Monday, June 12, 2006

Unity of the Spirit

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:3-4

You don’t know what you got until its gone, goes the lyrics of a song to which I cannot remember the title. I used to think of it as not knowing how special someone or something was until they were no longer part of your life. Today I think that you don’t what you got – the real thing or just fluff – until it’s no longer part of your life. Too obscure a statement?

Recently we’ve met several families who have changed churches for one reason or another. The biggest regret? Losing the relationships they thought were solid once they walked out of the church for the final time. And I’m not talking about people who left under bad circumstances, but because of their sincere desire to follow God’s direction. Most often, it seems, that it is the people who left desire to continue a relationship, but the people who still attend the previous church do not. Why?

No idea. According to God’s Word, Jesus did not come to establish a denomination, but instead a Body – one body. We have fragmented His Body, not by creating many, many denominations, but by insisting on fellowshipping within those denominations. Thus, we’ve created an “us versus them” church culture. Someone leaves a particular church and the leaders take it personally. When careless things are said enough times about the person or family, pretty soon it is quite evident to others that fellowshipping with the family is not necessarily taboo, but will be “noticed.”

We quote often Ephesians 4:3-4, and declare how wonderful the unity of our body is. But what we really mean to say is, isn’t it great how well the people in these four walls get along? Again, because it bears repeating –
ONE Body
ONE Spirit
ONE Hope
ONE Lord
ONE Faith
ONE baptism
ONE God and Father over US ALL – aside from denominations, aside from concrete walls. If someone confesses Jesus as Lord and Savior of their lives and seeks to walk out their faith based on God’s Word, isn’t that enough?

How can we stand in a pulpit denouncing racism when we are promoting denominational-ism? Personally, some of the most powerful times of prayer, some of the most intimate fellowship, some of the greatest experiences of God’s Spirit have taken place in a mixing bowl of God’s people. Unfortunately, we've been so busy building churches, that we've forgotten about the KINGDOM. The Kingdom isn't limited to four walls - none of us have all our theology right, so thank God it isn't! So why would we limit our relationships, our fellowship, our prayer to those we sit in the pews with 2 hours a week?

Don't you want more? I think most of us do. We want to see the power of God manifested on earth as it is in heaven. But God wants unity in His body -

How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!
It is like precious oil poured on the head,
running down the beard,
running down upon the collar of his robes.
It is as if the dew of Hermon
were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the Lord bestows his blessing,
even life forevermore.
-Psalm 133 (emphasis mine)

Don't know what you got today? Don't know where you stand with others? Invite someone from another church to lunch - not to denounce their beliefs, but to share your common faith in God. You might walk away questioning some of your docterine. You even might desire more of God in a particular area of your life. Either way, you can bet that God was delighted that you took the time to join in unity on His behalf.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Rainbow

I looked up and there it was. I knew that it had to be near, but with the position of the sun poking through the spring rain, I figured it was out of my line of sight. Just knowing there would be one was enough. But I looked up, and there stretching across my street was a rainbow.

God marks His promise to never destroy the earth by flood with a rainbow (Genesis 9:13). But He has used the rainbow at key times in our lives to remind us that His promises are true – they are all “yes” and “amen” in Christ Jesus. He has sent us “our” rainbows during times when we were questioning our direction or decisions. Something in our hearts just knew that we knew we were in God’s will when God spread those rainbows across the sky.

Tonight, I was enjoying a summer storm from the protection of my front porch. Conditions were perfect for rainbows, but I didn’t go looking – since doing so would have meant going into the downpour. I was satisfied to remember the past times God had thrown a rainbow into our path…like on Easter Sunday, the year we were considering dissolving the ministry Barry led. Each Easter morning since we’ve been married we’ve awoken before sunrise and drove out to the highest point that we knew of in our area. We set up chairs, take devotional time together and watch the sunrise. A couple of years ago we were wrestling with the decision whether to dissolve a ministry that looked like it was dying, until God made it clear that Easter morning. By the time the sun was over the horizon, we were in unity about the decision to stick it out until the end of the year. Driving home, I looked out the window and saw a vivid rainbow. We kept the ministry running until the end of the year, during which time 7 people (of 15 attending) gave their lives to Christ.

More and more I’m learning to take God at His word, to believe what He says rather than what I see. That’s why I didn’t go looking tonight. I know God is there. I know God is here. But sometimes that’s not good enough for God. So when I looked up, I saw the rainbow as if it was rising up off the pavement of the street in front of me. God brought the rainbow to me! By the way, I didn’t need to go looking for what’s at the end of the rainbow; I already know.

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“The rainbow of Your grace contains every shade of light to counter every shadow of darkness. It is a constant reminder to us that Your grace is always sufficient and is present in every storm of life.”

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Strange Fears

My friend, Clarise, will storm the very gates of hell, but won't come within 10 feet of a dog. I knew about her fear of dogs, but what I didn't know is how fearless she was in other areas of her life until the night we went looking for her daughter.

Her daughter left home at the age of 16 in search of excitment and money on the streets. When I had been praying for her for several days, I began to sense she was staying and working near where I lived. So, Clarise and I began driving through the neighborhood, watching and praying for TJ. After a concentrated time of intercession, we looked up and saw a man, who we knew we were meant to follow in order to get some answers. He led us to a house, where Clarise immediately got out of the car, gave me orders to stay, pray and keep the engine running.

The exchange that followed their meeting Clarise at the door was rather comical. The guys were obviously stunned at this mother's bravado to march up to a house where illegal activities were clearly going on. Meanwhile, she demanded answers oblivious to any sense of potential danger, and got them. There was a fire in her eyes that night; a mother's love is fierce! By the way, her daughter had been in that neighborhood, but had left the day before in response to police crack-downs.

Which is why I am completely amazed at her fear of dogs. On the one hand, the pitbull/rottweiler culture in Detroit seems to propigate fear of dogs, especially in the African American community. However, I've tried - on many occasions - to explain that all dogs are different, and certainly ours (a docile chocolate lab) is as friendly as can be. The only thing Penny demands is strokes. Clarise plans to join the Redemption House we are launching tonight, but is totally scared of the dog being there.

I use her as an example, but we all have fears that seem completely unreasonable. We may know in our heads that God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power, of love and of a sound mind. Marrying that knowledge in our hearts is a different story. I know I have my own fears - I can walk down our street at night in Detroit, but I freak myself out when I get up to go to the bathroom at 1 am.

My goal is to be afraid of nothing, and to know with all certainty that greater is He that is in me, than he who is in the world!