Keeper of His Home

by Chelsea McCafferty

Loving a Lymie

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It’s not easy loving a lymie, or anyone with chronic illness actually. It’s not that it’s hard to love the person. Many times you’ve known them and loved them long before they got sick. What’s hard is when God calls you to come alongside someone who is ill and is likely to remain ill for the rest of their life (aside from a miraculous healing…always a possibility). It’s tough and I’ll tell you why.

Whether it’s a friend, a family member or someone from your church, you probably know someone with some sort of chronic illness such as fibromyalgia, MS, lupus, Lyme Disease or even something that hasn’t been diagnosed yet. If you’re my friend, you know me! If you’re not already aware, I have chronic lyme disease and have been sick for going on six years now (though the past 18 months has been by far the worst).

It’s not an easy path when God calls you to support and love someone who is always sick for many reasons. Here are a few for you to ponder and perhaps pray about:

  1. The Long Haul

Chronic illness is, by definition, a lifelong problem. Unless God heals it miraculously, a person who is chronically ill is likely to be sick throughout their life on earth. Why does that make them hard to help? Because they ALWAYS need help. It’s not quite the same as bringing a meal to someone who has the flu or cleaning someone’s house after they just had a baby. When you’re called to serve someone with chronic lyme or another illness, there is no end in sight. We are “needy” for the long haul. It’s hard on our friends and family, and it’s so very hard on us. Believe me, we don’t want to feel like a burden. We don’t want to ask for help over and over.  We really don’t want to be so keenly aware that we will suffer like this for the rest of our lives. Still, Christ gives us assured hope that this pain and sickness, while it may last for the duration of earthly life, will be healed when we are with Him. So we press on.

  1. Chronic Illness is Boring

If you knew me before I was sick, you know that I was a very active person. I have a big personality, some would say. I love to laugh and have fun and go out. Being sick really interferes with your social life. I’m blessed that I can still make it out sometimes, but more often I’m too tired and sore to leave the house much. I don’t always make it to church (which is super hard for me). I can’t go to every birthday party or concert or ministry event. When you love a lymie, you have to realize that we just aren’t as “fun” as we used to be. We can’t do what we did before. It’s hard to be friends with someone who can’t go shopping with you or come to your kids’ birthday party. Still, you can have fun with us if you come and sit with us a while. We can laugh and catch up and have a nice visit if you don’t mind us lounging around in our PJs.

  1. You Give More Than You Get

If you’re called to walk alongside someone with chronic illness, understand that you’ll probably be giving more than you receive in some ways. We may not be able to “do” acts of service for you in the way you do them for us. We may not be able to cook you meals or help clean your home or bring you coffee as often. Again, I’m blessed that I’m still able to do those things on good days. I find it absolutely delightful to do meals for people or to run errands and help out. I love that I can still do that and I’ll keep doing it until I absolutely can’t anymore. Still, for many lymies their illness has meant they are bedridden and confined to their homes. Sometimes they are attached to IV’s, trying to recover. Ultimately loving someone who is very sick means you have to give without asking for much in return. What we can always give back is love, prayer and friendship. Sometimes that has to be enough.

  1. Another Post About Lyme?

Yes, I post a lot about lyme disease. Some people post a lot about fibromyalgia or MS. Why do we do that? There are several reasons. When it comes to lyme disease, people generally know so little about it…even in the medical community. We are always trying to raise awareness. We also share because we often feel lonely in our illness. We are aware that people don’t usually understand what we’re going through or how sick this disease makes us, and we have a strong desire for our friends and family to understand. Sometimes we post because we really need prayer or because we’re having a particularly bad day and need help but are too prideful or shy to just come out and ask for help. When you love a lymie, you may have to deal with reading posts or hearing us talk about our illness. It may seem boring to you or redundant, but it’s what is happening in our lives. If you ask how we are, our first response will usually be about being sick because it affects every area of our lives. Please be patient with us. Loving an ill person means you should take an interest in learning about our illness, reading our sometimes subtle pleas for help and offering us lots of grace.

  1. Love Bears All Things

Love bears all things and endures all things and believes all things. Love never fails. Loving the chronically ill is not an easy road. I can tell you that having chronic lyme has affected many of my friendships. I have often felt alone, misunderstood and that others don’t believe how sick I am because we don’t always look sick on the outside. Lyme Disease beats a person up physically, emotionally, financially and sometimes spiritually. We have a hard time finding a doctor to help. Treatment makes us sick and often leads to bankruptcy.  It’s so very hard, my friends.  I’ve been blessed to have one friend from church who checks in on me consistently and offers to bring meals and groceries (thanks Anna!!!) and also several good friends locally who have surprised us with meals, offered to help around the house and even brought me coffee ! I’ve also had some amazing people in my life help with the cost if treatment.  I appreciate you all more than words can say. Loving someone with lyme is not easy, but true love bears all things.

Loving someone with chronic illness is a burden, but it can also be a blessing. I believe truly that we, The Church, are called to love and serve one another in a real, daily life kind of way. I believed it before I was sick and I believe it now. Jesus sacrificed everything for us on the cross, but before that He also took on the position of the most humble servant in the house and washed feet. He ministered to crowds to the point of exhaustion. He wept over the death of Lazarus with great compassion, even though He knew He would raise him from the dead. Jesus served people fervently. He gave all of Himself and that’s what we are supposed to be doing. I will keep doing it until I have no more strength left. Now I need to work on being willing to receive from others that love and support in my illness, putting pride aside.

So there it is friends. It’s difficult to love someone who is always sick, who can’t give much back in return, who isn’t quite as fun anymore and who goes on and on about the new research coming out about their illness. I get it. I see that it’s hard, but if God calls you to love that person, then He will give you the strength, the wisdom and the courage to really love and serve them. Honestly, I think it’s something we are called to do. The Church needs to do this. This is how The Church is supposed to function. Yes, it means sacrifice. Yes, it’s often inconvenient. Yes, it’s also a blessing.

