Mission: Discipleship

It’s important to know who we are and why we exist. That’s true for us as individuals, but it is also true for us as a church. It’s not about who we are as much as Whose we are. And why we exist has to be so much more than just going to church. Our church has not always had a clear sense of direction, but as we’ve read our history we learn that our church began with community Bible study and prayer with a determination to be a ‘community’ church. Reclaiming who we are and who we are called to be, we are unveiling our new mission statement to lead us:

“Celebrating our life together in Christ through authentic and transformative discipleship, integrated and intentional community, and an effervescent commitment to continuing the work of Jesus.”

We celebrate our life together in Christ through authentic and transformative discipleship…

[Read 1 Timothy 4:9-16]

Timothy was a young follower of Jesus and a student of Paul. He grew up in a mixed family with a Greek father and Jewish Christian mother. He trusted Christ at a young age, becoming a leader and missionary who served with Paul. Paul’s message was clear to Timothy: watch closely how you live and what you teach (1 Tim. 4:16). In other words, teach the right things and do the right things.

Some say that what we believe does not matter — it’s what you do. Do enough good, and you’re good. Still others through the years have insisted that what you do doesn’t really matter — it’s what you believe. Believe this checklist (say this creed), and you’re good.

So which is it?

I think authentic discipleship involves both. I admit that we can feel the tension in scripture between the ‘right thinking’ camp and the ‘right living’ camp (orthodoxy vs. orthopraxy). As black and white thinkers, we tend to lean to one or the other, but somewhere in the middle is an authentic journey of faith. Doctrine matters. How we live matters.

Right belief + right living = authentic and transformative discipleship.

Our culture tells us that authenticity means being true to yourself. It sounds right, but Jesus never calls us to be our authentic selves. Instead, he is calling us to himself where our wonderful and complex personhood is redeemed and renewed. I think the truest and most authentic self is found redeemed in Christ!

And an authentic relationship with Jesus is a transforming one. As we give ourselves to God’s mean of grace, the Holy Spirit begins his transforming work in us. Jesus changes us — and I admit this transformation has been slow at times as I struggle to yield fully to God. We are being transformed for a reason: 1] Preparing us for home, and 2] Preparing us for his purposes.

We hope to be an authentic and transforming community with Jesus keeping us real and doing his work within us.

Reclaim

I love a good redemption story! It is the promise of the Gospel that where we find ourselves today is not where we’ll always be! Our stories of decline and failure do not forever define us. Redemption is at the heart of the Gospel. It is at the center of the scriptures. The Living God renews, redeems, restarts, rebirths, regenerates, rebuilds, reclaims, and resurrects.

In Joshua 1, we read the story of Israel’s return to Canaan. This, too, is a redemption story. Israel had lost the Promised Land but were coming home again following over 400 years of slavery in Egypt and 40 years of wandering in the desert. They were reclaiming what God had given them.

God promised they would flourish and blossom in the land he was giving them, but he required two things of them:

1] Strength and courage. Joshua was told at least 3 different times to be ‘strong and courageous’. So what courage was required of him since God fought all the battles for him? He had to have the courage to actually believe God would do what he said he would do!

2] Obedience. Joshua was cautioned not to turn to the right or the left of the Word of the LORD. Every time Israel found itself in trouble, it was because they ignored the Word of the LORD. They wandered in the desert because of it. Decline was always the outcome of ignoring the Word of God. But like a spring bubbling up in a parched desert, the LORD returns life to those who return to him.

Their story got redeemed. The land gets reclaimed!

Covington Community Church was formed out of a Bible Study in the late 1930s. They began holding prayer meetings together in the early 40s and formed this little church in the woods in 1942. They purchased an old mess hall from the flooded Selleck mine and moved it to where the old Covington Elementary School now stands. They purchased our current property soon afterwards and began construction on this facility in 1952. On Resurrection Sunday 1953, they moved in!

The church soon realized the need for more classroom space. Some Sundays in the early days, they had more kids than adults in the church! The church built a Christian Education annex in 1960, but at the church began to decline, the space was no longer required. For 40 years, a community preschool had occupied the space.

Until 2018.

Today we are celebrating reclamation! Reclamation began when the old orange shag carpet and multiple broken windows were replaced in 2010. We reclaimed the upstairs for our children. We reclaimed the old nursery for our wider church family. And now we have reclaimed the ‘old preschool building’ for our children and adult discipleship ministries. But it is so much more than that!

