The Miracle of Church

“The Holy Spirit descended into the womb of Mary in the Galilean village of Nazareth. Thirty of so years later the same Holy Spirit descended into the collective spiritual womb of men and women, which included Mary, who had been followers of Jesus. It happened as they were at worship on the Jewish feast of Pentecost in the city of Jerusalem. The first conception gave us Jesus; the second conception gave us church.”

Today is Wednesday, June 28, 2017. Day 21,657. Six days until our July 4 holiday!

“Prejudice is a great time saver. You can form opinions without having to get the facts.” ~ E. B. White
BrainyQuote

Bonus quote!
“All the President is, is a glorified public relations man who spends his time flattering, kissing and kicking people to get them to do what they are supposed to do anyway.” ~ Harry S Truman, Letter to his sister, Nov. 14, 1947
The Quotations Page

Today’s word of the day is interdigitate. It is a verb, meaning, “to interlock, as or like the fingers of both hands.” I didn’t know there was a word for that!

Today is Happy Heart Hugs Day. I’m all about the hugs. I’m a hugger. If you’re a hugger, this is your day!

I feel much better this morning than I did yesterday. In fact, by bed time last night, I was feeling 100% better. Who knows what was wrong? I may have actually had a touch of something the night before. But I seem to be fine this morning.

It’s bowling d+9*-kl (Um . . . Rocky the cat just jumped on the keyboard). What I was trying to type before I was so felinely interrupted was, it’s bowling night! I’m always excited about bowling night. Sometimes, after it’s over, I’m not so excited. But I’ve been doing pretty good in this league, for someone who hasn’t bowled consistently in close to 30 years. My average should be around 163, or so, tonight.

The Red Sox are back in first place! The Rangers are in second place, but 12.5 behind the Astros, who have won an incredible 52 games already. The only other team that has won over 50 games is the Dodgers.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

(From The Divine Hours)

Love the LORD, all you his saints! The LORD preserves the faithful but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride.
Psalm 31:23
To you, O LORD, I call; my rock, be not deaf to me, lest, if you be silent to me, I become like those who go down to the pit.
Psalm 28:1
Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God?
Psalm 77:13
Oh, guard my soul, and deliver me! Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.
Psalm 25:20
But let your hand be on the man of your right hand, the son of man whom you have made strong for yourself! 
Then we shall not turn back from you; give us life, and we will call upon your name! 
Restore us, O LORD God of hosts! Let your face shine, that we may be saved!

Psalm 80:17-19

(From Practice Resurrection)

As Eugene Peterson set out on his search for “church,” he didn’t begin with Ephesians, but it is where he wound up. He began with the book of Acts, “in which the term ‘church’ occurs twenty-four times.” Ephesus is mentioned for the first time in Acts.

One thing that Peterson noticed was the parallel between the birth of Jesus and the birth of the church. I confess that I had never noticed this, but Peterson brings it to light in a marvelous way that only he can do. But there is a great parallel between Luke 1-2 and Acts 1-2. Of course, they were written by the same author, weren’t they?

But God brought our Savior into the world in somewhat “unkingly” circumstances. He could have come to the world and solved all of the hunger troubles. He could have come with a loud, spectacular entrance and filled all the amphitheaters and “hippodromes.” He could have performed circus-like miracle shows. He could have overthrown the Roman government. But he didn’t do any of those things.

Jesus came, by a miracle, “in the form of a helpless infant born in poverty in a dangerous place with neither understanding nor support from the political, religious, or cultural surroundings.”

Our “salvation community” came into the world in much the same way. It was, in fact, miraculous, but under much the same circumstances as the birth of Jesus. While the story in Acts seems somewhat outrageous, that is only if you were in the same room. From the outside, things carried on just as usual, with governments, religious leaders, and culture being largely oblivious to what was happening.

Both of these things happened by what Charles Williams called the Descent of the Dove. “The Holy Spirit descended into the womb of Mary in the Galilean village of Nazareth. Thirty of so years later the same Holy Spirit descended into the collective spiritual womb of men and women, which included Mary, who had been followers of Jesus. It happened as they were at worship on the Jewish feast of Pentecost in the city of Jerusalem. The first conception gave us Jesus; the second conception gave us church.”

