Category: In Covenant Community

Celebrate, Rest, and Go Deeper

Friends,

We’ve come to the last Elder blog of the 15-16 ministry year (sniff sniff), and we want to express great gratitude to the Lord for His mercy and grace through you all to us as Elders and to God’s people at LCC.  Every one of you is vital to the life, growth, and joy of the mission of God in your local church.  As we see the culture of LCC grow and change into a more Gospel-centered, honest, and free place, we see the Spirit of God bringing us all to a richer delight in all that Jesus is for us.  We couldn’t be more thankful for the “many members” that make the “one body” … and how He uses the people of God to grow the people of God!

So, celebrate all that God is doing in your life and the life of your church family.  Walking in grace and truth isn’t always easy, but with The Helper, it is full of blessing.  Some hidden, some hard, and some staring wonderfully in your face calling out praise and thanksgiving.  Whatever the case, celebrate it!  We’d love to hear how God has grown you through this ministry year – would you mind jotting down a brief testimony of God at work in your story and passing it on to us via email, the LCC Facebook page, or even just an old fashioned piece of paper dropped in the mail or offering bag.

As the summer months are now upon us, and the schedule changes a bit, we sure hope you have a chance to rest.  Not just physically … but through times of play and recreation, times of reading and study, hikes, walks, bike rides, and cool evenings with family and friends on the deck.  Take a vacation, but don’t take a vacation from the Lord.  Please do your best to make Sunday corporate worship a priority, time in the Word a continued discipline, and praying with brothers and sisters an indispensable part of your spiritual rest.  Those are some of the things that will be used by the Spirit for your refreshment.

And lastly, go deeper.  Don’t settle for where you are, dream for where God wants you to be.  The journey is long and tomorrow isn’t promised.  So shake off old habits, put away the sin that so easily entangles, and run the race with joy that has been set before you.  We are already making plans for a great 16-17 ministry year and we can’t wait for all that God is going to do in and through you, and the body of LCC, in the months ahead.

  • The Elders

 

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Membership, Schmembership

Why do we make our way to church each Sunday – particularly here in Northeast Ohio where, for half the year, trudging to church on Sunday mornings means risking life and limb on snow and ice-covered roads? For that matter, even when the weather’s not an issue, wouldn’t sleeping-in or going to breakfast at Sunny Street or playing 18 holes of golf be more fun than going to church? I mean, God’s everywhere, right? If all the world’s His sanctuary, we can worship God anywhere; who needs church?

I think each of us goes to church for multiple reasons, some big and universal, others small and personal. Obviously, we do it to praise and worship our Heavenly Father and His Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. We do it to deepen our understanding of His Word and to sharpen our faith against the steel of other believers. We do it, perhaps most simply, because the Bible tells us to.

Psalm 150:1-6 says, “Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens! Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness! Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals!”

“Praise Him enthusiastically, regularly and corporately,” sounds very much to me like, “GO TO CHURCH!”

One of the best reasons for going to church is one that I think is often overlooked or taken for granted: Church attendance, or more specifically, church membership, makes us a willing, mindful, full-fledged member of the greatest “club” in the history of humanity, the community of Christian believers. Casual and superficial isn’t God’s plan for us.

Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

Hebrews 10: 24-25 says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

We have both the opportunity and the obligation to encourage one another; encouraging and lifting up one another is a big part of what church is about. When you’re next at church, take a look at the people around you. Even more than a community, we’re a family, YOUR family, your beautiful, smart, kind, stupid, selfish, short-sighted and loving family. We will delight you and make you mad, we’ll surprise you and disappoint you, but we will always be there and we are all yours… exactly as God intended.

Welcome home!

  • Paul Burkholder

Running for the Doors

I became a believer at LCC and spent my first few years here as a happy Sunday morning consumer of truth. I’d arrive just early enough to get a seat (this was before we put on the addition and getting a seat could be chancy if you arrived late), drink up a great sermon and then bolt for the doors as soon as services ended. I liked it this way: Quick, simple and uninvolved. I was getting exactly what, I thought, I needed without being pulled into messy, complicated and unwanted demands on my time. I mean, if I walked too slowly or looked up from the floor or engaged someone in conversation who knows what might that lead to?!

So I never really committed to Leroy.

When our lead pastor at that time moved on, his departure kind of threw me for a loop as his sermons were the center of my church-going experience and that center moved on when he did. For a time I lead my family on a search for a new church closer to home (we live 30 minutes from Leroy) but we never found a place we liked as much as Leroy. Ultimately, we decided to stay, however, this time there would be a difference. In addition to deciding to stay at Leroy, we also decided to commit to Leroy. We became members, we started volunteering for ministry and I stopped putting my head down and running for the doors on Sunday mornings.

It wasn’t till sometime later that I realized what I was running from in my first few years at Leroy. It wasn’t work really, it wasn’t uncomfortable conversations with people I didn’t know or the congregation of Leroy Chapel that I was running from; it was God. I realized I wanted to keep an arm’s length, intellectual relationship with God. I wanted control and to hang onto the freedom to do what I wanted. I also didn’t want the accountability that went along with submitting to God’s church.

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul describes the church as a body, explaining that each part of the body exists to meet the needs of the whole body:

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

God’s plan for His church is beautiful. While we are called together to celebrate God’s glory, we are also called together to love, support and admonish one another.

