Let Them Stand

“For the church is not a human society of people united by their natural affinities but the Body of Christ, in which all members, however different, (and He rejoices in their differences and by no means wishes to iron them out) must share the common life, complementing and helping one another precisely by their differences.” – C.S. Lewis

A warm and sunny Sunday in May began. A wife, about 40 years old, and her husband got ready for church. As they arrived, many were dressed up and bustling towards their seats. The pastor approached the pulpit after the opening song. “Welcome to our church. Today is a special day: Mothers’ Day. We would like to recognize all the mothers. If you are a mother or a grandmother, please stand.” A good number of women, over half the church, stood as they proudly proclaimed their motherhood status. However, the woman sat next to her husband not moving. Her eyes cast down. Even at 40, she was not able to join her friends. But, not only were her eyes cast down, but other eyes looked at her in sorrow that she could not join the celebration. She was childless. 

This situation is not uncommon in churches today. Many people experience an isolation in the church and feel unrecognized because they do not fit a certain category. These people never stand in recognition. These individuals eventually leave the church as they feel like they have no purpose in the church. In this post, I would like to address this issue and look at three major groups that have been ignored in the church for their contribution to the heritage of the church: the disabled, the childless, and African-Americans. 

The Body of Christ

The church is not a building. It is a group of people. Ekklēsia is the Greek word translated church. This word refers to those that are called out. But, the church is not just a group of people. Throughout the New Testament, the church is known as the Body of Christ (Romans 7:4; 1 Corinthians 10:16; Ephesians 4:12; Colossians 1:24). Paul takes the imagery to tell us that all Christians are part of the body of Christ and all play an important role that is individualized in the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12). 

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul not only describes the Body of Christ, but he also corrects two wrong attitudes believers had about the Body of Christ. Verses 12-20 states that people should not say since they are not like others in their talents, they are not as valuable to the church. Paul says there is a diversity and Christians should not be jealous over other people in the church. Instead, God has made diversity in the church and given everyone gifts and abilities to play an individual, yet team role in the church. This is the aspect mainly preached on. 

But, the second attitude is not really discussed and belongs to our discussion: verses 21-26. Parts of the body begin to turn on each other. The more visible parts, the eye and feet, say to others who have not as much visibility, “we have no need of you.” Paul condemns this attitude. Instead, Paul states that all parts have their roles and the ones that seem not as visible are to have the same honor as the ones that get honor in public view. This is to be how the church should see each other in each person’s contribution to the church and its mission. 

The church today falls into the second attitude. As the story relayed, there is a minority of people who do not fit in a category that is typically honored or recognized in their contribution to the church. Many childless couples feel shame when they can’t stand on Mothers’ or Fathers’ Day. Those with disabilities are not even seen as those who can contribute to the church. And, many church leave out the contribution of African-Americans to the church throughout history. 

The Contribution of the Disabled

Many with disabilities have contributed to the church despite many physical or mental obstacles. One of these is Joni Eareckson Tada. In her early life, she was paralyzed from the neck down. Yet, that does not stop her from from serving God in the church. She encourages many people through the books she has written (see Beyond Suffering Bible). She reaches out to other families with children with disabilities. She also paints with her mouth the glories of God seen in creation. Many others with disabilities can do many things for Christ. Yet, they are in need of a chance and in need of recognition.

The Contribution of the Childless

Many churches see motherhood and fatherhood as the pinnacle role for Christian men and women. Yet, there are Christians who do not have children of their own because of physical issues. Some marry someone with children or adopt children; yet, they have no biological children of their own. However, in the church today, there is a stigma for those who do not have biological children. There are two famous men in church history who were married, and yet were childless: C.S. Lewis and John Calvin. These two men had step-children, but they never had biological children.. Yet, from the legacy these men left us, the childless can contribute the church in mighty ways. Think about the last time you read or watched “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.” How did the Chronicles of Narnia impact you or children you know? How has Screwtape Letters or Mere Christianity deepen your faith? How did The Great Divorce make you ponder over Heaven and Hell? Or, think of the time you thought about the Reformation. How has Calvin influenced the church as we know it today? How did he change the way we see the Bible? These are great contributions of childless men. Think about who is in your church who is childless and how they feel when motherhood or fatherhood is seen as the “end goal” for Christians. Don’t they have a place and a role to play in the Body of Christ? 

