Category: Unity (page 1 of 3)

A Stadium Sanctuary

I’m not going to attempt to describe last night’s “Uniting as One” worship service at the Hodgetown ballpark in downtown Amarillo. All I know is that more than four-thousand disciples of Jesus came together from our city and from many of the Top26 counties, all different colors, all different races, all different Christian denominations, all different ages, and all different backgrounds, to express our love for our Lord and our commitment to the unity of his people. And it was glorious.

 

 

 

 

 

We were asked to wear masks and they had us all spread out pretty good in there. Fifty-percent capacity and assigned seats. But it was glorious.

 

 

 

 

I thank God that he’s got me in this great city with all these wonderful Christian brothers and sisters. I thank him for the opportunity to experience something that most Jesus followers in this country never experience. I’m grateful for the new friendships and partnerships in the Gospel God is privileging me to explore.

 

 

 

 

 

I’m stunned by the way God turned that stadium into a sanctuary — the holiness of what happened in there. I’m hopeful for the opportunities ahead of us together — the energy of last night translating into significant and lasting change. And I’m certain that our Lord is going to bless us as we seriously pursue his will for us to live and worship and serve together in deeper, richer community.

 

 

 

 

 

“How good, how delightful it is when all live together like brothers… For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.”
~Psalm 133

Peace and Unity,

Allan

Above the Fold

“Uniting as One” made the front page of today’s Amarillo Globe-News — front page above the fold! — right there next to the city’s proposed tax rate and the latest Covid-19 numbers. The city-wide, all-church, interracial, interdenominational praise and worship service is this Sunday night at the Hodgetown ballpark. We’re expecting four-thousand Christians to join us for this historic gathering, some driving from as far away as Groom, Dalhart, Plainview, and Perryton. We’re going to sing and pray to our God and we’re going to commit to one another that race is not going to divide our Lord’s people in this city.

If you’ve got your tickets, I’m looking forward to seeing you and worshiping with you at the ballpark Sunday. If you can’t be there due to geography, timing, or pandemic, the entire service will be livestreamed on the “Uniting as One” Facebook page.

Go Stars.

Allan

“Uniting as One” Tickets

Tickets for the August 30 “Uniting as One” praise and worship service at the Sod Poodles Hodgetown ballpark were made available today and they are going fast. This all-church, city-wide, interracial, interdenominational event is garnering a lot of attention in Amarillo. And if you live anywhere near the panhandle area, you need to get your tickets today.

The state of Texas, the city of Amarillo, and Hodgetown are requiring social distancing for us that night. So they’re only allowing 4,000 of us in the stadium with assigned seating. Admission is free, but you’re going to need a ticket to get in. Central members can pick up free tickets during business hours here at the church offices or you can wait until Sunday and get them in the southwest concourse before or after worship. If you’re not a Central member, you can get them at St. John Baptist Church.

The deadline to pick them up here is Wednesday August 26. We’re turning any unused tickets back to St. John on the 27th because there are more people wanting to attend this worship service than we have tickets for. The waiting list is already at over 300. People are calling from Dimmitt and Borger, from Groom, Lubbock, Canyon, and Dalhart, wanting to get tickets for their churches. So, if you do pick up tickets and decide you’re not going to use them, please turn them back in. We don’t need any of these valuable tickets wasting away in your glove box or in the back of your Bible — they all need to be used.

St. John Baptist Church pastor Anthony Harris joined me today for an episode of the Central podcast to talk about the tickets, what we can expect from the program on the 30th, and why we’re doing this in the first place. You can listen to today’s podcast by clicking here.

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The Stars won a thriller last night to go up three-games-to-two on the Calgary Flames, one win away from advancing to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. But I’m not going to write anything about it. I don’t want to jinx it. So I’m not even going to mention it.

Go Mavs!

Allan

Gearing Up

More than forty Amarillo pastors and preachers and our spouses came together Friday night to continue gearing up for the “Uniting as One” racial renewal worship service on August 30. We prayed and planned together over Delvin’s beef tips and apple pie, we laughed together as we made new friends and renewed old acquaintances, and we were inspired by James Tudman’s and Howie Batson’s calls to action from Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan and the biblical demand to love all our neighbors all the time. If not us, who? If not here, where? If not right now, when?

