Building each other up. (1 Corinthians 12)

Division and personal gains cannot be something that we strive for or glorify within the church. We are meant to be one body that works in unison to glorify God and to lead more people into the Kingdom. While we all have different roles to contribute, none of us are truly better than each other. What I wanted to do in this blog is focus on aspects of 1 Corinthians 12, which looks at the spiritual gifts and unity and diversity within the body. I want this to be an encouragement that whatever our gift may be that the Spirit has placed upon us individually, should never be belittled as it is an integral part of the body. I also want us to be reminded to build others up around us. This is the message that I will emphasise throughout. Two verses I want us to keep in mind are 12v25-26, ‘so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it.’. It is important we work together towards the one common goal. Let us throw away pride and timidity and step into who we are called to be.

12v4 ‘There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work’. Paul makes it clear in his letter to the Corinthians that although there is difference in gifting it is all from the same God. That is God who works through these gifts and it is the Spirit who gives them as he determines. Our gifts are in line with where God calls us to be. It is not about someone being more important than the other. It is about God giving as he desires.

I want to have a brief look at the Parable of the talents/ bags of gold (Matthew 25v14-30) in relation to our spiritual gifts. The master ‘gave five bags of gold, to another two bags of gold, and to another one bag, each according to his ability’, (25v15) Highlighting, that God will never give us more than our God giving ability will call for. God knows us from the inside out, God knows what we can cope with and what we cannot cope with. God wants us to be purposeful with what we are given. To summarise the rest of the parable, the servant who was given five bags went out and made five more. The servant with two, went and made two more. However, the one who had one bag dug a hole and buried it. The Master returns and asks about the bags, the first two are able to show him the success they had; in which the Master rewards them for their faithfulness. As for the servant with the one bag, he gives the master back what the Master had given him. Out of fear of the Master, instead of being faithful with what he had, he chose to let fear take over and not do anything. The servant is harshly rebuked and cast out by the Master.

The lesson we need to learn about our spiritual gifting is not to become like the servant who had the one bag of gold. No matter how small we may feel our gift is, God has given it to us for a purpose. God wants us to use it to honour him and to benefit others. It is never about the number of gifts we have but rather how we use them. May we learn to step out and use them; bringing them into the fulfilment as God desired for them to be.

Being a unified body

We are all instrumental parts of the body of Christ. We need to own what we are called to be doing. Paul illustrates this is his letter, ‘And if the ear should say “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong in the body” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body”. Trying to be something we are not, that is not our individual gifting, does not transform what we are meant to be doing. Instead, we are not using our gifts to their full potential, that eventually leads the whole body to lag. ‘If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be?’, (12v17). Instead we should rejoice as Paul emphasises in v18, ‘But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be’.  There is purpose in what each of us are called to do. It is not about all of us having to be preachers or worship leaders. For some of us our gift is in listening or being a comforter. Some make an incredible cup of tea because they make it with their gift of love and compassion for those around us. Some of us are artistic, writers, fixers and so much more. We need to learn to trust that we are gifted, and God wants us to use it for his good. That we were truly made for such a time as this. That we are unified in our love for God and in the purpose of bringing his kingdom home. That we can all come together to be a powerful body of Christ.

Building each other up

Let’s go back to the verses that began this blog, 12v25-26. One thing we have learnt through reading 1 Corinthians 12 is that although there is individuality, there is not meant to be diversity. Rather, ‘its parts should have equal concern for each other’, we should be focused on helping people to flourish with the gifts that they have. Therefore, everyone can be at their full potential of who they are called to be. It then allows them to help the body flow more naturally. We need to encourage; some people have been gifted with teaching and speaking and due to low self-esteem or fear that is stopping them from stepping out. No one should ever feel left out, there should always be a collective unity, that is how we were called to be. If having our faith is only about personal gains, then we have lost sight of what our faith is meant to be about. We give up our life to follow a saviour who gave all he was to save people and give them a life with purpose. Ultimately dying on the cross to be a Saviour for all, that is how we should use our gifts to serve and to help others. May we always encourage  and always be people who build others up. Do not lose sight of who you are called to be. I want to finish with a scripture from Philippians 2:3 ‘Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.’ Let us look after one another, it will be amazing if we could become people who were known for their unity not for their division.

 

May you have such a blessed week. You are so loved, and you have purpose. Love Victoria xx

Living in your identity as a child of God. (1 John)

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This week we are going to be looking at living a life of love through our identity as a child of God. One of the reasons I picked 1 John for us to study is that even through its convictions it paints a wonderful image of the identity of God and who he calls us to be. It is important to explore our identity as Children of God, once we accept that is who we are then that allows us to move away from a life of sin and darkness. Furthermore, it is through God’s unconditional love that we are able to love people and live in a way that we would have never expected. As always as I write this blog, I am learning right along side you, I am still learning what it means to abandon all the labels that I have and accept that I am a child of God in its fullness. God is good and gracious in all that we endeavour to learn and accept within our lives. For some it is easy to accept and for others it takes a long time. However,  God is by your side and the spirit will direct his wisdom and love into your life.

