National Sovereignty and God – Nehemiah 13:1-3

It Is Not In The Best Interest Of A Nation To Allow Those Who Hate The Nation And Its People To Dwell Among Them

1 On that day the Book of Moses was read aloud in the hearing of the people and there it was found written that no Ammonite or Moabite should ever be admitted into the assembly of God, 2 because they had not met the Israelites with food and water but had hired Balaam to call a curse down on them. (Our God, however, turned the curse into a blessing.) 3 When the people heard this law, they excluded from Israel all who were of foreign descent.

Enlighten Everyone

My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge

There has been a great disservice done to the people of the United States of America.  In an attempt to socially engineer an entire generation of people to forget and reject their country’s past as evil and antiquated, for years educators have been excluding the founding documents of the nation from the public instruction of the children.  These documents shed light on the foundation of the nation, as provided by the Lord God Almighty Himself, and provides the basis for which the nation has since been, for the most part, a place where people who yearned to be free from the oppression of tyrants and religious persecution to come and live without the fear of repercussion the practice of hard work and righteousness.  That era has passed, and now even their children have been deprived of the knowledge of what led to the formation of the nation, as well as the character and intent of the founders of the nation.

In this passage, the Israelites had listened to the reading of the word of God.  It is critical that we know our founding documents and laws.  For the Israelites, it was the word of God.  As disciples of Christ, it is STILL the word of God.  We are strangers in this world.  As inhabitants in a strange land, we have an obligation to follow the rules of the land where they do not conflict with the word of God.

But how can you follow the rules of the land if you do not know what they are?

How can you know if the leaders of the nation are following the rules of the land if you do not know what they are?

The Israelites, after learning again what was in the law of God, realized that they were not following God’s law, and attempted to make the necessary changes to begin to follow what God had required of them.

Unconditionally Unite

One of the first things that they did was to recognize that the word of God had authority in their lives.  We too must realize that not only does the word of God have authority in our lives, but that the leaders placed over us have implemented laws to help govern us in our day to day actions.  And while not every rule of man is righteous, every directive of God in His word IS righteous.

The people in Jerusalem at that time united together.  They had several common bonds:

  • Genetic ancestry (they were all family through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob)
  • Geographic residency (they were living in Israel, specifically in Jerusalem)
  • Godly instruction (the word of God was their law)

United we stand, divided we fall – Aesop

It is important that the people of a nation be in agreement with the laws of that nation.  In the case of the United States of America, no one has a gun pointed at their heads instructing the people that they may not freely move nor forbid them to leave to go elsewhere.  They live there by choice.  If people live in a nation by choice, should they not unite in agreement with the laws that govern how they are to behave in that country?

Practice what you Preach

For the disciple of Christ, it is imperative that we practice what we preach.  Hypocrisy is a terrible sin and a temptation that each of us faces each and every day as we are presented with the challenges of life.  Joseph faced grave consequences for upholding the law of God when Potiphar’s wife attempted to seduce him and he declined.  We too must take the time first to know the law, to obey the law (where it is not in direct contradiction to God’s law), and to not only obey the law, but encourage and exhort our leaders to do the same.

The laws of men are not perfect, but should be in place to protect the citizens of that nation from the harm that happens when sinful people seek to take advantage of, harm, impede, or otherwise cause damage to others.  If we do not follow the laws set before us, are we not being hypocrites?  In the United States of America, the people there have the ability to change the law.  This is both a blessing and a curse.  It is a blessing when an unjust law is changed so that the people can live in peace and freedom.  It is a curse when evil people seek to impose their will upon others by getting into the positions of power that permit them to manipulate the switches and levers of power to their own benefit rather than the freedom of their people.

The law of God is clear and concise.  It is not written in legalism, wrapped in an enigma, and shrouded in mystery.  It is plain and easy for all who read it to understand it.  So it should be with the laws of men.

In the case of the Israelites, the word of God told them to exclude the Ammonites and Moabites from them because they had not helped the Israelites in their time of need, but intended harm to the Israelites, even hiring Balaam to curse them.  In the same manner, nations should be permitted to exclude those people who ignore and refuse to respect the laws of that nation who are seeking entrance to live in that nation.

These people intend harm to the people of the nation; for if they are unwilling to submit themselves to the laws of the nation through the established processes that the nation has set for entry into the land, they certainly will ignore any other aspect of that nation’s laws when it conflicts with their own interests.  Such people are to be considered dangerous, and are to be excluded from the possibility of ever being permitted entrance into the nation, even for the purposes of visiting.  The Israelites took action, and excluded those foreigners from among them.  Nations who have leaders who are wise should consider doing the same.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do I take the time to know the laws of my nation?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Thank You for Your word.  Thank You for freeing me from the bondage of sin.  Thank You for Your great mercy and compassion.  Thank You for being holy and righteous in all that You do.  Help me to better understand Your word so that I may live in a manner that better glorifies Your name.  Help me to understand the laws of my nation so that I may obey them and thus bring glory to Your name.  Help me to encourage the leaders of my nation to obey the laws of the land and act in righteousness towards all.  Give me the courage to do so, even if doing so may bring about my imprisonment or death.  Help me to fear no man, but only to fear You, Lord God Almighty.  Grant me the strength and courage to live a life that loves my neighbor, but doesn’t excuse or ignore their evil.  Help me to stand up to wickedness through righteousness as You empower me to do so.  Give me the words to say to all who ask why I do this.  Remember me today, Oh God, as I seek to step out for You.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

 

 

Unity in Christ – 1 Corinthians 1:10-17

God Desires Unity In The Body Of Christ

10 I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, 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.

Solidarity in Speech

God has, throughout His word, been consistent in His message to us, as He uses the life experiences of His people to reveal Himself to the world.  God has been consistent in His character, and expects us to be consistent as well.  If we are being led by the Holy Spirit of God, then we should all be saying the same things about God and His word, for His word doesn’t change.

