God Is Missing

   Two little boys, ages 8 and 10, were always getting into trouble. The parents had tried to deal with them but had little success. Their reputation was, if there was any trouble in town, these 2 boys were probably involved. One day, the boys mother heard that a preacher in town had been very successful in dealing with children like this, so she asked if he would help by speaking to her boys.
   The preacher agreed, but he asked to see them individually. So the mother sent the 8-year-old first, in the morning, with the older boy to see the preacher in the afternoon.
   The preacher, a huge man with a booming voice, sat the younger boy down and ask him sternly, “Do you know where God is, son?” The boy’s mouth dropped open, but he made no response, sitting there wide–eyed with his mouth hanging open. So the preacher repeated the question in and even sterner tone, “Where is God?!” Again, the boy made no attempt to answer.
   The preacher raised his voice even more and shook his finger and the boys face and bellowed, “Where is God?!!!”
   The boy screamed and ran from the room, and went directly home and dove into his closet, slamming the door behind him. When his older brother found him in the closet, he asked, “What happened?” The younger brother, gasping for breath, replied, “We are in BIG trouble this time.” GOD is missing, and they think we did it!”
   Have you ever been blamed or punished for something you never did?  I guess everyone has at some point in their life. Usually our response is “That this isn’t fair!” One things for sure people are not perfect, parents are not perfect, and life is not fair all the time. Someone said, “Expecting the world to treat you fairly because you are good is like expecting the bull not to chase you because you’re a vegetarian.” 
   Doing the right thing at the right time, doesn’t guarantee a good outcome, but it does mean you have done right. More times than not it means you will have a good outcome, yet still some will judge your motives and thoughts, as if they knew what was in your heart… 
   They did this to Jesus. They did this with His disciples. He said, “They hated me, and they will hate you.” He performed miracles, and people said he did it with the devil’s power. Go figure. No matter what you do some people will think bad. Do the right thing anyway! Do the right thing at the right time! 
   This may mark a change in your life’s direction, and save much pain. It takes strength of character, and holy determination, but it will make a difference in the most important place…. your heart. There is no better feeling, than knowing you are right, no worse feeling than, you are wrong.  
   For the Christian, it really is not an option, for Christians “march to a different Drummer”, His name is Jesus.

   “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us” (I Peter 2:12).

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It’s A Chicken… It’s A Duck

   The old Chinese couple slowly went upstairs to bed. The night was quiet and all their farm animals were in their place. They had worked hard keeping their small family farm going, and finally they could lay down and sleep. It didn’t take long for her husband to fall asleep, but she for some reason was unable to sleep. All was quiet, the candle flickered, casting soft shadows on the walls. She rehearsed everything she had done that day. Then she was startled by a sound… “Quack” ”quack”…  Again the sound, “Quack” “quack”. She didn’t want to wake her husband, but she did.  She gently shook him… “Honey, honey, wake up!” “I heard something!” (Again the sound) The husband said, “It’s just a duck.” She replied back, “No, honey, it’s a chicken.” The husband told her once more, this time, a little more agitated, “No, it’s a duck, go back to sleep!!” Still she kept on saying, “No, honey, it’s a chicken, I know it’s a chicken, right?” The husband threw the blanket off, and was obviously angry, turned and looked at his wife, his hand drawn back as if he was going to slap her.  In the soft light of the candle, he saw she was scared. He put his hands softly on her face, and held her as he said, “Yes honey, you’re right, it’s a chicken.” They laid back down, and went to sleep.
   Take your time, read this again… this is important. How important is it to be right all the time? You say, “Very important!” Let me take a moment and challenge this… it may just help your home. When my wife told this story to me, I just couldn’t help by shed a few tears. It spoke of a need in my life. The need to learn I didn’t have to prove my point, be right 100% of the time, to have my way all the time. Some things are important, and of course a time to ‘make a stand’. There are also times, when it is not so important.  It takes love, patience, wisdom to know the difference. So, after she told me this story, there were (and still are) times when there would be a disagreement. In my mind I asked, is this really all that important? If not, I would say, “Yes sweetheart… it’s a chicken.” Sometimes I would just say this to myself, sometimes verbally, and we would smile, sometimes have a laugh. Dad always said, “Jack, choose your battles wisely. There’s no need to make a big deal out of everything.”
   Paul says, “Love is patient, love is kind” (I Corinthians 13:4a). “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her ….. husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself” (Ephesians 5:25,28).
   Next time something comes up, take time to think. Who knows, maybe “it’s a chicken”.

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Would You Please Pray For Me?

