North Korea, Missiles, and the United States

Air Force tests missile in launch from Calif coast. The Air Force claims that it is a routine test. Hmmm, I wonder if it has anything to do with North Korea.

The American missile flew 4,200 miles. Now, I am sure we have ICBMs that can fly around the world, but the statement of this launch should be clear to North Korea. The Air Force was saying we can reach you. On the City Distance Tool, I calculated the distance from Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska to Pyongyang to be only 3732 miles. I am making the assumption, and North Korea should too, that Pyongyang is within reach of some United States Air Force missiles hidden somewhere around the Air Force bases in Alaska.

So North Korea has the potential to shoot some rockets and hit Japan who we have sworn to protect. History will probably view Japan as a twentieth century form of colony of the United States, but that is another article for another day. North Korea's rockets only have a range of 2,175 to 2,670. That is unless they have some secret missiles that they have not fired yet and are reserving for a strike. What are they trying to achieve through this course of action?

I hope they stop stop escalating the situation, stop proliferating weapons, and peacefully join the world community. A war between them and the United States will not benefit the people of either side no matter who wins, and it is not likely that North Korea would win. Just lay down the guns and peacefully come to the negotiating table. It does not seem that difficult.

But then I ask whether the Americans would do that if we were in their situation.

Don't Close the Rural Ohio Libraries

I have written the following letter to my Ohio representatives. They have proposed in the budget cuts to cut library spending almost 50%. This would mean the closing of the libraries in Antwerp and Hicksville. This would make our closest library be nearly thirty miles away. That is not something we would appreciate.

So I got my fingers to typing and wrote the following email. There is probably more important things to write to them about, but my friends work at the library and their livelihood depends on this. Plus, I do see a great benefit to our communities from the libraries.

Advocates blast Ohio Gov.'s proposed budget cuts

Dear xxxxxxxxxxxx,

I am writing in regards to the proposed budget cuts to the state library system. I just came home with 18 items checked out for my family of six. We go to the library at least every other week and find it to be a great asset to our continuing education and the education of our four children. We would not be exposed to as many books and learn as much as we do without the excellent Johnson Memorial Library in Hicksville.

We are homeschoolers and find that it is necessary to use the library for science books and other materials to broaden our children's minds. This is a huge savings to the state because our children are not an expense in the public school system. A brief side note - we would love some sort of voucher system to use on educational trips and materials, but that is a discussion for another day.

A possible solution to the financial crisis in regards to libraries would be to develop some sort of community library that would provide a library for both the school and the community. This would save in staff costs and allow for a broader selection by combining the two collections under one building. Developing and implementing that plan would need some serious discussion, planning, and months for execution. In the meanwhile, we would be left without a library for our family.

Please influence the budget so that our local library can stay open. The library is always busy, bustling with children, teenagers, and adults who are reading, using the internet, and enjoying getting to know one another. They run great community events that bring together people of all ages. I would love for you to come and see this library and its excellent staff. You could see the great impact they have on our community.

Losing them would be a loss that would drain our community. We are out here in the middle of nowhere, and our library does an amazing job at bringing everyone together and providing us with the books we need. The proposed cuts would mean that we would have to travel nearly thirty miles to reach the nearest open library. That is not something we would do. The education of our children and the rest of the children in this community would be negatively impacted by this. That would cost the State of Ohio much more in the future than the savings the State would receive through these short-term budget cuts.

Thank you for your time.

The Iranians, Free Speech, Democracy, and a Dose of Self-Examination

Well, I do not know what would happen in our nation if people took to the streets after an election. Would it look much different than what is happening in Tehran? Would the government guns come out and silence the protestors?

The Iranian protesters and their government's response causes me to wonder many questions. How do we really know if an election has been counted honestly? Would I be willing to go get killed to peacefully stand up for free speech or against government corruption? Should I be willing? Or is there more important things to live for? Do we truly live if we are not willing to die for things we believe in? Are their principles outside of my faith that I should be willing to die for? Should those principles be part of my faith? Do I have it in me to be a person willing to stand up for what is right at the risk of my life or the life of my wife and children?

I support the Iranian people and their right to free speech and democracy. I am awed by their courage at what seems like a feeble attempt at gaining earthly liberty. May their feebleness be rewarded by miracles.

So I have changed my time to Tehran time in what is probably a feeble attempt to confuse the Iranian government and allow freedom of speech on the internet. It will be this way until the protesters stop protesting. If it wastes one minute of a government monitors' time, then I will be happy. I wonder if any posts have wasted any time of American monitors; I know it has wasted time of theological monitors.

