Understanding Acceptance

Is God misunderstood or simply misrepresented?

Christians seem to be becoming increasingly judgmental and reclusive, narrowing the number of people they deem worthy of love and acceptance. If we use the bible as a license to condemn others, than we truly do not understand the words and teachings of Christ.

Jesus came to pay the price for sin. His sacrifice satisfied Gods anger towards mankind and made us all the eternal focus of HIS love, grace and mercy.

If we understand God, than we love. If we do not love someone because of our differences, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or whatever the excuse, than we simply don’t understand the nature of God. If we claim to be Christians and refuse to love, then we are misrepresenting God. We learn early in our faith that God loved the world and that that’s why he sent his son.

What part of Gods world are you willing to love? Will you represent God? Will your character be loving or unloving? Will you drop the excuses for your prejudice? We can all find reasons to be fearful, especially with things we don’t understand, but can we decide to love and accept those that do not fit in our ideological view of God and the world?

We have to stop defending our right to be prejudice, in the name of God. And find reasons to show the love of God to our fellow man.

– K

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Ken speaks weekly at Spirit Life Church.

We Need One Another

John 15:4
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.

In this passage, we find Jesus talking about His ability to bring life and fruitfulness to all who abide in Him. He speaks of the Father being the husbandman and Himself, the vine. Just as He has total dependency on the Father, we must have total dependency on Him to complete us, if we wish to bear fruit. In other words, we cannot truly succeed alone.

In Genesis God said it is not good for man to be alone. The Father is literally telling us that being alone is bad for our future progress and growth. This statement is not just related to marriage but encompasses the need for healthy relationships in all areas of life. We thrive as a part of something beyond ourselves. Without God, we are dead in trespass and sin. Without each other, we suffer a lonely existence void of celebration and community. To experience life in its fullest expression, we truly need one another.

I have recognized the great value of cultivating healthy relationships time after time in my own life. They help us through difficult times, and they offer a venue to share our joy communally through great times. There is nothing like partnering with people to share life!

In light of this deeply-ingrained need for one another, how should we look at being part of a local assembly? Our place in the corporate context of other believers is vitally important because it’s the only plan God made for our fellowship with each other. If we hope to be fruitful and successful in life, we must learn to work together. There is no escaping the great expectation God has for all believers to coordinate our efforts and learn to bear fruit as a unit, and not just individually.

Over the last few decades, there has been a shift toward idol worship, super-stardom and covetousness throughout the world. Whether in sports, music, television or ministry, there seems to be a longing for the spotlight to validate and authenticate our actions. The concept of team building is being cast by the wayside and the art of networking has become altogether selfish.

Jesus related the Kingdom to a man who cast a net into the sea. If we play with this concept a little we can see the Kingdom rests in the hands of Jesus, and we are the net (or network) being cast in order to bring about a harvest of souls. The net must be whole, complete and strong for maximum impact—the harvest is lost when there are tears and gaps.

The same concept works in our lives individually. We need power relationships and a local assembly to work alongside other believers. Without this structure in place, our results will be greatly limited. We can achieve a level of success individually, but we will never realize the God potential that comes with the corporate dynamic.

In the coming holiday season, find the time to evaluate your value on the various teams you find yourself in. As a parent, sibling, co-worker, parishioner, etc., do you bring what is necessary to bless and support others, or would things work out the same without you? Now is the time we as believers must be willing to engage ourselves! Let this season be a time of transition from self-centered thinking that says “what about me,” and find your refreshing in how you can bring value to the teams you’re on.

If you don’t have strong relationships, a thriving personal network and a place to serve, my prayer is you will not rest until those areas of your life are whole and functional.

– Ps. Ken

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Ken can be found each week at Spirit Life Church in Piqua, Ohio. Visit the website to check out his sermons and/or learn more about Spirit Life.

Church Unity

There are many books written on the topic and in fact, much of what we read in the New Testament deals with the harmony between the brethren. We are instructed to love, pray for and even serve one another. Though this seems simple enough in theory, the practical application is much harder. Still, maintaining relational, theological and even philosophical unity is imperative to be successful in working together to fulfill God’s great commission. We don’t have to universally agree, but there is a set of unanimity that must be preserved in order for a church to walk together and build together. Unity is the most important asset for a team and must be preserved at all costs! When there is disunity, it must be dealt with. This brings about the question of church discipline and how it should be administered.

Church discipline is an ecclesiastical function that is mandated by the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:19-20. This responsibility was given originally to the Apostles and continues today, falling upon the shoulders of Senior Elders.

