Monday, October 31, 2016

Don't go to church on Sunday.

A few years ago I saw on Facebook that a church planter I know up north had led his church in a day they called "Don't Go To Church" Sunday. The idea behind it was not to go to a church building on that Sunday but to go be the church. They went out into the large city their church resides in and gave out water and food. They also shared living water and bread from heaven. The concept of "not going to church" wasn't lost on me. I've heard Bible teachers and preachers over the years make the same kind of comment with a different perspective than the church planter mentioned above. But there is plenty of truth in the statement...you need to stop going to church.

You should stop going to church and start going to worship. Now that sounds a little picky in the language used but it's the truth. Too often believers see the hour between 11:00-12:00 on Sunday, or whatever hour the service may be, as their required church time to stay in God's good graces. God doesn't want you to go to church, He wants you to join other believers and worship Him. Our worship of God is all about Him and nothing about us. It's not about what I like. It's not about what I hope to get out of the service. It's about my heartfelt devotion to God being poured out as a sacrifice on the altar before a holy and righteous God who is worthy of my worship. So Sunday, stop going to church and start going to worship.

You should stop going to church for the preacher and start going for the message. It's a sad but true fact that when there is a change in church leadership some people stop attending church. It's also sad but true that when the pastor is gone on vacation or preaching at another church that some people don't attend church. It is impossible to completely separate our worship experience from the pastor God has placed in leadership over our church. But when we find ourselves not attending church because the pastor is not there, we find ourselves falling into the trap of idolatry. We are starting to worship the one who leads worship rather than the only One worthy of our worship. A few years ago our church had missionaries share during the message time on a Sunday morning. I advertised this with our congregation for a few weeks and was concerned that our attendance may drop because the pastor wasn't the one who would be preaching. To my surprise we tied our highest attendance to date that year and had several who were out sick. That is the mentality we have to have, that regardless of who is sharing the message we are coming to hear God's message. So Sunday, stop going to church for the preacher and start going for the message.

You should stop going to church for the style of music and start going for the praise of God. I've heard it said "I can't worship unless it's _____ kind of music" or "I can't worship God unless it's ______ type of a service." To those who would say that I would tell you that "Worship is not about you or what you like, it's about God." Yes, we should have our preferences in how we worship God and hear from Him. But when we limit our worship because we limit our mode of worship, then we limit our reception of God's message. Music is only one small part of the worship experience. Worship involves prayer, preaching, testimonies, giving and so much more. If you are only attending a church because of the style of music, I encourage you to stop going to church for the style of music and start going for the praise of God.

My intentions with today's post is not to ruffle feathers. My intentions are that we all really examine our motives for why we attend the church we attend. What we as believers should do is find a local body of believers where our family is ministered to and the truth of the Bible is taught. We should throw ourselves into the life of the church so we can truly worship God there. That way regardless of who is behind the pulpit or the song being sung we are connected in spirit with God, pouring our heartfelt devotion out to Him. So Sunday, you need to stop going to church!


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Monday, October 24, 2016

Plant a Banana Tree.

Sunday morning I ate a banana as I drove to church. When I finished the banana I thought what am I going to do with this banana peel because I don't want to hold on to it for the drive to church. Not wanting to litter or reenact a scene from Billy Madison, I knew I couldn't throw it out the window. But for a moment the idea to toss it in the weeds along a vacant piece of property did cross my mind. The next thought that caught me off guard was the fact that I thought to my self, "Just say, 'Plant a banana tree' and it will be okay." Now that sounds like an odd phrase to say and I admit it is, but I can't take credit for coming up with it. When I was a kid I had a cousin who was 10 years older than me and I remember riding with her in her car. On more than one occasion I remember not having a place to put some piece of trash or apple core or banana peel and she said if you toss it out the window and say "Plant a banana tree" then it's not really littering. In the mind of a kid it sounded legit, so out the window went my trash. My parents quickly fixed this bad habit, but I couldn't believe that after nearly 30 years this phrase came to mind when I thought about tossing something out the window of my truck. In any case, I laid the banana peel down in the truck and tossed it in the trash at church.

