Tag Archives: unity

Alternative Facts


We are coming to the end of an era in our generations called the “postmodern age”. This is a cultural response to the modern era which sought to solve the world’s problems through science and reasoning. During the modern era, great advancements were made in technology and medicine that will forever change the world, but the postmoderns saw that the philosophy of the physical sciences could not entirely solve problems like war, poverty, and even interpersonal relationships.

So the mindset shifted in a bit of a reaction to the ideals of the modern era to what we now call the postmodern era. In this reaction, truth became questionable and relative. No longer were there any absolutes. Now, all truth is relative and dependent on each individual’s perspective which is shaped by their cultural influences.

Does this frustrate you? To an extent it should.

Because of the shift of postmodern thinking we now have phrases like the one commonly being used by new sources all over: alternative facts.

Instead of calling something a half-truth or a whole lie, because of political correctness we now refer to misleading someone by using only the convenient facts as using “alternative facts”. Your truth is valid, and so is mine, and don’t you dare judge my truth with yours.

This is maddening in the political realm. It is exhausting in the spectrum of news sources available today. It is exactly what we teach our children not to do.

Maybe you were taught as I was: a half-truth is a whole lie.

Contrary to current thinking, there is truth that is not relative. Jesus is truth. The gospel is truth.  The consequences of sin is truth. The love of God is truth.

Even in society there still exists truth that is not relative. One needs merely to look for it.

In order to find truth in any circumstance, you must consider all sides of a situation – you must consider the context.

What we don’t want to admit is that the church has been functioning with partial truths for nearly the entirety of its existence. Even the concept of denominationalism is founded on the idea that you can read the bible through one lense and me another, and we can come to differing conclusions on the same topic.   When I focus on one set of scriptures concerning a topic, and you focus on another set concerning the same topic, we may disagree.

Our goal, then, as followers of Jesus, should not be to read the bible with a preconceived lense, rather we should read the entirety of scripture in context in order to derive our conclusions from the text instead of inserting them into it. When we insert our ideas and refuse to look at passages that don’t jive with our desired conclusion, we invite division and discord into the church.

I pray that the church doesn’t imitate our current culture in claiming “alternative facts”. I pray we are humble enough to accept correction where we have been ignorant. I pray that the church can lead the way in standing for truth as it is written in the Word of God. I pray that our desire for contextual understanding brings grace and unity rather an excuse to further divide.

What’s the upcoming generation going to be called? I don’t know – maybe the post-postmodern era. In any case, I pray it is a returning to truth that is NOT relative while maintaining spiritual fervor.

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Communion…What Do I Do Now?

The Lord’s Supper is such a solemn time during the worship service each Sunday. The emblems are central to the life of every believer. Jesus said that unless we eat his flesh and drink his blood we have no life in us and no part with him (John 6). This is probably the most important segment of our Sunday morning assembly. 

During this ritual, however, there is quite a bit of waiting. We wait and listen while the person says a few words to remind us why we participate. We wait for the tray to get to us each time it is passed around. We wait for everyone else to partake after us. So what should we be doing during this time?

I’ve heard people lead into the time of communion with the thought that we are to be examining ourselves. It is thought that we need to be introspective, considering the ways in which we are not right with God – our sinfulness. This comes from 1 Corinthians 11:27-28 which says,

“Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.”

Doesn’t this sound like we are to sit there during those waiting times and rake ourselves over the coals of guilt as we remind ourselves of the myriad of ways we fall short of being like Jesus? It does if we take this verse out of context. 

What was going on in Corinth that caused Paul to write this letter? The church there was full of immorality and division. In fact, the division in the church is what Paul begins the letter with addressing. In chapter 11, he once again addresses their division as an introduction to the verses we so often read to prepare for taking the Lord’s Supper. 

1 Corinthians 11:18-19
For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.”

Did you catch that? It is sarcasm. Paul thinks division within the church is a severe problem. In this division, the communion they partake of is not the Lord’s Supper. You cannot partake of this meal in division without judgment from God. 

