Thursday, September 27, 2018

Worship: Not a Spectator Sport 9/27/2018

"Come, let us worship and bow down,
Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.For He is our God,
And we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.
Today, if you would hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts,"
Psalm 95:6-8

Last week, I ran into two different people, both former members of congregations that now "worship at home."  Perhaps you know of someone or several someones who fit this description.  Now, rather than going to the assembly on the Lord's day, they listen to the local Christian radio station, or watch one or more of the televangelists on cable, or do nothing at all.  Of course our brothers and sisters say they still love God, still believe in Him and pray regularly but just do not currently "go to church."

There are a variety of reasons why people pursue this avenue.  Some disagree with the way things are done at their local congregation.  Some have suffered hurt associated with someone who attends.  Some have looked into the mirror of their lives and found themselves unfit, lacking the ability to forgive themselves despite believing that they have been forgiven by God.  And some just flat out do not think it is necessary.  There are many other reasons that people give for such a tragic departure.

Beloved, I will be the first to tell you that the work of the church is not primarily done inside the church building but outside.  I would likewise say that worship is not confined to the church building in that we should all be in a constant state of worshiping our God.  But I will say that the assembly is a necessary component of our relationship with God and with each other.  Let me share with you just a few scriptures that bear this out.

  • Acts 2:40-47-From its inception, the church (more accurately phrased "the assembly") has been about the people of God being and doing together
  • Ephesians 4:11-16-We together form one body, made so by divine will for a divine and beneficial purpose
  • John 10:14-16-Being identified as flock whose shepherd is Jesus, our togetherness is implicit
  • 1 Corinthians 12:12-27-Each of us has a role in the body/assembly that we are gifted to fulfill and on which others depend
  • Hebrews 10:24-26-The assembly is as much about others as it is about us and we should not forsake it
This is by no means an exhaustive list.  The word of God consistently speaks of believers as a people, a body, a flock and a church that is designed to be together in word, thought, deed and most certainly in worship.  While some televangelist have their uses, if a person is watching one, they are watching not just the preacher but those who are members of that congregation who have gathered together to worship.  Worship is not about spectating, but participating.  

May this be an encouragement to you and may you share it with those who you know that have forsaken the assembly.

Building God's family,


Thursday, September 6, 2018

Follow Me 9/6/2018

"The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you." Philippians 4:9

In today's social media driven world, one of the things by which people are known and sometimes evaluated is by how many followers they have. Whether it is the number of friends on Facebook or followers on Twitter, it says something about your fame and popularity (or lack thereof). For this reason, we are constantly invited to "friend," "like," or "follow" individuals, companies and institutions. The question, however, is why?

When you follow your favorite athlete, singer or actor, what is the benefit? You may be among the first to know about their next event. You may be a part of the "in crowd" that learns what happens to them before the news media blasts it all over the world. Mostly what you will get are their opinions (qualified or not) about other people and their circumstances. It is virtually an every day occurrence that someone is forced to apologize for something they said about someone else our of anger, retribution, jealousy or influence of substances via social media because so many are following them.

Beloved, the apostle Paul made an audacious yet qualified "follow" request 2000 years before it was the mainstream thing to do. He was able to do this for three very important reasons. First, he was personally commissioned by the Lord to do it (Acts 9:15). Second, the example he offered was one designed to benefit the follower (Galatians 2:20). And finally, the destination of the follow-ship he requested was not himself, but Jesus (1 Corinthians 11:1).

Let us be mindful of who we follow, why we follow them and most importantly, where we are allowing ourselves to be led. Jesus once famously said, "If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit" Matthew 15:14b.

Building God's family,


Friday, August 31, 2018

Are You As Happy As You Think You Are? 8/31/201/

"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

More and more it seems that society equivocates on religion or rejects it altogether. Of course there are many reasons for this but among them have to be the perception that a relationship with God is too restrictive and too burdensome. There are so many bright, shiny, comfortable and sensually pleasurable things out there which seem to be prohibited by the Christian faith that many people are more interested in fulfilling their desires than securing their eternity.

A closer look reveals that the pursuit of pleasure and the rejection of godly structure and discipline come with their own cages which are often difficult and costly to maintain. For example, considering making our interpersonal relationships our number one priority, there is no one who does not know the effort this can take and the heartbreak that it can involve. It is only Jesus who has truthfully said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you," Hebrews 13:5. When we make working our priority for the sole purpose of gaining more and more and then conspicuously consuming it, we find that it is never enough and become trapped in a cycle of trying to protect what we've accumulated while attempting to gain even more. Jesus asked the question, "For what will it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose or forfeits himself [his soul]," Luke 9:25. Lastly, what of the things that look, feel and taste good to us? Does not the pursuit and enjoyment of some of these things cost us dearly in health, relationships, finances, time and even inner peace? It is written, "What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?" James 4:1.

Beloved, a relationship with the Lord and membership in his body is not the trap that some would make it out to be. It is submitted to you that living outside of him is the true trap. All of the things outside of him that are dangled in front of us are merely bait designed to trap us and keep us imprisoned. Jesus offers freedom: freedom from worry, stress, strife, consequences of our sin and everlasting destruction. Are there observances that we must maintain, obey and respect? Absolutely, just as there are with everything from traffic laws, to work policies and procedures to family rules. None, however, are more beneficial than Jesus' offer of rest from the burdens and weariness generated by the choices we make and an easier yoke with a lighter burden. Let all who have ears hear and let all that hear understand.