As a kid I thought that I could rationalize my littering by saying a simple phrase as I committed the act. The act of trying to rationalize actions that we shouldn't do, let's call them sins, has been around forever. Man has always found a way of rationalizing his sin so he doesn't feel so bad about it. We do it to make our sin more palatable to us and so we become desensitized to it and can move on with our lives without the guilt. The problem is sin is sin. Regardless of whether we try to justify or rationalize our sin, sin is still sin. The old phrase that comes to mind is "You can put lipstick on a pig but its still a pig." Dress it up however you want, sin is still sin. Regulate it. Legislate it. Gain society's approval of it. Sweep it under your own spiritual rug and it doesn't change the fact that you're sinning. Pick the sin that you rationalize on a daily basis and realize that your rationalization doesn't hold water with God.

The problem with rationalizing our sin is not just that we become desensitized to something that should bring repentance. The problem is that as we justify and rationalize our sin, we don't seek forgiveness for that sin because we view it as acceptable. When we don't seek forgiveness for our sins, then a spiritual gap widens between us and God. We become less sensitive to His Holy Spirit's leading in our life. Our hearts harden towards God and it makes us more vulnerable and susceptible to more sin in our life. In the end, we end up distancing ourselves from the one who has the cure for our sin problem. We end up distancing ourselves from the one who loves us unconditionally. We distance ourselves from the victorious life He wants us to experience.

1 John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." Right here God tells us in His Word that no matter what sin we commit, even the ones we rationalize and grow accustomed to committing, He will still forgive us. Choose today the sin you find yourself rationalizing and come to grips with the reality of what you're doing. See your sin the way God does, as something you ought to avoid at all costs. Seek His forgiveness for your sin and seek His help to rid your life of that sin. It won't be easy but in the end you'll be glad that you did.


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Monday, October 17, 2016

Don't avoid a regular cleaning.

I recently spent time washing my truck after it saw the bad side of driving through a cow pasture. Dirt, dust, and cow manure can make for an unsightly truck. When I had finished washing it and had done a final inspection for any spots I'd missed, I put my cleaning supplies up. I walked around one more time to see if I had missed anything and low and behold I did. I found that in my rush to get done I had forgotten to wash the wheels. They weren't too dirty so I thought I'd wait until the next time to wash them. No harm, no foul, right? Wrong! By the time I washed my truck again the front wheels on my truck had accumulated a large amount of brake dust. As I was cleaning the wheels I noticed how thick the break dust was but also how shiny the wheel looked as I began to clean it. As I found myself nearly halfway done with one wheel, I drew a line down the middle of the wheel with my rag and snapped a picture. It was remarkable how bad the tire looked when I neglected cleaning it.

Our spiritual life faces the same type of problem when we neglect to seek forgiveness from God for our sins. You and I sin daily. This means we disobey some aspect of God's rules each and every day. We can't get around it because we are sinful beings with a natural bend towards sin. The fact that we sin every day is a constant reminder of the fact that, even after we become a Christian, we daily need God's grace and forgiveness.

Prayer is one spiritual discipline that we should practice every day. Yes, we should share our requests with God, praise Him, and thank Him for His provision. But in addition to that we ought to also daily seek His forgiveness. In my humble opinion, it ought to be the very first thing we do in prayer before we do anything else. Why? Because our sin separates us from God. If we are separated from God spiritually because of sin, then how are we able to lift up our prayers of praise, thanks, and request with an attitude of humility and holiness. We ought to seek out the forgiveness of God first and foremost in our times of prayer, as well as doing it daily. This practice will not only help keep us spiritually clean, but it will help draw us closer to God with each passing day. It will help us see more clearly the sins that trip us up on a daily basis and we can seek to avoid them. 

If we don't see God's forgiveness on a daily basis we'll find ourselves like the tires on my truck. At first things don't look to bad, but before long we are covered up with unconfessed sin that separates us from God. This separation makes it harder for us to draw close to God and makes it harder for us to hear the Holy Spirit leading, guiding, and directing us.

Commit today to making prayer a daily habit (if you haven't already). Also commit to seeking God's forgiveness first and foremost in those times of prayer, so you can be drawn closer to Him and more sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. In the end, you'll be glad that you did!


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Monday, October 10, 2016

Here's who to vote for in November.

This year's presidential election is shaping up to be one of the most divisive and contentious elections in our nation's history. So how does a person decide who to vote for in November? There are many factors that should affect who you vote for in the elections, regardless if it is the mayor or the president. The one thing that should have an overriding say in who you vote for is your faith. Not the party you're parents and grandparents voted for. Not recent changes to society's view on hot topics. Your faith should have the final say in who you vote for in November. If you are a Christian your allegiance shouldn't be to a particular political party or a set of societal ideals, but to the God of the Universe.

