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?

God’s Love vs Human Love

Have you ever been disappointed by love? Maybe your heart was broken by the one that you loved. Maybe those that are supposed to love unconditionally (parent’s) abandoned you. Somehow, in some form, we have all been disappointed, betrayed, hurt, or negatively impacted by “love.”

God’s love is so different from the love that we have come to understand and believe in our world today. Love to us has become a feeling. It’s fleeting, flimsy and just plain weak; that is, compared to the true love that God offers. We have come to believe that  we are at the mercy of love, rather than knowing that love is a choice. We hear people say often, “Well, we fell out of love”, or “We simply dont love each other anymore.” Because of what love has become in our world it’s no wonder many people don’t truly understand the love of God.

Do you know, even for the most righteous person, the one who walks the walk and talks the talk, His love is not fully comprehendable.

One of the aspects of the Bible that I really appreciate is how the authors, all throughout, have put human attributes on God. All in order that we, as humans, might be able to understand Him better. God’s hands (Psalm 31:5), His eyes (Proverbs 15:3), His arm (Isaiah 62:8), and the voice of God (Ezekiel 10:5). The problem, however, with this is the very thing we do best as humans: mess it up. I’ve been guilty if it, and I know I’m not alone; the process of taking more human, sinful traits and projecting these characteristics and tendencies onto the Lord. If doing such and such makes Him smile and pleased, then doing this sinful act clearly makes him sad and disappointed. There are a lot of assumptions made in a statement or a thought process such as this. And there is not a whole lot of truth in it.

When we begin to place our fallen, human characteristics on God, several things begin to happen:

1) We are calling God a liar. From His mouth it has been told to us, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, My ways are not your ways. They’re higher.” (Isaiah 55:8-9, paraphrased);

2) We place God in a box, which leads to the third point;

3) His characteristics become human rather than that of the One True God. We strip Him of His sovreignty, His omnipresence, and His omnipotence. Everything that makes God who He is quickly disappears.

4) Ultimately, then, this leaves us completely devoid of hope. Without God, there is not Jesus. Without Jesus, there is no salvation. And without salvation, there is no hope.

God’s love is far beyond our understanding. I’m not convinced we’ll even understand it once we reach Heaven. God’s love is without conditions, it is the same today as it was yesterday and will be tomorrow, nothing can separate us from the love of God. And because of His love we are able to experience true love, therefore being able to love others as He has loved us.

We are human, so we cannot do this perfectly. But as the Church we should set the example: forgive as you have been forgiven, offer grace and mercy as He gives us daily, live as a child of God not as a child of the Devil. Can you imagine the revolution, the revival we could have in our lives, homes, and community if we loved with even an ounce of the love that God shows us!?

Start today, ask God to change your heart and mind, ask Him to reveal His love to you so you can show it to others. Ask Him for a willing heart, a confidence that can’t be shaken, and courage to obey when it’s hard. When you ask, He will always answer. When you ask, you will receive (Matthew 21:22Jorhn 16:24, 1 John 3:22James 4:3). This will not be easy; I’ve adopted the slogan, “Being Christian is not for the faint of heart.” God is going to break you and mold you, to make you more like Him. While it’s no cake walk, the rewards are eternal, the joy that comes from serving Him with abandon is beyond describable, the relationship you forge with God is priceless. The rewards reaped from sowing in God’s love, will far outweigh any hardship you might experience.

Colossians 3:12

John 14:21

Prayer: God, we give you our lives and hearts. Take us deeper than we’ve ever been, farther than we dare go on our own. Jesus, make us more like You. Give us willing, obedient hearts, completely dependent on You. We love You, and look forward to Your plans with hope, peace and joy. In Your powerful name we pray, let it be so!