Skipping Church for the Holidays

Here it is, once again. It is the time that people begin to travel and meet with family to celebrate Thanksgiving. Plenty of food, fun, and work! Most of us tend to eat way too much food and some even drink way too much drink. However, for many, together with Christmas, this time of year is special.

If you are like most, these times can also be very busy and cost way too much money. Family members arriving from wherever they live. The stress level many times goes sky-high. Everything must be just right, after all, family does not always get together.

And then there are some families that do not look forward to these times. Some families do not enjoy being around other family and sometimes life has caused things to be unpleasant. But each year they go through the motions.

Thanksgiving is a National Holiday here in the United States of America. It is not a Christian Holiday or any religious Holiday. Christmas on the other hand is very much a Christian Holiday! But, that is another blog post so stay tuned for that one.

Getting to the point. It seems that the preachers and Elders of the churches have some of the same conversations around this time of the year. This conversation is centered around how many people attend or do not attend church services on the Sundays before and after both of these holidays.

It is expected that people will be traveling. Because of this, the attendance numbers will either be larger than usual or lower than usual. It all depends on who does the travelling. The mystery lies in whether or not those who attend church regularly, will attend church while traveling or not. Within that question, another question needs to be answered.

It seems to be a two-sided coin when it comes to getting any conclusion to the question. The church leaders have come to expect that numbers will either be high or low on these holiday Sundays. But they do not have to be so drastic.

The first side of the coin. Previously, I mention the question of whether or not people who normally attend church, do so when they are travelling. Although I have no statistics, I would say that the majority, more than 50%, do not. Those that do attend while travelling, usually do so because the people they are visiting also attend church. Therefore, it would be easy for them to attend.

However, many of those people who are not visiting other people find it easy just to skip going to church for that Sunday. After all, they only have so many days of traveling and want to make the most of it. This is why I guess about 50% of regular church attended who travel will attend church while traveling.

The second side of the coin. This side of the coin deals with those who travel as well as those who do not travel during these holidays. First, there are those who travel and visit family, friends or others who are not church goers. Many of these people find it difficult to attend church when those that they are visiting do not. It can get a bit awkward. Although it really should not be, it is.

I will get back to them. The second point about this side of the coin is about those regular church attenders who do not travel for the holiday season but have visitor at their home. Again, there is an awkward situation which occurs when family, friends, or others have traveled to visit but are not church goers. So, they skip church for the sake of not having to have the conversation with their guests.

Both of these situations are the same situation. It comes down to having the conversation about who we are as Christians and either feeling like we are being rude or offensive by inviting our guests to church or leaving them for the hour that it takes to go to church, or actually being a witness to what it means to be a Christian and allowing the world, the guests, to see how important your faith is.

Let me just point out that it is not sinful to skip church on Sunday. Do not think that I am trying to make that statement. This blog post is simply an effort to bring out some truths that I think should at least be thought about, if not talked about within our homes and churches.

The reality is that if the Christian did a better job of prioritizing their relationships with God and taking every opportunity to worship God and be His witness, especially to those who are not believers or church goers, then the church attendance conversation between church leadership circles would not be such a big conversation.

Sure, because people will travel and others will not be able to attend even if they wanted to, there would still be an influx of attendance, high and low. The real dilemma is about the proper witness that the body of Christ is putting out into the world. Or is it really what it sometimes looks like. The Christians put God first always, unless it is uncomfortable or is inconvenient.

“…let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encourage one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”   Hebrews 10:24-25 (NASB)

This blog post is intended to be a reminder and an encouragement. That all of us who are believers, Christians, would do everything we can to be the best witness and bring honor and glory to God during this Thanksgiving and Christmas. Ultimately God knows our hearts.

I pray that God will bless you all and that this Thanksgiving will be memorable and sweet for each of us. Blessings to you all!

Small Churches Working in a Seemingly Mega Church World

Anyone who has been taken to church as a child, or who has been around any bible teaching even a little bit would at least know about David and Goliath. It is the story in 1 Samuel 17 that shows how young David showed up on the battle field and killed the Philistine warrior.

This story is a picture of a young boy saving the day when all of Saul’s army of fighting men were too afraid. Sometimes a smaller congregation might look at the ministry field in this way. Of course, the smaller church being young David in this scenario.

Most likely, many of the smaller churches, 60 people or less, actually end up portraying a picture similar to that of Gideon found in chapter 6 of Judges. Many small churches today are found hiding in their proverbial wine presses trying to evangelize the community but never leaving the church.

All the while, the larger churches seemingly continue to grow and seem to be making disciples daily. Much like that which we see in Acts, these churches are out in the public squares and attracting attention. Many are doing so for the sake of the gospel and making disciples and doing well at it.

Some of these larger churches or mega churches even have unknowingly lost track of the mission and become something that they did not set out to be. But that is another blog. I digress. Not all churches, large, small, or somewhere between are actually making disciples. There is a big difference between making disciples and filling up a building and calling it church.

Most anyone could fill up a building full of people. That is the easy part. The difficulty is to get people to come to hear the gospel and be a part of the Kingdom of God. I once was dropping my son off at college and overheard two college girls talking. “I have tried a few churches since we started school. I think it is good to see what a church has to offer me.” One said to the other.

