Monthly Archives: July 2011

The Body of Christ (a series of staff reflections)

Many minds and hearts from different backgrounds coming together to effect change as one body. The following series is this body, the Good Works body, searching for the answer to “What does it mean to be the Body for the world, in the world and for the glory of God?” We all have different perspectives, different questions to be answered in this layered question. Our hope is that we may be able to start a dialog, not just within this body, but with you.

What does it mean to be the body of Christ in the world, for the world, for the glory of God?

I was at Friday Night Life a couple of weeks ago getting all the Kids’ Club stuff set up and ready to go, preparing for another night of kids wanting my attention, our attention [love through discipline].  My friend Brittany was walking around with me as I was going in circles making sure everything was in its proper place.  We were heading back from the water fountain to the dining area and she asked me, “Can I do this someday?”

I questioned in reply, “Do what? Kids’ Club?”

“Yeah” she said, “Be a Kids’ Club leader!”

I responded with enthusiasm, “Absolutely yes, you would be the best leader Brittany, after all you have grown up in Kids’ Club.” She smiled and actually seemed excited by this idea, we continued on our way.

This teenage girl actually got it. I smiled, I felt relieved knowing what we were doing every Friday had a purpose.  Most nights I know Brittany is bored, I can see the expression on her face, the rolling of the eyes, the absence in her presence.  Let’s face it; we do have to cater to the young.  Our Kids’ Club is for ages 4-17.  What a difference, what a range! I know this is why we consistently have to lay the law down for the teen boys who just won’t calm down, I know this is why we have to even ask them to leave from time to time, and I know this has to be why our teen girls never show up. It is a huge gap, a huge responsibility to keep all these minds entertained for an hour every Friday.  I guess we do the best we can with what we have.  I too wonder if this has become an unknown prayer of mine, “God, please let me do the best I can with what I have to work with, I mean with what you have given me to work with.”

Being a co-supervisor of a ‘Club’ for Kids’ is really a demanding responsibility.  We have to discipline, we have to be consistent, we have to be ‘on’ at all times, we have to catch fights before they happen, and sometimes we have to tell the boy without a coat it’s time for him to walk home.  This is emotionally draining and if I really let it get to me my whole weekend is spent thinking in hindsight, ‘did I really get my point across to Billy?’ ‘Did Stephanie know that disciplining her whining was really an act of love?’ ‘Did Jack know I really care if he doesn’t have a coat, or even a sweatshirt?’

So what does it mean to be the body of Christ in this world, of snot-nosed, whiny, beautiful children and teens? I find it hard sometimes to even ask this question, at least ask this question out loud.  I am afraid of the answer. I feel selfish and comfortable where I am and only giving myself to them for so little time one night a week.  But in this world of youth they need Christ.  In this world, the body of Christ needs to be consistent and easy to read, like a picture book.

I often think of those pictures we see with Jesus surrounded by children.  Like in Matthew 19, “Then the little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them.…Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”  He did it so well.  He loved them so easily, faith like a child, right?  That’s what He asks of us, His body of believers. Christ is asking us to be like the children, to trust blindly, to be lead by faith, to have hope and express open-ended love to our world.

Our children in Athens County are living in poverty.  Do they know they are living in poverty? Do they know they are compiled in statistics? I bet if I asked them they would be surprised to know this.  They would be confused and ask many questions on how that could be.  They are too concerned with playing with their friends, and giving to their families to see themselves as poor.  To be the body with these youth is to simply listen and love, to play basketball and color, to listen to jokes and give genuine advice.  To be the body of Christ with this culture, with this generation, is not show pity but to be honest and available, to be a friend, to give love.

Emily Axe

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The Body of Christ (a series of staff reflections)

What does is mean to be the Body of Christ in the world, for the world, for the glory of God?

In the opening of John’s gospel we read, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  This scripture describes an eternal and powerful nature who, in the same flow of narrative, self-constrains, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”

The actions that Christ, the Word made flesh, took in bodily form shocked his contemporaries.  They reflected his purposes from Luke 4:18 and 19,

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Luke’s gospel fleshes out Christ’s ministry among unexpected people.  He drove out demons, touched and healed the sick. He welcomed people who were hurt, overcame their pain, and offered them forgiveness. He told financially secure people to eat with beggars and to be generous.  He kept the law perfectly, but taught its champions to live by love as a means to attain true perfection.