Thanks to God, this church has reclaimed its originating mission. Thanks to God, this church has reclaimed its viability and vitality. Thanks to God, this church has reclaimed its presence and witness in this community. Thanks to God, individuals are being renewed, reborn, and resurrected.

It’s required courage: the courage to change what needed to change, the courage to make tough choices, the courage to believe God would do what he said he would do. It’s required obedience: returning the Word of the LORD to its proper place in our community, and making our decisions based on Spirit-led discernment.

If we do these things — as was promised to Joshua and Israel — we will flourish and thrive.

Thanks to God!

Reclaim Sunday

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“Here we are, at a place God has given, a corner of Covington carved out for the Kingdom of God before Covington even existed. Here we are, in these old buildings, buildings that are showing their age and even confound us. But here we are until the Lord leads us elsewhere.

This building is just block and mortar, wood and nails, wire and windows. I’m not interested in asking God to bless cement block. But I will ask him to bless the LIVING STONES that make up this house of God — the followers of Jesus who call this place home, the ones who gather within its walls to grow in Jesus and understand that the real mission lies beyond these walls. This is what I will ask God to bless.

We reclaim and rededicate this space for the glory of God and continuing of the ministry of Jesus among us until he comes.”

[Pastor Mark at the dedication of the reclaimed ‘old preschool building’, now called ‘The Root Cellar’]

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Storms Roll Through

windstorm.jpg

Storms rolled through our region last Sunday morning early, knocking out power to over 300,000 PSE customers and causing widespread debris. In a rare event, we canceled our Discovery and Worship last Sunday but extended a call to anyone who could help come clean up the mess. Nearly 30 CCCers arrived at 11am with gloves in hand!

I love my church!

Thank you all for your hard work. I enjoyed ‘church’ last Sunday with you in service!

Come to Jesus [John 10:1-18]

I remember the first time I heard the phrase ‘come to Jesus’, and it didn’t have a positive connotation. I quickly learned that ‘come to Jesus’ moments were when people were getting called on the carpet and chewed out for some unacceptable behavior.

But I want to see the phrase redeemed.

When I use the phrase ‘come to Jesus’, I’m talking about those life-changing moments when we have been met by the Son of God in places of greatest need. Sometimes the encounter is challenging; sometimes it is awakening; it is always life-giving.

For the follower of Jesus, our relationship with Jesus is not about one ‘come to Jesus’ moment but a lifetime of coming to Jesus. I chose to trust Christ very early in my life, but I thank God that wasn’t my only come to Jesus moment. I continue to come to Jesus when he reaches out to me through his scriptures, when my thoughts are invaded by his affirmation, when I fall flat on my face and realize how far I’d moved from him, when I am at my limits, or when I’m with God’s people.

We’ve been celebrating that God came close with the birth of Jesus. We know God came close, but how often do we live our life as though he went back and we’re still living with this huge chasm of separation between us? That’s not the way it is! If we belong to Jesus, he remains with us! That chasm does not exist!

He’s not a distant God but a close shepherd (John 10). He walks with us, and we know his voice. He knows us, and we can know him. When we wonder off, he comes after us. When the wolves come, he protects us. And he leads us to green pastures and pure waters when we are hungry and thirsty.

James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God and He WILL draw near to you.” We need these come to Jesus moments!

How have you come to Jesus or come back to Jesus in 2018? How has he come to you?

Come [Christmas Eve Service]

We need to see just how remarkable his coming is.

The rift between a holy God and a sinful world is unimaginably great and impossibly traversed. We cannot get from here to there, from us to him. The sinful cannot reach the holy. We think the Grand Canyon is a chasm too deep to cross, but even that vast canyon has nothing on the chasm that exists between us and God, between those who want to live and the Life-giver, between those who are empty and the Filler, between those who are hungry and the Satisfier, between the curious and the Answer.

We’ve tried to get to him without him. We’ve established empires to challenge his kingdom. We’ve built towers to reach him and make a name for ourselves. We’ve lived our lives hoping our good outweighs our bad in order to win his favor. And we’ve convinced ourselves we can be like God — or that we are gods — crafting our own idols of self-importance.

But we can’t get it done. It’s an insurmountable gap. It’s a hole we’ve dug and continue to shovel.

But hallelujah, the Father is not content with being separated from his children! He is not bridled by our limitations. The chasm that is tooo wide and deep for us is easy bridged by his great love. While we cannot get to God on our own, he can come to us.