At first, I thought to myself “how selfish can people be, all they are looking for is how the church can serve them.” As time went on and I look back, I realize that is what most people are thinking when they come into a church.

When we try to look at things from that perspective, it is important to notice that many churches, small or large are doing everything they can to love God and love others. Many are affective and being used by God greatly. Small and Large churches. Both are bring glory to the Kingdom of God and both are being used in powerful ways by God!

So, why then do some smaller churches seem to be failing or are indeed, and most of the larger churches or “mega” churches never seem to fail? Once again, it is a matter of perspective. Just as for David and Gideon, their perspectives caused their actions to be what they were.

There are many small congregations throughout the world who are standing firm in the truth of God’s word and standing in the face of a giant in the form of government hostility, social hostility, Spiritual hostility, and even ecumenical hostility! Yet because, like the church seen in the book of Acts, they too are filled with the Holy Spirit of all might God and are staying faithful to that work.

At the same time, there are way too many smaller congregations who have hidden themselves inside their church walls and refuse to do any ministry because they are trapped by fear that they will lose their church. They fear that may lose their church if they spend any money on ministry efforts, “what if they can’t pay the bills? They fear that they may lose their church if they make decisions that upset those still there who then will leave.

Also, they fear they may lose their church if they actually do ministry and it works. If that happens, a lot of people will start coming and “take over their church”. All the while they fool themselves into believing that they are “threading wheat”/doing ministry when no one in the community really knows that they exist. Meanwhile, God is trying to say to them, “The Lord is with you, valiant warrior.” Judges 6:12 (CSB)

Just down the street or in the next town, there are churches who have hundreds if not thousands of people attending each Sunday. These larger church have many ministries active in their communities and many people are coming into closer relationships with God and each other. These churches provide various types of ministry from children to adult spiritual edification. Not to mention outreach opportunities. God is using these churches very powerfully and people are know Him and He is being glorified!

On the other hand, there also are many churches who are filling up large buildings with people and there is music, ministries, and seemingly everything that was described in the last paragraph except, the teaching is not there. Something is wrong in the doctrine or the motives behind the leadership, or even something else behind the scenes. In these cases, many people are being misled and actually getting further and further away from the truth of Gods word. This also is another blog post for later.

The point is that there are people who are looking for what is true. There are many churches out there, all claiming that we have the “true” truth. So, what then? What happens to the college girls who are looking for a church that will meet their needs? And why do many smaller churches fail while other seem to be healthy. Why do these college girls, and people like them, decide not to attend the smaller congregations?

Many say it is because of the music, or the age of the congregation. I really cannot make much argument about that. However, I will say that God is bigger than that. It is true, the larger churches seem to be offering the worship experience that many young people are responding to and many older folks are rejecting.

I will also offer this element of blame, most people are like sheep and they follow the crowd. It is easy to follow the crowd. If there is a larger church where people can just show up and be served or hide out, they most likely will not have to get involved. I believe that if a church could serve whatever they offer out a drive through window, people would use it. Not all people, but some would.

The bottom line here is that there really is no answer to the “what’s wrong with this picture” question that gets painted here. I would say to the small church congregation, take courage, God is the same for you as He is for all. I would say to the larger church congregation,

Let your eyes look forward; if your gaze straight ahead. Carefully consider the path for your feet, and all our ways will be established. Don’t turn to the right or the left; keep you feet away rom evil.”      Proverbs 4:25-27

I would also encourage the small churches to press on and work hard trusting God while I would encourage the larger churches to consider the smaller churches as valuable as well as partners in ministry!

Each of us, large, medium or small congregations would do good to consider the words of Jesus spoken to Peter as he asked Jesus; “Lord, what about him?” John 21:21 (CSB). Referring to John possibly living forever. To which Jesus answered; “If I want him to remain until I come, ….. what is that to you? As for you, follow me.” John 21:22

Help your church glorify God in all that it does. As far as what God is doing with the other congregations in the world, “what is that to you?”. Jesus has a way of telling us to mind our own business.

“Me and God have church by ourselves”- Do Christians Have to Go to Church?

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭10:23-25‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Over my time in full-time ministry, I have had many conversations with a number of people about going to church. These conversations centered around many aspects, ranging from availability due to work schedules, physical ability or lack there of, and my favorite being “Me and God do our own thing on Sundays”.

Now, I know that there are many other ways that this conversation goes between the Preacher/Christian and others. The one I am focusing on here is the idea presented about whether person must go to church to be a Christian.

First, let me make it clear that it is a fact that there are people who work on Sunday mornings. It is a fact that there are plenty who cannot physically get out or come to church. It is also a fact that there are countless individuals who would love to be at church on Sunday as well as be involved with what a congregation is doing as a whole!

Let’s put all of those aside for the moment. What I am dealing with here is the idea that a person who would say that they are a Christian and also stands in the position that he or she does not “need” to attend church. That they and God do their own thing and that is good enough.

It would seem that the question at hand then would be, “does a person have to go to church to be a Christian?” To that question, I would say that going to church does not make you a Christian. But that is not the question really, is it?

