How Beautiful

Have I ever mentioned that I almost always have a song going in my head? Today I wanted to post the lyrics from one of the songs that has been playing in my mind for the last few days. It’s an oldie but a goodie.

How Beautiful by Twila Paris

How beautiful the hands that served
The wine and the bread and the sons of the earth
How beautiful the feet that walked
The long dusty roads and the hill to the cross

How beautiful, how beautiful
How beautiful is the body of Christ

How beautiful the heart that bled
That took all my sin and bore it instead
How beautiful the tender eyes
That chose to forgive and never despise

How beautiful, how beautiful
How beautiful is the body of Christ

And as He laid down His life
We offer this sacrifice
That we will live just as he died
Willing to pay the price
Willing to pay the price

How beautiful the radiant bride
Who waits for her groom with His light in her eyes
How beautiful when humble hearts give
The fruit of pure lives so that others may live

How beautiful, how beautiful
How beautiful is the body of Christ

How beautiful the feet that bring
The sound of good news and the love of the King
How beautiful the hands that serve
The wine and the bread and the sons of the earth

How beautiful, how beautiful
How beautiful is the body of Christ

There are some very ugly things to see in the world. I never watch the news, but I would read it on-line so I could pick and choose what I saw and read. Now just seeing the headlines can be disturbing. Violent or inappropriate images surround us. But when we look at each other we can see beauty, because we can see Him. How beautiful, the Body of Christ.

The Elephant in the Room

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down… Psalm 133:1-2, KJV

If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. Mark 3:25 NIV

I have attended many churches throughout my life. I attended two Catholic churches with my parents. I attended a small Pentecostal church with my husband and his family. My husband and I attended a Methodist church while in college. We were part of an Evangelical Word of Faith church for 14 years. Three years ago we moved to another church at the Lord’s direction and with our previous pastors’ blessings. It’s been an amazing journey. At each church I saw a unique facet of our amazing and multi-faceted God. Each church added another brushstroke to the canvas that holds the masterpiece God is painting… me. At each church I grew in my relationship with God. I wouldn’t trade a moment of it.

I entitled this post, the elephant in the room, because recently I have encountered something that is obvious to so many, yet unspoken. Ignored, but still there. I think it’s time we talk about it.

Since moving from my previous church to my current church, I have noticed something that I find very disturbing. When I speak to friends from my previous church, there is tension. There is awkwardness. There is this subtle undercurrent of competition regarding the two churches. I love everyone regardless of which church we go to. No matter how many church moves we’ve made, I still consider the people in each church family and friends. Each move we made was at God’s direction and I would not ask anyone to leave one church to come to another. That is between them and God.

I have invited friends to special events at our new church, not for the purpose of getting them to change churches, but because I love my friends and feel that they will be blessed and grow from the experience. They are always free to simply say, ‘no’. Yet, the response is often tension and then an account of what God is doing in their church.

I also come in contact with people that also attended and left my previous church. Some of them had an experience that left them hurt. When I talk to them about friends that are still there, once again the tension begins to build. I encourage those friends to let God heal their hearts of those hurts.

Can I just say that my church affiliation is not my identity. I didn’t feel that when I left one church to go to another that I was in my heart leaving the people of each church. My identity is not in the name on the building I choose to worship in. My identity is in being a part of the Body of Christ. When I was at the Catholic churches I was a part of the Body of Christ. When I was at the Pentecostal church, the Methodist church, the Word of Faith church I was still a part of the same body, the Body of Christ. Since coming to this new church, guess what I am still a part of the same Body that I became a part of when I gave my heart to Jesus 38 years ago, while a member of a Catholic church. I am still connected to the believers at each of these churches.

When we allow ourselves to be separated based on denomination, based on church affiliation, understand that we are not just allowing ourselves to be divided from another church body. We are allowing ourselves to be divided from a part of Christ’s Body.

