Separating Out

Mark 10:9 “Therefore, humans must not pull apart what God has put together.”

This is a verse that can get taken out of context, if it is used incorrectly. Remember, yesterday, Jesus was answering the question from the Pharisees about whether or nor it is legal for a man to divorce his wife. Jesus answered it was because of the people’s hardness of heart that Moses allowed divorces to happen.

This verse begins with a “Therefore.” Whenever we see a “therefore,” we have to ask what is that “therefore” there for? It is here because Jesus is continuing his answer to the Pharisee’s question.

We all have been through situations that make us want to separate ourselves and leave. In this context, Jesus is stating that God is the One who joins a man and a woman together, therefore what God has put together, man should not try to separate.

Why would this be a big deal? Let’s think about it. When God brings two people (or materials) together, He is stating there is a purpose behind the union. When God creates, He only makes good things. Therefore, when we separate what God has joined, or created, we end up saying we can do it better.

What are somethings (besides marriage) that God has joined together that would be bad to separate? How about our gifts and our vocations. Our personality and our character. Our faith from our thinking. It is when we combine these (and many other joinings) that we can experience and see fruit and positive growth when we use everything together. If we begin to separate (i.e. our mind from our faith), we begin to not see the big picture; and, become very one-sided.

Therefore, do not separate what God has joined together. God has great plans for you.

Unjoining Union

Mark 10:2-8 “Some Pharisees came and, trying to test him, they asked, “Does the Law allow a man to divorce his wife?” Jesus answered, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a divorce certificate and to divorce his wife.” Jesus said to them, “He wrote this commandment for you because of your unyielding hearts. At the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. Because of this, a man should leave his father and mother and be joined together with his wife, and the two will be one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh.”

Today, we look at a passage that can be a place of argument and division among people. There may be things I say people may not agree with, and that’s okay.

What is happening in this passage? The Pharisees are trying to trap Jesus by getting him to say anything contrary to the Law that was passed down by Moses. In one way, I think, they were trying to show their own superiority based upon their knowledge and were trying to show how “ignorant” or “uninformed” Jesus was. As we already know, Jesus proves the contrary.

The Pharisees were asking about a Law that was given by Moses. Right away, we can see they were elevating Moses to the position of God by saying his law had more authority. Jesus listened to their question, and answered their question directly. Not really going into further details or explanation except what had been written down in the Scriptures. The Pharisees were looking at this life from the point of view of man. Jesus was looking at life from the point of view of God the Father.

So, where does this leave us? I believe there is something in Jesus’ words that we can take out and help guide us today. What was He talking about? Division. Separation. Consequences of doing our own things.

The line that strikes me more than any of the others is “Because of your hardness of hearts…” The people were given what they wanted, a chance to break union “because of their hard hearts;” because of the human rebellious spirit. Now, to be clear on something, I don’t see Jesus here saying that every divorce is because of a person’s rebellious spirit, just wanting to get what ever they want. Commentators point out that Jesus was simply answering the question of the Pharisees. He wasn’t, here, giving regulations or stipulations that are acceptable for divorce.

I do think that Jesus is bringing the human condition to light. We simply want things our way, and will try in whatever manner to get it. Instead of leaving this statement alone and walking away, Jesus points all the way back to the beginning…God. He stressed the basis and purpose of God’s creation of humans, to be in relationship with one another. Then He talks about the two becoming one.

Glue is fun to use. I like to glue objects together to try and fix the brokenness. What happens when I try to take apart something that has been joined together by glue? A mess, the two piece are never the same. There has been an unjoining of the union. The two are no longer part of the one, they are separated. If this were done on people, we would feel a lot of pain.

I believe one of our purposes is to be in relationship with other people. Our relationship with people should be based upon our relationship with God. But our hard, rebellious hearts cause us to not look to God. But, we can go back and see God’s original purpose. At points like this, we can see grace because God has not left us.

Get ‘Em

James 5:19-20 “My brothers and sisters, if any of you wander from the truth and someone turns back the wanderer, recognize that whoever brings a sinner back from the wrong path will save them from death and will bring about the forgiveness of many sins.”

James has been a great series to be in for this month. The ending is not what we might consider “normal.” After all, what has James been doing the entire letter up until these verses? Getting the community of faith to live their lives in the manner they speak and worship.

There have been ups and downs, as with all aspects of human life. Living to a higher standard, is difficult. It is possible to try and live a decent life through good works; but it is because of our faith and living out our faith are the works we do elevated to give God glory.

Prayer is a communication between man and God and God and man. This is one of the most powerful things we can do in our lives. When people get together as a community and pray, souls are aligned. This is one reason I believe Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I’m there with them.” (Matthew 18:20). There is just something special and powerful when we get together as a community.

