To Give or Not to Give- That is a Good Question

 “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”  John 13:35 (NASB)

Often times in bible studies and just casual conversation, I hear people bring up the topic of discerning when to give to those who ask. Usually this question refers to those who are seen on the street holding the cardboard sign which is intended to explain their situation. Other times, people will call or arrive at the church office wanting some assistance with something.

I personally believe that this “dilemma” is born out of a torn heart. Many Christians genuinely want to help those in need. I mean, if we are genuine Christians, then it would be in our hearts to show love and compassion for the needy. On the other hand, Christians are people and people don’t like to be taken advantage of. When it does happen, and it seems to happen often, it king of leaves a bad taste in our mouths.

Some respond by cutting off all benevolence to anyone, after all that would only be fair and safe, right? Others take the attitude that they will just give what they can always, leaving the receiver in God’s hands. Many leadership meetings at churches have been spent discussing this matter. Ultimately, churches and Christians alike really want to help those in need and minister to them, yet at the same time do not wish to be taken advantage of and allow some to steal from them.

As I address this issue, let me make it clear that I personally to not have a concrete, “this is what to do” answer. What follows is just my two cents. I pray that it is helpful.

First, we see in John 13:35, among many other places in Scripture that the Christian is one who loves others. In fact, that is how we are to be distinguished from the rest of the world. Jesus even taught that we are to love God and love others. I will submit that loving God and loving others is not something that the Christian strives to get better at and achieve, rather it is what is in us. It is who we are.

The Christian is one whom in the Holy Spirit has taken up residence. Even though the trinity cannot be explained completely, we can know that the three are one. Therefore, since God is love,

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.     1 John 4:7-8  (NASB)

and the Spirit of God is God, then we can conclude that love is in the believer. This is why the Christian has this “dilemma” in our hearts when it comes to showing love and compassion to those who present themselves in need. I think that the first point of focus would be with self. We Christians would do good to ask ourselves, who is making the decision as to whether or not a person is genuinely in need or not?

The question that we usually ask ourselves almost immediately is, does this person really need help? Or, is this person being honest, or are they just making up a story to get the help they are asking about? My not so favorite one that some have asked is, how do I know they won’t go buy drugs or alcohol with what I give them?

To 99% of the people in the world, it seems that those questions are legitimate questions. However, for the Christian, we must remember that since the Spirit of God is living in us, our approach may be different. I am not saying that it is wrong to think about those questions, however, I am saying that they should not be out guide to reach the conclusion to the “dilemma”.

Second point. I do not think that the Christian is “obligated” to give to everyone who presents a need. The scripture is clear that we are to help others when we have opportunity and the means. Along with that, I will submit that the Christian has a responsibility to be good stewards of that which God has entrusted in their care.

I do not believe that God desires for the Christian to be taken advantage of. Nor do I believe that God desires the Christian to be taken for a fool. After all, we are ambassadors for the Kingdom of God to this world. We must look at benevolence of any kind as an investment. An investment in the work of the Kingdom of God.

Jesus taught a lesson using a parable about a wealthy man leaving his wealth in the care of three men. Each having the same responsibility. Two were successful, the other failed. The two that succeeded increased the wealth of the Kingdom because they feared their master and thought to do what he would want them to do. The third, on the other hand, was more afraid of failure than the master. He did what he thought was best and did not consider what the master would have him do.

The same is true here for the Christian. The Master, our Lord, has given us His valuables. We have the responsibility to be stewards of that wealth. That wealth, by the way, is His love, the gospel of Christ, Salvation. This should lead us to the question, why does the scripture teach us to give when we can give?

I often try to insert into those conversations about this matter the answer to that question. At least what I believe to be the answer. It is two-fold really. First, but not foremost, the scripture teaches us to give because that is what love is. If love resides in a person, then compassion will rise to the surface. Second, and foremost, the scripture tells us to give because of John 13:35. The world will know the Christian because of the way we love.

As far as knowing when not to give or be taken advantage of. I often think about Acts chapter 3.

“But Peter said, “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—walk!”               Acts 3:6 (NASB)

Here Peter and John were presented with a man in need. It so happened that this man had a genuine need. However, they did not give the man what he asked for. Instead, they invested in the Kingdom of God by giving him what was most valuable. The result was that the crippled man encountered God and the world around them was impacted greatly by the witness! If you don’t believe me, go read it for yourself.

The point that I am getting at here is this. There are times to give and there are times not to give, that is when it comes to the things of this world. When it comes to giving the love of God, there is never a time not to give. For the Christian, the key is to seek guidance from the Master. “What would Jesus do?” even though that has become a cliché, it still rings true.

The letter to the Galatians instructs us to keep in step with the Spirit. That means that we are not making the decisions. I know, that is hard to accept, but it is the way the Master set in place. The Holy Spirit will guide us away from poor investments with the Master’s wealth, and make us aware of the good investment opportunities for the Kingdom of God.

I hope I have explained this well enough that you all can see that it is a matter of making disciples in everything we do. We help the needy in hopes that they will encounter God and His Kingdom, whether they are Christians or not. We help the Christians who are in need for the purpose of getting them back in the Kingdom work force, and we help those who are not Christians for the purpose of exposing them to the love of God! So, we must seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit when it comes to helping the needy in this world.

Oh, one last thing. God does not expect nor desire anyone to become needy for the sake of helping those in need. Give what you can, when you can. If you have not the means, seek the Lord for other ways to help. Peter and John told the crippled man, “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give you.” Acts 3:6. If we genuinely have the Spirit of God living in us, then we always have something to give.

We should offer that whether it is received or not.

 

The Spirit of Christmas- is it really in the air?

