[shoulders] SHOULDER TO SHOULDER #148 ---- 11/13/00

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From: lifeunlimited@...
Date: Sun, 12 Nov 2000 23:50:01 -0600
Standing Shoulder To Shoulder With You In The Trenches
As We fight The Good Fight

SHOULDER TO SHOULDER #148 ---- 11/13/00

TITLE:  "Don't Label Me!"



My Dear Friend and Ministry Partner:

I pray you are praising God for another great Sunday in which God
presenced Himself in dynamic proportion and demonstrated His power in
touching lives through your ministry.  I really hope it was not "just
another Sunday", but was one characterized by the faithful ministry of
the Holy Spirit.

Yesterday we were blessed with two special services where I am interim
pastor.  I did not preach in either service.  The morning service was
used to give young ministerial students from a nearby Christian
university an opportunity to preach.  A young nineteen year old sophomore
did an extraordinary job of preaching on the subject of love.  In fact,
he was so good, you might want to use his basic outline.

1.  Understanding Love:
   1)  Love is not self seeking, but is sacrificial.
   2)  Love does not keep you "bubbly" all the time, but it suffers all
things and endures long times.
   3)  Love is not easy, but takes work.

2.  The Power of Life:
   1)  Love is a powerful forgiver (I Pet 4:8; Rom 5:8).
   2)  Love is a powerful identifier.  "By this will all people know that
you are my disciples; if you have love one for another.
   3)  Love is powerful to save.

3.  Applying love: (I John 3:10-15)
   1)  Through service and sacrifice (Luke 10 -- Good Samaritan)
   2)  Through prayer, kind words, and deeds.
   3)  Rooted in Christ

4.  Love's Focus ---- God:  (Dt 6:4-9; Mt 22:35-40)
   1)  Love Him with all your heart ---- consumed by love.
   2)  Love Him with all your soul ---- your personality, your identity
(Gal 2:20)
   3)  Love Him with all your mind ---- moral, intellectual thoughts (I
John 5:3)

Pretty heady stuff for a nineteen year old young man.



VETERANS' DAY:

Sunday night then we had a special service for Veterans' Day in the
United States.  It was a good opportunity to feel patriotic on the one
hand and yet see the providence of God's sovereign activity in the
formation of our country.

During the service one of the men shared the following story about the
origin of the bugle song we know here as "Taps".  I had heard part of the
story before, but had forgotten.  In case you did the same, I want to
share it.

"We have all heard the haunting song, 'Taps'.  It's the song that gives
us that lump in our throats and usually creates tears in our eyes.

"But do you know the story behind the song?

"Reportedly it all began in 1862 during the Civil War, when Union Army
Captain Robert Ellicombe was with his men near Harrison's Landing in
Virginia.  The Confederate Army was on the other side of the narrow strip
of land.

"During the night, Captain heard to moans of a soldier who lay severely
wounded on the field.  Not knowing if it was a Union or Confederate
soldier, the Captain decided to risk his life and bring the stricken man
back for medical attention.

"Crawling on his stomach through the gunfire, the Captain reached the
stricken soldier and began pulling him toward his encampment.  When the
Captain finally reached his own lines, he discovered it was actually a
Confederate soldier, but the soldier was dead.

"The Captain lit a lantern and suddenly caught his breath and went numb
with shock.  In the dim light, he saw the face of the soldier.  It was
his own son.  The boy had been studying music in the South when the war
broke out.  Without telling his father, the boy enlisted in the
Confederate Army.

"The following morning, heartbroken, the father asked permission of his
superiors to give his son a full military burial despite his enemy
status.  His request was only partially granted.

"The Captain had asked if he could have a group of Army band members play
a funeral dirge for his son at the funeral.  The request was turned down
since the soldier was a Confederate.  But, out of respect for the father,
they did say they could give him only one musician.

"The Captain chose a bugler.  He asked the bugler to play a series of
musical notes with accompanying words he had found on a piece of paper in
the pocket of the dead youth's uniform.

