Grow Deep: It's Not What You Think Edition, Week 5

Week 5 - February 4-10

The Church

"For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ, we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others." -Romans 12:4

Last year, my wife and I were busy preparing to put our house on the market and move. There were so many details--deadlines to meet, things to schedule, and projects to complete. As that list of stuff grew, we quickly realized we were in over our heads. There were too many things to accomplish and not enough hands to get them all done while also navigating our already busy life. So, we prayed and contacted friends for help.

The most overwhelming show of support came from our church family. Prayers were answered. Teams of friends, spanning several small groups and other ministries, jumped into action joyfully ... painting, fixing, cleaning, and organizing. Not only that, but these friends even orchestrated feeding the helpers!

In a moment of reflection during that time, I gave God thanks for answering our prayer in such an abundant way. Seeing everyone work together to help us reminded me of the Acts 2 church and the fellowship of believers described in verses 41-47. They, too, were joyful in their daily routines, working together to support each other to the glory of God. They were the earliest examples of what God's church was, and is, intended to be which is far more than just a weekend destination! Like them, we are a church of action; a launching point for believers to live out our faith.

 While my example is just a small slice of our endeavors, it's not hard to see all the good our church ministries accomplish outside of the church walls. Whether it's raking leaves for our neighbors or serving as mentors in our neighborhood schools, we live our faith outwardly. We should continue that outward path and ask God to help us see opportunities to serve others, together as His church.

 

Sunday, February 4

Read: John 15:12-17

Just before his crucifixion, Jesus spent time teaching the disciples about the work He would continue to do in the world through them—the first leaders of the church. What He taught them continues to guide His church, today.

Reflect: According to these verses, how is it that a person becomes part of Christ’s church—do we decide to join? Love is typically a word which implies action on the part of the one doing the loving. Why does Jesus place such a premium on love as a mark of His people? What are some of the things that Christ has commanded you to do that should occupy your attention in the week ahead?

For the Family: What does it mean to be a friend? What does Jesus say makes us His friend?

 

Monday, February 5

Read: Colossians 1:21-29

As Paul begins his letter to the Church in Colossae, he reminds the Christians there of the foundation of their faith and of the ongoing work of God’s people gathered in the church.

Reflect: While Jesus Himself takes the initiative and brings His people into His church, what are God’s people expected to do with what they have been given? How does understanding the church as the body of Christ make it different from every other institution in the world? According to these verses, what is the content of what the church proclaims? What would it look like for a man to be “complete in Christ?”

For the FamilyHave you ever had to try to walk using crutches? Why was it hard? Having your entire foot on the ground helps to give you balance and makes it easier to walk. When the Apostle Paul tells us to remain “grounded” in our faith, what do you think he means?

 

Tuesday, February 6

Read: Romans 12:3-13

One of the earliest confessions of the church, the Nicene Creed, includes the declaration that we believe “in one holy catholic and apostolic church.” These four descriptors have become essential components of our understanding of the church. Of course, each of the four is grounded in the Scriptural record.

Reflect: Paul again reminds us that as His people, we are the body of Christ. What does his added emphasis that it is one body teach us about church unity? How does Paul make clear that this unity is not merely an ideal to seek, but a reality to be lived? Considering Paul’s description of a faithful church, which characteristics deserve special attention right now in your life…in your church?

For the Family: Is everyone in your family good at the same thing? Is everyone in your church family good at the same thing? The Apostle Paul tells us that we each have something special to do as part of God’s church. How does it make you feel to know that God has something special for you to do?

 

Wednesday, February 7

Read: I Peter 2:1-10

The second key descriptor of the church is that it is holy. Peter paints a picture of the church’s elevated status that is quite remarkable; but, it is a standing that comes only because of God’s action. Chosen by God, the saints are unlike any other group or gathering in the world—they are holy.

Reflect: What are some ways that Peter emphasizes the strong connection between the church and her Lord? What is the relationship between the two? To be holy means to be different and set apart for special use. Thinking about Peter’s description, how should the church show her holiness in the world of 2018? How would remembering that you are holy impact how you live the routine of your life today?

For the FamilyDo your parents make you take a bath? Why is it important to take a bath? How does God make us clean spiritually? What is a word that God uses in these verses to describe us when we are spiritually clean?

 

Thursday, February 8

Read: Revelation 7:9-17

For many reasons, the Revelation of St. John can be an intimidating book. But in the midst of what is mysterious and strange, a clear picture of the church emerges. We are reminded, here, that the church is catholic, or universal and complete. It is utterly inclusive and absolutely comprehensive in its extent and content.

Reflect: What church is being described in these verses? What is the relationship between this church and the church you know? How should the radical inclusivity and universality of the church impact the church’s behavior and practices, today? Which images especially communicate messages of comfort and purpose for God’s people in the world of 2018?

For the FamilyWhat are some of the words used in verse 12 by those who were worshipping God? Can you use some of those words in a prayer to Jesus today?

 

Friday, February 9

Read: Ephesians 2:11-22

The final attribute confessed of the church is that she is apostolic. This idea does not imply an elaborate hierarchy or historical succession of leadership. To be apostolic simply means to be teaching and practicing what the apostles taught and practiced. We are the church of the apostles when we follow the things they taught.

Reflect: As Paul addresses the new Gentile believers, how does he emphasize both God’s initiative in creating the church and the unity of the church? While it is often stated that the church is not a building, what does Paul’s use of that image here teach us about the church and her relationship with God? What significance should the church’s foundation have for how the church understands herself and her work in the world, today?

For the FamilyDid you ever build a house out of wooden blocks? What would happen if you removed the blocks at the bottom of the house? God tells us that we are being built into spiritual house. How do these verses tell us to keep our spiritual houses from falling down?

 

Saturday, February 10

Read: Revelation 2:1-7

John’s Apocalypse begins with his series of seven letters to real churches in Asia Minor. We are reminded that while the church is one, each local church faces challenges, opportunities, and situations that are unique. So, wise Christians pay attention to their circumstances to consider what it means for them to be faithful to God’s call in their particular context.

Reflect: How would John’s exhortation to the church in Ephesus have provided encouragement to those believers? What might it mean for a church to leave her first love? Why is it important for a church to hear not only encouragement, but also warning? How do the words of this letter apply to the church in 2018? What would it mean for you, today, to do the “deeds you did at first?”

For the FamilyDo your parents warn you about things that could hurt you (don’t touch a hot stove for example)? Why do you think they warn you of those things? What is the writer of these verses warning the people in Ephesus about?