I was thinking last night about something that I wish I would never have to think about again. I was dwelling on the faces of a couple who no longer attend our church. I know that it shouldn’t but it always bothers me when someone chooses not to attend. It’s always amazing to me how my logical mind can see all of the new families and excitement and yet the emotional part of me is still bothered for months about a few who have made a decision to do something else.
I think the reason that it bothers me is that no one learns anything and no one grows. You see it’s easy to quit. Pastors quit when leading gets hard or resistance is felt or they feel unappreciated. Church members quit when they feel unattended, uncared for or unheard. I have decided that even if a pastor faces difficulties and IS unappreciated and even if church members ARE uncared for and unheard you should NEVER QUIT! I have friends in the ministry that believe that it’s better for some people to move on to some other church. I wholeheartedly disagree!
My rational for that statement comes from thinking about what the purpose of the church is. Our foremost commission is certainly reaching the lost, but secondary only to that is the discipleship and growth of the members of the Body of Christ. Now do you suppose that the development of character and REAL strength comes from ease or difficulty? The difficulty of living in proper relation with others in the Body of Christ causes us to grow and become stronger. Perhaps the thing about your church that you dislike the most, is there by God’s design to change who and what you are. Perhaps it’s time that we as members of the Body of Christ put away the consumer mindset that says we should always have everything we want and we will shop until we find a church custom made for us and determine that we will learn, change, and grow to fill our place of ministry right where we are.
You can be sure that Satan is watching. If there is a thing that can cause you to quit, then you can be sure that it’s on the way. I have said for years to my congregations that the chance of me offending you is 100%. Stick around long enough and my life will be moving across yours. It’s in that moment that you and I both learn and grow. If we quit neither of us learns anything!
Just some thoughts!
Have you ever been around someone who is never thankful for anything? I regret to say that I have. These people are like giant sponges that suck all of the life out of everything and everyone they come in contact with. They are literally death.
Paul had an interesting take on what refusing to be thankful to God would lead to. In Romans 1:21-25 we read…
“Although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened… Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator– who is forever praised.”
Paul said that these people knew God but refused to glorify God or to give Him the thanks that He deserved.
In short, they refused to be thankful.
It is the end result of that strikes me as profound.
Their lack of thanksgiving resulted in immorality and sin. Thanksgiving is an insulator against immorality and sin in our lives. If you think about it, that makes sense. A God, who in our minds is worthy of praise and thanksgiving and who is seen as the author of every good thing in our lives, is also a God whom we wish to serve and obey. A God, who we view so small as to allow us to ignore his blessings and whose justice and righteousness we can disregard, is also one easily disobeyed.
Therefore, thanksgiving is a thermometer for you soul.
It diagnoses what is really going on inside.
Check yourself today. Are you a person more prone to complain or to give thanks? One leads to life and the other to death.
Blessings and have a great Thanksgiving Season!
Last night I was involved in one of the saddest evenings I’ve had in a very long time. A young lady that I know had posted some things on Facebook that I felt compelled to respond to. During the course of my response to her I simply assured her of our love for her and the constancy of that love no matter what she chooses. During the course of this, a couple of her friends began to post concerning the existence or lack of existence of God and the foolishness of those who believe in God.
My sadness resulted from the resoluteness of these early teens’ conviction in things contrary to God. They spouted things related to their belief like an understanding of DMT (Dimethyltryptamine), a natural occurring hormone in the body that contributes to our ability to dream and in recent years has been suggested to account for the “near-death heaven” experiences as it is released at death. DMT is a class one hallucinogen that is now used like LSD in the 60’s. These kids joked with each other about the availability of it in Alton and even jokingly encouraged each other to try it. All of this from very young teens and seemingly without any thought for the consequences of joking about these things much less actually believing in and potentially acting upon these beliefs. I realize that there is a pretty good chance that much of this communication is teen bravado and probably not the actual experience of these kids but the ease with which they speak of these things indicates at least a knowledge and perhaps actual experience.
My question is where are the parents of these teens? Where is the adult supervision of their development and where are the guardians of their future? To be honest I am concerned that they might actually be experimenting with DMT but I am more concerned that teens in the most formative years of their lives are being left alone to embrace whatever seems best to them and then to encourage through social network sites, their friends to do the same. From what I can tell, these discussions are a nightly occurrence with no parental consequence of any kind.
