Do You Believe in Miracles

*Note: This is the article that is included in my previous post (Central Christian Church “Messenger”: March 2017 edition)

Just a few days ago, on February 22, 2017, there was a celebration of sorts.  What you may be asking?  It was the 37th anniversary of one of the greatest upsets in sports history.  On February 22, 1980, a group of amateur U.S. Hockey players went up against the USSR Hockey team that had been dominating the world over the previous 20 years.  In fact, just a few days before this battle took place, the two teams had met in an exhibition match at Madison Square Garden, and the Soviet team absolutely dismantled the overmatched Americans. 

This was all in the lead up to the Winter Olympics set to take place in Lake Placid, New York.  As fate would have it, the American team was set to play the Soviets in the semi-finals of the Olympic hockey tournament.  History was against them.  Not many gave them any chance.  This was a team that was filled with college hockey players going up against the professionals of the Soviets.  The stage was set, and if you know anything about sports history, you know this game as the “Miracle on Ice”. 

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Going into the final period, the Soviet team held a 3-2 lead.  It seemed that all they had to do was just hold on and they would be playing for the Gold Medal.  The U.S. team had other plans.  They came back and scored two third period goals to take a 4-3 lead.  The Soviet team threw everything they could at the Americans through the last few minutes of the game, but the American defense held strong. 

As the final seconds ticked away on the clock, the Americans possessed the puck, and it became clear that they would indeed preserve their lead.  The ABC network was broadcasting the game here in the States, with Al Michaels calling the game.  His call in the final seconds has become as iconic as the game itself.  As those final seconds ticked away, you can hear Michaels, “Do you believer in miracles?!”  And as the clock hit zero, he emphatically added, “Yes!”

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The “Miracle on Ice”.  It has been named the top sports moment of the 20th Century by Sports Illustrated.  But I think Michaels’ question at the end is an important moment for us as well.  “Do you believe in miracles?”  That was his question about one of the most unlikely upsets ever in the sports world.  I want to ask you the same question, but not about sports. 

“Do you believe in miracles?”  I mean real miracles that we read about in scripture.  The healings that have no explanation.  People being raised from the dead.  A man walking on water.  Feeding of thousands upon thousands of people with just a handful of food.  Water being turned into wine.  A man beaten so badly that he couldn’t be recognized and then hung on a cross until he died, coming back to life three days later.  These are the miracles I’m asking if you believe in.

Jesus’ entire ministry as a human was backed up by miracles.  He healed the sick, raised the dead, fed thousands with nothing, knew the hearts of those around Him, and willing went to the cross for our sins, trusting the Father to raise Him from the grave three days later.  And that doesn’t even go into all the miracles that we see throughout the Old Testament and in the beginning of the Church after Jesus’ ascension to the Father.  Those miracles do two things.  First, it shows us God’s power.  Second, they were there to give authority to those speaking; to prove that they had something worth listening to. 

Many people try to explain away the miracles that we read about throughout scripture.  It’s just too hard for them to believe that these things happened.  If you are a Christ follower, and don’t think that these miracles actually happened, how big is the God that you claim to follow?  These miracles show us the power of our God. 

DO YOU BELIEVE IN MIRACLES?!

The “Miracle on Ice” was just a sporting event.  In the grand scheme of things, it is not really that miraculous.  If you don’t know the history of the game, however, I want to let you know that the Americans did back up this victory and go on to win the Gold Medal against Finland after the miracle on ice game.  Jesus went on to back up His miracles as well.  Coming out of that tomb three days after being crucified, He backed up not only everything that He had taught, but everything He had done as well.  God proved who Jesus was, and that our salvation would be secure in Him through the Resurrection.  So let me ask you this: DO YOU BELIEVE IN MIRACLES?!  I hope you can answer “YES!”

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Only God Can Change a Human Heart

We just finished a six-week sermon series at Central Christian today called Life on Mission.  This may have just been my favorite series that we have done to this point, and it has completely given me a new perspective in how we should be striving to live this Christian journey that we are on.

There was a thought that I presented today which is critical in how we live our lives as Christ followers.  It was straight from Tim Harlow’s book, Life on Mission, and it is something that we all need to understand for our own lives.  You see, our human nature gets in the way and we often try to do things on our own, instead of learning to trust and wait on God.  This even creeps into our lives when we are trying to share Jesus with others.  We think that we can save them.  In reality, however, if it depends on us, we’re in trouble.

