The Church: learning from the past

In about 1801 Barton W. Stone began to proclaim a back to the Bible message in the area around Lexington, KY. In 1807 Thomas and Alexander Campbell, unbeknownst to Stone, began preaching much the same message in Bethany, WV. The two groups ultimately found each other and merged in 1832.

Not to know history is to suffer from historical amnesia. What did this movement we know as Churches of Christ do right, and where can we learn, from its history and do better? Continue reading “The Church: learning from the past”

Instruments of peace

When you listen to some people talk you would think that it’s the church’s job to serve them. They treat the church as if it’s a business that’s supposed to provide a service, and if it does not they can point in indignant tones at the church that had apparently failed them.

The problem with this view is not that not only is it unfair (it is), or that it is harsh and judgmental (it is) but because it misses the very essence of what it means to be a Christian. Continue reading “Instruments of peace”

Sex and lies

In matters of sexuality, the church is reflecting the world. Even to use the term “sexual immorality” is to sound as if one is from another galaxy.

I get it. We’re lonely and broken, and the promise of health and healing is held out to those contemplating extramarital relationships. The single Christian wonders if he will ever enjoy the pleasures of sexual intimacy. Married Christians seek something more in other relationships. As one woman proclaimed: “I’m happy with (this other man), and God wants me to be happy, doesn’t he?” Continue reading “Sex and lies”

Hymn books versus songs on a screen

There is an article floating around the Internet that suggests churches should opt for hymnbooks rather than songs on a screen. Are there concerns about this movement?

Two caveats. First, this is a first world problem. Churches in mission churches probably have neither. Second, this is not a topic that touches on any biblical principle. The Bible says as much about hymnbooks and powerpoint presentations as it does the Pittsburgh Sealers, which is to say, it says nothing. Continue reading “Hymn books versus songs on a screen”

What happens to us when we die?

I have often made this statement in my preaching: “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.” This expresses the central mystery of Christianity: We place such heavy emphasis on feeding the desires of our physical bodies; we should instead be feeding the eternal part of our beings, our soul or spirit.

There is a movement among preachers in our fellowship who suggest that after we die we will inherit the same bodies that we have now. They point to Jesus’ resurrected body, apparently the same as the one he had before his death, bearing the marks of his crucifixion. Consider his invitation to Thomas to touch the scars in his hands and side (John 20:26-28). But it’s also worth noting the image of the risen victorious Jesus, white hair, face like the sun and eyes like a flame of fire (Revelation 1:12-16). This is clearly not describing the physical body Jesus had while on the earth. Continue reading “What happens to us when we die?”

Six myths about Christianity

People like to take shots at Christianity, and they do so from a variety of motives. Perhaps they had a bad experience when visiting a church, or they realize that taking on Christianity implies a definite and lifetime commitment. Rarely do their critiques stem from actual evidence. In my years as a preacher I have heard at least five myths about Christianity that are simply not true. Continue reading “Six myths about Christianity”

Give us the tools

It was February 9, 1941. The speaker had a distinctly upper-class English accent, his syntax old-fashioned. You could see the stocky, bulldog determination in his stance and hear the growl of his voice. The man he addressed was the President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Winston Churchill was the speaker. His country faced its most perilous hour; NAZI Germany threatened to overwhelm Europe and Britain, and Churchill stood almost entirely alone in the effort to stop them. They needed the help of the United States. But Churchill was a proud man. He knew his people were up to the task of defending their shores. What he needed from the United States was the benefit of its vast natural resources, and the talent and industry of her people. Continue reading “Give us the tools”

Why can’t I judge?

The problem with criticism is that the victim simply cannot win. A critic does not feel the need to be consistent, or fair, simply critical. He is condemned if he does, and condemned if he does not.

But note that the standard that will be used to judge me will be the standard with which I judge others (Matthew 7:12). Is that a comforting thought? When you think of God using this criteria to judge you, do you sigh with relief or shake in fear? Continue reading “Why can’t I judge?”

It’s hard to forgive

No one ever said forgiveness would be easy. In my years of ministry I have been betrayal, leveled by criticism and felt the disdain of those who should (are commanded to) love me. I’m sorry, I’m far too human, and when I recall these events I can still feel the sting of tears in my eyes, the ache in the heart. Yet we are commanded to love our enemies: “But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

Now that’s hard. Forgiving is hard.

Yet we are commanded to forgive. Repeatedly. Continue reading “It’s hard to forgive”