Monday, October 24, 2011

Why I Go to Church

During a recent prayer meeting when our church focused on revival, we talked about the lack of commitment to church attendance found among many believers. I've thought about that some more and have come up with this list of reasons why I go to church. Maybe you will connect with some of these...or be convicted by them.

  1. My parents made me go. You may think that's a strange reason to go to church. It usually shows up on a list of why people do not go to church. Honestly, I'm not sure if I would be in church today if I had not been in church growing up. Even as a preacher's kid, I tried to find ways to get out of going in my teenage years. I volunteered to work the Sunday morning shifts at work. My mom and dad made me go to church and I think that is one of the most important reasons I go today.

  2. That's my job. I am a pastor so it would be inappropriate to not go. My church expects me to be there and I expect me (and them) to be there.

  3. I like the people there. Christians can really be fun people. They are loving, appreciative, and caring.

  4. It's the main place where I get to study God's word with God's people. With all the technology around today, nothing beats sitting in a room with a few others believers and digging into the word. I don't have all the answers. You don't either. But together we have more right answers than either of us do alone.

  5. Your testimonies encourage me. We need to do more sharing than we do. Your experience of living the Christian life will help me.

  6. It's the house of prayer. Yes, I can pray anywhere and I do, but when I go to church I get to pray with you and for you. I can hold your hand, hug your neck, and feel your burden.

  7. God said to. Remember that verse about not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together?

  8. I get fitted for and dispatched to ministry. Ministry really is an "on-the-job training" kind of thing. But think of the church as the employment office that sends you to a job opportunity. And the resources you need to do the job are found in the church: teams, training, and tools.

What other reasons do you have for going to church?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

They Aren't Always Just Picking At You

Do you have people in your life that you think are just always picking at you? Annoying you? Every little thing seems like they intend for your discomfort and irritation. The following funny story was in my email inbox this morning. It comes from a daily distribution from and helps put these situations in perspective.

My husband and I took our two-ear-old daughter to the home improvement store.
Madison got tired of walking, so my husband let her ride on his shoulders. As he walked, Madison began pulling his hair. Although he asked her to stop several times, she kept on.
Getting annoyed, he scolded, "Madison! Stop that!"
But, Daddy," she replied, "I'm just trying to get my gum back."

What appears to be childish games may really be someone with a need. How they handle it may get under your skin. I suggest we should try to figure out the reason for the agitation before swatting at it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Observing Groups

Sitting in my "office" this morning, I listened to a group of six parents talking about their children, their jobs, their "to do" lists for today. Here are some insights I've gathered from people-watching. I'm not an expert or even the most keen observer. These are just some ideas I think would make groups discussions - formal or informal - go a little better.

  1. Everyone at the table has something to add to the conversation.
  2. You probably aren't the expert on everything.
  3. Humor isn't necessary every moment.
  4. A sense of humor is always necessary.
  5. If you are at the edge of the culture or opinion of your group, don't drag everyone to the edge.
  6. Listen to everyone rather than starting a second conversation when you aren't interested in the first.
  7. Ask more questions than give answers.
  8. You need the group as much as they need you.

That's a good start. Maybe you could add to the list. Feel free to leave a comment.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Power, Courage, and Boldness

The fifth chapter of Daniel tells of a time when God got the attention of a blasphemous people in a dramatic way. I guess this is where the saying, "You can see the handwriting on the wall" came from. King Belshazzar held a party where immorality degraded into blasphemy. God had had enough.

The message on the wall was that the King's days were numbered, he did not measure up to God's expectations, and his kingdom would be smashed into unrecognizable pieces. God's judgment was immediate, complete, and decisive.

That's not a very pleasant message to have to deliver to a king! Daniel had once been in charge of those a Babylonian king would call to interpret dreams and mysteries. That probably ended twenty years earlier when Nebuchadnezzar died. Belshazzar either didn't know Daniel, couldn't remember Daniel, or just dismissed him from relevance.

Those two decades must have been difficult times for Daniel. It's one thing to be an exile in good standing with the king; it's another to be an exile without close ties to the king. But Daniel's courage and boldness before the arrogant and blasphemous Belshazzar indicates that he had remained true to God all those years. And close to him.

An intimate walk with the Lord empowers and encourages us to take a stand. A loosey-goosey walk with the Lord won't result in courage and boldness. (My Bible study group laughed at me when I called it that last night.) God wants to empower and encourage and embolden you. But that happens when you are walking with him. When you stray or just simply lag behind, the power and courage and boldness are absent.

I believe God wants us to be powerful, courageous, and bold witnesses. So you'll have to walk closely with him in order to be what he wants you to be. To get the greatest joy in this life - the greatest sense of fulfillment - be a maturing disciple of Jesus Christ. Here are a few simple things you can do to mature.

1. Read your Bible every day. At least a few verses, a paragraph, a story.
2. Pray each day. God is the only resource for what you need. And he'd like to hear from you. Praise him. Thank him.
3. Be with God's people. Go to church. Get in a Bible study group.
4. Serve others. When you help someone else you are acting a lot like Jesus.
5. Tell someone about your relationship with Christ. If it matters to you it will likely matter to them.

Side note: Historians tell us that the Babylonian Kingdom came to an end on October 12, 539 BC (on our calendars). We studied this chapter on October 12, 2011. Two thousand five hundred fifty years to the day after this happened. I am amazed at how God directs our study of scripture so that "coincidences" like this happen.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

What I Learned by Praying for Revival

Cross Road met at my house Sunday night for a revival prayer meeting. We talked a lot and prayed a lot. I appreciate everyone who came. Why people stay away from prayer meetings astounds me, but that is another topic.

As we talked about what revival is and how much we need it, three ideas became the fabric of the conversation.

People need Jesus. We all agreed that a personal relationship is absolutely necessary to gain eternal life and that the current life would be greatly enhanced by it. Our church is small in number. The other churches within five miles of ours are small, too. But there are as many people living in this area as in the small town I grew up in. A few hundred people attend church regularly among all our churches; the community is home to a few thousand people. Most of the people living around us are either lost or, if saved, have decided that participating in a local church is not important. The New Testament will not support that position. Daily Christianity is experienced through the context of the local church. Certainly, the people living around us who do not know Jesus as Savior and Lord need him.

The church must do all it can to reach them. That is the specific command given by the Lord Jesus in the Great Commission. For a reason know only to God, he chose the church as the vehicle by which the gospel will be taken to the nations. We are to be his witnesses to everybody everywhere. We need to focus on that task and, quite honestly, quit doing stuff that makes no impact on lostness. And we have to step outside our boundaries of tradition and preference. They (those not participating in our churches) are telling us they don't like it. Without changing the message, we must change our methods. The message is always relevant; the methods must be continually assessed for relevance.

Too many people who come into our building now and then are just playing church. They get their ticket punched. They check "church" off their "to do" list. They come in and out - at whatever frequency - without experiencing the change that ought to be indicative of a real walk with Jesus. I'm talking about people who may only come a few times a year to those who may come a few times a week. Being in the building is not the same as being part of the church. People who are part of the church participate in the mission. They encourage one another on to Christ-likeness. They support the ministry. They do all this inside and outside the building; during and away from scheduled service times. We all need to regularly check our motive for coming to church and repent when we realize we've just been playing the game.

CRBC (and your church, too) will experience revival when we humble ourselves before God, pray earnestly to him, seek his face and his ways, and turn from our sins. Then we'll be able to impact our world with the eternal message of God's loving gift of salvation.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Human Pride Meets Sovereign God

What if God acted today like he did in ancient times?

King Nebuchadnezzar had conquered all enemies. He reigned successfully. He had everything. But he rejected the truth that God is the one true God. He held to his pagan beliefs. And he thought highly of himself.

The King was not unlike many people today. Successful careers lead to bountiful stores of stuff. Contentment and self-indulgence are commonplace. The goal then and now seems to be to get as much as you can with little regard for those around you. Don't get me wrong, Nebuchadnezzar provided adequately for those in his kingdom but only if they benefited him or were no threat to him. That sounds familiar, too.

Some call it a dog eat dog world. It's survival of the fittest. It's a rat race to keep up with the Joneses. The end goal is to come out on top.

Nebuchadnezzar built the "hanging gardens" of Babylon for his wife. She was from the mountains of Media and living in the plains of Babylon...well, she must have been a little homesick. The ancient Greeks considered the "hanging gardens" to be one of the seven wonders of the world. The King was possibly standing there looking out over his kingdom when gaudy pride flowed out. Immediately, he was banished from the royal compound to live with the animals. The Bible's description of all this tells us that he became more like the animals than a human being (Daniel 4).

Not until he lifted his eyes toward heaven and praised God was he restored.

God still acts in ways to replace pride with humility. He was sovereign over all earthly powers and still is. No business, government, family, or individual can continue in pride before the Lord. When and how he will deal with such arrogance is up to him but we can know he will deal with it.

The answer today is the same as it was 2,500 years ago. Lift up your eyes to the God of heaven and praise him. God gave Nebuchadnezzar a greater kingdom after his restoration than before. God wants to bless you and he will when you acknowledge who he is and surrender your life to him.