There are times when there is a rift, a division within the community of faith and a person has abandoned the faith. People will run off and do there own things. Paul said in his letter to the Corinthians that he handed people over to Satan for their benefit so they would come back to God anew. When someone decides to walk away, James says to go get them!

Now, we do not go bring them back so numbers will be higher, or giving will increase. We go because God desires all people to have a saving knowledge of Him. We grow in our faith because of the community of faith we are part of. If a person walks away, it becomes easy to hold on to the parts of our life we are ashamed of. We miss out on the opportunity to take the burden off our hearts and confess sins, confess wrong doings.

Confession, repentance and forgiveness is something powerful that we cannot ignore. Going to get people who walk away, or who have never known the faith helps us maintain relationships and walk with people through their hurts, their joys, their life.

Who do you believe God is leading you to go get?

Healing

James 5:14 “If any of you are sick, they should call for the elders of the church, and the elders should pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord.”

We have all been sick at one time or another. Do we feel like being around people when you’re sick? Me neither. Most of the time, I like to be left alone because I don’t want to spread the infection and get other people sick around me. But, this verse is teaching the exact opposite of this mentality.

Instead of being by ourselves, or secluded from other people, this verse is showing there is a healing power when we are with our community. It is within the community, the people called the elders, the leaders of the church, to pray over them. The leaders represented the church, so the people would all be in agreement. This verse also does not say the elders were praying “for” the sick person; it says they pray “over the person.

This means that the pray was said with the sick person present, with the community present. The elders and the community would lay hands and use oil to anoint (touch) the person in need of healing.

Does this mean the laying on of hands and the oil has special powers? Not really. What it is doing is showing the power of community prayer. There is something special that happens when we pray together.

To do this, we may even have to pray “in front” of people. *Gasp* But, this is not really that difficult. It is not in the laying on of hands, the oil, or even the words we say that bring healing. God doesn’t need certain phrases for Him to intervene. God is more interested in the heart. When we combine our hearts, it is amazing what kind of healing that can happen, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, relationally.

Who can you get together with to pray over?

Individual yet Collective

Romans 12:4 In the same way, though there are many of us, we are one body in Christ, and individually we belong to each other. 

Being part of a group, yet retaining our identity is important to us. We all would like to leave our mark in the world, yet remain part of a group fellowship. From the beginning of Romans 12, the Apostle Paul is helping his readers understand it is important to be different from the world but remain in the world and use the gifts that God has given to make a difference around us.

If we read this verse in the context of the passage we’re looking at this week, we can get a broader sense of how we can work together even with our different gifts and show the love and glory of God.

Romans 12:3-8 Because of the grace that God gave me, I can say to each one of you: don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought to think. Instead, be reasonable since God has measured out a portion of faith to each one of you. We have many parts in one body, but the parts don’t all have the same function. In the same way, though there are many of us, we are one body in Christ, and individually we belong to each other. We have different gifts that are consistent with God’s grace that has been given to us. If your gift is prophecy, you should prophesy in proportion to your faith. If your gift is service, devote yourself to serving. If your gift is teaching, devote yourself to teaching. If your gift is encouragement, devote yourself to encouraging. The one giving should do it with no strings attached. The leader should lead with passion. The one showing mercy should be cheerful.

So, what stands out to you? I think it is incredible how we can and do have different gifts and talents; but we are still part of the same body. The piece that holds us together is God. We all have been given different gifts, but we are hopefully working toward the same goal, bringing people to faith in Jesus Christ.

I love this about the writing of Paul in this passage. Basically I hear that we have the opportunity to be in relationship with many types of people and work toward a common goal. We have the chance to show the mighty power of God in our individual lives, and in our lives in community.

God works in and through people. There is most likely something that God is leading you to do right now, but you are not alone. It may feel lonely at times but there is a whole faith community in Christ praying and working in other areas to show the good news of Jesus Christ and to bring his message to a world in desperate need of his love and grace.

It is because of our faith in Christ that we belong to each other. We are a family. This means that we are connected. I am not sure about you, but “In the same way, though there are many of us, we are one body in Christ, and individually we belong to each other.” is a huge challenge. We will want to work by ourselves, sometimes; but we have a responsibility to bring others in and work with them to share the gospel message of Jesus Christ.

Who do you believe would make a good ministry partner for you? What gifts do they bring? What gifts should you personally nurture?

Cookie Cutters?

Romans 12:4 “We have many parts in one body, but the parts don’t all have the same function.”

