I Am A Horrible god

I am a horrible god.

I can’t control one single thing in my life.

Not really.

Now, I strive and try and give it my best go.

I want to control the youth group I serve. I want to control circumstances in the life of my family, my marriage, my job. I want to control when and how students respond to the gospel.

And.

I.

Can’t.

During this week, I’m reading the book of Esther and listening to a sermon series that covers it. The book of Esther shows us a picture of a man who tried to be in control, who then tried to create a nation full of men who felt the same.

The guy’s name was King Xerxes.

In the first chapter we read of a humongous party that he throws. Six months straight of uninhibited feasting, drinking, and sex. All in a huge palace. It’s disgusting and deplorable. And it’s all about his own glory.

The army of Persia and Media and the nobles and governors of the provinces were before him, while he showed the riches of his royal glory and the splendor and pomp of his greatness for many days, 180 days. – Esther 1:3a-4

His glory.

His greatness.

At the time, Xerxes was king over an empire that some history buffs estimate was three million square miles. It was massive. The chapter says that he has 127 provinces.

Now, there is archaeological evidence that sheds light on how he referred to himself. He saw himself as the greatest of kings. His enemies (sometimes) and his servants believed the same. Here was a man that was full of his own arrogance. Later in chapter one, he calls for the Queen to come in and be shown off in front of the thousands of men. She denies him that request, and all of a sudden he goes into a tail spin.

Despite his bold and provocative proclamations of his lordship and kingliness, he is still immensely insecure.

So, him and his bros come together and come up with a plan. Queen Vashti’s refusal to come before the King at his command could not be allowed to spread to other women throughout the provinces. So they decide to make a decree.

Part of the decree is as follows.

He sent letters to all the royal provinces, to every province in its own script and to every people in its own language, that every man be master in his own household and speak according to the language of his people. – Esther 1:22

Now, let’s be clear from the onset, this is blatantly sexist and not at all how a Christ-honoring marriage in 2019 is supposed to work. The woman in the relationship is not called to report to you as king. As a male, you are called to lead the household, yes. But through the model of Christ who gave up His life for those He loved.

Anyway, this is the heart of what Xerxes is trying to do.

He has already acted as god, now he is trying to establish a bunch of smaller gods who are masters over their own affairs.

The satire that is under the surface of this story is that Xerxes will fall to the Greeks. His kingdom will end, only to be remembered in the annals of history. All of his attempts at being god, at being in control, of his spouse and armies and provinces ending in failure.

Guys, here’s the reality.

It’s the reality I’m coming to realize through God’s Word, through the wisdom of others, and from the circumstances of my life.

Worry, anxiety, anger, and fear are often all fruit from me trying to be god.

The loss of joy comes when I feel like I have to control my life.

The loss of joy comes when in my mind, the flourishing of my life is dependent on me.

We make horrible masters.

We make horrible gods.

I added on my prayer list today a daily prayer of “I’m Not God”. For me, in this season of my life, I know that I will need to daily respond to this reality in prayer, to see joy come into my life as I acknowledge that He is God, and He is Good.

Would you pray for me as I walk that out?

Let me know if I can pray for you in any way!

Love ya guys. This one is a little shorter and maybe not as polished, but it’s what is on my heart!

In His Name,

Nate Roach

 

 

Christian, Be Quiet

It was late in the Summer of 2017.

It was a Saturday afternoon, and I was hanging out at my apartment in Phoenix, AZ with my friend Matt and my then girlfriend, now wife, Jamie. I got a text that my dad needed to talk to me, so I stepped outside into the 112 degree heat and gave him a ring.

My dad informed me that my eighteen year old brother who had run away about a year prior had chosen to legally remove himself from our family. This was something he could do without consulting us given the laws in Texas.

Before I even got off the phone, I was already in tears. Questions were racing through my mind.

Why would God allow this?

My parents followed God’s call to open up our home to this young man, to adopt him, to make him part of our family and bestow upon him all the blessings of parents that love him dearly.

Then he practically spat in their faces and took off.

For a year I prayed and prayed and prayed and now God allowed him to leave our family. No hope of reconciliation and restoration. No hope of a family reunion down the line where broken things are restored.

Instead, my parents lost a son and I lost a brother.

