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!

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A Leper's Slavegirl: Faith in a Firestorm

The servant girl of an Aramean leper has a lot to teach us about abiding faithfully while waiting for the unseen. She is an almost silent character. There are only about 20 words from her in all of Scripture – two sentences. In those two sentences we can discern a depth of faith and character that rivals the faith of the Centurion of whom Jesus said, “I have not found faith like this in all of Israel.”

The servant girl was an Israelite and as we said, the leper was an Aramean. Aram was a border country of Israel in the days of Elisha the prophet and Jehoram, king of Israel, son of Ahab. In those days marauding bands of Aramean soldiers would assault Israeli villages with intense raids. They would attack swiftly, grabbing what they could, killing any who resisted, and plundering anything of value. It was dry-land piracy meant to weaken the enemy’s borders and enrich the king of Aram.

Caught up in one of these raids was a small family unable to resist the onslaught of ruthless warriors. I’m sure they would have traded anything they had in place of what was to be taken.

The common events of the day were precious although unrealized – a normal family going about daily chores with uneventful, maybe even mundane, toil and happiness. Children probably laughed and played, maybe got a little cantankerous, but lined up with smiles when poppa came in from the fields. Then the evening meal, poppa relating stories about Yaweh’s might and faithfulness, a little firelight flickering on his brow and cheeks as he told of Adam, and Noah, and Abraham, and then to bed. The house was warm, tummies full, and no fear intruded upon the children’s minds as momma and poppa sang their hearts softly to sleep.  Soon all the lights were out and the day’s weariness was fading into dreams.

The night was silent, a gentle breeze rattled the leaves just outside the window of the small home, no rumor of what was about to happen reached any member of the little family. Then, Crack! The door burst open like an explosion. All eyes jolted wide open! The little families’ house was just outside the cluster of homes huddled into the small arms of the village.  They were the first to feel the assault. Shock, fear, confusion, and raw aggression were the tools of the raiders. The family was engulfed in the maelstrom. Merciless men clutching at anything with greedy determination. The little family powerless to defend. The young mother instinctively lurched for the children and clenched them tightly. The oldest of the children, a young girl, following her mother’s lead, grabbed up the baby and put her quickly into momma’s arms.  Hostile men with strong arms callously ripped the girl from her mother just as momma took the little one. Rough voices shouted, “take the oldest, leave the babies, they’ll do for the future. Take anything of value.”

Through the melee she heard poppa’s strained voice, “NO, NO – take me, take me. Not my precious…” He was knocked to the ground silent before his plea was finished. Mother screamed, groaned, cried, and heaved in a mixture and wrath, grief, and terror. Everything was over in a flash. Into the night the little girl was swept, fires were burning, children screaming, men fighting, mother’s wailing and cursing the Arameans. The band fled as quickly as they had come, leaving behind devastation, emptiness, and ruin. Families had been torn apart, fathers killed or wounded, mother’s left to contemplate the horror of what might be happening to their stolen children. Children were left bewildered, wondering what became of their brothers and sisters, daddies and mommies, and all the happy days recently past. 

Night passed, the little girl recovered quickly. She had wise parents. They had prepared her for the horror of the night before. They always knew the danger of the border and spoke of it often so to keep everyone alert. It had been long though since any trouble had arisen but now it was upon her. She was alone in the hand of ruffians and scared, just a young girl who had been viciously torn from her home. The home where until recently she had played on the floor with her siblings, helped her mommy in the kitchen, and been loved tenderly by father and family. She gathered herself and determined not to be afraid. She would trust Yahweh and all would be well. She was now a slave – on the block to be sold – but retained that strength that comes with confidence.

The Captain always liked strength - He had risen to become the favorite of the king because of his. Power in battle, leadership, stealth in raids, ability to command a victory, had all given him a uniquely prominent position with the Aramean king. He was Captain of the mighty Aramean army – chief among fighting men. Weakness was his enemy, power his companion. He recognized might when he saw it. He saw strength in the young girl. She had a sort of inner potency he admired. He wanted only the most noble to serve in his house so quickly chose this one to wait on his wife. “She will do nicely for my dearest,” he mused.