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Why Women Pastorship is Anti-Biblical

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I was talking with a friend and sister in the Lord last night about the concept of women pastors and this morning it was on my heart to go ahead and share why having women in a pastoring role is not in alignment with God’s Word. Now I know there are all kinds of movements and justifications out there for allowing women to teach, lead or pastor a church, and I could go through each one of them one by one and explain what makes them invalid points, but I don’t need to do that. I don’t need to know those arguments, nor do I need to dispute them and that’s because I know and believe what the Bible says on the matter.

Reading the Word in its most basic form shows us God’s plan for church leadership/teaching, and anything added to it is merely man’s logic, ideas, thinking, etc. God’s ways are above ours. Pleasing Him should be our primary focus. So, I look at what the Bible says and I get the answer to the question of whether or not women should pastor or teach a church. I don’t need anything more than that and I trust that God’s plan is perfect.

“Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach…” 1 Timothy 3:2

Why should a woman not pastor a church? Because the Bible makes it clear on several accounts that an “overseer” (the word means pastor, elder, leader) is to be a man. A husband of one wife. In every passage that talks about the role and qualifications of a pastor, the person is referred to in the masculine format. He is a male. God clearly desires men to be leading the church under His (Jesus’) headship.

This makes perfect sense, after all, because we see a pattern in scripture. God refers to Christ as head of the church, He being the groom and we are the bride. He always refers to Himself as masculine. Then we see God making the husband as leader of the household. Male leadership. So it makes perfect sense that God’s will is for men to lead the church. We will talk more about why in a moment, but for now we can trust the Lord and submit to His Word that women are not to pastor. Still, we go on…

“11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.” 1 Timothy 2:11-13

The Bible says here that women are to learn in silence. People have asked me, “What does that mean? Are women not allowed to speak in church? What about prayer? What about worship?” The scripture here isn’t talking about worship or prayer. It is talking about learning and teaching. Women are to learn in silence. We have seen elsewhere in scripture where women were worship leaders. We don’t see scripture against women praying aloud during times of prayer. We don’t see scripture stopping them from using spiritual gifts. We simply see that when it comes to the teaching aspect of church, they are to learn in silence.

In verse 12 there in 1 Timothy 2, we see that there are three separate things women are told not to do in this church setting:

  1. Teach a man
  2. Exercise authority over a man
  3. Remain quiet

We therefore see that it is not Biblical for women to teach Biblical principles to men or to be in authority over them, as a pastor role would allow. Again, there are many theories and ideas out there to justify women teaching under the authority of male leadership, but ultimately this scripture doesn’t just talk about authority. It also talks about teaching. So I cannot agree with those theories that seem to add their own opinions to God’s Word.

You may  be wondering why God commanded this? Why can’t women teach men if they are good teachers and feel called? Wasn’t it just about the culture at the time the Bible was written? No. It wasn’t. First of all, God doesn’t change. If you believe the scripture is God’s very Word, then there is no reason to believe He had a different plan for the structure of the NT church than He does for today. He’s never wrong, ergo He never needs to evolve or change. His ways are perfect always. Also, we don’t need to ask why because He already told us.

Why????

13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.” 1 Timothy 2:13-14

God answers the question. It wasn’t about the culture. It wasn’t about whether or not women were “good” teachers. It was because Adam was formed first and then Eve, showing a progression of leadership and authority. It can be related to how Jesus is referred to as the first-fruit. It shows His pre-eminence and His position as first in rank or leadership. So Adam was created first and given his jobs and callings and instructions. Then God created Eve and made her to be a perfect helper for her husband. She was to help him in the calling God had put on his (and thus their) lives.

He also says there in verse 14 that Adam was not deceived but Eve was. That’s the truth that I think makes everything perfectly clear and gives me such a sense of harmony with God’s Word on this topic. Eve was deceived because she was a woman led by emotions. Let’s face it, we ladies tend to be more led by emotions than logic. God says we are easier to be led astray or deceived than our men. He created them to be less emotional and more logical.

So logical-thinking men are placed in the positions of authority and teaching in the church. Are we ladies left out? Certainly not. You see our emotional and nurturing side makes us perfectly suited for other roles we are to carry. We support our husbands. We nurture our children. We teach other sisters in the Lord (Titus 2). We feed people. We clothe them. We make them feel welcome. We have SO much to offer ladies and God wants to use our emotional and nurturing side so powerfully. He made us this way for a reason! It’s beautiful!

I believe God’s Word. It’s pretty clear on this issue of ladies teaching, and yet I know there are wonderful believers who disagree. This blog isn’t meant to offend or to come against them. However, in a world where men’s theories and ideas are being taught as if it were scripture, it’s important that there are still voices out there proclaiming what God’s Word really says. To my sisters in the Lord who have claimed the role of pastor, pray hard and be open to God turning your heart. He has a perfect plan for His church, and scripture says it isn’t with a woman at the helm. God has great plans for all of His daughters and He wants to use them, but His way. Not ours.

I encourage you ladies to share this and also to look it up for yourselves. Just remember, this isn’t my opinion. This is a very simple look at what scripture says. It’s black and white. Be careful that you do not allow the theories and justifications and concepts of men and women to be more important or valid than God’s Word on the matter. God bless!

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Admonish One Another

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“Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” Proverbs 27:5-6

There is a lot of confusion these days about the function and design and purpose of the church. Let me clarify that when I use the word “church”, I am not referring to a building. We are the church. You and me. The church is the brethren of believers that are scattered here and there, meeting in fellowships nearby and around the world. So when I talk about the church here, I’m talking about God’s people. The Church of the Way, as it was called in early church history.

The Church has many functions, as described by the New Testament books. Yet, it seems we have all but abandoned certain aspects of, what the Word of God said, were important roles and responsibilities towards each other. You see, we are called to love one another, to build relationships, and to allow the Lord to knit us together into a beautiful woven, open and welcoming community. We are called into closeness and family…not Sunday morning smiles and empty greetings. We are called to something deeper and more real. Real church.