And he has.

He told us he would, and with the birth of Jesus, God was with us in a way we had not seen since Eden. The Holy came to the sinful. The Life-giver breathed life into the dead. The Filler poured new wine into our empty cups. The Satisfier served the Bread of Life to the starving. The Answer was given to the curious. He has come to us in Jesus, bridging the chasm with the out-stretched arms of his crucified son.

And he said he will be coming again.

He told us he would. He keeps breaking into our darkness with his light. And one day soon, he will end our scheming empires, tear down our vain towers, redeem his righteous ones, and put everything in its perfect place under his forever authority, love, and Presence.

He has come to us, and he is coming again.

It’s what he does.

Come Awestruck [Luke 2:8-20]

There have only been a few moments in my life where I truly felt awestruck by what I was seeing or experiencing. The first time I saw the sequoias and when the Cubs won the World Series come to mind, but nothing really compares to when my wife said ‘yes’ or the birth of my children. I’ve had moments that have taken my breath away, but I don’t think I’ve ever had a collapse-to-the-ground moment of awe.

Philippians 2:10-11 says, “God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of the Father.” Sounds like collapse-to-the-ground kind of awe to me…

Let’s latch on to that word ‘glory’ for a moment.

What is God’s glory? The word appears nearly 600 times in scripture. I’ve heard it described many different ways, but our definitions seem almost as difficult to grasp as the glory of God itself. So here’s my best shot: God’s glory is described as brilliance and brightness, like a fire. It instant grabs our attention and leaves us awestruck. Essentially, it is a dose of God’s character that we can handle. Any more of it, and we would drop dead.

We want God’s presence, but the truth is, we can’t handle God’s presence! So he gives himself to his people in a way we can handle. The glory of God can appear to us, be revealed to us, and be seen by us, but we couldn’t handle the full presence of God.

That brings us to these shepherds hanging out with sheep in the Judean countryside outside of Bethlehem. In Luke 2, we read that an angel of the Lord appeared to them and ‘the glory of the Lord’ shined around them…and they were terrified! I think I’ve often skipped over the ‘glory of the Lord’ part of the story and believed it was the angel that terrified them, but looking more closely, I see that they got a dose of the brilliant fire of God’s presence, and their spirit was beginning to melt with fear.

It’s a good thing they already smelled like sheep, if you get my drift.

Whenever the ‘glory of the Lord’ appeared, it caused the same sort of reaction. It caused Moses to age instantly on the mountain, and in the book of Revelation, John fell flat on his face as though he were dead in the presence of the glorified Christ.

I wonder if we have lost the ‘wow’ of the Living God? We don’t live in simple times. Instead, we live in an age of artificial shock and awe with graphic computer and film-generated violence and technology that can artificially created ‘alternative realities’ that blow our mind. We expect every commercial, every vacation, every conversation (and even every sermon) to catch our attention in order to compete with this artificial shock and awe. Notice how we don’t even react to the horrors anymore? It’s as though we’ve been purposely numbed.

Some day, we will be confronted with the full weight of his glory! The God who cannot be contained — too great for us to handle — came to us in a way we can handle: Jesus. Glory to God! He has come to us greatly humbled so we could receive him, but he will one day come again in full glory — collapse-to-the-ground kind of glory.

Come to the One who came close to us.

And be awestruck!

Come Curious [Matthew 2:1-12]

I wonder if there is anyone of us who can fully understand the depth of the love of the Father for us in sending Jesus to us? We’re so familiar with this story, especially as it is encased in so much nostalgic familiarity this time of year. Brennan Manning said that “the infant Jesus was a humble, naked, helpless God who allowed us to get close to him.”

He has allowed us to come close through Jesus.

Tozer said, “Before a man can pursue God, God must first have sought the man.” In other words, we can only come to Jesus because he has come to us! We could not have made that leap on our own. He went on to say, “We pursue God because — and only because — He first put an urge within us that spurs us to the pursuit.”

In Matthew 2, we read the familiar story of the journey the magi made to the Christ child. They came looking because they were already on some sort of a search. They were watching, and a curious star caught their attention, leading them to Jesus. The curiosity of the magi led them on an actual pursuit, not just an intellectual exercise. They didn’t just believe something wonderful had happened; they left the comfort of home not knowing where they were going. Curiosity takes courage!

