What do you think of other church denominations other than yours? What do you think about the Baptists? The Methodists? The Presbyterians? The Vineyard Church? The Assemblies Of God? The non-denominational churches? Do you have positive thoughts about them? Do you see them as the competition? Do you see them as having incorrect doctrine? The truth is we all feel something when we see other churches, and it’s related to how you were brought up to think.
One of the biggest things that stood out to me when I first started attending the church I go to was that each week the pastor would pray before his sermon. In that prayer he would say, “Lord, I bless the Methodist church down the road meeting this morning. I pray for Pastor Johnson at the baptist church this morning. Speak through him. I pray over our Anglican brothers and sisters meeting this morning. Holy Spirit, meet with your body of believers this morning.” Each week, he would call out different pastors and churches in the area and bless them.
God uses those prayers to remind me that we are all One Body and co-laborers together. Each of us has a part to play in the Body. We are not in competition with each other, but in cooperation in the Great Co-Mission. Paul put it this way in 1 Corinthians 12:25, “The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part” (MSG). God’s desire, and design, is that we learn to work together and to become depend on each other.
We are not to be in competition with each other or against each other. Remember, if a house is divided, it can’t stand. We need to look at our commonalities and give a 100% on building relationships around those things. I’ve been on staff at a church that had 50 denominations represented in the audience with people from over 50 different nations. We worked and worshiped together as one. This is God’s design for His Body, and it starts with us individually focusing the things that unite us rather than what separates us.
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I once was invited to a dinner that all of my upbringing was telling me I shouldn’t go to. After praying about it, I felt in my heart that God was telling me to attend. I consulted with my pastor about what to do. He simply asked, “What would love do?” While at the event, I couldn’t help but notice the people there were society’s outcasts. My heart broke because they were living life in No Man’s Land, and weren’t even accepted by Christians (including myself). This ragtag bunch had found each other, but I was saddened that none of them would step foot in a church because of how they would be received.
My prayers up to attending the event were, “God, let me show your love whether I speak to anyone or not. Give me the courage to do what you’ve asked and to be a light in darkness.” At the event, my prayer changed to, “God, these people need you. Put someone in each of their lives who will demonstrate your love and tear down the walls they’ve built to keep you out.” I kept thinking of my pastor’s question. What would love do? What did Love do? He came and died for this group of people as much as He died for me. I was no more worthy of His grace than they were.
I recalled when Jesus called Matthew to follow Him. Mark 2:15 says, “Later, Levi (Matthew) invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.)” (NLT). Then the religious leaders called Him out on it. Why was He having dinner with this group of people? They were so bound up by religiosity and the fear of what others would think, that they couldn’t understand that’s what love does.
You and I have to be careful that we don’t fall into the same trap as those religious leaders. We need to be more concerned with what God thinks of us than other people. We need to be more concerned with the souls of people than our reputation of being a “good Christian”. Jesus showed us what love does. It goes where others won’t, loves people that seem unlovable and invites them into a relationship with their Creator. It’s not easy doing what love does, but we’ve got to get better at it if we’re going to bear His name.
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In light of all the recent events and tragedies, I’ve been asked numerous times for my thoughts on them. I refer them to 2 Timothy 3 and Matthew 24. It’s no surprise to God, and it shouldn’t be a surprise to us that all of this is going on. Some of the things those two chapters tell us are that in the last days, people will be greedy, they will consider nothing sacred they will be unloving and unforgiving, they will easily be offended, there will be earthquakes, sin will be rampant, and the love of many will grow cold.
Those two chapters paint a perfect picture of where we are right now. I highly encourage you to go back and read them. I prefer reading them in the New Living Translation. The point is this: we, as Christians, can be shocked and offended that all of this is going on or we can get an urgency to be about the Father’s business. We can choose to fight what God said would happen (which is what I see many doing) or we can understand what’s going on and do something about it.
In Matthew 24, right after it describes today’s world, it then tells us that the Gospel will be preached throughout the world so that all nations would hear it. That’s what I think we need to be doing instead of getting into arguments. Our mission has not changed since the Great Commission was given. It’s just become more critical and more urgent. Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “Let us be concerned for one another, to help one another to show love and to do good. Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord is coming nearer” (GNT).
Now, more than ever, the world needs to see us showing what love is. They need to see us doing good and meeting together. Let’s not be afraid and upset over where the world has gone, but rather let it be an encouraging sign to us that we are almost home. Let’s show love to those whom we disagree with by doing good to them and for them. In doing so, we open up doors to communicate the Gospel so that the whole world will hear and have the opportunity to be saved. That is what our final mission is.
Throwback Thursday is a new feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
One of the things I love about our car is when you get low on gas, not only does it notify you, the navigation screen automatically shows you where all the gas stations are. If I keep going, the alarm will continue to let me know every few miles that it’s time to fill up. So far I haven’t run out of gas in it. That’s a good thing because I know what it’s like to run out of gas and to have to do the walk of shame to the gas station.
