Unity of the Body

Would you like to remove division? Are you weary of seeing divisions in our society and in the church? Would you like to be part of the healing process? Do you know how to bring about healing? Have you looked to God?

There are divisions everywhere we look. We see divisions in our communities, states, and country. These are not just simple disagreements about what color we should paint a wall. They are significant divisions with lines drawn and hackles up.

We can see people stand across the chasm, staring and yelling at one another. The bridge builders have gone home, giving up on any hope of bringing the two sides together. Sometimes this happens in our churches, just as it does in our society. This is extremely sad and completely against the teaching of the Bible.

Paul gives the Ephesian church a bit of guidance concerning unity. It is good advice whether division has begun to creep in or to prepare for outside attacks. He reminds them, and us, we are part of one body. There is one Spirit who lives inside us. There is one God we all serve. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice and the gift of the Holy Spirit, we all have one hope. If we cannot unify in the spirit as one body with the hope God has given us, what can we unify for?

Unity does not mean we must follow the same liturgy nor agree on the shape of the church building nor even which day of the week we meet. It does mean we all agree there is one Lord and Savior, we serve Him as one body, and we love one another as brothers and sisters in Him. It means we stop squabbling over minor points of preference and link arms together as a unified body of Christ on what is truly important to God.

I pray we commit to being part of one body. I pray we work to remove divisions by way of the Spirit. I pray each one of us come to realize we serve one God in one hope. Seek to heal division. Be unified in the Spirit. Unify as one body. Serve one God. Hold on to one hope.

Ephesians 4:3-6 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.

Peace and Conformity

Are you looking for peace? Do you want to belong? Would you like to be part of an organization or group of people who appreciate you and welcome you in? How welcoming are you? Are you open to changing your outlook?

We all want to feel as though we belong. We seek approval. We want to feel welcomed and appreciated. We don’t want to change. We want to be accepted for who we are, no matter what that may look like.

We are inundated with messages to be who we are or who we want to be, often with subtle negative connotations. The implication is that we can be bull headed, stubborn, and resistant to others. We are encouraged to buck society, but not in an effort to improve society.

In complete contradiction to the messages we see and hear today, Paul tells the church in Colossae to be filled with the message of Christ. He tells them to let the peace of Christ rule in their hearts. Notice that he gives them a message of conformity. Not to conform to the negative attitudes of their culture, but through encouragement, gratitude, and deed in the name of Christ.

In other words, Paul is encouraging the church to be different than society in a very good way. They are to act as one and do so through music. The songs of God are to reign within them and be their encouragement. Have you ever had negative thoughts while humming a hymn? I think not. When the music of God is coursing through your heart and mind, your focus is on Him. He wraps up his message encouraging the church to speak and act in the name of Christ while giving thanks to God.

I pray we all seek to change for the better. I pray we let the peace of Christ rule our hearts. I pray we allow the music of God to encourage us in our daily lives. Seek positive change. Seek the peace of Christ. Be thankful at all times. Sing of God. Speak as Jesus would. Do all things in Jesus’ name.

Colossians 3:15-17 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Use Your Gifts

Have you spent time determining what gift or gifts you have received from the Holy Spirit? Do you understand why He gives us gifts? Do you know how He determines what gifts to give? Would you like to know?

The Holy Spirit gives, minimally, a gift or talent to each one of us. For some, He distributes multiple gifts. If He gives multiple gifts, one is stronger within us than the others. Our part is to use them as they are intended.

Paul clearly tells the church in Corinth those gifts are given for the common good. In other words, we are given gifts to improve the lives of those around us, for our community, and for the world. Unfortunately, some will read that as though it means giving others what they want from a worldly perspective, which couldn’t be further from the truth. It means to give them what they need to become followers of Jesus. Sure, we are to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the sick, but always with the love of Christ and always to show them Him with the intention they choose to follow Him.

The Holy Spirit also distributes as He sees fit. That may seem a bit odd, unjust, or random. Yet, it is not. We must understand that the Holy Spirit is God, just as the Father and Son are God. He knows what each of us need to execute His plan. We are gifted individually so that we fit within the larger picture of the church. Each local body of Christ has the gifts needed to carry out the work God has set aside for them. We must recognize the gifts we have collectively and put them to use.

