Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Harmony in the Church

In 1 Corinthians 1:10-17, Paul describes four factions within the church at Corinth.  He sees that the church is fracturing over non-gospel issues. He urges them to agree, to be united in the same mind and the same judgment. David Prior points out that Paul was keen
...on harmony - not unison. He believed that it was not merely possible for Christians of many different kinds to live together in harmony, but that this was their calling from God. Such mutual recognition, giving each person the freedom to express his convictions and insights, would lead to a restoration of true unity... (source)
 This group of believers had come together in a largely immoral city. There was enough opposition to Christianity outside of the church; they certainly didn't need to be fighting against each other. Yet they found themselves divided into cliques.

The "Paul" Followers. Perhaps they were devoted to Paul because he planted the church and he was the first one to lead them in the gospel. It's easy to develop an allegiance to a particular preacher or teacher, but doing so can be harmful to the church. Leaders leave, as Paul had left Corinth. Instead of moving forward under the new leadership God had provided, some of the believers were staunchly loyal to Paul. He reminds them that he is not the one who was crucified for them, nor were they baptized in his name. Their allegiance belongs to Christ alone. Only loyalty to Christ will bring unity.

The "Apollos" Followers. Apollos was a gifted, eloquent speaker. He knew how to draw people in. Many in Corinth welcomed Apollos after Paul's departure, but some had become too enamored with him because of his personality. Paul tells the church that they should not compare him to Apollos. Although God did not enable him to preach with words of eloquent wisdom, God nevertheless called Paul to preach the gospel. Style is not greater than substance.

The "Cephas (Peter)" Followers. As a Jew, Peter was a strict rule follower. He and Paul argued over adherence to Jewish law (see Galatians 2). Those who followed Peter may have been more consumed with following the rules. As Prior states, we have a natural desire to have clear guide-lines for faith and behavior, rather than to walk the tightrope of obedience to the Spirit between the two extremes of licence and legalism...we need constantly to be vigilant against any reduction of what it is to be Christian to a series of rules or prohibitions.

The "Christ" Followers. We may be tempted to believe that these believers had it right, but did they? This group -  having seen that the others were close to worshiping Paul, Apollos, and Peter - had most likely turned their back on human leadership altogether. Instead, they vowed that they would follow Jesus alone, and do only what he told them. This approach fails to acknowledge that God puts leaders in place over us, and we cannot truly follow Him without submitting to them. Furthermore, we cannot isolate ourselves from the Body of Christ and trust that we are able to discern the Holy Spirit's work on our own.

Differences are going to occur in every church, but through Christ the parties in disagreement can be united in the same mind and the same judgment. My pastor offers wise counsel to follow in these situations:

1. Ask, Is this heresy? If so, seek out the church leadership.

2. If the issue isn't one of heresy, the parties need to clearly communicate with each other. This might require a third party to mediate and make sure that each party understands what the other is truly saying.

3. Mutually submit to one another in Christian love and respect.

These three steps will prevent fractures in the church and promote unity among its members.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

I was at Out of the Ordinary this week, so my blogging time doesn't allow for much of a post. Here's  a quote from the commentary I'm reading on 1 Corinthians.

Whenever Christians give their allegiance to any human personality, such as a gifted preacher or pastor, they have taken their eyes off Jesus Christ and there will inevitably be disunity.
- David Prior

More to come on this next week...

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Two versus Too

Last week I wrote about my need to declutter physical stuff. As I've been doing that, I've come up with the Rule of Two.

First of all, the Rule of Two implies that I have no more than two of anything. Of course there are obvious exceptions such as clothing, books, shoes, etc. And while I need more than two dinner plates, do I really need more than two Christmas platters? Yes I need more than two coffee mugs, but what about two water pitchers? Asking myself these questions has given me the freedom to let some things go, and enough cabinet space to clean off the kitchen counters.

Sometimes two is the perfect number. Sets of sheets, for example. Usually laundered sheets go back on the beds, but there are days when it's so much easier to make a bed with the second set and do the laundry later. My need for the occasional convenience outweighs the need for the storage space occupied by the extra sets.

Sometimes two is too many. Why have two small baskets on a counter, holding a few things, when one larger one will hold everything? Moving one to clean is easier and takes less time. And it looks less cluttered.

There are times when two cuts the work in half, and then there are times when two means twice as much work.  Part of the decluttering process for me is making the determination if something is two or too.  There is no formula. This principle looks different in every home.

I will never be a minimalist, but I do appreciate these words from Joshua Becker, “Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it.”

I'm done being overwhelmed and distracted by the stuff of life. I want everything in my home to have value. Having two sets of everyday dishes makes no sense for my small family, but my extra set of china does.  While it may seem excessive, seeing my mother's set alongside my own is priceless to me. 

Two, rather than too.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Convicted

Today I'm at Out of the Ordinary sharing about the most convicting and challenging words I read this summer.  Join me, won't you?

Thursday, September 17, 2015

He is Faithful Indeed

...so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 
-1 Corinthians 1:7-9 (ESV) 

"God's faithfulness extends to that day, and beyond it into the fullness of eternity. He will keep his people guiltless in that day: i.e. when the secrets of men's hearts are disclosed and we might have had legitimate fear of being finally found guilty before him. God will ensure that absolutely no charge or accusation is laid against his people, whether by human beings or by Satan, the great 'accuser of the brethren' (Rev. 12:10)."
- David Prior (source)
Guiltless. As a believer in Christ, I have no reason to fear the Day of Judgment. Any time I'm tempted by Satan to start quaking in my boots at the thought, I must remind myself that I will be found guiltless on that day. Not because of anything I've done, but rather because Jesus will sustain me to the end.

