Author: markspansel

Using Our Gifts to Edify

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” I Peter 4:10.

As believers, we are to live with Christ’s imminent return in full view. We are called to be vigilant, watchful, and always ready for the Lord when He comes. For us, Jesus should not return as a thief in the night (1 Thessalonians 5:2), but our lamps should be ready, filled with oil, matches in hand, and prepared to join the parade of our Bridegroom (Matthew 25:6, 7). While we await His return, the Apostle Peter admonishes us to be serious and watchful in prayers with a goal of using our gifts to edify our Christian brothers and sisters (1 Peter 4:8-11).

Every Christian should have a fervent love for Christ. Then, that love continues its flow from the Throne of Grace through us and onto our brethren with ample supply to cover a multitude of sins.  The Bible addresses the need for church discipline concerning reprehensible sins in a Christian’s life. However, that thing we see in a brother or sister’s life, which is minor or petty, the apostle encourages us to let our love for one another cover the trivial matter (v 8).

His edification does not stop with love alone. We are encouraged to be hospitable, a great virtue. Peter presses in, instructing us to be hospitable and to demonstrate hospitality without grumbling. My dad often said, “Guests, like fish, stink after three days.” Dad had many clever sayings but contextually he would be in error. We are called to open our hearts to those who are in need, regardless of the duration. Even if we are seemingly exploited, we are not to grumble as we care for them (v 9).

Equipped with love, purveying hospitality, we should steward the gifts given us by God, for the edification of Church. No Christian is exempt. We are all called to the ministry of our gifts, empowered by the Holy Spirit. We normally think of stewardship in the context of finances. Finances have their rightful place in stewardship, but in this text, Pastor Peter has a grander view. He instructs believers to actively steward God’s abundant grace for the building-up of the church (v 10).

The author closes this paragraph on edifying gifts by reminding us that one of our greatest gifts is God’s Word, which informs our minds and sets our hearts ablaze. In the same way let us be zealous to use our gifts to God’s Glory, as He supplies the strength (v 11).

  • Selby Brannon
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Gospel Unity

Paul writes to his friends in Philippi “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Any community will hold up unity as a pleasant idea but mostly in a superficial and sentimental way. How do you see that expressed in our culture? Paul isn’t satisfied with that type of unity. Where’s the enemy of unity? Is it outside the church? Is the enemy somewhere outside of us or perhaps it’s much closer? Paul’s words from Philippians seems to say it’s actually found within our hearts.

What differentiates Gospel unity from the general kind that always seems to be outside society’s reach? The “encouragement” Paul finds in Gospel unity is grounded in our relationship to the Trinity. Our unity is not found in who we are or what we do but in who He is and what He has done. It is found in sinners made righteouse as they are found in Christ. As each of us becomes more and more aware of how much we have been forgiven and the greatness of the grace by which we have been accepted as sons we come into deeper relationship within the family of God. Just after Paul’s words quoted above he goes on to say of Christ, “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Our unity, Gospel unity is found at the foot of the cross. I’ve not died for unity but Christ has and He didn’t do that so anyone would bow to me but only to the one that “God has highly exalted…. so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth.” Our heart level sin of selfish ambition, conceit and pride, the sins that kill unity were crucified with Christ on the cross and now by grace are being replaced with humility, and an ability to count others as more significant. Gospel unity says I now have nothing to defend, nothing to do but show my friends in Christ the same grace I have been shown and lift up Christ and his work in our salvation.

  • David Ortiz

Growing The Gifts We Are Given

As Christmas approaches I am sure all parents can remember a gift that you gave your kids that unfortunately our children weren’t quite ready for. The drone in a tree, or the cell phone that caused a data overage or other issue.

Our Heavenly Father is the giver of perfect gifts but it is amazing how often I can mess His gifts up. For me this typically looks like one of two things:

The gift received that my pride uses to paint myself in a better light than others. This not only kills any productive use of His gift to serve others but holds me back in growing that gift. Also it potentially holds me back from the greater gifts God may desire to equip me with to serve Him. Luke 16:10-11 talks about those being faithful with the little, being entrusted with more.

The second is the gift that I don’t put to use to serve the body. This can happen for several reasons, my distraction with lesser things, or my fear that I am not that gifted to do something. Paul encourages Timothy to fan into a flame the gift he was given (2 Timothy 1:6). Many of the gifts given by God we are called to use in small but faithful ways and watch Him expand and grow that gift within us as we rest in the fact that this is a gift that God has given me to serve the body.

There are many who encourage me in my faith at Leroy by how faithful they are with the gifts God has given them. I think of people in our child care and kid’s church areas that serve often unseen but allow parents to relax and know their children are being taken care of, giving them the freedom to sit in a service and hear God’s Word. The list of people using their gifts at Leroy is long and they encourage us in our faith and use of the gifts God has given us.

  • Steve Selle

Looking to the Future – Worshipping Together

Psalm: 133 begins “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” The Hebrew word for unity speaks to a group of people who are together. 

At our most recent congregational meeting, Pastor Mark spoke to the desire of the elders to move toward a one worship service vision. This vision is cast as we move forward in our building campaign that includes a larger sanctuary. Currently, we have two services to accommodate all the people who call Leroy Community Chapel their church.

The reasons to choose one service time or another aren’t necessarily wrong: some are parents who bring their youth to 90@9 or Kingdom Kids and, by default, worship during the first service then continue on with their day. Others serve during the first hour and later join in worship with those who prefer the later service. But when we are split between two services, it means that all of Leroy is rarely together, rarely unified as a people who are together. So, there is a sense that LCC is two congregations who worship in the same building, on the same day, but at different times. Two groups hear the same message and sing the same worship songs but they are not in complete unity because they are not together, missing full fellowship and ministering to one another.