The girl held her head high as she was escorted to the Captain’s estate. It was enormous – bought with and filled with the spoils of war. He was wealthy. There were people everywhere, mostly slaves, but family members and fellow soldiers also tended to the Captain. She was introduced to the Captain’s wife as her new slave – to wait on her every whim. She knew her place – she had heard the tales. Do everything precisely and with respect or suffer the consequences. The Captain’s wife was gracious to her husband and thanked him. She was in turn kind to the girl with the sort of kindness one shows to human property. Not cruel but nothing close to intimate – a distant benevolence due to a good nature.

The girl worked heartily for her mistress. Always waiting upon her with diligence and a smile. Never cross. Never impertinent. She did her crying at night. Her heart burst for her momma and poppa. Would she ever see them again? Would she ever hear them sing to her as she fell asleep, ever with a free heart play with her sisters and brothers, ever walk the paths of her little village, ever feel loved again? She prayed and gushed her heart to Yahweh, silently her tears streamed into her pillow, silently she gathered strength for the next day.

Time passed and the girl grew in favor with her mistress and her God. She always carried a cheery disposition, always a help to her mistress. She was sensitive, knowing when to approach and when to keep distance. She trusted Yahweh. She prayed constantly. She longed for her family but found friends in the Captain’s estate. She came to be relied upon. She heard the daily discourse of the joys and sorrows of her captors and she felt them. She never grew hard. She waited.

Time brought change. Something new sneaked in. A whispered tension pervaded the Captain’s estate. Everyone felt it. To the house of strength came a great weakness. A spirit of measured grief crept into every heart at the news. Gallant, but knowingly fearful, was every soul upon hearing the murmurs. The Captain’s wife was most affected. She was strong and unwilling to show her inner turmoil, but the slave girl could sense her distant despair.  News like this could not be held silent long, muttered in the shadows when the Captain was away. Soon the Captain’s demeanor, normally steady as a rolling stream, became a bubbling cascade of confused emotions. Crashing and splashing against rocks here and there, sometimes pooling into a deep still, sometimes pulsing over a great precipice like a vengeful waterfall. Everyone was on eggshells, full of pity, fearful to say the wrong thing.

The Captain was face to face, skin to skin, with the enemy of his life. He was in a pitched battle with the greatest foe known to any of his kind. He wrestles an invisible adversary, a ruthless rival, one without pleasure in victory, no pain in loss, no emotion, will, or passion, nothing to limit its effectiveness in battle, no mercy, no ability to feel its own pain – the perfect killer – Naaman is a leper. His weakness hammered at him. Never had he felt helpless, never without device or skill to deliver himself from any danger. His mind boils at his misfortune. His great heart despairs and convulses at the thought of an unseen enemy conquering him. His patience and serenity is shattered. The cords of his sanity are snapping – he’s short with everyone, agitated, fierce at times, brooding at others, sharp of tongue but weak of words. He feels as if the gods have made him a sport for their amusement. He is wretched, inconsolable.

He is still wealthy though. Able to pay for any doctor, any soothsayer, any medicine man, or folk cure. He can give hoards of money to the gods, great charities to win their favor. He tries it all. His wife faithfully searches out every known remedy, a wild grasp or not. The entire household is consumed with finding a cure and restoring peace to their beleaguered companion and master.

On a day of particular stress Namaan’s wife audibly groans about her inability to find help for her husband. Wide eyed, effervescent, and confident, the slave girl desires aloud, “I wish that my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! Then he would cure him of his leprosy.” The unwavering certainty of the girls’ wish burst into the mistress’ meditations of futility. “What did you say, child?” The girl’s unflinching answer was the same. Hope flooded into the empty cavern of her mistress’ heart. The news burst through the house like a song – there’s a man who can heal our master! A tentative expectation started to rise in the household. Namaan went to the king.