Only God can change a human heart.

Only God can change a human heart.  In other words, it’s not really up to us in the end.  We are to partner with God on this life on mission, but it is only through His power that we are successful.  So how do we partner with God in this mission?  We pray.  We develop a prayer life where we are consistently praying for individuals that we know of that do not know Jesus yet.  And we don’t give up when we think we aren’t seeing results.

Harlow told a story in the book about a lady that prayed daily for 40 years that her husband would accept Jesus.  It would have been easy to give up after praying daily for someone for that long, but she didn’t.  And after 40 years of prayer, her husband accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior and was baptized.  Wow!  But what happens if she had given up after 35 or even 39 years? 

The problem we face today is that we don’t always see God’s timing.  We want things done the way we see fit, and in our timing, but that’s just not reality.  God sees the whole picture, so sometimes He answers those prayers in ways that we don’t see coming.  Maybe, just maybe, when that happens our faith weakens sometimes.

The question was brought up today about strengthening our faith.  How do we strengthen our faith in God?  How do we develop a prayer life that we can honestly say that we “pray continually” like I Thessalonians 5 tells us to?  Without going into a lot of detail, there are a few things that I think we can do to strengthen our prayer lives and our faith at the same time.

First, we just need to pray.  How do we strengthen our prayer lives?  We pray. 

First, we just need to pray.  How do we strengthen our prayer lives?  We pray.  Often.  It needs to get to the point where we we might not even realize that we have started praying over a situation, yet we are.  Prayer needs to become second nature and a habit in our lives.  And the only way that that happens is by doing it more and more.  Trust me, I know that that is much easier said than done, but it is something that we can all attempt to improve.

Second, we need to be grounded in the Word of God.

Second, we need to be grounded in the Word of God.  We need to be studying scripture on our own and with other people.  If we aren’t connected to scripture on a daily basis, then it is going to be hard for our faith to be strong.  You want to strengthen your faith?  Study and meditate on the Bible.  That’s a great place to start.

Finally, don’t try to do all of this on your own.

Finally, and maybe most importantly, don’t try to do all of this on your own.  Get connected to a community of Christ followers that are willing to walk beside of you and help you make prayer and Bible study a bigger part of your life.  Not only do you need to have others in your life that are more mature in their faith to help you grow, you need to be investing in others that haven’t been at it as long as you have.  There is a principle that works here; you never learn more than when you are trying to teach someone else. 

We are made to live in community with each other.  How do we strengthen our faith and our prayer lives?  Getting connected to a group of Christ followers and making sure that we are staying connected to Jesus through prayer and Bible study.  We can live this life on mission, but we have to keep our priorities straight.  We are not going to save anyone.  Only God can change a human heart!

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The Faith of a Child

My wife has been babysitting for a young mom in our church over the last few months.  It’s just a couple of hours a day in the afternoons.  If you know much about me, I usually don’t deal well with little kids.  I just feel awkward around them.  Jr. high and up is usually the age groups that I seem to work well with.  So Kelley babysitting in our home has been a growing experience for me. 

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This is my buddy Aaron.  He’s around a year and a half old.  He has a smile that will just melt your heart at any time.  Like I said, him being around has been a growing experience for me.  I’ve actually gotten to the point now where I miss him being here on days that he’s not at our house.  His little personality is so awesome to watch develop, and he is on the verge of talking, which I’m sure will just be a whole new experience.

He’s taken to me, and loves when I take him outside.  The other day, we had a pretty funny exchange.  It was one in which I realized just how much he really understands, even when he can’t fully speak yet.  He had woken up from nap time and Kelley was in the other room for a minute.  I asked him if he wanted to go outside and you could just see his face light up.  But then he really blew me away.  He walked over to his diaper bag and pulled out his jacket that we normally make him wear when we take him out.  He didn’t need it that particular day, because it was actually pretty warm, but his comprehension amazed me.  I couldn’t help but laugh at how excited he was to go outside as well.

The best part about having Aaron around though is just watching his joy and wonder taking shape as he discovers new things around him.  Watching him trust others without a care in the world is refreshing.  As he is around us more, the more he trusts us.  And like I said, his smile can just melt your heart (It doesn’t matter how upset he is, me trying to do a Daffy Duck impression brings this huge grin to his face).