When we are not in solidarity with what we are saying concerning God, it is because some (or all) of us are not being led by the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit of God is not divisive, but rather gathers in unity.  It has been said that if several people are tasked to decide something, and all of them go into different rooms and pray, when they come out, they should all have the same answer, for there is but one Spirit of God who we are following.  If we have different (contradicting) answers, then we have a problem.  It is to the glory of God that there is unity in the body, and unity in speech is one of the outwardly evident signs that God is who He says He is as we live our lives.

Destroy Division

Paul further goes on to say that we need to ensure that there is no division among us.  The Triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are in complete unity and harmony.  All three are in unison as they go about their assigned roles and tasks.  Each are God, and therefore omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent.  How can they be One if they are divided?

We are doing God a disservice when we are divided.  If there is a difference in opinion on how we are to be doing something, the people responsible need to seek God and ensure that they are seeking to submit themselves to the will of God.  It has been said, “United we stand, divided we fall”.  It is the desire and life’s work of the enemies of God to sow division among God’s people.  In unity, we are able to stand together as a single body against the power and efforts of the enemy:

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

Chosen in Christ

In the Corinthian church, there was division by some people because they were proud as to who had mentored them.  They considered it a great honor to be mentored by someone of renown, such as Paul, and it became a badge of honor that was causing division among some of the people.   Paul tried to remind them that they were to be following Christ, and not men, for they were baptized and chosen in Christ, not in Paul, or Peter, or any of the other apostles.

When we categorize and rank ourselves with each other, we form cliques that cause division in the body.  Are we not all parts of the same body, whose head is Christ?  Were we not all baptized in Christ, rather than those who mentored us?  Paul reminds us to be wary of such division within The Church, for it is easy to be ensnared by the pride of life.  Each of us has been hand-picked by God to serve in our appointed roles.  We must remember that it is Jesus who is directing His church.  When we think that it is we who are directing it, we are not longer submitting to the Holy Spirit of God, but rather to our own passions.

Preach with Power

Paul uses a simple example of this with His own life.  Studying under Gamaliel was a great honor for Paul.  But Paul, as learned and capable as he was for making persuasive arguments and debating, preached Christ and Him crucified without wisdom or elegance.  By doing so, the power of the cross of Christ was made evident in the simple message – God so loved the world, He gave His one and only Son for us to be crucified for our sins, that we would be able to be reconciled to the Father.  Preaching this message as “God has a wonderful plan for your life”, or using argument or pretense, is to empty the cross of Christ of its power to show the love and compassion that God the Father has towards us.

Although the great commission of Christ – to go forth and make disciples of every nation – is also followed with a command to baptize, the most important part is that disciples are made, and that they follow the commands of Jesus.  Obedience to Christ is the hallmark of discipleship, and without that, the rest is merely window dressing.  Let us walk therefore in the unity of the Spirit of God as we conduct ourselves each and every day that we may be found in Christ when He returns.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I promoting unity in the church through submission to Christ and one another?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are all-powerful, glorious, and beautiful to behold.  I ask and pray this day that You would fill Your people with the desire to walk, talk, and think in unity with the Holy Spirit so that through submission we function as the body of Christ.  Please remove division and pride within the body so that we can follow You as You intend for us to follow.  Strengthen the body through unparalleled unity so that we would be filled with Your power, presence, and purpose.  Help us to seek unity in the body, and to rid ourselves of the desire to be noticed by others, desiring only to hear our Lord and Savior say to us when we finally meet Him, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  Strengthen us for the difficulties ahead, and place the burden of unity and submission upon the hearts of each and every person who is called by Your name and whose name is written in the book of life.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Unity in Worship – 1 Timothy 2:3-10

Let Us All Lift Hands Together In Holy Worship

3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time. 7 And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles.

8 Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing. 9 I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, 10 but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.

Everyone Everywhere

Paul points out God’s desire to see everyone come to a saving knowledge of His Son, Jesus Christ.  Peter confirms this as well:

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

This is the intent of His heart; it doesn’t mean that everyone will:

1 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

Jesus later goes on to explain that the soil is the condition of the hearts of people, and the seed is the word of God.  Jesus does say elsewhere that He will draw all people to Himself:

And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.

The call to salvation is for everyone.  Any and all may come who hear its call and obey its message.  Let no one say that there is anything too difficult for God to forgive;  He has already dealt with that two thousand years ago on the cross at Calvary.

Only One

Paul goes on to remind us that there is only One God and One mediator: His Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ.  There is complete unity in the Trinity, and we are reminded that our focus and attention should be upon the one and only God.  When we do this, we are setting aside our personal differences, and joining together in a pursuit that ensures that we are unifying under One God and One mediator:

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

In this simple call, Jesus urges all to unify under Him, for He is THE only way to the Father.  And, because He has triumphed successfully over death and hell through His perfect life and death, He holds the keys to the death and hell.  And He has been crowned King of kings and Lord of lords.  Let us bow down in worship to the only one who is worthy – The Lord God Almighty.

Paul now goes on to address men and women to urge them in unified worship.  Each are given instructions on how to put aside their individual tendencies towards division and come together in unified holy worship.

Holy Hands

Paul first addresses men.  They are to lift holy hands without disputing or anger.  Men have a tendency to establish a pecking order of importance among themselves.  They tend to have their own personal goals and desire power in leadership and ranking.  Paul provides simple correction in this area, telling men to fight these urges and to come together with hands lifted high without anger or argument.  When men can set aside these things, they can powerfully join together in unity and accomplish great things.  Working together as a team rather than having contests establishing who is most important brings God the greatest glory.

Appropriate Attire

Paul then goes on to address the women.  It is no surprise that women have a tendency to establish their own pecking order by vying to be the most beautiful woman in the room.  Women dress up for women more so than men.  Paul urges women to adorn themselves with good deeds and appropriate attire.  This changes the way they view themselves and other women, and encourages them to focus on worship rather than on their own external appearance.

It is interesting to note that this was going on two thousand years ago in Middle Eastern culture – it is not a recent phenomenon nor does it have its origins in the modern Western culture of decadence.  And it still goes on today.  The entertainment industry and gossip magazines tout who wears what clothing and ranks people according to their appearance.  God does not judge by appearance, but rather by the heart:

1 The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.”

2 But Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears about it, he will kill me.”

The Lord said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ 3 Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate.”