I am thankful that I live in a nation where I can say anything I want anytime I want, except for fire in a crowded movie theater. At least I do not know any cases of speech being stopped in our nation in recent times.

Vegans and Vegetarians Still Die - But Do They Live Longer?

I have a friend who has become a vegetarian flirting with becoming a vegan. An easy search on the internet did not reveal what vegetarians and vegans die of. If you were to listen to them, it seems like they think they will live forever. Anyway, this peaked my curiosity.

Here is some of the research I have found.

Mortality among German vegetarians: first results after five years of follow-up

This study showed that vegetarians lived longer. The researcher expected 219 deaths among his research group based on normal death statistics; however, his group 1,904 participants only had 82 deaths. He concluded, "In both sexes, the mortality was lowest from cardiovascular diseases [standardized mortality ratio (SMR) for ischemic heart disease about 20] and from cancer (SMR 58 for men, 54 for women). Deaths from diseases of the respiratory and digestive system were also reduced. For individual cancer sites the observed numbers were extremely small, but the risk of dying from lung cancer was significantly reduced; however, deaths from cancers of the colon and rectum, prostate, and breast were rare or even absent. More deaths than expected were observed from stomach, pancreatic, testicular, and brain cancers."

After 11 years, the results were similar. There was less death among the vegetarians; however, the vegetarians still died some. And they saw an increase in death from anemia in the vegetarians.

The study continued after 25 years, showing that vegetarians did live longer.

One of the thing that slants studies on vegans and vegetarians is that the subjects are usually concerned with their health. Often, that is the reason for them becoming vegetarians. This makes them less likely to smoke, as was the case in the German study. The study also showed that they mainly resided in a higher socioeconomic class than their fellow humans who eat meat. These elements would influence the results whether they were vegan, vegetarians, or full-blooded carnivores.

Dr. Pramil Singh also did a study. I did not look at the original study because I am being a lazy researcher and am trying to do all this in two hours or less. An article in Arts & Opinion entitled Do Vegetarians Live Longer cited the study. Singh noted, "Survival data indicate that long-term vegetarians do experience a significant 3.6-year survival advantage over short-term vegetarians." The life expectancy for a long-term (20 years) vegetarian was 86.5 compared to 82.9 for non-vegetarians. This article also stated, "As is the way with these things, of course, not all the evidence supports enhanced lifespan. One British study into longevity and diet based on 4600 people found no difference." So I have no idea what to believe.

Animal experiment - vegan rats die early and have low energy

There are studies with rats that show the vegan diet is unhealthy in rats. I could really care less with what diet is good for rats. These studies seem fairly irrelevant to the discussion.

In the end, I am left to conclude that vegans and vegetarians, like carnivores, still die. I cannot find a good source that tells me what they die of, but I would assume it is a disease of some sort unless they all just die of self-inflicted gunshot wounds because they do not want any more broccoli. Whatever the case, I am still trying to figure out if I would live longer as a vegetarian diet and whether I would want those four more years in my eighties.

If you know of a good study, please pass it along and I will include it in this post.

A Grand Slam and God's Love

The tension was high. Isaac stepped up to the plate with bases loaded. I can’t remember all of the specifics of the moment. The past is fleeting like that, but I do remember that he hit a hard grounder that went between the third baseman and third base. It kept going all the way to the back of the outfield. “Don’t look at the ball! Just run!” By the time the kids in the outfield got to the ball he was rounding second. “Run, Isaac, Run!” The outfielder threw it in to the cutoff. If the pitcher would catch the ball and step in the circle the play would have been over, and Isaac would just have a three-run triple. “Run! Run!” Isaac was rounding third; the ball was being thrown to pitcher. And the pitcher missed it. Isaac hit an in-the-park grand slam (albeit with an error), but in Pee-Wee League nobody counts errors.

I was already standing because I was cheering him on. I went over to give him a five and tell him, “Good job!” Although it is just baseball and in the big picture it is meaningless, watching Isaac hit a grand slam and become overjoyed because of what he did was one of the best moments in my life. Yesterday, I was retelling the story and was amazed at how much I was still happy from it.

I can’t help but picture God and the joy we can bring Him and share with Him. I can hear God cheering, “Run! Run! Don’t stop! Keep Going! Run, Regan, Run!!! Don’t pay attention to the world, just follow me!” He cheers the same for you.

