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.

Gary@Godreflection.org

http://www.GodReflection.org
http://www.MakeYourVisionGoViral.com

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

Gary@Godreflection.org
http://www.GodReflection.org
http://www.MakeYourVisionGoViral.com

 

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
http://www.MakeYourVisionGoViral.com

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

 

 

Jesus Holds It All Together


denise-croppedHe is before all things, and in him all things hold together. – Col 1:17

I am thankful for Jesus and the fact he holds it all together.

While life sends interruptions, he holds everything in place so we can love on our own.

My husband is holding down the fort that is our home while I minister to my folks. Dad is in the hospital with pneumonia and mom is fighting bronchitis. Yet, both of them minister to me with encouragement, open communication and making it easy for me to advocate for them.

We spend quality time together in between doctor’s and nurse’s visits. We laugh, work on projects, let go and rest, but we are doing it together.

John’s mother lives in our neighborhood now, and while I am away, he is not alone, not just because he has and knows Jesus, but because John and his mother can keep each other company.

Dad and daughter on beachWhen we love each other, we are loving God and letting God love us through family.

Jesus holds us together as a family.

for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? – I John 4:20

We didn’t get to the church building much this past week, yet the Kingdom is everywhere.

It’s in the open Word when two or more are gathered. It is in the prayers of the elders who hold us up when we can’t get to the building.

We are the brick and mortar built upon the foundation that is Jesus. Sometimes we may be as thick-headed as bricks, but because of the merciful mortar that is Jesus, we can cooperate, resting on one another as God continues building His eternal Kingdom day by day. Jesus continues softening our hearts, steadying our minds and stabilizing our emotions the deeper we let him in.Community

Jesus holds us together when we cannot get to the church building.

For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. – 2 Cor. 5:1

I thank God Jesus is my high priest.

His tabernacle is found within me. My body is his temple. My mind is the place of prayer for peoples of all nations, for friends, for enemies, for family…for life!

I thank God for holding my society together. I thank God for good people all around and see Jesus in them, and pray they see Jesus in me. Maybe one day we can talk more about him.

No matter the tremors under my feet, or the shaking walls that surround, but always on the most pristine day, he is always in charge.Dome of the rock.Temple

I thank God Jesus is holding it all together.

But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation.  – Heb. 9:11

Because Jesus is holding it all together, I can do life today and don’t have to fear!

Amazing!

Jesus Is the Pattern  


GodReflection: It’s Jesus Friday

garyguarujaI am a product of the Industrial Age. Therefore, the concept of pattern comes as second nature.

Architects and engineers used a pattern to manufacture my car, my house, its furnishing, my computer, my utilities, and my clothes.

Patterns produced a large portion of what I eat and drink. There shouldn’t be any wonder that I am use to the dominance of patterns in the fabric of my life.

pattern9Here is where I get into trouble.

I mess up when I expect a pattern other than Jesus to keep me in a right relationship with God the Father.

In Old Testament Scripture I find precision with God’s pattern for Noah’s boat, Israel’s Tent of Meeting, and her Temple. God shared a set of blue prints with Noah, Moses, and Solomon.

In New Testament Scripture with no boat, tent, or temple, illusions to patterns are few.

Here is what I think.

When Jesus arrived in the manger history started to change in a big way. Nothing less than revelation of God lay in the straw.

Confirmed by his life, teachings, death, resurrection, and ascension, is it possible that for the first time a pattern for all the ages is reveal and it is God Himself?

Jesus teaches: No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. . . . Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”

pattern7God—who is love—desires for me to grow into His Likeness. To do so He sent Jesus to be my pattern—who is the very image of God.

The more I pattern my life after the Jesus blueprint, the more I grow into the image of God.

I now see the Jesus pattern as the primary thrust of New Testament Scripture. The more I grow into the likeness of Jesus the more I draw into kinship with the heart of God.

That moves Jesus out of the area or religion and ritual. My focus turns to imitate the life of Jesus through a worship-filled life of my own. The Jesus pattern lifestyle truly illustrates church as the body of Christ likewise displacing church from religion and ritual.

Here is the upside. To the degree I get the Jesus pattern right, I get God right, I get life right, and I get church right.

The Jesus pattern is a blueprint always under construction. To be a perfect imitator of Jesus is beyond the reach of my human nature. That is no surprise to God or His Son.

pattern8As I keep the perfect pattern ever before me, Jesus covers me with blood bought grace and together Father and Son fill me with the Holy Spirit. That takes my perfection out of the game plan and replaces it with trust.

The New Testament pattern is better than boat, tent, or temple—it’s Jesus.

Stay tuned.

Dr. Gary J. Sorrells – A GodReflection on Jesus the Pattern.

Gary@Godreflection.org     www.MakeYourVisionGoViral.com

Jesus Designed Church


GodReflection: It’s Jesus Friday

garyguarujaJesus’ mission on earth was multifaceted. He came to show the heart of God. He came to be the sacrifice that atones for the sin caused by Adam thus creating a pathway back to God. He came to exit the tomb to demonstrate his power over death. In short, he came to offer eternal life.

He did all of that and more.

I am slow to catch on.

It’s starting to dawn upon me that Jesus came to design church.

For three years, he taught people how to live in community under the rule of God. By sermon, example, miracles, questions, aha moments, and his walk among the crowds he taught people how to be church.

He introduces the God of extraordinary grace through parables. His stories introduce the God who throws a party each time one of us lost creatures return to Father Creator.

churchdesign1The design is for his church to live in the same manner as the Father. We are to gush grace onto all humankind.

He spoke of grace demonstrated through love, forgiveness, faith, trust, prayer, relationship, hope, and eternity.

He told the parable of the vine to teach the church’s connection to him and his relationship to the father. His parable about the good shepherd taught his care for the church.

His miracles of healing and his love for the poor were living demonstrations of the heart of God. The church is to display the same heart.

He taught that his church should imitate children’s loving innocence and trust in its walk with God.

He taught that his church was to live in peace and use the utmost gentleness in reaching out to a fellow Christ follower who offends.

churchdesign2Jesus wants his church to be at peace. So much so that he reminds me to refrain from worship until I make an offence right with a disciple I may have hurt or offended.

As Jesus forgiveness is without limits toward me, so should my forgiveness be without limits toward others.

His church is the fellowship of the pure in heart.

The Acts of the Apostles and the New Testament letters add rich texture to living as the body of Christ. However, I should never again divorce Jesus of the Gospels from the holy architecture of church design.

churchdesign3Acts and the Letters supplement but they do not design.

I must remember—it’s Jesus.

Stay tuned.

Dr. Gary J. Sorrells – A GodReflection on Jesus Designed Church.

Gary@Godreflection.org     www.MakeYourVisionGoViral.com