   Weakened by illness, discouraged by the time it was taking to feel better, ‘John’ turned and asked, the minister to pray for him. The minister held his hand, they bowed and prayed together. Prayer seemed to help as a smile came to ‘John’s’ face, and he thanked the servant of God for coming by and helping.
   Serving as minister, one of dad’s regular stops each week was in the local hospital. Looking back I remember times when dad and I went together to visit the sick and ‘shut ins’. I remember times when I felt uncomfortable. I didn’t know what to say to someone dying of cancer, or someone who had just lost a loved one, but dad always knew what to do and what to say.
   Strange how just taking the time to go and sit with someone or offering to pray with them about their situation helps. Some feel prayer is a waste of time, but when dad and later when I offered to pray with and for someone, they never refused and always appreciated it.
   Does prayer help? Yes! Are people healed as a result of God answering prayers? Yes! I know this from what the Bible says, and from experience as well. Look at some Bible examples. In Joshua 10, where Israel, in the process of conquering the land of Canaan, which God had commanded and promised to them. The battle was taking longer than expected, and Joshua prays for the sun to stand still. It was an audacious prayer for sure, but God answered, and the sun ‘stood still’ for a day. Moses prayed for the defeat of Amalek, Exodus 17:8-13, Gideon prayed for reassurance from God, Judges 6:36-40, Samson prayed for strength, Judges 16:25-30, Elijah prayed for a boy to come back to life,  I Kings 17:19-23, Elijah prays for rain, I Kings 18:41-45; James 5:17-18, Hezekiah prayed for healing and more time to live, 2 Kings 20:1-7, Daniel prayed for safety while in the lions den, Daniel 6:10,16-22. There are so many instances in both the Old and New Testaments where prayers are made, and God responds. I have also ‘seen’ God work in my life in answer to prayer as well as in the lives of other Christians who are strong in prayer.
   Do you believe in miracles? Sure! If not, then why pray? If you are asking God to heal someone, of course He has ways this can be done, but I find no scriptures which say He no longer heals, quite to the contrary. The fact is that God works. We go to doctors, and they give us medicine or perform surgeries as needed and many times these things work, and God can and does work in this as well. There are also many cases where the best of doctors admit… they can only do so much, and they often encourage people to pray. Christian physicians often pray before they go into surgery. Why do all this if God is impotent?  Do I understand how prayer works? No! I just know God answers prayer.
   James says, “Is any among you afflicted? Let him pray.” “Is any sick among you? Let him call the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up: and if he have committed any sins, they shall be forgiven him” James 5:13-15.
   Would you please pray for me? I need it.

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The Churches Of Christ Salute You

This article is part 1 of 5 in the series Dealing With Church Issues

   There is no official name for the church of the New Testament… Yes, there is one true church. I know of no substantial argument that would discredit these two statements. Besides, there was only one church… established in Jerusalem, on the day of Pentecost in fulfillment of what Jesus had said in Matthew 16:18 “…upon this rock I will build my church…” I do not believe one church is as good as another, nor in Universalism. 
   New Testament church. Referred to as: “the church”, “the church of God…”, “the household of God…”, “the church of the Firstborn..”, “churches of Christ…”, “kingdom of God”, “the way”, “the body of Christ”. Yet these names were not taken, or used as an official names. They were not divisive names, nor denominational names. The church was identified and known by many  things…. Luke records some of these things, “41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread (fellowship) and to prayer. 43  Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.44  All the believers were together and had everything in common.45  They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,47  praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:41-47). It grew even in days of great persecution… even the “gates of hell” could not destroy it. It was from within that the church had it’s most danger, then and now. What is the church of Christ? It is the saved… all of them…
 Fast forward to the Restoration Movement. The Restoration movement was an effort to restore New Testament Christianity by many who were seeking to re-kindle the ‘fires’ of First Century Christianity in modern times. This was a marvelous idea and effort. However there were also others who had this idea. 
Jay Guinn, in his book, “The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace”, summarizes the restoration movement very well. “In the early 1800’s, a number of religious movements developed in the American frontier which then consisted of such states as Kentucky and Illinois. Among these was a movement by a former Presbyterian minister, Barton W. Stone…… Stone called for Christians to give up their denominational ties and become Christians only. Differences of opinion would be tolerated among church members so long as the members professed faith in Jesus and evidenced their salvation by live in the Christian lifestyle. Stone was a strong believer in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. He felt that the one true test of salvation is whether the Holy Spirit has been received by the believer as evidenced by Christian living….. 
   “Alexander soon became the intellectual champion of this movement and developed a national reputation for his debates on religious issues. He came to the conclusion that baptism by immersion was essential to salvation thus, Campbell emphasized baptism as the true test of whether a believer has been saved….. 
   The stone and Campbell movements soon overlapped territories, with many towns having congregations of both persuasions. Many within the Stone movement became persuaded as to Campbell’s beliefs regarding baptism, and soon efforts were made to unite the congregations into a common fellowship.” (ibid. Pgs 1-2))
   (In his book “Christians Only”, James De Forrest Murch said on page 93 “at first Stone gave little attention to the subject of baptism. He even considered it an optional practice. When controversy arose among his followers, he finally began the study of the Scriptures which led him to the conclusion that immersion of believers was the divinely ordained baptism, and he himself was immersed. Thereafter he began to preach that baptism “is ordained by the King” and that the Bible clearly taught the ordinance was “for the remission of sins.”)
   Quoting Jay Guinn again, “Stone and Campbell themselves were initially reluctant to condone a merger. However, the churches were eager to merge, and many merged without the blessings of the leaders of the movement. Since most movements also stressed that the church is completely independent (congregational autonomy), neither leader had any authority to prohibit or compel a merger of the movements. But eventually the two men came to recommend the merger gladly. The combined movements came to be known as the Restoration Movement…… The leaders disagreed on the name of the church (Christian church vs. Disciples of Christ) and the name of the members (Christians or Disciples)…” (Of course these two leaders had disagreements, yet), “these and other more subtle differences were put aside, with the men agreeing to “think and let think” and to preach and write only on those subjects that would edify the church. Although each was the publisher of a periodical that was highly influential in the movement, in the interest of unity each chose to avoid the temptation toward controversies over theological speculation…”

   “The combined movement, known most commonly as the Disciples of Christ or Christian church in the north and as the Churches of Christ in the South, was greatly invigorated by the merger, and spread rapidly throughout the country as a young nation expanded westward into the Deep South.” (ibid, pgs 2-3).
   The point of this (incomplete) rendering of the beginning of the great restoration movement, is to help us think about what is really is involved in maintaining unity in the body of Christ. Is unity, being one body, dependant on agreeing on everything? Can a better understanding of God’s grace help in all of this? If we seek unity based on everyone agreeing on everything, unity is beyond our grasp, yet with God’s grace, unity is very attainable. 
   The unity of the restoration movement did not last long, since in 1906 a great division took place over the subject of instrumental music, as well as other things. Things which had been pushed and ‘fired-up’ not only by writers in church Publications, but by preachers who took advantage of their pulpits who promoted a ‘legalistic’, graceless Christianity. Talk of “grace” seems  have been largly missing in dealing with this, and other ‘issues’, when a better  understanding of grace may have  helped us avoid this costly division. A proper understanding of grace may have helped us to at least continue to treat each other like brethren which we are because of the blood of Christ.