Building God's family,


Thursday, August 9, 2018

For Such a Time as This 8/9/2018

"Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, 'Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the Jews.  For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?'” Esther 4:13-14

There are times when we wonder why we are in a particular situation or place.  To be sure, we work hard to attain certain positions or circumstances but it is not unusual to occasionally look around and wonder if there is something more regarding the reason for being there.  This can be especially true if we happen to have our spiritual glasses on that day.

Esther was a young Jewish orphaned woman who, through a chain of evidently God led events, became queen to the king of a vast empire.  Unfortunately, one of the king's trusted noblemen developed an intense dislike for a Jewish man named Mordacai in particular and the Jewish people in general.  This dislike was so intense that he plotted to kill each and every one of them.  Upon hearing this, Mordecai urged his adopted daughter (Esther was actually his uncle's daughter) to get involved and make an appeal to the king.  Due to a law that promised death to anyone who sought the king that was not summoned or to which he did not extend his golden scepter as permission to approach, Esther was reluctant to say the least.

Beloved, there may be times when we find ourselves in uncomfortable situations were we may even be in some type of jeopardy.  We should always be on the lookout for how we can make a positive difference.  We must examine whether there is a way we can use the position or stature we have been granted by God to do the work of God.  Though there may be benefits to us that result from the positions we hold or the situations we have attained, which was surely the case for Esther, it is more than possible that it is a platform for the Almighty and that we have been placed there for His glory.

Esther did indeed respond and as a result, all the Jews were spared and the enemy was destroyed.  We can find ourselves enjoying our situations for many years, but let us always be ready to act on God's behalf when the opportunity presents itself.  Understand that we are all placed "for such a time as this."

Building God's family,


Thursday, July 26, 2018

Is Anything Too Hard for the Lord? 7/26/2018

"Is any thing too hard for the Lord?" Gen 18:14

The Lord had just appeared to Abraham on His way to Sodom and Gomorrah. As He enjoyed Abraham's hospitality, He informed him that despite his age of nearly 100 years that He would indeed give him a son by his nearly 90 year old wife. Sarah overhead this exchange and was clearly amused. The Lord inquired about Sarah's laughter.

Many of us fail to understand the might and power of our God. Sarah thought she was far beyond her child bearing years. Her amusement quickly gave way to another emotion when God called her on it. The point here is that the greatness of God is certainly seen in creation, but the significance is seen in our daily lives. God made a promise to (a) man and fully intended to keep it. The expression of His power is most seen when ordinary things happen under the most extraordinary circumstances. It was common for a woman to have a baby, but at nearly a century old? It was common to have wine at a wedding but made from water? It was common for storms to rise up, but to be able to walk on them?

Beloved, we often despair in our various situations and circumstances despite our status as children of the Almighty. When told that God will deliver us, we may even, like Sarah, laugh and simply point out the impossibility of our situation. It may very well be that the response, whether spoken or not, will be the same that Sarah received: "Is anything too hard for the Lord?"

Building God's family,


Thursday, July 12, 2018

Handling the Little Things 7/12/2018

"He said, " Naked I came from my mother's womb, And naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord." Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God." Job 1:21-22

Most everyone is familiar with the story of Job. We seek or are referred to his story during times of duress and great tribulation. We are fascinated by the depth and breadth of his calamities. We are also fascinated by the grace and humility with which he faced them. He always kept God at the forefront. These thousands of years later, we still draw strength from his life.

This is presented not to give us inspiration to endure our lowest lows, but to cast in relief our smaller trials. Let us consider the things that send us off the deep end. We are subject to road rage in traffic. We often argue with the ones we love over trivialities. We are ready to feud if someone slights us socially. If the boss has a less than complementary word for us, it turns into a bad day for everyone with whom we come into contact. If our child has a disappointing showing on the field of play, we forget how proud we are to have them as flesh of our flesh.

Beloved, we spend an inordinate amount of our time majoring in minor. Let us not allow the smaller things to be blown out of proportion. To be sure, the significant accidents, diagnoses, employment situations, losses, etc., will come to us personally or to someone with whom we are close. Proportional reactions in those case would be able to be understood by anyone. Remember, however, the grace with which Job handled the worst incidents imaginable. Consider then, how would he have handled the smaller things.

Building God's family,


Monday, July 2, 2018

Doing all Spiritual Things Through His Strengthening 7/2/2018

"I can do all things through Him that strengthens me." Phi 4:13

This scripture has been used as source of strength for many despite the fact that is often taken out of context. What comes immediately to mind is its use by athletes going into competition, most notably boxers. Sometimes, both boxers or contestants are wearing the same scripture. While reliance on God is admirable, what does it say to the wearer and the audience if there is a loss? Can one NOT do all things with the strength of the Lord?

Beloved, it is important that we understand what the author was trying to convey to his original audience when we read, study and use scripture. In this case, Paul was in prison. He was relaying via messenger to the church at Philippi that he was well. He admitted that his situation was a bit tough at the moment but also talked about the times things were fantastic. His point was that he had learned how to be content in both the best and worst circumstances. He gives Jesus the credit for giving him this ability.

With the proper understanding of this famous passage, we too can use it for strength in situations when we are on the mountain top as well as when we are in the valley. We, like Paul, have been divinely equipped, not to win the next ball game, but the next spiritual battle, the next seemingly hopeless situation, the next despair and the next prosperous situation (which for some is handled worse than tough times).

Building God's family,