I am glad that I am writing this as a newsletter, and not as a Facebook post or discussion group question, or chatroom topic. Those venues could lead to quite a discussion, anger, and hurt feelings. Here is my question, how do you feel about the current situation in America society? Some of you can already imagine the answers you would give, and how you would respond to those who posted answers that you disagreed with.
I would answer my own question as America is divided, and concerning. It is concerning, because we don’t know which way our country will go in the next few weeks, and months. We face the threat of ISIS and global terrorism. We hear about attacks in Europe, and we wonder when we will have a major attack in America. Now we have the USA and Russia showing aggression towards each other with words and statements, and we are all concerned whether those words will turn into bombs and missiles. We see America being opened to new ideas and ways of life that we do not totally agree with.
We are divided in so many ways. We are divided in terms of race, some of us understand Black Lives Matter, while some don’t, some embrace Blue Lives Matter, while to some that even makes them angrier. Some want illegals kept out, and sent home, while others have more welcoming views on how illegals should be treated. The division has even swept into sports. Some of us turn red when athletes don’t stand in honor of the National Anthem, and others support the athletes, while still others say they have the right to voice their opinion. The biggest divide, we face now is the 2016 Presidential Election. We have a few days until the election, and we will be done with all the negative and attacks by both parties. Some of us can’t believe that anyone would dare, in their right mind, vote for the candidate that we don’t support. I am sure that whatever the outcome of the election, that the losing side will contest the results, and will not be a gracious loser. The big question is, while America become united? We can all hope and pray, but we won’t and find unity through the government, unity comes from the heart, and the only one that can change any of our hearts is God.
I firmly believe that regardless of who wins the election, that we can be unified. Yes, I believe that. It will take a big effort, but if we, the Body of Christ, leads the way, God can bring unity to His body (the church) and through His Church. To start off my viewpoints on unity, I want to see how many of us agree with Matthew 19:26, which says, “…with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible”. Do we honestly believe that, that God can do anything? Can God bring unity? Can God bring revival to our nation?
Unity within the Body of Christ
Isn’t it amazing, how many different denominations that we now have in Church? It is like a speaker I once heard, the different denominations is like Baskin Robins Ice Cream, God uses all the different denominations to help people connect with Him through worship. This is true. Some people connect with God through praise and worship, while others connect with God through hymns, and liturgical readings.
The problem with the modern church movement, is that instead of being unified by the main thing (loving God, and loving others) we instead are divided by the way we baptize, when we have the Lord’s Supper, How we have the Lord’s Supper, whether we use instruments in worship or not, what role ladies should serve in the church, how often we should meet, and many more ways. It can get confusing. Do any of us fully understand the difference between a Baptist? Presbyterian? Methodist? Church of Christ? Church of God in Christ? I doubt that even those who have attended seminary can fully understand or explain the differences between denominations. There is a song by Newsboys, called “We Believe”. That song speaks to our situation. We need to unify around one thing, Jesus. As Jesus, Himself said in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”. Acts 4:12 says it this way, “There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved”. If we focus on these verses, we the body of Christ can become unified in our effort to reach the lost and begin turning around our society.
As I have already mentioned, most of us are concerned about the current situation in our society. Here is a question, Who is to blame for that? The Government? The liberals? Media? Atheists? My answer is it is the church. I am reminded of a quote, I have heard before. (I am not sure, who said it). The statement is, “If society as a whole seems to be getting darker and darker, it is not the problem of the darkness; the darkness is just acting like its nature. But it is that the light no longer dispels the darkness, and the salt no longer preserves. It is time for the light to say, ‘if things are darker, the problem is with us’”. For the most part, instead of impacting the society around us, we have allowed ourselves to be impacted by society. It is easier to blame others, instead of examining ourselves and realizing that we aren’t always the salt and light that Jesus calls us to be.
I am reminded of two passages from the Old Testament. The First is 2 Chronicles, 7:14 “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land”. If we want our land healed, it starts with us humbling ourselves, praying, seeking God and turning from out wicked ways. The other passage that comes to mind is 2 Kings 22. Josiah was the king of Judah, and he called the people to repair the temple, and as they did it, they found the book of law, and brought it and read it to the king. When Josiah heard the book of law, he humbled himself and repented that the people had not followed the book of the law. In response to Josiah’s repentance, God delayed the judgement that would be brought to the people for not following the book of the law. Again we see that true repentance, can bring a healing move from the Lord.
Jesus’ views on unity
Had you ever though much about that? I would say that Jesus valued unity. He was born in a time, when God’s people were divided by different sects, you had the Zealots, Pharisees, and Sadducees, and probably some others. Jesus said, our unity show we are His disciples. John 13:34-35, A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. B this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. Did you know, that in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed for the unity of the believers? He did, His prayer can be found in John 17:20-23, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one, as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me”. Unity mattered to Jesus, so it should matter to us. Unity helps us show His love and helps the world know who we follow.
