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Lifeway Christian Stores carrying 'So Called Christian' 

Lifeway Christian Stores carrying So-Called Christian: Healing Spiritual Wounds Left by the Church This is an amazing blessing since we did not even market the book to them. It was presented in the proverbial 'stack of books' that many distributors place in front of book buyers hoping that one or two of them will be chosen. We are thrilled and honored that ours was selected! Praise to God!

To obtain your copy of "So-Called" Christian: Healing Spiritual Wounds Left by the Church CLICK HERE.

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Sunday
Oct112015

Stop Living Your Christian Life for the Approval of Others. 

  

Do we for one minute think that Jesus Christ is going to hold us accountable for winning the respect of others when we appear before him on that Great Day? 

The Scriptures say that God doesn’t show favoritism. God accepts all without regard to their identity. The Apostle Peter said that when God chose to save the Gentile Cornelius and his household. (Acts 10)

Peter then went on to say “but in every nation the person who fears Him and does righteousness is acceptable to Him.” There’s the KEY. The person who fears God and does righteousness is ACCEPTABLE to God. 

If God wanted to say, “The person who earns the respect of others is acceptable to God” He would’ve. He didn’t - so stop trying!

Sit and visit with that thought a moment - take a long slow mind-drink of the word ACCEPTABLE. Breath in the aroma and let it wash over your thoughts. Let it settle down into your soul. YOU are most likely a person pursuing righteousness in the fear of the Lord. YOU are a person who need not worry what anyone else thinks of you. You are acceptable to God. Why give a thought to how anyone else sees you?

Unpack that in your heart and in light of the people whose respect you are trying to earn. Does their respect have anything whatsoever to do with fearing God and doing righteousness? Probably not. Why? Because no man will be the ultimate judge of another. We are at best looking through a smudged and dirty lens when looking at someone else. 

Outward appearance may not show inward righteousness. We are alarmingly deceived every day by those who wear a veneer of righteousness, a coat of white paint, but inwardly are full of dead men’s bones. We can’t always perceive who they are - even the devil himself appears as an angel of light. 

On the other hand, some appear to be religiously scruffy and unkempt. But they are crystal pure vessels of righteousness. 

When we look for the approval of others we are asking them to use their imperfect vision to judge our outward performance. They can’t see our hearts. Our actions often fall short of our intentions, even of our spoken commitments. Failing doesn’t make us bad people. 

When those people don’t give us their approval based on our outward performance we often make things worse by applying their disapproval to our person. We judge ourselves to be unworthy based on their disapproval when all along God said we are already accepted! Whose word are we going to believe - God or man?

 At best, all of our righteousness is as filthy rags to God. All of their righteousness is as filthy rags. We stand and fall before God alone and not before those who stand and fall beside us. The approval of men means very little.

 Our focus is never to earn the respect of others. Our focus is this, “Therefore, do not let your good be slandered, for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:16-17)

Here’s an amazing thing. We’ve spent all this time showing that seeking the approval of men is of little value. Then, as if God wanted to give us extra points on our homework, He says this. 

Verse 18, “Whoever serves Christ in this way is acceptable to God and approved by men.” When we pursue the right things without regard to the onlookers. When we live righteously, heedless of what others think, we get the double bonus!  We are acceptable to God and approved by men. 

When we do it God’s way, we get what we were looking for in the first place.

Note the emphasis is not on the result - it’s on the living out. When we live out our righteousness, peace, and joy we will ultimately see the result. However, the result is never to be our motivation to live this way. 

Apply it. These seven actions will help us stop the old habits of seeking man’s approval while we retrain our hearts to live in God’s acceptance.

  1.  We have to stop our brain when it starts wondering if we have another’s approval. Replace the thought with, “God accepts me. I won’t care if anyone else does.” 
  2.  Get up every morning, present ourselves to God, and say out loud, “I’m yours today Lord to do with whatever you please regardless what anyone thinks about it.”
  3.  Imagine often that Great Day and Know what Jesus will say to us who have lived in righteousness. (Matt. 25:21)
  4.  Pursue the meanings of Righteousness, Peace, Joy, and Fear of God. Make them our constant study. Let them infuse our moment by moment living in the power of the Holy Spirit. 
  5.  Learn to hear the voice of the Spirit of God. Learn to Obey that voice and none other. 
  6.  View those whose respect you seek to earn as fellow poor and redeemed travelers that have only a very little knowledge - much like yourself. 
  7.  Set your affection on things above and not on things on the earth. You are dead. Your life is hidden with Christ in God. (Col. 3:2)
Sunday
Sep202015

Mastering What We Own.