   Paul encourages the Roman church in Romans 16:16 by saying “the churches of Christ salute you, greet one another with a holy kiss.” By encouragement in this article is for Christians, all who have been baptized for the remission of their sins into Christ, and have received the gift of the Holy Spirit according to the Scriptures to simply understand what Paul is saying. When he says “the churches of Christ salute you”, he is not using this term as an official name for the church, but as a designation which is as powerful and meaningful as the other designations mentioned throughout the epistles in the book of Acts. Names that we put on the signs seem to have divided us. Whether we put the name “Church of Christ” or “Christian Church” or Country Church “Where Christians meet”… What puts us into Christ is obeying the gospel of Christ.

   Paul also in this verse encourages or should we say commands all Christians to greet one another with a holy kiss, which today means treat each other with love, accept each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. This includes weaker brothers as well as a stronger ones, this includes those who hold certain days as holy, and those who hold all days are like. This includes those who eat meat and those who do not. Find the principal in Romans 14, apply it, use it. It will help us in understanding grace. 

   The question seems to be can we deal with our differences, or must we continue to divide? Can we sit in the Bible class and with love for each other, respect for each other, and a deep desire to please Jesus… determined that we are going to study irregardless of where the truth leads, we will stand on the Scriptures. If we differ on opinion or things upon which the Scriptures do not speak then we can respect each other’s opinions. In God’s grace we are accepted because of the finished work of Jesus Christ not because we agree on everything. 
   This is important: because I know that there will be some that will read this and say “Jack is gone off the deep end!” What I’m trying to do is encourage balance in Scriptures. Since much division is caused by taking a truth and pushing it to an extreme. Obviously there are things that we cannot disagree on. We cannot disagree for example on baptism for the remission of sins. We cannot disagree on the importance of assembling on the Lord’s day. We cannot disagree on the Lord’s supper being taken, nor  the bread and fruit of the vine. We cannot disagree on Jesus the son of God come in the flesh. We cannot disagree that we are saved by grace through faith. However we are left open to think about and to decide for ourselves on many things…. Are we going to be baptized in a pool or do we have to be baptized in a river? Do we have to use one cup in the Lord Supper, or can we use many cups which is far more hygienic? Do we have to break the bread and then offer thanks, and distribute it, and repeat this process for the grape juice, or can we say one prayer for both the bread and the fruit of the vine? Surely we can see that we are left open in many areas to make up our own minds as to what is expedient and helpful in our situation and in our culture. Can we clap hands during worship? Can we use an instrument of music? Must we divide over these things. Of course we could list many many other things but I think that the idea is obvious, whether you agree with me on everything or not…. (By the way I disagree with myself quite often, so don’t give up on me yet.)(I’m a work in progress.) 
   Today we can indeed make a difference… and learn form the past… One by one, class by class, congregation by congregation, we can re-study, and re-consider these things in light of scripture… We can insist on doing it better. 

   Never do you find in the New Testament, where on congregation withdraws fellowship from another congregation…. Yet today we find this happening over and over again. My question where is the Scripture that gives congregations are leaderships the right to do this? If it isn’t there then why we doing it?  What happened to autonomy?

   It seems to me that when there is something that comes up which is questionable or causes a bit of friction, that it should be noted, leaders should sit down and discuss it, and classes and individuals should be allowed and willing to sit down and study together on what the Bible says on the matter… WITHOUT FEAR. Truth has nothing to fear or hide… It is the argumentative “I am right, you are wrong”, “if I don’t get my way I’ll leave” attitude, that is hurting us.

   I am convinced that in our Bible classes we should be willing and able to study any subject that comes up with an attitude of love than simply searching the Scriptures to find out what is right not who is right. If we find that we are wrong when, okay we change. If we find we are right, okay we stand. But through it all we must maintain the spirit of loving each other.

   Labels have become the norm the church today. (“Liberal”, Conservative”, “Anti” “One Cupper””Instrumental”, “Non-Instrumental”, “Bible Class”, “Non-Bible Class” etc…Depending on what label one has been given, will determine whether they are “in” or “out”. Whether we will eat with them or not, whether they will be accepted with Christian love or treated like an outsider who doesn’t belong, and encouraged to “find another place”. Problem with ‘labels’ is people change, but labels seem to never go away. A bigger problem is I’m not sure God approves of this. If so, where are the scriptures?

   It takes wisdom and love for each other not to divide or push something which may be a matter of freedom in Christ, but may be offensive and harmful to the body of Christ. In past years, we have not exibited much wisdom nor love for each other in dealing with differences… but perhaps it is not too late to begin. 

   My goal is simply to encourage Christians to be more willing to study the Scriptures with each other in love, before drawing a line of fellowship where God has not drawn them…. 
   “The churches of Christ salute you”…. 

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Never Build A Church On Issues

This article is part 2 of 5 in the series Dealing With Church Issues

(This is being updated periodically, since there are quite a few ‘issues’ to address.)

