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September 1, 2002
It is said that when the British and French were fighting in Canada in the 1750s, Admiral Phipps, commander of the British fleet, was told to anchor outside Quebec. He was given orders to wait for the British land forces to arrive, then support them when they attacked the city. Phipps’ navy arrived early. As the admiral waited, he became annoyed by the statues of the saints that adorned the towers of a nearby cathedral, so he commanded his men to shoot at them with the ships’ cannons. No one knows how many rounds were fired or how many statues were knocked out, but when the land forces arrived and the signal was given to attack, the admiral was of no help. He had used up all his ammunition shooting at the “saints.” (Daily Bread) Unfortunately, the same could be said for many Christians today. When God calls on them to do something great for Him they have nothing left to give for they have used up their ammunition shooting at the saints.
Throughout church history churches have split for the stupidest of reasons. Some have split over the issue of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. Locally some have split over whether it is spelled Immanuel or Emmanuel. Some churches have split over whether to sit on pews or chairs. Surely there has to be something of more significance in the church today than what type of furniture we will park our “duffs” on. Surely there has to be for if there is not then the church is finished.
An issue of National Geographic included a photograph of the fossil remains of two saber-tooth cats locked in combat. To quote the article: “One had bitten deep into the leg bone of the other, a thrust that trapped both in a common fate.” The cause of the death of the two cats is as clear as the cause of the extinction of their species. They could not survive because they were too busy fighting each other and the same can be said of the church today. As the apostle Paul put it: “If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other” (Galatians 5:15).
Satan is a master at using controversial issues to distract the church from her true mission in the world. A former police officer tells of the tactics of a group of thieves: “They enter the store as a group. One or two separate themselves from the group, and the others start a loud commotion in another section of the store. This grabs the attention of the clerks and customers. As all eyes are turned to the disturbance, the accomplices fill their pockets with merchandise and cash, leaving before anyone suspects. Hours -- sometimes even days -- later, the victimized merchant realizes things are missing and calls the police. Too late.” (Tom McHaffie) How often this strategy is used by the Evil One! We are seduced into paying attention to the distractions, while our churches are ransacked. In this case we have lost not our merchandise, but our mission. And a church without a mission will soon be out of commission.
Paul tells us that we are to “Live in harmony with one another” (Romans 12:16). But how can we live in harmony when there are so many controversial issues that divide us? Paul gave the church in Rome some practical, step-by-step instructions on how to be in H.A.R.M.O.N.Y. with
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