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Entries in Love (4)

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. 

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. 

Friday
Jan202012

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.
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.