“The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing as on a day of festival” (Zephaniah 3:17a).

God's Reality Is Not Our Reality

We have begun to worship with a guitar during our Sunday gatherings. Lindsay, my lovely wife and the player of the guitar, is attempting to pick up the pace at which the hymns are sung. They have been sung so slowly for so long during our gatherings that they come across as funeral dirges with wonderful lyrics rather than the beautiful songs of faith from those who have preceded us in our spiritual journey. Speeding up the tempo is like a wrestling match. The people want to go the speed they have always gone. Lindsay struggles to speed up the tempo. Back and forth they go, fighting one another. Last week, after the first song which was a knockdown, drag out wrestling match, we seemed to break through and sing together with Lindsay setting the pace.

In my relationship with God, I resemble the people resisting the new tempo more frequently than I would like to admit. They have always sung them at a slower tempo. In their minds, that is the way the songs are to be sung. This makes it extremely difficult for a leader to change the tempo.

Too often, we get hung up on being sinless and perfect. We shift our focus from living in the grace of Christ into abstaining from sinful actions so that we can earn our way into being used by God. We know that we have been saved by grace through faith for works (Ephesians 2:8-10), but we have a difficult time keeping grace, faith, and works in the right order. We so often pretend that our works are the element of our faith that makes us right with God. Paul wrote to the believers in Galatia, “Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?...Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?” (Galatians 3:3-5).

If you are like me, you might mix up the proper place of works in your walk with Jesus. I mistakenly think that I am more right with God if I can abstain from certain sins. It is as if I believe my feeble attempts at perfection make me more redeemed. I arrogantly believe my righteousness is a shining light, that people will see me and see Christ because of me. What a farce! What a lie I tell myself! People, if they could really see my heart, would see me and see someone far removed from Christ. I am far from perfect.

There are three realities. There is God’s reality. He views things through their potential and the lens of the cross. In God’s reality, we can be so much more than we presently are. There is the earthly reality. This is the way things actually are. And then there is the false reality. This is the reality we too often find ourselves in. It is when we try to dress up and show a fake self to the world. And it is when we accept people’s fake selves for who they are.

This is what makes Christ so great – he shines through us despite our failures. Actually, he shines through because of our failures. We need to stop living in a fake reality. Accept reality for what it is and allow God to transform our reality into the potential He sees. He loves us for who we are, flaws and all. He is like a master sculptor who can see what a piece of rock can become despite not resembling it yet. People can see Christ’s grace because Jesus loves me despite who I am. And he loves each one of us despite who we are.

In my best moments, I surrender my all to him. He can have all of me, but then I try to take it back, one moment at a time. And I am ashamed that I take back, so I begin wearing a fake mask of Christlikeness. I want to appear holy. I want to appear that I am God’s. So I go to church, I read my Bible, I set aside times where I tell Him what I need—I continue in the rituals but I dare not call them that. I stop living in grace. I stop listening to His voice. I stop surrendering my life to Him. I stop loving Him and sharing my life with Him. He can have my all only when I do not want something different, and I will still try to dress that up in Him.

Others cannot see the areas of my life I am holding back. But God is not tricked, nor does He give up on us. His reality is not our reality. He continues to chip away at us and make us into who He wants us to be. Soon, we will be the beautiful people He wants us to be. Until then, let us cling to grace, that will lead us to have faith, and lead us to works of love towards others.

We are all beautiful with our masks off. God honors our attempts to please Him, but He does not honor our attempts to trick Him or others. Let’s be real with God and ourselves.

A Prayer of Peace

This week, a high school classmate and friend was sent to prison in what appears to be injustice. I know there are many people in the Scriptures that can relate, but that does not seem to bring peace.

Then I ran across this song.

Peace by Rich Mullins

Though we're strangers, still I love you
I love you more than your mask
And you know you have to trust this to be true
And I know that's much to ask
But lay down your fears, come and join this feast
He has called us here, you and me

And may peace rain down from Heaven
Like little pieces of the sky
Little keepers of the promise
Falling on these souls
This drought has dried
In His Blood and in His Body
In the Bread and in this Wine
Peace to you
Peace of Christ to you

And though I love you, still we're strangers
Prisoners in these lonely hearts
And though our blindness separates us
Still His light shines in the dark

And His outstretched arms are still strong enough to reach
Behind these prison bars to set us free

So may peace rain down from Heaven
Like little pieces of the sky
Little keepers of the promise
Falling on these souls the drought has dried
In His Blood and in His Body
In this Bread and in this Wine
Peace to you
Peace of Christ to you

And may peace rain down from Heaven
Like little pieces of the sky
Like those little keepers of the promise
Falling on these souls the draught has dried
In His Blood and in His Body
In the Bread and in this Wine
Peace to you
Peace of Christ to you
Peace to you
Peace of Christ to you

Please join me in my prayer that God will shower her with peace, opportunities to join Jesus in his work, joy while serving time in prison, and that, ultimately, great good will come from this experience. Also, please pray that the family would see hope growing and also have peace. I cannot imagine how difficult a time it is for them.

