One Body; Part 4

one body

July 19

“Let each of us please his neighbor for his good… for even Christ did not please Himself… therefore accept one another as Christ has accepted you.” (from Romans 15:2-7)

We have been talking about Christian unity – and how essential it is, not only for our relationship with God, but for our effectiveness in completing God’s purposes.

But let’s get right down to it. We DO have real differences. In theology. In how we worship. In how we pray. Even in HOW we receive God’s grace… and salvation.

Contem worship  trad worship  powerofprayer  Praying 2

And because we have such a wide variety of differences… we often do not trust each other. It is human nature to be wary of differences – especially when those differences are in areas related to God… or in their importance to us.

But unity is not pushing aside those differences and pretending they don’t matter.

Because they do.

I will even go so far as to say that God put those differences within us – to give us a broader range of appeal to the various kinds of people in this world.

Think of your favorite foods.

good food

You really like them. You eat them often. You find great comfort and enjoyment in eating them. But did you realize that there are people in this world that probably dislike your favorite foods (maybe even despise them)? And if you were to have one of those folks over for dinner, you would be best-served to find out what their favorite foods were – so you could please them.

You are not wrong in liking what you like… and neither are they. We are all just different… with different likes and dislikes.

We could take the attitude: “Well, what they like is just stupid. And if they’re gonna be that way, I want nothing to do with them!”

rejection

And we could likely miss out on a valuable relationship (with someone really special) because of our preferences.

Most of the time, what separates us in not our main doctrines – it is our preferences (our likes and dislikes). Certain preferences make us more comfortable – they are more in line with our style, or with what we like.

Other people feel differently. They have different comforts. Different styles. Different likes.

What do we do about that?

The apostle provides instruction in our verses today. What bonds us all together is not that we have all the same preferences, but that we have love for Jesus… and love for each other. The greater our differences… the greater that love needs to be.

And in Christ, there is no limit to how big love can be.

love conquers all

The context of the apostle’s words come after a lengthy discussion about how to approach real differences in the Body of Christ. Some hold one view. Others have a different view. Some see with a better understanding. Some have a much weaker understanding.

Surprisingly, the apostle’s solution is NOT to get everyone “straightened out” in what they believe. The solution is to… “accept one another” as Christ accepted us.

This must mean that, from God’s perspective, our differences have a purpose. Our differences bring something to the table that we just have trouble seeing.

In many ways God’s people are like the colors in a painting. In the skill of the artist, varieties of colors (and several shades of each color) are used to paint something that captures our attention – that display the mastery of the painter – that communicate feelings and thoughts that could never be expressed by using just ONE color.

The Light of Peace

If we are willing, God helps us to see from HIS perspective! And when we can begin to see our differences, NOT as points of contention, but as colors and shades on the palette of Our Master – then we can begin to accept that they are not the things that really divide us, but are the things that make HIM more appealing.

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One Body; Part 3

one body

July 18

“With all humility and gentleness… maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (from Ephesians 4:2-3)

Sometimes, when we need something, it helps to know that we already have it.

Yesterday, we talked about the vital importance of Christian unity – how it is a direct reflection of God Himself (either for bad… or good!).

But even if we are convinced that unity is really important (maybe the most important thing to God, for His people) we still have massive doubts that it could ever happen. Our differences are REAL differences. Our beliefs are too diverse. Our distrust just too severe.

In today’s church environment, there is just no way to become unified again.

just-not-possible.jpg

Let me respond to that very prevalent feeling, this way…

poor manSuppose I were very poor and you befriended me. You just happen to be very wealthy. For this reason, you decide that you want to do something about my poverty… so you set up a bank account in my name and place a million dollars in that account (apparently your wealth is only surpassed by your generosity!)

But then, months later, we cross each other’s path and I am still disheveled and poor. Come to find out, I never used the money you so generously put in my account, but continued to live in my meager means. I had already received what I needed to alleviate my situation – I just needed to access it.

That is exactly the apostle’s point in our verse for the day… we don’t have to create unity – we just have to “access” what is already there.

Just as Jesus purchased our freedom from our sins… His sacrificial death also broke down every dividing wall that separates us IN Him (Ephesians 2:14). If you know Jesus (if you have received Him and accepted what He has done for you) YOU are a member of His Family. And so is everyone who has made that same commitment.

There is ONLY one Family of God… just as there is only one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. Being IN the Family makes us ALL one Family.

