DISCLAIMER: Electronic media makes it difficult to convey emotion. Please, please know that there is not one smidgen of anger contained in this post. As you read it, I hope you will hear my heart of love for the body of Christ. I believe this is an important conversation to have, and I invite you to enter in.
Would you pardon me while I climb atop my soapbox for a moment?
Stop it with all the denominational fighting! Just stop!
I grew up in the Southern Baptist denomination, and I am grateful for (most of) that upbringing. I learned about missions and Jesus and amazing old hymns and the beauty of an organ and piano and the order of service and the Doxology and Girls in Action and Acteens and Summer Vacation Bible School and ‘raise your hand if you read your Sunday School lesson this week’.
I also learned that women are not to be pastors and speaking in tongues is not actually an accepted thing and, dear Gussie, exclusivity. I think my Grandma might have had to be revived with St. Peter’s smelling salts when she stepped through the gates of heaven and discovered that there were Methodists, Church of God, Presbyterians, Lutherans, and many other people who affiliated with non-Southern Baptist denominations, or no denomination at all, right there in heaven.
I am not here to bash the Southern Baptist denomination. I really am not. My ‘letter’ is housed at the Southern Baptist church where I grew up, and I love that church and pray for that church. Southern Baptist just happens to be the well from which I draw my experience. No denomination is perfect, and many of you might have a similar perspective about your denomination. But, our time in Romans 12 today prompts me to step back with you so we can take a 50,000-foot view of the body of Christ and the scene that will one day be around God’s throne in heaven.
Let’s read these two verses…..
4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
You have a body….head to toe, inside and outside…it is a body that houses all sorts of organs, cells, membranes, ligaments, and muscles. Bones are connected by ligaments, tons of miles of blood vessels run all over your body, your brain is the control central, and your muscles allow you to walk and run. Your body is not just your brain. If you were only one big brain, you could not move or eat or kiss your sweetheart. If you were made up of only a pinky finger, you could not stand up.
Every part of your body is necessary to your physical well-being. Just let one part of the body malfunction and the entire body suffers in some way. Don’t believe me? Have you ever broken your pinky toe? Yeah! I rest my case. That pinky toe is important, people!
The same is true of the body of Christ…..regardless of the denomination in which you choose to worship…..if you name the name of Jesus Christ over your soul, you are a necessary and important part of the Body. Now, you may not like the way your toes look, but they are your toes and you must accept that and care for them because they are part of your body. So, let’s pretend the Baptists are the toes, the Methodists are the fingers, the Presbyterians are the blood vessels, the Church of God folks are the muscles, and our non-denominational brothers and sisters are the eyes.
Y’all, I am dying at all the exclusivity and condescension in the body of Christ. We are THE BODY OF CHRIST, knitted together in Him. We need those muscles and eyes and blood vessels, and even those toes and fingers. We need everyone who professes Jesus as Lord and stands firmly on the gospel in order to be a strong and functional body. We may disagree with Church of God folks about speaking in tongues, or the Methodists about sprinkling, but that does not give us the right to look down our noses at our brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus said that the world would know that we are Christians by our L-O-V-E for one another in the body of Christ.
Even when I attended a denominational church, I did not label myself according to that denomination. If you ask me which denomination I belong to, I will tell you that I am a Christian because that is the label that I want others to associate with my life. My ministry is a non-denominational ministry. I have spoken at churches from many denominations. I seek to write from a Jesus perspective rather than a denominational perspective because I believe it encourages unity in the body of Christ.
So, friends, let’s use grape juice and wine. Let’s use the KJV and the NIV. Let’s use musical instruments and sing a capella. If we are going to choose a hill on which to die, for the love of Pete, let’s let that hill be the gospel of Jesus Christ, not whether to sprinkle or dunk. Let’s show love to our brothers and sisters in Christ and unity of Spirit to the world, so that the world will see Jesus.
I’m off my soapbox now! I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post. Leave a comment or email me at email@example.com.
Looking for a Valentine’s Day gift for your sweetie?
The year was 2007 and God had just confirmed the call to ministry that He had placed on my heart. With a mixture of excitement and trepidation, I shared that confirmation experience with those closest to me. I received great encouragement from everyone…..except one. One person looked me straight in the eyes and said, “You will just make it all about you.”
Whoosh! I felt like a 50-gallon barrel of iced water had been poured on my spirit. I was crushed and I might have shed a few tears. What in the world was I supposed to do with that bomb?
