Friday, September 21, 2007

Lifejackets and Boat Anchors

“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” – Galatians 6:1-3

I’ve often heard it said that the church is a hospital for sinners. Yet, it often seems that we church members have some sort of HMO plan that no one else can apply for, and therefore, the admissions desk is closed.

Somewhere along the way, we’ve lost sight of our true purpose – to love one another as Christ loved us. We’ve set in our hearts that we are something, when we ourselves are nothing. And through this judgmental heart, we’ve locked our church doors, built a mote, and raised the drawbridge!

I’ve seen so-called Christians in protests with signs that say “GOD HATES GAYS” and “GOD HATES ABORTIONIST” and “GOD HATES PORNOGRAPHERS” and so forth. What a lie straight from the pits of hell! God does not hate AT ALL! God himself is described as pure love (1 John 4:8). I need to clarify that this doesn’t mean he accepts homosexuality, abortion, porn or any other sins. These are sins as we read in God’s Holy Word. But God loves the sinner beyond the sin.

God’s word is clear on what we are to do “for” those - not “to” those - who are living in sin. First, we are to remain spiritual ourselves. The blind cannot lead the blind. If we’re suffering from the same ailment, we have no ability to help our brother or sister in Christ. Keep your spirit healthy by giving it generous doses of God’s word, Christian fellowship, and repentance (a bitter, but effective medicine).

Secondly, acting in a spirit of gentleness, we are to restore them to their original faith. We are not to point a finger, gossip behind their back, tell increasingly amusing lies to everyone we meet, nor grow the concerns larger by spreading the facts. When we work in gentleness, we bring restoration to their souls without breaking their fellowship.

Restoration is the return of something to a prior state, yet it is a destructive process as well. If I were to restore an old car to it’s original state, I’d first have to grind off all the rust. Grinding has to go deep beyond the paint and into the metal where the corrosion began. But as I grind away at the rust, I have to be careful not to break through the metal. Likewise, when helping a fallen saint return to their first love, gentleness is needed to not break their spirit and hope. Shouting hatred and criticism doesn’t solve the problem. Burning flags in their front yard doesn’t solve the problem. Making jokes behind their backs doesn’t solve the problem. Love is the only solution. Love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).

Lastly, we are to bear each others burdens. Christian friends in the midst of life’s storms are like lifejackets. They can pull you out of the worst situations. By showing you their concern and love, you realize you are not alone, and that you do have help when you need it. But you wouldn’t wait till you were on a sinking ship to buy a life jacket, would you? Don’t wait till you need Christian friends to make them. Surround yourself with those that can keep you strong in your faith, and that you can help in turn.

Likewise, those who want to criticize and be judgmental are like boat anchors, sinking us deeper into an ocean of discouragement. Being judgmental comes from an even deeper, uglier problem. It comes from a pride that tells you that you’re above the sin of the other person. Be reminded that in God’s eyes, all sins are equal. Sin equates to lawlessness, and all lawlessness is against God. James 2:10 says “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” To paraphrase Jesus, when you become perfect, feel free to cast the first stone.

Brothers and Sisters, it matters not that our congregation grows larger if our church members suffer from the diseases of sin. It matters not that our offering is growing if our congregation is dying from the burdens of life. It doesn’t matter not that our sanctuary is beautiful, if our pews are filled with ugliness in God’s eyes. God doesn’t need large churches, large offerings, or beautiful sanctuaries. What He needs and wants is our love for each other to strengthen His people.

“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” – Hebrews 10:24-25

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Fear of God Blossoms

“The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom, And before honor is humility.” – Proverbs 15:33

My daughter and I are in a match of wills. I will for her to follow my instructions, and she wills to do everything else! Frustrating? You bet! Saturday, after asking her three (that’s right –1–2-THREE!) times to clean up her bathroom I went in to find her towel crumpled onto her toilet, and a week’s pile of pajamas in the floor beside her shower. But at 10 years old, this is just a phase that she must go through to understand that it’s best to follow Mom’s rules. How do I teach her that? By making it uncomfortable for her when she doesn’t. (Actually, describing it as ‘uncomfortable’ is like a doctor saying “this will sting a little…” as he comes at you with a six inch long needle!)

