Do We Go Straight to Heaven?

In this first article in the series what does the Bible say about it we are asking the question; do we go straight to heaven when we die? Before we answer that question, we should know what the options are. Some say yes absolutely, when we die, our bodies are transported to heaven and we rest with the Savior. Some say that when we die our bodies go into the ground, but our souls go to heaven. Some argue that we just go to sleep and wake up when Jesus comes back. But the question is what does the Bible say?

I should point out that we will primarily be looking at what the New Testament says because while the idea and concept of the afterlife is present in the Old Testament it is not as developed as the New Testament. The New Testament has a great deal to say about the matter because we have Christ who has conquered death and ascended into heaven and the promise for believers is that we will join Him.

First, we should look at the term sleep because the Bible uses this term to talk about death. It is one thing to talk about death in an abstract way but if you have lost someone you love then death feels a little harsh so to soften it the Bible uses the word sleep a fair amount of the time. In 1 Corinthians 11:30 when Paul talks about taking Communion in an improper way, he says some have fallen asleep. In 1 Thessalonian 4:13-14, Paul talks about the brothers and sisters in the church who sleep in death. The church in Thessalonica was facing this very question about what happens when someone dies. Paul lets them know that we as believers in Christ have hope. Psalm 139:8 says that even if we make our bead in Sheol or the depths we are not out of God’s field of vision. Death is sleeping but what kind of sleeping is it?

We could look at each option and prove or disprove them, but this is not a scholarly paper. I think the best approach is to look at what the Bible says concerning our question and look at 1 Corinthians chapter 15 because there is a lot of information for us there. The thing we have to understand is the resurrection and as N.T. Wright often says we have to go back to the resurrection. The first thing is that Jesus was raised from the dead. He was dead and now He is not. He was put in the ground and now He lives. He was buried and now He sits at the right hand of the Father. This tells us something very important; there is a bodily resurrection. 1 Corinthians 15:13-14 says that if Christ was not raised neither are we. If Jesus was only a spirited resurrection, then we are still in our sins. There is no hope, no freedom, no way out from sin in this life but He was raised. The resurrection of Christ was God’s stamp of approval on Christ’s sacrifice saying yes, the debt is paid in full! It is a marvelous and wonderful thing. Oh, how I could get sidetracked here but the important thing for this discussion is to remember that Jesus was raised from the dead and was raised in His body.

The next thing to take notice of is that we will be raised in a different type of body. This is a point when many get confused and have questions. Sadly, the Bible is silent on exactly what type of body, but it will be different in some way. What we do know is that what is sown in corruption will be raised in incorruption (1 Cor 15:42). What does this mean? Again, we do not exactly know but what we do know is that the new body will not die, decay, or ache. My body aches all the time (mostly at night) but the new body will be perfected and not have the same problems because it will be made new. Here is an example of how you can be in a body, but it is a different body. My wife has stomach issues. She felt her stomach all the time. She switched to a gluten-free diet and remarked the other day that she does not feel her stomach anymore. She knows she has one, but she does not feel it. Get the picture. In this life and in this body, you might have an ailment of some kind but in the new resurrected body it will be free.

Jesus looked the same but still had the crucifixion scars but at the same time, it was different. He could still eat but He could also walk-through walls. He walked but still disappeared and reappeared somewhere else. He was still in a body, but it was different. Will ours be the same? I have no idea, but I do know that Revelation talks about the new city, and Revelation 19 it uses banquet feast language so maybe there is food (although I lean towards a vegetarian meal). The important thing to note and remember is you will have a perfected body when Jesus raises you from the dead.

So where does this leave us? 2 Corinthians 5:8 says that to be present with the Lord is to be absent from the body. Death sends us straight to heaven. When we tie that into what we just looked at we get a picture of what it looks like when we die. Our bodies go into the ground sleeping until the resurrection and then when Christ returns, we are reunited with our bodies which are now perfected and no longer die, decay, or ache. We will be with Him forever. There are other aspects of this we could look at like what is it like in heaven or what do we do. The Sadducees tried to trip Jesus up with these questions (Matt 22:30) but Jesus moved on to the more important topic.