The church (the body of Christ) has always had things come up which demanded discussion, study, decisions… In the early church there were questions (issues) over eating meats, circumcision, law/works/grace/faith, veils, spiritual gifts, women disrupting worship, going to law against another Christian, sexual immorality, marriage and divorce… These troubled the congregation in Corinth and possibly other congregations. Paul wrote to help. It would be nice to have the apostle Paul around to respond to our questions and issues. Sometimes I wonder what he would say, how he would respond. What would he think about our issues as compared to the ones he dealt with in his time? Since we don’t have Paul here, we must depend on our only authority in matters pertaining to the church… the scriptures. Not only what is said but looking for principles contained in scriptures, and learn to apply them as they should be.

Here is a list which I found in my dad’s New Testament, of things which he titled, “CHURCH ISSUES”. Things which have at one time or another disturbed the peace in the body of Christ. Questions will do this if not handled correctly. Questions can lead to arguments and discontent and division if allowed. Some are more important than others, some are tied to salvation, while others are not. Yet how all of them are handled can be linked to whether or not the church remains UNITED.

As you read the list, some will seem silly, some not. They may seem silly now, because when they were ‘issues’ was years ago and brethren have simply laid them aside or understood them to be no big deal. However, at the time when they came up, they were considered quite serious. Some were hurt and left, walls were built other congregations were started with small groups of 10 or 15.

Problems have led to more congregations for sure, but in too many cases, these ‘spin off congregations, don’t fellowship each other, which has led to the weakening of the body of Christ, and broadcasts to the world, that we can’t get along with each other.  Questions: Shall we continue to divide till we don’t exist or shall we learn to deal with each other in grace and love? Will we learn the difference between things which are no big deal and things which really matter? Time will tell. Let’s take a brief look at some things which have over the years, have been ‘issues’ in the church. Some still are, some have come and gone for some reason.

1. Oaths – Shall we take an oath in court or not? (What is the difference between “I swear” and “I affirm”?) Why did Jesus say, “Let your yes be yes, and your no be no” (Matthew 5:33-37).

2. Christians serving in the Armed Forces – Shall a Christian take up a weapon against an enemy on behalf of the government of the USA? What about “Love your enemy?”

3. Mini-skirts – How short is short? Shall we issue a mandate on 3 inches above the knee?

4. Mixed bathing – Male and female swimming or going to the beach together. This was  ‘hot topic’ when I was growing up. Definitely a “no-no”, however, things have seemed to change and not much attention is given to this. What happened? (I guess this is something that puzzles me. Quite a few of the things listed here that used to be “hot-buttons” no longer are. If they are no longer “issues”, then what caused this? Did we get tired of dealing with it? Did we just give up on some issues while others remain? What was the criteria for determining which ones are now acceptable, and others not? Shall we divide? If so, over which issue(s)?

5. Shorts – Shall men and women be allowed to wear shorts to the assembly? Who will tell them “this is not allowed”?

6. Basketball shorts – Shall Christians be allowed to wear shorts in public for athletic events?

7. Jack Daniel Brewery – A reference to drinking alcohol obviously. Is it a matter of ‘drunkenness’ (obviously condemned and wrong) as opposed to an occasional drink? Is there a difference in these two things? Shall we divide over or dis-fellowship Christians over this issue?

8. Tobacco – Smoking or dipping – Is this something we will ignore because influential brethren have a bad habit? What about 1 Corinthians 6:19? What is Paul saying here? Principle???

9. Card Playing – Is this ‘of the world’ and evil in and of itself?  Why was it on ‘the list’ in years gone by, but now we don’t hear about it? What happened?

10. Movies – Shall Christians be allowed to go to the movies since this was considered worldly?

11. Divorce – Shall all divorced people be put on probation and demanded that they live celibate (if they are divorced or divorce for another reason other than adultery)? What about I Corinthians 7:27-28? Shall we disfellowship all who have divorce in their back ground… shall we “have a purging”? Is it possible that this can be forgiven (as David was)without demanding another divorce on the part of those who have remarried and are sincerely penitent about their past, and determined never to repeat the sin? Why can the blood of Christ cleanse ALL SINS when one comes into Christ, and not after one is already in Christ? (Ref. 1 Cor. 6:9-11).

12. Re-marriage – (Note #11) Again what about I Corinthians 7:27-28? Shall we divide over this?

13. Marrying an unbeliever – “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.” Does Paul intend for this to apply to business, or marriage (since there were many who were in a mixed marriage situation) (my assumption). Shall we disfellowship any who are married to unbelievers?

14. Dancing – ‘Shall we dance’? High school proms, husband and wife, friends… Shall we withdraw from all who dance, or believe it is ok?

15. Social drinking – Can Christians have a drink (not get slobbering-drunk)? Is this a worldly activity which must be totally banned? What about Jesus turning water into wine? What about having some wine for your stomachs sake? What about having a drink in your own home? How does Romans 14 fit into all this or does it? Clearly Christians are not to get drunk (Ephesians 5:17-19), but can a Christian have a drink and not get drunk and still be OK?

16. Bob’d hair – I don’t know what this is. Is it a sin to fix up your hair, or is it too worldly?

17. Long hair on men – How long is long? Common sense should tell us I guess. But shall this be an issue which divides?

18. Women wearing hats in the assembly – Hardly a veil, but Paul instructed women to have head coverings in I Corinthians 11 while they pray and prophesy (in the assembly is the context). Was this a cultural things? Do we need to follow the head covering instruction in a culture where it does not matter?

19. Women teaching – What about I Corinthians 11-14 and I Timothy 2? Can women teach young boys up to a certain age? What age? Who said? Why? Is this a matter which should divide?

20. Lord’s Supper – offered in P.M. – Most do not have a problem with this now (as with some other things already mentioned), but years ago… it was an issue to be dealt with. Why should this have ever been a problem?