Our Church Vision

Our Work Through The Grace Of God


Church is not something we do. It is who we are in relation to one another and Jesus. We are a collection of individuals surrendered to Jesus who are committed to living in real, authentic relationships with one another.


As a result of being a Christian community that encourages one another, we will develop a deeper passion for Jesus, which will result in us being passionate about his passions.


This passion for Jesus and his work will overflow into meeting the needs of those around us in tangible, concrete ways.

God’s Work Through Our Witness


Through us being an authentic community with a passion for Jesus that overflows in love, God will change the hearts of the people we encounter.


God will add to this community of believers if we are the people God wants us to be.


It is our goal to help the people in our families, our workplaces, and our neighborhoods discover who God wants them to be and to equip them to follow his leading.

We do this by creating a Christ-like community to nourish each individual's passion for Christ that will continue his work of love. It is our hope and prayer that through our willingness to be God's people that he will transform those around us and add to this community.

Church Differently - Pickled and Parsed

The other day I wrote and posted "Church Differently". It has caused somewhat of a stir among my local body. I have no desire to take away any of the statements I made in that post, but I have taken the time to clarify those statements.

Let us begin with an examination of what is sound doctrine?

Paul wrote to Timothy that people have an itching for teachings that suit their own desires (2 Timothy 4:1-4). That could be hearing messages that satisfy their legalistic tendencies or a message that justifies an immoral or unloving lifestyle. Nothing makes my carnal flesh feel better than hearing a sermon that encourages practices or rituals that I have participated in or harps against things I do not struggle with. That is legalism. People are also looking for churches to tell them they do not have to sacrifice, really sacrifice, and love their neighbor or that they can continue living in their destructive ways. Sound doctrine is not teaching legalism, justifying a life of selfishness or giving credence to a destructive lifestyle.

Sound doctrine might be unfavorable, but it is what always needs to be taught in order to convince, rebuke, or encourage people to surrender their whole heart to God. People do not like to hear that which they do not believe, but, more often than not, proclaiming those things is what sound doctrine is.

Jesus reiterated an Old Testament teaching when he instructed that God wants our whole hearts, not our traditions (Matthew 15:8-9). Pandering to anything less than that is itching people’s ears. Church is not something that we can punch a time card on Sunday morning and be. My article “Church Differently” deals with that misconception. We are to be Jesus’ family. We are to be friends with one another. We are to be the Church.

I dream of a different kind of church.

Many churches throughout the nation are struggling. The local church I am part of is no different. When I asked our church when was the last time that someone gave their life to Christ, they could not recall. As far as I can tell, it has been over seven years. Would I be Christ-like if I wanted that fruitfulness to continue? Who would want the fruitfulness of a church like that?

Churches, like ours, who have not manifested the fruits of the Spirit and have not been effective at reaching the lost would be foolish to remain who they were two years ago. God wants his church to be so much more than we are. God expects us to desire, yearn, and work to change our church from what it has been to what it should be. I dream of a different kind of church, not a moving away from the church God desires but a moving away from a church that does not produce fruit.

I want to gather together to worship God with friends, not strangers.

I wrote explaining fellowship in “An Examination of Fellowship”.

We are to be friends. Paul refers to the children of the promise (that’s us!) as friends (Galatians 4:28). We, fellow followers of Jesus, are to be friends. Jesus’ followers are referred to as Friends throughout the New Testament.

The parable of the dishonest manager concludes that we should use the money we have to make friends (Luke 16:9). If you are a person’s friend, they will listen to what you believe and take it to heart. Peter wrote, “Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you” (1Peter 3:15) Why would they want to know that hope that is in you unless they have seen you live differently and love them?

I want to be able to be myself all the time.

A hypocrite was a person who wore a mask. It is taken from Greek theatre.