4 Samuel did what the Lord said. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town trembled when they met him. They asked, “Do you come in peace?”

5 Samuel replied, “Yes, in peace; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Consecrate yourselves and come to the sacrifice with me.” Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.

6 When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.”

7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I seeking unity with others?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have sacrificed Your One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, so that we could be reunited with You.  Give me the strength and desire to put aside any and all personal desire to be recognized so that I may, in unity, worship You with my whole heart.  Grant me the strength to put down my sinful desires and to desire that which Your heart longs.  Keep me from pride, and help me to be humble and yielded to You.  Father, give Your people a desire to be unified in worship, in each other, and in You.  Help us to overcome our natural desires so that we can be the people You desire us to be.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Unity In The Body – Ephesians 4:1-6

Strive For Unity Within The Body Of Christ

1 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.

Live Life

Paul reminds us here how to live the good life – we must live it in a manner worthy of the calling that we have received.  Our calling – generally – is to deliver the message of salvation to every people and nation:

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Our calling – specifically – is to be the part of the body that God desires us to be by using the spiritual gifts that the Holy Spirit has empowered us with to serve God:

1 Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. 3 Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

As living sacrifices, we are to live our lives in complete submission and obedience to God, giving Him the honor and glory that He so rightly deserves.  When we live our lives in this way, we are living the “good” life – a life that is worthy of the calling that we have received.

Soft and Submitted

We are to be gentle and humble in our ways.  This is exactly the same way that Jesus described Himself:

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

When we are gentle towards others, and have learned restraint so that we do not allow our emotions and desires to control us, we are able to do what we have been called to do.  Because of our sin nature, we find ourselves at odds with what we know is right.  We must learn to become more like Jesus.  And Jesus, realizing that we could not grasp God, submitted Himself to the Holy Spirit as an example for us.

Lavish Love

Unity can only be achieved through love in the bonds of peace.  For true agape love – unconditional, volitional, and sacrificial love – comes through submission.  We are to submit to one another in Christ.  When we do this, the world will know that we are His disciples.  Love binds us together in unity; for if we are seeking the good and welfare of others first, selfishness, pride, and discord will diminish and die.

Unparalleled Unity

Paul goes on to tell us how to be unified by reminding us that there is only unity in oneness.  He gives us seven examples:

  1. One body
    • The great spiritual divide among all the denominations should not exist.  We are all part of the same body of Christ, separated only by geography.  When we do not have unity in the body, we are separating ourselves from one of the greatest strengths that we have – unity of oneness.  When there is corruption, we are to address it.  And if those who sinning refuse to repent, we are to follow the Matthew 18 principle of church discipline.
  2. One spirit
    • There is only one spirit.  Not all paths lead to God – that is Universalism.  Jesus has told us that He and He alone is the way, the truth, and the life – no one comes to the Father except through Him.  And as Jesus is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit, we are to be one with them and with each other.
  3. One hope
    • Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.  On Christ the solid rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.  The words of the hymns shed light on the great truths of the word of God.  We have one hope, and our hope (complete and justified trust) is placed only in Jesus.
  4. One Lord
    • Who is lord of you life?  Who calls the shots?  There is a bumper sticker that has been seen that says, “God is my co-pilot.”  If that is the case, then you are in the wrong seat on the plane.  Lord is a word that invokes the understanding of absolute and unconditional authority of someone over another.  Jesus should have that authority – He has earned it.  If we live our lives the way we want to, then we claim lordship over it, usurping His rightful authority over us.
  5. One faith
    • We have but one faith – faith in Jesus Christ, and His work on the cross, taking our sins and giving us His righteousness in exchange.  Faith in anything or anyone else is futile, for there is only one name under heaven given to mankind to be saved, and that name is The Lord Jesus Christ.
  6. One baptism
    • There is only one baptism.  We are baptized in the name of the Father, in the name of the Son, and the name of the Holy Spirit, into eternal life in Christ.  Baptism into anything or anyone else is futile.  We are unified in that there is only one baptism.
  7. One God and Father
    • Finally, we are reminded by Paul that there is only one God and Father.  Jesus has warned us that God the Father is the only true Father.  Everyone else is under the control of Satan.  We are unified by having God as our One and Only Father.

In each of these, Paul reiterates that there is unity in being one together.  As there is only One of each of these, there cannot be division.  If there is division, then we must be in disagreement with at least one of these, for if we are in agreement on all of them, there cannot be anything BUT unity.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask ourselves a question:  Am I in unity with my brothers and sisters in Christ?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have made it possible for us to live in unity with one another.  Show me Your heart, that I may be in tune with it.  Help me to live in harmony and unity with those You have claimed as Your own.  Help me to submit to the Holy Spirit as well as one another that You would receive honor and glory from it.  Show me where my pride is interfering with Your will, and bring is under Your control, so that I may be humble and gentle in spirit.  Help me to learn restraint and give grace to others in areas that do not conflict with the core truths of the faith.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Transition of Power – 1 Chronicles 11:1-3

The Whole People Should Recognize The Leader That God Has Chosen

1 All Israel came together to David at Hebron and said, “We are your own flesh and blood. 2 In the past, even while Saul was king, you were the one who led Israel on their military campaigns. And the Lord your God said to you, ‘You will shepherd my people Israel, and you will become their ruler.'”

3 When all the elders of Israel had come to King David at Hebron, he made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel, as the Lord had promised through Samuel.

A Great Gathering

After Saul died, all of Israel came together as a group.   This was important, for it showed unanimous consensus among God’s people that they recognized the transition of leadership to David.  Samuel had anointed David’s head with oil as the next king over a decade prior.  And now, that promise of God was being fulfilled.

Royal Recognition

It is important that all of them recognized the transition of power.  Rather than refuse to acknowledge the new king, they embraced him as God intended as one people.  It is very difficult when questionable circumstances overshadow the transition of power.  That can divide a nation and cause irreparable harm to the unity of the people.  It has been said, “United we stand, divided we fall.”

