Connected in Unity

Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin had every reason as teammates to be friends, but they were not. Incognito harassed and bullied Martin. He called him a racial slur in a voicemail played by every media outlet in the country. He threatened to kill him and his family. Incognito claimed all of this was just locker room talk.  It is the way the guys talk to one another in the NFL.

Apparently, Martin didn’t get the memo. Jonathan Martin left his lucrative job citing emotional issues and fearing for his life. Though we don’t know all the details, it appears as if Martin has some culpability, as well. He was far too passive in dealing with Incognito’s threatening behavior. As a teammate, it appears, he should have expressed how troubling Incognito’s threats were to him. These two men had many more reasons to get along than to have a toxic relationship. Consider all the reasons they had to be friends.

They were both professional football players.

Both on the same team, the Miami Dolphins

Both had the same head coach and position coach

Both were offensive linemen.

Both played on the same side of the line.

Both were starters.

Both wanted to win.

Yet somewhere along the way one or both of them forgot they played for the same team and began to treat the other like an opposing team member!  They forgot the enemy was in another city. They forgot enemy is on another team.

Similarly, we have many more reasons to honor one another as Christ followers than to dishonor one another.

We have the same owner!

The same Father cheering us on from the press box.

The same Savior who scouted us and forgave us.

The same Spirit within.

The same playbook.

The same purpose.

We are going to same place when life is over.

In Ephesians Paul urges us as believers to remember that we are on the same team.  We are urged to get along:

3  Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.  Ephesians 4:3

Why should believers diligently maintain their unity (as described in 4:3)?  Christians belong to one body, through one Holy Spirit.  In the Roman-Greco world there were many gods to worship and sects to join. For Christians, however, there is only one body, unified by one Spirit.   Christianity is not a club to join, instead, true Christianity is a spiritual relationship with Christ as well as with other believers. Through the Spirit, all believers are united in one universal body.

What do the sounds of Gregorian chants echoing in a European monastery chapel, the shouts of “Sí, Señor Jesucristo!” in a house church in Mexico, the rich, layered harmonies of gospel music from an African chorus,  reverent hymns with a pipe organ in a stained-glass church all have in common? “There is one body and one Spirit, . . . one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all.” We, the body of Christ, come in all the colors of the rainbow and with as many different ways to worship him. Rather than let those things act as barriers between us, why not celebrate our diversity, our different-ness?  We are different, but we are one body in Christ.   Let be connected in unity!

Darrell

www.RidgeFellowship.com

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Connected to Peace

During World War II a group of American soldiers was exchanging fire with some Germans who occupied a farm house. The family who lived in the house had run to the barn for protection. Suddenly their little three-year-old daughter became frightened and ran out into the field between the two groups of soldiers. When they saw the little girl, both sides immediately ceased firing until she was safe. A little child brought peace, brief as it was, as almost nothing else could have done.

17  He (Jesus) came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.  Ephesians 2:17

Jesus Christ came as a baby to earth, and through His sacrifice on the cross He Himself became peace for those who trust in Him. His peace is not temporary but permanent. He made both sides, Jews (those who were “near”) and Gentiles (those who were “far off”), into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall.

We are quick to put up walls or barriers between us and others.  Religious walls, racial walls or economic walls but in Christ walls should come down.  When we place our faith in Christ, the only identity that matters is our identity in Him. There is no Jewish or Gentile Christianity, black or white Christianity, male or female Christianity, or free or slave Christianity. There is only Christianity. Our one Lord has only one church.

In 1949, following the defeat of Nazi Germany in WW II and the re-organization of Europe, the nation of Germany was divided into East & West. In the East a communist government was set up under the influence of the Soviet Union. In the West a free, democratic government was set up and benefitted greatly from the Marshall Plan & the economics of free enterprise. Life became much better in the West for German citizens. The city of Berlin became a crucible where these divided philosophies would literally divide the city. Fearful of losing many of its citizens, East Germany closed the border between the two states in 1952. But that didn’t keep an estimated 2.5 million East Germans from fleeing to West Germany between 1949 -1961. So, in 1961 the East German government built the Berlin Wall strictly enforcing such defections. The wall stood for almost 30 years as a very real and symbolic divide between the East & the West.