Unity Brings Power
If you look in the book of Acts, you see that the when the church was birthed, there was unity in the church. Acts 2:42-47 says this, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the Apostle. All the believers were together, and had everything in common. …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, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved”. In Acts 4, you can read how the church prayed for boldness, and you will see in verse 32 of Acts 4, that the all the believers were one in heart and mind, and God worked mightily through His unified body of Believers.
My Experience with Unity
I have had some experience with trying to help bring unity to the Body of Christ. I doubt many of you know this, but I used to be involved in a ministry for men, called Promise Keepers. We had 7 promises we tried to uphold, and one of them dealt with unity. Through Promise Keepers, I met with a group of men every Saturday for over a year. We were from different churches, and we had different races in our prayer circle. I honestly feel that in one of those prayer meetings, that the idea of Living Abundantly Ministries was birthed. Through Promise Keepers, two of my friends and I visited an East Lubbock African-American church on a regular basis. In 2004, when God called us to start Living Abundantly Ministries, there was a call of unity. In the first few years of the ministry, I attended over 20 different African-American churches in Lubbock, and have been asked to preach in 4 or 5 of them. I consider many people in those churches as dear friends. Unity still happens in our ministry. If you were to attend a day of the All-Star Sports Camp, you would not only see children from different races and churches playing sports together and worshipping together, you would also see volunteers from different churches, and different ethnicities serving the Lord together. That is one of the best things about the ministry, is that God allows us to come together and serve the Lord together, and make an impact for the Kingdom of God at the same time.
I am sorry that this article is longer than most I have written. I did have somethings I felt I needed to share. In closing I want to share some final thoughts on unity. First being unified is not an easy task; it is only something the Lord can do. Second, unity takes time, it is a process. Third, to become unified, you have to get to know the people as individuals, and not focus on stereotypes. Fourth, we must see value in the other peoples’ experiences and situations. We must try to understand and see life from their situations. Lastly, unity involves sacrifice, and making ourselves available to others.
Here are some other scriptures you can ready and study on unity:
1 Peter 2:9-10
1 Corinthians 12:27
In closing, I apologize if I offended anyone in this article. I know some of the current topics in our society can strike people in the wrong way, so if I did, I sincerely apologize. The election is quickly approaching. Start praying now for the election, and whoever is elected, that God will do something in their lives. If it happened do Nebuchadnezzar, it can happen to Trump or Clinton. Lastly remember, like Max Lucado says, “regardless of the election results, God will still be on His throne on November 9th”. Only God can bring true unity to our country.
All-Star Sports Camp
We have already begun making preparations for the 2017 All-Star Sports Camp. The dates for 2017 are scheduled for July 17-21, and will be held at OL Slaton Middle School again. We will have the same activities as always. The theme for next year is #Unashamed based on Romans 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: First to the Jew, then to the Gentile.” We haven’t set the order of the daily themes, but here is where we plan on going: Unashamed Love John 15:12-13, Unashamed Worship 2 Samuel 6:14, Unashamed Service Romans 12:1, Unashamed Devotion 1 Corinthians 10:31, and Unashamed Witness Acts 1:8 and Acts 2:42.
GYM & GYL
Once again, we had planned on having another session of GYM & GYL this semester, but due to family obligations, we weren’t able to host another session. We are planning on hosting another session in the spring semester. One of the challenges is finding participants to be in the program. As I have mentioned previously, it has been a challenge to make this program where it has a lasting impact on the participants. Many come and listen to our talks, but then go make life decisions that do no match what we were trying to teach them.
Not much has happened with HIMpacT this semester. We will have some kind of Christmas activity in December. We have not made final plans, but whatever we do; we will make sure that those who come, here the true Christmas story.
I have mentioned previously that we want to have a program where we help some of the children from camp (who made a spiritual decision at camp), to build their roots deeper in the faith. We want to help them understand about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Bible, Salvation, and Christian Living. I have begun looking up verses and trying to find activities and lessons to teach the kids. I hope that we can start a few classes in January.
2017 Upcoming Events
If you can help with any of the following events, please let us know.
Our annual golf tournament will once again be held towards the end of April. Before the tournament, we will need help in obtaining tournament sponsors, getting the word out to the public about the tournament and getting items for gift bags, door prizes, and items for the silent auction. On the day of the tournament, we need people to come help with registration, help greet, and host the tournament, help with the special contests during the tournament, and help hand out gift bags and door prizes. We need at least one person, who will be committed to being there the whole time to help ensure everything runs smoothly.
Handing out Sports Camp Information
There are a couple of ways that we will do this. One is that the sports camp leadership team has talked about trying to walk the neighborhoods close to OL Slaton and hand out information about the sports camp including how families can preregister for camp. We do not have the dates for this yet. Second, we would like to be more prevalent in the community. If you hear of events where agencies and organizations can have a booth, let us know. Beginning in May, we would like to have teams at the libraries and local grocery stores to hand out information about sports camp as well.