Being around his curious and trusting personality has brought life to a passage of scripture.  Jesus talks a lot about children throughout His ministry.  There is a story in Mark 10, however, that really shows how much He cares about children.  The story is found in verses 13-16,

13 People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.

I’ve always known about Jesus saying that no one will receive the kingdom of God unless they do it like a little child.  But something clicked when I was reading through this again recently.  Did you notice Jesus’ mood when His disciples were trying to keep the children away from Him?  It says He was indignant.  Not a word that we use much anymore, so let’s take a look at its definition.  Indignant: feeling or showing anger or annoyance at what is perceived as unfair treatment.  Jesus was angry at His disciples. 

The faith of a child is a wonderful thing.  Aaron has shown me this in a very personal way.  Watching the way he learns is just incredible.  You tell him something and he believes it.  The faith of a child is what we need when we are pondering the kingdom of God.  And that is why Jesus valued them so highly.  Children can teach us how to learn.  They can teach us what it means to have faith in Jesus.  And according to Jesus, we have to have faith like a child to inherit the kingdom of God.  May we all have the faith of a child.

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Well Done: A Tribute to a Friend Gone Too Soon

I woke with a sadness in my heart this morning.  Over the last few days, I have been seeing a prayer request posted and reposted on Facebook from a friend in Tennessee, asking for prayers for her friend Jane.  What I didn’t realize over that week was that she was asking for prayers for a Jane that I highly respect and has been a huge supporter for Kelley and I over the last few years.  I just found out yesterday morning through a separate friend’s post that it was my friend Jane that was needing prayer.  Sometimes this long distance thing isn’t any fun.

While watching a couple of shows last night, and winding down for sleep, the news came across my social media feeds that Jane had passed away.  I’m just blown away.  Jane was someone that I would have never expected to pass this soon.  While she was older, she seemed in great health the last couple of times we were able to go back to Tennessee for a few days. 

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You see, Jane’s husband David and I served on the board together at Crossroads Christian Church before Kelley and I moved to New Mexico.  Dave became an elder at the same time I became a deacon.  David and Jane were constantly encouraging us, praying for us, and genuinely excited for us in our opportunities for ministry.  After moving to New Mexico in September of 2014, I always looked forward to seeing them when we would go back home for a few days.  They always wanted to know how things were going, if there was anything that they could be praying for for us, and would always have that encouraging word and piece of advice for us.

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For the last few months we were in Tennessee, Kelley and I were in the same Sunday school class with David and Jane.  It was amazing to see their love for the Lord, their interest and knowledge in the Word, and their genuine care for those that didn’t know Jesus yet.  They have served as missionaries, especially David, who uses his background as a doctor to invest in lives overseas.

Jane was the type of person that could always put a smile on your face.  She was talented, energetic, and just plain fun to be around.  She had a lot of talent in the drama field, directing a few different dinner theaters and dramas at the church over the last few years.  Her love for God, people, and service will be greatly missed.

I started off saying that I have a sadness in my heart this morning.  And it’s true.  I’m sad that I will never get to talk to Jane again.  I’m grieving over our loss here on earth.  My heart is breaking for David.  Even as I type these words, I feel myself choking up.  But I’m also rejoicing right now.  I have this intense sense of joy because Jane is no longer suffering!  I’m confident (as confident as I can be in regards to someone else) in her relationship with Christ.  I’m rejoicing that while she has been taken from this earth, her work is done.  She’s heard “Well done my good and faithful servant”.  And in that sense, as sad as I am she’s gone, and as joyful as I am that she is not in pain, I’m a little jealous. 

Jane’s finished her race.  She’s won her prize.  She’s at the feet of Jesus!

Jane’s finished her race.  She’s won her prize.  She’s at the feet of Jesus!  Rest well my friend.  While I miss you and hurt for your family, I’m so incredibly overjoyed for you!  Thank you for all your love and encouragement over the years.  You’ll never know how much it meant to Kelley and I.  Until we meet again my friend.

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Treat One Another with Respect (Part 3, Conclusion)

The last couple of days I’ve written about treating each other with respect.  First in general, and then what our response as Christ followers should be when the world doesn’t always treat us with respect (Jesus warned from the beginning that the world would hate us because of Him).  You can read those two posts here and here if you’d like.

