Diversity in unity, found in Christ

Throughout our times we find much division. Just as any time in history the world is divided by all sorts of conflicts. Years ago, most of the world was divided by geography. People identified with the land they were born with. As time as gone on, we now identify more with religion, political ideas, food diets, health regiments, phone brands, hobbies and sports. Some of these divisions are petty and light-hearted, some run very deep and are the most malignant of divisions.

In Christ, we are one. Those who are Christians can gather with no sort of divisions between them. True, practicing Christians who love one another have no such wars or fightings among themselves. This really struck me when I was reading Galatians. In Galatians 2, Paul is speaking about false doctrine. He was preaching against some heresy that was in the church, specifically the preaching of following the old Jewish law.

In verse 3, he says, “But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised:”

Paul was a Jewish  man and a Pharisee at that. He was the Jewish religious elite. He also was a Roman citizen. And he was preaching and traveling with Titus- who was Greek.

This wasn’t something that was necessarily spoken about, or mentioned a lot. In fact, it seemed perfectly natural, his only mentioning of it was because it was important to the conversation. Otherwise, it didn’t need to be mentioned. Christ had unified them, there was no need for discussion about their backgrounds or culture or race.

This is Christianity, this is true Christianity. Christ said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” John 13:35

It doesn’t mention nationality, it doesn’t mention race, it doesn’t mention politics. It just says “have love one to another”

If you have added anything else, you’re doing it wrong.

 

When your ship is full

Have you ever wondered if God was watching? If God cared? Maybe you are wondering right now. Financial troubles, relationship problems, health issues, and loss can all make us lose sight of God and question Him. We can become angry with God, lose our hope in Him, feel frustrated with Him, and lose faith.

This is exactly how the disciples felt in Mark 4:35-38. They traveling by ship when a storm came upon them. They were no doubt working furiously to save themselves, but it was not enough. There’s a part of this story that can be overlooked very easily. In verse 37, it tells us that the ship was full.

It was full.

There wasn’t just a frightening storm. There wasn’t just turbulent waves. There wasn’t just a few feet of water in the ship.

No.

The ship was full of water.

As I’m composing this, my heart goes out to each and every person who is in such a situation. Maybe you’re struggling financially and you don’t know how you will feed your kids. Maybe a loved one has just passed away. Maybe you find yourself destitute and alone. You find yourself in dire straights, and your ship is full of water. Whatever the circumstances, it looks as if they will certainly drown you.

It is not the end.

Go to Jesus. In the middle of your storm.

Go to Jesus. When your ship is full.

Go to Jesus. Even if you’re doubting Him.

Looking at the passage, we see the disciples aren’t asking for His help. They aren’t going to him in faith. They’re going to him in anger and frustration. Pain and disbelief. They say,

“Master, carest thou not that we perish?”

Jesus immediately calms the storm and the seas become peaceful. He rebukes them for their unbelief. The story ends with them marveling at His power.

There may come a time when you loose all faith in God. You doubt His power, you doubt his involvement, and you doubt His love. Go to Him anyway. Ask Him for His help. He can calm the storm, even when you doubt Him and loose all faith.

Is your solution, His solution?

Prayer is a powerful vehicle for our lives for good. We can ask God for His will to come to pass in out lives, and He works on bringing it to fruition. The thing is, we can pray for anything. And it doesn’t mean that it’s going to happen. You could pray for the continents to move together and become one land mass (because you think it would be cool). And I’m gonna tell you that’s probably not going to happen.

You could ask God to change your natural hair color. And it’s probably not going to happen.

There’s a lot you could ask God for. The limits are boundless. But the thing is, God isn’t going to do anything that is outside of His will. It’s in His character.

It’s important to pray right. Pray according to His will, or we won’t get results, we will waste our breath, and we will be left with disillusions of what God wants or His capabilities.

Let me give you an example.

In John 17, Jesus is praying. He says, “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.”

Jesus was praying for believers, and praying for them to do well. He clarified at one point (probably for our benefit) that He wasn’t asking the Father to remove the disciples from the influence of the world, but to protect them from evil. Isn’t that interesting. God wanted them in the world as a witness. As a stark contrast between what a righteous person’s life was like, and what a sinners was like. Being in the world was probably a growing experience for the disciples as well.

I invite you to remember what God’s will is when you pray. If you’re stressed, maybe don’t just pray the stress goes away. Perhaps it would be better for you to pray that God teaches you how to trust Him in your stress. If you are scared of something, perhaps you don’t need to pray for a specific solution, but for God to calm your fears. If you are in a job you don’t like, maybe you don’t need to pray for a new one. Maybe you need to pray for contentment right where God has you.

Every situation is different. But I challenge you to consider that God’s solutions are not always our solutions. There was a time when Christ calmed the storm for the disciples. And there was a time He invited Peter to walk on the water in the middle of the storm.

Won’t you ask God for wisdom when you pray?