Father, thank you for the “miracle of church.” I thank you that you chose to send your Holy Spirit, not once, but twice. Once to save us, and the second time, to unite us in Trinitarian Community. I pray for the advancement of that community as the Church. I pray for unity within a body of believers that is, in some cases, intensely divided. Make us one in Christ and in the Holy Spirit, as we seek to walk in your kingdom.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Grace and peace, friends.

It’s Not About the Parking Lot

Today is Tuesday, June 27, 2017. Day 21,656. Yesterday, I was wrong. Today is seven days until our July 4 holiday.

“Accomplishing the impossible means only that the boss will add it to your regular duties.” ~ Doug Larson
The Quotations Page

The word of the day is parallax, a noun meaning, “the apparent displacement of an observed object due to a change in the position of the observer.”

Today is Sunglasses Day. It might be a good day for that, here. Warm and partly sunny. But the projected high seems unusually “un-hot” for the day.

I’m not sure what is causing this, but I was really thirsty all night. This started between dinner and band practice, last night, and continued all night long. I remember waking up several times during the night with dry mouth and extreme thirst. I kept a glass of water nearby, so I could drink it, and I’m having water instead of coffee this morning. That right there should tell you something’s up! I didn’t do anything different, yesterday, though, so I don’t know what’s going on. I’ll try to stay more hydrated throughout the day today.

The band practice went well, and we got out early again, which is always nice. We just ran through all the pieces for next Monday night’s concert. We’ll be playing at the Southlake Stars & Stripes event, starting around 8:00 PM, and finishing between 9:00 and 9:30, at which point the fireworks will begin. C and I both have Monday off.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

(From The Divine Hours)

Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the great waters; 
they saw the deeds of the LORD, his wondrous works in the deep. 
For he commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea. 
They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their evil plight; 
they reeled and staggered like drunken men and were at their wits’ end. 
Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. 
He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. 
Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven. 
Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! 
Let them extol him in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders.

Psalm 107:23-32
Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. 
Psalm 119:18
With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!
Psalm 119:10
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 
On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 
And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'”

Matthew 7:21-23
How great are your works, O LORD! Your thoughts are very deep! 
The stupid man cannot know; the fool cannot understand this: 
that though the wicked sprout like grass and all evildoers flourish, they are doomed to destruction forever;

Psalm 92:5-7

(From Practice Resurrection)

Eugene Peterson was seventy-five years old when he wrote this book, and says that he has been “a participating member of the Christian church in North America” for all of his life, including fifty of those years as a pastor. During those fifty years, he observed both the church and the vocation of pastor being “relentlessly diminished and corrupted by being redefined in terms of running an ecclesiastical business.” He was barely ordained before he was being told that the expectation, or his main task, was that he would run a church in much the same way that his Christian brothers and sisters ran “service stations, grocery stores, corporations, banks hospitals, and financial services.” In one book, by a so-called “expert,” he read that the size of the parking lot had more to do with the success of the church than what text he preached from on Sunday morning. After a number of years of “trying to take all of this seriously,” he decided that he “was being lied to.”

Peterson calls this “the Americanization of congregation. It means turning each congregation into a market for religious consumers, an ecclesiastical business run along the lines of advertising techniques and organizational flow charts, and then energized by impressive motivational rhetoric.”

The next time, we will begin to look at his search for “church,” as he begins to seriously search God’s word for what church is really supposed to look like.

Father, forgive us for taking your church down such a dark path, but I give you praise for men like Eugene Peterson, who tired of the things that he was being told, and began to look at what you say about church in the Scriptures. I pray for a restoration of your people who are seriously intent on doing church the way you intended it to be. Not so much about form, as it is about purpose and relationship. Relationship. That’s it. Help us to enter into and maintain relationship with both you and our brothers and sisters.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Grace and peace, friends.

From Beautiful Tirzah to Media Manipulation

Today is Monday, June 26, 2017. Day 21,655. Seven days until our July 4 holiday.

“Many people lose the small joys in the hope for the big happiness.” ― Pearl S. Buck
Goodreads

The word of the day is beatinest, an adjective meaning, “most remarkable or unusual.”

Today is Please Take My Children to Work Day. I just like that because it’s funny. And certainly makes sense!