Wouldn’t it be nice if all of us had the same function, same mindset, same gifts and talents as each other? Wouldn’t that make life easier? I know we say (and hopefully tease), “If only [insert name or group] would think (or act) just like me, then everything would be right.” After all, I am the one that is always right, correct?

Sometimes I believe we slip into the mindset and attitudes that it would be so much better if everyone else acted and thought just like we do. One of the beauties of the creativeness of God is how much diversity is out there for us to enjoy. Let’s be honest, we like diversity and can get a little bored of the same thing over and over. We like to make choices.

We are not all “cut out of the same mold.” We are all created individually with specific gifts, talents, interests, preferences, etc. This is one of the beautiful parts of our world – how much diversity there is. Yes, we all have differing gifts and talents. Yes, we live in different communities and countries. But I believe this shows the creativity of God.

What this tells me is that we are all part of the same “body.” I also think of this as community of faith or universal church. The body of Christ is the church here on earth. Each part of the body has different functions, and this is what makes the body work.

The challenge I think we have today is to think about the diversity there is around us and how we are really all (hopefully) working toward the same goal. There are people we do not agree with; but this is an opportunity to be thankful and praise God for their gifts and talents being used to build the Kingdom of God here on earth. You and I have a great part to play, even though we may have different functions.

God should be praised daily for the diversity.

What A Joy!

What a joy it is to wake up each day and see what the new day brings. Each day I wake up is a reminder to thank God for the opportunities that lie ahead, and thank God for His presence with us. This is truly a great gift.

What are some of the gifts you have been given? What would you say is your best gift? I asked these questions to some teenagers recently and I was actually surprised by their answers. They started off by saying things like forgiveness, love, family, friends, talents, humor, etc. Just when we think we have teenagers figured out, they go and say what they really value.

We all have special gifts we have been given by God and it is good for us to use them to work with God to help people live into the Kingdom of God here on earth. These gifts can probably be viewed as several things, but my encouragement for you and I today is to see how we can help people see and experience the Kingdom of God here and now and live into life. So, what gifts do you have that can be utilized for this?

I love this passage from the book of Romans. We’ll look into it for the next few days; but this is a glimpse of how we can begin to live our lives today. We get to work with God and the gifts given to us today. What a JOY!

Because of the grace that God gave me, I can say to each one of you: don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought to think. Instead, be reasonable since God has measured out a portion of faith to each one of you. We have many parts in one body, but the parts don’t all have the same function. In the same way, though there are many of us, we are one body in Christ, and individually we belong to each other. We have different gifts that are consistent with God’s grace that has been given to us. If your gift is prophecy, you should prophesy in proportion to your faith. If your gift is service, devote yourself to serving. If your gift is teaching, devote yourself to teaching. If your gift is encouragement, devote yourself to encouraging. The one giving should do it with no strings attached. The leader should lead with passion. The one showing mercy should be cheerful. ~Romans 12:3-8

New Attitude and Thinking

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Colossians 3:5-11 So put to death the parts of your life that belong to the earth, such as sexual immorality, moral corruption, lust, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). The wrath of God is coming upon disobedient people because of these things. You used to live this way, when you were alive to these things. But now set aside these things, such as anger, rage, malice, slander, and obscene language. Don’t lie to each other. Take off the old human nature with its practices and put on the new nature, which is renewed in knowledge by conforming to the image of the one who created it. In this image there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all things and in all people. 

Click here for Colossians 3 in context

This is a point that Paul is trying to make in all of his letters to the different churches. I find it interesting that he has to remind the people over and over again to put aside things of the world and live the life of Jesus Christ. It almost seems as though the people would remember they are new creations because of Christ. It seems like we should remember this as well.

How easy it is to fall back into the old temptations and old ways of living. The pull of physical satisfaction is great and we can forget that we are new creations, that we have a new mind because we have died with Christ. The actions and attitudes that Paul describes “sexual immorality, moral corruption, lust, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry)…anger, rage, malice, slander, and obscene language” are things that we should not allow to control us or define our lives.

The world around us says differently though. The world around us says it is the most important thing in life to make sure the physical desires and wants are satisfied and taken care of. But, if we have died with Christ, these actions and attitudes should not be part of our lives. The reason? Sin does not do really anything except tear down. We are called to build people up and help them live as Christ is desiring them (and us) to live. The other reason I can see is that these actions and attitudes listed really come from selfishness. We are called to the body of Christ which means that we all have a part to play and each person is important. We look for ways to love people, even when it hurts or is difficult.

Paul reminds the readers, and us, that in Christ we are all one. There is no distinction between groups. Christ is in all things and situations. Christ is in all people. He gets the glory and we can praise Him even when people do not do what we ant them do to. We can love those who do not act lovable. We can do all of this because Christ brings us together. Many parts, one body.

