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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.

Check our Publisher out: http://ambassador-international.com 

 

 


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Entries in Christian Relationship (9)

Thursday
Dec222011

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.

Friday
Dec092011

Replace or Repair?

A good friend of mine from a wiser generation once said to me, “Your generation replaces things, my generation fixes them.” He didn’t mean to insult “my generation” or to somehow demean me. He was simply stating his observation. It struck me though and made me feel as though I was smaller or somehow - lacking. I didn’t learn the skills his generation took for granted. I don’t plumb, pound nails, bleed brakes, in fact, I don’t even pump gas anymore (I happily live in one of those states that doesn’t allow mere consumers to tackle such a challenging task). If the modern world of smart phones, iPads, texting, and Twitter came crashing down tomorrow I would have to learn how to do a thousand things I don’t presently know how to do. (Come to think of it – how would I learn them without “googling” them?) 

I thought about this recently while studying the word “reconciliation” in the New Testament. It struck me that this idea of replacing instead of repairing has leaked into our dealings with relationships. Maybe leaked isn’t the right word – perhaps we’ve blown the entire gasket and precious fluid is spewing all over an overheating engine. (It was a head gasket repair my friend and I had been discussing. If you don’t understand the reference then ask a good mechanic from a "previous” generation) The point being, when relationships get tricky I think our culture (yes, our Christian culture as well) readily replaces them rather than repair them. Examples are not hard to find. Divorce rates are the same in the secular and sacred cultures. Church hopping is rampant. Our mobile culture sees families uproot and move often. Literally millions of former church-going folks are now sitting out due to damaged relationships.

Brothers, sisters, is a relationship disposable? Are we living in such a throw away culture that we discard people as quickly as plastic? Do we need a generation to speak to us about repair? Do we need to be reconnected with the teaching of reconciliation? Sadly, yes, and happily, yes! Sad that we have to relearn the art of reconciliation. Happy that Jesus Christ teaches us perfectly and with easy to understand steps. I didn’t say, “Easy to follow instructions.” They are not easy to follow but they are easy to understand.

Look at some of the simple instructions for relationship repair hidden within the reconciling actions of Christ. Jesus reconciled the Father to us and us to the Father and shows us the way to approach those with whom we need to reconcile. To keep it short we’ll just look at Romans 5:5-10.

  1. Start with Love. “because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit.” Vs. 5  When we are smack in the middle of conflict this sounds trite doesn’t it! Do you expect me to reverse and dismiss the agony and intensity of hurt this person or group has caused me “just like that”? No, and Yes. No, God doesn’t expect you to dial down true righteous indignation. Yes, God does expect you to follow the example of Christ through the unlimited power of the Spirit. How did He handle the undeserved hate, misuse, and pain of rejection put upon Him by his enemies?
  2. Recognize their Weakness. “while we were still helpless (having no strength)” Vs. 6  The relationship is broken due to someone’s weakness. Someone is unable to muster the might to approach reconciliation. In the case of our need for salvation – it was us. We were once the weak, helpless, unable to seek reconciliation ones. Realizing this, let’s give grace and be patient with the party we are in need of reconciling with.
  3. Wait for the Right Time. “at the right time” Vs. 6 We often press the issue and end up making a bad situation worse. People need time to process difficult issues and navigate hurtful relationships. We (my wife and I) had one experience that took five years to reconcile after repeated attempts – in this case timing was everything. In the believer's case, the Spirit wooed us with perfect timing. He won us with the grace of Christ patiently applied. We owe our brothers the same.
  4. Take the Initiative. “Christ died for the ungodly.” Vs. 6-7  The initiative of God is matchless; perfectly conceived, unselfishly provided, and generously applied. Someone needs to write a book on the initiative of God – what a boundless topic! Jesus commanded initiative in Matthew 5:23-24. He instructed us to cease (one form of) worship, seek reconciliation  (another form of worship), and then return to worship. The act of worship involved in reconciliation with human brothers is actually more important (or at least precedes) our acts of sacrifice to Him. Powerful! By the way, when you take the initiative, be prepared for hell to break loose – the evil one does not like brotherly love. Expect to see anger, resistance, denial, tears, or any other tactic that will make the process more difficult.
  5. Demonstrate Love. “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Vs. 8  Show that you meant what you said in Step 1. There’s a lot wrapped up in this word “demonstrate”.  Saying something is so much easier than showing something! Salesmen say a lot of things – good salesmen prove the product. We may have to demonstrate our love for a loooong time before the other party softens enough to be approached. IMPORTANT: Sinners need to see love. Realize that you are approaching a fellow sinner and they don’t believe that you are any different than they. To have a fellow sinner reach out in love is often a scary thing but Spirit energized love will eventually win their heart. They may be an enemy for now but that didn’t stop Jesus from making the sacrifice – did it?
  6. Someone has to Sacrifice. “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” Vs. 9-10 Notice I didn’t say, “Someone has to be sacrificed,” Jesus already did that. This step is that someone has to sacrifice something.  It might be pride, position, restitution, revenge, time, money, or any number of things. In the case of our salvation, the Father and the Son were willing to pay the ultimate price to accomplish reconciliation with our black-hearted rebellious selves. God was angry and we were the objects of His wrath. He was also brokenheartedly seeking us in love. Jesus was the lovingly obedient redeemer, reconciler, and mediator of a perfect covenant of reconciliation. In cases of division, strife, disagreement, and hurt among brothers someone is often called upon to follow the example of Christ. Someone has to Sacrifice!

