Archive for the ‘ Christian Unity ’ Category

Getting Out for a Walk

Do not stray from knowledge; rather find wisdom through Proverbial Thought!

12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. 17 But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. 18 So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.
Philippians 2:12-18

Needing to Go for a Walk

Last week I wrote about my dog and God’s control over our lives. I return to the topic of my dog this week.

My little puppy is a joy to have around . . .

. . . especially when he begins to make a lot of noise.

. . . especially when he nips at our hands and heels.

. . . especially when he tears at furniture and furnishings.

. . . especially when he destroys things.

Usually, there is a simple fix: he just needs to go for a walk!

When all he does is get fed and hang around the home, eventually things build up inside that must be released. He needs to walk around, meet with others, and “release” all that is locked up inside. Only then does he behave well.

Needing to Go for a Walk

We can get the same way in the Church.

Many people grumble and make a lot of noise about what they do not like or how they think things should run.

Many people complain about others, and they begin to gossip and fight.

Many people tear apart relationships and congregations over meaningless squabbles.

Many people destroy their own or their families lives.

You may already know where this is going:

The biggest problem with many in the Church is that they do not get out of the Church enough.

They sit in their chairs and get fed, and they are surrounded by (and even help) others who are constantly being fed. Yet, they almost never step outside to meet others and share what they have been fed and thus lead them to salvation.

14 Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about them: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones 15 to judge everyone, and to convict all of them of all the ungodly acts they have committed in their ungodliness, and of all the defiant words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”16 These people are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.

17 But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18 They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” 19 These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.

20 But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.

22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.
Jude 1:14-23

When we hold onto all of the good things God has given us, even attempting to keep His Holy Spirit to ourselves, what really builds up inside is our own selfishness and pride. We build our sin instead of righteousness.

Then we lash out and complain.

All we need to is go Walk.

My Proverbial Fellowship

Instead of my usual theological post, I am going a slightly different route.

You may have noticed that in every post I write I put a reminder to go to Proverbial Thought and read from my fellow contributors’ commentary on the book of Proverbs.

Of course I implore you to head on over there yet again, and, if you have not already, subscribe to this wonderful blog.

Last week we looked at reaching out to the lost and hurting in our broken world.

Today, I offer a reminder that we need to reach out to each other.

There is nothing like the fellowship of believers. We are able to encourage and lift each other up, and we can learn from each other.

Therefore, I am going to encourage you check out the blogs of my brothers at Proverbial Thought.

Chris Jordan

Our newest contributor, Chris out of Beausejour, MB, Canada, is also a prolific writer. He has two books, even more blogs, and writes a piece for his local paper. All I have to say is this man knows how to have fun, encourage, and spread the gospel! Go check out his blog here.

Nick and David Welford

Nick started his blog, and his dad, David, joined him as a regular contributor. These wonderful British brothers in Christ each have their own unique understanding of the Bible, the Church, and God. They are not afraid to share their struggles, challenge Christians, or share the grace of God. To read their unique view and be both encouraged and convicted, go see Nick’s blog here.

Jason Sneed

Jason lives near our founder in Tennessee. His blog covers everything theological and fun as well as musical (such as his Christmas music bracket to decide the best song!). You may notice a theme in each of these men by this point, but his blog is a big encouragement! Go see who is really on first at his blog over here.

Grady Davidson

Grady only blogs at Proverbial Thought, so you know what you are getting! His post every month therefore is filled with thought and wisdom. Continually check out his monthly posts for his reminders of our need for our Lord and Savior!

Anthony Baker

The founder of Proverbial Thought, Anthony has been our leader and strongest encouragement. With how busy we all are, we know he is busy, too, but he fills in when we slack off! (There some truth in this, but I am exaggerating slightly.) He puts in a healthy amount of wit and humor within his posts, whether they be deeply theological or “Hey, look at that shiny thing!” in nature and everything in between. In his desire to not be too legalistic but to be loving and compassionate, he lets fun, encouragement, conviction, reminders, and reality fill his blog over here.

I am thankful for each of these men and the ways they impact my growth in Christ. Help me encourage them by visiting their blogs.

You will be encouraged, too!

Praying In Fellowship

How often do you pray with others?

I do not just mean when the pastor or someone in the band or choir prays. How often do you pray with people who are in need, or who are hurting, or who say “pray for me”?