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,  bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.  And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:12-17, ESV

We are God’s chosen ones, and therefore we are called into a certain type of relationship with each other. Let’s make a list of some of the aspects of this calling as stated here in this chapter of Colossians:

  1. Compassion
  2. Kindness
  3. Humility
  4. Meekness
  5. Patience
  6. Bearing One Another’s Burdens
  7. Forgiving
  8. Loving
  9. Peaceful
  10. Thankful
  11. Teaching
  12. Admonishing
  13. Praising God Together

This is a great list, and we could do a study about each of these aspects, but today I want to focus on the one word on this list that people seem to really shy away from in the church: admonishment. Throughout the New Testament we see admonishment and yet in the modern church we rarely see it. I believe there are a few reasons for that: 1. People don’t often build the type of relationships in which it’s appropriate; 2. Many churches don’t make this Biblical practice a part of their culture and therefore people just don’t understand the importance and benefits; 3. Many churches are all about getting people in the door and less about the spiritual growth of the congregation; 4. People are not used to being confronted about their sin; and 5. People are unwilling to move past their comfort zone into all that God has for them.

Admonishment is not a bad word when you understand the meaning, purpose and benefits. The word “admonish” doesn’t mean to discipline someone. The actual translation is more like “a warning”. In other words, when you admonish someone you are warning them about sin they may not see and/or the possible consequences of that sin. It is not a harsh spiritual lashing, but a loving warning from a friend…an encouragement to turn away from a sin that is detrimental and in order to grow spiritually.

The benefits of admonishment are beautiful. When my husband and I first got married and lived in Scotland, we were part of a church that truly believed in discipleship and New Testament relationship. My pastor’s wife, a wonderful sister who encouraged me in so many ways, admonished me at times in my walk and in my marriage. While no one’s pride enjoys their sin being brought to life, I was open to her warnings and they ultimately brought me into a deeper relationship with God, a much better marriage and a more full church life experience. We are called to admonish one another for the sake of edification.  The scripture is full of examples and instruction in this way.

“I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.  Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears.” Acts 20:29-31

“I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children.” 1 Corinthians 4:14

“We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you…” 1 Thess. 5:12

“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” Galatians 6:1

“Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.” 2 Thess.3:15

“Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.” Proverbs 19:20

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17

“Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” 2 Timothy 4:2

 

In order to build a community and a culture in which admonishment is  a normal part of life, we need to build close relationships. I know that as a believer I want my closest friendships in the body to be with others who want all of what God has for us. Therefore I want to build up relationships where speaking the truth in the love (even admonishment) is welcome and expected. We have to build relationships for this to happen. Admonishing someone you barely know is not always wise or expedient. We don’t run around warning everyone of their sin. This is an aspect of the church family that is found in close knit relationships, where iron sharpens iron (usually making a spark) and where the entire relationship is covered in love, prayer and truth.

Pray about it brethren. Pray about building relationships within the church family that are strong enough to be real with one another. Walking in love and unity, take on the call to admonish, confess, edify and help one another grow up into spiritual maturity. It’s what God wants. We know that from the scripture. We need this blessed benefit of the church family in our lives. We certainly do.

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Excerpt from My New Book – “Be Church. The Church. Real Church”

The following is an excerpt from my new book, “Be Church. The Church. Real Church.” The book should be released and available by July 1st.:

            “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Galatians 6:10

 

            “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” 1 Corinthians 1:10

 

            “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” James 5:16

 

            “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Galatians 5:13

 

            “As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.” Romans 14:1-5

 

            “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus…” Philippians 2:1-5

I read these passages about the New Testament church and I can’t help but feel that we have really tried to box church up into this nice, aesthetically-pleasing package. We have focused on creating order and being organized. We have established traditions that we now stick to as if it were written on the same tablets as the Ten Commandments. We keep Sunday morning running smoothly, eliminate distractions, ask the Holy Spirit to move in our timing and according to our schedule, and we avoid any breaking of what is our regularly scheduled program. Yet, I’m not seeing any of that with the New Testament church from scripture. I’m not seeing an outline of the service in the church bulletin. I’m not seeing a well-oiled engine that makes sure people are in their seats at 10am and out the door at 11:45am on the dot. I’m not seeing shallow conversation or niceties or the need to stick to this version of church that we have created.

Now, please don’t get me wrong. I love church. I love going to church and I am not poking fun at churches that run this way. I understand that these traditions have been deeply engraved in our development of church history. I am not writing these words in anger or frustration with the church. Not in the least. I believe that the church is filled with God-loving people who are doing their best (for the most part) to honor Him. I know there are dodgy churches out there teaching false words and so forth…I’m not talking about them. I’m specifically addressing the Bible-believing, Jesus-loving Christian church. We come in all shapes and sizes, colors and flavors, but we are all united in the blood of our Savior. Despite our denomination or church affiliation, most of our church fellowships fall into this habit of putting church (and ultimately God) in a box. That is what I’m addressing in total love and honor of my fellow believers.

While I love the church and see many wonderful aspects of the church (Bible study, worship, fellowship, etc.) shining forth from it’s congregations, I also see some real problems with the church in general. Now this may or may not apply to your church body. This is not a new concept. I’m not the first to feel this conviction, nor the last. Others have written about it. Some have put it into practice in their churches. It’s not new, but it is my personal take on what’s happening in the church today and how we may start to really be church….the real church.

The first thing we have to do is to recognize and acknowledge that the church is made up of Christians. Christians are people. People suffer. There is pain. There is sickness. There is trouble and persecution. Jesus never promised Christians an easy time on earth. In fact, we were warned that we’d face spiritual and physically warfare and pain. Life is messy. If church is going to be real, we need to allow people to be real in the church. If church is going to be sincere, we need to allow people to share their lives. Church is not a beauty pageant, where smiles are glued in place to make sure they don’t drop. Church isn’t a show. It isn’t a pristinely- put together show. It shouldn’t be. It should be a real life experience of people being themselves, bringing their pain, being ministered to, sharing testimonies of God’s power and glory, being exhorted in the Word, feeling free to confess, being prayed over and being fed. Real church doesn’t have to look the same every week. It doesn’t have to fit in the box man has created.

I love the church, but something’s missing. Something’s wrong. We know it is because we are losing people. We are losing battles. We are sending some away just as broken and lonely as when they arrived. We are failing to meet needs. We are failing to offer real discipleship. We are not bearing one another’s burdens as we ought to. We don’t even know what their burdens are because we don’t take time to get to know them! For all of the beauty of a well-organized Saturday or Sunday morning service, we are missing out on some of the most important aspects of being a church family in the first part.