It’s okay that we have to grow.

Wouldn’t it be great if the purchase of a thing made us the master of that thing? It’s true that we are masters of what we own as far as making decisions about those things.  I own a guitar. I can pick it up, take it places, replace it’s strings, tune it, smash it, whatever. That doesn’t mean I know how to play it. I own a smart phone. I probably use less than five percent of its capabilities. Same with my computer. Come to think of it - probably same with my brain. I own a lot of things that I am only partially acquainted with. 

“That is tragic!” is my first thought. But I think I need to rethink that first thought. Is it tragic that we own something we are not complete masters of? Not really. Where would we grow if purchasing something meant we had automatic mastery of it? Maybe it would be great to be able to purchase a sewing machine and a full brain download and skill set of how to use all its features. Maybe someday our brains will come equipped with a USB slot for that. 

Futuristic dreaming aside, for now it is necessary that we learn to master things. It’s like that with our spiritual growth. I came across an example of this the Apostle Paul teaches in Ephesians. 

‘This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him.’ Ephesians 3:11

Paul points out that we own something. In Christ we have boldness and confident access. Cool! Let’s use it. Let’s go out and turn the world upside down. Let’s start the flames of spiritual awakening. Let’s see revival in every church. Let’s tell everyone we meet about Jesus. Let’s…

Does having boldness mean that any of the above happens quickly? What was Paul’s experience? Did he get up every morning with the idea that he was turning the world upside down? Probably not. Read what he writes just a few paragraphs later. 

Pray also for me, that the message may be given to me when I open my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel. For this I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I might be bold enough in Him to speak as I should.’ Ephesians 6:19-20

Paul, Spirit empowered mature believer that he was, continued to ask fellow believers to pray for him to be bold. But wait, didn’t he just say, ‘we have boldness’? Why pray for something we already have? Because owning something doesn’t mean we have mastery of it. Paul teaches that in Christ we own boldness but he shows by asking for prayer that he doesn’t master it. He’s growing. 

We are all growing. We may, like Elijah, have boldness when faced with terrible odds. Like he did when faced with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. (1 Kings 18) Then fail when threatened by Jezebel. (1 Kings 19:3) Spiritual life is a series of victories and defeats in every area of character growth. Boldness is just one of these areas. The most spiritually powerful characters in Scripture had to strive for mastery. 

Are you discouraged about your progress in the Christian graces? Do you seem to need reassurance and prayer to do what seem to be simple things: Love your neighbor. Witness to a friend. Believe God’s promises. Overcome fear. Pray for others. Reach out to the hurting? 

Guess what, it might just mean you are a spiritual giant. You stand in the same place as Paul and Elijah. In fact, spiritual giant or new believer, we all need prayer and reassurance and practice. There are no masters of Christian character. Jesus was the only Master. He owned and perfectly practiced the character of God. Everyone who follows Him needs constant encouragement and Spirit enablement. 

Take heart in this. The fact that you get discouraged about your practice of boldness, or any other Christian grace, is evidence that the Spirit is working in you. People who are not striving to grow in their faith don’t get discouraged about it. It’s not on their minds. They are not sensitive to the Spirit’s moving. Knowing that you own something rich and strong is often the catalyst that makes you want to use it.   

You own boldness. Ask others to pray you learn how to use it. Practice using it. Speak up and feel what it’s like to use it. Study it. See how people used it in the Bible. Read missionary stories. Ask other Christians how they do it. In short, become a student. It’s how we master anything. 

It’s not a tragedy to own something we haven’t mastered. It’s only a tragedy to receive a gift from God and allow it to idle in a corner while we pursue something easier. Pick up that ‘guitar’. Learn the chords. Practice. Be gracious. Be bold. Smile, because the Spirit is working in you!