When a person presents the idea, “me and God do our own thing”, the real issue is being presented in a subtle manner. What this person is really doing is challenging or daring the Preacher or whoever else, to question their salvation based on the fact that they do not go to church. It really is a defense tactic because usually the person is asked if they would like to attend church or the Preacher mentions church.

The core of the problem is that people, church goers as well as non-church goers have a misunderstanding of the purpose of attending church or being a part of the ministry of the church. The church goer sees it as evidence that a person is saved, where the non-church goer sees it as a test of their salvation or belief. This is why this conversation is such a problem in the Kingdom of God today.

The real question that church goers should be asking themselves and others is, “do I/you know Jesus?”. At the same time the real question that non-church goers should be asking themselves is “do I really know Jesus?”. If everyone would focus more on this question, the church attendance conversation would be non-existent.

As was presented at the beginning of this blog post, Hebrews chapter 10 gives us some insight into what this Christian life is to be about. In verses 23-25 we can see that words like “hold fast”, “stimulate one another to love and good deeds”, and “not forsaking our own assembling together”, which draw a picture for the believer and the “Church”.

The picture that is drawn for the believer here is that of community. A picture of people who although are different in many ways, share life together. Just as we can see all throughout the book of Acts, every time the believers shared life together in work, prayer or fellowship, God blessed them and their numbers grew!

God, the creator, does not make mistakes. He has created human beings to need fellowship. He created a mate for Adam because He knew that is is not good for man to be alone. Jesus’ death and resurrection is all about restoring fellowship and unity! I know, many thought is was about God letting people go to heaven as apposed to going to hell. Yes, that is true, but it is a very surface level understanding of the work of the cross. Not to mention a little bit selfish.

The truth is, you and I are offered grace, forgiveness, and reconciliation by the blood of Christ not primarily because we need a Savior. NO! All of that happened so that God would be glorified! Only God could take what is broken and make it whole again! Only God can take the rebellious soul and administer consequences and yet spare the law-breaker!

No, Jesus was born in the flesh, gave His life brutally on a cross, and then God the Father raised Him from death so that all of creation and all the universe would know that He indeed is Lord of it all! Oh, and by the way, because He loves His creation, that’s you and I, we get to experience the blessings that come with His glory and Lordship!

So, maybe it really is a question of salvation. Scripture tells us that those who believe would “Repent, and each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38-39. This goes together with chapter 17 of the gospel of John. We can read there that Jesus Himself prayed to the Father that the believers would be one with Him as He is with the Father. He prayed for unity in the body of Christ.

All who are genuinely saved are a part of the body of Christ. It is the same Holy Spirit living within each of them. So, when James teaches that the prayer of a righteous man is powerful, I cannot believe that here is a more powerful prayer than that of Jesus our Lord!

Therefore, it would be logical and actually expected that those who are believers, those saved by the blood of Christ, would be united! As we grow spiritually along the way, our desires fade away and the desires of the Holy Spirit begin to be dominant in our hearts. All of this should take us back to our original question. Must a person go to church to be saved?

I will conclude with this answer. A person does not get saved by attending church. That would be a work and we are not saved by works. However, if a person is genuinely “saved” by faith in the blood of Christ through repentance and baptism, and the Spirit of God is living within them, then would we not desire the fellowship of the body of Christ? After all, that was our Lord’s Prayer in chapter 17 of John.

No it is not a sin to work on Sunday. No it is not a sin to miss church service. However, if a person is a true believer, there would be a desire to be a part of the body of Christ. Notice, I still have not said that there should be a desire to go to church on Sunday. That is because there is more to being a part of the church than going to church on Sunday morning.

If a person works on Sunday morning or is unable to physically attend worship service and there is that desire to be a part of the body of Christ, they will find a way. People generally do what they want to do.

Most church congregations hold worship services on Sunday morning. Many have other times of worship such as Sunday evening, Saturday evening, and even on Wednesday evening. So there really is no excuse. After all, that really is all that it is, an excuse. Aside from worship services, there are bible studies, outreach programs, evangelism, and much more that the body of Christ is doing.

So, it really is not about going to church on Sunday morning. It is more about knowing God in such a way that not only allows a person to be reconciled to Him in spite of that person’s rebelliousness against Him, but also to know Him in a way that the person’s desire is to be a part of the body of Christ, the Kingdom of God.

Ultimately, a Christian will have an overwhelming desire to surrender to a life of participation in the body of Christ and glorifying a Holy God!

I pray that we all have the desire to be a part of the body of Christ! Oh, the answer that you might be looking for from me is, NO! No, you cannot be a Christian and not be a part of the body of Christ.

“Know that the Lord is God”- Be contagious this Thanksgiving

“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭100:1-5‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Here we are just a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving 2018. If you are like me and my family, it seemed kind of fast and filled with lots of change along the way. It is inevitable you know? Change. Whether we like it, invite it, or even see it coming, change will happen. I mean for example, just the other day I was talking with a young teenager and referred to him as “sonny” and no one looked at me funny!

As you may already know, I am currently preaching a series of sermons on being thankful and living a life of gratitude. While preparing those messages, I often think about the various gospel songs and hymns which sing about being thankful and how much there is to be thankful for.

Often times, the preacher gets to a point where he and maybe even his family just need to sit back and go to church. I mean, it is nice once in a while for the preacher just to hear the sermon with the rest of the church.  As much as I love to preach, this past October I was blessed to sit back and listen for a few days.