Death happens (for now) but for the believer, it is not the end, it is a switch in the mode of being. Those who confess with their mouth and believe in their hearts that Christ was raised from the dead temporarily lose their bodies when they die but they live in heaven with Christ. When Jesus comes back, and He is coming, they will be reunited with their bodies, and it will be amazing. If you are worried about cremation, or those lost at sea don’t be worried. God is going to do what He does best which is more than we can ask think or imagine.

Just a thought,

Mike

A Brand New Series

Today I am starting a new series called what does the Bible says about it. I cannot say how frequently I will add to this series because some questions require more research, but I will do my best. If you like what you are reading and would like to donate to the cause and help me continue to publish articles like these and others you can by clicking here.

The idea behind this series of articles is simple and started with a question. The question was do I believe that when we die, we go straight to heaven because that is what I have read in the Bible or because that is what people say? It is a simple enough question, and it is also the first one we will look at but the idea behind the question is larger.

Do we believe certain things because it is what the Bible says and teaches or because we have been told that is what the answer is? In all things we need to go back and see what the Bible actually says and means in its message, language, and context. Yes, context is important. Context is important because words only have meaning in context. For example, if I say I am so hungry I could eat a horse do I mean I could eat a literal horse or a large amount? Or am I talking about the size of my hunger and not the size of the meal I intend to eat? When we look at the attire in a church should women still have their head covered or was that a cultural thing and we need to understand the culture behind it?

First a disclaimer I do not live in a mental, emotional, or cultural vacuum. I do have preconceptions and they will bleed through. I am going to do my best to just present the facts as I see them but as best as I can tell pure objectivity does not exist. Some questions are simpler than others and some are more complexed and nuanced. That does not mean that there is no truth. I am not a relativist I believe that there is absolute truth for important topics, but some things are simply preference. For example, what ice cream is best? The answer is it totally depends on your tastebuds, history, family, mood, etc. But a question like did Jesus rise from the grave? Yeah, I see no option but yes based on history and the facts of the early church (yeah, I went there).

So, soon we will have our first post looking to answer the question “when we die do, we go straight to heaven?” This should be fun. Also you can submit your own questions and so we can play along together.

Just a thought,

Mike

Moving to New Orleans

We are excited to announce that we are moving to New Orleans in late July to work with a new church plant. We are beyond excited as this has been something on our minds for the past four years and God has graciously opened a door for us.

In May of 2017, I (Mike) went to New Orleans for a work conference, and instantly I knew I wanted to be part of church planting and ministry there. As much as Mike loved the city it was clear at that time that ministry in New Orleans was not in the cards however the desire did not diminish but grew. Four years later we took another family vacation to the city. It was not with the plan to see about moving, although that was partially there, mainly it was just a getaway. This time the outcome was different. God opened a door for ministry with new friendships and a fresh passion to serve the city.

New Orleans is not just a city or an area but a way of life. Church cannot just be a Sunday gathering but a way of life that integrates the Gospel into the everyday. Our prayer and desire are to bring the Gospel into everyday living and let the joy, passion, and love of Christ overwhelm people. New Orleans is a NAMB Send city which helps show just how important and strategic it is to reach this great city.

What will we be doing? The church we are working with, Family Church, is (re)launching this Fall and Mike will be working as the Associate Pastor focusing on small groups, administration, organization, and multiplication. This will be a one-year position while we learn about the city, the people, and how to best integrate ourselves and the Gospel into New Orleans. After that, we will go out and plant a new church that plants churches in a rapid and healthy way to reach our city. The church being a new church that is re-launching is able to provide a modest salary, but we need to raise an additional $3000 a month. We are praying, seeking, and believing for 30 families who can support us at $100 a month to reach New Orleans. We have one family who has decided to join us in financial support and a few more who are looking at what they can do. We are very excited and grateful for all the love, prayers, and support.

You can learn more here and sign for the newsletter and join the support team!

With love,

Mike, Julie, and Gracie.

Acts Chapter 2: A Mighty Change and Unity

The Spirit is given in Acts Chapter 2 and everything for the fledgling church changes. They go from wondering what is next to proclaiming Christ in power. They go from focused on the earthly kingdom to focusing on the Spiritual Kingdom. They go from questions to answers. This all occurs because of the receiving of the Holy Spirit and there is a lot to look at but first, we need to back up. 