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Attack from Within – Every Christian Should Read This

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It’s war. It’s bloody. It’s terrifying and traumatizing. Medics on the frontlines are seeing horrendous things. One senior medical officer and his team arrive at a bombing site. As they exit the vehicle, they look out on a sea of wounded, dying, and already dead soldiers. There is blood everywhere. People are torn apart. They are in pain and suffering. They are confused and terrified. The man and his team immediately charge forward, stopping at one soldier after another to treat wounds, check for pulses, and sometimes just to offer a bit of relief and comfort.

Sweat pours down the medic’s face as he works diligently, saving lives wherever he can. Suddenly, from the corner of his eye he sees several of his team members engaged in some sort of conflict. He hears the shouting. He runs to their aide only to find that they aren’t fighting with the enemy at all, but with each other.

“What’s going on here?” he shouts.

“Sir, this soldier needs to be disciplined,” says one officer.

“Why?” the senior medic asks. “Has he given someone the wrong treatment? Perhaps given the wrong medication?”

“No sir,” he replies, red-faced and full of indignation.

“Has he committed treason? Is he working with the enemy?” asks the senior medic.

“No sir,” he answers.

“Well, what has he done?”

“He is wearing the wrong uniform, sir. Sir, he should be wearing the standard medic’s uniform and he has come out in the wrong gear. His uniform is also wrinkled and unkempt. I have been checking his reports as he treats these patients, and his handwriting is a mess. He sometimes uses abbreviations instead of full words. He is sloppy. He is also getting way too friendly with the patients, sir. He has been getting to know them and spends his time off reading to them. This is not our standard protocol. Even here on the frontline, he insists on talking to the wounded. He asks their name and shares his first name. His FIRST name sir! He calls them ‘friend’ and ‘buddy’ instead of formal language. He doesn’t seem to care that he gets their blood all over himself. He doesn’t seem to care about keeping himself clean on the field. Plus, he has a tendency to break formation if he sees a wounded man outside of his zone. He will do whatever it takes to get to that man, despite our normal way of doing things. Doesn’t he know our traditions? Doesn’t he care about how he looks? This soldier is a disgrace and I demand he is court-martialed immediately.”

The senior medic raised his eyes from the ground and looked squarely in the face of the complaining officer. Tears began to stream down his face. His expression showed the pain he was feeling inside. He was even trembling as he spoke.

“Officer, do you know how many men have just died in these moments that you have taken to tear apart your brother-in-arms? Do you realize how many men are suffering because you are so busy looking for the fault in our fellow officer instead of treating the wounded and saving lives? You selfish, selfish man. Look around you! Look at them! They are dying! They don’t care that this man’s clothes are dirty. At least he is willing to get down in the trenches with them and wear their blood if need be. These men don’t care if he strays from old traditions and protocols. At least he is willing to fight for them and never gives up on them because they are outside of his zone. These men don’t need a cold expression and rigid formal language. They need this man, who shows them compassion and is a friend to them as they lay here dying and in despair.

“You know what your problem is?” said the senior medic. “In all of your training and in all of your thinking, you forgot the most important part of our job. We are to save lives. That’s it. We are to bring hope where there is none. We are to bring relief where there is pain. All of your complaints and rebukes against this man have done nothing for the dying, done nothing to help us win this war, and they do nothing to make you a better soldier. While you pick apart your brother, men are dying and the enemy is winning minor victories. What a shame.”

This fictional story is a picture of what is happening in the church today. You see, my brothers and sisters, we are in a war. We are in the Lord’s army, fighting the enemy and trying to save the dying. That is the commission our Commander has given us. We are called to minister to those who are suffering and bring light into dark lives. We are to share a life-giving gospel with those who are spiritually dead and dying. That’s our job and our purpose as believers, and yet so many Christians would rather spend their time picking apart their brothers and sisters in the Lord, flinging insults, accusations, and defamation on fellow believers because of minor differences in theology or conviction.

There are a few words that spring to mind when I meditate on this problem within the church—legalism, judgment, self-righteousness. There are few of us who haven’t struggled with these issues at one time or another. The problem is, we are watching the church tear itself apart because of them. We are seeing bickering, church splits, “witch” hunts and public slander of fellow believers. What is going on? Why are we losing sight of the mission? I bet the enemy loves it!

Here are a couple of points I feel compelled to share:

  1. Giving the wrong medication.

The complaining officer was asked if the medic was giving the wrong medication. Listen, family, the lost people of this world are dying. They are dying in their sin and without the right medicine (the gospel of Jesus Christ), they will die and find themselves in eternal hell. They need medicine! The wrong medicine is anything that is not the gospel of Jesus. If someone is sharing a gospel that is different than that of the Bible, he or she is doing wickedness and should be exposed. However, if they are giving the right medicine, but maybe using a different method of delivery, why are you interfering with them doing their job?

“John said to him, ‘Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.’ But Jesus said, ‘Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. For the one who is not against us is for us. For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.’” Mark 9:38-41

This passage speaks such truth into this problem. We see someone serving God in a slightly different way than we do and we jump to attack. Stop him! He’s doing things differently! Yet Jesus says, if this man is not against Him, then he is for Him. He finishes by teaching that we are rewarded for blessing our brothers and sisters in Christ, regardless if we have all things in common. We are to love them, not despise them or rail against them. Not to tear down their ministries or seek out ways to discredit them. If they are teaching the gospel of Jesus, let them do it.

  1. Legalism is bad medicine.

Sometimes the bad medicine that spiritually prideful Christians are trying to give their “troubled” brothers and sisters in the world (i.e. those who may have more freedom in Christ) is actually legalism. Look at what God says:

“For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough. Indeed, I consider that I am not in the least inferior to these super-apostles. Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not so in knowledge; indeed, in every way we have made this plain to you in all things….” 2 Cor. 11:4-6

“And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission, they work on the same terms as we do. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.” 2 Cor. 11:12-13

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. For am I now seeking the approval of man or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel.” Galatians 1:6-11

This perverted gospel that Paul writes about is that we somehow are still bound to legalism though we are saved by grace. You see, Christian Jews were trying to force gentiles into obeying their law and traditions. Paul said this was not necessary. To say that we need anything in addition to the blood of Jesus to be saved is a perverted gospel indeed. It indicates that what Christ did was not enough.

