Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Are Things Really That Much Worse?

Let me ask it a different way . . .

Are things really the worse that they've ever been?  Does all of the sin, death and destruction we see in our world show us that things are getting exponentially worse?  Doesn't the UCSB shooting that happened this weekend prove that our world is in the worst shape we've seen?

The simple answer is "no."

Among Christians, whenever we hear about something tragic, our reactions tend to be along the lines of "Things have gotten so bad," or "Boy, has the world changed," or "You never used to hear about stuff like that happening."  

It's that last sentiment that leads me to my conjecture for this article: things are not really "worse" than they've ever been; we just hear about it a lot more than we ever used to, and we as Christians have an appropriate response to the terrible things we see. 

Now, the UCSB shooting was tragic.  I lost my father to violent crime, so I understand the impact of a tragedy like this, and I know exactly what the victims and the surviving family members are going through.  That being said, though, it saddens me to say that, even with tragedies like this, our world is still not any worse than it was.

You might ask: "why on earth would he say something like that?"  Unfortunately, history bears it out, and we need look no further than our own Bible to see it.  I made a departure from our usual format in that I didn't start with my supporting scriptures, because we're going to give several examples from the Bible of terrible things that were happening on planet earth two- to seven-thousand years ago that demonstrate that the world was just as dark place then as it is now:
  • Sodom (Genesis 19:4-11) - The homosexual men of the city tried to take Lot's visitor's captive and rape them (he offered his daughters instead).
  • Lot's Daughters (Genesis 19:30-36) - Lot's daughters get him drunk and sleep with him.
  • Pharoah's death sentence (Exodus 1:15-22) - Pharoah ordered the death of all male Hebrew babies, then included the Egyptian babies when the original plan didn't work.
  • Gibeah, his concubine, and the perverted men (Judges 19:22-30) - This one, you just have to read.
The truth is, we can look at the entire historical record and find tons of examples of depraved human behavior.  Sin has been in our world ever since Adam took his first bite, and it is responsible for every act of man that is contrary to God.  Is there more sin in the world than there used to be?  Not really.  Do we hear more about it now than we used to?  Absolutely.  

Fifty years ago, we got our news in the newspaper, or on the evening news broadcast.  The media was more selective about what it reported and how it was reported (censorship), and there weren't as many opportunities to report it.  Now, we have 24-hour news channels, multiple news broadcasts on non-news stations, the internet, and social media (I actually found out about the USCB shooting because it was a trending topic on Twitter). Also, because the news is largely unfiltered now, we hear a lot of the gritty details that we never got before.  Of course, with any crime of extreme violence or brutality, the more you know, the worse it seems, which is why it would make sense that sin in the world seems worse than it used to be.  That being said, however, our response as Christians is still the same:
Shine the light.
Understand this: it's easy for us to look at our world that is polluted by sin, say "It's never been this bad," and throw up our hands in concession.  The hard fact is that we've been called to be a light in this very same world.  Would there still be sin the world if more people knew Jesus?  Yes.  Would it be as rampant as it is now?  Probably not, if only because fewer people would be lost in sin.  Our responsibility in the face of "increasing" sin is to fight the good fight (1 Timothy 6:11), and rather than pull back in fear, push forward in faith, knowing that He who is in us is greater than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4).  
We have to be the ones to let the world know that there is still hope for a better tomorrow.  We have to be the ones that show that Jesus is the light they are looking for in the darkness.  We have to be the ones to say that we are unafraid of the sin that has a grip on this world, and that love of God has come to set the captives free.  We have to be the ones to boldly declare the mysteries of the Gospel.  It is then, and only then, that we will see the improvement in our world that we long for.   That's why we must focus on making things better, rather than how much worse they have become.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Importance of Accountability

"As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend." - Proverbs 27:17 (NKJV)

"But now indeed there are many members, yet one body.  And the eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of you'; nor again the head to the feet, 'I have no need of you' . . . that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another.  And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it." - 1 Corinthians 12:21-22, 25-26 (NKJV)

"For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables." - 2 Timothy 4:3-4 (NKJV)

"And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ . . ." Ephesians 4:11-15 (NKJV)



If we're honest with ourselves, many of us hate accountability, and often try to stay as far away from it as possible, as often as possible.  

