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Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Philippians 2:1-2 (NASB)

Although I never wish disaster or crisis on anyone, something interesting, even refreshing happens when disaster strikes. All of the sudden race, gender, denominational affiliation and social standing don’t matter. People pitch in to clear trees, search for victims, provide food and supplies where necessary and sometimes just offer a shoulder for encouragement.

I’ve never once heard a news report where an angry homeowner said something like, “Why are all these people strolling through my yard with chainsaws and such to clear my property after that tornado hit? I don’t want them providing food and helping me clean up this mess after my home was destroyed!”

Never seen an interview where an earthquake victim stands in front of his house warning people to stay away while he searches the rubble for his wife and kids; or heard of a family demanding an apology from the fire department for saving their home; or heard an angry patient wake up from surgery demanding an explanation for why the surgeon worked so diligently to save his life.

Crisis tends to bring out the best in us. There are exceptions of course, but deep within each of us there seems to be some sort of trigger that says “When disaster strikes we come together.” A unity develops over a common cause and after that task is complete we all go our separate ways, waiting for the next opportunity to help where needed to save a life or provide for some physical or emotional need.

The Apostle Paul seems to have had a special relationship with the church he planted inPhilippi. He writes, “I thank my God every time I think about you!” The Philippians had been Paul’s partners in ministry from the very beginning and now they were worried about reports that he was in prison.

In the midst of Paul’s own personal crisis these dear friends wanted to help. Interestingly, Paul sends message to them not to be discouraged, but to rejoice in what God was doing in him and through him. Then he says “If you really want to make my happy; if you really want me to feel like this is all worth it; if you really want to show others what following Christ is all about, here’s what I want you to do. Be unified in your minds. Set your hearts towards one purpose. Don’t let divisions keep you from showing others what the gospel is all about.”

What would our world look like if we as believers in Jesus Christ handled every day as though it were a disaster? How would we treat those who are ‘different than us’ if we approached life with an attitude of urgency to rescue them from calamity?

If we truly had a sense of urgency about us would it matter what sexual orientation our neighbor had? Would it really make a difference which version of the Bible we read, or what kind of music we played in our churches? Would the sign on the front of our churches and the ‘denominational distinctives keep us from snatching people from the jaws of hell?

It’s not the stand we take that will win others to Jesus; it’s kneeling down to lift up those in distress. Seek to reach out to those who are in their own personal disaster and crisis. With one purpose bring them into the safety of Jesus’ love and forgiveness. Show them grace by your actions.

PRAYER: Lord it’s so easy at times to forget that our main purpose on earth isn’t to be right, but to show others your love. Help me to see the crisis’ those around me are going through. Empower me by your spirit to show grace to those in need. Amen.


So don’t boast about following a particular human leader. For everything belongs to you—whether Paul or Apollos or Peter, or the world, or life and death, or the present and the future. Everything belongs to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God. 1 Corinthians 3:21-23 (NLT)

You’ve seen the commercials on TV. A well-dressed, successful person tells you about themselves. They are smart, good looking and obviously have made the best of life. After telling you all about themselves, their successes and how they have made positive changes in their world, they summarize all the good things by telling you that they are a particular religious group. The next time you see the commercial notice that the person talking doesn’t say they belong to or are a part of the group. They ARE the group. Whether by design or otherwise the message is clear. If you want to know what my religious group looks like or what it can do for you, look at me. I’m the example of what you can be. 

Now, this isn’t a treatise for or against this group. Whether you agree with their theology or not you have to admire the creativity of their marketing. Want to be successful in life? Want to make a difference in your world? It’s as though the speaker is looking straight into your eyes and saying, “Want to have people admire you like you are admiring me right now? Become a ____________. Your world will change!”

Don’t be too hard on them though. We do the same thing. A pastor friend of mine was telling me about one particular church that he served in. Unfortunately this church had a bad reputation in town because of how they treated people in the community and how they treated several of their former pastors. My friend brought a suggestion to the boardroom table one night shortly after he started his ministry. He asked what his church leaders would think of changing the name of the church. The new name he suggested would not have the denominational title included in it. He made sure to tell them the doctrinal statement would not change, the denominational affiliation would not change, and several other churches in this denomination had made similar changes with good success. 

The reaction was pretty much along the lines he expected. No one was in favor of it for various reasons. Horror stories based largely on misinformation and rumors surfaced about other churches that had done something like this and either closed or became a cult. While he expected many of these arguments, the one statement that caught him off guard was given by the most respected person in the church. It was a statement that killed the discussion immediately. My friend later said he was so taken back by this statement that he was speechless to continue. Here was the sincere statement from a man who knew God’s word. “But I get my identity from the ___________ church.”