I made my way back to my door, got through it, and then collapsed to the ground. I sat there crying right in my doorway. Jamie and Matt came running and I barely eked out the words “Trevor left our family”.

For what felt like an eternity, I sobbed as Matt and Jamie sat on the floor next to me, consoling me. They didn’t speak. All you could hear were my cries.

In the book of Job, we see Job get blasted with suffering in the first two chapters. By the latter half of chapter two, Job is alone in his suffering, his own wife leaving him to suffer in silence.

When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was. – Job 2:11-13 

We learned from the first chapter of Job that Job was a man of renown in the region where he lived (1:3). Word of his suffering spread, and three of his friends from the surrounding area came and sought to encourage him.

They noticed how much pain he was in, joined in his pain, mourned with him, and said nothing to him for a week.

These three will later show their foolishness to us, but here at the onset they teach us a considerable amount about how to respond to the suffering of a friend.

The main truth is this.

Keep your mouth shut.

Suffering as a Christian is a reality. It is a promise straight from the lips of our Savior. It is to be expected. That being said, what a Christian or non-Christian for that matter needs to know in the midst of their suffering is that you are for them and that you are with them.

I’m sure many of us have stories where we sought to open up about a difficulty, a tragedy in our lives, only to be told right off the bat by good-hearted, well-meaning Christians that God has a purpose for our pain.

There are a plethora of Scriptures that teach that. We saw just in our last blog that God uses good and bad for our benefit, and that we should be willing to accept both from Him (Receiving Bad From God). But, in the throes of intense suffering, the best thing that you can do is keep your mouth shut. Cry with them. Mourn with them. Sit with them. Listen to them rant, listen to them cry out about God and against him. As time progresses, then you can share the beautiful truths of Scripture. But you do the faith a disservice when you come in with cookie-cutter statements.

Matt and Jamie sat and mourned with me.

They let me get angry, get sad, wrestle with God.

They never brought up anything. They simply listened.

Imagine if I had come through the door of my apartment, collapsed on the ground, only for Matt and Jamie to say “Don’t cry, God’s got a plan”. That would have been the most detrimental thing they could have done in that moment.

Look at this verse.

Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar poured on a wound, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart. – Proverbs 25:20 

I’m sure we all have stories of when someone spoke too soon instead of listening to us in our pain. I have been on both sides. I have been spoken to instead of listened to, but I’ve also opened my stupid mouth in the midst of the suffering of others. Brothers and sisters in Christ, let’s not be the type of people who take away coats on cold days. Let’s not be people who, even in a church setting like Sunday School, offer up trite and flippant sayings from Scripture instead of letting people have a place to suffer and yet feel loved.

It breaks my heart to acknowledge that many have left church, or even given up on following Jesus, because you and I open our mouths instead of keeping them shut.

Christian, be quiet.

Let us show our communities that our churches are places where they can suffer, where they can be raw about their doubts and angers, their fears and anxieties, their wrestling with God. If our churches aren’t a safe place for people to wrestle with God in suffering, we will continue to see our churches die out as the next generation finds more loving people outside the church than inside it.

Again, I’m not accusing anyone of malicious ill will.

I’m rather reminding us that we all struggle, we all wrestle, we all fight, we all doubt, we all lose hope in the midst of suffering. If you have had a suffering-free life, you’re likely a kid or the luckiest person alive. So why do we not allow people to suffer? Why don’t we allow them the place and space to get to the point where they, like Job, can say “My Redeemer lives”.

Sometimes that is hard to say right off the bat.

For me, it has taken years to get to the point where I can reflect on Trevor’s story and have hope. Some days it still wanes.

Let’s suffer together.

Christian, be quiet.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

Belief On My Terms

We’re entering a season of the church calendar when we reflect on the final days of Jesus leading up to his death and resurrection. In light of this time of the year, I’ve been reading a little in the Gospel of Matthew. And while reading the portion prior to Jesus’ death, I was struck by the audacity of the crowds. I was struck with conviction in my own heart too.

Imagine you’ve followed this man around, a philosophy and theology teacher who seemingly came out of nowhere. You’re pretty certain he’s something special, but you just can’t put your finger on it. You also know you’re looking for a rebellion to start to remove the oppressive Roman government from ruling over you. Maybe this Jesus guy is that guy.

