When I Love the Church God Smiles

GodReflection: What Make God Smile?
For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another (1 John 3:11).
gary portraitHave you ever noticed how easy it is to set our own perimeters when we talk about our love for the church? I may be dead wrong but my perception is that church is viewed primarily as a local assembly with only a nod to its global nature.

When I limit my vision to a local church I fail to see the body of Christ is so much more. As I love the family of God close to me I need to take care to not miss the expansive nature of family that covers the entire globe. And, I must be careful not to overlook its overarching purity and perfection made so through the spilled church11blood of Jesus.

Christ’s church is so grand I cannot exhaust its depths. It stands with God, Jesus, Spirit, Faith, and Scripture as a holy gift that continues to gush blessings beyond my human capacity to absorb.

In richness the church rises day after day and night after night to serve as God’s leaven in a broken world. Through the church the hands of Jesus heal, care and forgive in countless neighborhoods across the lands of the earth.

church5Daily, thirsty people expand the church by numbers that I cannot grasp. From multiple languages and cultures, they submit to the Lordship and Kingship of God’s Son.

I need to train my heart to love the millions of God’s children who I will never meet on the path of my earth-walk. I love them by my love for Jesus’ church.

Closer to home I want to learn at a deeper level to love the church that meets under the lordship of Jesus in church tribes that differ from my own. I want to love those with whom I disagree.

Just as Jesus accepts me on the basis of my heart and my allegiance in spite of the fact I do not always think right, I need to extend the same grace to all believers who share in the body of Christ. Only Jesus has authority to issue membership in his church. As I extend grace I learn better to love the church.

church10I read Paul’s description of the intensity of Jesus’ love for his church:

. . . Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless (Ephesians 5:25-27).

Perhaps that gives me insight into how I, as a fallen creature, can love the church. The more I can see the church through the eyes of Jesus, the more readily I will be to offer grace to our cultural differences and to all of our human missteps in being church.

In keeping with Paul’s body analogy to describe church, I can begin to perceive the body parts as made holy, stain free and perfect as each part is washed through the Word Jesus. church2It’s a heart transformation concept. Through Jesus I can see and love the church as perfect.

I can’t help but think of the elderly apostle John who most likely in his nineties, reflects on his Lord and the church as he writes:

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. . . We love because he first loved us. . . And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. . . Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well (1 John 4&5).

He speaks of the church. When I make my feeble attempts to love Jesus’ whole church in the spirit of the apostle, I catch a glimpse of the face of God. He looks at me and smiles.

Stay tuned.

Dr. Gary J. Sorrells

A GodReflection: When I Love the Church God Smiles



Called to Follow

GodReflection: When God Calls
gary portraitIf you have been reading along with me you might recognized I have addresses today’s reflections at times on previous blog posts.

I explored His call upon my life rather extensively in the book Make Your Vision Go Viral under the chapters titled The Call and Desert Formation.
So today, I will begin with a disclaimer. Each time I reflect on my call from God I am again humbled. This morning I am reminded of the statement of Jesus as well as the statement of Paul.

Jesus teaches:

From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked (Luke 12:48).

And Paul reminds me in 1 Corinthians 4:7:

For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?

follow8In reflection, I don’t believe I am too far off the mark to declare that my call from the Holy started at birth and came through family and church.

With age it becomes clear that no family is perfect and all families are wired dysfunctional with the difference in each family tree being only the degree of dysfunction.

Thus, my birth was not into a perfect family but it was a family tree where God was grafted into the bark.

Extended family were Christ followers traceable to grandparents. A notable influence was my great uncle Dr.Owen Puckett our county health officer. His home was always open “to stop by” for a visit.

Dr Pucket

Dr. Puckett

To a little boy it was parallel to the apostle John being my great uncle. He loved God, Jesus, the church and people in his community. He brought his medicine and his heart into our home on many occasions. Each time at our place of worship, even when I was a little tyke we would shake hands, he would smile and give words of encouragement.

Obviously, my Christian parents served as formation guides and were a 24/7 influence in my life. A maternal grandpa and a paternal grandma played roles almost daily in my formation. Siblings, uncles, aunts and cousins were also weaved into the fabric.

Then there was church.

band10My church was like extended family. We worshiped together, ate together and they too were hand shakers, teachers and encouragers.

The leadership maintained a vibrant pulpit from which Scripture was proclaim every week. Periodically morning and night instruction flowed daily through what we called Gospel Meetings.

Is it too strange to conclude that I was born into the family of God at birth and His call through that family shaped my answers each time He called for obedience?

No doubt about it, the silent voice, the doors and the nudges were orchestrated by God. I was called to follow.

Obviously, God uses factors unique to each life as He calls across the face of His globe. Have you thought about your story? How has God called you? Perhaps a tougher question, how did you answer? Might be worth putting on your thinking cap for this one.

