What Does Unity Look Like? Part 1

These next three posts may be some of my more controversial posts yet.  I hope you will bear with me through all three.    I am going to try to really drive home a point and the importance of true Biblical unity.  There may be times when it gets uncomfortable, but then again our Savior did not die so we could be comfortable.  He died so that we could be transformed into His likeness.  With that being said lets begin.

Our history started with the church understanding that whether Jew or Gentile, there was no difference.  However, even within that early history there was division.  And we cannot talk about this subject without hitting a very important topic.  Let’s look at I Corintians 1:10-13, “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.  My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you.  What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”  Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?”(NIV)  Does that sound like we could just replace a few names and be very contemporary?  The congregation in these verses were even meeting in the same house.  Notice they were not fighting over the style of music, but on who was there leader.

Now let’s go to chapter 3 and read verses 1 though 8.  “Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly–mere infants in Christ.  I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.  You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men?  For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere men?  What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe–as the Lord has assigned to each his task.  I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.  So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.  The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor.”(NIV)

What is Apollos and what is Paul?  Let’s plug in some other names here:  John Wesley, Martin Luther, John Calvin…..  We have a tendency to follow mere men and go with the opinions of mere men instead Scripture, instead of standing together as one in Christ.  Is that not what a denomination is?  And I write this as a Southern Baptist Pastor’s wife who loves her denomination.  But my denomination is NOT the church!  We’re just a part of it, doing our part.  Laboring for what God has given us.  That’s all!  That’s all any denomination is, doing it’s part.  If denominations ever get so arrogant as to say, “We are the church”, we are in disobedience. 

Like I said this is going to get uncomfortable.  We don’t like to talk about this very often.  And you can read this and say, “Yes, Vicky your absolutely right”.  Yet at the same time we don’t like to have those very important conversations.  You know the ones I’m talking about, those theological discussions on Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, etc. 

We have an unspoken rule in our society that basically says when you go to Uncle Tom’s house you don’t talk politics and you don’t talk religion.  Right?  We’ll we have an unspoken rule in the church that say’s, “When ya’ll get together, don’t take about doctrine.”  Just don’t go there.  Why?  Because we act like mere men when we go there?  But is avoiding those topics the desire of God?  And are we willing to leave behind the milk for the solid food even when we come together.

We have to ask ourselves if our husband wants a dysfunctional bride.  The answer, of course, is no He doesn’t.  Yet a bride that does not talk to each other is dysfunctional.  A family that doesn’t talk to each other is dysfunctional?  Isn’t that how we would classify that?  Is there a branch of your family that refuses to talk to each other or refuses to talk about certain topics? 

I want us to read a few verses in Ephesians chapter 4, verses 1-6, 11-13, and then 16.  It says,  ”As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.  Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.  Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit– just as you were called to one hope when you were called–  one Lord, one faith, one baptism;  one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”…“It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”…“From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”(NIV)

What does that peace mean again?  Oneness.  It represents that covenant, that everlasting covenant.  So when we get together and we talk doctrinal stuff and we start arguing and saying, We’ll I think this and I think that and that’s just the way it’s going to be and we’re just going to have to agree to disagree.  Are we not acting like mere men?  Yes, we are.

This is food for thought until our next post.  I hope I have not run you off.  We will discuss this again next time and then in part three we will discuss how we are to act toward one another.  How do we function as the Bride of Christ in true unity. 

A Member of the Bride,

Vicky

Advertisements

The Heart of God

This is where we live.  This chapter is all about today.  Not about what He did 2000 years ago. Not what we accepted when we came to Christ, but how we live in Christ today.  Because, obviously, He did not take us home when we said, “I do”.  So He expects some things out of us during this period of sanctification, during our period of Kiddushin, He expects some things out of us. 

