Monday, October 29, 2007

Where have all the Christians gone?

The more I look around the more I wonder where all the Christians have gone! I hear people professing to be Christians but I can't see it in their lives. It seems a little curious! In my desire to know God's Word and what it says we should look like as believers I am saddened by the lifestyles and practices of those who profess Christ as Lord. It has made me a little suspicious.

1 John is the book of diagnostics for the believer and a book we would all do well to read over and over! As I have read through this book and confronted people with it's truth, I have had to examine my own life to see if I am displaying these same characteristics. As a sinner by nature I must do this regularly. 1 Cor 13:5 says I am to examine myself. "Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you--unless indeed you fail the test?" Sobering words, huh? So, I must do this to keep myself in line lest I get to the finish line only to find I didn't run the race with endurance nor get the prize; and eternity with the King of Kings! Not something I want to face!

Now I know some of you may be thinking things like, "I don't smoke or do drugs" or "I am faithful to my spouse" or "I am not cruel to animals" or "I go to church every time the doors are open" and the list could go on. Well, those things are well and good but won't get you to heaven nor are they proof of your salvation. I do propose that smoking isn't good for you and our bodies are, after all, the temple of the holy spirit so why would we want to do something to our bodies that are harmful? Being a faithful spouse, especially in todays society, is noble and Biblical but any moral person would do that. Hebrews 10:24 says, "not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near." So, going to church is Biblical and should be a natural part of a Christians life. Still, not proof of salvation. Many go to church who are actually unsaved.

So, what are the distinguishing marks of a believer? Well, here's your homework. Read 1 John and it won't be hard to discover what we should look like to the world. Pay close attention to 1 John 4 where it talks about confessing Christ. You'll hear a lot of people out there saying they are Christians and profess Jesus Christ but the message has been a little warped and the confession does not match up with Scripture. Discernment needs to be carefully applied when listening so you can test what is being said against Scripture. If it doesn't match up, they aren't talking about the Christ of the Bible, you can be sure!

When you're done with that flip on back to Romans 12, then top of your study with Galatians 5:14-26. If you aren't sure by that point then let me know!! We'll have a wonderful conversation! I pray your studies will deepen your love for Christ and cause you to imitate Him in behavior, thought, word and deed. If in your studies you find that you really don't know the King of Kings, repent of your sin and turn to Christ. You will stand before holy God one day and answer for your sin and what you did with Christ. He stands ready to receive the repentant.

May God bless you as you seek Him through His Word! A wonderful message waits for you to unfold it!

For Christ and His kingdom,

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Time flies when you least expect it!!!

As the time approaches for our oldest daughter to leave home to finish her last 2 years of college 3000 miles away, suddenly I have an aching in my heart. She'll turn 20 this month too! My little girl grew up right before my eyes! How did that happen? I ask myself that question frequently. I find myself answering that she was only mine for a short time and that this is what is supposed to happen. Do I like it? Not on your life!

I remember, like it was yesterday, when she used to sing in front of the big sliding glass door watching herself sway to and fro in her long, flowing nightgown. I remember, like it was yesterday, when I dressed her up in a Christmas dress, tied her hair back in a red ribbon and sent her off on a date with daddy to see The Nutcracker. I remember, like it was yesterday, how excited she was when she learned she would be a big sister. I remember all too well our very first day of homeschooling; what she wore, where we sat. I remember when she finally learned to ride her bike. That was a great accomplishment! I remember taking her picture after she got braces. I remember, I remember, I remember everything about that little girl like it was yesterday! But wasn't it yesterday?

My little girl has grown up into a beautiful, talented, gifted woman who loves Jesus and desires nothing more than to be a wife and mommy and watch her little gifts from God grow up right before her eyes. When did she become a woman? When did I become her friend? Did I teach her all she'll need to know about being a woman? Did I remind her enough that God loves her so much and made her especially to be my little girl? Have I told her enough how much I love her and how proud I am of her? Likely not but I know I don't need to stop telling her just because she grew up! God's Word is clear that I am to teach younger women and she will always be younger than me!!

