Today in 1 Corinthians 1:9-13, we see one of my favorite passions of Paul.  Paul is huge on the unity of the church.  Listen to what he says here, and then we’ll talk about what is happening:

9 God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 10 Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters. 12 What I mean is that each of you says, ‘I belong to Paul,’ or ‘I belong to Apollos,’ or ‘I belong to Cephas,’ or ‘I belong to Christ.’ 13 Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

Divisions.jpgThis is the way it worked in Paul’s time. Preachers in churches weren’t sent by the conference nor were they called by the local church.  There were wandering itinerant preachers that came to the town and to the church, stayed for a while, and then moved on to the next town and church.  And they would have been followed by another preacher in much the same way.

So the same church, over a period of time, would have had several preachers come through and teach.  And that’s what has happened here in Corinth.  There have been several preachers come through, and the loyalty that the members of the church have towards their “favorite” preacher is one of the many things that is dividing the church.

That is why Paul reminds them, none of the preachers that they know has divided for their sins. They were not baptized in the name of any of these preachers.  They were called into salvation by God, not by any human.  Now God may have used that human, but that person was not the cause of their salvation.

God is the one calling us into salvation and God is the one that is saving us.

Not any human.

I think for us today, this is an important reminder.  We all have our preferences and our favorites.  We all have things that impactful to us.  We have a preacher that really speaks to us.  Or a style of worship that truly touches our heart or a hymn that really impacts us.  Or a denomination (or local church) whose theology and structure that we like.  And these things are all wonderful.  I am the same way.

But the danger is this.  When we allow these things to divide us as believers.  Just because you or I have something or someone that is the way that we prefer it, doesn’t mean that someone that has a different favorite preacher or style of worship is not our brother or sister in Christ.

Because we aren’t saved by preachers or styles of worship or denominations or anything such as that.  We are saved by Jesus.

So, if you are believer, then you are family.  We can’t allow these things to divide us.  We are one.  And the world needs us to be one.

Let us love each other, even when we disagree over these things.  Because the love that God has placed in our hearts must be bigger than any of this!

As followers of Christ, let us love!

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Day Thirty-Six with Mark: Mark 9:38-41

Today we look at Mark 9:38-41 and we see Jesus tell us about how we can work together as different churches:

Another Exorcist
38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40 Whoever is not against us is for us. 41 For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.

around-the-crossToday we see Jesus giving us a picture of what “church” should be like. We see the disciples saying, we saw people casting out demons in Jesus name, but they weren’t part of their group. And they tried to stop them, because they weren’t part of their group.

And Jesus says no.  If they do good my name (in other words, through me) then they can’t be against me.  In other words, if they are part of Jesus, but not part of us, you know what?  It’s ok.  Jesus’ team, Jesus kingdom is bigger than just you and me.  It’s bigger than just my local church.  Or my denomination.  Or those that worship like I do.  Or believe exactly like me.  Or have my theology.

Jesus team is made up of all those that believe in Him and part of Him.  Even if they aren’t “part” of our group.  Because you know what?  If they are in Christ, they are part of us.

Through Jesus, we are one.  Even if we disagree or have differences of opinions.  If we are in Jesus, we are one.

Imagine what we could do as Christians if we all worked together.  Imagine what could happen in our communities, our world, everywhere, if we all worked together in Jesus name.  We could (and we can) change the world.

Look at the good that was being done.  In Jesus name.

Today, may all of us that are in Jesus name, may we work together for the same goal, the same purpose, the same plan, the same savior.

May we all, no matter what group we are part of, work for Jesus!

Monday we’ll look at Mark 9:42-50.

What questions do you have?  How does this strike you?  Shoot me an email, comment below, or connect with me through social media.

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Day Ten with Mark: Mark 3:13-19

Today in our journey through Mark, we look at Mark 3:13-19, where Jesus appoints His twelve disciples:

13 He went up the mountain and called to him those whom he wanted, and they came to him. 14 And he appointed twelve, whom he also named apostles, to be with him, and to be sent out to proclaim the message, 15 and to have authority to cast out demons. 16 So he appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); 17 James son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); 18 and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Cananaean, 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

sending_twelveA couple of things that we notice in this passage.  First, some clarifications of language.  Here it says that He appointed “Twelve.”  They aren’t given a title.  Before the Resurrection, these twelve are called Disciples and after they are called Apostles.  Same people, though. The definition of an Apostle is one that Jesus appeared to and gave a specific task. That’s why Paul is an Apostle, even through he was not one of the Disciples.