God’s people don’t have a single ‘come to Jesus’ moment but a lifetime of come to Jesus moments! If you are like me, we can become neglectful of God, getting caught up in the day to day. Sometimes the beauty and wonder of God is hidden to us behind our other pursuits and experiences in life. For some, it is difficult to push past those distractions, and we end up blocking Him off.

But there is a curiosity created in the human spirit that is meant to draw us outside of ourselves and toward a deeper, more purposeful meaning of life. And we believe that life is found only in Jesus! The prophet Isaiah said that this Messiah who would come to us would be called, among other things, WONDERFUL. He would inspire the lives of untold numbers who would trust in him, pursue him, and follow him.

Seeking Jesus everyday requires us to push through all the experiences and distractions that divert the affection of our hearts away from him. We need a star to rise in our hearts again, one that compels us to approach the Light with wonder and curious faith, one so bright that there can be no confusing its origins as it illuminates our way and leads us to Jesus.

Come to Jesus, but come curious, not with just an intellectual acceptance but with curious and determined followership.

Come Hungry [John 6:25-40]

My wife watches two things on TV this time of year: the Hallmark Channel (the McDonalds of TV programming where every Christmas movie shares the same script but with different faces) and the Food Network (filled with such yuletide violence as cupcake wars, cookie wars, and Beat Bobby Flay). Both of these shows feed our appetites. I wasn’t craving a bedazzled, white chocolate encrusted fried Twinkie, but now I gotta have one.

I don’t know how many of us have ever truly known real hunger. I suspect very few of us. There is a tremendous difference between our cravings and appetites vs. real hunger, the kind of hunger brought about by extreme poverty and unavailability of food. In America, we often confuse our unsatisfied appetites with hunger. I grew up American poor. I never had what others had to eat, but I had food and never knew real hunger, just an unsatisfied appetite.

In John 6, Jesus had spent some time with a large crowd who were hungry for both the words of life he had to offer and for the bread and fish he miraculously provided. Trying to find rest, Jesus went to the other side of the lake, only to be followed by the people in boats. And that’s where we pick up the story in John 6:25-40.

It seems that the people were craving more fish and bread. They were looking for Jesus to give them what they wanted, and what they wanted was bread, not Jesus. “What will you do for us?” they asked. In other words, “Will you give us what we are craving? Satisfy us!” I wonder how often we approach Jesus the same way? I will believe if he gives me what I want. We want him to feed our appetite and give us what we are craving.

It is an exhausting impossibility to give all the people what they want. Their satisfaction will only be temporary, and they will expect more. Give the people a bedazzled, white chocolate encrusted fried Twinkie, and they will want another.

And another.

Our appetites are insatiable and unhealthy. I wonder, did Jesus come to give us what we want?

We want the stuff that satisfies our temporary cravings, but Jesus brings the ‘stuff’ that gives life to the world. He is the Bread of Life, and when we eat what he is offering, our spirit will never know hunger again.

We are created in the image of God with an intended dependency and intimacy with the Father. In Him we were always meant to ‘live and move and have our being’. But we have gone our own way, putting ourselves at the center of this image, and it has left us with a vacancy and hunger in the pit of our spirit that we spend our lives trying to fill with all sorts of cravings. We’re consuming junk. It tastes good, but it will never be enough. We live our lives as consumers.

But Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” What are we hungry for? Jesus…or all his benefits?

We have to know the difference between our unsatisfied appetites and the true hunger of our spirit that aches for Jesus and his truth. When we come to Jesus, we come hungry, knowing that our life depends on it. And when we eat, we are forever fulfilled.

Come to Jesus, but come hungry for the Bread of Life.

Come Empty [Matthew 11:25-30]

Jesus was invited to a dinner party hosted by a wealthy and influential religious leader named Simon. As was customary at the time, whenever you had someone well-known or ‘important’ for a meal, you wanted to make sure as many people as possible knew about it and witnessed it. The dinner was often as much to honor the host as it was to honor the guest.

Jesus would have been seated next to the host as the guest of honor with other guests reclining around the table. Curious on-lookers were often allowed into the courtyard of the home to gaze on the scene. They weren’t actually invited to the table, just to the spectacle. It was all, of course, meant to boost the image of the host.

But there was a party-pooper in the crowd that night, and she stole Simon’s glory with an act so brazen it shocked everyone at the table.

Everyone but Jesus.

