UNITY AND THE BODY

Recently I saw a cartoon based on Deuteronomy 27:6 which reads:

“you shall build an altar to the LORD your God of uncut stones. And you shall offer burnt offerings on it to the LORD your God, …”

I then found it on a website of funny Christian jokes:

burnt offering - funny-christian-jokes-christian-humor

The drawing presented this scenario:   A family sitting down to dinner, with heads bowed and hands folded.  Mom and Dad at the ends of the table with Junior on the side between them.  This evening, Junior had been asked to pray.  The expression on the faces of his parents reflects horror when he prays:

“We want to thank you Lord for all that you have given us. In return, I hope you like this burnt offering my Mom prepared for all of us …”

The desire to thank the Lord is wonderful.  The burnt offering analogy is a bit harsh and not at all in the context of what Scripture was directing.

We often see this frequently humorous but still misguided effort from children.  But sometimes we see it duplicated in adults as well. Then, it is not quite so humorous.  

You know, the joke that has too much salt in it not to hurt; the backhanded comment that was not intended for the subject to hear, but they did; the criticism that came from a lack of understanding all the circumstances; and the list could go on and on. 

What do we do then?  Frequently we laugh and shrug it off, as if it did not matter.  But it often does.

Many times, the response is for feelings to get hurt, anger to burst into flames, frustrations fester and relationships can be broken, sometimes irrevocably. While this is indeed unfortunate in our social or work environment, it is heartbreaking when something like this divides the Church.  Not only is it heartbreaking, it is unnecessary.

Hardware Baptist Church established in 1802
Hardware Baptist Church, Charlottesville, Virginia established in 1802

As Christians, we have been touched by the Holy Spirit and He lives within us.  It is His work that convicts us of our sin, teaches us of God’s will, enlightens us as to the Word of God, etc.  The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity.  He is just as much God as is the Father and as is Jesus Christ, the Son. 

How the Holy Spirit indwells each and every Christian is beyond my understanding, but it is a doctrine that I believe and I have experienced His work in my life.  So, while I don’t understand the “how”, I understand the “fact”.

Church with cross in front
Illinois church with cross on their building

Since there is only one Holy Spirit, and since He is within each believer, how come Christians often can’t stand each other?   I submit that it is the natural man coming out … the sin nature that all of us have.  After all, Satan does not want the Church to be successful, to be unified, to be fruitful.  It is his desire that no one hears of Christ, that no one remains resolute in their faith, that no one looks to the Lord on a daily basis. 

Church in snow
 Greene Memorial United Methodist Church in Roanoke, Virginia

Instead, we need to be mindful of Paul’s exhortation that we be unified as Christians. 

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit–just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call– one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.”

Ephesians 4:1-7

We as Christians are to be one … one in the spirit, one in the Lord.  But, this does not mean that all are identical.  We are, indeed, all sinners saved by grace.  That is to be sure.  But, we are not clones of each other, although we are all in the process of being transformed into the image of our Lord and Savior.  (See Romans 12:2 and 2 Corinthians 3:18) 

Canterbury cathedral
Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, England

Rather, the Lord has given each of us varying gifts and talents that are for His use in accomplishing His purpose in the world through us.  Just as our body is not composed of one part, like the lung, neither is the Body of Christ composed of one part, all Christians being the same.  So, there will be differences in worship style, in church buildings, in mission efforts … but the fundamentals are identical – one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all. 

Just as all the churches pictured above look different and have varying worship styles and languages, if they honor and glorify the Lord Jesus Christ, if they teach from His Word, if they praise His Name, if they baptize in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, if they praise and glorify God the Father, then we can call them brothers and sisters in the Lord.  The variety of church styles, worship styles, song styles is immaterial as long as the fundamentals are in place.

Don’t let division among Christians cause any to leave the fellowship, cause the church to split, cause brothers and sisters to go against each other in anger.  Through the power of the Spirit, resist the devil and he will flee from you.  Keep the church, the Body of Christ, unified and healthy.

Blessings to each of you as you walk in the way of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Father, I pray that these words will bear fruit for Your Kingdom.  I pray that the Body of Christ will remain strong and vibrant, that it will grow and bear much fruit for the Lord Jesus Christ.  I pray that Satan will be kept away from our churches so that the doctrine will remain pure, so that the parishioners will remain strong, and so that the church’s witness will proceed to go throughout the land untarnished by division or backbiting among its members.

CREATION AS AN EXPRESSION OF A LOVING GOD

When the dark days of late autumn and winter arrive, it is hard to find color in the world.  It seems that everything comes in shades of gray.  So I like to remember the beauty of the flowers of the summer and early autumn.

Jefferson vineyard and gardens grounds Charlottesville VA
Jefferson Vineyard and Gardens, Charlottesville, Virginia

Scripture tells us of the creation story, specifically on the third day God created the plants and vegetation of our earth.

“And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so.  The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.  And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.”  

Genesis 1:11-13 ESV

God saw the vegetation, flowers, plants and trees and saw that “it was good”! 

Gardens at Jefferson Vineyards, Charlottesville VA 2
Gardens at Jefferson Vineyards, Charlottesville, Virginia

In fact, God was so pleased with His created nature that when He gave the directions for construction of the tabernacle by His people in the wilderness, He specifically included flowers to be depicted in the furnishings. 

“You shall make a lampstand of pure gold. The lampstand shall be made of hammered work: its base, its stem, its cups, its calyxes, and its flowers shall be of one piece with it.”

Exodus 25:31 ESV

Blenheim gardens around tasting room 2
Gardens at Blenheim Vineyards, Charlottesville, Virginia

Can you imagine the beauty of the golden lampstand shaped as flowers for the use in the tabernacle?  Can you imagine what it looked like when the sun shined and the gold reflected light as it glittered in the stark contrast to the wilderness surrounding the people? 

This same motif was to be followed in the house of the Lord that King Solomon was instructed to build.

The cedar within the house was carved in the form of gourds and open flowers. All was cedar; no stone was seen. … Around all the walls of the house he carved engraved figures of cherubim and palm trees and open flowers, in the inner and outer rooms.”  

1 Kings 6:18, 29 ESV

Can you imagine the beauty of trees and flowers carved into the cedar?

Jefferson garden giant sunflowers
Giant Sunflowers in Jefferson Vineyard and Gardens, Charlottesville, Virginia

“Oh sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth!  Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.  Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!  For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods.  For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the LORD made the heavens. Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.”  

Psalm 96:1-6 ESV

Our God is the One who created the universe and He included in our world the beauty of a wide diversity of flowers and vegetation of all kinds.  Praise His holy name for the beauty of His creation for the children of men.

Father, I praise Your name for Your marvelous work in creation.  Thank You for the beauty around us.  May I give You honor and glory for this is due You because You and You alone are God.