Today I’m going to wrap up this three part post about treating one another with respect, and it’s a topic that I feel shouldn’t need to be discussed, but is one that probably needs more attention than the others.  We are going to be looking at how Christ followers should treat other Christ followers.  You would think because we have Jesus in common, then we would be able to at least be civil with each other.  But that is just not the case anymore.  Sure we can disagree over minor issues, but that doesn’t mean that we have to resort to yelling, name calling, and just down right belligerent behavior.  Yet, more and more that is what I see happening between people that share a faith in Jesus Christ in common.

You would think because we have Jesus in common, then we would be able to at least be civil with each other.

I’ve seen it multiple places and involving multiple topics of discussion.  And we fall right into the trap that the rest of the culture does.  We think by yelling and name calling, we make our point come across in a more effective way.  But in reality, all it does is make us look juvenile, and in the process give Christ a bad name.  Let me deal with that first.

If we can agree on one thing, it should be that we have a mission of sharing Jesus with others.  Seriously, if we have this relationship with Jesus, and we see someone who doesn’t, why would we not want to share that with them.  Jesus is the best thing that has happened to us, and we should not want to keep that from other people.  But when we disagree with other Christians in a  belligerent and juvenile way, others see that.  When they see that we aren’t acting any better (and sometimes absolutely worse) than the rest of society, they are going to ask one question; Why would I want to follow this Jesus when His followers don’t even treat other with love and respect?

When they (Non-Christians) see that we aren’t acting any better (and sometimes absolutely worse) than the rest of society, they are going to ask one question; Why would I want to follow this Jesus when His followers don’t even treat other with love and respect?

And they have a point.  We damage our ability to share Jesus with others when we can’t even treat our fellow Christ followers with respect.  In fact, I think it is fair to say that most people that have had a bad experience with Christianity or God would say that it was really an issue of how they were treated by other people, and not God.

Social media has just made this phenomenon even worse, because it is so easy to type words and not consider how they will affect the situation.  We can attack without much fear of how it will impact us in the long run.  But others are watching us.  Politics has been one area where Christians on both sides of the aisle, so to speak, have just gone off the rails.  They can’t understand how anyone could support something opposite from what they support, and instead of agreeing to disagree, they attempt to tear the other side down through attack after attack.  I’ve seen it, like I said, from both sides.  I’ve seen it from friends and family, and complete strangers.  And it breaks my heart. 

That is one reason that I try to stay as far away from political posts on social media as I can.  I know what I believe and support, and I vote that way.  But our relationship with Jesus and trying to follow Him should take precedent over any political party or position we could hold.  Neither political party in this country completely lines up with Biblical principles.  I’ve heard it from both sides; You can’t be a Christ follower and support the _________ party. 

It’s not just politics.  I’m in groups on Facebook for members of and ministers of the Independent Christian Church/Churches of Christ.  These groups are set up for similar leaning people in their theology and doctrine.  Yet I learned very quick after joining these groups to not post or comment without being ready to be flat out attacked because someone is going to disagree with your stance on something.  And I mean attacked hard.  I’ve been told that my opinion on something was completely and just flat out wrong.  I’ve seen people just so beaten down that they end up leaving the groups.  And there has been so many discussions that have gotten so nasty with personal attacks that the admins of the groups finally had to take the original post down and actually ban people from the groups.

Friends, this should simply never be the case when we are talking about Christ followers interacting with other Christ followers. 

The only thing that I am thankful for in regards to these Facebook groups is that they are not open to where just anyone can read the junk that sometimes happens, because that would hurt any effort of sharing Jesus with others.

So what should we do?  First, we need to remember the words of Paul that we looked at yesterday.  When possible, as long as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  Does that mean we have to agree with everything someone says or does, even fellow believers?  No.  That is just never going to happen.  But we have to be able to still treat each other with love and respect.

When possible, as long as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Most of these disagreements I see between Christians that get this nasty are actually things that would fall under the category of opinion.  In other words there is really no Biblical proof, one way or the other, as to exactly what should be our stance.  But one person thinks one thing, and another disagrees.  Instead of realizing that both parties have a right to their opinion, and deciding to discuss and listen to each other, the yelling and screaming begin.

Here’s the thing.  If what we are disagreeing over as Christians can be considered opinion or that we have freedom in those things, then we have to get to the point that we just agree to disagree.  In other words, if it is not a clear salvation issue, or something that is clearly declared sin in Scripture, why are we wasting our time arguing over it.