This is where we are and so it is a matter of upmost importance.  This is the very heart of God for His wife, for His people, for His temple today.  I want to start by looking at a passage out of Ezekiel 37:15-28:

“The word of the LORD came to me:  “Son of man, take a stick of wood and write on it, `Belonging to Judah and the Israelites associated with him.’ Then take another stick of wood, and write on it, `Ephraim’s stick, belonging to Joseph and all the house of Israel associated with him.’  Join them together into one stick so that they will become one in your hand.  When your countrymen ask you, `Won’t you tell us what you mean by this?’ say to them, `This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am going to take the stick of Joseph–which is in Ephraim’s hand–and of the Israelite tribes associated with him, and join it to Judah’s stick, making them a single stick of wood, and they will become one in my hand.’  Hold before their eyes the sticks you have written on and say to them, `This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will take the Israelites out of the nations where they have gone.  I will gather them from all around and bring them back into their own land.  I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. There will be one king over all of them and they will never again be two nations or be divided into two kingdoms. They will no longer defile themselves with their idols and vile images or with any of their offenses, for I will save them from all their sinful backsliding, and I will cleanse them. They will be my people, and I will be their God.  `My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd. They will follow my laws and be careful to keep my decrees.  They will live in the land I gave to my servant Jacob, the land where your fathers lived. They and their children and their children’s children will live there forever, and David my servant will be their prince forever.  I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant.  I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever.  My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people.  Then the nations will know that I the LORD make Israel holy, when my sanctuary is among them forever.’”(NIV)

The nations will know.  I will make the two one, I will make a covenant of peace, an everlasting covenant with them.  This is what I believe is the very heart of God, oneness with His people.  He wants to be our God and for us to be His people and He accomplishes that through the marriage of His Son to His people. 

As we start to look in the New Testament and our early church history, we see that the church was first thought of as a Jewish sect.  That’s what we were.  Most believers in that early first century were Jewish, they were Jews who recognized their Melech Yeshuah H’Messhia, their King Jesus the Messiah.  So in that first century as Gentile believers started coming into the nation there had to be discussion about Jew and Gentile and so that is where we are going to start. 

Ephesians 2:11-19 says, “Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men)– remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.  For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.  He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.  For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household.”(NIV)

Members of God’s people, of God’s household.  Church hear me, the word ‘church’, the Greek word for ‘church’ in the Greek Septuegant, which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament, is used in talking about the congregation of Israel.  It is not exclusively a New Testament term.  The church is the congregation or assembly of Israel.  God seeks to make all His children, whether Jew or Gentile, one.  That is His purpose, to create in Himself one man out of the two.

I want to say very clearly at this point, I know there is a lot of talk out there in theological circles about replacement theology, which says that the church replaces Israel.  That is NOT what I am talking about.  I want to make that very, very clear.  The church did not replace Israel.  We have the awesome privilege of being brought into citizenship in Israel and to share in their covenant promises. 

Romans 9:6b states, “For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.”(NIV)  What Paul means by that is that just because one has the physical lineage of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob does not make them a member of the Spiritual nation of Israel.  Because only in Christ, only in Messiah, does that happen.  Even Jews must recognize their Melech Yeshuah H’Messhia, they must recognize their Messiah.

Romans 10:11-13 reiterates this, “As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”  For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile–the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.””(NIV)  He takes the two and makes them one.  Remember we are talking about the heart of God and what God desires for His own people.  This is God’s desire for us as we live out this life of following Him and awaiting Him.

We then find in Romans 11:12 & 15-21 & 23-26a, “But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring!… For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?  If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches.

If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root,  do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you.  You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.”  Granted, but they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid.  For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either…. And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.  After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!  I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.  And so all Israel will be saved”.

All Israel, the holy assembly of God’s people whether Jew or Gentile will be saved.  The heart of God, oneness among His people.  We have to be careful, the church has become awefully Gentile in the last 2000 years.  True?  True!  But we must not forget our roots, remember it was already mentioned that in the first century we were Jewish.  The church was Jewish.  The Apostles kept going to the Temple, they continued to celebrate the Feasts.  However as we became more and more Gentile we lost connection to the root.  We must remember and not stand on arrogance that we are the Church.  But remember that we stand on a root and they are our root and one day those branches that were broken off will be grafted back in.  You see there are not two trees of the church and Israel.  There is but one tree.  And we will all stand together in that oneness and in His covenant of  peace before God Almighty and marry His Son, those who have called on the Name of the LORD.   

Later in that Romans 11 in verses 30-32 we find, “Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you.  For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.”(NIV)  Jew, Gentile it doesn’t matter.  We all broke the first covenant.  We are all in need of a new covenant, every one of us.