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ… But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 1 Corinthians 12:12, 18-21

Whether we realize it or not, we need each other. The enemy would love to divide us. He knows a house divided cannot stand. He would love to divide Christ’s body. Let’s each examine our hearts and refuse to be divided from one another. This post is not just for those who attend my previous church, but also to any who have not attended my previous churches yet feel free to say unkind things about them or about any church or denomination for that matter. We can disagree, but we don’t have to be divided from one another in our hearts.

Jesus Himself said, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” I think it’s time we stop judging, rejecting and condemning one another and start loving one another. A lost, hurt and dying world is watching.

And I end this by praying for myself, “Lord, search me.”

Family

Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name… (Luke 11:2, KJV)

For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named… (Ephesians 3:14-15, KJV)

Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God… Beloved, now are we the sons of God… (1 John 3:2)

I’ve been thinking about family a lot lately. My schedule has slowed down dramatically and I have had the opportunity to spend more time with my family, including going to church with my four year-old niece.

She goes to a Catholic school. Each Wednesday morning there is a mass held where all the children attend. It is somewhere between seven to eight hundred children. Those who know me, know I was in heaven sitting there among hundreds of children worshipping God!

I was raised Catholic, so much of the service was familiar to me. Then the priest began to speak. He asked the children if it was possible to make God sad. He told them it was possible. He asked them why is God sad when we do wrong things. His answer, “Because He loves you”. Once again those who know me know I was in heaven at that point. The priest then went on to ask the children what are the things that we do that make God sad. His response, “When we don’t love one another.”

The commandment of love, spoken of in churches all over the world, whether Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Charismatic, Non-denominational, and the list goes on. Sitting in this Catholic church, hearing the precious Word of God, I was sitting among family and not just my niece.

One day at my own church, a woman sat next to me. She shared that she was visiting the church due to a special meeting we were holding. I suddenly felt love for her in my heart. I thought to myself, “I may never see her again, but we will forever be connected through Jesus.” She was family.

In 2008 I was blessed with a trip to Brussels. As my husband worked during the day, I walked through the streets of Brussels and visited the churches. I sat in the pews. Admired the architecture. Read my Bible and prayed. I also sat in the back at noon each day as they gathered for communion services. I watched these people take their lunchtime to go to church and partake of the Lord’s supper. I didn’t understand what they were saying, but I did understand what they were doing. I also understood that in this room I was among family.

I’m sure there were some in each of these settings that may not have joined the family yet, but I am also sure that in each of these settings there were those who had.

Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name… (Luke 11:2, KJV)

Whoever says he is in the Light and [yet] hates his brother [Christian, born-again child of God his Father] is in darkness even until now. Whoever loves his brother [believer] abides (lives) in the Light, and in It or in him there is no occasion for stumbling or cause for error or sin. (1 John 2:9-10, Amplified)

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity. (Psalm 133:1, Amplified)

PS… Follow this link to find out how you too can join the family of God 🙂

http://www.faithman.org/howto.htm

Knit Together

For because of Him the whole body (the church, in all its various parts), closely joined and firmly knit together by the joints and ligaments with which it is supplied, when each part [with power adapted to its need] is working properly [in all its functions], grows to full maturity, building itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:16, Amplified)

…as they are knit together in love… (Colossians 2:2, Amplified)

That you may have the power and be strong to apprehend and grasp with all the saints […the experience of that love]… [That you may really come to know… the love of Christ… that you may be filled [through all your being] unto all the fullness of God [may have the richest measure of the divine Presence, and become a body wholly filled and flooded with God Himself]! (Ephesians 3:18-19, Amplified)

Now to Him Who, by (in consequence of) the [action of His] power that is at work within us, is able to [carry out His purpose…] To Him be glory in the church… (Ephesians 3:20-21, Amplified)

We are the church. We are His body, the Body of Christ. And His desire is that we be knit together and that we be one with Him and one with each other (John 17:21-23).

How is this accomplished? First and foremost, by our union with His Son Jesus Christ, but this Body of Christ is also being knit together in love, by Love Himself. Not by our common doctrines or practices. But by yielding to His love in us for one another.

