United We Stand

United We Stand

Romans 12:4-5 (ESV) For as in one body we have many members and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

I loved scrolling through all the social media feeds to see red, white and blue. The celebration of the 4th of July with family and friends. Firework displays lit up the story line of each outlet. Though this was a quiet day for us – we did eat with some of our kids and the littlest firecracker – our sweet grandson. Facetiming with other family members who are out of town. We exercised our right to “Netflix and chill” as some might say which is totally out of character for me but a welcome respite for the midweek holiday.

Social media would give the illusion of unity yesterday as everyone seemed to be doing the exact same thing in America. The same feeds usually filled with political opinions and tirades were instead filled with images of family and food all in red, white and blue. Unity paints a beautiful picture. I believe it warms the heart of God when people put aside their differences sliding the soapbox under the bed to celebrate life together. Yes, I know that important causes exists and there are some things really wrong with the world. I am not delusional enough to think that ignoring them will fix them. However, I do believe that unless we come together nothing will ever change.

In Romans 12, it reminds us that we are one body with many members. It is clear that not everyone serves the same function yet still vitally important to proper operation. We are one body in Christ. Individually we are still corporately responsible for each other. The binding factor is love. Not our ability to love each other unconditionally and without fail but God’s Love demonstrated in His Son – Jesus Christ. In John 12, Jesus said, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” The common factor in Christianity is Jesus Christ. He has called for all people to come to Him. Also in Romans 12, it begins by describing our life as a “living sacrifice” which is “holy and acceptable to God” and considered spiritual worship. It means not conforming to the social circles of the world but allowing God to transform us by the renewing of our mind into the fully formed and functional Body of Jesus Christ. This is the Will of God that is good, acceptable and perfect.

Psalm 133 (ESV) Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.

God loves unity. He blesses such a life offering. Unity requires giving up ourselves in order to become one. The completion of Christ is established in the unity and oneness of His People. He is not coming for many brides but one bride. The Bride of Christ must be complete. The Spirit and the Bride (singular) say, “Come.” I believe that if the church could tap into the real potential of unity rather than calling for diversity and doctrine – it might just experience revival. We focus on the wrong thing. The great commission of Jesus Christ was to love and be loved as one – to come together into completeness. The Lord commands His Blessing on unity and life forevermore.

Ephesians 4:1-7 (ESV) I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.  But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

The individuality of churches and institution set forth by doctrine may be the very thing limiting revival today. The religious world is not demonstrating the relationship of Kingdom. Until we grow in perfect unity, the Bride of Christ may resemble the Bride of Frankenstein. The human soul is not clothed in race, color, gender or any other physical quality. The Lord is looking at our heart and soul. I know no coroner or medical examiner that can determine any of the physical characteristics of a person by just looking at the heart. Yet God is most interested in our heart and soul. Who we love? How we love? These are the fulfillment of the Great Commission set forth by Jesus Christ. Leading someone to Jesus is not the same as loving them like Jesus.

The basics of unity are one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God who is Father of all. That’s it. No matter how we paint it, carpet it, light it up, or make it loud – this is the basis of the Body of Christ known as the church. Religion creates diversity. Relationship says, “Whosoever will come” and lets figure this out together. It is simple. It is real. It has feelings but lives in a commitment called love. Not worldly affection or temporary lust but rather love that is “patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.” It is a love that “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, (and) endures all things. Love (that) never ends.” To immerse ourselves so completely in the Love of Christ that loving others is no longer optional but the very condition that unites us.

What can I do to unite the church?

The character of Christians must be changed, transformed, and renewed by God’s Love. Repentance, true repentance, is a turning from our way of living to totally exist in the shadow and example of Jesus Christ. I cannot love like Christ until He is the One who I am following and imitating. People are not easy to love but it is each personality that comprises the Kingdom. I cannot make them love me. But I can allow God and His Spirit to make me more lovable. The Fruit of the Spirit is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” This is the kind of spiritual food that feeds hungry souls and waters thirsty hearts. It is to put “me” aside and allow Christ to flow through me. Religion allows us to maintain pride and position. However, to fully assume our place in the Body of Christ – we must become like Paul who declared himself to be “a prisoner of the Lord.” We must carefully put our mind, will and emotions under the careful guard of the Holy Spirit at all times. We must daily crucify any rebellious thought in contention with Christ and put it in the grave to die. We must remain prostrate in a posture of prayer and humility before the Lord daily and even on some days moment by moment. We must walk by faith and not by sight. Unity blesses God’s Heart and I believe if we get it right – it will bless us, too as united we stand.