The enemies of peace have long understood this concept, and work tirelessly in opposition to unity in order to foment discontent and resentment towards the leaders that they do not like.  When a nation is torn in two this way, the nation is being set up to be financially pillaged and eventually overrun.  There is great profit in confusion.

In this particular case, the people pulled together to recognize David as their new king.  The ardent followers of Saul supported David.  They did not try to stage a coup and insert their own candidate for king.  This served to unite the people even more.

A Climatic Covenant

David not only assumed the throne, he made a covenant with the people.  He did not merely take a verbal oath, he made a promise that carried with it the penalty of death should it not have been held up.  David was a servant to the people.  He shepherded them as God intended, rather than seek His own glory, power, and recognition apart from The Lord God Almighty.  This solidified his position with the people and gave him the accountability necessary to ensure that he would take promise and responsibility towards the people with the gravest of attitudes.

The Powerful Promise

By uniting the people, recognizing his role, and taking the necessary steps to ensure his accountability, the promise that God had made to David was fully secured in the support of the people.  Samuel’s anointing of David’s head as the next ruler of the people of Israel was complete, and he was able to rule them in joy and with God’s protection and power.  God demonstrated His choice of David as His chosen vessel of authority over men in that He increased David’s power and influence among them.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I willing to accept the leadership that God has placed over me?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have placed leaders over us for our protection and to bring about Your will.  Help me to be supportive of Your decisions, and to do my very best to submit to leaders who are yielded to You.  Father, I ask that You would strengthen and encourage the men and women You have chosen as leaders over me to yield themselves to You.  Help them to become the servant-leaders that You desire them to be.  Give me the strength to endure wicked leaders when You send them as judgment upon a nation, and to encourage all to pray for the people who are under difficult leadership that they would call out to You, and seek Your face, and turn from their wicked ways, that You would heal the land.  Bless the leaders that You have chosen with wisdom, restraint, and advisors that would honor and glorify Your name.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Return to the Lord – Joel 2:12-17

We Need a National Call to Repentance

12 “Even now,” declares the Lord,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting and weeping and mourning.”

13 Rend your heart
and not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love,
and he relents from sending calamity.
14 Who knows? He may turn and relent
and leave behind a blessing—
grain offerings and drink offerings
for the Lord your God.

15 Blow the trumpet in Zion,
declare a holy fast,
call a sacred assembly.
16 Gather the people,
consecrate the assembly;
bring together the elders,
gather the children,
those nursing at the breast.
Let the bridegroom leave his room
and the bride her chamber.
17 Let the priests, who minister before the Lord,
weep between the portico and the altar.
Let them say, “Spare your people, Lord.
Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn,
a byword among the nations.
Why should they say among the peoples,
‘Where is their God?'”

Regretful Return

God asks that Christians return to Him in mourning, fasting and prayer:

if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

Revival in the Church has been a recurring theme throughout the last two thousand years.  Just as Israel returned to God after He disciplined them, they quickly turned from God again and again.  We have a tendency to do the same.  In UNITY, the body of Christ should gather as God’s people and mourn, fast, and pray to God for His deliverance from the evil that has beset us.  And while we are doing that, we need to remember that the justified shall live by faith.

How must we appear to God when we cannot even put aside our differences and get the local bodies of believers to come out in unison and seek the One we call upon for our deliverance together?  Can we not designate a call to repentance?  Are our egos and pride so great that brothers in Christ cannot come together?  How sad must our God be with us.

Compassionate Care

God IS gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and when we return to Him, He relents from sending calamity.  We are told here that God may even be gracious and restore some of what He has taken so that we may be able to give offerings to Him.

In the time that this passage was written, the locusts had destroyed the crops, and the people were facing great hardship.  God needs to get our attention, and what better way than taking away that which He has already provided?  We are God’s children, and we are disciplined like children.  But God relents because of His Mercy and Grace.  We should always remember that.

Sacred Session

In this passage, everyone is asked to gather, regardless of their station or circumstances.  Even the newlyweds are to interrupt their nuptial bliss to participate.  This is not just the church regulars, but all who are called according to God’s name are to gather at the assembly.

And once the assembly is gathered, we are to be consecrated to the Lord.  We are to shed our desires for the things of this world and seek the One who created all things and desires for us to be with Him eternally in the next.  We are to put on Christ; let us remember our calling and do as we are directed.  Is it not disobedience that causes this issue in the first place?  Does God, when His people are doing His will, not protect and proper them?  For what purpose would God, if His people are living according His will, send in their enemies to overtake and destroy His people?  To bring them closer to Him?  If so, where is the evidence in the Bible?

And lest we forget, He reminds us several times:

but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.

He remembers his covenant forever, the promise he made, for a thousand generations

He remembers his covenant forever, the promise he made, for a thousand generations

Ardent Appeal

Once we have gathered and have been consecrated, we need to make our impassioned plea to God to spare us lest the nations say, “Where is your God?”  He will not tolerate sin among His people.  He is long-suffering, and waits patiently for us to turn from our sin.  But we should not mistake His patience for a seal of approval.  Let us not give God any reason to display His displeasure at us.

We need to individually and corporately seek out the Lord in tears of repentance, crying out for mercy.  If some of our brothers or sisters won’t join in, we need to pray for them as well, for are we not a royal priesthood?  Where is our longing to be free from sin, united in Christ, seeking the lost sheep, and protecting the flock?  What has happened to harden our hearts so much that we are disconnected from each other and from God?  Let us cry out to Him and beg Him for mercy.  If you hear a voice saying that it is too late, that is not from God;  evaluate everything based on His word, not on your emotions

And the God of mercy will relent and restore what He has taken.  Do not despise His discipline, for all discipline is unpleasant at the time it takes place.  But it will yield a great harvest of righteousness when it has been completed.  Let us seek the Lord for our sanctification and dedicate ourselves to our God in holiness.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask ourselves a question:  Why aren’t we able (or willing) to be united with all of the body of Christ in national prayer, fasting, and repentance in accordance with the will of God?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are a Holy God, and You cannot tolerate sin.  Place within the hearts of Your people a desire to return to You.  Begin a revival within Your church, and help me to change my heart attitudes to match Yours.  Please help our leaders to unite together and work for unity within the body.  And remember me as I seek Your face, humbling myself in prayer and fasting, desiring that I would be sanctified and live righteously before you.  This I ask and pray in mighty Name of Jesus, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Unity in Christ – Psalm 133

There is great blessing in unity

1 How good and pleasant it is
when God’s people live together
in unity!
2 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.
3 It is as if the dew of Hermon
were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the Lord bestows his blessing,
even life forevermore.