I had to journey quite a few miles down the ministry road to realize that those words would serve as warning flags to my heart. You see, I can be very prideful and all about Leah. In fact, it is my nature to be prideful and self-serving.
What? You, too?
When my ears heard those words from my loved one, my heart immediately recoiled from the thought of making ministry all about me. With everything in me, I wanted ministry to be about Jesus. In and of myself, I have nothing worthwhile to offer. BUT, because of Jesus and the transforming work He has done in my heart and life, He can minister through me to touch heart and lives, if I will put Leah aside and let Him shine.
Today as we continue our examination of a true believer in Jesus, we come to Romans 12:3 and it is a doozy of a verse. Here it is:
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. (ESV)
Here is my very loose paraphrase of verse 3: Do not get on your high-horse! Remember Whose you are and Who has called you. You did not get these gifts…you do not offer yourself….you do not have the mind of Christ…because of anything you have done. It is all Jesus. Don’t get too big for your britches!
Y’all, pride should be conspicuously absent from the life of a Christian. We should never lose sight of who we were before Jesus saved us. We should never forget that without Him we would be in the ditch of horrendous sin in two minutes flat. We must never underestimate the depravity of which we are capable if we do not keep our eyes focused on Jesus. I must never….!
Paul tells us that it is absolutely imperative that we judge ourselves soberly and rightly, not thinking more highly of ourselves than we should. Seems to me that Paul is using a metaphor that suggests one must be careful not to be intoxicated on themselves. Let’s not become egoholics, friends!
May I close today with a quote from John Calvin that I believe is an astute reminder to seek humility for our hearts?
For so blindly do we all rush in the direction of self-love that everyone thinks he has a good reason for exalting himself and despising all others in comparison….There is no other remedy than to pluck up by the roots those most obnoxious pests, self-love and love of victory….This the doctrine of Scripture does. For it teaches us to remember that the endowments which God has bestowed upon us are not our own, but His free gifts, and those who plume themselves upon them betray their ingratitude. (Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2:10)
(I had to look up the word ‘plume’…it is a verb that means pride or congratulate.)
Every day my prayers include a plea for God to show me any pride in my heart. Let me tell you, friend, that is a prayer that God will answer, AND the answer may not always be jolly and glad. He has shown me some big uglies that have resided in my heart over the years, but He has always given me what I need to get rid of them. I am NOT saying it has always been fun, however. Satan wants us to stay mired down in pride. But, it has always been for my good. I want to challenge you to begin praying that same prayer. I promise if you do it will transform your Christian walk. Pinky swear!
Tell me what you are thinking? What have these Authentic posts planted in your heart thus far? I’d love to hear from you in the comments or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I scribed the entire book of Romans in my Journible a few years ago. It was a wonderfully enriching experience to write the ancient words on a page in your own handwriting. I encourage you to get your own Journible and try it.
Have you ever heard God speak a word of instruction to you that was downright frightening?
Me, too! In fact, that is why I am writing to you today.
About a year ago, God spoke a word into my heart…a word that would become my OneWord for 2016. At the time I knew it would be a word that required much from me. What I did not realize was how very much it would require in the area of obedience….AND how very rebellious I would be about the whole thing.
That word was REST…something the Lord and I knew that I do not do well.
God was serious about that word. I was forced into physical rest by a back injury early in the year, and by a diagnosis of severe hypoglycemia more recently. Still, I feel weary, spent, confused, and fearful.
For the entirety of 2016 I have sensed that God wanted me to pull back from writing on my blog and my newsletter. That scared the patootie out of me! In 10 years of blogging, I’ve never taken an extended blogging break. I argued mightily with God.
What if I am not hearing you correctly, Lord?
I cannot take a break. I have a new Bible study out that I need to promote.
What if I lose all of my readers?
I’m in the middle of a blog series on the book of The Revelation. I cannot stop writing.
The sins of fear and pride and control kept me bound up in the ‘what ifs’ and prevented me from being fully obedient to what the Lord was speaking into my heart. The whole thing is ugly and prideful and embarrassing to admit, but I sinned. I rebelled against what the Lord was CLEARLY telling me to do.
God opened my eyes on Sunday using some verses from Isaiah 40….familiar verses that suddenly took on very new and personal meaning for me as if a heavenly light was shining on them for the first time.
