People of Like Faith

Christianity can be extremely difficult to understand for those in the church and outside the church. There are so many streams of doctrine, liturgy, denominations, personal experience and the crazy thing about all it is, everyone thinks their truth reigns supreme. Instead of accepting men and women in the faith as brothers and sisters, we spend time arguing with each other.

I have to believe the Holy Spirit helps us all. Jesus said no one could reach the father except through him. Have you ever considered if there are many ways to Jesus? Could a loving God grade so harshly? Could he leave no margin for grace? Will everyone who doesn’t believe like us be separate from God? The Bible says the voice of God is like many waters. Does that mean God speaks to people in different ways, times and places?

And behold, the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the way of the east. And His voice was like the sound of many waters; and the earth shone with His glory.
1 Peter 1:1

Christianity needs to take a long look at our history. Mistakes made, human rights violations and a host of atrocities carried out in the name Christ. We have been divided so long we don’t know how to respect and love one another.

The first thing we do when meeting someone of faith, is to find out what stream they’re in. Things such as how we baptize, gifts of the spirit, sacraments, observances, rituals and whatever else. In the eyes of the unchurched, it must appear as though no one knows whats up.

Catholics observe lent, Protestants ask why? Pentecostals speak in tongues, baptist don’t believe that’s of God. Well I guess that depends on what type baptist. Lets see, 1st, 2nd, freewill, hardshell, united, southern, independent and whole host of others. These are just a few of the baptist organizations. Not picking on the baptist. Many church movements look the same.

The bottom line, God is sovereign and just. Not according to our traditions, Ideology or personal beliefs.

REMEMBER PERSONAL CONVICTIONS ARE PRIVATE PROPERTY!

Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ
1 Peter 1:1

– KV

Being Human

I remember when I was young Lynard Skynard recorded the song give me back my bullets, put em back where they belong. I knew the words but not the meaning of them. Now at 51 I’m just beginning to get what Ronnie must have been feeling when he sang that tune.

Life can be a real challenge. Sometimes it seems as though it’s more trouble than it’s worth. To many days to count I’ve thought I don’t want to be in this world anymore. The hard part is not dying that’s easy, the hard part is living…

Like everyone I’ve had big dreams, you know the kind that transcends the place your standing and drops you off somewhere really special. It seems like time and circumstance have a way to pound those dreams out of you. We begin to settle for a life much different than we had anticipated.

Everyone likes to think that their a good person and people love and respect them in spite of their humanity. Well, welcome to the real world. I’ve learned you can’t do enough good to make up for all the hell you’ve created, at least in the eyes of some people. The self righteous “Christians” who fill the world with their judgmentalism and lack of human compassion, all in the name of Jesus.

I have tried to give grace and mercy to everyone I meet. I don’t want to judge anyone because I’m not God…..for the record I’m not the devil either. Maybe you should ask my family about the devil thing they might have a different opinion. If you truly want to know someone don’t ask their co-workers or friends, ask the wives and husbands, the children and family. We can all put on a good show for the select few. At the end of the day our real friends and family know the real you.

To sum this epistle up, I don’t share posts to get a following or build a support base. The simplicity of it all, I would like to think I can do a little good and relieve some of the internal pain and shame that I feel 24/7. I don’t mind when people judge me and say whatever they have to say, I’m grown, I can take it. What grieves my soul beyond measure is when people attack me and it causes my family to come to my defense.

Someone told me the other day, you ain’t nothing but a drunk… for the record, I’ve struggled with alcohol addiction for years. Some years I win and some I lose. To clear everything up, I’m not just a drunk, I’m a father, husband, brother, uncle, cousin and a person who loves people and hates himself at the same time.

If people want to try and destroy me because of my issues, I guess I have it coming. What I cannot live with is people who are so ugly and say incredibility mean things, never considering those that will be affected. We live in a very different time, I loved the little place I grew up in. The people and community, the lives shared and the roads traveled. The world has become a very different place…..the Internet and Facebook give people an audience for their bullshit…

Give me back my bullets, put em back where they belong…

If I go , it will be by my own hand not by another. Everyone who thinks they have ammunition to hurt me with….I just went public with my struggles, so if that doesn’t make some of the haters back off…than I guess you can kiss my corn bread eatin’ hillbilly ass…

If you find this offensive I guess just unfriend me because were not friends to begin with!