The giving and receiving of the Holy Spirit are tied to the giving and receiving of the Law in Exodus 24:15-17. We don’t know for sure but the Jewish people of the time and many today believed that God gave Moses the Torah (or Law) Pentecost (Shavuot). The people believed this is when God gave His Holy Law. God gave His Law to Moses and people needed to obey it and hold to the letter of it. The Law was God’s rule book on how covenant people were to behave and live. It gave them guidance on how to maintain the relationship with God. But all along God was working towards something different, something better, something more permanent and inward.

God promised that He would give a New Covenant, one that did not require external enforcement, an external reading, an external commitment. He was going to be as close to the greatest as He was to the least. All people would have the same access and connection to Him. When we read Jerimiah 31:33-34 we see that God was moving towards a relationship that was not based on external but internal and binding in a way the Law could never be. Something that would drive the people in a way they could never expect. 

With that background in mind, we can look at Acts 2:1-4. The Spirit is given on this day to bring in the New Covenant. The people were united and of one purpose (accord) they received the promise together. God was fulling His promise to write His law on our hearts and be our God. God was making us complete. He was taking the best He had which was Himself and placing it inside of us. No longer do people have to go somewhere, ask someone, or do something to get direction. The Spirit of God is now living on the inside of us. The promise had come but there was more to be completed. 

We have to back up again because what we are reading is the fulfillment of promises. To look at the fulfillment without looking at the issue and the promise is to miss the wonder of the conclusion. It would be like watching part two of a movie after the cliffhanger and thinking you fully understand the second part. We need the rest of the story in Genesis 11:5-7 to see why this is so amazing. The people after the flood were rebellious against God and wanted to not only meet God on their own terms, but they wanted to make God meet them on their terms. God cannot be mocked so He confused their language and broke their unity. God took their gift of unity and broke it to show He is One true God and that He cannot be forced into anything. He wanted to ensure people knew that He had total power and dominion. 

When we understand that then we can read Acts 2:6 with a new lens. God was now reuniting all people under His Son. He sent His Spirit so all people would be able to be unified in heart, mind, and spirit. The giving of the Spirit not only put God’s purpose and law on their hearts but united them together externally as well. 

The church now has power (the Holy Spirit) and unity. The church can now start her mission to change and disciple the world. Now people do not have to wait for a special moment because we are baptized into the Spirit at the moment, we accept Christ (Eph 1:13; 1 Cor 12:13).

It is in Acts 2:5-26 that Peter gives his big sermon where 3000 people come to Christ. We see a lot of things in this sermon, but one important thing is that Peter tells the people they are guilty of killing the Messiah. The Mosaic Law gives no sacrifice for murder. If you kill someone that is it there is no way to escape the punishment. Add to this that the people killed God’s Messiah and Son. However, what is amazing is that the people hearing Peter ask what can be done. According to the Law, they had no right to ask such a question, but I believe the Spirit was guiding them along. Peter tells them that there is forgiveness available in Christ by believing in Him. 

Acts 2:42-47 shows the growing church and how they operated daily. It shows us what it meant for the fledgling church to navigate this new world of unity, power, and forgiveness. Theologians, scholars, and the average man on the street has poured over these verses for two millennia to try and understand how we contextualize or use this to structure our churches. I would argue there is no easy answer. There is no one-stop shopping here because it is incredibly complex. That being said I think there is at least one thing we can take away from it regardless of your context: Unity. 

Unity is a central theme in this chapter. The disciples were united in prayer. The people were united in their response to the Gospel. The Spirit coming united people in language. The people are later united in giving towards the cause and for those in need. Unity is what the church needs. I get it there are denominational and doctrinal differences, but unity can still be achieved. We can still be united for the cause of Christ. First, we unite to God being reconciled to Him, after that it should be easy to unite to each other. 