Character is defined as one of the attributes or features that make up and distinguish an individual. This person’s character was based on a set of doctrines and beliefs held in the confines of denominational affiliation. Such thinking isn’t new of course. The Apostle Paul struggled with it too. He didn’t have to mess with Baptists or Lutherans or Methodists or Presbyterians. He had to contend with followers of Peter or Apollos or, (and I imagine he shuddered at this), those who followed him! Paul says, in the book of 1Corinthians, “What are you thinking? Stop following the teachings and opinions of men. You have all you need in Jesus Christ who came from God himself!”

The enemy doesn’t like that way of thinking, by the way. The lie he uses in the battle for our CHARACTER is the subtle belief that ‘Your doctrine is the most important thing to you’. In our effort to love ourselves this attacks us in at least two ways. First of all, the standards of men are sometimes harder to live up to than the standards God has for us. Man’s standards don’t always offer much grace or mercy as is shown by the reaction of some church bodies to differences in a person’s lifestyle or their beliefs. Man made doctrine is often more about making cookie cutter Christians than it is growing in the freedom of grace and mercy through the Lord Jesus Christ.   

In a love relationship it’s always amazing to me how the people involved think so much alike, or at least know what the other is thinking. It’s a process of course. The longer they are together the more they begin to look, think and act alike. Why? Because they have the same set of rules? No. They begin to ‘be each other’ because of relationship.

The second attack that this lie levels on our ability to love ourselves is that when we hold to strongly to man-made principles and doctrine we become legalistic and push people way. The nasty negative spiral comes in again. If I take to harsh a position I push you away. Since I don’t want to push you away I will guard my words. The result is I struggle to decide, ‘Do I hold my allegiance to you and watch you self-destruct, or hold my allegiance to what I know to be right and lose my chance to minister to you and bring you to the freedom I’ve found in Christ.

How does a person whose character is built on Jesus and not man-made rules react to people who are ‘different’ than us? Look at how Jesus responded to people in his day. People who struggled with greed, with lust, with sex, with addictions. How did Jesus respond? With love. “Neither do I condemn thee. Come to me you who are weary.” Paul says, “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will. (2 Timothy 2:24-26 (NIV)) 

The person of Christ-like character is the person that gently accepts people who are struggling and leaves the repentance and life change to the one who does it best, Jesus Christ. This is a huge relief for the follower of Christ because it takes the responsibility of life change out of my hands and puts it in the hands of God’s Holy Spirit.

The Truth Statement in the battle for our Character is: “When others watch you make sure they see Jesus and not a church name!”

PRAYER: Thank you Jesus for the freedom you have shown me through your grace, mercy and forgiveness. As I build relationships around me, help me to show them the patience and gentleness you showed those around you. In your name I pray, Amen.


LORD, I love the house where you live, the place where your glory dwells. Psalm 26:8

Shortly after the terrorist attacks on 9/11 there was a huge spike in church attendance. People that hadn’t been to church in years walked through the doors to heal, to comfort one another, to pray for our nation.

When the earthquake hit Haiti, the hurricanes hit New Orleans, the Tsunami hit Southeast Asia people sent food, money and teams to the affected areas to heal (emotionally and medically) comfort one another and provide housing or whatever else was needed to lift the survivors of these natural disasters to their feet again.

Throughout history the ravages of war and the pain of natural disasters has awakened in us the desire to help. Our hearts melt at the sight of starving orphans. Suddenly we find an extra $10.00 to send through our cell phone bill to help people we never have met.

What is it within us that drives those feelings of compassion and assistance? It’s the realization that we are needed and that we need each other. Deep inside each of us there is a desire to feel like the action you take, no matter how small, will somehow make a difference in the lives of others. Suddenly it doesn’t matter what social class you are in or what the color of your skin is. Sexual orientation isn’t as important as making sure a cardboard shack is replaced by suitable housing and clean water. Enemies set aside their differences at least long enough to meet the needs of those affected by the disaster.

There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that success in meeting these challenges requires teamwork. One person going to Haiti would have accomplished nothing. One fireman going into the flaming towers would have been fruitless. One $10.00 gift to help the famine ravaged parts of the world would be a ridiculous attempt to help.

Why is it then that when it comes to Spiritual warfare we Christ-followers think we can wage battle alone? We divide ourselves according to denominational affiliation. We camp out on issues about how to worship or how and when to baptize. Some of us are so tired of the bickering that we give up on getting together with other Christ-followers all together. The statement, “I can be a Christian without going to church” is absolutely correct. You can also go to battle alone, but you won’t last long.

Before he went to the cross to die for you Jesus only asked his Father for one thing: UNITY. He knew that in order for us to live strong lives that withstand the forces of evil we would need each other. The body of Christ isn’t a building or a denomination or a set of rules. The body of Christ is a living organism that needs the nourishment of fellowshipping with each other to grow strong.

