One.

one

Matthew 18:18-20 (ESV)  “Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

Just two or three people who agree on earth can release Heaven. It only takes two people to open the window of the Kingdom. I don’t know whether to celebrate this promise or shake my head in shame. Is the limitation in our life simply because we cannot agree, get along and live in harmony? If harmony is a precious anointing, it should be a daily pursuit by God’s Children who desire His Blessing. To not just tolerate the presence of others but fully embrace one another with love, grace, generosity, and compassion.

Jesus plainly states, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” There is no mixed message or need for extensive commentary. It’s simple. If two or three agree and come together in Jesus Name – whatever they bind on earth is bound in heaven, and whatever is loosed on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Jesus is Resurrection Power and Life. When His Spirit is present – freedom is released. Healing dispensed. Change unleashed. Revival begins. Too often we look for it in the masses but I believe if just two or three would gather in His Name…not the name of a church, or doctrine, or religion, or mission even that the Lord would show up and true revival would begin. The unexplainable would happen. The impossible would result in miracles. The Body of Christ would come to life again.

Ephesians 4:1-6 (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.

Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. In order to walk in unity and experience the fullness of blessing found in such a choice means giving up our way, the lie of the enemy and normal existence. We must fully embrace the characteristics of Jesus Christ including unfailing love, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, and work diligently to maintain it. Crucifying our flesh is a painstaking and painful process. No death is ever pleasant but it is rewarding to give up the permissible to fully embody the benefits given to us by Jesus Christ. (Psalm 103)

Our imminent failure comes from ignorance. That’s right – it is a lack of knowledge that causes people to perish. It is a lack of direction that causes delays, detours and distractions that lead to doubt, discouragement and even disappointment. The hope found in Jesus Christ never leads to disappointment. God’s Word cannot return to Him void. What God has ordained for our life will come to pass. We just have to seek an abiding relationship in Jesus Christ and allow His Spirit to produce the kind of fruit that feeds our soul and starves our flesh. Pride must die in order for faith to flourish. There is no other way.

What if every believer became “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”? What a lofty pursuit? To step up from the natural and begin to believe that you can live supernaturally. It doesn’t matter what man thinks about you if you are walking in the Shadow of God. To fully embody and embrace Jesus Christ allows us to live a new life and become a new creation. Christians who compare themselves to anyone but Christ are out of order. My calling and your calling are individual. God doesn’t have favorites because we are all His Favored Children. Our feelings of inferiority and insignificance are just the enemies lies. We can live in a lie but the Truth will always set us free.

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.

Why do you go to church? Is it a social event? Is it expected of you? Do you get encouraged by the pastor’s message? Does it make you feel good? I believe that everyone goes to church looking for hope. This world is a dark place full of heartbreak and tragedy. Love is cold. Sin is rampant. Evil seems to be triumphing over good. Do you need a miracle in your life today? Are you facing the impossible? Are you tired of just enough and desire more than enough? Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired? Is the Word living, breathing and changing your life? It can. It will. It requires unity in the Body of Christ. How good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters dwell in unity. It is like precious oil. The anointing of Heaven will meet us in our gatherings from small groups, to church services to civic center conferences if we strive to do just one thing. Agree.

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.

To become one means giving up my way to fully accept the Way. Jesus has given us His Spirit to lead, guide and direct us. While doing so the Spirit takes the Word working it into our heart to uproot every lie that the enemy has told us. The Spirit produces the character needed to agree by feeding our soul good fruit so it will prosper. It is human nature to focus on our differences but the Lord is challenging His Church to focus on our common bond. To become One Body filled with One Spirit. We are all called to one hope. His Name is Jesus Christ. One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all. One. When two or three agree the One who meets every need and will do exceedingly abundantly more than we think or ask is in our midst. He is the Resurrection that calls forth dead dreams to life. He is Life to our body, mind, spirit and soul. We must become one. The church united becomes the unstoppable Light that drives out darkness in their homes, workplaces, community and even the world. I want to be part of “that” church.

Ephesians 4:15-16 (ESV) 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.

Advertisements

The Best Defense

Best Defense

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NLT) We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.

“The best defense is a good offense.” This adage has been carefully applied from military fields to sporting arenas. It is a strategic offensive principle of war. The general concept is it will preoccupy the opposition and hinder them from an opposing counterattack. It takes the enemy off guard. Busy defending their position there is no room for advancement. We have the best offense in Jesus Christ. He is the Word. The Word is the Truth that knocks down strongholds of human reasoning and destroys the false arguments including all the accusations of the enemy of heart and soul. He will stop at nothing to convince us that God is not good and that the grace given to us is not enough; therefore, Christ is not victorious. All lies and not true yet humanity struggles with a perfect God who loves and cares for imperfect people.

The lack of confidence in our relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ fuels religious arguments as people try to find a way to the Father some other way. Rationalizing sin and complicating grace creating obstacles of human pride that keeps people from knowing the Living Breathing God. We must capture our “rebellious thoughts” teaching them to obey Christ. To take the Lord at His Word. To decide that He is enough to live a victorious life and repeat daily.

With the arguments and divisions due to preference and pride, the Body of Christ appears as a dysfunction family rather than a thriving unit of believers adding to their numbers daily. (Acts 2) We cannot assess the damage or change church culture until we settle the argument of self. Is God real? Is His Love unconditional? Is grace enough? Will He meet my expectation? What do I have to lose? Christians must have a strategy to become successful.

Our offense was sin. Jesus covered our offense and turning us into faith-fighting force for the world and darkness to contend with. Now our offense is to fight temptation, overcome in trials and defeat the enemy. We have our marching orders. Now we attack every lie set forth by the enemy and overcome the stronghold of self with the Truth of God’s Word concerning us and absolute confidence and trust in Jesus Christ. Easier said than done when one must battle flesh just as much if not more than the enemy. Offense is not to be confused with offense regarding that which offends or causes displeasure. The right to be offended or take offense is to give into emotionalism, feelings and pride when our God is greater than all that.

Romans 3:21-24 (NLT) But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.

What is my defense? Righteousness. I live in right standing with the Father because He gave His Son for me. I have absolutely nothing to do with the payment of my penalty other than to lay claim to all that God has given me. Let’s level the playing field making it fair across the board for all believers. Every single one of us has sinned and fallen short of God’s Glorious Standard. No one is immune from the disease of sin or necessity of grace. Not once, but daily. To walk in righteousness requires repentance which leaves no place for pride because let’s face it – we don’t have skin in the game. Pride wants to think it has something to do with salvation or one’s ability to maintain righteousness with God apart from the Son. Religiosity is built on works outside of relationship. The Word of God is clear and the Truth straightforward – Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life – no one comes to the Father but through Him.

Isaiah 1:16-19 (NLT) Wash yourselves and be clean! Get your sins out of my sight. Give up your evil ways. Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows. “Come now, let’s settle this,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool. If you will only obey me, you will have plenty to eat.

“Come now, let’s settle this.” The Lord is inviting us today to have a made up mind. To decide the Word of God is the Truth that governs our life and live in it. The Word is Jesus. He completes us and gives us victory. Arguments arise from self. Division is a product of unrelinquished pride that is killing the modern day church. Cancer is considered a cell that does not conform to natural reproduction. The disease is caused by the uncontrolled division of abnormal cells in a part of the body. It is evil and destructive though it is a product of simple reproduction out of control. Is there cancer in the church? If we aggressively pursued the teaching of 2 Corinthians 10, I believe it could be eradicated. To put an end to all division, teardown strongholds and take captive every rebellious thought is not a corporate endeavor but a personal mission. To have a made up mind full of faith and complete confidence in Jesus Christ changes our life from always being defensive to opposing evil and driving out darkness with the Light of His Love with the embers of Truth burning ever so brightly within us.