Just a thought, 

Mike

Sowing and Reaping – Six Month Challenge

Video Version can be found here

I think in general we all want something more or different out of life. It might not be huge changes or monumental differences but there is probably some change you want in your life. There is a good chance that somethings in your life need to change. I am not talking about things you just need to learn to be content with, I am talking about when things need to change. Serious things like losing weight, saving money, getting a good job, building healthy relationships, and so on. Important things in life that you should want to be changed. Because we can all have areas and things that need to change, I want to give you two tools from the Bible that will help you do this but first a word about time.

Time is going to move forward whether we like it or not. Time moves regardless of personal desire or preference. Time moves forward. I am going to say something that right now does not sound profound or all that clever but in six months it will be six months from now. I know what you are thinking “well duh.” But think about that for a second, what if six months ago you decided to make a change. What if six months ago you decided you wanted to lose weight? By now you might have hit your target. What if six months ago you decided you wanted a better relationship with your spouse? By now you would have a better relationship. What if six months ago you decided you wanted to be in a better job? Chances are by now; you would have that job. Six months is going to go by whether we like it or not. But what does six months have to do with changing your life?

We think about changing our lives but what if instead, we thought about changing the next six months? What if instead of focusing on something so monumental as changing our life we thought about being in a different place in six months? Would that help? Would that make a difference? Would it do anything? I say yes, yes it would because six months is manageable, and six months is attainable. Six months is something we can see. Six months is something that can grow. I am going to give you two tools from the Bible that can help you change the next six months. Also, I should note that these two things are really two pieces of the same tool.

The first is that you reap what you sow (Gal 6:7). This is sometimes thought about in a negative sense. You find yourself in trouble and someone says “well, you reap what you sow.” They mean you got what you deserve, and this is partially true. Sometimes this is used when talking about finances. We talk about sowing and reaping in church and we are talking about giving and receiving. This is also partially true. However, the bigger principle is that you get out what you put in. If you sow (plant) corn you get corn. The thing is sowing (planting) takes time. You don’t just plant some corn and boom you get a harvest. Corn takes between 60 and 100 days to grow so you need to plant, water, and wait. You need to plant, nourish the thing planted, and wait.

If we pick weight loss for example, then we need to do things now that will help us achieve our goal later. The weight loss is the goal or the fruit, but the planting is what we do beforehand. we change our eating habits, we exercise, we do what it takes now to see the fruit later. If we want a better relationship with our child or children in six months, we need to start planting different things now to reap better things later. We will get in what we put out. If you keep eating Oreos (I love Oreos) you get an Oreo body. If you keep ignoring your children, you get children who don’t want to spend time with you. You get out what you put in. Change what you put in the ground now and you will get something different in six months.

The second tool is that things reproduce after their own kind (Gen 1:11). God has designed the world that things reproduce after their own kind. Again, corn kernels make corn stocks. Humans reproduce and make little humans (babies). Dogs make dogs. Peace makes peace. Laughter makes laughter. Things reproduce after their own kind. So not only do we get out what we put in but what we get out reproduces and makes more of the same. If we make changes now to see different results in six months, then in six months we have something new that will reproduce after its own kind. The small seeds we plant now to make changes start to compound and reproduce after their own kind.

If we decided that in six months, we want a better job and we planted the seed for a better job (change in work ethics, determination, applying, studying) then we not only end up with a better job we are different as a person with different habits, motivations, and goals. Those things reproduce after their own kind and a new system has been created that creates other changes as well. If you want a better relationship with your kids and you put in the work to make that happen then your kids will more than likely also have a better relationship with their kids. Things will reproduce after their own kind but first, we must plant the right seed.

This can all happen in six months. Whether we like it or not six months is going to go by. In six months from today, it will be September 8th, 2021. It does not matter if you want it to be something different you don’t get a choice. What we do get to decide is what will be different in six months. What will be different for a lifetime after that?

Just a thought,

Mike

Seeking and Pruning

(Video version can be seen here)

Have you seen the video about the sheep named Barrack that was found? It is pretty cool and if you have not seen it, I recommend checking out one of the videos. Barrack was lost in the Australian wilderness for about 5 years and when he was found he had about 77lbs of extra wool. He could barely see, drank water from puddles, and his wool was full of twigs, dirt, and insects. It took them about an hour to cut away all of the wool that was weighing him down. They found this sheep, cleaned him up, and he is on the road to recovery. It is a very cool story and one that made me think about Luke 19:10 and John 15:2-5 among other things.

