"God be merciful to us & bless us, & cause His face to shine upon us.
That Your way may be known on earth, Your salvation among all nations.
Let the peoples praise You, O God; Let all the peoples praise You.
Oh, let the nations be glad & sing for joy!"
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A Letter on Denominations
(Today, a woman wrote me a letter telling me that denominations were wrong, and that "there are no denominations in God's word." The following is my reply that I sent back to her):
15 July 2016
Thank you so much for your brief note
on the dangers of denominations. I agree that denominations are, in many ways,
highly problematic for Christ’s Church. And you have zeroed in on the main
difficulty: “Denominations are made by men, not by God.”
Many years ago I was a minister, an
evangelist, in a group that claimed denominations were a sin. I preached it,
taught it, proclaimed it for over 5 years. And then one day the lights slowly
came on for me. That group I was in, known as the Churches of Christ, was
divided and segmented into 20 to 30 different enclaves, and each assembly had
no fellowship with almost any of the other Churches of Christ in their own town
or city – even though they all claimed to be Churches of Christ. Each group was
right, and every other Church of Christ that didn’t agree with them was doomed.
There were those who said you shouldn’t have Sunday Schools. Others said you
couldn’t use church monies to support orphanages. Some demanded that churches must
use one cup in communion. And the list went on and on, with each faction
declaring that they were the only ones who were correct, and if you didn’t
abide by their regulations you would be going to hell! That’s when I realized that
denominationalism existed even in our anti-denominational sect.
I wished that denominations didn’t
exist, and I long for the day when all of Christ’s people will finally gather
around him, united and loving each other as he has loved us. But until that day
comes denominations, group-affiliations, and federations will probably always
exist. The crucial task for us in this disappointing environment is for all of
Christ’s people to love and care about one another in spite of the differences.
And to that end I am working. I meet with and fellowship with ministers from
other denominations once a month, and pray for each of them and their families
every day. My Presbyterian congregation works with a Methodist congregation in
Southwestern Oklahoma as together we seek to reach the Kiowa and Apaches there.
I encourage my congregation to serve with other believers from other
denominations at a food bank (Project 66), at the Hope Center of Edmond, and
other places. I send my sons to a private school that is owned and run by a
congregation that belongs to a completely different denomination. And there are
other examples I could give.
This, I perceive, is the way forward;
the path we can take in our broken world to fulfill our Lord’s charge, “A new commandment I give to you, that you
love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for
one another” (John 13:34-35). And so, if you are not already doing this, I
would encourage you to reach across denominational boundaries in ways that show
you love Christ’s other people.
When I was 20 years old, I was stationed in a Muslim country for two years. During that time I read the Quran (in an English translation from Oxford), interacted with Muslim acquaintances, and saw Islam lived out in it's communal context. Therefore I was excited when my mother gave me a copy of "Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus". With bazillions of reviews already plastered on the various sites and venues, mine will be short and succinct.
Nabeel Qureshi has woven together a very personal and personable volume written to give "an insider's perspective into a Muslim heart," as well as equip readers "with facts and knowledge, showing the strength of the case for the gospel contrasted with the case for Islam," while chronicling his own inner struggles, sacrifices and doubts when grappling with the Christian faith. The style of writing is autobi…
"When evil looms and darkness falls And tragedy is breaking When all that's good seems overturned By God I'm not forsaken For though I fall or wander far I'm not too far for saving And when my Shepherd seeks and finds How can I keep from singing" (229)?
So cantillates Jennifer Michelle Greenberg, mother, wife, writer, musician and abuse survivor, in her new 240 page hardback "Not Forsaken: A Story of Life After Abuse". This volume is the tale of her terrors and troubles at the hands of an abusive father, and it is far, far more. It is truly a story of life after abuse, abundant life found only in the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. An easy to read book, it is ideally suited for those who have been traumatized and those who long to help the trampled! "I am not my abuser. I have a choice. I aspire to heal and grow by God's grace" (82).
Just like taking an abnormal psych class in college, a reader will likely see their reflection on many pages in the 200-page hardback "When Narcissism Comes to Church: Healing Your Community from Emotional and Spiritual Abuse". This newly released dossier, written by Chuck DeGroat, professor of pastoral care and Christian spirituality at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan, and senior fellow at Newbigin House of Studies in San Francisco, is a velvet covered brick. It is easily readable, and reasonably attainable. DeGroat exposes the varied ways narcissism shows up in a parish, whether in the leadership, families, or congregational culture; and how it can show up in the corporate culture of an ecclesiastical denomination, association or network. It arises from the "lack of capacity for self-awareness and self-evaluation, shunning humility for defensive self-protection" (15). Further, according to the author, a deep, underlying shame is the driving forc…