But all of a sudden he starts talking a little crazy. He’s saying things about tearing down the temple where everyone worships, including you and your family. The major religious teachers you respect and follow on Twitter are saying he’s blasphemous. He calls himself the Son of God, which might mean he’s actually God somehow? You’re not really sure what to do, or think, or say.

You just want to follow God.

Then everyone around you gets riled up. Let’s kill this crazy man. He’s making bold claims, but he’s not delivering on a political revolution. So you get swept up in the frenzy. You’re sold, this man is a blasphemer. He’s distracting people from God. He might be the Adversary himself!

Everyone gathers around Pilate, who is going to give you a choice of who you want to be freed from prison on behalf of your annual festival. And this happens (Matthew 27):

15 At the festival the governor’s custom was to release to the crowd a prisoner they wanted. 16 At that time they had a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. 17 So when they had gathered together, Pilate said to them, “Who is it you want me to release for you—Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?”

You listen. You consider the options. The religious authorities speak up.

20 The chief priests and the elders, however, persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to execute Jesus. 21 The governor asked them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?”

“Barabbas!” they answered.

This is your preference as well. It’s the first of three preferences you will get to make this day. Pilate speaks up again.

22 Pilate asked them, “What should I do then with Jesus, who is called Christ?”

They all answered, “Crucify him!”

23 Then he said, “Why? What has he done wrong?”

But they kept shouting all the more, “Crucify him!”

24 When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that a riot was starting instead, he took some water, washed his hands in front of the crowd, and said, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. See to it yourselves!”

25 All the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” 26 Then he released Barabbas to them and, after having Jesus flogged, handed him over to be crucified.

Another preference. Let’s crucify Jesus. You’re fired up, you’re certain this is what God would like. Let the one who deceives be judged and condemned.

A little while later you finally see Jesus led to Golgatha, the mount where criminals are crucified. And you look up and see Jesus and two others hanging there. You join in the festivities, mocking Jesus, who is getting what he seemingly deserves.

38 Then two criminals were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left. 39 Those who passed by were yelling insults at him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross!” 41 In the same way the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him and said, 42 “He saved others, but he cannot save himself! He is the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God; let God rescue him now—if he takes pleasure in him! For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 In the same way even the criminals who were crucified with him taunted him.

Everyone was taunting and mocking Jesus. You and I would have done the same if we were there. How do I know that? Because we still taunt and mock Jesus with our words and actions. If you’ve mocked another human, an image of God, then you’ve mocked God. If you’ve cursed yourself, an image of God, then you’ve cursed God.

Some of us are bold enough to have even mocked and cursed God in the midst of prayer–whether we believe in God or not.

And we’ve wanted our preferences all along the way.

Our first preference as part of the crowd was for Barabbas to be freed. Our second preference was for Jesus to be crucified. Our final preference was for God to save himself instead of us.

We are so foolish.

Our preferences are twisted and corrupt because we are sinful. Our default is sin.

And we are so deceived by sin that we think we can dictate how God should show up in our lives and in our world to save it. We think highly of our own plans and our own wisdom, a wisdom that is mere foolishness to God.

I don’t even know what to do with this. I’m still processing what it means to be so foolish. I’m still processing my own preferences, even for what following God is supposed to look like. I’m processing my own preferences for what makes a good life.

But I’m praying for wisdom. I need eyes to see the mystery of God’s work in this world.

I don’t want to be foolish enough to claim Jesus as my savior but my own self as lord.

I don’t want belief on my own terms.

Please pray for me.

– Matt Welborn

Embarrassed To Be A Christian

Some of us hate confrontation.

Some of us hate conflict.

Here’s what I’ve learned recently.

To be a follower of Jesus means that most people aren’t going to agree with me or like me.

You may be thinking, well duh Nate, we know this.

Well, I have to remind myself sometimes of that truth.

Recently, I was reading in the Gospel of Luke, and I came across the following verse. It’s a verse I honestly hadn’t noticed before.

Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets. – Luke 6:26

Wow. That’s pretty intense. Jesus is proclaiming  that if everyone likes you as a follower of Jesus, you’re probably not standing solidly on the truth. Instead, you are most likely flattering others and telling them what they want to hear. That was the method of the false prophet.

