With February now half over, I’m beginning to think about how I’ll need to to get outside and prune my trees. There are many branches on a tree, and they will either grow up or out, depending on how I prune them. Each of those branches, however, is the tree. The tree is all the branches, all the roots, and all the leaves together. It is a multi-faceted life form. And I can form how it will grow and mature.
The church is like that, as well. There are many parts in the Lord’s church. As Paul says, there are noble and in-noble parts in the body. Some bring Christ honor, and others dishonor. But all the parts together make up the body of Christ. We’re in this together.
“so in Christ we who are many form one body” (Romans 12:5). Let’s learn to work together.
Community is about how we connect with one another. The first community I belonged to was my family. Then it was my Kindergarten Class. Then I belonged to a Boy Scout Troop. In between I belonged to neighborhood ad hoc groups, like playing baseball, recruited by the “One potato, two potato” method. I also belonged to a Little League team and the flutaphone band. Each of these community groups gave me a sense of belonging.
When I got into High School I belonged to the Eastside Blazers, and when I went into Basic Training I belonged to B-6-2, and was identified as a serial number. Today I belong to New Hope Christian Center. It is a part of everyone’s human nature to want to belong in a community. Belonging signifies that I am connected and that I am taking ownership.
Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34).
A command is mandatory, not a suggestion. We all need to find a small group we can belong in, and practice loving one another. Its a mandate.
There are three major hospitals in Fort Wayne: Lutheran Hospital (which obviously had its origins from The Lutheran Church), St. Joseph’s Hospital (still Catholic), and Parkview Regional Hospital (which was originally the Fort Wayne Methodist Hospital). Where is the Atheist Hospital or Islamic Hospital? Answer: there are none.
Christianity has at its very core a care for the hurting. During the dark ages the only people with enough courage to care for the dying during the plagues were the nuns and monks of the Catholic Church. During the American Revolution churches of all denominations open their doors to care for the wounded, American and British alike. When that huge tsunami destroyed homes and thousands of lives in Indonesia, it wasn’t the Islamic world that came to the rescue with food and resources, it was Christian agencies that organized the efforts.
When we put non-Christian minded people in charge of health care, it ceases to become care and becomes a big business. Where your heart is, that’s where your works are.
Let me challenge everyone who is reading this to understand that you represent Jesus Christ. We should each be looking at ways to alleviate pain in the world around us. Look for someone today who is hurting, and offer a little compassion. The government can’t do that. Businesses can’t do that. You can do that! You should be the Lord’s hospital.
Some years ago I was called up for jury duty. Being a good citizen, I responded to my civic duty and cleared my schedule and showed up at the courthouse. This was a drunken driver case. As I was seated in the jurist’s section, each attorney asked questions of each of us. They both wanted a jury of twelve people who would not be prejudiced in the case. So, there were many questions about our views regarding drinking alcohol. And they each had a jurist’s list in front of them that included the list of occupations. When the defense attorney got to me, he said, “Now Rev. Diehl, I know that you’re a religious man.” I wanted to say, “No, I’m not religious, I’m Christian,” but I kept my mouth shut.
He asked me how I felt about the individual having the freedom to drink alcohol. I could see he was attempting to catch me in my words, so I carefully responded, “I think an adult has the freedom to make that choice on his own. I can’t, but he can.”
That little “I can’t” was all it took. They booted me off the jury. And that was probably a good thing because as I watched the cocky demeanor of the accused, I think I had already found him guilty in my heart.
“Do you not know that you will judge angels? How much more the things of this life” (1 Corinthians 6:3). Judging is pretty serious business.
Last week we had our family over for a birthday party for Adam. I was sitting in my recliner enjoying watching the grandkids play. We have this rubber ball about 16″ diameter that the younger kids like to play with. Our 4.5 year old granddaughter, Ruby, was playing with it. She set it on the living room floor and turned her back to it, preparing to plop her backside down onto it. Just as she did, the ball slowly rolled away to the side. Down she went, expecting a little resistance. I laughed and laughed. After she got over the shock of hitting the floor hard, she laughed, too.
There was a time in my life when I was counting on things in the world to support me like Ruby was counting on that rubber ball. Then, I found out those things were like shifting sand, and didn’t hold me up like I thought. People let me down. Things broke. Promises weren’t kept. Others saw things differently than I. Accidents happen. And they caused me to fall like Ruby fell.
Sometimes children teach us the darnedest things. Jesus said, “But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash” (Matthew 7:26-27). Build your house on the rock.
God is a God of diversity, yet He has a central purpose for all the divine diversity that is sometimes confusing. For example, Paul said, “It was He [Jesus] who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service” (Ephesians 4:11-12a). Yet, in the American church we tend to lump them all together under the title ‘Pastor’. Some prophets and evangelists would split churches because they don’t have a shepherd’s heart. We need to value each of these gifts, however.
But don’t miss the real purpose of this statement: “…to prepare God’s people for works of service“. The gift isn’t about the leader. The gift is about God’s people. God doesn’t just place His Holy Spirit inside the leader (like Moses), but inside each believer. This 5-fold ministry has the purpose of preparing the individual believers so he/she can do works of service.
The modern day church has become powerless because the people in the pew want the “man of God” to do ministry for them. And many “men of God” want to be the ‘hot shot’ miracle worker so they can get their ego boosted. According to this verse, the “man of God” is to be training and releasing God’s people to do ministry. Let’s each put ourselves in the place where we can be trained and trusted to do the work of ministry.
Eva Coleman has entered her eternal rest with God. She was one of the most dynamic personalities I have ever known. She was always deeply involved in the life of the church, investing in countless young women and children. She was dedicated to hospitality, serving at funeral dinners, and opening her home to church visitors. She was a part of many women’s ministries such as Women’s Aglow, Gideon’s Auxiliary, and a volunteer at DeKalb Pregnancy Center. The State of Indiana recognized her as Indiana Young Mother of the Year in the 1970s.
I will remember that she was a determined attender at all church services right up until the time her family had to say no. She was a determined woman who did not want to give up her home, her car, her church family, or her independence. And, at 94, she did not want to give up her life. So, God just put her to sleep. Wow! What a life to live.
And, I will most remember how she embraced me as a young hippie with a strange desire for God. Rather than trying to protect her daughter from a weirdo, she made me welcomed and encouraged me, often thanking me for loving her daughter. What will you remember about Eva?