Over the last few months I have come to realize that life truly is a vapor. I didn't think that when she and her sister were toddlers, potty training or asking 50 questions! That seemed like an eternity! Now, it seems only a breath and here I am, about to say good-bye to that little girl.
Looking back, and you know hind sight is always better, had I known just how fast it was going to go, I think I would have cherished those little girl years a little more, sat with them a little longer, played a little more and loved on them a little harder. Where does the time go? With every breath, that's where, and as fast a breath comes and goes. My advice for you moms with little ones: cherish, play, hug, kiss, watch, and thank God for the time you have right now. Your tomorrows will seem like only yesterdays before you know it.

To my daughter, Alison, I could not be prouder of who you have become. My love for you is deeper than you'll ever understand, until you are a mom, and my heart will ache when you are gone. You have grown into the kind of woman that I dreamed you would. You love Jesus and your greatest desire is to serve and worship Him. I couldn't ask for anything more! God has given you a wonderful opportunity and I know you will make the most of it and grow like never before. Use your gifts and talents to honor Him and bless others!

To my daughter, Andrea, I am proud of who you are becoming. I love you with all my heart and am looking forward to our special time together. I love watching you with children and the special gifts God has given you to care for them. I love that God made you and Alison different because you both bless me in so many different ways. I love that you and your sister have developed a special relationship that time will only deepen as you grow. There's nothing like a sister!! I should know, I have 4!!!

Well, for those who know us, pray for us. This will be a big adjustment for us all and not an easy one! We are well aware that God has provided for this and we are excited about what He will do in Alison's life throughout the next 2 years. I am thankful for the years we've had and know that this chapter of rearing her will close for us but her life is just beginning. She'll be on her own, making choices, making new friends, learning what life is all about and finding out that it is all about doing everything to God's glory. I can confidently say that I did, to the best of my ability, teach her that it's all about God and that her life was created to bring Him glory. Now I get to watch what God does when I'm not around! How exciting!!

California, here she comes!!! My little, grown up girl!!!

For Christ and His kingdom,

Friday, April 27, 2007

God: The Sovereign

In my ever increasing knowledge of who God is it becomes more clear who I am and what I was created for. In our Foundations Class at church Wednesday night we continued our discussion/lesson on foreknowledge/foreordination. There are those out there who would argue that God makes decisions because He already knew what people would do. However, it is clear that things happen only because God foreordained them to happen and that's why He knows what will happen. Everything happens because He has already decreed it. He cannot change his mind because He is Sovereign, not a limp-wristed, waffling, shaky God who changes His mind with the shifting of wind. He has created all things to glorify Him and for His good pleasure.

Romans 8:28And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

He has a sovereign will and a moral will and those 2 things are very different. His sovereign will dictates what will happen and no circumstances change that, He has already decreed it. This is the will that decides every detail of our lives. His moral will is that all come to repentance though not all will and He already knows that. Repentance only comes because He grants it. His moral will, for example, is that men should not kill each other needlessly, as in abortion. We are to live righteously.

Once I grasped this truth that God is sovereign in all things my whole perspective changed on life and how I see things. It took a weight off me actually! I can rest in the fact that nothing happens to me that hasn't already gone through the fingers of my loving Father who has allowed it. Afflictions as well as joyful times are all to make me more like Him. He knew before the foundations of the world who I was and all the events that would happen in my life no matter how small. Now that is a sovereign God!! Even foreordaining the death of His Son.

Acts 2:23this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.

He sovereignly chooses some for vessels of honor and some for destruction. Who am I to question? People only come to repentance and salvation because He decreed it and He granted it. It has nothing to do with us. As a matter of fact, NOTHING has to do with us!!! It's all about God and His good pleasure and will. We should pray in all things for God's will no matter what it is. Though we are to petition God on behalf of others and intercede, He has already decreed what will happen to them. The praying is for our benefit to keep us in constant communication with God our Father. "God if it's Your will", "Father, if it glorifies You", "if it please You". These are the words we should be using to pray. Our prayers do not change what God has already foreordained but He wants to change us so that our will is in line with His.

