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Los Angeles, California, United States

Sunday, March 31, 2013

No More Labels

I ran across a YouTube video of Naomi Klein, the author of “Shock Doctrine” and “No More Labels”, discussing the latter book. It dawned on me as I was thinking about the book and what that means... that we have to stop buying into brands, that what's really important isn't the brand, but the quality of the product and that isn't always reflected by the brand name or label. As believers, I believe we need to do the same with brands or labels in the body of Christ.

As a non-denominational believer, which is really what Congregationalism is about... each congregation declaring its statement of faith and coming together with other's of like-minded faith... we've got to stop putting labels on Christ and on His Church. Should it really matter if you're Catholic (which means universal by the way) or Lutheran or Church of God in Christ, or Presbyterian when it comes to our core beliefs or the condition of the body? Don't we all believe in the same Jesus... that he died on the cross, was buried in a tomb and rose on the third day?

Should it really be a problem for the Lutheran Synod if Rev. Rob Morris, a Lutheran Pastor in Newtown CT, participates in an interfaith service, when his entire town has been devastated by the senseless murder of twenty six of Newtown's smallest and most defenseless residents? Should he have stayed away if everyone there didn't share traditional Lutheran beliefs and do we really think Jesus would have?

How are we to become “a body fitly joined together, joint supplying joint,[ Ephes. 4:16] if the “joints” are constantly trying to cut each other off... from purpose, from blessings from fellowship with the saints (and for my Catholic family out there, I believe that a “saint” is anyone who has been sanctified by the blood of Jesus, and that does not require evidence of miracles like the gift of bi-location) and from God? How are we to be true “living epistles read of men” when we don't live the Word... when we don't live Christ?

“Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.” [2Corinthians 3:1-3] This is what Christ wants for us... for His body... His bride which is the Church.

Today, as we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus, for me, the important thing to remember is not the suffering of His death, but of life resurrected. Jesus was only dead 3 days, and now he's alive forever, and in a glorified state... better than he ever was before! Better for us because what He gave, could only have been given by Him. Better for us because only His blood could cleanse us of all unrightiousness. He did for us what we were and are not capable of doing for ourselves and my prayer this Resurrection Sunday, is that He does the same for His Church. That the love of Christ enables us as His body, overcome the divisiveness and sectarianism organized religion seems to encourage. He died that we might truly have life... and life more abundantly, but I don't believe we can be resurrected if we continue the culture of labels and division we've created.

I don't believe that there has been any other time in modern history, that the Church has been more challenged, but our greatest challenge comes from within. We must return to our first Love... the Love that sustained and in fact grew the First Century Church under tremendous persecution. The Love that caused the Protestant Reformation, the Azuza Street Revival and drew most of us into the non-denominational movement of the 1980's and 1990's. The love that enables those of us who believe on His name, to become the Sons of God. “Which are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” [John 1:13]

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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Things Aren't Always As They Seem

Isn't it funny how people think they know something and they really don't. I had a lesson the other day. I was at the beach, and was in worship and praise and crying (which is what I normally do when I praise/worship) and a Muslim lady passed by and smiled and nodded, as she passed with a young man who seemed to be a son or nephew. I smiled and nodded to her in response and I had a feeling that each of us understood. We smiled and nodded in agreement with the process... having an understanding, because we both love God, and recognized in each other the desire to share our love with Him, and appreciated in each other the expression of that love. There were no word exchanged, but the understanding was immediate and appreciated by both of us.

A few minutes later, a Christian lady with a young girl walked by, back tracking a couple of times, and eventually came up to me and asked if I was ok. She said that she thought I looked a little sad and that they (she and the girl) had prayed for me. The lady was very kind with the best of intentions, but I had to explain that I wasn't sad. That it is quite normal for me to cry when I worship or praise God and that I had come to the beach to do just that. That she had witnessed my process of praise, and that it was good. I was actually experiencing joy and tears were of gratitude. When I said this, the woman looked a little puzzled, softly patted me on the shoulder and walked away, but I never got the impression that she fully understood what I was talking about.

This isn't the only time I've had this experience. I had a similar experience with a Hasidic Jewish lady while riding on the bus in Chicago. We were both praying, verying quietly, mouthing the words under our breath, without volume, when we suddenly looked at each other and realized we were not alone. We were doing the same thing … she mouthing the words from her little silver-clad prayer book and me, quietly praying in tongues. She in Hebrew and me in a language not even comprehensible by man, and yet we knew...and there was a moment of recognition and relief and joy.

We assume... and I've been guilty of this myself... that because people are of different faiths, that they don't know “the truth”, whatever we believe that truth happens to be. But I am finding more and more that God is so much bigger than anything we could imagine, and that those of us who love Him are connected by faith and by the Spirit... we know Him. It doesn't take a doctorate of Divinity, Homiletics or Hermeneutics to understand what we're doing when we pray... we become one body. The Spirit unites us and we sing His praises. We become apart of that “all the earth” spoken of in Psalms 97, rejoicing and declaring God's glory as we worship Abba Father.

Some may not yet know Him as Abba, and I'm not saying that “all roads lead to God” far from it, but for those of us who are His, our road is paved with praise. “We enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into his courts with praise” (Ps. 100:4).

Now I'm not saying that the Christian lady was somehow less faithful or less sincere, she wasn't. I'm actually glad she asked so that I could explain what I was doing, but she was in need of growth and many Christians are. We need to be able to better express our lack of knowledge, so that we can get a better understanding... of our own faith, and the faith of others in this world that we share. I learned something that day... well I think I already knew, but it was confirmed that day... that things aren't always as they seem, and that God's people are of every race, creed, color... and yes, religion and because we love Him, we should be able to find a way to love and understand one another.

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