Bringing Church

Photo by Andrew Seaman on Unsplash


Our pastor came to visit the other day. He said that at my advanced age I should be thinking of the hereafter. I told him, “Oh, I do it all the time.” 
“No matter where I am – in the living room, upstairs, in the kitchen, or down in the basement, I am always asking myself: ‘Now, what am I here after?'”

The Bible does reveal to us quite a bit about what we should be here after. When it comes to where it is, we often assume it’s found between four particular walls. However, as they say, “It ain’t necessarily so.”

“Many come to bring their clothes to church rather than themselves.”
Thomas Fuller

Now, if you think I’m getting ready to advocate for not going to church because you don’t have to go to a church building, you’re only partially right. We absolutely should be part of a church body that regularly meets together. The Bible says, “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” Hebrews 10:25 NLT But that’s only part of the story, isn’t it? Although we should do all we can to strengthen our traditional church body, we need to make sure we aren’t leaving it in the building we visit on Sunday, and if we are to have any hope of bringing Christ to a world starving for Him, we have to exploit every opportunity to do that. That means bringing church with us. Whether we like it or not, we’re all in the advertising business. If God has used your local body of believers to make a positive change in your life, isn’t that worth sharing? Yes! Also, if you can bring church with you by being a positive influence where you work or having coffee with a friend and sharing their burden, shouldn’t you do that too? Expand your ideas about what church can mean in your life and all the lives of those within your sphere of influence. Recognize that while, in truth, God may not need our hands, feet, and voice, He both desires our service and has all authority to direct our path.
That includes, in all its various manifestations, “bringing church.”

“I tell people, and it’s the truth, I could sit in my garage for a week and it won’t make me a car. And you can sit in church till your bottom is flat and that won’t make you a servant of Christ.”
Joyce Meyer

Bring church, yes,
the scriptures memorized,
but more, the principals
behind them.


Bring church
when you’re tired,
it’s inconvenient,
and you’d rather
take a nap.

Bring church
when everyone
and their dog
takes one fork in the road,
and God tells you to take the other.


Bring church
when all the person in front of you
needs
is a smile, a sincere word of encouragement,
and a genuine attempt to understand.

Bring church
even when you’re discouraged
with the state of the world
and any effort you make
seems like bringing a squirt gun to a forest fire.


Bring church…
because, in the final analysis,
God told you to,
and He’s kept His promises.
So, now, it’s time to keep yours.



 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Ephesians 4:11-13 NIV


©Joel Tipple 2/9/2020








A Still Small Voice

My niece wrapped in a towel after her kitchen sink bath.

Around the time of my mid-teens my brother began his tenure with the Air Force and was subsequently stationed overseas. While he was away his wife and daughter came to live with my parents and myself. The last time a baby lived in our home the baby was me, so this was a new experience. I don’t think anyone ever expected a lot from me in the way of being responsible for my niece, and I mostly found the experience to be positive. One thing I discovered for sure though was small humans did not necessarily exercise a small voice. Although they are not born with the ability to communicate in a way we always understand, nature still gives babies a voice that gets our attention. Like a car alarm, you just want the noise to stop. If only handling an infant’s needs was always as simple as finding the right button to push.

The bible doesn’t relate to us whether Jesus was an especially calm or cranky baby. As far as we know he was typical, and automatically made it well known when he had needs. If a little cry didn’t bring satisfaction, the alarm would get louder until it did. As Jesus grew, his intellectual and spiritual understanding grew also. We see vignettes of Jesus at 12, separated from his parents and reasoning with adults regarding scripture. Later, as an adult, we find him at times angry, passionate, even sorrowful. Every volume of emotion and reason with which we are familiar, Jesus experienced in full, being fully human. He was not just some spiritual being who deigned to be for a time among us to show us the error of our ways and a right path. Becoming as we are and experiencing our every voice brought greater perspective and legitimacy to his own life and sacrifice, which would then be followed by the miracle of his resurrection.  Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants.  For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.  Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. Hebrews 2:14-18 NIV So, what is this “still small voice” we speak of? The only direct reference found in scripture is in 1st Kings. Speaking to Elijah… The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. 1 Kings 19:11-13 NIV
If God wanted to, he could use any force of nature at his disposal to coerce us into submission. However, time and time again God chooses instead to use a “gentle whisper.” Is it any wonder that this is the voice that speaks most clearly to our hearts?