"This wish was granted.  The haunting melody we now know as "Taps" used
at military funerals was born.

"Day is done.
Gone the sun
From the lakes,
From the hills,
From the sky.
All is well; 
Safely rest
God is night.

"Fading light
Dims the sight;
And a star
Gems the sky,
Gleaming bright.
From afar,
Drawing nigh,
Falls the night.

"Thanks and praise
For our days
'Neath the sun,
'Neath the stars,
'Neath the sky.
As we go,
This we know;
God is nigh."



LAST WEEK'S LETTER:

What a response I got from last week's letter on "The Tragedy of Mostar".
 So many people identified their own denomination as being like what I
described.  Apparently it's not a "one denomination" phenomenon.  Here
are some of those comments:

#1.  "How very sad.  How very sad God is right now.  A song we perform
now is Heart of  Worship --- and in the chorus is says:  'I'm coming back
to the heart of worship, and it's all about You, it's all about You,
Jesus.  I'm sorry, Lord, for the thing I've made it, and it's all about
You, it's all about you, Jesus.'  If we all would just accept that, we
wouldn't have near the problems we have."

#2.  "AMEN AMEN AMEN Brother!  The Midwest Mostar is out of hand and no
bridge in 
sight! . . . .  Thanks for your e-mails every week and sharing the gift
God has given you to communicate clearly and comprehensively to a new
generation of ministers that need to hear from Him!  Thanks again my
friend."

#3.  "Thanks for your faithfulness in sharing every week. Like you, I
enjoy using the life experiences to illustrate the Scriptures. Your
messages have been encouraging and the one today on Mostar was no
different. We must keep our eyes on Jesus. 

"I pray that the Lord would give you direction for the coming days. The
steps of the righteous are ordered by God. He is a light to our path. I
pray that He will illuminate your paths so that you can see and know
where He is leading you. I pray for you to be full of love, joy, peace
and  patience as you wait upon Him.  I pray for Him to fulfill all the
desires of your heart. I pray for continued fruitful ministry. I pray for
the Lord to bless you financially. Since you have sown spiritually, it is
only right for you to reap financially. Again, thanks for your updates.
You have been a blessing to me."

#4.  (From a former Bosnia team member)  "Your letter this week made my
knees buckle.  I feel so strongly that Jesus is not the priority in some
of these people's lives.  When in Bosnia, it feels the same as you
described. . . . . Your comparison with Mostar is profound.  I haven't
seen it but I have seen Bosnia.  My heart hurts for them as well.  Keep
sending your thoughts as God gives them to you.  It encourages each of us
to look to Jesus whether the World is looking or not."

#5.  "You must have been in the same [denomination]'s meeting I was [I
wasn't, by the way.]  Your comparison to Mostar was profound.  There is
no doubt that my denomination is certainly just like Mostar.  The tragedy
is not only that the bridge between the two groups has been destroyed,
but that nobody seems to be rebuilding one."

#6.  "When I read your letter, I wept.  I know exactly what you're
talking about.  My own denomination could be the one you wrote about, I
don't know.  I do know that the one of which I'm a part has become the
laughing stock of the unbelieving world and a point of ridicule by other
denominations.  When will we ever learn that God did not invent
denominations and has given no guarantees that any will survive. 
Frankly, I doubt that any will, especially since, as you so clearly
pointed out, it's not about us, it's about Him.  God bless you for your
faithfulness.  Please keep writing letters pertinent to where we are."

#7.  "Isn't it tragic that people are more interested in building
monuments than in building bridges.  It occurred to me that this is what
happened in Babel.  I wonder if the denomination of which you wrote will
suffer the same fate.  I wouldn't be surprised.  Few denominations have
lasted very long, at least in effectiveness, when they forgot just Who it
is really all about.  Thanks for your incisive words."



WHAT'S MY LABEL?

Periodically a reader will write asking me what my particular
denomination is, especially when I write a letter such as the one last
week.

Frankly, I find that a little amusing, and somewhat insulting.  Amusing,
because it reveals the reality of what I often write about ---- that we
try to accept or reject someone on the basis of what he believes or with
which denomination he is affiliated.  Some people still don't get it.

