One Body, One Lord

Ephesians 4:1-7

If you’re a Christian, you know the importance of being part of a church, because that’s where we grow and worship together as the body of Christ. However, it’s also a place where conflicts, disagreements, and annoyances occur. Although we are saved and destined for heaven, we still live in a fallen world and struggle with our own sins and weaknesses. What’s more, we come from diverse backgrounds and have different personalities and levels of spiritual maturity.

That’s why it’s essential that we learn to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling” of Christ (Eph. 4:1). How would a physical body function if the various parts ignored the brain’s direction and did their own thing? That’s what happens when a church won’t listen to its head, Jesus Christ. The inevitable result is conflict as individual members push their own agendas.

The only way we can walk worthy of our calling in a local church is to have the qualities mentioned in verse 2: humility, gentleness, patience, tolerance, and love. When these Christlike attributes characterize a group of believers, being together will be like a small taste of heaven on earth. Although there may still be disagreements, the manner in which they’re handled will change. Instead of angry outbursts, silent resentment, and bitterness, there will be greater concern for the other person than for oneself.

Our involvement in a local church is one of the ways God works to conform us to His Son’s image. The close connections developed within the community of faith will both encourage us and sand off the rough areas in our life. In that way, we end up looking more like Christ.



Why Do People Follow Jesus?

John 6:22-71

When Jesus walked this earth, a vast multitude followed Him. They came for many reasons—some noble, some self-serving. The same is true today. It’s important to understand what motivates people to come to Christ, since not all who seek Him are really His followers. In fact, we should each analyze our own Christian walk by asking ourselves, What do I want from Him? How committed am I to being His disciple?

Many of the people who followed Jesus did so because they had urgent needs that He alone could meet. Everywhere He went, the sick and demon-possessed were brought to Him—this is one of the ways God draws us to Himself. Those who can solve their own problems don’t know they need a Savior.

Others came for sensationalism—to see signs and miracles and feel a thrill of excitement. Today some people come to church or conferences to get pumped up. But mountaintop experiences are always followed by valleys. When challenges come, such people are quick to abandon the Lord.

But Jesus’ disciples followed Him because they genuinely believed that He was the Messiah, the very Son of God (Matt. 16:16). Their commitment went beyond emotions. They wanted to know Christ and walk closely with Him.

Are you more interested in what Jesus can do for you than in just being with Him? Do you find it hard to stay committed without some impressive experience to sustain you? Our physical and emotional needs can draw us to the Lord but cannot sustain our walk with Him. Consider starting the new year by reevaluating your commitment to the Lord.



Acknowledge God

It is so easy to start making a plan instead of waiting on God to give us His plan. Sometimes we are so entrenched in our own plans that we don’t even sense the leading of the Holy Spirit.

But the proverb says to acknowledge God in all our ways, and that means to care about what He thinks and submit our plans to Him for approval.

Having a plan is not a bad thing, but we can simply say to God each day, “Lord, I have a plan for today, but I acknowledge You in it. And if You don’t approve of any part of it, then I am willing to change and do what You want.”

If you truly care about what God desires, He will direct you in the way you should go if any changes need to be made to your plans.

Prayer Starter: Father, I lift my plans up to You for this day. Please lead me by Your Spirit and direct me in the way I should go. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.



God of the Ordinary

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid.  I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.’”  Luke 2:8-11

Have you ever felt insignificant?  In a world of 4 billion people where the news is filled with political and social issues and people overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds, do you ever feel unimportant…ordinary?  If so, take heart!  Scripture makes it clear that even the most powerful forces on this planet, without their knowledge or cooperation, are under the guidance of a sovereign God who is using them for His glory – and for the sake of plain, everyday, ordinary people.

There is perhaps no story in history that drives home this truth more clearly than the events surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ.  God used the Roman Empire to get a poor, young Jewish couple from Nazareth to Bethlehem.  Why?  So that the prophecies of the Messiah would be fulfilled – He must be born in Bethlehem, yet be from Nazareth.  So God orchestrated it through Caesar Augustus and his census.

And who received the news of Christ’s arrival first?  It was not kings or priests or the wealthy and well-known.  God chose to send a choir of angels to give a concert to a group of shepherds in the fields.  The birth announcement of the King of kings and Lord of lords was delivered to ordinary, hard-working, humble people.  Notice the angel said, “A Savior has been born to you”…you who are lowly, poor, ordinary, dirty, overlooked and forgotten…He is your Savior, too.

Proverbs 21:1 says, “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He will.”  He is the God of the ordinary man.  In this we can greatly rejoice, because unbeknownst to them, every king, ruler, president or general in the world make decisions that accomplish His will.  He does it so that His children will be conformed to the image of His Son.

