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“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.” Psalm 133:1 (NIV)

The Bible teaches that God loves us and wants us to be happy. This truth is found throughout scripture. The verse above, from Psalm 133 is just one example. David proclaims a pleasant life can be had when God’s people live in unity. The definition of “pleasant” is giving a sense of happy satisfaction or enjoyment.” Happy satisfaction. Something we all dearly want. God’s people need to live together in unity to enjoy that happy satisfaction. Unfortunately that is easier said than done.

My wife and I minister at a home for needy children in Oaxaca, Mexico. It is a community with staff members from different countries and cultures, age groups and denominations. Possibilities for misunderstanding, offense and dissension abound. Sometimes we are frustrated with our brothers and sisters and wonder why they “don’t get it”! “Why don’t they do it like I do it?” How can God’s people possibly live in unity in this kind of community, or any community where humans come together with different backgrounds, levels of education, agendas, priorities and worldviews?

I think the Lord’s Prayer goes a long way toward instructing believers about how to live in unity. I see eight principles that can help a Christian community maintain unity and enjoy pleasant lives.

Our Father

The first two words of the Lord’s Prayer are key to God’s people living in harmony. “Our Father” signifies two import things. Number one, it’s not just “my” Father, but “our” Father. It’s not all about me and my relationship with God, but about the entire community of faith relating to God and each other in an edifying manner. Second, we do not address our prayer to “God Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth” or to “Our Higher Power”, but to the Father. “Father” points to a close, loving relationship. The Father is the head of the Christian family. Father knows best! And while he is “a Higher Power” and “God Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth”, he is also “Daddy”. Our Daddy, who loves his children and wants them to be happy, just like most daddies.

Holy Be Your Name, On Earth As It Is In Heaven

The next three petitions of the Lord’s Prayer are connected to the phrase “on earth as it is in heaven”. I always found it odd to pray that God’s name would be “hallowed” or “holy” because it is already “holy”. It was only until I realized that the prayer is asking that God’s name be holy on earth “as it is in heaven” that I came to the true significance of those words. I imagine the holiness of God in heaven, which is a mix of his righteousness, love, goodness, beauty, truth and power, and I pray, the community of God prays, that these attributes would be manifest in the world. In our community. When the people of God see these attributes in their Holy Father, and attempt to live them out, they enjoy pleasant unity.

Your Kingdom Come, On Earth As It Is In Heaven

We imagine what God’s kingdom in heaven must be like, full of peace, happiness and love, and ask God to manifest this Happy Kingdom of love and joy among us, as we focus on the Good King, who also happens to be our Daddy.

Your Will Be Done, On Earth As It Is In Heaven

We only experience pleasant unity when God’s will is done in our lives, our churches and our Christian communities. God’s will is summed up in two commandments: love God with your entire being and love your neighbor as yourself. Living a life of love, agape love, is the rich soil that grows happy unity.

Give Us Today Our Daily Bread

This phrase is important for two reasons. The first reason is the two words “today” and “daily”. Evidently Jesus wanted his followers to pray this prayer everyday. To meditate, consider, ponder deeply and focus intently on the words in this prayer everyday. The second reason is that we too often take our “daily bread” for granted. We pray for world peace or economic security or a loved ones salvation, the Big stuff, but neglect to pray for our daily bread because we feel we provide that for ourselves. We believe we are capable on our own of getting our daily bread. In reality it is a gift from our Father of lights, because he graciously gives us the capacity to either make our daily bread, or more often, earn the money we need to buy our daily bread. We also need daily spiritual bread, God’s Word, to not only survive in this world, but to thrive as a Christian People, living in unity. We should take neither our physical bread or spiritual bread for granted if we want to live pleasantly together.

As We Forgive Those Who Sin Against Us

Christians sin. Christians make grave errors. Christians offend one another. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote a book about living in Christian community called Life Together. Early on in this delightfully helpful little book, he writes about how many times Christian communities brake down because people come into the community with a “wish dream”. When a Christian comes into a faith community, he often thinks he is entering a utopia where everyone is perfect and each person loves one another perfectly. Bonhoeffer says that “God’s grace speedily shatters such dreams.”