A Citizen of Israel,

Vicky

God’s Armor

Today I want to talk about the armor of God in Ephesians 6.  Everything up to this point in Ephesians has been about unity and what that is, what that looks like and to some extent how do we do this, but beginning in the passage we are going to discuss today Paul gets down to the brass tax so to speak on how to administrate the unity of the body. Here is the passage:

Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil. 12 For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. 13 This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. 14 Stand, therefore, with truth  like a belt around your waist, righteousness like armor on your chest, 15 and your feet sandaled with readiness for the gospel of peace. 16 In every situation take the shield of faith, and with it you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word. 18 Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints. 19 Pray also for me, that the message may be given to me when I open my mouth to make known with boldness  the mystery of the gospel. 20 For this I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I might be bold enough in Him to speak as I should.(HCSB)

We are to be empowered by the Lord and by His awesome power, the two words here for “vast strength” are two different words that could both be translated “power”.  Paul is trying to remind us of the power he described to us earlier in the letter when he referred to the resurrection power.  In fact, the two Greek words used here are the exact same words.  This is   power power, awesome power, resurrection power, from God Himself.  This is the only power in the universe that is capable of changing and transforming lives.  Only the resurrection power can resurrect in us what is dead in sin, yet created, created in His image, to be alive in Him. 

Not only does God equip us with His power for the task, but He also gives us the tools we need to wield that power.  To be sure this task will take the full armor of God, not just a part of it.  We are in a battle against the realm of darkness itself, not mere flesh and blood men and women, but the original liar himself and his demons.  They are crafty and we must be alert and on guard every moment so that in the end we will be left standing.

So, what is this armor?  Obviously, Paul is using the Roman armor as a template, but is that all?  If we look closely at this armor we will find its pieces referred to in the Old Testament as well.  Remember, this gospel is about the mystery that makes us one with God and each other.  The Old and New Testament are not two disconnected pieces, but two parts of a whole.  One will always refer and define the other.  The Old Testament, will define the New Testament for us and the New Testament explains much about the Old Testament that was hidden, yet right there.  God is the God and author of both.  Both of them together tell His story.  So let’s look at what the Old Testament has to say about this awesome armor. 

The first part of the armor is the belt of truth.  We see that the Messiah is clothed in the belt of righteousness in Isaiah 11 where He is judging for the poor and needy and slaying the wicked.  He will do that in righteousness, but notice the section before that when the Spirit rests on Him — the Spirit of wisdom, understanding, counsel, power, knowledge and the fear of the Lord — in fact the fear of the Lord would be His delight.  In following the Messiah we can only do what is right and properly discern when we are listen to the Spirit of the Lord and the fear of the Lord is our delight.  This belt holds the inner garments in place.  For us only the truth can hold our inner being in place.  He, the Messiah, is the truth.  As we follow Him and strive to live righteous lives He and His truth holds us in place to continue the fight.  We cannot fight the good fight in ignorance or falsehood.

Next, we put on the breastplate of righteousness.  You see after knowing and believing the truth and in the Truth we must put on the breastplate of righteousness to protect our hearts from deception that leads us in the paths of death, not life.  We are to strive in the fruit of the Spirit, part of which is self-control, to do the right that God calls us to do.  In addition, the Messiah not only wore a belt of righteousness that held His inner part in place (remember He is the truth – John 14:6).  He was always alert and clear minded, never distracted by His own thoughts or thoughts from the enemy.  Can you imagine your prayer life like this and how awesome that would be?

The Messiah also wore a breastplate of righteousness.  He covered His heart with doing what pleases God.  Never did He waver.  In Isaiah 59 15a-18a it says, “The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice.  He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm worked salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him.  He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head; he put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak.  According to what they have done, so will he repay wrath to his enemies and retribution to his foes.”(NIV)  In this passage we see that His own righteousness sustained Him and was His breastplate as He did  the work of salvation and He will be wearing that same breastplate when He repays wrath to His enemies. 

In Psalm 132:9 we read the statement about Israel, “May your priests be clothed in righteousness..”(NIV)  You see He is the High Priest with His breastplate in place, remember the High Priest of Israel wore a breastplate with all the jewels of the tribes of Israel on it, and we are called a royal priesthood in I Peter 2:9.  Our breastplate reflects His – our righteousness reflects His righteousness.  We will never win the battles in life without it.  We cannot do our own thing and expect Him to bless it.  We cannot follow the deceptions of our heart and expect to win the battle against the enemy, at that point we are following darkness and not the light and we will fall.