Stay tuned.

Dr. Gary J. Sorrells
A GodReflection: Called to Follow


God Calls on a Wide Bandwidth

GodReflection: When God Calls

gary portraitIs it possible that God has called out to you throughout your life and you have responded, even though you were unaware that He direct dialed your number to speak specifically to you?

In some ways that question came into greater focus when a cousin asked me a second question: “When was it that you first began to hold your current views?”

band4In an attempt at an answer I realized a specific time, place, person, or book could not be identified. Perhaps God has dialed into my wavelength at crucial times throughout my walk.

Who I am and what I believe today comes from a life process colored by my wiring, family, education, church, and probably specific people I’ve met along life’s road.
I’m starting to observe that God calls on a wide bandwidth.

It seems appropriate to revisit some of the ideas I’ve considered on my previous blog posts. At the same time, I believe the story of Scripture supports these observations.

band8I have come to see the calls from God upon my life have come through my success and failures in matching my DNA gift set to the tasks He set before me. He didn’t call me to be a policeman or a firefighter because I have zero aptitude for those jobs. Early in life it was obvious those jobs weren’t a match.

In addition, although I couldn’t see it at the time, I am confident God used family orientation and influence to craft the calls He has had upon my life.

band9Then there was education. Outside of God’s call, the educational opportunities placed before me throughout my life make zero sense for a boy born in the desert of New Mexico only thirty-five years after its statehood. College graduates on our family tree was rather sparse when I left high school.

I must not overlook church. I have no doubt that God has used those who make up the Body of Christ to get my attention and to assist from time to time with added clarity to set direction. Yes, at times God’s call upon my life has come through His people.

In an unexpected way, I suspect God has called me through friendships and writings of those who laid very little claim—if any at all—to an allegiance with Jesus.

band2It is fair to say that whether I realized it at the time or not, God used the broadband provided by all of the above to echo His call into my life. I’m sure there are other areas that I have missed.

To me the sad part of the story is there were many times I didn’t have the eyes to see that it was God who was opening and closing doors.

I am reminded of a section of Psalms 119:

I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.
Be good to your servant while I live, that I may obey your word. Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law. I am a stranger on earth; do not hide your commands from me.

band11Wouldn’t it be neat to be more aware of God’s calls? Oh, I’m not only thinking about the “biggies”. Most of the time those are easy enough to identify. Were I to rewrite the Psalmist’s words for my here and now I think I would pen: Open my eyes that I may see Jesus and open my heart that I may recognize His call 24/7.

Are there specific times when you have distinctively heard His call? In hindsight, were there times or influence that came about in your life when God called and you made the right or wrong decision unaware of His presence?

Stay tuned.

Dr. Gary J. Sorrells
A GodReflection: God Calls on a Wide Bandwidth


God Speaks to Me by His Word

GodReflection: Is Worship for God or for Me?
Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching (1 Timothy 4:13).

gary portraitI see a huge disconnect.

Those who have followed this blog through the years have heard my declaration of arrival on the church pew shortly after departure from the maternity ward. Over seven decades I’ve made some blessed as well as some rather anemic attempts at congregational worship.

There have been times when I exited the assembly confident God was worshipped and I was blessed. Other times not so much.

speak1However, I’ve always been perplexed about one aspect of my group worship experience.

If Scripture is indeed inspired by the Holy, why doesn’t oral Bible reading play a more significant role in the assembly of God’s people?

I remember far too many times when entrusted with the organization of the assembly I arrived and passed out paper slips to those who entered the door. “Will you lead a hymn or prayer?” Will you assist with the Lord’s Supper?” “Will you read a Scripture?”

Wow, what planning on my part. Hopefully, church worship has progressed beyond that.

At the same time, I still wonder if we’ve progressed to the point of a more prominent place in our assembly time to hear the written Word of God?

speak7Group worship provides a wonderful opportunity to set the stage for God to speak and send us back into our daily grind as richer people.

Three passages from Scripture seem relevant:

The Hebrew preacher reminds discouraged Jesus followers of an important role Scripture serves as an alive and active word from The Holy. It is the voice from Scripture that works on my thoughts and attitude. It is the voice of Scripture that convicts. As I listen my eyes and heart move toward Jesus.

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).

speak15After Jesus’ resurrection Luke recounts the stealth encounter of the Risen Lord with two disciples. When they arrived at their destination in Emmaus Jesus revealed his identity over shared bread.

Upon his abrupt departure the disciples make a powerful observation about Scripture recorded in Luke 24:32.

“Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

Doesn’t the potential exist to have my heart moved in the assembly by the oral reading of Scripture? I want my heart to burn more.

A third passage that seems relevant for a worship assembly reminds me of Paul’s instruction to Timothy.

speak21All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).

