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Friday, November 28, 2014

You "on plumb"?

Stranger:  A newcomer in a place or locality; an outsider; a person who is unacquainted with or unaccustomed to something.  Foreigner:  A person not "native" to or in a position of being "external" to something.  Scripture declares we are no longer either a stranger, nor a foreigner, once we say "yes" to Jesus.  In fact, we are adopted into the family of God - made citizens in his Kingdom.  As a result, we are no longer on the outside looking in, but are growing more and more accustomed to the ways God moves, how he responds, and what it is he finds pleasure in.  I live in a family of "naturalized" citizens.  Mom came over from England at a very young age with her parents, naturalizing in her young adult years.  Dad came down from Canada in search of a dryer climate to help with his young son's lung health, naturalizing shortly thereafter.  My brother received his naturalization after serving in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam era.  My sister studied to receive her naturalization after she came of age.  I am born and raised in the United States, so I am the only one "native" to this country.   I may not know what it is to be an "outsider" in the sense of the place I call home, but I do understand what it is to be an outsider in terms of going it alone in life, feeling like I could manage this life of my own without any assistance from God's oversight!  Let me just assure you - being on the outside looking in on my life was no more pleasant than looking "out" from the mess I made of my life under my own authority and leadership!

You Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens with everyone else who belongs to the family of God. You are like a building with the apostles and prophets as the foundation and with Christ as the most important stone. Christ is the one who holds the building together and makes it grow into a holy temple for the Lord. And you are part of that building Christ has built as a place for God’s own Spirit to live. (Ephesians 2:19-22 CEV)

To no longer be on the outside looking in makes for a world of difference in perspective.  In terms of become accustomed to a "new way of business" in our lives, saying "yes" to Jesus means we lay down the control and allow him the freedom to guide us through life.  Easier said than done, I know.  Yet, it is in even the subtlest movement toward obedience where God meets us and edges us that much closer toward full submission to his leadership in our lives.  It doesn't take giant steps - it takes just the smallest of "baby steps" to show our intent of heart.  I like the illustration Paul uses of a building.  A foundation is laid because without a foundation, anything erected will eventually crumble.  The foundation is what gives the building "anchor".  The cornerstone holds significance because it it the piece which ties together all the other pieces.  I always used to ask my dad why he started at the corner of the brick or block laying.  I didn't know why this was so important, but he would consistently share the same message until it finally connected with me.  As dad used to say, "It is the stone by which all the other stones receive their reference".  Now, as a younger child, I didn't get this whole "reference" thing, but as I grew up, I did!  

What he was trying to tell me was that every other stone or block or brick laid into the wall would find its plumb based on the cornerstone.  All other stones were set in reference to this stone.  In turn, the wall took form continually referring back to the "plumb" of the cornerstone.  Now, do you see it?  The cornerstone is Christ.  He is what gives our lives "plumb" - the reference to which all of life is laid in "plumb".  In addition, the cornerstone was the position which "united" the stones running in opposite directions.  Most of us are running in different directions to what Christ intends for our lives.  As Paul penned these words, Jews and Gentiles (those who were on the outside of faith) were being united to the one "reference" stone (Christ).  Running in opposite directions to each other, Paul was reminding them of the uniting influence of Christ in their lives.

Get the reference stone right and all the building will go well.  If the reference stone is not in plumb, the rest of the building will be out of plumb, as well.  I have a small flower bed which was built before I bought the house.  As time has gone on, the bed has been influenced by the tree roots of the huge pine tree planted in my front yard.  Those roots have pushed the bed out of plumb and made the wall crack in spots.  I have been challenged to figure out ways of rebuilding it on occasion, salvaging the brick and redoing the mortar connections. It takes some doing, but I always refer back to the corner which remains plumb.  As long as I do this, the wall look pretty good when I get it reconstructed.  Now, on the opposite side of the house, there is a two layer small retaining structure created to separate the grass from some gravel running alongside the house.  Some old trees used to be in the gravel, which I have since had removed.  The influence of those roots lifted the small retaining wall in the middle, so the wall is no longer plumb.  To get it plumb, I'd have to rip out the whole thing and start over again.  Why?  No cornerstone by which I have a reference!  It is a straight line which is no longer straight!

Nothing orders our life, keeps us "on plumb", or binds us together in unity with each other quite like having the right "cornerstone" in our lives.  Jesus gives our lives reference - the ability to have an accurate determination of "plumb".  When we get the foundation right, all the other pieces will fall into place!  Just sayin!