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Archive for the tag “Unity in Christ”

The Gathering

Last week, I wrote about having unity in the body for prayer. This week, I was reminded that we are to be in unity as a community. I have heard it said that as Christians we don’t have to gather together to worship. We can do it as individuals: anytime, anyplace. True. But there is something about being together that makes a difference. We are told in Scripture that angels are gathered together before the throne in worship. Revelation 5:11 says there are many angels – thousands upon thousands and ten thousand times ten thousand. They are gathered around the throne singing “worthy of the Lamb.” It reminds me of a Beth Moore conference at the end of the gathering when Travis Cottrell sings a song based on that verse. It’s powerful. There are several songs he sings that is that powerful. It’s worth the price of admission!

Have you ever been to one of Beth’s conferences or another big gathering of believers (besides church gatherings on Sundays)? I have been to several Beth Moore conferences and simulcast. I have been to a Billy Graham conference back in the day. When we stand up and sing certain songs together, I will get cold chills running down my arms. It’s powerful to hear all the voices together singing in unity. I love going to those conferences. I get encouraged by the Word spoken and sometimes I get a word directly spoken about a prayer request. It’s great when that happens.

However, gathering together isn’t really about the Word being spoken – although it’s good to gather to hear God’s Word; but the real power is gathering together to worship our Lord. There’s nothing more glorious because it replicates what will take place when we all gather in heaven. We will join with the angels in their praise of our Lord and King. This down here is just a dress rehearsal. We’re trying to get it right down here. But up there, everything will be right! There will be no one singing off-key or off the beat. It will be perfect!

So I get that we can do it on our own and we should. But as the writer of Hebrews says we shouldn’t neglect gathering together (Hebrews 10:25). The writer says especially in this day and time at the nearness of Jesus’ return. It’s important to encourage one another. It’s important to live as a community, helping each other through these tough times – especially as persecution breaks against us. And it will eventually. Actually, it has already started in some regards.

When I was growing up, it was the norm to gather together on Sundays. Not so much now. It is very rare for all the neighbors in the neighborhood meeting at the intersections in a rush to get to a gathering. Matter of fact, when I walk around the neighborhood on Sunday mornings, it’s downright peaceful. There is no traffic at all. No one is out walking either.

Contrast that with a Saturday afternoon college football game where the home team is playing. There is a rush to get to the game. Thousands upon thousands gather to watch men clash on the turf. There are lots of cheers going on and lots of singing of the fight song. Encouragement to the team members are shouted from the stands. The fans have no place on the field. There is nothing significant about the event. Sure some team will be victorious at the end of the game. Fans will leave and go about their own business. Their lives were not changed by the outcome of the event. Sure, someone will be a little down because their team lost. But they still go about their business.

The gathering of the church is much different. It should be as enthusiastic as the football game. However, we’re not fans. We are on the field playing! We all have a part to play, and it’s not being on the sidelines cheering. We should be encouraging our teammates just as zealously as those who gather for the football game. The gathering changes us. It inspires us. The glory of the Lord is revealed through us, and helps us shine brighter in our neighborhoods. We are to go out and be the light we are meant to be when this dark world knocks on our door. Gathering together is good for our benefit and for others.

The gathering though is more than a cheering session. It’s about community. It’s about sharing our lives with one another. The people who gathered together in the first century shared everything. No one was in need. The people were persecuted for their faith and were cast out of society with nothing. The ones who still had resources shared with those who have nothing because of their faith. That’s the picture of the true church.

In these last days, we need to come back to that picture of unity; of community. Scripture tells us we are to be known for our love for one another. That’s what gathering is all about. We can worship on our own, but we can’t love one another well without gathering together. Do not forsake it. Our neighbors are counting on us whether they realize it or not. We have the hope that will change their lives. Let’s be the church we’re called to be, and do good to all as we’re called to do.

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. 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. Philippians 1:27; 2:1-2 (NLT)

United in Prayer

The other day, I heard a Christian lady say that she was just waiting for the President of our nation to be impeached. It wasn’t the first time that I have heard a Christian talk about the President in a negative way. I hear it quite often. I heard another lady on Christian Talk Radio ask the host why Christians were for Trump. I am saddened by these comments, not because I am a fan of Trump’s. I am saddened because these Christians are not seeing the bigger picture.

I truly believe Trump is in office by the hand of God. How else can we explain it? His rise to the highest office was nothing but a miracle! I believe God put Trump in office for a purpose that will only be explained after the fact. God is in control of all things including who runs this nation. The best thing the President has done at this point is put godly men and women in his cabinet. They will get wise counsel from above and hopefully the President will listen to them. He may never get a wall built or change the health care system; but he was put a conservative on the Supreme Court with the possibility of another one or two during his term. And I also believe that he is in office for a reason that has to do with Israel. In God’s perspective, everything centers on Israel. If this is the reason for the miracle, then all eyes need to be on Israel.

There was a prophecy that came true concerning the Prime Minister of Israel. Benjamin Netanyahu was told that he would be removed from office if he did a certain thing (I don’t remember the exact prophecy). He did that thing he was told not to do and sure enough, he lost his position. The same man who gave that prophecy had another one for Netanyahu a few years later. The prophecy was that Netanyahu would be returned to that position, and it was done just as it was foretold. There was a reason that was given with the prophecy, and it had to do with the third temple. Since these prophecies have come true, Netanyahu knows the temple will be on his watch. It will be interesting to see how all this unfolds. God has to do some major work in that area before that foundation can ever be laid.

With all the imperfections of Trump, the one good thing that we can point to as Christians is his friendship with Israel. Since the beginning of Israel’s modern history (since 1948) this is the first president that is totally pro-Israel. There have been other presidents that have taken a stand for Israel, but I don’t think they have stood up quite like Trump has at this point in time. There is definitely something going on here. God has stacked the deck in the first office and the legislative branch for a reason. Let’s keep the faith and believe God is still in control of this mess.

On this national day of prayer, let’s be united in prayer for our nation, for our leaders, for God to do His work through them for His glory. There is a lot at stake for us as a nation and for us as Christians in this nation. We have work to do to bring this divided nation back to unity. The government isn’t going to do it for us. The church has to build the bridge. We have to stand up and fight for our communities. We need to be on our knees before God asking for His healing power to heal this nation. This is our battle that can only be won on our knees together.

On this national day of prayer, let’s lift up Israel. Let’s be united for God’s eternal city – the peace of Jerusalem. Israel has been prospering and thriving in their homeland, but there are many threatening to destroy them. Israel needs our prayers. Benjamin Netanyahu needs our prayers. Let’s stand united under the banner of Christendom; for we are a mighty nation under God, indivisible – not referencing the US, but as God’s people together – the church. We are a force that cannot be defeated because our leader – Jesus Christ – has already won the battle. We are already empowered to do the work that needs to be done in this day and time.

Let’s pray together for the hope of the world to be revealed in these last days. For Jesus Christ to be made known and bring peace to every heart. For the Holy Spirit to be poured out on the land of Israel, and all of the Middle East, to bring about a great awakening in our land as well. Let God hear our cries of desperation and bring salvation to many in this time of uncertainty. And let’s pray for one another to be courageous and bold like the first Christians in the book of Acts. Let’s raise up this offering that it may please God to hear and answer our cries of desperation. Let God’s glory fill the earth! Amen.

Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. My eyes will be open and my ears attentive to every prayer made in this place. 1 Chronicles 7:14-15 (NLT)

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

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