Discerning the Body

pexel churchWhen we partake in communion at The River, I typically quote these words from I Corinthians 11: 23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.  (I Corinthians 11:23-26)

Just about every time we partake in communion at The River I use those verses before we partake of the bread and the cup.  But rarely do we ever look at those verses in context.  When we examine the context of the passage as a whole we find that Paul is confronting the church in Corinth about a problem with the way that they come together for communion.  In the early church coming together for communion involved a whole meal called the Agape or Love Meal.  This was probably somewhat similar to what we do with potlucks today.  The problem with the Corinthian church was that when they came together it seems like the food was being divided unequally with the rich getting plenty to eat and drink while the poor were going away hungry.  This implies that the rich were so focused on themselves that they were missing the needs of others in the church.

Considering this overall context there is a phrase that we find a couple of verses later that I believe is often overlooked and yet very important.  A friend of mine, Dr. David Fitch, first pointed this phrase out to me in a lecture at a pastor’s conference.  We find the phrase in verse 29: For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.  (I Cor. 11:29, ESV)

The phrase is “discerning the body.”  Now that is a bit of a strange statement.  I think typically we tend to just lump this verse in with the two verses before it which talk about examining ourselves and not eating and drinking in an unworthy manner.  Those verses are important, but think about the context of this passage as a whole.  Paul is spending a lot of his time dealing specifically with the issue of the way that when they got together some were getting fed and some were going hungry.    And in the midst of that, we find this verse.

It is also important to note that in the both the chapter before this and the chapter following this one Paul talks about how the church is a body.  We are the body of Christ.   God has brought us together and made us a church family.  We have a role to play in one another’s lives, to encourage one another, challenge one another, carry one another’s burdens, hold one another accountable, disciple one another, and also to just make sure that we are all doing okay.

I believe that in this passage Paul is talking about how important it is for us to discern the church.  Do we know how each other is doing right now?  Are we so focused on ourselves that we are missing the needs of those around us?  Do we know the specific needs that others might have?  Do we care about those needs?  And if people are hurting or needing help, are we doing our best to come alongside one another and help out in whatever ways we can?  We may not have the resources to meet every need, but maybe we can do something.  That is what it means to be a body.  That is what it looks like to be the family God has called us to be.  That is what it means to “be the church.”  #bethechurch

 

Response to Waiting for Eagle’s Wings Post

pexel eagle1After the worship service last Sunday when I preached from Isaiah 40 on Waiting for Eagle’s Wings (see earlier post), I was approached by a woman from our congregation.  She told me that she had written a song that fit incredibly well with what I had preached that morning.  She then sang that song for me.  I was amazed at how well it expressed what I had been talking about in the sermon.  It says in I Corinthians 14:26, “What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.”  (ESV).  I believe this is something that she had to share with us, so I have asked her permission to post this song on our website.  Here is her song:

 

Lord I Need You

Rebecca Heerdt

 

Lord I need you,

I’m broken and worn down.

The battle is so hard Lord,

Can’t do it on my own.

 

Here I stand,

Worn and weak,

Waiting on You, Lord,

Your strength I need.

 

To run and not grow weary,

To walk and not faint.

To rise up with wings like an eagle.

Lord renew me again.

 

Here I stand,

Quiet and still.

Waiting on You, Lord.

I seek Your will.

 

Here I stand,

Waiting for You,

Here I stand,

I’m waiting on You.

 

Thanks for sharing that Rebecca!

Waiting for Eagle’s Wings

pexel eagle2One of my favorite passages in the Bible is Isaiah 40:27-31: 27 Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God”? 28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. 29 He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. 30 Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; 31 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;  they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

I believe that we all wrestle with the kinds of questions we see in verse 27.  We all have times in our lives where we wonder if God sees what we are going through or if he does see us we wonder why he isn’t stepping in to fix things.

Verse 28 reminds us that God is the Creator and that he is all-powerful and all-knowing.  We know that to be true, but in the midst of tough times in our lives it is hard to not have questions about why God does not seem to be saving us from the trouble we are facing.

Verses 29-30 go on to remind us that God is in the business of giving strength to the weary and that it is normal for us to be weary at times.  We are all going to face times where our strength is waning physically, spiritually and emotionally.