But children are like that. They need some sort of motivation for following the rules. They aren’t born wanting to make their parents happy, adhere to all their instructions, and honor them all the days of their life. That has to be taught.
Sometimes that motivation can be positive like praise for a job well done, or a small reward like a candy bar in the checkout lane. But other times, the motivation has to be negative to induce their obedience the next time an instruction is given. As they endure those punishments, they learn obedience.

Obedience is a learned response. Ivan Pavlov was a Russian psychologist that studied conditioned reflexes using dogs in the 1890’s. For a period of time, Pavlov would ring a bell, then feed his dogs. After a while, all he had to do was ring the bell and his dogs would salivate in expectation of their food. They knew what to expect based on past experiences, and even their bodies were conditioned to react to the sound. Likewise, my children have learned that the sound of my voice at a certain tone can induce great pain to their backside. And when they hear that sound, the conditioned reflex is one of obedience.

God’s children are no different. As young Christians, we often hear His voice, and completely ignore it. We test His will against our own. We try his patience, and then God our Father finally shouts “ENOUGH!” Then, the punishment comes. Through that punishment we become conditioned to not allow it to happen again. As we grown in Christ, our knowledge of the importance of following God’s will increases because our experiences teach us how uncomfortable it is not to follow Him.

That is called “The Fear of the Lord”. The fear of the Lord is not a trembling in the corner, hiding under the bed, praying to not be seen kind of fear! God would never want his children to cower in fear of Him! To fear God simply means to understand His power in your life, and to want to fulfill His will over yours. Obedience begins as a reaction to the fear of His wrath.

But God wants us to grow past that, whereby our reaction is rooted in a yearning to please Him. This stage of growth is like a bud turning into a flower! It’s the point at which the Fear of God becomes Wisdom. Wisdom is something to be seen as a crown of honor. Wisdom is a reaction to a powerful God that causes Him to be pleased with you. Wisdom is a reward to the perfectly joined will of God and man.

“My son, if you receive my words,
And treasure my commands within you,
So that you incline your ear to wisdom,
And apply your heart to understanding;
Yes, if you cry out for discernment,
And lift up your voice for understanding,
If you seek her as silver,
And search for her as for hidden treasures;
Then you will understand the fear of the LORD,
And find the knowledge of God.
For the LORD gives wisdom;
From His mouth come knowledge and understanding;” – Proverbs 2:1-6

Blossom my dear friends in the knowledge of God! Incline your ear to him, apply the knowledge you receive to your heart, and cry out for more! This hidden treasure is worth far more than anything our own will could add to us. Praise be to God that he is a Father who desires to give us good gifts! Praise be to God for wisdom!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Waving the White Flag

Growing up, I loved watching the old westerns with my Granddaddy. Other than the Grand Ole Opry, that’s all he ever watched on TV. The westerns were so simple. If the man wore black, he was bad. If he wore white, he was good. If he had a bandana around his face, he was about to rob someone. If they called for a posse, they were on a hunt for the bad guy. If someone waved a white flag, they had put down their weapons and surrendered.

In many ways, the prophet Daniel was a cowboy. He was set apart. Even the pagan King Darius knew there was something special about Daniel. In fact, the King had such admiration for Daniel that he’d planned to set him over the whole kingdom. But then the bad guys came along.

The politicians of the day didn’t want to see Daniel receive the power to govern them. So they formed a posse, and began to plot as to how they could cause Daniel to loose favor with the King. They knew Daniel, and knew that the one thing that he would never do is surrender to another god. Daniel was a righteous man. He knew God, and he worshipped God from a pure heart, praying three times a day, day in and day out. The one thing Daniel would not do is turn from his God.

So the posse went to the King and said in Daniel 6:6-7 "O King Darius, live forever! The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or man during the next thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be thrown into the lions' den. “

Well, no doubt the King must have felt…well…like a King! He must have said to himself, “look at all these humble servants wanting to kiss up…err…show allegiance to me!” So the King agreed, and the law was passed. Now, in those days, when a law was passed there was no repeal process. This was part of the laws of the Medes and Persians. The deed was done!