The Contribution of the African-American Heritage

One group that seems forgotten constantly are the African-Americans. When thinking of American church history many do not think of African-Americans. Instead Jonathan Edwards, Billy Graham, D.L. Moody, and other white Americans come to mind. Yet, many African-Americans have had impact on the church. Think of songs like Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, Soon and Very Soon, Give Me That Ole Time’ Religion, It’s Me, Oh Lord (Standing in the Need of Prayer), and He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands. These are all songs written by African-Americans. Many of these came out the the dark period of slavery. These are memorials proving that even though many slave owners tried to keep slaves in a “man-made Christianity” (read Unholy: The Slaves Bible), God worked to show his Gospel power in the African-American population despite these dark times. So many names have contributed: Henry McNeal Turner, Martin Luther King Jr., and James Weldon Johnson for example. It is time the church allowed this group to stand up and honor all they have contributed. I highly suggest reading Ain’t Gonna Lay My ‘Ligion Down: African-American Religion in the South.

Contributing in Fellowship

As Paul states in 1 Corinthians 12, the church is the unified Body of Christ, yet is filled with diverse individuals in fellowship with one another. The Greek word for fellowship is Koinōnia. In 1 John 1:3, John tells us that we, as believers, have fellowship with other believers that mirror the fellowship the Father has with Jesus and then with us. Yet, it is more than just potlucks and getting along in the church. In Romans 15:26, the word Koinōnia has another word picture: contribution. Fellowship in the body of Christ means seeing that all believers have a contribution to give. This means that true fellowship in the Body of Christ is seeing the individual contributions of each Christian in the unified mission of making disciples of all nations. All believers and all Christians, no matter their background, have been redeemed by Christ to make their individual contributions for the Kingdom of God (Colossians 3:10-11).

A Change for the Church

The disabled, the childless, and African-Americans have all contributed to the church and yet many go unrecognized without honor which Paul says should be given (1 Corinthians 12:24-26). We recognize mothers and fathers, and pastors, but when was the last time the church took time to recognize the contributions of one of the groups mentioned? Think about church history, and the church today, without their gifts and talents being used for Christ. What things would be missed without these groups?

How can the church remedy this issue? Could, during Black History Month (February), at least two Sundays be given over to teaching on the contributions of African-Americans? Could we take time to educate our congregations about the contributions of the disabled and the childless? Are there any other groups of people in your church that are not recognized?

Martin Luther King Jr. observed that Sunday is the most segregated hour in America. Even today, the New York Times and CNN agree this sad reality still takes place. How can the church reverse this sad reality? It could start by letting them stand.

* This does not cover all the contributions of all three groups, and provide all answers to this issue. However,  I encourage you to research more on each group and their contributions to the church. Always be a life-long learner for the sake of His Name. 

Disability as a Foreshadow

“Badness is only spoiled goodness. Evil is a parasite, not an original thing.” – C.S. Lewis

Terror Headline Collage

Bombings. Life-destroying storms. Cancer. Diseases. Terrorist attacks. Car accidents. Loss of a child or parent. Each one of us has faced at least one of these things. Evil stalks us around each corner and parades its rule on every news channel. We know there is a problem of evil in our world that has existed throughout history: the holocaust, the killing fields in Cambodia, the slavery, the tyrannies that starved millions of people, the genocide of Rwanda. 

Our hearts break when we experience the pain of evil. Its sting stabs at the core of our emotions. The only response is “why?” Why do these things keep happening? Then a parallel question sounds, “Where is God?” As Christians, the problem of evil is like wrestling with the Hulk. It feels like we do not have enough answers. In this post, I hope to give Christians a different perspective on the problem of evil and how to interact with the evil we face daily in our lives. 

Why do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

I knew from the first day of school how different I am. I checked my clothing. I matched and actually dressed in what many were wearing; that couldn’t be it. I quickly checked my hair. It did not look like a rat’s nest. I moved to examine my face. No food or smudges or toothpaste. Then why was everyone staring at me  as I walked by them? I caught my reflection. My limp betrayed me. I am not like everyone else. There is something wrong with me. Then, the bullying and the shaming began. 

Many times I raised my voice with the “why” coming out and questioning God. Like me, many people ask “Why do bad things happen to good people?” I am not the worst person in the world. Why am I the one with Spina Bifida? Why does this bad thing have to happen to me? Each one of us has, at one point or another, asked a similar set of questions. But is “why do bad things happen to good people” the right question? 

We, almost with glee, enjoy seeing bad things happen to those who really deserve it. But do we? We’re the good people who are victims of the evil around us. However, is that reality? 

The Bible claims that everyone is a sinner. No one goes after God. Everyone does what is evil (Romans 3:9-18). But, does this claim match reality? Let’s turn on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, BBC, France 24. Yes, it matches reality. Man at his core is sinful. It is because of mankind (Genesis 3) that evil entered the world (Romans 5:12). When evil came in the world, everything was affect. Death, disease, and disaster began their control over humanity. Bad things happen to bad people. 

This means that disabilities came into the world because of sin corrupting everything. 