For what it was, it was an okay weekend. After church, yesterday, we stopped by Los Molcajetes for lunch, then Sonic for drinks. After we got home, we put together a grocery list, then I went to the store. I spent most of the rest of the afternoon playing Fallout: New Vegas, which helped me to relax, both physically and mentally. Playing a video game, for me, is a lot like watching a good movie. I am able to totally lose myself in the world of the game, and pretty much forget about anything else.

Back to work today, and band practice tonight, so it’s a long day. It’s our last practice until August, though, as our Independence Day shindig is next Monday night, and we have the rest of July off.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

(From The Divine Hours)

My mouth is filled with your praise, and with your glory all the day. 
Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent.

Psalm 71:8-9
O LORD, God of my salvation; I cry out day and night before you. 
Let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my cry!

Psalm 88:1-2
Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. 
Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

Psalm 25:4-5
Salvation belongs to the LORD; your blessing be on your people! Selah.
Psalm 3:8
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 
He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 
All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 
“A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.”

John 16:12-16
The LORD reigns, let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad! 
Clouds and thick darkness are all around him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne. 
Fire goes before him and burns up his adversaries all around. 
His lightnings light up the world; the earth sees and trembles. 
The mountains melt like wax before the LORD, before the Lord of all the earth. 
The heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all the peoples see his glory.

Psalm 97:1-6

(From Practice Resurrection)

As Eugene Peterson was growing up, his understanding of church was that of “a badly constructed house that had been lived in by renters who didn’t keep up with repairs.” When he became a pastor, he assumed that his job “was to do major repair work, renovating it from top to bottom.” This understanding was acquired from years of listening to pastors that served at his childhood church. Unfortunately, they never lasted very long.

One of his favorite texts, that was preached by virtually every pastor he can remember, was from the Song of Solomon, chapter 6, verse 4. You are beautiful as Tirzah, my love, lovely as Jerusalem, awesome as an army with banners. “This was a favorite text in that long-ago Montana culture to refer to church.” The image of the church was that she was this “beautiful Tirzah,” and that she was an awesome army with banners. His pastors filled this metaphor out with “glorious imagery.” Says Peterson, “For at least thirty or forty minutes our shabby fixer-upper church with its rotting front porch was tansformed into something almost as good as the Second Coming.”

He compares those sermons with the picture on the front of a jigsaw puzzle box. You see the pictures, you have a thousand pieces spread out before you, and know that, if you keep at it long enough, those pieces will finally fit together to make that beautiful picture. Turns out his pastors weren’t that patient. Perhaps they decided that some of the pieces were missing. Maybe they finally decided that this particular church was “too far gone in disrepair to spend any more time on it.” But it seemed like they bounced from church to church, never spending much time at any single one.

Peterson never forgot that metaphor though, and when he became a pastor, at first, he was unable to abandon this romantic vision of church. Eventually, the illusion became delusion, but it didn’t last long. He soon found out that the popular imagery had changed into a “new and fresh imagery . . . provided by American business.” There was a new generation of pastors that were reimagining the church. Tirzah had been scrapped. The replacement was an “imagery of an ecclesiastical business with a mission to market spirituality to consumers to make them happy. Simultaneously, campaigns targeted outsiders to get them to buy whatever it was that was making us happy.”

The church was no longer considered to be something that needed repair, but, rather, “a business opportunity that would cater to the consumer tastes of spiritually minded sinners both within and without the congregation.” There was no longer a need for “fantasy sermons,” based on what the church should look like. “Media manipulation” became the tool to get people “to do something they were already pretty good at doing: being consumers.” The pictures of Sodom and Gomorrah and Golgotha were removed from the walls. God was depersonalized and “repackaged as a principle or formula,” and “people could shop at their convenience for whatever sounded or looked as if it would make their lives more interesting and satisfying on their own terms.”

Yes, this all sounds kind of harsh. But there is truth to it, and I have observed the same truth over the decades that I have been in church, and I have been in church since I was an infant. I don’t remember much about those days. But I have to confess that I fell into the consumerism trap, right along with many others. But I embrace Eugene Peterson’s vision at this point, which is why I’m re-reading this book. And it’s not all so harsh, because he soon gets into the teaching of Paul on what we should see, and how God works in and through the Church.