The Holy Spirit has given each one of us a gift or gifts for His purposes. As we seek to follow Jesus, we must seek to know what our gifts are and seek to use them as He desires. This is not a great mystery. It merely requires us to set our own desires aside for His.

I pray we all seek to know what gifts we have received from the Holy Spirit. I pray we seek to see how they fit within the church. I pray each one of us will choose to follow Jesus’ desires. Know your gifts. Put your gifts to work for God. Choose to follow God’s plan. See how you fit in the work of God. Do your part within the body of Christ.

1 Corinthians 12: 7, 11 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good…. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

Renewal by the Holy Spirit

Are you looking for a “do-over?” Would you like to have a fresh start? Do you long for renewal? Have you reflected on previous decisions and wish they could be washed away? Do you know a fresh start and renewal are possible?

Often when the calendar rolls over into a new year, we look to start afresh. We use things like this to trigger trying something new. Yet, in our minds, we know we cannot truly erase the bad decisions of the past. We won’t get a true restart.

Far too many in this world follow that paradigm and remain lost. They don’t really know the power of God. Perhaps you are one of them, perhaps you think you know, or perhaps you really know. God does provide a restart. Not exactly the way we might envision it, but in His way, one we would do well to follow.

The restart He offers is when we truly give ourselves to His Son, Jesus Christ. We do so through both inward and outward signs. The most important is within, in our hearts and minds. It requires us to give up ourselves, allowing God to wash us clean of the evil within. An outward sign of that is baptism, but it is the washing through the Holy Spirit that truly cleanses us.

God saves us from evil, both within and without, giving us a new birth with His Spirit. We start over as a new person because God justifies us by His grace, which is only made possible because of the sacrifice made by Jesus. We become heirs of God, brothers and sisters of Jesus, when we accept God’s offer to start anew.

It is only fear of rejection by this world that we fail to truly follow Him and accept His offer. We are afraid of what our friends, family, and co-workers will say. We are afraid they won’t want to associate with us anymore. Yet, God promises far more than any of them ever could—eternal life with Him.

I pray we all desire renewal offered by God. I pray we allow the Holy Spirit to wash us clean. I pray each one of us accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, receiving the gift of eternal life. Seek renewal. Accept God’s offer. Accept cleansing from the Holy Spirit. Receive God’s grace. Receive eternal life.

Titus 3:4-7 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

God’s Guarantee

Do you purchase warranties when offered? Do you look for products that have a guarantee attached to them? Do you desire a guarantee in life? Are you looking for a promise you can count on no matter what?

We are offered warranties for many products we purchase. Sometimes we buy them and sometimes we don’t. We see products with a “guaranteed satisfaction or your money back.” Unless it is an expensive product, we won’t bother taking it back regardless of whether we are satisfied with it or not.

When we meet people, we try to get to know them. We use what we discover to determine if we like them and if we can build a good relationship. Why? We are looking for a guarantee, even if we know one will never come.

There is a guarantee we can count on. When we believe in Jesus Christ and accept Him as our Lord and Savior, we are guaranteed an inheritance from God. That guarantee is delivered by the promised Holy Spirit. He comes to live within us.

The Holy Spirit is like the company behind the warranty we purchase, in that He continually reassures us we are redeemed in Christ. He reminds us that we will be forgiven when we fail. He gives us comfort, knowing we don’t have to be perfect because there is One who was perfect. However, He continually encourages us to strive toward perfection through our relationship with God.

So, we can be the recipient of a guarantee. It is a guarantee that will never fail, never be broken, never be taken away from us. Why does God give us this guarantee? For His glory. So that we will praise Him for our rescue.

I pray we all believe in Jesus Christ. I pray we accept Him as our Lord and Savior. I pray each one of us comes to fully understand the guarantee God has promised and delivers. Trust God’s promises. Be sealed by the Holy Spirit. Be redeemed in Christ. Accept the guarantee of your inheritance.

Ephesians 1:13-14 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

Hope Through the Spirit

Do you have hope? Are you filled with joy? Do you live in peace? Do you seek to have those in your life? Do you know how you can find them? Would like to have them to the point of overflowing with them?

It is our human nature to desire a peaceful and calm life. Yet, we often find ourselves in the midst of disruptions on any given day. Our peace is broken. Calm has is replaced by chaos. Worry suddenly takes over.

