In Psalm 133, we see the benefit of truly being part of a church family. “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.” Verse one gives the conditions that must be met for the blessings to come. We, brothers and sisters in Christ that we are, must “dwell together” and do it “in unity.”
There’s a big difference between living with your siblings and seeing them only on rare occasions. There is as great a difference when we’re talking about brothers and sisters in Christ. In my church, I have many with whom I dwell. Some I see more often and some I see less often, but those of us who come together as a unified body know that blessing the Psalmist talks about. It IS good. It IS pleasant.
In the last few words of Psalm 133, we see David pulling together the pictures he’s given us. Why are all these things so good, so pleasant, so precious, so nourishing? “For there the Lord commanded the blessing – life forevermore.”
I want that commanded blessing in my life, so I choose to be an active, integral part of a church family that strives to live together in unity.
Coming together, as a body, in God’s presence, has been a part of our relationship with God from the first day He walked with Adam in the cool of the evening. When God laid out the Law through Moses, as He worked on turning this group of people into a true nation, He specifically told them to come to the place of meeting for certain feasts every year – no matter how far away they lived.
In Jesus’ day, they customarily went to Temple every week. We see repeatedly that it was Jesus’ custom throughout His ministry, and in the book of Acts we learn that the disciples continued to do the same. The disciples also met from house to house in the book of Acts.
I see an interesting progression here. At first, the requirement was to gather a few times a year, though obviously the more often a man came to Temple the better. In Jesus day, on the Sabbath was a standard. After the death, burial, and resurrection we see the true disciples meeting pretty much daily.
Now look at us. A very few who claim to be Christians meet twice a week. A few more meet once a week. The majority (here in the US anyway) who claim to be Christians might make it to church on Christmas and/or Easter.
It looks to me like we’re regressing rather than progressing.
We all go through hard times, some being worse than others. One thing we all need during those times is stability.
One particular time, for me, was more devastating than any other before or since. I felt like every natural thing I’d built my life on was coming apart, and that its foundation was crumbling. At that point, all I could rely on was God.
It would have been easy to back away from church right then, to draw into myself and give in to the pain and fear. Instead, I did two very important things. I kept one (ONLY one!) very close, mature friend up on what was going on so that I had her prayers, encouragement, wisdom and support, and I stayed active in church. When many others would have run away from the church, I ran to it.
My problems didn’t disappear when I walked through those doors, but as I served Him in my appointed ministry, and as I soaked in the sermon, I found true peace. I seriously understood the Psalmist’s words, “For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand.” In truth, church services, during that time, always ended too early for me.
Different denominations use different words, but we call the room where we worship the sanctuary, and that’s what it was for me – in every sense. I found sanctuary there, protection, refuge, comfort, peace…stability.
I learned many things during those horror-filled months, and this is one of them. The church, if you are truly an active part of it, offers stability in unstable times.
For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand [anywhere else]
Psalm 84:10a (AMP)
I’m over fifty, and I turned my life over to God when I was twelve. I’ve had some truly joyous days in those years, and I’ve had days so devastating that I would never wish them on my worst human enemy. (The devil is a different story!) One thing I can say from experience is that Psalm 84:10 speaks truth…great truth.
In earlier years, church attendance was an act of discipline. I made myself get up on Sunday mornings and forced myself to ignore weariness on Wednesday evenings. Eventually, though I began to see a pattern.
Any time I truly entered into a service, taking an active part in it rather than merely letting it happen around me, I came away energized – no matter how tired I’d been when I arrived. Any time I’ve gone to church and consciously set aside my worries, fears, or pain, spending time focusing on God instead of me and my issues, I have come away with more peace, clearer vision, and often even supernatural release from even crippling pain.
I speak of emotional pain, but the same applies to physical pain. For years, I suffered from three-day, hormone-induced migraines that hit every fourteen days. Day one I usually spent in bed, sure I was going to die. On day two, I knew I was going to live, but wanted to die. By day three, the pain was still devastating, but so much lessened in comparison that I could push through it. During this time, I was first in the band and then in the choir, yet I missed very few services.
By then, I truly understood the importance of, and many of the reasons for, God’s command to assemble together (Hebrews 10:25) and simply (though not always easily) refused to let my body dictate my actions. And God honored my choices.