Family of God

We don’t have to create unity… it has already been provided – through Jesus’ work.

If this is true (and it is!) then the only thing we can do is destroy unity by our attitudes and preconceptions of one another. There is NO division in Christ… unless we allow divisive things to come between us! It really all comes down to… a matter of choice.

Yes, we have differences (in theology, in style, in how we pray, in what we emphasize) but we also have Christ.

And Christ IS always greater than all our differences.

greater-than is Jesus

We also have a “secret weapon.” We each have the Holy Spirit of the Living God living within us – to lead us, guide us, and empower us to do God-type of things. And to enable us to love even as God Himself loves us.

What everything comes down to is this… our disunity is just a lack of God’s kind of love in our hearts – which tells us that we have an even greater problem than not getting along.

John was inspired to put it this way:

1-john-4-20-21

When we do not love our brothers… how can we really love God… and how can we possibly love the people in this world that God dearly loves.

That’s the bad news… here’s the good: in all our failings we are only a heartfelt repentance away from restoration back to what God has provided for us.

Jesus came and tore down every dividing wall… creating unity. In our hearts (and choices!) we just have to preserve what He has already provided.

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One Body; Part 2

one body

July 17

“Holy Father… may they be one, even as we are one.” (Jesus – John 17:11)

Most Christians would nod their heads at the statement that we should all be unified together as the Body of Christ. It is a statement (and idea) that most of us readily accept.

But when it comes right down to it, the importance of Christian unity is, apparently, way down our list of important things to do.

at the bottom

We all have so many more important issues than whether or not we can actually get along with each other. Truth be told, most churches don’t give Christian unity a second thought. The feeling is: “There are much more important things than that!”

And that is the biggest part of our problem. We don’t realize just how important Christian unity is to God. We see it as a subtext. An optional ingredient.

But, according to Jesus, God sees it much differently.

If you really read Jesus’ “High Priestly Prayer” (as it’s called; John 17) you notice just how prominently it appears. If we really understand it correctly… everything Jesus asks the Father to do for His disciples (through the generations) is based on the bond of unity (in love) that we have for each other – and with Him.

make them all one

The real question is WHY this would be so important to God?

In our verse for the day, Jesus answers this question.

Jesus’ passion is for His people to ALL be one. Unified. Working together. Pulling in the same direction. All in the bond of unconditional love (God’s Own kind of love).

The Source (and Model) of Jesus’ passion for unity is… the GodHead. At the heart of Christian unity is the God Who Himself is unified. Three Persons = One God. In unity. Working together. Pulling in the same direction. All in the bond of unconditional love.

Print

Unity is important because God’s people are ALL called to represent God. How we act, react, and interact matters… because it is our unspoken (but loud) testimony about God Himself.

Our disunity presents a picture that God is dis-unified. Disjointed. Chaotic.

That is what Jesus is saying. It is why He prayed what He prayed. It was one of the foremost thoughts on His Mind.

It was what He came and died to bring about…

broken down wall

We tend to think unity is impossible. We have too many differences. Too many points of contention. Too many problems that just can’t be overcome.

And our doubts (and resulting actions, or failures to act) tell the world that God must be  incapable of unifying His people. What it really says is that God CAN’T do it. And if He isn’t capable of bringing solutions to the “messes” of individual churches… then He is most likely incapable of bringing solutions to the messes in their own lives.

What disunity really declares is that God’s love isn’t big enough. His power isn’t strong enough. His will is not influential enough to overcome our frail minds and hearts.

It is a distorted reflection of Him.

god

That’s why our commitment to unity is so important. There is no greater testimony than when love, indeed, conquers all. When love overcomes all our differences. When love bridges our considerable gaps.

Because God’s love, tested and proven in and through us, is an irrefutable testimony in the minds of those who desperately need Him in their lives.

 

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One Body

one body

July 16

There is …one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, Who is over all and through all and in all.” (from Ephesians 4:4-6)

Last week, we talked about harmful attitudes within believers toward other believers – and how those attitudes deeply effect us (often without being aware!).

Over the next few days, I want to follow-up on those thoughts by expressing my deepest concern about unity in the Body of Christ.

I realize (right from the start) that this is not a popular issue. I would even go so far as to say that we may even prefer our disunity.

disunity

We must… We often do so little about it.