Thirdly, we put on the sandals of “readiness that comes from the gospel of peace”(NIV).  Remember the gospel of peace is the good news of oneness with God, the mystery.  We get to proclaim that to others, which is what Jesus called us to in the Great Commission.  We are to take His message to the ends of the earth.  In Isaiah 52:7(NIV) it says, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!””  That is the awesome blessing He allows us to be a part of and at the same time being a part of that is also a protection for us in the fight.  The more we proclaim it and live it the more we come to understand what He did for us and grow closer and closer to Him and farther and farther from the arrows of the enemy.

Then we see the shield of faith with which we can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the enemy that do come our way.  We must hold it up, hold it up high.  It does us no good by our side.  We can be holding the shield and still get hit if we keep it down.  We must use His strength, the strength that we spoke of earlier.  It is only with His strength that we can hold up the shield and keep it up. 

It reminds me of when Aaron and Hur held up Moses arms while Joshua and the Israelites were fighting the Amalekites.  As long as Moses’ arms were up the Israelites were winning and when they were down they were being defeated.  That is why Hur, from the tribe of Judah, and Aaron, the High Priest, held them up for him.  He did not have the strength on his own and neither do we. 

Yeshua, the lion of Judah and our High Priest, is the one who holds our arms up, He is our faith, our strength and our shield.  It is when we humble ourselves that in due time He lifts us up.  Let Him lift you up with His strength and power.  We cannot be defeated if we use His strength to hold up that shield of faith.  Hold it up, hold it up high.

After all of this is in place we can put on the helmet of salvation.  This helmet not only protects the head, but keeps the head attached to the body.  He is the head, we are the body.  Just as in our discussion of the Bridegroom and the Bride we must stay with Him and do what is best for Him and He does what is best for us.  As we have a helmet so does He.  Back to Isaiah 59 we not only see the Messiah in a breastplate of righteousness as He works salvation, but also the helmet of salvation itself.  He wants to stay connected to us and so we should want to stay connected to Him.  So make sure that helmet is on.  How can we fight the battle if we are cut off from the head.  Protect your connection to Him.  That is why the helmet and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, are spoken of together.

The word of God is one of the main things that protects that connection.  Just as the body receives its instructions from the head so the body of Christ receives our instructions from His word.  It is our offensive weapon as it was His when He met Satan in the wilderness.  We must take this weapon and defend what He has given us, what He has entrusted to us. 

The enemy wants to make us believe we are not secure, but if we know our weapon and we are attached to the head, if we hold up the shield of faith and wear the breastplate of righteousness, the sandals of readiness, and the belt of truth, then this lie cannot enter into our hearts and deceive us.  We are His and He is ours.  Just as the master promised the slave to never leave him or forsake him, to abandon him, to pay his own debt on his own, our Master has promised to never leave or forsake us either.

With all of this equipment on we are to pray in the Spirit on all occasions.  Remember the passage we mentioned in speaking about Yeshua wearing the belt of righteousness.  He had the Spirit of God on Him and so must we.  We must pray in the Spirit for the saints to be able to fight the good fight along side of us.  We are in this together.  We are not alone.  He took those who were far and those who were near and made us one nation in Jesus the Messiah.  We must stay alert to this fact and the fact that the enemy will also stay alert for any weakness in our armor.  We must not let Him find one.

Finally, Paul asked for prayer for himself.  Not to be released from his chains, but for boldness to proclaim the mystery for which he is in chains.  Would you, would I, be willing to be in chains to proclaim the mystery, nonetheless, desiring to proclaim that mystery while in those chains.  No matter our circumstances we must put on His armor in His resurrection power and pray in the Spirit.  If we do we will be more than conquerors. 

Stay strong my fellow warrior,

Vicky

Hold The Line

Ephesians 4:1– “Therefore I, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received, 2 with all humility  and gentleness, with patience, accepting one another in love, 3 diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds us. 4 There is one body and one Spirit —just as you were called to one hope at your calling — 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”(HCSB)

Knowing the mystery and that he had been given the administration of this mystery, having prayed for the believers to know God’s power and love, Paul basically says “with that in mind let’s get down to brass tax”. 

That is what he means by the “therefore”.  To add weight to what he is about to say, to let his readers know that he understands how hard it is and will be he calls himself the prisoner of the Lord.  He has chosen to walk this path that has taken him to prison and he is calling the others to walk it with him.

This is the life they had been called to and are expected to walk in a way that is worthy, worthy of the calling.  And who called them? 

The Lord did, not Paul – God called them to this life. 

Is living the mystery as God wants it to be going to be easy? 