Ephesians 3:20 mentions His power working in us to carryout His purpose. He is knitting us together, but we can yield to that work or resist it. How? By yielding to love towards one another or not.

When we resist loving one another, we are not only resisting that person, but we are resisting God’s work in knitting this body together. Walking in love is not just a sweet thing to do, it is vital to the work and purposes of God.

I’ve heard it said, and it’s true, that submission is not proven in an atmosphere of agreement. Submission is only tested and proven when we disagree. Well, love is not proven when everyone is being lovely. Love is proven as we choose to love when the other person is being unlovely.

This love, agape, is not based on loving when everyone is doing everything right (or right in our opinion). This love loves unconditionally, right or wrong, lovely or unlovely, I am going to love you. That’s agape.

I want to take a quick look at what love is and what it isn’t in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (Amplified). Two things to keep in mind as you read this list 1) you are not examining everyone else’s love walk by these scriptures, you are examining your own and 2) notice there are no exceptions listed, love always loves like this in every situation.

Love endures long and is patient and kind.

Love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy.

Love is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily.

It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride).

It is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly.

Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking.

It is not touchy or fretful or resentful.

It takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong].

It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail.

Love bears up under anything and everything that comes.

Is ever ready to believe the best of every person.

Its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances.

And it endures everything [without weakening].

Love never fails.

God’s love has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). We have the capacity to love like this by the grace, the power of the Holy Spirit that abides in us. And we do this by yielding to the fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23. In the Amplified Bible it says that this fruit of the Spirit is “the work which His presence within accomplishes”. His power at work in us.

Yield to love at all times. Yield to His work by the Spirit in you. Yield yourself to Love Himself and cooperate as He knits this body together in love.

Oh, How I Love Jesus

The other day as I was praying, I began to see the faces of a few people, brothers and sisters in Christ, that I don’t always get along with. No real trouble between us, just personality differences that cause us to rub one another the  wrong way at times. Always nice and polite with one another. But not always feeling very patient and kind or believing the best of one another.

As I saw their faces, I could tell I was not loving them the way God loves them. Remember our commandment from Jesus.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. (John 13:34, NKJV)

Their faces did not stir in my heart an unfailing, overflowing love, which is how He loves me, so I knew I was falling short here. I began to repent. I asked the Lord to forgive me for not loving them the way I should. As I prayed something happened in my heart, and I realized I began to say something else. I began to say, “Father, forgive me for not loving You.”

It became so real to me in that moment, that when I don’t love others, it’s Him I’m not loving. We are the Body of Christ and when we don’t love one another, it is a part of Him that we do not love.

For no man ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and carefully protects and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, because we are members (parts) of His body. (Ephesians 5:29-30, Amplified)

For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is very great, but I speak concerning [the relation of] Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:31-32, Amplified)

We are one with Him and through Him we are one with each other, a body, His body.

For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. (1 Corinthians 12:12-14, KJV)

He also is the Head of [His] body, the church… (Colossians 1:18, Amplified)

Now this may be a difficult pill to swallow for some, but know this, that He would not ask us to do something that He did not give us the capability to do. In His words to us, in His instructions to the church, in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, is His grace (the power of the Holy Spirit) to do what we He has called us to do, which is to love one another as He has loved us.

Ask Him to teach you, to lead you, to guide you. Ask Him to change you. Yield to His Word and His grace that live in you. And as you go from glory to glory you will look more like Him and you will love more like Him.

But concerning brotherly love [for all other Christians], you have no need to have anyone write you, for you yourselves have been [personally] taught by God to love one another. (1 Thessalonians 4:9, Amplified)

Pure Love

Love “seeketh not her own…” (1 Corinthians 13:5, KJV).

I had a very humbling and eye-opening experience this past Sunday. I had become upset with my husband for all the right reasons, so I thought. And as I sat in church on Sunday, it’s as though the Lord pulled back a veil and let me see the true reasons I was upset. It wasn’t because I wanted to the best for my husband. It wasn’t because I wanted the best for God. It was because I wanted the best for myself. My heart was broken. I was humbled. I repented and I was changed.