Unified Undertaking

God expects the church to be united.  There is a recollection by the author of this psalm of a time when he remembers the unity of God’s people.  He ponders it, and declares it to be good and pleasing.  We too should ponder this and declare the same.  When God’s people are in unity, they are able to fulfill His plans and purposes to the fullest extent possible.  And when they are in unity, any anger, disillusionment, sorry, or angst is swallowed up in love, focus, and purpose.  God’s people are submitting themselves to Him and to each other.

Precious Provision

Oil of anointing was a very precious and costly concoction to make:

22 Then the Lord said to Moses, 23 “Take the following fine spices: 500 shekels[about 12 1/2 pounds or about 5.8 kilograms.  Source: NIV Bible] of liquid myrrh, half as much (that is, 250 shekels) of fragrant cinnamon, 250 shekels[about 6 1/4 pounds or about 2.9 kilograms.  Source: NIV Bible] of fragrant calamus, 24 500 shekels of cassia—all according to the sanctuary shekel***—and a hin [probably about 1 gallon or about 3.8 liters.  Source: NIV Bible] of olive oil. 25 Make these into a sacred anointing oil, a fragrant blend, the work of a perfumer. It will be the sacred anointing oil.”

This was a very costly liquid to prepare, and was to be prepared by a professional perfumer.  This was not something that everyone had or could even afford.  The priests would have this costly liquid for anointing or for whatever special purposes God instructed them to use it.  It was highly fragrant, and would have been recognized as a time of joy, for the event would have been very special for this precious liquid to have been used.  This oil was used to consecrate the priests as well as to consecrate things to make them holy.  Once consecrated, they were deemed dedicated to the Lord.

Gentle Grazing

The picture here is of the gentleness of the dew as it settles on the ground.  This is a beautiful picture of serenity.  The Holy Spirit descended and settled upon Jesus just after He had been baptized by John the Baptist.  Jesus refers to the Spirit as living water.  This may be the author’s view of the presence of the Holy Spirit of God among God’s people when they are together and unified in thought:

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

Beatific Blessing

The blessing of God is foreseen by the Psalmist, and he may be recounting the joy of it.  He sees even that the blessing extends to everlasting life.  This is not to be discounted, since our chief need in life is to be awakened from spiritual death into spiritual life.  This only comes by God, and only through His Son, Jesus Christ:

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask ourselves a question: Are we unified in thought and purpose with the body of Christ for the will and purpose of God’s plan?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You give good gifts to Your children.  As I ponder Your Word, remember me and reveal new and wondrous things in it.  Help me to see these things from Your perspective, that I would have the right frame of thought for viewing them.  Help me to get into the same state of worship and understanding as this Psalmist that I too would rejoice in the unity of Your people.  Help me to better understand how important and significant that is to You.  Help me to greatly desire unity in the body of Christ, and to do all that I can, within the power and scope that I am permitted, to encourage it and to model it.  I pray, Lord God, that as I model unity as You desire it, that others would see and desire to do so as well.  May unity in the body spread throughout my community, and then throughout the region, and then throughout the country.  May my country then be known for the great unity of the body of Christ.  May it be a blessing to You and to us, and may You work great and mighty things in us and through us as we submit ourselves to You and each other.  This I humbly pray in the precious name of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

***The sanctuary shekel was 20 gerahs to the shekel.  A gerah was about 1/50th of an ounce.  Source: http://biblehub.com/weights-and-measures/

Family Living by God – Ephesians 5:25-33

Husbands Have Great Responsibility

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Lavishing Love

Christ poured out His love for the church by devoting His life to it.  He gave His life up for her in that He allowed Himself to be crucified on the cross for her.  Jesus poured out His life in ministry through teaching, healing, and preparing the disciples in what we would call “training the trainer” lessons.  In all of this He gave up any desires that He had for His own life, and devoted Himself to preparing and helping the disciples to be effective in their ministry.

In the same way, husbands are to lay down their lives, goals, ambitions, dreams, and whatever is part of self to devote himself to his wife.  Yes, husbands need to work (all Christians should be in some sort of labor, whether it is in the workplace, or in the home.  Anyone who says that working in the home is easy hasn’t really tried it by giving their full devotion to it…), but they should be doing their very best to ensure the success of their wives in what they are doing.

If you want to see your wife put a smile on her face, watch what happens when she realizes that you are devoting yourself to her success.  She thrives on love.  Study her to see what makes her feel most connected to you and emotionally engaged.  Then,give her so much of it that she is bursting!

Proper Preparation

All of God’s people are called the bride of Christ.  His job was to make us holy.  He did that through His death, burial, and resurrection, offering His sinless blood for our sins, His righteousness for our shame. He washed us through the living water that springs out of the Word of God.  He transforms our minds as we read the Word of God.

In the same way, husbands are to prepare their wives as well, being the spiritual leader of the organization that is the family unit.  Husbands do that through love.  When husbands love their wives, their wives are more open to their leading.  The only way that this will successfully occur is if their wives feel loved (emotionally engaged and connected).

Consider the Context

Husbands are to take into consideration that it would be hypocritical to love their wives less than they love themselves.  When the two became one flesh, this does not only mean physical intimacy, but also spiritual intimacy and oneness.  It is a unity of minds, direction, purpose, and intent.  Selfishness – the deficiency of showing love to others – is unthinkable in this context.