Our church held revival for two nights and a Sunday morning in the middle of October 2018. Mr. Aaron Davis of Eastern Pines Church of Christ in Pikeville,Ky delivered the preaching. We also had some great worship with great prayer and music each service time!

I have always been one who believes and peach that God will give me what I need when I need it. Brother Aaron brought powerful preaching with excitement and challenges! As he preached, he continuously referred to Psalm 100:1. “Shout for Joy to the Lord, all the earth.” Each time he referred to that part of scripture, he would let out a loud “WOOOOO!” Eventually, others would catch on.

Yes, that is correct. This preacher had our Conservative Independent Christian Church congregation getting loud during church! Even though the messages stayed close to the basics of the gospel message, they were powerful and exciting. Just what our congregation needed.

Also, just what this preacher needed! Sometimes we all can get to the point where we are living life and working so hard for the Lord that we can forget that there are some absolutes that are never going to change. That is not to say that people generally forget about Christ on the cross or His power and grace, but that we can get distracted from it.

I personally believe that emotions and attitudes are contagious. All it takes is one or two excited people, genuinely excited, to enter a room full of people and energize the room. Anyone who has been with other people who simply cannot stop laughing will understand what I mean.

There are two people especially that I know that come to mind when it comes to contageous joy and laughter.  One being a super awesome and Godly Lady who worked as the secretary of a church which I was part of years ago.

All it took was to get her tickled and laughing and before you know it, everyone around also began to laugh. Another is a great man with a strong and joyful spirit who I admire greatly.

Each time I see him, no matter what is going on in my world, it is not long before I am feeling joy and laughter. He is one who is not afraid to laugh hard and loud! I would say that he is not ashamed of his joy, so much so that it fills whatever room that he occupies!

The point is this. It is easier to get up every day and look around and find everything which is wrong and hurtful. It seems a bit more difficult to start each day with gratitude and joy in our hearts and minds. For the Christian, it should be that we are the most thankful, joyful, pleasant people in the world! Easier said than done right!

Right! Unless, we are surrendered to the Spirit of God which we should have already submitted to when we confessed Christ and repented! Let me point out that I am the chief sinner when it comes to this struggle. Every day is a day of choices!

You and I, we all get to choose what kind of day we are gong to have. We all get to choose how we react to the world and what happens each day. Yes, even those who struggle with depression and similar struggles.

No one ever said that life would be easy. But we all have the choice to press on toward the goal or quit. Some days less joyful than others but there is always something to find to be thankful about, if we really want to see it!

I would encourage everyone this Thanksgiving to be that person who brings joy and laughter into the room, wherever you are. You never know who else in the room may need a boost from your joy!

Change is Not Always Better

Today being Tuesday Nov. 06, 2018, it was yesterday that I spent with my wife riding through the dirt roads of the Blue Ridge Mountains in our Jeep. We have two Jeeps at this time. One is fairly newer, 2014 Wrangler, and the other is a bit older, 25 years old to be exact. It is a 1993 model Wrangler. My wife and I both had always dreamed of owning a Jeep wrangle since we both could remember. Now here we are in our mid- 40’s and we have not one but two!

5CA445A4-0112-4069-B980-9544B691868CWhy do any of you care about what my wife and I drive? You probably could not care less. I bring it up because as my wife and I spent the day riding around in our 25-year-old Jeep, we talked about how great it was to ride in the old Jeep. You know, keeping it simple. We love driving around in that Jeep because it is basic, no computers, no special engineering or parts that we could not fix ourselves if needed. Just a Jeep.

I think we like it because it takes us back to a simpler time. When we were growing up, there were no cell phones and computers only existed in the schools and then only in certain class rooms or the library. Cars were bigger and made of metal. Bicycles and big wheels were the big thing. And people actually paid money for the NewsPaper and read it every day. Thank God for that because my Dad being a news paper man, that is how we had food on the table and bills paid.

2F7048CF-32CE-46A1-B4B0-AF45761F413FMake no mistake! My wife and I love our newer Jeep just as much as the older one. I mean, it has air-conditioning, cruise control, cloth seats with carpeted floors. It has a computerized radio system which is Bluetooth capable along with hands fee cell connectivity! Oh yes, it is nice! We sometimes refer to it as our “Sunday go to meetin” Jeep!

What I am getting at is this. Even though they are both Jeeps, they are apples and oranges. The differences between the two after 21 years makes them two different vehicles. One is not better than the other. They are simply different. Both very useful and reliable.

I believe that society has a way of being very innovative over the years. What a blessing that is for everyone. People have been able to live better, work smarter and faster, and not to mention the ability to fight sickness and disease. Each generation has been able to take what the previous generation has done and continue to build on it. I think that is proper and should be expected.

I am not sure if it is my generation, the generation before, or the generation after mine, but it seems that society has been moving past building on what our fathers and grandfathers spent their lives building, to having the mindset that everything needs to be torn down and everything needs to be new.

Please do not miss-understand, I do not mean that I am against new ideas. I am simply saying that there seems to be a growing mindset that “older” folks messed everything up and the “younger” crowd now has this burden to knock it all down and fix it, because they know better or are more right.