The still small voice
my heart in time heard
began in a makeshift cradle
in a manger with the sound of a baby’s cry.


Quite an inauspicious start
for the savior of the world.
Our eternal joy made possible
because God’s Son arrived.


Magnify
his still small voice.
Give him supremacy in your life,
make him king.
Along with every angel,
with every child of God,
lift your hands,
lift your voices,
and sing.


©Joel Tipple 12/14/2019

(Please share)

Struggle

Have you ever looked at someone’s social media profile photo and tried to square it with the person you know? I’m not counting your friend who uses a picture of their dog. That’s fodder for another topic. I get it though. I’m not going to post what I look like when I get up first thing in the morning either unless I’m going for comic effect. Also, there’s nothing wrong with presenting your best you to the world, but if your friends are really your friends they won’t require Photoshop filters to make your image palatable.
What about every other way you present yourself? In our interactions with each other, whether they’re brief or lengthy, online or in person, I believe there’s great value in being genuine. What’s on my mind when I say that is everyone at one time or another is going through some sort of personal struggle, and while it’s relatively easy for most of us to talk about the victories in our lives, the rough times can be more difficult to share. We may feel like being honest makes us weak, vulnerable, or guilty of oversharing. In our efforts to be admired and liked we may leave out what makes us most human, our struggles. In the process of sharing what you’re going through, your friend may have an insight that helps you. Also, they may be better able to relate to you by this newly opened line of communication. Because so often we’re going through similar issues it can help us solve our own problems by hearing about a friend’s. Finally, shared burdens are made lighter. Men especially are reticent to appear weak by actually talking about what’s going on in their lives, but we’re all afraid to reveal ourselves at times. Can we leap boundaries and talk too much about ourselves? Sure. Once again, social media, right? But within the confines of a trusted relationship, or towards opening a new one, there’s great value in being real. The irony regarding communication these days is that while there seems to be so much of it out there, we’re actually talking to each other less and less. Too often there seems to be the attitude that every conversation has to have a winner and a loser. I believe most of the time the best way to move myself and everyone I know forward is to talk a little and listen a lot.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10 ESV


How can you bear a burden
if it can’t find the light of day?
How can words be spoken
if no one dares to say?
Tears won’t form a flood
if a friend helps stem the tide.
I pray you let me
share your struggles
as I hope you pray for mine.


©Joel Tipple 11/30/2019

(Please feel free to re-post this)

Conversation Signs

…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,…
1st Peter 3:15 ESV

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
Colossians 4:6 ESV

In this day of instant communication, the irony is that in many ways there is less of it now than there has ever been. Within seconds I can tell thousands of people any old thing that enters my head, and as a result you would think that communication, since it’s seemingly so easy to do, would not be the minefield it is. So what’s standing in the way of our being able to relate to each other in meaningful ways, especially as Christians who wish to engage with and affect our world? The issue, as I see it, is twofold, what we bring on board, and what we share.

1) Input
Consider the funnel effect. If you picture all the information we’re exposed to on a regular basis trying to make its way into our minds through a funnel, you can understand that it doesn’t matter how big the top of the funnel is, there’s still a limit on the amount of information we can process at any given time. Because there is so much, it’s probably more important than ever to be discerning in selecting what gets in. Despite our boasts of being able to multi-task, there really is only so much information we can or should give our attention to. At some point you’ll have to decide between the on-base percentage of your favorite infielder from 1997-’98, the relative nutritional benefits of broccoli vs chocolate cream pastry, and how we should pray for the person we just met. Maybe you have more brain cells at your disposal. Me? Something’s getting pushed out. God desires to direct our thoughts and words always. But you can’t share what you don’t know or have a personal interest in.

2) Output
Have you heard the expression, “Garbage in, garbage out?” It relates to the information and instructions programmed into computers. There used to be a joke product you could buy. It was a series of cards attached to a handle, and on the cards were supposedly clever/funny comments you could select to show people in other cars as you made your way down the road. They ranged from somewhat cute to outright offensive. I guess anything that takes your mind off the road AND possibly contributes to road rage is a bad idea. If our focus for relating to the world is more about entertaining people or attracting their attention by showing them how clever or important we are, we’ve lost any handle we ever had on fulfilling the Great Commission.