This come under the doctrine of spiritual authority. I am not exempting eldership from correction and I do not believe that true spiritual authority creates hierarchies and citizenship structures—the catch with true spiritual authority is that it cannot be exercised beyond a believers willingness to receive it. There is no physical infrastructure to enforce the authority of God’s word like there is with the laws of this nation via the police and the criminal justice system. Whether or not a resolution takes place is up to the individual’s willingness to receive from the leader.

The Purpose of Church Discipline

First, church discipline should seek the restoration and reconciliation of the believer who is going astray. Going astray doesn’t necessarily mean open sin, though it absolutely applies to sinfulness. It can boil down to believers with inappropriate motives and bad attitudes that can affect and infect the entire church if it is not dealt with. As a shepherd this cannot and will not be tolerated. As I already stated, unity is the single greatest asset a group or team can possess and we must protect it.

There is always room for dissent and disagreement in our church but we must go about resolving these issues in a Biblical, loving manner. The good news is that if this is the focus of our actions, most issues can be handled easily. If we have a loving, trusting relationship there shouldn’t be anything we can’t work through! The bad news is that if this isn’t carried out, disagreements and misunderstandings can become toxic and spread to others, provoking offense and hurt feelings that really should never have arisen.

Revelation 12:10 exposes Satan as the accuser of the brethren and I believe it is accusation, not temptation, that is his most potent weapon against us. Satan accuses us and he accuses others in our minds. In no time at all a simple difference of opinion can escalate to full fledged bitterness. Instead of trying to reconcile we find ourselves building a mental case against a friend or leader, preparing for some kind of impending show-down and recruiting alliances across the group. The bottom line is that it never has to go this far and if we could step back from a situation and carry ourselves like mature believers, it wouldn’t!

And so, church discipline cannot be ignored. It must be undertaken in love, but undertaken nonetheless. Frustration, offense and bitterness are all signs of a troubled soul that left unattended, have the potential to do great harm to the unity of a local assembly, potentially even leading the individuals into sin. I know of no ministry that enjoys this particular function of the priesthood, but it is an integral part of spiritual growth. In order to have a Godly church there must be a standard upheld by the entire local assembly. There must be a willingness to seek God and an openness to redirection when necessary.

The Theology of Church Discipline

1) When conflict or sin has come between people, the goal is repentance and reconciliation, along with recompense, if needed.

2) Church leadership must be committed to the reputation of the Gospel and the well-being of the entire church, not just the interests of the individuals who are disgruntled or sinful.

3) Such matters in the church are entrusted to Christian leadership, namely the elders of a local assembly. Leaders must be careful not to abuse in any way the responsibility to oversee the unity of a fellowship of believers. In some situations there may arise an impasse, where people reject the counsel of leadership. This is a situation that must be followed by quick repentance and heart-change in order to preserve fellowship. Open discord is the antithesis of church unity and cannot be allowed to persist if the integrity of the work of God in that local church is to be maintained.

4) Discipline is never pleasant but the finished work will be a unified group of holy people, distinguished clearly from the world by possessing the heart of Christ.

5) For the truth to emerge, the elders must hear firsthand reports from all sides in the dispute before a decision can be reached.

6) Witnesses should be present in any dispute but the most important person to have present, is the one you’re offended with. If you’re qualm is with Brother Jones, why would you talk to Sister Clara about it? Grab a leader, sit down with Brother Jones and work it out! Our shared faith creates this enormous common ground upon which to build a solution—it pains me that we so often turn to school yard antics in the face of conflict.

7) The fellowship of the church is commanded by scripture. God’s people must be reminded that unrepentant sin and unnecessary division are unacceptable to a Holy God. We must look at sin—our own sin and that of others—in the light of God’s grace, forgiving one another and committing to allow Him to help us all grow.

Scripture references: Romans 16:17-18, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15, 1 Corinthians 5:13, 1 Corinthians 14:40, 2 Corinthians 2:7, Revelation 2:2, 1 Peter 5:1-5, Hebrews 12:11, Proverbs 16:32, Proverbs 17:27, Acts 15, 2 Timothy 2:14-26, 2 Timothy 1:4-7; 2 Timothy 4:1-8.

Everyone has a choice regarding where they will attend church and with which local assembly they will serve. If the place you serving is not to your liking or you do not respect and trust the leadership, by all means exercise your free will and move on, but don’t allow the enemy to cause you to become an accuser. We only have a short time to labor.