Ephesians 4:11-16 (ESV) And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

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Death to Life

Death to Life

Romans 6:1-3 (Message) So what do we do? Keep on sinning so God can keep on forgiving? I should hope not! If we’ve left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there? Or didn’t you realize we packed up and left there for good? That is what happened in baptism. When we went under the water, we left the old country of sin behind; when we came up out of the water, we entered into the new country of grace—a new life in a new land!

Today is Baptism Sunday at our church. There are people who have decided to participate in the symbolic act of baptism, but I wonder if they know the true potential of such a public confession. It is the gateway by which one may enter a “new land” and “new life”. An existence of true repentance marked by a turning over of every dead thing in our life to the resurrection power of Jesus Christ. Oh how I wish they knew how powerful the water can be for those who step in it with such an expectation. Salvation is the beginning of a transformation process that takes a lifetime to complete. It is the moment of realization that sin is killing us and without a Savior there is no chance of life. The next doctrinal step might be a public profession of our faith in Jesus Christ and then baptism. I love the opportunity presented by Paul in this passage and the way the Message explains it to us. It is a form of house cleaning where we lay down our old life, ways, faults, failures and disappointments in order to move into a new one without all the shackles and chains of our past holding us back. A handful of people have signed up to participate in the baptism service today, but I wonder how many more might if they realized the potential of leaving it all behind and moving into the new life Christ promised us.

Romans 6:3-5 (Message) That’s what baptism into the life of Jesus means. When we are lowered into the water, it is like the burial of Jesus; when we are raised up out of the water, it is like the resurrection of Jesus. Each of us is raised into a light-filled world by our Father so that we can see where we’re going in our new grace-sovereign country.

I grew up in the Baptist church. My little sister has a very soft and sweet heart. I cannot count the number of times she responded to an altar call to repent and start again with Jesus. I know you may be thinking it silly, but I think it is essential. Since when did the altar become a place of shame, where people are chided for coming again and again? I think she was baptized at just about every summer camp. My sister is a mighty woman of God who leads home Bible studies and small groups. She impacts many lives with grace and generosity. She understands the life and power of Jesus Christ because she kept coming until she found what she was looking for. Oh what might happen if the church and its people were open to true repentance and transparency before the Lord again? Not afraid to come forward for prayer and divine healing? Unashamed that they want a new life when this one is not working out for them?

John 7:38-39 (Message) On the final and climactic day of the Feast, Jesus took his stand. He cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Rivers of living water will brim and spill out of the depths of anyone who believes in me this way, just as the Scripture says.” (He said this in regard to the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were about to receive. The Spirit had not yet been given because Jesus had not yet been glorified.)

When we are lowered into the water, it is like the burial of Jesus…

Jesus said, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Rivers of living water will brim and spill out of the depths of anyone who believes…” Are you overflowing with Living Water today? Or are you feeling the thirst that comes from seasons of drought – an inner dryness that nothing in this life can seem to satisfy? The Spirit inside of us produces good fruit to nourish and satisfy our soul. There are times when the Spirit of God within us is limited because of the lack of fertile soil – He cannot sow in a hard heart. The Holy Spirit lives in us to change our life from death to life sowing good seeds in fertile soil. Faith produces seeds of potential that must be cultivated to become the promise within each one. It is up to us to provide a place for them to grow, develop and mature into the abundance that the Lord has promised us. Without water, seeds die in the ground. Without the Spirit, the believer cannot move from death to life.