In verse 29, he warns against eating and drinking without discerning the body. What does this mean? He is referring to the body of Christ – the church. Then, in verses 33-34 he encourages them to wait for one another. He’s trying to get them to practice unity. 

So, what are we to examine within ourselves while we wait? We are to see if we have some division within us concerning our brothers and sisters in the church. Do you have something against a brother? Does a sister have something against you? These divisions cause a church to be weak and sick (1 Corinthians 11:30). 

Maybe we should go back to practicing what Jesus commanded in the sermon on the mount. 

Matthew 5:23-24
“So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”

What if the church was once again concerned with the ministry of reconciliation that we are called to administer (2 Corinthians 5:18-19)?

Next time you’re sitting and waiting during communion, pray for yourself and your relationships with your brothers and sisters in the Lord. Resolve to do your part to make reconciliation. Don’t wait for them to act – you be the mature follower of Jesus and make the first move. Then we will watch the church grow in strength and health as the church becomes even more unified in Jesus as one body. This will be an answer to Jesus’ prayer in John 17. 


… Lives Matter


Jesus loves the little children,
All the children of the world.
Red, brown, yellow, black and white,
They are precious in His sight.
Jesus loves the little children of the world.

This song is sung in thousands of churches around the world as well-meaning leaders strive to teach the children that God loves everyone.  Have you sung this song?

The news is becoming ever more concentrated on the racial barriers that separate our world. Within our own country, one in which a civil war was fought and won to grant equality to all people, we see more division each day as story after story is told with explanations that point to racial causes.

White police officers shoot black men. A black president governs white people. Riots begin because of racial tension. “Black lives matter” is a movement now, and they are offended by people who say “police lives matter” or “all lives matter”. What is wrong with this picture?

I believe that every single person has the right to be treated with respect. I also believe that some people forfeit that right by their own actions. But their life still matters. People make mistakes, but their lives still matter.

God doesn’t rejoice when a lost person dies – He mourns. Shouldn’t we?

As long as we keep calling people white or black or brown or any other racial denomination we will never find the peace that Jesus desires for this world. Racism is a childish mentality in a world that claims to be enlightened and educated.

Even in the church there are still seeds of racism. I know people who still judge others who choose to marry inter racially. Many of us still struggle, due to the indoctrination of our upbringings, to leave off the color when describing another person – especially one who is of a different race than us.

God does not show favoritism. God wants life for all mankind – not just physical life, but the real, eternal life.

It’s time to stop saying “black lives matter” or “all lives matter” and start living like they do.

Recently, a Tulsa police officer shot another human being and killed him. I hurt for the family of the dead man. I hurt for the police officer. I hurt for our nation that is using this event and others like it to bring about a resurgence of racism. Have you prayed for those on both sides of this tragedy? Have you prayed for our nation?

Jesus came to ensure that all people could have salvation regardless of race (Jew or Gentile). Most of the New Testament urges the church, over and over again, to put racial differences aside and seek peace and unity. Paul would even confront Peter publicly over his racist actions. He would also write, “As far as it depends on you, live at peace with everybody.”

If you are a follower of Jesus, then you don’t have any right to racist thoughts or actions.

How can we fix it? How can we stop this trend?

Start by putting all color-identification language out of your vocabulary. Don’t give in to the rhetoric of the mainstream media who seems to be reveling in this new constantly-controversial racism movement. Choose to speak and act to everyone with love regardless of race. And most of all, stop choosing sides on every issue. Most of the  time you don’t have all the information to make an educated decision anyway.

We are the church that belongs to Jesus that is global and inclusive of all nations, races, genders and statuses. May we be the voice of a new trend that simply says “I love you” no matter who “you” happens to be.


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.


What is the church of Christ?

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For over a hundred years there have been churches that refer to themselves as the Church of Christ. These churches have that sign on the door or out by the street, and many people recognize that there are certain things that make these churches unique.

