I have been sitting on this one a while…
I am the pastor of a small church that was planted 3 years ago starting in my living room. When a new church or a new pastor shows up. we want to know as much as we can about them. Since its inception we have seen God’s hand move in different ways than we would have expected, growth to happen in places that brought great joy to our lives and constantly reminded that I ain’t about me.
I was recently asked about our church, The Well, by a woman at Walmart. She asks me, “So what do ya’ll believe?” I found that to be a little strange and I don’t know if I will ever get used to hearing that question. The pat answer would be “The Bible”. But I could tell by her probing voice that she needed much more. My response was…
We believe that Jesus still saves
That Hell is still hot
That sin still destroys lives
That churches are filled with imperfect people that are in desperate need of God’s grace and forgiveness
We believe that while the culture rules, the family is attacked, weakened and all but destroyed.
We believe that God’s not dead, He calls us out of darkness into His marvelous light and that making disciples is job one.
There was about 15 seconds of silence. Then she broke silence with, “Alright then…(in my best southern voice). I sure hope that she makes it to the church sometime soon.
It is terribly sad to turn on the news virtually everyday and see what new horrific deeds have happened while myself and my family were sleeping. Beheading’s, mindless killing and destruction in Baltimore, sex trafficking even the murder of unsuspecting people in the House of God attempting to learn a better way to live their lives in a wicked world. There are so many emotions that have gone through my mind during the tragic past few days that I can hardly contain myself. This senseless killing should never have happened and yet as difficult this pill is to swallow, there is no reason to think that this type of hate and violence won’t.
As you are reading there will be some that will and have already thought,”You are nuts”. Maybe. What I will say in this brief message will not be heard, understood or even considered by many if not most. So let me just throw this out to ALL of the news outlets and politicians out there, “We can not eradicate evil.” We can’t do it. All this talk about the why these things happen. Is it fatherless homes? Is it gun laws or the lack there of? Is it poor education? Is it drugs? I say no. These things certainly contribute to bad things happening but they are merely symptoms of a much bigger disease.
Warning…I am going to use scripture to show what’s going on in an attempt to help any believers that are distraught and confused and hopefully encourage any non believers to at least to put away any thinking that the bible is a bunch of fairy tales and at least look at the wisdom in this book. The world that we live since sin entered the world has been violent – the first murder where Cain killed his brother Able and from that has continued to spiral downward and get progressively worse. In Gen. 6:11 we read, “God saw that the earth had become corrupt and was filled with violence.”
Scriptures like Proverbs 6:17 and Isaiah 59:7-8 and many more scriptures speak of mans evil ways that lie, is proud and seeks the innocent to kill. There is a lack of peace and harmony among mankind because we have thrown away our moral compass – not lost it, as losing something suggests an accidental misplacing. We threw it out the window. Man has never liked being told what to do, even if it is for our protection. Just look at our children. No one has to teach a child to lie or disobey parent and truthfully, many times parents think that it is cute when a child says “NO” or uses explicit profanity. Just listen in the work place or the schools how people speak to and about each other. The more we push cultural humanism, the more wicked the world has become Why? Because we have as Romans 1:25 says, “traded the truth of God for lies“. We no longer accept or recognize truth but have create our own version of truth; one that suits our “modern” life styles.
In our pride, in our arrogance and in our achievements that we call progress, we have decided that we don’t need God anymore. We are smart. We have money. We have fame and fortune. We have technology at our finger tips. We have closed the door on our God and said, “We don’t want you”. We do this and shake our fist at heaven saying, “If we can’t have same sex marriage, we don’t want you God!” If we can’t have Kaitlyn Jenner’s, we don’t need God!” If we can’t do whatever we want that pleases us and brings immediate pleasure to our bodies then we give God the finger. We have created everything that we could ever want and while things SEEM great, for a while, there is something missing – a huge void. Knowing God
Pause for just a second. Christians, we can call people out for sin. We can categorize sin into levels ranging from bad to worse. We can stand on our soap box and proudly claim our exemption. If that is you, then just go ahead and run for office somewhere. You will fit in just fine. We need to to love folks right where they are, in their sin because somebody loved you and me right where we were in ours and let the transforming power of God do the changing in peoples life. God always has His way and His plans can never be thwarted.
Will behavior modification remedy this worlds problems? Will stricter gun law reduce violence? Will a stronger military stop the bad guys? Doubtful. The problem is sin and sin can only be dealt with by the power of God. Will these things help? Sure, in the short term and I am not against them. But evil always raises its ugly head and when it does, it has gained momentum. History shows that the one thing that we have learned from history is we haven’t learned anything from history. By that I mean the historically (bible history) that if you keep pushing God out, garbage comes in.