Maybe it’s because we don’t feel like anything can be done. We don’t see eye-to-eye on so many issues, so why bother looking to fix things between us. Things are broken beyond repair… so let’s pour our efforts into things that CAN be done.

Broken-Glass

Or maybe it’s because we don’t even feel like anything should be done. “They have their thing. We have ours. We are all different – so let’s just do our thing and let them do theirs. God will sort it all out in the end.”

separation

But these common perceptions bring us face to face with a huge issue.

The Bible tells us very clearly that there is ONLY one Lord, one faith, one baptism. And anything less than what God has declared (and created) is NOT Biblical… or beneficial.

What is more… Disunity in the Body of Christ = a misrepresentation of Christ.

Think about that term: “the Body of Christ.” That is what we ALL are – together.

One-Body-in-Christ

Disunity actually means that Christ has been dismembered – and if that creates an image that repulses us, it should. Disunity should be that repulsive to us. We cannot present a disfigured picture of Christ to the world without resulting in them finding Him difficult to look at… or to look to.

Jesus said something absolutely crucial about this issue when He was praying His final prayer for His disciples (and for every disciple who would become a disciple through the disciples [v. 20]!), He prayed; “That they may all be one… so that the world may believe that You have sent Me.” (John 17:21, see 23). We don’t often make this connection, but it is unmistakable… Jesus ties effectiveness in evangelism to unity in the Church!

We have proof of this… in the Book of Acts. When the Church was at its most effective in reaching people with the message of the Savior, the Church was most unified: “All who believed were together and had all things in common… and the Lord added to their number daily…” And: “Those who believed were of one heart and soul… they had everything in common… and with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus…” (from Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-33!)

everything in common

We need to think about this, from God’s perspective. What does disunity say about our ability to love as God loves. And if we cannot do that with our “brothers and sisters” in Christ, how can we possible do that with the people of this world.

In these next few days, I pray our hearts will be stirred to see what God can do with something that seems so impossible to us…

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Psalm Eighteen: 27…

1PS

July 15

We have been looking at some key passages (and thoughts) from Psalm 18. We must remember this a summary Psalm… David is looking back on his life and celebrating what God has done for Him.

Which brings us to… how much do we celebrate what God has done for us?

Do we live our lives in a spirit of lack (“I never seem to have everything I want”) OR in a spirit of abundance (“I am so blessed and choose to fix my thoughts on all that God has done for me!”).

thanking God

David’s life was not all velvet and roses. He experienced a lot of tough times and trouble. But rather than reflect back on all his hardships, he chose to reflect on what God did for him – in the midst of all those hardships. David knew that our focus deeply effects our souls.

We need to come to the realization that we may never have everything we want (or think we need), but because of God’s love for us… we have not received what we deserve. We deserve God’s rejection. We deserve His wrath. We deserve His severity, not His kindness.

But what we have all received is the full expression of His love – poured out lavishly on the undeserving. Poured out without restriction or conditions (see… Jesus!).

We are the objects of God’s unlimited love… by HIS choice. And that should cause us to humbly honor God with our lives, our choices, our every action (v. 27).

humbled before God

That was David’s point.

Through the rest of Psalm 18, David talks about all the ways that His relationship with God has brought him benefit. He speaks of God’s light in times of darkness (28). Strength beyond his own ability (29). Protection against insurmountable odds (30). Security in troubled times (31). Strength to do what is right, when it would be easier to do what is wrong (32). Skill and agility (a treasured trait in those days) to pursue enemies – or to escape impending trouble (33). And on and on…

David points to God as the Source of all that he is… and all that he has overcome. He honors God with his life and with his praise. Surely, a practice that is fitting for God’s people!

But there is one last phrase that catches my attention – one that seems “out of place” or strange to our thinking. But it is really at the heart of what we need to understand in our relationship with God.

David declares, in v. 35…

shutterstock_62790466.jpg

The Source of David’s success and greatness is not attributed to God’s infinite power or His irresistible ability to control circumstances – but His gentleness.

In the original Hebrew this is a term that means “meekness, humility, non-assertiveness.” Everything we tend to think that God isn’t.

Yet, David declares it is all-important for us to grasp. God does not force Himself on us (even though that would be for our best!). He does not drag us where we need to go.

He simply says:

gentleness

In His meekness, God waits. In His patience, God waits. In His tenderness, God waits… for those who will lay down their pride, and turn from their own understanding – to trust God with every aspect of their lives (see Proverbs 3:5-6!).