Now there are myriad reasons why people dislike accountability: they don't like people prying into their personal lives, or the people who hold us accountable seem to be overbearing (this can be especially true in the workplace), or we have a hard time trusting people, and therefore don't let people see or know anything more than is necessary for fear of being hurt or rejected.  All of that is totally understandable.  

Unfortunately, what many of us don't want to admit is that we run from accountability because we feel like we have something to hide, and often times we are ashamed of that which we are hiding.  

Well, according to the scriptures above, it may be time for you to stop running away from accountability, and starting running toward it.  That goes for Christians of all kinds: non-church-goers, congregation members, church leaders, pastors, denominational heads, leaders of organizations, and everyone in between.

Now, let's start first with what accountability is not:
  • Accountability is not the right of any Christian (that includes pastors and leaders) to pry into people's lives at their wimsy
  • Accountability is not the right of church members (or any other Christian) to publicly call out pastors or leadership just because they do something they don't agree with (1 Timothy 5:19)
  • Accountability is not sharing everything that is happening in your life with anyone who will listen
  • Accountability is not putting out church business to the public (those outside the church) indiscriminately
  • Accountability is not attempting to control someone's life
I feel the need to make those points so that 1) people don't take this article as permission to lord themselves over their fellow Christians, and 2) so that we can understand that I'm not saying that anyone anywhere has more authority in your life than God Himself.  

That being said, here are some examples of what accountability is:
  •  A Christian having somewhat regular conversations with another Christian (who is more seasoned than they are, and preferably of the same gender) about the spiritual issues they are dealing with, even if it's your spouse (though spousal accountability isn't as effective, in general, because our spouse tends to be hardest person to tell when we mess up)
  • A pastor (or any other organizational head) have regular conversations with his board, leaders, and congregation about things that are happening that impact their church or organization (the business that is pertinent to each group, of course)
  • Receiving guidance to help you when you can't get the answer on your own, or when the answer you get doesn't seem like the right one.
I wanted to put more points in that list, but those three basically sum it up.  

Understand: from the example scriptures given about, we as Christians need each other, and whether we like it or not, we're in this together, even those of us who don't attend a church.  We, together, make the body of Christ, and all of our actions affect each other, whether we think they do or not.  

I submit to you this conjecture: God has given us three things to aid us in our spiritual growth, those being 1) His Word (the Bible), 2) His Spirit (the Holy Spirit), and 3) His people (the Church, that is, other Christians).  Most of us don't have a problem embracing the first two: we love the comfort and guidance we receive from have the Holy Spirit, and we embrace the knowledge and wisdom that we glean from God's Word.  What we often reject is the wisdom and guidance that come from our fellow Christians, whether they be peer or pastor.  

Here's the problem: our last thirty years of American history are littered with stories of regular people and Christians that have been led astray despite their commitment to following God and knowing His word.  Unfortunately, we are still people, prone to sinful tendencies.  And this is a problem that is common both among leader and layman because, again, we're all human.  The common thread among almost every Christian that has returned to a life of sin, or worse, completely rejected the Gospel, is that while they may have put the Word and the Spirit to good use, they typically failed to use their third resource, the Church (other Christians). 

Referring back to our foundational scriptures, we can see that we as Christians can be led astray by deceiving doctrines, among other things.  Look at every cult leader that said they were Jesus,  or every preacher who either stole from the church or had an affair, or every wife or husband that has gambled away all of their family's money.  These are pitfalls that accountability can help us avoid!  In most cases, they didn't stop and ask someone, "Hey, is my thinking right on this?  Are my actions Godly?"  Instead, when we are leaning in the direction of giving ourselves over to sin, we either ignore or "misinterpret" scripture, and and usually find some spirit to agree with them, though they definitely aren't hearing the Holy Spirit because they're looking for something to agree with them that the sin is acceptable.  Once they've confirmed within themselves that what they want to do (or are doing) is acceptable in some way, it's basically all over.  