Should things like Charleston killings happen? No. Beheadings? No. 911? No. Sex trafficking? No. Will they continue? Yes they will unfortunately…Until Jesus returns. He died to put and end to our enslavement to sin, and evil and twisted thinking but many choose the opposite way of life and the result in chaos, unrest and a lack of peace and they force this on others and the result many times is great loss of life, pain and suffering. My prayers go out to ALL people, of ALL races and ALL ways of life that that would find peace in the only place that true peace can be found – Jesus.
I recently ran across an email suggesting some various articles that were supposed to be worthy of reading. (As a pastor of a small church plant I get a lot of these) The first article a saw was written by a 37 year old male blogger that refereed to himself as a “cis gendered male” in a separate blog. Now don’t read anything into that. I added that part because I had never heard the term before. The email pointed to a response to an article from Relevant Magazine titled “5 Really Bad Reasons to Leave Your Church“. The response was titled “5 Awesome Reasons to Leave Your Church” and the blogger/author said it all boiled down to one real reason, “My needs aren’t being met“.
This, I found, was a troubling statement. Never in over 2 decades of studying the scriptures have I found one passage that said that people should come, have come to the church/temple or the the Lord to have their needs met. I find this to be a growing problem within the church. As I refer to the church, please keep in mind what the church is first as the people of God; second, a body of believers that meet, eat, pray together and encourage one another. Now I’m not talking about people that came to Jesus in order to be healed. I am talking about people that come to the church, sit down and in a sense say “Gimme”.
This mentality is killing the church partially due to…the church not standing on TRUTH and picking little pieces of truth that they can fly a flag of protest on. TRUTH, not some truth, not a truth but TRUTH. A huge problem is that people come in with their hands empty and hearts closed and want their hands to be fills (metaphorically – what can I get) and the heart is off limits (Metaphorically – I ain’t changing).
Why is this a problem? Should we not come to church to receive a message and learn from God? Well, that is what most pastors would hope. But consider this, Where is the sacrifice of praise? Where is the GIVING of ourselves? Where is the idea of GIVING ourselves wholly to a holy God? Most people want to come to church, get inspired, maybe their toes stepped on, shake a few hands, listen to some toons but give…? Give ourselves to God not take take take. It reminds me of a story I heard about a dad who reluctantly was convinced by his wife and 8 year old son to come to church instead of watch the football game. After arriving at the church and complaining about the crowd, the guy on the 2nd row that owed him 20 dollars, the singer that was off key, the offering plate was past. The dad squirmed as he thew in a $1 bill. All the way home the dad ranted about his experience at the church. Finally his son who was listening to every word piped up and said, “But it wasn’t bad for a dollar.”
This I hope you understand is not about money but what WE give in terms of ourselves. We should be giving of ourselves to the work and ministry of the gospel message and less about taking. We need to start opening up our hearts to God’s truth. I believe that the only reason to leave your church should not be about the music, the style, the bible version that is used by the pastor but this…IF biblical truth is being taught or not. If the truth is subjected and twisted due to the culture, science or political pressure then I can’t be a part of the fellowship until such time as there is repentance. Now that being said, I have an obligation to go to the pastor, elders and leadership to point out any unscriptural error in teaching. First though, WE have to study the word ourselves – 2 Tim. 2:15 teaches us to study the word. When we study and search the truth, error can clearly be seen should it pop up. If the leadership’s truth is based on anything other than the truth of God’s Word or is based on the culture war and being PC, that’s a big problem. If repentance does not follow and I can’t sit under the leadership, I must break away from that fellowship.
For my Christian, believer, follower of Christ or however you refer to yourselves you will notice that this post is not chock full of scriptures and that is for this reason. For the believer, you already know that this message is right without putting 25 verses up here. You are called to be in the local church and its fellowship and to serve…period. But for the unbeliever or the skeptic, the bible won’t mean anything anyway. It is my hope that the unsure will read the conviction in these words and know that church isn’t perfect and neither are its people. But don’t focus on me or the guy down the road but focus on the life of Jesus that we should be striving to be like. I have a whole lot more to say on this subject but I am going to leave it where it is til another time. In closing remember that it is “Better to GIVE than RECEIVE”.
What would you say is the most significant, the most important decision you have ever made in your life? Pretty tough question huh? For me and many others it was the day I said yes to Jesus and began to live my life for Him. I think about following Christ and the fact that He lived, died and rose…man that is huge. The resurrection is HUGE! It was a game changer. A game changer is a term we hear in sports where something happens to change the direction of the game. It shifts momentum to the other side and the opposing team just can’t adjust for the new game play. The resurrection changes EVERYTHING!
For one thing it gives us the confident hope of life after death. Not only are there eyewitness accounts of Jesus death and burial but also eleven of Jesus disciples SAW Him, SPOKE with Him, TOUCHED Him and even ATE with Him after His resurrection and even under the pain of death stuck to their story that “He is risen” but over 500 people over 40 days saw Him as well…Huge!
For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died – 1 Thess. 4:14
Many religions promise life after death only one founder came back from the dead. That is why Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die”.