I can remember back when I was in my late teens and most of my twenties, how I thought that most of the adults in my life did not understand and that their ways and advise just would not work or apply anymore.

And then one day I turned around and noticed that there was a young man in his teens who looked and acted a lot like me and living in my house. He looked at me and talking to me as if my ways and advise just would not work and that I could not possibly understand the problems of the world.

I suspect that it is nothing new. It is probably a blessing and a curse that follows each generation throughout time. I do get a bit frustrated at the younger generation and how they, not all but some, seem to think that all the old people are fools and have screwed everything up. It seems to me a very arrogant and disrespectful attitude. The problem is that each generation is a product of the generation before it.

As usual, the Christian cannot and should not expect a person who is not a Christian to act a certain way just because the Bible says something about it. However, it is proper to expect the believer to live lives in agreement with the truth in God’s word. Having that said, I want to share a couple of scriptures with you:

“…you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.”
‭‭1Peter‬ ‭
5:5-6‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.”
‭‭1Timothy‬ ‭5:1-2‬ ‭NIV‬‬

The bottom line for me is that I am part of society. I too am guilty along with the younger crowd as well as being guilty along with the older crowd. This is why we all need Jesus! The real issue for the church is to find ways to love everyone! Older people loving younger people, and younger people loving older people.

If we cannot get this figured out within the church, then we will never be able to go into the world and make disciples. We will simply be participating in and maybe even contribute to the generational division that sometimes seems to stand in the way of being united as people, a nation, families, co-workers, and even the church!

Not too many days ago, I met with some of the people in our church. During that meeting a point was made that when people are looking for a church, most times their decision to stay with a church comes down to children, and music. I suspect that the two are most likely woven together many times. I cannot disagree with that assessment. People do look for churches that have something for children and also look at what kind of music is presented.

Since that meeting, I have pondered that fact. Since then, and while driving my 25-year-old Jeep through the mountains, I have been reminded that every person has a use in the church. It is not something that I had forgotten, I think that I am only making sure that I do not allow myself or others to get so caught up in the “changes” that we may make in the church, that we forsake the elders.

After all, if it were not for the generations of faithful believers that served before me, I would never have heard the gospel and would never have been able to make the decision to submit myself to my Savior! I believe those thoughts are what is important as each church seeks the Lord in making “changes” for the sake of making disciples.

Yes, my wife and I have two Jeeps. Each has it’s own purpose and usefulness in our family dynamics. Both are just as valuable as the other and we would not “change” a thing.

Two pieces of advice that stand out from the “older” generations; first, “do not try to re-invent the wheel”, and second, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

 

 

Who Told You That You Were Different? – God

I  have just started preaching a Thanksgiving sermon series. Yes, it will be a longer series but that is OK. I started off in chapter 3 of Colossians. All of this book of the Bible is about how Jesus is the center of everything and holds everything together. A regular visitor to my mind appeared as I studied.

“Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him- a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.”   Colossians 3:9-11 NASB

blog pic 110218

This regular visitor being the thoughts surrounding the differences people have and show that seems to be a great source of conflict and sin, instead of being a great source of strength and glory. Why is it? Will there be no end? Where do we start?

The fact is, people are different. Men are different than Women, Adults differ from youth and children. People are different by race, culture, religion, personality, mentally, physically, and on and on. There is nothing wrong with being different! So why is it such a problem? Why is it such a powerful tool for hate and division?

Although I do not presume to have the answers to those questions, however I may have a good place to begin, I do have some thoughts which hopefully will be of some use to others. My thoughts about this great and vast topic, which has many avenues of discussion available, ultimately lead back to what we read in Colossians 3:9-11. These verses use the words, “no distinction between”, when pointing out the differences in people.

Lately, I have had numerous conversations with others about some aspects of this topic. It is not new to me that this problem of division over people and their differences is not exclusive to the world, the church is just as guilty maybe even more so. After all, the church has no excuse. The church has the truth, in scripture, as well as the Holy Spirit. There is no excuse!

I sometimes think back to Adam and Eve. After they had disobeyed God and then realized that they were naked, they then tried to cover themselves up. For the first time, they had a real knowledge of their differences as well as a knowledge of how different they were from God Himself. It is only when God shows up and asked the question,

“Who told you that you were naked?”    Gen.3:11 NASB

What a powerful and deep question! I suspect that Adam and Eve did not even comprehend the depth of the question. Really it was a rhetorical question. God was revealing to them just how he knew that they had eaten of the forbidden tree. They should not have know that they were naked. They should not have known so deeply of their differences.

Sometimes I wonder if God does not ask His Church the same question when it comes to the divisions over race, gender, age, music, non-essential doctrine, and so on. Sometimes I wonder if God is not asking the Church and the world, “Who told you that you were different?”

According to the scripture that the church believes to be absolute truth and God breathed, it says that there is to be “no distinction” between any people. You see, it is sin that causes us to see our differences as a problem!

Too many times I myself have been involved with, worked with, or heard about churches that are filled with on type of person. Some are larger churches and still only are only filled with people of “their kind”.

Some are smaller churches who do not reach out. Many churches that are located in the middle of ripe fields of harvest, refused to grow and be used for the kingdom of God because the people who live around the church are not like them.