Then, and only then, does God do what God does – in power, in relentless will. His greatness permits our “greatness.” For those who live their lives trusting Him, He is the Source of all that is good and great.

Posted in Being blessed, Belonging to God, Child of God, Daily devotional, giving thanks, Glorifying God, True Christianity | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

If It’s All the Same to You…

Speed of Particles

July 14

Last week, in talking about the skeletal similarities between reptiles and birds, we brought up the subject of homology (how various features in different species look very much alike). This week, I wanted to take a more in-depth look at this topic…

If you search any biology textbook you will most likely see a diagram showing the remarkable structural similarity in vertebrate limbs.

homology

In the classic diagram we see the skeletal structure of a bat’s wing, a dolphin (or whale) flipper, a horse’s leg, and a human arm. Four very different types of creatures – four very similar bone structures. Why would this be the case?

For decades, evolutionists (from Charles Darwin until now) have been proposing the charles_darwin paintingstandard answer for this striking observation… similar structures (homology) are direct evidence that all these creatures came from a common ancestor. To Darwin, it was a classic no-brainer: These similar structures “explain themselves on the theory of descent with slow and slight modifications.” And “proclaim so plainly, that the innumerable species… are all descended… from common parents.”

Darwin saw evolution as a theory, and homology provided evidence for it.

But today, evolution is assumed as a fact and homology is its result. In other words, common ancestry is the definition of homology – and also its explanation.

It is the classic circular reasoning. Homology proves common ancestry and common ancestry is proven by homology.

goes around

Everything is based on the assumption of common ancestry – because everything looks so similar it simply must have come from something similar. A fact that should be obvious to anyone.

So much so, that biologist Tim Berra, in his book Evolution and the Myth of Creationism, used an analogy from the automotive world to make his case. He asked his readers to “compare 1953 and a 1954 Corvette, side by side, then a 1954 and a 1955 model, and so on…”

53 corvette     58 corvette

His conclusion: “descent, with modification, is overwhelmingly obvious… the evidence is so solid and comprehensive that it cannot be denied by reasonable people.” (emphasis in the original)

But this illustration actually opens the door for another “reasonable” explanation. Corvettes certainly look “similar” – but as the years progress they “evolve” with different features and better advances in engineering and manufacturing procedures.

AND behind it ALL is… Design. Intelligence. Thought. Engineering.

Corvettes do not come into being by themselves… and they do not “advance” on their own. Behind every concept is a human mind. Behind every feature is intelligence. Behind every improvement is new information applied differently.

In the end, Berra only affirmed what he was trying to disprove…

creation by design

Evolution has yet to provide a mechanism for “how the innumerable species inhabiting this world would have been modified.” (Charles Darwin)

Darwin did not have the “how.”

But many of his successors offered a solution from the field of genetics. Homologous features were said to be attributed to similar genes inherited from a common ancestor. That makes sense… since we know that our DNA and our genes form and shape our biological structures.

Gavin_de_BeerThe problem is… these genetic “pathways” which were supposed to lead to homologous structures did not fit the evidence. Biologist Gavin de Beer stated: “The fact is that correspondence between homologous structures cannot be pressed back to similarity of position of the cells in the embryo… or of developmental mechanisms by which they are formed.”

What fascinated those who studied the formation of these structures was the many and various ways that all these similar structures came about by such dissimilar ways!

For example, take the formation of the hand in a human and a frog.

hand      frog hand

When fully formed, they look eerily similar. But for the human, the fingers are formed (in the womb) as the cells between them “dissolve away.” In the frog, the fingers “grow out” from “nubs” on the forming hand structure. Two very different ways of “making” a hand.

This is only one example from hundreds! Things that look the same… often didn’t come to be, the same way.

This is not what evolution expected. IF we came from some common ancestor, we would expect that our homologous structures would form in the same way. Why all the variety of ways in which similar things come to be?

Evolution claims that all this similarity is because of a common ancestor.

But there is a better answer to the question of why we see so many homologous forms in our world today.

There is a common Creator. Someone with the intelligence and the power to design and create all things… and to do it in a myriad of ways (according to each kind). The similarity seen in the forelimbs of so many vertebrates can be explained by the fact of a good and functional design – one the Creator found beneficial and useful in all the diverse ways that such diverse creatures would need.