Father, teach us to step away from the consumerism mentality in your Church. There should never have been any place for this, and I pray for forgiveness for all who drove her into that mentality. Show us what the true Church should look like, as we interact with one another in Trinitarian community. Teach us your was, that we may walk in your truth and in your kingdom.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Grace and peace, friends.

Seek First the Kingdom

Today is Sunday, June 25, 2017. Day 21,654. Nine days until our July 4 holiday.

Last night’s Night of Worship was pretty amazing. I think there might have been a few less people there than previous gatherings, but there were also several that aren’t always there. The host cooked up a brisket for us to eat before the gathering, and it was delicious. We had some great fellowship, and then started the worship time. There was a lot more prayer in this one, and most of it was spontaneous, with various people simply beginning to pray after a song was finished. There was a lady and her husband, along with one of their friends, there. They have been to some of our gatherings, but not all of them. I think they live a good ways away, out in the country, somewhere. Anyway, it’s been a long time since I have encountered someone as intense as this lady, when she prays. I swear, when she was praying, I felt like I was floating, there was so much Spirit in the room! The whole night was really awesome. My fingers, on the other hand, are still numb from playing guitar for two hours.

This morning, we are getting ready for our regular, weekly, worship gathering. We worship with The Exchange, which meets at the Northpark YMCA, at 9100 N. Beach St., in Fort Worth, TX.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

(From The Divine Hours)

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!
Psalm 100:4
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Psalm 90:14
I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. 
I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

psalm 9:1-2
In God, whose word I praise, in the LORD, whose word I praise, 
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?

Psalm 56:10-11
And [Jesus] said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. 
For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 
Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 
And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 
If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? 
Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 
But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 
And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. 
For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 
Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.

Luke 12:22-31
It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; 
to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night, 
to the music of the lute and the harp, to the melody of the lyre. 
For you, O LORD, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy.

Psalm 92:1-4
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be your Name.
May your kingdom come, and your will be done, on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil;
for yours are the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Lord, make me have perpetual love and reverence for you holy Name,
for you never fail to help and govern those whom you have set upon
the sure foundation of your loving-kindness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

(The Prayer Appointed for the Week)

That passage in Luke (12:22-31) is standing out to me, this morning. Most of us are more familiar with the parallel passage in Matthew. I’m not sure why the Matthew passage gets more attention than Luke’s, but it does. The message is the same, though. Being anxious for things cannot help a bit. “Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” As a matter of fact, we can quite possibly deduct hours from our life span by being anxious, if the “experts” are correct on the subject. Anxiety solves nothing.

Please note that I do understand that there are people who struggle with anxiety disorders. That is a totally different subject, and this does not apply to them. I’m speaking of those of us who simply worry about things. My mother used to call it “borrowing trouble.” She’s a worrier, too, just like me. But it accomplishes nothing whatsoever.

The big question is, how many of us, who call the name of Jesus, truly believe the words that he speaks? Do our lives demonstrate it? We claim to believe Jesus, but do we trust his words; do we believe what he says? I think the problem is that most of us believe in Jesus, but, in the deepest part of our hearts, we don’t believe him. I’ve struggled with this dilemma a lot, in recent months. I want to believe. I’m like the man whose son was possessed by demons. “I do believe! Help my unbelief!” he cried out to Jesus.

The key of both the Matthew and Luke passages is in that one verse. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.  (Luke 12:31) But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33)

There’s the key. Seek the kingdom. Seek it first. Walk in the kingdom. If we truly believe Jesus, everything else we be taken care of.

Father, keep working in me to believe Jesus. Keep working in me to seek first your kingdom. Curb my anxiety. Help me believe and not worry. You are sovereign; you control all things; you will take care of me and us.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Grace and peace, friends.

Was Ephesus the Perfect Church?

Today is Saturday, June 24, 2017. Day 21,653. Ten days until the July 4 holiday.

“Nothing that has not died will be resurrected.” ~ C.S. Lewis, in The Weight of Glory

The word of the day is maffick (British), a verb meaning, “to celebrate with extravagant public demonstrations.”

Today is Fairy Day, a celebration of all things fae. I’ve been a huge fan of fantasy for most of my life, and there have been times that I wished that the world of fae was real. Perhaps it is, and we just can’t see them. I know that when we were walking around in the area of Munson Creek Falls in Oregon, it was a perfect place to imagine fairies flitting about in the lush, green woods. Who knows? Maybe they were watching us.