The rest of the story is familiar. Namaan goes to Elisha. Elisha makes an uncomfortable demand, Namaan refuses in his pride. His servant pleads with him to try. Namaan submits to God through the instruction of Elisha and prodding of his servant, is healed, and humbles himself to return and give thanks to Elisha and Yahweh, promising to worship only Yahweh the remainder of his days even though he has to tend to the king who will continue to worship other gods. And they all lived happily ever after…

But let’s go back to Namaan’s estate. Do we suppose that anything changed for the girl? Was she released to go back home because of her good deed? Was she reunited with her family to live out her days peacefully in the little village? Did Namaan promise to never invade that little village again, ensuring the family and friends of the girl a peaceful existence? Probably not!

The most likely scenario is that the girl remained a slave. She may have enjoyed the added benefit of better treatment for suggesting her master’s means of healing but all in all probably never escaped slavery, never saw her family again, never visited her village, never knew what became of all those she loved. Sad, isn’t it! But somehow familiar don’t you think? Do you ever feel it? The separation I mean, the loneliness, the partial fulfillments of an uneventful slavery, the distance from home, the longing for something buried deep in your heart, the ache of an unknown anticipation. Do you feel it?

The unrealized longings of Namaan’s little slave girl foreshadow our own. We live in a foreign land. We are slaves to an unfamiliar master, longing for our real King. We are aliens in a hostile country. We long for, and wait for something we have only a vague sense of. What will our home look like once we arrive – when will we get there? Will we see our loved ones again? We feel in many ways like that slave girl must have. The similarity may or may not stop there though. The point is not, do we feel the same as her, or can we commiserate with her. We do. The point is, how will we live each day while we wait for things to be set right.

The remarkable thing about the Israelite slave girl is that she believed. In spite of her circumstances, her youth, her position, her broken heart, her separation from those who shared her faith, she held fast. When faced with the biggest crises her new household had ever faced she did not flinch. Her undaunted faith blazed through as naturally as a child’s wish. My God can do it!

How’s our faith? While we await our unseen future – full of promise and joy – are we abiding in faith others can see? Are we tenaciously watching every day? Are we anticipating good from our Heavenly Father? Are we trusting Him with a child’s abandon? Do we shed our tears at night, longing for home, and get busy in the day, preparing for Him?

Do we realize that “our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory..?” Are we the sort of people who ask, “what sort of people ought we to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God…”? Are we waiting expectantly and serving freely like the little slave girl?


Doable Daily Delight: Finding God In Your Everyday Rubble

“Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4) has been the catalyst for many a recent book on making God our center and source of pleasure or joy. Rightly so – what better springboard into the joys of rejoicing in God than one that ends with so rich a promise! We correctly understand that the point of the verse is when we delight ourselves in the Lord – our heart’s desires are going to be met because He is our deepest desire. Delight in God and He will fulfill our delight with Himself.

In my heart of hearts I’m certain that God is enough to meet every real need I have. As I sort through the everyday rubble that so easily piles up I run smack into the practical reality of seemingly unmet needs; not enough money, not enough time, difficult relationships, physical or emotional weakness, loneliness, or perhaps an overall brooding dissatisfaction with my circumstances. This practical bubble of daily battles I live in often creates a barrier to delighting in God. So, my thoughts often turn to those battles and barriers. Just how can I overcome the daily distraction of temporary cares and get to daily delight in my infinite God? 

That’s a good question isn’t it? Don’t you wonder how to get past the “nasty now and now” and onto the “sweet by and by” in your mind, heart, and soul? If you don’t mind learning from a person many Bible scholars consider rough, doctrinally incorrect, and insensitive, you, like me, may be able to pick up a few pointers on the practice of delighting in God.  I found this person, this “counselor” in the book of Job. He’s one of the “three wise guys” who sat in the dirt with Job but later flung some accusatorial mud at him. Even though Eliphaz dishes out some suspect advice to Job, he does circle around the truth from time to time, and in a few cases lands right on it.

