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Unity

The last time Jesus was with the original 12 apostles he encouraged them, challenged them, and prayed with them. He prayed for himself, for his disciples, and finally for all believers:

“My prayer is not for [the disciples] alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me…” – John 17:20-23

The point is obvious, but is the priority?

“The world” is increasingly individualistic, narcissistic, and competitive. Isn’t that a hint?

When I was in China, a Christian was a Christian. We didn’t care about denominations because we were bound by a common love for our Savior and for the people. However, I have personally experienced opposition and condemnation when I served alongside or attended worship services with believers of other denominations.

This is an old argument, but one that I feel a renewed conviction for because of the priority it was to Jesus:

May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” – John 17:23

Yes, that’s the same verse I already used. Christ’s prayer implies that if we are not brought to complete unity it will be difficult to let the world know about Jesus and that God loves us even as He loves his son (a.k.a. the gospel). Those of the world, seeking to escape it, are not looking for a place of further division and separation, but a place and a people bound together by hope, trust, peace, kindness, forgiveness, patience, unity, and the love of Jesus.

Sin pulls us apart, just as the world is being pulled apart. But it is God’s love, carried out through his children, that will bring us and others closer to unity.

iWill:

  • be an agent of unity between believers and non-believers in order to display the love of Christ
  • work on being in unity with the Father and Son through the Spirit

 

 

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Hope

"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." - 1 Peter 3:15

I was asked this week, as part of my ‘I will’ statements, to create a Gospel statement as well. In other words, a concise reflection of your faith to share with others. I have been thinking about this off-and-on this week and have been trying to simplify my faith to its essential parts.

In response to 1 Peter 3:15, this is what I have so far:

“My hope is in Jesus, who showed me the best way to live is to love others. He made me right with God and freely gave me eternal life in Heaven in exchange for my short life on Earth. This gift is for all who choose to follow Him.”

In 1 Peter 3:15 is an implication that we personify hope. A challenge, yet intended as an assumption of Christian character.

Hope makes for a convincing campaign slogan, but there is only one true hope–found in the Gospel.

iWill:

  • look for ways to display a more hopeful attitude this week.

Prayer Requests:

  • for a local ministry I can get involved with
  • for strengthened faith about our job situations

To Know

"But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." - 2 Peter 3:8-9

Perspective – the state of one’s ideas, the facts known to one, etc., in having a meaningful interrelationship.

I learned yesterday in a psychology lecture about the Rosenthal or Pygmalion effect. In short, this effect describes how one’s expectations can influence actions or how results are interpreted. Simply put, if I believe someone is smart, I will treat them accordingly. If they do something smart it will support my belief, and if they do something stupid I am likely to attribute it to something else.

So from our definition, perspective describes how one’s expectations…

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” – Hebrews 11:1

can influence actions or how results are interpreted.

“…we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” – Romans 5:2-3

If one’s expectations can influence actions and interpretation of results, could you also say that one’s actions and interpretation of results reflects one’s expectations?

Let me hit you with some powerful words from Moses:

“Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands.” – Deuteronomy 7:9

I want that perspective.

iWill:

  • pray for stronger faith
  • reflect on my actions, my interpretation of events in my life, and if those things demonstrate strong faith

Prayer Requests:

  • for our new small group that begins Sunday
  • for an eventual source of income
  • missionary friends in China, Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua, Nepal, & the US

Renewal

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind..." - Romans 12:2

Conform – to act in accord with the prevailing standards, attitudes, practices, etc., of society or a group; to be or become similar in form, nature, or character.

Transform – to change in form, appearance, or structure; metamorphose. To change in condition, nature, or character; convert.

(‘Metamorphose’ would be a crippling bananagrams word.)

I’ve felt recently that I left my metamorphosed mind in Hangzhou. There I was a teacher, a mentor, a friend, and a teammate. Everything was intentional and adventurous. Here, I am a middle-class white male who is unemployed and taking 10 hours at a JuCo. Everything is normal and ordinary.

God recently graced me with the past two months to think about my intentional life in China and where it was headed (and when I say ‘graced’ I mean that I had absolutely nothing to do for two months). I was trying to keep up with my DBS studies-alone-because my team was spread out all over the country. This became a season of impatience, frustration, and self-loathing.

Blinded by self-righteousness, I didn’t understand the ‘detox’ God has been leading me through. I was convicted by a few simple words:

“The righteous will live by faith.”

I understood then that I had unknowingly set obedience above faith. That my relationship with God is not measured by my successful iWill’s, but by my willingness to trust. I have no students, no one to mentor, no close friends, and no “team”, yet He is faithful. He disciplines those He loves, and I am reminded how much He loves me.

iWill:

  • measure my obedience by my faithfulness and trust (attitude), not by the results (works).
  • remember His faithfulness in times of worry.
  • pray that He will increase my faith this week.

Prayer Requests:

  • I need a job. Who doesn’t?
  • Past teammates in China (Stan, Julianne, Kevin, Benjamin, Bonny)
  • Leadership of our country
  • Wisdom