Joy and peace can be ours for the taking, no matter our circumstances. We may have momentary disruptions, but we return to joy and peace quickly. However, we cannot simply will ourselves to have joy and peace. They come from a source far greater than ourselves. They come from our trust in God.

As we trust God, He fills us with the joy and peace we desire. His Holy Spirit grants us hope through His power and indwelling of us. The hope we receive is not wishful thinking, but a hope that is rooted in truth and trust. We are confident that our hope will come to fruition because it comes from God.

If we do not trust God, we are in opposition to Him. This may sound harsh, and we may deny it. But spend just a moment to think about it. What happens when we trust in ourselves and pursue our desires? We push our agenda rather than God’s. We push God aside to go our own way. Simply put, we oppose God’s desire for our lives.

Once we decide to trust God, regardless of what is going on in our lives, we see God working in our lives in ways we have missed before. We discover the joy and peace He willingly gives us. The Holy Spirit fills us with a hope we cannot achieve on our own.

I pray we all decide to trust God. I pray we seek to follow His plan for our lives. I pray each one of us accept the joy and peace God is willing to give us and overflow with hope from the Holy Spirit. Trust God. Seek His will. Follow His plan. Receive joy and peace. Accept hope from the Holy Spirit.

Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Experience the Holy Spirit

What questions do you have about the Holy Spirit? Do you wonder when you receive the Holy Spirit? Do you wonder if the Holy Spirit is in you? Have you had experiences with the Holy Spirit?

The Holy Spirit is a mystery to many Christians. They don’t talk about Him. They don’t study Him. They know about the Father and the Son, but the Holy Spirit is the one member of the trinity that is often misunderstood or not understood at all.

Despite popular belief, the Holy Spirit doesn’t necessarily come to indwell us when we are baptized. If someone wants to dispute that, they need only look at the story of Peter going to visit Cornelius, a centurion, a Roman soldier who is the leader of one hundred Roman soldiers (Acts 10). In today’s military, he would be a company commander. As we can see in today’s verse, after Peter had told them about Jesus and recognized them as believers, the Holy Spirit came upon them. Peter then stated they should be baptized. Not quite how we might think about events transpiring based on our traditions.

To answer the question of when the Holy Spirit comes to indwell us, we must suffice it to say He indwells us as God pleases. Now, don’t take that the wrong way. God isn’t holding His Spirit back from us until we’ve checked all the right boxes. In fact, God gives us His Spirit to guide us into a closer relationship with Him.

We experience the Holy Spirit in dreams, thoughts, nudging’s, intuition, and through study. He communicates with us regularly. The question is not so much whether we can experience the Holy Spirit, but are we paying attention? Are we listening for Him? Far too often, we drown Him out with the noise of this world. We use entertainment to occupy our time and dull our senses. We need quiet time to hear the Holy Spirit, to focus on Him, to gain a better relationship with God.

I pray we all seek to hear the Holy Spirit. I pray we spend quiet time with God. I pray each of us will listen for the Holy Spirit and choose to follow His guidance. Trust God to give you His Spirit. Trust the Holy Spirit to speak to you. Listen for the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Follow His guidance.

Acts 10:47-48 “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.

A Personal Gift

As we continue looking at the Holy Spirit and the gifts He gives this week, what gift or gifts have you been blessed with? If you are curious, there are a variety of test you can take. However, I recommend you talk with your pastor or spiritual leader for guidance regarding which one you use.

God’s Holy Spirit has been at work in this world from the very beginning. We see in Genesis 1:2 “the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” He was there at the very creation of the world. He worked through Israel’s leaders and prophets throughout the Old Testament.

As we move into the New Testament, we see the Spirit come over Mary to impregnate her with the embryo of Jesus (Luke 1:35). He filled Elizabeth and the unborn John when Mary arrived at their home (Luke 1:15, 41). He descended on Jesus when He was baptized by John like a dove (john 3:21-22). Jesus was filled with the Spirit and was led into the wilderness for forty days (John 4:1-2).

At Pentecost, the Apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit. On that day, they were gifted with the ability to speak in different tongues. This was just the beginning of the spread of the good news about Jesus and the salvation God was offering the entire world. People from many nations heard the Apostles speaking in their own language and marveled at both the language used by the Apostles and the message they spoke.

