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.

 

Have an Offended Christmas or a Merry Christmas, Your Choice

The Birth of Jesus Foretold

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid,Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[a] the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.” “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.”                                                                                                                                                 Luke 1:26-38

Christmas season is upon us and the birth of our Lord Jesus, the Christ, is the reason for the celebration. Every year it seems like time just goes right on by during this time of the year. We all are so busy with work and vacation schedules, planning for guests or traveling, and then there is all the shopping and wrapping to do. Each family do their very best to make memories and have the “best Christmas ever”!

Lately I have heard, as I do every year, others in conversation over singing certain Christmas songs based on whether they are theologically correct or not. What with the whole debate about the reason for Christmas going on throughout society and all the old family traditions which are always necessary, most people do not even think to consider anything like theologically correct Christmas songs or decorations.

When it comes to truly celebrating the birth of Jesus and the events that surround it, there is some importance to making sure that the truth is not watered down by fairy-tales and even family traditions. After all, it is the responsibility of the Christian to be the witness and continue to share the gospel throughout the world to anyone who will hear it. Therefore, it is imperative that the message be accurate.

Having said that, I will also say that legalism only leads to controversy and strife in any part of the Christian life. Obviously there is going to be some debate over just where that line is drawn between being theologically accurate and being free to worship and celebrate as one would desire. But what about that line?

Is there even a line that can be crossed? When it comes to the Christian faith, there is a line. I would suggest that when it comes to Christmas celebrations and family traditions, the line would be found at the point when God no longer is glorified in what is going on. Whether it is song, fellowship, meals, or even dress codes. What I mean is that if anything that is done during the celebration of Christmas actually takes away from what Christmas is about, then maybe it should not be done.

If any part of the Christmas celebration takes the mean of Christmas and makes it anything other than Jesus born in the flesh for the purpose of dying on the cross, well then maybe the Christian should re-think that part of their celebration. Many times the giving of gifts can become more important than what we are really celebrating and the purpose of the celebration is lost.

So as far as people being offended about Christmas songs, or even some Christians criticizing some Christmas songs because they are not theologically correct, I would suggest two solutions. First, to those who are offended by some of the Christmas songs, usually they are not Christian believers, so I would suggest that they learn about Christ and His birth. If those who are offended by Christmas would take the time to open their minds and hearts to what is happening, I believe that things would change for them. If not, well I guess they will just have to have an offended Christmas as opposed to a Merry Christmas.

Second, I would say to the Christians who are overly meticulous about the critique of every detail of the Christmas songs, or the nativity scenes, please continue to be diligent about your understanding of Christ and His birth! However, not everything in the Christian life will be “theologically correct”, there are some great Christmas songs which celebrate the time of year and the atmosphere that is created by the celebration of the birth of Jesus.

I will say however, that when at church in the middle of worship time, we should remember that we are there to worship God and therefore should be mindful about the Christmas songs we use for worship. So, I would say to the Christian song critique, you can have a legalistic Christmas or a Merry Christmas. Your choice.

The fact is that we all have our different ways of celebrating Christmas. As long as we keep Christ as the center of it all, it should be the Merriest of times for all. So, I say this to everyone, Merry Christmas and God bless you all!

Life is Short- You Do Not Have to Die!

Life happens. Not only does it happen, but it happens really fast. One day we are making plans for the future for ourselves as well as our families. It seems that we are keeping up with the pace of life. That is, as long as everything goes according to plan.

We all have dreams, plans, and maybe aspirations. Some have extreme motivation to chase after them, others not so much. Either way, when we get momentum behind our life’s plan, we tend to believe that life is good and we are on our way to meet our goals and desires for our lives.

Who we are and who we become in life greatly depend on the things that happen to us and around us. Also, the consequences of decisions and choices along life’s path. Let’s not forget that the people we choose to be around also affect who we are and become. Finally, our beliefs and worldview impact the course of life.

Generally, we live our lives according to the plans that we make and sometimes make adjustments along the way. Some are better at this than others. When life is playing out as we have planned, we say “Life is good”, or even “God is good”. Yet when these plans derail or seem to change against our will, we struggle to adjust. We tend to panic, stress, or even give up on the plan.

The fact is, even though we all have free will to make choices in this life, there are some things to which we have no say. Many people like to say, “no one has to do anything but pay taxes and die.”. I would disagree with that, no one really has to pay taxes. We have the freedom to choose not to pay and suffer the consequences. However, being born and dying are in fact the two things that no one can choose.

Really, only being born is what we do not have choice in. Many have chosen to take their own life. In that regard, I guess that dying would be a choice, although not usually an option for people. The reality of it all is, people generally do not get to know how many days will be given them, only God knows some things.

“Now listen, you who say,  “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “if it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”                                 James 4:13-15

It is real easy to get caught up in living life and fail to recognize the value of it. People have been living in this world for thousands of years. Each of them living the life that was theirs. All of us have been given life by the creator. God is the one who created life and breathed breath into man. Living our lives without acknowledging Him as Lord is foolish!

