Saturday, February 21, 2015

look at all the birds

Today, as a winter storm is passing by, we are stuck in the house for the sixth day.  I am enjoying the time off and time spent with my family. I needed this time.  I have been sick and would have had to take off work, but with so much ice and snow, school was closed. My son was looking out the window this morning and suddenly got very excited. He grabbed my phone to take pictures of a big group of birds sitting in our trees. He was so amazed. "Look at all the birds!"  

I was quickly reminded of how Jesus said we don't need to worry about our needs because he provides.  He used the example of how he even provides for the birds and we are more valuable than the birds. 
Matthew 6:25-34 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?

How many times do we let the worry set in and get us off focus?  God is taking care of our needs. He provides in ways we cannot explain.  He provides for the tiny birds and the grass of the field. He will definitely take care of us.  We are of great value to Him.  I think we forget sometimes, that we are of great value to our Savior.  He paid a great price for us. He died for us.  He didn't die for the birds. He didn't die to abandon us in our time of need. He is a good Father and takes care of His children.  He doesn't forget about us or leave us. He is faithful and good. He is able to do all things and sees all things.  Too many times, we begin to wonder and worry, fret and cry, when all we really need to do is trust our Heavenly Father. 

I know many are frustrated by this snow and ice.  It is frustrating to be stuck at home, to see the accidents, and hear of buildings collapsing this morning under the weight of wet snow and ice. Yet, I know God is still in control. He is still in the business of caring for us, loving us and providing for us. He does not leave us in the middle of a storm or walk away even when things are good.  He doesn't take a break from watching over us.  There is even beauty in the storm.  There are things to appreciate and beauty to see all around. God provides that too.

Thank you, Lord, for taking such good care of us.  Thank you for even providing days off when we really need them.  Thank you for the beauty even in storms. Thank you for sending birds to remind us of Your loving care. Thank you for being God. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

the body needs unity

Sometimes, God really lays something on my heart and I cannot ignore it. I have tried to not write this post, but I know God has really wanted me to study this and put it in writing. So, I began by going to the word of God. I know many of these scriptures, but there is more that I had not put together before.  I love how God opens the word when you really listen and ask for his understanding.
So I began to look for scripture on the body of Christ.  I realized quickly that our definition of the body of Christ as seen today and what God really wants for his body is not matching up.  There are some great problems or illnesses in the body of Christ and I dare say, God is not pleased. 

At this point I will share some of what I found and say I weep for the body of Christ.  We are in the midst of illness and need healing. We are in the midst of great pain and unable to function properly as God is calling us to do.  God is not pleased and is grieved.

So, here are some scriptures to back up my statements. Please pray for God to give you understanding as you read these as well. 

 Ephesians 4:1-6 says, As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

John 17:21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

1 Corinthians 12:12-14 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

Ephesians 2:19-22 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

Psalms 133:1  Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity.

Romans 12:10  Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.

1 John 4:20 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

1 Corinthians 1:10-17 I appeal to you, brothers and sisters,[a] in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11 My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”
13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

So, in light of all these scriptures, I hope you see a theme.  God called us to be one body, be of one mind, one spirit, one baptism, one faith, one Lord. There are many more scriptures, but I start with these.  Study this out for yourself.  Search the scripture.  See what God has to say first. Pray for understanding of His word.

There are so many divisions in the body of Christ.  We have all kinds of reasons for not fellowshipping or not loving others in the body of Christ.  First of all, we limit the definition of the body of Christ.  Some say, well, they don't believe like me, so they cannot be in the body of Christ.  Well, they don't do this and this, so they are not in the body of Christ. Jesus told the disciples that whoever is not against us, if for us (Luke 9:49-50).  How often do we think we are the only right ones?

God does not want division in his body.  He wants unity.  He wants us to love one another.  In John 13:34-35 he says that they will know we are his disciples by how we love one another.  There is to be a mutual love between those of the body of Christ.  We are to really love one another, even if we don't agree.  Disagreement, should not mean we stop loving one another.  When we hate or harm a brother or sister, we cannot love God. That is serious business. That goes against God's command. 