Absolutely not.  Loving and living as one will require their all and nothing less.  It will take the Spirit filled life. 

I want to break down this passage because it is so much weightier than how we often translate it to be in the English.

Beginning with the word “humility” we see that God is asking us to do something very contradictory to the flesh.  This word means to think lowly of ones self, having humiliation of mind. 

This is the exact opposite of the worldly message of self-esteem where we are called by the enemy to think highly of ourselves, to esteem ourselves instead of others and God.  This is by no means easy, but highly necessary.

Our next word is “gentleness “.  It is really the word “meekness”.  Unfortunately we do not really understand this word. 

It is not an absence of power, but a very intense power that is restrained and in control.  Meekness means knowing you have power, but not always exerting that power, or right, on others. 

Jesus is our greatest example of this.  He had the angels at His disposal before His arrest and He restrained that power for the joy that laid before Him, for the sake of His Bride and in obedience to His Father.  This is what this word is calling us to be.

Then comes “patience”, a word we simply do not understand.  This word does not mean just sit around and wait while we twiddle our thumbs. 

This word is the idea of fortitude, standing guard, being fortified.  It is being longsuffering in action.  Knowing you may be fortified, standing guard, for a long time, but willing to keep standing guard until God moves you.

Are you beginning to think, “O.K. that’s enough, please that’s enough”?  Like I said this is not easy, but God does not stop here. 

He talks about accepting or bearing with one another.  However, the word for “accepting” really means to “hold yourself up against”, in this case, one another. 

Are you getting the picture?  We are to hold ourselves up against each other in love. 

Now here is the idea.  The idea Paul is trying to create is a military line.  Like troops in formation, we are holding up against one another as a military line and the thing that glues us together is love.

I want to take the next phrase together. 

It is “diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit”.  The word “diligently” means to make every effort with speed. 

O.K. what are we doing with speed and with every effort?  We are keeping. 

The word “keeping” means to watch as in a watchman on the wall, to guard from loss or injury or to hold fast.  

We are on the ball, so to speak, and keeping watch on, guarding, and holding fast the unity or oneness of the Spirit.  We do this with the peace or oneness that binds us together– our love for one another.

Oneness or Unity is hard work, work that requires every effort and determination to stay the course. 

It is also something that does not automatically happen just because we are one body with one Spirit who lives in each of us. 

No He will not force this upon us but gives us the directions to achieving it through the power of His Spirit. 

We as the body are not one because we do not want it or seek it. 

We do not think lowly of ourselves.  We do not restrain our power or rights.  We have little fortitude and longsuffering and are unwilling to hold up against one another in love. 

We do not stand guard over the unity and oneness of the Spirit through any bond of peace.  We do not love one another as He has commanded us to do.

We do not do this and I am sad to say that for the most part I am afraid we do not even really attempt it.  We are comfortable being apart especially in our different denominations.  This should, just as it was for Paul with the Ephesians, be a matter of prayer and concern for us today.

We are to hold fast or hold the line, so to speak, on the matters of doctrine and life that follow in the book.  Staying firm on the fact that there is one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, above all, through all and in all.

Church… you must hold the line, hold fast.  You must stand guard over the oneness of the Spirit with all diligence. 

Let us live the mystery in such a time as this.

Vicky

Messianic Congregations

Today’s post is one of encouragement.  I want to encourage each of you to reach out to a Messianic Congregation in your region.  Not all of us have one close by so we have to think from a more regional perspective.  You can find the one closest to you by going to the Messianic Alliance of North America at http://www.man-na.com.  Go visit the congregation of your choice and ask how you can participate in their ministry.

My family and I are going to visit a Messianic Congregation in Nashville this Saturday, Kol Dodi. We plan on attending worship and then a Mikvah (baptism) service at the park.  I am really looking forward to this, it will be the first time I have been to a Messianic worship and Mikvah service.  Join me and my family in learning from these amazing people of God.

As I was doing some research this week on Messianic Congregations I also found congregations in Israel.  I have to tell you this was very exciting for me.  The first one I would like to introduce you to is Adonai Roi (The Lord is My Shepherd)/Dugit Messianic Outreach Centre found at:

http://www.dugit.org/dvd.html

I am giving you their dvd page because I would like you to watch these videos and praise God for what He is doing in the land of Israel.  I have had some trouble seeing all of the top video, but the other three work fine.  These videos will amaze you and you will be left with no other response, but praise.  My response was, “And God smiles”.  God is breaking down their wall of hostility and making them one, making them family.

