Racial Deception and The Church

 “But now you have been united with Christ Jesus…For Christ himself has brought peace to us… that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility…”

For most of us today, the centuries old issue regarding Jew & Gentile holds no relevance. But as I was reading in Ephesians this morning, I realized that our culture has a very similar problem. And  it occurred to me that we who call ourselves Christians apparently believe very little of what the Apostle Paul had to say about such matters. How do I know this? I can tell you with one word: Racism.

How sad it is today that the body of Christ is divided along racial lines. The Spirit is surely grieved as he witnesses, especially among those who call themselves “leaders,” the carnal pride and strife that is on display as we mistakenly derive and assert our identity according to the flesh. We publish articles and post “tweets” biting and devouring one another in the name of justice and equality not understanding that such behavior reveals that we are not being led by God’s Spirit, nor in possession of his wisdom. Arrogantly, we are instead operating in the realm of fleshly, even demonically inspired influences. Woe to you self-proclaimed leaders and ministers who cause even one of these little ones to stumble, following after and imitating you as you serve the god of your appetite.

The reason for the racism we see on display in the Body of Christ is due to the fact that we neither believe, understand, nor appreciate the fact that in the man Jesus God has broken down the barriers of race. He has dissolved the carnal hostility between the races in the body of Jesus. In Christ, God has created one new man. We all are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works. We simply don’t believe that together we are being built up as a dwelling place for God by the Spirit, the Church on display so that the manifold wisdom of God might be revealed to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. Instead of being a fragrance of life, our fleshly indulgence is a stench of death that gives birth to nothing but more separation and division.

The answer to our problem is really very simple. It’s called repentance. It is when we are willing to turn from our sin. We must allow the Spirit of God to change our perspective from a carnal one into a spiritual one. And it is then, as we are strengthened by his Spirit, that we will comprehend the full dimensions of the love of Jesus and be filled with the fullness of God. Then, we will walk in a manner worthy of our calling, with a humble heart and gentleness and patience, bearing with one another in love, passionately maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Pentecost: Turning Babel Upside Down

“Come on people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another
Right now”

That sounds pretty good, huh? A call for all men to come together, work for the common good and love each other. That’s what it’s all about, right?

Thousands of years ago, on the plains of Shinar (probably in modern-day Iraq), people wanted the same thing. It was shortly after the Flood, and people migrated from the east, all speaking the same language. It was probably a guy named Nimrod who said, “Look, let’s stay together, build ourselves a city and a tower that reaches into the heavens. We need to make a name for ourselves, establish ourselves so we won’t get spread out over the face of the whole earth.” And they set about to do just that.

I’ve come to realize that most people don’t spend a lot of time reading about biblical history, ancient religions and stuff. But I do. (I know-get a life!) There’s no way to get into it all right now, but let me just say that there are scholars, theologians and the like who believe that that city was built and centered around religion. A religion that, many contend, is the mother of all paganism. Spreading throughout Canaan, and eventually evolving and morphing into some of the religions we have with us today. (“The Mother of Harlots”?) I could go on (I’m resisting the temptation to do so.), but the gist of the point I’m trying to make is that these people wanted to establish humanity as one “tribe,” unified, and even religious. But they wanted nothing to do with God. The worship of the Creator, the God of the Flood (an event from which they weren’t that far removed) was exchanged far the worship of man and creation.

Most of us know at least part of this story- The Tower of Babel. God came down, confused their language and dispersed them over the face of the earth. Our quest for a one-world, anthropocentric system of governance and religion was thwarted-for the time being. But we weren’t (and still aren’t) done by a long shot. But fortunately, neither was God.

Enter Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus arrived, ushering in the kingdom of God. His life, death and resurrection hailed the summing up of all things in himself. And he promised that, upon his return to the Father, he would send the Spirit of God to fill and empower his disciples. This happened on the day of Pentecost. As on the plains of Shinar, the disciples were all gathered in “one accord.” But this gathering was not centered around man, but on the Son of God who became flesh. As the Spirit was poured out, instead of man’s language being confused, the languages of men were made one. People from every nation under the sun could hear the disciples declaring the mighty works of God in their own tongues. True unity was experienced as men and women from around the globe became one- a new holy race in Jesus.

I believe that today we find ourselves once again on “the plains of Shinar.” And if you listen, you can hear the rumblings of “the beast.” Mankind again longs for one “tribe,” unified, and even religious. But like our ancient ancestors, the people desire a one-world, anthropocentric system of governance and religion. A system that rejects the one true God. But it is only in Jesus that men can experience true unity. For it is in him alone that we are made complete. All of us one, “just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one,  I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”

The Tower of Babel is turned upside down by the power of Pentecost as the Spirit of God continues to fill the hearts of men and women, revealing the reality of Jesus, and our holy oneness in him.

Trees, Roots and Barred Owls

There’s a park in Davidson, NC called Fisher Farms that’s very close to my house. I go there quite often to run and walk the trails. It’s pretty cool, I’m even friends with a Barred Owl that lives there in the woods. Mind you, I’m his friend. I don’t think he’s mine yet, but I’m working on it. Anyway, I haven’t got to that point that I’ve heard runners allude to as to how running is a “spiritual thing” for them, but I did have some thoughts out there in the woods, and figured I’d pass them along.