To be lowered in the water is like being buried with Christ, to make an exchange of all the dead things in our life so that they either be washed away or revived again. Sin is washed away along with regret and remorse. Faith is revived in the water and new life begins in that moment for those who believe. We must be buried in Christ with fruitful expectation that His Spirit will take over and produce new life in us all over again. This is not just for the new believer but every other saint of God who has become weary in well doing or overcome by fear, doubt, anxiety or disappointment. The water is for everyone.

Romans 7:3-6 (Message) So, my friends, this is something like what has taken place with you. When Christ died he took that entire rule-dominated way of life down with him and left it in the tomb, leaving you free to “marry” a resurrection life and bear “offspring” of faith for God. For as long as we lived that old way of life, doing whatever we felt we could get away with, sin was calling most of the shots as the old law code hemmed us in. And this made us all the more rebellious. In the end, all we had to show for it was miscarriages and stillbirths. But now that we’re no longer shackled to that domineering mate of sin, and out from under all those oppressive regulations and fine print, we’re free to live a new life in the freedom of God.

When we are raised up out of the water, it is like the resurrection of Jesus.

It is often easier to get caught up in the rules and regulations of our religion rather than live a life true repentance and ongoing surrender to Jesus Christ. I have nothing of worth to give God other than my whole heart. My heart and life are not worthy of His Glory but what God desires therefore enough. We are married to Jesus in the careful exchange of sin and the acceptance of His Grace. When our life is fully reconciled to Christ – all the benefits and blessings associated with our relationship are evident. When we come up out of the water – it is like the resurrection of Jesus and new life begins all over again. There is no Christian who has it all together. There is no preacher, teacher, elder, deacon, or leader that does not fall short of the Glory of God and His Standard of living. No one can live apart from sin and the only hope we have is the resurrection power and life of Jesus Christ to keep us constantly turning in repentance to receive what He died for us to have.

We no longer live under “oppressive regulations and fine print”. We are free to live a new life of freedom in God. Do you live in the perpetual freedom that God offers those who believe? Do you have living water flowing through you today? Have you been baptized? There is no limitation on the water. You can come to the river as often as you like. Repentance is turning. Cycles are circular motions without real results. It may look like revival but it is not. It is repetition. Seasons are the terms and conditions of God’s Productivity. It is the prospering soul that receives all the blessings. A season produces something. It has purpose. It gives provision. In the end, there is an abundant harvest. It is how real revival begins and perpetuates itself. It begins when we surrender every dead thing to new life.

John 5:5-11 (Message) One man had been an invalid there for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him stretched out by the pool and knew how long he had been there, he said, “Do you want to get well?” The sick man said, “Sir, when the water is stirred, I don’t have anybody to put me in the pool. By the time I get there, somebody else is already in.” Jesus said, “Get up, take your bedroll, start walking.” The man was healed on the spot. He picked up his bedroll and walked off. That day happened to be the Sabbath. The Jews stopped the healed man and said, “It’s the Sabbath. You can’t carry your bedroll around. It’s against the rules.” But he told them, “The man who made me well told me to. He said, ‘Take your bedroll and start walking.’”

There was a man who had been handicapped for more than three decades. Jesus asked him, “Do you want to get well?” The man began to make excuses. Jesus told him, “Get up, take your bedroll, start walking. The man did exactly what Jesus said. He didn’t even make it into the water, but received his healing from Jesus right then and there. Immediately the Pharisees began to condemn the man for breaking the rules. It was the Sabbath. You can’t carry your bedroll on Sunday. How many people carry burdens into church and lug them right out afraid to break the rules? Or how many preachers, teachers, elders, deacons, and the like live with heavy chains because they are afraid to come to the altar and be judged by their peers? How many times do we accept death where Jesus promised life just because of our pride? Too often. Jesus gives us the opportunity to exchange every dead thing for new life. He promises to make good of every detail of our life if we would only trust Him. Nothing can every separate us from the Love of God offered in His Son, Jesus Christ. Are you allowing something to separate you?

Seek out new life today. If that comes in the form of baptism when you can lay all these burdens into the likeness of His Death and be raised to new life then jump in with both feet all over again. Jesus didn’t give up His Life so that you would like a dead existence filled with doubt, discouragement, depression, disease or defeat. He came up out of the grave and so can you. You can leave death behind and embrace new life. You can do it as often as you need it. Jesus came to give us life more abundantly. Don’t stop until you receive it no matter what the cost. If that means running to the altar, do it! If that means jumping in the waters of baptism, go! Whatever it takes – let Jesus breathe new life in you again!