Our prayers need to be with these brothers and sisters in the Holy Land.  I hope you enjoy these videos and also take the time to browse the sites. 

God bless you as you walk in the Light of His grace.

Vicky

 

The Two ONE

In the book of Acts we see the apostles having to learn to accept Gentiles into the faith.  This took a dramatic event in the life of Peter when God lowered a sheet with unclean animals for Peter to kill and eat.  God did this three times and the message was not the food, it was “do not call unclean what (God has) made clean”, meaning the Gentiles.  Immediately following this Peter goes to a Gentile home and shares the good news of Jesus with them in their home, something that was forbidden for a Jew to do. 

We then see Paul becoming the apostle to the Gentiles.  He took the good news as far as he could, no matter the personal cost.  Immediately on his heals were the Judaizers who claimed that the Gentiles first had to become Jews before becoming a believer in Jesus.  Paul flatly rejected this in very graphic terms.  In fact, I want to be clear on this point, once one is a believer in Jesus they are no longer a Gentile because a Gentile is a foreigner and alien, but in Christ we are made citizens of His nation, the holy nation of Israel over which He is king.  This was the situation in Bible times.

Fast forward 2000 years and what do we see happening in the land of Israel today?  We see many who want to separate the Arabs and Israelis living in the land onto different sides.  Truth is they are on different sides.  On one hand Jews have the right of return to the land of Israel, the land promised to them, and on the other side the Arabs want the Jews completely out of the land and consider the Israelis to be occupiers and colonialists.  There are those who wish to divide the land calling a part of it the West Bank.  What some like to call the West Bank in indeed a part of the historical land of Israel once known as Judea and Samaria. 

This land is proportioned specifically in Scripture among the tribes of Israel.  It was to eventually be the Israelis land.  So how can this be resolved?  How is reconciliation in a land that just about everyone seems to want to divide possible?  There is only one answer to this question.

Those who believe in Yeshua the Messiah are the light in a dark situation.  For the Arab believers in the land there is a group called Musalaha (www.musalaha.org), which is Arabic for reconciliation.  They organize camps for Messianic Jews and Palestinian Christians to come together as brothers and sisters in Christ.  This effort needs our prayers. 

Musalaha also puts events together so that Messianic Jews and Palestinian Christians can come together in worship experiencing how both sides worship Messiah.  At the same time they also reach out to Muslim Arabs in the land to show them the love and truth of Christ through different outreach opportunities.

On the other side there are Messianic Jews in the land who want a strong bond relationship with Arab Christians as well.  These Messianic Jews are trying to reach out to their fellow Jews with the love and truth of the Messiah.  One such ministry in Israel is Heart of G-d Ministries (www.heartofg-d.org).  While Heart of G-d seeks to encourage Aliyah (Jewish right of return) of all Jews both Messianic and not Messianic, there are some elements of the Israeli government that are trying to keep Messianic Jews from having the right of return, claiming they are not real Jews.  They too need our prayers.

Both sides report a good relationship with the other.  A relationship that is only possible through Christ.  These two sides are coming together.  As they do they will begin to look more and more like each other.  Why?  Because they will look more and more like the Savior. 

The Arab does not have to become a Jew and the the Jew does not have to leave behind his roots, on the contrary they are both the spiritual nation of Israel.  Both grafted into the one tree that is Israel, God’s nation of princes, His holy nation and priesthood.  The root of that tree being the Old Testament (Covenant) fulfilled in Yeshua who spilled His blood, the blood of the New Covenant.

It should be our prayer that as more and more Jews come into the land they will come to know their Messiah as they are surrounded by the truth of who they are and who He is.  Also, that the Arab Christians will spur them on to jealousy as they continue to grow in their own faith and grow closer and closer to the Messianic Jews. 

Jesus is the answer for the peace of Jerusalem and the land of Israel, ONLY Yeshua.  What an awesome time we live in.  We have before us a living example of the two becoming one if only we will take the time to see.

Yes, Jesus has put to death their hostility.  Now it is up to these believers to live that out in a land and an environment that would rather them not.  Yet it is the life that Yeshua calls them to live.  A life that the cross of Christ demands.  They must pick up their cross daily and follow Him where others do not want to go.  How blessed they are as they daily live out the mystery.  May God grant them His grace and His power to live this life.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem and all the land.