If Paul’s statement is indeed true don’t I need a steady diet from Scripture? Isn’t this a God designed way for public Bible reading within the worship of congregated disciples to bless each participant?

Here is what I think.

speak18Not everyone is gifted as a reader. I see why little kids might fall asleep as they listen to a bedtime story from a tired parent. Surely, God cringes when His inspired word is read to the congregation like it was a dose of sleep medication.

What if in our worship assemblies, we were to substitute more capable reading of Holy Scripture in the place of a portion of our sermon time or in place of one or two of our ten to twelve songs?

Might that be a game changer that sets the stage for God to speak and send us back into our daily walk as richer disciples?

Stay tuned.

Dr. Gary J. Sorrells

A GodReflection: God Speaks to Me by His Word.



In Assembly God Gifts Me with His Encouragement

GodReflection: Is Worship for God or for Me?
For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope (Romans 15:4).
gary portraitI don’t think it’s just me; I find life to be hard. Mr. Discouragement like a video game villain pops his head up with uncanny frequency.

The seeds of discouragement seem to be embedded both in the encouragement1humanness of my DNA and within the dark recesses of culture. “You are not good enough, you will never arrive, you must do better,” the culture shouts. “Is God really aware of the speed bumps that consistently appear in my path?” When I listen discouragement results.

As age creeps up, body deterioration with related challenges becomes a daily experience. Reality sets in and medical appointments become more frequent on my agenda than dreams and goals from the days of healthy vitality. Limitations tend to discourage.

Here is what I think.

encouragement3When I peruse my Bible, I find Jesus offers the antidote. He prescribes encouragement. The taproot of encouragement is nurtured from three springs. God gifts me with His encouragement through my closeness; to Scripture, to the Holy Spirit, and to other Jesus followers.

To the degree I open my life up to consistency on these three fronts I will find lesser or greater victories over discouragement. I want to live in such a way that Scripture, Spirit and siblings in Jesus are more than a scheduled worship encounter with the church.

However, that is not to say that I can do without the worship assembly. I have a deep need to meet God through worship for my own encouragement.

encouragement4For it is in the presence of other disciple where simultaneously I experience all three sources of encouragement. I am encouraged through the Holy Gathering from brothers and sisters. I hear from Scripture and led in the process by the Holy Spirit.

It is when I engage in communal worship that I receive through assembly a word from God and encouragement for my soul while led by the Holy Spirit of Father and Son.

In the Acts of the Apostles I discover a summation statement at a certain point in the life of the early church: Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, . . . (Acts 9:31).

encouragement8Here is what I wonder. Could it be that the worship assembly is designed to benefit me? Is it a place where in the act of the presentation of my gift to God—through all aspects of the assembly—the Holy Spirit is at work to gift me in return with the gift of encouragement?

I would love to hear your thoughts. What have I missed? Are there other ways God gifts encouragement to you?

Stay tuned.

Dr. Gary J. Sorrells
A GodReflection: In Assembly God Gifts Me with His Encouragement



My Desert Church

GodReflection: My Bible Doesn’t Read Like Yours

gary portrait4I am reminded again of my thesis in this series of post. No two people on God’s planet earth read the Bible through identical lens. Each of us bring broad strands of diversity to the Holy Text.

For this reason, as I begin this post I am aware that many of you will find little that is parallel to your own experience. Perhaps, others will pick up on something that will send you down your own private memory lane.

However, I cannot make any attempt at being honest with my own Bible without the admission that my desert church plays a major role—probably more than I realize—in the way I read all these decades later.

From my childhood town in the heat of the Chihuahuan Desert it is safe to assume we did not have the magic formula on how to do church.

church8It is not too much of an overstatement to say my church was also my family. True, some of its adherents were members of my genetic family while others just felt like it. From my young perspective, our church lived family.

Like family my desert church could trace its own genetic origin back to the eighteen hundreds tied closely to the proposition that we too could be identical in form, function and purpose to the first-century New Testament church.

worldview8The Bible was held with great esteem by our church family. A high premium was placed on the knowledge of right and wrong.

From the value of Scripture and the emphasis on doing right we created and were taught our own tribal traditions through conclusions drawn from previous generations and from the family pulpit.

church4aLeaders in the roles of elder, preacher, teacher, song leader and deacon set the tone for our desert church. From them we learn that arguments were to end in peace. From them we learned the contents of our Bible. From them we saw family in action.

church1bThe congregation’s pulpit played a huge role in the way I read my Bible. From baby blanket to high school graduation I must have slept, wiggled and listened to over twenty-five hundred sermons.

No, the pulpit proclaimers didn’t get it all right. They too preached from lives of diverse preparation and diverse backgrounds. But, their respect for God’s Holy Bible was never in doubt.