Freedom is found when we know the Truth and it sets us free through obedience. I have every reason to completely trust the Lord with my life far beyond my own understanding. His Ways and Thoughts are much higher than my own abased thinking. God is always God. He is love. He pursues me with unfailing love and amazing grace. I can have all that He has ordained for my life and accomplish every call apart from any other person or problem. See I have purpose established in my faith – my skin in the game is believing wholeheartedly in the Word of God and following His Way. My relationship with Jesus Christ established my righteousness. All I have to do is show up and I win.

To have a healthy and thriving church means that every believer must have confidence in the Love of God and His Way. To be full of faith without doubt that no matter what our condition or situation – victory is coming. So many times in the Bible, when the children of God were opposed, the Lord caused the enemy to turn on themselves. This is not an every man (or woman) for himself lifestyle that we are called to but harmonious living as a thriving body. I must decide today if I am the rogue cell causing division or will I let life flow through me. It is not about me but becoming a blameless bride and beautiful body for our soon coming Bridegroom. Our family, friends, church and people are not the enemy. We have only one enemy. He is already defeated. It’s time to oppose every rebellious thought telling us otherwise. Settle things within our own heart and mind. The best defense is established in my righteousness through Jesus Christ. I am free to lead the offense in love and generosity to form one body – one mind and with one heart whose purpose is to know and love Jesus Christ.

Matthew 10:38-40 (NLT) If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it. Anyone who receives you receives me, and anyone who receives me receives the Father who sent me.

Romans 8:37 (NLT) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

John 8:32 (NLT) And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

Without Love – I Am Nothing

Without Love

2 Thessalonians 1:3 (NLT) Dear brothers and sisters, we can’t help but thank God for you, because your faith is flourishing and your love for one another is growing.

Flourishing faith is evidenced by growing love. What is your response to pressure? When faced with opposition how do you react? It is human nature to play the name game. It feels good to retaliate even seek revenge. Our flesh prefers to harbor an offense rather than freely forgive. Pride doesn’t like being wrong or to be wronged. We are not creatures of flesh or pride any more but new creations in Jesus Christ. This new life is one of liberty. Our freedom doesn’t limit the Gift of Love but makes it our passion. Grace is free to us but not to Jesus. His Grace is enough because He paid the ultimate price to give us this abundant life beginning with a prospering soul. Our soul does not deal in commodities, assets or finance. It is not hindered by time or testing. Our soul is eternal thanks to Jesus.

These words penned in a letter to the church of Thessalonica by Paul, Silas and Timothy commend the people for their flourishing faith and growing love in the midst of persecution. I wonder if such a church exists today. Could it be that religious freedom takes for granted the importance of love and grace in binding believers into an effective body? Our temporary and often petty problems cause the world to see us as just another struggling organization. Divisions and splits create a “Frankenstein” effect. Rather than a flourishing family with a beating heart pumping out love and community – it is a fractured farce framed in doctrine, rules and regulations, buffeted by comfort and convenience, ruled by preference and opinion, and thereby misrepresenting the Love of God and His Son that draws us together in the first place. We have lost our first love and put ourselves in His Place. How do I know?

Acts 2:42-47 (NLT) All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity—all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.

Peter preached the Word of God. The same message that is given to us was what flowed from him. There was no difference. The Word of God never changes. It cannot return to God until it completes its task and accomplishes all that He sent it forth to do. About 3,000 in all gave their hearts and lives to Jesus in Acts 2. What happened next? They formed a community. All the believers met together in one place and shared everything. They sold property and possessions to share with those in need. They worshiped together every day. Met in homes to take communion. Fellowshipped together with GREAT JOY AND GENEROSITY. Praising God was their lifestyle demonstrated in freely giving all they were and all they had to create a community called the Body of Christ. With this in mind, they did so knowing that at any moment the radical religious community could drag them from their homes torture or murder them as martyrs. What happened next is the very thing the modern church cries out for…revival. And EACH DAY the Lord added to their fellowship… People were getting saved, healed and delivered and joining the community called church each day. Where oh where have we gone wrong? Oh Lord, teach us to love one another properly.

John 13:34-35 (NLT) So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

To love like Jesus Christ is unnatural. It is not our natural instinct to lay our life down for another. It is not our preference to pray for our enemies and loving those who spitefully use us. It is not our culture to form communities of one but to draw lines of division to protect our own personal interests. All lives matter. Jesus proved this on the Cross when He poured out His Blood for all mankind to have access to the Father if they choose His Way.

“Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” Put away the personal agenda. Step down off the soapbox. Forget all the rules and regulations. If we do not love others, we do not possess the Love of the Father freely administered by the Son. The full acceptance of God’s Grace requires giving up our own personal interests to pursue Christ in all things. A sacrifice is not a sacrifice if nothing is given. Love is a discipline. It is a learned behavior. Disciples of Jesus Christ must learn and replicate His Love to be His Body and become His Bride. It is that simple but extremely difficult to achieve.

Romans 13:8 (NLT) Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law.

Love is not religious – it is radical. I believe this may very well be the biggest stumbling block of organized religion. The thought or idea that God’s Love is completely given by His Grace. His Goodness belongs to me and is exemplified by a daily choice to love one another. The rules and regulations administered as doctrine in the church do nothing to demonstrate God’s Purpose. They are simply guidelines to keep godly order. I like order. I am gifted in administration. But if I am not careful – it will quickly become legalism. The enemy limits us in legalistic thinking and radical religion that adds to our obligation. God says simply the only thing we owe anyone is love. Perfect love expels all fear. Expectation is fulfilled by God’s Love, Grace and Goodness towards us so that we can love freely without expectation.

Galatians 5:13-14 (NLT) For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.

Whom the Son sets free is free indeed. How freedom is used is up to us? God does not force us to fulfill His Purpose just promises that His Plan contains a future and hope. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and Life but we are not made to follow Him only offered a better way. The Holy Spirit lives in us but only takes control of the pieces and parts of our life given to Him for holy inhabitation. Love cannot be forced it must be freely given or received. Love contains no “buts”. I love you, but… I love him, but… I love her, but… I love you. Jesus never added a single condition to His Love offering for us. He freely gives it to us and it is up to us how we choose to use it. Unconditional love is the kind of love that proves our discipleship in Jesus Christ. To love like He does. This is how our freedom is revealed in the Lord when no one or nothing holds our expectation above knowing Him.

I Corinthians 13:1-3 (NLT) If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

Are we gaining anything from church? Lord, help us to love more. Show us what true love is again. Let us fall head over heels in love with our First Love again. Rekindle the passion in our heart and burn away all the worthless things that reside in Your Place.

Hebrews 10:23-25 (NLT) Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. 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.

There is a fable about a frog placed in a pot of water. It is said that if he is put in boiling water that he will jump out. But if he placed in tepid water and the heat is slowly brought to a boil that he will not perceive the danger. Frogs like water. It is comfortable to them. Science believes this to be false and that frogs will notice the change but I wonder if we notice the change in our own habitat called church. Could it be as we float around in “lukewarm” water that the Lord is turning up the heat to get our attention? Comfort causes a condition called complacency that will create false confidence that can lead to death. If we do not learn to love unconditionally and with the same intensity as Jesus Christ, we have gained nothing other than adopted a social circle.