In Luke 19:10 Jesus says that He has come to seek and save the lost. Jesus says His mission is to find those who are lost and then make them unlost. He says the whole point of His coming is to look for those who are missing and then make them found. In John 15:2-5 Jesus says that we are the vine, and He is the branch but before this, He says that the Father prunes us to make us more fruitful. We get this picture that we are pruned or that we have bad things cut back so we can produce more fruit. First, we are found and then we are pruned. That is the process. The hard part is that like the lost sheep Barrack when we are found we often have a lot that needs to be pruned.

Some people come to Christ and have less that needs to be pruned and some people have more. The point is that we all have pruning that needs to occur. With Barrack, the initial pruning (shearing) took over an hour, and all that extra was cut off. The external had changed but he still needs to heal from 5 years in the wilderness. When you and I come to Christ there is an initial pruning that happens in the way of the Holy Spirit coming in and changing us from the inside. We are forgiven of sin and made new. Sometimes, like in my case, there is a lot that He removes right away but even if that happens there is more and continual pruning that needs to occur.

Coming to Christ and finding freedom and salvation requires nothing from us except to accept it. He has done all of the work because we cannot. Salvation is a free gift. The pruning takes work. The pruning takes time. The pruning takes cooperation on our part. This is because pruning requires that you submit to what God is doing for it to be effective. God can remove things in your life that are holding you back but if you keep returning to them or trading them for new versions of the same vices then the pruning is not effective. Your submission to the will and leading of the Lord is needed. What if tomorrow Barrack decides he does not like being kept in a pen and then heads back out to the wilderness? He will be covered in mud, dirt, and weighed down again. The pruning that freed him will not be effective because he will once again be the same as he was. What if after coming to Christ you decide forgiveness from past sins is enough and you just want to go out and do as you please again? You will get weighed down, covered in mud, and need heavy pruning again. The pruning process of God is non-negotiable. It must occur.

What does this mean for us? How do we get the pruning, how do we respond in the pruning, how do we cope? Hebrews 7:25 says, Therefore, He (Jesus) is always able to save those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to intercede for them. Jesus is always able to save because He lives to intercede for us. This saving is not just the initial salvation either. Jesus can save us daily. When we are being pruned and unsure how we will move forward Jesus saves us and intercedes for us. He owes us nothing, but He chooses to live for us. What can He not do? Who can He not save? What is beyond His ability? The Lord of all the universe, the Word of God, the Author of Life chooses to intercede for you and me. Whatever you require, whatever you lack He can provide and make a way for! In the pruning, we must move forward and push towards Jesus. That is how we get through it, that is respond, that is how we cope. We push towards the one who is available and able to save us. 

There is so much more we could talk about with this, but I would just encourage you today that if you are in the midst of a pruning season, and you know when you are, that you submit to the pruning and seek Christ. Press into Him because that is the only way you will get through it with the fruit you were meant to bear. Be pruned and be changed. Embrace the process and welcome His direction. Maybe it means you let things go, maybe it means you move, maybe it means you admit something. Whatever it is, however hard it is be pruned and see how you can be made new today. 

Just a thought,

Mike

Holy Zeal

Do you have a holy zeal? The word zeal is sometimes seen in a negative light. We talk about someone being overzealous which means fanatical or radical. I am not sure I have a problem with that, depending on the context and thing we are being zealous about. We can have zeal, passion, or a firm commitment to all sorts of things but not all of them good.

Have you ever met anyone who is a die-hard fan of a particular sports team? They have merch all over their house, maybe a tattoo, and can usually tell you everything you never wanted to know about the team. These people are sold out to the team and show it. If you meet them, you will know shortly that they are fans. They bleed the team colors. Because they think about the team so often and know so much about them, they can find a way to bring it up at any point. These people recruit new fans and create new enemies depending on where they are. We might call these people overzealous. I am not saying this is bad, but it is a good example.

