One Body, one Spirit, one Hope; One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism; One God

Ephesians 4:4-6

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

The church.

How I ache to see it together, rather it appears at times to be a ship that is battered against the rocks, splintering and broken.  Pieces that once belonged together stand in starch contrast to each other, trying to convince the on looker that they never once were part of the same vessel.

But a broken vessel doesn’t do it’s job very well. And a broken church doesn’t do it either.

How can one body be at odds with each other?

We have come up with terms that define who we are, what we believe and what is important to us. We have erected our faith statements to  places of walls and gates instead of invitations.

One body – but we disagree on the functions. (Amos 2:11-12); (Ex: spiritual gifts)

One Spirit – but we can’t even agree on the role of the Holy Spirit

One Hope – but it seems we get distracted from this too often….

 

One Lord – but how do you worship your Lord?

One Faith – but is your faith ‘real’??

One Baptism – …. infant or adult…. immersion or sprinkle….

 

One God and Father of all.

 

And in all of this, there is a fear to talk about the validity of the other views.  I have heard many times people breathlessly defending their position without acknowledging that the other side has a good point too.

What will it take that we stop defending our opinions and focus on defending the gospel? Is my love and fellowship with other believers so dependent on us agreeing on every opinion that it is worth the unity of the body?

It is painful to hear the evangelical brush off the Catholic because of their traditions. It is difficult to see the Orthodox perplexed at the protestants lack of reverence.  It is hard to watch the conservative and liberal write off the other because they are either too corrupted or ‘way behind’.

Yes, it would be difficult to have everyone together in the same congregation, but I think there is a little more room for grace. And as Paul does in Acts 21, where possible and expected, uphold the law. There is value to being beyond reproach, but our one Hope is not in the law, but in the Gospel.

 

The Planets are His Flock,

In Job 38, God answers Job. It sure has been long enough, long explanations from his friends and longer times sitting in silence, and finally God speaks up.  But instead of confirming the Job was right, and there was no fault, or the his friends were right and somewhere down deep there was some sin against God, God takes this conversation somewhere else.

“Where were you when…”, “Tell me, if you have understanding…” The rhetorical question puts Job in perspective to how big God is.

God’s relationship with the planets and the seas reflect a relationship like I would imagine a shepherd to his sheep. The one who shows them where to go, the paths they are to take and the territory from which they may eat. The shepherd is the one who closes the door at night and lets them out in the morning. Without the shepherd, sheep would surely die. and without God, all that we call the natural laws, or natural order would also cease to exist.  Are we even able to fathom the extent of His power?

 

The Power of God’s Cloud

All would agree that a cloud is just an object in God’s hand, through which he can work.  We see clouds in throughout the Bible and often in significant moments.

Just a couple of these instances are the cloud on Mount Sinai, the pillar of cloud that led the people through the wildness by day, and the cloud that rested upon the tabernacle as a sign of God’s presence.

The New Testament carries this tradition too. The cloud that is present at the Transfiguration of Jesus. And the one who will come riding on the clouds in Revelation.cloud

But our God, who used clouds throughout history, has full control and power over those clouds. As Elihu, one of Job’s friends reflects on the power of God, we see that power and the ability of God to use the same thing for both the pleasant and the not so pleasant.

Job 37:11-13 (NASB)

11 “Also with moisture He loads the thick cloud;
He disperses the cloud of His lightning.
12 “It changes direction, turning around by His guidance,
That it may do whatever He commands it
On the face of the inhabited earth.
13 “Whether for correction, or for His world,
Or for lovingkindness, He causes it to happen.

Who are we to tell God how he can use aspects of His creation.  He has the ability to make clouds, and make clouds fulfill His purpose. And what he can do with a cloud he certainly can do with a man. If we are willing we can also be tools in the Creators hand.

Clouds are often a sign of God’s presence, and God’s presence itself can be both be a correction or a lovingkindness. And God’s presence will do whatever He wills. But as clouds come and go, we can be assured that God’s presence will not leave us, even if we are unaware of it.

Understanding Job’s friends

In the book of Job there is an extensive dialogue between Job and between his friends who are sitting with him. Each takes turns trying to reason with Job on why God would afflict him in such a way. Job responds and argues his righteousness before God.

There is a certain difficultly sorting through the things that are being said and deciding if they are worth hanging onto, or if they are lousy answers that humans are attempting to understand Job’s suffering.  Every now and then, there is a passage that I know is true.

Job 34:14-15

14 If He should determine to do so,
If He should gather to Himself His spirit and His breath,
15 All flesh would perish together,
And man would return to dust.

The power of God is apparent, and this friend knows it. Life exists because God allows it. Suffering or not God is still giving life its breath. When the power of God is shown this clearly it is both the most disheartening and the most comforting thought.  As the disciples witness that Jesus can calm the storm by just speaking to it, they too get a glimpse of the power that God has over life.

“But he knows the way I take”

Job 23:8-10 (NIV)

“But if I go to the east, he is not there;
    if I go to the west, I do not find him.
When he is at work in the north, I do not see him;
    when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him.
10 But he knows the way that I take;
    when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.

Job, in the midst of trial and pain, speaks bluntly and with confidence.

East, west, north, south, he cannot perceive what God has been doing or what he is in the process of doing.  Those directions can be translated slightly differently.

East, ‘קדם’, in front.

West, ‘ואחור’, ‘and behind’,

North, ‘שמאול’, ‘left’,

South, ‘ימין’, ‘right’.

The original translation is not wrong in saying the 4 cardinal directions. In the Ancient Near East maps are typically oriented towards the east, to the rising sun. If one faces east, the south is on their right, and the north on their left hence the words came to have a dual meaning.

With either translation, Job cannot perceive what God is doing at this moment in his life.  Also, he says he cannot see what God has done behind him. It is often at these moments that we also forget what God has been doing in our lives before, and how he has led us up to these moments.

Yet, despite feeling the despair of being lost from God’s plan, Job hold’s on to what he knows.  God knows the way that I take. And. I shall come forth as gold.   God is doing something. And if we continue trusting God and doing what he commands, it will be for good.

Our Goal: the Gospel

Acts 1:8 (NIV)

… and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

God created the world, and He created man to be in fellowship with Himself.

God sent a flood in order to cleanse the world of the evil it had become.

God created a covenant with Abraham, choosing a nation through which to reach the world.

God rescued His people from Egypt.

God sent His law to his people on Mount Sinai.

God dwelt with His people in the system and structure of the tabernacle and temple.

God sent prophets to call His nation back to himself

God sent His Son to earth to seek and save the lost. This time not only the nation, but all nations.  By living, dying and rising again He conquered death.

God sent His Spirit to equip and help the saints carry forth the mission God has established.

From Jerusalem, to Judea, to the ends of the earth. And when every road has been traveled and every country passed though we reach into the corners that are left untouched. The unlikely places, the unlikely corners, and we take the gospel there.

The Whole Gospel,

From ‘And God said it is good’ to ‘there’ll be no more tears’ and everywhere in between.  The good news of how God intervenes with His people, and how a God who doesn’t change is still pursuing us and working today.