I found some help to my dilemma of pursuing delight in the daily rubble of my life while reading the last few lines Eliphaz as quoted in Job, Chapter 22. The phrase that caught me was in verse 26, “For then you will delight in the Almighty.” Really? When will I delight? I read backward from there to find out what the “For” was referencing and found a great agenda for daily, lifelong, practical delight. Eliphaz, whether he knew it or not, lays out a doable daily regimen for delighting in God. I hope you’ll find this as helpful as I have. Let’s look at the simple steps first and then we’ll dig in a bit.

Doable Daily Delight

Do This:

  1. Yield. 
  2. Receive Instruction.
  3. Return to God.
  4. Remove Unrighteousness.
  5. Bury Your Money.

Enjoy This:

  1. God Will Be Your Treasure.
  2. God Will Be Your Delight.
  3. God Will Hear Your Prayers.
  4. God Will Establish Your Decrees.
  5. God Will Be Your Confidence.
  6. God Will Be Your Salvation.
  7. God Will Be Your Deliverance.

Yield:  This is a fascinating word that has been translated differently in nearly every major Bible version. Some of the options are Acquaint, Submit, Agree, Yield, Reconcile, or Acquiesce.

Regardless of the word choice, the idea is to defer to or be of use to someone deserving of your deferment or service. It’s an imperative that carries with it the idea of “getting to know” God with an attitude of  “yielded-ness or submission”. Verse 29 shines a bit more light on this attitude by saying that God will save the humble person. The simple meaning – Humble yourself and abandon your insistence upon self-defense, self-promotion, self-interest, or self in any of it’s manifestations. You are standing before God, you know!

What does this look and sound like in my moment-by-moment world? It’s the habit of saying to yourself and to God – “Ok Lord, this moment is yours, tell me what to do with it.” It gets repeated tens, hundreds, or thousands times a day in your mind and spirit as you walk with God. It’s a constant, tangible yielding to His desires while retreating from yours.  The immediate outcome of this deferment is peace. When we give up our tightly clutched trinkets of self-promotion, God will replace them with the true riches of delight in Him.

Receive Instruction: I love the NAS’ emoting of this phrase by putting the “please” in front of the phrase. It’s a plea, “Please”, I beg of you, be instructed by God. The book of Proverbs fleshes this out sufficiently as to not need more commentary. In fact, the invitation to learn at the feet of God is extended de facto by the very fact we have a Bible. Every word is a feast of delight because they all unfold for us in some fashion who God is and what He is like.

Eliphaz doesn’t stop there though. It’s not enough to simply receive instruction. We all know that “hearing is not doing”.  He adds a phrase to his plea, “establish His words in your heart.” It means to put God’s instruction in a readily accessible storage location. This is not the self-storage rental space down the road that keeps the stuff you don’t need quick access to. This is the easy to reach pantry of essential items, the silverware drawer, or sock drawer, or key rack, if you will. It’s that place and part of us that’s often hard to organize and manage.  The place that gets messy and disorderly if we don’t keep up with it – in my case and perhaps yours – it’s my Mind. I constantly have to place God’s word in the drawers of my mind and keep them organized for easy access.

There, I said it, and you know what it means – Meditate, Memorize and Practice Scripture. How many times have we heard this? Are we doing it? This is the most basic root-level truth any Christian teacher could express. It’s the golden key to delight. God’s Word is the conduit for every blessing, every joy, and every delight. The Word has to enter in and find a permanent place in our minds and then travel well-worn paths to our hearts. It has to be worked out with every breath and footstep. Will you start now? Perhaps the question we asked about yielding also fits here, “Ok Lord, this mind is yours, tell me what you want me to do with it.”

Return to God: Simple – turn around – go back. Yes, it may cost your reputation, your fortune, your secrets, your position, your pain, your whole self! God’s promise is that it is worth it. (Isa. 35:10) Restoration to glory, joy, and gladness is an abundant substitute for the empty pursuits that are keeping us from God.