#ToTheGloryOfChrist

Life’s Journey

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Colossians 2:1-5 I want you to know how much I struggle for you, for those in Laodicea, and for all who haven’t known me personally. My goal is that their hearts would be encouraged and united together in love so that they might have all the riches of assurance that come with understanding, so that they might have the knowledge of the secret plan of God, namely Christ. All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in him. I’m telling you this so that no one deceives you with convincing arguments, because even though I am absent physically, I’m with you in spirit. I’m happy to see the discipline and stability of your faith in Christ.

This is such a rick passage that I cannot really do it justice in the space I’ll be writing today. As Paul is in prison while writing this, he wants the people to know how much he is struggling for them. Reading this in context of the entire letter, it seems like he is struggling in his spirit because he is praying for them and desires for them to be mature disciples of Jesus Christ. I would think that it is difficult for him not to be present with them, thus his struggling.

I also think it is remarkable about who he is concerned about. He is not just concerned about those who know him, who have listened to him, who love him. He is concerned for those who haven’t been reached yet, those who do not yet know him. This is a great reminder that I need to be concerned about those I am interacting with daily right here, right now; but it is also a reminder to be concerned about and pray for those I have not yet encountered. Pray for God to open doors to the lives of those who are going to intersect the path God has me on.

Our goal should be to encourage people to be engaged with the message of Jesus Christ that unifies them with the Spirit of God; but also our goal is to work with people to bring unity and peace wherever we are. This unity begins with the knowledge of Christ, that really is not a secret, just hard to understand at times. As we learn more about Christ, then somehow the treasure is opened and released to us. This is not the treasure that is material. This treasure is spiritual. We, individually and collectively, receive this treasure as we open our hearts to God.

There are people who come along and sound convincing about “other truths” about Jesus Christ. This is not really what we should be listening to. Paul reminds his readers in 1 Thessalonians to “test the spirits.” We are to test whether or not someone is speaking the truth about God to us. We can do this through prayer, personal study, speaking with others mature in their faith. This is so we do not get led astray and go off on a life journey that God never intended for us to be on.

We cannot be with those we teach and disciple all of the time; but we can be with them in spirit. We can be with them by keeping them in our minds and finding ways to check up on them. We can also be in prayer for them. Our challenge today is to think of someone who may not know Christ, or who is struggling either in their faith or in their life. Pray for them and ask God to do a great work in their lives. Who knows, maybe you’ll be the person who God uses to walk with that person/people on their journey. This give Jesus Christ glory because we do this in His name and not for our recognition.

#ToTheGloryOfChrist

Ministry

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Colossians 1:24-29 Now I’m happy to be suffering for you. I’m completing what is missing from Christ’s sufferings with my own body. I’m doing this for the sake of his body, which is the church. I became a servant of the church by God’s commission, which was given to me for you, in order to complete God’s word. I’m completing it with a secret plan that has been hidden for ages and generations but which has now been revealed to his holy people. God wanted to make the glorious riches of this secret plan known among the Gentiles, which is Christ living in you, the hope of glory. This is what we preach as we warn and teach every person with all wisdom so that we might present each one mature in Christ. I work hard and struggle for this goal with his energy, which works in me powerfully.

Working in the church is hard work. Being in mission and ministry with people is tough. It can often feel like we are the ones suffering. Even though we are the ones walking with those suffering, it can be real to us. We also may really be suffering physically, emotionally, mentally, relationally. However we view the work, one thing is certain: it truly is a joyful thing to be in the business of God and of people.

Not all of us may be pastors, but we are all ministers and missionaries. We are ministers because we can walk alongside people through life in any situation. We are missionaries because we are all ordained to take the message of Jesus Christ to all we encounter. We do not have to go out of town, out of state or even out of the country to talk with people about Jesus Christ. We can do that right in our own homes, neighborhoods and businesses. We may be harassed because of our faith or because of our views; but we should still be joyful in delivering the message of God’s grace through Jesus Christ to all we encounter, no matter how they react.

Sometimes it may seem to other people that we are carrying a “secret message” from God. The reason, I believe it is a secret is because heart may not be open to hearing and receiving the message. So what do we do? We pray for God to act. God acts. We work where God is working because God is working everywhere and we have prayed to have open eyes and hearts to see what God is doing where we are.

Ministry is hard work; but it is also very rewarding spiritually. We’ll end this post today with the last verse of this chapter: “I work hard and struggle for this goal (teaching and warning people) with his energy, which works powerfully in me.”

#ToTheGloryOfChrist