Christian Devotionals

Protect Your Church (1)
"Let love guide your life, for then the whole church will stay together in perfect harmony." Colossians 3:14 LB

When you're part of God's family, it's your responsibility to protect the unity of that family. How? By focusing on what we have in common, not our differences. Paul writes, "Let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up" (Ro 14:19 NLT). Do you do that? As believers we share one Lord, one body, one purpose, one Father, one Spirit, one hope, one faith, one baptism and one love. We share the same salvation, the same life and the same future - factors far more important than any differences; these are the things we should concentrate on, not hang-ups and petty issues.

God gave us different personalities, backgrounds, races and preferences, so we should enjoy them, not tolerate them! God wants unity, not uniformity. For Christ's sake we must never let our differences divide us. We must stay focused on what matters most - learning to love each other as Christ loved us.

Problems usually arise when we shift our attention to less important things. The Bible calls these "disputable matters" (Rom 14:1 NIV). Any time we focus on personalities, preferences, interpretations, styles or methods, division always happens. But if we concentrate on loving each other and fulfilling God's purposes, harmony results. That's why Paul pleaded, "Let there be real harmony so there won't be divisions in the church. I plead with you to be of one mind, united in thought and purpose" (1Co 1:10 NLT).

Protect Your Church (2)
"Let love guide your life, for then the whole church will stay together in perfect harmony." Colossians 3:14 LB

Once you discover what God intends real fellowship to be, it's easy to become discouraged by the gap between the ideal and the real in your church. Yet you must passionately love the church in spite of its imperfections. Looking for the ideal while criticising the real is immaturity. Settling for the real without striving for the ideal is complacency. Maturity is living with the tension.

People will disappoint you, but that's no excuse to stop loving and fellowshipping with them. They're still your family even when they don't act like it, so you can't just walk out on them!

People go sour on the church for many reasons: hypocrisy, boring services, money, neglect, pettiness, legalism and the biggie - who's in control? Because we're human we'll inevitably hurt each other. But instead of leaving we need to stay and work it out. Reconciliation, not running away, is the road to stronger character and deeper fellowship. Anyway, there's no perfect church to escape to. The sooner you give up the idea that a church must be perfect in order to love it, the sooner you'll quit pretending and start admitting that we're all seriously in need of grace. Every church should hang out a sign that reads: No perfect people need apply. This church is only for those who admit they are sinners, need grace and want to grow. The truth is, if God joins you to a church, only God should 'unjoin' you from it!

Protect Your Church (3)
"Let love guide your life, for then the whole church will stay together in perfect harmony." Colossians 3:14 LB

It's always easier to stand on the sidelines and take pot-shots, than get involved and make a contribution. God warns us repeatedly not to criticize, compare or judge one another. When you criticize what someone else is doing in sincere faith, you're out of your jurisdiction! Listen: "What right do you have to criticize someone else's servants? Only their Lord can decide if they are doing right" (Ro 14:4 CEV). So unless you're their Lord, keep your nose out of it!

Don't stand in judgment looking down on those whose views differ from yours! Paul writes: "Why, then criticize your brother's actions. Why try to make him look small? We shall all be judged one day, not by each other's standards or even [by] our own, but by the judgment of God" (Ro 14:10 JBP). Whenever you judge God's children four things happen: (1) You upset their Father. (2) You expose your own pride and insecurity. (3) You set yourself up to be judged by the same standard. (4) You hurt the fellowship of your church. A critical spirit is a costly vice. Instead of harping, start helping!

Time spent comparing and criticizing is time that could be spent on better things. The Bible says, "Help others with encouraging words. Don't drag them down by finding fault" (Ro 14:19 TM). Unity is the soul of fellowship, destroy it, and you rip the heart out of Christ's body. So, make up your mind today to protect your church!

Protect Your Church (4)
"Let love guide your life, for then the whole church will stay together in perfect harmony." Colossians 3:14 LB

Gossiping usually means passing on information when you're neither part of the problem or the solution. It's like accepting stolen property - it makes you just as guilty of the crime. The moment somebody begins to gossip you should say, "Stop, why do I need to know this? Have you talked directly to that person?" Wise up. People who gossip to you will gossip about you. They can't be trusted! Furthermore, when you entertain gossip God says you're a troublemaker. Listen: "Troublemakers listen to troublemakers" (Pr 17:4 CEV). And Jude adds, "These are the people who divide you, people whose thoughts are only of this world" (Jude 1:19 NCV). Serious charges, eh?

Isn't it sad that in God's flock the greatest wounds come from other sheep, not wolves! (See Gal 5:15 AMP) He says these troublemakers should be avoided and disciplined. Listen again: "A gossip reveals secrets; therefore, do not associate with a babbler" (Pr 20:19 NRSV). The fastest way to end conflict is to lovingly confront those who are gossiping and insist that they stop it. Solomon pointed out, "Fire goes out for lack of fuel, and tensions disappear when gossip stops" (Pr 26:20 TLB).

Start practicing Christ's method of conflict resolution! (1) "Work it out between the two of you." (2) "If he won't listen, take one or two others along." (3) "If he still won't listen, tell the church [leadership]" (Mt 18:15-17 TM). That's God's way. It must be ours too!

Protect Your Church (5)
"Let love guide your life, for then the whole church will stay together in perfect harmony." Colossians 3:14 LB

While there are no perfect leaders, God gives pastors the responsibility of maintaining unity in the church. And it's a thankless job. Too often pastors have the unenviable task of serving as a referee between hurt, warring or immature people. They've been given the impossible task of trying to keep everyone happy, which even Jesus couldn't do!

The Bible's clear about how we're to relate to those who serve us: "Be responsive to your pastoral leaders. Listen to their counsel. They are alert to the condition of your lives and work under the strict supervision of God. Contribute to the joy of their leadership, not its drudgery. Why would you want to make things harder for them?" (Heb 13:17 TM). Leaders are human. They need our prayers, appreciation and love. That's why we're commanded to: "Honour those... who have been given the responsibility of urging and guiding you along... Overwhelm them with appreciation and love" (1Th 5:12-13 TM). Overwhelm them with what? You've got it - love! God blesses churches that are united. Furthermore, when He has a bunch of baby-believers He wants to birth, He looks for the warmest incubator He can find. So what are you personally doing to make your church family warm and loving?

There are people in your community who are desperately looking for love and a place to belong. When they find a church where the members genuinely love and care for each other, you'll have to lock the doors to keep them out!

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