Christ’s way of life is the foundation on which we build our corporate lives.  Being the body of Christ means, in some way, taking on Christ’s Way as our own.  We in the Church are also born into the world, but like Christ, guided by the Spirit, who changes our intentions and gives us a different purpose.

You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. (Romans 8:9)

We are “called out” of the world and yet still very present in it.  We inherit a sort of resilience—Christ touched the leper and, rather than contract leprosy, healed the infected person.  His body in the world today, when it is at its best, functions in a similar capacity.  Together, we can enter boldly into relationships with people who are in pain or suffering the consequences of sin.  If we ourselves remain firmly bound together in Christian communities we can reach out without fear; we will not “be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).

Often people who come to Christ and join a local church experience healing.  They exchange their hearts of stone for hearts of flesh.  Bitterness is overcome by gratitude.  Their membership in the body causes a transformation in them.   They experience a sort of resurrection.

When our friend Janet brought Robert to our little church for the first time, he made a clear and memorable impression.  He was dying slowly and very angry about it.   Everything that he said was intended to scare us off.  He wanted to make sure we didn’t like him…but we did.  In fact, the Spirit of Christ in us loved him.  My husband began sitting with him in the back row.  He made it clear that he wasn’t put off.  He had actually been looking for friendships, and after about six months, Robert became Ben’s best friend in Athens.  Ben took over picking Robert up for church and would talk with him for hours.  The more Ben listened, the more Robert’s speech changed.  Softened.  It wasn’t a one way relationship; Ben poured into Robert, but Robert began to make an investment in Ben that Ben was willing to receive.

When Ben got stressed about work, Robert asked me if he was OK.  When an older woman at church wanted to learn how to use a computer, Robert wanted to know what we were going to do about it.  When I got a chest cold that didn’t go away, he put his hand on my shoulder and prayed for me.  Robert would come to our house sometimes for dinner, or let me send lunch home with him.  He started to pick bouquets of wildflowers for me from his yard.

And when Robert died, over thirty people came to his memorial service to celebrate the person he had become—to express our gratitude that he was a part of us in Christ.

We enter into the sorts of places and relationships in which Christ moved during his earthly ministry.  We hold onto hope for people that exceeds the hope they have for themselves and, like Christ, sometimes experience grief as a result, but we are available. We know that things can get better, so we encourage people to taste and see that the Lord is good.

God is glorified when we persevere in showing love, and when we keep our faith. Perseverance is an act of worship.  We can continue to hold out the possibility of belonging, of forgiveness of sin, of repentance, of reconciled relationships (with oneself, with God, and with others) to people who are not walking with Christ.  We hold onto hope.

Andrea Horsch

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The Body of Christ (a series of staff reflections)

Since the beginning, God has pronounced Light good. There is nothing more natural than lightness and darkness. While we retain the image of God in our creation, our nature often leads us to diminish this natural light. With Christ, pure Love entered the world. Man, for the first time since the Fall, lived without sin. The grace that allowed this pure light to radiate to all humanity for all time is the same divine and saving grace that allows us to flee our darkness, and to cling to the light. Community is one essential element to struggling out of darkness, and I believe that this is precisely why God has placed us in it. It is within the beloved community in which God has placed us that we begin to increase the goodness, the light, within us. We call this beloved community the body of Christ…

It is not often in our nature to be selfless, much less to be selfless to our own detriment. Our example from Christ however, is completely clear – even unto death, we allow ourselves to become the victims. We must defend the weak, to be sure, but never at the expense of peace. Justice is one of God’s primary concerns, but justice must always come in conjunction with peace and righteousness. In Matthew 5, Christ teaches, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.” And, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  To be considered a child of God, we make peace. To become a citizen of the kingdom of heaven, we allow others to persecute us. We cannot become the “righteousness of God” through worldly means. While there is expediency in power, it is within the mysterious and loving vulnerability of Christ that we will find God’s Kingdom, and not in the pursuit of worldly power.

This cannot bring us glory.

Again, this cannot bring us glory.