Let’s begin in 1 John 3v1 which states ‘See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!’ I love how straightforward John writes this, there is no room for doubt, it is an absolute truth. When we choose to follow God’s commands and live our life for his kingdom, we are his children. This great gift of love is open to everyone who chooses to accept the gospel message and live for God. John finishes this statement with ‘The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.’ It clearly identifies that our life is meant to look different, it will probably look unbelievably odd to people who do not understand why we are living our life so differently. I think it also gives us hope that there is more purpose to life than the means that we see around us. One of the reasons our lives will be different is due to us not being attracted to sin anymore.

No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him’, (3v6).  Sin becomes detestable the closer we walk with God because sin is self-seeking, it is us ultimately thinking that our needs come before anything else. It is self-indulgent because we want to have everything regardless of what it costs. Walking in faith with God, it begins to shift our whole perspective. The things that we use to believe gave us meaning and fulfilment, actually leave us feeling empty. We begin to learn that our fulfilment comes first and foremost from the Lord, all that we seek inevitably will be found within God’s presence. That is when we know within our life that there has been a shift. That we are not just saying phrases and giving a half-hearted response to our faith, rather we want it to be the entire thing that shapes who we are. That does not mean that we will not have passions for things other than God, it means that we will see it from a new perspective. One where our passions are fulfilling but we know that it does not give us fulfilment, that is only found in God. As John writes 3v9 ‘No one born of God will continue to sin because God’s seed remains in them, they cannot go on sinning because they have been born of God.’ It is not even that we will struggle to make that choice, whether to sin or not. When we let our lives be fully devoted we are led to a place where sin no longer has the control nor the power over us. Through our lives being devoted to God, it will enable us to see people and life in a loving and grace filled perspective.

 

1 John 4:19 ‘We loved because he first loved us’

We need to learn to love authentically, not with a half-hearted approach. Jesus teaches us to love so beautifully and wonderfully. He loved people regardless of the labels that had been put on them. While many were misunderstood, Jesus knew their heart.

Sometimes people will not always pleasant, that does not mean that we cannot love them. Being able to show grace when they are unlovable, is a beautiful gift. One of the Bible verses that shapes my faith is 1 John4v12 ‘No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.’ I was listening to Sadie Robertson’s latest podcast (which I highly recommend) they were talking about what we are commanded to do. It comes down to love God and love other people, everything else is just added on. This is why, Jesus said my yoke is easy and my burden is light. 1 John 4v16 emphasises the importance of love for being in communion with God. It does not talk about anything else, any other means that we must achieve. ‘And we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.’ It is wonderful that when we devote our life to God we can share with people the wonderful love that God lavishes on his people. His love is not because we read our Bible or hold an awesome prayer meeting. God loved us even before we knew he loved us. We are his children and he delights in us. Even those of us who feel our lives are so mundane, God wants to be part of that. Our circumstance may not be great, but God’s love can utterly change our perspective. When we allow God’s love to speak over our circumstance, it becomes his and it does not hold us like it use to. Love changes everything, we only have to be willing to receive it.

Love is not meant to be confusing at all, 1 Corinthians 13v4-8 addresses what love is. ‘Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails’. For us, we may struggle with some of these attributes of love because the human love we have received has been broken. God does not call us to be able to love like this in our own strength, it comes when we stay in communion with him. Love becomes easier because we learn to love the way God does, that will again look odd to others. We will learn to love the outcast or still be able to love the one who has wronged us. It will be wonderful because it God’s presence becoming more present here on earth.

Our call is to no longer live in sin and darkness but choosing to live a life in the light with the freedom to learn to love abundantly as Jesus did. We are children of God, who are loved regardless of the faults that we have. We are not seen by our worldly labels but always by our heart. I pray as you continue to pursue God, that love will becomes one of your greatest attributes. That your workplace, university and home will know the presence of God through your devotion to him. Read through 1 John in its entirety as it does explore other themes. For now, these are the ones that I felt were important to highlight as we continue on our journey of faith.

By your spirit I will rise from the ashes of defeat, the resurrected King is resurrecting me.’ (Elevation worship, Resurrecting)

You are so loved, have a blessed week. Love Victoria. xx

Love and Hatred (1 John)

After reading through 1 John, instead of doing it by chapter I wanted to identify themes. It is a letter which would not have been broken down into chapters, looking at themes will connect what it is meant to say in its entirety. For this blog I wanted us to look at the theme of love and hatred which is dominant throughout the letter. It is the pinnacle between life and death, John makes it clear that hatred in any sort cannot be part of our faith at all. The believers who choose to hold onto hate are those who will remain in darkness, which will blind them from goodness. They are portrayed as murderers who can have no place in the eternal life. Where as those who choose to love, are those who have passed over from death to life. John writes how we are to love our brothers and sisters, and what that looks like within our faith. I understand that the topic of hate and forgiveness is hard one, we have all gone through stuff where we have been incredibly hurt; some more than others. I hope through reading this, that it will not come over as a harsh criticism but rather a blog in which you can allow the grace and the strength of God to work through your life.