Who is in the body of Christ?   
Those who have repented and become a follower of Christ.  If Jesus has saved them, we cannot decide they are not in the body.  It is just like when my parents brought home my baby brothers and sister.  I had no choice in who they were or how they do things.  They are still my brothers and sister. We may not always see eye to eye, but I love them no matter what. Jesus defines the body of Christ.  He looks on the heart of man and he knows who is in the body.  By their fruit, you will know them. (Matthew 7:16) We can recognize believers when they preach Christ, serve Christ, and bear the fruit of Christ.  We have no say otherwise.  We cannot determine who gets to be in the body, Jesus determines that.  He does not say, we will always see eye to eye, but he does say, love one another, bear fruit, serve one another.  

God is calling his body into unity.  He is calling his body to love one another.  There are a lot of petty differences that have caused great divisions.  In Corinthians 12, this was addressed. There should not be any schism in the body.  That is like cutting off a piece of you body and trying to function without it.  When you look at the human body, it is made up of little tiny cells. These cells make up all the different parts of the body and function together. The cells in the heart are not functioning the same as the cells of the skin.  They are still part of the same body.  The cells of the skin cannot cast out the cells of the heart just because they can't agree to do things the same way.  That causes disfunction and problems.  That is cancerous and destructive to the body. 

God uses the example of the body, because it is the best demonstration of a great number of things working together with one purpose.  When a person decides to do something, like put a bite of food into his mouth, all the different parts of the body must coordinate, act and move as one. If the even one part does not cooperate, it would be hard to get that bite of food into your mouth.  Have you ever had an injury that kept you from functioning the way you normally do?  The body of Christ has that problem right now.  There are many who do not want to recognize others as part of the body. There are those that do not want to cooperate with others, with whom they do not agree. There are those that actually choose to argue, spew forth hatred and destruction to others.  That should not be! That is destruction of the body! That is not of God! That is the enemy destroying the very body of Christ!

Have we really allowed the enemy to use our self-will, self-pride,  haughtiness, and self-importance to cause destruction of the very body of Christ?

There is an answer: Praying and digging into the word of God.  If we even claim to be a part of the body of Christ, we really need to get on our knees and begin to repent for this terrible sin of the body.  We need to call on God to restore the body of Christ. We need to ask for his help in loving others in the body.  Ask for his help in recognizing the body and understanding their role in the body of Christ.  We can no longer operate as usual.
2 Corinthians 7:1 says Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God. We need to be eager to maintain the the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  Rather than writing someone off as different, or not in agreement, we need to demonstrate true love to them.  If we have more understanding than they do, we should not just dismiss them as lost. We have got to love them.  If we love them, there can be true respect and understanding.  That is when the body can work together, sit together, study the word together, bear fruit together, and operate together to share the gospel.  When Priscilla and Aquilla came across Apollos, they did not dismiss and criticize. They loved him as a brother and were able to sit with him and expound the scriptures to him more perfectly.  That is what God wants for his body, not argument about the word of God.  There may discussions and understanding at different levels, but God wants us to work together.  There should always be unity in the essentials of the word, but liberality in the nonessentials.  We should never separate and argue over something that does not really matter to salvation. If it is coming to that, it is time to pray, pray together for understanding, time to go to God and allow His Spirit to lead both parties. It is time to love each other.

God is revealing that he is not pleased with the division and separation in the body. God is not pleased with the hatred seething against one another. God is not pleased with the lack of love for one another. God is not pleased with the lack of unity.  God is calling his body to be one.  God is calling his body to act together to accomplish His purpose. God is calling his body to love one another, in spite of differences.  He is calling His body to come together in unity so the power of the Holy Ghost can be revealed. We have a purpose and a calling that needs to be fulfilled. We are out of the will of God at this point.  We need to operate as one body.  The bible says that the glory of the latter will be greater than the former (Haggai 2:9) We are not there yet.  For the body of Christ to truly be effective in its purpose of witness, love, meeting the needs of the world around us, we need to understand it only comes from working as a  unified body.  May we all come together as one body, perfected and working as the Lord directs.

Please join me in praying for the unifying of the body of Christ.  It is past time for the body of Christ to perform its duty. We have been lacking for too long. Those that are lost see nothing we can offer as long as the body of Christ is sick and ill.  Let's heal the body and move forward as one in the Spirit.  Let's really get hold of the will of God and put it into action. Not just in word, but in deed.  Let actions bear fruit. Let maturity in the Spirit come forth. Let the will of God be done in His body.  May we be unified in the name of Jesus.

Monday, February 16, 2015

the presence of God

I Samuel chapter 5-7 tells us about when the Philistines had taken the ark of the covenant.  They took the ark and placed it in their temple to their god Dagon.  Dagon fell.  They put him back up, he fell and broke.  They tried this several times but became very afraid of the Israelite God. They began to suffer from hemorrhoids and great destruction. They sent the ark to Ekron. Ekron began to suffer and were terrified.  They put the ark on a cart with an offering of golden hemorrhoids and golden rats,  and sent it off. The cows took it straight to Bethshemesh. The people of Bethshemesh rejoiced and sacrificed the cows.  However, God smote them for looking at the ark. The ark was then sent to the house of Abinadab. They sanctified Eleazar to keep the ark of the Lord. It stayed there for 20 years. 

As I read this account, God began to show me that attempts to mix the things of this world with the things of God, is unacceptable.  When the Philistines tried to place the holy ark of God in the presence of their idol,  destruction came.  Evil could not stand in the presence of God. God made his presence known even among the enemies of his people. Fear fell on the people and they cried out for the ark to leave. When the people of Bethshemesh received the ark, they also fell to destruction because of the lack of respect for the presence of God. They did not obey the laws surrounding the ark and the very presence of God. 

The ark has the mercy seat on top.  The mercy seat was the place intended for the very presence of God to reside. When the ark moved, God was there. When someone looked upon that ark, God was there. The people of Bethshemesh forgot what they had been taught about the fear of the Lord. 

I think most of us have forgotten what it really means to be in the presence of God.  We have grown hard-hearted, self-absorbed and calloused to the presence of God. We attempt to fill our time with pleasures of the world, things we deem important and only think of the presence of God as a church service occurrence. God is not pleased.  When we push God out of our everyday life and forget about his holy presence, destruction occurs.  It may not be the destruction the Philistines experienced, but it is destruction nonetheless. We have so many people with marital problems,  struggles with finances, hidden sin and secrets, abuse, fighting, worry over their children, rebellion, sicknesses, etc.   

Yes, I am saying that many of these things would not be a problem, if we put God first in our everyday life.  If God was praised and reverenced every day, every moment, in every choice we make;   we would not have nearly as many problems.  Marriages would be blessed, relationships would be blessed, fighting and abuse would be non-existent. Many other things would be blessed, because we would be choosing to honor God with those things, like finances.  God is pleased when his people choose to honor him.  

When the ark ended up in the house of Abinadab, the very first thing done was sanctification of Eleazar to care for the ark.  This was a process of recognizing that the very presence of God was in the house and it meant that life as usual was not going to work.  Something had to change.  To be in the presence of God, meant changes in activity, in living. Eleazar was chosen by his father to perform the duty of serving God's presence.   

We have been chosen by our heavenly Father for the placement of the Holy Ghost in our life.  He wants to be present with us to change us, remake us, and dwell with us.  His presence in our life should bring about change that brings honor to God. His presence should bring blessing as it did for the house of Abinadab, not destruction as it did for those before.  

The difference was the response to the presence of God.  The first groups tried to place God into their lives without recognizing his power, his righteousness and his holiness. The last group, first and foremost recognized what the presence of God meant.  Holiness was in the house. Righteousness was in the house.  Power was in the house. God was in the house.  