How could it? We have nothing in this world to gain from allowing others to take advantage of us. Yet, knitted into the very fabric of our being is the unquenchable desire to draw near to God, to seek the Light. Christ prayed even for those who were killing him. The images of God in us recognize the Good. The spirit of God in us draws us nearer to Him, and to the spirit of God in others. We are created in the image of God, but often our actions prove us far from godly. Therefore, we must struggle to deny ourselves, and the tendency toward selfishness and pride and sin in our nature, and to become more godly, thus bringing glory to God by becoming more like Him, and less like ourselves…

James 1:27 tells us that “Religion that God our father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

We become polluted by the world when we give in to our sinful nature, and become righteous when we follow God. This sounds so beautiful, because it is, and so difficult, because it is not necessarily natural to us. While I believe that we all retain some of the image of God, we also have the capacity to act in a very base and fallen manner. So, we do not return to God accidentally, but consciously, deliberately, choice by choice and action by action. We return through a decision to follow Him, but if our actions do not promote godliness, we become polluted, and thus God’s light in us grows dim. We are taught, particularly in the modern West, that we can all “have it all.”  But is it not possible that by gaining the world we risk losing what we need most? The claim that we can all have the best of what the world has to offer, and at the same time the best of what loving God brings us, can seem quite contradictory. This does not seem to me to square with the teachings of Christ. There may be times that following God brings worldly reward, but if this is our motivation, then we have missed the point. Drawing near to God can be difficult; our worship often requires sacrifice…

We all needn’t “have it all,” for we are mere members of a body. In community, our strengths should encourage others, while our weaknesses can be minimized through the strength of others. This is probably all the advice we truly need to begin to bring glory to God. We are called to use our gifts to build up the body, and in turn to be built up through the gifts of others. This can also be all the advice we need to potentially be very, very profoundly unhappy in the world, for to turn from the patterns of this world can be agonizing. The sacrifices that God requires from us are often not what we would chose to give up. But this is the nature of sacrifice. Turning from things you do not desire takes no effort. Allowing people to take advantage of us does not come naturally. But, there is comfort in God, in following Him. Our minds are renewed by turning away from the patterns of this world. They are renewed through the transformation that takes place upon the recognition that our lives are not our own. We do not belong merely to ourselves, but to God, and to one another. Living for ourselves alone will always, ultimately, prove hollow and fruitless, for this is not why we are here…

So, herein lies the real trouble. We posses the knowledge of good and evil. We are given God’s Spirit to teach us, and, in addition, by denying the world and renewing our minds, we are “able to test and approve what God’s will is.” But, we do not always want to do his will. Part of our soul cries out to God, to the Light of the World, and part of us remains mired in darkness. We are equipped for every good work, but struggle to choose lightness over darkness.

We glorify God by worshiping him. We worship him not merely with our lips, but with our hearts and minds and actions and strength (and, often, with our weakness). This cannot be accidental, but rather it is all about choice. We do not accidentally bring glory to God. We must choose to worship. We must choose to bless those who persecute us. We must choose to become poor in spirit. We must choose to comfort those who mourn. We must choose to be merciful. We must choose to be pure in heart. We must choose to make peace. We must choose persecution because of righteousness. We must choose joy. We must choose love – and all for the simple reason that God first loved us.

We make all these difficult (and often unnatural) decisions, not for ourselves, but for the world.  A world filled with fallible, fallen people that God loves so very much. In community, we seek to be one, even as Christ and His Father are one. So that the world may know that God sent Him, and that He is real (John 17). We make these choices for God, because God loved us enough to continue loving us through all our sin and imperfection. We choose love because without it, the earth will never be “as it is in heaven.” To glorify God we must seek first His kingdom. We must deny ourselves and fully embrace all that self-sacrificing radical love requires. And we must do it with joy. For when we fail, we fail not only each other, but God as well.

Every time we fail to repay evil with good – to bless those who persecute us, every time we fail to become meek or poor or merciful, we miss an opportunity to bring Light into the world, to bring glory to God. Whenever we miss an opportunity to increase the light in ourselves, we decrease the amount of light brought into the world. It is true that a city on a hill cannot be hidden, but, unfortunately, we are able to dim the lights.

Thankfully, the opposite is also true. Every time we glorify God through conscious acts of righteousness, we help to pave the way to the city on the hill. Every act that builds up the body of Christ helps to light the way. The better lit the path, the more who tread it. Someday, I pray, we can all find our way home.

Chris Linscot

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The Body of Christ (a series of staff reflections)

What is the body of Christ?

