Tag Archives: together

Cowboys and Christians

John-Wayne-Cowboy-Poster

I bet you’ve never heard ole Marshall Dillon say
Miss Kitty have you ever thought of running away
Settling down will you marry me
If I asked you twice and begged you pretty please
She’d of said, “Yes in a New York minute”
They never tied the knot
His heart wasn’t in it
Stole a kiss as he rode away
He never hung his hat up at Kitty’s place

(From “Should’ve Been a Cowboy” by Toby Keith)

Do you like old westerns? Growing up, I always thought my grandpa was just like John Wayne, and he looked like him too.  We love it when the loner rides into town, cleans up the mess, and leaves like he came – independent and alone.

We like other kinds of hero movies for similar reasons.  When the hero, against all odds, saves the day without the help of anyone else, we cheer! There are no stereotypical heroes. Men, women, children, dogs. We root for the underdog and love to see him or her win.

They are the savior of the moment. They didn’t need anyone.  Everyone needed them.

We have adopted quite a liking to this loner mentality.  Our culture today is as individualistic as it has ever been.  We know more about our friends than ever through social media, but we are statistically more lonely and depressed than ever.  We pride ourselves on our independence and ability to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps.

Even the “American dream” encourages this idealism that pits a person or family against the world to succeed in wealth, prestige and power.

But is individualism best?

My own personal savior, Jesus Christ.

The individualistic ideal of today that is standard thinking for many in America is foreign to so many others around the world, and it is a relatively new concept associated with the rise of industrialism, capitalism, and urbanization.

In days gone by, a family would need the entire community to survive.  Older generations weren’t carted off to homes for senior care.  They were incorporated into the everyday life of the family.  The nuclear family wasn’t separate from the collective.  People didn’t seek to be alone.

When you read the scriptures through the lens of individualism, then it would seem fitting that Jesus is our own personal savior. One for each of us.  But Jesus didn’t just come to die for you alone.  His plan was for the world.  The language of the scriptures isn’t that of individualism; it exudes collectivism.

Yet, when we read stories like the gathering of the first church in Acts 2, we immediately think of terms like socialism or communism or utopian societies or cults.  They thought of community.  They were using what they were blessed with to help those they considered family.  To seek independent wealth would be to show disdain for the collective need.

This collectivist mindset was the norm for those in the Middle East in the first century.  Yet, today, we are far removed from such thinking.  If we could refocus to see the collective view, the scriptures would open up to us in new ways, the church would mobilize again to look like she began, and we would find new purpose in our faith in Jesus.

When you read the word “you” in the New Testament, more often than not the word is plural – speaking to the whole church – not just the individual reading.

As it is, our individualistic mindsets convince us to hoard our wealth and give leftover to the church. We hide in buildings to see one another once a week or less, and we convince ourselves that we can seek this personal relationship with Jesus without attending services with other hypocritical Christians.

These ideas are entirely foreign to the church of the New Testament – the church of Jesus.

Jesus is your savior, but he’s the savior of the whole world, and you’re a part of it.  He’s the savior of the church, and you’re a part of it.  YOU (singular) aren’t the church.  WE (collectively) are the church.

Advertisements

The Church Needs to Repent

Imagine our country decided to wage war on Christianity. If you were a Christian you would be condemned to death. Which kind of Christian would they choose to persecute? Would it matter whether you were Methodist or Baptist or church of Christ? What would matter is your allegiance to Jesus.
Church of Christ, Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Nazarene, Assembly of God, Church of God, Pentecostal, Lutheran, Anglican, Seventh Day Adventist, etc.

These are just a sampling of the myriad of denominations we find in our culture today. Millions of Christians meeting in different buildings under different monikers all claiming to love Jesus and each other but not willing to fellowship each other creates confusion for those outside the church.

If I wasn’t a Christian, if I didn’t go to church, I would be appalled by what I saw in churches. I would see that they claim to have a better way through Jesus and are supposed to love one another, but they can’t even get along with one another so there is a different church on every corner. If I wanted to come to know Jesus and join a church, how would I know which one is best or right?

This kind of division flies in the face of Jesus’ prayer for unity in John 17. Why did he want the church to be unified? Because of the spread of the gospel. So that people would know God sent Jesus.