That leads me to my final thoughts on this topic though.  What if what the disagreement is over is a potential salvation issue, or and issue of sin?  In other words, one person thinks something is completely fine and not an issue, but another person thinks that it is a sin or that you have to do something to reach salvation.  I believe that Jesus addressed this.  Jesus states in Matthew 18:15-17;

15 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

You address the issue with them.  If they don’t change, you take a couple of other mature believers with you as witnesses.  If it continues, then you bring it to the church and finally you cut off contact if they still refuse to change.  But no where in these instructions does it say to resort to anger, yelling, or name calling. 

You are to do all of this in a loving way, because you truly care about that person.

Even if it is not a sin or salvation issue, sometimes the most loving and respectful thing we could do with someone that we disagree with is just to stay away from them.  I have found that to be the most useful thing for me.  And it takes a lot of stress and potential anger off of my shoulders.  There are others that I completely disagree with one certain topics, some that I would consider a sin issue.  They know where I stand, I know where they stand.  And instead of locking horns in a never ending debate, I have chosen to walk away.  That doesn’t mean that I ignore them completely.  If I see them, I try to be cordial and say hello.  But we aren’t close friends.

Major in the majors, minor in the minors, but in all things treat one another with love and respect.  Disagree with someone to the point you don’t think you can be kind to them?  Sometimes the best thing to do is walk away.  Let’s make this world a better place by treating one another with respect.  Join me, won’t you?

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Treat One Another With Respect (Part 2)

Yesterday, I wrote about the idea that we have lost the ability to disagree with one another and yet treat one another with respect in this society.  In fact, I put it this way: “Our society has lost the ability to have a civil discussion/debate without becoming belligerent.”  You can read that whole post here.  Today, I want to continue that idea, but focus in on what Christ followers should be doing in this culture of yelling, screaming, and just down right divisive behavior.

As I’ve written in other posts recently, we cannot expect a society that doesn’t know Jesus to live by our morals, because our morals are developed by following Jesus.  I think treating each other with respect is something that we should expect from everyone though.  That is just descent human behavior that we seem to have lost the ability to demonstrate.  But Christ followers should be better than society.  Unfortunately, in my experience, we are just as bad, if not worse than others in this behavior at times.

We cannot expect a society that doesn’t know Jesus to live by our morals, because our morals are developed by following Jesus.

You know as well as I do; we will never be perfect (not this side of heaven anyway).  But we should be striving to be the best we can be, and not through our own power.  The more we follow Christ, the more we should be transformed into His image.  And when we take a step back someway, we just dust ourselves off and try to continue to move forward in our walk.  One of the best ways we do this is being connected to a community of believers.  We cannot become like Christ on our own.  The author of Hebrews puts it this way in Hebrews 10:24, 25

24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Christ followers, first and foremost, you need to be connected to a community of fellow believers.  That is the first step in treating others with respect.  But it goes much further than that.  Why should we treat others with respect?  Why should we live in peace with those around us, even when they don’t show any signs of living at peace with us?  Paul addresses this exact topic in one of my favorite chapters of one of my favorite letters of Paul.  In Romans 12 (you can read the whole chapter here), Paul pens some very frustrating, scary, yet important words for us.  In Romans 12:14-21, Paul challenges our normal human behavior, and asks us to turn from it.  He writes;

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;

    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.

In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

That’s tough.  When someone hurts us, our first thought is usually about how we can get back at them.  But Paul tells us to walk away from that.  He says to not repay evil for evil.  Even tougher, in my opinion, he says that when possible, as long as it is up to us, live at peace with everyone.  Everyone.  Not just those you agree with.  Not just those that are nice to you.  Not just those that show you respect.  EVERYONE!  Come on.  Why should we do that?  Well, if you’re a Christ follower, then your ultimate mission is to share Jesus with as many people as you can.  If you’re yelling and arguing with someone that doesn’t know Jesus, that’s going to make it very hard for the gospel to ever get through.  And it’s not just about sharing Jesus with them.  It’s because we are to be imitating Christ, and He would live at peace with everyone.

Christ followers, first and foremost, you need to be connected to a community of fellow believers. 

Does that mean He agrees and approves of everyone’s lifestyle and choices?  Absolutely not.  Doe that mean that everyone will treat Him with respect?  Nope.  But how someone treats Him (and you, if you are trying to imitate Him) should bare no impact on how you treat them.  Believe me, I know that seems so hard.  Almost like an impossible task.  And if we were trying to do it on our own, it would be an impossible task.  We have to rely on God’s power to help us accomplish living at peace.

This is not going to be easy in the world that we live in.  We are so divided in this country that it is almost unbelievable at this point.  We might fail at times in living peaceably, but we can commit to growing through the process of becoming more and more like Him. 

I have one thing that I think I can guarantee.  And I want you to be aware of it before you start this process.  I think it is important to know what you are getting into.  If you are truly a Christ follower, becoming more and more like Jesus as you get to know Him better, people are not going to make it easy for you to live at peace.  They are going to treat you poorly.  Because of Jesus, people will hate you.  But no matter how they treat you, you are to live at peace with them.  Jesus said in Mark 13:12, 13;

12 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 13 Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.

The key in all of this is simple.  One, we can only do this through the power of Christ living in us.  Two, from Paul’s thoughts on the subject, “as far as it depends on you…”.  You see, we are responsible for how we react.  How someone else treats us does not give us the right to become belligerent with them.  So if someone is treating you like a king, or beating you down on a daily basis, we are called to live at peace with them.

When possible, as long as it is up to us, live at peace with everyone.  Everyone.  Not just those you agree with.  Not just those that are nice to you.  Not just those that show you respect.  EVERYONE! 

Tomorrow, I am going to look at part three of this idea.  We’ve discussed so far the idea that whether we are Christ followers or not, we should treat everyone with respect, and if we could do that, this world would be a much better place.  Today, we looked at the idea that if we are Christ followers, no matter how someone treats us, we need to live at peace with them and treat them with respect.  Tomorrow, and I need to give my wife credit for the idea, I am going to explore what we should do when Christ followers attack other Christ followers.  Unfortunately we are seeing that more and more, so we need to discuss that to wrap up our 3-part series of treating one another with respect.  Until then…

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Treat One Another With Respect (Part 1)

I struggled to wake up this morning.  I don’t know if I just didn’t sleep well, or if my body is still not used to getting up at 6:00 AM, but I did get up…and fell back asleep around 6:30 or so.  When I finally woke up around 9:00 AM, I was sitting in my recliner trying to get my brain and my body going, and turned on a popular sports reporting channel.  A new show for this time slot was on, and I really didn’t know much about it.  But there was nothing else on, and I was just wanting some volume to help get me going, so I watched. 

If you know me at all, you know that I absolutely despise politics and political rhetoric of any kind.  What is happening in our country due to politics right now (both sides, which is part of the problem; there are sides) makes me sick.  There is yelling, screaming, lying, people becoming “offended” when someone tries to calmly express another view point or opinion, and just a general disdain for others.  Unfortunately this has become the norm in our culture, but that doesn’t make it right by any means.

While I was watching the sports show I referenced earlier, however, I came to a very sobering realization.  It is not just in politics where this behavior is not only seen, but has come to be expected and approved of.  The reporters on the show were having a discussion about different things that have happened in the sports world over the last few days, and even had guests coming in to add to the discussion on certain topics.  But every single topic “discussed” turned into a yelling match.  It was manly one reporter, but none of them on the show are innocent of this.  They even ganged up on one of the guests that was on the show because he had a different take on the topic they were discussing.  The thing was, he had first hand knowledge of the event, because he used to be a part of the organization.

What I realized, our society, as a whole, whether it be sports, religion, politics, or anything else, has lost the ability to have a civil discussion/debate with one another without becoming belligerent.  If someone doesn’t agree with what we have to say, then our only course of action is to be louder and more abrasive than they are so that we get our point across.  Even when we are trying to give our opinion on something and no one else is trying to add to the conversation, the louder we are the better we think we are getting our point across.

Our society has lost the ability to have a civil discussion/debate without becoming belligerent.

Well, guess what.  That is not the way we should be interacting with each other.  Loud and obnoxious does not always translate to correct.  It does not always mean we win the argument. 

And it just might meant that we lose our audience completely.  After one episode, and I only caught the last half of it, I know that I will never watch an episode of this particular sports reporting show on this network.  In fact, I have just about given up on the network in general, except for actual live sporting events.

Why can’t we just be civil with each other?  That doesn’t mean we have to agree with everything that everyone does.  We can value and treat others with respect even when we fundamentally disagree with someone.  Why is yelling at someone over a difference of opinion, especially in something as trivial as sports, an accepted behavior that gets someone paid millions of dollars? 

