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Archive for the tag “Body of Christ”

Promise Keeper

Last Thursday had a special end to it. The family was still at the beach. We had experienced cool, overcast, rainy weather for the better part of the week; not so good for suntan and children who want to play at the beach. But on Thursday evening about sunset, I looked out our sliding glass door and saw a small portion of a rainbow at the edge of the ocean. I wasn’t sure if I really saw it. So I went outside and called the others to see as well. As we stood there gazing out over the ocean, more of the rainbow was revealed.

Minute by minute the rainbow arched over the beach until the end landed on one of the houses just down the road from us. It was a full rainbow, and it was amazing to see. Phones came out up and down the coast to get some great pictures. The rain had finally ended, and we were in for a gorgeous day on Friday – our last day at the beach. And it was fabulous – a perfect day at the beach; we didn’t want it to end. But it did. However, on Friday night, there was another spectacular view from our beach front house. There was a full moon that rose upon the waters. It was a great ending to our vacation.

I love rainbows, don’t you? Rainbows help me to remember the convenient that God made after the flood. He told Noah that He would never again destroy the earth by flood. I know there is scientific knowledge of how rainbows form. I get that. Sun, rain particles, ta da; a rainbow appears. God made a promise. He is the promise keeper. We can trust His Word.

When I see a rainbow, I think of the story of Noah and his big boat. Rain had never fallen before that time. Noah looked foolish building that huge boat when there was not a raindrop in sight – for years. The times were also very evil. There were none who were righteous except Noah. The subtitle for Genesis chapter six is “A world gone wrong.” We find in Genesis 6: 5-6: The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart. But Noah found favor in God’s eyes.

God is always searching for those whose hearts are turned toward Him. He looks for the righteous to do His work. However, evil was not destroyed by the flood; it is still present today as we have witnessed in the last days. Evil hasn’t gone anywhere. I believe current events still break God’s heart. He desires all of humankind to look toward Him instead of doing what’s right in their own eyes.

There are still promises that God has stated in His Word that have yet to be fulfilled. We are told to watch the signs of the times to determine the events to come. I do believe the end is near. I don’t know when it will come; but because God said it, I believe it will happen. The times are evil. Men believe what they are doing is right. But just as the rainbow tells us as a written statement in the sky – God keeps His promise, and He will again bring judgment on this earth. He is also looking for the righteous to step up and do exactly what they are commanded to do; even if it’s to build a boat on dry land for this day and age.

I don’t know what the plan is for today’s building project. God is searching for those who are willing to look foolish to do things that are crazy according to today’s standard. Maybe our job isn’t to build but to tell the story of the building project that has already been accomplished through Jesus’ bridge for humanity. The bridge from us to God has been laid through the cross of Jesus. The cornerstone was His death and resurrection. The foundation is secure because of His promise that if we believe, we will have eternal life. The Body of Christ is being built through the story of Jesus. God made a way where there was no way. He made a promise in the very beginning and all humankind would be blessed through that promise.

The Body of Christ is God’s current rainbow – the Body should reflect the Son. His glory should be revealed for all to see through this current rainbow of color from every nation and every tribe. We are the product of what Jesus has done, but we are not complete. We still have time to do His work. He is showing us through signs and wonders across the globe that time is growing shorter, and we need to finish what has been started. He is watching and waiting. Let’s get out there and shine as we reflect the Son; His rainbow for His glory.

“But the exact day and hour? No one knows that, not even heaven’s angels, not even the Son. Only the Father knows.

“The Arrival of the Son of Man will take place in times like Noah’s. Before the great flood everyone was carrying on as usual, having a good time right up to the day Noah boarded the ark. They knew nothing—until the flood hit and swept everything away.” Matthew 24:36-39 (MSG)

Increasing Potential

In 2009, I went to an integrative nutrition school where the instructor said writing was a good way to influence my “tribe.” I had no idea that this is what I would be doing nine years later, but here I am writing to my “tribe” – that’s you if you are reading this! The writing thing was completely new to me at that time. If for nothing else from my time at that school, I believe this was God’s way to get me to do this thing that I had no clue I could do. Every time I have a blog posting or a newsletter, I ask God if this is still something He wants me to do. And here I am typing out another post. So I assume He still has something to say through me. And if I have heard correctly, the words will reach someone who needs to read it for their benefit and for God’s glory.

On Tuesday, I listened to James MacDonald teaching on the parable of the talents. He said we will be accountable to Jesus on what we have done for Him. Pastor James mentioned that the talents in this passage refer to the capacity to serve God. As Jesus taught in this passage from Matthew 25:15-30, talent will be increased for those who use what they have been given. The one who received five talents immediately went to work to gain five more. They maximized the potential they had been given.

