Wednesday, September 19, 2018

When Picking Sides

"I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I also ask you, true partner, to help these women who have contended for the gospel at my side, along with Clement and the rest of my coworkers whose names are in the book of life."
Philippians 4:2-3

Here's what we know about these two women. First, Paul believed them to be true believers, since he noted their names were in the book of life. Second, they were members of the same church and active in the gospel ministry with Paul and others. Third, their dispute was not personal but doctrinal, because Paul always addressed doctrinal disputes directly. Fourth, their divided relationship clearly had the potential to divide the church, which is likely why Paul addressed it so prominently. That also indicates that people within the church had chosen sides.

That's surprising, isn't it? People in the church actually chose sides. Why I've never heard of such a thing. Oh, wait, yes, I have heard of such a thing. As a matter of fact, I cannot remember a single conflict, inside or outside of the local church, in which people haven't picked sides.  He said, she said, they said, we said. Everyone has an opinion, and then everyone takes sides. Always, not usually, but always the whole truth is not what either side says it is. The whole truth is somewhere in between.

Actually, the truth is not somewhere in between the two opposing stories. The truth sits on the throne of Heaven. That's why Paul wrote that they were to "agree in the Lord." That's the only way human beings will ever really agree. We will always be tempted to pick sides in any argument or disagreement. The only way out is to pick the third side, the Lord's side. 

They say that blood is thicker than water, and that's usually true in conflict. We are often tempted to take the side of a family member. We usually take the side of our close friends, even if we know they're not entirely right. 

The only way to deal with the multitude of disagreements that arise as the result of living in a fallen world is to pick God's side, His truth, found in His Word, often made clear by a third party who hasn't chosen sides. Pick the right blood. Pick the blood and the truth of Jesus.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Generation That Does Not Remember 9/11

Just before I laid down last night, I remembered what happened the following morning 17 years ago. I remembered and I wondered how many had forgotten. I read an article early this morning written by a University professor. She talked about the state of students she teaches. She said most see all the wars of the last hundred years all mixed up. 

She grew up in Washington, D.C. when Congress controlled the public school curriculum for the District of Columbia. As a result, every student took American history in elementary, junior, and high school. She was steeped in the history of our country. Today, she wrote, almost all her students cannot distinguish between Korea, WWII, or Viet Nam. They have no living memory and they have not been taught, so they have no concept of why our nation is what it is - for good or ill.

These same students are the least Christian in the history of our nation. They are the greatest unbelieving generation in the history of our country, and perhaps in all of Western civilization. 
Could it be for the same reasons that they do not know the history of their own nation? 

Could it be that they simply have no living memory of Christ? What I mean is, could it be that, even if they were raised in a church, they never heard the whole Gospel of Jesus Christ, truly repented and truly believed? Could it be that they have no living memory because they saw no "living" followers of Christ? Could it be they simply have not been made disciples? 

They may have been taken to church, but were they continually taken to Jesus? Did His teachings not only permeate their Sunday School classes, but did they also permeate the lives of their parents, their teachers, and their friends. Discipleship requires teaching, but teaching is not only in the classroom. It is in the living room, the dining room, the locker room, the classroom, and the break room at work. 

Our purpose and mission is to make disciples. That is a life-long commitment to learn who Jesus is and follow Him with every step. Disciple-making does not guarantee that our followers will follow Him, but to fail to make disciples virtually guarantees that they will not follow Him. Don't despair, though, because the Lord Himself has given us the plan to further His kingdom. It is the kingdom that cannot be stopped by the gates of Hell. Go, make disciples.

Photo Credit: NIST Robert Miller - Public Domain Mark 1.0

Thursday, August 16, 2018

It's Me, It's Me, O Lord, Who Needs To Give Up My Seat

We were looking for a church in the city in which we lived. We settled on a large "First Church" for that particular Sunday. Piano, organ, and a small worship orchestra led the large choir and music filled the air where over a thousand were seated. I was seated on the last seat on the row, my wife beside me. There was one empty seat in our section immediately in front of me. To the right of it were two older ladies who appeared well-to-do. One of them was wearing a fur jacket.

Movement caught my eye. A woman, late middle-aged, came to the open seat. She was not well-to-do. She was thin, wearing a worn, sky blue polyester pant suit. Her purse was worn, too. I could smell her. She had the odor people have when they live on the streets and don't get but one or two showers a week at the shelter

She motioned to the empty seat in front of us, asking the well-to-do lady in fur if it was available. Either in surprise or fear, she turned wide-eyed to look at her well-to-do friend, and then looked back at the thin woman. I heard her say, "It's taken. My husband is coming to sit there." The lady turned around and walked toward the back, presumably looking for another seat. The well-to-do ladies exchanged knowing glances. Her husband never did come and sit there.

Every time I tell that story people are appalled at the reaction of the well-to-do ladies. It was appalling. How could they conspire to deny her a seat because she was not like them when Christ offered them a place in eternity in spite of their great difference from him? But, something troubles me. It's not the well-to-do who trouble me. It's me.

My wife and I were sitting on the end of the row. There was no extra seat beside us, but there was a seat available. That seat was mine.

Why did I not get up and give her my seat?