Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Bethany Bullet - May 25, 2010

It has been 50 days since we celebrated Easter, and this past Sunday marked the end of the Easter season. Sunday’s a special celebration in the Church. It’s the birthday of the church. The account begins with these words, “When the day of Pentecost came…” (Acts 2:1) Luke, the writer of Acts does not get the privilege of naming this new holiday. Pentecost had been celebrated for generations. Moses records the following in the book of Deuteronomy, “Count off seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the standing grain. Then celebrate the Feast of Weeks to the LORD your God by giving a freewill offering in proportion to the blessings the LORD your God has given you.” (16:9-10) Let me do the math for you, it was 50 days since the first harvest of the season. Later, this would become 50 days after Passover. The Greek version of the Old Testament called this festival Pentecost which is the Greek word for “fiftieth.”

Now it has been 50 days since Passover and 50 days since Jesus rose from the grave. The disciples were gathered together to celebrate a long standing festival. Pilgrims from all over have gathered in Jerusalem. And in the sound of a rushing wind, the Holy Spirit comes upon those gathered. On that 50th day, the church was born. On that 50th day, scripture was heard, a sermon was spoken, and people were baptized. Not unlike the church today.

But it wasn’t that long before there was trouble. From the beginning, being a part of the church had its problems. Some began mocking the church on that 50th day, and just a few chapters later in Acts we find the leaders of the church were arrested and brought to trial. The book of Acts sees the believers struggling, disagreeing, doubting, and dying; even as the Gospel message is spread.

Not much has changed in 2000 years. Getting involved in church can be difficult at times. Whether by doubts or disagreements, being involved in church can eat you up.

The Apostle Paul knew about the troubles of the church. As he traveled he planted many churches. As Paul journeyed on, it was inevitable that troubles would come up in the churches he planted. Many times they wrote to Paul, asking for advice. Some of Paul’s letters have been gathered in the pages of the New Testament to help us today.

The church in Corinth was divided on many issues and Paul gives them some wonderful words of wisdom that stand for us in the church today. From 1 Corinthians 12,

The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ...Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body... Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

I think Paul has some great advice for us today, as we celebrate the birthday of the church, on how to get involved in church without letting it eat you up.

#1- Learn your SHAPE
#2- Know your Place

First—Learn your SHAPE. God has created you in a unique way. He has given you a particular shape for service. Here at Bethany we have developed a class called SHAPE to help you find your unique shape and to identify areas of service where you might fit. This fall we will offer this class again.

Your SHAPE points to five specific characteristics:
Spiritual Gifts- A set of special abilities that God has given you to share his love and serve others.
Heart- The special passions God has given you so that you can glorify him on earth.
Abilities- The set of talents that God gave you when you were born, which he also wants you to use for Him.
Personality- The special way God wired you to navigate life and interact with others.
Experiences- Those parts of your past, both positive and painful which God intends to use in great ways.

If you don’t understand what your SHAPE is, you end up doing things that are not fulfilling and that do not use your gifts and talents to their utmost potential.

Here at Bethany, it is important to know if you are a hand or a foot, an eye or an ear, to use Paul’s language. To maximize your service, you need to learn your SHAPE.

Once you have learned your shape you need to know your place.

Paul wrote, “If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 16And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body.” 17If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? … The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" …there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.

At times we have feet trying to be hands, and ears trying to be eyes. Sooner or later we get eaten up because we are trying to serve in areas that we are not suited. We don’t often have equal concern for each other.

You were not created to conform. You were not created to compare. You were not created to compromise. You were created to contribute to God’s kingdom and make a significant difference with your life.

Jesus knew his shape. He knew that He had been sent by His father to the world, to seek and to save the lost. Jesus was shaped to be a Teacher and our Savior. His task sent Him to the cross and His SHAPE as God incarnate defeated sin, death, and the power of the devil.

Jesus also knew his place. John records the following as Jesus is before Pilate, “Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place." "You are a king, then!" said Pilate. Jesus answered, "You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me."

Just hours later, Jesus, the way, the truth and the life, would go to the place of the skull, to take our place on the cross so that we might have a place in heaven with Him forever.

So how do we get involved in Church without letting it eat you up?
• Learn your SHAPE
• Know your Place

And if I could add one caveat that is not really in the text—if something doesn’t fit your shape, and is not in your place, it is OK to say no! This is a hard word in the church, but it is vital to your service or you will find yourself eaten up.

The past 50 days have been filled with the celebrations of Easter. And as we begin the season of Pentecost, the season of the 50th, we look forward to what the next 50 days, 50 weeks, 50 months, 50 years may bring as we grow in Christ.

-Pastor Seth Moorman


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