Monday
Sep142015

The Power of Light.

Don’t apologize for being bright.

 

Now this is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in Him. 1 John 1:5

 

God is full of light. There is no moral darkness in Him. 

 

He is irresistibly inviting to those who love light. He is unbearable to those who love darkness. 

If we love light we will run to Him even though we don’t feel worthy. His moral goodness draws us. It beckons. It calls. The Spirit of God within us answers. We want to be light like Him. We want to bless others. We want to be blessed. We ache for pure and unstained existence. 

News Flash: We are the light. (Matthew 5:14) We are free to enjoy His light, be His light, and carry His light. 

Really! We are set free to enjoy light. Try it. Exercise your freedom ‘in Him’. Do good. Smile. Take light into every corner of your world. Gather all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge and use them. Let them change your heart. Wrap them up and take them on your day’s journey. Hand them out. Light lovers will smile and say thanks. Lovers of dark, not so much. 

People who love darkness find God unbearable. It shouldn’t be a surprise. When people are asked to conform to what they hate they often get hateful. God is light and darkness cannot conform to light. Darkness is overcome by light. Darkness is destroyed by light. Why would someone be drawn to something that will destroy what he or she loves? 

The only way for those who love darkness to tolerate those who love light is to allow light to vanquish their dark. That’s impossible. With God all things are possible. 

So what do lovers of light do with lovers of dark? Lovers of light shine on lovers of dark. Can’t help it, like the sun can’t help being bright. The sun is not ashamed to shine. Being filled with light doesn’t call for an apology.  

Being filled with light doesn’t call for an apology. 

 When we shine we often irritate those who love the dark. Like bright sunlight through a car windshield. They may flip down the visor to block the light. But Holy Spirit powered light often hits their windshield in just that spot that no visor can cover. It can really make them angry. God-light shining on a dark heart burns. People often strike out at constant irritants - even when the irritant doesn’t know it’s an irritant. Like the sun being bright, or a mosquito being hungry, or rain being wet. 

That’s why the Apostle Peter warned us that we would be sharing in the suffering of Christ (1 Peter 4:8). He told us not to be surprised. Being in the light is to be an irritant to those who love the dark. Light is now an essential part of who we are. That makes us irritating to lovers of darkness. Often what is more irritating to them is that we want them to love our light. But telling them the light is beautiful doesn’t keep their eyes from being burned by it. 

What’s the point of this? To remind lovers of light that we are irritants to lovers of darkness by our very nature. God Himself is an irritant to them. Here’s a short list of don’ts and do’s for lovers of light.

1. Don’t be surprised by their anger. The sun knows nothing of irritated eyes.

2. Don’t lash out at their anger. Does the sun get angry because some don’t love his brightness? (And for those who are tempted this way - Neither is he arrogant about his brightness)

3. Don’t throw sarcastic barbs their way. God does not tease us for our lack of wisdom. (James 1:5) Why should we tease them? Our heart should rather break for them. The god of this world has blinded their minds. (2 Cor. 4:4)   

4. Don’t try to correct them. (Especially in a particular subject like politics, or education, or relationships, or their desires, or almost anything else)  Their mind is blind. Express the truth and leave the correction to the Holy Spirit. 

 

1. Do love them. The sun shines on the good and the evil. Love those who persecute you. Love those who find you to be an irritant. (Matt. 5:44)

2. Do remain calm. Great peace belongs to lovers of light. Don’t let lovers of dark get under your skin. (Psalm 119:165)

3. Do pray for them. (Matt. 5:44) Remind your heavenly Father of His promises toward them. Ask Him for mercy. 

4. Do good to them. (Luke 6:27) The sun warms and nourishes everything. God provides for all. So should we. 

Monday
Jun222015

God’s Will: Flame Throwing Provocateurs or Determined Quiet Producers

 

 

I am a writer in America. That means something unique. As it has been put to me by a literary agent and many published articles about publishing, “If you want to be a writer, you have to have a platform or else no publisher will pay attention to you.”  What do they mean by ‘platform’?

