Once Many, Now One

Matthew McConaughey starred as coach Jack Lengyel in the true and inspiring story of a major college football program re-birth, a rising, of sorts, from the wreckage of a 1970 plane crash that had claimed the lives of the university’s entire team and coaching staff. Hired to build a team anew, Lengyel went to work to create something from nothing, one player and one coach at a time. They assembled from among the poor and the well-off, from the very fast to the very strong, from model lives to troubled youths, from African descent, European descent and more. What began as no individuals became many, and from many individuals emerged a team, together now proclaiming their identity as one—“We Are Marshall.”

In its way, the movie illustrates the body of Christ, a singular people made up of many persons. “Once you were not a people,” writes Peter, “but now you are the people of God.” In His mercy, we have come from backgrounds unimaginably diverse—from rich and poor, from East and West, North and South, from other religions or no religion, from ethnicities, tribes and nations around the globe. What have we become? Once many, we are one—“a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God.”

On the surface, such lofty titles can sound at least a little elitist, institutional and antiquated. Candidly, it’s easier for us to relate to football! Life is not a weekend pastime, however; it is toughed out every moment of every day and with real consequences. People crave goodness in an unjust world, and love amid cruelty, so God sends His chosen people, to reflect His character, where hope resides. People swim in confusion over who God is and how to find him; His holy nation points clearly and joyfully to Him who is the way, the truth and the life. People not only need prayer, they want prayer; what more can this humble priesthood do than to intercede for them and with them. And who but a people belonging to God is called to sacrifice our comfort for others’ care, and to exchange self-soothing convenience for outreaching compassion. It is still true: we thrive as one. We Are Priesthood.

Father, though I do not deserve it, you have saved me in Christ and joined me to His body. Lead me into the priestly duties you have for me — to speak hope and truth, to serve in your name, to give of myself as you give of yourself. I pray in the name of Him who died to make us holy. Amen.

Christ in me is holiness.

Read today’s Scripture in 1 Peter 2:9, 10.

The Rendezvous Point

Have you ever frantically searched for a child who was frantically searching for you? Or was it you, the lost child looking for a parent? Perhaps it was in the woods or at Disney World or in the mall. Wherever its locale at any given moment, “lost” is a very distressing place to be!

People all over the world search for wisdom; we share an inner longing for true knowledge, understanding, and insight. We seek the inner compass that navigates us from naiveté to discernment, from recklessness to discretion, from injustice to fairness, from discord to peace. We pursue meaning that we know exists in an authority outside of ourselves, elusive though it seems, beyond our natural reach.

The quest for wisdom transcends generational boundaries, and Solomon, regarded the wisest man who ever lived, promised this to all of us who embark upon it: if we “call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding,”[i] we will discover it. If we “look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure,” then we will find “the knowledge of God.”[ii] If this weren’t encouraging enough, the ancient king of Israel assured us wisdom is looking for us, too! “Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice? . . . ‘To you, O men, I call out; I raise my voice to all mankind. You who are simple, gain prudence; you who are foolish, gain understanding.’”[iii]

So we cry out for wisdom, even as wisdom calls out to us. To our great relief, there is a rendezvous point, a place where we would-be companions can find each other. It is the spot on the map marked, “the fear of the Lord.” It is the point at which we believe God, trust God, relinquish our wills to His ways, and rest our weary souls in Him. Those who seek insight can be united with it there, for “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”[iv]

Go to that spot—the place of reverence for God and awe of Him, the place of belief and trust in His Word. There you will find wisdom waiting for you.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. (James 1:5 ESV)

Christ in me is wisdom.

[i] Proverbs 2:3
[ii] Proverbs 2:4, 5
[iii] Proverbs 8:1, 4, 5
[iv] Proverbs 9:1

Today’s post is an excerpt from Christ in Me. Copyright © 2016 Paul Nordman. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Selfless Sacrifice

“Hunger is the greatest teacher I have ever known,”1 wrote my friend, Jean-Paul Tiendrebeogo in his book My Faith or My Family. Born and raised in Burkina-Faso, one of the poorest countries on Earth, Jean-Paul has known real hunger, an ongoing “lifestyle” of being sick and dazed from the lack of daily intake. It meant days and nights of “grounding,” as he calls it, stomach ulcers he endured by physically positioning himself—twisting and bending in any way he could—to ease the pain. Curious, I asked him, “What did hunger teach you?”

“Hunger causes you to cling to God, to press toward Him in prayer,” Jean-Paul replied, “Being in need in general draws you to your knees for greater dependence on God.” He continued, “Hunger opened my eyes to have a heart of thankfulness and appreciation, and not to take what I have for granted. It taught me to relate to people who are in a state of hunger and to be compassionate, because I was there and I know what it is like.” Opening himself further, he added, “I learned as a young boy not to cry, because no one is going to listen to me. You get up and you walk; you work hard, you persevere.” My own words eluded me, for I, by contrast, have almost never missed a meal; in fact, I’ve “grazed” at will from pantry tablelands throughout my days.

How ironic, then, that of the two of us, Jean-Paul is the one who has willingly returned to hunger through the discipline of fasting. So, I asked my friend, “Why do you fast now?” He responded without hesitation, “The greater the need, the more deeply I will cling to God. I put out my heart to Him the best I know how … I deprive myself to seek the will of God.” And God has honored Jean-Paul’s searching heart. “I learned to be in the presence of God. Some of the greatest and deepest revelations I have had came through my fasting,” he said, “and I have come away no longer hungry in the same way, but filled up in a spiritual sense.”

Whether it was what Jean-Paul said or the passion in which he said it that inspired me more, I am not sure, but over coffee that morning, I was persuaded to fast as God leads me to. For though Jean-Paul could never pass along to me what hunger had taught him, he did teach me this—that fasting is a spiritual adventure that leads us closer into the presence of God, who never sends us away empty.

Father, you have made me, and you provide all I need. Draw me closer to you and show yourself to me, for you alone are my sustenance. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Christ in me is strength.

Read the story of Queen Esther leading the call to fast in Esther 4:6-17.

1 Jean-Paul Tiendrebeogo, My Faith or My Family, (Terentum, Word Association Publishers, 2008), 52.