John 11:25-26 (Message) You don’t have to wait for the End. I am, right now, Resurrection and Life. The one who believes in me, even though he or she dies, will live. And everyone who lives believing in me does not ultimately die at all. Do you believe this?”

Something New

Something New

2 Corinthians 5:17 (TLB)

When someone becomes a Christian, he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A new life has begun!

 

A normal life is a rut. It is a huge whole that swallows up our dreams and aspirations. It sucks in those ideas and innovative goals that keep us progressively moving through life with purpose. I thought when our son was finally in remission that life would be back to normal. I even began to think that living with cancer might be the new normal. Who wouldn’t? Our son was diagnosed, treated and went into remission but relapsed three more times beginning the fourth when he received a bone marrow transplant. I was a wife, mother, employee, primary caregiver and full-time healthcare advocate fighting for treatment both in the world and on my knees. Secretly in the recesses of my mind, I believed that when it was all over our life would be the same. But it’s not. We are forever changed. Not because cancer did anything to us, but in the process of brokenness – a new life was born.

It has taken months for me to embrace this change. There are days I begin to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Then some days, I long for yesterday when life was simple and chaotic with a houseful of kids and blaring noise that now seems so silent. With just two children at home our normal has changed, we have changed. This is life as God designed it and planned it. He wants to move us from Glory to Glory. It is a process of death and life over and over again. As those parts of our life not yet secured by faith and hope are challenged to reach higher, deeper and farther for His Plan and Purpose. It can be a painful process. You have everything to lose but oh so much more to gain. I am challenged today to do something new. I want the Lord to comes inside of me and make me a brand new person all over again. This was not my idea but a necessity to continue the process of grace that I live in and achieve the prize of the high calling of God for my life.

John 3:5-7 (TLB)

Jesus replied, “What I am telling you so earnestly is this: Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.  Men can only reproduce human life, but the Holy Spirit gives new life from heaven; so don’t be surprised at my statement that you must be born again!

 

Jesus said, “You must be born again!” Water birth is our natural birth that propels us into existence. Spiritual birth propels us into the Kingdom of God. Men can only reproduce human life. The Holy Spirit is the One who gives new life from Heaven. It doesn’t matter what religion, doctrine or lifestyle one chooses, it does not change the fact that we must worship the Lord in Spirit and Truth to get it. These two are partners in the rebirth and renewal process promised by Jesus to His Followers. We live in a seeker sensitive environment in every level of life including the church packaging and selling what man wants rather than what God promises those who call on Jesus and choose to follow Him. I cannot have God’s Way my way nor can I be born of the Kingdom locked in my flesh. There must be a death and burial of sin to make room for more and more of the Spirit in my life.

To do the same thing over and over expecting a different result is classified as insanity. We do it all the time because we cannot let go of what we want long enough to let God give us something better. We call out to the Lord asking for more but holding on the past and clenching our comfort zone. If we want more, we have to let go. To be more, we must do something new.

Romans 6:2-7 (TLB)

Of course not! Should we keep on sinning when we don’t have to? For sin’s power over us was broken when we became Christians and were baptized to become a part of Jesus Christ; through his death the power of your sinful nature was shattered. Your old sin-loving nature was buried with him by baptism when he died; and when God the Father, with glorious power, brought him back to life again, you were given his wonderful new life to enjoy. For you have become a part of him, and so you died with him, so to speak, when he died; and now you share his new life and shall rise as he did. Your old evil desires were nailed to the cross with him; that part of you that loves to sin was crushed and fatally wounded, so that your sin-loving body is no longer under sin’s control, no longer needs to be a slave to sin; for when you are deadened to sin you are freed from all its allure and its power over you.

