Unity

It’s my prayer and hope that we at Healthy Follower may spark a revival by the inspiration of Holy Spirit as we write, and that we as the women of His Church would stand united in love, walking in a manner worthy of our calling.
     Ephesians 4:1-3 “Therefore, I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” 
     Let’s pause there and consider what this calling is that Paul is talking about. I think it’s easy to look at this passage and think that it’s for those who have been called to a “high”position-pastors, elders, church leaders, missionaries… but that’s not the case. Paul is writing to a church, not the pastors. We are all called to something. 
     You cannot begin to assume that this Scripture is only for the leaders of the faith. God did not call us all to be pastors, or elders and deacons, or worship leaders. Look at Ephesians 4:11 “He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors, and teachers…” (no, this is not a comprehensive list…) But for what reason did He give us a specific calling and gift? “…for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God…” We all have our own calling, in order that the body of Christ, the Church of Christ can grow and flourish. So that we can help our fellow brothers and sisters develop in their relationship with Christ so that they too, can help His Church grow. Love begets love, discipleship begets discipleship. And this is what creates unity. Psalm 133:1 “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for [sisters] to dwell together in unity!”
     Can I just point out here in this piece of Scripture in the Psalms, that there’s an exclamation point? You don’t see that often in Scripture. I’m an expressive writer and use exclamation points probably more than necessary, so this should really grab your attention. At least, it grabbed mine.
     But have we fully answered the question: what calling is Paul talking about? 
     If we look at the beginning of His letter to the Ephesians we can see in the very first lines he writes that we are called to be holy and blameless. We have redemption because of this calling. We are called into His love. It’s the calling that I know many, if not all, of you have answered. As my dear friend tells the little children, it’s when Jesus is knocking on the door of your heart and you answer the door to let Him in. 
     God has called each one of us into His family. We are His workmanship, his prize possession, His creation that is, in His own words, “very good.” He has predestined us for adoption into His family to be His daughters. We are wives, mothers, grandmothers; we have all been called by God Himself into a role that no one else can fulfill. That’s why He created you. Because He needed you to fulfill a part of His eternal plan. This is your purpose, and this is His will for your life. He is your calling. 
     So then, that leaves the question: how do I walk in His calling? There are so many ways when you look at our lives and the Church. So many ministries, service projects, volunteer opportunities, hearts to touch-where do we begin? Or as I have often cried out to God in desperation, “How do I do this life!?” I’m glad you asked, because my buddy Paul has the answer! We start with our own hearts. If we don’t love God, we can’t truly love others, because God is love. 
     We are to walk with God in humility, gentleness, patience, and showing tolerance for one another because we love, AND we are to be diligent in preserving the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Simple, right? … Maybe if we weren’t so sinful.
     These characteristics and traits that are mentioned appear to be outward actions. However, God has taught me over and over again that the outward actions of man (and by man I mean me) are an expression of what is happening within. So as I said before, we start with our own hearts. Proverbs 4:23 “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” These qualities are your“springs of life.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 is the “Love Is” passage. Love is patient, kind, long-suffering, not easily angered…”springs of life.” Fruit of the Spirit, Proverbs 31, Titus 2-”springs of life.” All of these traits and attributes are a direct result of your relationship with God, good, bad, or needing improvement. 2 Timothy 1:14 “Guard,through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.” Use the armor of God, the breastplate of righteousness, to protect and guard the treasure you’ve been given. 
     However easy it is to say to guard your heart, guard the treasure, it’s not always that simple or that easy, is it? God didn’t call us in order that life would be easy. He did call you with a tender voice and hand, with compassion dripping from His lips as He said, “Come to Me because I see that you are weary. I see that you are burdened with the weight of your sin. I see the burden you carry that is your marriage, your addiction, your need for control, your need for perfection. I see you. Come with me, rest in My presence. I will hold your hand as we walk through this together; I will carry you when you’re too weak, I will pick up the broken pieces of your life and replace them with My love and truth.” 
     This calling is not easy. Our calling is to be holy, blameless, set apart. Our calling is to be in the world but not of the world; to be the salt and light to a tasteless and dark world. Jesus talks about sin in the most extreme way. There is no place for sin in our lives. He said to pluck your eye out, cut your hand off if it is causing you to sin. What’s your eye, or your hand?