21. Bible Class Literature – Is this scriptural? Non-scriptural? Un-scriptural? Are there dangers in having a central publication for all congregations to follow? Should teachers make up their own lessons?

22. Hymns played on piano at home – Should pianos be banned at home to be sure, no Christian music is played there? Can we have small home devotionals and play music there? What about contemporary music (instrumental) on the radio while driving?

23. Flowers paid from church treasury – For those in hospitals or nursing homes. What about raising money in other ways besides giving on Sundays for special uses?

24. Masonry – Can a Christian be a Mason and still be a Christian? Have you looked up what Masons believe and teach? Shall we or should we dis-fellowship brethren involved in Masonry?

25. What is said at baptism – “In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit…” (Matthew 28:18-20) or “In the name of Jesus…” (Acts 2:38). Do people immersed for the remission of sins, in “the name of Jesus” have to be re-immersed to “do it right” or to “be safe”? Does one formula save and the other not?

26. Lord’s Supper – Break the bread after the prayer of before? Are crackers ok for convenience sake or must we use a loaf of unleaven bread? (Matthew 26:26).

27. Lord’s Supper – Wine or Grape juice (Matthew 26:27). Is it a sin to use wine instead of grape juice?

28. Christmas – Since this was begun by the Roman Catholic Church, is it ok for Christians to observe Christmas? What about having a Christmas party in church? Christmas tree in the church building? Shall we divide over this?

29. Easter – Since this was started by the Catholic Church, shall it be forbidden to have an Easter party for our children at church? Is it wrong and shall we withdraw from Christians who observe Easter? Christmas?

30. Voting in elections – Shall Christians be involved in polotics? Protests?

31. Hymns – unscriptural – Shall we forbid such songs as those which teach or seem to teach “faith only”? Some brethren refuse to sing certain songs. Are they sinning when we are all commanded to sing?

32. Located minister – No we do not find ministers being paid for full time, located in one place work in the New Testament. Perhaps this is wise, that ministers be like Paul and have a secular job. Even though it is not mandated… is it OK to do it? We for the most part accept this ‘innovation’ yet we reject others. Shall we divide?

33. One cup or many – Matthew 26:27 “Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you.” This is was and still is taken literally by some Christians. Shall we divide over this. (Actually we already have.) Is it ok to use many cups as a matter of expedience saying, the focus should be on the contents and what it represents… Does this make some inconsistent in the way they interpret scriptures? Why divide? Could it be possible we need to study this one more?

34. Bible classes – Some believed and still do, that  it is unscriptural to have Bible Classes on the Lord’s Day since there is no evidence of this in the New Testament…

35. Bible versions (KJV vs NIV). This remains an issue not only here in the States, but missionaries sometimes, take this into the mission field. Is it something we will divide over? Should we forbid the use of other versions?

36. Women wearing pants suit in worship – This is a bit out of date, since we have let this issue ‘go’ for some reason. Question: Why did it become an issue in the first place? Was it a matter of custom? Things do change.

37. Use of pitch pipes – Shall we push the stand against instruments of music to the point where a song leader cannot use something to pitch a song right? Shall we forbid this, should we overlook it? Is it an issue over which we shall divide over this?

38. United Fund – Not sure if this was an issue or not. Dad had written it down, so evidently he heard of some being bothered by this question of contributing to the United Way. Can a Christian donate to this personally? What about the Salvation Army? Can we donate personally to this? Shall we divide over this?

39. Women working outside the home – I’ll not go into the pro’s and con’s on this. When growing up, this was frowned on and taught against in the pulpit… Shall we forbit women to work outside the home? What if they do anyway? Shall we divide over this?

40. Working on Sundays – This can be a cultural problem even today in mission fields, as other things listed here. This may make a difference if one is trying to reach the lost. What about the church here though… if a Christian cuts the grass on Sunday afternoon, will he be in trouble? Shall we divide over this?

41. Debating – Is debating each other wrong? Perhaps we need to look at the ‘spirit’ with which we debate each other. Can we differ and still be brethren united in Christ?

42. Women saying “Amen”. This is closely tied to #43, and maybe a couple of other things listed here. The issue of women remaining silent in the church is really touchy, even now. Books have been written pro and con. Questions are there, yet people are afraid to voice an opinion and to just open the Bible and really study the issue. Why? Can women speak in class where men are present? Is the Bible class any less an assembly? Was Paul speaking to a cultural situation? Can women speak, pray, or as Paul mentions… “prophesy” in a respectful manner (as Paul instructs… with their heads covered)?

43. Women praying in presence of men – This is an issue which has been discussed and debated… Is this a matter simply of conscience? What about at home in family devotionals? What about in cell group studies? Were Paul’s instructions to deal with a cultural situation which does not exist today, here? Yes it exists in some countries…
The passages we are talking about are found in I Corinthians 11:2-16; 14:34-36; 1 Timothy 2:8-15. Discovering truth, even if it supports a traditional view… is good. But the attitude which inhibits an honest search is not good. Truth has nothing to fear. If we are consistent, where will it lead? Women be silent in the assembly. Are our Bible classes part of the assembly?  Will we study to find answers, or shall we divide.

44. Children praying – Are children allowed to lead prayers. What about in the Timothy Class, the Priscilla class?

45. Unbeliever singing in worship – I never heard of this one. I guess it was something which came up as a result of pushing scriptures too far. Hard to believe. I doubt this is a serious challenge today.

46. Unbelievers praying – “God does not hear the sinners prayer” at least that was what we were taught years ago. Does He hear the sinner crying out for someone to teach him about salvation? Consider Cornelius…

47. Elders – plural children – How many children? 1, 2, 3 or more?What if after they grow up, they deny Christ, walk away. Must an elder then step down?