How about for God? Is there a proper amount of zeal that we are allowed to have for Him? What if like the previously mentioned sports fan we had a zeal for God and the things of God? What if we had a holy zeal? That is what I want. I want a radical, total, and fanatical dedication to the things and holiness of God. I want to be willing to drop everything for the cause of Christ. I want to lay down all my desires and other devotions to pick up the things of Christ. I want to be able to recall information about every stat, fact, and detail about God. This last part is hard because God is infinite, and I am finite. God is omnipresent and on a good day I am hopefully present at the moment, but the goal is the same: A sold-out, radical, fanatical life.

Abraham is and has always been an inspiration to me in this way. Hebrews 11:8 says that when Abraham was called, he obeyed and went out not knowing where he was going. That line and the story of Abraham have always captured me. Can we live like that or is that sold out radical dedicated life reserved only for heroes like Abraham?

It can be easy to think that the kind of faith we read about in the Bible is reserved for heavy hitters of old but that is not what the Bible says. Maybe, just maybe, sometimes we want that to be the case so we have an out, but Hebrews 12 goes on to say that because we have this great cloud of witnesses, we should lay aside what hinders us and focus on Jesus.

Jesus is the key to a radical, fanatical, sold out holy zeal lifestyle. When we fix our eyes on Christ we will walk into some crazy and amazing things. We will go into places we never imagined and do things beyond us because they are unimaginable and beyond us. Fixing our eyes on the Light of the World means we follow Him into what He is doing. We walk in step with God and walk where and how He walked. We are always walking towards the light.

Faith in Christ and identification with Him is the key to holy zeal. It is the only thing that can give us the ability and desire to have holy zeal. When you take your eyes off Christ and place them on anything else you will lose the holy part of the zeal and just become a zealot. If you lose the love, grace, and mercy of God then you are left with fanaticism without a compass. We should desire a holy zeal, but we can only have it if we keep our faith in Christ and our eyes fixed on Him.

Just a thought,

Mike

Race Relations – A Lesson from Barton Stone

Since learning about Barton Stone I quickly found a new hero of the faith. In this brief essay, I want to look at what the modern church can learn from Barton Stone regarding race relations. As I point out the term race is used here only because of its popular context and not because I feel there are different races of people.

What can the modern American church learn about race relations from Barton Stone? This may seem to be a simple question and one can ask why it should matter what Barton Stone thought on the topic of race. The rationale is partly because Barton Stone was a founding member of the Stone Campbell Movement which today consists of the Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ, and the Independent Christian Churches. His influence is felt far and wide around the world. The second reasoning is because he lived in the time of American slavery. His antislavery position at the time of slavery and his voice as a leader in the movement should give one cause to listen to his words and hopefully gain insight into our modern situation.

This essay will seek to first answer the question of what the modern American church can learn about race relations from Barton Stone based on Stone’s view of slavery and service as a Christian. Stone lived during the period of slavery in America and the question of race relations was one of slavery and what, if anything, should be done about it. Second, it will then seek to apply those lessons to the modern world. This will be done by first giving the lesson from Stone and then applying it to the current situation in America and the injustices that many African Americans face.

America no longer has slavery as a law but many other race-related issues divide the country. It should be noted briefly that the term race is being used here but the concept of race is a human concept and not a biological one. The term race is being used because of its connection to the idea of race relations which often means the relationship between white Americans and African Americans.

The question for Barton Stone was not should slavery be done away with, that was a given for him. For Stone slavery was a “moral evil [and] very heinous” and in the early days at least it was enough to disqualify someone from fellowship.[1] At one point during the 1830s, Stone did own slaves but these were men and women who were left to his wife by her mother. Stone decided that because he could not emancipate them where he was, he would move to Illinois which was a free state in order to accommodate their freedom.[2] This is just one example that one can take from Stone. If one has within their power to do something to alleviate the suffering of another, they also have the responsibility to do so.

The answer to the main question is threefold and the first two points can be understood from Barton Stone’s letters titled an Interview Between an Old and a Young Preacher published in 1859 in the Christian Messenger. While these letters were written regarding Christian service as a preacher it should never be assumed that service to Christ and love for others are items that can be separated. Stone makes this clear in the subsequent letters. This is in part because of the universal priesthood of all believers (1 Peter 2:5–9) and because all are commanded to contend for the faith (Jude 1:3). These letters give an insight into the mind and thinking of Stone.

