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.
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.
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!
I can’t read your mind. No pastor can. (Though some think we have that super power. If I could choose a super power, I don’t think that would be it, haven’t you ever watched Bruce Almighty?)
But, if I could read your mind, I’d be willing to guess you’ve had that thought about your church. “I think it’s time to start doing a little church shopping because I’m just not getting what I need here.” “If they would do this program like this other church, I might stay, but…” “If the pastor was funny like the other guy…” “If the pastor would just feed me instead of making me laugh…” And the list goes on. And the list goes on. (Insert Sandi Patty music here.)
So, we go shopping trying to find a church that is going to meet our needs. And everything changes.
We go from being a part of a loving community to being a consumer of a good or service. We stop thinking about the good of the whole and start thinking about our own good. Without a thought of how our actions are affecting others, we just change everything.
Churches aren’t commodities. Churches aren’t storefronts or business. Churches don’t exist to please its constituents.
I’ve had several conversations with people who have left our church over the past few years that I’ve been here. If someone leaves, I try to talk to them and find out why (if I don’t already know). Not once, has the issue been something relevant. “We are leaving because you’re teaching heresy.” It’s always been something preferential. We need this or that. We want this program. We want our kids to have this thing. When I ask the question, “Have you considered how you leaving will affect the rest of our community?” people don’t really have an answer. Some have thought about it, but their own personal desires trump the good of the whole.
(By the way, I’m not writing this post in response to someone leaving our church. In fact, we’ve had some new families join us and stay. So, that’s why I’m writing it now. It’s a good time to write about when you’re not having the problem)
Maybe you’re thinking about looking for another church. Let me as you a question: who is church for? If you’re answer is you, then you should probably do your church a favor and leave. “Harsh words man, lighten up a little bit.” Sorry, but that might be what you need to hear.
Churches exist for worshipping God, for the good of the local body of Christ and for shining the light of God’s love into the darkness.
“My personal pleasure” is not a role that churches are supposed to play. To reduce your church to pleasure puts it in the category of a social club, and we have not interest in being that for you.
You’re not getting anything out of church? Maybe that’s not the point. What have you given to your church lately? What have you contributed? Have you loved your brothers and sisters in Christ in a way that serves them? Or are you just looking for people to meet your needs and serve you?
These are the problems we face in the church today.
Reasons people leave church:
My needs aren’t being met.
I don’t like being under authority.
I have a disagreement/conflict with someone in the church and it’s easier to leave than work it out.
I don’t like the style of music.
I don’t like the teaching.
My kids’ needs aren’t being met.
There are others. Honestly, too many to list here. What makes these wrong?
Your needs will be met if your in true biblical community. True biblical community starts with me sacrificing myself. If you have a problem with authority, you will have a problem with every church, because your problem is not with the church but with God. If you can’t solve conflict, you just shouldn’t be around any human, stay at home and watch a TV preacher. There must be someone who likes the style of music your church uses, think about what’s best for that group of people and not what you want most. Is the teaching heretical? If not, there is something you can learn. If your kids’ needs aren’t being met, maybe that’s why you’re there.
“Okay, what’s the point of this article preacher man?”
You are where you are for a reason. What can you do to be a part of the solution? Maybe God wants you to help your church serve one another better, but He needs you to get over yourself first. I don’t know. What I do know is that God wants you to be committed. And until you make a commitment, you will be constantly disappointed because church isn’t about you and that’s what you’re trying to make it about.
Commit to worshipping God. Commit to the body. Commit to shining the light. Put your name on a pew. Be so committed that people know where you sit and notice when you’re missing. Meet the needs of other people in your church. Meet the needs of people in your community. Love God above everything and love your neighbor as yourself. Get those two things right and not matter what church you are in, you will be blessed.
When is it okay? Well, if the pastor is teaching heresy, that would be one. If something immoral is happening and not being addressed, then maybe. But only after following what the Bible says to do about confrontation, etc. Aside from those two things, there’s not much.
What are your thoughts? When is it okay to leave a church? Mad at me? Let me hear it!
7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.8 Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
I don’t know about you, but there are times when I get tired and weary. There are times I wish things would happen faster. I wish I would see the progress quicker. I’ve been working hard on something for a long time and it’s still not where I wish it was.
I thought, by now, I would be further along. The benchmark I had in my mind for where I would be at this particular earmark is still quite a ways off in the distance.
I don’t know if you ever feel that way, but if you’re anything like me (human), I know you have.
