United with Christ through His Church

In many places in Scripture, the church is referred to as the body of Christ, with Jesus as our head. For example, in Romans we read:

“Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to the others.” Romans 12:4-5

And in Colossians we are told:

“And He (Jesus) is the head of the body, the church ….” Colossians 1:18a

Unfortunately, these days, we have lost much of that unity. I’ve been thinking about how church has changed over the years. Rural, smaller churches are struggling to survive. Mission churches are difficult to plant. Some of this is due to practical, monetary considerations — it’s expensive to pay a Pastor and maintain a building. At the same time, transportation is cheaper and easier than it used to be. We no longer need a church within walking distance. Our cars and roads can take us miles away in just a few minutes.

The unintended consequences are great. Now, we no longer have to work to maintain unity with a group of believers. If we quarrel with somebody, or just don’t like them, we can simply change churches. Things will be better there (at least for a while). Church discipline goes by the wayside as well — if a member doesn’t want to hear the hard truth about sin, they can probably find another group who won’t hold them accountable. In fact, it’s no problem to get lost in a large church, to attend worship services without getting to know anybody well at all. With the recent advent of COVID, and more churches airing their services on ZOOM or YouTube, we’ve removed ourselves even further from a true church community.

I’ve been blessed to belong to small churches all of my life. Some of the folks have belonged to the same church all of their lives; others are committed to a specific denomination. They know each other. They know one another’s family. They become surrogate parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles to the children of the congregation. Do they always get along? Do they like everybody? No. But in Christ, they learn to love one another and work together.

Of course, there are sometimes good reasons to leave a church. Maybe a job change leads to a move. Sometimes we find the theology is just wrong. Sometimes God calls us to a different place. But make sure you’re not becoming a “consumer Christian.” Church is not about pleasing ourselves. It’s about unity — unity with Christ and with one another.

For more about the church see:

What Is the Church?

We (the Laity) Are the Church

The Church Family


Years ago, I came across a Christian author (sorry I don’t remember her name), who said she often made the notation “YBH” in the margins of her Bible or other devotional reading.  The initials stand for “yes, but how/”  In other words, I agree with this, but how do I go about accomplishing it in my own life?  That’s a serious question.  We may know all about the Bible and our Christian faith, but if we can’t put it into practice in our lives, that knowledge is fruitless.

The Bible does have some practical words about how we will obtain hope in our lives.  In the book of Romans, Paul says that since we have been justified and reconciled with God through our faith:

“… we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” Romans 5:2

He then goes on to explain how this hope will develop:

“…we rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character, and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”  Romans 5:3-5

We don’t have to go looking for suffering in this life — it will come to us sooner or later.  We will experience illness, turmoil and loss.  However, if we bear with those things by continuing to do God’s will, we will not only gain good character, we will experience renewed hope.  (For more on character see Personality or Character).

True hope is not being an unrealistic Pollyanna — it is trusting in God, who loves us and gives us good gifts even when times are bad.  So when suffering comes, meet it with equanimity and persevere in doing what is right;  hope will come and it will not disappoint you.

For more on the topic of hope see these posts:

Faith vs. Hope

Hopeful Saints

Mere Hope by Jason G. Duesing — Book Review









How Do You Know You’re a Christian?

This idea came from part of a sermon my husband gave earlier this month.  I thought it was worth repeating since all of us want to have the assurance that our faith is genuine.

How do we know we’re real Christians?  Well, the Bible identifies a number of ways.

First, we can know we are Christians if we confess that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that He was raised from the dead.  The apostle, Paul tells us this quite plainly in the book of Romans:

“…. because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved”  Romans 8:9-10

We can also know we are Christians if we love our brothers and sisters in Christ.  John says:

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

We know we are Christians if we trust solely in the atoning sacrifice of Christ on the cross for our salvation, not imagining we can be saved by being “good people” or doing “good works.”  Again, we read in Romans:

For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.”  Romans 3:22-25

If we are truly Christian, our lives will be characterized by the fruit of the Spirit.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.  Against such things there is no law.  Ad those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”  Galatians 6:22-24

Finally the book of Proverbs tells us this that if we are God’s children, He will discipline us for our benefit. Christians are not guaranteed a life of ease.

“My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.”  Proverbs 3:11

These are some Biblical marks of a faith that is real.  Does yours measure up?