The Body of Christ is a broad term that has many, many members. The Body of Christ may be a small, medium or large group of many different kinds of believers that collectively create a mass of people who are called to do the Lords work. The work they do is in the world, for the world, and should Glorify God.

The body of Christ is made up of many followers of Christ. That is to be a believer and a worshiper of Christ. A follower of Christ will also be a lover of people, especially the widows, orphans and strangers, the poor, aka “the least of these”. Members of the Body of Christ will seek out opportunities to minister to the least of these. They will show love and acceptance to the ones less fortunate in the world.

That is what Jesus taught his followers to do. This is called ministry. There are great blessings for those who minister to a hurting soul or a not yet Christian. They have the mission to win them to Christ. This is called doing Gods Will with an obedient heart to love mankind and each other. We are called to love and minister to our neighbors. Isaiah 61:1 is our prophetic calling:  “The Spirit of the Lord us upon me and he has anointed me to preach Good News to the poor” and we find a similar calling in Luke 4:18 where we are told to preach good news to the poor, broken hearted and be helpers to them.

Sharon Hudson

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The body of Christ (a series of staff reflections)

Jesus was always one in Spirit with God the Father, but He didn’t stop there.  He demonstrated it in his life.  Our proclamation of the gospel must be demonstrated in our life.  We, his people, are to be one, even as he and the Father are one.

Jesus is no longer in the world, but we, his people, are in the world.  We are longer like everyone else around us.  He has sanctified himself so that we might be sanctified through the truth.  We are set apart for a holy purpose.  Part of that holy purpose is to be a witness to the world that we are miraculously indwelled by Jesus Christ himself, through the Holy Spirit, and that we have a oneness that can only be explained by supernatural means.  It is meant to demonstrate to others where God is, to be a beacon of light in a world of darkness and confusing options.

Someone once said that you and I might be the only Bible someone ever reads, so we need to be something worth reading.   Are we available to be a shelter for a non-believing friend?  If so, then we may open the eyes of someone who has been blind his whole life.  We can help others to let go of bitterness that may hinder God from doing new and exciting things in their life.   He wants to turn those deserts into streams of water to give life, not death.

But what about those around us who are quite vocal in their avoidance of all things religious, all things spiritual, even, sometimes, all things moral?  We  care for that loved one who is hurting inside while running away from the Lord by being loving and forgiving.  We care for them by radiating our presence in the Body of Christ.  We love them because Christ loves them and because their contact with us is their principal contact with Christ.  That way the Body of Christ can touch them.  The Body of Christ can heal them.

Many who rebel against the living God are hard-hearted, yet God’s love for these individuals is so great that He takes extreme measures to gain their attention and their hearts.  When you come in contact with people like this, do not be put off by their arrogance.  Instead, see them as God sees them; as people who need the Savior and who could be a powerful force in the Kingdom if God saved them.  It is a sign to begin praying for them.

God has called many hard cases into His Kingdom through miraculous circumstances in order to save their lives from the pit of hell and transform them into a sweet-smelling fragrance.  The hard exterior hides needy people who are crying out for help in their own prideful way.  Whenever God begins this process in the life of a sinner, He has others standing by to assist.  Ananias found it unbelievable that Paul really could have been saved.  An angel had to convince him.  God desires to use us in the life of His wayward children.  To do so requires a willingness to come alongside those who need our help.  Who knows what they will do for the kingdom, and what beautiful things have been locked inside them, that we helped to release.

Fr. Henri Nouwen said, to recognize the sufferings of others in our own hearts, then to make that recognition the starting point of our ministry.  Our ministry to another person, he insisted, “will not be perceived as authentic unless it comes from a heart wounded by the suffering about which we speak.”  Nouwen claimed that we must make our “own wounds available as a source of healing.” (The Wounded Healer).  The point of our woundedness may prove to be God’s best opportunity to use us.   Not only can our wounds be healed, but our scars can become sources of healing for others.  In fact, our scars may be our best qualifications for ministry.  In Christ, wherever we are weak, there, of all places, we are made strong.

God has always set up situations in order to demonstrate His power through them. God desires to reflect His nature and power through every individual, so that all men may know of His mighty acts and the glorious splendor of His Kingdom..  When this happens, the world is automatically changed because those who reflect His glory affect the world.

Sherilyn Weinkauf

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