You might say, “Prayer is a private thing! Jesus told us to pray in secret! Besides, I do not want to make someone else feel uncomfortable.” (I have actually heard, almost and if not exactly verbatim, someone say this to me)

A) Prayer is both private and public. We already discussed doing it corporately. Which leads to 2) Jesus and the Apostles prayed with people. See Acts 1:14 and 2:42. Besides, also) it sounds more like you feel uncomfortable praying with people in public.

If you are anything like me, you are probably guilty of saying “I’ll pray for you!” Then you never do, or at best throw up a quick “God, be with that person.” This either makes you a liar or not as loving as you could be.

I must confess that I have gotten out of the habit of praying with people. For a while, I was one of those people who, if you said “Will you pray for me?” I would say, “Of course! Can we pray right now?” I have not done so well, as of late. I do reply to most text message or e-mail requests with a typed prayer, but it is not quite the same as saying it with the person (though, of course there are times it is not feasible).

My conviction level has been high the past few weeks, too. I have realized the number of opportunities I have passed, followed by some messages on the radio discussing it, and having some dear friends pray with me in just the past couple weeks.

I want to be that person again!

Do you?

Besides, perhaps our lack of active and immediate prayers is a major cause of dissension between believers. Perhaps we fail to get along because we fail to love each other enough to pray with each other.

Lord, grant us the capacity to love You and others enough to want to pray openly with others when they ask. Remind us to pray when we have the opportunities. Move in our prayers as we pray in faith, and help us believe that You are answering even though we sometimes fail to believe. Lord, empower us with Your Holy Spirit, and grow Your love in us. Thank you, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Imitating Christ’s Humility

I know this is a little later in the day than I have been posting these, but here is my follow-up from last week’s post!

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:1-11

There are not only denominational differences, regional differences, and even congregational differences, but it is very difficult to even find one or two other people who believe exactly the way we do as individuals on every little thing (theologically, biblically, socially, and habitually).

We need to stop assuming we are right about everything, or at least more right than everyone else. Unless someone is flat-out heretical and/or blasphemous, we can still get along with our differences.

Therefore, how can we fulfill what Paul (and God!) has commanded us here? How can we be “like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose?” With another quote:

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”
Matthew 22:37-39

Seek out and love God, then seek out and love on people. Show God’s love. Indiscriminately.

I have friends who are Calvinist, Arminian, Catholic, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, charismatic, fundamentalist, “free-thinking” (I honestly still have no idea what that is really supposed to mean!), non-denominational, denominational, institutional, etcetera …

We get along for one important reason: We love God so much that our differences seem like nothing.

We each reach out to others in God’s love for one important reason: We know that God loves us first.

I dare you to try it.

Denominational Cities

There are a lot of disagreements between the various denomination in the Church, and even between various congregations within those denominations. Some congregations are non-denominational, yet they can still be as unfriendly toward other churches.

During the Reformation, countries were divided by regions. Each region could choose to be Catholic, Lutheran, or whatever else was springing up at the time (predominantly Catholic or Lutheran). About a thousand years ago, during “The Great Schism” of the Church, Eastern Orthodox churches usually were not allowed in the Western part of what was left of the Roman Empire, and Roman Catholic churches usually were not allowed in the Eastern part.

It makes one wonder: Did the various cities squabble between each other during the time of the Apostles?

Did the Roman believers say to the Corinthian or Ephesian believers “You have too much focus on sex!”

Did the Galatians say to the Colossians “You follow too many rules!”

Did the Colossians reply to the Galatians “You are changing the gospel!”

It is a historical fact that all of the major Church Councils in the first millennium A.D. came together to resolve disputes between believers, with many disagreements based in different cities.

So, did the cities and regions bicker between each other while remaining somewhat united within each city (because we know many Jews attempted to disrupt the believers)?

I read an article a few months back about Buenos Aires pastors from across the denominational spectrum finding the need for city-wide unity between churches. There are still issues, but it does demonstrate that it is possible for a city to be unified in Christ.

The real issue, I think, is that there is a lack of proper communication. When two sides come together and each is certain of its own rightness and the wrongness of the other, that is not communication. That is two sides yelling at each other. With everyone yelling, nothing can be heard.

We need to get back to patience and active listening. We need to remember how to investigate and learn. We need a paradigm shift (change our thinking).