In the band, I played small percussion. Percussion and migraines obviously don’t mix; neither do singing and migraines. Even so, almost without fail, as soon as praise and worship began I would be totally pain free and I would stay free from pain until I stepped down and sat in my pew. Sometimes the pain stayed away and sometimes, usually, it only eased up, but continually God reminded me that He had called me to serve in the music ministry and as long as I stayed right with Him He would make me able.
So… Today there is no “I don’t feel like going to church.” Or, perhaps I should rephrase. There are days when my body would rather not go to church. I, though, have realized that I always benefit from being in service. I want to be there on the good days, when all is right with my world, but I especially want to be there – desperately want to be there – when fear, doubt, pain, or heartache are hounding me, because it is there that I find solace and strength. It IS better to spend one day in His house than a thousand anywhere else!
And as strongly as I feel this now, oh how I look forward to Heaven!
…not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
“…not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together,” states it so clearly.
I was told once, by an avid fisherman, “I can get as close to God on the lake as I can in church.” That may well be; who am I to declare him mistaken? But he cannot get as close to the assembly on the lake as he can in church, because the church is where we come to assemble ourselves together.
…not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some.
How much this shames us. The writer of Hebrews spoke to those Christians and reminded them not to forsake the assembling of themselves together as was the manner of some. If the statistics are true, this verse would need to be reworded slightly for today’s American church. It would need to read, “…as is the manner of most!” A large percentage of the American population professes to be Christian, but where are these people when the rest of the body comes together for worship? Why are they forsaking the assembly? Could it be that they have never truly read this verse?
God creates nothing without purpose and the local church serves His purposes greatly. As long as we continue to forsake this assembly we refuse to grow up and become all He has called us to be (Eph 4:14-16).
…but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
Hebrews 10:24 elaborates on the exhortation; we are to exhort one another to love and good works. And we are to do it “so much more as you see the Day approaching.”
The Day, of course, refers to the return of the Lord Jesus Christ, and it doesn’t take either an expert on Bible prophecy or a student of world events to see that the Day is most definitely approaching. Indeed, it approaches so quickly that I find myself rushing to get done all He has called me to do so that I will leave no unfinished work behind me.
Oh, that we would stop playing around with the time He has given us, but that we would, instead, devote our days to preparing ourselves and others for the reality that is eternity!
From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Christ’s body, like our bodies, consists of many parts, and God created each part to serve a purpose; I Corinthians discusses this at length. A friend once told me that she had discovered what part she was – Christ’s nose hair. She said it laughingly, but a brief anatomy study reveals that, in a way, she was right. Nose hair acts as a filter, preventing that which is unacceptable from entering the body. This woman has tremendous discernment and walks in spiritual authority at a level beyond that to which most Christians would aspire. When demons have been known to tremble in your presence, you do help to protect the body from unwanted entry.
Each of us is called by God to serve a unique purpose, to fill a position in His body – in the local church. I Corinthians 12:18-20 says, “But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.” There are many parts – many of us, the individuals who make up the body of Christ – and each part is both uniquely necessary and necessarily unique. Just as God did not create the human body with nothing but eyes, tongues and hands, He did not create the body of Christ with only pastors, choir members and ushers. No, the body of Christ (and each local church body) is made up of many parts, many people. Us.
But it is not enough to acknowledge that we are each a part of the body. No, we must also discover which part of the body we are. Note, I do not say we must decide which part we are. No indeed, for I Cor 12:18 states clearly that, “But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.” (emphasis mine) God has a unique plan for each one of us and it is our responsibility to seek Him and find out what that plan is. If we presume to decide for ourselves what function we will fill in the body of Christ, we make a gross mistake. Just as an elbow does not have the option of deciding it would rather be a hand, we do not have the option of changing our God-given assignments.
Over the years, I have repeatedly witnessed the results of this very thing, people attempting to choose their own assignments rather than seeking God’s direction. The music ministry is typical; many people join the choir not because God has called them to that position, but because it is where they want to be. Fortunately, most of these misplaced members eventually realize they have put themselves into the wrong position and, hopefully, move on to the place of God’s calling. How much easier would church life have been on them if they had gone straight to God for their assignments instead of telling Him where they had chosen to place themselves? Indeed, how much better would it have been on the choir and music ministry if they had not put themselves where they were not called to be…and how much easier on the ministry that had anxiously awaited their arrival? An elbow that tried to be a hand would create a multitude of problems; one who is called to be an usher, yet tries to be a nursery worker, can do the same.
