AS BEST YOU CAN

“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Eph. 4:3

Have you ever wondered how the Disciples could possibly have operated as a cohesive unit?  Talk about contradictory group dynamics!  Just look at the two Disciples who eventually wrote Gospels.  Matthew started out as a hated tax collector, yet with single-minded intent portrayed Jesus as Messiah; John,  “Son of Thunder,” was apparently a hot-tempered youth, yet became a contemplative mystic.  Then there are the two Simons:  Simon the Zealot wanted to overthrow the government, and Simon Peter was over-zealous in self-confidence.  The only thing that seems to connect these men is their love for the Master.

This week, let’s explore what unity is like.

Day 1:  “Do nothing out of selfish ambition…but in humility consider others better than yourselves.”  Phil. 2:3

If we ever fall short of accord with each other, could it be because we are short on humility? In particular, do we not sometimes take pride in our convictions, waving them like a banner, and assume our Lord is proud of us for it?  Today, choose an apple, core it, and carefully slice it into several equal pieces. At the core of our faith is absolute Truth, definitely; yet every single believer, even if her views differ from yours, is a precious, equal slice of the whole. This is what unity of the Spirit looks like.

Day 2:  “Make every effort….”  Eph. 4:3a

For a season, our group of ladies assumed we knew all about unity, as we cried and laughed together, prayed and thought we could conquer the world together. But our congregation went through a transition, and soon we were scattered among several churches. It was devastating. But God (don’t you love a sentence that starts but God?) scoops us back together from time to time; now our laughter and prayers, and even our tears have a sweeter, purer ring.  This is what unity of the Spirit sounds like. Have you experienced separation from a Christian sister?  Regardless who or what is “at fault,” make the effort today to restore your unity.

Day 3:  “…to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”  Eph. 4:3b

One of my Christian sisters is now active in a church whose pastor publicly slung mud at my church, and I took it pretty personally.  That same week, my friend requested prayer for a ladies’ class she was beginning in her church.  What do you think I did?  I gave myself a good shake, and I prayed with fervor!  Today, check your rear-view mirror.  Is there some conflict in your wake that has prevented your fervent prayers?  Give yourself a good shake and get over it! This is how unity of the Spirit prays!

Day 4:  “…The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” Gal. 5:6

Is all my talk of separation and conflict making you feel tense?  Take a deep breath; inhale the sweetness of the Spirit.  There’s work to be done, and we’re commanded to do it in love.  Today, get some more apples and bake a pie (or buy a pre-baked one).  Deliver the pie to someone in need of encouragement, and add some words that you know will lift them up. Add a good hug while you’re at it. This is how unity of the Spirit moves.

Day 5:  “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Rom. 12:18

As best you can, says Paul, live at peace, not war.  How often have you heard the expression, “Pick your battles?”   And how often has that adage applied to battles of words?  Today, pick your battle.  Arm yourself, not with weapons, but with a medic’s kit. You know someone who is embattled, fighting for the Kingdom, maybe losing heart. Bring that person the ointment of healing words, and find a way to pour over them the oil of joy.  This is how unity of the Spirit fights.

Advertisements

Aside

Are you learning something about yourself each week?  I sure am, and I’m not sure I like what I learned today.  (See Stand up Straight, Girls) Seated in Christ holding an armload of blessings was the assignment.  The image that formed in my mind was of myself clutching a small bunch tightly to my heart.  Quickly I amended this mental image–I know and believe that God’s blessings, poured out on billions of His children down through the ages, are overwhelming, never-ending, abundant, running over.  I know this.  My arms can not even hold all that He has blessed my small life with, so generously.  Lord, forgive me!  Heal whatever corner of my heart that feels the need to clutch your blessings as if you would ever be skimpy.  May I learn from the picture you have given:  Your life within is an ever-flowing spring from which I may drink my fill and share.  May I never be stingy with the water you give.

STAND UP STRAIGHT, GIRLS!

I think posture might be my nemesis.  When I was a kid, my mother was always telling me to stand with my shoulders back!  Sit up straight!  She must have been on to something, because as an adult, I’ve crimped my back bending over and pinched my neck slouching in front of the computer.

Over and over, Scripture tells us we are “in Christ,” but what does that mean, exactly?  What posture are we expected to maintain “in Him”—lying down, sitting, standing, leaning, what?  Let’s explore our stance in Christ this week by reading Ephesians 1.

Day 1:  Ephesians 1:3 tells us we’ve been blessed “in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ,” and 2:6 promises that we are “seated” in those heavenly realms “in Christ.” Our position is seated, sitting down.  Now Jesus is seated because His work is completed, but I’m definitely still a messy work in progress, far from complete.  So for now, “seated” implies I’ve been asked to stay.  What greater blessing could there be than to be invited to sit down and fellowship with the Almighty Creator and King Jesus!  Today, whatever you’re doing here on earth, picture yourself seated in Christ’s heart, in heaven, holding an armload of blessings.

Day 2:  Next, Ephesians says we are chosen “in Christ” to be holy (set apart) and besides that, we are predestined to be adopted and guaranteed an inheritance.  (Eph. 1:4, 5, 14) That means that before the world was created, before you were ever born, God’s intention has been to set you apart and make you His daughter.  This is absolute Truth that you can stand on.  Let your habit today be to stand up straight, shoulders back, knowing that you are the dearly loved daughter of the Eternal Father!