I have seen to many “White” churches not reaching out to other races. “Black” churches only reaching out to other people like them. Financially well off church members giving off a subtle vibe of judgement to those who might dare come and visit their church who are different. One denomination shunning others who do not like the same style of music or are not as liberal or legalistic.

I have had conversations with many people of all backgrounds and ages about how the bible says that it is a sin for a man and a women of different races or cultures to marry. Let me just say that I do not find that anywhere in the Bible.

First, I will point out that Timothy was a product of interracial marriage. Acts 16:1. Oh, and Moses married a Cushite woman. Numb. 12:1. And if anyone is going to quote old testament scripture about it, their interpretation or application is wrong, or even both.

Oh, it’s true, if someone visits the church, most will put on the church face and welcome and love them while they are there. Yet, what would happen if many people who are different come, and actually stay? The church is guilty, more times than not, of self segregation. The fact is that if the Church is going to be like Christ, than there can be “no distinction” between any person. We must reach out to all with “no distinction” without compromise or sin!

I am not saying that we should not embrace our differences. I would even go so far as to say that we should celebrate our differences in a way that brings honor and glory to God, the one who created us and allowed those differences to be!

So the next time a brother or sister in Christ makes the mistake of separating another from the fellowship due to the fact that they are not the same, be the one that is willing to help that brother or sister have a different understanding. Let’s be The Church! The Church, like Christ, makes “no distinction” between male/female, Old/young, Asian/Hispanic/Black/White/Etc…., US Citizen/visitor.

In the eyes of our Lord, there is no difference. Jesus died for all! We must ask God to help us see others the way He does!

 

Faith Beyond the USA

Each time I write about topics involving the United States of America, I feel it necessary to begin with sort of a disclaimer about myself as a citizen United States of America. I will say that I am a citizen because I happened to be born in Lamar County Alabama.

49C6A344-E574-4A09-8B4C-CF96122B1515Having grown up in the USA, I am proud to be a part of this great nation. Since 1971, I have experienced many freedoms and been allowed many rights that many others do not receive around the world. I love my country and believe I would die for it if need be.

When I write thoughts for this blog, they are intended to be those that offer words from a Christian worldview. Realizing that not all of my fellow citizens hold to the same faith or values, I do not hold anything against those who disagree with me. There are many issues in our world today as well as right here in the USA.

Times, from my perspective, are sometimes scary or concerning in terms of the future. I wonder about my son and his future or his children, should he have any. What will these United States be for them. I am certain that things will not be the way they were for me. Time has a way of changing everything.

Sure, there have always been battles, political, moral, religious, and social. In the middle of it all, I cannot help but think about the fact that their has never been a nation, kingdom which has lasted. What I mean is that all great nations and kingdoms eventually met their end over time. Will that be true for the United States of America?

Not too long ago, I would have adamantly said, NO, it’s not possible! It would never have been possible, in my mind, that the USA would not exist with all it’s greatness and freedoms it affords it’s citizens. And then, 09/11.

It seems that everything changed after the attack on that date, 09/11. Suddenly, there was a glimpse of vulnerability here. Don’t get me wrong, I still think we are a powerful nation and it would take a great force or forces to change that, if even possible without ending the world all together. No, I am much more concerned about “self destruction”.

Many things have happened over the years since the terrorist attacks on 9/11. The latest world event that causes these concerns is the thousands of people who are walking toward the southern border of the United States with the intent to simply walk into this country without regard to any laws or respect for our fellow citizens. All the while waving flags representing their native country.

Whether or not this news event is really happening the way it is being reported or even happening at all, it still causes me to ponder. Without getting into the details about that situation, I will point out that it does create quite a moral dilemma for some. Sparking debates across the nation and even the world.

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Photo: Fox News

A person in our church asked me what my thoughts were about what should be done about the matter.

Should the USA protect our border from invasion? Should we consider the people who are in the group which is coming? What is right and what is wrong? The truth is, being an American and a Christian comes with great challenges. Not that Christians from other parts of the world do not have their own challenges.

For the American Christian, it would seem that there is a real moral dilemma at hand. But when pondered on and prayed about, it really is not that difficult to sort through. The USA is my home. What would most people do if people came into their home uninvited? My answer to what I believe is the right thing to do for the American, as well as the Christian can be found in a prior blog post, “Violence and the Kingdom of God”. 

I brought all of this up because I really think it is important for every Christian who is a citizen of the United States of America to think about the possibility that the nation could one day be no more.

God forbid this should ever happen, but the question should be, what does it mean fo the Christian if it does? Will it change your faith? Would your relationship with God be any different? Does your Christianity depend on your citizenship in the USA? Will God be you God with or without these “United” States of America?

The fact is that most people do not think about how the world changes and how it might affect who we are in Christ. Most people go about their day expecting that their world will be the same as it was yesterday, after all, it is what we believe that we “deserve” right?

All the while, there are those in the world that would just as soon destroy this nation along with those who are standing guard against our enemies, here and around the world that keep our freedoms intact.

The reality is this. There are many great people who are what we call decent. Not all are Chrisians by the way. There are also many people who are not nice, rather wicked and evil in fact. People will not be forced into peace! The very thought of that is absurd.