However, the name that is used was never meant to be a name. It is and has always been a description of the people. The people are the church that belongs to Jesus, the Christ (Romans 16:16).

So what does the church that belongs to Jesus look like? The following is a list of ideas that Jesus presented which should be attributes of his followers. I encourage you to read this with your bible open following along with the passages referred to.

What is the church of Christ?

The church that belongs to Christ understands its need for forgiveness and is anxious to be able to extend that forgiveness to others. It is not a church that holds grudges. (Matthew 6:14-15)

The church that belongs to Christ seeks the Holy Spirit in the lives of each believer. They follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit in their lives as they live each day – not just on Sunday. This creates within them a fire, a passion, as they experience life in the presence of God who lives within them. (John 14:15-17, 26-27)

The church that belongs to Christ understands that belief in Jesus and connection with Him in baptism (immersion) are essential to salvation. They don’t try to argue this away. They accept it and are willing and eager to follow Jesus’ instructions and example in this manner. (Mark 16:15-16)

The church that belongs to Christ believes that unity with one another is essential to life in Him. They believe that this unity is key to their ability to evangelize to the world. They are not known for their division. (John 17:20-21)

The church that belongs to Christ believes that faith is essential to a person’s ability to follow Jesus. They recognize where their faith is weak and ask Jesus to strengthen their faith through the Spirit at work within them. They understand that without this faith it is impossible to please God. (Luke 17:5-6)

The church that belongs to Christ is a praying church. Prayer is seen as powerful and necessary to the connection and relationship between the church and God. They understand that it is through prayer that much of the power of Christ is released upon the world around them. They follow Jesus’ example of being constantly in prayer. (Luke 5:16; 11:1-13)

The church that belongs to Christ believes that He has called each one of us, no matter our past, to evangelism – to tell others about Him. This is not just the preacher’s job, but it is the role of each follower. A follower excited about his or her Savior cannot help but tell others about Him. (Mark 5:19)

The church that belongs to Christ believes that communion – partaking of the body and blood of Jesus – is essential to the life of the believer. They believe it is in communion with Jesus that relationship with Him is fostered as often as it is taken. (John 6:53-56)

The church that belongs to Christ doesn’t make it a practice to stand in judgment of others. They are accepting of all people because they recognize that all have sinned, and everyone has need for the same Savior. (Matthew 7:3-5)

The church that belongs to Christ seeks the reign of God, His kingdom, in their lives each day. This is not relegated to once or twice a week in a certain building but is shown by a lifestyle devoted to following God in every decision and action daily. (Matthew 6:33)

The church that belongs to Christ is full of flawed people who haven’t got it all figured out. They are broken people who are trying their best to allow God to change them, but it is a daily process, and some days are better than others. This creates an atmosphere of equality among all people regardless of race, age, gender, or class. (Matthew 9:12-13)

The church that belongs to Christ seeks to obey Him in all things. They see their obedience as part of their faith. (John 14:15)

The church that belongs to Christ seeks to show mercy and grace to all whom they come in contact with. They understand that they have been shown mercy and grace by Jesus and seek to reflect Him to others. (Matthew 5:7; 9:13)

The church that belongs to Christ is in the business of disciple-making. They aren’t interested in merely inviting someone to a weekend service. They want to help one another grow in their understanding and ability to follow the teachings of Jesus. (Matthew 28:18-20)

The church that belongs to Christ is compassionate. They seek to show that compassion in the world around them and seek nothing in return. (Luke 10:33-37)

The church that belongs to Christ is generous because it understands that everything it has has been given by the One who owns everything. It understands that the money and possessions it acquires are to be used to glorify God by helping others. It gives generously as an act of worship. (Mark 12:42-44)

The church that belongs to Christ focuses on what Jesus said are the most important ideas: Love God and Love your neighbor. This church is recognized by its love. The world all around knows there is something different about the church that belongs to Jesus because it loves like no other entity does – masses of followers banding together to be an example of love to everyone around them. (Matthew 22:35-40)

The church that belongs to Christ doesn’t worry about names on building or denominational association. This church is boundless. It has no borders. It is found in every church as people claim allegiance to the Savior who died and rose again. (John 10:16)

The church that belongs to Christ follows Jesus. No. Matter. What. (Matthew 10:38; 16:24-26)

This is the church of Christ. It’s not a name on a building but a way of life. It is all people who choose to follow Jesus – his examples and his teachings. Are you a part of that church?