Pastor James said this: “Not everyone is a multiplier, but everyone should show an increase.” If we are in the Body of Christ, we should be increasing our potential for the Kingdom. We are to increase in our fruit bearing potential. We are told in this passage too that we will have a face-to-face meeting with our Master. He has given us resources to manage for Him while He has been away. There will be an accounting for our management skills. We have opportunities to use what we have for a greater Kingdom impact. Jesus expects an increase on His investment. He invested in us when He redeemed us by the way of the cross.

Jesus invested in His disciples. He taught them well. We are the product of their fruitfulness. But we have been given their burden as well. Through Scripture, we are taught just as the disciples were taught. We have Jesus’ words and His Spirit to instruct us. We have the same instructions as the disciples – go and make disciples – spread the Good News about God and His Kingdom. We are to tell others the power of the cross. Jesus died for us so that we could live with God for eternity. He paid the penalty for our sin. He took on our rags of filthiness and gave us His cloak of righteousness. That was a pretty sweet deal for us and a really bad deal for Him; but He took it on anyway. He thought we were worth it.

Since we have His Spirit, we have the capability to be like Him. The Spirit gives us the capacity to be fruitful like Jesus. We are given His Spirit to be His hands and feet while He is away. When He returns, He expects us to have been good managers and that His Kingdom has increased while He was away. For those who are gifted in certain gifts, it’s easier to share the Gospel; but we are all commissioned to do it. This was not His suggestion, but His commandment. Go and make disciples. There was never a “but clause” at the end. “I don’t have the gifting to evangelize, so I can’t speak to others about Jesus.” We all have that circle of influence that God places around us to communicate His Good News. We all have different gifts to get it done.

On Tuesday night at small group, we took a spiritual gift assessment. One of the ladies mentioned her gift of hospitality didn’t seem like a big deal. She also had the gift of mercy. The group responded about how big a deal that really was. Me, those were my two lowest gifts. I have the gifting of helps and faith. But we are all capable of meeting the needs of others in any way that the Holy Spirit leads us. We have a capacity that can be increased as we use our gifts. And when we do, we are rewarded either here or in heaven. But it’s not about the rewards but the Master. We are to always look to the giver and not the gifts.

My writing may not be much, but it is something I can use for God’s glory. God has something special for each of us to do, and He has enabled us with the gifts He has chosen for us to accomplish the goal. The Master will return one day, and we will have to give an account of what we’ve done with what He’s given us. Our lives are a reflection of Him. He invested a lot of blood in us. With that investment, He expects a greater return. We can do even greater things because of the Holy Spirit in us. And our capacity has exponential growth opportunities. We just have to be willing to use them for His glory. Let’s do our part before His return. He is coming soon!

“After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money. The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with five more and said, ‘Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more.’

“The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’ Matthew 25:1-21 (NLT)

The Championship Team

Last week was an anniversary that I had completely forgotten this year. One of my college friends posted a picture of a plaque she received on the 20th anniversary of NAIA National Championship won by our women’s basketball team. She was the point guard, and I was the manager of the team. We had different roles on the team, but we got to experience the same event. It was an exciting year in my life.

We were the Cinderella team that won the title. If you had asked any of us just a couple years before that championship year if we would be in a national title game, we would have thought you were delusional. I joined the team my sophomore year (it was also the coach’s first year as well). We only won five games that year. It was a transitional or building year. The next year we did better. Our coach had recruited well.

We were a much different team with the new recruits. However, it wasn’t really about the quality of the players. We had chemistry and functioned well. There was a unity on the team that was remarkable. By the third year, we were almost unstoppable. We did lose five games that year. I don’t remember too much about the losses except for one we had on the road in New Orleans. It was a Christmas break trip. We faced a scrappy team that played more “street ball” style than “play book” style. We lost by about a dozen points.

The reason I remember this team over the others was because we faced them again in one of the playoff games before the title game. When we faced them the second time, we knew their game plan. Our coach had counter moves to thwart their play. We ended up winning by about 18 points. That last week of our season was completely March Madness!

My friend’s plaque reminded me about that time in the past, but I heard a message about unity that brought to mind something deeper. The message spoke about Jesus bringing unity through His life and death. Before Jesus died on the cross, He recruited a bunch of rugged men who were diverse in their backgrounds. The team He formed had fishermen to tradesmen. There were two though who were extreme in their differences: a Zealot and a Tax Collector. Who in the world could bring unity to this bunch? The Tax Collector (Matthew) would have thrown the others into a tizzy. Matthew was a hated man among the Jews.

Yet, Jesus saw the diversity and called it good (I assume). The disciples each had different gifts and different roles. Judas Iscariot was the treasurer of the group; not Matthew. Judas was trusted with the money, even though he shouldn’t have been since he regularly “helped” himself to the funds. Matthew would have been trusted with nothing since everyone knew Tax Collectors regularly “helped” themselves to the taxes paid by the citizens of the country. But Jesus taught them for three years how to live together and actually love one another (in the end).