As Christ-followers we need to make sure that our ‘churches’ show the grace and love of our Lord Jesus to every person that enters our doors. We need to be an active part of our community by being a ‘church without walls’ and doing all we do in the name of Christ (not our church!).

We need each other. We need each other for our own physical, emotional and spiritual strength. The people around us need to see the love of Jesus by the things we do and say to draw them into relationship with the one who can comfort and heal for eternity.

PRAYER: Father, I love to come to your house to worship and learn from your word. I confess to you that often times I look more for what I can gain from the experience that what I can do for others and for you. Forgive me for selfishly looking for my own comfort at the expense of others. Empower me with your Spirit to begin today to make my church a place where all people feel welcome. I need you and they need me. In your name I pray, Amen.

 


And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. Acts 2:44-45

“Where do you go to church?” Unfortunately the answer to this question immediately labels you in some people’s minds. We judge a person’s character, religious beliefs and morals on the name in front of a building!

The greatest period of ‘church growth’ was when it first began. Read about it in the second chapter of Acts. Literally thousands of people were added to the church daily. People who were tired of religion the way it was, people who were struggling in relationships, people who had heard of God but had no idea that He loved them and forgave them of the bad choices in their lives.

The real church isn’t a building, it’s people. If you are a true follower of Jesus Christ, you don’t go to church, you ARE the church! A defining characteristic of the church (the body of Jesus followers) is that they were of one mind. There was only one goal in the early church and that was to tell others of Jesus forgiveness and love. There were no denominations. There was no discussion of the theology behind baptism or scriptural interpretation or worship styles. There was only Jesus.

The method of church growth was simple as well. No fancy programs. No seminars on how to reach other people. No discussion on how to be a seeker church. There was only generosity in the name of Jesus. The motto of the early church could very well have been “All that I have is God’s therefore I will share it with you!”

People didn’t join the church because they were able to jump through a bunch of denominational or doctrinal hoops. They didn’t join because they realized they were hopeless sinners. They joined the church because it was the one group that gave them the love, compassion and physical, emotional and spiritual help they needed. And they found all they needed in Jesus.

If you love Jesus, if you have experienced the healing, comfort and forgiveness only found in relationship with Him, you are a member of the body of Christ, or what we call the church. Don’t go to church; take the church with you into every situation you find yourself in. People may go to a building because you invite them, but they will join the church because you love them and show them Jesus.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, I pray that you would forgive those of us who claim to follow you for seeing church as a building or an activity. Instill in me, and my fellow disciples, the realization that church is an organism and not an organization. Help us to show Your great, undying love to those around us so that they can become one with us. In your name I pray, Amen.


Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin? Romans 2:4 (NLT)

Everyone likes to be right. Everyone likes to be in the popular crowd, the winning team, the champions. When the Apostle Paul wrote to the book of Romans, his readers were mostly made up of Jewish people who laid most of their spiritual integrity on the fact that they were the people of God. This status gave them great pride.

The problem was, according to Paul, they were basing their position on the wrong thing! There were some Jewish believers that thought themselves a step above other believers because of their Jewish heritage. Paul tells them to step back and take another look at what got them where they were. Paul reminds them that the only reason for their position of faith was God’s goodness. It had absolutely nothing to do with their religious tradition.

The message is the same for us today. Everyday we are bombarded with horrific stories of how people treat one another. Even within so-called Christian circles there are people who place their entire identity on their religious tradition, the number of ‘spiritual activities’ they participate in, the music they listen to, or even the version of the Bible they read.

Our position in Christ has nothing to do with anything we have done, either good or bad. If your past is full of addictions, poor choices, or dysfunctional relationships and you have found forgiveness in Christ, you are no different than the squeaky-clean person who has grown up in the church or hasn’t been involved in all sort so sordid activities.

God doesn’t base His love for us on a background check. He bases it solely on who Jesus is and what He did on the cross for you. There is no grading system among Christ-followers in God’s eyes. His love, forgiveness and power isn’t given according to whether you are more, or less worthy than the next person. All are equal in his economy regardless of race, gender, or denominational background. God loves you regardless of all the bad or good things you have done.

None of us are any better or worse than the next person, in God’s eyes. Don’t let others judge you on the basis of your past. Don’t judge others on what you see on the outside. Learn their story before you judge their character. Consider how good God has been to you before judging how other people are. Unconditional love for others is based on the fact that the God of the Universe loves us all the same regardless of our past.

PRAYER: Father God, I thank and praise you for the fact that even though you know how rebellious and stupid I can be, you still love me dearly. Thank you for choosing to love me in spite of myself. Forgive me of my past and empower me by your Holy Spirit to live in close relationship to you. Help me to live unaffected by those who judge me wrongly. Keep me from judging others on the basis of what I see. In Jesus name, Amen.

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