Most of us kept our distance and wore our masks for most of the time. Those of us who kept them on for the group picture are the true Christians.

The “4Amarillo” churches hosted the event at Polk Street United Methodist Church. Carrie-Anne and I were so blessed to be seated with Manny DeLosSantos of Power Church and his wife, Rachel, and to hear all the incredible things our God is doing in and through them to his glory. And we’re more excited than we were before for how our Lord is bringing all of his children together in our city — Black, White, Hispanic, Latino, everybody!

If you are anywhere in the Texas panhandle region, make your plans now to be at the downtown Amarillo Hodgetown ballpark at 6pm Sunday night August 30 as we proclaim to the world that what unites us in Christ Jesus is bigger and more important than anything that could possibly divide us.

Peace,

Allan

Hope of the World

We noticed yesterday that uniting as one is the prayer of our Lord. Today, I want us to recognize that all Christians living and worshiping and serving together as one united people is also the hope of the world. It’s the only thing that will work.

“I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. All the ones I have are yours, and all the ones you have are mine. And glory has come to me through them… Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name — the name you gave me — so that they may be one as we are one… My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world… I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe… May they be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me.” ~John 17:9-23

That the world may believe. That the world will know. That the world will turn to Christ. That the world will change. May they be one so the world will see it and believe. May they brought to complete unity so the world will see and experience how to love, not hate; how to forgive, not condemn; how to meet the needs of others, not stake out their own claims and rights; how to live in the peace of Christ, not in the violence of this world; how to live in harmony with those who are different, not in conflict and strife.

Jesus does not say, May they worship correctly so the world will believe. It’s not, May they structure their church leadership in such a way that the world will know. It’s not, May they memorize the right verses, pray the right prayers, vote the right party, read the right books, or advocate for the right laws. God’s people uniting as one is the only hope of the world.

I’ve heard people say, “Stop preaching unity and start preaching doctrine.” I’ve got news for you: Christian unity is doctrine! Uniting as one is the prayer of our Lord and it’s the only hope for this world.

What’s going to change the racial division and strife? What’s going to slow down all the violence and death? What’s going to stop all the selfishness and sin that has plunged the world into so much peril and despair?

I’m convinced that God’s Church uniting as one is the only hope. Not better laws or deeper science or faster technology or all of us simply trying harder. It’s been proven for centuries now that none of that works! Any positive lasting change in our world must begin with and go through our Lord Jesus Christ and his Church. The Body of Christ. That’s the only way.

This is not just Jesus’ prayer and his plan, this is our mission. As disciples of Jesus, this is our calling.

“As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” ~John 17:18

Jesus was sent into this world by the Father to show everybody who God is and what God is all about. He said it himself, If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father. So Jesus comes here and he loves unconditionally. He is liberal with his forgiveness. He gives everybody the benefit of the doubt. He worked so hard to tear down the walls that divide people. He refused to label people. He stood with the powerless against the powerful. And he ate meals with everybody.

People from different countries, people with different social standings, people with darker or lighter skin, people who differed from Jesus’ group politically — he went into their homes and he met them in public and he ate and drank with all of them.

And God’s people committing to thinking and acting and living that way in the world is the only hope for fixing what’s destroying our society today. It’s the only hope.

But we can’t just talk about it. We have to live it. It’s got to be real or nobody will buy it. And it’s got to be us, the Church, or nothing will really change. Who else will do it? It has to be us!

We’re the ones who believe that every man, woman, and child on this planet is created by God in his holy image. We’re the ones who know so well our God’s heart for the oppressed. We’re the ones who obey our God’s command to love our neighbors. We’re the ones who trust that God is working right now to bring all people of every tribe, language, color, and tongue together around the table at the wedding feast of the Lamb.

This is the solution given to us by our God. This is the vivid picture that makes it real. This is the bold call for what’s needed. This is the vision that can invigorate our imaginations and our witness in a world that’s groaning for what God’s Church has to give.

