Perhaps in recent weeks, months, or years you have, like me, been wondering where your place is in all the work that still needs to be done regarding the reunification of humanity. Sometimes, when we have a particular burden on our hearts, God is calling us to be the very answer we wish existed to the problem(s) we observe. Other times, we are so busy expending our energy and efforts in the various areas we feel drawn to that we bypass the vacant spaces that await our awakening to God’s call on our lives to fill them. God’s purpose for the body of Christ is to be the example to a hurting world of what unity is and how His love is to be effectively expressed.
I found myself drawn to the passage that we will study together today. My hope is that, through our deeper exploration of this passage, we can better identify the unique part each of us can play in the larger charge to be the light of the world and embody the love of Jesus through our unique gifts, imparted by the Holy Spirit. The way that we operate in our gifting is how we honor God and bring glory to His name. While this is a popular passage within the church for its identification of spiritual gifts, one additional lens has been used to help us broaden our scope of the message Paul shares. For anyone unfamiliar with him, Paul is one of the New Testament (NT) leaders, called apostles. The heading of the passage in question, “Unity and Diversity in the Body,” already speaks volumes in itself. Let’s dive right in.
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It is a trick of the enemy to get you to put your trust in anything other than God. That’s not news to many, but let me make this very clear. The enemy is very good at playing his role. He is committed. He has rehearsed every line and prepared ahead of time to use every opportunity to his advantage. With that said, we are not left to fend for ourselves against his schemes. We have a solid line of defense available to us in every situation we face. We have the full armor of God.
Whenever something is repeated in scripture, it highlights an important point for our understanding. In Ephesians 6:10-18 NIV, the words “put on the full armor of God” are repeated twice within two verses (v. 11 and 13). The most significant word in this repetition is “full.” We must put on the full armor, not just parts of it. This repeated command has crucial information sandwiched in between and I think it would be negligent for us to move forward without briefly exploring what is listed:
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“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.“Ephesians 6:12 NIV
There is something about movement of the body that can express what words simply cannot. My entire life, I have gravitated towards dance as a form of emotional expression, often without realizing it. When there were no words, I would turn on a song that belted them for me and move my body until I didn’t have any energy left. I remember wanting to join ballet but never having the opportunity to fulfill that desire. I also used to love watching figure-skating, often adorning socks and “skating” around my kitchen on the tile floor, pretending that it was ice. I also kept a Michelle Kwan poster on my bedroom door, which is one of the few, if not the only poster I’ve ever put up. Similarly, I have always loved wearing heels. So, naturally, I would put them on during some of these dance sessions and I would follow along with my favorite music videos of that era. I “performed” in my room for hours on end and what I now realize was an audience of One. God has been with me along this journey and has helped me to understand my emotions through the songs I gravitated to in each season.
During one season, R&B was my dominant genre of choice. All of the relationship-focused and break-up songs expressed deep, painful emotions that I related to on multiple levels. I remember distinctly, listening to “Too Little Too Late” by JoJo and weeping in my room with only the thought of my mother and how empty I felt without her. While those lyrics never seemed to match up to anything I was going through at the time, that song encapsulated those emotions and still brings that memory back a vividly as if it happened yesterday. In another season, I heavily gravitated to music by Paramore, My Chemical Romance, Green Day, and Evanescence. That season, which ebbed and flowed throughout my adolescence, represented a persistent depressive state where I couldn’t feel anything but emptiness, pain, and anger. I loved the energy of the music because it helped me to express what I was never able to otherwise. Beyoncé was a major influence of mine at that time and I would dance my heart out to songs like “Crazy In Love” and “End of Time.” Performance has always been in me, it was just hidden behind all of the weight of my insecurities and the pain of my childhood.
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There are many instances in the Bible where God makes it clear that He is well acquainted with the heart of humanity. In His choosing of David over all of his other brothers. In His acceptance of Abel’s gift over Cain’s. God is no respecter of persons and He makes it abundantly clear that living a life of honorable service to Him is primarily a heart issue. With this understanding of the God who created the universe, who exists outside of time, and has all power in His being; Shouldn’t we be able to trust Him at His word?
The short answer is yes. However, our thoughts and behavior often show otherwise, complicating what God originally intended to be a simple solution to address our needs. You may be familiar with the quotable found on many t-shirts, mugs, and other collectable items: “Keep Calm and…” The end of that statement has an extensive list of suggested things, people, and places to put your faith in. Yet, every believer is aware, to some degree, that the only true source of stability that we can put our trust in is God. This year, 2020, has quite rudely interrupted the norms that humanity has created for ourselves and made it abundantly clear that many of the things, people, and places we have put our faith in are not able to hold us up when life takes an unexpected turn.
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25 Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. 26 And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, [a]“Be of good cheer! [b]It is I; do not be afraid.” (Matthew 14:25-27 NKJV).
The disciples were in a dire situation. They were caught in a storm that had been raging for some time (according to the passage, it would have been after three o’clock in the morning and, based on verses 22-23, they set sail prior to the evening’s start). In the distance, they saw something that looked unfamiliar coming towards them. They were troubled by what they saw and began to cry out in fear. What are you inviting into your life during difficult situations? The disciples were inviting fear to take hold of them. Jesus, knowing where fear would lead, was swift in His encouragement of their faith, attempting to assure them of who He was. Since they already knew Jesus and witnessed His track record, one would think that this would be enough to quell their fears. However, that did not appear to be the outcome.