Sin is the very thing that kills spiritual renewal and rebirth. It is what will keep you in bondage unable to live a new life. It is doing the same thing but expecting different results. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by me.” Got it! You cannot follow Jesus into the Presence of God dragging your sin along with you. These are the things that we know are wrong but do nothing about. You have to want to let it go to release it. Remember, God is always first and foremost looking at our heart. He would rather you keep doing what you are doing wrong in public than to pretend you are not sneaking off in the darkness. The fight against our flesh is real and continuous. The older I get, the more I realize just how infiltrating the sin condition we all have. We cannot willfully keep doing what we know is wrong and expect God’s Will and Way to prevail in that area of our life. There must be a change. We must do something new.

Faith opens every closed door in God’s Kingdom. It is the Kingdom Keys that the Lord gives to Peter upon His Confession of faith in Jesus Christ as Son of God and Messiah. Jesus told Peter that day that man didn’t tell him that but his heart did. When our heart falls in love with Jesus, things will begin to change. You will want to do something different to know Him more and live in His Presence. David was a man after God’s Own Heart. He was not perfect. His heart was intent of pleasing God even when his flesh failed. This is the point of grace. Not to live any way that we want and expect God to bless it. Are you doing something new today? Or living in the past expecting God to change your future?

We should enjoy life. If you are unhappy, discontent, or dissatisfied with the way you are living don’t look for the world to fix it, ask the Jesus to come inside and fix you first. I promise when God changes our heart the world won’t change your mind anymore. Though still a fight to the finish, each step of faith that becomes confident hope will keep you anchored to the Kingdom so you don’t run to the world. Baptism is the burial of our old life to receive a new life. Have you been baptized? Oh friend, it symbolizes every new thing that you want, need and desire from the Lord as you lay down this life to pick up a supernatural existence in God. If you take your heart with you when you step into the water, allow it to die with Christ in the likeness of His Death, the Living Breathing Spirit, and the very essence of God will come to fill your body, mind and spirit and you will experience a new life. I do not regret a single day of following Jesus Christ.

This month is very special. Forty six years ago, the love of my life was born. Sixteen years ago, God united us as husband and wife. I gave up my old life to follow Jesus at that same time. The three of us (God, my husband and I) have enjoyed a successful union. Our lives have changed completely for the better in all ways possible. Now we are about to celebrate our son’s new life. When someone receives a bone marrow transplant, they are given a new birthday on the day that they receive the blood cells. A bone marrow transplant follows weeks of extensive chemotherapy that essentially kills every single blood cell in your body. When the new cells are introduced, it is like receiving new life and rebirth. What if as believers, we strived to remove every single sinful cell in our body and allow the Lord to make it new in Him. What if we tried really hard not to do any of the things that the Bible says not to? How about if we let the Love of God dominate our life? Putting others before ourselves. What would happen? Something new for sure.

Isaiah 43:18-19 (TLB)

But forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I’m going to do! For I’m going to do a brand-new thing. See, I have already begun! Don’t you see it? I will make a road through the wilderness of the world for my people to go home, and create rivers for them in the desert!

 

God is doing something new in your life today. The Holy Spirit is always trying to give you a better life. He is just waiting for us to make some room. The Lord is speaking to our hearts today. “Forget all that…” Forget the past, the problems and the pain. Forget the fear, failure and every single fault. Focus on Jesus who is the Author, Finisher, Initiator and Champion of Faith. Follow Him to the Cross and give Him every sin that is holding you back so it can be nailed to the Cross. This is not a once in a lifetime event – it’s called repentance. The complexity of human nature means that we will always find more ways to surrender. Once it is removed, if you have not already been baptized – get into the water. If you have, ask the Holy Spirit to fill you anew. His Mercy is new each morning because we need it. Don’t be ashamed to use it. Expect something new. Expect things to change. Be willing to do something new and be willing to change. Working in cooperation with God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit step into that new life, new thing, new existence that belongs to you simply because you have been born again. Don’t let the enemy or the world hinder you from having all that God promised through fear and doubt. God said it. Believe it and settle it in your soul today. The Promises of God for your life are incomparable to anything that He has done before so don’t compromise. He is doing a brand new thing. We see it through hope and achieve it by faith. Be unstoppable today as you do something new in the Power of His Name.

Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NLT)

 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.”