48. Elders – married – Does this mean a one woman man (as opposed to polygamy) or a ‘one woman man’, as in ‘committed to marriage’? What if they have divorce in their background, but are now committed for life to their wife? Are they disqualified from serving?

49. Elders – Authority – What if an elder, by his actions, is a manipulator, or controller, instead of a shepherd… how to deal with this?

50. Elders – no children/ grown unbelieving children. Elders who have demonstrated their ability to lead their families, and raise their child or children ‘in the Lord’ and yet when they leave the home may fall away from Christ…. is this elder now disqualified? Why?

51. Church helping saints from the church treasury. Hard to believe this would be an issue, when we are instructed to help the widows and orphans. When our methods of hermeneutics are such that we can’t help people in need as a congregation…. where does it stop? Shall we continue to divide over this?

52. Church Colleges – Where is the scripture giving us the mandate for not only establishing ‘church colleges’  but also supporting and promoting them? That’s easy… right beneath the one which gives a mandate for spending hundreds of thousands, and millions on a church building. Are these needed today? Sure. Anything wrong with them? Not in my judgement. But then I’m not the One to decide. However, not everything is laid out explicitly in scriptures. There are many things which are left up to conscience, expediency, and good common sense. The question is, shall we divide over this?

53. Business meetings – Poor substitute for elders and deacons… Seriously doubt that BM have really helped the church. Once I was present in a BM where two brethren almost came to a physical fight over a disagreement. This was shameful. Certainly not something to divide over, right? Some Christians do need a good ‘sit down’ with some spiritual leaders though on how to behave in these meetings.

54. Majority vote – shall we make decisions by majority vote? Is there a better way? Maybe we need to give some thought to this, since one thing which has bothered, disturbed brethren since before the church was established….. is “Who is greatest?” Too many times it is a struggle for power…. control… and certainly doesn’t belong in the body of Christ.

55. College Choirs/ Chorus (modern times – praise teams) – Is it ok to have this? Some say no because it is ‘entertainment’. Others say no, because all are commanded to sing. Assuming this is the ‘command’ the scriptures still leave much open to the ‘how to’. Otherwise we are forced to a legalistic approach. No, there’s no ‘mandate’, yet pushing a truth to an extreme will lead to division. Is it ok to have things like this? Is it ok not to have them? Shall we divide, or dis-fellowship those who do this?

56. Prison services – Is this OK? Of course it is, yet some thought not since it was not ‘mandated’ in scriptures…. Why was this ever an issue for the church?

57. Funeral in church buildings and flowers from church treasury. Again the ‘taking money from treasury thing’… Why not send flowers from a congregation saying, “This is from our heart to yours.”

58. Weddings in church buildings – This was argued about considerably. Even if it were not on a Sunday, brethren would not allow instrumental music in the building itself, lest the ‘outside world’ think, we permitted their use…. even for a wedding! Shall we divide over this?

59. Wedding use instrumental music in building – Refer to #58

60. Church discipline – This seems to be a continuing problem in the sense that congregations are either to ‘quick on the trigger’ or ‘too slow’. We desperately need a re-study of this subject, and how and with whom and when it should be done. Ignorance on this has hurt the church. (By the way, the idea that one congregation can disfellowship another….. WHERE IS THE BIBLICAL EXAMPLE? Again… where is the Biblical example where one congregation ever did this in scripture? Corinth was not ‘disfellowshiped’, nor was the church at Laodicea! The Lord sent a letter via John, to warn them for sure. Paul instructed the Corinthians for sure. Yet all congregations were encouraged to cooperate and work together in helping the saints in Jerusalem…. No harm to us, but we are our own worst enemy in many cases….

61. Church bond sales – Shall we divide? Where is the mandate for this? Right behind the one for having church buildings. Just a way some, years ago proposed to pay fopr a ‘church building’.

62. Special Collections – This should be easier for us. Since there are scriptures. For the saints in Jerusalem. What is the principle? If Paul could gather money for the hungry…. could he gather money for the homeless? The orphans? Widows? Shall we divide?

63. Church support of Christian College

64. Church/Christian Recreation – Can we take money from the treasury and support our children’s activities? Worth dividing over?

65. Social Gospel – Not so hard to deal with when we love the truth. We shouldn’t have a problem with this. Maybe we need more preachers who know Jesus and preach Him. He taught no social gospel. Perversion of it is forbidden. (Galatians 1:6-9)

66. Institutional Church – don’t know what this is… maybe some of you remember this ‘issue’.

67. Church treasury – What can we do with a church treasury? Where is the mandate for having one? Some said we don’t have the authority, therefore they could not fellowship with those who did. Now that most congregations have one, what are the Biblical rules to deal with this money? Scripture please….

68. Budgets – Hard to believe this was an issue. Maybe we need to understand, times change. Truth of course does not. But there are things today which a church family has to do to survive. Scriptural mandate? For this, of course not. Paul just gathered the money, had others travel with him to care for it, and deliver it to the needy in Jerusalem.
Today, churches have to do these things. Shall some divide over this?

69. Pledge cards – Shall we divide and argue over letting elders know what they can count on for the year as far as contribution? Churches need a treasury, bank accounts, secretaries, etc….  what is the big deal? Budgets can only be determined by elders or leaders knowing what to expect. Not worth dividing over, is it?

70. Cooperation – Who ever heard of a congregation in NT times, where they refused co-operation?

Take a break (another one) and just think… these are just some of the things we have allowed to either divide the churches of Christ to the point where hundreds and thousands have left the church…. or hurt the church to the point where it is ineffective in many towns and cities across America. Brethren we have to wake up… Understanding grace and applying grace to each other, our weaknesses, our disagreements… is vital to survival, and growth. The lack of grace… leads to legalism… Legalism leads to division….. Division leads to weakness in effectiveness….
It is truly hard to believe some of these things if not most of them were problems in the church over the years….