The resurrection gives us a chance at a New Start; a New Life. Change isn’t easy. OK…it’s hard. We want to change yet there is something inside us that enslaves us and pulls us backwards to old habits – this happens to everyone. This is life…until the Resurrection. The scriptures say that we can be free from the old life. (Any man that is in Christ is a New creation, The old is gone the New has come – 2 Cor. 5:17) The bible doesn’t talk about what effect the Resurrection will have on you and me when we die nearly as often that it talks about the effect it has on us right now. Completely changed inside out in an instant…not a little by little change that takes us 50 years. It’s not a gradual change. We are changed all at once and rest of your life you are learning how you are changed and how to live as a changed person.
Lastly, it a relationship not religion. What is it that makes me Christian? Because Jesus lives inside of me. I have a peace and joy that cannot be taken away or robbed from me because Jesus lives in me. I am a citizen of heaven because Jesus lives in me. I have courage why? Because Jesus lives in me.
Christianity is not an Ethics course or Philosophy 101. It is a living relationship with someone who is alive. Christianity is not signing a statement of faith or joining a church; it is a living relationship with Christ and because He is alive He can save anyone. Paul said thin in Romans 10…
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved – Romans 10:9
Lord, I pray that these words may encourage someone and as they read they will find freedom in You as their Savior! Amen.
Go out and stand before me on the mountain” And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper – 1 Kings 19
A mighty wind, an Earthquake and a raging fire – in these ways and more the Lord God revealed Himself – He made Himself known – Elijah’s fire from heaven – a pillar of fire and smoke and the voice of God as the blast of the loudest trumpet. Then thousands of years later even after 400 years of silence…He came. I was inspired after hearing the song “Winter Snow” by Audrey Assad to consider how He came to us.
- He came in a way that no one could have ever expected a King to come. He could have come like a mighty storm bursting through the sky, lightening, rain and thunder
- He could have come like a hurricane tearing through the trees, breaking limbs and uprooting.
- He could have come like a forest fire with searing heat and smoke out of control consuming everything in His path.
- He could have could like a tidal wave flooding and defying the rules that say to waves “stop here”
- He could have come the way the Kings should come
But that is not how He came at all is it? He came like silent snow fall. No parades. No cheering crowds. But instead of coming with a lot of noise and the display of human excitement brought, He quietly brought Joy to the world. Joy is described in the Holy Scriptures like that of a war cry, a shout SHOWING gladness and rejoicing that overtakes our heart and that joy benefits us through encouragement of hope.
There is a joy that is caused by an occasion. A special moment – A wedding – A child’s first words – Good News like the birth of a child. This joy is caused not only by an occasion but also by a person. This person would be responsible for that joy; the One bringing the good news and it causes GREAT excitement! He is called Jesus! In the book of Luke 2 we read a very familiar passage that says…
“Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people”
Did you catch that? Not just joy but “Great” joy; the word great is “Mega” joy and this joy is to All” people. Jesus knows what we need…better than anyone. He wants you to not only receive Him and experience the joy, peace and hope that he brings but but to hand over the reigns of your life and let him be Lord. And as Lord of our life we can true sing…
Joy to the world! The Lord is come
Let earth receive her King!
Let every heart prepare Him room
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven, and heaven and nature sing
“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6 (NASB)
Cuba, Vietnam, Granada, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, North Korea – these are places in my life time that our country has either been at war with or at least been the threat of war. I am sure there are others that I did not mention but I think that you get the idea.
There is a lack of peace in the world however, that extends beyond the military battlefield. That battlefield is in the home and the work place and even the church where there is unrest and strife and worries and these things rip the peace out of our lives and cause terrible unrest.
I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world – John 16:33
Peace means much more than the absence of war. Peace paints a picture of harmony and completeness. It is a promise of peace; to make whole and restore. To have Peace or “Shalom” is to have a fulfilled life in every way. It is a state of safety where your life is put at ease by the Lord Jesus Christ – the One that we celebrate at Christmas. The One bringing this peace has the power to carry His plan of peace out.
With “Shalom” peace there is no fear; no worry, but instead a sense of harmony and oneness. Everything is exactly the way it should be. Things are in their proper order. This is “Shalom” – this is the peace that Jesus brings – Our Prince of Peace.
Jesus didn’t come so that we could give gifts on the 25th of Dec. He didn’t come that we could sing “Jingle Bells” and “Santa Claus is coming to Town”. He came to give us peace with God and He came to give us peace within ourselves. How about you? Have you ever said yes to Him? He stands at the ready offering His peace and wants to be a part of your life. Say YES to Him today. It’s the greatest gift you could ever receive.
Father, help us to discover the peace that came to the world, born in a feeding trough, lived a sinless life and offered Himself as a sacrifice for all the world. WHAT A GIFT! May we receive that gift as we repent and believe. Thank you.
In Jesus Name…Amen
I found this great song on the web and put it together with some scripture and pics so that people could see that no matter where you are at in life, you can call on the Lord to rescue you. The music is by “The Choir”