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. The best way to motivate others is to motivate yourself. You get what you give. Sowing and reaping have been around since the days of Noah and will continue until the earth no longer remains. If you plant love, you will harvest love. If you sow grace, you will experience grace. If you bind yourselves to one more person, unity is formed. If you decide to give up your way, harmony is restored. We can never offer the world something we have not attained for ourselves. The Love of God is our primary purpose in life. To live in His Love and share His Love with the world. End of story.

2 John 5-6 (NLT) I am writing to remind you, dear friends, that we should love one another. This is not a new commandment, but one we have had from the beginning. Love means doing what God has commanded us, and he has commanded us to love one another, just as you heard from the beginning.

The Messenger

The Messenger

Malachi 3:1 (NLT) “Look! I am sending my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. Then the Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to his Temple. The messenger of the covenant, whom you look for so eagerly, is surely coming,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

I live in a rural county. Our family moved here just over a year ago exchanging city life for a more laid back existence. Living in the county, you give up conveniences like the mall, a variety of restaurants, and other creature comforts on every corner. However, I still work in town and commute five days a week about 45 minutes each way. Some may balk at such a drive, but I actually don’t mind it. It has become a time to meditate, pray and worship the Lord each day. One thing I have noticed is that although this community lacks a variety of options it is not at all lacking in churches. There must a three churches to every square block though I may be exaggerating some. Not to offend anyone, but there are denominational and non-denominational, black and white, large and small, with schools and without, and every other make and model that one might come up with. All serving the same God and relying on the same saving Jesus. So why so many? Why are there so many different churches only half full of worshippers each Sunday?

It’s all about the message. Do we find the message appealing? Do we like the music? Can we live by the rules? Do we like old time religion, full gospel, spirit filled, prosperity preaching, experiences, or gooey grace? There is one true God. He has one son, Jesus Christ who sacrificed His Life to pay the debt of sin for all mankind. The Holy Spirit is the partner in the trinity given to humanity for assistance, direction, guidance and growth. Jesus Christ has all power and authority in heaven and earth. He is the only way to God according to the Word of God (well, Jesus is the Word) and no man can restore a right relationship with the Father except through the Son. All these truths more than likely are in the doctrine of your church so why are we so divided?

“Look! I am sending my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me.” The Lord spoke through Malachi to His People telling them that a messenger was coming to prepare the way. John the Baptist was considered a messenger as he prefaced the arrival of Jesus and told everyone who would listen that the Lord was on the way. He even baptized Jesus saying, “Look, He is the One!” John did not fit in with the rules and regulations of organized religion even considered a madman by some. The messenger is sent to tell others to prepare for the coming of God. To prepare people to experience the living God. We must carefully consider our messages as we are the messengers of God.

Nicodemus was a Jewish religious leader and Pharisee. One night, he went to Jesus. He saw the signs and wonders of the Lord but considered him only a teacher sent by God. Nicodemus was trying to logically sort out what he saw compared to what he knew about the Messiah. “How are these things possible?” Nicodemus asked.  Jesus replied, “You are a respected Jewish teacher, and yet you don’t understand these things? I assure you, we tell you what we know and have seen, and yet you won’t believe our testimony. But if you don’t believe me when I tell you about earthly things, how can you possibly believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ever gone to heaven and returned. But the Son of Man has come down from heaven.” I wonder how many churches are built on misunderstanding of the message. So it becomes our mission to create a “religion” to justify our “relationship” with the Living God. Paul wrote I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose. One church, one mind, untied in thought and purpose.

Acts 2:38-41 (NLT) Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is to you, to your children, and to those far away—all who have been called by the Lord our God.” Then Peter continued preaching for a long time, strongly urging all his listeners, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation. Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all.

Is this the message of the modern day messengers? Are we really preaching this straightforward approach? Jesus said this to Nicodemus – “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.” Sound familiar? God loves you. He loves me. He loves every person who He created which is all of them. The only separation in the church should be those who believe and those who do not. Sin didn’t separate the church – it is what we all have in common creating our need for Christ. Jesus said, “Whosever will (wants to) come.” There is no mandate to change anything before Christ fully and completely accepts us and covers every single inch of us with His Blood. Grace is enough.

Proverbs 15:30 (NIV) Light in the messenger’s eyes bring joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones.  

The Light of His Love must burn bright in the eyes of the messengers. Love is God’s Primary Motivation in pursuing us. Unfailing love and goodness that desires us. I tried the “religious” route and failed too many times to count. I read the word. Served in church. Left on mission trips. Witnessed to the lost. Gave up Tuesdays for community visitation. I prayed. I fasted. I did everything the church told me to do and avoided the things it told me not to do. When I failed, church failed me. I am not blaming the church at all for my own faults and failures but what I am saying is that when everything falls apart, or we fall down and experience brokenness – it is not judgment or condemnation that changes us but the unfailing and forgiving Love of Jesus Christ.

Love multiplies. Love binds. Love is patient. Love is kind. It doesn’t not envy. It is not boastful and is without pride. It doesn’t dishonor others. It is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered. It keeps no records of wrongs just ample amounts of forgiveness. Love does not delight in the faults and failures of others. It rejoices when truth gives way to freedom. It ALWAYS protects, always trusts, always hopes and always perseveres. Love never ever fails. In fact, it says from the beginning of I Corinthians 13 that religious attributes are meaningless if love is not our motivation. Love like the Word has clearly outlined here. If I do not have love…I gain nothing. I wonder if our primary motivation in all religious endeavors is to strengthen our relationship with others as we align our life with Jesus Christ. Without love, the Gospel is not good news but just another church bulletin.

Acts 2:42-47 (NIV) They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

The early church did not have a fancy building marked “sanctuary” with loud sound systems, light shows, and huge media screens. They were not in buildings at all. The church resided in people who bound themselves together not by a membership but through a relationship with Jesus Christ that bound them together. The love they experienced with Christ given to others freely holding nothing back. They became united. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Hmm…

All those churches with so many different doctrines and a variety of designs. In our need to appease some of the things that make us comfortable have we somehow forsaken the original design of the church? We can give to the poor and even serve in the community a couple times a year, but is that truly what Christ had in mind? To be an effective messenger of the Gospel, it seems that I must understand the concept through Christ, His Word, and develop His Way of doing things so my life is in alignment with His Idea of the Body of Christ for obvious reasons. I must consider my words, thoughts and actions compared to His Purpose. Love must be found as the foundation of everything I do or say to be likeminded and on the same page as my Lord and Savior.

The Lord loves people. He rejoices with all of heaven when just one is returned to Him. One. I am a messenger. Lord, I ask you today to refine my message and remove everything not representative of You and Your Kingdom. Let my eyes shine forth the Light of Your Love. Thank you Jesus for this opportunity to share the Good News. I ask that it destroy all strongholds in the church until all walls come down and everyone comes together.

Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary…pure and holy…tried and true…with thanksgiving…I’ll be a living sanctuary for You. (Sanctuary – The Whole Song)

Under One Roof

Under One Roof

Ephesians 1:23 (NLT) And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.