Christ-centered or self-centered?
I guess there was a time when politics weren’t so acrimonious, but it’s getting harder and harder to recall. Thing is, you can find the same sort of vitriol in newspapers from colonial times. I think it’s just easier to lash out at people we think represent the opposite view from ours when we have ready access to the bullhorn of the internet. Who needs to take the time to consider the ramifications of what they say when it’s so easy to spew, point, and click? Those same attitudes can carry on to our everyday conversations. How does it glorify Jesus when we allow personality based comments, like the ones that use the names of well known politicians, to show our disdain for a particular party or political philosophy? Should we have no opinions? Of course not. Just consider the content of your speech and who or what it emphasizes.

Am I leading myself
to where I think you should go?
Does it vary with the winds of opinion?
Do I lift God’s influence to a high level of importance
only after judging the temperature of the room?
God, direct the content and quality of what I say,
so that it best advances your kingdom.


© Joel Tipple 8/31/2019

Hearing God

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
John 10:27 ESV

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
Romans 10:17 ESV

“Don’t say things. What you are stands over you the while, and thunders so that I cannot hear what you say to the contrary.”
From an essay titled, “Social Aims” by Ralph Waldo Emerson published in 1875.

Communication. It’s not so easy, is it? And we live in a time when communication is seemingly effortless. Unless the person we wish to speak with is located somewhere one of the many technologies dedicated to communication is not available, we are often able to connect almost instantly. Any time we want. Not that long ago, within the perspective of human history, one had to wait weeks or even months for a letter to find its recipient. I’m guessing letter writers were pretty careful with their words. Now, we live in a sea of words. Print media has virtually ceded power and influence to television and the internet. Vigilance over what we read and what we listen to is more important than ever. Who we listen to and believe and our responsibility to do our own due diligence is more critical than ever.

The two scriptures shown here at the top reveal aspects of God talking to us. One of the primary ways we are able to hear God is through scripture. The Bible we rely on to hear God remains remarkably unchanged. It is truly a miracle that it has stayed intact over the centuries. It’s clear God has kept a hedge of protection around his word. However, contrast those scriptures with the quote from Emerson. A Google search will reveal multiple versions of the original words, some differing so as to seem like the results of a game of telephone. Some of my favorite quotes are attributed to Winston Churchill. Unfortunately, there are a few that can’t be accurately sourced to the famed British leader, though they are repeated often.

So, we rely on scripture to hear God. Also, we rely on prayer. And part of prayer is listening. Being quiet. Finding a gentle river apart from the thundering sea of words and other sounds we are bombarded with every day. If sleep is a way for our body and mind to repair itself, surely prayer is a way to repair our spirit and hear God. Finally, we come to fellowship. God has designed us to be social beings, even for those of us who prefer solitude over crowds, there is a need to speak and be spoken to. God made us for community, where there is learning, sharing, and yes, healing, to be found.

I search for the hearing of you,
with every sense with which I was born.
I cry for the knowing of you,
and pray for the knowing to never be torn.
Teach me to gather every way
I can be with you.
Help me collect them,
as gifts beyond value.
Though the world may thunder away,
let me yet hear your whisper today,
the precious treasure,
the hearing of you.


© Joel Tipple 7/13/2019



Why I Write (the short version)

I don’t always know what to say.
Sometimes the
words
just sort of
fall out.
Sometimes
I don’t know what
I really think
until
I write it.
And yet
for a long time
I resisted
exercising my voice
and vision.
I’ve given up
wasting energy
fighting it.
And
that’s a good thing.

© Joel Tipple
303

2nd Anniversary

anniversary-2x

WordPress is very sentimental. It sent me a little notice that we had been together for two years! Now, I’ve only been posting consistently for the last 250 some odd days (some of them very odd, and all in a row, don’t you know). Since I’m sentimental too, I thought I’d say thanks to WordPress for this remarkable platform we bloggers get to use. But will there be cake?