This is not so strange. All of our cars today (even our Corvettes!) have tires. Some are small. Some are big. Some have a high speed rating. Some have long life. Some have tread for getting around in the rain. Some for the snow. Some tires have no tread at all. They may all look similar… but they have different purpose or function.

tires

But all cars have tires. Why? Because cars were designed to have tires… and tires are the best functional design for all our makes and models of cars.

Maybe some day our cars won’t have any tires. But that won’t be a sign that they have evolved. It will be a sure sign that someone really smart designed and created a way for that to happen.

hover car

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Gnats and Camels…

July 13

You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!” (Matthew 23:24)

straining-gnats

We’ve been looking at harmful attitudes that are becoming quite prevalent in today’s churches. We looked at the consumer mentality, and judging others. Today…

Three) Major rejection… over minor issues.

I am often amazed at what causes squabbles (and down right knock-down-drag-outs) among people who supposedly love Jesus and say they follow His teachings.

I have heard some amazing (and heart-rending) stories about such things…

Like churches who split because they “went to war” over the color of carpet to adorn the church foyer – or the “right” kind of worship music (hymns or choruses) – or the “godly virtue” of pews over chairs.

KEVIN SIZEMORE

Or like the church whose members had such a massive disagreement that one group of members took a chainsaw to the church (splitting it in two!) – leaving the incredibly outlandish “our side – your side” scenario.

This would all be actually humorous, except… it involves real people doing real things (who supposedly represent Christ). And we wonder sometimes why the world looks at Christians and thinks: “wackos.”

The “funniest” thing of all is that nearly all of these major conflicts are about the tiniest of issues. Things that, in light of eternity, don’t matter one bit.

This all points to the fact that it is possible to get our hearts involved in the silliest of things – and lose sight of what really matters.

That was Jesus’ point in addressing the religious leaders of His day (Matthew 23!).

Pharisees (2)

They majored on all the tiny details of the Law – but completely missed the spirit behind the Law. They were sticklers for all the “right” ways to worship God – but had no heart for worship. Jesus had the perfect description: they strained out gnats and swallowed camels (What a picture!).

It was the spirit of the Law that Jesus came to fulfill (Matthew 5:17)… and to give that spirit a permanent place within the hearts and minds of His people (Hebrews 10:16). The Bible sums it up for us… “God is love” (1John 4:8) and “love is the fulfillment of the Law.” (Rom. 13:10)

Here’s the important thing… the religious leaders actually believed they were honoring God by how they lived – and that they were right to judge and criticize those who failed to live up to “God’s” holy standards. When Jesus came, the One Who gave them the Law confronted them and confounded them.

confronting Pharisees

When it comes to church people today… our approach is more often like the religious leaders, than Jesus. We latch onto our “pet” theologies or dogmatic doctrines – and judge all other believers by what we hold onto so tightly. We THINK we are honoring God by upholding His truth (as we understand it) and by criticizing and rejecting those who do not have our same view. “We are so right – so that makes all others so wrong…” is the justification we often use to make us feel like we are doing what is right in God’s eyes.

As the woman caught in adultery can attest… true righteousness is not found in doling out condemnation – but in extending grace… even to the undeserving.

woman in adultery

How did we get so consumed with being right that we have missed being righteous? How have we become so adamant about “honoring” Jesus that we have missed being like Jesus in how He openly loved and accepted people?

Sure, not every Christian’s theology may be exactly “right,” but if they claim Jesus as Lord… they are members of God’s family – just as we are!

The Biblical principle is pretty straightforward: “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” (Romans 15:7; this in light of discussion about points of disagreement; Romans 14!))

God’s people are called to love. JUST AS God has loved and accepted them.

Anything less than God’s kind of love, coming from our hearts, toward all people, and all members of God’s family… leaves us straining gnats and swallowing camels.

Posted in Acceptance, Daily devotional, God's Heart, Judgmental Attitude, Just Like Jesus, Love, True Christianity | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Specks and Logs…

July 12

“Judge not, that you be not judged.” (Matthew 7:1)

We’ve been talking about harmful attitudes that are becoming quite common in churches these days. Yesterday, we addressed the consumer mentality. Today…

2) Judging others, in our churches. This is more common than we realize. Quite often, we are not even aware that we are being critical and judgmental about the differences (or flaws) we find in other believers.

judging others

People are different. Churches are different. And (here’s the shocker…) God is okay with that. Have we really taken the time to notice just how much God loves diversity? I like to OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERApoint out that God could have met our dietary needs by providing something like gray broccoli – full of all the vitamins and nutrients that we need. But, instead He has created a myriad of foods with flavors, smells, and textures… all for our enjoyment. God enjoys diversity. And diversity is something we also enjoy. Think of all the varied sights, sounds, and smells that are all around us. Every day.