Day 3:  On top of that, we are accepted, given the gift of God’s grace, in Jesus, “to the praise of His glorious grace.” (Eph. 1:6) As long as you believe this, God sees you in Jesus and accepts you and loves you exactly as He loves His own Son Jesus.  Your position today must be one of praise, in whatever posture you picture Jesus praising the Father, because you are praising “in Christ.” Standing with your hands lifted?  Lying face-down on the floor?  However you choose to praise, maintain that posture in your attitude today.

Day 4:  Today you are going to dance, because you have been set free.  In Christ, “we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins…” (Eph. 1:7)  God’s justice demands that the guilty (you and I) must be punished, but Jesus “redeemed” you, bought you with His own blood, so that neither you nor I have to be chained to our guilt.  We get to live eternally free, rewarded just as if we were blameless and good.  Dancing may not seem to be a posture to you, and maybe you think you can’t dance, but Sister, once it hits you what you’ve been set free from, you’ve just got to cut loose!

Day 5:  You have purpose!  Everything, from your hope in Christ to the times in which you are living, is part of God’s larger purpose, and it all, even your particular circumstance, is “for the praise of His glory.” (Eph. 1:12)  Here’s my circumstance:  My aging parents live two hundred miles away, my husband’s elderly parents consume quite a bit of his time; we have a cherished, busy adult daughter whose time we covet, plus a business to run, church activities, and gatherings with friends.  It is a balancing act between knowing my life is intended to glorify my Lord and the reality of the daily grind.  Today you will balance on one foot, as best you can, as you contemplate your own balance:  eternal purpose against earthly reality.

Aside

With every week, I seem to learn something new.  Case in point, this week (Watch Your Step), it is ironic that I can do nothing besides watch my step.  Even though the cast is off my foot, I still need to think through every single step–from journeying to the loo to gathering laundry, I’ve attempted to plan so that I don’t waste steps.  But of course, halfway through my work day today, I felt the need to hobble across the plant just to pin a work order to the board.  Now my foot hurts.

Or, take my 87-year old mother, and I share this with utmost respect.  When she kept stumbling this weekend, I emphatically urged her to “Sit down, Mother; you’re so tired you’re stumbling around.”  At which she took me aside and with equal emphasis informed me she wasn’t tired; her bedroom shoes were too big.  As if that cleared it all up and absolved her.

What I’m learning is this–when we mis-step, we need to sit down.  Sip something warm and soothing.  Contemplate exactly why our walk has stumbled.  In my case, why do I do this to myself?  Why not just ask one of the boys to come get the piece of paper?

It can take as much grace to sit down…as to keep walking.

WATCH YOUR STEP

Do you ever have to remind yourself to watch your step?  Like the night I was hurrying in to church and apparently stepped in some cat poo in the parking lot.  There I sat prissy in my own righteousness, wondering who around me smelled like cat poo.  Yes, I should have paid attention to where I stepped!

This week we’re going to consider carefully where we set our feet.

Day 1: “But as for me, my feet had almost slipped…” Psalm 73:2

Our river neighbor, Cotton, tells about weed-eating close to the steep river bank, his feet firmly planted so he wouldn’t fall. Thinking his weed-eater cord kept hitting his pant leg, he finally looked down to discover he was standing on a coiled snake, which was repeatedly striking at his leg.  He stepped in a treacherous place, wouldn’t you say?  Today, for as long as you can stand it, wear your most perilous high heels to remind you that we risk stumbling from the godly path unless our focus is on our God.

Day 2:  “…He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to go on the heights.” Hab. 3:19

I love to hike in the mountains!  Besides enjoying the scenery, mastering a ridge makes me feel exhilarated, strong and capable.  Do you know that the One who formed you wants you to feel this way?  He is all about your well-being.  He wants you to challenge yourself, try new things, and He wants you to succeed within His purposes.  Today, tie on your hiking boots and dare yourself to try something new!

Day 3:  “…He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” Psalm 40:2

No matter the distress you’ve experienced in the past or might be enduring now, know that your Awesome God is aware of your trial, and He will make it His business to see you through it until you are on solid footing.  And once you’ve gained some traction, then you’re in a better position to reach out and help another person out of their mess.  Wear your work shoes today, and keep an eye open for someone who could use your help.

Day 4:  “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” Prov. 16:9

Have you ever had this to happen—you’ve sought the Lord and discerned your path with every intention of doing His will, only to have your situation end up an apparent misstep?  What did you do next?  Did you freeze in place, afraid you had missed your life’s course?  Look at the second part of our verse.  The Lord can’t determine your steps unless you’re actually moving forward.  Trust your Sovereign God enough today to put on your walking shoes, pray for guidance, and take the next step you’ve been afraid to take.  His plans for you will never fail.

Day 5:  “Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O Lord.”  Psalm 89:15

As I write this, I confess I’ve been a bit out-of-sorts this day.  It’s been a challenge to sustain the image of keeping my feet within His light, because with my mind distracted, the circle of light seemed so small.  Yet only within His light can there exist Shalom:  peace, wholeness, all as it is supposed to be.  And so I began to “acclaim” Him by praying blessing over the very people and issues that sidetracked me.  Guess what?  The light of His presence spread! Try it today as you enjoy some time in your bare feet, on holy ground.

Aside

Listen to the birds! (see IN THE COOL OF THE DAY)  This bright winter morning that feels like spring, I couldn’t help but listen.  A bird high in the willow tree was bellering the same three notes over and over.  I imagined that she was calling her mate, “Where are you, where are you?”  May I never be deaf to God Almighty’s daily whisper, “Where are you?”