“Doable” is a little naïve here. This may be a tough one, depending on what force may have you in its iron grip. Our enemies build their largest ramparts and dispatch their fiercest warriors to prevent our return. It may be a bloody and bitter path back to God but there is healing for any wound once we are there. It may seem like an unbearably long journey to get back but it is really only the distance of a desperate whisper. Cry out to God – He will navigate every obstacle and battle every foe with you. Perhaps a good first step here would be to keep the same theme we have been emphasizing “Ok Lord, my life’s a wreck, I’m coming back, what do you want me to do?” May you find it safely back!

Remove Unrighteousness: Tic Tock, Tic Tock, tic tock, tic tock, tic…. We don’t hold live grenades hoping they fail to detonate. We throw them as far from us as we can. Remove means to thrust away or repel. You may be holding a grenade, not knowing how long you have till it detonates – it’s time to hurl that thing away – violently!

To me, unrighteousness is a soft word. It’s akin to a “white lie”, wrong and sinful but not quite as aggressive to my ears. The KJV uses “iniquity” here and the Hebrew Lexicon’s render it “wickedness or depravity”. Now those are hostile and intimidating words, much more descriptive of the danger. Sin hurts us in every painful way imaginable, like a little boy slowly tearing the legs off a grasshopper before he stomps it. If we could see the complete grotesque picture of it and feel it’s ferocious reality we would treat it like that ticking grenade. Problem is, sin is pleasurable, a short lived but addictive high, insidiously beautiful, deceitfully captivating, and stubbornly adhesive. It’s hard to throw away.

So even while I encourage you, according to Scripture, to cast it far from you I’m painfully aware of the reality of that action. In part, that’s what the Body is for. We have brothers and sisters in Christ who will engage our battles with us. You may need to find fellow Christians to hear your confession, refuse to judge, and fight with you – go to them – NOW! The Holy Spirit is ever at the ready as well. Listen and obey His voice concerning the bomb you’re holding. Again, cry out, “Ok Lord, my sin is killing me, how do I get rid of it?” Find books and lessons by godly writers that address and give practical advice on beating your sinful struggles and demons – then follow their counsel. All of us have besetting sins – few of us discipline ourselves to fight to the death against them. The delight of victory and the presence of God is ours once we slay these enemies.

Bury Your Money: This is a short way to say, “you cannot serve two masters”. It’s God or Stuff! Eliphaz is quite poetic here. He exhorts Job to “place his gold in the dust” and “toss it in the stream” like so many common pebbles. I like that! If we can truly look at our wealth as “dust and rocks” and consider it of similar value in contrast to our delight in God, we will mirror the attitude Eliphaz describes here.

The Bible is ripe with instructions about materialism and money. Books have been written expounding the Bible truth about finances. I don’t want to repeat them, I want to encourage you to read what’s been written. Check out Randy Alcorn, Larry Burkett, Ron Blue, Dave Ramsay and others like them. They will help you. Remember our question again here, “Ok Lord, this money is yours, tell me what you want me to do with it.”

The core of the whole subject is this – When we value God and His works as our treasure above all other possible treasures, we will find our ultimate delight. How do I do that? How do I cultivate delight in our invisible God when the things I can touch, see, and sense cry out for my attention? That’s just what we’ve been discovering – everything we’ve said up till now is included in the answer. Everything we’ve said up till now can be described succinctly with one word – discipline.

To yield, receive instruction, return to God, remove unrighteousness, and bury our money is to practice spiritual disciplines. These are not skills we learn once, master, and never return to. They are cultivated habits that require continual nurturing and laborious exercise. This is the stuff of Paul’s confession that he beat his body (figuratively) to keep it under. He was speaking of the hard work of living for eternity. Investing in infinity by resisting the transient involves work, wisdom, and focus. Mastering these disciplines is what leads us to delight.

Athletes have a daily workout regime often with core items they do every day. Eliphaz gives us the Doable Daily Regimen for Delighting in God. Submit to this routine and we will find ourselves delighting more and more in God. We will also reap a substantial list of other benefits. More on those later…

Yield, Receive Instruction, Return to God, Remove Unrighteousness, and Bury Your Money, ‘Then the Almighty will be your gold, and choice silver to you. For then you will delight in the Almighty, and lift up your face to God.” Job 22:25-26


The Wrangle-Tangle of Titillating Topics.