The husband now should put as much care and maintenance into helping his wife as he does himself.  Without that, there is an imbalance in the relationship that is like driving a car with one front wheel out of alignment.  As you try to drive straight ahead, the car will pull to the side that is out of alignment.  In order to go anywhere fast and safely, that wheel has to be put back into alignment so that both front tires are working together in unison for the purpose and direction they are instructed to go by the person behind the wheel.  And the person behind the wheel should be Jesus Christ if both spouses are Christians.

Husbands need to remind themselves that it is just as important to see to the needs of their wives as it is to see to their own needs.  The only way that this can happen on a regular basis and in an appropriate way is for husbands to die to themselves, pick up their cross, and follow Christ.  Following means walking alongside shoulder to shoulder, step for step.  And how did/does Christ love His bride?

Total Togetherness

And the two shall become one flesh.  This is an amazing thing.  Two people who have different backgrounds, interests, likes and dislikes, habits, ways of thinking, and physical needs, come together for the purpose of changing, unifying, and sanctification.  They begin to change from the mental state of taking care of self to taking care of another.  They morph from two separate identities into a more singular identity, where they consider themselves extensions of each other.  The process can become so complete that they even begin to look like each other – their facial expressions become nearly identical, they may even wear the same color clothing when they go out, they smile the same way, they become a singular unit in a singular purpose in a singular direction.  That is very powerful.

Mighty Mystery

What a delightful thing!  That the family – the relationship between husband and wife – is to be considered a reflection between Jesus Christ and the church, His bride.  Paul takes the opportunity to remind us that the relationship between husband and wife is indicative of the relationship between Christ and the church.  We can draw many parallels, but in the spiritual realm, there is this melding as the bride is drawn out of her shell and begins to fully blossom as a beautiful flower as love is poured into her and she draws close to him.  She becomes confident and strengthened, emboldened by the support of her husband.  As love is poured into her, her fears diminish, she is overwhelmed with security, and love begins to overflow out of her heart.  It blesses everyone that she meets as they are the recipient of that magnified love.

Delight and Deference

Oh, the key to every successful marriage! L O V E and R E S P E C T.

  • Husbands need to feel RESPECTED
    • When a husband feels respected, he draws out of his shell and performs to the best of his ability.  His internal need – respect – is fulfilled, and he is able to perform and respond in the maximum capacity that God has provided to him. He will be able to engage his wife emotionally, and he will feel that he is able to open up to her more.
    • When a husband does not feel respected, he will withdraw, and may not be able to engage emotionally.  His thought process may be, “Why should I open myself up emotionally and be vulnerable if all I hear is criticism?”  Since he longs to be respected, he may even pour all of his time into whatever activity provides that (usually his job, where he is respected by his peers and superiors).  If he then encounters a woman who is respectful, compliments him on his prowess at work, and lets him know he is doing well – not criticizing him – he may be at great risk for moral failure.
    • Wives, do you want your husbands to open up to you and engage you at every level in every aspect of your life?  Show your husband respect, whether or not YOU feel he deserves it.
  • Wives need to feel LOVED
    • When a wife feels loved (even if husbands are loving her to death from their perspective, unless she FEELS it, it really isn’t going to have any effect…) she will begin to come out of her shell.  She will engage her husband, and be able to show him the respect that he greatly desires.  She will be more forgiving, smile more, do more – even desire to please him – and be better prepared to engage her husband physically.
    • When a wife does not feel loved, she will withdraw, and will not be able to engage physically.  Since she longs to be loved (feel emotionally connected), she will be like a flower that hasn’t been watered, and is drying up.  If another man begins to water that flower – engage her in conversation, compliment her, say and do things that lift her spirits and engages her emotionally – she may be at great risk for moral failure.
    • Husbands, do you want your wives to open up to you and engage you in every aspect of your life?  Ensure that your wife feels loved, whether she deserves it or not.
  • The negative cycle where men feel disrespected and women feel unloved can be broken by just one person making the decision to act counter to how they feel.  Someone has to start.  It might as well be you!

A Qualifying Question

For husbands, let’s ask the question:  Are we loving our wives as Christ loves the church?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are perfect in all of Your ways.  Everything that you do is righteous, and You can do no evil.  Help me to better understand Your plan and purpose for marriage.  You have declared me to be Jesus Christ’s bride, and You pour out Your love on me all the time.  Your mercies renew every morning.  You never leave me nor forsake me.  I am more than a conqueror through Christ Jesus.  I have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ.  Help me to truly understand all of these things, and to comprehend the depth and width and height of the love that You have for me.  Help me to show your love to others, especially in my family.  Guard and guide me in this that I may reflect Your love and my responsibilities in the role that You have called me.  This I ask in the precious name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Unity in Christ: Colossians 3:11

All Are ONE in Christ Jesus

Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Prior Promises

Paul implies that since Christ is all, and is in all, we are all one in Christ.  The Jews were given the Law of God, and God chose them as His people.  They were very proud of that.  However, God was preparing them to spread His Good News to all people.  But the Jews mostly kept it to themselves.

It is interesting to note that in this passage, Paul lists the Gentile before the Jew.  He didn’t do this to give any special prominence to the Gentiles (for God does not show favoritism), but rather to remind the Jews that God wishes all people to come to a saving knowledge of Christ and to be in relationship with Himself.  In that, God shows that He wants ALL to be one in Christ.

Male Markings

The Jews were especially proud to be identified with God through circumcision.  This defining physical characteristic set them apart from everyone else.  But salvation through Christ is a better covenant that what God had provided to the Jews.  Being under grace is far more powerful than the law.  The law shows us our sin; grace removes our sin.  Regardless of whether a person is marked with circumcision or not, God looks for those hearts are circumcised.  In that, all are one in Christ

Familial Foibles

An interesting note on the words used here.  There are two additional classes of people mentioned:

  • Barbarians (in the Greek, barbaros – of uncertain [cultural] origin) – We also tend to think of barbarians as uncivilized, and unable to integrate into other cultures because of their wildness.
  • Scythians (in the Greek, skuthEs – [most likely] of unknown origin, and by implication, savages) – This again is referring as much towards their behavior as their lack of identifiable [cultural] origin.