A platform is more or less a guarantee that a significant number of people know you and will buy what you write. A platform is built over time with much effort at marketing oneself or ones ‘brand’. Publishers want writers to have a platform so they know the money they invest will create a profit. That makes sense and doesn’t really bother me. The part that bothers me is the method many writers (more specifically Christian writers) use to obtain that platform.

I’m referring to those I named in my title; the “Flame Throwing Provocateurs.” There are many Christian writers who make a habit of provoking a reaction by igniting their flamethrowers with the fuel of controversial topics. You know the blog titles: ‘The Heresy of Calvinism’, ‘Armenians Deny the Gospel’, ‘Why Charismatics Don’t Like Doctrine’, ‘Dating is the Devil’s Deception’, and on.

Have you ever stopped to ask if titles like these and the content following them ever make God smile? Should we encourage deliberate provocation concerning controversial topics? I’m guilty of using some provocative titles as a writer – maybe the title I used for this blog is provocative to you. I’m learning that being provocative is not necessary a good thing – even if it does build a platform. More specifically, being provocative with topics that good men differ over is contrary to the spirit of several Scriptures I’ve been meditating on. Perhaps you’ll join me in meditating on these.

 

Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need. 1 Thess. 4:9-12

For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. 2 Thess. 3:9-13 

First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1 Tim. 2:1-4

 

Notice the emphasis in each of these passages is that we lead a quiet life, minding our own business, and working with our hands. The word that is translated ‘quiet’ in these passages is used many times in the New Testament and refers specifically to silence in reference to speech. In other words, God values quietness from His saints. He calls it ‘proper behavior’. He also values hard work. He doesn’t want us to be ‘in need’ nor to be ‘busybodies’. In the I Thessalonians passage this desire of God is preceded by a reminder to excel in love for one another.

If you are one of the firebrands who are seeking to build a platform on provocative diatribes; I invite you to dial it back. Perhaps you could emphasize love for your brothers, hard work, and leading a quiet life. If you did you may find your platform growing with peace loving believers who are trying hard to avoid the stress of controversies. Most of those controversial blog topics don’t affect their daily walk with Christ in any substantive way. It’s just noise – loud noise.

Peace, quiet, and hard work is what Paul encourages in these passages. Quiet, godly, dignified lives are good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior. Paul suggests that living this kind of life actually leads to the salvation of some and the spread of the knowledge of the truth. Surprising what a little quietness can do, isn’t it?

When it comes to quietness of speech we should take warning from the Old Testament. The wisest man ever to have lived says this about speaking.

 

Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Prov. 17:27

When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. Prov. 10:19

Then back in the New Testament James says, ‘But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger…’ James 1:19

 

I quote all these to lend support for what I believe God is getting at. I think it displeases God for men and women to throw verbal bombs into a crowded arena. The arena of ideas and teaching about the Bible in America is in many ways chaos. To make this worse by flame throwing is a grief.

I guess I should be quiet now and mind my own business. 

Saturday
Jul192014

Cut the Bible Anywhere, It will Bleed…

‘We love, because He first loved us. If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.’ 1 John 4:19-21

There is a binding force that holds together the universe of sentient beings. Sentient beings are those that are conscious, they have a soul, a spirit, a thinking mind, and an emotional heart. Every person and every spirit is a part of that universe but some of us are clinging only very precariously to it. The universe of beings I’m referring to is held together by Relationship. It’s held together by intimate, personal, emotional, and communicative relationship. Inability to do intimate relationships perches us at the craggy edge of this universe. I’ll go so far as to say,

If you are non-relational or disconnected you are walking in constant disobedience to nearly every command of Scripture.

This statement is the core idea that has gripped me for the last two years or so. This truth has caused me to shed more tears over my past and make more changes for the future than any truth I’ve encountered since I first heard the Gospel. It seems that everything I had done until then had been skating across the surface of a vast and deep reservoir. I didn’t know it but it’s a reservoir that can’t be experienced until one decides to (or in my case, is compelled to by overwhelming outside forces) dive in and plummet headlong into its depths.  I had been unwittingly playing at the intellectual shoreline of an abyss that required a full emotional and spiritual encounter to grasp its importance. About two years ago I was suddenly and unwillingly caught in an undertow that quickly corrected my perception of all that is relationship.

