Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Pardon my soap box

There is always a danger of taking a portion of scripture, then choosing it to hang onto as meaning something, but not considering the context in which it is written.  This is why Jesus commended those who would study the scriptures, learning to rightly divide them, and then to proclaim them with the boldness he provides.  In order to get at the context of our study today, we must understand that God is doing a new thing in the New Testament church - he is establishing a group of believers (some converted Jews, others converted Gentiles) into a cohesive group.  In turn, he wants to direct how it is the church is to grow.  It is with the use of all the tools he provides - including the various leaders of the church, the scriptures, and the proper alignment of Old Testament teaching with the New Testament fulfillment.  He doesn't discount the Old Testament, but helps the believers to understand how the prophesies of the Old have been fulfilled in the New.  As the believers come together, there are rough areas which must be worked out - for the Jewish believer does not support the lifestyle and choices of the Gentile believer and the Gentile believer does not have the background of the old covenant to refer to in understanding what is being taught.  Old meets new - the two present some issues - unity must be established and common ground must be reached.  To this end, we find the letter to the Ephesian church being written.  It was Paul's hope to bring this sense of unity, centered squarely on the finished work of Christ and the fact of Christ being the fulfillment of all that remained a "mystery" in the Old Testament Law.  Thinking about how hard it is to mesh two dissimilar groups of people together and getting them to play well in the sandbox together, we have an impression of why Paul is writing.  To this end he pens the words calling them to really get into and discover the depths of God's love, experiencing the breadth and width of it, until it dramatically affects our lives.  Not a bad thing to consider as we look around ourselves today at the vast "meshing" of beliefs and practices in our cultures.  It is an excellent time to consider the power of the Spirit to "pull together" dissimilar groups and to make them one.

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. (Ephesians 3:20 MSG)

Our prayer for society today should be for Christ to live in their lives - as they would open the door and invite him in.  Too often we ignore the knocking - our earnestness in praying for those who are struggling to "open the door" is important because it may be the very tool which "loosens" the hinge!  The first step into fullness is the opening of our heart's door - without opening up, we cannot step out.  To this thought, we add Paul's words - God can do anything - far more than we could ever imagine or guess or request in our wildest dreams.  One prayer can ignite an entire church, or an entire revival. In the words of a prayer, God finds the access to the heart - the openness to receive he so earnestly seeks.

Rather than live with the dissimilarities, would it not make sense to ask God to begin to mesh together what belongs, weed out what doesn't, and bring afresh what is missing or has been abandoned along the way?  To my dismay, I see society pushing against and pointing out the dissimilarities in society rather than focusing on what has the possibility to unite us - Christ and none other.  I don't agree with embracing every lifestyle, accepting every behavior, etc. - for some are clearly against what scripture teaches.  I do believe we should pray for the uniting of believers everywhere - pulling us together into an entity of believers, not a gathering of individual believers.  How does this occur - by God's Spirit working deeply and gently within us.  God's Spirit - not our efforts - pulls us together in unity.

I live in a state plagued by legislation which has gone from bad to worse as time has evolved.  I don't want to point out the issues but you will understand that statement when I tell you I live in Arizona.  Between border wars and who can deny service to whom, this state has made the news big time over the past several years.  Protests galore almost any day of the week can be observed at our capital building and other prominent locations.  People are angered by the dissimilar treatment of others - and it is becoming a matter of public notice.  All I can say is that we need to pray for our legislators and those who elect them into office.  The job has to be tough and it has to consider all sides of the issues at hand.  No one knows how to handle the issues in their own minds - they need the mind of Christ.  The issues aren't whether a person is legal or not; straight or gay - the issue is whether Christ is in their hearts - for nothing will settle the "dissimilarities" until he is!  This should be our concern - to preach the gospel, to see it take root, and to then allow the uniting only the Holy Spirit of God can bring.

The church should be a uniting force in this society today - bringing first the prayers before the throne of God and then following that up with the actions of love which will bind us together.  Just sayin!