I have been pondering the ways and means of conflict resolution and inevitably my mind returns to Eph 4:1-3.
I therefore the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.
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Read Peter’s address to his fellow countrymen on the day of Pentecost and you can feel the jubilance in his voice. God had freed Jesus from the agony of death, and his presence was now being demonstrated by the sending of the holy spirit.!!. Peter quotes Ps 16:
I know the Lord is always with me.
I will not be shaken for he is right beside me.
O wonder my heart is filled with joy,
And my mouth shouts his praises!
My body rests in safety.
For you will not leave my soul among the dead
Or allow your godly one to rot in the grave.
You will show me the way of life,
Granting me the joy of your presence
And the pleasures of living with you forever. (Ps 16:8-11) NLT)
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I am riveted to my TV set tonight, watching scenes of devastation from tornadoes that are ripping through the heartland of our country. My heart goes out to the individuals being interviewed – they seem to be down-to-earth, ordinary folk whose lives have suddenly been turned inside out. One shot pans a “Youth for Christ” sign still hanging outside a now demolished building.
As I watch this scene, my mind goes to another one. This scene is a at a meeting in Philadelphia a couple of months ago – one where people came to intercede for the city and pray for a great spiritual awakening in the Philadelphia region. Although the room was large, there were only about 35 people there. “Do you know why there are only a few people here?” the speaker asked. “The football game is on. The football game is on, and people are essentially comfortable.”
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All this discussion about covenant may seem a little – well, academic – unless one realizes that our Lord made clear that being in covenant with him is a prerequisite to life in the coming age. Consider the following verses:
John 6:49-58 (RSV)
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2 Chron 34 records King Josiah’s response to the discovery of the long-neglected Book of the Law of the Lord by Hilkiah the priest. When he hears the words of the law and realizes that Israel had forsaken God and made offerings to other gods, he sends a contingent to inquire of the Lord: given their fathers’ disregard of the word of the Lord and disobedience to his precepts, what is going to happen to himself and the people?
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Leaving the particulars of a covenant aside for just a moment (we will return to it anon), this week I have been asking myself the following question and thought I’d share my ruminations: what does our being in covenant with God and with a body of believers mean for unity among the followers of Jesus Christ?
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Central to our identity as Christians is that we are a covenant people. The Pilgrims and the Puritans understood it, but in our times the significance of this has been lost. That covenant is central to the Bible is evidenced by the fact that the word for the two main divisions of the Bible – testament – is simply a synonym of covenant. God’s entire written revelation to man is contained in the form of two covenants. And in order to understand the larger picture it is necessary first to understand the particulars of what constitutes a covenant.
Gather to me my faithful ones, who have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.
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When I was 11, my parents took us on a month-long trip to their country of origin, Greece. They had come to the United States as adults in order to further their education and they settled here. This all had one unintentional down-side. My relationship with my grandparents withered, its richness diminished by distance. Something wonderful happened, however, during that month-long trip. I had the opportunity to spend time with my grandparents. Thirstily, I soaked up accounts of their lives, their forbearers, stories reflecting the values which had animated their actions. When I returned from that trip I was transformed. I had a much keener sense of my own identity because I now had a much better sense of what my family believed and stood for.
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