Why would we possibly think that the God of such diversity would even want His people to all be the same?

All the same is boring. Bland. Predictable. UNinteresting!

“Yes, but we are all called to be Christlike.”

But since when did “Christlike” mean all the same. When you look at Jesus’ interactions with people – His approach to people (and to every situation) is marked by all the different ways He met needs. We would be hard-pressed to find any place where Jesus did a miracle the SAME way twice! This tells us more than we realize.

Jesus heals a woman

Being Christlike is a matter of having Christ’s Heart and passion for God… and for people. Being Christlike looks at differences and sees the wonder of the Creator at work – doing what He does best… creating different ways to be amazing.

We look at differences and often want to compare and contrast… evaluate and judge – all according to some standard that we think is right. It’s like we are actually searching for some small discrepancy so we can justifiably reject people who do not measure up to our “righteous” standards.

Jesus had a lot to say about judging others. In Matthew 7, He offers us the classic warning on treating people around us. “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (7:3)

plank-n-speck

We tend to be experts at “breaking down” and exposing the flaws in those around us – while completely missing the fact of our own critical spirit. A critical spirit virtually blinds us to what really matters… having the kind of sight that God has!

That is Jesus’ point! When Jesus came to earth, He had every right (as the only perfect person) to make critical judgments about people. There were specks in eyes everywhere – and He alone had the clear sight to actually help people.

But He was never critical of sinners. He never pointed out their flaws… and seldom “expressed his concerns” about their character or choices. He accepted them as they were (and they recognized that fact). He saw them with eyes of love that valued (treasured!) them – even in their quirks, shortcomings, and failures.

woman-at-the-well

In short, Jesus loved people just as they were, treasured them for who they were, and constantly sought to build bridges to their hearts.

Think about it… the most righteous Person Who ever lived, came and looked on all our unrighteousness… and just loved us.

If we are going to claim to be Christlike then we need to be like Christ – Whose love caused Him to be meek and gentle at heart (Matthew 11:29)!

The one thing we need more than anything (as Christ-followers) is to be accepting and loving of our brothers and sisters in Christ – no matter what label is attached to them. If they love Jesus – we ought to reflect Jesus’ love for them… in every way!

loving people

When we truly love (as Christ loved us) then we will actually be able to do what God really wants: “to see clearly to take the speck out of (our) brother’s eye.” (Matt. 7:5)

Posted in Acceptance, Daily devotional, God's Heart, Judgmental Attitude, Just Like Jesus, Love, True Christianity | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Follow the Way of Love

July 11

Follow the way of love…” (1 Corinthians 14:1)

Yesterday, we talked about a prevalent attitude that is infiltrating the minds of many believers these days. It is seen in the exclusive way we think about other believers and churches. And in how we tend to evaluate all other churches by our own narrow viewpoint – and criticize, judge, and condemn other believers without ever taking the time to know them (or to even understand their viewpoint).

The basic problems boil down to… 1) A consumer mentality; 2) Judging others because they are different; and 3) Major rejections over minor issues.

Over the next few days, we will look at these one at a time…

1) The problem of a consumer mentality. Addressing a consumer mentality is as simple as helping people to see what is really going on within their hearts and minds. In a ME-first mindset, it is so easy to begin to see church as something that exists to help ME, to serve ME, or to meet MY needs.

ME first

“Help and serve others? Great. I’m all for it… But not until my needs are met.”

The problem is that those “needs” are seldom met – because they are so often tied with the desire to please ourselves (a desire that is NEVER satisfied; Eccl. 1:8; 4:8).

complainerWhile standing in the foyer (after church) have you ever heard anyone say something like: “Well, I didn’t get anything out of that message.” Or “that one song was terrible.” Or: “that visiting family’s kids were so disruptive – it just ruined everything!” Or: “Someone should have thanked me for what I did the other day!”

Unfortunately, it is becoming common to judge our church “experiences” by how it benefits us – or by how certain events detract from our benefit.