Jesus is making it clear that not everyone around us is going to speak well of us. As a matter of fact, we can expect the opposite when we stand on what Scripture says is true.

That doesn’t jive well with my desire to be fully liked by all people.

Now, I am not an advocate for being Christian jerks. There is a balance of truth and love. Many people that claim Christ are some of the rudest, meanest, and honestly most vile people when it comes to communicating that which the Bible says is true.

For some of us who claim Christ however, our desire to be well loved leads us to avoid the truth. We tiptoe around the topics of the day, living our lives as sheepish, embarrassed Christians. I think many members of our churches live this way.

Here’s what I mean by this:

Some of us are embarrassed by the Bible’s view on sexuality.

So we avoid talking about it. The Bible calls homosexuality sin, but it also calls premarital sex, masturbation, pornography, transgenderism, divorce (for a reason other than marital unfaithfulness), and a litany of other sexual or marital practices to be sin. In a world of individualism, some of us back down off of what the Bible says to be true, not wanting to infringe upon people’s preferences or personal lives. Yet to be a follower of Jesus is to submit one’s sexuality to Jesus.

Some of us are embarrassed by the claim of Christ that all of a person’s life, all of their heart and soul and mind and strength, should be submitted to the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

But, we want people to come to our churches. So we preach messages that tickle the ears, make people feel good about themselves, and keep the status quo. Instead of daily submission to a life of discomfort via allegiance to Jesus, we preach for our people to chase the desires of their hearts, that they can achieve all of their dreams and goals with Jesus’ magic pixie dust of blessings raining down upon their lives. Christianity becomes about feeling good.

Oh, and those times where Jesus calls us to love Him more than we’d love our own family, that was hyperbole and exaggeratory on Jesus’ part. Our kids should be number #1 in our lives. Don’t teach them covenant commitment, make it about their fun and comfort.

Some of us are embarrassed by the call to holiness that is abundantly clear in Scripture and is a crucial part of what it means to follow Jesus.

So we make life about authenticity and transparency. This leads to the Game of Thrones watching, Cards against Humanity playing, beer drinking, cussing, partying, but attending church on Sunday version of Christianity. Are any of the above the unforgivable sin? By no means. But the whole “in the world but not of it” mantra of this subset of Christians shows the world around it that there’s really nothing different about them. They partake in the same things, act the same way. This truly is an abuse of grace.

Some of us are embarrassed by the practices and traditions that are present in our churches.

We are afraid to bring people to our church, because what will they think when we belt out all four verses of “Be Thou My Vision”? What will they think when we have the Uber-awkward “greet people around you time” of the service? What will they think when we talk about tithing, or when we have a Frightless Family Fun Night on Halloween? None of this is hip and relevant. None of this is cool and popular.

Some of us are embarrassed by the character of God, namely His anger and wrath towards the unrighteous.

So we make it our mission to be God’s PR rep. We start by not studying and definitely not speaking about the Old Testament, because that’s not about the God of love. We then make sure to downplay the fact that the Sermon on the Mount ups the ante for the follower of Jesus. We don’t talk about hell. Some even come to the conclusion that hell isn’t real. When we do this though, we are communicating that Christ died for no reason.

Do any of these hit close to home for you?

Some of them hit home for me.

We have all of a sudden become people who are apologizing for what we believe! We’ve become people who are embarrassed to be associated with Jesus.

We all fall into it.

I’m a pastor and I fall into it.

When I get my haircut in Wichita Falls, I inevitably get asked what it is I do for a living. I answer truthfully, yet there are times when I start to feel embarrassed. My heart doesn’t want the discomfort of being known for all of the above things I talked about in this blog. My heart is also wicked, not to be trusted.

To be a follower of Jesus is to be weird, to be not liked at times.

No, we mustn’t be rude and arrogant.

Yes, we must be willing to stand for truth, truth spoken in love.

Stop apologizing for being a Christian.

Start embracing the discomfort.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

Wretched Idolatry

The Bible is not always as PG-rated as we would like to think. While teaching the Bible in a flippant manner is not good, I also think that there is a shock value in many Biblical texts that we are supposed to steep in rather than gloss over.

