance for hard times, the strength to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2) and lift each other up - Paul has some advice for what we’re thinking in the repetitions as we look in the mirror. And it’s not, “Man we look good,” “God will be so impressed,” “We’re going to be the most amazing church in the WORLD!” or “Just in case I have to save someone’s soul.”
It’s the same he gave the Philippians in chapter 4 verse 8: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
So, bring your strengths, bring your weaknesses and let’s continue this exercise of being God’s Gym members. See you at the water fountain.
Bring the Kids. In the first month we recognized the need for a fit church body, and month two we discussed gathering motivation. Step three was rest, four began the workout with prayer lunges, and step five emphasized the importance of making your church workout a routine. Step six reminds us that our church fitness is not just about ourselves.
Proverbs 22: 6 says: “Train up a child in the way he/she should go, and when he/she is older they will not depart from it.” Many of us teach our kids how to work hard, how to succeed in school and life, and how to clean their room and do their laundry. They need these skills to survive in the world. Let us not forget that the younger generations are also the ones who will lead the church when we have lost the ability and capacity.
They will be the business owners, bosses, workers, home owners, parents - and they will face the same harsh realities, severe challenges, and need for hope and faith that we have had. Rather than taking a child to the gym to say watch me work out so one day you will know how, we can teach them how to work out with us.
If you got to witness the youth lead service last month, you got to see that they want to not just follow us to the spiritual gym - they are willing and able to work out with us. We are not the church for ourselves, but for God. And when the disciples (like many church leaders) wanted to push the younger aside, Jesus said, “Let the children come to me.” -Matthew 19:14
Teach the kids the need for church, and look for ways to involve them. Let them know that spiritual motivation comes hard sometimes, share how you overcome it, and invite them to be beside you through it. Make an intentional effort to make habit of saying hello to the younger generation calling them by name, and asking about their lives. You may just be surprised when you do these things, that you find their energy, hope, and seeking nature becomes contagious.
It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes each of those children to carry on the overall mission of the church body, the body of Christ: to move in this world, to act for justice and peace, to claim the kingdom of God with God and for God - not just in this generation, but through the generations. We have a torch to pass, and we are doing our best at getting fit to carry it and endure. Let us not pass that torch to a racer we have not prepared for the task. See you at the water fountain.
In the first month we recognized the need for a fit church body, and month two we discussed gathering motivation. Step three was rest, and four was the actual beginning of the workout: getting on our knees and letting God’s strength and power replace our weaknesses and powerlessness. With step five, our goal is to see that one beneficial task put into a routine.
A person doesn’t get fit because of one workout, just as a church can’t get fit with one great service or one moment of sincere communal prayer. In Acts 2: 42-46, the author recounts: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul . . . all who believed were together . . . and day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God . . . and the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
Notice, they devoted themselves to learning, eating, coming together, and praying - day by day. It’s noted in psychology that 40% of our mental activity, which carries over into physical activity, is subconscious habit. Some of those habits are good, and some of them we wish we could break and keep asking forgiveness for. To break those habits, to turn the subconscious problems into conscious solutions, Scripture points to the same two things psychology does: bad habits must be replaced by good ones, and it’s a whole lot easier if you’re in it with others.
Your spiritual fitness is not for yourself, the church body not only desires it, but needs to work out with you for the good of all. Let us not just pray to God to work with our conscious mind and body, but also the 40% of us that is subconscious and habitual. You may think, just like many people trying to get physically fit, “I just don’t have time.” Is it that you don’t have time or that it’s just not in the habit of your daily life? We find time for what is important, and sometimes it’s not important until we’ve spent a few weeks in it and start seeing results.
Sometimes, motivation comes after the reward, not before - after you’ve started working out with us, not before. And what does this passage in Acts say are the results of our habitual workouts? Awe. Gladness. Generosity. Praise. Growth. God wants these things for you. God wants these things for our church body. So what do you say? Will you accept the challenge in step five to make not just church a habit, but also prayer, eating with others, daily devotionals, leading or participating in a Sunday morning or Wednesday evening class, and being intentional about replacing your unproductive habits with ones of fellowship and praise? You’ll lose no time, and have so much to gain - and not just for you but for His glory.
See you at the water fountain!
Sean King is the Pastor for First Christian Church of Cisco.