Today is a busy day, and a bittersweet one. It will start with a funeral at 1:30. I might also mention it is raining, and has been all morning. Later on, around 6:00 PM, we will have our monthly Night of Worship, which will be the “sweet” part, although, it will probably be a bit more somber than usual.

We had a pretty powerful storm blow through last night. When I say “blow,” I mean that, too. The rain was heading straight into our bedroom windows. When I got up this morning, the first thing I looked at was our back fence. It’s fine. But the pool is almost overflowing. The forecast predicts thunderstorms and rain for the next three days, too.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

(From The Divine Hours)

Bless the LORD, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word! 
Bless the LORD, all his hosts, his ministers, who do his will! 
Bless the LORD, all his works, in all places of his dominion. Bless the LORD, O my soul!

Psalm 103:20-22
Give ear to my words, O LORD; consider my groaning. 
Give attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you do I pray. 
O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.

Psalm 5:1-3
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.
For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”

Isaiah 26:3, 30:15
The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.
Psalm 33:11
So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” 
Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

John 8:57-58
The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” 
The LORD sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your enemies! 
Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power, in holy garments; from the womb of the morning, the dew of your youth will be yours. 
The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”

Psalm 110:1-4
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.
Isaiah 9:2

(From Practice Resurrection)

The fact, as mentioned previously, that the letter to the church in Ephesus was not provoked by any problems, can easily cause a misunderstanding that the Ephesian church was one that “had it all together. However, we have at least two references that can prevent this errant thought.

Some time after Paul left Ephesus, he wrote a letter to a young man named Timothy. Timothy had been sent to Ephesus to pastor this church. Paul’s first letter to Timothy advises him on how to deal with this church. The picture that we get is nothing like an ideal church. “The Ephesians come off the pages of Paul’s letter as a talkative, argumentative gathering, engaged in silly speculations and ‘meaningless talk . . . without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make assertions’ (1 Tim. 1:6-7).”

Later in the letter, Paul gives some pointers about appointing leaders. In this section, Paul mentions “the danger of ‘profane myths and old wives’ tales’ (4:7).” He even states that “some have already strayed after Satan” (5:15). He also warns about those who might have an “unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions” (6:4). Rather than sounding like a healthy church, the church at Ephesus sounds like “a squabbling congregation.”

There is another reference in the New Testament to the church at Ephesus, which comes twenty or thirty years later. The apostle John was pastor to seven different congregations, which included Ephesus. At the time, he had become an exile on the island of Patmos. On a particular Lord’s Day, he had “a magnificent vision of what was going on at the time and what was going to come from it.” There was great persecution of the church from Rome, and some Christians within these congregations were “wavering, trying to survive by adapting to the conditions.”

“But there is something far greater than the raw power of Rome here. There is worship: God is on his throne, Christ is revealing his comprehensive salvation, the elders and all creation are in jubilant song and adoration, and Babylon/Rome, even while the Christians in their churches are at worship with the Scriptures and prayers, is doomed.”

As John writes out his vision for these seven churches, the church at Ephesus is mentioned first. They are commended for “patient endurance” and their stand against evil (2:2). But on the heals of this commendation comes a harsh rebuke. “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.” (2:4) A congregation that has abandoned love is far from the ideal congregation.

So we see that, within a few years of Paul’s presence at Ephesus, the church had devolved “into a squabbling, contentious, argumentative anarchy, and Timothy had to be sent in to bring health to their community. Thirty years or so later they showed courageous character in not caving in to the persecution, but they were conspicuously lacking in the ‘one thing needful.’ They were determined, but loveless.”

But Eugene Peterson doesn’t want to focus on these behavioral issues, “the heresies of belief, the silliness of immaturity that concern us in the congregations that we belong to.” We can readily see that even the church at Ephesus faced the same kinds of issues that we face today. Those issues, however, are addressed in other New Testament letters. What Peterson’s purpose in Practice Resurrection is, is to let Paul encourage us “as Christians-in-the-making to make the most in finding the appropriate forms for expressing who we have been created and saved to be, and to live to ‘the praise of his glory.'” And Peterson believes that Ephesians is the best text in all of the Bible to get us behind the scenes of our local congregations, so that we may “‘grow up healthy in God, robust in love’ (Eph. 4:16 The Message).”