Father, I give You praise, honor and glory for the greatest gift in the world – Jesus Christ my Savior.  His holiness, majesty and might deserved a throne in heaven, and yet He chose a feeding trough in a stable so that I might know You.  Thank You for Your love, grace and forgiveness.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen. 



Watering Again

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” John 4:10 NIV

Living in a house without an automatic sprinkler system has been an eye-opening experience
for me.  It has made me realize just how often grass needs watered.  And
it’s helped me learn the hard way that grass will simply die without a continual water
supply.
As I watched the sprinkler the other day, it occurred to me that, much like grass,
we continually need water.  We need watered each and every
moment of our lives.  We need to draw from God’s Living Water—His
life.  Only as we continually draw from Christ His life and strength
will we be able to grow strong amid the scorching heat and searing winds of life.
Are you drawing from Christ, your Living Water, today?  Or are you
trying to live on your own?  God’s life and strength awaits you.  Let
Him water your soul over and over again each day.



The Story Of A Nail

Missionary Hubert Mitchell set off into the thick jungles of Sumatra to reach an animist tribe deep in the heart of that country. On the way he stopped to buy fish and some cans of mandarin oranges, and then continued on the trail. Eventually he came to a group of people who at first were afraid, but Hubert’s assistant persuaded the Chief that Hubert had come from a great distance with a wonderful message called “Good News.”

Hubert began to tell the story of Jesus.  Taking two pieces of a small tree, he tied them together to form a cross. Lying down on the cross, he explained that the soldiers nailed Jesus’ hands and feet to the cross.

Suddenly the Chief spoke up, “What is a nail?”Taken aback, Hubert tried to explain. As he talked, the people started to pull away. “Don’t go. There must be a nail somewhere around here.” The men searched pockets and knapsacks but found no nail.

Thoughts flooded his mind. “Oh Lord You brought me all this way from the U.S. for this?” After lunch he opened one of the cans of oranges for dessert. Pouring them onto his plate, he was ready to toss the can–when he heard a rattle. Opening the can further, he looked inside, and there at the bottom of the can was a nail!

Hubert jumped to his feet. “This is a nail! This is what they put into the hands of Jesus!” Calling everyone back to the center of the clearing, the Chief asked Hubert to tell the crucifixion story again. Soon the people started to weep with deep sobs, tears flowing down their cheeks, as they heard the message that God loved them and that their sins could be forgiven. It was the beginning of a miracle in the lives of that tribe–all because of a nail in a can of oranges.O



Christ

“’But what about you?’  He asked.  ‘Who do you say I am?’  Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ.’”  Mark 8:29

When we look upon the carpenter from Nazareth we discover God in totality, the Almighty, the One true Creator.  Christ is the first person to appear in creation and He is preeminent in all of it.  All things visible and invisible were created by Him, through Him, to Him and for Him.  He is the originator as well as the goal. Christ existed before time as the eternal Son.  He is above time, outside time…He is the beginning, and was before the beginning.  Space and time are His servants.

The entire universe is held together in Him.  He is the cohesive force, the glue, and the gravitational pull that holds all created elements together.  Remove Christ, and the entire universe disintegrates.  Christ is the meaning of creation – eliminate Him and the universe has no purpose.  Remove Him and every living thing loses its meaning.  The One who created the universe watched it fall.  He saw the revolt in heaven and the wreckage on earth.  The Lord looked upon His own creation as it morphed into an enemy – His own enemy.

Then He did the unthinkable – He penetrated a fallen world.  The only way anything in all of creation can be reconciled to God is through Christ.  He is the Savior of the world. He became incarnate and took on human flesh.  He humbled Himself and became a fetus.  He grew inside one that He created for nine months, and then allowed Himself to be born in a smelly, dirty, stable.  God incarnate was wrapped in dirty rags and laid inside a feeding trough.  Christ entered His own creation to reconcile it back to Himself and to His Father.  God incarnate cried real tears.  God got hungry and breastfed.  He burped and spit up.  The Creator of the universe allowed His created ones to change His diaper.  He went through puberty, and cut His toenails.  God became a person.

This Christ, the Jewish carpenter, was slaughtered outside the city gates.  The incarnate Son became the incarnation of sin and corruption.  The spotless one became sin.  But by His death He brought an end to the old creation.  The fallen creation died, having made peace with its Creator – and then by His resurrection He brought forth from the womb of death a new creation – of which you are a part.

Where there was hostility, He brought peace.  Where there was separation, He brought union.  Where there was death, He brought life.  And this will blow your mind: Because of that hill, His blood, that cross – you stand holy, spotless, blameless, without reproach and accusation in the sight of a holy God.