Do you see how important it is to understand that God is sovereign? It means that you can know that everything in your life has already been marked with God's stamp of approval so all is well. Nothing takes Him by surprise. You should never be surprised by the things that happen as if God had no knowledge of it and then question why it happened. It happened because God foreordained it to happen for His glory and your good. Period!! I think that is awesome! When things happen I can confidently say, "God, how can I glorify You through this circumstance and proclaim Your greatness and majesty? Show me how I can become more like You by this affliction." Likewise, "God, thank You for this wonderful blessing You have bestowed on me. How can I use it to glorify You and proclaim Your grace and mercy?" It's all for the same purpose. To glorify our Heavenly Father who in His grace and mercy granted us repentance unto salvation!! Praise be to our Sovereign God!!!

Does this mean we should never experience human emotions when things happen? Absolutely not! It does, or should, provide comfort in knowing that God will work it for our good. We will cry, weep, mourn and be sad but not as those who have no hope. We can rest in the arms of our loving Father who will carry our burdens and safely carry us to the other side of each trial. God does have emotions and understands ours.

Rest, my dear friend in who God is and know that He is working ALL things out for His glory and your good. He cares, He knows, He heals, He works, He grieves, He grows and He understands. He alone is God, He alone is worthy, He alone knows everything and is in control, perfectly!

For Christ and His kingdom,

Friday, March 16, 2007

Election or Free Will? You choose!!!

Catchy title, eh? Well, there is much heated debate these days between well-known theologians as to what the Bible really says about the doctrine of salvation. I'm sure somewhere it has split a church, broken friendships and just plain wreaked havoc among strong believers. Having been raised in an Arminian American Baptist church most of my life I never questioned this particular doctrine. I just believed what I was taught, end of story. Well, it was that way for everything when it came to Biblical knowledge! I pretty much didn't have any!

My husband began to question the teachings about soteriology and many of the practices of todays seeker friendly, contemporary church. We began to grow weary of the pragmatic way in which the mainstream churches were operating to "draw" people in. They were more focused on that than feeding and maturing their own believers, which is what the church is supposed to be doing. Church isn't for the unbeliever.

The more my husband read the more he was convinced that the doctrine of salvation had nothing to do with us but rather completely the work of our Sovereign God. I, too, began to study and discovered a wonderful truth that has changed the way I see God. As you will read in the passages listed below, we don't have free will to choose or not to choose God. I can't find that anywhere in Scripture! How can He be Sovereign if we have free will? He can't! We make Him into a weak, pitiful God who has no say in the matter of who enters His heaven and who doesn't. It makes Him seem as if He just stands at our hearts door knocking and begging us to let Him in. That's not a Sovereign, ommipotent God!! He does everything for His good pleasure, including electing who will be saved. That's completely His choice and we have nothing to do with it.
Philippians 2:13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

Being chosen by God to be one of His own, before the foundations of the world, when we deserve nothing from God but wrath is a humbling thought! He is Sovereign and that includes choosing who will be saved and who won't. That still means that I am to take the Gospel to the world and share it with lost people however, God is the one Who is ultimately responsible for saving people. I am only a vessel He uses. It also means that I don't need to worry about who gets saved and who doesn't, which takes a huge burden off me. I know that God already knows who He has chosen so I can rest in His decision to be right, true, holy and just. That's what it means to be GOD. He has that right. Who am I to question who God saves and who He doesn't. I am the creature, not the creator. What thing ever created got to chose what it did? It's the creators choice to do as he pleases with what He creates. God does everything because He chooses to. He does not have to wait on us, get our permission, our opinion or our help. See for yourself.