What about you? Have you ever run out of gas? Have you ever run out of gas spiritually? Again, I’m guilt of that too. I’ve let myself run out gas spiritually and I’ve stalled. There were warnings that I over looked and things that I did that caused me to run out. One of the first things I quit doing was reading the Bible daily. It was more of a box to check off for me at the time and I saw it as a chore. When I quit reading my Bible, my faith took a hit.
Romans tells us that faith comes from hearing and hearing by the Word of God. I increase my faith by putting God’s Word in me. I wasn’t doing that, and I quickly found out that I was susceptible to attacks. It turns out that faith is also our shield that helps protect us against the fiery darts of the devil. I then began to slip in areas I had never had trouble in. I started to go places and to do things that I never dreamed I would have.
After that, I noticed that my church attendance began to slip. “I wasn’t getting anything out of it,” I would say. I wasn’t getting anything out of it because I wasn’t trying to. I wasn’t listening because I didn’t want to be convicted of the things I was doing. I didn’t want to be questioned by people at church when I did go, so I started leaving as soon as the pastor ended his sermons. I cut myself off from the community of believers.
Hebrews 10 tells us not to forsake the assembling of fellow believers. I looked up “forsake” and dictionary.com said, “to quit or leave entirely.” Because I did it, I know why the writer said we shouldn’t. I left a group of people who loved me, prayed for me and lifted me up when I needed it. Church is more than just a group of believers going to hear a message. It’s a place where we connect and find a sense of belonging.
After I left, it didn’t take long before I ran out of gas. When I couldn’t move forward in my life anymore, I decided to take that walk to the altar. The good news is that this walk isn’t a walk of shame. It’s a walk of rejoicing because God comes in, fills us with His love and restores us to a right relationship with Him. If you’re on empty today, you might have made the same mistakes I did. The good news is that He’s waiting to fill you up again and to restore your life. He did it for me and my church accepted me back with open arms. There’s no shame in walking home.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand busy work. I hate being given a task just for the sake of having something to do. I see it as a waste of time rather than a time filler. Nothing truly productive comes from it. I’d rather save my energy, brain power and time doing nothing rather than doing meaningless tasks. Whether it’s at work, home or wherever, we’ve all been given busy work since we were kids.
Sometimes doing things for God feels like busy work. I can’t see the purpose behind doing what He’s asked, so it feels like busy work. Whether it’s busy work or not, I obey because it’s God who is asking. Many times it’s simply to go somewhere, pick someone up, say something to someone, serve at an event or something like it. When I don’t get to see the impact or reason, it can feel like busy work to me.
I was discussing this with one of my pastor friends recently. Then I recalled a couple of events that really I could barely remember doing, but the people I helped acted as if I had saved their life. The “busy work” on my part had a significant meaning to the person God was directing it toward. It was a great reminder that often what we do for God may feel like busy work at times to us, but to others, it’s life changing stuff.
Paul reminds us in I Corinthians 15:58, “Keep busy always in your work for the Lord, since you know that nothing you do in the Lord’s service is ever useless” (GNT). If you’re feeling like God has given you a lot of busy work lately, take heart. Nothing you do for Him is useless. It’s not a waste of your time, talents or resources. Often you’re changing lives without even knowing it. God doesn’t give out busy work to keep us occupied. He gives us work that we’re to stay busy at because eternity is at stake.
I work in the retail industry, which means I work with the public. There are times that the customer has done something with their purchase which voids the warranty. When they come in, they want to make an exchange under the warranty. Many times, I’ve caught reps saying, “Sorry. That’s just our policy.” I’ve found that using that phrase usually infuriates people. The rep usually then tries to educate the customer on our policy so they understand why we can’t do it.
I’ve spent some time working with them to help change their approach. I tell them, “Customers don’t care about policy or what you can’t do. They need compassion and empathy along with what you can do.” I explain that knowledge is not enough when it comes to something near and dear to someone. Knowledge does nothing to correct their problem. Even if we can’t do anything for them, showing some empathy will to a lot farther.
In the days of the Early Church, there were many questions about what Christians could and could not do. Many arguments broke out that created divisions. People argued their side and tried to make each other more knowledgeable so they would change their ways. Paul responded in Corinthians 8:1, “Yes, we know that “we all have knowledge” about this issue. But while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church” (NLT). It seemed everyone had an idea or an opinion, but few had love for each other.
Even today, many of us have disagreements and try to prove each other wrong. All that does is puff us up as an individual. God’s desire is that you and I begin to act in love and empathy in order to strengthen the Church. We can’t forget that we are one body. We may not see eye to eye on everything, but we can always choose to act in love. We are co-laborers in Christ, not competitors. It’s time we stopped trying to make the foot a hand or a hand an eye. Let’s act in love towards one another, strengthen each other and learn to work together.