Why Denominations Are a Good Thing

“Silly Catholics, don’t they know he’s not on that cross anymore?” I smugly thought to myself, when I noticed the crucifix up on the wall. I had just gotten to the room that would be my home for the next week. About 2005 or so, I took time off from work and went to a monastery to fast and pray for a week. It was an incredible time of closeness to God, but that’s another story.

Anyway, I had just gotten to my room, noticed the crucifix on the wall, and my protestant pride was showing. You see, we protestants use empty crosses, to emphasize Jesus’ resurrection. I thought my theological superiority was a no-brainer, but the Holy Spirit rebuked me sharply with three words.

“Don’t do that,” he said in my thoughts in his loving, but firm, way. He wasn’t being mean or anything, but he wasn’t going to stand for it. Over the years I’ve learned to discern the Holy Spirit’s voice, and this was definitely him.

I was shocked. “What are you talking about, Lord?”

Then the Holy Spirit gave me a download about denominations. The movie The Passion of the Christ had just come out. I loved that movie for a couple reasons. First, Hollywood refused to make it, and Mel Gibson had to go to Italy to make it with the Italian film industry. But most of all, I knew several back-slidden Christians who re-dedicated their lives to the Lord directly because of that movie, watching what Jesus went through for them. And it was an incredibly well-done, historically and spiritually accurate movie, IMHO.

The Holy Spirit told me, “Protestants could not have made that movie. You do not understand my suffering at the level that the Catholics do. Yes, you understand it, but I have given the Catholics a much deeper understanding of it than I’ve given Protestants. In the same way, I’ve given Protestants a deeper understanding of my resurrection than I’ve given to Catholics. They understand the resurrection too, but I’ve given you Protestants a deeper understanding of it.

“You see, Dave, I’m infinite. I am too big to be completely understood by any single group of finite human beings. So I’ve revealed different parts of myself more deeply to different denominations. You need to spend your time learning from each other, from the things they understand about me that you do not, rather than bickering with each other about what you understand that they do not.”

Wow. That rocked my world. I repented for my judgements in my heart toward Catholics, and even toward other Protestant denominations I have differences with.

Since then, regardless of what theological differences I have with certain groups, when I’m with them, I try to find what they understand about God that I don’t. And learn from them. I’m coming to appreciate crucifixes.

Now certainly there are a certain set of core beliefs, “the main and plain,” that you really can’t call yourself “Christian” without adhering to. Janet and my list is at the bottom of our About Us page. I’m taking it granted here we all agree on those basic tenants of Christianity.

But beyond that, I don’t think theological differences are necessarily a bad thing, as long as they don’t cause us to judge or break fellowship with each other. We can agree to disagree about certain things and that’s ok. But if we’re going to fellowship with each other side-by-side in heaven, why can’t we do so now?

One thing we love about volunteering at our local pro-life crisis pregnancy center is all the different people from all different denominations coming together in unity around a common mission—saving and transforming lives. It’s a reflection of the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth.

What do you think? Have you had experiences where other denominations blessed you when you weren’t expecting it? We’d love to hear that story in the comments or shoot us an email. And please share if you think this would bless someone else.

Generosity Trademarks the Kingdom of God

Jesus compared the Kingdom of God to the wind: “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8) His point was that, just like the wind, you can’t physically see the Kingdom of God, but you can see its effects. You can see the marks of where it’s been. I believe generosity is one of the key marks of the Kingdom of God.

As Christians, we should be the most generous people on the planet.

As Americans, as a country, we probably are. I don’t have exact figures (or any figures) in front of me, but I know our government, which is becoming less and less Christian all the time, still gives away billions of dollars in foreign aid every year. America is one of the most, if not the most, generous countries on the planet. This is the mark of a country that was founded on Kingdom of God principles.

And it’s not just the government. Some of the most effective aid organizations in the world were founded by and are run by American private citizens. Crisis Response International (my personal favorite), Not for Sale, Mercy Ships, Goodwill, The United Way, just to name a few, are amazingly effective charitable organizations providing help across the world where it’s needed most. They provide dollars, medical supplies and services, food, rescue, and labor for rebuilding after disasters (not to mention the Gospel). They have their roots in the Kingdom of God and their generosity is making lasting impacts around the world.

That’s great, but what about the rest of us? Can we be generous right here at home, every day?

I think we can. For example, waiters and waitresses should be fighting to work Sunday afternoons, when the Christians come for lunch after church. We should be the biggest tippers on the planet. (If you’re in the restaurant industry, please leave a comment about whether this is so or not.) A standard tip is 18%. I tip at least 20%, honestly because the math is easier, not because I’m being generous. I compute 10% in my head by moving the bill’s decimal point, double it, and round up. I’m working on tipping 30%, because I want to be generous. It’s hard though, because it gets expensive. Generosity is sacrificial, that’s why it marks the presence of the Kingdom of God.

Janet and I recently experienced an amazing weekend of generosity. We went to a writer’s conference, Tribe Conference 2017, in Franklin, TN, just south of Nashville, that exemplified this concept. Tribe Writers is a program founded and run by best-selling author Jeff Goins that teaches creatives how to get their message out there (and make a living at it) in this amazing new digital renaissance we’re living in. This was the first time Janet and I attended the annual conference.

What an amazing experience! I’ve been to lots of professional and personal conferences, and I can honestly say Tribe Conference 2017 was the most generous conference I have ever been to.

