Helmet of Salvation

This week’s sermon explained how through the promised Holy Spirit, God allows the future to begin to break into the present.  This truth applies to more than just the helmet of salvation and the armor of God.  It also is essential in understanding what happens when we gather together on Sunday morning to worship the Lord.

Our ultimate future destiny is not just to have the God of peace crush Satan under our feet.  Our ultimate future destiny is to be gathered around the Lord Jesus Christ, worshipping him in the assembly of heaven.  Hebrews 12:18-24 and scenes from the book of Revelation describe this future assembly.  As a result, when we gather together in the name of Jesus now, we begin to bring this future assembly into the present.  When we do this, God is present with us – just as he will be in the assembly in heaven – and our identities as children of the King are strengthened.

This is another reason why participating in the gathered assembly is so important for Christians.  The Sunday morning worship service acts as a time travelling device.  In the midst of worshipping God, we are transported into that future assembly where Christ will be reigning over all things and people of every tribe, nation, and tongue will be gathered around him in worship.  We also leave behind our sins, struggles, failures and shortcomings and are transported to the place where we are conformed to the image of Christ.

This happens because God gives us his Holy Spirit.  Because the Holy Spirit stands outside of time, when he comes to reside within us, he gives us the ability to move outside of time as well.  It is the reason why Paul says we are crucified with Christ – the Holy Spirit transports us back to being on the cross with Christ.  It is the reason why we say that we are already ruling and reigning with Christ – because the Holy Spirit transports us forward where these promises are already a reality.

Mind blowing, isn’t it?

The Holy Spirit is the most amazing gift we could ever possibly imagine because he makes aspects of our future a present reality.

Blessings,

Jim

Childlike Faith

Real conversation in our home this week:

Kid:  Mom, I think we should pray about God giving us a [toy].

Mom:  That’s a great idea.

Kid:  Now we just have to figure out where to put it.

Isn’t that great faith?

It took all of my will power not to start a theological conversation about how sometimes God answers “no” or “not yet.”  Because I think sometimes I let my theology get in the way of faith.  Do I really pray believing God will hear my requests and answer?

Matthew 18:3 gives Jesus’ encouragement that “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children,  you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

I don’t know how God will answer, but I am going to pray with my child and wait expectantly to see what God does.

All is well,

Lisa

Photo from the inCourage website

Bonhoeffer and Diversity

Our guest preacher yesterday, Joel Lawrence, did his PhD on Bonhoeffer, a German theologian who was killed by the Nazis in a concentration camp just days before WWII ended.

In addition to great writings on community and discipleship, Bonhoeffer wrote about the church which was one of his major passions in light of the Nazi policies on the church in Germany.  Bonhoeffer wrote:

Bonhoeffer Statue at 20th Century Martyrs Memorial in Westminister Abbey, London

“What is at stake is by no means whether our German members of congregations can still tolerate church fellowship with the Jews. It is rather the task of Christian preaching to say: here is the church, where Jew and Gentile stand together under the Word of God, here is the proof whether a church is still the church or not.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, (German theologian and pastor, 1906 – 1945) “Church and the Jewish Question.”

What makes a church a church? Or what distinguishes a true church from a false one? The preaching of the Word, the right practice of communion and baptism, and the exercise of church discipline are often described as the distinguishing marks of a true church. But Bonhoeffer, who is drawing on Martin Luther, reminds us that there are other marks of the church as well, namely diversity.

Bonhoeffer wrote “Church and the Jewish Question” in response to the newly elected German Chancellor Adolf Hitler and his plan to remove baptized Jews who had converted to Christianity from German churches. Bonhoeffer rightly recognizes that part of what makes a church a church is a commitment to diversity. As he says, a group that strives for ethnic homogeneity has added law to the gospel and destroyed the church. Any group of people that does not openly welcome all ethnicities equally cannot claim to be a true church. Those who were urging churches in Nazi Germany to create separate churches for believing Jews were not preserving the church. They were destroying it.

This is what Paul meant when he said that there is no Jew nor Gentile, slave, nor free, male nor female for we are all one in Christ (Gal 3:27) and that in our diversity we were baptized together into one body (1 Cor. 12). This is why Jesus said the defining characteristic of the church is two or three people gathered together in his name (Matt. 18:20), with no other distinguishing feature except commitment to Christ. The first church-wide council in Christianity was convened to settle this question – are there to be separate churches for Jews and Gentiles or are we one church? The answer was that Jews and Gentiles are to worship God together.

Bonhoeffer’s response to German Christians who wanted to accommodate the State’s demand to segregate wasn’t popular. Today, while we recognize this face (in theory if not in practice), we must take Bonhoeffer’s recognition of diversity as a mark of the church and expand it in two ways.

