“You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” I Peter 2:5 NIV
God longs to build a spiritual house within our lives. It is the very purpose of his creating us. He sent his Son to die for us so that purpose could be fulfilled. The building material he uses is the living, positive ways he teaches us through his Holy Spirit. Each one of us is a living stone if we choose to adopt those ways. A spiritual house built from living stones is filled with light. The Light in that living house is Jesus Christ and how He is manifested in our lives. He is the Light and the Cornerstone. The cornerstone in a building is what keeps it straight and level, on plumb. It is the most important part of the foundation. Everything is built from the cornerstone and when that is Jesus Christ we have everything we need upon which to build our lives.
“Even when we are saved by God through Jesus we still have some rough edges in our life, our mouth, our attitude, our anger, our self-centeredness, our pride. They still haven’t been changed yet. Jesus has given us new life, he has forgiven us our sins, but our attitudes and behaviors haven’t caught up with our new life yet. We require a process of chiseling off our rough edges. We can’t do this on our own, but we can allow God to do it. As we are reminded in reading in Peter, God said, ‘be holy because I am holy’. In our new life in Christ we are meant to be set apart for him, that’s what it means to be holy, set apart for God. Our life should reflect the Cornerstone; we are citizens of God’s kingdom, not our cultures. So we must each ask ourselves, ‘Am I willing to be shaped and used as a living stone for God’s purposes, am I allowing God to take off the sharp edges which do not reflect him, so he can fit us into where he wants us?’” Taken from the sermon “Living Stones” by Matthew Stoll a UMC pastor on Sermon Central.
The house that God is building has many stones, but as he is the Master Builder, each stone must meet his qualifications. God gives us unconditional love but we still have to meet certain requirements to grow in his grace or love. One of his qualifications according to the scriptures is that we must be alive with the Spirit.
Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus, the book of Ephesians, provides guidance on how to be a living stone.
Ephesians 1:1-12 NIV:
“1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:
2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.
11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.”
In Ephesians 2, Apostle Paul describes what being dead is like:
2 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh, and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
Continue in Ephesians 2:
6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:2-10 NIV
I am a living stone when I conquer fear.
When I feel fear because of the unknown that is inevitably coming into my life, I allow my stress symptoms to mount uncontrollably causing me to make poor choices. The poor choices that I make can then permanently put me on a path that will lead me away from the comfort that God offers in this moment through His Son and the Holy Spirit. It is that comfort that keeps me trusting and stable and preparing for a good outcome. For many it can be the defining moment of their lives.
“The LORD is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?” Psalm 27:1 NIV “Jesus told him, ‘Don’t be afraid; just believe.’” Mark 5:36 NIV 27 “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give unto you, not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27 KJV
“9 Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” Joshua 1:9 KJV
“14 But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;” 1 Peter 3:14 KJV
“9 Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace;” Acts 18:9 KJV
“18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love;” I John 4:18 KJV
“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” Psalm 56:3 NIV
“4 He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.5 Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;6 Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.7 A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.8 Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.” Psalm 91:4-8 KJV
“7 He shall not be afraid of evil tidings (bad news): his heart is fixed, trusting in the LORD.” Psalm 91:7
“Do not tremble, do not be afraid. Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago? You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.” Isaiah 44:8 NIV
I am a living stone when I live in the present.
I can feel peace when I know I’m not alone and that God has been preparing me for this moment. I don’t have to project ahead and try to brace myself for the worst, I can feel like a “weaned child” as the Psalmist states in Psalm 131. I don’t have to clamor for my parent’s attention or provision, I know I have everything I need. Each moment is filled with opportunity for praising God, for learning and preparation and appreciating the way God has made me and the gifts I have been given that brings others and myself joy and glory to him.
I am a living stone when I teach others about God’s love for them.
At one of the Women Rising sessions in the jail, we shared the joy of objects in nature we take for granted. We passed around a variety of leaves with different shapes; strips of bark from trees; stones that were cold to the touch – all different sizes and color striations. At last we examined beautiful seashells. They were all different from each other with their own names – like the Bittersweet Clam, the Channeled Duck Clam the Auger, the King’s Crown Conch and the Ribbed Cantharus to name a few.