In the beginning, Jesus knew who would betray Him before He called Judas Iscariot. Peter, one of the twelve, had something gnawing in his gut about forgiving someone. He asked Jesus how many times someone should be forgiven. The answer: seventy times seven or don’t keep score! Maybe Peter had problems with Matthew or maybe the “loved one” John. But the team had problems; they were too unified in the beginning. By the time Jesus died, everything changed then. In His teaching, Jesus was adamant about loving one another. He instructed them over and over this is how others will know they were part of Jesus’ team.

Just as my college team was unified for a greater purpose, we as followers of Jesus are to be unified as the Body of Christ. There should be no division in the Body of Christ. We stand on the foundation of Jesus and work together as a Body with one Head – Jesus – who directs us in the mission. We all have different roles but the same purpose – to proclaim the Good News of Jesus! Others will know us by our love for one another – it was a commandment by Jesus!

Without the unification of Jesus, the disciples would not have brought the message beyond the borders of Israel. They would have scattered without getting the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. But because the disciples were true to Jesus, we are here today proclaiming the same message that was given 2000+ years ago. We don’t get national championship rings with the victory we are given in Christ; we get a crown that lasts for eternity! Now that’s something to remember and really celebrate! Let’s get in the game and finish well for the winning team!

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Ephesians 4:15-16

Suit Up!

Earlier this year, I attended the Priscilla Shirer simulcast. She taught on the Armor of God. I wasn’t so sure when my small group decided to do Priscilla’s latest study – Armor of God. After all, I sat through the teaching the first time around. Would it hold anything different? After just one week into the study, I realized the simulcast was just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much meat in this study that it’s going to blow up any notions that I have ever studied about the armor of God before!

With Priscilla’s involvement with the War Room movie project, it’s become evident that God has been working this study in her for quite a while. The movie script probably sent a spark into her soul that has been fanned into a roaring flame through the message she carried forth in her simulcast and now in this study. The War Room movie is about prayer. (Disclaimer: I haven’t seen the movie yet, but have heard much about it.) The first day of the study was about the seventh piece of armor which doesn’t get much attention: prayer. Prayer activates the armor to work more efficiently.

Both the movie and this study have a similar message – it’s time to for the Body of Christ to wake up and suit up! We are in a battle and one that remains unseen to the naked eye. However, when we pray for eyes to see, I believe God clears our vision to see the devil’s schemes and the battle that is being waged over us in the spiritual realm. We have a very real enemy that wants us to stay asleep and stay comfortable in our complacency.

We can see the darkness closing in around us. Prayer reinforces the light, and the darkness has to recede. Darkness is the absence of light. If we have no light, the darkness will grow darker still. We as the Body of Christ have to shine the light. There is no other way that darkness will recede. I want to reinforce my words with love – I do not want to write hate speech about the things we encounter in this world. There are lost souls who need to understand the love Jesus has for them. We are to do our work and shine the light in love. I heard long ago: the opposite of love is not hate, its apathy. Apathy knows there is hopelessness in the world, but it’s an attitude of not caring enough to do anything about it.

I picked up a free book on the children of India. It’s overwhelming to know the numbers of children who beg and live with a constant state of hunger; who have nothing; who expect not to live past their teen years, if they make it that long. They are abandoned and lonely. They are exploited; and fearful. Think of your eight year old self; surviving on your own, doing anything you can to stay alive. Or your children abandoned on a train, to be kicked out on the street when the train comes to the end of the line. How can we help such an overwhelming plight of humanity? I have no answers yet. But we need to wake up and see there is a world out there counting on someone to step out and do something.

God gives us the armor; we have to pick it up and use it. Armor is defensive and offensive. Prayer brings the power to effectively wield the weapons. The weapons formed against us are nothing compared to what we have at our disposal. Priscilla wrote on day three during the first week of study (pg27 Wake-up Call paragraph): “The call to victorious Christian living is a wake-up call out of laziness, urging you to rise up and take serious action. Satan and the demons of darkness are hoping you’ll be disengaged and disinterested instead of alert, aware and active.” She goes on to say “Lazy, lethargic Christianity can no longer be an option.” The darkness will not recede on its own. We have to be lights in our communities and in our world. Let’s suit up! The battle is already in process; we just have to pitch in and fight for what we believe in!

“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16 (The Message)

Sweet Spot

Recently, I heard a message which contained a few statistics on churchgoers. The research indicated that there were four categories of churchgoers. We all start out in the first category as people far from God. We may know about Him but do not have a relationship with Jesus. The second category is ones who have a relationship with Jesus – we understand we have received grace by the blood of Jesus, but still working out what this relationship really means. The third category is people who have a close relationship with Jesus. They depend on Jesus daily for guidance. The fourth category is the ones who have Jesus fully in the center of their lives. They have totally surrendered everything to Him. It’s the most important relationship they have. It guides everything that they do. Of those in the fourth category, the teacher said his research focused on the thirteen percent of the “elite” Christ-centered folks.