Oh No! It’s five o’clock! I just spent three hours chasing down tweets and blogs and comments and rants about the latest theological nuance. Man, I didn’t have the time for that!

Catch yourself in this situation lately? We are such word warriors, truth tracers, and rigorous caretakers of what’s right that we often get dragged into controversies completely irrelevant to our ministry or sphere of influence. I’ve done it – spent hours reading, commenting, and chewing on issues that really mean squat to my walk with Christ and those He’s called me to influence. It’s easy to do these days. Everyone has a voice via easily accessed mass social media and we love to tune in. 

“Connecting” via mass social media has two sides. It is good to have quick, easy access to godly men and women who are truly wrestling with great questions. It is bad to get entangled in issues that waste time, create unnecessary stress, tempt us to unrighteous anger, and have the potential to cause gratuitous division in the Body of Christ. Our Lord, through the voice of the Apostle Paul, throws down a warning for all of us tempted to bandy over words.

When we trace through both letters to Timothy we find Paul’s insistence on maintaining truth juxtaposed with his insistence on avoiding frivolous arguments about truth. Check this out:

Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.” 2 Tim. 1:13-14

Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers. 2 Tim. 2:14

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.  2 Tim. 2:15

But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. 2 Tim. 2:16-17a

But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels. 2 Tim. 2:23

The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will. 2 Tim. 2:24-26

You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them.  2 Tim. 3:14ff

Navigating this posture is like crossing a rope bridge on a windy day with one leg.  It can become a game of spiritual mumblety-peg or worse, religious Russian roulette. The balanced instruction of Paul is to carefully pick our battles - Some are worth the war, some are not. Our difficulty (at least mine) is to discern what hills to die on and which ones to surrender. Fortunately there are some easy to grasp instructions in Paul’s fatherly letters to Timothy. These are meant to guide us through some of these battlefields. Take a look:

  1. Retain the Standard (vss. 1:13-14).  In essence, Paul is encouraging Tim to maintain the truth he passed on to him. He qualifies that he should do it with an eye to faith and love. In other words, “live out what you were taught.” Live it with all faith in its veracity. Live it out with agape love toward God and others. Paul said it like this in 1 Timothy 1:5, “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”  To summarize, Exemplify the truth entrusted to you through a life of love filled faith. Guard truth through the power of the Spirit.
  2. Remind them of Truth (vs. 2:14). Keep repeating the truths that Paul taught. Never grow tired of refreshing the mind to truth.
  3. Demand a Cease-Fire (vs. 2:14). “Solemnly charge them before God…” is serious business. Paul is telling Timothy to take charge. Don’t be afraid to say, “In the name of God, with the authority of God – Stop It!” when it comes to the issues of wrangling over words to the hurt of all. It’s useless and leads to the destruction of people. Be brave, put a stop to it where you find it.
  4. Diligently Study Truth (vs. 2:15). Accurately handling the truth means diligently studying truth. This cannot be separated from #1 though – study is not enough. Paul means for Timothy to know truth, love truth, and live truth. His progress is to be recognized by his word-infused, Spirit-led life.
  5. Refrain from Empty Babble (vs. 2:16). Stay out of controversies about non-essentials. Stop wasting time on worldly, empty chatter. It’s a corruption that leads to ungodliness. These arguments are vacant and do not lead to a closer walk with Christ. They only spawn more argument. On the other hand, it may be a good argument. It may be something that needs to be debated. But, is it my debate? Is it essential to my walk? Or, is it a distraction from what I should be doing? Is it edifying to those I’m called to influence? Is it a necessary addition to my knowledge of God? Test your involvement in these issues with these types of questions.
  6. Refuse Stupid Questions (vs. 2:23). Yep, that’s what it says. The actual word is “moron”. Paul is referring to moronic, undisciplined questions that lead to more moronic undisciplined questions. How many blog-flames would be prevented if we all exercised disciplined refusal to respond to moronic questions? We can pour ice-cold water on red hot but foolish controversy by simply refusing to participate. I invite you to walk the other way.
  7. Don’t Be Combative (vs. 2:24-26). Do you grit your teeth and furrow your brow as your issue-oriented blood pressure rises? Do you get angry with the opposition? Do you blast and minimize your brother? Do you attack and assassinate? I don’t mean only that you actually write your attacks or say them out loud – I mean to ask, “Are they in your mind?” Are these your instant reactions?  These are signs that you’ve taken on the mantle of a crusader. You’ve become a warrior – not a servant. Combative Christians are not winsome. They don’t attract others to the beauty of Christ. Paul commands a different attitude.
  8. Do Be Kind, Able to Teach, Patient, Gentle (vs. 2:24-26). This is the winsomeness of Christ. This is true godliness. We win wars with kind, gentle sacrifice. We teach with grace and patience. We hurt for those in the wrong. We plead with those taken up in error. We weep for truth. Perhaps God will grant them repentance. We may win an argument but lead to further ungodliness. We may prove our point and lose a soul. What a tragedy to win an acre of ground and lose a battalion of saints. We speak the truth and let God win the hearts. God releases captives. God detains the devil. God bestows knowledge. Let God fight, perhaps we will have the joy of seeing them “sitting down, clothed, and in their right minds.” Mark 5
  9. Abide in the Truth (vs. 3:14). Make truth and the exercise of it your intimate companion. Draw truth up into your heart like umbilical blood. Let it energize your actions. Love in truth. Laugh in truth. Weep in truth. Pray in truth. Speak in truth. Live in truth.