People these days generally live no more than 100 years. Most live to be in their 70’s or 80’s. Even though that seems like a long time on the calendar, it is not much time at all in the grand scheme of things. The bigger point here is that on one is promised another day. Life happens.

It is important that we all look at what is the most important thing. That is, what goes on beyond this life. What the Christian believes is that there is eternal life. A choice is to be made. Will that time be spent in the presence of God? Or, will that time be spent separated from God forever? The time that goes on after life in this world is eternal and will not change.

For those who do not believe in life after death, well then it is important to make good use of the time you have in this life. It does not change the fact that life is short. It does not change the fact that death can come at any time. Either way, whatever the belief is, it seem foolish for a person to ignore the fact that death can come at any time.

I am not sharing this to scare anyone or to be a gloom and doom kind of person. I am sharing this because it is important that people acknowledge that life is short and that we are not promised tomorrow. Maybe it will help us to slow down and notice what we are missing.Maybe it will help us to get off our hind parts and start living life the way God intended it to be lived! Either way, the opportunity to have confidence in the eternity that happens after this life is over is there.

Yes, the gospel. It is the most important, most urgent piece of information in existence. The message that all people have fallen short of God’s glory and need a savior to pay the debt owed to this Holy God. That message that says that Jesus is that Savior and anyone who believes that it is true can be with God for eternity!

“”Therefore let all Israel be assured of this; God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off- for all whom the Lord our God will call.””

– Acts 2:36-39

The bottom line is this; Life is short! You or I, or even all of us may not be given another breath. Are you confident? Are you confident in what you believe about life after a person is dead? If you believe that there is not life after death, are you positive? And, if you believe like I do, the Christian belief, that there is life after we die and there is a choice to make. Then I would ask you, are you sure that if this be your last day to live in this world, would you spend the rest of eternity in the presence of God or will it be spent for ever separated from God?

Whatever pictures or movies can be displayed about what Hell will be like, I will say that I do not pretend to know any more than what scripture describes about it. However, I will say that the worst thing about Hell is that God is not there, and it is a permanent situation!

Life is short ya’ll!

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.

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

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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!

 

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!

When church services are cancelled due to weather, does your personal worship get cancelled?

When the weather causes church service to be cancelled, what is your reaction? How does it make you feel? Are you excited that you now have another free day to do other things, or are you disappointed that something important is now missing? Maybe both. Either way, here are some thoughts you might consider.

Do not forsake meeting together!

Hebrews 10:25
not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Let me just say it, NO you are not going to hell if you miss Sunday morning church service. If going to church on Sunday morning is about putting in your time so God will be happy with you or so that others will see how great of a Christian you are, well then you have missed the purpose of Sunday morning gatherings.

 
Yes, God intends for His church to gather to worship and serve together on a regular basis. In fact, no one can be part of the body of Christ without being a part of the fellowship of believers. But the thought that “cancelling” church service due to bad weather and safety issues is somehow wrong or even sinful is simply ridiculous!

 
It is not so much about the act of attendance as it is about the hearts desire to attend. In fact, if our hearts are truly in tune with what we read in Hebrews 10:25, a feeling of disappointment would be evident in our hearts more than that of excitement of suddenly having one more free day in our life!

If gathering together is “cancelled”, is our worship “cancelled”?

Job 1:5
When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would make arrangements for them to be purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular custom.
NOTICE! Just because church service is cancelled does not have to mean that our “worship” is cancelled. That’s right. Look at Job or example. We can see in Job 1:5 where Job took responsibility or making sure that he and his family were in good standing with the Lord.
The question that this verse hopefully brings to our hearts is one that is challenging and necessary. The question, am I and my family in right standing with God? We see that Job offered burnt offerings early in the morning and that it was his regular custom.

 
What is our regular custom? Do we escort our family before the Lord in prayer and worship early in the morning? Is our regular time of corporate worship on Sunday morning all there is? And, if it get’s cancelled, oh well.

 

Let’s face it, if we cannot worship with our family members or alone, are we really worshipping when we go to church on Sunday morning?

Mark 1:35
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.
Luke 5:16
But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.

We can see in these verses that Jesus often slipped away and prayed. I have to believe that this should be a hint to us that time with God in prayer and worship is vital. After all, if Jesus who was human and yet God had a need to worship the Father in prayer, who are we to think that we can get by without it?

 

The bottom line is this. If we are unable or choose not to participate in personal prayer and worship, we are certainly not going to be able to genuinely worship Him at a Sunday morning church service.

 

Furthermore, if we are unable to genuinely join our own household in worship and prayer in our homes, we are certainly not going to be able to genuinely worship Him at a Sunday morning church service.

Finally

If we have forsaken the meeting together with God on a personal level, we also have forsaken the meeting together as a congregation.

 
I we have forsaken the meeting together as a family/household with God, we also have forsaken the meeting together as a congregation.

 
Simply said, just because a church worship service has been cancelled does not mean your worship has to be cancelled.