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Posted on May 16, 2017 in Blog, Featured, Prayer

Teach Us To Pray (With The Right Motives)

Teach Us To Pray (With The Right Motives)

Can you imagine having a relationship with someone, but never talking to them?

Or, imagine if you had a relationship with someone, but all you ever did was ask them to give you free stuff and do favors for you.

Unfortunately, that’s how many of us approach our entire relationship with our heavenly father. But, if Paul’s statement in Romans 8 is really true, and we are God’s children, and because of that Spirit we are able to have a relationship with him, why do you think we keep our relationship so elementary?

14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. – Romans 8:14-17

While there may be many reasons that we have distance in our relationship with God, perhaps the one that is simpler to address is that we don’t know how to pray.

But First…

What is your motive in prayer? Are you seeking to use God as your big vending machine in the sky? Do you only pray when you’re around others, and you want to sound spiritual? Jesus knew that motives were a problem when it came to prayer, so before he taught how to pray, he addressed our motives first.

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” – Matthew 6:5-8

When was the last time you prayed because you wanted to hear from your father? When was the last time you went somewhere by yourself, and prayed to him with no one looking – not doing it for attention, but for relationship?

Let’s look at how Jesus taught us to pray:

1. Our Father in Heaven

Jesus didn’t start with “My” he started with “our.” Why? Sure, it could be as simple as the fact he was talking to a group. But, could it also be because we is how God intended for us to be in relationship with Him. God didn’t design us for isolation, he designed us for community.

But, I think there’s more to it than that. I think it plays to the idea of motive and perspective. God is Our Father. Our. Father. We, us, together. We are not praying to God in isolation, we are communicating with our Father who is also your Father, who is also their Father.

2. Hallowed is your name. 

Hallowed is kind of like saying holy in the past tense of something we have done and acknowledge. God’s name is holy. We worship our heavenly Father. We worship Him because He is holy. We thank God for his nature and Character that never changes.

Worship is saying laying down our motives and exchanging them for God’s gift of Faith. You cannot worship God if you bring all your expectations to Him. But, we already talked about that last week.

3. Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 

We want to be a part of bringing God’s kingdom into the world around us. We want to see God move in our homes, neighborhoods and communities.

But it’s not just that. We want God’s will to be done on earth in the same way His will is done in heaven. In heaven, God’s will is just done. On Earth, we have sin, the curse, the fall and a whole bunch of humans who are living in rebellion against God. So, we want God to do His will in our lives in the way His will is done in Heaven. Kind of sounds like motives again, doesn’t it? We’re not begging, pleading and manipulating God to do our will. We are allowing Him to do His will in us, without any fight.

4. Give us today, our daily bread. 

When you’re in close relationship with your heavenly Father, you begin to understand all that entails. When we rely on our own ability to provide for ourselves (which, doesn’t ever happen, because it’s all God’s anyway), we stress and worry about whether or not we’re going to have enough for today, let alone tomorrow. But, with God, we can see that He has at his disposal so much more than we imagined. In fact, it’s not just at His disposal it’s at His work.

What do you need? Talk to God about it, because He already knows.

5. Forgive us our debts as we have forgiven our debtors. 

We. Our. Our relationship with our heavenly father is intertwined with our relationship with one another. When we’re in a relationship with our Heavenly Father, we understand we have been forgiven very much. When we understand how we’ve been forgiven how could we not forgive one another?

Did God really mean that we will only be forgiven as much as we forgive others? That’s a tough question. But, we can learn from it. Could it be that our understanding of forgiveness is not exemplified by our ability to receive it as much as it is by our ability to give it?

Are there any offenses you are holding on to? Do they compare with the rebellion we committed against God – because the debt for that was paid in full. As we forgive others, we will know and understand  and experience more and more of God’s grace in forgiving us.

6. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. 

Satan would love nothing more than for you to think you’re going to start building this relationship with God, and then distract you with garbage about this or that and then get you to be disappointed in yourself for not being able to follow through.

Our faith is a gift. That means, we need God’s help to be able to truly follow God. We need God’s constant victory in our lives. That is who He is. God is the victor. He doesn’t know how to lose. Faith is this gift that God gives us. The more we know the one who gives the gift, the more we will understand the gift itself. The more we know the one who gives us the gift, the less we will be tempted to go off and do the things that create distance between us and God.