1 Corinthians 12:18 But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.

Matt 24:31 "And He will send forth His angels with A GREAT TRUMPET and THEY WILL GATHER TOGETHER His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.

Eph 4:1 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called,

Romans 9:11-16 "for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God's purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls,it was said to her, "THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER." Just as it is written, "JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED." What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be!For He says to Moses, "I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION." So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.

2 Thessalonians 2:13 But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.

Romans 8:29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;

Romans 9:23 And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory,

2 Peter 1:10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;

Ephesians 1:4,5,6 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

Mark 13:20 "Unless the Lord had shortened those days, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom He chose, He shortened the days.

Colossians 3:12 So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;

Luke 18:7 now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them?

Romans 11:7 What then? What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened;

2 Thessalonians 2:13 But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.

2 Timothy 2:10 For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory.

1 Peter 2:9 But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;

Titus 1:1 Paul, a bond-servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness,

Revelation 17:14 "These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful."

Matthew 22:14 "For many are called, but few are chosen."

Romans 8:29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;

Romans 8:30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

Ephesians 1:5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,

Ephesians 1:11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will,

John 15:16
"You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.

Matthew 16:18 "I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.

I don't know about you but I don't see anywhere in these verses that says we have the free will to chose God. Do you? If so, I'd be interested to know how you came to that end.

The first part of Romans is replete with verses about how despicable man is, incapable of any good, none who seeks God, etc., etc., etc! We cannot be saved unless God grants us the grace to receive His salvation. Our eyes must be opened and our hearts illuminated by His Spirit. The road to Heaven is narrow and few will enter. Matt 7:14 "For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it". That is a sobering thought! There are many today who would say, "Sure I'm a Christian!" but all you have to do is look at their life and it won't take long to figure out that what they profess is not what they live. Matt 7:20-21 So then, you will know them by their fruits. Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter." Too many people rely on that fact that they "prayed a prayer" and now they have assurance of salvation. There is SO much more to it than that! God has chosen some for honor and some for destruction. HE chose, not us and not everyone is chosen. Doesn't that explain why there are some people who no matter how long you have witnessed to them they never come to faith in Christ? They may be among those who have not been granted salvation by God and no matter how much you say to them, they will never have saving faith.

Are you saying right now, "well, that's not fair!" Why would God choose some and not others? He does all things for His good pleasure!!! Eph 1:5 "He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will". Who are we to question His sovereignty or choosing? It is only by God's kind intention that we take our next breath!! God is Sovereign over ALL things in this world and nothing happens to us apart from His perfect will and design, including our salvation. That brings such peace to my heart knowing that everything that happens to me is part of God's plan to perfect, grow and sanctify me no matter how bad something seems, God planned it and that's enough for me to rest in. Why would He be sovereign over everything but the salvation of man? The fact is, His Word is clear that He in fact is sovereign over all things and He does choose who will be saved and who won't. I cannot find anything contrary to that in Scripture and it makes sense that He chose me because apart from the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, I am incapable of doing good, seeking God or desiring to be like Him. It is all His work in me and praise God that I am part of the "few" that will enter through the narrow gate! I give God all the glory and take no credit for my salvation.

So, to sum it all up, this isn't an issue worth fighting over or leaving a church. It just changes the way you view God. He is Sovereign or His isn't! That's really what you are "choosing" to believe, not whether to be saved or not because God is the One who reserves that right.

I welcome your comments or questions!

For Christ and His kingdom,

Monday, February 26, 2007

What exactly is worship?

After my last post I have been keenly aware of how little worship I really do from day to day. I am still reading MacArthur's book on worship, Ultimate Priority, and am convicted page after page! I look at each of my days and look at how much time I waste and areas that I could be using to worship. When we think of worship most of us probably think of church on Sunday. I know I have most of my life. I'll share with you what I have read so far, which I guess will be a synopsis of this book and hopefully help you understand just what worship is. It has changed the way I think about worship.

MacArthur gives the definition of worship as: honor and adoration directed to God. He further states that a key adjective often used in the NT to describe worship is acceptable. He gives 3 catagories of acceptable worship.
1. The outward dimension - Rom. 14:18 how we behave toward others.
-Evangelism - Rom 15:16
-Giving to those in need - Phil. 4:18
2. The inward dimension - Eph. 5:8-10 our personal behavior
-doing good 1 Tim 2
3. The upward dimension - Heb. 13:15-16
-praise and thanksgiving to God

Next, he points out that we are to display whole-life worship. This is to honor and adore God in EVERY area of life, Rom 12:1-2. We are to do the things that are acceptable and pleasing to God. Worship begins with us and by the power of the Holy Spirit, goes up to the Father. It's what we give to God, not what He gives to us. It's what we were created for. John 4:23 "For such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers."

Nehemiah is a great record of God's blessings upon a people who worship. When they worshiped God properly He blessed them. When they failed, He chastened them. You may be asking, "what is proper worship?". I'll list MacArthur's categories of deviant worship. I was greatly convicted by this!
1. worship of false gods - Isa. 48:11 This isn't just idols made of stone, metal or wood, this can also be idol of materialism (Job 31:24-28) or just plain refusing to worship God.
2. worshiping the true God in a wrong form - Ex. 32:7-9 We should never try to visualize God or create a human image of Him. This is idolatry.
3. worshiping the true God in a self-styled manner - Matt. 15:3 We see this in many churches today. Creating our way of worship instead of God's.
4. worshiping the true God in the right way, with a wrong attitude - Is our whole heart in worship? Do we give the best we have? Are we filled with awe and reverence? Malachi 1:7-8 the people were treating worship with disdain and flippancy, offering lame and sick animals. Have you read the strong words God utters in Amos 5:21? He says, "I HATE, I reject your festivals." Those are pretty strong words! God has a standard for worship and He hates anything other than what He has laid out for us. Also read Hosea 6:4-6 and Is. 1:11-15 for more indictments about improper worship.

Sadly, many churches today have failed to properly worship and have brought God down to their level removing His holiness and majesty. They are a flurry of activity and programs while leaving worship completely out of the picture. He has become our buddy, homeboy, pal, dude, and whatever else people want to make Him into to suit their needs. He is the all-loving God who wants people to have the good life, never bring about suffering or ill-will. He's their sugar daddy who is there only to serve their desires. He is no longer the object of worship rather their felt needs are their object of worship and God is supposed to meet all of them. Oh, what a dangerous way of thinking and living!

MacArthur goes on to say, "true worship consists not of the externals, like sacrifices, burnt offerings, and ritual, but rather is grounded in the crucial matter of knowing and loving the true God. Without knowledge of God, all worship is unacceptable worship."

Well, this is a much as I have read and as you can see, this is enough!! If I didn't read any farther in this book, I have certainly changed my perspective on worship! I will look differently at how I do things realizing that I am either worshiping by doing what is pleasing and acceptable before God or I am guilty of deviant worship.

While this has been about whole life worship, it is still important to pay attention to how we worship corporately on Sunday. I am now so much more aware of the little preparation that is put into worship as we enter our churches to worship each week. I am so excited to see everyone and catch up on the events of the week that I totally forget that I'm not there for what I can get but what I can give to God. I am trying each week to come in, make the necessary preparations then take my seat, reflect on God's Word, pray for my pastor and for myself that I will worship in spirit and truth. I would be remiss to do any less and I don't do a very good job of it at that!

If we have the attitude that we have come to give God the best of our worship with humility and sincerity we would likely enter with heads bowed and His Word in our hands open and preparing to be taught from it. We would quiet ourselves before Him confessing our sin, lifting our praise and adoration to Him and ready to apply the message that His messenger has prepared for us. "When you hear a sermon, hear for yourself...let the chief intent of your mind be to consider, "In what respect is this applicable to me? And what application ought I to make of this for my own soul's good?" Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)

I am ashamed at how little my life worships my God. I have a reverential fear before God that my worship has been deviant worship rather than acceptable. God help me! I pray that this has helped you understand just what worship truly is. Next time you see me in church or daily, ask me how I've worshiped God or prepared to, won't you? I need the exhortation!