     Is it the TV, phone or computer that’s distracting you from time with God or time with your family? Is it a friend or a group of friends that without fail always ends up gossiping or bad mouthing someone or chose to live in such a way that leads you down a crooked path? Getting rid of your sin has to be extreme. But it will still look different for every single woman here. 
     One of my biggest sin struggles is laziness, and it is directly tied to the TV. I’m an all or nothing kind of personality too. Netflix has new episodes of my favorite baking show? I’m binging! I watched just about an entire season in one day. I could pat myself on the back and say, “Well, I’m improving. At least I was doing housework during this binge.” Or I could be honest and say I knew better. Especially with some of the content that I was exposing my young daughter to. Why would I knowingly choose to expose my daughter to a show (or anything for that matter) that normalizes homosexuality, adultery, and premarital sex? Because I’m selfish. Really, though? All of that in a baking show you ask? Yeah, in a baking show. You can’t escape the devil. But you can protect your family from him, you can guard your heart, your life, your treasure, and your calling from his schemes. 
     Let me tell you what. With the reminder of my selfishness, and another TV mishap that had horribly inappropriate content…I’m done. I’m taking a break. Fasting from TV. And really, what’s the point anyway. There is so much more I can do with my time and with my family than watch a rectangle with lights.
     Check out verses 20-24 in chapter 4 of Ephesians. In reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” 
     Ultimately, sin, no matter how small it may seem to you, distracts and separates us from God and from our calling. This then begins to disrupt the unity to which we are called as the body of Christ. We limp through life rather than run with endurance; our sight becomes dim to the things of Heaven as we focus on the things of Earth. Peace turns into dissension, gentleness into anger, humility into selfishness and pride, and unity turns into denominations. 
     “For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” 2 Corinthians‬ ‭5:14-15, 17‬
     I pray that we would remember the grace that was so freely given to us. For unto “each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” The gift of His life. The sacrifice that Jesus made can not be earned-you can’t earn a gift. That’s why it’s a gift, isn’t it? Because someone loved you so much that they were willing. Jesus was willing to die for you. AND He was willing to live for you. That’s why He came back to life 3 days after He was crucified. All you have to do is be willing and open to accept that gift; to open your heart and life to Him. 
     The point in all of this is that Jesus is your calling, His Father, God, called you, and Holy Spirit is there continuing that call everyday. When we daily commit ourselves to our calling then unity is possible. But how we live that calling out will be different for every person here. Thank You, Jesus. Because I cannot see myself being doing my call in the kitchen; bless all of you who enjoy cooking. It is not for me! Although, maybe I shouldn’t say that out loud, God might hear me…We all need to fulfill our own calling, and it’s ok if your calling now is different than it was 3, 10, or even 20 years ago. I have had several different seasons of specific callings: serving in Nursery, Youth Group, serving my family, serving women. It was all for the same purpose-to build others up, spur them on, allow them to grow and develop so that one day they would also contribute in the same way to ultimately build the body of Christ. 
     Do you know what I really enjoy about this passage? My man Paul doesn’t leave us guessing at how to accomplish our calling. There are practical tips right here, and I didn’t have to think of them. Verse 25: don’t lie, speak truth, if you’re angry don’t sin, quit stealing and freeloading and looking for hand outs, work hard, don’t say anything that will give you Hand Foot Mouth. Pastor Cary Wacker calls it Foot Mouth Disease; you say something and realize you’ve just inserted your foot into your mouth. But we as women tend to be a bit more expressive, but the concept‘s the same. [Hand clasped over mouth, expression of horror]. Hand Foot Mouth. Scripture says that instead our words should be be encouraging, uplifting, and imparting grace to any who might hear. Imagine your life, your family, the Church would look If we held every word to this criteria. 
     What is Paul’s next get fit quick tip? Verse 30, don’t grieve Holy Spirit…listen to this translation. “And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, He has identified you as His own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.” ( NLT). We are to live in a manner worthy of our calling. I’d like you to understand what it means to grieve God’s Holy Spirit. Genesis 6:6. Psalm 78:40. Isaiah 63:10.
     As we finish out our time here in Ephesians, I will let God’s Word do the remainder of the teaching. Ephesians 4:31-5:2, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.”
What is Holy Spirit stirring in your heart? What sin is He calling you out of? What freedom is He calling you towards? What ministry is the acting out of your calling?