Not An Option

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Our society today has an obsession with fickleness. People only stick with an idea or commitment as long as they sense it pleases them or caters to them. A very evident place in society that we see this attitude is within marriage relationships. So many marriages are failing because sometime during the relationship contentment is gone and the grass is seen as greener somewhere else. We lose sight of commitment and begin to wish for something else.

Our churches see this same thing happening. The divorces are still happening within the members homes, but within the church at large people lack this sense of commitment. Today it is very common for people to hop from church to church or worse – silently leave church altogether because they aren’t satisfied with some aspect of the church’s community life.

Why do people leave?
There are so many reasons people leave the church they currently attend. You can do a Google search and find article after article speculating the myriad of reasons. Right now, think within yourself why you would leave your current church or why you recently left. It doesn’t matter what the trends are; what matters is your situation, so think about it. The surprising thing is that doctrinal issues are not nearly as often the reason for leaving for most people. So what would or did cause you to leave your current church family?

Church is meant to be a family. You wouldn’t divorce your kids or parents. Many of you would never even divorce your husband or wife, but the church family is treated differently. This should not be.

I would love to see this trend stop. I would love to see people make a commitment to their congregation and live up to that commitment in love.

Here are a few suggestions for keeping your commitment to a church that you see needs to change:

1. Stop Simmering
So many people who leave a congregation are not people who are in the perceived or dedicated leadership of that congregation. They are the silent majority. They aren’t saying anything about their disgruntledness nor are they making suggestions for change. They are the silent majority, and as they continue to encounter things that they don’t like they silently slip away.

STOP!

If there is something going on in the church you worship with that you don’t like or that you wish would change then let the leadership know. If you don’t have elders then let the preacher or other ministry leadership group know. How can they know what to change if they don’t know what’s wrong?

As I’ve said before, many of the things people are disgruntled about are not doctrinal issues – they are matters of family life that can be changed. So don’t be afraid to make your voice heard. As you do so, I think you may find that there are plenty of other people who feel the same way. But don’t leave. How can’t he church get better at ministry if they can’t see the ministry needs? Your church leadership needs you to be vocal.

One warning: don’t just be a complainer. People who incessantly complain often lose their voice with the leadership of that church. If you want to be heard voice your concern, but also give suggestions on how to fix it, and most importantly volunteer to help with the solution you suggest.

2. Start Serving
Many times people will grumble and complain about an area they aren’t directly involved with.

For example: you wish your children could participate in a better, more organized children’s ministry, but your church hasn’t developed that kind of ministry yet. The solution isn’t to find a church with an already functional children’s ministry. The solution is to get involved and help create that ministry.

There are many things going on in a congregation that people can get involved with. Not being involved with the family life of the church is the same as not being a member of that church. A family functions together – everyone has a certain role to play for the health of the family unit – a church is no different.

Oh, and if you get involved in a real way, then you take ownership. This becomes your family. It is a lot harder to leave a group that you believe in and love because you’ve invested into them.

3. Leaving is not an Option
If your church has doctrinal problems, then you do need to be vocal, and you might have to leave. I really recognize that. You wouldn’t want your children to be taught something that isn’t truth.

However, if your issues aren’t doctrinal in nature, then you need to remove this concept of leaving from your mind. As you think about this concept it plants a seed that grows into a tree. Eventually you can’t help but convince yourself to leave.

