One Body, Many Parts (Identity in Christ Part 19)

MRI Showing Tumor in Spine

Hello dear friends. Tonight I wanted to talk about something I am passionate about, the Body of Christ. As His co-labors we are called to not only have a relationship with Him, but with other believers. Each member of the Body has a role to play. Christ is the head of the church. We cannot not function without Him. If we as the Body do nothing, how successful are we at building His Kingdom? If my body is paralyzed, I am not going to move as quick or be as effective. Let’s investigate what Paul had to say.

Unity and Diversity in the Body-1 Corinthians 12-31.

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.

In our western society we focus mainly on a few parts of the Body: pastors, missionaries, evangelists, and worship leaders. They are the noticeable parts of the Body. They are the honored parts of the Body. Well, what about everyone else? Paul states every person has a role to play and the parts that seem weaker are indispensable. The parts we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. What if your role in the Body is to invest in your children, or pass out flyers, or set up or tear down at church? What if your role is to infiltrate business, arts, media, education, politics, or your workplace with the Gospel and love of Jesus? What if what you do for God goes unnoticed by everyone but Him? It’s easy to look at other people and think God only uses certain people. It’s also easy in the western world to come to church Sunday after Sunday and not invest anything in anyone. It’s easy to come to be served instead of serve. It’s easy to go unnoticed in larger congregations, no one sees you come or go. It’s easy to not know anyone from your church. That is not what Paul told us we are to be. No condemnation here. We don’t invest out of guilt, but love. If we are forced to serve or invest in people or the Kingdom, God tells us we can keep our gifts.

What’s stopping us from being active parts of His Body? Here are some possible reasons.

1. We are comparing ourselves to others instead of looking to Christ to find out what role we are to play.

2. We think of church as a place to go instead of a community we are to be actively involved in.

3. We think God only uses and speaks to special people.

4. We are waiting on some sign to tell us what to do.

5. We are consumers instead of investors.

6. We are relying on someone else to do it. We rely heavily on the same people who are “called” instead of recognizing we are all called to fill a role.

7. We want a front and center role instead of an unrecognized one.

8.  We are waiting to be asked instead of volunteering or serving without being asked or noticed.

9. We don’t see how vital we are to the Body.

10. We are inward focused instead of community focused.

11. We think the Holy Spirit only works through certain people, “special people.”

First let me say the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead is working in born again believers. It’s not a different Holy Spirit for different people. I’ve seen children with spiritual insight and operating in the gifts of the Spirit. They are extremely effective because they are relying on God and aren’t filled with unbelief. God works through ordinary people.

Jesus told the disciples to preach the Gospel, heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the leper, drive out evil spirits, disciple others. We are called to do the same things. We are here to do what we saw Jesus doing. Freely we received, freely we give (Matthew 10:8). We all have a role we can play. The role no matter how small we think it is, is important to God.

What if you’re wondering how to daily or weekly bless the Body of Christ. I talked to a friend tonight about this very topic, we can think of how we enjoy blessing people and do that. If you like hosting events, be a host. If you like kids, volunteer to help a mom or in children’s ministry. If you enjoy encouraging people, encourage people. If you like giving, give. If you have words of wisdom or insight, share them. If you enjoy praying for people, pray. If you like teaching, teach. God encourages us to eagerly ask for opportunities to bless others. He is not stingy. He will use us mightily for Him. I read a quote that I love, “We can all do great things as long as we don’t care who gets the credit.” We are all called to bear one anther’s burdens, pray, give, share, love. There are ways we can all be a blessing.

Closing thoughts:

You have a significant role to play that no other person was destined to play. You are a crucial part of Christ’s Body. No part is insignificant or not valued. I was in a car accident the end of January and had one rib out of place and two cervical disks out of alignment. The nerve pain radiated down my arms, to my fingers. The burning pain was awful. The tops of my feet felt like they were on fire. I could not get comfortable. It took the Spine specialist ~10 minutes to put them back into alignment and the pain was gone. It wasn’t my brain, heart, lungs, or major organs malfunctioning. It was a small rib and two disks that impacted most of my body. I even had tingling on face. Every part must work for the Body to be as effective as it can be.

May we never forget we are to work together to build God’s Kingdom. We all have a role to play and it’s for His Glory.