Daniel now had a decision to make. The law was only for 30 days. It would have been easy for any man to have hidden himself away and prayed for the next 30 days. It would have been somewhat understandable if he’d decided to give up praying entirely for just the next 30 days. But Daniel did not conform. Daniel continued to worship the one true God in spite of the law. Daniel took his life into his own hands, and pressed on, praying publicly three times a day.

Now the posse circled, and decided to make their stand! Before the King they proclaimed, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or to the decree you put in writing. He still prays three times a day.” they said in verse 13. The King was devastated! He’d just sentenced his loyal friend to death. He tried and tried all day to find a way to rescue Daniel from his own words, but could not. Then the time had come. Daniel was before the lion’s den.

Daniel had a choice to make. He could remain strong in his faith, or he could put down his faith, and wave the white flag of surrender. No doubt King Darius wished he would just wave the white flag! “Wave it Daniel! Just wave it!” I’m sure he would have shouted as they looked down on the hungry lions. But Daniel would not betray his God. He would not bend, he would not conform, he would not be influenced by the fear of an impending death, and he would not wave the white flag of surrender. Instead, he relied on the God he trusted. He relied on God to protect him, and preserve him. The Bible has no mention of Daniel screaming in anguish and fear as he was lowered into the den, or any mention of him begging for mercy or pleading for more time to make a decision. He simply went to the den.

At the opening of the den, King Darius said to Daniel in verse 16, "May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!" Now keep in mind, this King was a non-believer. He’d only seen Daniel’s faithfulness to his God. Yet now the King is relying on that same God to save his friend. There, at the opening of the den, with the lions circling below, roaring and pacing, Daniel was thrown in and a stone rolled into place to close the den. No doubt the King must have wept bitterly as he watched his friend be thrown to the lions.

That night the King could not eat nor sleep. He was devastated at what he’d caused to happen, yet he was powerless to change it. Not being able to pray because he didn’t know our God, all he could do is pace, and worry all night long.

The next morning, as soon as it was light, the King ran to the den to see if God had come through. "Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?" he shouted in verse 20. Notice that now the King realized that Daniel’s God was something special. Daniel’s God was a living God, not a god of stone or wood. Perhaps that night of worry had taught the King a thing or two. Regardless, words from the den in verse 21-22 are bound to have established the King’s faith! "O king, live forever! My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, O king."

God had caused the lions to become kitty cats! They’d no doubt been very soft, cuddly pillows for Daniel’s sleep that night. God had found Daniel innocent, and because of his loyalty to God, he delivered him.

Unlike Daniel, we Christians often run for the white flag to wave, and we allow this world’s political correctness, condemnation and ridicule to push us to surrender. As long as we surrender, we’ll never grow nor see the lost souls around us come to know our living God.

Endure your trials.
Pray through the storms life brings.
Cry out to God when the pains of this world become more than you can bear.
Walk through the fire if that’s what God allows to be put in front of you.
But never ever raise the white flag of surrender!

Surrender in the old westerns never gave peace for the one that gave up. Instead, they were put in jail! The world and its sin and trials can put you in prison if you allow it. It can bind up the ever-present power you have within you through the Holy Spirit. It can throw a wet towel on the flame within you and douse your fire.

It’s up to you who will win this showdown. Just as Daniel had a decision to make, we all must one day make that same decision. What will it be? Will you choose victory through your trust in God, or will you surrender?

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Living in Liberty

Martha had worked a full day. When 5:00 came she could barely stop herself from bolting for the door. There was still so much to do! First, she needed to gas up the car, then she needed to run by the local department store and pick up the three things on her list.

As she entered the department store, there was a group of young boys collecting money for their basketball league. She could tell they were inner city children. “Sorry!” she said as she rushed by them. She thought to herself, they probably didn’t know how to apply for funding! Didn’t they know there were grants available?

Through the isles she went with her cart. First, she needed birdseed, and she headed towards the garden section to find it. As she turned the corner to grab a bag, her cell phone rang. It was the church youth leader. “Me? Why can’t someone who doesn’t have a 40+ hour a week job help with the community Thanksgiving dinner? There are lots of others you could ask! I just can’t – I don’t have time!”

