Monday, August 28, 2006

Ephesians 4 - Traveling and Gifts, Babies and Whiners

As I am reading Eugene Peterson's "The Message", he really emphasizes traveling along a road during the early portion of this chapter.

1-3 In light of all this, here's what I want you to do. While I'm locked up here, a prisoner for the Master, I want you to get out there and walk—better yet, run!—on the road God called you to travel. I don't want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don't want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences.

4-6 You were all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly. You have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all. Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness.
(Eph 4:1-6)

I started to giggle a little by the time I got to verse 4. "We were called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together." I grew up in a pastor's family and consequently, we seemed to be always going somewhere with a group of people from the church and we were always driving in tandem. That was an exercise in insanity! Every single time. Several years in a row we traveled to Canada with a group of adults. Dad knew where he was going and he would take the lead with 3 or 4 other vans and cars following behind us. He would set his cruise control and go. When we next pulled off the road, there was invariably one man leaping out of his van and yelling at Dad that he was going too fast and it was impossible to keep up! Hmm ... that was a bit weird. So, the next leg, I drove. I set the cruise and took off and sure enough, I got even more harrassment. I still have no idea how this all worked, either our speedometer was way off (by at least 10 mph according to the slackers following us), or they simply didn't want to drive the speed limit.

But it was difficult to travel together. And it's difficult to travel together as Christians. We are so different, each of us and when it comes to acquiescing to others, it takes willpower. Sometimes more than I have. I really do try to remind myself when I'm sitting in church on a Sunday morning, that I'm there to worship. So, when a particularly annoying person walks past me, or better yet, right up to me and I start to mumble bad things under my breath, I have to concentrate on praying for that person, rather than saying those bad things. It isn't easy! Especially when I know that they are about to bombard me with really stupid things while I'm trying to prepare my heart for worship. And guess who just failed in that preparation? Me! I seem to recall another verse about removing the log in my eye before worrying about the speck in another's eye.

Paul declares that there are gifts that Jesus gave to us as he ascended on high (from Psalm 68:18). Jesus wants us to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Not all at once, but these are the major gifts that He hands to His people. What is your gift? And where are you using it in the kingdom of God? If you aren't, why not?

Why are these gifts given? Oh, Paul is pretty clear about that. We are to use them to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in faith. (vs. 12-13). So, if you aren't using the gifts that God has given you to build up the body of Christ, what does that say about your relationship with God? What does that say about your relationship with His people! Verse 13 continues on that we are to become mature. If you aren't using your gifts, is one of the reasons that you want to continue on in the church as a child?

There is probably nothing more disgusting to a pastor than to hear his people say that they aren't being 'fed' by sermons or worship or anything happening within the church. My father left one of his churches to move on. We had been there for 9 years and had seen an enormous outpouring of the Holy Spirit and exciting movement by God. The people in the church were turned on! They were evangelizing and were growing. But, we started getting calls during the months following our move. They were complaining about the new pastor and how they weren't getting fed on Sunday mornings. His sermons were boring and he didn't challenge them like Dad did. Whether or not that was true, Dad was furious. After all of the time that he had spent with them, teaching them, guiding them, leading them and now they were acting like children needing to be carried along and spoon fed. He told them, in essence, to pick up the spoon and feed themselves!

Are you using your spiritual gifts to bring others to Christ or are you still waiting for the church to spoon feed you on Sunday morning. Is it really that easy to complain about how things aren't great at church and ignore your responsibility to the people around you? I suppose it is. We tend to be a negative, whiny bunch of Christians and when things are not fed to us one spoonful at a time and made easy for us, we move away from the church we are in and look for simpler, greener pastures. Do you think God approves of that behavior? Really?

Those gifts that Jesus gave to us aren't 'sitting in the pew on Sunday morning and complaining' gifts. They are challenging. Read the list again: (definitions from

Apostles - generally a person carrying the message of Jesus to the world
Prophets - a person chosen to speak for God
Evangelists - an itinerant preacher of the Gospel
Pastors - a person having spiritual care of a number of persons
Teachers - a person who teachers or instructs

Nowhere does it say 'pew-sitter' or whiner. It doesn't give any options for hiding in your home when things are happening. No, those are active leadership gifts. Those are "Go Do It" items.

This section of Ephesians 4 ends with Paul telling us to stop being like babies - tossed back and forth - blown here and there by every wind of teaching.

We are to GROW UP! into him who is the Head - Christ. Just as He is the cornerstone of the temple that God is constructing, he is the Head - and will hold the entire body together.

And as Paul iterates over and over - all of this is done in love - as each part does its work.

In love, Christ sacrificed himself for us. In love, God sent the Holy Spirit to dwell among us. In love, we are to be the body of Christ on earth.

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