Teens are no different today than they have always been. They crave freedom, expression, independence, and notoriety. What has changed is that in past generations there were diligent, strong, caring parents present to guide these kids around the destructive patterns that I witnessed last evening.
What does that mean to us?
Our job has never been bigger or more difficult and our time has never been shorter. Will you join me in praying that God would give us strategies and resources to intervene in these lives before its too late? It will be yet another really hard thing, but hey we love those!
Just a few days ago kids from all over the world celebrated Halloween. Our church even entered a float into Alton’s Halloween parade. I commissioned the float, helped construct it, then walked with it in the parade. Our church even had a Trunk or Treat on the Sunday evening prior to Halloween.
My post today is for those who believe that Halloween is Satan’s Holliday and as such, the church should boycott anything and everything about this day. Now while I am in complete agreement with us refusing the things that have a clear connection with the evil aspects of this day, I refuse to accept that there is a day or a place that the church cannot go.
I believe that October 31 was a day created for God to be praised long before Halloween came to be. If Satan or the world stole it, then let’s take it back! We can’t do that at home with the blinds drawn, sitting in a back room with the lights out! Just a thought.
On Saturday I got a terrible message from one of my Facebook friends. In the message she told me of the tragic death of a wonderful lady and her grandson in a traffic accident. Most of you would not know this family but both generations who suffered loss in this accident were really great godly people who have been a great blessing to my life. In one moment a wonderful godly man and minister lost his wife and a nine-year-old grandson. Both of his sons who lost their mother are ministers. The eldest son’s wife is ordained as well and serves as the Women’s Ministries director for the Arkansas District and it was their son who was killed in the accident with his grandmother.
I refuse this early in their grief to try and make some sort of sense out of this. What I do ask that each of you who reads this blog would hold this family up in your prayers.
What I will point out to you is that even the very best and most choice of God’s people suffer.
I will however, draw some conclusions about what will happen to these people that will stand in sharp contrast to those who face these things without the Lord. These people will survive. How do I know this, because I know of their faith. These are not casual believers. They are not Christians in name only. They are the real deal. They have been tried before and while this is undoubtedly the greatest trial yet, they didn’t quit after the smaller trials. They have stored up in their hearts a faith that will hold them up now. It might be shaken but it will hold. The darkness that would overwhelm others will get deep but in the depth of the night when others are alone with their grief, this family will not be alone. They know a friend that sticks closer than a brother, (Proverbs 18:24) and the brother created for adversity. (Proverbs 17:17) They are in the fire, but there is a fourth man in the fire with them and he is the Son of God!
What about you? Would you survive? Would you indict God or continue to serve Him in the face of a thousand questions?
It’s about a real faith.
Here’s another thought from a few years back.
Have you ever thought about what we really mean when we use the word “saved” in the church context? It seems to me that we have completely forgotten what it is that the word actually means. When we use it we use it in a sentence that usually sounds something like, “Have you been saved?” or “I wonder if they are saved.”
What do you think of when you hear that?
I think most people will think of a person praying the sinner’s prayer or coming to an altar and accepting Jesus as their Savior. Let me show you something that hit me like a ton of bricks a few years ago.
In Acts 11 Peter is giving a report to church leaders in Jerusalem about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Gentiles that occurred at Cornelius’ house and is recorded in Acts chapter 10. When Peter relates the story to the leaders in Jerusalem he tells them about the message that an angel gave to Cornelius that prompted Cornelius to send for Peter. The message that the angel gave to Cornelius was…
Acts 11:13-14 … “Send to Joppa and bring Simon who is called Peter; he will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household.”
My question is this… What was the angel referring to when he said that Peter had a message that would “save” Cornelius and all those in his household?
Do you suppose that he meant that they needed to pray the sinner’s prayer or come down to an altar call or take part in some sort of religious tradition? Was the angel saying that they needed to do the things that we think of when we say that a person needs to be “saved”?
