There was a time that I loved The Church... Now that I have your attention, let me explain.
There was a time some years ago before I'd felt the sting of betrayal, the pain of lost relationships, and the agony of being lied about. It was during this season of my life that I was completely enamored with God's church. I could go to places that worshiped differently and find the beauty in each expression. Even if the worship weren't "my style" I saw the good in the diversity. I volunteered as a youth pastor at a local church and I spent Thursday afternoons preaching to the elderly at a nursing home. I loved God and I loved people.
However, life and ministry caused me to be guarded. I became careful to whom I give my heart. And I've found that I grew cold and cynical of others.
Now don't get me wrong, I LOVED the church I was a part of and the people that God had placed around me BUT something had changed... And I didn't like it!
As I was spending some time in worship I found myself missing the old me. The me that loved every arm of the church. The me that I used to be. And it was at this point that I heard myself praying a prayer before i was able to process what I was saying. I prayed, "God, restore to me a love for Your church."
Now for you that may not seem significant but for me it was a leap of faith. Or maybe you are like me...
You've become guarded, untrusting, waiting to see when you will be hurt again. And you need to pray a dangerous prayer as well. What prayer have you been avoiding? What area does God need to put His finger on in your life? In what way do you need to obey Him?
This is the account of Noah and his family.
Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God. (Genesis 6:9 NIV)
It is apparent from this scripture that Noah was considered righteous before God and it was made noticeable in two areas. First, Noah was RIGHT with others. It says that he was a blameless among the people of his time. In other words, he had the respect of those around him. He had the respect of those with whom he did business. He had the respect of his neighbors. He had the respect of his family. People may not have liked his personality, leadership style, or fashion sense but they couldn't deny his integrity. Noah was RIGHT with others.
The other area that noticeably displays Noah's righteousness is that he was RIGHT with God. The scripture says that "he walked faithfully with God." Noah wasn't the type of guy who was passionately in love with God one day and skipping out on his devotions the next. Noah was faithful in his relationship with the Lord. That doesn't mean he didn't have his off days but that even when his senses didn't "feel" like it, his faith never failed.
So, what does this have to do with us?
Well, I want to be known like Noah. I want others to say of me after I'm gone that I was a righteous man. If I want that reputation in times to come I must cultivate the two areas of my life like Noah did his. I must make sure that I walk with integrity before god and people. I must do whatever it takes to gain the respect of those in my world and any areas that my integrity has been compromised already must be made right. We must work on our integrity financially, socially, and with our family. We must be RIGHT with people.
Second, we must continually be faithful in our relationship with the Father. We won't be perfect but we can be faithful. Faithful in our prayer lives. Faithful in our bible reading. Faithful in our serving. Faithful in our giving. We must be RIGHT with God.
Pray with me right now:
Father, forgive me for every area where I have allowed my integrity to be compromised. Help me to make things right and begin building my reputation as a person of integrity back again. Where it has been hurt beyond repair with others, please extend the grace to forgive to those I've hurt. Where I have been unfaithful in my walk with you, please forgive me. I stand before you now asking to be right again with you. Let nothing in my life under my control hold me back from living a life that can be described as a righteous life. Thank you for it now. Amen.
"Hi-yo Silver, away!!" That was the cry of the Lone Ranger as he would ride off into the sunset. Many of us think that our lot in life is to be that "Lone Ranger," spending life alone.
Alone defined means separated from others and while we are meant to retreat for short periods of time to be alone, we were never designed to live our life in that way. Religion has even perpetuated this isolationistic (I know that I probably just made that word up!) mindset through teaching that we are to separate ourselves from the world and singing songs like "Me and Jesus got our own thing going." And let's not forget the ever-so-popular "I have decided to follow Jesus" which declares 'Though none go with me... still I will follow."
We were never meant to live our lives alone. As a matter of fact, we will never come to know true freedom or come to full maturity in Christ outside of a loving community of faith.
In John chapter eleven, we find Jesus hearing about the death of a dear friend named Lazarus. As he arrives in town, he is confronted by the sisters of the dearly departed. He is so moved with compassion for this family that he asks to be taken to the grave site at which point he commands them to take the stone away from the opening. When they do, Jesus speaks to the dead friend telling him to get up and come out of the grave. To the surprise of the onlookers, out walks Lazarus.
Jesus treats us in much the same way. Until we entered into a committed relationship with Jesus Christ, the Bible says that we were all, like Lazarus, dead. Only we were spiritually dead. There came a time... for me when I was fourteen years old, when Jesus spoke into the grave of my life and commanded life to enter my spirit and I walked out into a brand new life.
Now this is where the story takes an interesting turn. Lazarus comes walking out of the grave but he still has the grave clothes wrapped tightly around his body so that he could hardly move. Jesus now turns to the onlookers and commands them to set him free. "Take off the grave clothes and let him go." (John 11:44)
It is like that in our lives as well! Jesus gives us life, but he delegates the process of freedom to the church. If we are alone, we have no one to assist us in taking off our grave clothes. We lack accountability. No one is there to ask the hard questions. And we have life in Christ, but we are still bound. Bound by habits. Bound by attitudes. Bound by wrong ways of thinking. Bound.
