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Archives for May, 2020

I wish judging wasn’t such a big thing, especially in the church. But it is. It’s human nature to compare. People judge other people. Ministers judge other ministers. Churches judge other churches.

The kingdom of heaven is a world without this kind of judging, just as Eden was a comparison-less world. Adam wasn’t worried about who had the bigger house, the sweeter ride, or the more attractive wife. Nor was Eve into judging. They were all content to live in peace together and to live in the presence of God. (I’m speaking theologically, just like the creation stories themselves.) It was all paradise until the serpent tempted them with a comparison, “Hey, you don’t know as much as God.”

We live among the kingdoms of this world, and those kingdoms are filled with competition and appraisal, along with feelings of inferiority and superiority.

John wrote, “We know that we are God’s children, and that the whole world lies under the power of the evil one” (1 Jn 5:19). The church is the first fruit of God’s new creation. Too often, however, the church lives according to the priorities of the world rather than of Eden. If only Christians lived with the contentment of God’s coming Kingdom rather than the competition and judgmentalism of earthly kingdoms.

This brings me to my main point. As churches choose to reopen or stay closed after the coronavirus lockdown, it’s natural to look around and see what one’s neighboring and comparable churches elsewhere are doing. It’s human nature to contrast another’s choices against one’s own. This isn’t all bad. We need the advice and counsel of others. We ought to learn in community and not just play this out as survival of the fittest.

Noting variances is not sinful. Learning from others is good. Judging differences is evil.

One church may be filled with elderly, at-risk people. Their leadership board might be comprised of medical personnel, scientists, or intellectuals. They might find themselves in one of the areas hardest hit by the pandemic. Their local leanings will push them to act in a way that suits their context and their understanding of what’s best. In other words, it should be a local, contextual decision.

Another church may be filled with younger, healthy individuals who are tired of being kept apart. Their leadership may consist of folks who are leery of overly cautious, scientific experts. They may find themselves in a region not badly hit by the virus but devastated by the economic shutdown. Their local leanings will push them to act in a way that suits their context and their understanding of what’s best. In other words, it should be a local, contextual decision.

Perhaps no passage speaks into this environment more than Romans 14. The church in Rome was not one single congregation but rather a large grouping of house churches(Rom 16:1-16). Paul’s words of instruction in chapter 14, therefore, are not merely directed toward the behavior of individual believers within a single congregation. Rather, they address how varying congregations can coexist and continue to glorify God despite differing convictions.

Paul’s teaching ought to speak clearly at this moment in history. “Who are you to pass judgment on the servants of another?” (14:4) When you hear that your neighboring church has decided to remain closed for in-person worship until September, do you inwardly mock them? If so, you are ignoring Paul’s direction.

“So do not let your good be spoken of as evil” (14:16). Your church may have good reasons for opening soon. You may have a great plan in place and be carefully following state and local guidelines. Yet if you try to impose your template on someone else’s church, you are guilty of turning your good into evil.

Here’s the kicker. “Whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God” (14:22). You’re allowed to explain what you do. Some folks are glad to learn from your process, and churches really need to be helping each other during these days. But if you have a conviction that all churches should do/act/think in a certain manner, keep it to yourself. That’s not your place.

Lest anyone think evil of me, I need to clarify that some issues are matters of opinion and therefore subject to the above teaching while others are not.

For example, following the guidelines of your county or city departments of public health is not optional. In this matter, all churches should be thankful for civic leadership and work hand in hand with those trying to advise us. We are not being oppressed.

Also, wearing masks in public has sadly become a political issue. There is much misinformation about this. Simple cloth masks worn by myself and many others don’t work well at protecting wearers from catching a virus. What they do well, however, is prevent the spread of disease from those who may not yet realize they have covid-19. A homemade mask reduces the risk of spread by 90%. Wearing a mask in public is not a sign of personal fear or weakness. It’s a demonstration of love and concern for others.

Beyond these things, churches and Christians will move on differing tracks for some time to come. Can Christians rise to the level of God’s Kingdom, showing understanding and support for the decisions of others? Or will Christians reveal a tendency to judge and condemn others, despite not knowing the local facts on the ground? Time will tell, but I’m hopeful we can learn from Paul and show understanding for others in these difficult, uncharted waters.

John 12:44-45 “Then Jesus cried out, ‘When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me.’”

“I can only imagine” is the title of a popular and inspirational song. What will it be like to see the Savior in all of his splendor? We can only imagine! On the other hand, there is a way to move into the presence of Jesus and understand how he responds to us.

We can move beyond our imagination by looking at the many examples of Jesus interacting with people in the gospels. How he responded to them is how he responds to us. 

Look at Jesus!

First, it is important that we hear Jesus when he says, “For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:17) He is for us, and we see this in the historical examples recorded in the gospels

For example, look at the Luke 7:36-50. Jesus allowed himself to be touched by this “sinful woman.” This is not a parable! This is a life event in Jesus’ time on earth. What a contrast between the Pharisee who had invited Jesus to dinner and the sinner woman who, no doubt, came without an invitation. This did not take Jesus by surprise; he knew the mind of the Pharisee as well as the mind of the sinner woman. He also knows our mind and is still willing to touch (Luke 5:13) and be touched by each of us.