There is something about having our children together under one roof. Even though there is chaos to just be together enriches my soul and fills my heart to overflowing capacity. Last night, we have the privilege of our oldest daughter spending the night with us. Sitting around the table at a local Mexican restaurant, the girls were chatting and my husband had that look. The smile that effortlessly creeps across his face when his girls are with him. There is something about daddies and their little girls. Even though the group around the table are far from small anymore. Our oldest daughter is great with child in her last trimester of pregnancy. Our middle daughter graceful and beautiful even in a t-shirt, athletic shorts and hair put up in a messy bun has become a woman right in front of us. Where has time gone? In a week, our baby girl, the last to join our large family will be driving a car as her fifteenth birthday comes and goes. God has blessed us with this group. Our boys are now men building families and careers. How does it all happen so quickly? I cherish these moments and times like this when I can enjoy these kids that once had me running in five different directions.

Two people came together with the commitment to love each other no matter what. Now close to twenty years later, look what love has done. It wasn’t always easy. We are a blended family. My new husband and I brought a handful home from the church on our wedding day. God took two empty lives and filled them to capacity with love. There were days when the commitment to God and each other held us all together. He did it. Now our next generation will soon arrive. The connection of family is important. It is worth the cost of love, grace and forgiveness that is required. How often we allow insignificant things to breach the bond that God has instituted? Thoughtless words or careless actions cause offense to root in human hearts as pride tells us that we somehow in our imperfection still deserve better. Families have been under attack since the first one was created in Genesis. We belong to individual families; but it is only a fragment of our true family.

The Body of Christ is a family or at least it is supposed to resemble one. With many members, there is but one unified body that should work together to be unified. I wonder if it brings the Father the same joy it brings my husband when all of his “kids” work together, enjoy each other, share with one another, and long to be together. I’ll let you in on a little secret. Our family doesn’t always enjoy peaceful harmony. My girls can be arguing over a borrowed shirt one minute and helping each other pick out tomorrow’s fashion statement the next. But let another person come against one of my children, and you must contend with the tribe. They will circle wagons and turn on you with a vengeance. There are little insecurities in the heart of our youngest at the thought of a new baby arriving soon. She has always been the baby. She sometimes feels forgotten as we gush over movement in our daughter’s belly or talk about when the little man arrives. It is foolish to think she would lose her place among us but in her heart it is real. These are little things the Family of God encounters although the Word of God says that we are “made full and complete by Christ.”

Romans 12:9-10 (NLT) Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.

Love is a commitment. I have tried to vehemently express this to each of my children in their relationships and preparing one day to be married. Love as the world knows it is not real love. It is based on emotions and feelings. It requires reciprocation. It is conditional. God’s Love for us and in us is not like that. It is defined as “patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” Love never fails.

To “love with genuine affection and take delight in honoring each other” takes hard work, motivation and concentration. You can fall in love but you will not remain in love without a commitment to love. God is love. Our identity in God must be characteristic of love to unite the family of God as instructed. Not just to love the lovable, but to love our enemies as well. It is a pure and true love based on how God loves us not how people do. Romans 12 begins with a plea to give our life as a “living sacrifice” and then goes on to tell us to love each other, honor each other and bless one another and more…

Romans 12:14-18 (NLT) Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

The Christ in us allows us to love others unconditionally. There is freedom in such love because it casts out all fear. The fear that breeds insecurity. The kind that allows unbelief to flourish in doubt and choke out the new faith that is growing inside of us. We are to be a representation of Jesus Christ to others. We must not expect others to be our Savior or allow them to reign as Lord. This is evidenced in our ability to love and be loved despite human imperfection, betrayal, and offense never allowing bitterness to disturb the newfound love growing in us as our relationship with Christ makes us one.

Ephesians 2:4-6 (NLT) Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, in all, and living through all.

There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, in all, and living through all. My body houses the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of the Living God who identifies me as His Child. The same Spirit that unites me with every other living breathing human who God created with purpose and promise. He is Father to us all. The Spirit lives in those who have taken their place in God’s Family by a choice to be reconciled to the family. Estrangement from God because of sin gives way to reconciliation by accepting Christ to be our Savior. His Grace is enough to give us access to the Kingdom and our rightful place in the Body of Christ. We are all unique. There is no competition and God has no favorites. Our desire to be one with Christ which leads to repentance keeps us unified with His Body that completes us so that we can give our life away recklessly. This allows us to take on the Character of Jesus Christ who is humble, gentle, patient, and forgiving. This is not a human trait. Pride hates these attributes and fights to reject them in our life. It is His Spirit who allows us to become like the Lord by producing good fruit in fertile and broken hearts.

As I mentioned before, though my children may bicker and pick on each other, if anyone comes against them they instantly become a unified front. A few years ago, while I was caring for our son who was undergoing cancer treatment, I got a call from my oldest daughter. Someone was bullying her younger sister in middle school and she was really mad. She called to tell me that she was on her way to confront the girl and do something that were less godly to her. I reminded her that she would be arrested for assault but at that moment she did not care. She continued to vent while I listened with a grin on my face. Someone was picking on her sister and she was ready to fight. She finally calmed down and chose only to stare the girl down. The bully and my daughter are still friends today.

What would happen if the Body of Christ became protective of relationships? What if we decided to become one family? I live in the South. There are churches on every corner, in just about every strip mall, and even small groups in homes. Why so many? There are some churches being planted, but it seems that most of them are products of disagreement. Someone gets upset and spreads their discontentment. People choose sides and suddenly a molecular split occurs. I cannot imagine how this breaks the heart of God who gave His Son, His Only Son, to bring His Children back under one roof.

We must make the decision to agree. To find common ground in Christ, and stop being led by emotions and feelings contradictory to those given to us by His Spirit. Just like a family, the Body of Christ must make the commitment to stop allowing fear, insecurity and offense to be the guidelines for their life and overcome them with the Love of God that gets rid of such nonsense. There will be disagreements. There will be hurt feelings, disappointments, unmet expectations and failed attempts in human relationships. When we allow the Love of God to be our response rather than reacting to the imperfection of humans it will produce the kind of love that will produce unity in the Body of Christ once again.

Is your family coming home for the holidays? Will all of your children gather around the Christmas tree? I find no greater joy than when our family is able to worship together in the House of God. Imagine what the Father would experience if all of His Children gathered together under one roof labeled Jesus Christ. Choosing to put aside personal feelings and accept perfect love, joy and peace from our Living Breathing Source of Life and Hope. It would change the impact of the church. Functioning as one body, the church would become effective. Salt would become salty again. The Light would reach the darkest corners of the lost and dying world. Imagine the Glory that would pour out in our services when Jesus was the Center of it all. Last night my husband slept like a baby, just the thought of all his girls under one roof. He woke up with the same look on his face. I wonder if the Father smiles when we get it together…of course, He does!

Psalm 133 (NLT) How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony! For harmony is as precious as the anointing oil that was poured over Aaron’s head, that ran down his beard and onto the border of his robe. Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon that falls on the mountains of Zion. And there the Lord has pronounced his blessing, even life everlasting.

A Single Meal

Used Plate

Hebrews 12:14-16 (NLT) Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord. Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many. Make sure that no one is immoral or godless like Esau, who traded his birthright as the firstborn son for a single meal.

“Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless Love of God. Oh, it chases me down, fights ‘til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine. I couldn’t earn it. I don’t deserve it. Still You give Yourself away. Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless Love of God.” – Bethel Music

Have you experienced the Love of God? The overwhelming kind of reckless love that is driven by grace that removes every single sin and fills your heart to capacity with confidence that there is nothing that will ever separate you from Him again (Romans 8) Salvation is a gift that allows us to enter the Presence of the Living God and His Spirit to inhabit our once corrupt and dying flesh. It is not something easily understood but the Truth of those who have chosen Jesus Christ to be their Savior and Lord. Now what? In order to understand the true value and worth of the Gift of God given to us through the sacrifice of His Only Son, we must explore the depth and magnitude of His Love. The foundation of it is His Undeserved Grace too remarkable to understand or even comprehend. It must be received by faith. If forgiveness was easy to give, I wonder if we could identify with the sufficiency of God’s Grace given to us.

2 Corinthians 12:9 (NLT) Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.

The power source of God’s Love is His Grace. Sin separated us from the Love of God. It severed our relationship. The Blood of Jesus Christ made the way for us to reestablish our connection to God and allows us to enter eternity after our life on earth is done. However, the mandate of grace is not given as a resource to be reserved for a later date. It is the power of our life today. Grace is all I need. It works best in my weakness. My pride doesn’t want to accept the fact that I am helpless. It doesn’t glory in my weakness but fights to remain in control. God gives grace to the humble. Humility is only possible in the absence of pride. Grace can only be received by the humble and can only be magnified and/or reflected through the same. (James 4:6)

Ephesians 2:8-9 (NLT) God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.

You cannot choose the family you are born into. It is in God’s Grand Scheme of things. He decides who our parents will be and later who our children are. My children may partake of all that belongs to me. They are my kids. I will do anything for them. They do not have to earn my love for I give it to them freely and undeserved. They live in my house. Not one of them has ever had to lay cash on the counter for groceries, electricity or the things provided to them. We expect them to be obedient and loving at all times. However, on the days they choose to misbehave or disagree – they still are given the same meals, electricity and more. We provide for them. When they choose to the right thing and be loving and kind – it brings laughter, joy and community to our family. My point is that no matter what – they are my children. I desire a relationship with them. When my children leave home, they are free to make their own choices. They set up households. They decide whether or not to maintain a close relationship with the family or not. But if they choose not to communicate or visit, it is does not diminish our love for them. They still can join us for family dinner, fellowship and laughter at any time. Our brood did not earn the right to be part of the family or complete some intricate initiation process. God chose them to be our kids just like He chose us to be His Children. God sees us all the same way. He provides for us regardless. He has a plan and purpose that will prosper our life from the inside out. As His Children, we choose whether or not to live in His Presence. His Children chose sin over fellowship with Him, so the Father provided a way for them to return. We cannot earn it. We cannot deserve it. He has given it to us. This gift is called grace every family must rely on it to build strong, sound relationships. We must be receivers and givers of grace to build His Kingdom.

Ephesians 2:10 (NLT) For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

I am God’s Masterpiece. I have heard this message and even taught it myself. Today, I see it a little differently through His Amazing Grace. I am only a piece of the masterpiece. For “WE” are God’s Masterpiece. He makes us a new creation in Christ that is not solitary but united by the choice to receive Jesus and His Grace into our heart. Now we are building a new foundation – the message given to us is love provided by grace. It should build a Kingdom not tear it down. (Acts 20:32) God’s Grace brings every one of His Children together under the authority and power of Jesus Christ. His Power is given by grace. God’s Plan is to bring us all together by His Grace. He is drawing His Children back to Him. The masterpiece has many pieces that complete the beautiful portrait of reconciliation.

Acts 15:10-11 (NLT) So why are you now challenging God by burdening the Gentile believers with a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors were able to bear? We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus.”

Am I burdening other people with a yoke that God has not required of me? A penalty I could not pay for. A condition not given in unconditional love. We all sin and fall short of God’s Glorious Standard. God’s Grace freely makes us right in His Sight. Am I giving others the grace that I have received? Is my love for people unconditional? Because of God’s Grace given to me, I give my life to Him. I am called to be an expert builder and to advance His Kingdom. I must be very careful not to add conditions and mandates to others that have not been put on me. I cannot withhold the generosity of God lavished on me by His Grace. Otherwise, I am building a foundation other than Jesus Christ. (I Corinthians 3:10-11) When I require of others something that Christ does not require of me, I have polluted the Good News. I must be careful not to treat the grace of God as meaningless. (Galatians 2:20-21) Christ is my example. He lives in me. His Love should permeate my pride and crucify it with the rest of my flesh so that love always prevails and grace right along with it.

2 Corinthians 9:13-15 (NLT) As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ. And they will pray for you with deep affection because of the overflowing grace God has given to you. Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words!

What is the result of your ministry today? Does it give glory to God? Before you say, I don’t have a ministry as an ambassador of Christ – you have the profound privilege and responsibility to share His Love with everyone you come in contact with. The loudest message is spoken by our attitude and actions not our words. I have been a gift labeled grace that is too wonderful to keep all to myself. It takes time to release others from our expectation as we yoke ourselves to Jesus Christ. His Grace is always enough for our process. His Grace is abounding so that we can generously give it to others without regard or reservation because God’s got us. He will never let us down. He is always working all the details for our good and perfecting all that concerns us. Faith in God begins by fully accepting His Undeserved Grace and Unconditional Love for ourselves. However, once it is accepted it must be sown in our life to produce the Good News others are dying to hear.

Make sure that no one is immoral or godless like Esau, who traded his birthright as the firstborn son for a single meal. Esau was the firstborn son. He didn’t have to do anything other than exist to inherit the blessing of His Father. Esau gave up his birthright. Oh, I know some would say that his brother tricked him. But the truth is – Esau gave it away for a single meal. Is it really worth your birthright to hold on to bitterness and unforgiveness? God cannot extend grace to those who are unwilling to give it away. We are part of a Kingdom. The Body of Christ cannot become one with strife and bitterness. These qualities mean that God’s Grace is not enough for us and we thereby reject our birthright in Him. Without faith it is impossible to please God, our faith is founded on His Love and Grace. If I don’t believe that God’s Love is for me and His Grace flows through me – I am lost. Grace is essential to salvation. I cannot earn it or deserve it. Do I require something more of others than God requires of me today? Lord, show me the areas of stagnant grace that has become roots of bitterness and unforgiveness limiting the harvests in my life. I am building a Kingdom. I am not alone. You are with me. My brothers and sisters are all around me. You do not have favorites. We are all your favorite in Christ alone. May your grace flow through me more and more today until it reaches those around me.

2 Corinthians 4:14-15 (NLT) We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you. All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.

Come Together

Come Together

Ephesians 1:22-23 (NLT) God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.

The church. The Body of Christ. The formation of believers and Christians meeting together. For what? Sundays, Wednesdays, and small groups with scheduled meetings and organized plans. What is the benefit to the world in which we live? A bright and shining light that drives our darkness. A salt so flavorful it is desirable. Paul prayed in Ephesians 1 that the church would know the greatness of power that God has invested in them. To understand the Resurrection Power possible to those who believe. Christ is the ruler, authority, power and leader of the church and in Him it is made full and complete. As we come together in corporate congregational meetings is unity and fulfillment the experience taken from it or just another social circle in which to navigate?

Philippians 1:1-2 (NLT) Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.

The power of the church is in love and unity. There should be encouragement from belonging to Christ. There should be comfort found in His Love. We are His Hands and Feet. We should experience God’s Glory as His Spirit joins us in our gatherings and fellowship together. Leaving the cares, worries and burdens of this world at the feet of Jesus as we come together to share one another’s concerns untied in Christ. We are to agree wholeheartedly. The giving of our heart cannot be done any other way than completely. Do we love one another? Really love each other as delineated in I Corinthians 13? Do we work together putting aside our own schedules and agendas? When the Body of Christ figures out how to come together with one mind and purpose – revival will be the result. But until then…

I Peter 3:8-9 (NLT) Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing.

