Focus on Love to Remain on the Narrow Path

The narrow road is where the innocent and the wise travel in the maturity of love.


When the church reaches “unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ…. [t[hen we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there….” Ephesians 4:13-14

This a verse that ended a sermon in a series on the love chapter – 1 Corinthians 13, given by Jeff Frazier at Chapelstreet Church, The Greatest of These, May 24, 2020)

The sermon began with the observation that 1 Corinthians 13 is not really the “ode to love” that we often think it is. The First Century Corinthians probably didn’t embroider 1 Corinthians 13 and hang it on their walls. Paul was chiding them for all the things they were not doing

The Corinthians were a worldly, wealthy, educated and diverse people. The city would have been candidate for the list of 50 best towns in which to live in the First Century Roman Empire. They were sophisticated in all the ways of the world.

But they fell short when it came to love.

Love, of course, is the greatest attribute of a Christian. That’s the point of 1 Corinthians 13. (1 Cor. 13:13) Though the Corinthians were rich in many things like eloquent speaking, even prophecies and faith, Paul says even those without love mean nothing. (1 Cor. 13:1-2) A person could even give all his wealth away and offer his body to hardship, but without love, nothing is gained, says Paul. (1 Cor. 13:3)

The Corinthians thought they were pretty hot stuff. They had much in this world and much in the way of talents and resources, and because of that they were boastful and proud.

The beautiful list of what is love is a list of what the Corinthians lacked.

We could read it this way: the Corinthians are not patient or kind. They are envious, boastful and proud. They dishonor others and are self-seeking, easily angered and keep records of all the wrongs done to them. They delight in evil and do not rejoice in truth. They aren’t protective, trusting, hopeful or perseverant. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

The Corinthians were full of jealousy and pride about their own spirituality, and they didn’t appreciate each other. (1 Cor. 12:16 -22) They were given to argument, strife and disunity over which leaders to follow. (1 Cor. 1:10-12) At the same time, they tolerated sexual sin, greed, idolatry cheating, slander and drunkenness in their members. (1 Cor. 5:1-5, 9-11) They were puffed up with their own knowledge. (1 Cor. 8:1)

The Corinthian church rich in the way of worldly wealth and talents. They were even full of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but they were poor in fruit of the Holy Spirit (love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23)).

Paul goes on to say that love is the greatest fruit of the Holy Spirit. Love is the ultimate goal of the Christian, because God is love (1 John 1:9), and He desires us to be transformed into His image. (Rom 8:29) We don’t need wealth, resources, talents, knowledge or even the gifts of the Holy Spirit if we have love.

Love, including all the fruits of the Holy Spirit, is the sign of mature Christianity.

Jeff Frazier said that Paul could have written the love chapter to much of the American church, and I think he is right.

Continue reading “Focus on Love to Remain on the Narrow Path”

Where Is God in the Messiness of the Church?

I have never participated in a perfect church and have never met a perfect person, yet I believe in a God who is perfect and who is perfecting us, His people.


Toward understanding and healing the wounds of the church, I write this blog piece. The context is the very public struggles of two mega-churches in the Chicago are where I live. Last year, Bill Hybels resigned as the head of Willow Creek Church, after allegations of misconduct came to light. Just today I read about James MacDonald deciding to step down from leadership of the Harvest Bible Church in the wake of a lawsuit and allegations of poor leadership.

The two situations are different, though they both involve allegations against longtime leaders of two of the largest and most prominent churches in the Chicago area. Bill Hybels is accused of inappropriate relationships with women in the church. MacDonald is accused of mismanagement of money, heavy-handed leadership and related allegations. Both situations expose the nature of the human side of the church and the prevalence of sin in the church, even at the leadership level. (The Catholic Church is not alone in this respect.)

In the 1980’s, I became involved in a church that I thought, at the time, was the “perfect” church. It was a vibrant engaging church community. Worship was spirit-led and dynamic. The leadership was charismatic and inspiring. The church community was tight-knit and familial. This church had planted many other churches that were also thriving and growing. I spent 6 years there and knew the church intimately.

It wasn’t as perfect as I first thought, of course. People are people, even people who go to church. Within a year of my leaving to pursue what I believed God was directing me to do next, the church was splintering, disintegrating and falling apart. My pastor, the man who married my wife and I, divorced his wife within a few years of our leaving. Neither he nor his wife are involved in a church today (as far as I know).

