Tag Archives: unity in Christ

And all God’s people said…

Standard
And all God’s people said…

This week has been awful for our country. Facebook makes it worse – we only see portions of people, and we forget that they are people. We find something they said to be absolutely horrible, or unforgivable, or we think that they aren’t the people we thought they were because they have some heinous opinion about something. This seems to be especially prevalent among my church peeps. I have seen many people this week who I respect as Christians posting things that I so strongly disagree with. And I know I ruffled a few feathers and caused some pearl clutching with my #blacklivesmatter post.

Some of these issues stream from the skewed versions of ourselves that we present on Facebook, a place where we can readily share opinions with our audience without quite as much of the accountability that takes place when you say something right to someone’s face. I always try to say things on Facebook that I would be willing to say in real life, but it’s hard to convey tone, too, so even those things can be misinterpreted.

And then I can go back in time in my mind, to the world before Facebook, or even texting for that matter, when my church, my Christian brothers and sisters, treated my family in a way that was undoubtedly anti-God. When I felt cast aside by the very people who were supposed to unconditionally love me, and I wasn’t supported even though the issue was completely unrelated to me. I was 15, and my church broke my heart. For the longest time, I couldn’t understand how Christians could be like this. And I didn’t want to be grouped with them. (Sometimes I still don’t.) But I loved my Jesus. It’s honestly a miracle to me – when I look back on sophomore year of high school – that I’m still a Christian. I’ve never denounced my God, somehow, by his grace, even though I hated his church, and his people. Clearly, this division in the church is not only related to Facebook or social media, because it was present even in 2002.

I expect division between non-Christians and Christians – we disagree on basic life things, so it makes sense that the tension there is palpable. Interestingly, though, we Christians have so much tension, too, because even though we agree on the most basic life thing, we can somehow still manage to disagree on, like, everything else. [Our sermon was about that this morning in church – finding the way of love when there are disagreements about the non-essentials of Christian life, learning how to love other Christians even when you disagree with them, and finding a place of unity with our love for Christ and for each other. It was a super good sermon, and totally applicable right now (as always, love my pastors!).]

Along this topic line, I find myself every week looking at my church family. Yes, I still go to church. I had to keep going as a high school kid since my dad was the Music Minister, and I mostly kept going in college (although I took a “finding-myself break” for a while there as most college kids do). I go to a big church now (a big, amazing, beautiful, wonderful church), and I probably know like 15% of the people who go there. I know all the people on the worship arts team, because that’s my place and home (hashtagworshiparts hashtagworshipchoir). And I know my similarly-aged pals with similarly-aged kiddos and similarly-aged lifestyles. But for the most part, I don’t really know the people. This could make it easy for them to just be “its” to me instead of people. There’s a disconnect there because there aren’t relationships. And part of me wants to fight that and try to get to know literally everyone who attends my church, but I know that’s unrealistic. I’m just not in a phase of life where that’s possible, and also you can honestly only cultivate so many meaningful relationships before everyone is just a casual acquaintance because you don’t have the time to deepen any of those friendships. The more realistic part of me knows to be loving and friendly and servant-minded, and the closer friendships will develop with the people God puts in my life over time.

It’s easier to love people when you don’t know them, I think. Once you have a chance to see how imperfect they are, it’s easier to dismiss them or find them disappointing. But when you haven’t met them yet, there’s an imaginary version of each person that you meet that you expect them to be like. I find myself looking at all the people and wondering about their stories and lives and families, and finding it so magical that we love the same Jesus and we’ll know each other someday for sure even though we’re adjacent strangers worshipping right now.

And that’s the magic of it all. That magic is so easy to forget when we get to know actual people – when we realize that the romanticized version of them that we made up in our own heads just isn’t true, or when we see how sinful they are (just like us). But the magic is still there – adjacent strangers worshipping are totally broken and messed up sinners who have recognized their all-powerful, ever-loving, wonderfully gracious God and stand together before him and worship.

Sometimes, I’m on the worship team, and I wear in-ear monitors so I can get a good mix of the band and voices. These are awesome, and a super cool piece of technology that I’m really grateful for. But with my ears in, I can’t hear the congregation. And then there are the weeks where I’m off – that was this week. And I get to sit in the congregation and look around. And again, we’re broken, sinful, adjacent strangers worshipping the same God. In the same family, brothers and sisters not even knowing each others’ names.