Next she needed a new blouse to match the slacks she’d bought last week. She wanted to wear them tomorrow. As she entered the women’s section and began to search the racks, her cell phone rang again. “I’m sorry Dan, I can’t be at the community clothes closet this weekend. I’m just too busy. You’ll have to find someone else to fold and tag the clothes. I just can’t find the time. I’m so busy these days I can hardly see straight!” Ah! There it was! The perfect blouse! Sure, it was a bit pricey, but she felt she deserved it after working so hard all day.

Only one more thing on the list, and she’d only been at the store 45 minutes. Martha felt a sense of accomplishment that things were moving so quickly. Now, off to the cosmetics isle to find the right shampoo. She’d been using her husband’s shampoo for the past few days and it just didn’t do the trick!

The cell phone again? “Well, I’m Miss Popular today!” she thought to herself. “Hi Mom. No, sorry, you’ve caught me at a bad time. I’m shopping and trying to get home to the kids. Sure, I’ll call later.” Her mom was undergoing chemotherapy and wasn’t doing well. The chemo was taking a toll on her body, and even her eyebrows had fallen out. She hated to see her mom go through such pain, but what could she do?

Finally she was home! Whew! What a full day she’d had! As she started dinner her 10-year old daughter came to her with math homework. “Sarah! Can’t you see I’m cooking dinner? After working with numbers all day long I certainly don’t want to do math homework! Ask your brother to help you!” She realized her words were sharp, but enough was enough!

As her dinner was baking, she remembered she had not read her Bible that morning. Her Sunday school class had agreed to read every day, so she felt obligated to sit down, and quickly read a few verses.

Her Bible opened to Galatians 5:12-14:

“I could wish that those who trouble you would even cut themselves off! For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.””

Her mind began to flood her with faces: the young boy asking for a donation outside the store, the youth leader, Dan at the clothes closet, her mother, and finally, her daughter.

Martha fell to her knees and cried.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Worship That Pleases God

“Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tabernacle of meeting, because the cloud rested above it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.” – Exodus 40:34-35

Can you imagine not being able to enter a place because it was filled up with the Spirit of God? How would it feel when you were at the door trying to push your way in? How could your soul not be filled with the peace of the overwhelming power that lies right in front of you?

Moses encountered this power as he was about to begin the first worship service in the tabernacle he had designed for the Israelite people according to God’s words. God’s instructions were precise and detailed. There were certain placements for the items in the tabernacle, incense to be turned, oil to be used to anoint certain things, and veils to cover certain areas. It wasn’t just pomp and circumstance God was looking for; it was Moses’ obedience, and the obedience of the Israelite people. Before God entered, verse 33 says “So Moses finished the work.” It was necessary for Moses to comply with God’s will.

Then it happened. God came upon the tabernacle in a cloud. He filled it! All space in the tabernacle, every nook and cranny, was filled with the Holy presence of God. Moses most likely would have given his right arm to enter the tabernacle and be with God. He’d already experienced the presence of God and His glory on Mount Sinai. God’s fellowship is like a drug: once you have experienced it, you only want more, and more, and more!

There are times it seems God is so far away, and we cannot feel His presence, and that joy that fills our souls to overflowing. We want His presence, but while we go to the tabernacle, we can’t find Him there. It’s important to note that God does have precise instructions for our closeness to Him. He wants our obedience. When we fail to be obedient in all His commands, he expects our repentance.

When’s the last time you experienced the fellowship of God?
When’s the last time you fell to your knees in repentance?

Worship cannot occur without humble repentance. If you’re looking for an awesome worship service, start on your knees, and work your way up.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

How Beautiful Heaven Must Be!

I hate to save money. To elaborate, I just love to spend money and I love to spend more than I have! Therefore, I would love to spend all I have, and not save any. Some folks are savers, others are spenders. I’m the later! That’s right, I stand proudly before you, and pronounce, “My name is Faithie, and I’m a terrible steward!” (Your response: “Welcome Faithie!”).

But I’m also mature enough to know that saving money is important. Things break! There are car repair bills, house repair bills, medical bills, and other things that can happen unexpectedly, and when they do, we need money saved up to cover those expenses. The knowledge of those unseen, but looming needs is motivation enough to cause me to save some each payday. No, I don’t like it, but I know it’s necessary.

As Christians, there are some days that the struggle just doesn’t seem worth it. We’re often faced with the ugliness of the world: hatred toward us, people ridiculing our beliefs, being called ignorant because we believe in the unseen, threats made against us, and even seeing those who believe as we do become martyrs.