This country would be in a lot better shape than it is today if we could all learn to treat one another with respect an dignity.  Does that mean we would all get along?  Absolutely not.  But we could come to the point that we would just agree to disagree.  And this is not just for Christians.  I normally only concern myself with Christian living type articles on here.  Today, I am writing this for every single person in this country.  We have to stop yelling and screaming at each other, and learn to treat one another as a fellow human being. 

Tomorrow, I will write a follow up to this article directed at Christ followers, discussing how much more important it is for us to live in peace with others, what that looks like, and steps we can take to accomplish that in our lives.  So, look for that sometime tomorrow.  In fact, if you want to make sure you don’t miss it, you can sign up to receive e-mails every time I post something here on the site. 

For now, whether you follow Jesus or not, whether you are a Democrat or Republican, whether you love President Trump or despise him, or whatever else seems to divide us in this country, I want you to ask yourself one question.  What gives me the right to yell and scream at someone just because they look at things differently than I do?  I’m not trying to tell you that you have to agree with everyone.  I’m not even telling you that we have to live in tolerance. 

But we need to get to a point that we can at least agree to disagree with one another.  We have to respect ourselves and each other enough to treat everyone in a civil manner.  I mean, really, would you like it if someone is just constantly yelling and screaming at you because of a difference of opinion?  Treat others the way you want to be treated.  If we can all do that, then maybe, just maybe, this country and this world will be a much better place to live.

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The Sincerest Form

I love music, and as I have written about here before, I generally have music playing anytime that I am reading, writing, or generally any other work in an office setting or at home.  It’s just one of the best ways that I have found to focus in on the task at hand.  Also, as my nickname here suggests, dcTalk is my favorite group of all time.  The first concert I was able to go to was “The Jesus Freak Tour” with Audio Adrenaline opening for dcTalk.  I was only about 12-years old, but still remember plenty of details from that night. 

Recently, I came across an album that I had heard about only briefly, as some of the songs had come across my Pandora account on a few occasions.  For some reason I had never taken the time to really look into the album, although some of the songs definitely peaked my curiosity.  Well about two weeks ago I finally decided to look up the album, which is already 10 to 11 years old at this point.  That’s because it was released around the 10th Anniversary of Jesus Freak

jesus-freak

What is the album in question?  It is a tribute album from Gotee Records honoring dc Talk’s Jesus Freak.  It is a collaboration of other Gotee Record artists performing the songs from Jesus Freak in an album titled Freaked! – A Gotee Tribute to dcTalk’s Jesus Freak.  In fact, this album is what I have playing through my computer speakers as I write this today. 

freaked

 

When I found the whole album online a few weeks ago, I made a mistake.  I read the comments and reviews.  I already new I was going to buy it, the reviews didn’t matter at all to me.  As big of a fan of dcTalk as I am, a tribute album for one of their best works is a no brainer for me.  Honestly, I don’t know why I waited this long to find and buy the album in the first place.  Besides that, I still had gift card money from Christmas, so it wasn’t even going to cost me money out of my pocket.

Yet, still I went to the reviews.  I do that way too often on things online.  Maybe I just like to read some of the insane and off-the-wall comments that you find online.  I sat in my office that evening though, just shaking my head.  This is a tribute album done by a lot of different artists with a lot of different musical styles.  I would never expect the album to sound exactly like dcTalk’s Jesus Freak.  In fact, I would have been disappointed if it did.  I was excited to listen to different takes on a classic.

Did I expect to like every single song?  Not really.  And I don’t (there is one that just freaks me out for the lack of a better term).  But the comments on the reviews for this album blew my mind.  People were complaining how none of the songs sounded like the originals, and I was like “really”?  It was like they were expecting the album to exactly match the original.  Well, despite the insane reviews, I bought and downloaded Freaked!  To me, the album is a honoring dcTalk in a great way.  It’s a bunch of talented artists coming together to pay tribute, honor, and thank a pioneering group in the Christian music realm.  Without dcTalk, we wouldn’t have many of the groups we have today (and not just because Toby, Michael, and Kevin are still performing with others).  They paved the way for what we know as Christian music today.

