Category: Trivium of Spiritual Maturity: Relationship

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
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Four Friends

Last weekend 120 of our ladies gathered at Quail Hollow Resort for a 24-hour retreat.  The guest teacher was Erin Davis from Revive Our Hearts Ministry, and author of Connected: Curing the Pandemic of Everyone Feeling Alone Together.  Of course I wasn’t there, but my wife (and others) have filled me in on some of the excellent Biblical teaching on relationship that I thought was worth passing on here to both the men and women of Leroy Chapel (sort of in my own words).

During her time with the ladies she laid out four kinds of friends everyone needs in their lives.  First of all, I like this because nobody “has it all” … and we need various people with various gifts and roles in our lives.  We can’t ever expect the one perfect friend to be everything to us.  So consider these four friends, and whom you have and whom you need to invite into your circle of counsel:

Intercessor – You need a prayer partner (that’s how I’ll say it).  You need a friend who will regularly pray for you and with you.  One who knows the issues you face, struggle with, and are aspiring toward.  They don’t have to be an “expert” in prayer, they just need to love you and be eager to stand with you in prayer before the throne of grace.

Mentor – This is why we need the generations in the local church … those who are a few (or more) steps ahead to set an example that others can watch.  We all need a friend who we can ask – “How does that work? What did you do there? What should I consider here?”  They’ve walked the road, worn a path, and hold high the banner of truth.

Challenger – Ouch, these friends poke and prod.  They are the prophet-like friends who keep you from being stagnate and stale.  They are the ones who help you to see what you don’t (or couldn’t) see on your own.  They make you better, stronger, wiser.  They stretch you to be all that God has called you to be.  You need one of these so you can be on-the-grow in your life!

Kindred Spirit – It’s so so delightful to be with a friend who knows you, shares common interests, and with whom you feel utterly safe.  A kindred spirit, my brothers, is not just for women.  None of us were meant to be alone, we were built for relationship, and we need good friends like these to share life experiences, cry with us, and make us laugh.

Do you have these four friends in your life?  Ask God to bring them … and then go invite them into your heart!

  • Mark Spansel

To Be Known

“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”― Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God

You recall the events recorded in the Gospel of Luke on the night before the crucifixion. Peter has just denied to a servant girl that he even knew Jesus. Peter was by the fire and the words of his denial of Christ had just left his mouth and what happens? Luke adds a very important detail to the account that we need to see. “And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.”

Peter looks across the courtyard and there Jesus is looking directly into his eyes. If only we could know what that looked like. I know the kind of look Peter would have gotten from me… anger, disgust, and hatred. I can imagine the Savior looking at him in pity, concern, and love. I think that look forever burned away the pride and self-confidence Peter was known for up until then. Peter is on the way home.

People like Peter, like us, will mask fear with a pretense of confidence, indifference, or pride even when it destroys the very last hope of finding acceptance, approval, and love. Where can we turn? The good news for Peters-in-denial like us is “the Lord turned and looked” at us. Christ saw us in our worst state of denial yet still in the ultimate demonstration of love laid down his life for us. By faith in what He has done we are fully known yet fully loved, fully accepted so our relationships with others no longer need to bear the full weight of our need of acceptance and love. Ultimately our need is met in Christ so now we have a confident freedom to know and accept people because we are fully known and accepted by the One who knows us best.

“having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” Jn 13:1b

– David Ortiz

Knowing, Being Known, and Loving

A friend recently asked me those ever-convicting relationship questions: Who are you pursuing right now to know them? Who is pursuing you to know you? Are you letting them know you? Are you being honest?

Certainly knowing someone is not everything that characterizes loving well, but a commitment to knowing someone is a bigger portion than you might think. Consider how Jesus knows us in Hebrews 4:14-15.

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

The thought of our Savior-Priest in v14 can put us in awe. He has completed his sacrificial duties and He is the perfect sacrifice! This phenomenal vision and truth alone produces worship! But there is more riches here. I don’t only know Him, He knows me. That’s why v15 deeply moves us. It’s this same sinless Savior-Priest who sympathizes with our weakness; he knows the depths of the frailness of our humanity.

This is where we must allow our accurate theology to bleed into our everyday. He doesn’t just know humanity to prove his purity and worthiness as the Lamb of God. But in making Himself know he reveals that he knows my humanity. He knows me. He knows it all; my emotional limitations, my temptations toward comfort and control, my hiding from relationship, my desire to succeed, my fear of abandonment and more. He knows me. And yes in the most intimate exchange, at the cross, he knows me and he loves me.

That’s it! This is why knowing and being known matters in loving well. There is no depth of loving without knowing. Knowing someone is not only about earning credibility, it is the context of sacrificial love.

Friends, as you move through the Advent season, consider taking a step toward knowing and being known. To briefly say “I love you” to a brother or sister on Sunday morning is sweet. But from one who knows us, from one who fights with us and for us, from one who has seen our good, bad and ugly days … This one has felt the wounds and frailness of our humanity. They know and love.

  • Jeff Pierce

The Greatest of Friends

The Word of God says much about relationships. Here is a simple thought-provoking example. Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” The economy of these thirteen words is nothing short of impactful. The author of the proverb shares something very special about friendships; “a friend loves at all times.” He states a friend’s love is not fickle for he loves at the best of times and loves us equally at the worst times.

Next, the writer parallels the first half of the proverb by saying, “and a brother is born for adversity.” What does this mean? Simply put, it means that a true friend walks alongside us through the travail of our deepest and hardest struggles.

The Bible, in one short verse gives us great instruction about friendship, it says a friend loves us in our best and worst times and he journeys with us as we deal with the deepest darkest adversity. Such a friend is a great blessing.

Unfortunately, all earthly friendships are fraught with issues. They are imperfect because they are engineered by broken people in a fallen world. The Gospel speaks of the most true and genuine friend of all, Jesus. In John’s Gospel, 15:13-15, Jesus’ last night with His beloved friends before His crucifixion, He said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.

Jesus is far more than an earthly friend. He is the Savior who befriends all who belong to and trust in Him – He alone truly fulfills Proverbs 17:17. Jesus loves at all times and will never abandon, regardless of events or circumstances. He walks alongside us through the greatest of life’s adversity, on the most difficult days, even as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, until we go to sleep in His arms; awaken and find our eternal rest, in His presence forever.

  • Selby Brannon