That’s not all:  This Christ created a new human race, a new creation, a new people like Himself.  This new race is His own Body, a multi-membered creature we call the Church.  The Church is not separated by race, gender, language, geography, cultural differences, denominations, or preferences.  It is bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh – and Christ is the head, authority and source of that Body.

Wait, there is more: This Christ defeated the greatest enemy that God ever faced – death, the offspring of sin.  He conquered its power, extinguished its sting, and dismantled the fear attached to it.  Christ passed through death and came out in resurrection – and He is the first to return from the dead to never taste it again…but He wasn’t the last.  This glorious Christ defeated death, the grave, the curse, and the entire world system.  He annihilated sin, Satan, and all condemnation.  He slew shame, conquered guilt, and shared His everlasting victory with you.

All things are in this Christ.  All things are through this Christ.  All things are for this Christ.

Father, All praise, glory and honor be to Christ, Your amazing Son.  My prayer is that my life will point this world to Him.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.  



Them Bones

Duffy Daugherty, a colorful Michigan State football coach in years past, used to say that you needed only three bones to journey successfully through life: a wishbone, to dream on . . . a backbone, for strength and courage to get through the tough times . . . and a funny bone, to laugh at life along the way. Not bad advice.

When I think of these three bones, the apostle Paul immediately springs to mind. Though under arrest and facing an uncertain tomorrow, his wishbone was in healthy shape. His dream of spreading the gospel far and wide was being realized. “Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel . . . and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear” (Phil. 1:12–14).

How about Paul’s backbone? Need I repeat the dark side of his resume? “Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure” (2 Cor. 11:24–27).

Curiously, though, all this did not embitter or sour the Apostle of Grace. His funny bone stayed intact. In fact, no other writer of Scripture mentions joy or rejoicing more often. Remember when he and Silas were seized by a hostile mob, beaten mercilessly, then dumped into a dungeon with their feet fastened in stocks? It was around midnight at the end of that same day, while their sores were oozing and their bruises throbbing, that he and Silas were praying and singing a few duets of praise (Acts 16:19–25).

What exceptional dreams . . . what relentless courage . . . what contagious joy!

History is still being written. And we’re still on the journey from here to eternity. The destination’s sure for the Christian, but the trip isn’t easy.

Dream big . . . don’t let anybody or anything break your wishbone. Stay strong, full of faith, and courageous . . . keep that backbone straight. And along the way, don’t forget to laugh and enjoy the journey.

Your funny bone isn’t merely a nice option;
it’s part of your survival gear for the trip to glory.



Remaining in the Vine

John 15:7-17

When Jesus gave the disciples His final instructions before going to the cross, He repeated a particular word. Abide—which occurs 10 times in John 15—isn’t one we use often, but it accurately conveys the relationship between Christ and His followers.

Abide means “to remain, dwell, continue, endure, or tarry.” Can you hear the call to faithfulness in these words? Our relationship with Jesus isn’t a onetime event of salvation but a long and steady walk with Him.

Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches” (John 15:5). This is a fact for everyone who has been born again. But He also tells us to abide in Him (John 15:4), signifying that we have some responsibility as branches in Christ. Therefore, it’s essential that we know how to remain in Him.

Jesus says to let His words abide in us (John 15:7). Incorporating God’s Word into our minds and hearts is how we dwell with Him and learn to know Him intimately.

Obedience is another essential aspect of abiding (John 15:10). It’s like being an employee who obeys his manager’s instructions and does not take matters into his own hands. We are to rely on the Spirit’s direction instead of strategizing and making plans on our own.

Abiding in Christ also includes our relationships with fellow believers. Jesus commands us to love one another just as He has loved us (John 15:12).

God’s desire is that we bear much lasting fruit by abiding in Christ. This isn’t a sporadic endeavor done only when convenient; it’s an enduring commitment to remain in God’s Word and continue in obedience and love



Reenergize Yourself

If you are worn out all the time, it will affect your spiritual life because you won’t want to pray, study the Word, or walk in the fruit of the Spirit. If you are no longer sensitive to other people’s needs, you aren’t hearing from God.

If you are this tired, it is time to reenergize your life. Prune away the things that wear you out; don’t try to do what you think everyone else is doing. Wait on God to lead you, and get the rest you need to enjoy your walk with Him.

Prayer Starter: Father, I ask for Your help to lead a healthy and balanced life. Show me areas that need changing. Help me to schedule enough time for rest, relaxation, and time with You. I don’t want to live worn out, but I want to be healthy—spirit, soul and body—so I can be led by You and be a blessing to those around me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.