Author: markspansel

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
Advertisements

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

Sanctification From Wise People

A believer’s true identity rests in Christ alone. Oftentimes, in the commonplace of life, our trajectory moves from an identity in Christ to an identity nested in our thinking and doing. These movements from resting in Him to activities of self happen all too easily. No believer is immune to the sways of their heart. Thanks be to God, the Holy Spirit is ever present, bringing His children back to a dependence in Christ Jesus. His sanctifying work occurs in a variety of ways, each built upon a framework of God changing us. Inclusive to this framework is how God uses wise people, to point us to Jesus.

More than thirty five years ago, I was a new husband and would-be father. I wanted the best for our new family. Things were tough and we would soon be without my wife’s salary. I felt I needed to come up with more money to keep things together. We were approached by friends who seemingly had a solution. My wife was never an advocate of this “business opportunity” but she wanted to be supportive and went along with it.

Most Saturday nights we went to strategic meetings where our business segment leaders cheered us on. They assured us that we, too, would be the captains of our ships and masters of our destiny someday, if only we kept to their tried and true plan. I imagined people sitting in a crowded auditorium someday applauding us, as we gave them the formula for a wealthy-filled life: money, boats, homes, and automobiles; I am certain you get the picture.

In time, our church leadership became concerned for us. The elders decided to approach and warn us about our actions. Their concern led to a plan that I learned of much later. The Board met at the church office for prayer while an elder (who had experienced loss from a similar activity) met with me at his home. He spoke from personal experience for about two hours. He was thorough. As we drew to a close, I understood loss and, for the first time, understand true gain in Christ. Although I was a Christian, my spiritual eyes did not see the great jewel that was in Christ until that night.

Theologically, I know that God was at work before that evening but His work of sanctification that night jarringly reset my trajectory. Have my eyes turned from the prize in the past thirty-five years? Of course, the answer is “yes,” but by His grace, God brings his truth. He uses His word, struggles, suffering, and more wise people to redirect me to the object of my greatest affection, Jesus. God is ever faithful to those who are His.

  • Selby Brannon

To Know And Be Known

Proverbs 9:10 says “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” 

As we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the reformation this month let’s turn to Calvin the reformer who wrote that our “Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid Wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. But though the knowledge of God and the knowledge of ourselves are bound together by a mutual tie, due arrangement requires that we treat of the former in the first place, and then descend to the latter.”

Without a knowledge of self we cannot know God. There’s the rub. An honest look within can be quite disturbing. Upon reflection we are instinctively repelled and so pretense and pride rise to the defense. Created in the image of God a standard of perfection has already been revealed to us and so our shortcomings become immediately obvious. This knowledge of self with the sneaky suspicion that we just might not measure up sets us confidently off on a restless, frantic project of self-justification.

Then God’s loving mercy comes to us and quiets our souls. In grace we are convinced of the clear evidence of our pride, injustice, impurity, and folly. That troubling view of self, the beginning of wisdom, is actually only possible after we begin to fear the judge of all things and His perfect character. With that we are given insight to know and be known. Yes, an accurate knowledge of self is a picture worse than we can ever concede but the power of the Gospel to redeem us is far greater than we could ever dare to hope.  Only in the Gospel we are given ability to discern who we really are and to know and be known.

  • David Ortiz

Surprised by Sanctification

As an associate lay elder I have the privilege to serve the church and attend meetings with Pastor Mark, Pastor Jeff, Selby and David and if I am smart listening a lot and learning a lot. I was blessed by a recent meeting to listen to a discussion on what sanctification looks like and how God accomplishes sanctification. After the meeting I found myself reflecting and rejoicing over the five years my family has been at Leroy and the work Jesus is doing in our lives.

I came to the church weary from church activity and drifting rather than pursuing Christ. Our first Sunday at Leroy, Dave Carroll shared on Jesus providing rest for the weary, talk about finding a cool drink of water in the middle of the desert.

Paul uses an interesting phrase in Eph 5:25-27 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

At Leroy there have been many opportunities to be washed by the Word. I am so blessed to be able to weekly sit under so many gifted teachers of God’s Word at 90@9. The teaching of God’s Word from the pulpit at Leroy will sanctify your life if you pursue and apply it. I would encourage you to read the passage we are going to look at ahead of hearing it, check out the teachers and books that Pastor Mark references, even if they aren’t from this century. Take advantage of Godly relationships with precious saints at Leroy and allow them to speak God’s Word into your life.