And all of that leads us to verse 31, which is an often used verse that gives us the image of God swooping in like an eagle to carry us away from the trouble we are facing.  At least that is what I used to think it was talking about.  However, after closer examination it seems like the point of this passage is not God saving me from the tough things in life, but rather renewing my strength and helping me to grow in the midst of my struggles.

Notice that verse 31 does not say that we will be carried away on eagle’s wings, but rather that we will mount up with wings like eagles.  It seems to indicate more along the lines of the wings being developed in us.  That also fits with the focus on the Lord renewing our strength so that we can continue to walk and to run even though we are weary.

I think one of the most important words in this passage is the word “Wait.”  I believe that waiting implies an expectation that someone is going to show up.  Like when I am waiting for a friend, I am waiting because I am expecting that friend to show up.  If I didn’t expect him to show up, I would not be waiting for him.  Waiting on the Lord implies that we are expecting him to show up.  But I think often in the midst of my troubles I don’t really have the expectation that God is going to show up.  Or if I do expect him to show up my expectation is that he is going to deliver me from the tough stuff that I am going through.  But that is not what I see in these verses.

This passage is saying that in the midst of tough times I should wait in expectation for the Lord to show up and renew my strength and to help me continue to walk through what I am facing and in the midst of it even to grow in such a way that I will be better able to handle all that I am going to face in this life.

Count It All Joy…in Everything?

pexel joy
This past Sunday, Justin and Nicole Konotopka, challenged us to wrestle with what we read in James 1:2-4,
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
They shared their testimony of the trials and tribulations they have faced this past year and how they are seeing God’s faithfulness through it all as well as discerning his work in their lives as he is making them more mature.  They talked about how even in the midst of the ways their lives have been turned upside down, they are still holding on to God.
After they shared, we had an opportunity to talk as a church about how God has provided us with one another to come alongside each other in times like this.  We can pray for one another and encourage one another and bless one another in times of trials and tribulation.  We don’t need to walk through these times alone.
Our challenge is to continue to grow in what it means to “be the church.”

Neither Hot Nor Cold – Sermon Notes

pexel lukewarmIn Revelation 3:15-16, we find some strong words from Jesus Christ to the church in Laodicea,

‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” – Rev 15-16

The fact that this is a letter to the church in Laodicea suggests that this is for followers of Christ. But it seems that at some point they have lost the passion they once had for Christ and have become complacent and apathetic in their faith.

The other problem is that they apparently don’t even realize that there is anything wrong.

For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” – Rev 17

This seems to be describing people who thought they were spiritual millionaires, but who were actually living in spiritual poverty. It is a warning or a wake-up call for people who didn’t even realize that they needed to be woken up. For whatever reason at some point their passion for Christ was gone and they had become lukewarm even though they thought they were doing just fine.

And then Christ gives them some counsel about what to do in verses 18-19:

“I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.   19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.” – Rev 18

They need to recognize that Christ is everything for them. Only he can wash them clean and clothe them in righteousness. Only he can open their eyes that they can see. And what he gives, he gives for free. They don’t earn it, or deserve it. They need to remember the treasure that is Christ and how much they need him.

And then we arrive at a very well-known verse:

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” – Rev. 20

This verse points out the relational aspect of Christianity. It speaks of fellowship with the Lord. He is not a travelling salesman who knocks on our door to sell us something and then goes on his way, but rather one who comes in and establishes residence with us. Christianity is a relationship with Christ.

This is a wonderful passage. But it should cause us to pause and consider ourselves. This is a wakeup call for the church in Laodicea. Let’s ask ourselves a few questions:

  • Is this a wakeup call for us?
  • If we were to get a letter written to us, from Christ, what might it say?
  • Do we find ourselves reflected in this rebuke?
  • Have we grown complacent in our relationship with Christ?
  • Are we lukewarm? And if so, what are we going to do about it?

Unity

My wife and I have been married for almost 17 years now and we are very different.  Before we were married we took a personality survey to see where the strengths and weaknesses might be in our marriage.  The person who was working with us actually asked if we were sure that we wanted to get married.  Our results were about as opposite as they could be.  We have laughed about that many times over the years.  Our differences sometimes make life difficult, but after 17 years I can honestly say that we are better together than we would be apart.  And I know my wife would say the same thing.