I still remember a speech given by President Reagan in 1987 at the Brandenburg Gate- a section of the Berlin Wall in West Berlin. At the height of the Cold War, the President used the opportunity to encourage freedom and a new peace. As he spoke about the wall behind him which separated West Berlin from East Berlin for decades, I still remember his words, “Mr. Gorbechev, tear down this wall!”  I can’t help in hearing those words, from recalling images we saw just a few short years later when the wall was torn down.

In November of 1987, the East German government held a press conference and lifted travel restrictions between the two Germanies. And Germans (both from the East & the West) scaled the wall and danced in celebration! Today nothing of it remains in a united Germany and a whole Berlin. The wall is just gone, a thing of the past.  (To see a section of the wall today visit the George Bush Library in College Station TX.)

Christ has torn down that wall that had divided Jews and Gentiles for so long!  We can have peace with God which should also translate to peace with others.

Because as Christ followers we have made peace with God, we can begin to live at peace with one another as brothers & sisters in the family of God.  The church is the oasis of peace in a war-torn world. Jesus said to His disciples, “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

We naturally we do not get along with each other. Our courts are full of people who cannot get along. So they go to court to find someone to resolve the differences between them. We fight & we bicker. We criticize each other. We tear each other down. There are wars and fighting all around us at all times in history. On our own naturally we have difficulty living in harmony & peace with one another.

Into this squabbling war-torn world, God sent His personal, visible representative of “peace on earth, good will toward men.”

We can’t naturally get along which is why we need a supernatural love that comes from Christ.

People are looking at you, they are looking at this church, and they are trying to figure out if this Jesus guy is worth following. And the way that you and I act, the things we say, the way we handle conflict is telling people something about God. Let’s make sure what we are telling them and showing them Christ.

Can we love the people that are different than us? Can we pursue unity with each other? Can we live in peace with each other? Can we show this community that Jesus is for all people?

I think we can.  I pray we can.

Darrell

http://www.RidgeFellowship.com

 

 

 

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10 Facts You May Not Know about Ephesus

In our new series, Connected we are gleaning truth’s from the New Testament book of Ephesians.  Ephesians is a letter from the Apostle Paul to the church in Ephesus.   Here are ten facts you may not know about this important city.

 

  1. Ephesus was “the most important commercial center in the Roman province of Asia[i].” It was a large and very influential port city. Today think New York or Hong Kong.
  2. Because of its size, location and influence Paul planted the church in Ephesus on his third missionary journey and Luke records that from this base “the whole province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.” (Acts 19:8-10)
  3. Paul stayed and pastored the church in Ephesus longer than any other single church. 3 years!
  4. Timothy was the next pastor placed there by Paul, “As I urged you when I went to Macedonia, remain in Ephesus.” I Timothy 1:3
  5. If you could write one letter to your children or grandchildren passing on your cherished beliefs what would you say? The letter to the church in Ephesus is often called “quintessential Paul” as it concisely summarizes the essence of Paul’s faith and theology.
  6. According the church history, the apostle John was the pastor of the church in Ephesus. He lived there with Mary, the mother of Jesus. Why was Mary with John? Remember that John was entrusted by Jesus to care for his mother after his death on the cross. (John 19:26-27). According to tradition, John built a house for her and she lived there for nine years.[ii]
  7. From Ephesus, the Apostle John wrote the Gospel of John, 1 John, 2 John and 3 John.
  8. John wrote the book Revelation from the Island of Patmos, an Island just off the coast of Ephesus.
  9. In Revelation, John records a message from Jesus to seven churches. Which church is listed first?  Ephesus.  Why? It was either the largest church of the seven or the first church on the Roman mail route.  Either way the church in Ephesus was very influential.
  10. According to church history the apostle John was buried in Ephesus around 100 AD. After 313, when Emperor Constantine ended anti-Christian persecution in the Roman Empire, Ephesian Christians built a chapel over the apostle’s tomb.[iii]

Ephesus was an influential city with an influential church led by influential leaders but guess what?  That influence continues today as we live out the message penned by Paul.   Ephesians all about Christ and his church and how we can be connected which has great influence in any generation.   I hope you can join us this Sunday and get connected!