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Honor-A Way of Royalty (Identity in Christ Part 18)

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Made Alive in Christ-Ephesians 2:1-10

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

However, you are chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, people who belong to God. You were chosen to tell about the excellent qualities of God, who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light, 1 Peter 2:9.

And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering, Romans 8:17.

Hello beautiful people. As we journey on this investigation of our identity in Christ I wanted to talk about honor. It is a way of royalty. I wrote about honor several months back, but wanted to touch on it again. Jesus told us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. If you read the news, watch the news, or even engage with people you will find our culture lacks honor. Gossip, back biting, disrespect, bad mouthing, slander, put downs, sarcasm, unconstructive criticisms plague our airways and conversations. Honor is something everyone wants. Honor is not something everyone wants to give.

What is honor?

Honor: to regard with high respect or esteem, to treat with dignity.

Honor is a component of love. It is something all follows of Jesus are called to. It’s not just for some people or leaders. It’s something we are all to do. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another,” Jesus (John 13:34-35).

There are those who say, “We can abolish the commandments of Jesus because we are no longer under the law, but under grace.” We are under grace. Grace does not by any means take away from us doing what God has asked us to do. Grace says, “You are not made right by keeping the law, it’s by faith.” Grace also says, “If you are living under grace you will have a desire to do what is right.” We spoke a few posts ago about abiding in Christ. We will not be able to honor others without the help of the Holy Spirit. We may be able to honor people who treat us well, but we will not be able to honor those who treat us poorly. Without God, we can not do what He asks us to do (John 15:5).

By nature, humans are selfish and self-centered. We are born desiring the world to revolve around us. With God’s help we learn to be other focused and to give honor away instead of wanting it for ourselves.

When we know who we are in Christ, as the verses above tell us, we can walk in confidence. We do not have to demand anything from anyone, for we know who our Daddy is and who we belong to. We are heirs with Christ. We are not the scum on the bottom of God’s shoe. He adopted us into His family. We are a Royal Priesthood, set apart to do great things for Him. When we know who we are in Him, we can’t help but honor others. We did not deserve His love, or the gifts given us through Jesus. We are blessed beyond measure.

I don’t ascribe to the philosophy that we must focus on how awful and sinful we are to be humble. It’s actually another form of pride. It is a focus on self instead of a focus on Christ and what He has done. God has good things to say about us. He never agrees with our sin, but He does not seek to belittle us to no esteem at all. He wants us to have Christ centered esteem, clinging to His words about us. As His children, we are not scum. We are His Beloved. Also a person who does not like themselves or understand God’s personal love for them, cannot and will not be able to love or honor others. We cannot give away what we have not received.

What honor is not:

Honor is to not agree with what is wrong. Honor is to respect a person as someone valued by God. We can disagree with someone or something and still give honor. It is not a yes man or yes women mentality. It is a, “I will speak to you and about you the same way I wish for someone to do for me. I will treat you the way God would treat you.

We can fight against injustice without dishonoring others. We can teach, preach, and share the Gospel without dishonoring people. Our culture has made honor being politically correct, that is not the true definition of honor. Honor does not say what is wrong is right and what is right is wrong. Honor chooses not to humiliate, hurt, harm, harass, condemn, or destroy others. Jesus modeled honor for us. For the woman caught in adultery He said, “I do not condemn you, go and sin no more,” (John 8:11).

We are also not called to seek to control people or force them to ascribe to our belief system. Honoring others means that we allow people to make choices for themselves. God allows us the right to refuse Him. We have to give people the right to refuse us without disrespecting them or mistreating them.

I have had to ask myself the questions as a quick spot check for honor:

Would I want this said to me or about me?

Is this helping someone or hurting them?

Will the other person walk away with hope or despair?

If the person knew I said this, would they be hurt, damaged, or encouraged?

Do I treat all people like they are important to God?

Does my behavior reflect the heart of God?

The questions are not to be introspective or condemn, but to ponder if my actions or words are aligning with the heart of Jesus. I have failed at times to honor everyone; I am thankful for the grace and forgiveness of God. I know honor is something God wants to grow in all His children. I also know what it’s like to have insults hurled at me, to be disrespected, dishonored, criticized, and treated like gum on someone’s shoe. God does not treat me that way. I do not wish to do those things to others.