Yes, it is imperative that each of us, as members of the body of Christ in general and our local church bodies in particular, find out where God has called us to fit in and GET THERE. My place, for 28 years, was in the music ministry. I served wherever the head of my ministry asked me to serve, from choir loft to church office, and I will dare say that I filled my spot well. I have, in the past, likened myself to a ball bearing, the part that makes everything run smoothly while remaining, itself, unseen. Looking at my reference verse, I suppose I would say that I fell into the, “held together by every supporting ligament” category because ligaments are absolutely necessary for the proper running of the body, supporting everything from their unseen position. Interestingly enough, it occurs to me that they are also nurtured and sheltered there, protected by all the visible things that cover them.
Had I ever wanted to be one of those visible parts? Of course! I have an ego and fight pride like everyone else. Like many who love to sing and end up joining a church choir, I had my moments of wanting to be a front line member (one of those few who are on the main stage), but the main platform was not my called position. Understanding this, I chose to put down the flesh whenever it would raise this topic. Interestingly enough, long after I conquered my flesh in this area, God arranged for me to fill in as a front line member for one service. Had I cherished any lingering thoughts of the main platform they would have been squashed flat that night. Everyone said I did well enough, but like an elbow trying to be a hand I felt grossly out of place. Dear God, never again…please.
Today I am on staff at the church, so my position has changed dramatically. No longer in the music ministry, I run our coffee shop and Info Table instead, but I am still a supporting ligament, still just doing my best to keep things moving smoothly and with excellence. I love being where God has called me to be!
…grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Ephesians 4:14 begins, “Then we will no longer be infants…” and verse 15 says, “…we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” This whole passage, Eph 4:14-16, talks about us maturing, growing up and refusing to remain babies. Any pastor will tell you sadly that there are too many spiritual babies in the body of Christ, too many spiritual babies in his church. Verse 16 reveals one of the great evidences, an obvious indicator of whether one is a mature or immature (baby) Christian.
…grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
The emphasis, of course, is mine.
According to this Scripture, the growth, the maturity, the building up in love comes as each part does its work. Not only must each part of the body of Christ and, obviously, the local church body, work (which is a rare enough thing in most churches), but each must do its work – not that of another part (someone else’s work). Each of us is a part of the whole body and every one of us has God-given work assignments. Only when we walk in submission to Him and do the works that He assigns do we really grow and build ourselves up in love. Furthermore, only when we each do our own work does the body grow and build itself up in love. When we fail, the body fails; if I, as a supporting ligament, choose not to do my assigned work, all that I support is hindered, handicapped and slowed in its growth.
When you put a bumper sticker on your car, people associate you with whatever that bumper sticker represents. Did you cut them off in traffic? They’re probably disparaging your preferred university. Even worse if you’re a Christian, when they see you behaving badly while driving a car that labels you as a Christian or a member of a certain church, they are quite possibly using your behavior as an excuse to judge God and your church.
You think I’m kidding? I know someone who will not put one of her church’s bumper stickers on her car because she’s heard, too many times, “Those ______ drivers are some of the worst on the road!” She doesn’t want to risk her driving reflecting badly on her church, so she won’t advertise where she goes.
I think of this sort of thing often as I pray the Lord’s Prayer. I wear the label “Christian” and, whether or not anyone around me sees that label (And they do!), I know there is a multitude of other witnesses both angelic and demonic that do. Even more so, God does. God’s name is holy, and my desire is to always, even in the privacy of my own thoughts, reflect His holiness, not giving the devil or man any reason at all to judge God poorly based on ME.
As I pray “hallowed be Thy name,” I renew my commitment to keep His name holy, to do nothing to sully or stain it. I remind myself that every little thing I do and don’t do DOES matter, and that even a moment of giving in to the flesh can have a terribly negative impact on people around me, putting a wedge between them and my God and, yes, between them and my church if they know where I go. What if my church is the one God has been calling them to and my actions make them turn away? God has said in His Word that He holds me accountable for such things!
I’m human, and I fight my battles with flesh in all its forms just like every other human does. I fail Him and the people around me all too often, but when I realize I have I hit my knees, repent, and get back up even more determined to get it right the next time.
I do it because His name is holy and I am well aware that I have a responsibility, that my part as a Christian is to always do my best to respect His holiness.