I love this.

I love it! I can’t get enough of this magic. There are billions of people who have lived and are living. There are billions who have known and know Jesus. Who come together across the entire globe to live for Him and worship Him and love Him. Who disagree on all kinds of theology and have different kinds of families and different problem sin areas and different strengths and different stories. And we all sing together, “The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ our Lord” or “in Christ alone, my hope is found.” And we all have the most important thing in common. It moves me to tears when I see the people around me worshipping our God. Like every week.

In our individualistic America, I think we forget that magic sometimes. There are a whole world of people who love the same Jesus I love, and have been moved by his message the same way I have. We are so different, yet so alike. He saved us all. We are broken and beautiful and we do the wrong things and we’re forgiven. We can embrace and accept and show compassion and love and tenderness and accountability because that’s what was shown to us by Christ. There is so much power in our ability to forgive, our magic to love people who we don’t even know.

So I encourage you, when you are feeling bitter and angry toward God’s church, who probably broke you in half like it did to me when I was 15, to come to church anyway and sing with them. Listen to the people next to you worshipping the same God, and know that He is doing for them what He is doing for you. Feel joyful and connected and at peace about this ugly, imperfect, broken church who is trying to figure out this whole Jesus-love magic.

This is how the world is supposed to know that we are His. We are one group, one body and we serve one King. And it seems like a whole lot of the time, in order to serve our King, we have to put aside our differences and focus on our similarity.

Bring us together, God! Help us to accept and love and forgive each other and hold each other accountable. Help us to show the world that we are yours because of how we love one another.

And all God’s people said, “Amen.”

 

Philippians 2 (For Kids)

Standard
Philippians 2 (For Kids)

 

 

This is my favorite chapter of the entire bible. Someday, I want to have the whole chapter memorized. I’ll never be able to understand how God could love me so much to humble Himself like He did.

I mentioned before that I’m so excited about the unity that you are showing as you learn about Christ and share His story in your community. Thinking of that, if my excitement encourages you at all, if you feel safe knowing God’s love, if you feel connected to each other because of the Holy Spirit, if you feel tender (that means gentle) or compassionate (that means you have a kind understanding of someone else’s hard times) toward each other, my excitement can be complete and perfect joy – that is, a peaceful, calming understanding that God is near no matter what – because you are working together with God’s perfect love, thinking the same thoughts and wanting the same things as each other, like a perfect team. Don’t do anything to make yourself look good or because you think you are the best at something. Instead, think of each other first instead of yourselves. Don’t look first at what you want to do, but look first at what is best for others.

To become this perfect team, you need to put yourself in the same thoughts that Jesus had. Think of what He did:

He is God, but He didn’t use the fact that He is God to put Himself ahead of or above everyone else.

Instead, He put Himself at the very lowest place – like He was nothing, just a poor, regular human. He was even like a servant. He had the same breakable skin and bones that we do.

He looked like a man, even though He was God. And He didn’t just live a normal human life, either. He made himself even lower than that. He made Himself so low that He died like He was a criminal, even though He didn’t do anything wrong. He let Himself die for us, but not only that – He let Himself die an ugly, painful, scary, horrible death that is reserved only for the worst people!

Because He did that, God raised Him up from the lowest place to the highest place. Jesus is the name that wins! He is the Rescuer. He is the Hero. His is the most important name we could ever know, more important than any other names.

His name is so important and so powerful and so good and so perfect and so high up that in His name, every knee will bow down – everything in heaven, and on earth, and even in hell – and every tongue will say that Jesus Christ is Lord, and then everyone will know who God is.

 

This is such a hard thing to understand. But you’ve always obeyed – when I was with you and even now that I’m gone – so keep on obeying even as you work out what this means to you that Jesus would do something like this, even when it makes you afraid and overwhelmed because its such an incredible story. God is the one working in you and teaching you how to do what He wants you to do. With His help, you can live the best life possible – one that shows the world who God is.

Do everything without complaining or arguing with each other. This will make you clean. You will be called children of God even though others around you are dirty and don’t do the right thing. You will show God’s light, just like the stars do, as you remember God’s word that gives life. I will be so proud of you! I will know that the work I’ve done to teach you the story of Christ will have been worth it. Even as I’m working so hard that I feel like there isn’t much of me left, like I’m a cup of water that is being poured all the way out until it is empty, I can feel so glad, and I can have that peaceful, calming understanding that God is in charge and He will set things right. You should be glad and joyful, too.