2 Corinthians 10:12 tells us specifically that it isn't a good idea to use our own understanding as the measure in these situations is not a good idea (that's great passage of scripture to study in general, by the way).  That's why accountability is so important: if we are being deceived, a more seasoned Christian can look at our situation and say, "No, this isn't right," help us understand why, and then give guidance on how to proceed correctly.  Why would we run away from that?  The same principal applies when we make mistakes.  

Think about it this way: when a child makes a mistake, are the parents more merciful if you go to them and admit what happened, or if you hide it and they find out?  What about your boss?  Well, it works the same way with God: course correction is much easier with God if we go to the people we've wronged and hold ourselves accountable than if we try to hide our mistakes and are ultimately found out (1 Timothy 5:24).  

So, here's the point of all this: we as Christians come from a variety of backgrounds, and we tend to disagree on a lot of (inconsequential) things, but we can all agree that we all need accountability.  Whether we serve in the spotlight or in the background, we all need to have accountability to someone who can help us make sense of all of this.  

Believe me: God has given us everything we need to succeed; we just have to use it.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Role of the Church in Election Season

"When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; But when a wicked man rules, the people groan." - Prov 29:2 (NKJV)

"The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes." - Prov 21:1 (NKJV)

"Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God." - Rom 13:1 (NKJV)

"By long forbearance a ruler is persuaded, And a gentle tongue breaks a bone." - Prov 25:15 (NKJV)


Well, that magical time is upon us once again: Presidential election season! Every four years, we have the pleasure of being inundated with more promises, TV ads, slander, broken promises, slander, mud-slinging, debate, slander (did I already mention that?), and campaigning than should be permitted by law! Not to mention the promises (OK, I know I already mentioned that). What a joyous time to be an American (please note the obvious sarcasm . . .)

Of course, one of the big questions that mainstream media likes brings up during election season is this: "what role will Evangelical Christians play in this year's election?" That's right, folks: you and I, the body of Christ, who are often dismissed as out-of-touch, condemning, clueless, and a host of other not-so-flattering adjectives, are actually taken somewhat seriously once every two years, albeit around a topic that often leaves us divided.

Well, believe it or not, you and I actually play quite an important role when it comes to the elections in our country. As a matter of fact, given what the Bible says, even as messy as politics and the electoral process can be, great importance has been placed on our vote. Let me explain:

As you can see, I referenced a number of scriptures at the front-end of this post, all of which deal with rulers and authority in some sort of way. The first scripture resonates with many of us, as we have had to deal with the consequences of living under a host of unrighteous rulers (we won't name names, as it's unnecessary for the heart of this article); we've seen it manifest itself in public humiliations, financial corruptions, sexual misconduct, and in the many other ways that have given our government a black eye, both domestically and internationally. Furthermore, we can include in this "unrighteous" category all of the legislation that has been passed and Supreme Court decisions that have been made since the inception of our great democratic-republic that have made us scratch our heads and say "Where did we go wrong?" There is very much a need for righteousness in government.

But you might think this: "Will, one of your scripture references says that God directs the king! How can we do anything about unrighteous politicians?" My response? "Thank you for making my point for me."

You see, the kings of Israel (starting with Saul himself) were all ordained by God, which means that God put them there, not men. Therefore, the king was sovereign in his rule (he only answered to God). As a matter of fact, we even see that some kings had their hearts hardened by God (i.e. Pharaoh). And, as the authorities placed by God, the people's job was to submit to them. We, however, do not live under a king. So how do these scriptures apply to us? I'm glad you asked.

You see, the democratic-republic in which we live, which was founded through much prayer and seeking of God, gives power to the people, and, in turn, their delegates (congressman, senators, and even presidents, all of which are elected in order to best represent the will of the people). Yes, it gives power to the states as well, but the states are comprised of, you guessed it, people. So, even though the people in authority are to be yielded to, their power flows from the people, which just happens to include you. Bottom line? The people rule, not the politicians.