We know what Jesus thought of hypocrites. He railed against the Pharisees for being hypocrites (Matthew 23). A modern-day hypocrite, reminiscent of the Pharisees, is worried about looking good on the outside while being dirty on the inside. It’s appearance that matters to a hypocrite, not the state of their heart.

I want to drive by houses and not be able to resist the urge to stop in and say hi to dear friends.

This is not a scriptural command but it would seem to be the natural result of us loving one another. If I have time and I am driving by my parent’s house, I want to stop in and say hi and see how they are doing. That is a natural response to loving one another.

Church is not to be just one bubble of our life. We cannot have our church bubble, our family bubble, our work bubble, our friendship bubble. Compartmentalizing our life like that will lead to a life that is not God’s and self-centered. Church is to be part of our whole life. If you are my friend at church, you are my friend outside of church. If you are not my friend in church, then I have some issues and I have to learn to love you as a friend, brother, and/or sister.

I want to share meals together and learn together.

The early church did this. They shared meals daily (Acts 2:42, 46). What a fellowship!

I previously wrote at length on this in “The Disappearance of the Fellowship Meal”.

I want to go on vacation together.

This one is not scriptural. But it is also not unscriptural.

A core teaching of the non-instrumental Church of Christ, my church's spiritual cousin, is that Christian should not do things in the family gathering (that is any time the church gathers together in what is typically call the Sunday Morning Worship Service) that was not explicitly stated in the Scriptures. I am not a non-instrumentalist, nor do I have any desire to be one. I am just a Christian seeking to follow God. Where the Scriptures give a teaching, I follow. Where the Scripture is silent, I allow liberty. A non-instrumentalist would argue that where the Scripture is silent, we are to be silent. The instrumentalists do not adhere to that. One of founding statements of the Church of Christ/Christian Church was “In essentials, unity. In opinions, liberty. In all things, love.” Although this teaching is not original to our movement and reaches back to the early days of the Protestant Reformation, it is a statement we have taken to identify how we will have unity.

Unfortunately, we sometimes broaden the meaning of essentials so much that it makes it almost impossible to have unity. We begin to not have true, authentic relationships with those in our families, in our church, and in the larger body of believers because they disagree with us on some idiosyncrasy that we strongly believe in. That is a poor reflection of the unity Christ said we should have. Jesus prayed that we "may all be one" so that the "world may believe" in Jesus (John 17:21). Sometimes we are a pathetic example of that oneness.

Family and friends do go on vacations together. If we are family and friends in our church, what is stopping us from vacationing together? It just seems a natural offshoot of real fellowship. Maybe the reason we do not travel together is that we are family in friends in name only.

I want to enjoy life fully, with friends in Christ.

Paul wrote to Timothy and said that everything has been provided for our enjoyment (1 Timothy 6:17-19). He also wrote that we are to “rejoice always” (1 Thes 5:16)

The Christian life needs to be one that is full of joy even in the worst circumstances. Unfortunately, Christians have the reputation for being sticks in the mud. We need to extinguish that rightfully held belief by being full of joy. This is one way the light of Christ can shine through us. Even people that are not followers of Jesus enjoy good things and savor life when it is going well. What makes us different is that we are a little crazy and will find joy in all things, all of the time.

I want Christ to be in every part of my life, transforming me and those around me.

The only way that I can possibly live out the tough teachings of Christ (being joyful always, loving my enemies, changing my life from sin, etc.) is to totally surrender my life to Christ. Through modeling Christ to those around me, I open up an opportunity for Christ to transform them. Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Let you light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). It is Christ working through us that will bring God glory. Our goal is to give Jesus our whole lives. By doing that, he can use us to transform the world. There is no greater joy than realizing that you have been used by God to bring people into a right relationship with Him.

I want to see Christ in my friends and let it transform me.

If I am to be Jesus’ servant, I need to deal with others in humility and gentleness (Ephesians 4:2, Galatians 6:1). This means that I am not always right. Sometimes, my friend and brother or sister that I disagree with might be right. So when I go and talk to them about something we disagree on, I might be the one transformed.

We have a tremendous pride problem when we think we are always right. That makes my friends become projects who need to become more like me. Nobody wants to be a project; we all just want to be loved. A loving friendship is one of give and take. I have heard it said that if nobody disagrees, then nobody is thinking. We are going to disagree with our friends. It is healthy to disagree with our friends. We are going to help them grow and they are going to help us grow. The Spirit that dwells in them is trying to perfect them while the Spirit that dwells in me is trying to perfect me. And that Spirit is the same. We are one in the Spirit.