What would be the possibilities if rather than always seeking a blessing, believers decided to be a blessing? Sowing seeds of generosity in all things, in all ways and everywhere we go. What might the harvest be? Rather than spouting out religious rhetoric our lives were living demonstrations of the love of God invested in us through Christ Jesus, would witnessing be so hard? If we could trust the church with our families, friends and co-workers, I bet the invitation would flow much easier.

Colossians 3:14-17 (NLT) Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.

How do I become the church? It’s all about me. That’s right. I must choose to clothe myself in love rather than worrying about my appearance on Sunday, I should maintain a heart covered in love all week long. The kind of love that is described in God’s Word. The kind of love that Jesus demonstrated. I must trust the Lord until His Peace rules in my heart. It means that my conditions and circumstances do not change my conversation and I will bless the Lord at all times. I must remember I am called to live in peace with all believers. If I cannot manage such a life with those I have the most in common (Christ), how will I ever reach a lost and dying world with anything of worth?

Always be thankful. How does it represent our Father when we grumble and complain all the time? If He is our Provider, Healer and more, what is the message of hope in disappointment, discouragement and discontentment? Faith cannot be faked or it is fruitless. Artificial, plastic fruit carefully displayed and occasionally dusted on the dining room table for all to see bears no seeds, fruit or life to those who see it.

Seek wisdom. If you do not choose to partake of the Bread of Life and Living Water, from what resource do you have to give? How can your Spirit man live in starvation? He cannot. The Word of God is Light. It is life. We need it to illuminate the need in us for a Savior and the areas that He is to be Lord in us so that we can manifest His Power and Praise on this planet.

Finally, probably the most important part, “and whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.” All this is important striking out in this world as His Disciple, but if it does not begin in the church, we have failed. A dysfunctional church is governed by pride and selfishness. Love does not live there. Without love and grace and generosity, the church is just another religious organization. There are many religions. Only one relationship changes a religion into something more, a living breathing body, and that is Jesus Christ. Have we come together as the Body? Or are we hacking off members and a disfigured representation of what could be? Lord, forgive us for our failure to be fruitful in coming together as one body with one mind, one purpose and one heart.

I Corinthians 12:27 (NLT) All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.

In I Corinthians 12, Paul addresses the church in regarding unity. The early church was experiencing growing pains and having some issues no different than the modern church. Paul describes the body of Christ and the need for unity. We are many members who all have a place in the Body of Christ. Too often rather than focusing on who I need to be and what I need to do to effectively and efficiently do my part in the Body, I can become distracted. An effective church is harmonious. An efficient part has fully functioning members. Members are supposed to take care of each other. How is your church doing in maintaining the health of its body? People come and people go…is that okay? I mean if you lost your right arm or left foot would you go on as though nothing happened? Let’s get real for a moment. The pain of others should be our pain. The process of all in the Body should be part of our process. My position does not take from another but should be productive in securing the Body as one. How am I doing? The most important question you can ask yourself today is not what can I do but who am I supposed to be? Our membership in the Body of Christ has purpose and meaning. It cannot function properly without us in place.

Philippians 1:27 (NLT) Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News.

As a believer, you have the potential to become part of something much larger than your current position. Your realm of influence is ready to expand breaking down every barrier holding you back from reaching your full potential. Fulfillment in Christ is never a solitary position but unity as a whole. You have a plan that includes a future and hope. Your future and hope is membership in a Body. A complete being called the church or the Body of Christ. You have a position to fill that only you can do. The enemy wants us to believe that we do not need anybody but Jesus. Like every other lie he tells the believer that is only half true. The Body of Christ is built of those who make Jesus Christ their everything. To surrender to the Lord is to give yourself to His Body. There is no way around it. You cannot do it alone. Isolation and separation are the tools of the enemy to destroy His Body. Don’t let him use you like that. Seek unity and harmony in your life above all things with all people including the church you attend. People are people. Grace would not be needed if perfection was possible. If you are not part of a local church, I encourage you to find your place. If you are a member of a church but not involved, I encourage you to find your place, too. If you are involved and fighting the good fight of faith, I encourage you to keep doing what you are doing even if you don’t think you can continue – it’s only because breakthrough is almost there. We must come together as believers to be the Light of the World.

Right before our kids moved back from New England, we visited a salt cellar. The store was actually called the Salt Cellar. Traveling down a steep flight of stairs into a dimly lit store, there were tiny jars of salt everywhere. I have never seen such a variety of different flavors of salt. Salt without flavor is useless – it takes all kinds. Today as I think back, I wonder what might happen if we all lined our lives up in one place as the spice of life others need to overcome a dull and useless existence. To offer a place where others could come to taste and see that the Lord is good! Imagine the potential of a unified church that exemplified the Love of God through Jesus Christ effectively. We would call it revival.

Psalm 133

How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony! For harmony is as precious as the anointing oil that was poured over Aaron’s head, that ran down his beard and onto the border of his robe. Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon that falls on the mountains of Zion. And there the Lord has pronounced his blessing, even life everlasting.

 

Beauty of Submission

The Beauty of Submission

I Peter 3:1-4 (NKJV) Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear. Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel—rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.

There is beauty in submission for the heart intent on surrender. It is a beauty far surpassing the outward appearance that leaves an indelible mark on the heart it touches. The heart must be soft, pliant, open, and humble to receive such instruction and not become hard and unyielding as pride senses a takeover. Submission is the utmost form of trust in any relationship. It denotes total surrender to the Lord for fulfillment of expectation releasing all other human counterparts. In the beginning it may be a bitter pill choked down rather than savored. Those who force it down will find it to be a seed of blossoming blessing that will lead to success in all relationships as we live and love from a gentle and quiet spirit confident in God’s Love, Grace and Goodness.

Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands…

I will be the first to admit that I did not receive the “gift” of submission as one probably should. Preparing for a women’s conference at church with a fellow board member, I had spent the better part of a half-hour ranting about my husband and a disagreement the night before. She allowed me to vent thereby setting the groundwork for a message that would change my marriage forever. When I finally ran out of words, the room was silent. She crossed over to me with what I knew would be solid and profound advice. Holding my hands in hers and looking me right in the eye, she said, “You must learn to submit to your husband. You must be submissive.” If it were possible for my head to spin and steam come shooting out of both ears, it would have happened in that moment. I was so angry that not a single word could be formed and my mouth was hanging open. Had she not heard the injustice? Had she not listened to my hurt? Did she not understand that it was all his fault? I thought she was on my side. She was. She was the godly influence who would plant a seed of truth in my open and exposed heart that would grow, develop and mature into a beautiful marriage of mutual responsiveness and respect.

Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel—rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.

I am woman hear me roar…not so fast tiger. Inner beauty within our heart is the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit that God finds very precious. I am an extrovert and my husband an introvert. Our personalities are very different as are our life experiences. Coming together in marriage is to leave all other relationships and establish a primary connection with our spouse. To become one together. Just as two people traveling in different directions do not end up at the same destination, one of the two must submit. It is our gift and calling as wives to do just that. To become a reverent partner to the man who God has joined us with is to honor and revere God with total trust and dependency. I trust my husband. I love him. He is just as human as I am and we both make a lot of mistakes. The Grace of God is the glue that keeps our marriage strong as I have learned to submit to God’s Authority and my husband but boy oh boy was it a fight.