Practical Tips: 

There are 6 parts of this prayer. Spend some time each of the next 6 days praying, thinking and learning to listen to God in each of these areas. Do it for one week and see if it doesn’t start to shape everything in your life. See if God doesn’t start giving you His eyes for His world and His people.

Go ahead, give it a try. I dare you!

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Posted on May 9, 2017 in Blog, Church, Culture, Featured, Worship

Motive Shift

Motive Shift

What drives you? What are your motives? What is that thing, which, at the end of the day makes you push a little farther, work a little harder and drive a little longer?

Why are you doing anything that you do?

At the end of the day, for most of us, I think our motive is: self. I work hard so I can play hard. I work hard, so some day I can retire and do what I want to do. Yes, I’m working. But, the reason I’m working is for something else. I want this kind of a house, with this kind of a car, with this kind of a family, with this kind of a life.

I want.

Motive = me.

I’m that way. I often have selfish motives. So, I’m not judging you, I’m just speaking from what I know of me. Maybe you’re not selfish like I am. If so, good for you. You’re awesome. I’m pretty sure they make a T-shirt for that now.

This is probably no surprise. I mean, it’s not like any of us have to try to be selfish. We just are. I don’t have to try to make the world revolve around me, I just naturally do it. It’s not because I have some kind of psychological delusion. It’s because I’m human. Just like you.

So, what’s the problem? You might ask me. Well, as I said, self, when left un-checked, has a tendency to make everything about itself. Everything. We have a tendency to make work about us, to make family about us, to make relationships about us, to make money about us, to make church and God all about us.

“While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” We quote. And we get a hearty, “Amen!” from the batpicostals in the room. It is about me. Jesus died for me. That whole redemption story, is about God loving me. 

Then, everything has to be approached from that vantage point. And if something dares question that, well, there’s going to be hell heck to pay. When that crazy pastor dares suggest that God is all about His own glory, and that my salvation is for His glory and that my life is supposed to be for the praise of His glory, well. Be careful pastor. You’re treading on thin ice.

We can even endure such talk to a point. As long as it stays abstract and philosophical and intellectual, it’s fine. Okay, fine, God is all about God. He saved me for Him. I can intellectually affirm these statements. But, as soon as we take the next step from knowledge to heart and life change.

BOOM! Don’t you tell me how to worship God. That’s personal to me. I’ll worship him how I see fit. You can’t judge my heart, doesn’t the Bible also say not to judge? Who’s the hypocrite now? 

We are okay with God, as long as God doesn’t expect us to give Him total ownership of our lives. We’re okay with God as long as he remains external to our situation, a figure we can ask for free stuff and blame for the bad stuff. But, when God expects me to live my life as a sacrifice for His purposes, well, it’s time to find another church.

And many do, and many have.

This reminds me of Jeremiah. At the beginning of his ministry, as he is learning what it means to be a prophet, he has some soft words to share with God’s people.

“I will pronounce my judgements on my people because of their wickedness in forsaking me, in burning incense to other gods and in worshipping what their hands have made.” Jeremiah 1:16

“What fault did your fathers find in me, that they strayed so far from me? They followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves.” Jeremiah 2:5

Jack Hayford said: “Worship changes the worshipper into the image of the one being worshipped.”

When we have self at the center of everything, we are really worshipping ourselves. Me, with a capital M. And when we do that, there’s really no point to anything. Worship is about ascribing worth and honor to something. It’s about submission and surrender. What good is it to ascribe worth to ourselves based on ourselves. What good is it to submit to and surrender to ourselves. We are already pretty good at doing that.

That’s not how God designed things. He designed us, created us to worship him. When we worship things other than him, we become worthless. Ouch. Glad I wasn’t the one that had to tell people that. I can just pass the buck back on to Jeremiah.

But what does this mean? Let’s get a little more substance to work from:

“But their idols are silver and gold, made by the hands of men…those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.” – Psalm 115:4,8

“At Horeb they made a calf and worshiped an idol cast from metal. They exchanged their glory for an image of a bull, which eats grass.” Psalm 106:19-20

So, when you worship something other than God, you are ‘exchanging your glory’ for the thing you are worshipping?

We still need a little more help:

Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory
    in the heavens.
Through the praise of children and infants
    you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
    to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens,
    the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
    which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
    human beings that you care for them?

You have made them a little lower than the angels
    and crowned them with glory and honor.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
    you put everything under their feet:
all flocks and herds,
    and the animals of the wild,
the birds in the sky,
    and the fish in the sea,
    all that swim the paths of the seas.

Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Wait a second! It’s right there, Pastor. We are the ones that are crowned with glory and honor. To which I would, say. “You’re right…kind of.” Yes, we are crowned with glory and honor, but who crowns us?

“Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens.”

Do you see it? The only way we have glory is because God gives it to us. The only reason God can give it to us, is because He already has it. He is the one true God. His glory is in the heavens, far above and beyond anything we can experience in its entirety. But, he has given us glory and put everything under our feet?

Why? We have to go back to see where the psalmist got this idea of putting everything under our feet:

26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

27 So God created mankind in his own image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.

God made us in His image. That is, was and will always be the only reason we have any glory at all. We have glory because God gave it to us. We are the only thing in all of creation that has his image. We are the only created being that reflects God.

If we have glory because God gave it to us, is it any wonder he would be a little put off when we decide that we are the most important thing in the universe, that we would make this whole thing about us, and we would make our relationship with him all about what God can do for/give to us while at the same time refusing to give anything of ourselves back to him?

We’ve taken the glory that He has given to us, and exalted ourselves to His position – WITH HIS OWN GLORY!

The reality is, none of any of all of creation has any worth or value if it wasn’t given by God.

“Nothing teaches us about the preciousness of the creator as much as when we learn the emptiness of everything else.” – Charles Spurgeon

When we realize that, we begin to understand why things have gotten to be such a mess in the world. We’ve prostituted God’s glory for our own purposes and agendas. We’ve used God’s glory to advance our selfish pursuits and desires. We’ve made it all about us, and we get mad at God or anyone who would dare suggest it should be any other way.

May I ask you a question: Do you really want it to be this way? Haven’t you ever seen Bruce Almighty? Do you really want to be God? Of course, even asking such questions is ridiculous because none of us can be God.

“Isn’t it a comfort to worship a God we cannot exaggerate?” – Francis Chan

Wouldn’t you rather worship the God who created you, the God whose name is “I AM.” The one who is the beginning, the middle and the end. The creator of all things and sustainer of all things. The author of life, the one who numbers the hairs on our head, whose thoughts for us are more numerous than the sands on the seashore. The one who knows each and every one of us by name, formed us in our mother’s womb, created us for a purpose and created good works for us to do. Wouldn’t you rather worship the one whose name is provider and healer? Wouldn’t you rather worship a God who is too big to comprehend, who is immortal, all knowing and all powerful?

Obviously, none of us are any of that. And, (also obviously) none of us will ever be any of that.

What is worship? Paul makes it clear:

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” 

Worship is living sacrifice. Why does that ring a bell?

“24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.” Matthew 16:24-27

May I ask, what are you living your life for? Who are you living your life for? Have you spent your life in pursuit of your own dreams? Are you chasing the pleasures of this life and this world?

For those who are Christ-followers the call is clear. Worship isn’t about my own wants, desires or preferences. Worship is actually denying them. My true and proper worship is not touting and lauding me, it is sacrificing me. Worship is conformity with God’s will, which requires nonconformity with the world. Can you and I say this is our motive right now? If not, it’s time for me and all of us to repent and turn away from that desire to seek our own glory.

If you happen to be reading this and you’re not a Christ follower, may I make an invitation to you? Step into this idea and see for yourself if God really is who He says He is. Try it out. If I’m wrong, what have you lost? But, if I’m right, it could change everything, literally, forever.

 

 

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Posted on May 2, 2017 in Blog, Church, Deliberate Living, Featured

What Keeps Sunday’s Intention From Becoming Monday’s Action?

What Keeps Sunday’s Intention From Becoming Monday’s Action?

Sunday can be a great day, can’t it? We gather together with other believers, we hear from God’s word, we humble ourselves before Him in worship. Often times, we will leave church on Sunday with a decision to do this or that differently. I don’t have something specific in mind. It’s just that God’s word has a way of illuminating the things that aren’t in harmony with his plan for our lives.

So, we leave, with the best of intentions.

But, then something happens between Sunday and Monday.

What is it?

I think it can be boiled down to a few underlying problems.

1. Margin.

We are too busy. I’ve been there. Still am from time to time. We’re busy with good things, (mostly), but we’re busy. We’ve got things to do on Sunday afternoon and if we don’t get them done today, they won’t get done until next weekend. So, we spend the rest of the day doing those things.

