Monday, November 5, 2007

Maintaining the Temple

Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him; for God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple. -- 1 Corinthians 3:16–17 (NIV)
We commonly see this as a call to care for our bodies, but it can also refer to caring for the church body. We are the church, the body of Christ, and in this passage Paul calls us to care for the church.

Most people who look into such things seem to think that church attendance is declining. Here are a couple of references to look at (not all aligned with Christian beliefs, so be wary!):
Special Report: The American Church in Crisis
The Barna Group
Did You Really Go To Church This Week?

So, the church in America (that's us) seems to be facing some difficulties. We have a responsibility to care for the health of the body. The question is, "What do we do?"

Here are my questions...

  1. Why does our church exist? Not just in general terms (to spread the gospel, reach the lost, etc.), but specifically our church, in our location, in our time. Why is this church here?
  2. What does our church need to become in order to fulfill its reason for existence? Which areas of ministry need to be sustained, and what new areas of growth need to be addressed?
  3. Why are you and I here as a part of this body of believers? Again, the details are important. What part do I play in this body? Why am I here?
  4. Finally, What must I become in order to maintain this church and keep it healthy? What areas do I need to apply my gifts or grow new talents?

These are difficult questions if you try to answer them thoughtfully. It may require more from us than we had expected!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Rewards in Heaven

I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. -- Luke 16:9 (NIV)

The parable of the dishonest manager (Luke 16:1-13) has got to be the most puzzling parable in the Bible. Jesus seems to be telling us that we ought to use any worldly riches we get to curry favor with those who can welcome us in heaven. In short, we ought to help others so they will have a good word to say about us later.

Parables are clearly intended to be more than puzzling little stories. Matthew Henry says it well, "...the divine revelation of both these in the gospel is intended to engage and quicken us to the practice of Christian duties..." We are supposed to learn something about how to live our lives properly.

The manager was about to be fired for failing to carry out his duties properly. Jesus commends him for taking the resources he had temporary control over (his master's) and applying them to his own benefit. To make it worse, he says that his followers are not this shrewd and implies they need to be more clever!

I have long been reluctant to even accept the idea of heavenly "rewards" that were contingent on earthly performance. It seems to cheapen the gospel to think that I would do good here on earth in order to get something for myself. Where is the selflessness of the gospel in this idea? However, the notion of heavenly rewards is clearly taught in the Bible.

Maybe the best I can do at this point is to understand that there's more to proper living than salvation. We tend to behave as if the only thing that really matters is accepting Jesus as Savior. It seems there is more to it than that. How we live our lives here on earth will have an impact on how we will live in heaven. More study is in order on this one!