In summer 1998 newspapers carried an intriguing story about the tomb of the unknown soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. The remains of one unknown soldier were exhumed for DNA testing to determine his identity. As a result, the name of the man who was once classified as unknown is now clearly marked on his marble military headstone. Air Force Lieutenant Michael Joseph Blassie is no longer missing or unknown.
The technology that made the identification of Lieutenant Blassie possible is amazing. But even more amazing is the fact that God doesn't need DNA testing to identify us. God knows each one of us personally. He knows everything about us. Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me - just as the Father knows me and I know the Father - and I lay down my life for the sheep" (John 10: 14-15).
We belong to God. We have been purchased by the precious blood of our Lord and Savior. God came in the flesh in the person of Jesus to show us the way, and to save us, to die for our sins and our insults toward him.
God has a plan for us. He has plans for us individually and collectively. God has used each one of us in an unprecedented way. Let's never forget what he has done! He has blessed us in many ways and has great things in store for us. May God help us to keep that vision in our heart and minds!
As God's children we are being equipped and prepared for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up. God has called us to work together. He is using our fellowship as one of his voices for reconciliation. We share a message about the absolute necessity for Christians to be involved in denominational, racial, and family reconciliation. We take that calling seriously. Special thanks to so many of you who are so involved in our efforts.
We believe that God is using us as an example of renewal and transformation. Our primary identity does not depend on some list of distinctives that separate and divide Christians and proclaim our church as unique and special. We belong to God, we are his children, and he wants us to proclaim the main things and the plain things of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ bought and paid for us, and therefore it is only normal that we will do many things that others do who also belong to his body, the church. This does not mean that we are trying to copy other Christians. Rather, it means that as all Christians conform to the image of Christ, we look alike in some fundamental and essential ways. As Christians, we speak the same things about the core issues of Christian faith.
But, there will always be non-essential issues and distinctives in which Christians will differ. While all who are part of the body of Christ are united in the core doctrines of the Christian faith, we also know that God is the author of diversity. "But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be" (1 Corinthians 12: 18). God expects us to respect the diversity that he has placed in the body without causing division.
God knows each one of his children, and that certainly includes us. We are not the only true church, but we also know that by his grace we are part of the true church, the body of Christ! And God has a plan for each of us!
We are called to much more than merely "praying and paying". God has called each of us to be participants in the two-fold commission that Jesus Christ gave to his body, the church. We are all called to evangelize and nurture others. While some will have a special gifting from the Holy Spirit to do evangelism, we are all evangelists in some sense. While some are gifted to help others grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord, it is the responsibility of all Christians to nurture others in their relationship with God. Yes, "praying and paying" is part of the stewardship responsibility of all Christians! But we must always remember that our individual participation in the commission Jesus gave is also part of our calling.
As Christ lives his life in us, we are being transformed daily by the renewing of our minds. God is building us on the Rock! He knows who we are are. By his grace, he has helped us to see that we belong to him.
Continue to put Jesus first in your priorities. Let's all place the advancement of the kingdom first in our prayers, our pocketbooks, and the practicesof our lives.