The thirteen percent are the ones who love Jesus with all their hearts. They willingly share their love of Jesus with others. They serve Him completely. There is nothing that stops them from sharing everything they have for the love and sake of the Gospel. One out of seven or eight people in the church have this type of commitment. I wish I could say that I was in the thirteen percent. This is my goal though. The church’s mission is really about getting us all to this category. We are to become disciples who make disciples. Disciples have a heart for people – we are supposed to love one another. This is our trademark as a disciple – that’s how others will know we are disciples of Jesus. The relationship with Jesus is the key to loving others. We can’t do it on our own. It’s impossible to love others first. Sometimes though, I have found it’s easier to focus on the vertical relationship than to focus on other relationships.

The church is in the business of moving us from one category to the next. However, we may have a wall that gets in the way of moving from one category to the next. This was really a “ah-ha” moment for me. I definitely have built a wall around my heart. I have gotten hurt in the pass, and it’s just easier to keep people at a distance. I haven’t loved others as I should because it’s a vulnerability that I just don’t want to risk. But the wall is keeping me from living in the sweet spot with Jesus. The sweet spot is the place where everything changes. It’s the place of being in the center of God’s will. We are living with purpose and contentment that God is in control of our circumstances for our good and His glory. The sweet spot is where I become one with Jesus. I always thought it was the marriage ceremony to come in the new Kingdom, but I believe now that is the true place where God wants us right here, right now. To be married to the heart of Jesus – to be one – united in His desires and united as the body of Christ. Living in the sweet spot is a great joy to Jesus. When we’re all in, He can do more through us than what we could ever ask or imagine!

What if this was the goal of everyone in the church body? What if it was no longer thirteen percent of the church but more like fifty percent or sixty-five percent? How would that change our communities? How would that change the perception of “church” today? Would we make a difference in our cities or nation? This takes a different mindset. It takes commitment to the relationship with Jesus. It takes more than just going to church every Sunday and checking a box for the week. It’s a dedication to develop more understanding, more time with Him, more opportunities to serve Him – it’s more cost to us. It’s called a surrendered life. It’s about giving up control. And who actually likes giving up control?! Control needs to be in the hands of the One who can handle it. To become spiritually mature, we need to become more intimate with Jesus. It’s the only way to move from one category to the next. Let’s grow the percentage of those who are in love with Jesus, live in the sweet spot, and make a difference in the world around us!

Note: The teaching message was from Oak Hill Church by Greg Hawkins “The Goal” and “The Plan”

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. John 15:9-12

Friends

Many times in my life I have had many friends who have been my party friends or my friends of convenience (work, school, etc). There are a few friends who have lasted through the years – those who have stayed with me through thick and thin. I am so thankful today for my friends who are my sisters and brothers in Christ. They are my rock when I am in those rocky places. They are the ones who have comforted me in my dark times. They are the ones who celebrate with me when victory is at hand. But they are special to me when we can sit down together and be real with one another. Those friends are rare and are greatly treasured.

Jesus had his inner circle of friends who he allowed to see Him as the Holy One. Peter, James and John were allowed to see His transformation when Moses and Elijah came for a visit. They were allowed into a moment of great distress when Jesus was praying for a new way of salvation and not the way of the cross. They were allowed to see Jesus completely. King David had Jonathon, King Saul’s heir to the throne. There are times when you need an inner circle of friends who will carry you when you just don’t have the strength to move forward. They are the ones who will be there through every trial and will experience the victories with you.

I am blessed to have friends these days where our time is spent on praising God rather than complaining about circumstances. I can share what God is doing, and they can do the same. I can share about my struggles and know that I will be prayed for. I know when I bring something to their attention; they will be there with me in my struggle. God has been good to bring me people in my circle of influence that encourages me and helps me to walk out this life with accountability.

I know we are not meant to walk alone through this life. God places us in a community that will encourage us and help us in our daily life. For far too long I tried to do things on my own. I thought I could handle my struggles in secret. God has shown me otherwise. He illustrates the point of community as a body with each member being important to function as a whole. He says when two or more are gathered in His name, He will be in our midst. I love the fact that I am never alone in my struggles anymore. God alone is able to make us whole and new. But He puts friends around us to help in the process. God’s ways are perfect, and I rejoice today because of the friends I have been given!

For all of my friends, I appreciate every prayer lifted up before the throne on my behalf. I appreciate every word spoken that encourages me. I appreciate the opportunity to walk with you in your struggles as well. I appreciate we are not made to be alone. I hope that I will be able to live my life with my dear friends until the very end – and then show up in heaven rejoicing even more! It’s going to be a glorious homecoming one day!

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. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

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