Categories
Disciple-Making Life

Welcome One Another

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Romans 1-9 gets all the love. All the attention. As it should. It’s a dynamic exposition of sin, God’s wrath, justification by faith, and the power of the Spirit. It’s a tour de force from the Apostle Paul.

But today, as I’m finishing up reading through Romans, it struck me how important Romans 14 and the first six verses of chapter 15 are. I was struck a second time when I realized how vital they are for Christians, particularly in the United States, at this particular juncture in history.

To sum it up, Paul first tells his readers that Christians are not to pass judgment in non-essential matters (in his context, he’s referring to the choice to observing festival days or not). In non-essentials, people are free to do what they like (provided, of course, they aren’t being a jerk doing it.) Everyone is accountable to the Lord in these matters.

Second, he writes that believers are not to cause others to stumble. Paul isn’t forbidding women from wearing a bikini, here (that’s an entirely different blog post). Rather, he’s cautioning his readers to watch their actions so that others aren’t tempted to return to a particular lifestyle they had before their conversion.

Then, at the beginning of chapter 15, Paul gets at the root: Don’t live to please yourself. Live to please your neighbor. Welcome one another.

In other words, people–even other Christians–are different than you. We agree on the most fundamental tenants of our faith. But there are other areas where we disagree. Welcome these people. All of these people. Live in harmony with them. Love them. Accommodate them.

Welcome one another. 

Why?

Christ has welcomed you.

Why would Paul say that? Thick guilt trip? No. True freedom from the peripheral entanglements that enslave us? Yes. Jesus has welcomed all sorts of people into his kingdom, and there’s one common denominator. He is God and everyone else is not. That’s quite the difference. That’s quite the welcoming.

If Christ can welcome sinners, like you and me, we can welcome brothers and sisters in Christ who have different affiliations or are in another tribe, whether they are political, social, racial, economic, or otherwise. We can say to them, “I know we don’t see eye to eye on some things, but please come in. You’re family.”

Will there be some things to sort out? Oh my, yes. Will there be some course corrections that need to be made? Definitely. Will there need to be contrite confessions and long-term changes made? On all sides.

But what divides Christians in this country today is no worse than what divided Jews and Gentiles in the first century. Consider that task! The power to change back then and now is found only in the person of Jesus Christ, the One who welcomed rebellious enemies into his fold. It’s easy for us Christians to forget that even (especially!) we need Jesus.

At the end of the day, Jesus did not live for himself. He gave himself away.

Are we willing to do the same?

Categories
Life

The Gosnell Story

If you are unfamiliar with the Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia abortionist who is on trial for murder, watch this 21-minute documentary below. You can also read about Gosnell in a recent USA Today article. World Magazine has ongoing coverage of the case

As a small way to help spread the word on this atrocity which is being completely ignored by the national media, please Tweet, Facebook, or blog these links.

http://vimeo.com/44824447

Categories
Life

Sharing Jesus’ message or his love?

I was sitting in a hotel lounge in Johannesburg during a meeting for a mission trip I lead about this time last year. I had arranged for one of the local staff members, Karl, to come and talk about native African religions, and how to properly approach that topic with African people.

He began his talk by asking this simple question: “Why did you come to South Africa?”

After an awkward pause, someone said, “To share the love of Christ.”

Karl quickly said, “No, you didn’t.”  Everyone looked at Karl as if he had broken the unwritten Christian rule, “Never offend anyone at a meeting.”  Did he really just tell her no! The nerve!

But just as soon as Karl said, “No,” he said, “You came to share the message of Jesus.”

After a quick explanation, everyone got the point: If we only speak of Jesus’ love, we can be fluffy and avoid of the call to receive him and repent. If we speak of Jesus message, we share his true love, the love that comes with his hard call to intense discipleship.

So often, as Americans, we say, “I want to share Jesus’ love with little African orphans!”  And that is good and important, but it is not ultimate. The ultimate thing is to share the message of God’s redeeming work that he has accomplished in Jesus’ life and death on the cross. This work makes us right with God, removes our sin, saves us from a life of guilt, keeps us from eternity in hell, and does a thousand other things I don’t even know about. That’s a glorious message.

We cannot allow missions to simply be the “Christian” way to do social justice. If our mission teams are not centered on the gospel message they will fail to show Christ’s true love. And that would be a tragedy.

Related Post:

Categories
Ministry

Blood:Water Mission

One of my favorite ministries is Blood:Water Mission.  Their mission is simple: Empower communities to work together against the HIV/AIDS and water crisis.  They were founded by the band Jars of Clay.  Here’s a taste of what they are all about:

IT’S A BEAUTIFUL STORY. We’re a group of passionate people who have been inspired by our friends in Africa, friends who face unbearable challenges from the HIV/AIDS and water crises. We creatively and thoughtfully raise awareness and the necessary funds for the provision of clean blood and clean water in sub-Saharan Africa.

Blood:Water Mission first stepped into funding a late stage AIDS hospice and discovered the vital link between living with HIV/AIDS and the need for clean water. As a result, Blood:Water Mission launched the 1000 Wells Project in 2005 as a nation-wide effort to raise enough money to provide clean water and sanitation to 1000 communities in sub-Saharan Africa based on the equation that $1 provides one African with clean water for an entire year.

You can find more amazing water facts (like the one above) on their Flickr site.

Categories
Life

“What Matters More” by Derek Webb

Here’s the controversial song and video by Derek Webb from his new album Stockholm Syndrome. This version was released on his website, not the CD, due to the strong language.

Provocative would be an understatement.  Any thoughts?

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Update:

Here are two excerpts from reivews of Webb’s album:

“Unfortunately, the message seems hidden in negative lyrics that often say the opposite of what you would want to get stuck in your head. Lyrics such as “Oh I have been to Heaven and I found no relief” just don’t do much for me. The album is purely negative and I doubt that much of the Christian music world (including myself) will accept Stockholm Syndrome as playable — and that’s before they get to hear the profanity” (Kevin Hoskins, JesusFreakHideout.com).

“Where this album will stand in the history of Christian music remains to be decided by the retrospective analysis of the next few years, and a number of other factors — the future of the church’s overall political lean and how it will consider its current heavyweights in hindsight, the acceptance (however reluctant) of Webb’s daring, and the industry’s artistic response to this experience: its advertising campaign, controversial content, and sonic textures. Even so, a few things can be said outright: Webb has crafted a near-perfect album that rivals anything avid listeners have ever come across, one that deserves comparisons to Ok Computer and Kid A and challenges preconceptions about the depth of art reflecting the Christian experience.  Stockholm Syndrome is a dangerous, volatile, stunning masterwork of prophetic brilliance and insight — one of the most important albums of the last 10 years” (John Wofford, The Christian Manifesto).