Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Culture Wars

Recently there has been a lot of commentary regarding on-going culture wars. Apparently there are many that believe that Christians in America are being targeted from all sides - - from the White House to the news media to our educational institutions.    It is very likely a cultural war has broken out and many can find ample evidence from boycotts against retail establishments like Chic-Fil-A, Home Depot to the recent dismissal of JavaScript inventor and Mozilla CEO Brenan Eich.

I don’t want to fuel the fire and really don’t have a well-formulated opinion on how wide-spread this cultural war may be.   I do think we have to face-up to the origins of the conflict and find that we Christians are partially at fault.    In the words of the late cartoonist, Walt Kelly.....

“We have met the enemy and he is us”

All too often in referring or relating to others that also call themselves Christian we choose the road of selfishness, bitterness, arrogance and self-righteousness over the higher road of compassion, liberty, maturity and brotherly love.  Cultural war or no cultural war, we all need to advocate an end to the civil war that encourages denominationalism, sectarianism and divisions within the Body of Christ.   Here's the bottom line...we will never agree on all our finer points of doctrine but we can quickly become advocates for change when we fully embrace the essential faith.

The essential faith is the faith of the Apostles.  It is the pillars of faith of the early church that was empowered on Pentecost with the coming of the Holy Spirit.  It is the unshakable belief that Jesus was the Christ, the awaited Messiah.  This faith brought Jew and Greek, male and female, slave and free to the realization that a relationship with God was a reality, that sins could be forgiven, that life that was truly worth living was a life centered on a relationship with a risen Christ.   This was a faith that was sufficient without all of their religious questions being answered. 

Advocating, sharing and preaching the essential faith and beliefs of the church brings two things. First it brings revival.   Secondly, it brings unity to the Body of Christ as embracing the essential faith is where we find agreement and we experience how it feels to be truly one with Christ and one with each another. 

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Jesus Prays for Us

Studies have shown that regardless of church attendance, most people pray.  Most of us however do not know that Jesus prayed for us as well.  

If Jesus prayed for us, he must have prayed something important.   Also, if he prayed for something then we have an easy way to align our prayers with Jesus when we pray in agreement for the same thing that Jesus prayed. 

Jesus prayed for us in the Garden of Gethsemane just before he went to the cross for our sins.   This is what he prayed:

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:20-23)

Jesus prays that we be one or in other words, united.  Unity is actually a big topic in the New Testament. Jesus prayed for it three times, the apostle Paul spoke about it often.  How do we achieve unity?  Many have tried to bring unity but often unity was thought to meant conformity.  Conformity is only achieved when we all look, worship, behave and believe exactly the same thing.

This approach hasn’t worked and has led to conflict and even bloodshed when it is imposed.   The Apostle Paul said that we are one body with many parts….but all one body.   In another place Paul said that there were no longer Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female but these diverse people all were part of the body of Christ so unity wasn’t about conformity but about diversity.

So how do we achieve unity?  Well, in the context of John 17 Jesus prays that we be ONE with the Apostles.   In this I believe that unity can be achieved when we embrace the essential gospel of the Apostles.   We know what that is when we read the ancient creeds.  We believe in God the Father, we believe Jesus was born of a Virgin, that he suffered and died for our sins….we believe He is coming again.   

Jesus prayed for us as he prayed for those that would believe through the message of the Apostles.   This large group that includes you and me is the great body of people that are called by various names and are Christians, believers in Jesus Christ.

The Newsboys, a Christian rock group from Queensland Australia, recently released a new album, “Restart” that features a song, “We Believe”.  This song embraces this common and essential belief that we share:

We believe in God the Father
We believe in Jesus Christ
We believe in the Holy Spirit
And He's given us new life
We believe in the crucifixion
We believe that He conquered death
We believe in the resurrection
And He's comin' back again, we believe

The even more important aspect of unity is the answer to the question ‘why’.  Jesus provides the answer when he prays, “so that the world may believe that you have sent me”.  

Jesus communicates clearly that our “oneness”, our ability to embrace each other as diverse members of the same Body of Christ enables us to help fulfill the Great Commission….to make disciples of all nations.

When we demonstrate the unity of the Church, the true brotherhood of the faith the unbelieving world witnesses that Jesus has been sent by God to be not only the messenger of the one true gospel but also as the messiah, the risen savior of the world.

The Real Virus Is Fear

There is a virus that is attacking and ravaging this country but it is not Covid-19.   It is fear.  This fear is being spread by people ...