Darrell

www.RidgeFellowship.com

[i] The Essential Bible Companion, pg. 96, Zondervan, 2006.
[ii] Bible Hub, http://biblehub.com/library/emmerich/the_life_of_the_blessed_virgin_mary/xviii_the_death_of_the.htm
[iii] Our Sunday Visitor, https://www.osv.com/MyFaith/Article/TabId/586/ArtMID/13752/ArticleID/977/Archaeologists-discover-the-tomb-of-St-Philip-the-Apostle.aspx
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Are you Connected? Your Life May Depend on It

Are you connected?   Not just socially but spiritually?  Hundreds of research studies show the link between being connected to Christ and church and your health.  Here are some of the positive effects:

  • You will Live Longer. Those who attend church services once a week live an average of seven years longer than those who never attend, a nationwide study found.
  •  You will Be Healthier. Those who live out their faith in a faith community have fewer health problems than the non-faith practicing according to researcher and epidemiologist Jeff Levin author of God, Faith and Health.   Church goers are healthier than non-believers and less likely to die prematurely from any cause.  Prayer and your faith can also speed recovery from physical and mental illness, surgery and addiction.
  •  You will Recover Faster. Patients comforted by their faith had three times the chance of being alive six months after open heart surgery than those who took no comfort in religion, Dartmouth Medical School found.
  •  Your Heart will be Healthier. Those who prayed regularly were 70 percent less likely to have coronary heart disease.   People who went to church services regularly had a significantly stronger immune system according to Dr Harold Koenig MD, author of the Healing Power of Faith.
  •  Your Blood Pressure will be Lower.  Duke University researchers found a significant protective effect against high blood pressure among those who attended church regularly.
  • Your Mental Health will be Better. Attendance at church is related to lower rates of depression and anxiety according to a Duke University study.   Duke Medical Center conducted a study of seriously depressed men and women and found that those who put spirituality at the center of their lives recovered 70% faster than those who didn’t
  • You will Have Reduced Stress. Those under psychological stress experience raised blood pressure and raised heart and breathing rates.  This strains the body and lowers immunity.  But according to Dr Herbert Benson of Harvard Medical School, prayer and meditation lowers blood pressure, heart rates and breathing rates.

WHY?  According to Dale Matthews, MD, professor of medicine at Georgetown University School of Medicine and author of The Faith Factor: Proof of the Healing Power of Prayer:

  • Your body responds positively to being connected spiritually. “Blood pressure and pulse rate tend to be lower, oxygen consumption better, brain wave patterns slower and immune function enhanced that is if you practice your faith regularly.”
  • Your mind is at peace. Having faith gives you a sense of peace and the ability to look beyond your present problems with hope which can reduce stress, lower your risk of anxiety and depression.
  • You take better care of yourself. People who practice their faith are “less likely to drink and smoke and their more likely to take their medicine and wear their seat belts.”
  • You’re part of a healing community. Numerous studies have shown the healing power of social ties.  For many people the church is family.  It’s there they feel a sense of connection, meaning and purpose.  “Friends can be your secular version of faith, but religion is more powerful insists Dr. Matthews.  “As part of a spiritual community week after week, month after month and year after year you have opportunities to obtain all of these healing benefits on a regular basis.”

There are lots of good reasons to be connected!  Do you attend church regularly?  How about pray or connect with other believers?  If so, you will be glad you did for so many reasons!   Why not join us this Sunday at The Ridge?  We would love to have you.  It will be good for you, literally.

See you Sunday,   Darrell

For more about The Ridge Fellowship go to www.ridgefellowship.com

The above was adapted from the following articles, “Miracle Healer” by PREVENTION /December 1998 and “Faith Heals” by READER’S DIGEST, May 2001.
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