This ME-first, consumer mentality needs to be exposed in the light of God’s love. The Biblical principle is to “speak the truth in love.” (Ephesians 4:15) That means, as Christ-followers, we need to commit to investing our lives in each other… to the point where we earn the trust of those who may need to hear some truth about their lives. We also need to be receptive to others watching over us, in return.

speaking the truth in love

In most churches, correction comes with plenty of truth spoken… but, so often, in anger or frustration. This approach can only lead to more injured souls.

Love is the bridge – the only bridge – that can find a way into people’s hearts.

The consumer mentality, at its root, is a heart issue. It is directly tied to the sin nature. All selfishness is. The only solution is to get our eyes “off of ourselves” and lovingly help someone to see what they cannot see for themselves. Self-centered people cannot see their selfish ways for themselves.

This is why we need each other in the Body of Christ. We all need loving eyes, assisting us to see what we cannot see for ourselves.

And we all need loving hearts – those committed to loving others, just as we are loved by Christ. We need to treat others as God treats us (with acceptance and love) to be able to sow truth into each other’s lives.

Sooth-with-Compassion

At the heart of all this is a very important question… WHY do we go to church?

Is it to get.

Or is it to give.

Any Scriptural study of “how we should meet” is replete with the notion that we gather together so that God, in me, can minister to you – and God, in you, can minister to me. Though this is much more difficult now (because of how we do church services) there is still ample opportunity to be led to give what God puts within us, to others (wherever people gather… there ARE needs that God can meet!).

helping others

When we are ALL giving… everyone also receives – and the whole Body is encouraged and built up. This has always been God’s design for His people, in Christ.

Posted in Acceptance, Daily devotional, Giving of Ourselves, Serving, True Christianity | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Churches and Choices

July 10

Recently, I watched a video about a vacationing couple who were doing their best to honor God (on the Lord’s Day) by finding a church to attend. The entire video was the couple driving around to the many (and various) churches in town, and about the “good” reasons why they could not possibly attend each and every one.

couple in car

The video was intended to be humorous (and it was!) but it points out something that is becoming deeply embedded within most Christians’ minds.

We are becoming quite adept at dissecting and criticizing believers we have never met… just because of a church sign (or what we think that sign represents). The “label” over the door immediately suggests why we would not belong, or enjoy, or be comfortable worshiping God with anyone who might be even slightly different from our point of view.

This leads me to some observations about some real problems in today’s believers…

One) It is easy to start seeing church from a consumer mentality. We go to church because of what WE get out of it – and if we stop getting what we think we need, we will find somewhere else that will cater to our “needs” – or we will stop going altogether (and feel justified in our choice).

Church-Have-It-Your-Way

At the heart of this mindset is the thinking: “Church exists to help ME… and if it isn’t helping ME then it’s a “bad” church.” This is a consumer mentality… “Use it. Then, lose it!”

Two) It is easy to start judging churches because their different point of view doesn’t appeal to ME. Let’s face it… different churches have different worship styles, different rituals, different ways of praying, different church structures, and different points of emphasis. But for the most part, every one of these churches is just trying to love and worship God in a way that is meaningful to them. Just because WE would never do it that way… doesn’t mean they are wrong.

catholic mass modern-worship traditional worship

Last time I checked (and I check often) the Bible seems to be saying that God is looking into our hearts. It is our hearts that He is seeking. The externals (that are often so important to us) matter little to Him. What matters is a heart that is seeking to please and honor Him – and there are more ways to do that than we often realize.

Besides, God tends to really frown on this whole judging others thing.

Three) Major rejection… over minor issues. Many Christians are experts at “throwing out babies with the bath water.” In other words, we are almost looking for something (with which we disagree) so we can summarily reject a particular denomination or church group. If one minor thing seems even slightly askew – we “throw out” that whole group. Permanently!

baby & bath water

For example, I once had a friend tell me that he could no longer “have fellowship” with me because I didn’t believe what he believed about the Lord’s Supper (The Eucharist). It didn’t matter that I regularly celebrated the Lord’s Supper (as decreed by our Lord) – I didn’t do it the right way (his way!) so we could no longer be “brothers in Christ” for that reason.

Babies and bathwater… both thrown out.

Are there any solutions to these disturbing problems? YES!

Over the next few days, we will look at how to approach these issues – because the way we so often judge and condemn churches is no laughing matter…

Posted in Acceptance, choices, Daily devotional, Judgmental Attitude, True Christianity, Uncategorized, worship | Tagged , , | Leave a comment