When our motivation dies, we have to look past the current events to the reward ahead. Oh how beautiful Heaven will be! Think on that when you’re not motivated to turn the other cheek, to hold your peace, and to sit and “take it” just one more time. One day, it will all be worth it!

Heaven is described as a place we cannot with our simple minds even imagine. In 1 Corinthians 2:9 it says “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” Now, I’ve got a pretty good imagination, and I know others do as well. Think of all the movies of beautiful places. In the “Lord of the Rings”, the Hobbits lived in a beautiful land. In “The Sound of Music” the fields were green, and the skies beautiful blue. Do you remember the stripes of the sky in “Gone with the Wind”? But if we were to collectively imagine all that Heaven could be, the Bible still tells us that it is greater than anything that has ever entered into our hearts!

Revelations 21 describes Heaven as having a light as bright as a crystal and a great high wall with twelve gates. The wall is made of Jasper, which is a beautiful reddish brown stone. At each gate, which is each made of one pearl, an angel stands. The city itself is of gold, but is described as being like clear glass! Even the streets are described as clear gold. Within the city there is a stream of water that is as clear as crystal, and flows from God’s throne. There are twelve foundations to the city – one for each apostle. They are made of jasper (reddish brown stone), Sapphire (deep blue gem), chalcedony (pale blue stone), emerald (deep green gem), sardonyx (white and brown banded stone), sardius (red gem), chrysolite (greenish yellow gem), beryl (medium to dark green or aqua gem), topaz (deep amber gem), chrysoprasus (apple green gem), jacinth (orange gem), and amethyst (deep purple gem).

Now, are you imagining Heaven’s beauty? Can you envision the colors, the light of God shining through them, and casting all colors around the city like an eternal rainbow? Can you imagine the smoothness of the golden transparent streets under your feet? Have you envisioned the beauty of the angels as they stand at the gates? Can you see yourself there, surrounded by all the joy and beauty God has planned for you?

Even still, the Bible says, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him”.

Be blessed with each thought you have of heaven, and let them encourage you to continue on and receive your great reward. This is what we’re saving up for. This is why we bank our anger, our disappointment, and our grief as Christians. One day, the payday will come, and we will be in complete and utter bliss with these beautiful surroundings. And the next time you are ridiculed for your beliefs by those that are without the understanding of God in the world, consider that none of this will be theirs…if you don’t show them the truth. Work past the pain and find the love in your heart to share with them why you choose to be different. Oh, great is your reward in Heaven!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A Dab of Discourgement Will Do Ya!

I’ve always loved working with the kids in my church. There’s just something wonderful about their energy and enthusiasm that brighten any room. A few years back a friend of mine and I decided to give our pre-teens a special event at the church. It would be a lock-in, but it would be different. We were going to have all sorts of games, food, movies, fun, and just live it up for a night with the kids.

In those days Fear Factor was at it’s height of popularity. Somehow I got the wise idea to have a contest something like Fear Factor. We started with all the kids in a row along the wall. There were over twenty there that night – members and their friends. It was quite the social event!

Round one was a test of self-control. Each child had a slice of lemon that they had to eat without making a face. Well, my son and a few others puckered like the pinched lips of an angry school librarian, and they all had to sit out the rest of the contest.

Round two was a test of the stomach. Each was given a spoon, and then I brought out a can of corned beef hash…relabeled as dog food! Oh, it looked so real one of the girls who was quite light skinned turned absolutely pea green! One by one, they took a bite, and got back in line. A few bowed out gracefully while telling me I was insane and cruel. One nearly needed a bucket! And of course, one of the guys said, “Hey, this tastes like corned beef hash!” My cover was almost blown!

Round three was meant to be a test of endurance. What I’d envisioned was a test of endurance very much like sticking your hand down the side of an ice cream freezer when you have to loosen the bucket. The salt and ice make the water so cold it’s almost unbearable! Each child was given an ice cube to hold in their hand, and it was covered in table salt. The kid to hold it longest would be pronounced the strongest kid with much hoopla.

I should stop here and explain that in all my years of school and college, I never had chemistry or physics. No one ever explained to me the chemical reaction that occurs when salt and ice are combined.