A Foreshadow Divine

However, we all recognize that these things are evil and bad. There is something wrong. Why is that? Because we know that there has to be a solution and complete annihilation of evil. Good is what is normal. I see this in my disability. I don’t go around thinking my body is a “normal”. No, there is something wrong with. But, I know it is not going to stay this way. There has to be a day when my body is fixed. It is like God has put these thoughts in our minds (Ecclesiastes 3:11). 

There is a divine foreshadow. We know evil and the sting of pain we face is not normal and is not the way life should be. That is a recognition that something is should be done about evil. Except, we know that humans cannot fix it for ourselves. We see many stories of that ending in a dystopian future. We cannot bring utopia, even through we know utopia is what is normal. Sounds like we need an incarnation to solve this for us. (John 1:14)

My disability proves that God has shown me that my body is not meant to be this way. He wants to heal it and restore all creation to what it was when things were perfect in the garden (Matthew 7; John 11). 

A Restoration Divine

But, how can God be good and allow this evil? How can Psalm 139:13-14 be true when my disability can be a burden? In Genesis 3 God does two acts that shows he is involved and bringing an end to evil. In Genesis 3:21, God does not just remove Adam and Eve from the Garden and kicks them out because of sin. He clothes them. He kills his own creation for Adam and Eve. He clothes their guilt and shame. In Genesis 3:15, God promises that there will be someone who will crush the head of evil and restore all things. 

Revelation 21 is that restoration. A new earth is created for God’s people where there is no more death, tears, pain, and disabilities. 

A disability is evil. There is pain and suffering. However, is there no hope? I know I am not healed from my disability. But, it is a foreshadow that things will change. So there is hope.

 In John 9, Jesus says that the man was born blind in order to display the works of God in him. Today, it might not be in a complete healing. But, the problem of a disability in reality is a foreshadow of the divine restoration found in Revelation 21. Evil exists. The recognition of this problem proves there is good and it must come from outside of us. It comes from God who is going restore all things. 

“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together with labor pains until now. Not only that, but we ourselves who have the Spirit as the first fruits—we also groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. Now in this hope we were saved, but hope that is seen is not hope, because who hopes for what he sees? Now if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with patience.”
Romans 8:22-25

*This post is not meant to solve all the issues with the “problem of evil.” This is to give a different perspective on how we see evil and interact with it.

More than a Pep Talk with Jesus…

“Give yourself to prayer, to reading on divine truths: strive to penetrate to the bottom of them and never be content with a superficial knowledge.” – David Brainerd

“The Lord is my shepherd; I have what I need.”

These words start one of the most beautiful and most quoted biblical poems (Psalm 23). The Psalms are one of the most quoted books of the Bible because they speak to our emotions and connect immediately to our lives. When we read them, we tend to picture in our minds the image above: reading our Bible at the lake and letting the truths of God penetrate our hearts so we can make it through the day.

It is common for many of us to view our daily Bible reading, devotional time, etc. as that image. We sit there with our coffee, open our Bible, and listen to those encouraging words from God. Our Bible reading begins to sound like a “pep talk with Jesus.”

There are times in our lives we need those encouraging words and promises of God. He tells us to cling to those promises and remember them (1 Chronicles 16:12; Psalm 13:5-6). It is from these promises that we move forward trusting God each step of the way.

However… A leg brace is more than a pretty color that decorates it. It has structure. It has a purpose. It has everything it needs to support an individual and make that individual mobile.

This is the same with our Bible time and Bible reading. It is more than a “pep talk with Jesus.” Our emotions do need help on a daily basis, but the Scriptures gives us a command and two other reason for doing our Bible reading.

The Command

II Timothy 2:15 states, “Be diligent to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”

Paul is writing Timothy to be diligent in handling God’s Word: through studying and through preaching. Even though II Timothy is known as a “pastoral epistle,” it can be applied to our lives. A mature believer is one who follows the principle in II Timothy 2:15 – being diligent with God’s Word. Diligent means, “characterized by steady, earnest, and energetic effort: painstaking.” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

We have a command. We are to diligently study the Bible and handle it in a right manner. It means hard work for us; like being back in school. It will take time. Studying the Bible means that it is more than our “pep talk with Jesus.” Studying the Bible means pouring ourselves over it with “steady, earnest, and energetic effort.”

But why take this effort and time to study the Bible? Two reasons…

Knowing God, Knowing Me

“For this reason also, since the day we heard this, we haven’t stopped praying for you. We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God.” – Colossians 1:9-10

Why should we view our Bible reading as more than a “pep talk with Jesus?” Because, we need to be filled with the knowledge of God in order to know ourselves and live.