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:28-29, 31 (ESV) emphasis, mine
The Holy Spirit opened my eyes to the truth that my strength comes only from God, but in order for Him to renew my strength, I must wait on Him. And it my case, that waiting might just look like resting in obedience to what He instructed me to do, lo, 10 months ago!
I feel very much like King David in Psalm 51 when he acknowledged that his bones were wasting away as a result of his sin. I am the only one who can change that.
So, friend, I confess my sins of pride and rebellion to Him and to you. Repentance means a changing of direction, and beginning today, I will do that. I will bend my knee to His instruction to rest and wait on Him in regard to writing and blogging. There are several ways this might impact you.
If you receive my weekly newsletter, this will likely be the last one you will receive until the beginning of the year. I’m sorry if that disappoints you, but I must do what God is calling me to do. Please feel free to unsubscribe. I will not be offended.
If you receive my thrice weekly blog posts, you will receive a few over the course of the next couple of months. There are several that I have already written and scheduled. But, by and large, my blog will be silent, except for guest posts in the Sharing Life series that are already scheduled.
If you are part of The Loft Link-Up, I will likely be taking a break until the first of the year. You will still be able to link to The Loft via Jerralea’s and Chris’s blogs.
Does this step of obedience scare me? You bet it does, but I also know that God never asks us to do anything for which He has not already established a plan and purpose. So, I step out in obedience. I go forward expectantly, seeking a renewal of my strength and focus. I open my clenched fists and hold loosely the writing and blogging portions of my ministry. I trust God’s heart of love for me.
Thank you for your support, understanding, and care.
APRIL GIVEAWAY WINNER: Congratulations to Christine, the winner of my April commenters giveaway. Christine, please email your mailing address to me at email@example.com. ALSO, I never heard back from the February or March winners, so I am drawing two new names. The new February winner is Jerralea, and the new March winner is Carlie. Please send your mailing address to firstname.lastname@example.org. I will get all three of the winners’ gifts in the mail to you! CONGRATULATIONS!
Today we end our journey with the seven churches of The Revelation. It is my heartfelt prayer that this study has spoken into your heart in ways that I cannot even imagine. God’s Word always accomplishes the purpose for which He gave it, and I pray His purpose has been accomplished for you and for me.
Oh, and did you want the Seven Churches chart that I am offering? I told you about it last week in THIS POST. It is a concise overview of all seven churches. If you would like to receive it, please send me an email to email@example.com.
Let us consider the words of Christ to the church at Laodicea once again, then we will examine His rebukes and promises to this body of believers. Allow your heart to be moved by His Words.
14 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.
15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot!
16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.
17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.
18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.
19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.
20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.
21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.
22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'”
Verses 15 and 16 were always an enigma to me. I could understand Jesus angst over a lukewarm church, and even a cold church, but a hot church? Seems to me a hot, on fire church would be exactly what He desired? How odd! Let’s dig into the meaning behind His words.
Five miles to the northwest of Laodicea was a town called Hieropolis. Hieropolis was known for a spa that boasted hot mineral baths and medical remedies. It was also known for white formations of mineral deposits on the rocks.
Ten miles to the south of Laodicea was Colossae, which was known for its pure, cold water. Visitors still drink from the springs in Colossae in 2016.
Water from both towns ran through aquaducts into Laodicea, but by the time the cold, pure water of Colossae reached Laodicea it was lukewarm. The same was true with the hot, mineral laden water from Hieropolis. When the two waters mixed in Laodicea all that was produced was a luke-warm, mineral-laden liquid that was not fit to drink. To do so would likely make one ill. Jesus says that he wishes the church at Laodicea was either a hot, healing mineral bath or a cold spring of pure water. They were neither and made Him sick.
This church was rich in worldly wealth, but spiritually bankrupt. They were self-sufficient and said they had need of nothing. In truth they were poor, blind, naked, pitiful, wretched and miserable in the eyes of the Lord. They were a church who had no need of Christ. In fact, they were a religious country club, existing for their own benefit.
Pride and self-sufficiency were the terminal diseases that afflicted this church. Recall from last week that I said Laodicea was known for its wealth, medical school, and a glossy black wool that was produced there? Jesus used each of the things for which the city was known to describe their spiritual state.