Here in February, I’ve been starting through the book of Jeremiah. This is a book of the Bible that I have never spent a ton of time in, but as part of God’s Word I know that it is useful for my training in righteousness. As I was reading through the first few chapters the last couple days, I’ve been caught totally off guard by the language it uses when talking about the idolatry of God’s people.

Through the lips of Jeremiah, God proclaims that the spiritual idolatry of His people is equivalent to whoredom.

You read that right.

Not only that, but the Lord goes on to use even more shocking imagery for the sins of His people.

In essence, Jeremiah 2-3 teaches us a few things about idolatry.

IDOLATRY IS ADULTERY

Idolatry is adultery. This imagery, this theme, is all throughout the Biblical story, most often seen in the prophets.

Look at the language that God uses through the mouth of the prophet Jeremiah in Jeremiah 2-3.

This is what the Lord says: “I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me and followed me through the wilderness, through a land not sown. – Jeremiah 2:2

Long ago you broke off your yoke and tore off your bonds; you said, ‘I will not serve you!’ Indeed, on every high hill and under every spreading tree you lay down as a prostitute. – Jeremiah 2:20

You have lived as a prostitute with many lovers – would you now return to me?” – Jeremiah 3:1b

Then in the most stunning language we see this:

(you are) a wild donkey accustomed to the desert, sniffing the wind in her craving – in her heat who can restrain her? – Jeremiah 2:24a

Why such abrasive and shocking language?

Because the reality of idolatry is deplorable.

God made a covenant with His people in the Old Testament, and although He rescued and redeemed them time and time again, they turned from Him and worshipped other gods. They were not faithful. All one has to do is read the Old Testament with even the slightest attention to idolatry and you will see that it seeps into almost every story. God’s people regularly and religiously pursued false gods of the other nations and false gods of their own creation.

What idols have you created? What fills your heart and mind besides the Lord?

IDOLATRY IS CONTAGIOUS

So we’ve seen in this passage that idolatry is equated to spiritual adultery.

Sadly, it gets worse. Jeremiah says that idolatry is contagious. According to Jeremiah 3:7-10, we see that the faithlessness of Israel leads Judah into sin as well.

When a country or community becomes dominated by idolatry, the idolatry starts to become the new normal. Idolatry can become the status quo, seeping into the very nature of the community.

How many of us find our confidence and security in our possessions? How many of us find our confidence and security in our government or military? How many of us find our confidence and security in our ability to follow man-made religious traditions? How many of us find our confidence and security in the praise of others?

All of the above are foolish.

Here’s a not-so-subtle form of idolatry I’ve found myself in: needing the praise of man.

There’s nothing wrong with desiring appreciation. That’s a natural desire. But when the praise of man becomes the source of energy, life, and joy in my heart, I’ve fallen into idolatry. One way the praise of man has become a contagion in our communities is through social media. Now, every person has the ability to speak up about practically anything. Now, we can parade our accomplishments before a litany of ‘friends’ and ‘followers’ who will build us up with their likes, and if we’re lucky, their heart emojis.

This is all fine and dandy when the likes are coming.

It becomes discouraging when the likes run dry.

Even writing about this seems silly. Ultimately it is.

Social media gets us consistently and constantly comparing our lives to the lives of others, filling our minds with things that are neither pure nor lovely.

In a world of people-pleasing affirmation addicts, the idolatry of needing affirmation became contagious. I fall into it time and again.

WE CAN TURN FROM IDOLATRY

Here’s the good news. Both for me and for you if you too struggle with idolatry.

Jeremiah 3 has some profound words about the grace of God.

” ‘Return, faithless Israel,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will frown on you no longer, for I am faithful,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will not be angry forever. . . . . . . . “Return, faithless people; I will cure you of backsliding.” – Jeremiah 3:12b, 22a

I’m not faithful to God. I’m a spiritual harlot. I’m a donkey in heat. Yet God says here in the book of Jeremiah that He will receive His people back to Him. This theme of God’s forgiveness and grace in the midst of our vile sins runs throughout the entire narrative of Scripture.

He is not angry forever. He relents from giving us what we deserve. He is faithful, even when we are not. He is powerful enough to cure us of our backsliding.

I backslide a lot.

Like a lot a lot.

Yet each time I return to the Lord, each time I limp my way back to Him, He is faithful to receive me and restore our relationship.

