Picture Perfect

Picture Perfect

Psalm 133 (NIV)

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.

Tis the season of family pictures being plastered on Facebook. Our daughter and sweet husband joined the club with their festive submission complete in holiday plaid and seasonal attire. It’s funny how hard families work to produce the perfect portrait to represent their family or at least the image they would like the world to see. If you look at our family pictures, they are usually proceeded by a handful of rough and tumble goofy ones. It’s who we are. This family does not take itself too seriously. The last professional picture that was taken of this group was at our daughter’s wedding. We were all freezing to death as her day was unseasonably cold and daylight waning. Everyone’s appearance was flawless. What you could not see was that under the elegant flowing dresses of each bridesmaid where leggings and the guys all wore character socks.

When my children were little, I signed up for one of those portrait plans that the department stores hawked. You purchased sittings in advance for the privilege of hauling kids who had no interest into a tiny room to beg and plead for release from the hostage situation with one good print. Just one. Okay fine, can we just leave now? I made it through one year before I decided that was for the birds or those who just hated life. The last time, I hauled the kids to the studio. I dissolved into tears in the parking lot soon after. All three were crying, because I was upset. The oldest didn’t want his siblings in the picture. The youngest couldn’t stop moving. Nobody was interested except me. All these little personalities meshing into what one might equate to a basket full of puppies. I felt like the worn out mama dog begging to be released. Welcome to life! We want a picture perfect family, but the reality is every single one is dysfunctional. Nobody loves their job every single day. Church…well I better not go there…just yet.

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! Can you believe that the Lord loves unity enough to write an entire Psalm about it? Considered to be more precious than the anointing oil of the Lord ordaining priesthood and the dew of Mount Zion. It pleases God when His Children live in unity. Unity means peace. Peace that leads to productivity. Where is the unity in our families, homes, offices and churches? Perfect peace lives in those who believe and have asked Jesus to be their Savior striving to make Him their Lord. As we grow in the Lord, our life should become more conducive to unity or there is no evidence of spiritual growth. If unity pleases God, it should please us, too.

John 15:5-8 (NIV)  

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

 

Jesus said, “I am the Vine and you are the branches.” We are to bear much fruit. The fruit that the Lord desires in us is the Fruit of His Spirit including love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. These are not naturally occurring traits in human beings. We are born selfish and will become more so without instruction and discipline. Our parents or caregivers mold and shape young people during their growth and development teaching them and shaping young character. While good intentioned, these men and women are imperfect. They cannot produce in us what the Lord does by His Spirit no matter how hard we try. We will always fall short. It’s not a me thing or a you thing – everyone falls short of God’s Glorious Standard. You are not alone.

When we become Children of God, His Word becomes seed inside of our heart. The Holy Spirit takes that seed and begins to produce godly character in us. Those who step from the darkness choosing to live in the Light will begin to experience spiritual growth that should solidify our bond to Christ as branches of a vine. As we continue to mature that branch becomes stronger and far reaching. Soon, it will begin to bear fruit from its own branches and so on.

 

When Jesus came to the fig tree that day, it was lush and full with branches full of leaves but no fruit. He immediately cursed it. It withered and died on the spot. Why? We are called to produce fruit not look good or put on a good show but to produce lasting fruit. What kind of fruit? Souls. We are to share the Good News of Jesus Christ in such a way that people will taste and see that the Lord is good! How are you doing with that? Gulp. Yeah, me too.

Ephesians 4:2-6 (NIV)

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Last night the youth of our church rehearsed to share the Christmas story. Churches around the world will portray the birth of Christ in some form or fashion over the next two weeks. Their success or failure to do so will depend on the unity of those participating. As we prayed before the practice, I pictured the kids in the places getting ready to perform. In my mind’s eye, they suddenly were not individuals but they began to move, bend and shape their bodies changing positions until as one they spelled out the Name of Jesus. Oh, now I get it Lord. This is the perfect picture that we are out to make. The kind of image that reflects You!  One might think this is the desire and goal of every person who dons the door of a church or calls themselves a Christian. If it were so, our churches would be powerhouses of signs, wonders and miracles putting hospitals and doctors out of business. There would be no poverty and benevolence would not be necessary. The Love of God would bind together all the Body of Christ in one accord rather than congregation against congregation. All branches would love and support one another. This is what pleases God more than us trying to project a flawless image or perfect picture. He wants us to live and love united as one by His Son, Jesus Christ.

When a mom schedules family pictures, it is with the best of intentions. Preserving an image of her ever changing family and making memories. Most will agree that in the preparation leading up that moment and during the session, many wonder what was I thinking. Well, the process of unity is much the same endeavor. Taking multiple personalities and meshing them into one purpose and cause, whew what a task. It requires certain things of each person that some are not willing to give like humility, gentleness and patience. The big one is forgiveness even when the other person is not sorry. In a world that thrives on drama, it is the one who decides nope that’s not for me deciding to give it no time not even in entertainment. It is every person’s call in Christ to bear fruit. One facet of that calling is to live in unity with one another. We are to make every effort to keep unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. How you doing with that? It is a daily struggle if we are truly purposed to please God this way.

Ephesians 4:10-15 (NIV)

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. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.

Before you exclude yourself based on this passage because you do not currently hold a title or office in the church, hang on. You are called to something in Christ. Everyone has a purpose that becomes more evident as they mature in Christ. Your fruit will paint a picture of who are in Jesus Christ and it will begin to mold and shape you into the calling on your life. No one is pointless. Nothing in your life is wasted as the Lord promises to work it all together for the good of those who are what…called. Spiritual maturity is evident in unity. Unity is the product of the Fruit of God’s Spirit being produced in our life. It begins to take root in our churches and will literally pull it together to draw in the Lord’s Harvest. Before we can reach others, we must draw together in Christ. No more fighting, bickering, backbiting, or being about anything or anyone else other than Jesus Christ. Making Him our focus, we purpose our life and make it our aspiration to live in peaceful unity with everyone. Why should God spark a fire of revival when His Church is not ready to receive and care for those who come? Just a thought…

Colossians 3:12-15 (NIV)

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

Preparing for her big day, our daughter combed the Internet and magazines to pick the perfect wedding dress. Looking back over her board on Pinterest, you can see the changes in her idea of “perfect” over the course of trying on dresses. We were in the salon and she had tried on countless gowns each one stunning in its own right but with something that just didn’t fit. When she put on “the one”, it took her breath away. From the other side of the curtain, I could hear her and I knew that we had found it. She said, “I don’t care what anyone says, this is MY dress.” With that the curtain opened, tears began to flow.

The Lord clothes us in compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. His Spirit produces everything in us that our humanity will not allow. He drapes us in a Robe of Righteousness of which we are so undeserving. It is up to us if we will live in His Love or cast it off to remain in this world. One’s decision to graciously accept the gift of His Love allows us to put all our expectations in Jesus. We need nothing from anyone else as we lack no good thing. We are free to love. Free to forgive. Free to live at peace. Free to give ourselves to others. Our connection to Christ is our Source of Life. We will always be complete in Him. Those who do will be driven to live in unity with others. We must to bring together the Body of Christ and reflect the perfect picture of His Love. We are called to love one another. Love produces unity. The image that we are called to reflect is Jesus!

Romans 12:3-5 (NIV)

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

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