Try as we may, we just can't seem to accept each other simply because
we're brothers and sisters in Christ.

Isn't just that enough?  Does there really need to be anything else?

Years ago I remember a famous evangelist declaring that if we didn't
believe a particular doctrine we might be Christians, but we couldn't be
his brother in the Lord.

W-h-a-t !?!?!?

That guy needs to think again about what he said.  If I am a Christian
and you are, I am your brother.  So, get used to it.

Then, it's insulting because I deserve to be known and to be accepted or
rejected by something more and something loftier than my denominational
preference.

I am who I am not because of what I believe or what my denominational
affiliation may be.

Did I tell the guy?

Not on your life.

Not because I'm ashamed of my denominational background, though I am
sometimes ashamed of some of the things it does or says, but simply
because that label doesn't fully characterize me.   I'm much more than
that, you can be sure!

For years I've told people, both publicly and privately, that if you try
to label me by my library or my preacher friends, you'll lose your mind. 


My personal library contains in excess of 5,000 books.  I've got stuff
from Spurgeon to Peale.  In my library you'll find books by Lovett, F. B.
Meyer, Arthur Pink, J. B. Phillips, Watchman Nee, Rex Humbard, Kathryn
Kuhlman, B. B. Warfield, Tim LaHaye, Wayne Oates, E. M. Bounds, Witness
Lee, John Wimber, Harry Ironside, William Barclay, on and on, ad
infinitum, ad nauseam.

Likewise, my friends are as diverse.  Years ago in Wisconsin I helped
initiate a pastors' prayer group containing two ELC Lutheran pastors, a
Nazarene, an Assembly of God, two Southern Baptists, a Seventh Day
Adventist, a Church of Christ minister, a charismatic Lutheran, a
Methodist, and some others.

Three men in that group led me into the Father's presence more
consistently and clearly than anybody I've ever met ---- a Lutheran, an
Assembly of God, and the Seventh Day Adventist.

You may ask how that can be.

The answer is simple.

It's not about labels!

It's about relationship.

These guys all had a personal relationship with God.  Because of that, we
loved and trusted each other.

No matter that they differed on the mode of baptism, the validity of
spiritual gifts, or the return of Jesus Christ.

They were sons of God, redeemed by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, they were my brothers . . . . . and subsequently I could love
them and have fellowship with them.  After all, we have the same Father!



THE DESTRUCTIVENESS OF LABELS:

Some twenty five years ago or so I was, for some reason, invited by Dr.
Bill Bright to join about 600 pastors from all around the United States
to attend a conference at the Campus Crusade For Christ headquarters in
San Bernardino, California.  

To this day I have no idea why I was invited.  I pastored a small church
of less than 100 members in a little Iowa town of about 14,000 people. 
And yet, sitting beside me were men from huge churches and great
denominations.

But, there I sat, much like a little Ford Escort amidst a bunch of
Lincoln Continentals and Cadillacs (with a BMW and Mercedes or two thrown
in).  Like a joke I heard years ago, at least maybe the association would
rub off on me and do some good.

Speaking in one of the sessions was the famed W. A. Criswell, then pastor
of the great First Baptist Church of Dallas, TX.  He told a story from
his early pastoral years.

He had been asked to speak at an area meeting of churches and their
"messengers" I believe they were called.  His subject was the Second
Coming of Christ.  As the keynote speaker of the morning session, his
message was followed by a big carry in dinner where the folks from all
the neighboring churches brought in their favorite foods.

After his rousing sermon, and amidst the lavish outlay of food, various
individuals came up to compliment him on the message.  Several of them
inquired as to his "position" on the second coming, to which Dr. Criswell
simply indicated he believed Jesus would return soon.

One brother asked him, "what are you?", referring to his "Pre", "Mid",
"Post" beliefs.  Since Wally (as he was then known) knew nothing of what
they were talking about, one said, "well, you sound like you're
Pre-millenial.