Last night during our evening service I was answering questions from our congregation on different things pertaining to faith, God, and the church. One question I answered was on how Christians should relate to the political process of voting. Here is part of the answer to that question. "Christians should educate themselves on where the candidates stand on key issues, pray about the decision, and then vote the way they feel God leading them." If you aren't educated on where the candidates stand on issues, then you can't make an informed decision. If you don't pray about the decision, then you disregard the wisdom and will of God for your decision. As Christians there are key issues that should be considered and prayed over before you vote. Abortion is one because the sanctity of human life matters to God and unborn children matter to Him. The U.S. relations with Israel also matters because God has warned us that He will bless those who support Israel and curse those who don't (Genesis 12:3). Same-sex marriage and LGBT issues matter as well because the Bible clearly defines homosexuality as a sin. Of course there are other issues as well that need to be researched, considered, and then prayed over before you vote in November.

It will most likely be difficult to find a candidate that matches 100% to your views about life and what the Bible says on issues. Here's a bit of common sense reasoning on how to make this work for your vote in November. Let's say you research the candidates and find 6 key issues that relate to matters of faith and you research what the Bible says on the matters. If Candidate A matches with the Bible on 3 issues and Candidate B matches on 4 issues, you should vote for Candidate B. Why? Because they line up more closely with what Scripture says on the issues. Maybe I'm simple-minded but discerning one candidate has more in common with the Bible isn't too hard to figure out.

I'll close with this. Do the research on the candidates and their take on the issues and what the Bible says on those issues. Pray. Pray like you've never prayed before because the future of our country depends on it. Most likely the future of your religious freedom depends on it. Then vote. The right to vote in a free election is a right that has been given to us by God and it is our responsibility to vote. If you don't vote because you don't "like" the candidates, then you do an injustice to those who died to give, maintain, and defend your right to vote. When all is said and done, regardless if your chosen candidate is elected or not, pray for the elected officials. We're commanded in the Bible to pray for those in government and God's sovereign will allowed them to be elected (Romans 13:1). Those elected to office need your prayers.

One place you can find out information about the candidates, their views on the issues, and other aspects of this upcoming election from a trusted biblical perspective is the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. You can do some of your research here.

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Monday, October 3, 2016

The Learning Curve

There is one thing that every single person on earth cannot get past when it comes to new experiences. This one thing can be time consuming and even at times cause us to throw our hands up and quit. What is that one thing? It is called The Learning Curve. The Learning Curve is "the rate of a person's progress in gaining experience or new skills." Simply put, it is how quickly you pick something up. This morning I was reminded of the dreaded learning curve as I worked to get our church's sermons on to YouTube. We've been asked regularly about our messages being online. I finally bit the bullet and was able to record Sunday's services via my iPad and have now put them on YouTube (you can check them out here). The aggravating thing for me was it seemed to take longer than I expected to get everything finalized and in to a presentable format on YouTube. I had to set up an account, find usable images for the channel art, and then take audio files recorded on an iPad and get them into a format to be presented on YouTube. It was definitely time consuming, but if the end result challenges and changes lives for God's Kingdom then it is all worth it. The next time I go to upload messages to YouTube, it shouldn't be as time consuming because the learning curve will be less this time and I will have picked up on how to move through it faster.

When it comes to the church, we often times assume that new Christians can bypass the learning curve. We hear of someone's conversion, we baptize them, and then expect them to know everything we know about matters of faith. Unfortunately, conversion to Christianity doesn't automatically mean you know everything about faith, why the church does certain things, or even what God expects of you. Christians in the church need to be patient and understanding about new believers and their learning curve when it comes to the faith. It takes time for new believers to settle in to this new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) they have become and really start to mature in their faith. Also remember that none of us quit maturing in our faith in this life. We never reach a place where we know it all and live it out perfectly. So technically, we all deal with the learning curve from the moment of conversion to glorification (when we die).

Look for ways to help mentor and mature new believers. If you are further down the path of faith than they are, then come alongside a new believer and help them grow in their faith. It will not only help them but it will also help you grow in your faith as well. Then the both of you are able to get a little bit further over the learning curve of faith.


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