Honestly, the poor character that we see in our representatives largely represents the people who put them there, though we'd probably prefer not to look at it that way.

So, we can see that the people are actually subject to themselves by way of the people that they put into power. The people rule.

Now, if the heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord, but we have no king, we could probably say that the heart of the ruler is in the hand of the Lord, and, since the people rule themselves through delegated authority, it's really the hearts of the people of our great country that are in the hands of the Lord.

Well, that begs a great question: how does God change the hearts of the people. That's easy: through us! That brings to our fourth scripture.

Now, when someone is in power, whether it's a boss, a pastor, or a coach, it can take a long time for them to change the way they do something, especially if they've been doing it that way for a long time; hence the point made in Proverbs about long forbearance. Now, our country didn't become the way it is overnight, so it's not going to change back to a more Godly way overnight, either. However, we can take heart from the scriptures that, as long as we keep fighting the good fight of the faith and persuading the sinner to righteousness in hopes that they'll find repentance, that our country will change it's way. However, we will never truly see a change in the kind of people we elect into office until we see a change in the hearts of the people who put them there.

So, while it is necessary to make sure that we're vigilant about doing our research and make most righteous election we can (that means not voting for people who overtly go against the things that God says are right), we must fight the war on both fronts by continuing to preach the good news of Jesus so that a change can be made in the power base that rules our country, the people. Then, we'll definitely see righteous rule, and there will be much rejoicing.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Different, But The Same . . .

"There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.  There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord.  And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all." - 1 Corinthians 12:3-6 (NKJV)

Do you ever think about what would happen if every church in your area was exactly the same?  What if you all had the same styles of music?  Better yet, what if you all played the same list of songs? And in the exact same way?  What if all of those churches put on the same events?  What if all of the local pastors taught for exactly the same amount of time each service, used the same number of verses per message, and taught out of the same translation?

The answer to all of these questions is apparent: if anything, our churches would all reach the same people (if anyone,) and only the people who found this particular stencil of church appealing would be able to receive the Gospel.

Obviously, with the conglomeration of cultures that make the United States the diverse nation that it is, we wouldn't be able to reach all of the different kinds of people in our nation if we didn't use different kinds of bait (I say "bait" because Jesus called us to be fisher's of men; we're obviously not trying to dupe and lure people, seeing as we preach the truth.)  This seems to be a truth that all of us can accept, yet somehow we still manage to find a problem that ties directly into this idea: churches speaking out against the activities of other churches. 

Now, you may say, "I've never known another church to openly disapprove of the activities and outreaches of another church."  Well, stick around: the unfortunate truth is that you're likely to see it at some point.  And, even if we don't see it happen publicly, who knows the number of times leaders from a particular church have sat behind closed doors, ridiculing the activities of another body.  I'll give you an example:

Here in Arizona, we had a church that was putting on a very highly-publicized sermon series on sex (back when such things were less common than they are now.)  There were banners generated, stories run in local newspapers, and many other mediums used to draw attention to the sermon series.  Needless to say, community response was tremendous: the church, whose normal Sunday attendance was around 1600, was seeing Sunday crowds of around 3000 (my numbers may be off, but the difference in attendance was quite drastic.)  Many of these new attenders were people who may have never darkened the door of a church had the topic not been sex (we'll address that thought more in a moment.) 

Under normal circumstances, having that many people come into a church and be exposed to the Gospel would be highly celebrated, especially given the opportunity created to bring those people to Christ.  Of course, there was one problem: the subject matter used to bring the people in, and it drew fire from some local churches.  While most of the criticism was not given on the record (and thank God for that,) there was absolutely some disapproval among many local churches, wondering why we would go to such "extremes" just to get people to come to church.  Questions arose about the merit, morality, and motivation behind such a sermon series.  This is where our foundational scripture comes into play:

" . . . there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all."