Soon another asked a similar question, to which Dr. Criswell gave the
same pat answer.

After six or seven others had interrupted his lunch with similar
questions and comments such as, "well, I'll bet you're Pre-Millenial", he
finally had about all he could take.

When the next man asked him, "Brother Criswell, just what are you
anyhow?", Dr. Criswell replied, "Why, I'm Pre-millenial, of course!"

From that day to this, Dr. W. A. Criswell has been known as
"Pre-millenial" ---- a label he neither originated or desired.

And, once he became known by that label, he was forever worshipped by
some, and ridiculed and rejected by others.

Here are some personal observations about the consequences we suffer when
we label each other.

1.  Labels create Delusion, generating false conclusions.  

Whenever somebody labels you, one or both of you can become deluded. 
That person can form inaccurate or unfair opinions of who you are, what
you believe, and where you stand on things.  This certainly has happened
with the particular denomination I wrote about last week.  Much like the
Civil War in America, brothers have been divided, and now fight each
other because they don't know the truth about each other.

Then, if the other person is not "delusional", you can be.  You begin to
think you're either some type of martyr for Christ on the one hand, or
some great savior on the other.  Either way, you become as "delusional"
as the other guy.

2.  Labels are Deceptive, creating great confusion.  

I remember years ago observing the Southern Baptists positioning and
repositioning themselves around certain buzz words that soon became
labels.  I saw a similar thing happen with Assemblies of God.

With the Baptists it all started out between the "conservatives" and the
"liberals".  After a few years of unsuccessful squabbling, the "liberal"
group began to call the "conservatives" by a different name ----
"fundamentalists".

Well, that new word used to be something to wear like a badge of honor
because, coming out of the old Moody Bible Institute Founders'
Conferences, it simply meant that a person adhered to some basic
fundamental truths of God's Word.  Today it usually means a legalistic,
narrow-minded, negative person who thinks nobody else is going to heaven
unless they believe exactly what he believes.

At the same time, the "liberal" group wanted to seem more appealing to
the mainstream of Baptist life, so they infiltrated into that arena and
began calling themselves "moderates".

So ---- what is a person to think of his Baptist brother?  Is he
"liberal", "moderate", "mainstream", "conservative", "fundamental",
"fundamentalist", "legalist", or what?

Very confusing.

Not only are Christians confused, but so are the unbelievers.  They don't
know what to think.  They see all of us as being adversaries against each
other, each promoting a so-called "true religion".  So, they latch on to
New Age philosophies, eastern religions, or take up experimenting with
witchcraft, sex, or drugs ---- or all of the above.

3.  Labels are Divisive, promoting conflict.

This is particularly true in recent days.  People are more and more
blatant in their open attack on each other.  It has developed into a
political art form.  Whether it takes place on a personal level, a
congregational level, or denominational level, labels generally create
conflict.

Now, the conflict may be simply within the individual mind, or it may be
out in the open for all to see, and for the world to use as justification
for rejecting the Gospel, but there is no doubt that when you label
another person, you are setting the stage for eventual conflict.

Frankly, the Democrats and Republicans in America have nothing on many of
the Christians here.  My heart has been deeply grieved as I have watched
over the years as Christian ministry has become more and more political
within most denominations.  

To be quite honest, I am horrified at some of the tactics I have seen in
recent years.  I never dreamed that in my own denomination I would see
the positioning, deck stacking, back stabbing, and evil manipulation I
have seen in some states and in some meetings.  It is absolutely gut
wrenching and repulsive to my spirit.  I cannot believe it is happening.

4.  Labels are Limiting, constructing walls and fences.  Anytime you put
a label on a doctrine, a position, a person, or a group, you have laid
the first brick of what will soon become a wall too thick to tear down
and too high to climb over.

If you must resort to a label such as "conservative", "fundamentalist",
"mainstream", or something else in order to gain your sense of identity,
self esteem, and prowess, you must live a very dull life, my friend.  You
have built a wall about yourself that isolates you from other brothers
and sisters, and your circle of friends is going to be small indeed ----
your little fortress has only so much room.  You built it so.