It is partially through my desert church formation that I read my Bible today. From that experience both right and wrong presuppositions screen my encounter with my Bible.

church7Like those of our own family tree, my desert church family was flawed by we human types who called ourselves brothers, sisters and mischievous kids. But the desert family patience, love and desire to follow God and His Son held us together.

I suspect that each of us who worship today in churches of our twenty-first century use the exposure we encounter in current congregations to form filters through which we read our Bible.

From our church tribes, their tribal origins, their traditions and their view of Scripture we all approach our Bible in diversity.

The congregational emphasis of exclusivity or acceptance of other Christ followers’ influences the way many view Scripture today. Theology and conclusions drawn through the repetition of worship songs over time create concepts and ideas in our minds eye that color the way we read our Bible.

worldview4Vibrant teachers within congregations who share an exciting Creator God are more likely to instill in students an intrigue with their Bible.

Teachers who personify a bottle of sleep medication become a barrier that can dissuade others from discovery of the richness and joy to be found at the feet of the opened book.

My hope for each of us is that in some way we might come out of our self-imposed desert places and participate as a positive corporate lens through which others can see the authentic Jesus as they join with us to read a Bible that speaks to each of our realities.

Stay tuned.

Dr. Gary J. Sorrells

A GodReflection: My Desert Church
Gary@Godreflection.org http://www.GodReflection.org

The Secret Body

GodReflection: God Shares His Secret—We are Body

“This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19) “. . . for we are members of his body”. (Ephesians 5:30)

garyguarujaJesus, on the eve of his crucifixion spoke of his body gift for the disciples. I doubt that any of them had a clue at that point what he meant.

I wonder who the first person was to use the body analogy? The apostle Paul was the first to express it in written form but I wonder if he heard it from fellow apostles or from Jesus himself? Perhaps, it was a Spirit inspired idea given directly to him.

Doctor Luke, as he summarizes Jesus post resurrection activity cites from his eyewitness research: He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. (Acts 1:3)

body22I am curious how much Jesus told them as he spoke about the kingdom of God? Did he tell them about his plans for his church that would cover the face of the earth? Did he tell them that his body would remain on the planet in the form of his church?

It was a secret held by the Holy for thousands upon thousands of years.

The revelation came shortly after the ascension. The Godhead announced the body secret with the prelude of a loud roaring wind sound and with flames aglow above the body12head of each disciple as a visual aid.

Before it was all over  three thousand men and women repented of their sin, identified with the Son of God, and submitted their lives to Jesus through the death, burial and resurrection in baptismal waters.

And . . . Viola! The church appeared. It was them and they were it.

Twenty-plus years later—for the first time in Scripture—the apostle Paul uses the analogy of the body as a visual for this ever-expanding assembly.

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. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. (Romans 12:4-6)

Yes, to be clear he wants all of us who make up the church to understand, you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. (1 Corinthians 12:27)

body15And, our corporate body has only one head the risen Christ who is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. (Colossians 1:18)

I don’t know if Paul was the first to share the secret that the church—you and I—are the body of Christ. However, I have to believe it is a shear genius idea from the Holy.

Here is what I think:

It doesn’t matter if I am a big toe or a little pinkie. I am body. I am to function as designed. It is not my role to judge you or your function. I am a vital part of the whole body4just as you are a vital part of the whole. I united with you and you are united with me because we both belong to Jesus.

The body operates with cleansing blood. When any member of the body aches, I feel the pain.  At any given time, a portion of the body hurts and so do other members. Through Jesus the body is always in the process of healing.

The big toe and little pinkie are united by the Holy Spirit. When one pumps Jesus-blood it flows from a healthy member toward another member. Together we are a work of art. Together we grow in wisdom and understanding. Together we grow toward immortality.

body14The headline for all to read is that the secret body functions as one unit because Jesus is the head. Whatever function I may have I am not the head. Only the Christ functions in that role.

The head too is part of the body. My role is to seek to know what the head is thinking and march in unity with those thoughts.

Fortunately, the Gospels show me his thought process.

I want to tune in as a body member.  The head thinks forgiveness. The head generates love. The head serves and wants me to follow in his steps.

The head values peace. As the big toe or little pinkie, I’m not to be jealous because your body17function is the smile or the beautiful eyes. We are both holy because Christ leads.

The former body of Jesus was broken for me. With him as my head and my example, I am willingly broken for others. With him as the head we are to function out of a spirit of thanksgiving.

And just think, His invitation remains open to join His secret body.

Yep, I have to believe it is a shear genius secret direct from the Holy.

Stay tuned.

Dr. Gary J. Sorrells

A GodReflection on The Secret Body

Gary@GodReflection.org   www.GodReflection.org  www.MakeYourVisionGoViral.com