71. Incorporation – Is it wrong for congregations to ‘incorporate’, and meet the tax free status? What about our Lord’s and Paul’s instructions on paying taxes… does this forbid avoiding paying taxes thru ‘incorporation’? Is this really an issue?

72. Foundations

73. Churches withdrawing from other churches – This is presently still being done. I personally find no scriptural authority for such actions. Even the congregation in Corinth, with all the problems they had…  were not ‘withdrawn from’ by the churches in Ephesus, Philippi, Smyrna, Galatia, etc… Shall we divide, and continue dividing?

74. Bus Ministry – Here is a method of reaching the lost… No scripture for busses, but it enables the reaching of multitudes… Shall we divide over this too?

75. Church – Day Care Center – OK, so the church is not in the day care business. The bigger question may very well be, are we in the ‘reaching the lost’ by any means business? You say, “As long as it is scriptural!” OK, then go figure… is this an issue or not? Shall we divide over it? Why? First, if a congregation is able financially to do this, and it fills a need in people’s lives, and helps bring souls to Christ… why not? If another congregation does not or is not able to do this…. that is ok too. Methods of reaching out, and serving…. are many. Lord bless us with eyes to see the needs of people. Many ‘doors’ are open, if we will but go thru and use them. Of course there are extremes… and no the first century church did not do this… (nor did they build multi million dollar buildings), but they went after the lost with enthusiasm and conviction. (By the way, every congregation is autonomous, and there is no example in scripture of one church withdrawing from another congregation. (By the way, this is just my opinion.)

76. Women in Business meetings – Well, it’s a ‘submission’ issue, right… or is it really? You decide. Certainly there are some mature Christians who can decide this without a big blow up. Consider that the ‘business meeting’ is at the least a poor substitute for Biblical leadership. It is simply a method of handling church business in the absence of elders and deacons…. Yes, It has worked in some congregations and yet…. sadly, it has resulted in many hurt feelings in others. (Even some ‘fisticuffs’). It’s not something to divide over, is it? Women in the business meeting? Why not? Work it out. Divide over it? What for?

77. Church picnics/ fellowship – Shall we divide over this? “Give me a book/chapter/ and verse for it!” Give me a book/chapter and verse for dividing over it!

78. Boy scouts – church building – Keep in mind… it is a building! Christians are the temple of God! Shall we divide?

79. Eating in the Church building – Why not? It’s just a building, right? Yes it is dedicated, and it is where the saints meet. Still, what is more important… the building being limited for only the assembling of saints, or using it for fellowship, for doing what a family does together. We are a family right? True, Paul said, “Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? (I Corinthians 11:22). If I were to be legalistic, and be looking for a proof-text for forbidding this activity, I might use this one. I would have to ignore the context and the reason why Paul said what he did though. In the end, a congregation needs to do what is best for their congregation. Certainly this activity or not having this activity, is not a good reason for dividing or determining whether or not to fellowship a brother or sister in Christ.

80. Kitchen in the Church building. Hard to imagine that the body of Christ has seen fit in some cases to divide over this. “Where is the scripture for having a kitchen in the building?!” You may ask. Well, it’s right next to the one that says we can have buildings. We need to understand, that not everything is legislated in the New Testament. We are not under a LAW/WORKS system brethren, we are under GRACE/FAITH. We will never be ‘right’ on everything, but we must be right on our relationship with (1) God (through Jesus), and (2) Each other. Dividing over such things as this, is not right. To be honest, it is a disgrace.

81. Family Centers. (Refer to #80).

82. Refreshments for Vacation Bible School. Ok, so if we don’t serve refreshments, then what about a water fountain? Where is the scripture for having a bathroom? Can we have a refrigerator for the communion grape juice? It gets a bit silly doesn’t it. Yet this is where legalism leads.

83. Renting buildings. Why not? We did when we were in Belfast, north Ireland. We didn’t have a place to meet that was big enough for the people we had. What did we do? We rented a Hall. By the way, it was used for dancing the night before we met there on the Lord’s Day. So what! It worked for a while.

84. Christian hospitals. Well, this does pose a problem. Usually such an undertaking requires co-operation from a number of churches. This leads to another question. Is it scriptural for Christians in one congregation to work together with other congregations to do something like this? Didn’t brethren help each other and participate in the feeding of brethren in Jerusalem? Hospitals are kinda different I guess. You reckon god’s grace will cover this?

85. Herald of Truth. When I was much younger, there was much ado about whether congregations would cooperate on teaching the truth to the multitudes through the Herald of Truth. Big undertaking for sure. My question is WHY NOT? Surely we can work together, or do we just prefer to keep house and stay small? Can you imagine, this is number 85. Eighty five things that brethren have argued or disagreed over. Some of which have been big enough to whittle the church down and divide us. You say, “Well, where is the scripture for it?” Where is the scriptures that are against it? Why can’t brethren, congregations cooperate and work together? Autonomy is not being relinquished by cooperating is it? Elders still have oversight of their flock, right? Most of the time, it’s money that is being sent. It is a big effort. Takes a lot of money. People are being reached, contacts are being shared, souls are being saved… Why divide over teaching the multitudes? “Go into all the world…” There is more than one way to “go”. Why not use it.

86. Soup kitchens. If a congregation wants to do this… DO IT.

87. Home for unwed mothers. Why not? If a congregation is big enough and they want to provide help for unwed mothers… Maybe it’s a good opportunity to save souls. This is not big enough to divide over.