Teaching openly about sex on a Sunday morning safely falls under the category of "diversities of activities."  Now, I realize that our canonized Bible is not exactly running over with teachings about the particulars of sex, but it is definitely a topic that it covers.  Nowhere in the Bible is there a passage that says we can't address it, and seeing as it's one of the foundational parts of marriage, it seems like something too important not to teach on.

At this point in our nation's history, it's probably safe to say that we need to do whatever it takes to reach as many people as we can with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, short of committing sin to do so.  If that means that (God forbid) we need to teach on a topic that is relevant to most people in our country, and that will actually cause them to come to church because they see the value in what's being offered, then there should be no place for anyone to nay-say, especially if the salvation of lost souls is the result.

We're not saying that every church needs to teach on sex like this; obviously, we're a body, and we all perform different functions, and we're all necessary in our own way (more on this topic at another time;) what we are saying is that we can no longer afford to stand in the way of ministries that are doing something that reaches people!  The Church in America, in a lot of ways, has been highly ineffective for too long, and it can no longer be acceptable for us to throw our two cents in when a church is making an impact.  Remember: it's still God who is working all in all!  That means that if God's love is the motivation, and salvation results, then there should be nothing left to say.  Who are we to say that God can't use a teaching on sex to remove the veil from darkened eyes?  Or that a church conference on political issues can't cause a person's mind to be renewed?  Or that God disapproves of reaching out to prostitutes on the street? 

Remember: Jesus our savior met us at our level as a servant; in reaching our nation, we must be willing to do the same.

Please understand that this is by no means an exhaustive dissertation on the need for diversities of activities, and the need to embrace such diversities, but for now, this is sufficient for getting us thinking on the right track. 

I leave you with Paul's words from 1 Corinthians 9:19-22 (NKJV):

"For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.  Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you."

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Picture Of Unity

Take a good look at the picture above; what do you see?  Do you notice anything this group?  Can you tell anything about their denominational alignment?  Does anything stand out about the kind of music they like, or what kind of outreaches they do?  Does anything at all seem, say, off?  Or weird? 

The answer to all of those questions is probably "no."

Let me let you in on what we're looking at: this picture was taken at a church in East Mesa, AZ.  What you see are elements of a few different churches, one of them a bilingual church, one of them a largely Caucasian church.  This photograph was taken after a worship service where multiple congregations were invited to come and worship God together in unity.  It was a powerful evening: God moved, people were touched, and we touched the heart of God.  It was a wonderful night, and an incredible experience. 

In reflecting on that service, I thought to myself, "There's something powerful about God's people coming together in worship."  Really, it best embodies that first verse of Psalm 133: "Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brethren dwell together in unity." 

Then, I thought further: what if we could replicate this all over the country? 

Now, I know that there are huge worship gatherings all over the country every year, the best example of which being the OneDay worship festivals put on by the Passion group.

photo courtesy of renewalchurch.org

That's a lot of people!

In the midst of meetings like this, the power of God is able to really work because people are able to put aside their differences and focus on our creator and seeking His face. 

I find a problem, though, but it's not a problem with huge worship meetings that draw people in from all over the country; I find a problem with us being able to do this same thing among local churches, which is why the picture at the beginning of this post is so significant.

Yes, coming together on the level of OneDay is important, but here's the key: I believe that one of the things that God is waiting for is for the two little churches of fifty people that are three miles apart (and have never agreed on anything) to put aside their differences and seek His face, together.  That was the case with the image above: none of the congregations represented there have more than 50 members, but they made a point of coming together to seek God.  And God paid attention to the cries of his people in that service.  

Here's another thought: I've been a part of both large and small churches, and I've noticed that large churches are often not interested in anything another church does unless it's a larger ministry than theirs.  Now, I realize that larger churches have more things that they have to deal with simply because they have more people, but what's wrong with a pastor stepping down for a moment to get involved in something that a smaller ministry is doing?  I'm not saying that it's necessary all the time, but let's at least consider the possibility that God wants you to be involved in a smaller church's event, or worship service, or anything else they might be doing. 