Then Monday morning comes. And, we don’t want to go to work (because we haven’t yet realized what a gift it is that God has blessed us with this job, and surrounded us with opportunities to live for Him…) so we hit the snooze button 7 or 8 times. We run out the door, cut in and out of traffic and make it to work a few minutes late.

Monday is a hard day, we have to work late, we get home late, rush dinner, sit down – exhausted, fall asleep on the couch and drag ourselves to bed.

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday…You get the picture. Of course you do, you’re living it.

Before we know it, it’s Sunday again and whatever we intended to do last Sunday is long forgotten. All we remember is that we were going do to something and we didn’t. Now we wrestle with the guilt which keeps us from getting up and getting to church.

Can I add something to your “To Do” list? Spend some time right now thinking about your schedule for this week. What can you cut out so you can make time for the most important thing – spending time with God.

We can’t live this life on our own strength. We need the resurrection power fueling us. When was the last time you spent time with him outside of church? If it’s been a while, you might need to create some more margin in your life. Give God some room to help you turn your intention into action.

2. Old Patterns/New Habits.

This one is similar to my first point, but still different. It can take anywhere from 21-42 days to develop a new habit. It only takes a few days to undo a good habit. If you’ve ever tried to do an exercise regimen, and had some success, then gone on vacation, you know what I’m talking about. You come back from vacation and try to get back into the swing of things and realize that those 8 days undid most of what we had been doing up to that point.

But for some reason, there are old patterns in our lives that keep us from being able to create new, healthy habits. We’ve had unhealthy ways of thinking, self-talk, time-management, etc. that have been ingrained into our way of life for so long that we just can’t get out of them. It’s like what happens when you move. You leave work to go home, only to find out your driving to what used to be your home.

What old, unhealthy patterns do you need to cut out of your life so you can start working on creating a new habit of putting your faith into action.

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. – James 2:14-17

3. Relying on the church/pastor for faith.

We may make a decision to follow Christ, get baptized and declare to the world that we are following Christ. But, then we stop, right there. We get comfortable, content and complacent. Our only experience with the God who created us, called us and redeemed us is vicarious. We don’t ever encounter or experience God for ourselves, we only experience Him through our pastor or church.

We have the presence of the Holy Spirit living with us and in us. But, we still treat that “with us” presence as a priest who has to intercede on our behalf. We all have access to the holy of holies, but the only time we ever go there is when our pastor takes us.

19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. – Hebrews 10:19-22

What if we took advantage of this reality that has been gifted to us? What if we started spending time with God each day? What if we prayed and read his word? What if we worshipped him by living a life of sacrifice?

4. Lack of supporting community/accountability.

The last reason I have is that we think we can do this all on our own. We don’t need no stinking help. I can follow Jesus by myself, thank you. That’s the world we live in, at least in this country. Like a local ad says, “We are fierce, independent thinkers.”

“Now, wait a second. Didn’t you just say I needed to do this on my own?” Yes, yes I did. You/I/we have to follow Christ on our own, we can’t rely on anyone else for that personal aspect of our relationship. But, a relationship with God is not only personal, it’s communal.

God himself is communal. God’s existence is community. Three persons of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit living together in an eternal relationship. Yes, we must pursue God on our own, but we must also pursue Him in community. We cannot live out all that is expected of us on our own, solopreneur power.

In fact, the verse immediately following that last verse is:

23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. – Hebrews 10:23-25

Plus, there will come a time in the not too distant future when you will need a little help. You may be walking through a trial, you may find yourself being persecuted for your faith or having some of the trouble that was promised to us as believers.

Who can you invite into your life who will support you in your walk? Who can you support in their walk? How can you help live out the communal aspect of the God who saved you?

Intentions are good, but if they don’t lead to action what’s the point?

“Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” – 1 John 3:18

They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I don’t know about that. What I do know is that the road to a deeper experience with God will not be found in the land of good intentions.

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Posted on Apr 26, 2017 in Blog, Devotional Thoughts, Featured

The Cutting Room Floor, Easter 2017

The Cutting Room Floor, Easter 2017

One of the hardest parts of being a pastor is having to cut out talking about something you’re really excited to talk about. I had to do that this past Easter. So, I thought I would share part of it with you on this Wednesday. Maybe to serve a reminder of Easter, or what we talked about this past Sunday. Or maybe to just encourage you in the middle of your week. Here you are, trying to live for Christ, Sunday seems like a long time ago…this Sunday is still a ways away.