Things were going well until one young boy said his ice had melted and we had him open his hand to get another cube. When he did, there was a HUGE blister. My throat tightened. The boy beside him said “my hand is burning!”. I realized what was happening and frantically shouted to them all “Drop it! Drop the ice and go wash your hands!” About that time they all started crying and running for the sinks and bathrooms. I’d just burned the hands of about 20 kids with a common chemical reaction. I’d burned them at church. I’d hurt them at a church function. I’d hurt them when their parents had entrusted their safety to me. I was devastated. Tears were flowing, and yes, some were mine. Out of disappointment in myself, I was going to do the same to my own hand except my friend and some of the kids would not allow it. I was so upset with myself.

The next morning when they parents arrived to pick up their children, I had to explain what happened. Most parents were understanding and realized it was all just a big mistake. However, there was one parent who did not understand. In fact, he was livid! He even called my house that night to give me a piece of his mind! I cried while he verbally tore me apart.

The next morning was Sunday. I couldn’t go to church. I was discouraged and devastated. The event that was suppose to bring all these kids a great night of fun and fellowship ended up bringing them burns bad enough some had to see a doctor! After the father that called the house had given me his opinion, I really didn’t need to hear any more. His words discouraged me to the point I thought of changing churches. I stayed home that Sunday and hid. The following Monday I heard how angry the school nurse was about all the kids who were burned at “some church event”. Oh, the rumor mills were working overtime that week!

Were it not for the words of a loving pastor, I’d never have had the courage to return to church. He explained that some people just look for things to complain about, and, just my luck, I got to be “IT” that day! He told me I needed to come back to the church, and that everyone understood and loved me.

Satan almost won. But what would he have won? He’d have won my absence the next 6 years of organizing and teaching a pre-teens class at my church and Bible School each summer. During those classes I saw kids saved, baptized, and begin to love Christ and make close church friends. Some of their families also came to join the church.

Years later as I was taking one of my son’s friends to church with us for the first time, he said, “Hey, I remember this church. I was here one night for a thing when me and a bunch of kids got their hands burned.” I’d forgotten him, and more importantly, he’d forgotten it was I! Yet on the night it happened, I felt this would be the scarlet letter I’d carry forever.

Don’t let Satan be your accuser. His opinion of your skills and intentions are not important, and neither are those upon this earth who try to take you down! Kick his pointy little tail and theirs out of your way and charge ahead with God’s work!

“And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure” – 1 Corinthians 4:12

Sunday, September 9, 2007


Would someone please tell me when it happened? When did being a Christian become a bad thing? When did it require us to hide our beliefs in fear of not being loved by those around us?

Frankly, it’s time we all turn up the volume on our beliefs and drown out all those tiny evil voices that say we shouldn’t! We should drown them out for the generation to come that so wants to be near God and to be God’s children.

Go buy the T-shirt, get the bumper sticker, wear the baseball cap, and dangle the key chain! But most importantly – walk the walk and talk the talk! Make Christianity your 24/7 lifestyle, not just a think you do on Sunday morning! Children learn by example, and we’re not giving them anything to look up to. Church is nothing more than a weekend event to them – something to make them get out of bed early on a Sunday morning for. Whose fault is it that the upcoming generation falls away from worship and finds it unnecessary? OURS!

If we don’t make it “OK” to share your beliefs – the world may convince them to be silent.

If we don’t explain to them God’s will for our lives and how we found it – they may not find it.

If we don’t tell them about the “still small voice” – they may never hear it.

If we don’t share with them our struggles, and our victories – they won’t know victory is possible.

If we don’t pave the way for their faith, they may never find the abundant life Jesus came to give them.

If we live in fear of condemnation because of our faith, they’ll never have to know that condemnation because they’ll never show their faith. And their faith will die. And when they need it most, it won’t be there. They’ll have nothing more than an invalidated ticket to Heaven to show for their salvation.

“Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.“ – Matthew 10:32-33


Be bold, be brave, stare popularity in the face and tell it you don’t care what it thinks of you because only what Jesus thinks matters! Blaze a trail and let Satan eat your dust! Stop being lukewarm and letting Jesus spew you out of his mouth (Rev. 3:16) in disgust.