If you have convictions about certain works in your life, you should follow them. Follow what you feel the Lord is calling you to do and do it as unto the Lord. However, if your convictions are not black and white in the Bible, you have no right to enforce your convictions on others or to judge their spiritual condition based on them. Whether it be celebrating man-made holidays (Halloween, Christmas, etc.) or whether or not to watch R-rated movies, or whether or not we should wear flip-flops to church, you are wrong to spend your time attacking your brothers and sisters when there is a world full of dying people out there who need the good medicine of Jesus Christ to come alive.

  1. The weaker brother is the one who is bound up.

“For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written,

‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.’ So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual up-building. Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” Romans 14

You are not your brother’s warden. You are not called to walk around disciplining your brothers and sisters all the time based on your convictions. Who are you to judge God’s servants because they celebrate Christmas, but you think it’s wrong? Is there a scripture that says it’s wrong? No. Yet you cause division and lash out because you disagree and because you think that somehow your job is to set everyone else right. It is not your job to discipline other Christians. Now, if there is an area of sin, you should go to a brother or sister you have a relationship with and, in love, encourage and rebuke if necessary. However, destroying people’s image and ministry because their opinions don’t line up with yours is really, really wrong…sin even.

  1. Causing unnecessary division is far worse a sin.

“The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.” Titus 3:8-11

Enough said?

  1. Back on mission please.

Alright, soldiers, time to get back on mission. It’s time to stop tearing each other up for stupid, insignificant reasons and get back to ministering to the hurting, bringing the Word of life to the spiritually dead, and walking in love and unity as God desires. If you are reading this and you know I’m talking to you, don’t start writing your rebuttal just yet. Why not pray about this? Your heart may be hardened by years of experience and bad examples that have conditioned you to be a constant critic of the body of Christ. Listen, that man who has a different teaching style, or a different view of end times, or doesn’t feel convicted about watching R rated movies, he is your brother in Christ. Maybe he’s wrong in some ways? Maybe you are? Yet he will spend his hours giving good medicine of the gospel to the dying while you spend yours on foolish controversies and debates. Who is doing God’s will? Who is on mission? Who is pleasing the Father?

I’ve had enough of it. I recently said that I don’t have time for spiritually prideful people and it’s true. I hope you don’t have time for it either. This kind of Christianity is like the red-faced soldier who would rather spend his time defaming his brother than helping people. I don’t have time for this. I won’t listen to it, entertain it, or be a part of it anymore. I want to be on mission. Join me!

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Sweet, Sweet Fellowship – You Need it Too

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(Pic is from my own church ladies Christmas fellowship from a few years back….lovely ladies!)

If you are the stay-at-home, mind-your-own-business, not-really-social, don’t-need-anyone, prefer-to-be-alone, just-me-and-my-family type of person, this is going to be an area of challenge for you. You see, living out the Christian life alone isn’t really what God had in mind for His people. We can see that clearly when we look at the New Testament church, following the resurrection and ascension of Christ. Scripture says:

“And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” Acts 2:42

The word “steadfastly” is translated from the Greek word “proskartereō“. This word is translated: “devoted to, adherent to, constant, steadfast, continuing at all times in a place, persevering and not to faint.” By understanding the breadth of the word, we see a little more clearly how important it was for these early Christians to be together. They were committed to it. They were devoted. They continued at all times. What were they doing at all times?

We see that they were teaching doctrine. How wonderful it is to study the Word of God. We should never neglect to do so, however, that’s not all they were doing. They were steadfast in fellowship. That word fellowship is the beautiful word “koinōnia” which means, “fellowship, association, community, communion, joint participation, intercourse,the share which one has in anything, participation.”

** Notice that fellowship is listed separately from teaching of doctrine. So many churches today do one but neglect the other. They may teach doctrine steadfastly, but they are lacking in real fellowship, and because of that the body suffers. Scripture tells us the NT church broke bread together often. They shared meals. They went from home to home. They were intimately connected with one another. They were also in prayer. Of course, it’s much easier to pray for people when you are sharing in fellowship, because you know what their needs are and your closeness gives you even more of a healthy burden to pray for one another.

God never meant for us to walk this journey alone. He loves it when His children are in fellowship. He loves knitting our hearts together. Today I made a new friend whom I’ll be meeting with weekly for mutual encouragement in the Lord. I may have only met her today, but I can say that I love this sister, and that I know the Lord is knitting our hearts together and drawing us into fellowship. We need to make these connects, be in discipleship and mentor others in the Lord. We need to build community and relationships within the church.

Look, the enemy is constantly attacking us and trying to get us to stumble. The world is dark and the days are evil. We see are walking a narrow and unpopular road. We need each other, dear church.  Let us not neglect the fellowship of the saints. Let the stronger brother help the weaker. Let the wealthy brother give of his abundance to help the poor. Let us sacrifice of our own time to be with others in encouragement. Those are the things that matter in the end.

Fellowship. Sweet, sweet fellowship. You need it too…even if you don’t realize it.

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Who’s Kingdom Are We Building Anyway? God’s or Ours?

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.com
photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc

The gospel message is for you. It’s for me and my family. It’s for the members of our church, and God wants it to be lovingly spoken into every ear around the world. Jesus told the apostles to go back disciples. it is the great commission, and the pattern we see as we study the New Testament church. Go! Share the gospel! Make disciples! That is building the kingdom of God. Yet….

Sometimes here in America, the church loses sight of that calling. You see, they forget that the apostles walked away from their lives, left their nets in the boat, said farewell to their families and followed Jesus. When Jesus had ascended into heaven after the resurrection, they waited for the Holy Spirit to fall on them and empower them. After that, there was no stopping them. They preached the gospel and made disciples until most were martyred. They were building the kingdom of God.