The weeks leading up to Easter, I was enthralled with this section of John chapter 10. Jesus calls himself the good shepherd.

John 10:7a, 9-11

Therefore Jesus said again, . I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. 11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

Living on a farm is interesting. The cattle know my uncle’s voice. When he calls them, they will usually come. That is, as long as there isn’t something more enticing in front of them.

A couple of times a year, while my uncle is out of town, the kids and I will take on feeding my uncles cattle. We will use my old Massey Ferguson 65 tractor and a trailer, that way all the kids can participate. That old tractor has a unique sound. The newer tractors on the farm sound different. It’s got an old sputtering kind of a sound to it. It’s pretty cool.

A while ago, we fed the cows for about a week. We used that tractor twice a day, morning and evening to feed. After a couple of days, once the cows figured it out, the cows we start coming towards the barn when they would hear me fire up the 65. Often times, they would come from a far off place in a rush to get what we were feeding them, only for us to take them right back to that same place. They would even be slobbering all over themselves, because they knew what was coming.

Well, a couple weeks after we had done that, I had to pull out my tractor and use it for something. What do you think happened? The cows came running. Only to be disappointed. I had nothing to offer them. It was only a deception.

This reminded me of Jesus talking about himself as THE good shepherd. There is only one good shepherd. Jesus not only refers to himself as the Good Shepherd, but as the gate. The only way to be saved is to enter through him. He also calls himself the way, the truth the life. No one can come to the Father without going through Jesus. There is only one good shepherd.

However, we tend to think there are others. 

Jesus says: “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.”

The promise of following Jesus is that we will find pasture. If you don’t know anything about sheep or cattle, you might pass over this. I’ve learned a few things over the past couple of years.

Two summers ago, we had a very dry summer. All the pasture dried up. There wasn’t anything for the cows to eat. When they didn’t have food, they would get “adventurous” and start finding ways out of the safety of the fenced in pasture to go find greener food. They were willing to endure the shock of the electric fence to find better food.

They may find some greener food, but they may also find trouble. There are a lot of other dangers outside those fences. They may wander off and never find their way back to their shepherd.

What Jesus is saying here is that those who enter through him will come in and go out and find pasture. They will have what they need. They will have peace. They will not have to worry about their needs being met. There will be comfort.

But, we tend to still think there are others…

Just like the Israelites grumbled and complained about the manna and quail, we want more. So, we start looking for someone who will give us what we want instead of trusting the one who has already given us everything we need.

It doesn’t take long. “The thief comes, only to steal, kill and destroy.”

We think the main tactic of the thief is to come and snatch sheep out of the pen when no one is looking. I suppose that could be. But really, I think it works in many different ways.

One of those, is that the thief will come along and give us what we think we want.

There might be green pasture all around us, but “what’s that sound?” “Oh hey, there’s something to eat coming toward me.” A little time might pass…then we hear it again. The old 65 is firing up again. “The last time I heard that sound, I got to eat something different.” Before too long, we find ourselves salivating once we hear the sound of the 65.

And we’re getting what we want.

For a time.

But, what we don’t realize, is that the thief has no interest in feeding us and taking care of us. No interest in protecting us or providing for us. The only aim of the thief is to get us away from the good shepherd. Once we’re off on our own, we’re easy prey.

You may find yourself being lured into things that having nothing to do with the kingdom of God. But remember, often, what we think we want is not what we really need. The good shepherd knows what we really need. We may think we want what’s outside the pasture we have been led to, but we may not realize there are things mixed in with that “greener pasture” that will kill us.

Have you been lured away by the sound of the thief? Are you listening to a voice that isn’t there to care for you, but only to destroy you? Maybe it’s time to start listening for the voice of the good shepherd.

Matthew 18:12-13

12 “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13 And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off.

The Shepherd is calling out for you. Do you hear his voice? Will you listen to it?

Or will you keep chasing the old 65?

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Posted on Jan 9, 2017 in Blog, Church, Featured

3 Reasons Being At Church Every Sunday Is So Important

3 Reasons Being At Church Every Sunday Is So Important

A couple of years ago, when we started looking to move, I had one requirement: we had to get up high enough in elevation that we would be able to get some snow from time to time. I love the snow, seriously, love it! And I really missed it, because we rarely get snow in the “valley” around S.W. Washington. Well, when we moved into grandpa’s old house, it met that requirement, 1040′. Woohoo!