Paul does not use the conjunction “or” between them, but rather includes them both.  The word translated Gentile in the Greek is hellEn.  It refers to an inhabitant of Hellas, and by implication, a  Greek speaking person that was a non-Jew.  Paul is being inclusive of all people of all ethnicity.  We are, after all, descendants first from Adam and Eve, and secondly from Noah and his wife.

Positional Predicaments

Regardless of a person’s position in life, they are to be seen as equal, as one in Christ.  Slaves were often mistreated and were often looked down upon.  But God indicates that we are to see them as equals in Christ.  They are, after all, created in the Image of God.  To look down upon someone because of their station in life is to denigrate the Image-Bearer of God, and by implication, God Himself.

We need to remember that it is God to raises up and tears down.  God is able to exalt and to humble.  And regardless of where a person is born, how much money/influence/power that family has, that person’s gifts and the ability to wield them to success (or failure), God is sovereign over all of us, and is able to place us into ANY position that He sees fit.

Do we look down upon Moses because he herded sheep for forty years?  How about Job after the loss of all of his children, crops, animals, and every other worldly, material blessing that was taken from him?  If we don’t look down on them for that, why would we look down on someone because they are a slave, or were born in a land where people have animus toward other people who were not born/raised where they came from (i.e., Northerner/Southerner, Nazarene, Ninevite, etc.)?

A Qualifying Question

So let’s ask ourselves a question:  Do we look down upon others, or see them differently (with a negative aspect), if they aren’t like us in appearance, cultural values, land of birth, station in life, or any other reason whatsoever?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You show us that You are not a respecter of persons, but rather woo ALL of us to You through Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Jesus said that if he was raised up, He would draw all people to Him.  You have seen fit to draw me to You.  Please examine my heart to see if I have any prejudice towards anyone for any reason.  Help me to experience Your character in regards to seeing others.  Let me not be like Jonah, wishing the destruction of the Ninevites, but rather rejoice as the angels do when anyone is saved.  Remove any anger or hatred towards others in my heart, and replace it with love and compassion towards all people.  Help me to be wise when dealing with people who are evil, but to love them as You love them.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Unity in Christ – Philippians 2:1-2

Be One in the Spirit and of One Mind

1 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.

Edifying Encouragement

When we are united with Christ, the Holy Spirit dwells within us, and we are encouraged by Him as we seek to draw close to God.  He helps us by giving us strength that we do not have to do things that no one else under their own power would be able to do – to love our enemies and pray for those that persecute us; to forgive others; to shun evil; to love God; to restrain ourselves; and to glorify God.  As we do all of these things, the Holy Spirit provides the encouragement to learn and grow in God’s character.

Spiritual Sharing

As we partake of the Holy Spirit’s strength, power, desires, we begin to share in His peace and we spiritually prosper.  We see the work of the Spirit in others, and share in His love, grace, and mercy.  He helps to unify us with the Body of Christ in mind and in spirit so that just as parts of the body function together as a whole to enable a person to perform tasks such as walking, lifting, writing, carrying, and other common tasks, the body of Christ is able to accomplish the tasks that have been assigned to us to do.

Touching Tenderness

The Spirit of God gently and tenderly guides us in God’s ways.  He does so with great tenderness. Isaiah says this very well:

A bruised reed he will not break,
    and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;

God desires that we all grow to become mature and complete.  His tenderness in this process shows His willingness to have this happen, as we are fragile.  We aren’t called sheep because we have the strength and certainty of a lion or a bear.  We are easily scared and discouraged, and great tenderness is needed by God to fan the flames of our spirit to continually desire to follow Him, especially as we are trampled by the world and the devil.

Comforting Compassion

And when we are trampled, God greets us with His great compassion, placing His arms around us and giving us comfort in His peace.  Without His great compassion towards us, we would stay broken, unable to do anything of value, and wallow in self-pity as the world and the devil rejoice at their victories – just as they did when they subdued Samson.

Unique Unity

It is very seldom that people can get together and be truly unified in mind and in purpose.  When that happens, a unique opportunity presents itself:

1 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.

There is great power in unity.  When we put aside our personal differences, and all work towards the same goal with unity of mind and spirit, there is very little that can stop us.  God confused the language of the people during the time of Babel to stop them.  But God greatly desires that the Body of Christ be united in mind and spirit so that we can do great things:

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.

Jesus was able to do great things because He was united in mind and spirit with God the Father through submission to God the Holy Spirit.  And we are told to submit to God as well as to one another.  When we do this, we begin to experience the unique unity of spirit that God greatly desires for us.

A Qualifying Question

So let’s ask ourselves a question: Am I experiencing unity with God and His people the way that God wants me to experience unity?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I greatly desire to be united in mind and spirit with You and Your people.  Show me where I am not submitting to You and to them, that I may humble myself and repent of my independence from both You and them.  Help me to be Your servant, that I may serve others as well.  Give me the heart of a servant, and deepen my dependence upon You for all things.  Father, I pray that You would work in Your people, that all of us would desire unity with You and within the body of Christ.  Forgive us for our petty infighting and ridiculous stubbornness to hold onto ideas that divide rather than unify.  Help us to agree to disagree on all points that are not doctrinal or salvation dependent.  Help us to grow in each other and You that we may put Christ firmly and uniformly on display for all the world to see.  This I ask in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Loving God – Deuteronomy 6:4-5

Trinitarian is not Polytheistic

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

Only One

God greatly desires to reveal Himself to us through the scriptures.  In this passage, God reveals that He is One God, not three Gods, or three separate beings, but three separate persons who together are one God.  Matt Slick, President and founder of CARM.org, explains this very well on his website.

Longs to Love

God is perfect, and has no needs.  But since God has made us in His image, we can see certain traits and desires of God within us.  And one of the traits that He exhibits is that God is love.  He lavishes His love upon us in many ways:

He also shows His love through His people Israel.  How many times does He send them into foreign lands to chastise them and them bring them back to Himself?

