Monday, December 28, 2009

Reflections II: Grace Gives Back

“As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. ‘I tell you the truth,’ he said, ‘this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.’” – Luke 21:1-4

“And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.” – 2 Corinthians 8:1-2

While everyone may not all be called into full-time church ministry as a vocation, we are all called to be the body of Christ together with one another. When we receive the mercy and grace of Christ through the ministry and members of the church, the Spirit that abides in us compells us to give to others in return. We can't wait to give back, first to those of the household of God, but also to those in our midst - in our family, our communities, and at work.


In my previous post, I wrote about two different views of spiritual gifts, which I labeled "Willowback" and "Caluther." In my conclusion, I stated a preference for the traditional reformed view of spiritual gifts, outlined in Luther's doctrine of vocation, whereby Christians are sovereignly placed in four estates or spheres of life to serve by using their gifts. Upon further reflection, I'm not fully satisfied with slicing up our lives into estates or spheres, or whatever you might want to call it, and leaving it there. In other words, I am not a fan of the Willowback style model, which tends toward creating synthesis on the theological side, and creating separatism from the other three estates or the culture and society on the practical side. Very often the resulting effect on parishoners/church members is burn-out and shut-down. On the other hand, I think in order for the doctrine of vocation to be fully effective, it is also important to further understand that the vocation doesn't end by dividing up and identifying our calling in the various estates. The equally important element is in understanding that vocation is not meant to be merely a one-to-one transaction: me and God, me and my neighbor, me and my brother or sister, me and my mom, etc..

Somehow, WE, as the body of Christ, walk together in all four spheres. My brothers and sisters in Christ are part of my callings, whether it be in the local church, or at work, or at home, or in my community. Prayer is the most demonstrable means by which God works this incredible group effort. Sometimes, we are physically ministering side by side, joining with one another in actual presence as we labor in our callings, but most often, we cannot physically "be there." Therefore, prayer and fellowship so that we know how we can pray for each other is the crucial link in HOW we actually are able to corporately be in the world, but not of the world.

Let me give you an illustration. When I was a brand new Christian, I attended a parachurch fellowship group. We met weekly for Bible study and worship, but we also had set aside time for members to come together and pray for each other. Each week, we would meet and find out about each others' spheres: what we needed prayer for at work, at school, at home, with family and friends, in our neighborhoods. We would pray for our own struggles, sin and temptations, and we would pray that our acquaintences and loved ones would come to know Christ. And each week at Bible study, we would have anywhere from 1-4 new visitors, which I am convinced was totally correlative. Enemies often became friends, but even more importantly, we watched together as they became believers. When visitors came to Bible study, there were plenty of open arms and hearts to welcome them, because they really weren't visitors. We already knew them. We had been praying for them for months. We already had a connection and relationship with them and cared about them, so when we actually met them for real at Bible study, we were just beaming that they were there!

Prayer is such an important means of grace and way that God uses to build His kingdom. I believe that when we simply relegate the church's prayer to phyical illness (which is very important and should not be taken for granted!), we can lose sight of the real power of prayer to break strongholds, to free the captives, and to enable us to walk rightly in the work that God has called us to and prepared in advance for us to do --- together.

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