The letters to the Corinthian church were written to convict them of their division. Now churches divide all the time even within their specific tribe, and people don’t even bat an eye. How will we ever be the true church that belongs to Jesus if the selfishness and bickering within us gets in the way?

“But they don’t teach the truth.”

Are you sure? Have you studied for yourself, or have you just been in a movement that has taught a certain way for generations. With the onset of more and more independent and non-denominational churches, can we honestly say we know their theology well enough to sit in God’s seat of judgment in condemnation of them? Should we ever sit in that seat?

Even as you read the New Testament epistles, you see a wide variety of religious understandings and practices. Jews wanted to force Gentiles to conform to their traditions. Gentiles wanted nothing of it. This was a huge schism within the church, but over and over we read of a desire for peace and unity in diversity based on the foundation of the gospel event.

It is time for churches everywhere to not only want to accept the grace of Jesus but be willing to extend that grace to others as well. It is time to remember that God’s grace covers my sins and my doctrinal misunderstandings insofar as I desire the ways of Jesus and strive to follow them as best as I understand. If that grace covers me, then it covers you too.

We look at the lists of sins and consider all the personal sins with abhorrence, but we seem to forget that the sins most written and spoken about in the NT were the sins that divided the church.

Where do we go from here?

It’s time we started to get to know and love those in the other church communities that find their direction from the Bible and look to the death and resurrection of Jesus for salvation.  It’s time we presented a united front in our communities as we publicly express our unity with one another.  It’s time we repented of our arrogance and division.  It’s time we begin to recognize the one church that Jesus died for – not a building with a sign on the door, but all people who have surrendered to Jesus.


A Climber’s Invitation

20130430-095139.jpg

I love to climb. You may not have realized it looking at me, but I really love to climb. I love the challenge. I love the scenery. I love the camaraderie of other climbers around encouraging one another. I love the feeling of success at the top of the climb.

I’ve been climbing all my life. When I was a boy I’d climb things that were probably way above my safety level considering I had no harness or ropes. I was always in the tops of trees. One of my favorite things to do as a boy was to climb cliffs up on Bull Shoals Lake in North Arkansas. Then, when I reached a sufficient height I’d jump off into the crystal-clear waters below.

I love climbing mountains. I’ve stood on the summit of several peaks in several different states. There is no feeling like being on the summit of a majestic mountain and seeing the wonder of creation all around below your feet. My favorite mountaintop experience was when I climbed Sawtooth Peak in California at daybreak alone. I watched the sunrise from the summit and cried as God painted a masterpiece just for me on His sky canvas.

I don’t like to fall, though. When I was at Harding I would ride my bicycle out to Bee Rock overlooking the Little Red River just to climb around on that horrible, brittle limestone. One time I was climbing and a friend was there (fortunately). I didn’t have ropes then – I was a poor college student. I got about 15 feet up an area I hadn’t climbed before when my handhold broke off the rock. When I hit the ground I was horizontal and landed in the fork of a tree that split at the ground among the large rocks that had flaked off the cliff through the years. It wasn’t pleasant. Falling is not pleasant.

It’s fun to climb with others. It’s great to encourage one another along as we climb. It’s fun to try hard for something and fail over and over but know that your buddies are going to keep encouraging you until you succeed. Then, when you do succeed, there’s the screams of exaltation as together you celebrate.

It’s also better to fall with others. If you fall when no one is around there is a greater chance of dying. If you have a partner or a group there is encouragement and rescue. A friend can help or get help. They can carry extra loads for you or even carry you through your injury. It’s so much better to fall in company rather than alone.

We are all climbing. We all long to reach the summit of our life. Are you walking alone?

The beauty of the church is that no matter if you’re a great climber in this mountain we call life or if you constantly fall and have to start again you are not alone. The church is there to encourage you and lift you up. It is there to celebrate with you when you reach the summit. The church recognizes that we all are climbing the same mountain. We may not all have the same style, but we are in this together.

The church stands inviting you to climb with them. You get your gear when you give your life to Jesus, and the goal is to look and climb more like Him each day. Then, when you’ve climbed as hard as you can – no matter what height you reach – you achieve the summit, heaven. And there’s a celebration in your honor.

So keep climbing. Climb with me. Lets climb together.


%d bloggers like this: