Imagine your church…. Continue reading “Imagine Your Church”
“God, how I thank You that I am not on the same level as other people—rooks, cheaters, the sexually immoral”— “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” Luke 18:11;13
“Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who comes from God and dwells inside you? You do not own yourself” 1 Corinthians 6:19</p> I unashamedly admit to taking a part of this title from a blog of one my favorite writers.
He writes “There is an inescapable consequence to the fact that human beings bear the image of God: there is nothing God values more than human beings. Bearing God’s image is an extraordinary privilege and brings with it extraordinary worth.. Wealth power position will fade. It will rust and decay and be lost.
People are eternal. When all wealth is gone the soul will live on. There is nothing in all creation God values more than you and I. And if this is true, nothing can be more abhorrent to God than the desecration of what He loves and cares for most”.
Desecration of what He loves and cares for most…
Picture this in your mind for a moment.
Its a beautiful summer day and you go to your favorite fishing spot. Maybe to fish or just enjoy a day by the lake or river with your friends or family. It is a place with clear cool water, tree lined fields, fish are plentiful, it is a place of quiet and beauty.
You arrive to find that the once graceful trees are now blackened stumps. The water is murky and stagnant the once plentiful fish replaced by rotting carcases and the green fields are now littered with trash. Desecration.
In the Bible desecration is defined by bringing that which is unholy into that which is holy. In the book of Daniel chapter 5 we find an example of this.
The people of Israel have been taken into captivity by the Babylonians. In chapter five Belshazzar the current king is throwing a royal party. Belshazzar decides to use the goblets and vessels taken from the holy temple in Israel so that “the king, his nobles, his wives and his concubines might drink wine from them”. As they are drinking and praising their gods of gold and silver, bronze and iron,wood and stone.
a hand appears and the fingers begin to write on the wall of the palace. The king at first is fascinated and then terrified as he watches the hand write. He calls all of his astrologers and enchanters to interpret the writing but they cannot. Belshazzar’s mother the queen reminds him of a young man named Daniel who is able to interpret dreams and solve riddles. Daniel is able to interpret the writing and the news is not good. That night the king is murdered, his kingdom is defeated and divided among his enemies the Mede’s and Persians. There are many reasons in this story for Belshazzar’s downfall but one reason is unmistakeable.
God takes offense when what He intends as holy is made unholy. More on that in a moment.
June 21st 1973 is not a date that would mean anything to most people.
On this date “Miller vs. California” the U.S. Supreme Court rendered a decision that redefined what constituted obscenity/pornography. The Miller v. California decision and other court decisions from that point on considerably weakened laws and restrictions, basically leaving it to states, cities and communities to decide what constituted obscenity and was therefore harmful.
The full effect of these rulings would not be felt until the late 1990’s with the advent of private access to virtually unlimited pornography.
“There is nothing in all creation God values more than you and I. And is this is true, nothing can be more abhorrent to God than the desecration of what He loves and cares for most”.
Pornography brings desecration to that which God loves and values most. Consider the definition of desecration words related to it.
Disrespect, violation, defilement, exploitation, destruction.
If it were your mother, sister or daughter, your father, brother or son and you were watching them in a pornographic scene would any of those descriptions apply to their involvement? Would you be o.k .with that?
All of those involved in pornography are someones family or daughter or son. I don’t want to bore you with statistics but the following chart will give you some sense of the impact pornography is having on our society ..
Each one of these men and women, acting out pornographic scenes are someone God loves and values more than anything else. “When you look at pornography you are watching the violation of what God considers more valuable than anything else he has created”.
Those who watch and take pleasure in pornography become part of the desecration . They are allowing themselves to be drawn in, giving their approval and taking part in something that God hates. The extraordinary worth and value that God has placed on those who are made in His image is diminished and cheapened and you become part of that defilement.. Taking that which is holy and making it unholy
If you find yourself on either side of this, there is hope and forgiveness.
More on that next week.
Until then I invite you to check out “31 Days of Purity” on Facebook. This is a closed group, to get access all you need to do is send a friend request. You can also check out Tim Chailles blog
It’s my life
One of my main concerns about writing a blog was running out of ideas to write about.
I have learned that inspiration can come from unexpected places.
My preference in entertainment leans toward the things most guys enjoy. Sports, war, C.S.I (pick a city), Point of Interest, M.A.S.H, Person of Interest, Revolution you get the picture.
Recently I came across an episode of Castle that provided the inspiration for this post.
If you are not familiar with this program let me get you up to speed. The plot revolves around a famous mystery writer (man) who in the process of doing research for his books befriends the at first reluctant NYC detective (woman). Together they solve crimes, she with her sharp analytical skills, he with unorthodox, outside the box thinking and as a bonus they eventually find themselves in a relationship.
The inspiration came as he was returning home from solving the latest case and finds his daughter suitcase in hand preparing to leave.
“Are you sure this is what you want to do? Why don’t wait a while, get to know him better? (great advice because in a previous episode the boyfriend had been living on Castles couch because he could not find a job or afford an apartment)
The daughter Alexis replies, “If I am making a mistake, you have made mistakes also and you turned out o.k. It’s my life”.
It’s my life…How many times have you heard this statement? From friends, children, yourself?
Although the person making this statement wants to believe otherwise this declaration usually precedes disaster.
It is true that legally and theoretically that it is “your life” but is it only your life your decisions and actions affect? The following is taken from an article in the San Francisco Examiner
How many times have we, as a parent, heard our children say, “I’m an adult now, Mom, I need to live my life, my way,” only to find ourselves picking up the pieces after a really bad decision that the “adult” child made? Emotionally, financially and as a life-disrupting event for a parent, our adult children’s decisions affect us in a big way.
Parents often put their own lives on hold while they help their kids pull their own lives back together. So, whose life was affected by the child’s bad decision? Not just the adult child’s life was affected by bad judgment and an unwillingness to listen to reasoning that might have prevented the bad situation; the aging parent’s life is often greatly affected, as well.
There are certainly those of you among our readers who will argue that everyone has a right to live their own lives, and kids need to make mistakes in order to learn. Of course that’s true. Unfortunately, so often one person’s right to do their own thing and live their own life often means that their loved ones will be left paying the price for it.
The article goes on to say that it is not just the adult child’s decisions that affect family and even society, but adults as well.
“How many of us have cared for dying parents who refused to quit smoking all of their lives because it was “their own choice?” “It’s my life and I’ll smoke if I want to,” is the mantra of most smokers. But is it their life or yours as well, that is interrupted and thrown into a painful saga of treatments, turmoil and sadness when the smoking catches up with them in later years”?
Add to this drug addiction, over-eating, extra-marital affairs that destroy families, sexual promiscuity that produces children with one parent and sometimes no parent?
All in the name of “It’s my life”.
My pastor recently said that the greatest of all idolatry is the “worship of me”.
When life is lived for self alone it becomes a life lived alone. But not without consequences for others.
I was on my way home from work when my wife called. She had picked up our 17 year old daughter from work. There had been an argument over some questions my wife asked her and she jumped out of the car and informed my wife that she was tired of our questions and our interfering with her life. She was not coming home, moving out.
And that is what she did.
We should have seen it coming. It was not the first confrontation but you always want to believe the best about your child.
There were many questions that went through our minds over the next days weeks and months. Most beginning with “why”. Along with the questions, emotions. Denial, anger, frustration, disappointment fear (big one) sorrow, loss.
And you remember. The day she was born so tiny and helpless. Her first steps, her smile and laughter. Her first day of school standing there with her little back-pack trying to look brave, an image captured on film and in your mind forever. Her first play at school, the first tooth she lost. The hugs and her telling you “You are the best mommy and daddy ever I love you so much”. The times you went fishing and camping, the times she wanted to be anywhere you were. Sitting with her when she was scared of the storm, planting a tree in the front yard, when she went to the altar and gave her life to Jesus and the joy you felt as the tears ran down her face and she said “Daddy I asked Jesus into my heart”. The first time she saw the ocean, her first dance, teaching her to drive, all the firsts, all the memories…..
And you remember the time you didn’t take to spend with her, the busyness that you allowed to steal precious moments, never to be gotten back. It is easy in times like this to blame yourself for what has happened, to think “If only I had done or not done this or that, if I had been more strict, less strict. And in many ways you are right. If only…
The truth though is that the one thing God will not control is our will. Not mine, not yours, not my daughters. It is a gift He gave us that at it’s best brings tremendous blessing, and at its worst a horrible curse.
C.S. Lewis said;
“God created things (people) with free will. That means creatures which can go right or wrong. If a person is free to be good they are also free to be bad. Freewill though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes any love or goodness or joy worth having. Of course God knew what would happen if we used our freedom the wrong way: apparently He thought it worth the risk”.
It has been two years since our daughter left home. Early on in our journey I read a story about a another child who left his home
Once there was this man who had two sons. 12 One day the younger son came to his father and said, “Father, eventually I’m going to inherit my share of your estate. Rather than waiting until you die, I want you to give me my share now.” And so the father liquidated assets and divided them. 13 A few days passed and this younger son gathered all his wealth and set off on a journey to a distant land. Luke 15:12-13
Many of you have read this story, how the son wasted all his father had given him in wild irresponsible living. Broke and hungry he found himself feeding pigs, with not even enough to buy food. Broken and alone he decided that being a hired hand for his father would be better than where he was.
” So he got up and returned to his father. The father looked off in the distance and saw the young man returning. He felt compassion for his son and ran out to him, enfolded him in an embrace, and kissed him”.
But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him” Luke 15:20
Prodigals. All of us were at one time. Some of us still are.
It has been over two years since my daughter went on her journey. Like the father who kept watching for his sons return, I keep watching for her return.
It’s been said that the waiting is always the hardest part. For a parent watching a child go through a prodigal journey this is especially true. As hours turn into days, and days turn into months, and months turn into years, a parent can become frustrated. “It has not changed, it will never change”, we’ll say to ourselves in sorrow and sometimes anger. In these times our feelings become a terrible enemy. But we must keep praying and watching as the father in Luke 15 did—waiting for his beloved child to return. Be still and know that He is God and is able to bring her safely home.
Father it is amazing to me when I realize that Your love for my daughter is even greater than the love I have for her and that the depth of your feeling for her goes even deeper than my own. I am comforted to know that you care for them and that they are always before you. As I watch my daughter and her prodigal journey, I know that though she is now far from you that she is not out of your sight. Lord, help me to persevere in prayer for her—trusting in your ability to bring her safely home.
I Don’t Need Church
I overheard this conversation recently at a men’s bible study.
“I haven’t seen you at church lately?”
“I haven’t been going much (at all).”
“Well I’ve just been really busy, lots going on, working a lot, just wasn’t feeling it, I just don’t think that church works for me”.
There usually follows a laundry list of reasons to justify the statement:
I don’t need to go to church to be a Christian..
I don’t need to go to church to be saved…
I don’t need to go to church to be spiritual…
I don’t need to go to church to have a relationship with God
In the past when I would hear some one say these things I would think: “That’s ridiculous how could anyone be serious about being a Christian and not be plugged into a church? I mean its like peanut-butter and jelly, hamburgers and fries, football and fall they just go together.
And then you see those who don’t attend church maybe your friends who have been excited about church life, attending on a regular basis, actively involved, lose interest and stop going.
My wife and I have attended our current church for over 7 years, have been small group leaders, and involved in various ministries in that church. There have been times that I found myself “not feeling it” fighting discouragement, and critical feelings towards others.
There was a period of time when many of my close friends left the church to go elsewhere and I found myself defending my church on various points with them. And yes there were times I thought about going somewhere else myself .