I did this exercise with another group who weren’t behind bars and who I could tell didn’t focus with the degree of intensity and appreciation that this group did which is understandable. We don’t really appreciate what we have until it is taken away. These women really looked at everything and followed the shapes and designs with searching fingers and feasting eyes, taking in the beauty of what God has created for them. They noticed details they hadn’t seen before and spent those moments sharing experiences in nature past and present. After we placed each item on a white scarf on the floor in the center of our circle, we took turns reading Scripture references that reminded them of God’s love for his creation. Here is one of those references:
Isaiah 40:28-31: “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”
I am a living stone when I withhold judgment of something I don’t understand and of someone who has had a different life experience than myself.
I am a living stone when I give God credit for everything I have, material and spiritual.
I am a living stone when I seek to keep a positive spirit about me daily.
I am a living stone when I espouse that true community is when everyone feels welcome and has opportunity and resources to develop their gifts and calling.
“God has arranged the parts of His house, each of them, according to His divine blueprint. If the parts were all the same, where would God live? You know that the many parts are joined together making one building. The roof cannot say to the walls, “I don’t need you!” Nor can the door say to the floor, “I don’t need you!” Don’t be silly, we know that the parts of the building that may be small and unnoticed, like nails, are really indispensable. All of the parts, those we can see as well as those we can’t, we understand are necessary to make the house suitable to live in. According to His divine blueprint, God has put the members of His house together perfectly, so that there is no division in the building, but each of the parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now in Christ you are God’s house, and each one of you is a part of it. Any of us who have made a kettle of soup know that many different ingredients are put in it to make it taste just right. A really good cook can probably tell you what’s missing when the soup isn’t just right. God gives us a mind of unity to make a perfect pot of living stone soup. God is making Living Stone soup, but the first step in the recipe is that you must personally come to the Living Stone, Jesus. Apart from the Living Stone we will remain lifeless cold ordinary stones; we must be transformed by the power of the Living Stone. Without Jesus the Living Stone all you can make is stone soup.” From “Living Stone Soup” by Dr. Greg Ebie of Life Church Assembly of God
Of Jesus the Living Stone Peter continues:
6For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” 7Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone,” I Peter 2:6-7 (NIV)
The Story of Stone Soup:
“During the Revolutionary war a young British soldier found himself separated from his unit, numb with cold and so far away from home. He stumbled from the woods into a small village. Going from door to door, he begged for a morsel of food and a warm fire. The doors were constantly slammed in his face. Discouraged, the young soldier searched until he found a large black kettle. He filled the black kettle with snow, then began to gather wood to build a fire. As the fire began to melt the snow the curious townspeople began to watch from their windows. Soon the water was boiling and the soldier took 3 small smooth stones and very slowly dropped them in the water. With a spoon from his pouch he stirred the water. Every now and then he would dip a bit of the water out and taste it acting as if it were the best soup he had ever tasted. The curiosity of the townspeople drew them out of their homes to gather around the soldier and his pot. As he dipped his spoon into the bubbling pot and tasted the soup, he told the people a few onions sure would make it taste better. An old man said he might have a few onions to spare. Soon after the onions were added to the pot, the soldier commented that a bunch of carrots, and say, about 20 potatoes would make it even better. Soon some of the townspeople were back with their contributions for the pot. When the soup was done the soldier let the old man who made the first contribution have the first serving. Soon all the towns people were enjoying the stone soup. The young soldier replied, this is the best stone soup I ever had.” From the sermon “Living Stone Soup” by Dr. Greg Ebie of Life Church Assembly of God
1Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. 2Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. 3For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another. 5For each one will bear his own load.
6The one who is taught the word is to share all good things with the one who teaches him. 7Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. 8For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. 10So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith. Galatians 6:1-10 NIV
“19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” Ephesians 2:19-22 NIV
We are called to be a living stone, filled with a positive spirit, building materials for God’s Living House where everyone feels welcome and has opportunity to edify each other with the gifts we are each freely given. This is the sweetwater journey we are all traveling and it is filled with hope and possibility.
Rita Foster is a Texas County author and writer.