““The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭1:23‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Over the generations that Christmas has been celebrated, many times the “Spirit of Christmas” has been mentioned, talked about, or even taught about. There have been stories and books written, even movies made about the “Spirit of Christmas”.

The question might be, what is the “Spirit of Christmas”? Furthermore, is it the same for everyone or is it something that means something different for every individual? I think you will find that there are many answers offered and opinions given, whether called for or not.

Since I am a Christian, it should be obvious that my answer to the general question would be that the “Spirit of Christmas” has to do with the presence of Jesus. After all, Matthew’s gospel points out that they called Him Immanuel, which means “God with us”. The presence of God is what every Christian should be experiencing even when it is not Christmas. For those who are not Christians, well let me just point out that God’s presence is always there, one only need to surrender to Him.

““Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.””
‭‭Luke‬ ‭2:14‬ ‭NIV‬‬

We can see in the gospel of Luke as the Angels spoke to the Shepherds about the birth of Jesus. Notice that they are promised that on earth there will be peace to those on whom his favor rests. It is kind of an amazing thing to notice. The peace of Christ being given to those who will notice it. Those who believe that Jesus is the Christ and that His death and resurrection were sufficient for the sins of man!

If asked, there are not many people in this world who would say that they do not want peace. Since Christmas is about the birth of Jesus in the flesh, it makes sense that there would be a keen awareness of His peace or His Holy Spirit during the time of celebrating His birth. After all, it marked the beginning of the fulfillment of God’s promise in chapter 3 of Genesis.

It seems that during Christmas time, after Black Friday, and the hustle and bustle of what the season has become in our society, on Christmas Day, everything seems to slow down. Most everything is closed up, many people are in their homes with their families and nothing else is happening but Christmas fellowship and eating stuff.

It is no wonder that many people feel an extra strong sense of the “Spirit of Christmas”! That Spirit of Christmas is simply the peace of Christ and the comfort in knowing that indeed there is a Savior provided by God! Only if we all could be so attentive to that Spirit those other 364 days of the year!

Now, I realize that not everyone believes what I believe to be the truth about Jesus and Christmas. I realize that Christmas for those, has some other meaning. I cannot possibly fathom what that could be or that it would have any real meaning for them. However, this is the case for many. I will say, the fact that there are people who do not believe that Jesus is the Christ and do not celebrate Christmas for what it truly is about, does not change the truth about God or Jesus born in the flesh. It certainly does not change the presence of God and His Kingdom in this world.

Maybe, the truth of the matter is that people all over the world are experiencing the presence of God , or the “Spirit of Christmas”, in a powerful way during the Christmas time, some realizing that it is God’s Holy Spirit and others completely oblivious or rejecting the truth. Either way, for the Christian, it is one of the best times to let the light of Christ shine brightly in our lives! After all, what a better time to be the witness than the time when many people are noticing what is referred to as the “Spirit of Christmas”!

Merry Christmas ya’ll!

“And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”
‭‭Colossians‬ ‭3:14-16‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Black Friday and Christianity- Can They Go Together?

Every year on the Friday after Thanksgiving, retail stores begin their Christmas sales. They are offering low prices for all of the things that most likely will be on everyone’s list. Resulting in mobs of people waiting hours outside the stores, sometimes in freezing cold or rainy weather.

Once the doors open at midnight, it is on! The mad rush of the mob is unleashed and it is every man or woman for themselves. This is madness as its peak in some places. People acting in ways that they would never even think of acting any other time of the year.

Women staying up through the night, not even painting the barn (putting on makeup). From store to store, checking off items from their lists as they go. Filling one cart and tying it to a second in order to continue taking advantage of the great deals that are offered. All so that their families can have the best Christmas ever!

As I am typing out this blog, I myself am thinking about some things I want to buy. I myself prefer to do most of my shopping online. Especially on Black Friday. But that is just me. Others may see it as a time to share in an experience with a family member or maybe be able to afford some things that otherwise would not be able to.

As with everything, there are pros and cons. But the question I present here is, is Black Friday for the Christian? Can a Christian take advantage of the sales and at the same time, refrain from some of the aggressive, selfish, mean, and more than competitive activities that go on over some of the items in the stores?

As I stated before, Black Friday shopping is not my thing. However, that does not mean that that is my answer to the question at hand. The way I see it, if a Christian can stand in line in the cold, race around each store, stay up all throughout the night, max out credit cards or spend the entire Christmas budget, and still donate to Fill The Boot when the fire department is standing at the traffic light raising money for Muscular Dystrophy. Then by all means, knock yourself out! Not literally.

The Christian must keep in mind that at all times, the Spirit of God is to be our guide and we are to keep in step with the spirit. In all things we do, we must be led by the Spirit to present a proper witness for the Kingdom of God, even when there is only one ipad pro left on the shelf and 37 people are reaching for it at the same time.

How does the Christian maintain the proper witness in that situation? I don’t know, as I said before, I do not go to the stores on Black Friday. This is why we must be led by the Spirit. Some might ask themselves, “what would Jesus do?”. To answer that question, we would have to answer the  question as to whether or not Jesus would participate in Black Friday shopping.

I will say however, that the Christian cannot simply disconnect from living in this world. Part of Jesus’ prayer in chapter 17 is that God will spare us from the evil in this world. Not that we would be removed from this world. Therefore we must keep in step with the Spirit!

I personally do not see scripture condemn shopping on the Friday after Thanksgiving day. Nor do I see any scripture forbidding us from taking advantage of sales and being wise about spending the money provided by the Lord. Yet, I will leave you with this portion of scripture which I hope will be helpful as the season goes on;

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is  not in them. For everything in the world-the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life-comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. 

1 John 2:15-17

 

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!

“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.

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.”

 

 

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!