I hope, in Jesus’s name, that I can send Timothy to you soon, so that when he comes back to me, I can be encouraged as I hear about the good things you are doing. I don’t have anyone else like Timothy – he will really care about you doing well. Everyone looks out for what is best for themselves instead of what is best for God’s kingdom, but Timothy has shown that he will work hard to do what is right. He’s like my own son, helping me like I’m his father. I will send him to you as soon as I can, and I’m sure that with God’s help I’ll get to come soon, too.

But I do think I need to send back your friend Epaphroditus, who is like a brother to me now, too, who has been your messenger and has been taking care of all of my needs. He misses you so much and wants to show you that he is better so you don’t have to worry about him being sick anymore. He was very sick, actually, and he almost died. But God healed him. And God healed me, too, in a way, because if he had died, I would have been so, so sad. So that makes me even more eager to send him to you, so that you can be glad that he is all well when you see him again. Welcome him home with great joy, because he almost died for the work of Christ. He risked his life to help me when you couldn’t send anyone else.

img_1068-5

Philippians 1 (For Kids)

Standard
Philippians 1 (For Kids)

Continuing with the Matthew 19:14 Project, here is Philippians 1 for kids.

 

This letter is from Paul and Timothy to the people in Philippi who follow Jesus. We hope God gives you grace and peace.

Whenever I think of you, I thank God. I am so thankful that you have teamed up with me to share the good news of Jesus Christ, and I have joyfully prayed for you since the first day that God will finish the good things He has started in you. I know He will.

I know it is right for me to feel this way about you, because we share God’s grace (that is, the gift of eternal life from God that we do not deserve) when I am in jail and when I am preaching. No matter what, our hearts are connected, and God knows from my prayers how much I wish I could be with all of you, and how much I love you as I think of you.

This is what I pray:  that you love each other deeper and deeper and that you get to know God more and more. This way, you’ll know what is the best thing to do and you’ll always do it, which will keep you clean for the day Christ comes back. Everyone will be able to see the good things you do – just like fruit on a tree – because you know Jesus Christ, and it will show the world who God is.

You know I’m in jail. This has happened so that more of the world will know the good news – that Jesus came as God to rescue the earth and died in our place for the wrong we have done. Everyone here knows that I am in jail because I preached about Jesus, and when other brothers and sisters in Christ saw my chains, they became brave enough to preach the truth about Jesus without being afraid.

Some people are preaching because they are jealous of the attention I’m getting and they want to try to win, but others are preaching because they know that what I’m saying is actually true and right. The ones who know my words are true preach because of love, because they know that I’m here to tell the truthful good news. The jealous people are preaching because they want to make themselves look great, and they don’t really mean the words they are saying, but they want to cause trouble for me while I’m in chains. I don’t think it matters either way, because what is important is that the story of Christ is being told, no matter what the reason is for the people preaching. Christ’s story is being told, so I am excited!

Yes, and I’ll keep on being excited, because I know that your prayers for me will get me out of jail. I won’t be ashamed, no matter what happens, because I choose to be brave – I know that the world will see who God is because of my body – whether I am alive or dead. If I live, I’m living for Jesus. If I die, I get to see Him. I can’t lose! If I keep living, I’ll be able to tell more people about Jesus, so that won’t be a loss. So which one will I pick? I don’t know! I’m torn between the two: I want to leave earth so that I can be with Christ in person, which is definitely the better way to be, but I need to stay longer on earth so that I can be with you. I’m sure this is the right choice – I’ll stay with you and be so excited about how much you are learning about Christ and about how to live like Him, and then I’ll be useful for God on earth.

No matter what, make choices that are worthy of the good news of Christ. Then, whether I get to see you in person or just hear about all the wonderful things you are doing, I’ll know that you are strong and that the Holy Spirit is with you. He’ll be helping you to work together in faith to tell the world about Jesus, and you won’t be afraid of the people against you. Your unity (that is, your strength of working together and with the Holy Spirit) will be a sign that those working against you will not win, but you will be saved by God. You’ve been given a gift to believe in Christ, but also to suffer in Him. This is the same gift I was given – the same struggle I had, and I still have.

img_1068-5