I thought I’d close out the month with a song which has become my prayer for the church. It was one we used quite a bit when I was the leader of a Via de Cristo Retreat fifteen years ago, and it became very meaningful to me.
Bind us together, Lord
Bind us together
With cords that cannot be broken
Bind us together, Lord
Bind us together
Bind us together in Love
There is only one God,
There is only one King
There is only one Body,
That is why we sing.
Fit for the glory of God,
Purchased by His precious Blood
Born with the right to be free
Jesus the victory has won.
We are the family of God
We are the promise divine
We are God’s chosen desire
We are the glorious new wine.
“On the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.” Hebrews 7:18
Sometimes the church and the people in it disappoint us, because they’re not perfect. People can be rude, self-righteous or lack compassion. The church itself can become bureaucratic, rigid or even teach poorly. Be real! Sometimes we even disappoint ourselves when we lose our temper, gossip or exhibit other behavior that is clearly not Christlike.
This verse in Hebrews stands out to me because it clearly says we cannot expect perfection from humans or human systems. We cannot save ourselves by our actions, and we cannot save ourselves through church membership.
Thankfully we have a better hope–Jesus Christ. He is that anchor for the soul that we discussed in Chapter 6. He is how we are able to draw near and be reconciled to God. No wonder a rallying cry of the Reformation was Christ alone!
This chapter explains that Melchizedek was such a great priest, that even Abraham gave him a tenth of his plunder. The Bible does not give his genealogy, which is a little unusual, but we can come to the conclusion that he is someone who it regarded in very high esteem. But no matter how great he was he did die, whereas Jesus is the Great High Priest eternally. It goes further to explain that only Jesus can intercede for us with God because He has a pure soul. This just restates the knowledge that only through the Son, Jesus Christ, can we have a relationship with the Father, God.
See you soon for Chapter 8
God Loves You And So Do I
“The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:13-14
In Sunday School this week we had a long discussion about the kingdom of God. Everyone knows that the kingdom is at the heart of Christ’s teaching and purpose, but evidently there is little agreement about how to define it. Some equate the kingdom of God with heaven; others that it is still in the future and will be established during the 1000 year reign of Jesus on earth. Others connect it with the spiritual life –“behold, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21 KJV). Still others associate it with social reform.
It seems the Lutheran understanding goes like this (at least our Bible Study author from Concordia Publishing and my husband-Pastor agree): the kingdom of God is where the Gospel is preached in its truth and purity, and the Sacraments are administered according to the command of Jesus. In other words, the true Church is the kingdom. This includes both the Church Militant (the Church still struggling against sin here on earth) and the Church Triumphant (the Church in heaven at rest). It is both now and not yet. It is not the institutional church, but the people of God, known only to God, past and present.
The kingdom is now. It’s here. It’s available to you. Don’t you want to be part of it?
“We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that entered into the inner shrine behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” Hebrews 6:19-20
One of the reasons I love Hebrews is because it is full of some of the most beautiful and inspiring language in the Bible. The author of the book is unknown, but whoever he was, his talents as a writer are unsurpassed. The verse above contains one of the phrases that sticks in my mind and uplifts my spirits — “a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul.”
Going back to the image of the church as a ship, our hope in Christ is the ship’s anchor. That hope keeps the body of Christ steady and holds it in place. Without that hope, we would all be cut adrift and foundering, prey to the waves and storms.
What about you? What stands out in Chapter 6? Tell us your thoughts.
I started a new devotional book today, it’s called “Climbing with Abraham” by David Ramos. (by the way, I got it on my kindle through Bookbub FREE). The first devotional starts out by saying that most of the time, in the Bible, a person is first described by listing where they came from, who their parents were, etc.. The author says this is to show that their story begins long before they do.
The same is true of our churches. They have a story that began before we were members (at least most of the time). So when we join a church, we become part of a bigger story. As an adult I have been a member of two churches. The first was a mission congregation and although I was not a charter member, it was a “young” church. I got to be a church builder. I was there through more than 25 years and three locations. It was started by a small group of Midwesterners who wanted a Missouri Synod Lutheran Church, and there were none in the area. My current congregation is “old”…. we just celebrated our 190th anniversary. It was started by German farmers who just wanted a Lutheran church in their community. In this congregation, I am maintaining a legacy.
My first congregation has grown and changed since my husband and I were called to St. Paul’s. A time will come when we leave St. Paul’s as well. We’re only a link in the chain that has kept these churches going. We will have spiritual descendants who will do the same.
So what’s your church’s story? What ‘s your role? Isn’t it exciting to be part of God’s plan? Send us your thoughts and comments.
When you attend a Via De Cristo retreat weekend, you receive a little book called the Pilgrim’s Guide in Christianity which includes a variety and prayers and “helps” for your devotional life. One of those “helps” is called Examination of Conscience. In case you’re wondering what that is, here’s a definition:
Examination of conscience is a review of one’s past thoughts, words, actions, and omissions for the purpose of ascertaining their conformity with, or deviation from, the moral law.
Recently going over it, I realized that one of the categories listed has to do with the church, so I thought I would share it on the blog this month. The idea is to think about whether you have done, or neglected to do these things in regard to the church:
Have I, By Thought
- Thought of the church as a sect or party rather than as the mystical body of Christ
- Neglected to read or reflect on the Holy Scriptures
- Not held myself responsible for my part in the in adequacy of Christians
Have I, By Words
- Spoken of the clergy as “them” instead of “us”
- Criticized irresponsibly the leadership of the church, both clerical and lay
- Ignored the teaching authority of the church, replacing it with my own authority
Have I, By Acts
- Used church organizations to justify my own personal hang-ups
- Run away from trying to solve the church’s internal problems
- Acted to support the church only when it met my approval
Have I, By Omission
- Not tried to make the church more vital
- Failed to contribute sacrificially for the material needs of the church
- Neglected to pray for those in authority
This list isn’t even exhaustive, but it helps me realize that my support and appreciation of the church isn’t all it could be. It’s a good reminder to help me strive to be a better member of Christ’s body. Do you find this exercise helpful or not? Please let us know.