On New Years eve and New Years day, we got some snow. Over 8″ of it! And it has been awesome. Since New Years Day fell on a Sunday morning, I got up and plowed the driveway and cleared off the Suburban so we could get to church. I was expecting there to be some snow down in town, but to my surprise, there wasn’t. None at all.

I guess that’s not entirely true, because there was some…on the top of our car. We still had 3-4 inches that had clung to the top of our car the whole drive in. I finally got to be the guy I hated. You know the one who drove down from his house in the mountains with 15″ of snow on top of his vehicle.

Well, on Tuesday morning I cleaned the snow off my car and drove it in. It was cold in town, so that snow remained on my car when I drove home after food pantry. But when I drove in on Wednesday, there has been just enough sun and wind and my fast driving to pretty much clear the snow off the car.

This week I’ve been leaving the beautiful, snow covered hills and coming down to the snowless roads and parking lots of Vancouver.

And it got me thinking. That’s a lot like Christians and the need for going to church. And that leads me to reason #1.

#1 – It’s hard to shine the light of God’s love into the darkness of a fallen world when we DO attend every Sunday. It’s so much harder when we aren’t there.

Imagine with me, if you will, that snow is kind of like what happens to us each Sunday. We come together and we rally toward the mission God has placed on each of our lives. We may have come into the service worn and tired. Hopefully we leave a little more charged up for another week of mission. It’s like we come to church and get a little more covered with snow.

Then we go out into the world. And the sun and wind and rain all start to melt the snow away. It gets harder and harder to shine for Christ as the week goes on. Then, Sunday rolls around and we don’t feel like getting out of bed. So we don’t. We stay home. But, Monday is still coming, whether we like it or not and we’re going to have to try to shine for Christ. We think staying home is what we need, but the reality is that it was the opposite.

What we needed was to get to church and get a fresh coat of snow. Instead we stayed home, and we have less and less snow to show as we go through the next week. We miss another week of church, and there’s hardly any snow at all.

(Don’t read too much theology into this illustration. I’m not saying you lose your salvation if you don’t come to church. Though, that is something we should talk about at some point. However, this is just an illustration)

If the mission of your life was to show the world your snow, wouldn’t it be good to go to the place where you could get that snow to show?

But that’s not the only reason. There are more…

#2 – How can the body be the body when parts of the body are missing?

Too often, our thinking about church is driven by selfish thinking. We decided whether or not we are going to go to church based on what we think we are going to get out of it. If we think it’s going to be a good week, with good “worship” and a good sermon – we’ll be there. But, if we catch wind that someone we don’t like is preaching, we’ll skip out. I know this from my own selfish tendencies.

When was that last time you thought about church as service? Not the kind you attend, but the kind you do? Do you think about how your attendance is actually serving your brothers and sisters in Christ? Because it is! You are a part of the body. And without your part, something is literally missing. You may not know everyone or be able to encourage everyone. But there are some whom you know and some whom you encourage. Just like in our body, it’s all the parts joined together that make the body. But, not every part is literally connected to the others. We are all connected in the sense of being the body. But just like your “shin bone is connected the knee bone,” the “shoulder bone” isn’t connected to the shin or knee. Your role may only affect one or two others around you, but, without you, a critical piece is missing.

#3 – You’re missing out on being in the presence of the God of the universe.

There is something special that happens when God’s people gather to worship Him, hear from Him and be in His presence. Yes, God is always with us. We have the gift of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. So that means God is always with us. It’s amazing. But, there’s something more that happens when all of us gather together who have that same spirit living in us. The Bible tells us to meet together. Actually, the Bible uses stronger language than that. It says: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” – Heb 10:24-25. 

If we could do this whole God-thing on our own, there wouldn’t have been so much emphasis on community in the early church. If we could live this life, shine this light in the way we are supposed to without other believers around us, God would have made it clear. God would have told us, go and do this on your own. You don’t need anyone around you. You are an island.

But that’s not the case. We need each other. The life and mission we have been given are too important to miss out on the very thing that was created to fuel our drive towards completing that mission.

You may not have a “great worship experience” and you might not hear an “amazing sermon.” But, you are gathered together in unity with others who have the same Spirit in them – the Spirit of the living God. The Spirit of Truth. And if you allow Him to, He will speak truth to you. He may speak it during the singing. He may speak it during the sermon. He might speak it during a conversation or prayer you are sharing before or after the service. He may share it while you serve with the kids. But, He will speak the truth you need to hear.