Every person we meet is someone Jesus died for. May we know our place in His heart and walk in our true identity as royal heirs in His Kingdom.

Final Prayer:

Father, forgive us for any ways we have not walked in love or have not honored others. Help us to abide in Your love so we are beacons of light in this dark world. Remove any negative thoughts about You, ourselves, or others. We are valuable to You. May we know it in our hearts and seek to give that love, respect, and honor to others. In Jesus precious name, Amen.

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Joined Together (Identity in Christ Part 17)

Couple on Beach

Do not become partners with those who do not believe, for what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship does light have with darkness?~ 2 Corinthians 6:14.

If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you,~John 15:19.

Tonight, I wanted to tackle a somewhat controversial topic, our associations with non-believers. Some read scriptures and say that we should no longer associate with anyone who does not believe what we believe. That is not what Jesus modeled for us. He interacted with sinners, ate with them, and treated them well (Matthew 9:10). He loved us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). The verses in the Bible that warn us not to be yoked, linked, bound, and to have partnership with those who have no love for Christ speak to something deeper. It is not that as believers we are more valuable or loved by God. God loves everyone the same. The Bible does not tell us to look down our noses at anyone, but to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. We are not to be arrogant. We are also not called to forsake wisdom.

To be yoked which 2 Corinthians 6:14 original translation used, meant to be tied together, joined together, linked in a bond where one person went, the other must follow. A good example you may be able to relate to is a three legged race. If the two people are tied together, there is no opportunity to go a separate way. One will have to compromise. God advises us not to be linked, joined, and partnered in situations with people who do not love Him and the choices made can cause us to forsake His ways for the relationship. It’s not a, “Avoid all people who don’t think like you.” It’s a “Don’t link your life to things or relationships that may cause you to compromise.” In our day and time I can think of several examples.

1. Marriage. God tells us not to marry someone who does not believe in Him or follow Him. Not to be cruel or controlling, but He knows that in marriage two become one. How can two be joined together if they do not agree? He also states that if you marry someone and they don’t believe, it’s not grounds for divorce. So, if you’re already married to someone who is not a believer, leaving them solely for that reason is not validated by scripture. God knows trying to join two lives together with two people who love God can be challenging. Trying to join two people where one is in love with God and the other is not, can be more challenging.

2. Business partnerships.  Being business partners is something to pray about, seek God, and seek Godly counsel. If you link your life or livelihood to someone who has different morals, ethics, and core values, you may run into trouble down the line if they decide to go in a direction that is opposite your belief system.

3. Friendships, close friendships. I have friends who do not love God. I love them the same as the ones who do. I do not, however, engage in all the same activities they do. I do not compromise my beliefs to be there for them. If they go some place I don’t feel is appropriate for me to go, I don’t go. God is the standard for living, not friends, especially those who have no relationship with Him. I choose not to spend copious amounts of time with people who constantly speak negatively of others, gossip, etc…And sometimes if it’s someone I am bound to by family ties, I will try to change the subject or keep it positive.  I am friendly to everyone, but I don’t allow everyone or everything full access to my life. I am learning as I grow to allow God to pick my friends and close confidants. He knows all and has everyone’s best interests at heart. He knows how to link the right people together.

Final words:

We were not created to fit in, blend in, or conform to the ways of this world. We were not created to force the world to be like us. We were created for the glory of God. We are a light in the world. We are no longer in darkness. We have nothing to brag about, we can only boast in God’s goodness and show the world how awesome our Papa is. We are not spiritual snobs, but humble partners with Christ to impact the world. May we link our lives to Jesus. May we love the way He loves without compromising our integrity or walk with Him. May we be an influence in this world instead of being influenced. May our relationships be what God wants them to be.

You are loved friends. I hope this post shed some light on a controversial topic. Blessings,~Erin

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Abide in the Vine (Identity in Christ Part 16)

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“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing,”~ Jesus, from  John 15:5.

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit–fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name,”~Jesus, from  John 15:16.

“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you,”~Jesus, from John 15:7.