This woman — whose tarnished reputation was well-known — had the audacity to approach Jesus and kiss his feet repeatedly while washing them with her tears and drying them with her uncovered hair. What a spectacle! The on-lookers got quite a show that night! The pathetic became wasteful as she poured perfume on Jesus’ feet, drawing complaints from those who thought the perfume could have been used for other more profitable purposes.

The host, of course, was mortified that this woman would dare come close. She was supposed to keep her distance. Jesus had a classic response, and you can read about it here: Luke 7:36-50.

Jesus welcomes the weak, and I’m so glad he does.

We hate feeling weak and fragile, don’t we? But here’s something to consider: fragile things are valuable things. We treat fragile items with more care because their value is in their fragility. Life drains us. It leaves us weak, tired, wasted, and empty. But it’s in our weakness we see things for what they really are: we need Jesus. We don’t really have anything to bring to the table, so when we come to Jesus, we need to come empty.

When I read Matthew 11:25-30, I learn two things:

1] Jesus comes to the weak. He calls the weak ‘poor in spirit’, those who struggle with an internal poverty. The big shots of the world cannot understand the Gospel because they are too caught up in themselves and their success and are consequentially blind to their real need. God has chosen to reveal himself to those from humble circumstances, like children for example. He comes to us as a Father to his kids.

2] The weak can come to Jesus. He welcomes people like you and me. He welcomes the weary, those depleted by the world — the tired, the worn-out, the exhausted, the drained. He welcomes the burdened — the anxious, the overwhelmed, the poor, the oppressed, the afraid, those who feel the weight of the world on their shoulders.

Back to the dinner table…

Simon didn’t get it. He was powerful and wealthy and only seemed interested in what he could gain from the meal. He wanted to make an impression. He wanted anything that would give him advantage over others. He wanted to use Jesus. And he wanted to get rid of this woman.

But we can’t come to Jesus unless we come empty.

When we feel empty and depleted, remember that we are following the One who emptied himself so that we could find rest for our souls.

You can come to the One who came close to us.

But come empty.

A Telling Witness [Acts 8:26-40]

It’s the guy with the bullhorn standing on the street corner, the literature-bearing Saturday morning door-knocker, and harpy Facebook writer that gets the attention. But I’m not convinced this is the witness Jesus had in mind for his church.

I could be wrong.

But this I know: we are meant to tell others about the hope we have in Jesus.

I think we complicate our witness when we think we have to be Biblical scholars or good public speakers in order to make a ‘convincing argument’. We clutter the message when we try to cram in too much information, too many $2 words, and too much noise. We contaminate the message with our own ideas and our judgment of what we think is wrong with people.

The Apostle Peter said it simply: “Always be prepared to give a reason for the hope you have” [1 Peter 3:15]. I’m not sure who wrote it, but I recently read that it’s not about getting the word out; it’s about letting the word out. Simply put, we need to let what God has done in us out.

Here’s a simple formula in mind for a telling witness: Our story + His story = A telling witness.

Let’s start with our story. This is about where we’ve been, who we were, and what life was like when we lived life on our own terms. These are our stories, and we all have them. Some of our stories are hard to believe, and some seem boring by comparison — but all are important. We don’t tell these stories to brag about past or over-sensationalize our life story as though it were a script for a Hollywood blockbuster.

This is about a real person who has been met by a real God.

Our story isn’t the good news, but it is important. How can we know the light without having experienced the darkness? How can we know peace without the preceding chaos? How can we know resurrection without having walked in death?

God can — and does — use the sins, crises, and circumstances of our past for our good when redeemed. We trust when buying a puzzle that the factory put all the right pieces of the puzzle into the box when we buy it. So why can’t we trust that God can put all the pieces of our life together for a purpose? In Christ, we’re not bound by our past forever. He redeems.

And that brings us to the good news part of this simple formula…

His story. Despite a world in rebellion (and my total compliance with it), the Father has been relentless in his efforts to restore us to the life in Christ we were always meant to have. Through Jesus, the ‘old’ is buried and the ‘new’ is raised to life (now and forever, by the way).

This is who I was. This is who God is. And this is the story I’ve got to tell.

The greater part of the story isn’t how screwed up I am. That should be no surprise to anybody. The greater part of the story is that my story hasn’t dissuaded the Father’s determination to rescue and restore.

So go ahead.

Let the word out.

You’ve got a telling witness.

A Faithful Witness [2 Corinthians 5:11-20]

What were we created for? What is the mission that drives us as a church? We have to know it. Otherwise, we spend all our time chasing after ‘shiny’ distractions. Why does the church exist? To worship God, to build on the Word of God, and to be His witnesses.