As we start of a new year together, would you consider the ways in which you might need to bolster your commitment to your church community? I can say with confidence, whatever you invest in this community in the coming year will be returned to you. And much more. This could be the very thing that will make the biggest impact on your life in 2017.

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Posted on Nov 9, 2016 in Blog, Culture, Featured

What Do We Do Now?

What Do We Do Now?

Every year, many of us get our hopes up about a particular football team. We root for them throughout the course of the season, and we root against their opponents. If we’re lucky (which my team hasn’t been for almost 30 years now) our team will get to the Super Bowl. Many of us will spend the weeks leading up to the big game trash talking the other team, and speaking of how our team is going to win the day. Inevitably, one team wins and another team loses. If we are fortunate, it was our team. For me, that’s never been the case, the Bengals have been to the Super Bowl twice and lost both times to the Forty-Niners.

If our team won, we want to go brag about it and celebrate. If our team lost, we want to mourn. Either way, we probably said some things that shouldn’t have been said. We probably believed some hype that shouldn’t have been believed. We build up our team and tore down the other team in unjustifiable ways. And, we have to learn how to get along with the fans of the other team.

We’ve just gone through something very similar in this years’ election. However, we’ve been building up to it for almost 2 years instead of 2 weeks. And it’s not a football game. This was based on deeply held beliefs on both sides. There has been a lot of trash talking going on. There has been a lot of hype we probably shouldn’t have even given a consideration to. Both sides have been vilified. Both sides have been pitted against each other. Both sides have been demonized. 4 & 8 years ago one team won, and one team lost. Yesterday one team won and another lost.

And, now we have to figure out how to get along with the other team. 

Part of  what always discourages me is seeing how people respond in such negative and fearful ways. It happened 4 years ago. It happened 12 years ago. It is happening as we speak.

My question for us today, is what do we do now? (Romans 12:14-21)

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

This is what we do now. Especially for those of us who follow Christ, our hope was never in any political candidate. Whether the candidate you voted for won or lost, that candidate is – like you and I – a broken person whose only true hope is in the redeeming work of Jesus Christ.  Christ is not only our redeemer, but our example. If you aren’t familiar with His story, He didn’t come out on the winning side. He was betrayed, despised, rejected, beaten and executed. He was truly innocent, the only truly innocent there has ever been, and he was executed as a criminal.

And how did He respond? 

“And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. (Luke 23:34)

He had been wrongly accused and was in the midst of being wrongly punished for crimes he didn’t commit, and he was asking the Father to forgive the very ones who were stabbing him, the very one who had driven the nails in him, the ones who were mocking him and spat on him.

You believe your team is the right team. But only one team won. What do we do? No matter which team you were on, we need to all do the same things.

  • Forgive.
  • Bless those who curse us.
  • Rejoice with those who rejoice.
  • Weep with those who weep.
  • Live in harmony with one another.
  • Don’t be proud.
  • Associate with people of a low position.
  • Don’t be conceited.
  • Don’t repay evil for evil.
  • Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone (not only the people on your team)
  • Don’t take revenge
  • If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
  • Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.
  • As far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

That’s what we do. All of us. Regardless of which team you were on. Why? Because, for those of us in America, we’re all one team. We are all joined together by the fact that God chose for us live in this nation in this time for His glory and His cause. And for all of humanity, we are all made in God’s image. There are many who may not understand that or believe that, but we are joined together by that fact.

As far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 

  • Don’t respond out of pride if your team won.
  • Don’t respond out of anger if your team lost.
  • Don’t further the division and spite by venting your joy or frustrations in front of the other team.

Be an agent of peace. You can’t control the people around you. But, you can control your response to them. As far as it depends on you, be an agent of peace.

What can you do today to bring peace to a divided and hurting world? We’ll get much further by seeking to live at peace with one another than by blasting those we don’t agree with. If you and I commit to being agents of peace in the midst of a divided world, we have the chance to shine brightly the hope of the gospel of peace.

As Chuck Colson reminds us:

“I meet millions who tell me that they feel demoralized by the decay around us. Where is the hope? The hope that each of us have is not in who governs us, or what laws are passed, or what great things that we do as a nation. Our hope is in the power of God working through the hearts of people, and that’s where our hope is in this country; that’s where our hope is in life.”

Be the hope. Be the peace. As far as it depends on you, be an agent of peace to bring unity to a divided world. 

 

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

Till, ringing singing, on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men!

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