Don’t allow leaving to be an option. The bible calls you to make peace with everyone as far as it depends on you (Romans 12:18). That means you do what it takes to make sure things work out. If you need to put your needs or wants aside to remain united then you do that. If you need to be vocal and involved in order to facilitate change then you do that. However, if you’re being vocal and the leadership knows you are an invested member that won’t leave if things don’t work out your way then you have their respect and often their ears.

These are just a few suggestions. What would you suggest to people thinking about leaving? As a preacher you must know that I take it personally when you leave. It’s not that I want to, and I know it may not even relate to me, but it still hurts. It doesn’t just hurt me; it hurts the whole body. If your church is a family then they truly miss you when you’re gone.

So don’t leave, and if you’ve already left then please come back and get involved and be vocal, but in all things love your brothers and sisters. We love you.


Zombies for Jesus

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This is the time of year that I love to go shed hunting. If you’re not familiar with what that is, then I’ll explain. Every year elk and deer shed their antlers. No one really knows why, but they grow back even bigger the following year. The antlers they shed are beautiful pieces of creation, and hunting them means hiking – a lot.

I love to be in the wilderness hiking along looking for these unique finds. I’ll admit, I’m not very good at it, but I try anyway.

The other day I was hiking along. There was much on my mind, and I was going through the countryside at a normal pace. I wasn’t tripping over rocks or branches. I avoided all obstacles, but after a while I realized I couldn’t recall any of the terrain I had just covered. I knew enough to retrace my steps, but I couldn’t remember what I had “looked at”. I was using my eyes, but I wasn’t seeing. There could have been 100 antlers in that area, but I couldn’t have seen them even if I had been staring at them because my mind was elsewhere. I was so distracted by my thoughts that I couldn’t see what was right in front of me.

Last week I was gathered with Christians from the four corners region to sing praise to God. I enjoy singing, but as we sang I began to look at the words to the songs. There were songs about those who were condemned that we sang joyfully. Shouldn’t we be sad about that? Shouldn’t that motivate us to get out there and witness more? There were songs about mansions, robes, and crowns that we want and expect to receive when we get to heaven. Isn’t that selfish? I don’t want that. I want to be in the presence of God forever. Everything else is of no consequence if I just get to be in His presence. We were singing songs that have been sung for ages, but so many times I’ve said the words without paying attention to their meaning.

Many people attend Sunday morning services. They even read their bibles, but they are missing the main messages for the tradition of going through the motions. It’s easy to keep doing what we’ve been doing. It’s easy to sing the songs that we’ve always sung. It’s even easy to find the lists of dos and don’ts in scripture because they are more obvious to a people who think in more concrete terms.

What we do when this becomes our habit is dangerous. We sing songs, but the songs are lip service. We like the tunes. We know the way to say the words, but we don’t know or even sense the heart of the songs. We know the Ten Commandments and many of the other lists of sins and laws in the bible, but we miss the greater meanings behind the laws.

Some concepts hold greater weight in the bible than others. Grace is a message found throughout the story even though it is not always maintained directly. Unity is stressed even more than doctrinal correctness. Faith is the bedrock of all we practice. Love is the greatest concept given to Christians. Each of these concepts can be practiced practically, but so many practice the acts without realizing the heart behind the acts.

We love to get grace, but so many who profess Jesus as Lord don’t give grace as much as they like receiving it – me included. We love the concept of unity – as long as you agree with me in order to create unity. That’s not unity. That’s uniformity. They are not the same. We love the concept of love, but we are so selfish that we have a hard time living in that. In fact, it is easier for us to do the “rules” than to love unconditionally. This is why Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 13. They were going through the motions without love or unity or grace.

It’s time to repent. It’s time to begin again. Let us not be zombies for Jesus – just going through the motions. May we be generous with our grace. May we be diverse in our unity. And may we love unconditionally. The world isn’t attracted to what we do ritualistically unless it comes from a well of who we are, and who we are needs to reflect Christ.


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