First one must have a dedication to Christ and an understanding that one can do nothing apart from Him.[3] For Stone charity, love, and service started with Christ. The affection one has towards Christ should move them to lay down themselves and their desires in order to see Christ’s kingdom come. Stone understood that because God has a love for all then slavery with its lack of love could not be Scriptural.[4] This desire to serve Christ was a motivating factor for Stone to leave Presbyterian denomination and seek unity with other Christians. This is mentioned so that one can see Stone was a man who was willing to act and not only speak.

Taking the example of Stone, one must look and see that if they call Christ Lord then they cannot also call another human, created in the image of God, a slave. In the same way today, one cannot call Christ Lord and turn a blind eye to the injustices that African Americans face. Between false incarcerations, a whitewashing of recent history (redlining, the 13th amendment, etc.), and other systematic racism Africa Americans have suffered in America. Christians who call Christ Lord must move in a charity, love, and service in keeping with their Lord. This means acting and not only speaking about what must be done to promote change and healing.

Second, and intimately connected to the idea of Christ being the priority is that one must be filled with the Holy Spirit because “the Lord will have no servants in his Church without this qualification.”[5] While the Stone-Campbell Movement is not typically known as a charismatic movement the early days of Stone’s “Christian” movement was infused with the power of the Holy Spirit.[6] The Cane Ridge Revival saw thousands in attendance and many who came became converted and fell “as men slain in battle.”[7] Even in his autobiography Stone seems to recount with affection stories of those who received the presence of the Holy Spirit. For Stone, the power and need for the Holy Spirit was not just a sight to behold but the power to do the work of God and “penetrate the heart of the sinner.”[8]

The obvious question is how does the empowering of the Holy Spirit that Stone saw as essential relate to race relations in America? The answer is found, partly, in Galatians 5:22-25. In this passage, Paul writes that Christians are to have the fruit of the Spirit and that because of the Spirit they will put away the fleshly desires. The power of the Holy Spirit was essential in his day to help create a new person who was not capable of owning another human being and this is the same Spirit today who causes people to not be complacent while others suffer unjustly.

Thirdly one can take from example of Stone to not turn away from the pain of their fellow brother and sister when their distress is presented before them. Stone recounts in his autobiography that while on his way to Charleston he rested for a few days with a man and witnessed first-hand the condition of the slaves near him. He saw them chained, abused, lashed, and abused. This he states was the “exciting cause of my abandonment of slavery.”[9] When presented with the truth of how slaves were treated Stone chose not to look away but change the way he looked at the people in bondage.

How many times today do white Americans turn a blind eye to the injustices and suffering of African Americans. In the modern world, there is no shortage of news reports, social media posts, and other instant headlines that can awaken people the sufferings of their neighbors. Yet all too often it is easy to change the channel or keep scrolling and ignore the truth before us. Stone witnessed the oppression of slaves and it caused him to change his mind concerning the issue. Today people have the opportunity to learn and become educated about the issues facing their brothers and sisters, but all too often they chose to remain ignorant in the face of evil and oppression.

The idea of Christians should be at the forefront of the discussion regarding race relations is not a new idea. Stone was an ardent abolitionist and not only preached against the evils of slavery but as witnessed acted on his beliefs as well. In his own words, he was “ignorant of the means by which” it would be done but his lack of knowing the full answer did not stop him from persisting.[10] Christians should never allow not having all the answers stop them from calling out evil.

Looking outside Stone, the most vocal groups opposing slavery in the 1830s were religious groups.[11] It was those who studied the Scriptures, were devoted to Christ, filled with the Holy Spirit, and witnessed the evil that called out against it. While some in favor of slavery attempted to use the Bible to justify their position the truth was that “slavery in the Bible and slavery as it existed in the American South” were not the same thing. Biblical slavery was permitted but with limits while Southern slavery was barbaric. Neither has their place in a Christian world but one is far worse.

Today as mentioned we do not have legal slavery, but we do have other issues. African Americans have never been dealt a fair hand in America and while they have the same legal protection under the law they are marginalized and often regarded as second class citizens. They are arrested at higher rates, have higher conviction rates, and are often forced to take plea deals instead of fighting. The news shows how some African American males are killed by police during routine stops or questioning. This is not something that Christians devoted to Christ and filled with the Spirit should be ok with. This is not something that we should turn a blind eye too.