Hebrews 10: 24-25 says,

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

We all have challenges to face in this life: health problems, financial problems, conflict within our families, the temptations of a fallen world constantly tapping us on the shoulder. Within God’s church we are all members of a covenant community that loves us as God loves us. Stop running and relax in His arms.

  • Paul Burkholder

The Covenant of Community

I am comfortable with the notion that the Church is a community of believers. However, when the concept of covenant is added to community, my emotions turn from impact to fear. Let me try and explain why.A covenant is a contractual arrangement, which if validly written, is enforceable by a court. For some the idea of a covenant may be foreign; yet, real estate purchases includes covenants and every married couple, whether they think in these terms or not, is legally bound by the covenant of marriage.

So, when we think of covenant community of believers our mind should consider both the weightiness of the community and the covenant that binds them. The community described is God’s people purchased from the marketplace of sin by the precious blood of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. The covenant maker is none-less than God, who guarantees the solemn relationship and binds the redeemed community to Himself. God gives Himself to them as their God and takes them as His people. The tsunami of this relationship is far greater than we imagine for it legally binds all Christians together for all eternity. Then, what is my response to God’s covenant community? Should I live unto myself; be independent and do only what pleases me? The answer: an emphatic, No!

Whenever we make decisions, we should always ask the question, how will this decision impact my Christian brothers and sisters? We should endeavor to love our brethren more and more and with God’s help, seek their best in all we do. Specifically, this includes Pauls’ instruction of Galatians 6:2: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Our brothers and sisters are not called to bear their burdens alone, but to be cared for by those of us in covenant community with them. Our response should never be silence but be seen as a ministry of active engagement, carrying the burden with them; discovering what our Lord is teaching both of us, through the difficulty. Sometimes covenant living can be physically or emotionally draining; it may not bear immediate fruit. Yet, as believers, we can all be confident, “that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ,” Philippians 1:6.

– Selby Brannon

A Community of Friendship

I wrote earlier this week in my personal blog (markspansel.wordpress.com) about “The Need for Other Voices” in our lives as I reflected on Jonathan Holmes’ sermon on friendship to us this past Sunday.  Here’s what I wrote in part:

Not only is it essential to often slow your voice down in relationship, but we need other voices in relationships as well.  Here’s what I mean … and I imagine this is an experience common to man.  You have been trying to help someone see something in their life and they just don’t understand or see it.  Then someone else comes along and says exactly the same thing to them and the clouds part and they wonder why nobody has ever told them this life-changing counsel.  Parents, you know what I’m talking about!  Your kid comes home from camp or youth group with awe over a truth that was illumined to them and shared it with you as though you’d never heard of it.  It is perhaps one of the craziest things in pastoral ministry.  People who come to understand a precious truth that you’ve been teaching, preaching, and counseling for years only to state that they’ve never heard it.  In my younger (and more arrogant) years, this would drive me crazy.  I so desperately wanted “credit” for faithfully teaching that or courageously sharing that with a friend.  Now in my slightly older (and slightly less arrogant) years, I am able to thank God for the “other voices” in people’s lives that help them grow.  Of course the spiritual reality behind it all is that not my voice or that of another is the “change agent” … it’s the Spirit that opens eyes, minds, and hearts to receive truth and delight in it!

Yesterday I enjoyed the great benefit of “another voice” speaking to a subject I love dearly – friendship.  As a pastor one of my greatest desires is to see the people of God in a local church love each other deeply from the heart … to be engaged in intentionally redemptive relationships as a norm for the life of the body.  But it is always of great value to have other like-minded voices teach that same truth … from their perspective, with their personality, and in the power of the very same Spirit to God’s people.  

May we be a church of friends who have covenanted together.  A community of faith utterly dependent upon the Spirit of God. A radically selfless people committed to intentionally redemptive relationship to the glory of God!

  • Mark Spansel

Extraordinary Building through the Ordinary

At my work we are in the middle of a large building project to expand our manufacturing plant. I love projects like this but it reveals something about me. I’m a very impatient person. I want to see that project done. Like now. To see that golden shovel go in the ground to kick off the project was exciting but everything from that point on is really not very interesting. The day to day work at a construction site is very ordinary. What’s exciting or entertaining about holes being dug, nails being pounded, tiles being laid? Not much, but that’s exactly what happens every single day until that day when the ribbon will be cut and we can finally all move in together and smell that new carpet in the offices, walk out on that shiny new production floor and stand under those bright lights of the new warehouse.

It’s probably no wonder why Scripture is full of architectural metaphors for the Church, 1 Cor 3, Eph 2, 1 Pet 2. I’m impatient now with modern building technology, but at the time when the Biblical authors were led to use architectural metaphors as the best way to communicate how Christ would build His Church any building of consequence took a lifetime to construct. Laborers, craftsman, artists, foreman, and tradesman of the day spent their whole careers, their very lives at a project often never seeing the finished product.

If you’re like me I sometimes struggle to value the ordinary every day events of life but it’s mostly from those consistent, repetitive events played out over years where anything of value in my life is built. Maybe this is why it is the ordinary events of doing church each Sunday: the preaching of the Word, the practice of the ordinances, the fellowship of the saints is what God is using to build us up together as living stones into a building of true consequence. Let’s spend our lives together in the ordinary building events of life at church until that day the ribbon is cut and we all move in together into the house that He has built.

“You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” — 1 Peter 2:5

  • David Ortiz