Father, I thank you that we can see from your Word that even the “best” churches in the days of Paul had their issues, just like we do. Help us to see your Spirit’s work, behind the scenes of what we call “church,” that we might, indeed, grow in Christ and live to the praise of his glory.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Grace and peace, friends.

Church Is Not What We Do

What becomes most clear is that “church is not what we do; it is what God does, although we participate in it.”

Today is Friday, June 23, 2017. Day 21,652.

“What we have once enjoyed we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.” ~ Helen Keller
BrainyQuotes

The word of the day is cacoepy, a noun meaning, “incorrect pronunciation or an instance of this; mispronunciation (opposed to orthoepy).”

Today is Let It Go Day. Good day for that.

It’s going to be busy weekend. We have the viewing at the funeral home tonight, the funeral tomorrow, and then we have Night of Worship tomorrow evening. At least the NoW is going to be totally acoustic, so there won’t be any set up or sound checks or anything like that. Still, it’s going to be a long, wearisome day. Hopefully, we will have some opportunity to rest on Sunday afternoon.

The good news is that we only have one more week before our July 4 holiday, and I’m taking off July 3, as well, for a four-day-weekend.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

(From The Divine Hours)

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
Psalm 34:8
Be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may continually come; you have given the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.
Psalm 71:3
But I, O LORD, cry to you; in the morning my prayer comes before you.
Psalm 88:13
Jesus taught us saying, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? 
Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: 
he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. 
But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”

Luke 6:46-49

(From Practice Resurrection)

“Ephesians is a revelation of the church we never see.” This unique book shows us the “root system” of the church, the “operations of the Trinity” out of which what we can see grows. It doesn’t show us the imperfections or the different expressions of church that become cathedrals, outdoor revival tents, or storefront missions. “Rather, it is an inside look at what is beneath and behind and within the church that we do see wherever and whenever it becomes visible.”

The church at Ephesus was established by a guy named Apollos. We see his name a few times in Acts. Paul stopped by to visit and wound up staying three years, dealing with various issues along the way.

Later on, Ephesus was attached to this letter “that provides our best access to what is involved in the formation of church.” It doesn’t show us how the church appears on our cities and villages, but “the essence that is behind the appearances: God’s will, Christ’s presence, the Holy Spirit’s work.” Peterson says that Ephesians is “the only writing in the New Testament that provides us with such a detailed and lively account of the inside and underground workings of the complex and various profusion of ‘churches’ that we encounter and try to make sense of.”

Of all the letters in the New Testament, to all of the other various churches and pastors, Ephesians is the only one that is not provoked by a problem. I wasn’t aware of this until I read this book.

We have all heard, more than likely, some well-meaning person say that we need to get back to the way the “early church” was. Peterson’s response to this is, “Heaven help us. These churches were a mess, and Paul wrote his letters to try to clean up the mess.”

However, the purpose of Ephesians is not to clean up any messes. Rather, it explores “God’s glory that gives the church its unique identity.” It also makes it clear to us that we cannot comprehend this on our own, each Christian picking out his favorite thing, “cafeteria style,” but that we must do this together, as a community, “a congregation of Christians who sit down at table together and receive in gratitude what is prepared and served to us by our Lord, the Spirit.”

What becomes most clear is that “church is not what we do; it is what God does, although we participate in it.”

We do not ever see the church “whole and complete.” This letter to Ephesus gives us an understanding of what church looks like from the inside, “the hidden foundations and structural elements that provide grounding and form to the people, whoever they are, and the place, wherever it is.”

This letter is not an example of the “perfect church,” that we are supposed to imitate (and get frustrated when we can’t do it). “Rather, we read Ephesians as the revelation of all the operations of the Triune God that are foundational beneath what is visible among us and at work throughout each congregation. This is what makes us what we are, however imperfectly or neurotically we happen to be living it out.”

Father, give us more understanding of this thing called church, and how it supposed to work. Teach us your ways, that we may walk in your truth.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Grace and peace, friends.

“A Nonviolent Embrace of Life”

“What’s left is this: we look at what has been given to us in our Scriptures and in Jesus and try to understand why we have a church in the first place, what the church, as it is given to us, is. We are not a utopian community. We are not God’s avenging angels.”