I say I was playing at the intellectual shoreline because nearly everything I wrote or thought before being dragged to the depths was a sparkling idyllic glimpse of the surface – not an impassioned exploration of the heart rending, often suffocating, but wondrously beautiful deeps. I read the Bible and believed that people are supposed to get along. I knew the Church was supposed to be one. I knew husbands were to love their wives, and fathers were to love their children, and good men were to befriend good men, etc., and I tried to practice it… without getting too attached.

Those of you who are relational may immediately react and say none of those things can be done if one is detached. Those of you who struggle with close relationships may not even flinch at the idea. Two years ago I didn’t know there was a difference.

What I’ve learned in the last two years cannot be unlearned. It was burned into me by a thousand needles stabbing constantly at every raw nerve of my soul. It was fused into my heart by the nuclear activity of the Spirit of God. It was as if an atomic chain reaction exploded in every vulnerable soul-cell to create some invincible recognition that God is all about relationship.

This realization changes everything for me. It changes the way I talk, the way I smile, the way I think, the way I pray, the way I see, the way I dream, the way I parent, the way I treat friends, the way I see the world, the way I walk with my Heavenly Father, and everything else. It also changes this blog. I realize now that the message and goal of the Church being ‘one’ can only happen as the Church becomes intimate with God and one another. Intimate relationships only happen as we stubbornly pursue one another. 

The passage from 1 John above is proof positive of God’s mind about relationships. He says in effect, ‘Don’t tell me you love me if you are not loving your brothers.’ Note something here – love is not passive avoidance with a Sunday smile of greeting but active gritty involvement in making our brother’s life better. It’s, status quo be damned as a tool of the Devil, followed by a leap off the high dive into the deep end of someone’s heart. It’s blasting through the smog of Christian-ease to ask penetrating questions and reveal life-giving truth in love. Have you ever done that?

I was a Sunday ‘smiler’ for a long time. Not going deep. Not reaching out. Not feeling hurts not mine. Not weeping with those who weep or rejoicing with those who rejoice. Just smiling and keeping to myself. No longer. I’m involved now. I’m vulnerable and clear. I’m inquisitive and caring about my brother’s battles and benefits. I’m swimming in the deep waters of relationship and loving it.

I haven’t seen God but I’ve seen God in my brothers and sisters and I love them. God tells me that, as a result, I must love Him too. That thought makes my soul grin. Since I’m involved in the real reality of relationship now I think I have to change the direction of my writing a bit. I’m still passionate about he unity of the Church and the healing of her harms but I now know that healing and unity only come through the blood that courses through the veins of the Bible. Cut the Bible anywhere and it bleeds relationship. Test any passage. It’s about relationship, with God or with our fellow men, but either way it’s inescapable. Since God is all about relationship then I must be and I intend to be.

 

All this to say that from here I hope to expand my writing in this blog and other upcoming projects to be all about relationships, specifically intimate spiritual brother/sister relationships that reflect and amplify the heart of God. I hope to challenge every sincere Christian to leave the safety of his/her seaside cottage and dive into an ocean of connection that is sometimes tormented by angry waves of every kind and sometimes calm and placid like peace itself. Let’s prove we love God by swimming in the fragile ecosystems of our brother and sister’s hearts.

In light of all this I have to confess that I started something in this blog that I will finish elsewhere. I started a series about myself a little while ago and told you it would take some time to develop and there would be other posts interjected in between. I actually finished the series and it turned into a book length project that I believe will be very helpful to many. That means I’m not going to finish it here so I’m sorry if you were intrigued and now disappointed. If you will be patient I’ll keep you updated on how the project progresses and let you be first to know when it’s available.

Before I close I want to ask you, ‘Will you obey God by demanding intimacy with Him and your brothers and sisters?’ ‘Will you marshal your emotions, will, spirit, and mind and press them into relational service?’ ‘Will you obey the Spirit’s call to connect?’ Let me know if you need help – I’d love to chat.