Ephesians 5:22-24 (NKJV) Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.

To submit means to be humble and compliant. It is a perceived vulnerability yet must be pursued for complete faith. Wives submit to your husbands as to the Lord. As wives, women are called to respect, regard and deeply care for her spouse. To reverence or be in awe of as translated from the Greek word “phobeo”. All believers are called to live in mutual submission. (Ephesians 5:21) As a wife I am called, according to God’s Word in Ephesians 5, to serve, honor and edify my husband. Does such a statement rub you the wrong way? Are you irritated at the thought of it? Good, so was I. My life as a wife is to be lived as unto the Lord. I do these things for my husband out of reverence for God and His Word. This should end the argument but it usually causing a warring in our heart and mind. What about me? Who’s going to take care of me?

The husband is called to lay down his life and sacrifice his interests for his wife. He is tasked to support her growth and development spiritually. He is to cherish, warmly care for and attend to her needs, wants and desires. He is to love her as Christ loves the church. He holds the most responsibility in this thing called marriage. God holds husbands accountable for their wives. We must only trust the Lord. This is important unless marriage is deemed impotent because it is out of order or misaligned.

Submission to each other following the guidelines set forth by God creates mutual responsiveness. Just as the Body of Christ is formed by leaving the things of this world and clinging to God through Christ and His Way – marriage is the same process. To become one body in marriage or in the Body of Christ requires leaving and cleaving. Cleaving is to adhere firmly and closely with all loyalty unwaveringly to something. Genesis 2:24 sets forth the marriage principle that “a man shall leave his father and mother to be joined with his wife and they become one flesh.” I wonder what the success rate of marriage might be if both partners embraced these roles fully and completely as designed by God made possible through Jesus Christ. Would revival break out in the Body if it became one?

I Peter 3:8-9 (NKJV)  Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous;[a] not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.

Smith Wigglesworth was a great man of faith. One of the forerunners in faith for the modern day church. His wife, Polly, was a mighty woman of God in her own right. When his plumbing business became very successful, Smith began to work long hours. He missed services and his heart grew cold toward the Lord. Polly faithfully continued serving the Lord. One night she was later than usual returning from church and her husband rebuked her saying, “I am the master of this house and I am not going to put up with you coming home at such a late hour.” Polly told her angry husband, “You may be my husband, but my master is Christ.” Smith put her out the back door in anger forgetting to lock the front door. She came around to the front entering the house in laughter. Soon her gentle spirit and sweet response had both parties dissolved in fits of laughter.

It is human nature to be caught up in our rightness and miss the point of righteousness. We are Kingdom builders which is all about relationships. Building relationships requires submission. Successful marriages are marked by wives who embrace the role of submission and empower their husbands to take the leadership role and fulfill the assignment of accountability for our life. Grace is the gold of submission. We serve in all positions of life as unto the Lord including our marriage partnerships. Each member of the Body of Christ has a role that must submit to the headship of Jesus. Without submission – all things will remain broken. Those who embrace and strive to live a submissive life will inherit a blessing far greater than pride could ever yield. Be submissive. Take on your role given by Christ, whatever that is, fully embracing the calling clearly defined by His Word. You will prosper as your soul prospers.

Ephesians 4:4-6 (NKJV) There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

 

Strong Together

strong together

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NIV) Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Have you ever seen a water buffalo? The water buffalo or Asian buffalo is the largest member of the Bovini tribe which also includes yak, bison, African buffalo and other species of wild cattle. The do not appear to pose a threat. These mammals can be domesticated and are sometimes referred to as living tractors. Moving quite slowly, predators often seek them out as easy prey. Water buffalo are not of the utmost intelligence and can be outsmarted quite easily. However, if you mess with one of the herd, they gather together and fight the attacker no matter the foe. They begin to charge together to take back an animal being carried off by a predator. No one would ever suspect that a wild bovine would be so aggressive but do not make the mistake of messing with one of their own. We must follow their lead. Being mindful that the vulnerable and weak are the first to be led to the slaughter. With diligence, it is of the utmost importance to seek one to become two. Jesus leaves the ninety-nine to find the one. To one another rather than tearing each other down. We must be helpers, not hurters. Two can defend themselves because now they have agreement. Finally, a cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Not three strands floating in the breeze but three strands woven into a cord. Relationship weaves our life together. It makes us aware by close proximity. As the Body of Christ, we must learn to live as a Kingdom. It is important to win the war waged against us. We have victory in Jesus. We claim it together as one.

Ephesians 6:10-13 (NIV) Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

The Lord has given us His Armor that covers us from head to foot. We have the belt to truth, breastplate of righteousness, shield of faith, helmet of salvation, sword of the Spirit, and our fitted firmly fitted with the Gospel of peace. (Ephesians 6:14-18) This passage begins with “be strong in the Lord and in His Mighty Power.” You are not defenseless in this struggle against powers of darkness and spiritual forces of evil. All those coincidences, circumstances, situations, bad reports, and rough patches collectively are the enemy’s attack as God’s People. You. The Body of Christ. The strength of a unity is unity. The determination to collectively advance as a group rather than individually gives power to presence. Just a fish travel in schools for protection, it is of the utmost importance that the family of God decide to work together, weave relationships and war against the enemy together.

It is of the utmost importance that while donning the Armor of God that we do not forget the Assembly of God – we must fight for our faith together. This time of fasting and praying is targeting unity in our church body. Asking God for one mind, one heart and one purpose thrills our Father. Who doesn’t want a close knit family? One a person becomes a people it has a miraculous impact on the community. God desires harmony amongst His People. It blesses him. So naturally pleasing God perturbs the enemy and sets off an alarm in the realm of darkness. We must be aware of this and work to build an even stronger bond together. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it. (Matthew 11:12)

Matthew 24:6-8 (NIV) You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.

Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.” (2 Timothy 2:3-4) The motto of the military is “no man left behind.” As good soldiers of Jesus Christ fighting for faith and building a Kingdom, it must ours as well. The birth pains of the Kingdom are clear and the pressure real. In order to endure to the end, we must be Kingdom minded and King focused. We cannot become entangled in civilian affairs.

Reading Psalm 23, the Lord prepares a table for us in the presence of our enemies. Doesn’t that mean there will be battles? If he prepares a table, it would imply that it is not His Will or Purpose for us to fight alone? We are called to greater love. The kind of love that lays down its own life for others. To unite, bond and form a unit to become the Body of Christ and ultimately His Bride. How are we doing? Are we working together? Are we warring as one? One mind. One body. One heart. One purpose. Collectively joined by One Spirit. We have a mission. Time is of the essence. It is time to stop worrying about all the rumors and rumblings in the earth and set forth an initiative of unity among all people in the Love of God through Jesus Christ.

John 15:13 (NIV) Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

Matthew 5:43-45 (NIV) “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

Proverbs 17:7 (NIV) A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.

Friendship is important but brotherhood essential. We are the Kingdom of God. Working together and warring as one for our family. The family of God is not defined by race, color, gender, or even religion. Jesus died for all of us. No one is exempt from His Mercy, Grace and Unconditional Love. People limit love not God who is love. It is with this in mind that we must decide to forgo pride and preference to bind together as the Body of Christ. It is the greatest form of love to lay down our life, needs, wants, desires, hurts, and offenses to love someone else. It is of even greater importance that we love our enemies. People are not the problem. God loves them what gives us the right to refuse them? A friend loves at all times. Brothers and sisters are born for a time of adversity. God gave us each other so that when going into battle that we would not fight alone. Are we utilizing unity as the Lord intended?