What's the Big Deal? 3

What does Jesus want most in addition to His glory?  Of all the things He could have requested from the Father on the night before His death I would not have expected this one. I would have expected Him to spend much more time on a couple of things He only briefly mentioned – that God keep and sanctify the disciples. Those requests track more closely with my desires – I want God’s protection and the personal holiness He can give me. These seem to me to be more pressing than what He spends the most time on. What is it He really wants - His Brides’ Unity! He wants the Church to be one.

So why unity? Why does Jesus spend verses 20-23 with three or four references to His desire for the unity of the Church? “…that they all may be one, even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us…”  I don’t pretend to know anything beyond a distant and vague sense of what might be involved in being one with God. Phrases like this temp me to mysticism. They befuddle me. They twist my mind in the same way the Trinity does. I probe the barriers of eternity only to find myself tired and vacant. I can and will make an attempt at what it means for the Church to be one, unified for Christ and with one another.  

The request for us all to be one is mystical and intriguing on its own but Jesus doesn’t leave us with that thought. He goes on to mention the “why” behind His prayer for unity. It’s the great “why” that captivates me. What’s at risk? Is it really that big a deal?

It could have been a nice platitude wrapped in the mystery of Deity for us all to wonder at but never really grasp. It could have been easily read and forgotten due to the impenetrable nature of the subject. It could have been dismissed as God speaking in language too high for us but Christ did not leave us any of these options. He clearly states the reason He desires unity in the Church. Read slowly with me, verse 21, “that they may all be one…SO THAT the world may believe that You sent Me” and verse 22-23, “that they may be one…that they may be perfected in unity, SO THAT the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them…”

The unity of the Church is THE PROOF to the world that God the Father sent God the Son and that God the Father loves the world. Incredible that the witness of God to the world hangs on the frayed thread of the unity of the Church!

Think of the ramifications! A unified Church shouts sacrificial love to the world. We are truly an aroma of life unto life when perfected in unity. Expressing accord one with another expresses God to lost and dying souls. Unison and harmony sing mighty hymns of compassion and grace, mercy and righteousness, humility and acceptance, to a world blinded by sin and lost in darkness. Let those who have ears to hear – hear! Unity is powerful!