I want to share my needs and know they will be met. I want to hear friends’ needs and for them to know they will be met.

The early church was amazing! They sold their possessions in order to meet one another’s needs (Acts 2:25). Have you ever seen that? Has someone you known ever sold their nice house, moved into a mobile home, in order to meet someone’s needs? What a witness that would be. John said that those who do not love each other, are lying when they claim that they love God (1 John 4:20-21). Love is not just a feeling but manifests itself in real, tangible actions. That’s some great and challenging teaching. “Whoever loves God must also love his brother.”

I want to be transparent and to be surrounded by others who are transparent.

Nobody likes a fake person. And despite what fake people think, people can see right through the charade. In order for Christ to be glorified, we need to live in grace, allowing Christ to shine through all of image of God in us and the tarnishes we have made on that image. He works through the willing, not the perfect.

I want to share my beliefs and not be ostracized or condemned because they might be different.

There are some beliefs that are core to making us a Christian. Those are the essentials. There are other beliefs that are beneficial for us to have in living the Christ-like life. We have an unhealthy tendency to broaden the essentials so much that we become judgmental toward others when they are not living out the Christian life like we live it out. The church (that is the people) needs to be a safe place to disagree and iron out our faith. We cannot grow in the faith if we are scared of making mistakes or saying “wrong” things. We need to be able to be real all of the time. Gathering with believers is not the time to put on our mask and be hypocrites. It is time to reveal our true selves, with all of our flaws, and improve one another in love and gentleness.

I want to kick back and have a drink once in a while with friends in Christ without feeling like someone will judge me. I want to be myself without being judged.

In Matthew Jesus claims that he came “eating and drinking.” in contrast to John the Baptist who came “neither eating nor drinking.” Obviously, John drank liquids or he would have been dead. What he is saying is that he came drinking, in the way that people claim to go down to the bar and have a drink (Matthew 11:19). Jesus was a drinker.

Jesus’ first miracle was at a wedding in which they ran out of wine. If John, the writer, wanted to emphasize that it was non-alcoholic grape juice, there was a word that he could have used to describe it as such. Instead, he used the word to describe wine. So we see that Jesus had no problem going to a wedding where they were drinking. Nowadays, unless you can turn water into wine, you would have to run down to the store and buy more alcohol, but Jesus took the barrel of water and turned it into wine right on the spot so that the hosts would not be humiliated for running out of wine (John 2:1-11).

Paul wrote Timothy and told him to drink some wine for his stomach (1 Timothy 5:23). We see that Jesus drank alcohol, that he provided alcohol at a party, and that Paul followed that up by recommending alcohol for medicinal purposes. Wherever the prohibition attitude started, it was not through an honest reading of Scripture

Do not indulge in much wine or get drunk is sound doctrine. It is also sound doctrine that it is okay to drink. What is not sound doctrine is saying that drinking is forbidden; that teaching is a precept of man birthed out the early twentieth century and is not sound doctrine from Scripture. We often confuse sound tradition with sound doctrine.

I want to eat curly fries with friends in Christ, be messy on my face and hands and not be afraid to kiss others and make them messy.

Okay, I concede that this might be a little outrageous. But if I let loose and have fun with the people I love, these types of things happen. I like to hug a dry person when I get out of the water. I like to be a little rascally. Maybe that is not your personality. That is fine. But don’t be surprised if I give you a kiss on the cheek while I have a disgustingly, dirty face. It’s just my way of showing that I love you. We need to be able to show our love to one another in ways that are natural for us. But this can only happen if we truly love one another.

I want to get together with my spiritual family, not strangers, every Sunday.

This does not mean that I do not want strangers to come to our church. It means that if we are the church together, then we will not remain strangers.
Eventually, we will grow large enough that we will have people in our midst that we do not know. That is fine in that larger context. Our context is one of forty people gathering together on a Sunday morning. Not knowing one another and remaining strangers is not fine in this context.

A larger church needs everyone to be plugged into a small group in order to have community. In that setting, the family gathering on Sunday has a different purpose than a ministry meeting the needs of the poor, which has a different ministry than small groups. Each one plays an important role in being a healthy church. Every church needs to strive to be in fellowship with believers in such a way that they will view each other as family and friends.

I want the church I am part of to be so much more. I want us to be friends in Christ.

What do you think Jesus wants the local church you are part of to be?