So, today I ask you, who is being the church in your life? Who has to right to speak to the areas of your life that are holding you back? Who asks you the hard questions?
And secondly, who are you helping to attain freedom? For whom are you being the church?
Most people spend their life for self-sufficiency. As a child we long for the day that we can get our drivers license. As a teenager, we long for our eighteenth birthday. As a young adult, we can't wait until we're twenty-one. We long for this place and every milestone seems to get us closer but none seem to fully get us there. The apostle Paul seemed to understand why. He knew that the only way we could ever become self-sufficient was when we had fully surrendered to Christ's sufficiency.
William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army once said, "The greatness of a man's power is in the measure of his surrender." This appears to be a contradiction. How can we have great power when we are fully surrendered? How can we be self-sufficient when we completely rely on Christ's sufficiency? How can I be in charge when I am absolutely submitted?
Well, I don't completely understand that myself but I know that, according to the scripture, the only way to live a life that is pleasing to God is to surrender it fully to Him. And we were created to bring Him pleasure.
So, I have made up my mind. I want my life to make God smile. I want Him to be pleased. I want to bring Him joy. And so, I echo the words of Peter after a night of failed fishing. When Jesus asked him to cast the net back out, Peter replied, "Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. BUT BECAUSE YOU SAY SO, I will let down the nets."
Will you join me in having a "because you say so" lifestyle?
For most people in the church, the title of this post would seem to indicate that I am going to talk about end times events. Maybe recent tragedies came to mind. Quite possibly you thought of the Left Behind book series. Well, let me put you at ease, I'm not talking about end times.
In Proverbs chapter one and the second half of verse 32, the writer makes an interesting statement when he says, "...the complacency of fools with destroy them."
This jumped off of the page today as I read it because so many people I encounter live their lives in a state of complacency.
Now, of course, none of them would admit it if they were confronted about it. Most of us would not admit to living a complacent life. However, if we were to take a look at the definition of the word, it may describe more of us than we realize.
Complacency is defined as "an instance of usually unaware or uninformed self-satisfaction." Understanding that, most people who are complacent probably don't even realize that they are! They have just became so numb to life, and satisfied enough with their current situation, that they won't put up a fight to change. Maybe, you are that person... maybe I am. Have you been sick for so long with no hope of getting better that you just come to believe that is how it will always be? Maybe you have dreams of a better future, a happier marriage, a life free from depression but because you haven't seen a change in so long, you just quit trying. What about those who had big dreams... starting a business, launching a ministry, buying a dream home... but they let others talk them out of it.
The writer of the proverb said that the day we began to live in complacency was the day that our destruction started. That was the beginning of the end.
God never designed us to live like that. He created us with a purpose. He said that before we were formed, He already had plans for us. (And that those plans were good!) So today, if you realized that I just spent the last few minutes describing your life situation, please shake yourself out of your complacency! Ask the Father to reawaken the desires and dreams that you once knew. Allow the Holy Spirit to breath life into your imagination. And begin to dream again!
Don't let today be the beginning of the end. Make today the beginning of your future! How will you start living life today?
His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever He tells you."
As a child I remember hearing stories of Lacy Drew. He was a minister who travelled to speak at many local churches in our area. More than that, he was a man who truly knew the power of God.
Of all the stories that were told me of this general of the faith, one sticks out more than all the rest. It was a story concerning one of the messages that he ministered from this passage of scripture. It was a story that his life and his ministry were built upon.
"Do whatever He tells you."
Lacy Drew was known for his powerful sermons. He was known for his strong leadership But more than all of that, he was known for his unwavering obedience to the spirit of God.
"Do whatever He tells you."
So many people today base their decisions on many different things... career choices, opinions of others, financial abilities. However, what we must do is learn to hear and obey the voice of Jesus.
Let's try it today....
"Do whatever He tells you."
Tell me your stories. When was a time that you obeyed God? What were the results?
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of GRACE and TRUTH.
For the law was given to Moses; GRACE and TRUTH came through Jesus Christ.
In the Old Covenant, God gave us His law, issued His commands to see if we would obey. What was revealed was that commands outside of relationship results in rebellion. Thus He sent Jesus... full of GRACE and TRUTH. Jesus possessed the TRUTH, the commands, the law BUT He also possessed GRACE. Before He presented the TRUTH, He always demonstrated GRACE.
We must take the example of Jesus and make it our own. Christians have a tendency to want to control others to make them do the right thing. We want to be able to tell others how to live. We want to give truth but most of the time it is outside of the bounds of relationship. Without first having a relationship and allowing others to experience the GRACE of God in our lives, presenting TRUTH will only push others away. We must first be a person filled with grace because it is that grace that will open the door for others to hear the truth of the gospel.
So, let's stop being mean-spirited believers and become grace filled Christ followers! Are you in?? Tell me your experiences in this!