In this passage, we see that we need to be filled with the knowledge of God and his will. This is not a “fuzzy feeling” type of reading of the Bible. We need to know everything we can learn about God and his will from his Word. This means we will need to read and study out the love of God, the holiness of God, the righteous wrath of God, and what he expects from us as our Creator, Redeemer, and Lord. Reading about God’s wrath is uncomfortable, but is shows us who God is. Reading about God’s mercy and grace shows us who God is. These pictures may seem to contradict each other and be portraying two different “Gods.” But the beauty of the Bible is that it is one God. He is all these things and more. Our Bible studying should be done in order to know God in all his facets. We can wrestle with the apparent “contradictory truths” about God and study to know how they work together in the person our awesome Creator.

Braces have many parts to them. You need bolts, screws, plastic, etc. They all have to be there to keep individuals up. Not one person is only loving, or only gracious. God is the same. There are multiple facets that make up who God is that are found in his Word. You don’t really see them when you view your Bible study as a “pep talk with Jesus.” It is ok to wrestle through the passages to know God. Because, when we know God and see him for who he is, we are changed into his image more and more (II Corinthians 3:18). By knowing God, we know his will and how we are to live a life pleasing to him. He came to this earth, took on a human body, died, and rose again for us to have life. Why not get to know this God in all his amazing facets?

Dan Brown and Bible Reading

“Holding to the faithful message as taught, so that he will be able both to encourage with sound teaching and to refute those who contradict it.”
– Titus 1:9

Before continuing, please watch this clip: (You may need to copy and past the link in your browser)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kl56LyJTH5M

How uncomfortable do you feel? Did something not sit right with you?
Was what was said true or false?

Think about it. Was what you saw true or false? But do not stop with just saying, “The Da Vinci Code is false.” Can you defend your answer Scripturally? Can you prove out of the Bible that what was said in the clip is false?

This is the second reason why we need to study the Bible. A “pep talk with Jesus” cannot help you defend your faith and answer such concerns as like the clip you saw. Dan Brown’s novels and other novels, movies, and media are taking Scripture and twisting it. This breeds confusion and lies about what the Bible truly says. It prevalent in our culture. Most people have a skewed view of the Bible because of these things.

However, Titus 1:9 commands us that we need to not only encourage people with the truths found in God’s Word, but we need to biblically refute those who contradict and twist the Bible. Our faith is sure because of who God is. But, we need to be ready to handle the confusion, the twisting, and the lying about the Bible. The only way that is going to happen is if we are digging deep and studying the Bible. It will take work and it will take time. But, making disciples of all nations requires us to answer questions they have and be able to stand up for the truth. Deep Bible studying is our path.

How do you view your Bible reading? Is it a time for a “pep talk with Jesus?” Again, there is nothing wrong with allowing our emotions to align with God’s thoughts and promises. But, our Bible reading is supposed to be more than that. Are we getting to know God and growing in that knowledge of God so we can live out his will for our lives? Are we studying the Bible in order to answer the questions and confusion around us?

Are you comfortable with only having a superficial knowledge of the Bible? Or are you ready to study the Bible and make it more than a pep talk with Jesus.

Welcome…

“Thirst was made for water; inquiry for truth.” – C.S. Lewis

“I am not praying that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. I sanctify myself for them, so that they also may be sanctified by the truth.” John 17:15-19

Pillars provide stability to buildings. They are built on a foundation to hold a structure steady and sure.  

Pillars

Leg braces do the same…

leg bracesAs one with Spina Bifida, I know how hard it is to get around without my leg braces. I am weak, unstable, and tend to trip over flat surfaces.

My leg braces give me the foundation and stability I need to walk. I am braced, and can go about my day.

Truth is a Brace

Just like a brace provides stability, so does truth. The Christian life can be chaotic, confusing, and crumbling when we do not have the truth of God’s Word in our lives.

When Christ saves us, he did not take us out of the world. Instead, he gifts each of us with a diversity of gifts (1 Corinthians 12) to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20). Each of us has a responsibility and duty to our Resurrected King to make disciples through the truth of his Word.

However, many of us know a lot about the Bible. But, how many of us know how to interact with the Bible and use it? We may know all the books of the Bible in a cute song with a catchy tune. But, do we know where to go when someone comes to us struggling with the problem of evil that faces us each day?

We need to be braced by truth. That truth is found in our interaction with God’s Word and using it in our daily lives.

The Purpose –

Truth braces us with stability and gives the foundation in which we can make each move in life.

Therefore…

While interacting with a variety of topics, Braced By Truth is dedicated to equipping Christians in order to make disciples of all nations through an interactive knowledge of the Bible, theology, apologetics, church history, and other issues we encounter in our world today.

This is a lifelong journey of learning how to understand God’s truth and then beginning to walk in truth.

But…

It is one step at a time…

Braced By Truth