Another thing is that there are different “levels,” if you will, of people who follow Jesus. There are the general crowds that follow Him when He preaches, but those crowds go back to their homes when the day is over.  Then there are the women that followed and supported His ministry, like Mary Magdalene.  And in this culture this is extraordinary.  Women didn’t leave the home, much less follow an itinerant preacher around Galilee.  But Jesus included them in His followers and it was Mary that was the first tell anyone that He had risen from the dead.

Then you have the 72 that Jesus sent out to do ministry as well.  This would have been those that were close to Him, that were faithful and that followed Him.   He had a large group with Him at almost all times.

But we see in this, the Twelve. There is great symbology about the number twelve, remember there were twelve tribes of Israel, in appointing twelve, Jesus is showing that His ministry stands fully in line with the Old Testament and that all the promises of the Old Testament were ultimately pointing to Him.

Notice, though who He calls.  Not many were educated.  They were fishermen.  They were common.  In fact, we don’t know a lot about many of them.  But let me tell you my favorite thing about the Twelve.  There is Simon the Cananaean.  And there is Matthew (or Levi) who we saw Jesus call earlier.  Matthew as a tax collector.  Simon was a member of a group known as the Zealots.  The zealots were a group of Jews that wanted to drive out the Romans. They HATED the Romans. They would often carry a dagger in their belt so that they could kill a Roman when the chance came.

And you know they only people they hated more than Romans?  Tax collectors.  Why?  Because tax collectors where traitors. They betrayed their people to work for the Romans.  Man on man, did they hate tax collectors.

And who were two of the Twelve?  Matthew, a tax collector.  And Simon, a zealot.  Through Jesus they could move past their hatred, their distrust, all the baggage that they brought to this group.

Through Jesus they could.  Through following Him, through making Him their Lord, they could.

If they focus on their “stuff” they would have killed each other.  If they focus on Jesus, they have unity.  When Jesus is in the middle, He brings life out of our diversity and difference. When we put our “stuff” in the middle, it tears us apart.

Jesus was able to bring unity out of such great difference.  And He can do the same today.

May we find our unity and purpose, today and each day, in Jesus Christ.

What questions do you have?  How does this strike you?  Shoot me an email, comment below, or connect with me through social media.

Tomorrow we’ll look at Mark 3:20-30.

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We are One

Unity1In Jesus, we all are equal.  We are.  There is such an equality with Jesus.  An equality of need.  An equality of grace.  An equality of calling.  We are all equal.

We all, me, you, all of us, we stand in equal need of salvation.  None of us are perfect.  None of us can earn it, none of us will get it right. We all need grace. We all need Jesus.  We all need His mercy.

And what we find in Jesus, is we find that grace and mercy is there for all of us, no matter who we are, where we come from, any of that.  We all find that His mercy is there, waiting for us, no matter what.  No matter who we are, what we have done, any of us.

We find Jesus there.

So if we are equal in need and equal in grace, we are equal in worth.  Listen to what Paul says today in Galatians 3: 27-28:

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

In Jesus, there is not male or female.  There is not Greek or Jew.  There is not slave or free.  We are all one.

No matter what.  No matter what barriers, differences, or distinctions the world tries to place on us, in Jesus, we are one.

No matter your race.  Your views on things.  Your wealth (or lack of).  Your job.  Any of these things.  If you are in Jesus.  If you are a believer.  If you are saved through Jesus, then you are my brother or sister.

You are.  In Jesus, we are one.  Through Jesus, we are one.  Because of Jesus, we are one.

Today, I love you like family. Because through Jesus, we are.  Today, may we as the church, may we live as one. Because through Jesus, that’s just what we are.

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones, and you thought our app, you can now watch our worship services from Asbury too!