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.

That Which We Are, We Shall Teach

Ralph Waldo Emerson:
That which we are, we shall teach, not voluntarily, but involuntarily.

How were you raised? Were you brought up in a church that literally “scared the hell” out of you, leaving you with fear every night that you might not make it in? Did it seem like every little bit of fun you had was going to cost you big, eternally?

Unlike my husband, I wasn’t raised in church. I was, however, raised in an area with a high percentage of church attendance. It only makes sense that this led to me being a little afraid and occasionally trying to make deals with God for something.

Since I became a Christian in my early twenties, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend among believers—the ones who were raised in church and should have a deep-rooted sense of Christ’s love, His sacrifice and the resulting justification, simply don’t. The very people who should recognize our God as the loving Heavenly Father He is, seem to be even more scared and condemned than I was as a little girl. It seems those who have been churched the longest, are the very ones who have the most trouble with fear and unrest.

Matthew 11:30, NIV:
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

My experience with Christ was entirely different than that of these believers. I came to Jesus a sinner, broken and when I discovered the liberty Christ offered, my burden truly was lifted! My condemnation was gone the moment I accepted Jesus and that’s where it stayed.

Are we collectively carrying the burden of Christ or are we aspiring to be like some man on a platform we admire? I’m afraid some of us are as bad off as if we were lost, looking to something other than Christ to satisfy our soul.

We are often quick to condemn the lost. We judge their every movement. Rather than being attractive like Jesus, we are condemning and judgmental and sometimes even scary. The condemnation and fear that was taught involuntarily, to so many of the Christians I know in their childhood, is now being transferred to all who come into contact with them voluntarily. It is tarnishing our interactions with the lost and our relationship with Him.

Do we care about the Great commission and our individual part in it? Do we notice the needs and wonderful Christ likeness around us in the church or are we so put off by change or people we don’t understand, that we ignore the lost and dying we run into every day?

What would it look like for a church to work through the concept of
1 Corinthians 12:15-31?

We are all necessary. The fields are white with harvest.

– 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.

Building a Culture

Culture is the shared set of attitudes, values, goals and practices that characterizes a group of people. Every group of people has a unique culture. In the corporate world, companies spend millions of dollars and work tirelessly at establishing a culture that helps them meet their goals, organizing teams around a common mission and shared set of values.

In the religious community, we think changing up our dress codes and removing some of the old hymns makes us progressive or relevant in some superficial way. We focus on revising the most trivial aspects of our church cultures and hope that somehow this will trick the world into embracing us. However, simply modifying our dress or updating our music will never establish the kind of culture that produces fruit and changes lives.

Most churches I’m families with have great faith for a harvest of souls but little understanding of the the culture they are seeking to impact. We have been so fearful of becoming “worldly” that we have no idea of how to reach anyone beyond our little niches. Despite this trend among contemporary Christians, the most culturally relevant person in human history was without a doubt Jesus Christ.

He understood His target audience. His message was incredibly effective and accessible to large crowds and small groups alike. He could speak to the hearts of anyone He came across—from prostitutes to tax collectors or the sick in body, there was no one He couldn’t minister to. Though Christ in no way condoned their behavior, He never made them feel uncomfortable in His presence.

In fact, the only people who didn’t receive Him was His own. The religious community gave him trouble on every level. He was the Messiah, the change agent the earth was waiting on, but they never accepted Him because He didn’t look anything like what they expected.

So often people rally around the idea of change. The concept of change is applauded but implementation is often met with entirely different emotions. The Jews wouldn’t have had a problem with Jesus if He could have conformed to their ideology and tradition—this is an example of a rigid culture standing in the way of purpose and plans of God.

Culture shock is something we understand from the stand point of the differences between geographic regions—the culture in African countries differs radically from the culture in America and adjusting to a markedly different culture often provokes unpleasant emotions and anxiety. The real question becomes is this the reason people in the church community are so afraid to deviate from their tradition and liturgy? Maybe it’s about preserving our comfort and predictability.