And, soon . . . . someone will attack your fortress . . . . if you don't
self destruct first.

Conversely, if you must resort to the same in identifying other people,
you have immediately limited your scope of fellowship and corporate
impact on the world.  One mighty army, arrayed in righteousness and
marching locked step under the command of our great King will do far and
away more than 250 little squads and platoons of mercenaries being led by
bushy headed ,stick chewing, little general-ettes wanting to make a name
for themselves.

5.  Labels are Destructive, producing schisms and factions.  The Bible
really is true ---- "a house divided against itself cannot stand."  As
long as we insist on labeling each other, we will continue self
destructing.  It is not possible for things that divide us to go on
without there being some major fall out.

That fall out will ultimately be destruction.  No denomination ---- I say
it again; NO denomination is immune from the destructiveness of labeling
its own.

You may say, "Well, Bob, . . .  the reason the Church is battling this
right now is because of the influence of the world on our people."

Really!?!

I'd like to propose another thought ---- the reason the world is
destructively divided is because the Church is.



FINALLY:

Is there an answer?

Absolutely!

But I'm not sure we really want to hear it ---- we're too self
sufficient, too protective of what we think is ours (like our labels),
and too proud to do it.

But . . . . . if we would . . . . .

REPENT! . . . . 

I think things could change.

But, of course, that's asking a lot of Christians who must "stick to
their convictions".

I'd like to suggest that "convictions" and "labels" are not always the
same thing.

I honor and respect your convictions.  Just don't label me if I happen to
not agree.

It really is detrimental to the cause of Christ when we feel we have to
label everything in order to choose sides . . . . to decide whether to
include or exclude . . . . to decide whether to cooperate or compete . .
. . to decide whether to embrace or embalm.

Now, to be sure, labels and titles are important in some circles ----
like when you need a dentist, for example.  It's good to know the
difference between a dentist and a plumber.

But the Body of Christ is not the place to use labels.

Years ago I chose to rip mine off.

It's not because I'm embarrassed or ashamed by who I am or what I
believe.

It's simply that I'm more than the label can describe, and I'm usually
not what the label claims.

A friend was recently asked if he were an "inerrantist".

He responded, "I believe the Bible is totally divinely inspired from
beginning to end, and is absolutely without error in any shape or form."

His friend replied, "So then . . . . are you an 'Inerrantist?"

My friend replied, "I believe the Bible is totally divinely inspired from
beginning to end, and is absolutely without error in any shape or form."

Not satisfied, his friend pressed the issue.  "O.K.  So what I hear you
saying is that you're an 'Inerrantist', right?"

Finally my friend declared.  "Look.  Read my lips!  I believe the Bible
is totally divinely inspired from beginning to end, and is absolutely
without error in any shape or form."

What this man was trying to do was to get my friend to declare himself
with a label so he could in turn use my friend for his own agenda.

My friend was smart to stick to his statement.



IN CONCLUDING:

Maybe you don't have trouble with people labeling you . . . . or with you
labeling people.  If that's the case, wonderful!

However, the Body of Christ is gravely ill because of the ingestion of
far too many labels.  When we get as sick of it as God is, maybe we'll
regurgitate some of that poison and get healthy again.

That's my prayer.

I hope it is yours.

Have a wonderful, label-free week!

In His Bond,

Bob Tolliver ---- (Rom 1:11-12)
Copyright November, 2000.  All rights reserved.

We'd love to hear from you.  Drop us a note with reports, observations,
prayer requests, etc.

If this letter has blessed you and you know of someone else who needs to
be encouraged, feel free to forward it in its entirety to all such people
you know.

If you would like a list of past issues which you could receive upon
request, just let us know.

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        Hang in there!   I'm with you!

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Bob Tolliver -- (Rom 1:11-12)
Life Unlimited Ministries
E-Mail: lifeunlimited@...
Ph: 417-275-4854  Fax: 417-275-4855
Do You Get "Shoulder To Shoulder"?