There is a strong emphasis in this letter on love and hatred. John makes it clear in 2v7 that the command to love one another was not a new law. It was part of the Old Testament commandments; love the Lord your God above all else and to love your neighbour as yourself, which is reflected through the ten commandments. The difference that Jesus added was to love your enemies ‘You have heard it said, ‘Love your neighbours and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.’, (Matt 5v43-44). In a world where hatred is still prominent, this is a real calling for our lives today. As John writes, our faith cannot be shaped by hatred at all. 2v9 ’Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in darkness’. Verse 11 elaborates further to state that anyone who hates walks in darkness ‘they do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.’

John furthered his writing on love and hatred, later in chapter three. Verse 14 ‘… whoever does not love abides in death.’ John then writes that those who choose to hate their brothers and sisters are labelled as ‘murderers’. It is a harsh label to put on someone, but the reality is, when hate filled it distorts vision and in no way would they be wishing the best for that person. It is a reminder that as a person, if we are choosing to hate then we will have no place in eternal life. We are reminded in verse 16 that the greatest act of love was Jesus laying down his life us, when there was no good in us but only sin. Many of us will hold grudges and hate over the tiniest of things. As we continue to harbour that grudge, what started as something so small turns into something it was never meant to be. As Jesus was willing to sacrifice his life, as followers we need to learn to sacrifice who we are.

Not many of us will be asked to sacrifice our lives for others. However, we must learn to sacrifice our pride and our status. That is hard to do in a world that is largely based on status, who you are is what gives you honour in this world. That should not be something that should be allowed to shape our faith. As followers of Christ, we need to learn to imitate him even when Jesus was being crucified, for doing nothing wrong. He still cried out ‘Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.’ Our sins led to Jesus being on the cross, yet Jesus still chose to love us and die for us. Therefore, we could live a life of freedom and live a life with a renewed purpose and hope.

A parable that puts the teachings of harbouring hatred into perspective, is that of The Unmerciful Servant. The overview of the parable, that can be found in Matthew 18v21-35, is the king is brought a servant who owed him ten thousand bags of gold. There was no way this man could pay this debt, he was to lose everything in order for this debt to be repaid. The servant begs for a chance to be forgiven and be able to repay his debt. The master takes pity on the servant and chooses to cancel his debt in its entirety. However, the servant then goes out and demands a small amount from a fellow servant. Who like the first servant could not repay his debt but instead of being merciful, has the servant thrown in jail. The news gets back to the King, who throws the first servant in jail and has him tortured until he can repay the debt. It is a valuable lesson for us within our faith. We are that first servant who has been redeemed from an unpayable debt. When we demand recompense for others, for the faults that they have. We become that unmerciful servant, we are forgetting what the foundation of our faith is built upon. That is the sacrifice of Jesus for all our sins.

This is a warning to us all who choose to pursue hatred, but sometimes it can be so hard to love people who have hurt us. The people who have done us wrong and have broken us in unspeakable ways. This is something that I really struggled to come to terms with and I am still learning. One lesson I was taught, and I believe it was from ‘The Shack’, that forgiving and letting go of hatred is not for the other person. Instead it is for release for us. ‘Forgiveness is not about forgetting. It is about letting go of another person’s throat. Forgiveness in no way requires that you trust the one you forgive.’ If we hold onto hate, we are adding a burden onto our own life. Most of the time when we choose to hate someone, they have no regard for it at all they just carry on living their life. Constantly choosing to hate, leads to more misery for our lives.

Although, forgiveness does not inevitably lead us to love that person straight away; it does allow us to let grace and love into the situation. Instead of feeling forced to love someone, over time it becomes easier to live a life where we are not blinded by our hate. That we begin to live again, seeing the goodness in other people. To live a life with a renewed purpose, where we seek to love. From my own experience learning to forgive and letting go of hatred takes time. It does begin to become easier when we choose not to harbour hate. Hate only blinds us from life and being in relationship with God. 2018 has been a year where I have had to learn to let go of hate and not only forgive others but to forgive myself, it is something that God has done slowly and surely. The people and things that use to anger my soul no longer have that hold on me.  

Learning to love each day is an important command, 3v18 ‘Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.’ As we continue to pursue Christ we are called to live a life of love which is not just inwards but should be extended outwards. The love that we have should permeate throughout out actions and our speech. The whole theme of love will be explored further in next week’s blog but for now the end of chapter three states, ‘And this is his command: to believe in the name of his son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: we know it by the spirit he gave us.’ This is what will be focused on for next week. I pray that if you are struggling with hate or forgiveness, that it would be something that you begin to pray over. Also, do not be ashamed to speak to someone about it and allow them to help you through all you are dealing with.

You are so loved and how we are called to live, was never meant to be done on our own. Keep on trusting God daily, in all you do, with all your being. Allow his grace and love to shape you into the person you are meant to be.

May God bless you throughout this week. Keep the faith. Love Victoria.