They had worldly wealth, yet they were spiritually poor
They had a world class medical school, yet they were spiritually blind
They produced a glossy black wool used for clothing, yet they were spiritually naked
Because He loved this church, Jesus rebuked them and offered them spiritual gold, spiritual clothing, and spiritual sight if only they would repent. Jesus was standing at their door, knocking, wanting to be let in so He could fellowship with them. Yet, their pride stood in the way.
For those who repented of their pride and turned to Him, Jesus promised a position of honor with Him on His throne.
The church at Laodicea has so much to teach the church in 2016. All too often, we, the body of Christ, are a pull-ourselves-up-by-the-bootstraps, I-did-it-my-way bunch. We go to Jesus as a last resort rather than the first option. Humility has been relegated to the back row, while we take pride in our buildings, budget, and bulging pews.
Jesus calls us to a deep love for Him and a humility that causes us to be utterly dependent on Him for ministry. He stands at the door of our church and our heart and knocks, waiting to be let in and loosed to work in and through us.
The video will offer the final wrap-up. Please view the video then come back to engage.
I sit this morning on the balcony overlooking the bay in Orange Beach, Alabama. Just Jesus and me. The dawn is breaking, all is quiet, and it is just Jesus and me.
I have been on a journey through the Psalms this year, and this morning He takes me to Psalm 131, because He knows that a portion of it will speak to my heart. He’s right.
1 O LORD, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. 2 But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.
Verse 2. Oh my! “But I have calmed and quieted my soul.”
We live in a busy, hurried and harried world. We say “yes” more often than we say “no”. We forfeit family time for a multitude of other, seemingly good, things. We push and pull and tug; we fight and scratch and kick so we can make it to the top rung of whatever ladder we are climbing. And we wonder why we have no peace in our hearts.
In John 14:27 Jesus told His followers that He was the source of peace and He would give it to them. He did. He will. He does. Yet, Psalm 131:2 reminds me that, in order to have that peace, there is something that I must do.
I must make a choice to calm and quiet my soul. It is not an easy choice in the world in which we live, and that choice will look differently for each of us. We may need to:
Carve out time for Bible study and prayer
Say ‘No’ to more activity
Find an accountability partner
Take a vacation or sabbatical
Turn off mobile devices and social media
Take a hike or a drive and enjoy the beauty of nature
Whatever is required to calm and quiet our souls is what we need to be intentional about doing. Our peace depends on it. Our intimacy with Jesus depends on it. Our family relationships depend on it.
What would it take for you to calm and quiet your soul? Are you intentional about doing this? I would love for you to share how you are doing in this area.
I messed up. Oh, it was not a big thing, but enough to make me feel like a failure. In life. In my marriage. In my faith.
I failed to have a servant heart.
I failed to love my husband well and serve him.
I was prideful and self-serving.
I thought speaking my mind on a matter would make me feel better…would make right something that I perceived as a wrong toward me. It did not. And I felt terrible about it afterward.
I am never more like Satan than when I allow pride to creep in and convince me that I am all that and a bag of chips; when I allow selfishness to engulf me.
We all blow it from time to time.
We all mess up. It may not be a big thing, but then again…it might. In life. In our relationships. In our faith.
You want to hear some good news, friend?
God is not surprised at our stumbles. Nor is He disgusted by them. When you and I have a heart that longs to please God; when we have a will and a desire to walk in His way, God is pleased even with our stumbles.
So, hear this friend….deep into the recesses of your heart…hear this:
You are not defined by your stumbles.
You are NOT DEFINED by your stumbles, any more than a 1-year-old baby is defined by its stumbling efforts to learn to walk. You may feel that your stumbles define you, but that is a lie from Satan. Do not believe it.
If you are a blood-bought follower of Jesus Christ, you are His precious treasure, His beautiful one, and His beloved. You are not your stumbles.
Would you take a moment, wherever you are, to repeat aloud with me:
I AM NOT DEFINED BY MY STUMBLES.
I AM DEFINED BY WHO I AM IN JESUS CHRIST!
Say it again:
I AM NOT DEFINED BY MY STUMBLES.
I AM DEFINED BY WHO I AM IN JESUS CHRIST!
Say it until you believe it. If you have to go outside and shout it over and over until the neighbors think you have lost your ever-lovin’ mind, then go shout.
If the will to walk is there, God is pleased even with our stumbles. Believe it!
If you needed to hear this today, I would love hear from you so I can pray for you. Leave me a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.