I don’t understand all of the apprehensions Christians have to change but one thing is certain, fundamental changes to church culture must come if Christianity is to remain the religion of this nation. Although the great reformers of history came from England, now England, and the rest of Europe, is post-Christian. The city of London is experiencing an explosion of Muslim followers, building thousands of mosques to accommodate this growth. You might believe such a shift could never happen in this nation, but I’m certain Spurgeon and Wesley thought the same of England not long ago.

We must being willing to allow God the opportunity to speak to us all concerning how He wants His church to function in contemporary culture. What is clear is that church has to be more than singing, preaching and offerings—the maintenance of the saints can no longer be our primary objective. While this is part of the local assembly’s role, we cannot allow pursuing the comfort of the saints trump our work on the Great Commission.

Why shouldn’t we change, with purpose, to better reach the lost? We know who it is we are to reach, so why can’t we reach them? If we truly understood our target audience as Jesus understood His, we would get the same results. After all, it is His church and He set the ultimate example we should follow.

Taking the gospel to the lost in an effective, relevant way should be our greatest goal. To do it, we have to build a strong culture in our churches that places connecting the lost with Christ as a greater priority than entertaining the saints. Part of my commitment this year is to build a culture in our church that is conducive to carrying out the great commission, energizing the saints and organizing our efforts to reach the lost.

Over the coming weeks, I’ll introduce the core values that will anchor our culture to this mission. The first of these values is we don’t save seats. To create a culture that emphasizes the lost, we must be more concerned with the people we are trying to reach than the people we are trying to keep.

– Ps. Ken

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Ken is senior pastor at Spirit Life Church. Listen to his messages online at the Spirit Life Church website.

His Love Answers All

In this series of blogs from 1 John 4:7-21, we have already observed several wonderful facts concerning God and His love for us. In this blog, I’d like to take a moment to outline a few more truths that will help us to identify God in all things at all times, for His love is the answer to all of our human problems, struggles and questions.

Acts 14:15-17, NKJV:
And saying, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them, 16 who in bygone generations allowed all nations to walk in their own ways. 17 Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.”

1) His love explains creation.

Everyone has wondered why God created the world at one point or another. Why did He create us? Does the earth testify to the existence of God or are we here by chance?

If God is love, He cannot exist in lonely isolation—He must have someone to love and someone to love what He has made. Acts 14:15-17 speaks of all God made from Heaven and Earth to the sea and all that’s in it. When He created, He wasn’t willing to leave us without a proper witness to His handiwork. This is why there is a natural theology where all that God has done testifies to His great love for us.

2) It explains free will.

In order for love to be genuine, it must be freely given and freely received. If God was only law then He would have made the world to obey, like robots, responding without genuine feelings. But where is the love in that? By definition, love has got to be a free response that comes from the heart.

So God, as a deliberate act of self-limitation, made man with a freewill, so we could freely choose to love Him, as an autonomous response to the fact that He first loved us. We can’t help ourselves as it relates to salvation because we were all dead in trespass and sin—we can, however, respond to the love of God when we hear the gospel message. This is the only way God could have a true, loving relationship with His creation.

3) It explains His providence.

God plays an active role in the administration of the earth. He takes pleasure in the lives of people and the care of all created things. This is so much better than the deistic view of a God who exists on autopilot, not giving care or attention to His creation! People seek to indict God by pointing to the bad or evil in the earth, but remember God is not capable of evil—all good and perfect things come from above. Believers can trust in the providence of God and that He takes care of all that belongs to Him.

4) It explains redemption.

If God were only concerned with law and justice, He would have left us to ourselves, resulting in the consequences of sin crashing down on us. Jesus would have stayed in Heaven and we would die in our sin and be eternally separated from Him.

Thank God for redemption! Because God is love, He came to seek out the lost and offer salvation. He provided the remedy for sin, redemption.

5) And, God’s love explains eternal life.