American Christians can take the example of Barton Stone and show their devotion to devotion to Christ by caring for those who are treated unfairly. It does not seem to be a far stretch to think that Stone would support the idea that black lives matter (not the organization but the idea and truth that black lives indeed matter and they have not always been seen as people who matter). That is not to suggest that he would attend a rally or anything of the like, but it does seem that he did in fact believe that black lives mattered which is why he argued for their freedom in the name of Christ.

Just a thought,

Mike

[1] David C. Roos, The Social Thought of Barton Warren Stone and It’s Significance Today for the Disciples of Christ in Western Kentucky, (DMin thesis, Vanderbilt Univ, 1973), 83.

[2] Douglas A. Foster, Paul M Blowers, Anthony L. Dunnavant, D. Newell Williams, “Stone, Barton W., Support for Colonization of Free Blacks and Move to Illinois,” The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement, (William B. Eerdmans Publ Co. Grand Rapids 2004), 717.

[3] Barton W. Stone, “Interview between an Old and Young Preacher.” Christian Messenger (Georgetown, KY), vol. 14, no. 2, June 1844, EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=h9j&AN=53341343&site=eds-live.

[4] D. Newell Williams, Douglas A. Foster, Paul M. Blowers, The Stone-Campbell Movement, A Global History, (Chalice Press; St Louis 2012), 14.

[5] Stone, Interview between an Old and Young Preacher.

[6] Stone-Campbell Movement hereafter referred to as SCM.

[7] Douglas A. Foster, Paul M Blowers, Anthony L. Dunnavant, D. Newell Williams, Cane Ridge Revival, 164.

[8] Stone, Interview between an Old and Young Preacher

[9] Voices from Cane Ridge, edited Rhodes Thompson, A Short History of the Life of Barton W. Stone
Written by Himself (1847), Barton Stone, 146.

[10] Barton W. Stone, “An Explanation, Christian Messenger,” 1835.

[11] Jonathan Olson, “Abolitionism and Antislavery.” Encyclopedia of Religion in America, edited by Charles H. Lippy and Peter W. Williams, vol. 1, (CQ Press, 2010, pp. 1-4). Gale eBooks, https://link-gale-com.elibrary.johnsonu.edu/apps/doc/CX1725800013/GVRL?u=tel_a_jbc&sid=GVRL&xid=32e45c8c. Accessed 19 June 2020.

The Image We Bear

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I like country music and there is one song by Jessica Andrews called Who I Am. In the song, she says she knows who she is, and even if she never sees the great things of the world or wins great accolades that is ok because she knows who she is. She then starts saying who she is. She is Rosemary’s granddaughter, she looks like her dad, her mommas her biggest fan. The point of the song is that she has a firm grasp on who she is so that determines how she lives and what she does.

I know that before Christ I looked like what I was. I was a sinner. I was selfish. I was only concerned with my own desires and wants. That is what I was. I had the nature of sin in me and I reflected that nature. I reflected Adam’s nature. Adam’s nature is one of sin. He was not made that way, but we all know what happened. Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit and sin and death entered the world. All of their children followed in their footsteps. Now some are worse than others, but we all carry around the propensity for sin. Without Christ, we look like our parents Adam and Eve. We bear their image. Before Christ, I looked like Adam. I did not know that, but I showed it well.

Now in Christ, I am new. I have been changed and made new. My life has been changed and the Bible says because of that, I should reflect Jesus. The question is, do I? When I was in Adam, I did not have to work at showing who I was it just happened. I could embrace it and show it more, but it was always there. However, in Christ, I have to work at it. I have to be conformed to His image. So, the question is, do I?

If I now bear the image of Christ do I show that when I am at Walmart, Sonic, the dentist, in traffic, in Social Media? Do I show the image of whose I am? In Adam, it just happened but in Christ, I must choose to show His image. After a while, it becomes easier and natural. It does not become second nature, but it becomes primary nature.

If I know who I am do others? Do they see that in me? If you belong to Jesus do you show it? Do others see it? Do you see it?

Just a thought,
Mike