On the other hand, a divided Church is proof to the world that the Father did not send the Son and does not love them. Ouch! Strife among brothers is tantamount to denying the Gospel. It’s the devil’s holiday to see brothers at odds. It’s the world’s justification for ignoring and distrusting the Church, the Bible, and God Himself. Brothers, we are to blame in part for the continued rejection of Christ. We are culpable in the matter of the message going unheard and unheeded. When the lost see factions and fractures in the Church they “know” there’s no real Jesus and no real love. We need not be surprised at their reaction when we try to tell them differently – our actions are shouting denial while our words are faltering feints at the truth.

Miserable thoughts aren’t they! What should we do with them? My will to write about these things is often wrapped tightly in my own guilt for participating in and perpetuating division in the Body. I recoil at the thought of my own failures in this area. I have most likely been one who has placed a stumbling block in the path to peace. Rather than wallow in those thoughts we need to press on. Let’s resist the temptation to lie where we’ve fallen. I’d like to persevere. I want to see God win this one.

And God fully intends to win. We see this in the return of Christ to His first request and the main theme of the prayer. He wants us to be with Him and to see His Glory. It’s all about His glory. Look at how He even ties unity to glory in verse 22. Jesus has given us His glory so that we may be one. A unified Church is a glorified Christ! The glory, the “otherness” of God, given to men, so that we might live in such a way that all men might know that God loves them and sent His Son to die for them. We share the glory of God in order to reflect His character to desperate individuals “without hope and without God in the world.” We share the unity of God to show the world that there is “One God and Father of All Who is over all and through all and in all.” The way we live preaches one thing or another to the lost – will we “be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace?” 


The Difficulty of Open-Hearted Acceptance.

Would a German Jew swing his door open wide for a Gestapo agent at the height of the holocaust? Where would his mind go as he clutched the door handle? Do you know Christians who cause you to experience those sorts of thoughts?

Whoaaa there –isn’t that a caustic, belligerent, intentionally shocking comparison? Maybe. Depends on if you’ve ever felt the tension. I’m surmising, but I think the Jew knows he’s free up until the moment he peeks through the keyhole to see the uniform of the Third Reich.*  I’m free up until the moment I open the door for my brother who is about to judge my freedom. He’s going to go there you know – to that standard, that personal conviction that he must impose on me. 

What do I do now? Paul says swing the door open with a smile, a hug, and an open heart. In fact, give him full access to your heart. (Romans 14:1) Seriously? My soul cries out, “Paul, you wouldn’t say that if you had met this guy”. Then my Bible trained mind corrects me – yes he would and he did. It’s the heart of God. Scripture makes it clear that Paul had to wrestle with every sort of personality and quirk of conviction that existed in the first century. Beyond that, Jesus Himself faced every doubting disciple with the calm assurance of His freedom in the Father. Thomas had to see and touch, Peter corrected Him and even cursed against Him, the sons of thunder wanted the preeminence, Judas was smarmy and in the end, evil. I think it’s fair to say that Jesus never closed His heart to any of them.

Ok, so I’m opening the door. I’m even going to pray that Jesus helps me open my heart but I do-not-like being put in this position! 

If I may, dear brother/sister, pull you aside for a moment. This is your opportunity to display true, supernatural love in blazing glory! Conquer this and the legions of hell cannot refute it. This is the moment – this is where Christ shines! He must increase but we must decrease. John 3:30

Back to the door and my "sensitive of conscience" brother. What next? According to Romans 14 you enjoy his fellowship, encourage him as a brother, love him as Christ would, and DON’T bring up his issues of conscience for discussion. It’s forbidden. The free brother, the stronger brother, is not to make the weaker brothers’ doubts or convictions a matter of conversation. And definitely DO NOT flaunt your freedom in any way. Put your freedom on the shelf, limit your liberty, and express full-flighted love for your brother.

“But you don’t understand, he always brings it up!” Using always is almost always hyperbole in this context but I get where you’re coming from. You’ll have to wait for another post on that one…


*My apologies to anyone for whom these memories are real and intensly painful. Corrie Ten Boom speaks very clearly of her experience in just this sort of situation in one of her recorded talks.