If you’ve ever lost a loved one, you understand how difficult it can be to imagine life without them. If God were simply a creator, then the fate for men would be death. All created things would cease and God would, again, be in isolation. But thankfully, because of His love, God has offered us the gift of eternal life through the sacrifice of His son, Jesus Christ.

To all who have accepted this sacrifice, physical death is merely a doorway into His eternal presence.

For me, it truly is God’s love that causes things to make sense. So many of the questions that trouble us fade away when we shift our focus towards the love of God and embrace a relationship with Him. I hope something I’ve written here will help make sense of something for you too.

– Ps. Ken

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Ken is senior pastor at Spirit Life Church. Listen to his messages online at the Spirit Life Church website.

Choose Love

1 John 4:12, KJV:
No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.

From 1 John 4:12, we learn it is by love that God is known. Although we can’t see wind or electricity, we are able to see the their effects. God is a spirit, so we cannot see Him physically, but as with the forces of wind and electricity, we are able to see God’s effect, which is love.

When the spirit of God enters into a person, he is clothed with the love of God and God is made known in the earth by this effect on that individual’s life. The best demonstration of God is not established by argument, but from a life filled with the love of Christ.

1 John 4:9, KJV:
In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.

The full manifestation of God’s perfect love was demonstrated by His gift to humanity, Jesus Christ. With this in mind we can quickly glean two important truths about the love of God:

1) God’s love holds nothing back.

2) God’s love is totally undeserved.

The Bible says He has blessed us with all spiritual blessing in heavenly places. In fact, His love was so overwhelming that He was willing to give His only son as a sacrifice for us—an unimaginable sacrifice beyond all human comprehension.

After all His blessing, it really would make sense for us to love God, but the truly amazing thing is that even if we don’t, He still loves us! That’s right, God even loves those who are disobedient and don’t love Him back. When there was nothing good about us, He directed His love towards humanity—a love that was totally undeserved.

So Human love is fundamentally a response to the divine love of God. In other words, we love God because God loved us first. Without this arrangement, we couldn’t truly love at all because it’s in His love that we gain the choice to love. Very simply, the love of God and the love of man are inextricably linked to each other. As C.H. Dodd finely put it, “The energy of love discharges itself along the lines which form a triangle, whose points are God, self and neighbor.” When we claim the love of God for ourselves, we are equally bound to love one another because the only proof we love God, is that we also love our neighbor.

Like so many things in life, this is easier said than done. Some folks are hard to like, let alone love. It’s difficult to love someone who lies to, abuses or mistreats you, yet when Jesus experienced these same crimes, He still managed to choose love every time. For a believer indwelt by God’s spirit, there is a choice.

The next time you’re faced with an offensive situation, you can choose offense, anger and bitterness, but I encourage you to choose love. It’s not only the best choice, it’s God’s choice. I’ve found that when I do, He honors my decision with great peace and makes my enemies my friends.

Because I chose Christ, I also choose love.

– Ps. Ken

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Ken VanHoose is senior pastor at Spirit Life Church in Piqua, Ohio. You can listen to his messages online at the Spirit Life Church website.

All We Need is Love

With the recent tragedies in Bellefontaine fresh on the minds of our community and the nation, I’ve given a great deal of thought to the unnecessary and increasing violence in the world. The violence isn’t limited to the grand-scale evil perpetrated by men such as Moammar Kadafi or Osama bin Laden, there seems to be a pervasive hatred towards our fellow man on every level. When our senior citizens, schools and universities are repeatedly victim to pre-meditated violence and mayhem, it would seem that we are in desperate need of some love!

When the Beatles were asked to come up with a simple song that all nationalities could understand, John Lennon wrote “All You Need is Love.” Later, when an interviewer suggested “Give Peace a Change” and “Power to the People” were propaganda songs, Lennon answered, “Sure. So was ‘All You Need Is Love.’ I’m a revolutionary artist. My art is dedicated to change.”

Interestingly enough, the concept was not the product of a young revolutionary from Liverpool. The message was first heralded two thousand years earlier, by a revolutionary from Bethlehem, the greatest reformer of all.

Luke 10:27, KJV:
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself.