Things That We Hold in Common; Things That Make Us Unique

prayer-christian-unityI was teaching a class recently and had a long talk about theology. I shared with them that I’m a theological mutt, I’ve been influenced by a lot different Christian denominations and traditions, and because of that, I see lots more similarities between believers that I do difference. As part of that, I had put together a document talking about that the things that we hold and common, and then some of the distinctive parts of our faith. I’ve revised and updated it, and I thought I’d share it with you.

Things in common with all Christians

  1. The Creeds – all Christians, whether they “say” the creeds in worship, hold to Orthodox theology as found in the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds. These are a great benchmark of what we all believe.
  2. The Sacraments – There can be disagreements about when and how they are done, but Christians hold to the belief that Baptism and Communion (the Lord’s Supper) are incredibly important to our faith.
  3. Scripture – All Christians believe that Holy Scripture is the foundation of our belief, it is how we know God, His will, and understand who He is. We may disagree on interpretations, but we all believe it’s important and foundational.

Note – the following similarities don’t include every tradition within the faith; just the ones that most of us within Mississippi are familiar with.  I may be working on this in the coming days to include others.

What Methodists holds in common with Baptist Churches

  1. Conversion – One of my favorite quotes attributed to John Wesley was this – Do not tell me of your baptism, tell me of your conversation.  Personal conversion and salvation, these are the foundations of our faith and our walk with God. (John 3:1-6)
  2. Evangelism – we believe that as followers of Christ, one of our most important callings is to take the Good News of Salvation through Jesus to all the world.  (Matthew 28:16-20)
  3. Mission – We are called to serve the least, the last and the lost.  As we do  unto others, we have done unto Jesus.  (Matthew 25:31-46)
  4. The Preaching Event – the sermon matters. While it is not all the matters within worship, it is very important.  (Romans 10:14-17)

Roman Catholic Church

  1. Tradition –  The faith that has been handed down to us for over 2000 years matters.  The teaching of the universal church has much to teach us and is very important to our faith and theology.
  2. Nature of salvation – Salvation begins with God’s Work of Grace towards us, but we must respond and then throughout our life, we aren’t saved by our works, but as believers, we are called to faithful in all things.

Anglican Church

  1. Doctrine – Our foundational beliefs are the Articles of Religion which were pulled directly from John Wesley’s church – the Church of England
  2. Organization – Our structure models that structure with common words like “parishes” and “bishops.”
  3. Liturgy – Many of our formal prayers and liturgies resemble the prayers and liturgies of the Anglican Church.
  4. Heritage – The Anglican Church is our Mother Church. So we have a shared history with them.

Presbyterian Church

  1. Covenant thought – God reaches out to us through covenants.  We are children of the new covenant, and the covenant relationships of the Bible of are great importance to our faith.
  2. Power of sin – We are sons and daughters of Adam and Eve.  We are fallen.  We are sinful. And apart from Jesus, we stand condemned.

Pentecostal/Charismatic Churches

  1. The Holy Spirit – The Holy Spirit is the power of God at work in the world, and while we experience differently, you can’t confess Jesus as Lord apart from the work of the Holy Spirit.
  2. Common Heritage – Just as the Methodist Church came from the Church of England, many (most) Pentecostal/Charismatic churches trace their roots back to the Methodist movement

“Distinctive Beliefs” We believe there are Four “Ways” that we can better understand God.  We call them The Wesleyan Quadrilateral

  1. Scripture – The Bible is the foundation of our doctrine and what we believe.
  2. Tradition – The Faith and teaching handed down to us for over 2000 years really matters to our faith.
  3. Reason – We’ve been given intellect.  We have the ability to know and understand what God has revealed to us through Scripture.
  4. Experience – Our lives and our experience info how we know and understand God.

Emphases at Asbury

  1. Know Jesus – it all starts with personal conversion.  We have to know Him as Lord.
  2. Know Jesus Better – no matter where we are, we are called to (each day) know Him better.  How do we do that?  At Asbury we say
    1. Read Your Bible – Spend time daily in His Word.
    2. Pray – Seek Him through Prayer.
    3. Go to Church – Be part of the Body.  We understand that as a commitment to weekly worship, weekly small group, and daily service.  We are called to be a part of something bigger than us. As we that, we become Salt and Light.