We were devastated. This was over 25 years ago, and it still puzzles me. The coming apart at the seams of this church that I viewed as a model of what churches should be impacted me more than I would care to admit.

I realize now that I had invested more of my spiritual capital in the church and its leaders than I should have.

A friend of mine, a fellow church-goer, has been struggling with issues in his church – the leadership in particular. I have listened to him, recognizing the disappointment and disillusionment in his voice. Though I don’t know the details of the issues he has had with the leadership, I do know that he feels cut adrift; he is hurt; his faith is shaken. He has stopped going to church. He isn’t sure he can trust Christians anymore, and he is struggling to make sense of his experience. I can relate.

We left the last church we attended because of leadership, trust and personality differences that affected the people to whom we were closest in that church. Our friends were financially and personally hurt by leadership in the church. We felt we needed to stand with our friends and support them as they drifted away from the church, unable to remain in a church led by people who could not be trusted with their spiritual well being.

These are just the experiences I have had, but I don’t think I am alone in having difficult and painful experiences in churches and with the leadership of churches. Church is a messy business.

Many people turn away from the church and even from Christianity because of similar experiences. How many times have you heard someone say they don’t go to church because Christians are hypocrites? And the fact is that Christians are hypocrites!

But that shouldn’t be the end of the story.

Continue reading “Where Is God in the Messiness of the Church?”

Christianity and Society’s Ills

The history of the people of God. is that they are always tending away from Him in their hearts, especially at the level of power. But there is always a remnant.

Heroes Square Budapest Hungary

A social media friend recently responded to a blog article I wrote, Are Christians Hypocrites, by asking whether I thought that “higher religious subscription correlated to fewer societal ills”. I think the answer is clearly, yes! (For a skeptic who agrees with me, see this dialogue on the podcast Unbelievable!)

But I know what he was getting at. Intermixed with that “progress” in the Western world are deep grains of corruption and evil in which the Church was not only complicit, but intimately involved.

My friend is a skeptic and an atheist. He believes that the world is better off without religion. He is critical of Christianity, and let’s face it: “the Church” has created its share of societal ills.

People are often critical of Christians and Christianity with some basis in fact for its checkered past. Christians often view that history differently than non-Christians, but a candid person must admit that corruption in “the church” evidenced in history is undeniable.

For skeptics, this vein of corruption running through the history of the Church “spoils the whole thing, undermines the truth of Christianity and justifies their rejection of it and the God Christians profess to believe. The fact that popular history focuses on that corruption, to the exclusion of all the good that Christianity has brought to the world, doesn’t negate the fact that such corruption existed and still exists.

When my friend posed his loaded question to me, I suspect that he sees a correlation between religion and societal ills. I did not argue with him about it because there is more than a kernel of truth to the statement.

But there is much more to the analysis. To begin with, all people are corruptible, not just church people. Corruption is, itself, dependent on the good that it corrupts. Corruption is the misuse, misapplication and exploitation of something good for bad purposes. Good must exist before corruption does its work.

One aspect of church history that correlates with that corruption is the “marriage” of church and state power. I think that Lord Acton was right when he said, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” When the church becomes intertwined with worldly kings and kingdoms, the influences of power, wealth and all that goes with it colors the church, and the church is inevitably corrupted by it.

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The Kernal and the Seed

God is not found in religion but in personal encounter.

Singing Hymns in Church


Most people in American grew up with some connection to “the church”  and to Christianity. Many, many people had just enough of a taste to reject it. I think that, when most people reject Christianity, they are rejecting the institution of the church.

People reject the principles they believe the church stands for and the hypocrisy they saw in the church. Indeed, I believe this because I was one of those people.

I have come to put that reality in perspective, however: the church, as most people perceive and know it, is a human institution. It is far from perfect. Every human frailty and weakness and shortcoming exists in the church – because people make up the church. That is the reality.

Further, the message that informs the church, the root and heart of it, the reason the church exists – the Gospel – is not always readily apparent in the church. Some churches are closer to the expression of it than others, but churches, generally fall short of the ideals of the Gospel.

I do not mean to point fingers at anyone or judge anyone. I think it is sufficient for purposes of what I am trying to say to assume that this is true to some degree or another in every church, even the best of them. I am going to say some things next that may make churchgoers upset, but bear with me.

Continue reading “The Kernal and the Seed”