Rather than any of these, let me paint a picture that came to my mind the first time I saw this. In this picture there is a sharp, extremely high, dangerous cliff edge. Leading up to that edge is a conveyor belt of sorts that is slowly creeping towards the edge of that cliff. On the conveyor are men, women, boys, and girls who are engaged in life. By the thousands they come to the edge and fall over to their absolute destruction. The problem is that from their vantage point they cannot see or perceive the danger until it is too late and they are falling. High above them there is a lookout. From his high position above them he not only sees them he can see the edge of the cliff and below. He is keenly aware of what is transpiring and feels acutely the loss that is constantly occurring.
This is the reality of the angel and those in Cornelius’ household.
The angel knows the reality that the members of Cornelius’ household cannot see. When he proclaims that they need to be “saved” it is “saved” in the sense that we use the word everywhere except church. You know “saved” as in a burning building, rushing floodwaters or a tyrants evil.
In fact that is what “saved” has always and will always mean in any context especially the church one. So great is their need and the need of the Gentile World of salvation that God performs this miracle to accomplish it. It is greatly necessary, passionately provided, and unmistakably urgent!
What happens when we redefine the word into a religious tradition? We lose all sense of urgency. If it takes a while for a person to pray a prayer or come down to an altar or have some sort of religious experience then what’s the hurry?
But if people are about to fall over a cliff someone needs to do something quickly.
We are supposed to be the ones who have the greater vantage point. Where is our sense of urgency?
The angel knew it, and we need to quickly remember it.
I was going back through some thoughts that I had made some notes on over the past few years and I thought that a couple of them would make good topics for our blog. The first one goes right back to our discussion about what kind of music God likes and takes it a step further, considering what kind of music we should do as a church.
There is perhaps no issue more historically divisive in the church than the issue of music styles. It’s in no way a new issue and you would think that by now we would have figured it out, but alas we digress.
Anyway, I think that I’ve absolutely figured this one out.
In fact I’ll even go so far as to say that the Lord told me! My guidance on this issue came one day as I was wrestling with how to lead a church to resolve this issue and how to perhaps write a book that would assist the Body of Christ to resolve this issue on a much larger scale.
While praying for and searching the Bible for guidance the Holy Spirit led me to John 21:15-17. In this passage Jesus asks Peter if he loves him. Peter quickly answers strongly in the affirmative to which Jesus tells Peter to “Feed his lambs”. Then Jesus asks Peter the question a second time and Peter answers even more strongly that he indeed loves the Lord and Jesus replies “Tend my sheep”. A third round takes place where Jesus once again asks Peter if he loves him and in understandable frustration Peter emphatically states his love for the Lord and Jesus replies “Feed my sheep”.
Did you catch it? I didn’t for years. Jesus instructs Peter to:
Feed my LAMBS
Tend my SHEEP
Feed my SHEEP
In the original Greek in these verses there are different words used for lambs and sheep. Jesus is not saying the same thing three times. He instructs Peter to feed both the lambs and the sheep.
I realize that the context of these verses has nothing to do with church music, but it does have to do with the mandate given to those who would care for the people of God. What is that mandate? Care for both the Lambs and the Sheep. I interpret that to mean the young or immature and the older or mature members of the flock.
So many ministries have determined that they will set their sights on a particular demographic to the exclusion stylistically of all the other demographics of people around them. They quote statistics about the age at which people get saved as the permission slip for this action and believe that they are cutting edge for their efforts. I have a question for those ministries. What are you going to do ten years from now when the lambs that you are winning today are the sheep of tomorrow and they, like all people, want to do the music that touched them when they were new in Christ? That style will now be ten years old, no longer cutting edge, and they will only have delayed this challenge by ten years. In the process they will have left behind a lot of good sheep in the pursuit of more lambs and will have forsaken what I believe to be one of the fundamental values of the scriptures.
That being the family nature of the Body of Christ with members on both ends of the age spectrum both benefiting from involvement in each other’s lives.
What do we therefore do? We feed all ages every time. Our teams of musicians work diligently to touch everybody every time. Is it hard? It’s very hard! But everything great always is! In the process, both ends of that age spectrum learn to love the other end of that spectrum and the Body of Christ grows strong.
Targeting a single demographic of people is easier. Personally, I’m done with easier. I’ve spent enough years doing easy things. How about you?