The time is right now. The opportunity is right here. And it’s not going to be easy. The racial division among Christians and the racial injustice in this country is territory our Enemy has held for a long, long time. And he’s not going to give it up to a bunch of Christians like us without a fight.

But our faith is in God through our risen and reigning Lord Jesus. And our trust is in his promise that the presence and power of the Holy Spirit flows through us to equip and encourage, to embolden and to heal, when we’re together. When we’re united as one. THEN the world will believe. May that day begin this day.

Peace,

Allan

Prayer of Our Lord

It’s striking to me that in the very last recorded conversation between Jesus and his Father in the Gospel of John, just hours before his hands and feet would be nailed to the tree, Jesus is talking about our unity as his followers. These are some of the very last words of our Lord. And they carry so much weight.

“I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. All the ones I have are yours, and all the ones you have are mine. And glory has come to me through them… Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name — the name you gave me — so that they may be one as we are one… My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world… I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe… May they be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me.” ~John 17:9-23

This prayer of Jesus is very familiar to us. Maybe a bit too familiar, like maybe we’ve heard it so often and read it so much and NOT made it the priority that Christ does, we’ve NOT pursued it and practiced it or been willing to die for it like Christ is. Maybe it’s lost its punch. Verse ten has really jumped out at me the past couple of weeks. Maybe the message of verse ten can revive the punch in our Lord’s prayer.

“All the ones I have are yours and all the ones you have are mine.”

All those who belong to God belong to Christ and all those who belong to Christ belong to God, which means all those who confess Jesus as Lord — “all who will believe in me” — all belong to each other. We’re not promoting Christian unity here, we’re practicing it. Christian unity is not something we chase or pursue, it’s not something we must generate or create; it’s already the reality! Christian unity is the gift we’ve all been given by God in Christ.

Scripture tells us we all form one body, that this is the way it is in Christ.

“For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body — whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free — and we were all given the one Spirit to drink… In fact, God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be… Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” ~1 Corinthians 12:13, 18, 27

We don’t try hard to be a part of the body. We don’t do our best to share in the blessings of belonging to God’s one universal and united people. No! Listen to the Bible! You. It’s plural, actually, so, you all. Y’all ARE the body of Christ. So act like it.

“You are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” ~Galatians 3:26-28

Because of our fallen, sinful nature as humans and because of the broken systems and structures of the fallen, sinful world, we don’t see each other enough. We don’t listen enough to each other’s stories. We don’t know each other well enough to practice and live this unity that’s already there if we’ll just pay attention to it. If we’ll just look each other in the eye. If we’ll really listen to each other well. If we’ll commit to loving all believers in Jesus as the brothers and sisters in Christ they are.

“In Christ, we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” ~Romans 12:5

What does it mean for all Christians to belong to each other? It means we love each other. We forgive each other. We help carry each other’s burdens. We look out for each other and take care of each other. It means offering grace to people we’d rather punch in the throat. It means standing alongside those whose politics we might detest.

This is what Jesus prayed. This is who Jesus is. The way Jesus lived his life, the things he taught and the stories he told — he erase all the labels we attach to others. He obliterated the ways we draw lines and build walls between us and others. He lived and taught the complete unity of all God’s people.

When you see the hungry and thirsty — listen to the words of Jesus — when you see the alien, the naked and the sick, when you see the prisoner, you’re looking at me.

The Samaritan? Yeah, he’s your neighbor. That’s right, the guy who doesn’t look like you, his skin’s a different color than yours, he lives in a different part of the city, he doesn’t smell like you, he doesn’t vote like you, he believes and practices his Christianity a little differently than you — he’s yours. You are responsible for each other.

Jesus completely turned upside down the whole economy of the way the world operates. The first are last! The poor are blessed! The oppressed are kings! We love our enemies and pray for those who treat us wrong! Why would we ever stand by and ignore or go along with the world’s status quo when our Lord Jesus prayed that it would all be changed?

Each member belongs to all the others. All the ones I have are yours and all the ones you have are mine. Taking care of each other. Uniting as one. That’s the prayer of our Lord. It’s what he asked for the night before he died.

Peace,

Allan

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