As elders, we want all who call Leroy “home” to be unified together in a common worship service. And our intent does not stop with an all-togetherness; rather, it goes much deeper than that. We want to have a second Sunday morning teaching time that focuses on the family. One where children meet with their age group in the new classrooms specially designed for them and the youth meet for their time of further study and worship. We also want Mom and Dad to meet, learn, and grow with other adults of like precious faith. Yes, there is a teacher who teaches, but much of the learning occurs when others in the class speak into how the Word of God addresses their 21st century world.

We also recognize that some of you attend alone, without a family in the area. You may be a single young professional beginning a career, divorced, or a widow or widower. At LCC, you will not be left out. There is room for you here.

If you are not already doing so, start making plans to spend a couple hours on a Sunday morning with us for corporate worship, learning, singing, praising, and fellowshipping together as the people of God.

  • Selby Brannon

Progress in Progressive Sanctification

“I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Paul assured his friends in Philippi they would eventually arrive home complete in Christ and that’s certainly true for anyone found in Christ today. I need to be reminded of that often. But if you’re like me that prompts some questions. Do you find yourself wondering if progress is being made? I mean how can I tell the Gospel is actually taking root in my heart and there’s something good going on deep down in my soul? What can we use to make an assessment? What’s the gauge?
● Moral behavior can certainly be an indicator, (see 1 Jn 3:6) but we all know people who don’t claim the name of Christ who are very good. Anyone with the least bit of self-awareness knows it’s possible to cover up what’s really going on inside with an outward appearance that is at odds with the heart.
● Healthy appetite for Christian culture and the otherwise religious can also be an indicator – had my quiet-time, listened to a sermon on the way to work, played praise and worship music all day, made it to small group and Church this week. Check and double check. I must be well on the way, right? Could all that just be the same insincere stuff Jesus had to call out the Pharisees for?
● A hunger to know and understand is another indicator. The book shelves are packed with good stuff and I love to be learning. We are alive in a time where it seems there’s an excellent book coming off the press every minute of the day full of truth and teaching for followers of Christ. Add everything that is instantly available to the learner today via the web and it’s an amazing blessing of help and input for growth and understanding of who we are in Christ. Yes, that’s been fuel for progress but apparently knowledge can out-run the application to my heart, (1 Cor 8:1).
Behavior, activity, and knowledge may be three things I’ve observed in my own life that are undoubtedly important in evaluating progress in sanctification but there’s a caution as well. To be sanctified isn’t a hyper-spiritual state but a more practical view of life as I’m becoming increasingly aware of the needfulness of grace. It is a quickening of the pace to turn away from confidence in self and toward the keeper of my soul. Maturing in wisdom, more sincere love and care for the wellbeing of others, seeing myself, God, and others more truly. In sum “becoming conformed to the image of His Son” Who is the only perfect and reliable gauge for measuring progress in sanctification. I am thankful He is both the power and the guarantee that it will be accomplished.

– David Ortiz

 

Using Your Gifts in Giving

Tis (almost) the season for giving … giving thanks, and then giving gifts. Of course, we ought always to be thankful (1 Thessalonians 5:18), and always be giving gifts (Romans 12:6). So, let me help us think a little deeper about the kind of gifts we give to honor the Lord and bless one another.

Gifts of Sacrifice

It doesn’t matter what you have, how much or how little. What matters is what you do with what you have. Do you consume it on yourself? Do you hoard resources, preparing the back-up to the back-up? Do you do the least to get by? Or does your heart overflow with a desire to put yourself in a place where you have to rely on God to give to you because you have given to others? It comes so easy to think about how to have our own needs met, and rationalize how we need what we’ve been given for ourselves. Don’t think “big”, just think “sacrificial”.

Gifts of Self

It’s nice to get stuff, it’s nicer to “get” connection with the person who did the giving of the stuff. Think about who God uniquely created you and how to give some of that away to others. Use words, use creativity, use thoughtfulness, use purpose, and use a heart that knows what God has done IN you is the most important thing about you. Share that!

Using your gifts is more than serving in a church ministry, volunteering in the community, or wrapping a present to share with another. Using your gifts is more about cherishing the greatest gift that was given to you. That then makes you a person who can regularly look outside of your own little world, be thoughtful about what truly blesses another human, and give gifts that fit the Gospel gift of grace you’ve been given. Pray for me in this, and I will pray for you this holiday season!

  • Mark Spansel

The Fruit of Unity

Have you ever been part of an organization that introduced a mission statement to promote unity of mission only to find a year later not much has changed? Sadly, I have yet to see a business group or even a church change with just the most well-crafted mission statement.

In Ephesians chapter 4, Paul writes quite a bit on unity. He calls us to walk in humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit. He describes later in v11-13 church leaders that would be used to build up others until we all attain unity in the faith. The problem most groups and sadly even some churches face with unity is often rooted in our self-centeredness. This stands in opposition to the picture Paul paints of humility and deferring to the needs of others while building people up in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In John 13:34-35 and 17:20-23 Jesus calls His followers to unity. Surprisingly, the result he cites is not what we might expect. “I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” The result he cites is a church that through Biblical unity actually displays the love of Christ to a world in need of the Gospel message.

Jesus, help me to walk humbly, eager to love my brothers and sisters, so that in your church your love might be displayed to a world in need.

  • Steve Selle