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And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”
-Isaiah 6:5-8 ESV
In this passage, the biblical prophet, Isaiah, went from insecurity in his present circumstance to boldness through swift obedience. There was a crucial process that occurred in the few lines between those two versions of him. His lips were touched with burning coal (he went through a refining process, brief but transformative) and life-giving words (blessing) were spoken over him. In that blessing, he was made aware of the purpose of the process, which encouraged him to let go of the guilt he felt and step confidently into his calling.
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I have a question. Have you been in a breaking season recently? Perhaps you’re in one right now. Amidst all that this year has had to offer, you may be aware that there is something really personal happening in your life. Something that is shaking the foundation of who you believed you were at your core. If you can relate to any of what I just mentioned, please know that it’s not just happening to you. A breaking season is meant to uproot the things that never belonged to you as God replaces them with His truth, His love, and His plan for your life. For many, this means that you lost one or more of your employment positions or opportunities. For others it means that your family or friendships have been turning up recently. Still, for others, everywhere you turn, you can’t seem to catch a break. Whether its been physical, emotional, or psychological, your well-being has been difficult to maintain due to the pressures you’ve been facing.
Can I offer something to you that God took His time to reveal to me? It’s a perspective issue more than it’s an issue of your life’s circumstance. Let me take a step back and share a bit more so we can get a bit more acquainted. My issue is impostor syndrome. I have learned that impostor syndrome (at its core) stems from worry, which is brought on by focusing your attention on the wrong thing(s). Can I submit to you that you have probably been making the same mistake? I’m not here to pass judgment, I promise. As I just mentioned, I have my own issues to work out with God’s help. I simply want to encourage you to take a different stance as you face the giants in your life.
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More than likely, you’ve heard the saying, “Walk, don’t run,” often as a safety precaution to avoid accidents or injuries. However, there are some things that require a different level of pursuit, a much more urgent one. Our spiritual lives are at the top of that list. Whenever we find ourselves in need of reprieve, encouragement, protection or peace, we need to run to the only source that can provide the nourishment for our souls, remedy for the pain and the protective capacity for life’s trials and tribulations. We need to run to God.
Like a child running into the arms of a parent, we need to pursue our Heavenly Father. It’s one thing to acknowledge this truth and another thing entirely to believe it. Before we continue, I’d like to spend a bit more time on the last attribute of God that I mentioned above. Protective capacity refers to a caretaker’s ability to anticipate the needs of a vulnerable individual, namely a child. It encompasses behavioral, emotional, and psychological components. The behavioral component includes the caretaker’s ability to protect the child from physical danger and provide their basic needs (i.e. food, shelter, clothing). The emotional component involves the caretaker’s attunement to the child as well as their ability to nurture the child’s well-being. Closely tied to this is the psychological component, which highlights the caretaker’s awareness of and thoughts towards the child (i.e. thinking their child is good or bad as well as their expectation/perception of the child’s abilities and limitations).
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Upstream. Against the current. Even after losing yourself in the waves of disappointment. Just. Keep. Swimming.
This line spoken by Dory in the movie Finding Nemo is such a memorable one. It’s a reminder to keep going no matter what. Dory’s character is most memorable for her “can do” spirit, even in the face of what appears to baffle her. Even when she forgets her surroundings, what she’s learned and who she’s met. She keeps a positive mindset and presses forward with enthusiasm. Now, I understand if you’re reading this and thinking that you can’t relate to that level of optimism in the face of what you’ve been making your way through lately. But I want to remind you of something. God is faithful. He knows what you’ve been going through and He cares about every detail!
On those difficult days, there are words of encouragement that can be found throughout scripture to address your situation. For example, Proverbs 24:16a in the New International Version says, “For though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again.” This is a beautiful reminder that, no matter what gets you down or how many times you feel defeated, in Christ, you don’t have to be! There will always be an opportunity to get back up and keep going. God guarantees it. Another important reminder we receive in scripture is not to grow weary in doing good because a beneficial outcome awaits on the other side of our perseverance (Galatians 6:9). God’s word is filled with affirmations reminding us that He’s on our side, rooting for us.
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The biggest downfall of the Pharisees (Jewish priests) was that they believed they knew all there was to know about God. Due to this, they lived from a place of stagnancy in regard to their faith (this is where a lot of religious practice begins to replace true worship and relationship with God). In Mark 10:15, Jesus addresses a group of people, exclaiming, “Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” The confidence in His statement speaks volumes. Jesus essentially says, “Without a doubt, I inform you…there is no other way.” Jesus quells all confusion with those two phrases. All that is left is for the listeners to absorb the remaining information: “whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child...” The focus of this clause in Jesus’s warning is the receipt of God’s kingdom in a specific manner, like a child. How do we go about doing that? Let’s explore this together.
First of all, what does it mean to be teachable? Romans 12:2 AMP gives us an understanding of this as Paul states:
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