Merry Christmas from Behind Enemy Lines

Holidays, Thoughts
At various times throughout church history, Christianity has enjoyed a "home field advantage"; a time when the broader culture was aligned with Christian principles.  Times such as the end of the pagan Roman Empire, Europe at the height of the Reformation, Latin America during the rise of Catholicism, and even the volatile Middle East where Christianity was much in the mainstream for the first 600 years after Christ.  Of course, a home field advantage can have the downside of a cultural form of Christianity rather than the real thing and abuses under all of these favorable systems are well documented.  But as a whole, a culture moving in the general direction of Christian principles and ethics is a good thing. In the United States, we have enjoyed a more prolonged…
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Is Everyone Included?

Church Life, Thoughts
Last post we focused on the corporate church situation.  Now let's bring this idea of celebrating diversity in the church down to a personal application.  If you are like me, certain personalities rub you the wrong way.  Certain individuals strike you as difficult people.  In my former selfish approach, I usually avoided these people, hiding behind my introvert nature.  But by God's grace, I have opened up to the diverse variety of personalities that are the body of Christ.  I have discovered that it is so easy to be blind to our own personality quirks but quick to notice something amiss in others. Two things have happened as I have moved out of my comfort zone.  First, my life has been enriched by this interaction.  My church experience has a new fullness…
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Embracing All the Gifts

Church Life, Thoughts
In I Corinthians chapter 12, Paul compares the church and its members to the physical body.  Paul starts his discussion with this simple comparison.  Just as the physical body is one body with many parts, so too the church is one body (of Christ) with many members.  And just as with the physical body, each member of Christ's body is different and gifted for a unique function and contribution to the church.  The beauty of it all is that "God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired" (vs 18).  God Himself has placed you in the body for a purpose. To summarize the main points of Paul's analogy, no part of the body should consider itself inferior to another.  Conversely, we should…
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Unity, Diversity, and the Body of Christ

Church Life, Thoughts
One of the beautiful aspects of being connected with believers as members in the body of Christ is the celebration of our diversity.  When we love well, our differences become causes for celebration, not barriers to inclusion.  This is one of the unique features of the church.  The church is not a social club where membership depends on a shared trait or interest.  We are not an affinity group.  We are a body.  Listen to Paul's description of the church in I Corinthians chapter 12. "For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.  For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks,…
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Hating One’s Parents?

Thoughts, Walking in the New Nature
Last post, in the comments, Nancy brought up Matthew 10:37 and appropriately so.  "He who loves father and mother more than Me [Jesus] is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me" (Mt 10:37).  In the parallel passage in Luke chapter 14, Jesus uses even more striking language, "If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple" (Lk 14:26).  This seems to be in direct contradiction to the point of our last post - we love God by loving our families - so what gives? It is important to understand the words of Christ in…
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