The Armor of God: Sword of the Spirit

Calvin’s commentary says this about the Sword of the Spirit, ”There is no man of any rank who is not bound to be a soldier of Christ. But if we enter the field unarmed, if we want our sword, how shall we sustain that character?” This is so true, isn’t it? No one is exempt from needing God’s Word. It doesn’t matter how much money you have, what your title is, or how much schooling you have, it certainly doesn’t matter if you come from a family with generations of Christians. And most importantly, it doesn’t matter if you’re in charge of a church or not. No man is exempt from needing the Word of God.

What other book can give us the solution to every question we have, every political issue, guide us to world peace, show us how to feed the starving, and give the answer to some of our major medical issues of today?

As a yong teenager I often find the Bible was boring. I would almost completely ignore the Old Testament; and honestly, when I did pick up my Bible, I didn’t know where to start so I was often reading a Proverbs to correlate with the date. The Bible was not alive and active to me, and this was by no one elses fault except my own.

As Believers we have become complacent in the most important thing we can do for growing our faith. Too often we excuse away time with God. How many times am I guilty of saying, “I’ll read my Bible after I do this…” But something else always comes up that’s more pressing than sitting with my Lord.

There are those who claim to be Christian that believe the lie, ‘the Bible is a bunch of stories, made up to prove a moral point or to convey a general concept’, particularly the Old Testament. There are men and women who claim to be Christian that do not pick up their Bible and do not pray, except on Sundays and maybe a midweek service; maybe they were really good this week and went to a Bible study too.

We have to stop playing the Heaven game and actually live the Heaven life.

Do you understand what I mean by this? We must be authentic in our walk. Walk the walk and talk the talk. We have to stop doing all the things because it’s the right thing to do, or because it’s what we’re supposed to do. We have to starting doing because we love. Start reading your Bible because you love God and want to know Him more. Start praying, without ceasing, because you love talking with God. Start serving because you love to further His kingdom on Earth. Start telling people the truth about Jesus because you love them, and would not see them perish but have everlasting Life!

Enough just going to church. The revival we pray for beings within. How do we seek out the lost, how do we find those that are pushed to the side, how do we love the unlovable?

First, we have to catch that fire. And we catch it by reading God’s Word, meditating on it, delighting in it, and do according to all that is written (Psalm 1:2-3, Joshua 1:8). The Bible is inspired by God, it’s useful for teaching truth, and for convicting our hearts (2 Timothy 3:16-17), it’s sharper than any two edged sword-it pierces the division of soul and spirit (Hebrews 4:12). It is alive and active, the Word is the main vehicle to which God uses to speak to us, to convict us, and to restore us.

In Isaiah 55:10-11 “For as the rain and the snow come down from Heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.” Now turn to Luke 8:4-18, the Parable of the Sower. This passage alone could be a study itself. But here are two things that I want to point out that Jesus says, “He who has ears, let him hear.” And towards the end He says, “So take care how you listen…” This goes back to inner revival and what you do with the calling God has placed in your heart. This goes back to what you do with the spiritual weapons you have. This goes back to how you are loving God. What are doing with what you have heard?

You know, naturally, I’m not a “start something up and get it done” sort of person. If there’s a cause or an event to get behind, I’ll jump in, but to lead something, no that is not me. God has pressed it so hard on my heart that we as the Church are not doing our part. We are not loving as God loves. We are not loving the way our Jesus demonstrated. There is still so much more we could be doing. We just have to have His eyes. I say this not to shame, but to inspire, just as the Word does. Catch that fire that God offers within His Holy Word.

Hebrews 6:5, God’s Word is good. Hebrews 4:12, sharper than any two edged sword. Ephesians 6:17, take the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.

I found something written in my Bible: strongholds of my soul will be destroyed by the sharpest sword, God’s Word. My strongholds at the time were fear, self doubt, selfishness, low self esteem, worry of what others think of me. As I have dug deep into the Word, as I have applied the Truth to my life, as I have believed the words that God has spoken about me as His child, as I have allowed His Word to transform my heart and renew my mind all these strongholds have been demolished. That ‘s not to say they haven’t tried to come back and rebuild a place in my heart and life. But I have found that it’s all about what I am doing, or not doing, with Scripture.

Are you feasting on the bread of life, or surviving on leftovers from last week?

Are you drinking the living water, or sipping from the well of self?

Are you delighting in the promises of the Lord, or are you overcome by the weight of the world and your circumstances?

The Bible “reveals a different kind of wisdom, comes from a different source, and tells of a different love.” It’s in the Bible that we will find the ability to forgive the unforgivable, to love the unloveable, to help the needy, to find the lost. It’s here we will find the strength and boldness and courage we need to face another day, to defeat our giants, and to win souls for Christ. It is His Word that will break the strongholds of your soul. It is Scripture that will provide you with the wisdom, the joy, the comfort, the compassion, the answers you need.

You can know the truth, but until you start walking in the truth, it doesn’t do you much good.

I want to encourage you that if you find reading the Bible a duty, or challenging, or boring even, talk to God about it. Tell Him your woes, ask Him to change your heart. I am a big advocate for exploring the Bible on your own. I think we get so caught up in “this is how you should study the Bible,” and forget that God gave us a mind of our own. Devotionals are amazing, don’t get me wrong, I still use them. But I have found the most joy, the most passion, the most information, the most knowledge by exploring on my own. That’s how this started. I had always wanted to know more about the Armor of God, but hadn’t ever found a study that went in-depth. So, I just started doing it myself, because why not.

If you’re feeling stale in any way in your faith, let us know. We can pray for you, encourage you; and trust that God will inspire you. But you have to be seeking, you have to be willing, you have to be ready for what He’s going to show you.