– Ps. Ken

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Ken is the pastor of Spirit Life Church in Piqua, Ohio. Check out the church website for sermons and more!

A letter for 2013 from Pastor Ken

An open letter from Ps. Ken for 2013:

I believe this coming year will be one of the most significant in the history of our church. 2013 brings with it as much excitement and promise as any of the past decade, and the opportunities available to us for ministry, and in the marketplace, are unprecedented!

Hard-times and difficulties of the past few years are yielding to opportunity and growth. This shift is taking place now—not sometime next year or here after a while—pursue your new business idea and embrace your wildest dreams because this is a year of divine favor.

Through careful planning and deliberate change, Spirit Life Church has evolved steadily throughout the last year in a meaningful direction. Our departments have gained renewed purpose and direction, and continue to align towards a single, united set of goals.

We must continue the constant evaluation and adaptation of our organization if we hope to take advantage of the favor of the coming year. Though it is there for you to take, success requires diligent effort and careful planning.

Now more than ever our actions must be deliberate and the commitment we make to our responsibilities must be paramount. No doubt we are up for the challenge.

Hebrews 6:11
We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized.

Start preparing, planning and executing towards your goals because they are yours to take in 2013.

Together we achieve greatness.

– Ps. Ken

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Ken VanHoose is pastor at Spirit Life Church in Piqua. Visit the Spirit Life website to listen to his messages online.

A letter for 2012 from Pastor Ken

An open letter from Ps. Ken for 2012:

Dear Spirit Life Community,

The New Year never ceases to bring with it a sense of hope and the feeling that what lies before us is filled with God-provisioned opportunities and possibility. My prayer and earnest belief is that this will prove to be especially true of the coming year—the winds of change are blowing and I’m more excited about our future together than ever!

The shift in the dynamic of our church’s culture that began taking root last year will flourish in 2012, ushering in a renaissance of ideas and strategies, building servant leaders, renewing our sense of corporate purpose and fueling the drive towards our mission.

I believe our community is at a critical mass of believers who, like myself, insist the season of saint-oriented church is over. The time for church politics is over. Our new mantra is culture and building the sort of New Testament community we’re striving to become will require a great collective of effort and cooperation.

1 Corinthians 12:12
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.” 1 Corinthians 12:12

Over the coming months our departments and ministries will continue to be evaluated and purposeful, poignant reforms will follow. Too often we continue the status quo in perpetuity for no good reason—this is mental laziness at best and narrow-mindedness at worst.

Change is never easy but I believe we are up to the challenge! Focus on the big picture in 2012 and let the wisdom of God order your actions accordingly. Each person that supports this community financially or through serving in a department is vitally important to our success. Know that your sacrifice is not overlooked or under-appreciated.

Together we achieve greatness.

– Ps. Ken

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Ken is the pastor of Spirit Life Church in Piqua, Ohio. Visit the Spirit Life Church website to learn more about Ps. Ken and listen to his messages online.

That Which We Are, We Shall Teach pt. 2

This is part two of a guest blog series from Julie VanHoose. Read part 1 here.

1 Corinthians 12:12:
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.

What you celebrate becomes your culture.

In our families, our work place and everywhere else, we have the power to set the pace of culture with our thoughts and actions whether we care to acknowledge it or not. What do we celebrate corporately?

We should be striving to celebrate what God is emphasizing right now. Can we move passed the star-studded, “what’s my gift” 1990s, or are we so short sighted that we fail to see the power of coordinated, corporate effort? It seems like most of us consider our service to the local church community a chore—we come in once a week and do our penance, all while exerting as little effort as possible.

Rather than working to build a new testament community, we focus on socializing with our clique and where we’ll go to lunch afterwards. Has the great commission been overlooked and under taught?

I believe we are coming into a season where each hand, even each finger, are vitally important to the mission. The season that is coming will require the formation of functional teams, exalting ideas rather than amazing stars and great voices, and celebrating the wonderful uniqueness God has instilled in all of His creation!

I envision a local community that sacrifices and succeeds together. An elaborate tapestry of talented individuals possessing a culture that is teeming with innovative ideas and synergistic potential, allowing us to take the message of the gospel to unbelievers in a fresh, new and relevant way!

Get on board, challenge your old ways of thinking and embrace change! Together we can accomplish much!

– Julie

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Julie is the wife of Ken VanHoose, senior pastor at Spirit Life Church. Visit the Spirit Life Church website to learn more about Spirit Life Church.