No, if there is to be peace, it must be chosen by all. This is why God does not force anyone to accept His love. Forced love is not love.

”Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.” Colossians 3:15 NASB

That scripture reference in Colossians is mainly speaking to the believers and how they are to live at peace with one another. However, Paul gave instruction to those in Rome;

”If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Romans 12:18 NASB

The point being with this entire post is that being a Christian ought to be the first priority. Yes, being a citizen of the United States of America has it’s responsibilities, but the Kingdom of God is greater!

Yet at times, we seem more concerned with protecting this great United States of America than protecting and standing firm in the Kingdom of God. Can we do both? Yes.

Are we doing both? I’ll let you answer that.

“COEXIST” – My Two Cents for What It’s Worth

We do not have to travel far down the road to find the familiar bumper sticker which would seem to encourage people of all religions to “COEXIST”. For the record, I do not own nor display one of these bumper stickers or signs anywhere. However, I am in favor of getting along with all people, as far as it is up to me.

Now, having pointed that out, I will say that there seems to be some confusion about this “COEXIST” bumper sticker. Not only on the part of those who do not display it, but for those who do as well.

Where to start? Let me start with my own basic understanding of what this statement is about. I am sure that someone will correct me if I am in error. Nevertheless, my understanding is that the idea is that if people of all religions would simply get along, there would be world peace. I know it is much deeper than that, but that is the general idea.

The real thought behind the statement to “Coexist” is that no one religion has exclusive rights to “truth”. This comes from the worldview rooted in “relativism”. What is true for you may not be true for me, is how that looks. This idea seems to be an effort to create a world where everything is happy, fair, and all-inclusive for the sake of world peace.

There are two main points I would like to address, my two cents. First, I would like to submit to the world that we already coexist. If we look at the definition of the word;

1 : to exist together or at the same time
2 : to live in peace with each other especially as a matter of policy

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/coexist

The fact is that we do exist together at the same time, all of us, whether we like it or not! However, I will admit that the second offered definition, “live in peace with each other”, we have yet to master. But in a general sense, I say we already coexist.

As for my second point, I will submit that it really is not possible to “live in peace with each other”. The fact is that each person is only able to control or manage her/himself. No one can force any other person to live at peace with any other person or people! The very idea of that I would liken to North and South Korea hugging it out and then acting like nothing ever happened! I mean to force another to do something that they are not willing to do seems to be the opposite of living in peace with each other.

The idea that people of different belief systems, which many times stand in contrast with each other, submitting to the idea that every religion or belief system can be right would require everyone to compromise their belief system. I will be the first to say, as a Christian, I will not compromise what I believe to be the truth nor do I expect anyone else to. Yes, I will share my beliefs with others for the purpose of allowing them to decide for themselves if they agree or disagree.

I do however, believe that it is always an option for an individual to offer respect and kindness, even love, to their neighbor. I for one do not demand that anyone believe what I believe about truth, God, or any other worldview or idea that I hold. I do my best to treat everyone that I meet with respect, like a person who has ideas, opinions, and beliefs. It is ok, it is ok to disagree! It does not always mean hate or dislike.

The real problem with the “COEXIST” bumper stickers is that there is an insinuation, intended or not, that those who display it are the ones who are “right” and anyone who disagrees or does not function within their idea of “COEXISTING” is “wrong”. This my friends, is the epitome of hypocrisy and flies in the face of everything that it says it stand for! No one can stand and say that they are “right” without saying that someone else is “wrong”.

“”But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
‭‭Luke‬ ‭6:27-28‬ ‭NASB‬‬

 

 

Can you love your church too much?

Most, when asked about the church that they attend, would say great things about their church. I would hope anyway. Well, there is always those who are never happy with anything. However, most might even say that they love their church! Sometimes people feel this way because it is the only church they have ever attended, and some may be fairly new to their church. Regardless, everyone who says that they love their church also has their personal reasons for loving their church.

Not long ago, I preached a sermon series about getting excited about church and helping others do the same. Now, as a Preacher, I think that it is vital that the Preachers and church leaders lead by example here. But first, they and the members must all answer one question, and answer it honestly.

The question is not, “do you love your church?” That question is simply a part of the real question by which an honest answer has the potential to set the church on fire for doing the work of the Kingdom. The real question, the full question is; “Do you love YOUR church, or do you love THE church?”

The truth is that some love their church too much. That’s right, too much! You may think that it is not possible to do that. I will submit that it is very possible and in fact has happened and is happening way too often. Even to the point of contributing to the demise of many congregations around the world! Sadly.

What does it mean to love your church too much? First, the question itself gives away the answer if we are paying attention. Some do not realize that the church belongs to God. The church is not mine, nor is it yours or anyone else’s! Far too many people have staked some kind of claim to ownership in “their” church building presume to have control over the what, when, where, why, and how much of what goes on at the building that facilitates church.

Second, because some love “their” church too much, evangelism turns into an effort to get others to join them at “their” church for the purpose of encouraging the visitor to become more like them as well as loving the church for the same reasons that they do. The sad part about people loving “their” church too much is that the result is missing out on what God is doing in the world through His Kingdom work!

