Singleness of Heart

One of the marvels of this incredible, shrinking world of ours is that we see up-close the incredible, expanding church of Christ. At two weekly Bible studies I attend, believers have come from or gone to places all over the world—Malaysia, Indonesia, Burkina-Faso, Slovenia, Peru, China, Nigeria, Thailand, India, Taiwan and Japan, to name a few. All these faces representing all these nations reflect this beautiful prophecy fulfilled: “I will give them singleness of heart and action” (Jeremiah 32:39). From continents and cultures around the globe, we share in new life in Christ Jesus and the call to reach others in His name.

What’s fascinating, then—and fun to watch—is how God creates a new diversity among a united us, for His Spirit uniquely gifts each believer for the common good. Take Iris*, for instance. Here from a foreign country to study economics, she found new life in Christ. Now from this leader flows a healing compassion for those who hurt, and the gift of intercession as she earnestly prays for them. Then there’s Rhonda—a friendly “force of nature” whose unquenchable zeal for the salvation of souls is sourced in the Spirit of God working through her in power. Eric is a proclaimer, boldly and joyfully sharing the gospel of Christ and letting its truth produce fruit for itself.

I could go on, and so could you, with example after example of how God calls and gifts His redeemed people for His glory and our good. For the one Spirit He has placed in all of us will accomplish His purposes through each of us. It is evidence of yet another prophecy fulfilled in Christ—In that day you will say: “Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted. Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world” (Isaiah 12:4, 5).

And so we have, and still we are.

Father, seeing you at work around me increases my desire for you to work through me. Yet more important still is that you be glorified through the body of Christ, your own people loving and serving with singularity of heart and action. May this be so today. Amen.

Christ in me is holiness.

Read today’s Scripture in Isaiah 12:1-6.

* Names have been changed.

All of You

“Prost!” we cheered, hoisting our mugs that Oktoberfest evening in Munich. It was the German version of its counterpart toasts around the world—“Cheers!” “Salute!” “Santé!” With that we clunked our mugs in unison (real mugs don’t clink), binding us together for a fun time of pretzels, hops, people and song.

In a far different place and time, gathering friends also lifted a cup. “Drink from it, all of you,” Jesus said, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”1 He spoke of a true and lasting oneness, the universal bond of all who would rest their soul in Him. Still today, we celebrate “communion,” a gathering together of believers to participate in Him who unites us to Himself. But does Jesus’ church really worship as one, or have we let worldly disputes separate “all of you” into smaller subsets of “some of us”? It’s a rhetorical question; I think we know the answer. And gathering as a people divided is to commune “in an unworthy manner,” warns Paul; to do so is “sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.”2 Peace is paramount to God.

So, what do we do? Certainly finger-pointing, hand-wringing and towel-throwing get us nowhere. I think a friend of mine, Michael Young, has an answer. Senior pastor of a largely African-American congregation, Michael convenes open town-hall meetings at his church, inviting community leaders with different vantage points—clergy, police, elected officials, business people—to share their thoughts and to listen to the collective hearts and voices of all gathered there. The purpose is not to assert one opinion over others, but to meet deeper needs: of hearing and being heard, of understanding and being understood, of airing perceptions and addressing misperceptions, of looking up from that which divides us and embracing the aspirations we all share in common—the desires of the soul only the Son of God can meet.

Oneness takes work. It calls us to humility, wisdom, perseverance and faith, for “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against … powers of this dark world and … spiritual forces of evil.”3 My friend has chosen to look up to Christ who unites us and stand with Him against the enemy who wishes only to divide and destroy us. His resolve silently begs the question of us, “What about all of you?

Father, I’m far too willing to be one with you but divided from my neighbor. Give me the humility, patience and desire to unite with my brothers and sisters in Christ against any enemy who would separate us. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Christ in me is peace.

Read today’s Scripture in Matthew 26:26-30.

1 Matthew 26:27, 28
2 1 Corinthians 11:18, 27
3 Ephesians 6:12

Safely Hidden

It’s a joke in our house—I’m just not good at surprising my wife. Once, I bought Peggy a bracelet for Christmas and hid it where I knew she wouldn’t find it. The secret would have been safe, too, except for the fact I was so pleased with my hiding place that, one day, I went to admire it … and Peggy found me there. Years later, we still laugh about it. The legend lives on.

Fortunately for the human race, God is better at hiding things than I am. In the Biblical context, a mystery is something knowable only by the one who initiates it and those to whom he chooses to reveal it. And before time began, God hid one mystery, in particular, in the safest place in the universe—He hid it in Himself, undiscoverable until the time of His choosing.1 When something is hidden in God, it’s hidden. What then could possibly be so important to God that He would keep it so secure? We are. For the mystery He eventually revealed was this: Jesus Christ living in us,2 freeing, saving and uniting forever all who would receive Him through faith.3

But why such secrecy? Why such drama? Again, it was for our own good and for God’s, for Paul tells us that if “the rulers of this age”—the spiritual powers of darkness—had understood the mystery of Christ in us, “they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”4 But for the hiding, the justice of God and the mercy of God would not have reconciled at the cross, and we would still be in our sin, separated forever from a holy God. As it is, however, “we may approach God with freedom and confidence,”5 for in Him and because of his wisdom, we are forgiven, reconciled, loved.

And in Him, we are eternally secure. How do we know? We have been “raised with Christ,” writes Paul, and our life is now “hidden with Christ in God.”6 And when something is hidden in God, it’s hidden.

Father, your wisdom is unsearchable, your power unsurpassable and your love immeasurable. I trust you. Send me and use me today in the complete confidence that, no matter what happens, I am safely and securely hidden in you. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Christ in me is confidence.

1 Ephesians 3:9
2 Colossians 1:27
3 Ephesians 3:5, 6
4 1 Corinthians 2:8
5 Ephesians 3:12
6 Colossians 3:3