The key is that because we have chosen to love each other, even in the midst of our differences we come together in unity.  Of course, that doesn’t always happen the way it should, but overall it does.  And so instead of being a weakness, our differences actually have become a strength in our marriage.

Love and unity are connected.  It is only when we choose to love one another that we can really experience unity.  And that is what we will be talking about this week at The River.  We will be looking at Jesus’ prayer for His Church from John 17:20-26.  Come on out this Sunday and join us.

Have You Been Hurt by Church?

Spending time working out of the local Dunn Bros. coffee shop gives me a different perspective on the church than I would have if I spent most of my time working out of a church office.  It allows me the opportunity to hear, firsthand, what unchurched people think about the church.  Unfortunately, the picture is often not very flattering.

I have had way too many conversations with people who are disillusioned with the church.  They have previously been hurt in the church or have found church people to be judgmental, hypocritical, and unloving.  Others have expressed their concerns over the fractured picture they get of the church.  It seems to them like we can’t even get along with each other, and so if we can’t get our own act together how are we supposed to help anyone else?  Good question.

Now I know that just because we follow Christ does not mean that we are perfect, but this is an area where we need to do better.  Jesus reminds us in John 14 that the world will know we are His followers by the way that we love one another.  If that is the measuring stick, then the conversations I have been hearing are not a good sign.  We need to work on this.  And at The River this Sunday, this passage from John 14 will be our focus.  It is called “Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial,” but I think it is really more about loving one another.  Check it out at John 14:31-38 or come on out to The River this Sunday to find out more.

Are You Too Busy To Read This Blog?

Life is busy isn’t it?  We all have so many different responsibilities and different things that are vying for our attention.  We find ourselves often running from one thing to the next.  But while life is busy, ultimately we really all have time for things that we consider to be important.

For instance, if we place a high value on physical fitness, then we are going to find the time to exercise.  It may mean that something else has to go, but we will find the time to run, or bike, or swim or whatever else we do. Each of us make choices every day about what to spend our time doing.

This blog is even an example.  For some reason you chose to take the time to read this blog.  You didn’t need to do it.  Maybe right now you are wishing you didn’t.  Anyway, it was a choice, and at least to some extent you put reading this blog as a priority over other things you could have done with this time.

In the same way, I make the choice to put a priority on writing this blog.  Unfortunately the blog has not made it to the top of the priority list the last couple of weeks.  Things have been a little extra busy around here.  But regardless of how busy I feel, basically it means that I put a higher priority on the other things I had to do over the last couple of weeks, and this blog was a casualty of those choices.

Anyway, that leads me to my point.  We all have the time for the things we choose to put a priority on.  And the question is, are we making the right choices?  Are we putting the right priorities on the right things?  This Sunday, I will be talking about putting a priority on our relationship with God.  Of course, in order to hear the sermon, you are going to have to put a priority on coming to The River, 9:30 Sunday morning at 2510 Chaska Blvd.  Hope to see you there!

Neighbor

Yesterday in church I talked about loving your neighbor.  The sermon was from Matthew 22:34-40, where Jesus answers the question, “which is the greates commandment?”  To hear the sermon you can go to “pages” above and use the link for “online sermons.”  I wrapped things up this week with a very specific, almost homework-like challenge for us to love our neighbors this week.  We are to do that by praying for them throughout the week and then doing some act of kindness for them on the weekend.  This coming Sunday we will follow things up to see how it went. 

I am excited to hear the stories when we get back together next Sunday.  This is something that God has commanded us to do, so we know it is His will.  And when we are operating in His will, watch out, because He does some pretty incredible things. 

So maybe you were in church on Sunday and heard the challenge, or maybe you are just hearing about this for the first time right now.  Either way, let me challenge you to choose to tangibly love your neighbor in some way this week.  And in order to help, here are a few suggestions…

  • Mow their lawn
  • Rake their leaves
  • Take over a pan of brownies
  • Order a pizza over the phone and have it sent to their home instead of yours
  • Make a nice homemade card just to let them know you were thinking of them
  • Pick up the trash on your street
  • Help them with a project they are working on
  • Wash their car
  • Deliver the newspaper to the front step
  • Invite them over for dinner

If you have any other ideas, please feel free to post them.