88. Church names. Now this is BIG. Even though there are no official names for the church in the New Testament. Not one! The ones you can name are simply designations which were used by the writer to refer to members of the body of Christ. “Church of Christ”, identifies us from other denominations. Not that the church is a denomination… but sometimes we act like it. The church of Christ includes all believers who are immersed into Christ. If you really want a scriptural name… use “______ Where Christians Meet”. We just don’t like it when things change or things are different. Would it be wrong for a group to have a sign, “the Family of God Meets here… Come be with us”. Would it be wrong? Would it be hard to identify each other passing through town? Yes, it would. Would it be wrong? Would we be lost? No of course not. So if you use the name Church of Christ… that’s fine. But don’t dis-fellowship a group of believers who decide to use another name. Now if they use something which identifies them with a denomination… the problem is probably deeper than ‘the sign’. But, before you ‘draw a line of fellowship’, first find out where God has drawn the line. if He hasn’t drawn it, we had better not either.

89. Indwelling of Holy Spirit. Read Romans 8. If you don’t have His Spirit dwelling in you, you don’t belong to Him.

90. 1000 year reign. I have had to struggle with this. Some Christians believe this popular idea, that Jesus will reign on the earth for 1000 years. I don’t believe this, because it negates his work now, and assumes he failed in his first try to save the Jews.
There is much more to this idea, but as long a one does not force this issue, and keeps it as a personal matter, there is no problem. Sometimes, one who believes this will teach it publicly… then there are problems. This is a serious issue, and a lot of study should be given it, before espousing it in public.

91. Re-baptism. There is no evidence for this when one is immersed into Christ. It is a personal thing. No need to divide over it though.

92. Grace. One preacher (at least) has been fired for preaching on grace too much. Grace should unify brethren. Of course brethren disagree on different things. They always will. Grace is too amazing to divide over. Seek balance! Don’t fear it, run from it, fire someone over it, just grow in it and rejoice in it. Besides, where would you be without it? Grace is not just for saving us… it’s for keeping us saved as well.

93. 2 John 9-11 Does this refer to all teachings of the church on everything, or is it limited to what John was dealing with when he wrote it? Well context is ‘king’ right? We need to quit using this scripture to slap someone who may differ on matters of opinion, or on matters over which there is much confusion. Romans 14-15 will help a lot on matters of opinion. We need to quit using scripture to ‘beat up’ on each other. John wrote to warn about those who were denying that Jesus came in the flesh… not over having a kitchen in the building or some such thing.

94. Speaking in tongues. If you claim to speak in tongues, I would say this. There are three rules. (1) INTERPRETER MUST BE PRESENT IN THE ASSEMBLY… or else you have to be quiet. (2) TONGUES IN THE NEW TESTAMENT MEANING OF THE WORD, WAS A LANGUAGE UNLEARNED, BUT GIVEN BY THE SPIRIT. It was not the modern ‘tongues’ proclaimed by Pentecostals. (3) EVERYTHING MUST BE DONE DECENTLY AND IN ORDER, SO TWO OR THREE ARE PERMITTED TO SPEAK ONE AFTER THE OTHER… in the assembly. (4) PROPHESYING IS MORE PREFERRED FOR EDIFYING THE ASSEMBLY, rather than tongues. I’m not going to argue over an experience someone claims to have had, as long as someone doesn’t try to divide the church over it, and keeps it to themselves. It is not a sign of being spiritual… (cf. the Corinthians). The sign of being spiritual, is bearing the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5).

95. Orphan homes
96. Crossroads
97. Capital punishment

After all this, one wonders that the church is still here. Yet it is. Thank God. We have a long way to go. Don’t give up, or get discouraged, that’s not the point with this list. This list was carried and used by dad in his lessons on grace and unity. Why? Well, because a good understanding of grace would help us get along with each other. How can we deal with differences in congregations? Pass out a survey to the Bible Class, take 15 of these things, and ask if they a.) believe they are unscriptural b.) cultural problems of Paul’s day and not applicable today c.) a matter of faith d.) a matter of private opinion e.) A matter of opinion, and can be used in church. Make up your own questions if you wish. The point is to show us that people differ. It’s ok. Along with this though must come the proper attitude to be willing to sit and open the scriptures and see what it says. Let it be a matter of what’s right, not who is right. Let us finally come to understand that not everything is legislated in scriptures, some things are simply the result of first century problems which had to be dealt with then for the sake of the spreading of the gospel, and are not mandates for our culture now.  But unless we learn to study together in love and respect, our differences will continue to be points of division, and loosing people who get hurt in the mean time.

A few points to consider:
1. Never build a church on ISSUES… NEVER SPLIT A CHURCH over ISSUES.
2. Often an ‘ISSUE’ is not the ‘ISSUE’, it is HOW THE ISSUE IS HANDLED. How people are handled! How questions are handled.
3. Fact: No one (on earth) has a perfect knowledge (understanding) of all truth. We need to study together, and understand the difference between opinion and non-opinion matters. Respect opinions, listen, share, agree, disagree, love each other anyway.
4. We need to decide: We will not be a part of DIVISION/ Strive earnestly for NO SEPARATION WITHIN THE BODY OF CHRIST.
5. Remember what put us into Christ is not based on opinions, nor do they separate us from Christ. Grace is big not small.
6. Needed are strong leaders who understand grace, and know how to handle people, and preachers who have no axe to grind or hobby horse to ride. Just teach Jesus.
7. Remember, “every battle leaves a scar”. We can heal, but it will mean learning to deal with things differently from how they have been dealt with in the past. Changes are not all bad… Christians are not perfect… We will never agree on every thing…. Can the church, a living body, the body of Christ, exist and grow stronger? Can we re-kindle the Restoration Movement again…. based on better learning and interpretation of scriptures? Why not? Indeed, why not?

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