As we read instructions given to husbands in Ephesians;

”Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.”     Ephesians 5:25-27 NASB

Although, this teaching is speaking about the relationship that a husband should have with his wife, there is more to see here. If the instruction is for the husband to love the wife as Christ loved the church, then there should be and is explanation about how Christ loved the church.

Let us notice that it shows there in Ephesians chapter 5 that Christ “gave Himself up for her,”. It continues by using words like sanctity, wash, and that she, “THE Church”, would be made Holy and blameless. The fact that Christ Himself willingly gave Himself up for the church should give all believers a clue as to what it means to “love THE church”!

If the believers, those who surrender by faith to the gospel of Jesus as the Christ, are the body of Christ, and they are, then they/we ARE the Church! Furthermore, if we who are being made blameless by Jesus offering Himself up for us, and we would call ourselves “Christian”, “like Christ”, then how can we not give ourselves up for “THE Church”?

You see, it is very possible to love “YOUR” church too much! Yet know this, it is impossible or anyone or group of people to love “THE” Church too much! It all comes down to one thing. How do you view church? Have I/you somehow confused the church with other organizations which allow members to take ownership and positions of control? Or have I/you been able to see “The” Church and grow into loving God with all our hearts, minds, and souls as well as loving first “THE” Church as we love ourselves and then even others in the world?

We must realize and continue to be reminded that buildings, furniture, money, and any other thing in existence is NOT “THE” Church! It is those who believe that Jesus is the Christ and by faith, repentance, and baptism for the forgiveness of sin, anyone can become part of “THE” Church! It is “THE” Church that IS the Kingdom of God!

So, I ask. “Do you love your church too much? Are you slowly choking the life out of the congregation of believers which God has included you to be a part of? If so, I pray that God will help you to repent, and begin to see “THE” Church, His Church. And when you do, I pray that you fall madly in love with “THE” Church!

To God Be the Glory!

Progressive Christianity- It Cannot Be!

Every now and then, more often than not, something that someone says or writes grabs my attention. Sometimes in a great way and other times in a disturbing way. This past week, a blog was shared on social media that did just that. This particular blog post was written by Alisa Childers. Although I do not know her and have never met her, I found her blog post about what is called “Progressive Christianity” very interesting.

As I mentioned, I do not know her except what I read on her blog page. On this particular topic, I find myself in agreement with her. She wrote about how some churches have headed toward or are in danger of heading toward “Progressive Christianity”. I find myself wanting to not only suggest that everyone read her blog post, but I wish to bounce my thoughts off of her statements.

First, I will quickly summarize the points that she makes in her blog post. She offers a warning or at least a notice to the churches about what it means to be “Progressive Christians”. I will only give you the 5 points that she talks about, you should go read her post if you want to know what she says about them.

Childers points out that there are 5 things to look out for in a church to protect against falling into “Progressive Christianity”. Unless that is your desire, then it is probably already too late.

  1. A Lowered View of the Bible.
  2. Feelings are emphasized over facts.
  3. Essential Christian doctrines are open for re-interpretation.
  4. Historic terms are re-defined.
  5. The heart of the gospel message shifts from sin and redemption to social justice.

After explaining each of these points, Childers goes on to explain a little about each of them. Read her blog post! All to conclude that there are some churches out there who are leaning toward this, have given over to it, or at least are in danger of it.

I point out all of this so that I can say this;

Christianity according to what I read in the Scripture, the absolute truth, can only be one thing. That one thing is what God says it is! No man has the authority to change even one word of God’s truth. Many in this world, over the history of man, have tried and delivered a message that is inconsistent with the truth of the Bible. This is nothing new.

The idea of something called “Progressive Christianity” is a contradiction in and of itself! The fact that God is Holy and has never changed should give the clue that His Truth would be the same way.

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”   

2Timothy 3:16-17

So, to use the word “progressive” with the word “Christianity” would be likened to using the phrase “NO LORD”.  If God is to be our Lord, we would not ever say “NO” to Him. If we did, then he would not be our Lord.

The word “progressive” means “happening or developing gradually or in stages;” it is also defined as “(of a group, person, or idea) favoring or implementing social reform or new, liberal ideas.” (MW Dictionary)

I will submit that what God has put in place is a finished product and is a perfect product! There is no need to add to, take away, or change any part of it. God is a Holy and perfect being who is the creator of all.

He has put in place a master plan of reconciliation of Himself to His creation. The only thing that changes, develops, or progresses along the way is man! You and me! We are the ones who will be changed.

For anyone to presume that the gospel is something that is an evolving or changing thing is one who is still living in the darkness, trapped in the snare of the lies of Satan.

The truth is simply this:

“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; on God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”  

Galatians 4:4-6

 

There is only one Christianity. There cannot be various kinds of Christianity. The only one and true Christianity in existence is one that consists of Jesus as Lord and Savior, as well as an acknowledgement of sin and the consequences that come with it.

To Alisa Childers, I say thank you and God bless you for sending out yet another warning to us all! To those of us who are living the Christian life, I say God help us to cling to the truth in the Bible and stand firm in what God has put in place!

I have always believed that the ones who are in the most danger of being separated from God for eternity are those who believe that they are saved, yet for what ever reason do not truly know God!

 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord,’ did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”   

Matthew 7:21-23