Unfortunately all Christians offend, disappoint, and hurt other Believers, usually unintentionally, sometimes intentionally. Two things can result from the sinful behavior of Jesus’ Followers. One is that “hurt people hurt people”. Hurt people retaliate and get revenge on those who have offended them. Of course that destroys any hope of God’s people living in pleasant unity. A better response to being hurt, is to forgive those that hurt us. Just as Jesus forgave those who hurt him, like the Roman soldiers, the religious leaders, and you and me. So we are to forgive those who sin against us, as God, for Christ’s sake, forgave us. This leads to a flourishing Christian community living in unity.

Save Us From The Time Of Trial

Some denominations say “lead us not into temptation.” Other denominations don’t use that phrase because it sometimes causes confusion as people get the idea that God will lead us into temptation if we don’t pray otherwise. Lead us not into temptation” simply means don’t allow hardships or bad things to happen to us that might tempt us to doubt your goodness. In other words, “save us from the time of trial” means that God will put his hedge of protection around his people that they may be confident that he loves them and and wants them to be happy.

In the Christian community, when somebody does something awful to upset another person, or at times the whole community, some people might leave the group thinking, “I thought they were a Christian. If that is how Christians act, then I don’t want any part of them.” When we pray, “save us from the time of trial”, one of the things we are praying for is that that situation would not occur.

Deliver Us From The Evil One

Number one on Satan’s To Do list is to destroy unity that the people of God cherish. He has a well equipped tool box that he brings out regularly to disrupt and ruin any harmony that exists. His favorite tool is gossip, but he also likes to use pride, envy, and slander, among others. First Peter tells us that the devil is a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8) Fortunately, he is no match for Jesus, the Lion of Judah, who is ever diligent to deliver us from the attacks of the Evil One, allowing the people of God to live in pleasant unity.

At times, Christian unity, living in harmony with one another, can be difficult, but we can rejoice in the faithfulness of our heavenly Father, who, as we see in the Lord’s prayer, strives to help us build heaven on earth with his daily good gifts, forgiveness, saving grace and power that overcomes threats from the Devil. Let us be faithful to regularly pray this prayer, meditate on the words that Jesus taught us to pray, and put them into practice as the Lord gives us opportunity. Then we can be sure to enjoy happy satisfaction living in Christian community.

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In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians he writes in chapter four, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (12,13)

There is a progression here that could be helpful to us in our world today. That progression is Knowing, Learning and Doing.

Paul writes that he Knows what it is to be in need, and he Knows what it is to have plenty. There is the Knowing. He tells his readers of his basic experience in life. He has experienced want and abundance. He Knows what it’s like.

What does he do with those basic experiences of his life? With his knowing? Well, he Learns from them. He has Learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or want. Now that is quite a useful secret to Learn – contentedness!

As a result of learning to be content, Paul is able to write that he can Do all this through him, Jesus Christ, who gives him strength. What is “all this“?

All this” is life. Paul is telling the Philippians, and ultimately all of Christendom, that he can Do life! He can Do riches and poverty. He can Do sickness and health. He can Do being praised and being persecuted. He can Do it all because he knows the Creator of life. Jesus Christ, who created Paul, walked with Paul and loved Paul, gave him the strength to be content Doing life in all its ups and downs, good times and bad times, successes and failures, beauty and ugliness.

The word “content” is an adjective used to describe a state of peaceful happiness. It means to be satisfied with a certain level of achievement, good fortune, etc., and not wishing for more.

I think with everything that is going on in the world, we could all do with a heaping helping of contentment. There are a lot of people who have known a lifestyle of excess, and now they know what it is like to not be able to pay the rent. There are a lot of people who have known wonderful health, and are now suffering the painful effects of the virus. There are a lot of people who had close relationships with family and friends, and now they are separated from those loved ones either because of quarantine or death. There are a lot of people who know what it is like to be respected in their community, but they also know what it means to experience racism.

What if we all learned what Paul learned? The Secret to Being Content in any and every situation. What if, come hell or high water, we were able to live in a state of peaceful happiness? What a wonderful world that would be!

God wants us to have such a world. Jesus gave us a prayer to pray everyday. In that prayer, we are to ask our heavenly Father to make this life on earth like the happy kingdom in heaven where everyone does God’s will. Or, in other words, to do life, with a feeling of satisfaction that everything will work out in the end because we walk with Jesus, the creator of the universe, and the creator of us. He made us and loves us and wants us to be happy, by trusting him in every situation. We don’t know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future! Paul learned that secret. Hopefully we can too.

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God’s Dreams

for you

are more

substantial and rewarding

than your dreams

for yourself.

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