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

The Kingdom of God uses relationship, agreement, unity and harmony to defeat the enemy. We overcome by the Blood of the Lamb and the Word of our testimony. It is the common thread in our life that weaves us together as one Body. We must grab hold of the rope and never let go of the importance in togetherness and relationship. The Armor of God is most effective when working collectively for the Body of Christ as a whole. You need your friends and enemies more than you think. When there is agreement in faith and confident hope – we become unstoppable for the Kingdom of God. We win! We are victorious in Jesus Christ – together!

Romans 15:5-6 (NIV)  May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Reviving Relationships

Reviving Relationships

Proverbs 11:30 (NLT) The seeds of good deeds become a tree of life; a wise person wins friends.

It’s a girl’s weekend – Woo Hoo! My mom, sister, sister-in-love, oldest daughter and I have ventured to a women’s conference out of town. Over the years, the Lord has grown our family and knit us together beyond the commitment of family to the covenant of friendship. We do not get to choose our familial relationships. It is ordained by God and heredity. However, friends are not the same. We do decide who is allowed in the inner circle of our lives. Those who can be trusted to share life with beyond superficial communication and ordinary contact. Some people are wonderful at maintaining such connections. Thoughtful and dedicated to each relationship. Others not so much. I see it in my own family among my children. Some are social and make friends easily. Some not so much. Others gather friends easily and others move from one friend to the next.

It always happens once reconnected with these ladies. I remember how much I love them and miss them in my everyday life. We live in different places. From Missouri to New Hampshire to Florida, yet put us in a room together and the laughter begins to flow as words and stories fill the room. I love that. I cherish that. We are called to be friends and have friends. God loves relationship. He loves friendship. He created families and encourages us to be friends. Yet, the enemy attacks such a kinship daily. Strife lingers in most families deemed imperfect and dysfunctional. It’s not a people problem. It is a sin problem. The only solution for sin is the Blood of Jesus that provides us a sufficiency of grace to draw from and spread all around.

The seeds of good deeds become a tree of life. Each day our life is comprised of a series of sowing and reaping. Planting seeds for the next season and harvesting the crops of the last. Those who sow love, grace and friendship will receive the same. But if I feel alone, isolated and lacking in this area, the Lord will provide every seed I need to sow it into my future. Wise people are those who sow God’s Word in their life to allow its promises to grow will make the decision to pursue relationships and work to maintain them. Why? It fills our life with His Love, Grace and Goodness as it multiplies around us.

Luke 1:39-42 (NLT) A few days later Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea, to the town where Zechariah lived. She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth. At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed.

As many know, Elizabeth carried John the Baptist who would become the forerunner of Jesus Christ. Mary had just been told by the angel that she was carrying the Son of God. Jesus and John the Baptist were destine for friendship. Mary and Elizabeth were cousins. Mary chose to go to her cousin who must have been her friend and confidant to share her good news. When she arrived on the threshold of Elizabeth’s home, the baby inside of her swelling form leapt with joy. It says that in that moment, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. God has made an investment in those who He predestined for relationship. The seeds in others hidden for us as a deposit to be discovered in the midst of friendship. He ordained this between Mary and Elizabeth. He also ordered it for the next generation – Jesus and John.

We must learn the value of friendship. If we understand that it is ordained by the Lord and blessed by the same, it will become worthwhile. It is essential to becoming the Body of Christ rather than a dysfunctional and barren union that lacks productivity or prosperity. Friendships should be evident in the Body – the whole Bride of Christ is to be presented without blemish or handicap to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords which is not possible if it is all torn apart. Relationships are messy. Family drama just plain foolishness. It is much easier to shake the dust off our feet and walk away then to fully engage and fight for friendship. The Lord has blessed friendship. He loves harmony above all things.

Psalm 133:1-3 (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.

I struggle reading the story of Job. Engaged in the good fight for faith in the midst of great tragedy and devastation, I find his friends religious and annoying. They are constantly berating him and accusing him and seemingly judging him. I wonder why Job keeps answering their knock on the door. I think as I sat scraping my sores with fragments of pottery with a broken heart and tear-stained face that I would probably respond to their intrusion with a “go jump of Mount Sinai” retort. Job continues to engage with them. It was well worth his time. In Job 42, the Lord instructs Job to pray for his friends and so he does. It is immediately following the restoration of friendship through forgiveness that “the Lord restored his fortunes. In fact, the Lord gave him twice as much as before!” (Job 42:10) Could there be a blessing that we are missing due to an unwillingness to nurture and maintain friendships in life? Absolutely! What the Lord does for others He will do for us? He has no favorites. I am God’s Favorite Child just like you are.

Matthew 18:19-20 (NLT) “I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.”

Elizabeth and Mary experienced the Power of Agreement when two friends become one by faith. The Holy Spirit joined them right then and there. This is the same promise given to us by Jesus in this passage. Ecclesiastes 4:12 elaborates with A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” Relationship is God’s Security in our life as it unites the Body of Christ in to a faith-fighting machine. The enemy is powerless against God’s People standing together as one. We must seek to agree with our family and build strong bonds of friendship within each structure. Our families include those given by birth or joined by association. Any seed of potential friendship that is not cultivated is purpose left to die in the ground. Real friends have bonds closer than family ties. (Proverbs 18:24) It takes work. It requires our attention. We need the Fruit of God’s Spirit to feed and nourish godly relationships in our life to build long lasting and diehard friendships. Iron sharpens iron. (Proverbs 27:17) It smooths rough edges and breaks off hard parts especially in our hearts. We need those kinds of friends to grow, mature and develop in our walk with the Lord. They are the very ones who God uses to speak instruction, wisdom and direction into our lives. These are the ones who will be His Voice to us. The heartfelt counsel of a friend is valuable and sweet. (Proverbs 27:9) The Lord has hidden treasure in each one to be unearthed and bound in Heaven to experience blessings only given by a good, good God!

Colossians 3:12-15 (NLT) Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.

If we only knew the promise hidden in real abiding relationships called friendship, I believe it would become a priority in our life. God has given us such an opportunity to be empowered by investing our life in others if only we believe. I will admit that I have taken relationships and friendships for granted countless times in my lifetime. Allowed distance or even dispute to separate me from people who I know the Lord has specifically placed in my life. There is no such thing as a coincidence for those called by God just constant opportunity to experience His Grace, Goodness and Glory like gentle waves washing over our life. The enemy wants to make us think that people are the problem when really they are the reality of blessing in our life. No greater love for Jesus is shown than when we lay down our life for our friends. It is not all about the big things but each day giving up a little bit of my way to maintain peace and prosperity in friendship. God blesses every relationship that is harmonious and unified. He loves it. His Spirit cannot help but come in the midst of such agreement. Maybe we have missed the true meaning of revival. Maybe just maybe it will begin with the restoration of true friendship and real relationships in the Body of Christ that cause an outpouring of His Love too great to deny! We won’t know unless we try! We can start with our family and work our way out until ripples become a current that changes the atmosphere with His Love. We must revive relationships and be committed to friendship to experience the Fullness of God’s Love.

Romans 15:5-6 (NLT) May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.