On the flip side, some pastors of smaller churches absolutely refuse to get involved with larger ministries, whether it's because because they distrust them ("they might take our members,") or they feel that they're corrupt ("they must be watering down the Gospel,") or whatever other reason they may have.  The fact is that they could actually learn something by taking the time to participate in something that a larger ministry is doing, and use what they learn to be of greater good in their own community. 

In the end, all I'm saying is this: there are so many points that can divide us as a church, which is why we have to be proactive about promoting unity, and one of the best ways to do that is crossing congregational boundaries and coming together in worship.  Why is that one of the best ways?  Because God deserves all the glory on account of His love and His goodness, and we can all agree on that.

So, I challenge you with this: whether you're a pastor or parishioner, leader or team member, paid staff or volunteer, do something to connect with another church in your city, community, or neighborhood.  Pastors, reach out to another pastor that you maybe haven't reached out to in a long time (or ever) and arrange a cooperative worship service.  Take some time to get together and give God glory. 

See, what we want is for God to do what He did in Genesis 11: we want to come together in such a way that He wants to come down and see what's going on!  We don't want to continue in this mess of isolation that has turned people away from the church and ultimately away from God; we want to come together in unity and lift up Jesus so that he can draw all men to His side. 

The best picture of this that I can give is from Micah 2:12-13 (NKJV):

I will surely assemble all of you, O Jacob,
      I will surely gather the remnant of Israel;
      I will put them together like sheep of the fold,
      Like a flock in the midst of their pasture;
      They shall make a loud noise because of so many people.
      The one who breaks open will come up before them;
      They will break out,
      Pass through the gate,
      And go out by it;
      Their king will pass before them,
      With the LORD at their head.”

And let that be our prayer, o God, that as your people unite in you, that you would break open all the things that stand in our way, and lead us onward in victory as we march toward the redemption of our great nation.

God bless you as you continue to minister the Gospel everywhere you go.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Can We Discuss This In Private?

"These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.  But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." - 1 Corinthians 2:13-14 (NKJV)

"As these disagreements and wrongs surface, why would you ever entrust them to the judgment of people you don't trust in any other way?  I say this as bluntly as I can to wake you up to the stupidity of what you're doing. Is it possible that there isn't one levelheaded person among you who can make fair decisions when disagreements and disputes come up? I don't believe it. And here you are taking each other to court before people who don't even believe in God! How can they render justice if they don't believe in the God of justice?" - 1 Corinthians 6:4-6 (Message)

I remember that, late in 2006, I was walking through the lobby of my church, in a building that we were sharing with a school.  It was late, and I was ready to go home.  As I passed by the school's reception desk, I noticed a recent issue of Time Magazine.  Normally, I wouldn't have cared to stop and look, but the cover story caught my attention: "Does God Want You To Be Rich?"  As I picked up the issue and began to read, my heart sank within me.

Here we had extremely high-profile preachers of the gospel going toe-to-toe, discussing the doctrine of prosperity (a topic we'll address at a later date.)  Normally, it wouldn't matter that these preachers were discussing this, or even that two of the most renowned of them were obviously at opposite ends of the discussion.  The problem was this: Time Magazine, a secular publication, was being given the opportunity to play referee over a divisive issue in the American Church.  This was especially troubling with one of the preachers referring to the other's viewpoint as, and I quote, "baloney," which was obviously the most mature term one can use in a debate, right?

Anyway, the article took me to the scripture mentioned at the beginning of this post.  The apostle Paul gave specific instructions about letting disputes like this be judged in the eye of a world that doesn't understand spiritual things: DON'T DO IT!  Now I realize that, in the actual context of 1 Corinthians 6, he's talking about lawsuits, but doesn't the same reasoning seem to apply here?  Why would we, who are supposed to represent the body of Christ as a whole, want to put any division in the body on display for the whole world to see?  Where is the positive witness in that?  According to 1 Corinthians 2, they can't even understand what we're talking about, so why would we include them in the discussion? 

What adds to this is the irony of  these passages being written in 1 Corinthians (to understand this point better, click the "Why This Blog?" link at the top of the page.)