I want to focus on John 15:5. Jesus tells us that He is the vine. What does this mean? It means He is the source. To the audience receiving this message, a vineyard would have created a picture for them that was easy to understand. We are the branches, meaning we are not the source. Any good in us come from Him. Any fruit of the Spirit manifested in our lives comes from Him. Therefore, no person can boast of how good or righteous they are. We have no righteousness of our own. Any self-righteousness is like filthy rags to Him. All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away, Isaiah 64:6. We can’t be holy enough to please God. We can’t do enough good works to earn His favor. It’s only by faith in Christ, relationship with God, the acceptance of the sacrifice of His shed blood, that we are able to obtain righteousness.

Apart from God we can do nothing. I love the verse, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength,” Philippians 4:31. The key to the verse is that the strength comes from God. It’s not our strength. I went through four years of very challenging relationships, stress at work, family members sick with cancer, and looking back the only thing holding me together was Jesus. I had a lady tell me I must be faking it because there’s no way I should have had it together (not that I did). I see Jesus holding a fragile person together. It wasn’t my strength. It was His strength. The past few weeks I’ve lost two family members and survived a car accident which totaled my car. It’s not me who lives, but Christ who lives in me. Does this mean we have no weakness? Absolutely not. We will still struggle, cry, maybe weep, maybe stumble along this rocky path called life. It does mean that God keeps His promise to be our strength if we abide in Him.

He’s looking for fruit.

If I plant tomato seeds, I expect tomatoes to grow. God is looking for fruit in our lives as well. We are intended to look more and more like Him. What is this fruit? It is the fruit of the Spirit. Let’s take a look at Galatians 5:13-25

 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

When we first start walking with Christ, we will not automatically have all the fruit manifested in our lives. God works in us to sanctify us. We are already justified by faith, but we don’t look, act, or consistently behave like Jesus. It’s a process of being with Him, submitting to Him, and abiding in Him. I love Bill Johnson’s quote, “Many believers have the Holy Spirit, but does the Holy Spirit have them.” God will not force us to grow up, mature, or submit to Him. He will lovingly keep pointing in the direction of truth, pruning us so we can bear more fruit, and setting up circumstances so we could become more like Him.

What does it mean to abide?:

To abide means to remain in or  stay connected to.  Sunday morning service is not enough to abide in Christ. If we ate food only once a week, we’d be weak and starving. If we only spend time with God every blue moon, then spiritually we are not as strong as we could be. I am not an advocate of forced time either. God like us, knows when people don’t want to be with Him, but they are doing it out of obligation. He wants us to want to be with Him.

Jesus who was God in the flesh took time to be alone with the Father. He regularly left the crowds to be alone with His Father. The disciples would look for Him and He’d be away. If Jesus did it, there’s a good reason why. God is our source. It’s not people. It’s not the TV. It’s not the internet. It’s not our family. It’s not our Pastor, Priest, or Rabbi. God alone is the One who can change a wicked man into a righteous man. God alone went to the cross for our sins. God alone heals to wholeness. Without intimacy, partnership, relationship with God, we can not do anything. We are alive today because God allowed it. We need more than anything to be with Him. He said to love Him first, then others. To put Him first above all others. God is more important than a spouse, family member, friend, pastor, job, ourselves, or anything in this world. We become like the one we spend the most time with. God says, “Spend time with Me.”

Final Notes:

We are the objects of His affections. God doesn’t love us based on the fruit in our lives. He loves us whether we are progressing or not. He longs for us to grow so we can be blessed and be a blessing. If we look like Jesus, and acted like Jesus, how blessed would we be and the world? The word Christian originated from the fact that the early church was doing what they saw Jesus (the Christ) doing. If we don’t look like Him, then how will the world get to know Him? I’ve met too many people who are turned off from church because they have encountered mean, hateful Christians. At certain points in my walk, I have encountered hateful people who claimed Christ as Lord which made not want to fellowship with other believers. The point isn’t to judge or condemn others. Every person has their own journey. And we are to pray for people, knowing we are not perfect either. The point is, to abide in the One who is life. We can impact the world for good! Jesus did. He’s calling us to follow His lead.

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P.S If you’d like, join me on http://ithoughtiknewwhatlovewas.com. The Journey into God’s heart. Weekly posts about the Father, God’s love, and book excerpts. Bless you friends. Praying you are blessed richly this year.