God is at Work

The gospel reading recently in church was from the story of Joseph and his brothers, in the book of Genesis.  The brothers are afraid that once their father dies, Joseph, remembering how they sold him into slavery in Egypt, will take revenge.  They go to him humbly apologizing.  Here is his response:

“…. ‘Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?  As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”  Genesis 50:19-20

Each week in Sunday School, after I’ve completed our opening prayer, I ask the class “how have you seen God at work this week?”  Usually the answers involve things like the beauty in nature, someone who has recovered from an illness, a word of encouragement, or a need that was met.  One person called them “mini-miracles.”  It’s wonderful to notice and give thanks for these.  However, it’s also important to realize that God is at work even when things are not going well.  Consider the case of Joseph, mentioned in the gospel reading above.  He was treated badly by his brothers, he endured slavery and prison.  Things looked bleak.  Yet, God was at work.  Through difficulties that seemed undeserved, He positioned Joseph to save his family.

There are other examples in the Bible.  The Israelites wander in the wilderness for 40 years — but through that experience, they draw closer to God.  Naomi and Ruth are left widowed and destitute — but through God’s provision, Ruth remarries and becomes an ancestress of Jesus. Jesus dies on the cross — but in so doing, atones for our sins and reconciles us with the Father.

Many of us are going through difficult times right now.  Some has lost jobs or incomes;  churches can’t meet in the accustomed way;  many have become isolated, anxious and depressed.  Yet God is at work.  From our limited viewpoint, things are bad, but God is not limited and His plans are good.  Take heart.  The best is yet to come.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”  Romans 8:28


Resting In His Love

“Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. Psalm 62:1

In our weekday Bible study we’ve been reading a book, The Holiness of God, by R. C. Sproul.  Last week one of the participants said, “we need to rest in God’s love.”  What do you think that means exactly?

Well, to me, it means “stop worrying so much!”  If God loves us and desires the best for us, we can rest assured that things will work out.  Will they always seem to be going smoothly?  Will only good things happen to us?  Of course, the answer is a resounding NO.  It does mean that:

“… in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

We can rest because God has a plan for us, and even when things seem to be out of control, they really aren’t.  God’s got us and He’s not letting go.  He is our hope and our salvation.  We don’t have to depend upon the temporal things of this world.  We can rest in His love.  It’s the one thing we can count on.

For another post on our Holiness of God study follow this link:

The Blind Men and the Elephant



Help or a Hindrance?

“Therefore, let us stop passing judgement on one another.  Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.”  Romans 14:13

Did you ever stop to think about the fact that each of us give a daily witness in the small ways we behave toward one another and toward our circumstances?  Saint Francis of Assisi supposedly said, “Preach the gospel daily, if necessary use words.”  We are all preaching something, whether we know it or not.  I came across this quote by Frances Ridley Havergal, an English religious poet and hymnist, in my devotional reading this week.  I need to read this and take it to heart every morning.  We are constantly influencing others, and I want my influence to be positive.

“A vexation arises, and our expressions of impatience hinder others from taking it patiently.  Disappointment, ailment, or even weather depresses us;  and our look or tone of expression hinders others from maintaining a cheerful and thankful spirit.  We say an unkind thing, and another is hindered in learning the holy lesson of charity that thinketh no evil.  We say a provoking thing, and our sister or brother is hindered in that day’s effort to be meek.  How sadly, too, we may hinder without word or act!  For wrong feeling is more infectious than wrong doing;  especially the various phases of ill temper–gloominess, touchiness, discontent, irritability,–do we not know how catching these are?”

What are the Spiritual Gifts?

This probably should have been one of my first posts, so I apologize, while reminding my friends and all readers that I have never been a linear thinker.  If you would like to know exactly what the spiritual gifts are, and where they are listed in the Bible, this will help you out.  You can look up the passages and do more research on your own if you’re so inclined.

It might be worthwhile to note (and I did mention this is a previous post) that most Lutherans believe that certain gifts have “ceased.”  Since we have the complete Holy Scriptures, we no longer need prophecy, miracles, healing, tongues and interpretation of tongues.  These gifts were given in order to speak forth or authenticate God’s Word and his messengers.

Romans 12

  1. Encouragement

  2. Giving

  3. Leadership

  4. Mercy

  5. Prophecy

  6. Service

  7. Teaching

1 Corinthians 12

  1. Administration

  2. Discernment

  3. Healing

  4. Interpretation of Tongues

  5. Tongues

  6. Prophecy

  7. Wisdom

  8. Apostle

  9. Faith

  10. Helps

  11. Knowledge

  12. Miracles

  13. Teaching

Ephesians 4

  1. Apostle

  2. Pastor

  3. Teaching

  4. Evangelism

  5. Prophecy

1 Peter 4

  1. Serving

  2. Teaching