We are gifted by the Holy Spirit. He gifts each of us as He desires. We may wonder how He decides what gift to give each one of us. He decides based on how He sees our lives unfolding and God using us to fulfill His plan. Each of us have a part to play and the Holy Spirit provides us with the gifts we need to be successful. Our part? To recognize the gift we have been given and use it where God has placed us.

I pray we all seek to recognize the gift the Holy Spirit has given us. I pray we seek to fulfill God’s plan for our lives. I pray each one of us use our gift to enlarge the body of Christ. Discover your gift from the Holy Spirit. Use your gift to fulfill God’s plan. Use your gift to serve others. Use your gift to expand the body of Christ.

Acts 2:4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Learn from the Holy Spirit

Where did you receive your education? Do you continue to learn? Are there certain people in your life you trust to teach you? How do you decide what to learn? Have you thought about learning from God?

We learn many things from many people. We go to school, at a minimum, for twelve years to achieve a high school diploma. Many of us go on to college to achieve a bachelor’s degree in a specific field of study. Some continue their education to achieve a master’s degree or even a doctorate.

Beyond gaining an education in school, we learn on the job, through experience, and through self-study. Often, the more we learn, the better off we are. We can better discern what is best for our lives. We make better decisions. We learn to think through the problem rather than making an emotional or knee-jerk decision.

We can also learn from the Holy Spirit. He doesn’t typically blow us away with loud outbursts to gain our attention. Instead, He is the still, quiet voice inside us. He may reveal insights to us through dreams or thoughts. If we pay attention, we will feel Him leading us by nudging us in the direction we should go.

We can almost think of the Holy Spirit like we think of a mother’s intuition. However, there is a very distinct difference. Whereas a mother’s intuition may be based on familiarity with their children, the Holy Spirit’s guidance is intentional. The Holy Spirit nudges us, gives us thoughts, teaches us how to interpret God’s Word with intentionality to give us the abundant life Jesus promised. Our part is to be attentive, listen and follow the guidance the Holy Spirit provides.

I pray we all are attentive to the Holy Spirit. I pray we listen for His still, quiet voice. I pray each of us will follow the guidance provided by the Holy Spirit. Be attentive. Listen for the Holy Spirit. Follow His guidance. Live the abundant life. Trust in Jesus’ promises.

John 14:26 “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”

Give Extravagantly

What gifts do you anticipate for different celebrations throughout the year? Do you expect especially large gifts at Christmas? Do you desire to give expensive gifts at Christmas? Have you considered the gifts brought to Jesus at His birth?

We generally like to receive gifts. As we get older, we look forward to giving more than receiving. We enjoy seeing out children opening the gifts we give. We are touched deep in our heart when we give to those who are less fortunate and see their gratefulness.

We know the gifts the Magi brought to Jesus at His birth. We have heard the story of how each gift was given for a specific reason, even if those reasons may not be exactly what the Magi were thinking at the time. Despite our suppositions, we don’t know why they brought the gifts they did. We do know each gift is considered to be extravagant.

Gold was as treasured in the days of Jesus’ birth as it is today, if not more so. It was used to purchase items and made into jewelry. It was typically held by those considered to be rich. The poorer people only had silver coins rather than gold.

Frankincense was used in the temple to make a fragrant aroma to the Lord. It was placed on the table with the bread of the presence and with grain offering. It comes from a gummy sap from trees in modern day Yemen and ground into a powder that could be burned.

Myrrh also comes from the gummy sap of plants, such as fennel and anise, that are native to modern day Arabia and Yemen. It was typically used in one of two forms—oil or a hardened resin. The oil was used to anoint bodies to prepare them for burial. The resin was heated to make a fragrant aroma as well.

Though we may not give gifts such as these to one another today, we can give just as extravagantly. Giving of ourselves in service with love is just as precious in God’s eyes. Giving ourselves to His service out the love we have for Him is precious in His sight.

I pray we all give extravagantly to God. I pray we serve Him out of the love we have for Him. I pray each one of us please God by serving one another and Him with the love He has for us. Give extravagantly to God. Love God as He loves you. Serve God with love. Serve one another with love. Be precious in God’s sight.

Matthew 2:11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.