First, Bonhoeffer’s argument regarding ethnicity also applies to almost every other category of diversity: gender, age, socio-economic background, education, music preferences, etc. The Bible not only talks about Jews and Gentiles (ethnic diversity), but also males and females (gender diversity), slaves and free (socio-economi diversity), meat eaters and vegetarians (diversity in disputable matters), those weak in the faith and those strong in the faith (spiritual maturity diversity), teachers, healers, and prophets (spiritual giftedness diversity). The areas of “diversity” that Bonhoeffer’s argument would not apply to are certain forms of theological diversity (i.e. heresy) and ethical diversity (i.e. sinful life choices).

The point is that segregation along any lines damages a group’s ability to be the church. In other words, if a group has anything else in common besides Christ, perhaps they are all lawyers, or college students, or white males, or upper middle class families, or prefer traditional hymns, this group is not a church in the truest sense of the word. (The exceptions to this biblical imperative seem to be language and location. In other words, a group that only speaks English and only lives in Grand Rapids is still a church).

I am not saying that a group that segregates on the basis of contemporary and traditional music can be compared to a church in Nazi Germany that expels Jewish Christians in the degree of their importance, but the theology is the same – for a church to be a church it must embrace diversity. It takes an extreme example like Bonhoeffer’s situation to make us see this point in the mundane things of life like music and dress code.

Second, we must extend Bonhoeffer’s point to realize that a church does not simply tolerate diversity, it must embrace diversity. The early apostles said when discussing Gentile Christians, “we must not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God” (Acts 15:19). This means that a church cannot simply say, “This is who we are — take it or leave it.” A church must embrace diversity, which means making it as easy as possible for the diversity of people who come into our church to participate fully in the life of the community.

As our diversity continues to grow at Calvary, I hope that we will continue to see it as the beautiful design of God’s church and welcome all those who profess faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

Jim

Camp

We’ve just finished up several great weeks of camp ministry.  Our family was privileged to spend one week at Camp of the Woods in upstate New York.  This was the gorgeous view from our room one morning:

We truly enjoyed spending time with our friends and mentors, Jim and Phyllis Ann Rose from Texas.  Jim Rose and Jim split the teaching during the week on the topic of “David and His Son, Jesus.”

In addition, we met Christians from the East Coast where the camp draws most of its campers.  We were so encouraged by their faith and desire to reach their communities for Christ.  It was a blessing to get to know them.

Then we went to Gull Lake Family Camp in Michigan.  It was a fantastic week with several families from Calvary.  We spent time hearing from God’s word, doing fun outdoor activities, eating great food, enjoying fun theme nights, and building community.  Families were able to spend lots of time together, but the kids also had time at least once a day with some amazing college age counselors, which meant the adults enjoyed some “grown up time” too.

Here are some picture highlights:

 

Wouldn’t you love to join us next year!!  We are hoping to take 20 Calvary families to camp again next year, August 10-16.  We’ll provide more information on the blog and in the bulletin in the next few weeks, but if you are interested, pray and consider joining us at Family Camp!  If you want more information, you can check out the Gull Lake Ministries website for more information.

All is well,

Lisa

Prayer Quote

When a Christian shuns fellowship with other Christians, the devil smiles. When he stops studying the Bible, the devil laughs. When he stops praying, the devil shouts for joy.

–Corrie ten Boom (April 15, 1892 – April 15, 1983)

Corrie ten Boom was a Dutch Christian whose family helped many Jews escape the Nazi Holocaust during World War II.  They were eventually betrayed and Corrie spent time in the Ravensbruck concentration camp along with her sister who died in the camp.  Corrie’s amazing story is told in her autobiography, The Hiding Place.

The Screwtape Letters

I was reminded at dinner tonight with some friends of this part of The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis.  The Screwtape Letters is the imaginary correspondence of a senior demon named Screwtape and his nephew, the inexperienced young tempter Wormword.  In the book, Screwtape is trying to help Wormword keep his “patient” — a new Christian — from progressing in his spiritual life as part of the demonic attempt to defeat the “Enemy” or God.

In “Letter 16”, Screwtape is concerned that the “patient” is faithful to attend the same church of his conversion, or to use an analogy from Sunday morning, the same “herd.”

MY DEAR WORMWOOD,

You mentioned casually in your last letter that the patient has continued to attend one church, and one only, since he was converted, and that he is not wholly pleased with it. May I ask what you are about? Why have I no report on the causes of his fidelity to the parish church? Do you realize that unless it is due to indifference it is a very bad thing?

Some of Screwtape’s reasons for encouraging church hopping include:

Surely you know that if a man can’t be cured of churchgoing, the next best thing is to send him all over the neighborhood looking for the church that “suits” him until he becomes a taster or connoisseur of churches.

The reasons are obvious. In the first place the parochial organization should always be attacked, because, being a unity of place and not of likings, it brings people of different classes and psychology together in the kind of unity the Enemy desires.

In the second place, the search for a “suitable” church makes the man a critic where the Enemy wants him to be a pupil.

Screwtape’s encouragement to Wormwood is:

So pray bestir yourself and send this fool the round of the neighboring churches as soon as possible.

All is well,

Lisa