You see the problem with the American church is that so often, even under the best intentions, we are not focused on building the kingdom of God, but rather building “our” kingdom “in” God. What does that mean? It means we are Christians who love the Lord and study His Word. We apply His Word to our lives and live more lifestyles through the power of the Holy Spirit. We build happy homes based on God’s Word. We raise God-fearing children and train them up to love and serve Jesus. We build strong churches, teaching the Word with diligence and fellowshipping one with another in one accord.

That sounds great, doesn’t it? So, what’s the problem?

There’s nothing wrong with what this church is doing. What’s wrong is what they aren’t doing. When a church grows to maturity, we should be seeing a reflection of what the New Testament church modeled for us. We should see people being saved, discipled, trained up to maturity and then we should see people being sent out to missions or church planting or to serve on a team in that capacity. That’s the goal. A healthy church is raising up preachers and sending them out. If we aren’t doing that, something is wrong.

Not everyone in the body of Christ has the same calling. Not all are called to be teachers, elders, ministry leaders, etc. We are, however, all called to be sharing the gospel and making disciples. We are ALL called to be unattached to this world, so that when the Spirit moves us to go, we are not too tied down in our own “kingdom” to follow. A spiritually healthy church is sending out teams of servants to plant churches, whether locally or on foreign ground. A church that isn’t doing this, is not fulfilling the great commission and missing out on the blessings that come from building the kingdom of God.

We build our own kingdoms in God. We establish our own footings. We have our jobs, our homes, our commitments, our community, our safety zone and our church. We have no intention of uprooting any of it. We just build up our own families and our own church. We just focus inwardly. We just are constantly focused on making ourselves better Christians. We are just missing the mark. We are missing the point.

Oh Lord, I pray that we be ready to move when you send us! Whether it be to help plant a church in another town, or another country, let us never be too comfortable and too settled in that we are too busy building our own kingdom and not obedient to Your call to go and make disciples for Your kingdom. Help us to see where we are missing the mark.

I encourage each of us to examine our hearts. Have we been building our own kingdom in God and not building God’s kingdom by raising up and sending out, or going ourselves? You know, not everyone who goes it is going to be a pastor/teacher. A church plant has many needs: administrator, youth leaders, elders, worship leaders, teachers, etc. You may not be called to be a pastor, but maybe you’re called to come alongside a teacher to help with a church plant? Are you willing to ask God if He wants to send you? Or are you too tied down? Pray for God to show you, and He will. He will lead us out.

“For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?fn And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!””Romans 10:13-15

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What Does it Mean to be in One Accord?

“And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.” Acts 2:1

The day the “church” was born, one of the greatest days in church history, it says that the disciples of Jesus were together in one accord in one place. This is important, because God is going to perform great miracles and show His mighty power on this day, but it seems important that the disciples were in one accord and together to set the scene. Throughout scripture we see the Lord calling us to be in “one accord” with one another in the church. We accept this, but I think so often we do so with our own idea of what “one accord” actually means. What does it mean to be in “one accord”? Does it mean we agree on every single issue? Does it mean we are mindless robots without having any understanding of our own? Does it mean we have to agree on each and every theological issue in order to be in fellowship? Instead of forming our own opinion on what God means here, we need to search the Word for the answer.

In Acts 2:1 when it says “one accord”, the Greek word is “homothymadon” which means “with one mind, with one accord, with one passion.” Blue Letter Bible gives a beautiful description of the use of this word here: “A unique Greek word, used 10 of its 12 New Testament occurrences in the Book of Acts, helps us understand the uniqueness of the Christian community. Homothumadon is a compound of two words meaning to “rush along” and “in unison”. The image is almost musical; a number of notes are sounded which, while different, harmonize in pitch and tone. As the instruments of a great concert under the direction of a concert master, so the Holy Spirit blends together the lives of members of Christ’s church.”

As a musician myself, I love the way this is described. I direct a choir, and I’m always telling my choir that each one of their voices is unique and different. The sing different parts. Not all of their notes, rhythms, tones or words are the same all of the time, but when brought together they make a beautiful song. In the same way, God knits His church together with a variety of colors, flavors, strengths (and weaknesses), visions, gifts, preferences and callings and He brings them all together with One Mind, One Accord, One Passion to make Him a glorious song.

So this word for “one accord” is used several times in Acts. Let’s see what these men of God are doing in one accord:

Prayer and Supplication – “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.” Acts 1:14 

Fellowship and Community – “And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,” Acts 2:46

Praised God – “And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is…” Acts 4:24

Experienced Miracles – “And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; (and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s porch.” Acts 5:12

Raised Up and Sent Out Missionaries – “It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,” Acts 15:25

And in Romans…

Glorify God – “That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 15:6

These disciples of God were most definitely in one accord and had one passion: Jesus Christ. They were rushing along toward one goal: Jesus. Praise Him. Serve Him. Love Him. Love His people. Bring others to Him. Glorify Him. It was all about Jesus. We lose sight of that so often in the church today! We think we have to agree on every single issue to be in “one accord”. I say that we don’t see that example in scripture. We don’t see division over minor issues. What we see is humble men and women coming together in one place and uniting with one passion, one goal and one mind to serve Jesus. That’s what being in one accord means. It means setting aside your differences and following Jesus together.

Another word for being in “one accord” in the NT is found in Philippians 2:2, “Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.” The word for “one accord” is “sympsychos” and this is what Blue Letter Bible has to say about the etymology of the word: “This word is made up of two words syn (together with) and psychos (soul, self, inner life, or the seat of the feelings, desires, affections). So the word refers to being ‘united in spirit’ or harmonious (BDAG). Paul desired the Philippians to be united in their affections—one in Christ in all desires! Phl 2:2 is the only occurrence of this word in the NT. (Wayne Steury)”

It’s such a beautiful picture, and in it we see the heart of the Father. He desires His people to be in one accord in their desire to follow Him, serve Him, know Him and love Him. Do we have to agree on every issue to do this? We don’t see that in scripture. Being in one accord doesn’t mean we will always agree on every issue that comes our way. There’s just no way for that to happen. We won’t always agree. Awesome, God-fearing Bible scholars have studied the Word their whole lives and come to different conclusions on issues like the balance between predestination and free-will, use or cessation of spiritual gifts, worship preferences and expressiveness, eschatology and so forth. We study the Word to show ourselves approved, being Bereans, and we stand on the truth of God’s Word, but that doesn’t mean we cannot and should not be in one accord with other Christ-followers who know and love the Jesus Christ of the Bible. We do not embrace false teaching/doctrine by embracing men and women who may be getting it wrong in some areas. As Jesus did, we love people. We spend time with them and we encourage them in the Word. We see them as God does…His children, His people, the Bride of Christ and our fellow heirs.