Our local church’s focus for the next few years is community, passion, love, transformation, and more community. We want to be a Christ-like community that nourishes each individual's passion for Christ in the hope that through our loving actions God will transform those around us and add to His community.

Real, transparent friends reflecting Christ’s glory.

This illustration comes from Dissident Discipleship.

Long ago in a distant land, a prince dreamed of creating more than a geographical or political kingdom. He dreamed of establishing a community in which all persons were committed to each other in loyalty and equality, where every person sought the welfare of the neighbor even at a cost to the self. So the prince called a great meeting of all the heads of clans, all the wise and trusted people of the land, and dared to tell his dream. Each chieftain and his clan were invited to join in the foundation of a new society. As part of the community's inauguration, each was requested to search his cellar for the best wine produced from his ancestral vines. These treasured bottles would be uncorked, poured into a great communal vat, and blended, as the true community it represented, into a common vintage.

"How can I mix my exquisite wine with that of my neighbors?" asked one of the winegrowers invited to this covenanting. "I would sacrifice the unique variety of grape, the special climate of the year, the sweetness of a late harvest, the indefinable magic of bouquet, and I would violate my art as a winemaker. Impossible! Give up my distinct variety? Lose my separate self? I will not be adulterated in such a common cup."

So he corked a bottle of tap water, affixed his most beautiful label to the bottle, and at the time of the ritual poured the water ceremoniously into the vat. When the covenanting was solemnized, all filled their glasses for the communal draft, the toast that would seal commitment to community. As the cups touched their lips, all knew the truth. It was not wine. It was water. No one had been willing to pay the cost of community.

I want to be part of Christ’s church.
I wrote on this a while ago: “One Faith, One Body, No Lines”.

Now it’s time to wake up from this dream and make it a reality. Let’s be the church rather than just continue pretending and doing “church”.

All the teaching we can do does not matter if we do not actually go out and live the truth we know. Intellectual truth, although helpful, does not save anyone. We are saved by grace, through faith, for works (Ephesians 2:8-10). James wrote that faith without works is dead (James 2:14-17). God wants us to be a better church than we are. He has already paid the price to make that happen. The question is, “Are we ready to work to make that happen?” It starts with prayer, followed by God’s direction, and ends up with God doing a good work through us. Grace, faith, works. Prayer, God’s leading, God’s good work through us. Being the church is not easy; we need to be willing to make the sacrifice to allow Him to work among us.

Church is not about me or what I want – it’s about what God wants. I want to want what He wants. Writing "Church Differently" was about what I felt God wanted. It was not a selfish expression of my desires. I am sorry if my feeble words made it come across as such. It was about what I felt God wanting the Church, and my local church in particular, to be.

What do you think?

One Faith, One Body, No Lines

There is one faith and one body, but God does not see the denominational lines that we have drawn. Just because one worships at a church that has a book of doctrine (that you might or might not agree with) does not exclude that person from the body of Christ. Likewise, just because one worships at a church that does not have a book of doctrine does not mean they are automatically part of that body. A church without a book of doctrine, like the Churches of Christ/Christian Churches, still have a lot of unwritten doctrines that are extra-scriptural. God is glorified in the lives of faithful followers of His who might go to a Lutheran church or a Nazarene church just as he is glorified in the life of a faithful non-denominational Christian. The name on the building does not determine what is in the people’s hearts.

Everyone usually goes to the church that they think are doing things the best and have the best grasp on Scripture. But for pride and self-glorification, people argue that their sect is the best and put others down rather than try and build one another up. This is nothing new. It was happening in Corinth.

Paul addressed it in 1 Corinthians 1.
"I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers, some from Chloe's household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas"; still another, "I follow Christ."

Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul? I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized into my name. (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don't remember if I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power."

Those who claim to follow Christ alone can be just as divisive as those who claim to follow Christ the way Luther did, the way Wesley did, or the way that any other human did. It is arrogant to think that we follow the Scripture alone without any influence from those who have paved the way for us. I read the Scripture the way that Alexander Campbell taught that Scripture should be read, that is a different way from the way that Martin Luther or John Wesley read it. But that does not mean that my faith is far greater than a Lutherans, a Methodists, or a Nazarenes. My intellectual pursuit of the faith might be different, but we will not be judged by our intellectual pursuit. Rather, we will be judged by whether we have a heart that is totally surrendered to God.

Isaiah 29:13 states:
"The Lord says: 'These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men."