Some of the most powerful words in scripture about God are found in 1 John 4:7-21. In his first of three epistles, John gives us some incredible perception into the nature and character of God. This passage is so rich with insight about God, that I’m going to dissect it over my next several blogs.

1 John 4:7-8, KJV:
Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God; and everyone that loves is of God, and knows God. He that loves not knows not God; for God is love.

Love has it’s origin in God because it is from Him that all love finds it’s source. Chapter one of Genesis teaches us that we are made in the likeness and image of God, so human love is simply a reflection of something found in the divine nature of God. We must love, if we want to be like Him, because He is love.

The love Jesus taught not only emphasized our need to love God, but also our obligation to love one another—He even commanded us to love our enemies. Theologians regard this radical love we strive to walk in as the ultimate goal of moral perfection. According to the Apostle Paul, even our faith works by love, so it’s not just a divine mandate, it is the very fuel that drives our lives into the gracious presence of the Lord!

How are we measuring up to the standard of love that God desires from us—the standard of love demonstrated by Jesus? While no one can live up to this standard all the time, despite our human weakness, all of us have the capacity to love more perfectly. It’s an acquired taste, so taste and see the Lord is good! If loving God leads to knowing God, loving one another must lead to knowing one another, creating real, Biblical community that overcomes the hate and violence of the world.

Let’s love strong at Ignite this week and see God pour out His presence and blessing on us all!

– Ps. Ken

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Ken VanHoose is the senior pastor of Spirit Life Church in Piqua, Ohio. You can Listen to his messages online at the Spirit Life Church website.

Trust and Obey

Philippians 4:11, NKJV:
Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.

Human nature leads us to be restless and dissatisfied with the challenges we face in life, but Paul overcame this nature and learned to accept his position whether he abased or abounded. In other words, Paul learned something that is contrary to human nature—contentment. Our journey as believers is filled with learning to embrace attributes and characteristics that are fundamentally contrary to our human nature.

1 John 5:2, KJV:
By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.

As with Paul’s writing in Philippians, neither of John’s statements are a natural part of our human DNA. As a Christian I have gone through seasons of strong discipleship and abundant love. At other times, I can’t seem to get either one working in my life. Part of learning to keep God’s commandments is learning to love Him. This most definitely does not come naturally but must be learned through the leading of the Holy Spirit and through placing your faith and trust in Him.

Peter wrote that we are partakers of the divine nature of Christ. Through His grace and sacrifice, we have the privilege of sharing in His power. So it is with faith. We are partakers of the faith of Christ, which is our victory over the world! That faith must be exercised daily by trusting the Lord. When Jesus commanded Peter to cast out his net, Peter’s response was filled with doubt and unbelief. Peter replied, “we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

In other words, Peter wasn’t looking for any results—he was just going through the motions.

But to Peter’s astonishment, out of his obedience came a miracle. This final cast yielded so many fish that his nets began to break! This was part of Peter’s learning curve and part of the process every believer has to go through. We have to learn to trust God when we can’t track God. That’s when real faith arises and our love and obedience toward God grows.

Keeping God’s commandments is not just about refraining from evil—it’s about being led by His spirit into all truth. For God’s power to be realized in our lives, we have to place a demand on our faith in Jesus for all things and trust Him without exception.

John instructed us to know the Spirit of God. If your Christian walk is consumed with trying to abstain from evil, you’re not focused on learning the way of God’s Spirit. However, if you spend each day in search of new encounters with Christ, the things of this world will not seem as important as they once did—you’ll learn to be content with your life and to have faith in Him for your future. He has a plan for your life so never be afraid to challenge your own faith and follow Jesus.

One of my favorite old hymns says to trust and obey. Sounds a lot like John’s message to me—love leads to keeping His commandments. You will learn to truly love Jesus just as you are learning to obey and trust in Him. It’s a process for every believer.

Be encouraged in the power of His might and all things will work to your favor!

– Ps. Ken

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Pastor Ken is the senior pastor of Spirit Life Church in Piqua, Ohio. You can hear his messages online at the media page of Spirit Life Church’s website or by subscribing to his weekly podcast sermon podcast.