When Jesus spoke forgiveness to this woman the guests asked, “Who is this who even forgives sins.” They knew only God could forgive sins (Mark 2:7; Isaiah 43:25; Luke 5:20-23).

The response of Jesus was, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Our faith will also save us, and we can go in peace.

There was a time that I read the Bible like a legal document from which I was to sort out all of the arguments pointed toward those I thought were in religious error. A book of do’s and don’ts! No more. I now read the Old Testament as the story of God mingling with his creation, getting his people ready to meet the Christ. I read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John to see Jesus in all of his fullness of God.

How Jesus responded to the folks in the historical setting of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John is how he responds to us today and how he will continue to respond to people in the future.
Read the many interactions of people with Jesus and place yourself in the character of those who had that first-hand experience. This is an adventure that will take the dull out of reading!

Got a Minute?

I know of a preacher who is doing a video series with the title Got a Minute?

I love that idea and while I am not going to enter his territory with a video series of my own, I may very well share some writing with you under that guise in the future as well as today.

So, Got a Minute? I hope you do!

One of my favorite contrasts in scripture is found in Galatians 5. In verses 19-21, Paul follows up a section about walking by the Spirit by enumerating a short list of ugly behaviors/ attitudes he calls the work of the flesh. And ugly they are!

But the contrast toward those ill-formed activities is walking by the Spirit—exhibiting the Fruit found therein. We read about that in verses 22-23:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things.” (CSB17)

Unfortunately, a theological pet peeve of mine is referring to these characteristics as the fruits of the Spirit as if there were many. But, if I understand correctly, all of these attributes work together to be the fruit of a Spirit-filled, Spirit-led walk of faith.

Honestly, these characteristics are challenging to me—and maybe because I struggle too much with some of the things referred to as the works of the flesh. Yes, God is still working on me.

Occasionally, the topic of new elders will come up and we are quick to look at what Paul told Timothy and Titus. But from my perspective, the first qualities of life we ought to consider or the first question we ought to ask is does this person display the fruit of the Spirit? And if we were to really get serious, that ought to be the first question of qualification for any child of God in any capacity.

While I cannot remember where I heard it, I have to agree with the guy that said, “if flexibility and adaptability are not a part of the Fruit of the Spirit, they ought to be!”

Flexibility and adaptability.

Think about those terms.

Now think about them through the lens of patience and self-control… Honestly? I think you can easily make a case for their inclusion or at least being a way to define how patience and self-control can be seen.

So, why am I talking about flexibility and adaptability? Simply because we are living in very strange times—and these strange times mean different ways of doing things. These strange times mean nothing is really normal. These strange times mean we may have to see, do, and accept differences we are not accustomed to. And, these strange times most likely mean we cannot control everything as we might like.





At work.

In your family.

And even with church, these strange days call for us to model Christ-like behavior, to live the Fruit of God’s Spirit, and to exercise patience and self-control.

Got a minute?

Be flexible.

Be adaptable.

And in so doing, you may be an instrument of peace in a chaotic world—and hey, wouldn’t you know, being peaceable is also a mark of the Spirit’s fruit!

Blessings to you!

Les Ferguson, Jr.

Are you looking for a way to serve others? Without leaving your home? I just found out that Let’s Start Talking has 50 people on a waitlist to learn English through reading the gospels.

I told them I would get the word out so I am putting this in front of you to ask if you would pray and ask God if this is something you should do. If you feel called to this you can find out more at this link to sign up as a Worker –

I love and appreciate each one of you. We do a lot of talking here. Let’s move to action!

What would Jesus do if he were here today? That is hard to answer in one sense because Jesus is at the right hand of God. But in another sense it can be very easy to answer because Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to empower the people of God in the absence of Jesus. We are His hands and feet. The church, in a sense, is the incarnate Christ…as, Paul would write in Galatians, Christ is formed in us.

We can see what Jesus would do if He were here because in one real sense He is. He is here because we are here. This is not to divinize ourselves. But in a practical sense all you have to do is watch Spirit-indwelt people and you will see what Jesus would do by the work of those the Spirit is empowering to minister to do “Greater things than these” as Jesus said we would do.

I see Jesus singing in hospital parking lots. I see Jesus writing encouraging notes. I see Jesus in the preachers learning tech to get their sermons online and struggling through it every week. I see Jesus in calling all the members of the church. I see Jesus sitting on the front porch with an elderly member (10 feet apart) because they are lonely as their spouse died in the last few years.

I see Jesus in many places right now…but you know where I don’t see Him right now? In the church building. Not yet…not yet…not until we meet again…and I hope and pray we bring these “Jesus sightings” back into that room with us so that things will never be the same again and we don’t go back to things as they were as if nothing happened.