Today is Thursday, June 22, 2017. Day 21,651.

“To be a book-collector is to combine the worst characteristics of a dope fiend with those of a miser.” ~ Robertson Davies, “The Table Talk of Samuel Marchbanks” Sadly, this is true. The feeling I get in the pit of my stomach when someone asks me to borrow one of my books . . .
The Quotations Page

The word of the day is apple-polish, a verb meaning, “to curry favor with someone, especially in an obsequious or flattering manner.”

It’s a tough call today, but I’m going with Onion Rings Day. The other choice was Chocolate Eclair Day. But it’s hard to beat some really good onion rings.

As a team, we didn’t do real great in bowling last night. At the risk of sounding boastful, I was the only one who hit average all three games, and I’m pretty sure that C was the only other team member who hit average at all. We were bowling with a team that was close to our ability level, except for one guy who had a 217 average. But two of their people bowled over average, last night, so they beat us all three games. The last game was closer, and that was the one C bowled her average in. But we had fun, anyway, and that’s why we’re there. I came very close to having the same score all three games. I bowled 168, 168, and 166, for a 502 series, averaging 167, which is six pins higher than my average.

The funeral for our sister in Christ will be Saturday afternoon at 1:30. The viewing is Friday evening, from 6-8. We have not yet decided if we will attend the viewing, but I think I would like to.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

(From The Divine Hours)

Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!
Psalm 106:1
With my whole heart I cry; answer me, O LORD! I will keep your statutes.
Psalm 119:145
To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul. 
O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me.
Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame; they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.

Psalm 25:1-3
For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.
Psalm 84:11
Jesus taught us, saying: Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

John 15:4-5
What shall I render to the LORD for all his benefits to me? 
I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD, 
I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people. 

Psalm 116:12-14
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.

(From Practice Resurrection)

I stopped in the middle of a section yesterday, as time was becoming an issue. I believe I finished with a quote: “The practice of resurrection is an intentional, deliberate decision to believe and participate in resurrection life, life out of death, life that trumps death, life that is the last word, Jesus life.”

The practice of resurrection includes a number of components. “The worship of God in all the operations of the Trinity; the acceptance of a resurrection, born-from-above identity (in baptism);the embrace of resurrection formation by eating and drinking Christ’s resurrection body and blood (at the Lord’s Table); attentive reading of and obedience to the revelation of God in the Scriptures; prayer that cultivates an intimacy with realities that are inaccessible to our senses; confession and forgiveness of sins; welcoming the stranger and outcast; working and speaking for peace and justice, healing and truth, sanctity and beauty; care for all the stuff of creation.” I’m sure that more could be added to the list, but there is a correlation in this list to what I have consistently referred to as the Spiritual Disciplines.

We are joined in this practice of resurrection by people from all walks of life and all countries of the world. Note, also, that this practice is not an attack against this world of death; “it is a nonviolent embrace of life in the country of death.”

We must also note that we are not very good at this. “It is easy to dismiss the church as ineffective and irrelevant.” May people do this, and the number is increasing. It is also easy to have a condescending attitude toward the church, as many of us appear to be “unimpressive nonentities.” We become disillusioned with the church because expectations are not met, albeit those expectations are set by this “country of death and by the lies of the devil.”

So how do we maintain this practice of resurrection in the midst of all of this dissilusionment and disappointment?

That’s what this “conversation” is about. It is a serious conversation, and the life and effectiveness of the church depend on it. “We’ve been at this for two thousand years, and people are not clamoring to join us.” People are not looking at our community and asking, “How do I get in?” And we are not making a lot of progress in getting rid of the evil in the world. “So what’s left?” asks Peterson.

“What’s left is this: we look at what has been given to us in our Scriptures and in Jesus and try to understand why we have a church in the first place, what the church, as it is given to us, is. We are not a utopian community. We are not God’s avenging angels.” And maybe we need to step back and look and realize that “maybe God knows what he is doing, giving us church, this church.”

Father, help us to realize what church is, what it’s supposed to be. Help us to learn from this “conversation,” from this book of Ephesians. May we walk in the steps of Jesus Christ and be obedient to his words as we walk in this “country of death.” Help us to realize and exhibit life, resurrection life.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Grace and peace, friends.