* I’ll say something that is a bit controversial here: some churches seem to think being in one accord or in one mind only applies to the people in their church body. They think it means we are to be in one accord on every single theological issue that pops up or we can’t be in one accord. I say with confidence that this is not at all what God is showing us here in scripture, but rather a skewed understanding based on man’s logic. Actually, it takes great maturity, grace and love to be able to put the “unimportant” or “secondary” issues aside and be in one accord with our brothers and sisters who serve the Jesus Christ of the Bible.

Last point and clarification – when I say “Jesus Christ of the Bible”, what I mean is that for a person to be a brother or sister in the Lord, he or she must confess the Jesus we know from the Word. They must believe He is God, part of the triunity of the Godhead, born of a virgin, the Messiah of prophecy and the Messiah of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the author of salvation and the author of the inspired Word of God (Bible), who was sinless but died on the cross for our sins and rose again, standing at the right hand of the Father. These are foundational truths that we must agree on to be in one accord. Can we be in one accord with people who follow another, false god or who follow their own version of Jesus? No. We have to be in one accord in the Spirit, which means we have to have the Spirit of God inside us and that happens when we call upon the Jesus of the Bible.

God desires His people to be in one accord. He wants us to be able to join together to worship and serve Him in one accord. We need to stop looking at believers from other churches, or those who differ on minor issues, as outsiders or enemies. This harms the church as a whole and hurts the heart of our Father.

God bless!

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Division – A Disease in the Church

There is a disease that makes its way through churches around the world, bringing pain, suffering, heartbreak and ugliness. It turns church families into splintered fragments and transforms friends into enemies. It causes people within the church to leave, and curious unbelievers to flee the other direction. It is not profitable, nor is it pleasing to the Lord God of the Bible. Strangely enough, it is often welcomed into the church as a sort of antidote, but the truth is this disease is a cunning tool of the enemy to attack God’s people. This disease is called Division.

 

Before you start writing your rebuttal comments, pray listen to all of what I’m sharing. I know that there are times when division is necessary, Biblical and just. I am not one to say we should overlook primary doctrinal falsehoods or ignore issues of ongoing sin within the church. Not at all. There is a time for division. The problem is, unnecessary division is running rampant in the church and it is causing God’s people to be unable to even recognize the kind of unity Jesus Christ wanted for us. We are missing out on that brethren! We are forfeiting one of His greatest gifts to His church and we are grieving the heart of the Father by attacking one another needlessly.

 

Jesus prayed in John 17:20-23….

 

“20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”

 

Oh the loving heart of Jesus! How He loved and loves us…ALL OF US! God says that when a man and a woman are joined together in marriage, they become one flesh (both spiritually and physically). Well God has also knit His church together to become “perfectly one”. If a husband and wife divide it is called divorce, and we know God hates divorce. Division in the church amongst brothers and sisters is a type of divorce. We should be perfectly one, as our precious Savior prayed.

 

Division is Usually Wrong

 

“1 Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. 3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 8 The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. 9 But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. 10 As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.” Titus 3:1-11

 

Here is a breakdown of just some of the commandments God gives here. Now keep in mind that these are instructions from our Lord, so going against them is therefore sin.

 

1. Speak evil of no one. Wait…no one? That’s right. We are to speak evil of no human being. The original Greek word for “evil” is “blasphēmeō” which translates to “to speak reproachfully, rail at, revile, calumniate, blaspheme”. So we are not to speak evil of, speak reproachfully, rail at, revile, calumniate or blaspheme anyone. Ouch…I’m guilty. Repenting.

 

2. Avoid quarreling. Proverbs 20:3 says, “It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife, but every fool will be quarreling.” Again…guilty.

 

3. Avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. Wow. So all of the controversies I have spent countless hours debating people over….they are worthless? Unprofitable? That’s what God says. Again, I’m convicted. Repenting. Lord change my heart! I ask here, what is foolish? We’ll get into that a bit later, but right off we can see that, unless God is contradicting Himself (which He is not) there are foolish reasons for division and there are necessary reasons. The necessary are those that pervert the gospel of Jesus Christ.

 

4. Do not STIR UP DIVISION. I bolded that for emphasis. The word for divisive here is one that means “able to choose, causing division, factious, a follower of false doctrine, schismatic.” Interestingly, the root word is “hairetizō” which is to choose a sect. Basically this is a person who finds it easy and acceptable to choose a side, reject others, cause a schism in the body and essentially cause division. This person looks for occasions to stir up dissention and division. God says we are to be a people of unity, not division.

 

“I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” 1 Corinthians 1:10

 

“Eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Ephesians 4:3-6

 

“But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls.” Luke 11:17

 

“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” Psalm 133:1

 

“Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness.” 1 John 2:9

 

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” Colossians 3:12-15

 

Who is the Church?

 

If division in the church is wrong, then who is the church? Who is my brother/sister? You may not like the answer. You may reject it, but remember that we are following God’s Word, not the logic of man. How does God say one becomes a saved, follower of Christ and a part of the church family?

 

Believes in Jesus! “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

 

Confess Jesus! “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9

 

If a man or woman believes in and confesses the Jesus Christ of the Bible (that He is God, born of a virgin, born to save the sons of man by His death and resurrection, etc), then he or she is saved. They receive salvation. The fruit of that new life salvation we see is repentance, good works, etc., but salvation was not earned by good works. They are merely the after effects and fruits of the free gift of salvation.