There is a way out of the idolatry you find yourself in, the idolatry that is ingrained in your psyche, the idolatry that is likely even culturally acceptable.

Return to the Lord, to your first love.

Lay your idols down at His feet.

Let your heart and mind be filled with praise for Him.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

The Commandment of Reconciliation

In every church I attended up until the last two years, we held Communion* quarterly. (*I will use Communion, the Lord’s Supper, and/or the Eucharist interchangeably.)

When it eventually came around, I was always scared, or perhaps, worried. Why? Essentially I was told to reflect on the last three months of my life and confess every sin that came to mind–if any did. I was given 15 seconds to “get right with God.”

By the time the plate with juice and little crackers came by, I’d better be spiritually clean enough or I’d be…punished? (I’m really not sure what the consequences were, but they were portrayed as severe and harsh. Maybe even “lose your salvation” harsh.)

Now, I’m sure I misunderstood someone or something someone said at some point. A lot of my early theological understandings were half-baked–and my ingredients were one part Scripture, two parts whatever I was taught explicitly, and four parts who-knows-what. For example, it took me until 4th grade to finally ask who the Jews were. I seriously had no idea.

But back to my understanding of coming to the Lord’s Table in a “worthy manner” as based in what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11. I used to think it was all about confessing my sins so I could clean myself up for Jesus. I was more concerned with getting things right with me and Jesus so Jesus could say, “Take and eat, you deserve me.”

I have never and will never deserve Jesus.

I’m a sinful, selfish, greedy man. My heart without Jesus is wicked and cruel and dead. My flesh is weak and desires money, comfort, sex, and happiness above Jesus.

But Jesus saved me.

So I don’t come to the Table by any means of my own. I come to the Table because of the love of the Father, the death and life of the Son, and the power of the Spirit.

Now, if you’ve ever eaten a meal with your family, you might notice something peculiar: You’re eating with other people. The same goes for when you eat the bread and drink the wine of the Eucharist. You’re communing with other people. And that it actually way more terrifying a reality than missing one sin and forgetting to confess it before coming to the table. Why? Because the Bible has some serious commands about coming to God without making things right with other people.

Let’s consider what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11 about Communion. (It’s slightly long, so take your time and read it slowly and attentively.)

Now in giving this instruction I do not praise you, since you come together not for the better but for the worse. For to begin with, I hear that when you come together as a church there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. Indeed, it is necessary that there be factions among you, so that those who are approved may be recognized among you. When you come together, then, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. For at the meal, each one eats his own supper. So one person is hungry while another gets drunk! Don’t you have homes in which to eat and drink? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What should I say to you? Should I praise you? I do not praise you in this matter!

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sin against the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself; in this way let him eat the bread and drink from the cup. For whoever eats and drinks without recognizing the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself. This is why many are sick and ill among you, and many have fallen asleep. If we were properly judging ourselves, we would not be judged, but when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined, so that we may not be condemned with the world.

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, when you come together to eat, welcome one another. If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that when you gather together you will not come under judgment. I will give instructions about the other matters whenever I come.  – 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 (CSB)


There’s a lot in there to unpack. But I want you to notice one big idea. In verses 20-22, we see people are eating and drinking separately from one another. Division runs so deep, Paul calls it out and rebukes them. He even says they act like they, “despise the church of God!” And later, in verses 27-30, we see the divisive way they are eating and drinking “together” is a sin (!) and they are actually eating and drinking judgment (!) on themselves.

So what should they do instead?

Paul tells them in verses 33-34, and Jesus also gives a similar answer in Matthew 5:23-24. Paul simply tells them to “welcome one another.” How exactly?

Jesus says this:

So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. – Matthew 5:23-24

I know the language is a little different. But both are acts of worship–and that’s what I want to focus on. Both Paul and Jesus are condemning something interesting: Failing to love others. Paul says this is a sin that caused the Corinthian church to have people fall sick and even die! Jesus says this is a sin that he would rather you take care of by reconciliation before coming to worship God!

In case you missed it:

Jesus most deserves our worship, but he most desires our reconciliation with others.

God desires mercy, not sacrifice.

If you know someone has something against you, or you have something against someone, pray–and act. Give someone a call. Meet up with them. Make wrongs right.