People are annoying, and they got on Jesus’ nerves . . .

I want you to imagine that you just got out of church. It’s a pleasant time as you mingle with fellow Christians and catch up on your week. As this is going on, you notice someone’s voice is a little harsh.

It’s the guest speaker- talking to a few deacons.

“You unbelieving and perverse group of people! How long do I have to be around you? How long must I put up with you?”

Immediately, I can say, that does not sound like something we would hear in church. A guest speaker who spoke like that would not be invited back.

Nobody would want to be associated with him. In our culture, that is committing societal suicide.

That “rant” is not something I made up, however. That is a paraphrase of Jesus Christ from Matthew 17:17.

He wasn’t speaking to the Pharisees. He was speaking to his own disciples.

They were trying to serve and minister. They were even in the process of asking for His help! Imagine coming to your pastor asking for help with a trouble child in the youth group and he starts saying this to you.

The loving and accepting God of the universe. The God who came to die for us.

Jesus Christ, the perfect picture of love and righteousness.

That’s what He said.

I think we can learn two things from this.

First, there are times when we deserve to be harshly corrected. Correction and criticism are not welcome in our culture, but maybe they should be. Maybe the reason so many of us struggle with living rightly, is that we’ve neglected to allow for the constructive criticism of others.

Second, even Jesus was frustrated with people. I think you only need to spend a few minutes on the internet to understand how frustrating people can be to each other. Jesus wasn’t impervious to the annoying nature of people. He had probably already taught his disciples multiple times how to resolve the present situation. They just weren’t getting it. They weren’t doing their spiritual homework and they weren’t putting the effort in. Jesus was frustrated. He was probably thinking about how many people were missing out on God’s blessings because the disciples were not being diligent.

I would submit to you: Humble yourself. Be ready to receive correction, no matter how harsh it feels. Our culture has taught us that love means coddling.

It doesn’t.

Jesus didn’t think so.

And if you find yourself annoyed with people’s incompetence or laziness, you’re not alone. Jesus was pretty annoyed too. But perhaps you should search your heart before you open your mouth. Christ always said the right thing, you and I may need to say a prayer before we speak. 🙂

 

 

At every corner

Choices are everywhere in life. We make thousands of them every day, many without even realizing it. Sometimes our choices are a result of ingrained behavior, sometimes they are conscious. Our choices determine our direction and ultimately the general success or failure of our lives. Proverbs 7 gives an example of someone who makes one of those life changing decisions.

In Proverbs 7:6 a narrative begins. It appears that Solomon looks out his window and sees a young man who lacks understanding. This “simple” man is found by a harlot and is persuaded by her to commit adultery. Solomon makes it very clear that this choice will bring the man complete misery and ultimately death.

The man in this story was simple. He did not have his wits about him, and he was destroyed. The harlot in this story was subtil, loud, and stubborn. Since this man was not guarding himself, he was destroyed very easily.

While this account is mainly about how a person should guard against adultery, I would like to point out some things it teaches about temptation. Notice in verse 12 that the scripture tells us, “Now is she without, now in the streets, and lieth in wait at every corner.” This woman, this personification of temptation is outside. She is in the street. And she is at EVERY corner.

Think about this situation metaphorically.

First, temptation is in the street. Streets are means of travel. Everyone uses them. You use them. I use them. As we travel through this life, we will meet temptation, because temptation is in the street. We cannot avoid it. We must be prepared, unlike the man in the story who obviously wasn’t.

Second, temptation is at every corner. When you think of a corner, what do you think of? Let me give you a clue, think of a crossroad. When someone says the are at a crossroads in their life, what do they mean? They’re talking about a choice they have to make of course! A street corner is usually made when two roads meet. Think about that. Not only is temptation unavoidable (being in the street), it also presents itself at every choice you must make.

Every time you travel on this road (or street) of life, you will encounter temptation. You cannot avoid it. You must prepare yourself.

When the disciples were about to be tempted, Jesus told them, “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” – Matthew 26:41

The Bible warns us, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:” – 1 Peter 5:8 Let me put this in common English, the devil wants to destroy you, so keep your wits about ya!

Remember, every time a choice for right presents itself, a choice for wrong presents itself also.

Temptation is at every corner.

“Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.” – Proverbs 4:27

Keep your wits about ya!

Where are you leading?

I once heard a story about some whales that swam up onto a beach. The entire group of whales died. For some reason or another scientists studied these whales to see why they had swam into clearly dangerous waters. The scientists discovered (I have no idea how) that one of the whales had a problem with the part of it’s brain that registered direction.

The scientists concluded that since these types of whales travel in groups, that the group followed that one messed-up whale, and as a result, all the whales died.

I think the same situation happens in people groups every day. I mean, ever hear about some group of kids having this "bright" idea. It turns out that the idea wasn’t that bright after all. It’s like one or more of them wasn’t thinking quite right, and the rest just followed.