Now, we as Christians know how to handle disputes (or at least we should.)  Can we agree to this?  Can we do what Paul did and determine, at least as far as the world is concerned, to not know anything except for Christ and Him crucified?  For now, that's all they need know.  The disagreements?  Let's keep those internal.  We can address and discuss them, but let's not drag the world into the debate. 

Now, let me say this: are there certain things that are going to come out anyway?  Will the media still try and take things that go on inside the Church and spin them negatively?  Will the darkness of this world still do everything it can to tarnish the name of Christ in the eyes of those who need Him most?  Yes, these things will happen.  Here's the difference: when they ask us for our opinion, let's stick to the company line, "Christ and Him crucified."  Is it OK for them to know that we don't agree on everything?  Yes, that's fine, but let's not go dragging our brothers and the differences in their beliefs through the mud just for the sake of some press, or for the sake of establishing our doctrinal superiority.  There's too many lives at stake for us to have any selfish ambition or gross division among us.

Let's keep our message to the world simple: "Jesus loves you, and you need Him."  That's what wins the lost.  Let's keep the rest of the discussion between us.

If you'd like to read the Time Magazine article, just click the link below:  http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1533448-1,00.html

Thank you for your continued support, and for spreading the word about Psalm 133.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Welcome! It's About Time . . .

Psalm 133 (New King James Version)

A Song of Ascents. Of David.
 1 Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
         For brethren to dwell together in unity!
 2 It is like the precious oil upon the head,
         Running down on the beard,
         The beard of Aaron,
         Running down on the edge of his garments.
 3 It is like the dew of Hermon,
         Descending upon the mountains of Zion;
         For there the LORD commanded the blessing—
         Life forevermore.

Honestly, it's about time that someone devoted a reasonable amount of time to promoting unity in the Body of Christ, especially in it's American representation.

Yes, I realize that it's short-sighted to say "it's about time," as it is possible that there are lots of people who devote lots of time to promoting church unity, but, given the divisions that still exist among us, it couldn't possibly hurt to add another sound voice that uses Biblical perspective to address the issues that tear us apart.  Hence, the reason why we're all here: to identify the things that tear us apart, root out the things that don't belong, set aside the things that don't matter, and embrace the things that bring us together.  That is why God has inspired me to start the Psalm 133 blog.

Now, I've been in the church as far back as I can remember (which is at least the age of 5,) and have been a part of several different types of services and congregations, and have witnessed both great successes and absolute failures when it comes to unity in the Body of Christ.  I've watched Baptists and Assembly of God members work together in the most poverty-stricken parts of India, and I've watched like-minded believers who didn't even have denominational differences tear each other apart and divide a church, hamstringing a force for good in a community.

Why do we have such a disparity in our actions?  Do we not realize what the psalm is telling us?  Let me break it down for you in brief: when there's unity in the Church, the power of God can flow freely (the oil is a picture of the anointing power of God, just like in Psalm 23), and, he commands his blessing of life forevermore upon us!  How can we possibly allow division and strife to exist in our midst when it would keep us from promises such as these?

We'll break down the Psalm more in the coming posts.

Of course, in order to be in receipt of that commanded blessing, it's necessary for us to understand what unity actually looks like.  Does it mean that we all have to believe exactly the same things and interpret the Bible the same way?  Maybe it means eliminating the disputes between preachers that often become fodder for the media, and which are often proliferated just for the sake of some publicity and an ego boost.  We'll look at that in depth as well.

We'll also tackle individual issues and look at the Biblical perspective on them, things like speaking in tongues, money, denominations, etc.  We'll even look at practical ways for churches to work together to spread the Gospel, because, after all, that's why we're here, right?  For the sake of the glory of God and fulfillment of His Great Commission?

When all is said and done, I know there's a way for us to work together to bring in the harvest, and that's why we're going forward with this undertaking.  I hope you'll join me in helping to bring to light God's take on all of this, as we work to develop the unity that we need so that his power can flow and so that he can command the blessing upon us, even life forevermore.

Thank you.