It can be hard can’t it? Being patient. Waiting. Watching something grow every day, makes the growth seem small. Not much changed between yesterday and today. Not much has changed in the last week or even month. I keep watching the plant, but it just doesn’t seem to be making much progress.
But then someone, with a fresh perspective comes along. And they notice the change. They notice the difference. They remember where we were and compared to that, we’ve come along way. There is a difference. Things have improved. Things are better.
But not for long. Because soon I’m back to my day to day grind and it just seems like things aren’t going where I want them to go.
What do we do when we get in this situation?
We keep going. We keep doing the good that we’ve been doing. We keep trying. We try a little more than we did yesterday. We get a little step further ahead, even if it’s a baby step.
Why do we keep going? Because we trust God’s word to us. “Okay, churchy guy, thanks for giving me the Sunday School answer.” Hold on. Don’t stop reading yet.
At The Proper Time
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
On the front side of progress, all I see and think is: “I could be doing that.” I overestimate my abilities and maturity and think I can be doing what someone much wiser and more skilled than I can do. That’s where we get hung up.
We don’t have a proper assessment of our abilities and maturity. “Well, you’re being kind of harsh today, aren’t you?” No, just being honest with how I’ve been. And guessing I’m not the only one who’s been here.
Like I said, I thought I would be further along today than I am. But, I also have a perspective today that I didn’t have back then.
Looking back, I can see how unprepared I was for what I wanted. And if I had gotten what I wanted, it could have been potentially disastrous for me and lots of people involved. Why? Because when you’re not ready for something, you’re not strong enough to carry the weight of it for the journey.
We think we want the success, but we don’t understand that success has weight. And If we haven’t been built up for it, it will eventually crush us.
That’s why we keep going
Because, God is in the process of growing up. He’s building us up. If we are plugged into a committed community of believers, God is going to use that group of Jesus-followers to build us up. As we keep going, we keep growing and building up the foundation our lives need to withstand the success that we hope for.
So, don’t be discouraged today if, today, you find yourself far off from where you thought you would be. Because there’s a purpose in the process too. What you’re going through right now is significant for what you are going to be going through in the future. What you do today will prepare you for tomorrow.
So don’t give up. Don’t throw in the towel. Just because you’re not where you want to be doesn’t mean you’re not in a good place.
And, just like God says: “…at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
The harvest is coming. You may not have the tools or knowledge or skills you need to bring in the harvest. And that’s what you’re doing right now. You’re acquiring what you need.
And at the proper time, the harvest will come. And you’ll be ready.
I’ve discovered something about myself. This may come as a revelation to you too. That is this: things that require more effort are harder for me to do.
I know, that’s a revelatory statement. You’re probably thinking, “I clicked on this link to read that. What a waste of my time.” Well, before you click away, give me a second.
At SixEight Church we’re in a series going through these verses of 2 Peter:
2 Peter 1:3-7
3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge,6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness,7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.
That’s a pretty powerful statement. God’s power has granted to us, given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness. Those things we need for life and godliness have been granted to us.
How have they been granted to us? Through the knowledge of the one who called us to his own glory and excellence. The calling placed on our lives is not one of mediocrity and averages. We are called to the same glory and excellence of the one who called us.
By this knowledge of holy one who has called us we have been granted/gifted with his precious and great promises. The knowledge we have of the holy God who called us is where we find the promises He has made to us.
And it is through these promises that we become partakers of the divine nature. It is through these promises and divine power that we escape the corruption that is in the world through sin.
But at this point, Peter creates a contrast. To now Peter has been talking about what has been granted/gifted/bestowed to us. And it’s all great stuff. But, he’s going to change course.
Make Every Effort.
Spoude. Pronounced spoo-day’. It means diligence. Earnestness in accomplishing, promoting or striving after anything.
You see, there’s the work that’s been granted and gifted to us. There’s the aspect of our faith that we have received freely. It’s awesome and amazing. But, the problem is, we stop there. We stop with the easy part. We’ve been given this great gift, but we don’t do our part.
What’s worse, is we often feel entitled to the outcome with out doing our spoude. We want God to just give us the fruit without making any effort to produce the fruit. And we get mad when God doesn’t make us the kind of people we think He should be making us into.
Even though we haven’t done anything to change.