This is a very simple 6 Step Reconciliation Plan. Actual application of these steps can be difficult. We meet resistance because hurt, questioned motives, and self-contented denial may be at play. Note that it’s also a one-sided plan. This is all something we do without expecting any certain response. It’s an invitation. It might be rejected – we need to accept the rejection without offense. Jesus “despised the shame” but continued “for the joy” that was to be.  He was not willing to discard one relationship but rather wished to reconcile all men to Himself. My brothers I hope you will seek reconciliation with every human for the simple joy of what lies ahead when brothers live in harmony! (Psalm 133) Let’s stop replacing relationships and start repairing them.

Thursday
Dec082011

Spiritual Mutilation: When the Church Attacks Her Own.

We hope to find a publisher for a short 10 chapters with the above title. The first draft is finished. Below is a brief description of the contents from the Introduction.

This book is about, "Overcoming and preventing the most common source of pain in many Christian lives. Healing torn relationships and restoring relational connection between brothers. The key to advancing the Gospel in a love starved world. Drawing close to Christ by caring about what He cares about."

"Practically speaking, you’ll learn several things that will help you live a more obedient, harmonious, and loving Christian life. Here are some of the lessons you’ll encounter.

  •   The two life altering things on Jesus’ mind the night before He died on the cross.
  •  The most powerful rebuke to the early Church and how to avoid it for yourself, your church, or your Christian ministry.
  •  THE EVIDENCE the Church presents to the world to prove that God loves them and sent Jesus to die for them.
  •  The wisdom of God about differences in the Body of Christ and how to deal with them.
  •  The healing power of rightly relating to believers with whom we disagree.
  •  The Bible passages that confront spiritual mutilation and give instruction on how to stop it.
  •  The rare occasions when Christians are commanded to avoid or separate from other Christians.
  •  The importance of recognizing “Those who Can and Those who Can’t”.
  •  The Apostolic challenge to the modern Church to address what may be the greatest hindrance to our Gospel witness in the world.
  •  The dividing line between Christian and Non-Christian – what Christians must agree on. Or, What makes us Christian.

And much more that will perhaps revolutionize the way you fellowship with God, love your brother, and witness to your world."

More on this as we progress.

Wednesday
Dec072011

Small Matches, Large Fires

In 1896 a battle broke out. Invectives flew. Both sides joined the fracas, entrenched as enemies. Churches, districts, state organizations, and an entire national denomination got tied up in it.  Reconciliation was attempted but thwarted when one personality or the other rose up to contest the validity or the outcome of the process.  Three years the battle raged on. It was characterized by stubbornness, misunderstanding, character assassination, and unreasonable demands. A prominent, seemingly gentle, reasonable, and gracious man had his reputation ruined and was driven from his profession as a result. Others were deeply hurt, disillusioned, and harshly treated by the whole atmosphere of argument.

The fascinating thing about this battle is the cause. It is almost laughable if it had not had such serious consequences. Get this - a seminary historian (professor and president) discovered an inconsistency in some facts that many had understood as indisputable. W.H. Whitsitt, then president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, had travelled to England to do some research. He discovered to his surprise that the English Baptists had not practiced baptism by immersion until around 1641. Before that they had baptized by sprinkling or pouring. That’s an interesting fact that really doesn’t challenge any Biblical convictions. It simply means that one era of Baptist practitioners used a different mode of baptism. Curiously, Whitsitt made no case for changing any practice in the Southern Baptist Convention. He merely stated the facts. He wasn’t looking for controversy.

Whitsitt published his remarks on the discovery. You wouldn’t think it, but his remarks ignited a firestorm. He was accused of undermining the “truth” that Christians had practiced baptism by immersion since John the Baptist and that true Baptists had never done anything differently. He was excoriated in numerous denominational publications. His resignation or dismissal from the seminary was demanded. Hours were spent in debate, motions were made, resolutions written, and all were hotly championed.

All this commotion raged regardless of the fact that He made no attempt whatsoever to change anyone’s mind on the mode of baptism. He remained a staunch advocate that the only truly Biblical mode of baptism was immersion.  Do you find this incredible? Are Christian men and women really threatened by a factual timeline change that doesn’t materially change the doctrine? Do you suppose Jesus gets fired up over such things? The outcome of this incident was tragic and instructive. Mr. Whitsitt lost his job, many of his opponents lost face, and years later apologies had to be made. Damage already done. 

The tragic reality is that a very small match can detonate an immense explosion. Those of us who love truth and have no reservations fighting for it are often blind to the fallout of our actions. Speaking for myself and I’m sure many others, we fire a cannon where a peashooter would do. What do we do with this tension between pure doctrine and brotherly love?

If you are interested in more about Whitsitt check out the book here, http://www.powells.com/biblio/95-9781122633727-0

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