Instead of focusing on what is wrong with other denominations and churches, we should focus on what is right, where we agree. Should we try to preserve sound doctrine? Of course! However, we should not get up in arms over something as simple as a piano bench, nor should we write off others has heretics because some believe in infant baptism or only adult baptism. I will not tell you where I stand on the baptism issue (at least not now). However, if you cannot even associate with someone because of this belief while at the same time they disagree with your definition of speaking in tongues, get over yourself. If you cannot stand to be near someone who believes human free-will plays a bigger role than you think it does, get over yourself. If you think everyone who believes in pre-destination and election is too legalistic, but you yourself refuse to listen to secular music, get over yourself. All of these go both ways!

Our problem is not disagreements over doctrine or benches or paint or friendships. Our problem is actually two-fold:

1) Pride. We get in our own way.

2) Assumptions and misunderstandings. If a man has beer cans and bottles all around his house, you might assume he is a drunkard or partier. Later, you find out he goes around collecting cans and bottles for recycling and keeps one or two from each location. See how simple it can be to misjudge a situation? We often do this within the Church.

Remember, Jesus said “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

No wonder the church suffers! We do not even show ourselves love!

To be fair, though, too many people both in and out of the Church (at least in our Western culture) rarely take the time to learn why someone thinks a certain way or acts the way they do. People in and out of the Church want things their own way.

Perhaps we could be unified cities again if we could learn patience and how to get over ourselves …

“Body Ritual Among the Nacirema”

The topic I am approaching this week happens to also be along the same lines of what is being discussed in my theology class this week! Therefore, I humbly request you follow the link below to read an article I read for this class. I personally find it to be AMAZING! It relates whether you are aware of it or not when you read my second post this week.

The topic this week is loving the entire Body of Christ, irrespective of what we think others wrongly believe or practice.

Enjoy!

(If you cannot link, copy and paste this: https://www.msu.edu/~jdowell/miner.html )

My church, your church, our Church

In keeping with the Rally to Restore Unity this week, I am looking at one area that causes division: ministry.

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Romans 12:3-13, NIV

Vibrant and Dead

There are a lot of churches around that cater to something specific. This church offers a homeless ministry. That church has a car repair club. This other church reaches out to abused women and children. That other church has a great addiction recovery program. This church works with that church to reach out to the local prisons.

Everybody does a lot of great things.

The problem comes in that many of these churches offer these great ministries and programs … exclusively. Then they look down on other churches for not doing the same thing.

“You don’t help the homeless! Jesus told us to!” “How come you are not getting into the prisons?! Jesus said visiting those in prison is visiting Him!” “Why are you not reaching out to these people with these problems!”

It is almost a heresy to not do what “my church” does. Each church may have a great specialty, but that specialty often becomes “this is the way church is supposed to be done, and you are doing it wrong.”

I am not saying these churches or these people are bad. Quite the contrary. They are meeting a need that has not been adequately met in their area. GREAT! The problem comes in when our focus is on the ministry more than unity within the Church. The problem comes in when our focus is more on our work than on our relationships. The problem comes in when our focus is on how we are serving more than on our Lord Jesus Christ.

Unity through Difference

I am going to make a suggestion. If you are involved in a ministry, make sure you are in a church that offers other ministries different from your own. If you work with the homeless, make sure your church offers a ministry in recovery. If you work in a ministry of recovery, make sure your church offers a ministry that works with divorcees. If you work in a ministry that works with divorcees, make sure your church offers a healthy children’s ministry.

All of these are suggestions, not definite ideas. I was a part of a church (I still think of it as home, actually) which had a great youth ministry, offered several outreach opportunities throughout the year, supported several missionaries, had some men who offered their car mechanic specialties to those who needed it, and many classes to grow in understanding of the Bible and our Lord. They did not have a college ministry, and this is in a town with two major universities, some community colleges, and several satellite campuses and other colleges. We ended up plugging in with another church’s college ministry. It was working and vibrant, had access to resources we did not, and was already in with the colleges.

The point is we saw needs. We saw ways to meet those needs. We did not start new churches and/or condemn others for not doing anything. We worked together, we met the needs. We found ways to get past ourselves and doctrine to unite.

Like Paul said in Romans (and as it is said in many places in the New Testament) we belong to each other in Christ and each have gifts that benefit all. Our beliefs may not always line up. Our ideas of ministry may not always be the same. Together we can do more than apart. At the very least, make sure you know people from other churches and ministries. It will help you, your church, and the Body of Christ.

Let us get over ourselves and let Christ reign.