Other Key Beliefs

  1. Connection – We believe that all of us are connected as believers and part of one body. Each church is connected and part of the greater Body of Christ, made up of all believers.
  2. Grace – It all starts with grace, God’s action and mercy towards us to call us, save us, and change us.

The image of God and the effect of original sin We are made in the image of God, but sin entered in and corrupted that. Salvation’s ultimate purpose is about recovering that which sin took.  It will be completed in heaven, but here on the earth, God’s grace works to restore and recover what sin has taken. To says we are made in God’s image means three things.

  1. The natural image of God – That means we have freedom will and we have reason
  2. The political image of God – That means that we as humans will organize ourselves and live in communities with structure
  3. The moral image of God – This means that all humans have in them in a sense (through corrupted) of morality, love, justice, and mercy.

These things are responded through salvation and the relationship with God. The way of salvation This is what salvation looks like. We are saved by grace through faith.  Here is how we understand that salvation through grace to play out.

  1. Prevenient grace: – God reaches out to us, calling us into salvation.
  2. Justifying grace and assurance: – God gives us grace by which we are saved.
  3. Sanctifying grace: – God’s grace draws us closer to Him, making us more faithful, calling us to love God and love our neighbor.

Christian perfection The goal of faith is to make us more like God.  What does that mean?  God is Holy. And our faith calls us jerusalem.jpgw630to be more holy.  What does that holiness look like?  His holiness is shown through His love.  So, we are called to, above all else love of God and love of our neighbor.

  1. Works of piety – This is our love of God This is done publicly through worship and personally through devotion
  2. Works of mercy – This is our love of Neighbor. This is done publicly through working as a church body and as believers to confront the evils of the of the world and done personally by individual acts of service.

If God So Loves Us . . .

My childhood pastor (Bill Poole) was one of the most gifted pastors and teachers I’ve ever had in my life. Even though I was young when he was my pastor, so many things he said have stuck with me through the years.

One of the things that he said that I always remember is that “if” is the biggest word in the Bible. Anything that comes after “if” is huge. Just huge. “If” is one of those words that holds the Bible. “If” determines so much about life, faith, everything.

Normally “if’ is the word that hold’s God’s truth together with our action.

Listen to what we read today in 1 John 4: 10-11:

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

love-each-other2In this passage, we are reminded that God loves us. And then we are told, if God has loved us, then we ought to love one another.

That’s it. That’s what we have to do. That’s what we are called to do.

The first question in this we must ask ourselves is this. Does God love us? The answer to that, without a doubt all throughout Scripture is yes. God loves us. He adores us. He sent His son to die for us and be raised for us.

He loves us. Really. He does. Do you believe that?

That’s the first question you’ve got to answer is do you believe that?

“If” so, then we must love each other. We must. We are not given an out. We are not given a choice. We are not given an excuse. We must love each other.

Love is the language of faith. Love is our hope, our peace, our joy, our purpose. God has loved us. He has. We have to love each other.

It’s hard. Very hard. We don’t want to sometimes. But we must. Because as believers, it’s who we are.

There’s that old hymn “They Will Know We are Christians by our Love” (Jars of Clay did a cool version of it a few years ago that I really like) that really sums this up – that always comes back to that statement – they will know we are Christians by our love.

Today, that’s our calling. Even when it’s hard. Even when you don’t want. Even when you don’t want to. It’s who we are.

It’s who we are.

It’s who we are.

It’s who we are.

If God has loved us, we must love each other. Today, may each of us do that, through the grace and love of our Father.

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones, and you thought our app, you can now watch our worship services from Asbury too!

Jesus’ Prayer for Us

One of the most important passages in all the Bible, to me at least, is John 17. In that chapter, we see Jesus praying. But’s not just any prayer, it’s a prayer that He’s praying for His followers that are yet to come.