Curly, in the move “City Slickers” [1991] knew what his ‘one thing’ was, and most of the movie was about a middle-aged guy named Mitch who was trying to figure out his ‘one thing’. What is our one thing? What is that thing we were created for? We need to know the answer to this question, and we will read 2 Corinthians 5:11-20 to help us figure out what it is.

Paul, the man who wrote these verses, had a lot of adversaries, and many of them thought he had lost the plot. They regarded his way of life and his witness for Jesus as a form of insanity. After all, he had traded his life of prestige and position as a Pharisee for shipwrecks, imprisonment, beatings, and heart-break.

But Paul doesn’t deny being a bit off his rocker. Instead, he embraces it. But what’s more insane? Embracing the insanity or spending all your precious time and energy trying to prove you are not insane?

Ever feel like the odd one out? It feels crazy to believe something contrary to everyone else. It feels crazy to follow Jesus in a culture full of people who could care less about it. We need to embrace the fact that choosing the way of Jesus — and His mission for our life — is going to be judged as crazy…or even dangerous.

The reason why Paul was able to embrace being the odd man out was because he was compelled by the love of Christ (5:14a). We do a lot of crazy stuff for love. And Paul said it is the kind of love that changes us. It resets old patterns, reshapes old mindsets, rebuilds broken lives, removes old history, and renews old hearts. It brings real change to our thinking, behaving, and understanding…

…and it changes our ONE THING.

In 5:18-20, Paul lets us know what our one thing must be. He has entrusted the message of reconciliation to us. The Father is making his appeal through us to the world to be reconciled to God. This is our job. This is our purpose. This is our mission.

What is Jesus calling us to? To be his faithful witnesses.

We were created for God, so let’s love and serve Him. Our ONE THING is Jesus, so let’s trust and follow Him. Our motivation is His love for us, so let’s get on with what He is calling us to.

An Appealing Witness [John 17:20-26]

I have a seven year old son who gets easily distracted going from point A to point B. We ask him to go from one room to another to get on his shoes and find him sitting next to his shoes playing with his Legos. Like him, we get easily distracted. We chase after things we weren’t meant to pursue. Some shiny, attractive thing gets our attention, and the next thing we know, we are off track.

The mission of the church is pretty simple and clear: Worship, Word, & Witness. But we make it about so many other shiny, distracting things.

Do you know the difference between ‘attractive’ and ‘appealing’? Attractive things hook us by their external qualities — how they look to us. Appealing things draw us by their inner qualities — real stuff of goodness and wholeness.

Cheesecake is attractive; a banana is appealing.

Skin-deep beauty is attractive; a gentle & quiet spirit is appealing.

Attractive things get the attention of our flesh; appealing things get the attention of our heart and spirit.

In the same way, there’s a big difference between an attractive witness and an appealing witness. Jesus, in John 17, was praying to the Father that his followers would have an appealing witness. [Check out verse 23]. What appeals? Our unity. You know what else appeals? Our love. [John 13:34-35].

What is so appealing about love and unity? Because there’s so much of the other around us. There’s no getting around it: our nation is deeply divided. There is an erosion of community, and our social connectedness is fraying. People are eating each other alive, and the rest of us are looking on like we’re watching a cock fight in a back alley. Is the church going to jump into the fray? Are we, too, going to grab our megaphones and add to the noise? If we do, I guarantee it won’t be long before we turn those megaphones on one another. If the church divides itself along the same lines as our culture, we are more like our culture and less like Jesus.

Jesus said in Matthew 24:12 that because of the increase of wickedness on the earth, the love of most would grow cold. Paul said people would become lovers of themselves. When we choose ourselves (and what we find attractive) over consideration for Jesus and his Church, our witness is compromised. Some of us may be a greater witness for our political party than we are Jesus.

How we stay together and love one another is our witness to the power of Christ at work among us! The light of Jesus genuinely working within us will lead us toward unity, not a false unity that causes people who really hate each other pretend to get along or a unity that comes by forcing compliance on one another. I’m talking about oneness with Jesus, just like Jesus is one with the Father.

The light of Jesus genuinely working within us will lead us to love — to love, not tolerate; to love, not make nice; but to love with a love that looks like Jesus.

We must choose this kind of witness. Our nation needs this kind of witness now more than ever.

Consider it, please.