I have read many books on marriage. I have taken, with my husband, a few marriage classes. I have heard pastors and counselors comment on what is most damaging to a marriage. And the consensus seems to be that the most damaging thing to a marriage is selfishness. And selfishness is in direct opposition to the God kind of love.

This experience started in me a most interesting train of thought. Our commandment is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength and to love our neighbor as we do ourselves. Obviously to truly love others we cannot cater to our own selfish desires. Our relationships with others have to be about loving them without any thought for what they can do for us.

Now, what about loving God? Do we love Him because of what He can do for us?

A friend gave me a book I am reading today. It is called “Experiencing The Depths Of Jesus Christ” by Jeanne Guyon. And I just came across a section that speaks of this very thing. Jeanne Guyon writes:

…I would like to talk with you just a moment about the motive of your heart in your seeking the Lord.

After all, why do you come to the Lord? Do you come to Him for the sweetness? Do you come to Him because it is enjoyable to be in the Lord’s presence? Let me recommend a higher way.

As you come to the Lord to pray, bring a full heart of pure love, a love that is not seeking anything for itself. Bring a heart that is seeking nothing from the Lord, but desires only to please Him and to do His will.

…as you come to your Lord to pray, do not come for spiritual enjoyment. Do not even come to experience your Lord.

Then what? Come just to please Him.

In a time of prayer yesterday, I began to think about Jesus coming for His Bride. He has obviously loved her and given His all for her. But has she loved Him and given her all for Him?

In Ephesians 5 we see the love that should exist between husbands and wives and it goes on to tell us that this is the relation between Christ and the church. Has the church loved Him unselfishly? Have we as individual members of the Body of Christ loved Him the way He deserves to be loved? Unconditionally and unselfishly.

On Sunday I was very surprised by what I saw in my heart in my relationship with my husband. It changed me. Now today I search my heart in my relationship with God. Perhaps today we should each search our own hearts towards our King and let the love between us be purified.

Moved with Compassion

Throughout the accounts of Jesus’ earthly ministry we see the phrase “moved with compassion”.

In Matthew 14:14 we read that when Jesus saw the multitudes He “was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick” (KJV). Love moved Him to action.

In some translations the phrase “moved with compassion” is translated as “moved with pity and sympathy”. Those translations lose some of the original meaning. Pity and sympathy are feelings one feels toward another in a sad or difficult situation. In the case of pity and sympathy, you may be moved in your feelings, but they won’t move you into action. Compassion is when you are moved by love to do something about that person or persons’ situation. Jesus didn’t just feel sorry for people, He was moved to help them out of their situation.

Before we see the miracles of Jesus, we first see Him being moved with compassion.

Then Jesus called his disciples unto him, and said, I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way. (KJV)

He was moved with compassion and it led to the miracle where he fed the four thousand with just seven loaves of bread. This compassion, this love, preceded His miracles.

And Jesus stood still, and called them, and said, What will ye that I shall do unto you? They say unto him, Lord, that our eyes may be opened. So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes: and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed him. (KJV)

And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean. And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed.

In Mark 5 we see Jesus deliver the mad man from the demonic oppression of a legion of demons. And Jesus said to the man, “Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee” (KJV).

And one of my favorite accounts is found in Luke chapter 7. The miracle is definitly exciting, but I like to also picture the tender love of Jesus toward this widow woman.

Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow… And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother. (Luke 7:12-15, KJV)

Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb 13:8). He still is moved with compassion today. We are now His hands and His feet in this earth (1 Cor 12:27). Let compassion move you.

And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name… they shalll lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover… And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. (Mark 16:17, 18, 20; KJV)

Just last Saturday myself and two other members of our ministry team allowed ourselves to be moved with compassion. We held a Bible study at 8 o’clock in the morning in a local prison. The ladies were blessed by the message. Broken hearts were healed. And three ladies were instantly healed of physical problems with obvious and complete changes in their physical conditions. This isn’t theory. This is love in action.