So, reading this prayer would really give us great insight into what Jesus was thinking at this hour before His crucifixion. It’s a beautiful prayer, but I want to, this morning, specifically focus on what He says in John 17: 20-22

I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be 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

c39_jesus-praying1Of all the things that Jesus could focus on at that time, that’s what He says. I pray that the believers that would follow me that they would be one.

Isn’t that what the faith should be about? No matter what church, or denomination, or tradition, or worship style, or theology we are a part of, shouldn’t we be one?

Aren’t we saved in the name of the same Jesus? Don’t we worship the same Triune God? Don’t we have the same purpose, the same calling, the same hope?

Aren’t we brothers and sisters, not competitors?

Shouldn’t we rejoice in each other’s victories and weep in other’s defeats?

Shouldn’t we love each other?

Because we are family. We are. If we are in Jesus, we are family.

We are one. That was His prayer for us. Jesus. Prayed for that.

I said this yesterday on Facebook – “interesting talks today. I hope that the life of the church can grow from being competition between churches; who has the best preacher, or music, or coolest youth pastor, and can grow into true community. Community within the local church and community among the churches. I don’t know what that looks like. But I know that’s what I want Asbury Church to be about.”

That’s what I want us to be about here in Petal. And everywhere. And I hope that I can do my best to make sure we are one.

That’s our Lord’s prayer for us. May we seek to be faithful to that.

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones, and you thought our app, you can now watch our worship services from Asbury too!

We ARE One

We ARE one today.  As Christians, as churches, we ARE one.  We are part of the same body. We are brothers and sisters. We are family.  We are.  We aren’t given another choice or option today.   We are one.

Even if we don’t like each other.  Even if we don’t agree with each other.  Even if we have different worship styles.  Or views of communion or baptism or church structure or any of these things.  We are one.

Listen to what it says today in 1 Corinthians 12: 12-14:

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many.

2013-01-27-one-bodyPaul writes – “and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.”  So is it with Christ.  We are one.

Now, it’s ok to have different views.  To say we are one isn’t to say that we always agree with each other.  Or like the same thing.  Or view it the same way.  But it means this. We are family.  We are on the same side.  We are on the same team.  We have the same goal.  We have the same purpose.

We have the same Lord, and are made to drink of the same spirit.

As John Wesley said “If your heart beats with my heart in love and loyalty to Christ, give me your hand.”

We are family.  So, let’s stop fussing with each other.  Let’s support each other as churches and as individuals.  Let’s show the world the love of Christ, by first loving each other.

We are one.  Really.  Lets love in that way.

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones.

The Body is Like . . .

I guess I’ve started a trend of pop culture devotionals!  Yesterday we talked about how God calls use to places that we don’t want to go, and I used Doctor Who as part of my illustration.  Today, I’m talking about the Body of Christ.  And I’ve got a totally different pop culture reference.

Today, listen to what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:18-21:

But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.

One of the things that we can be tempted to believe, as Christians, is that what we are passionate about is the most important thing.  And if you really loved Jesus like I love Jesus, then you’d care about my mission, or my passion or my whatever.

Or, if you really loved Jesus, you’d like my style of worship.

Or go to my church/denomination.

Or share my view point.

Or agree with me.

And, that’s simply not the case. Paul reminds us that we are body. We are all different. We all have our different callings, different passions, different likes, different dislikes.  We are all different.

But, we focus not on our differences, and focus on the Gospel, and focus on the things that unite us, we see this.  We all matter.  And the body needs all our passions.  It needs your passion.  It needs my passion.  It needs all of us. And all of us have a part to play.

Individually, we are ok. Together, we can do AMAZING things for the Kingdom. We are stronger united and together than any one of us are alone.

1545230_10153672258090043_1758123088_nLike Voltron.

Yes, Volton. Each of the lions has as different strength (and color) but they only achieve their true purpose when they unite. Then, they smash evil and accomplish good (all in 30 minutes, no less)!

So, today, let’s work together.  Let’s do great things.  Let’s unite for the kingdom.  And do amazing things.

When we do that, just like Voltron, we find our true strength, and are able to defeat the darkness, and bring forth the light.

By being the Body. And working together.

That’s our purpose.

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phone.