One of the first things I noticed as I began to frequent the trails was all of the exposed roots from the various trees that literally carpet the ground. There are so many trees and so many roots that you can’t tell which roots belong to which trees. Obviously, the trees are distinct, but the roots twist and turn and overlap in such a way that makes it impossible (at least for me) to assign a tree to the roots. I started thinking that that is kind of how it is (or should be) for us Christians.

We are each ” planted” in Christ, our “roots” are all drinking from the same source. And as we spread out, growing in Jesus, there should be a “blending,” a unity in the Spirit  as our common thirst, the need we each have to drink of Him  produces an “overlapping root system.”  As we grow in Christ together, our roots mingle, and we began to look alike- conformed to the image of Jesus.

One last thought about trees and roots and Barred Owls. Occasionally, while running through the woods, I’ll trip over one of the roots. In fact, my right “ring-finger” has never been the same because of one of those falls. But it got me thinking how we Christians can stumble over one another, and even hurt each other. Now don’t get me wrong, I do know that there are such things as “stumbling blocks,” but I think more often than not we trip over each other simply because we’ve taken our eyes off the trail, and have gotten distracted by other things. Something I’ve learned is that while I am quick to blame others for my missteps, usually the problem originates with me. I take my eyes off of Jesus and boom!! A Barred Owl goes flying by and a root “reaches up and grabs me.”

It takes more than one tree to make a forest and more than one Christian to make up the body of Christ. May our roots go deep into him, each of us taking on his likeness, reflecting his glory in congruent diversity. And oh yeah, don’t let the Barred Owl distract you!!

 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:7, 8 ESV)

Jiffy Lube, “Bruce Almighty,” and Our Need for Communion

What do Jiffy Lube, and “Bruce Almighty” have to do with man’s need for communion? I’ve been thinking about the Trinity a lot lately (thanks Dr. Gifford). I’ve begun to realize that because God is Triune in his nature, all that God is and does should be considered with that fact in mind. Creation, salvation, you and me, everything is affected by the Triune nature of God, and can really only be properly understood with that in mind. When you think about God, with his Triune nature in mind, it’s easy to see why we (who have been created in his image) have such a desire for communion. So, let me tell you a story.

A few weeks ago I took my car to Jiffy Lube for an oil change. Recently, I’ve noticed that they have begun playing DVDs in the lobby as you wait for them to service your car. That day, the movie being played was “Bruce Almighty.” So, here I am sitting in the lobby with four complete strangers, trying to ignore the movie and concentrate on the book I brought with me. Well, if you’ve seen the movie, you may recall the part where Bruce’s rival is trying to deliver the evening news broadcast, and Bruce messes with him, causing him to just be able to speak gibberish, which I think is totally hilarious. Anyhow, I’m trying to keep it together in front of these strangers, not wanting to just bust out laughing in front of them in the lobby of the local Jiffy Lube; but, I couldn’t do it. I lost it, and just died laughing. And, so did everybody else. It was like we were all waiting for somebody to break the ice  and make it okay to laugh. For a brief moment, it felt like we were old friends, completely comfortable with each other. It seemed we all felt a bond at that moment, we wanted to laugh together, but just didn’t know how. That got me to thinking.

Because God is Triune in his nature, and we are created in his image; there is this innate, God created desire within us for communion. Even folks who don’t know the Lord need and seek intimacy with others. We have been created for fellowship, with God and each other. Sin, has disrupted and corrupted this whole thing. First off, as this relates to the body of Christ; the most natural thing in the world should be for us to enjoy Jesus together, but all too often we don our religious masks and refuse to let anyone see what’s really going on in our hearts. We put on airs, and refuse to expose our weaknesses to one another, and this keeps us from truly enjoying the communion we so desperately need. Put plainly, we are afraid to be real and many times opt to show each other the fake self we believe is safe for others to see. We don’t want others to see us make mistakes or get it wrong. As a result, the communion we are to have with each other, which by the way is to lead us into deeper intimacy with Jesus, is shallow and often disingenuous. How can we teach and admonish each other in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, when we are uncomfortable around each other?

Consider God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit eternally communing with each other in absolute holiness. Our relationships within the body of Christ are to reflect the communion of the Triune God. In fact, the only way you can mature properly in the Lord is in communion with your brothers and sisters. Yes, we are to have that personal walk with God, but you’ll only go so far by yourself. In each other, we visibly see God at work and are built up in the faith. You weren’t designed to know it all, or be the high and lofty anointed one. We need each other to be whole. It’s the way He set it up.

All of this means we have to willing to be vulnerable, and guess what; may be it is you who needs to be the one to “break the ice” in your fellowship. You could be the one the Lord uses to bring freedom and renewal in the lives of those with whom you commune. Try this. The next time someone asks you, “How’s it going?” tell them the truth. Spend time with Jesus, let his word abide in you, and then pour into someone else. They need you and you need them. I’ll leave you with this:

“The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit. Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything? But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. How strange a body would be if it had only one part! Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.” In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad. All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.”