God is faithful, but as His chosen one I have a responsibility as well. Prior sums it up,
"If we have been called to share in Jesus, let us abide in him - the only way of gradually becoming like him. When we have become like him through the grace of God continuously at work in us, it will be impossible for any guilt, or even cause for guilt, to exist."
 Yes, God is faithful to work in me. By his grace alone, I can abide in Christ and be guiltless. Proverbs 3:3 is an exhortation to this abiding: Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. 

The more I read the Word, the more I pray, the more I fellowship with other believers- the more I abide - the more I know of his steadfast love and faithfulness. They become part of me, and I become more like him. Then, on that day, I will fall on my face - not in fear, but in thankfulness and praise.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

A Plan

Last time I mentioned that I had an inkling of what this space will be. I've been giving it quite a bit of thought - much more than I've given this blog in quite some time. I do have a plan, one that I hope will inspire me to write and create this spot of peace and rest.

The changes here are being wrought from changes at home. I've been overwhelmed for far too long. I need space to stretch out, to breathe - spiritually, physically, and emotionally. I'm learning once again to simplify.

Spiritually. I've been back and forth about Bible reading plans. Every time I try to start one, I fail. Yes, I believe that reading the Bible in its entirety is important, but putting a time frame on it is overwhelming to me because I also like deep study. However, deep study itself can also be overwhelming. There have been times I've spent a week studying 2 verses. I need to simplify. I'm blessed to have a pastor who preaches expositionally (which means we just spent 18 months in Exodus!), so I'm devoting my daily study time to the passage we read the week before. Right now it's 1 Corinthians and I'm using The Message of 1 Corinthians written by David Prior to supplement my study. Spending one week on a single passage is the perfect balance for me; it's a steady pace that allows me time to deeply consider life application.

Our Sunday School class just started James. Each Sunday afternoon I will be reading James (Reformed Expository Commentary) by Daniel Doriani as a companion to the class. Although I might want to study this book more thoroughly, trying to do so while studying 1 Corinthians would only be setting myself up for failure. Since James is not a long book, I hope to read it completely each week in one sitting.

I also began reading a Proverbs a day this month. I plan to repeat this every month. The Proverbs are such good reminders of my own foolishness, pride and sin! I'm praying that this more streamlined approach to my Bible reading/study will help me to grow in my knowledge and love of the Lord.

Physically. Once again, I find myself surrounded by too much stuff. I've been cleaning out for the past month, and there's still much more to do. The more I purge, the more I want to purge. Why have 5 things on a surface when 1 or 2 will suffice? I've discovered that having no appliances on my countertops makes my kitchen feel bigger, fewer knick-knacks cut down on my cleaning time, and less visual clutter calms my spirit.

Emotionally. I work outside of our home, but I have Friday afternoons off. For years I've used that time to schedule appointments, buy groceries, and run errands. Circumstances in recent weeks have caused me to buy groceries on Saturdays instead, and I still had time for the Saturday chores. So I started giving myself a break on Friday afternoons. If I don't have any appointments, I come home to spend a few hours alone - blogging, reading, and maybe even getting a jump start on Saturday chores. Knowing I'll have this time at the end of the week gives me something to look forward to, and works much better for me logistically.

Giving myself a designated time to blog is important, as is having a clear purpose. I hope to have two posts each week - one about what I'm learning in my studying and reading, and another about what I'm learning in my home. Thanks, friends, for joining me as I continue to pursue the quiet life.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

A Shift

Turning the calendar to September makes me happy. I know that Autumn is near. I long for its crisp mornings, cool evenings, and bright colors. My heart sings with the rhythm of routine. This year I'm slowly untangling from burdens that have been weighing heavy for far too long. I'm feeling hopeful, renewed. I may have even stumbled upon my desire to write.

Interesting, that. The more I shift my focus away from social media - its harangues, frenetic pace, and mind-numbing silliness - the more picking up my figurative pen and returning to this space appeals to me. I'm tired of issues and rants, being told what to care about and to whom I should listen (usually, to whom I should not listen). Even in Christian circles, there's vitriol and venom that poisons whatever it touches.  It's enough to make me want to crawl inside a Wendell Berry novel and hide deep in the luxuriousness of his words. Better still, it has propelled me to the Word. There I contemplate wisdom and folly, the grace of God, and the quiet life.

Always the quiet life.

I believe I've finally come to realize that quiet isn't just a quantifier of volume. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, quiet can also be defined as carried out discreetly...or with moderation. Providentially, I discovered this definition on the same day I underlined Proverbs 2:11 in my Bible ...discretion will watch over you. Discretion seems to be a lost art-form in this age, but I aspire to it.

In my home...to quietly serve and guard my family in practical, loving ways.

In my relationships...to keep what is private, private.

In my words...to build up and not tear down.

In my living...to avoid the temptations to draw attention to myself, believe my opinion must be heard, and follow the crowd.

I haven't yet worked out what these changes will look like here, but I have some inklings. More than anything, I want this place to be one of peace and rest, a respite for anyone who visits and for myself as well. And even more than that, I want it to be a place where Christ is exalted and we partake of His grace together.

Until next time...