Roll up your sleeves, our rest in Jesus means we have work to do.

– Matthew Welborn

 

Attacking Your Family

When we fight and condemn one another, denounce other Christians and divide from them, fostering all kinds of divisions within the church, then we do not have the mind of Christ. – Christopher Wright 

If I were to give an account for every word that I have spoken throughout my life, I would be woefully ashamed of many things I’ve said about others without their knowledge. In a world that remains in darkness, the church bodies in our communities sadly has its light for Christ dimmed due to in-fighting, gossip, slander, and the like. They have become respectable sins, those sins that are in our lives that aren’t nearly as bad as adultery and murder and thus eat away at our relationships since they aren’t confronted.

The above quote is from the book Cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit. In the chapter about peace, Wright bemoans the reality that many of our church communities are ravaged by condemnation and accusations being thrown to and fro. There is no peace it seems in the body of Christ.

I want to first address and confess my sins in this area. In my first years in ministry, there were many times where I spoke poorly about those who had no ability to defend themselves since they weren’t even privy to the conversations being had. I belittled spiritual leadership in authority over me, I poked fun at others’ expense, and spouted off about anyone and everyone when given even the slightest sliver of an opportunity.

All of this I did with very little remorse or even concern. In my prideful state of mind, I was simply speaking truth in the midst of those who had strayed from it. In my arrogant state of mind, I was merely calling people out due to their sin (btdubs, the Bible never calls for us to call people out for their sin via conversations without their presence).

I am grateful to God that I have seen a lot of growth in this area since I moved back to Texas. Although I am still prone to falling into sin in this area, God has brought me a long way.

Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. . . . . may the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. – Romans 15:2, 5-6

How do we glorify God as a community?

We live in harmony.

We build up our neighbor, our brother or sister in Christ.

My heart breaks when I see full grown adults bickering with one another and gossiping about each other. My heart breaks when I fall into this sin. We are not called to speak poorly about anyone, much less someone who also calls Jesus Christ their Lord.

The above passage is encouraging in its phrasing. The ability to live in harmony with all people, no matter what, is brought about by the God whose vary character is one of endurance and encouragement. We can encourage others and find the endurance to do so even when nobody else is, because that is the character of our God.

Here’s just a few quick ways that we can combat this insidious sin in our churches.

1. Confront Sin Privately (and be willing to be confronted)

As I said earlier, in previous seasons of ministry, I used the excuse that I was simply confronting sin when I went around gossiping and slandering. That’s not how the Bible teaches us to confront sin. We are to admonish and exhort one another privately, in the context of already established relationships. On a vastly important note, I have no right to speak into the attitudes and lifestyles of others if I give no one the opportunity to confront sin in my life without getting defensive or upset.

Instead of gossiping to others; lovingly, kindly, humbly, bring up the matter at hand in private conversation.

2. Speak Up

This is the hardest one for me to do. I don’t very often. But one way that we can correct the sins of gossip and slander in our churches is by speaking up and saying that we aren’t going to allow it. We should go about this in a manner of humility, not accusing or attacking those who are in the moment gossiping. We must simply remind one another that it divides the church against itself, and that nothing good EVER comes from gossip and slander.

As a twenty-five year old, it’s difficult for me to speak up against it in certain contexts, but we are called by God to make peace.

3. Encourage 

The final way that we can confront gossip and slander is by consistently and constantly encouraging others. In his book, Side by Side, Edward Welch encourages his readers to see the good in all people.

The goal here is to keep our eyes open for good things in others. When we see good things, we savor them and point them out. As you get to know people, you will encounter many hard things, some unattractive things, but if you also see good, you will see people more as God does, and that is a blessing. – Edward Welch 

Instead of being men and women who claim to follow Jesus yet tear down their sibling in the Lord, let us be men and women who consistently build others up. Find the good, and speak about it. When the temptation to slander comes up, encourage. When the temptation to bemoan someone’s actions comes up, speak instead about the good that you see in them.

We live in a dark world, this is true.

Instead of tearing one another down through incessant gossip and slander, we can bind together and transform into the community that people desire to be about.

My question is, are you part of the problem?

I know I have been at times.

God’s grace is greater than your sin and mine.

Let’s be people who leave gossip and slander behind.