 

Does the Bible teach that a brother or sister in the Lord has to have all of their doctrine right to be counted as such? Absolutely not! In fact, we see instances in scripture, like in Romans, where God literally gives permission for there to be differences. One man eats meat and another does not, but they both do so in confidence unto the Lord. One esteems one day more than another and the other esteems them all the same, but do it as unto the Lord! Someone’s right ad someone’s wrong, but God says these things don’t matter. In the same way, divisions over minor issues in the church (predestination vs free will, styles of worship, gifts of the Spirit, etc) are wrong and evil in the sight of the Lord.

 

Be very careful my friends. Be very careful not to cast judgment based on your own logic. Be ever so careful not to call someone an unbeliever simply because you disagree with some of their doctrine. If that person has believed in and confessed Christ, he or she is saved and the bride of Christ. Christ does not take pleasure in His bride being attacked, bashed, despised, etc. He is a jealous God and He will deal with those who cause division and harm His bride.

 

Is there a reason for division? Sometimes.

 

There are sometimes needful divisions that occur. God is clear that we are not to embrace false teaching that perverts the gospel of Jesus Christ. If a pastor/teacher claims that Jesus Christ is not enough, and you need something more to be saved, that is something to come against and expose. Expose anyone who claims to be a Christian and denies the virgin birth, the deity of Christ, the all-sufficiency of Christ, the power of the triunity of God and the total forgiveness of sins by the washing of the blood of the Lamb. Reject teachings that we must change the gospel message or that we don’t need scripture. Also hold accountable those who have been given authority in the church. The scripture gives guidelines for how a pastor/elder must live.

 

Be Careful! Do not believe every rumor you hear!

 

“Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses.” 1 Timothy 5:9

 

 

I share this message from God’s Word because I see the ugly disease of division and strife tearing through the church of God’s people. It’s no surprise. As we get closer to the end times, we expect it. Yet I am greatly disheartened by well know teachers, beloved friends and even myself, at times, seeing that we are so quick to cast out and tread down those who we find disagreement with. I encourage you brothers and sisters (and myself) to remember that, when it comes to minor issues of doctrinal difference, division is wrong. Do not speak evil but be graceful. Teachers, spend more time teaching God’s Word and less time pointing out where everyone else is doing it wrong. God’s Word is the truth that will set us free and inoculate us against bad teaching.

 

God is not pleased by those who stir up division, who delight in bringing down others or who hate under the masked disguise of “conviction”. Do not allow minor issues of doctrinal difference cause you to look at a brother or sister and see an unbeliever. You have no right to make that call. Only God knows the heart of that person. Pray. Be quiet. Love. Speak and live by truth. Focus on God’s Word. Focus on unity and peace within the church. Oh what a glorious light will shine forth, drawing the lost to the love of God! They will know us by our LOVE! And they will want it.

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Division vs Unity in the Church

“Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” 1 Corinthians 1:10

Calvinism versus Arminianism. Cessation versus Continuationism. Hymns versus contemporary worship. Carpets versus hardwood and pews versus chairs. haha The possibilities for division within the church are endless, and these days it seems that there are people within the church, sometimes pastors themselves, whose very purpose is to incite division and to stir up wrath. So it brings to questions, is all division bad? What is the difference between good and bad division? How can people who disagree still have unity in Christ?

1. Necessary Division

The truth is, there will be times when division is unavoidable, necessary and even good. There are times when it is important to call out and stand against a false teacher/teaching and to call other believers to do the same. This is the case when people are teaching a false doctrine that is in direct violation to God’s Word.

“For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.” 2 John 1:7

“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words.” 2 Peter 2:1-3

“An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” Romans 2:20-24

““If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him.” Deuteronomy 13:1-4

“Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” Ephesians 5:11

“As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith.” 1 Timothy 1:3-4

“If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.” 2 Thess 3:14-15

These verses give us a good idea of where division is sometimes necessary and when we are called to confront a false teacher. If a false teacher is preaching a perverted form of the gospel, a different Jesus (perhaps one who is not God), a hypocrite practicing unrepented sin (according to what God’s Word clearly speaks of as sin), or teaching anything that is in direct contradiction to the Bible then there is a cause for rebuke, private and then public, and sometimes division. These are instances in which the truth of God’s Word will necessarily pierce to the joints and marrow and cause division in the body of Christ. These are the times when we need to speak out against a false teacher. Division is also made between believers and unbelievers. The goats and the sheep. That’s not a division we make but a natural division that occurs in the world. God makes the division. What has light to do with darkness?

2. Sinful Division

Why do I call it sinful to have division? Well, God makes it abundantly clear in the Word that He desires for His children, His body, to be united and knit together. He does not desire strife and contentions. He does not desire Christians to attack other Christians over issues that are not expressed above. He does NOT want Christians to attack their brothers and sisters for minor differences in interpretation of scripture that may be unclear, for differences in style of worship, for differences in apparel or food habits, etc. This is not God’s will for His church, and since He has made it very clear and commanded that we do not cause these divisions, those who do cause divisions for these reasons are in sin.

“I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.” Romans 16:17-18

“Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” John 7:24

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23

“Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?” James 4:11-12

“But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” Matthew 5:22

“1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:1-3

“1 If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” Phil 2:1-3

“14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3:14

Causing divisions and creating obstacles in the body that do not need to be there is wrong. It’s way more like the Pharisees than the way Jesus behaved. It’s like the Jews who tried to burden the gentiles with unnecessary bonds. In Romans, Paul tells us not to despise each other when we have differences in food or drink or sabbaths. We may have a personal conviction, but that doesn’t mean we are to cast that conviction on others and then judge them and attack them for not sharing it. This kind of judging happens often in the areas of: style of worship, clothing, food and health habits, lifestyles (as in whether or not Christians should have wealth), etc. God does not want us to divide over these issues, but to love one another so that the lost world will see and know we belong to the King.

My prayer is that God would continue to knit His church together. I pray that teachers and people who are busy seeking ways to cause division within the body of Christ would be convicted and repent. I pray that those who have been hurt by unnecessary division, accusation and judgement would find healing and reconciliation. Praying that God’s church would be united in our common Savior, our common commission and the mighty love of Jesus that connects us all through His Spirit. Amen.

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