Thinking about all of this today gave me an idea.  Hebrews 11 is knows as the “Faith Hall of Fame” in scripture.  What does that mean?  The author of Hebrews takes a chapter and writes about those from the Old Testament, and even alludes to those from the inter-testament period that lived with great faith.  He shows us what it looks like to live faithfully as Christ followers by showing us those that lived out great faith.  Then the author makes a statement that I try to model my life by as much as possible.  He writes in Hebrews 12:1-3,

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right had of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

That is where I get the first part of my nickname, Crosseyed.  But think about it.  He says we have all these people that have gone before us.  They show us what living a life of faith could look like.  Consider them.  Learn from them.  You might not look or sound or act exactly like them, but imitate them.  Honor them.  Pay tribute to them.  Thank them for going before you.  Then comes the big right hook.  Not only do we have those that have gone before us, we have Jesus Himself to imitate, honor, pay tribute and thank.  None of us will ever be exactly like Jesus.  Our personalities are different.  But we are supposed to be as much like Him as we can be. 

Paul brings out this idea in a few different places as well.  In I Corinthians 11:1 he wrote,

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

He wrote in I Thessalonians 1:6, 7,

You became imitators us us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.  And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.

Is Freaked! the perfect analogy of what I am talking about?  No.  It’s comparing music to trying to follow the example of Jesus and other Christ followers that have gone before us, but it still makes my point.  Just like the artists paying tribute to dcTalk, we won’t look or sound exactly the way someone who went before us did.  But here is the biggest difference.  We don’t just have those that have gone before us as our example.  We have Christ Himself.  He is our standard, and what we are striving to be.  Will we do that perfectly?  No one can.  But, as the old saying goes, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”.  Who do you want to imitate?

I Love the Church

About a week and a half ago, I came across an article that was discussing why you should go to church (you can read it here).  Unfortunately this seems to be an all too common type of article being written today, because there are plenty of “Christians” that claim they follow Jesus, yet do not see the importance of attending a gathering of fellow believers.  While there are plenty of articles you can read on this topic (and believe me, I’ve read plenty), I realized something over the last couple of days. 

While there is a somewhat large part of our population that claim to be Christians and don’t go to church, there is a group that could be included in that that I have not really read much about.  That’s the group that contains former ministers and their families that have left the ministry AND the church.  It seems to be becoming a more and more common occurrence…and it is absolutely breaking my heart.

I can recall numerous people that I have either known in ministry or from my time in Bible college that not only no longer serve in vocational ministry, they don’t even attend church.  If you  talk to them, I’m sure that most could give what sounds like good reasons for this as well.  But is there really a good reason to be a Christ follower and no longer attend church?

There is one situation that I am aware of that might make sense as to why someone doesn’t still attend.  There is someone I know that spent what seems to be a lifetime in ministry that has now decided that they are an atheist.  It makes sense, if you are going to claim to not be a believer any longer, that you would not attend church.  But that is not the type of situation I am writing about.  What about those that still believe, still claim to be a Christ follower, but for some reason have decided that it is not necessary or important to attend church any longer.

I get it on some level.  Working in vocational ministry is not easy, nor is one always capable of coming out of it unscathed.  I can tell you horror stories about how ministers and other lay Christians for that matter have been hurt by churches in the past.  Some of them would actually be personal stories from my own time in ministry, but I don’t want to get into the details of that.  That’s not the point.  The point is, sometimes ministers get chewed up and absolutely destroyed by churches and people that they are trying to help.

But here’s the thing for me.  The Church, with all it’s faults (and believe me, there are plenty because it is led on earth by human beings that are flawed), is still the Bride of Christ.  The Church gets things wrong, sometimes more often than it gets things right, but again that is because all of us are imperfect.  We mess things up.  But if you are so hurt by a church or the Church that it makes you walk away from God, was your faith really in God to begin with?

The Church, with all it’s faults, is still the Bride of Christ.

Jesus wants us to be part of a community of believers.  We were built to do life together, in community.  And for all its faults, the Church is still the design that God has set up for that community.  Is it perfect?  No.  Is it exactly the way things were in Acts?  No. Is it flawed?  ABSOLUTELY!  But that doesn’t mean we just abandon the Bride of Christ.  In Hebrews 10, the author of Hebrews writes about this very topic.  He writes in verses 24 and 25,

24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Do you want to give up on the Church?  I hope not, because Jesus said that nothing could prevail against it either.  Matthew 16:16-20 states,

16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah

If you’re a Christ follower, especially if you used to be in vocational ministry, please don’t give up on the Church.  We need to rally around Her and help move forward.