Longs for Love

God also wants us to love Him.  He so greatly desired this that He allowed His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross to save us from our sins.  Yes, this is so important that we need to constantly remind ourselves of His level of dedication to everyone that He creates.  And He desires that we love Him – not for being a gift-giver, but rather for who HE is.  He greatly desires that we be in communion with Him in His perfect love.

Absolute Abandon

So great is God’s desire for us to love Him as He loves us (as an expression of being made in His image), that we are to love Him with:

  • ALL of our heart – the inner person: the mind and the will (our thoughts and convictions, which should direct everything we think, say, and do)
  • ALL of our soul – the greatest desire of our being (our emotions and desires)[Please Note: This can also be translated life, or spirit]
  • ALL of our strength – To the extent that we exert ourselves in action (our deeds)

God longs to reveal Himself to us, and does so by helping us to experience Himself though His character.  God doesn’t do things the way that we do them.  He carefully plans everything perfectly, and follows through with His plans to bring them to fruition – in perfect harmony with His desires and will.

The Trinitarian Trait

Because God is One, we love just one God, not three Gods, or three beings; but three persons who are One God – unified in will, purpose, and love.

The Qualifying Question

So let’s ask the question:  Are we loving God with all of our heart, soul, and strength?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, thank You for your unfailing love, mercy, compassion, and grace that You pour out upon us every day.  You reveal Yourself through Your creation, Your word, and Your work in our lives.  Help me this day, Lord God, to love You with complete abandon.  May my heart so greatly desire You that all other passions are mere whispers in comparison.  Help me to better grasp Your love so that regardless of my circumstances, it would be settled in my heart.  Watch over me as evil increases, that my love would not grow cold.  Strengthen me this day for the works that You have planned for me before the universe was created, and reveal them to me as I yield myself to You.  This I ask and pray in the name of Your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Unity with God – Ephesians 5:21

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Ouch.  There’s that word – submission.  Yielding your preferences, desires, goals, way of doing things – to someone else.  Admit it – it’s HARD to submit.  We greatly desire to have our own way.  Very few things chafe us more than having to do something someone else’s way, especially if we are certain our way is better.

But we see something else at work in the Bible.  When Jesus put on flesh (became fully human and fully God), He submitted Himself to the Holy Spirit, became nothing, and took on the nature of a servant.  Jesus also said that in order to become the greatest among us, we should become a slave in serving others.  We are also to submit ourselves to the ruling authorities.

Mutual submission helps us to grow in character to become more like God.  There is a sense of submission to each other of each of the three persons in the Trinity.  Additionally, as we interact and submit, we are constantly being refined – “Iron sharpens iron.”  Mutual submission to one another in the body builds a unity within the body that cannot exist elsewhere, for it is not possible with us, but through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.  As we submit to one another, we are becoming one in purpose.  People will know we are Christians when we love one another.  And love does not seek its own interests, but the interests of others first (the JOY principle – Jesus, Others, You, in that order…).  Since God IS love, do we not demonstrate this when we love one another?   Paul says that we should devote ourselves to one another.

Imagine how winsome the Church, the Body of Christ, would look if ALL Christians submitted ourselves to one another?  No more division would exist between us!  The world would see a unified front of love extended inward AND outward.  People might actually WANT to become a Christian by our example, rather than be turned off by division and rancor within our own ranks.  Families would grow in love and grace as they submit to one another in Christ as well!

So, let’s ask the question.  Are we submitting ourselves to one another?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have shown us in Your word that submission is a good thing, unlike what the world and culture make it out to be.  Submitting to one another In Christ draws us closer to You, and reveals Your nature to the world.  Help us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds through Your word.  Change us into what we should become, that glory would be brought to Your name.  Help us to shed those things that hinder us as we try to better reflect your glory and light in a dark and unbelieving world.  Grant us mercy and grace as we struggle with these things, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Unity with God – Galatians 3:28

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

What does it mean to be “one in Christ”?  In this passage, it would appear that we are to stop thinking of division by race, ancestry, position, and even gender. But this barely scratches the very tip of what this means.  Our entire identity is to be found “in Christ.”  This is not the only place in scripture that we see this type of language used.

Here are some scriptures to review before we go on:

John 10:38

John 14:10-11

John 14:20

John 17:21

Romans 6:11

Romans 6:23

Ephesians 1:3

There are others but this should suffice.  The recurring theme is being “in the Father” and “in Christ.”

Do you not realize that the Most Holy God, who created us, loves us, sent His Son to redeem us so that we can have a relationship with Him, did this not so He could have some long-distance relationship with us, but rather invites us to be WITH HIM NOW?  Eternity in the Father and in the Son and in The Spirit began the moment you said “YES!!!!!!” to Christ.  We are not only reconciled; we are not only sons and daughters of God; we are asked to come into an even deeper relationship with Almighty God: we have been invited into The Trinity.  We are not God; we are to have the same relationship (koinonia in the Greek) with God that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit experience in the Trinity.

Oswald Chambers in “My Utmost for His Highest” says that in resurrection life, we will no longer need to ask questions, because we won’t have any.  As we grow in our relationship with God, the eventuality is that our dependence upon and identity with the Living God is so rooted and solidified that we will no longer have any questions.

We, in effect, are one with God, and God will provide every answer, every direction, all knowledge – EVERYTHING – for we are ONE IN HIM.  Let go of those things that pain you, trouble you, and cause you to question.  Fully embrace your resurrection life, and be wholly and completely dependent on the Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Omnipresent God as Jesus, who was fully God and fully man, did while He walked the Earth 2,000 years ago.

A short prayer of preparation:

Our Heavenly Father, You have done something that no one could have dreamed of and have invited us into Your Most Holy relationship.  We can barely even understand what You are doing, for Your thoughts are higher than our thoughts, and Your ways are higher than our ways.  Teach us through Your Word and Your Spirit these wonderful things.  Grant us understanding that as we comprehend, we will draw closer.  May our lives reflect this most holy calling, and may we walk so closely with You that our faces would glow like Moses after we leave Your presence.  You are beautiful, Oh Lord, and we love you dearly.  This we ask in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?