Every single speaker (and breakout session leader) gave away something of value. Not just run-of-the-will lead-magnets that you expect to give away, but premium products either free or at significant discounts. Some made exclusive content just for the conference attendees on hidden pages on their websites. Their generosity was really overwhelming.

Mr. Goins brought a young writer, Natalie Brenner, on the stage to tell the story of getting her book, This Undeserved Life, published. It’s her story about how God shows up in the middle of grief. Her book gives Christians permission to grieve, which is really important because unfortunately I know stories when the church has not.

The book just recently came out, and she’d sold a few hundred copies. Mr. Goins asked everyone there to buy her book, on the spot, which practically all of us did (Janet and I bought two). He doubled her book sales in 60 seconds, and put her on track to becoming a best-selling author. It was definitely a class act. He didn’t have to do that. She certainly didn’t expect it and was floored. It was a blessing to watch the effects of unexpected generosity.

(Yes, the link he gave us to buy the book was an affiliate link, meaning he got a small commission. But those proceeds were used to buy Natalie’s book for anyone in the room who couldn’t afford it, so he funneled it back into book sales for her.)

This was not a Christian conference. It was about writing, marketing, and platform building. But the generosity of the team, the speakers, Mr. Goins himself, and the attendees during the conference was unbelievable. Everyone, speakers and attendees, would stop to give you personal help on wherever you were stuck—the technology, the writing, whatever. Although not overtly Christian, it was obvious that many are Christians, because their generosity overflowed. The mark of the Kingdom of God.

Disclaimer: Janet and I are in the Tribe Writers Pro program, a mastermind group that has helped us significantly in building our platform. However, none of the links in this post are affiliate links. We’re getting no monetary value from telling you about Tribe 2017. It’s just our most recent example of seeing unexpected generosity in action. It was really an amazing experience seeing Kingdom of God principles play out in the marketplace.

The big take-away here is this. Their over-the-top generosity made us want to go again next year. We were proud to be part of such a giving community. Everyone wants to hang out with generous people. Generosity makes the gospel attractive. People may argue with your theology, but they can’t argue with the help or the undeserved kindness you’ve given them. It’s why Jesus said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)

Generosity is love with skin on it.

What about you? Have you benefitted from extreme generosity? Have you given it? How can we be generous in the everyday stuff? Tell us the story in the comments or shoot us an email. And please share on social media if you think this post would bless someone else.

Wonderfully Disruptive Spiritual Technology

I have a friend who had a dream. People were standing in lines waiting to go somewhere, or get into something. Many lines, straight and orderly. Very polite, very systematic. But then some people came along who created quite a disturbance by pulling people out of the lines. They were very adamant about convincing people to get out of the lines. It really upset the systematic flow of things, and made many people in the lines very angry.

The people causing the disturbance were Christians. Because at the front of the lines, where everyone in line was waiting to get to, were demons throwing people off a cliff into hell. Some Christians were snatching people out of the demon’s hands as they were throwing them over the cliff. Some Christians were even diving off the cliff after people. The Christians were creating quite a disruption to the nice, neat system. They broke it.

The Kingdom of God is like that. It’s disruptive. It upsets the apple cart wherever it goes.

Remember when AOL owned the Internet? We’d all sit for 5 minutes waiting to get online, listening to modem tones, and were happy if the program didn’t have to redial. AOL was the best dial-up Internet service provider in the world. They owned it. Nothing could de-throne them. Except a different technology. DSL and then cable came along, and AOL was dead in a few years.

Remember when we all had landline phones in our houses? I grew up with an egg timer next to the house phone, so we could limit long-distance calls to 3 minutes. Then came cell phones. Now most people no longer have landlines, and many young adults don’t know what “long-distance” even means.

How about TV? ABC, NBC, and CBS used to be the kings. Now they’re all paupers vying for crumbs from the tables of Netflix and Apple TV. New technology changes everything.

Look at how Amazon’s revolutionizing the retail markets. They’ve crushed the brick ‘n’ mortar bookstores and other retail markets. Cyber-Monday is majorly eclipsing Black Friday. And now they’re going after supermarkets. Enjoy Giant and Safeway while you can—here comes Amazon Fresh.

None of that is bad. It’s actually hugely better. I, for one, don’t miss modem tones one little bit. I love my iPhone. And I’m looking forward to Amazon Fresh delivering my groceries to my door in a few years with a drone. It’s just what happens naturally when new technology changes everything.

The Kingdom of God is like that. It changes everything wherever it goes. The old spiritual technology is called religion. The new, disruptive spiritual technology is the Kingdom of God. It overturns the religious apple cart wherever it goes. Literally. Jesus actually physically flipped over the religious tables in the temple (see John 2:13-16 and Matthew 21:12-13).

If you dare to believe Jesus and chase the passion he’s put on your heart, it will change everything. People will think you’re crazy, but you’ll be in God’s immediate family (Matthew 12:46-50). You’ll find yourself in a perfect storm, but Jesus calms the storm (Mark 4:35-39). You’ll get attacked by poisonous snakes, we all know them, but they will have no power over you (Acts 28:3-6). A thousand will fall at your side and ten thousand at your right hand, but it won’t come near you (Psalm 91:7). Quite the adventure!

I am transitioning from a very stable, 30-year career as a successful software engineer to a risky future as an author, blogger, life coach, and online content provider. Am I nuts or what? But I can’t let go of this passion to share with the world the healing God’s given me.

How about you? How has God disrupted your life? Share it with us in the comments or an email. And if you think this would bless or challenge someone else, please share it on social media (convenience buttons below).