Take John 21 for example. (Read here: http://blb.sc/1a0C ) The disciples are all grouped together. Peter decides to go fishing. The disciples follow. Peter jumps out of the boat. The disciples follow. Jesus says, get the fish. Peter single-handedly pulls up the fish. (Disciples stand around awkwardly, jk jk)

Think about this scene. The disciples didn’t know what to do. They were unsure. But they all followed Peter. Why? Because Peter was an action type of guy. It wasn’t because Peter was all prestigious or anything. Matthew was a rich tax collector, and we have reason to believe that Bartholomew was of royal blood.

The disciples followed Peter because he did something. It’s that simple.

Now think. How many times do you do something? You take action thousands of times a day for various reasons. Each one of your actions has the potential to lead others toward service toward Christ, or away from His service.

I challenge you. Examine your actions. Are you leading those around you toward righteousness or apostacy? Whether you know it or not, you are a leader. Even if by nature, you are a follower, you are still leading people to follow one person or another. You have a responsibility to yourself to do the right thing. You have a responsibility to God to do the right thing.

If that does not motivate you, you have a responsibility to others to do the right thing.

No matter if you like it or not, you are a leader. Where are you leading?

Christ’s legacy

Can you think of a great man in history whose greatness ended with his death? Many people live their lives for a great cause, yet they have no legacy. They leave no lasting change on the world because they fail to reproduce men like themselves. Jesus Christ, who is our example, did no such thing. The church is His legacy. He has commanded us to teach others.

When Christ ascended to heaven he left many people with the command to live right, but not only live right, but to teach others to do so. Jesus said in Matthew 28:19, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:" Jesus gave a command to teach and to baptize others. His command included everyone. He didn’t exclude any tribe or nation. In the next verse He says, "Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you:" Jesus makes it very clear, He wants His church to reproduce. He wants each one of his believers to go and to teach others.

Are you teaching others? If you are a Christian, Congratulations! You now have responsibilities. You have been entrusted with God’s truth, are you sharing it? If you are a mature Christian, are you teaching younger Christians what God has taught you?

I would like to encourage you, teach others. You are a part of Jesus’ legacy. You have a choice before you. You can carry out Christ’s command and teach others what you have learned. Or you can refuse. Will you carry on Jesus’ legacy of righteousness?

"And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also." – 2 Timothy 2:2

Jesus’ prayer request

If we look at the mission fields today, we will find that many are dropping out. Less and less people are surrendering for full time missions. God needs faithful servants that will go and answer the call of God to preach His word. We can shift the blame from faulty families, to a lack of good preaching, to a self-serving society, and onward. But the true problem may lie with us. Are we as Christians fulfilling Christ’s calling in our lives?

Christ did not only send out the twelve disciples. He sent seventy others. We rarely hear about these men that had an important part in His ministry. In Luke 10, we find the account of their commission. "After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come." He sent these men before Him to prepare the way for His coming and to announce that He had come to save the world. Here’s the interesting part. He tells them specifically: "The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth laborers into his harvest." Here we find a specific request of Jesus that His disciples, not apostles, would pray. He asked them to pray that God would send more people into the ministry: that the Heavenly Father would call more to serve.

So I would like to challenge you. Pray that God would send more laborers. This was Jesus’ prayer request. We take requests from our brothers and sisters in Christ, and pray for them. Why is it we seem to forget that Christ has charged us with the task of praying for the condition of the world.

"How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent?" – Romans 10:14-15a

Are you sleeping in the garden?

Do you have that one thing that you can never conquer? You try again and again but it seems you will never have victory over that sin? Christ has a solution to temptation.

On the night that Jesus was betrayed, He and His disciples went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. Jesus returned to His disciples and found them sleeping. He commanded them in Matthew 26:41, “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Jesus understood temptation. He knew His disciples had seen Him work miracles, and had been with Him for years, but that was not enough to stand against temptation. They needed to pray. Jesus was about to face lashes, crucifixion, death, and rejection from God. He knew that He needed to pray. He told His disciples to do the same, but they slept. When we read further in the scripture we find that Jesus stood strong through His trial, as His disciples failed to have courage. Mark 14:50 tells us “And they all forsook him, and fled.” When it was time to pray, Jesus prayed alone, so when the tribulation came, Jesus stood alone.

Do you stand strong against temptation? Have you discovered how crucial prayer is to the fight? In order to have true victory we must learn to pray ourselves strong. Our spirit may be willing to live for Christ, but we must submit our flesh.  That surrender can only come through prayer. So I would like to encourage you, pray. God is the source of our strength. He can fortify us so that we can stand. Jesus was in agony as He wrestled His flesh into submission to His spirit. We must follow His example in order to conquer temptation. We must accept the challenge to crucify our flesh. We must fight in prayer until we are purposed to do God’s will. When we do, we will walk in victory, and enjoy the blessings that Christ provided by His victory.

“But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost,”

-Jude 1:20