Do we recognize that when God is in the house, things are to be different?
The presence of God in your house  demands to be recognized, respected, honored and served.  Have we chosen to serve the presence of God in our life?  Or have we tried to fit him into the mundane, pleasures we choose?  Do we actually cause problems when we ignore or forget about the presence of God?

Something to think about.  How are my everyday choices reflecting the presence of God in my life?
I think I need allow God to make changes and quit trying to hang on to things that are of no importance in His Holy presence.  I choose life.  I choose blessing, I choose to allow God to be ever present in everything I do.  

Isaiah 32:18 And my people shall dwell in a habitation of peace and in secure dwellings and in the refreshing of rest.

Friday, February 6, 2015

what does love got to do with it

There is a song somewhere that asks, "What does love got to do with it?"  I don't know any of the other lyrics of it, but it does ask a great question.

I was really thinking about I Corinthians chapter 13 this week.  It starts out saying Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.   I know this chapter is known as the love chapter, but I have not paid a whole lot of attention to these first few verses.  How many christians seek after gifts, tongues, prophecy, faith, knowledge, etc but yet fail in love?  How many times have I failed to love and understand love?  I do want to see miracles happen.  I do want more faith. I do want those gifts he has for me.  BUT, have I spent more time on seeking these things rather than seeking after obedience to a command that is the reasonable service of a follower of God?  Going to the actual commandment of Jesus, when he was asked what the greatest commandment was, he answered,"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’[d] 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’[e] 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22)

These commandment speak of nothing but love.  We are to love God and love others. He expects us to love one another.  In John 13:35 it says By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”  I think God is telling us that everything we do, how we treat one another, how we act, how we live is to be completely grounded in love.  If we are to really live for him, we will do it because of love.  We love him, because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19).  If we want the world to know we are His disciples, we have to show them by loving one another. That is the true witness of knowing Christ.  That is how God says people will know we are his disciples: loving one another.  Christians that are not loving one another are not showing they are Christ's disciples.  They are not obeying the command of God. How many times have churches or groups of christians become hateful, harmful, backbiters, gossipers, had splits over disagreements, talked bad about others, looked down on others, etc, etc, etc.  I know we are human, but God expects better of his church.  He expects us to love others because he first loved us.  

I think about my own children.  I want them to love each other, treat other well, be kind to each other, and genuinely care for one another.  I want this because I love them. I want them to continue in that love. How much more does God want that for his body, his children, his people?  

Have we failed the world, by giving them a distorted, wrong view of love?  I really hope not.  I have been praying for more of God in my life, for him to use me, to operate in me, for his will.   I realize as of now, none of that is even important if I am not meeting the greatest commandment of all: loving God and loving others.  Everything else is found in these.  If I am really loving God and loving others, I will be in His will.  I will be allowing him to operate through me. I will be finding more of Him every time I demonstrate love to him and others.  I will be finding out He is doing more through me than I ever imagined. 

So how do we love?
I think we complicate love sometimes with our own ideas, experiences, and fears.  He just wants us to look at that person next to us and extend love by treating them well, meeting a need, listening, caring about what they care about. It is a one on one thing.  I cannot and will never be capable of doing something so grand as changing the whole world.  I cannot change the whole world with one grand act.  I can, however, change a moment in time, for a co-worker, for a friend or family member.  I can smile and listen to that little lady at the register in the store.  I can carry someone's groceries.  I can bring food to a neighbor. I can share a candy bar with a little child.  I can be that one who prays with you when you need it.  We can rejoice with one another. I can forgive and listen.  I can agree to disagree. 
There are so many little acts that speak love to others. I can really improve in this area.  I can love others better. I can notice their hurts and pray. I can pay attention to others needs. I can put away my selfishness and pride. I can extend a hand of friendship.  I can love.  I can, with the grace of God. I can, with the love of God. 

Read I Corinthians 13 for yourself.  Imagine how we could love others.  Imagine how each and everyday, we could be that conduit of God's love to each and every person with which we come in contact.  Imagine, then go make it real. Seek to love first, the rest will come with it. It is most important thing we can do.