Yes, there is the granted and given aspect of our faith. But, Yes, there is also the working, spoude, diligent, striving aspect of our faith. We have to “press on/strain toward the goal.”(Phil. 3) We have to “Do our best to present ourselves to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Tim. 2)
We don’t become “spiritual giants” by waiting for someone else to make us one. We don’t become more like Christ by waiting for God to do all the work for us. Will God do the work in us? Absolutely. It can only be done through Him. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have any responsibility to work at becoming like Christ.
The problem is, I’m lazy. I don’t like doing things that require effort on my part. Can’t I just pay someone to do that for me? Isn’t there an easier way.
Samuel Johnson said: “What we hope ever to do with ease, we must learn first to do with diligence.” Faith may not come naturally to you at first, but if you make every effort you can in it, it will come more naturally to you. Virtue/Moral excellence may not come naturally. But if you work at it, strain and strive after it, it will come more naturally to you. Knowledge will not just magically appear in your mind. You have to work to attain it.
Instead of blaming God for not granting us our prayers for Him to do something in us that we’re not willing to do in ourselves, we should ask: “Am I making every effort?” Maybe we’re not there yet. “Am I making any effort at all?”
You and I will never grow in our faith, in our relationship, in our walk with God if we don’t make an effort.
How can we make an effort? Spend time reading his word. Read 2 Peter. Read it slowly. Read it once a day. It’s not long. If that’s too much, just read these 5 verses once a day. Think about it. Let it sink in.
Spend time praying to God. Just communicate with God, have an honest conversation with Him about your struggles. Ask Him to help you conquer this or that.
Worship Him. Humble yourself and exalt Christ. Humble yourself and lift Him up. Make sure you are not elevating yourself above God. Don’t make God a fairy or a jeannie in a bottle who exists to grant your wishes. Make much of him and less of yourself.
Our frustrations with our faith are nearly always because we’re not making an effort. What would change if you started making an effort today?
It’s hard to remember not being this way. I think some of us with certain personality types are a little more prone to it. However, I think a lot of my habitual pessimism came to me during my time in college.
There’s this way of thinking in college, and it’s in a lot of churches…well, it’s pretty much everywhere.
I’m afraid we’re becoming more and more pessimistic as time goes on.
It can feed your brain and ego to be negative and pessimistic. There are studies showing the way your brain rewards you for being negative and for other negative behaviors like gossiping.
I think that’s party of why we do it. I think we also do it because it makes us feel smart to be able to put something or someone else down. Being negative and pessimistic is a way of lifting ourselves up over whatever it is we’re putting down.
I’ve been trying to be a more positive and optimistic person for a while. But, I haven’t made it public yet. So, I wanted to do that today.
Hi, I’m David. And I’m a recovering pessimist.
I refuse to define myself as a pessimist. I’ve been and am being set free from it. That’s not who I am, that’s who I was. It is a journey. It’s a challenge. It can be tough to change ways of thinking and talking and interacting that have been pressed deeply into your psyche.
But, that’s not who I am, that’s who I was.
However, my confession is not merely a way of me going public with my journey.
It’s also a plea.
Will you join me? Will you go with me on this journey? Will you make a choice to abandon your negative, pessimistic ways of thinking, talking, interacting and seeing the world through that lens?
Especially for those of you who are Christians, we have so much to be thankful for, joyful over and to celebrate! We have been set free from the corruption and brokenness of the world. And while the world around us remains broken, we cannot be instruments of redemption with a mindset of corruption and pessimism.
I’m not saying we won’t have to endure hardships. I’m not saying we have to hide our pain and our struggles. Some of us have gone through unimaginable pain and sorrow. There will be seasons and times of our lives where we walk through the shadows.
But, they are merely that – shadows. They are passing. They are temporary. They exist because there is light. And, as dark as the shadow may be, as dense as the forest around us is – if we just keep walking, we will eventually find ourselves in the light again.
Will you join me in this pursuit? Will you help me in this pursuit? Because I don’t think we need anymore negativity in our world.
Instead, I think we need more hope in our world. We may be the only source of hope for this world. You may be the only source of hope for the people in your life. We cannot provide hope to the world through pessimism and negativity.
Should we be dishonest? Should we put on a front? No.
But, we should practice. It’s one thing to be fake. It’s another thing to practice being someone you’re trying to become. Athletes practice. Musicians practice. Artists practice. People learning to drive have to practice.
We need to practice our positivity, hope and optimism. And maybe if I, if we, practice it enough, it will become who we are.
And maybe someday, people will call you that optimistic person that they love being around.