And to quote my friend Forest Gump…”and that’s all I’ve got to say about that.”

Now, I shall decend from my soapbox.

Darn! I fell off!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

The Denomination Abomination

I recently had a conversation with a couple who was condemning a local church due to its stand on denomination. These two were born into the Baptist denomination and have been raised to believe that only Baptists can claim to be Jesus’ church. I found it upsetting to think that one group of believers could so blatantly judge another group of Christians.

If we are to be true Christians, followers of Christ, then we need to determine what Jesus’ denomination was. Well, Jesus was not a Baptist. Neither was he Methodist, Catholic, Lutheran, Church of Christ, Pentecostal, or any other denomination. In Jesus’ day there were only two sets of people – believers and non-believers. Either you were a follower of Jesus, or you were not. Denominations existed even prior to Jesus. The Jews had their faith, while the Greeks had a different religion, and the Philistines another, and so on. Jesus could have attached Himself to a religion, but He did not.

Contrary to what many may thing, Baptists cannot trace their religious lineage back to John the Baptist. John was called “John the Baptizer” because he was a baptizer of believers. It was his occupation, not his denomination. The Baptist faith was actually started by two men in Germany in 1519, Zwingli and Smythe, who called the religion “Anabaptist” which meant to re-baptize. They did not believe in the baptism of infants that was practiced by the Catholic Church. Eventually, the “Ana” was dropped and they began to be called “Baptist”.

I attend a Baptist church because I believe the Baptist faith follows the word of God more closely than any other denomination I have found. But I do not hang the word Baptist over my heart as the label in which it belongs to. It belongs to Christ, and none other.

The separation of believers into groups by denomination has sewn discord among believers. To force someone to label his or her belief by denomination is wrong. To God these separations are an abomination – the last of seven mentioned in Proverbs 6:16-19 that it says our Lord hates: “and one who sows discord among brethren“. What greater discord than to create religions that separate us as believers into different worship services each and every Sunday?

How can we call ourselves Christians and say we hold the truth and despise our brothers and sisters because of their understanding of the scriptures? In 1 John 4:8 we read “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” We cannot be Christians and reject those who do not believe the Bible exactly as we do.

How can we hope to be the light of this world if we refuse to associate with those who do not carry the approved label of our own religion?

How can we hope to have any Christian influence if the only thing we show to other denominations is judgement and ridicule?

How can we be of God if we treat His children in this way?

Jesus will return for His Church one day. He won’t be going around knocking on only the Baptist church doors, or the Methodist, or the Church of Christ, or the Catholic. He won’t look to see who is in attendance, who is on the membership role, and from that start calling them onto His cloud. He will return and take all those who are members of his Church, the Body of Christ, back with Him to Heaven. What makes you a part of the Body of Christ? Having the Holy Spirit within you, which is given when you became a believer (Ephesians 1:13).

I am so glad that we follow Jesus, instead of Jesus complying with our rules in order to make us Christians! Imagine if Jesus treated other believers the way we do. What if He decided where he'd send his Spirit based on how people dressed, the tempo in which they sang, what they sang, whether they lifted their hands or sat quietly, how long their hair was, whether the women wore pants or skirts, whether they were anointed with Holy water or oil, and so forth? We’d be so attentive to following the rules of worship that we’d probably forget that worship is meant to focus on God – not ourselves. When religion gets in the way of worship it becomes Satan’s tool. (Read that again – it’s important!)

So what should we do? Do we argue the point on denominations? No! In 2 Timothy 2:22-26 we read how we handle disputes among those who truly believe themselves to be Christians: “Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.” Friends, humble correction will never result in an argument or hurt feelings. If you can’t find a way to proclaim your belief without hurting the person you’re talking to, then maybe it’s not God’s will for you to say it at all!

We are commanded to love our brothers and sisters. It’s a command. There is no discussion. And moreover, if they are true believers of Jesus, they are part of the Body of Christ. Ephesians 5:29-30 states “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones.” Not loving those brothers and sisters is rejecting the very body of Christ of which we are a part. They are members of His flesh and His bones. We cannot simply tolerate them, but we are to love them with agape love, which is unconditional Christ-like love. When we learn to love as Christ loves we can all become one body again without the separations of denominations.

Lord Jesus! Let it be so!