In an attempt to understand my own feelings of discouragement I decided to do some investigating.
Church: People or Place
The word church or churches is used 114 times in the New Testament. The Greek word for all 114 times is the same
Ekklēsia- a congregation or assembly
Jesus used this word in Matthew 16:18-
Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.
We see this word in:
Acts 20:28 So guard yourselves and God’s people. Feed and shepherd God’s flock—his church,
1 Corinthians 1:2 -I am writing to God’s church in Corinth, to you who have been called by God to be his own holy people.
1 Thessalonians 1:1 -We are writing to the church in Thessalonica, to you who belong to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Romans 16:5 Also give my greetings to the church that meets in their home.
It is clear that the primary use for the word church in the New Testament has more to do with people than it does a building or a location, and that Jesus and the writers of the N.T did not intend the focus to be on a building or a program but a community, people. When we look at the model in Acts 4:32 “During those days, the entire community of believers was deeply united in heart and soul”- we see the results of that unity and begin to understand that the church at it’s best is a local community of believers connected, interacting and growing with one another.
Why do people leave churches? There is enough blame to go around. People leave churches and churches fail people. I believe the following list provides some of the reasons
Lack of Relationship: Christianity was never meant to be lived out in the context of isolation, but rather in the context of relationship. “People are not looking for a friendly church, they are looking for friends at church” People come to church seeking relationships, looking for friends. Even Jesus chose twelve friends to share his journey.
Lack of Community: When healthy community is encouraged and value is placed on building it in the church it can be a life giving experience. When it is not it becomes just one more thing you have to do. Cliques, social climbing, not having a welcoming attitude (yes this happens in church) to folks outside your circle does not promote community.
Consumerism: In order to find community or to be part of a church community you have to be willing to do more than just show up. We tend to make our “church home” decision based on what the church will offer us without considering what we might offer the church. Community by definition is: “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals”. Merriam-Webster dictionary Philippians 2:4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interest of others
Spectators vs. Participants: Many pastors and church leaders will bemoan the lack of involvement and participation of those in the church, but many times due to lack of organization and sometimes because of control issues, fail to provide meaningful opportunities to serve. For some this is a perfect excuse to continue to be a consumer (see #3) for others who have the desire to serve it sends the message they are not needed. Churches/pastors who have the most success clearly present the mission and the vision and encourage people to find their place in it.
Wrong Priorities: “They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to the fellowship,to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
In this passage of Scripture we see characteristics of a healthy church
*Devotion to the Apostles teaching
*Breaking of bread
Nothing replaces the preaching of the gospel and the discipleship of the believer through the teaching of the Word. In our efforts to make church more attractive we have in some cases created an expectation of “entertainment” at the expense of solid, Bible based teaching. When people cease to be entertained they move on to the newest trendy location.As a result people do not grow spiritually.
The primary reason for attending church is to hear the preaching/teaching of the Gospel. If we allow anything to replace this our priorities are out of line with God’s purposes. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 we read that “all scripture is is inspired by God to teach us what is true and right, and “that God uses it to prepare and equip his people for every good work”. It is through this that we are equipped to not only live the life but to share it with others. The first priority of any pastor is to provide sound biblical teaching, and the first priority of the attender is to have a heart ready to hear and receive.
From this comes fellowship, breaking of bread (yes it means sharing a meal) and finally prayer. For our pastors and leaders and for one another sharing in one anothers burdens and needs. The pastor of my church encourages us frequently to:
1. Attend a service
2. Serve in a service
3. Join a life (small) group
In other words don’t be a spectator get on the field.
Small groups are an excellent way to get plugged in and begin to develop meaningful relationships with others especially in a large church setting .
Finally the writer of Hebrews says:
And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. Hebrews 10:25
There are many reasons why people leave the church and this list is by no means all inclusive. Whatever your reason might be I would encourage you not to give up- keep searching, have a heart ready to serve.
My prayer is that you would find that place of fellowship that is right for you.