State Fair

I went to my first Minnesota State Fair this past Saturday.  Actually, it was my first state fair from any state.  I have lived in 5 different states, and 8 different cities, and this is my first time to ever attend a state fair.  And I guess I picked the right one to go to for my first experience.  The Minnesota State Fair is the 2nd largest in the country.  And if the information booth attendants that I talked to are correct, then it is only a matter of time before we move to the top of the list.  Of course, they may be a little biased. 

Last year the Fair set a record with about 1.8 million people in attendance.  The daily attendance averages around the 150-200,000 range.  I find that staggering.  I also find it incredible that the fair has been around for 150 years.  A lady I know has gone to the fair every year of her 47 year old life.  My wife’s parents had their first date at the Minnesota State Fair.  And we have relatives that travel up each year from Chicago just to come to the fair for the weekend.  I guess it is kind of a big deal!

Anyway, I thought I would share with you a little bit of my thoughts on the fair itself.  We arrived at the fairgrounds at about 8:15 a.m.  Which is a great time to go by the way.  The crowd was very thin at that time and the temperature was perfect with a nice breeze to keep us cool.  This made it much more enjoyable to leisurely stroll through the grounds and enjoy the sites and sounds.  By the time we left at 2 p.m. we were encased in a sea of people and the sun and humidity combined to make the stroll much less enjoyable. 

So if you can handle the crowd, there is a lot to enjoy at the fair including: Minnesota’s largest pig, a wall filled with beautiful artwork done completely in seeds, a great international bazzaar with several unique booths, parades, star-studded shows, machinery hill, crazy contests, magic, music, education, agriculture, animals, rides, games, and of course more food than you could possibly ever eat.

And speaking of food, after seeing miles of booths, hanging out with more animals than were on the ark (okay maybe not quite that many), and wading through some of the biggest crowds I have ever seen; the thing that stuck out to me more than anything else was all the different foods you can put on a stick. 

If you go to the Minnesota State Fair website you can use the foodfinder to scroll through the information on all 316 food vendors that have booths at the fair.  When you do, you will find typical iconic fair foods like the corn dog, walking tacos,  gyros, footlong hot dogs, and mini-donuts.  You will also find unique and interesting gastronomic delights such as beignets, spamburgers, sticky bun burritos, texas tator dogs, and the pot roast sundae which is a scoop of mashed potatoes, roast beef, gravy, corn, and a cherry tomato.  But the most mind-numbing fad at the fair is the way that each vendor is trying to outdo everyone else in what flavors they can manage to fit on a stick.  This year’s offerings include: chocolate watermelon, macaroni n’ cheese, deep fried tator tots, cajun seasonsed alligator sausage, big fat bacon, ostrich, deep fried candy bars, pork cheeks, salmon, lobster, porcupine meatballs, sliced ice cream on-a-stick dipped in chocolate and rolled in nuts, stuffed grape leaves, camel, deep fried bologna, hot dish (that’s right hot dish on a stick), deep fried smores, spaghetti and meatballs, dill pickles, mashed potatoes, and of course, Fudge Puppies (a Belgium waffle on-a-stick dipped in chocolate and topped with choices of whipped topping, crunch coating or strawberries). 

As far as the eye can see at the fair there are people walking around eating food on a stick.   Now, I understand the concept behind this fad.  It makes sense that you want to give people food that is mobile so that they can buy it and eat it while they walk.  But if that is true, can you explain to me why we need things like pizza, olives, and dill pickles to be on a stick?  Aren’t those foods already falling into the walking around category before you attempt to put them on a stick?  And while we are on the subject, does anyone really need a deep-fried candybar?  And how in the world do you put spaghetti and meatballs, or mashed potatoes on a stick?  And why do we need to?

I know it is all for fun and when you go to the fair, the outrageous and the extravagant foods are part of the attraction, but we also need to learn restraint.  One of the problems we face as a society is that we do things just because we can.  We struggle with restraint.  I will be talking this Sunday about the fruit of the Spirit.  Paul tells us in Galatians 5 that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.  Self-control isn’t easy, but God wants us to be able to exercise restraint.  We need to know when to say “when.”

So enjoy the fair, have fun, but also let the extravagance of the fair remind you of this lesson.  We don’t just do things just because we can.  At some point we need to learn to say, “when.”

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