I came to Leroy weary and find myself 5 years in surprised by the sanctifying work of being washed by the Word of God. I am so looking forward to the continuing work of God sanctifying us into that spotless bride.

  • Steve Selle

Discernment for the Caring of Others

Ou rdo g’sna meisT af fy. …  Say what?

Well, the first observation is that the spell check on my computer is going crazy, as it endeavors to clear up what I am intentionally trying to leave as fuzzy.

The focus of this blog is discernment, which at its core is a process of joining and/or separating ideas at points of difference so that the obscure is seen and truth can be distinguished from untruth. The notion of joining or separating ideas for the purpose of rendering a judgement is very unsettling to our culture and is quickly becoming a lost discipline. Unknowingly, we do this all of time. Consider the mish-mash of letters in the first paragraph. As printed, the groupings of letters make no sense. However, when they are regrouped we discover that Our dog’s name is Taffy. The proper grouping of letters is required to understand (or discern) communication.

As Christians, we are called to step into the intersection of ideas.  We need to think Biblically, carefully understanding right from wrong and the significant from the trivial. Whenever we are confronted with a notion that culture’s preaches as “a truth,” we should think carefully and then armed with the Word of God rise above our own weakness to see the matter as God sees it. This is not something that is always intuitive; it requires work with a renewed mind, skilled in God’s Word. As we grow in Christ, He gives us a longing to join our hearts with our brothers and sisters. Spirit-filled unity provides a means for teaching and learning about the Gospel, doctrine and mission.

Do you normally think of your conversation in the foyer of the Chapel as chit-chat? Or, is it a dialogue where you and someone else are trying to come to a friendly agreement? Or, have you considered that the person you are talking to is off-course doctrinally and has a wrong view of spiritual things? When that happens, your words escalate from chit-chat, as God positions you in this conversation, to wrestle with a suffering heart. In that moment, you recognize the criticality of keen listening, while prayerfully awaiting the Holy Spirit to provide discernment and the loving words, sufficient to the need.

Our knowledge of God grounded in the Bible positions us to help others, who are ensnared in wrong thinking, longing to be free. Discernment should be a tool in every believer’s toolbox, helping us live, work and play to the Glory of God.

  • Selby Brannon

Unified Mess

I sat in a group of pastors this morning as I have numerous times before; praying for unity and revival.  We talked about various church matters.  We fought off the urge to compete or brag about our church.  Some argued in a Christianese.  I’m sure your experience in a group of friends is similar; we know we are friends, but all the oddness of our differences and sin make feel-good life illusive.  Inevitably someone breaks the “I’ve got it all together” ice and lets others see the ugly.  For some, the discomfort of the moment overwhelms and they get defensive and others try to fix it.  Some know the reality of sin, suffering, and being “in process”, and are moved with compassion and show the stuff of genuine caring.

The bride is a mess and I’m learning to love all of her!

We can easily forget that unity of the church is not rooted in sameness.  To put it bluntly, we don’t like it.  Most of the time we think unity means others will be more like us.  Lord have mercy and grant us much grace of forgiveness.  We are all so different!  And that’s great!  We are not called to be exactly like one another.  No, in fact Peter says that even the many gifts given to the church accentuate our differences to exhibit a varied, or manifold grace (1 Peter 4:7-11).  When we take a wider view, we see a kind of multifaceted love functioning in and through the bride that glorifies the greatness of the one true God.  What a beautiful mess!

Also, fighting my self-righteousness, I need to be reminded that the unity of the church is not rooted in a gathering of sinless people.  We are a hot mess of forgiven sinners in process.  Sounds obvious, right?  Then why am I surprised when people sin greatly? Friends, Peter tells us that the bride will require a truck load of love and forgiveness supplied by a singular source: the cross of Christ.  And once again, Jesus unifies a band of sinners into a glorious worldwide display of his greatness!

Welcome to the unified mess called the church.

  • Pastor Jeff