Vicky 

True Peace

In Ephesians 2:11-22 Paul discusses peace, but do we today really understand what this peace Paul is speaking about is.  Typically when we hear the word peace we think of quietness, stillness and rest.  To be sure that is part of what Paul is talking about, but there is also something much more profound in the word “peace”.  It is rest that can only be found when we draw near to God.  When we find our rest in Him.  Even more it means oneness with each other and God.  Being made whole.   This idea is carried out repeatedly in this passage.  Read this passage with that in mind.  You might even want to substitute the word “oneness” for “peace” and see how that opens up the passage for you.

 EPH 2:11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men)– 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.  14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.     19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

This whole passage is about God making the two – those who were far and those who were near – one.  One with each other, putting to death their hostility and hatred for each other by the death of Jesus on the cross.  In Isaiah 57 the Lord says, “Peace, peace to those far and near.” This passage in Ephesians is stating that this has been fulfilled in Yeshua, who came to proclaim the glad tidings of oneness (peace) to those who were far and those who were near.

Let’s back up.  As God’s light of grace shone on those who were aliens to His people, Israel, they were brought near to His people and to Him through the cross and blood of the Messiah.  Also, those who were already “near” through the covenants and promises were brought truly near by the cross and blood of Christ.  For even they, though they had been given the covenants and promises, could not come near enough to God by following the commands and regulations of Scripture – no one can.  As Scripture says, “No one is righteous, not even one”(Psalm 14:3, 53:3 and Romans 3:23).  Humanity, whether Jew or Gentile, is not capable of coming near, truly near, to God on his own.  Sin always separates us, that is why Jesus died.  Only the God-Man could live a sinless life and therefore fulfill the commands and regulations of Scripture becoming the perfect sacrifice of the New Covenant.

It is with the New Covenant, promised back in the book of Jeremiah that God says, “I will be their God and they will be my people”.  He promised a  heart and mind that had the law of God written on them ready and willing to follow Him.  It is the blood of the Messiah that is the blood of the New Covenant – the blood of bulls, lambs, or goats could never be enough, only the blood of The Lamb of God was sufficient.

With the New Covenant Gentiles of the flesh were made citizens of Israel, citizens together with the Jews – all having faith in the Messiah.  It is the Messiah that is our peace, our rest, our stillness, our oneness.  I heard a really wonderful illustration of this recently.  It is actually one that is in Scripture though we have lost the mental picture of it.  In Israel when a wild olive shoot comes up next to a cultivated olive tree that shoot literally raps itself around the tree and after a time you can no longer distinguish the wild shoot from the original tree.  That is an awesome picture to me.  In this way Christ made the two, the Gentile and the Jew, one tree.  Both indistinguishable from the other.

Taking this new tree (made from the two), this new man, Jesus then reconciled both to God through the cross.  Again, Paul states that through the cross their hostility was put to death.  The Jew and the Gentile were hostile to each other then in Paul’s day and they still are today.  Yet in the cross of Christ, the Messiah, this hostility has been put to death and this is also seen today.  Next week I want to highlight some of the ways God is doing this in our generation.

Paul ends by saying the through the Messiah both Jew and Gentile (now both part of the spiritual nation of Israel, God’s people) have access to the Father by the one Holy Spirit.  It is the first time in this passage that Paul uses the plural pronoun “we” purposely bring the two together.  This new man is being built into a holy dwelling built on the foundations of both the prophets and the apostles.

The Old Covenant points directly to the New, even prophesies it – the prophets.  It was the apostles who first proclaimed its fulfillment in Christ.  Therefore, together the prophets and the apostles make up the foundation of God’s household.  This foundation, however, would be worthless without the chief cornerstone, Yeshua the Messiah.  It is on Jesus that the whole house is joined together as one and rises as one holy temple.

The final verse (22) reads in the English as if Paul goes back to just talking about the Gentiles.  However, I do not believe that is the case.  Instead, the “you” is plural, meaning both the Jew and the Gentile in the household of God, the church or assembly of Israel (in this case in Ephesus).  The household of God, both Jew and Gentile, are being built together into one to become the dwelling of God where He lives by His Spirit.  Paul is summarizing what he had already said in detail.

We are one, both with each other and with God through the cross of Christ and by His Spirit and our hostility has been replaced by love for each other and our God.

Peace,

Vicky