Israel was God's people. There was no group that was more God's than them, but they were still out of step with God. Their title or ethnic origin had nothing to do with whether they were right with God; God wanted their hearts. Likewise, God wants our hearts, anything short of that is not enough. We can give him our hearts whether we are in a Catholic church or in the middle of the woods alone. The key to the healthy Christian life is that we realize nothing but a total surrender of our heart makes us right with God. There are acts of the faith that we will participate in when we surrender, but I do not think that God looks down and decides who has given him their heart based upon what church they attend or how they read the Scripture.

The law stated and Jesus repeated, "But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul."

Anything less than our whole being surrendered to God does not make us right with Him, not the name of the church we attend nor the lack of formal doctrines and creeds.

The sectarian lines that we have drawn in the sand wash away in God's eyes. Being part of one sect or another does not outweigh a heart that is totally surrendered to God. It is one of the founding principles of the Church of Christ/Christian Church that we are not the only Christians, we are Christians only. Too often we have turned that into: “We are the only Christians because we are Christians only” or "If you are not a Christian like me, then you are not a Christian."

So let us not be like those who divided the early church by claiming to follow Christ, Cephas, Apollos, or Paul. Let us follow Jesus with our whole heart, not being judgmental, and loving those that we encounter every day. Let us help everyone we encounter to take their next faith step, whether that is their first or the next one after a life of total surrender of ninety years.

The Disappearance of the Fellowship Meal

When we gather together for the Lord's Supper, it is a proclamation of the fellowship we have with one another. In 1 Corinthians 11, we see the fellowship meal and the Lord's Supper intimately linked. If I were to just read "Don't you have homes to eat and drink in?" (1 Corinthians 11:22a) or "If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home" (1 Corinthians 11:34a), we might conclude that the church is not supposed to share a meal together. Those verses if read in isolation could be seen as a proclamation supporting the modern church practice of not frequently eating together as a church, but when read in the context of the whole passage, Paul was giving instruction on how to participate in the fellowship meal. This meal, at least for the early church, was the context in which the Lord's Supper was remembered.

We see this fellowship meal throughout the New Testament. In Acts 2:46-47, we see that the early church shared meals together. This practice was still in practice 20 years later.  We can see it being addressed in 1 Corinthians 11. Jude also mentions the love feast in his letter which was written 30 years after the beginning of the church. The practice of sharing a meal together was practiced throughout the New Testament church; it is something that we would benefit from today if we practiced it more regularly. So let us read together Paul's instructions to the Corinthian church in regards to how they should share their meal together.

In an examination of 1 Corinthians, we see that Corinthian church had a major problem with the divisions within the body. Throughout the book, these issues of division were revealed. From the very first chapter where in verse 12 Paul wrote, “One of you says, “I follow Paul'; another 'I follow Apollos'; another, 'I follow Cephas'; still another, 'I follow Christ.' All sorts of divisions manifested themselves in the Corinthian church.

In chapter 11, the divisions seemed to manifest themselves among economic lines and were exposed during the fellowship meal.
“For as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk. Don't you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothings?”

Verse 21 shows that some people were getting drunk while others remained hungry. Verse 22 mentions that those who were hungry were those “who have nothing”.

In order to properly understand chapter 11 and the struggle with the abuse of the Lord's Supper, we have to picture the fellowship meal as it was at that time of the early church because it is an almost forgotten practice in our time. For the early church, the fellowship meal was the intimate time of family gathering in which the sacrifice of Jesus was remembered and the unity of the church was proclaimed. Prior to the crucifixion, Jesus implemented the Lord's Supper during a meal with his disciples. This shared meal continued to be practiced throughout the early church. In I Corinthians 5:11, where Paul commanded the church not to eat with the immoral brother, Paul was telling them to not allow that guy into the fellowship meal. The fellowship meal was supposed to be the sacred time in which the eternal fellowship of believers actually peeked through the veil of eternity and manifested itself in our physical reality. The fellowship meal was the church gathering. It should not have been violated by a self-proclaimed believer who refused to stop living in an intentional and flagrant sin.

We find ourselves on the other side of history. At some point from the time of the early church to now, the important fellowship meal and its proclamation have been discarded and the meal transformed into a token piece of unleavened bread and a sip of wine or grape juice. This happened to the detriment of the church because a result of the meal being thrown out was the eventual watering down of fellowship and a loss of its true meaning. No longer was the church a family that shared a meal together. They were just a collection of individuals who gathered together to worship and be educated. With the disappearance of the meal we see the eventual disappearance of fellowship.