For Christ and His kingdom,

Monday, February 5, 2007

What do you mean I can't go on Sunday?

Well, it's time for me to get on my church soapbox!! I am amazed at the Christians who consider church as an "if I have time" activity. I can't imagine doing anything else on Sunday morning other than gathering with my brothers and sisters in Christ to collectively worship God in spirit and truth. What else could be more important? Who else is worth my time, adoration, praise, and worship other than almighty God? It is clear in Scripture that we are not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together.

I am amazed at the excuses people give for not coming to church on Sundays! Where is the commitment to worship? Where is the hungering and thirsting for God and His Word? Have we replaced our commitment to worship corporately for trivial things? For my whole life Sunday has always been revered as the day we worship with other believers. There is never a question about whether or not we are going to church. Even on vacations when I was growing up my mother would tell my father to find a church and we went. (no, sadly my father was not the spiritual leader so my mother made sure we were in church regularly.) That has carried over into my adulthood and parenting. It was a wonderful heritage my mother passed on. Sunday worship is not replaced by anything else.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not a legalist and I don't go out of legalism. I also want to clarify that worship is to be a way of life and cannot be relegated to one place, time or segment of our lives. It must occur in our everyday lives. I am talking about our corporate worship that is done with our fellow believers on Sunday where we are exhorted, admonished and encouraged from God's Word from God's messenger. If our lives are lived out in worship the natural overflow of that is that we desire corporate worship. I understand that there are emergencies and sickness and travel and those all have their place in our lives but just how easy is it for us to bag church for something else? Do any of these find their way into your Sundays?
-If someone in your home is sick, is it necessary for everyone in the family to stay home and take care of that person? Why would dad or mom not get the rest ready and head to church for the teaching and preaching of God's Word?
-In our home if we have company that does not deter us from worship. We let our guests know that they are welcome, even encouraged, to join us for worship. If they choose not to come we do not change our plans. We do what we normally would do on Sunday, which is go to worship, and return at our usual time. If we remain home on Sunday, when we would normally worship, what does that say to our guests? It says that worship is not that important to us.
-Would you ditch church to play golf, watch a game on TV, stay in bed because you went to bed too late on Saturday?
-Do you find yourself staying home because you "just don't feel good"? I have to be really sick to stay home or have something contagious. (Hey, most people probably don't "feel good" most days because we are in bad shape physically!) I love worship! I love the opportunity to sing praises to my God, fellowship with the saints, hear the Word boldly proclaimed, and just be part of the wonderful way in which God's people minister to one another. Why would anyone want to miss out on that?

Warning: Satan will do everything in his power to divert, discourage, and just plain wreak havoc in your home to prevent you from going. Do not, I repeat, do not give him the victory! Persevere, press on, tie those shoes, change that dress, leave that mess and go get some encouragement from God's Word. That mess will still be there when you get back and you'll be in a whole lot better frame of mind to deal with the train wrecks when you return!

Worship is so critical in our home that we prepare for it all throughout the week by making sure our plans do not keep us up or out too late so that we are well rested and prepared in our hearts and minds to worship on Sunday. Why would a Christian choose not to come to church, or come late or leave early? Well, I have a few ideas of my own!
-They are not Christians at all. I hear you gasping! But let's face it, most churches have at least half, if not more, of their congregation consisting of lost people.
-Worship is not a priority.
-Sleeping in is more desirable.
-They have the mentality that their own personal quiet time is enough.
-They are disobedient to Scriptures clear command to assemble.
-Church is just an aside to their normal activities. If they have time or don't have anything better to do.
-Church is only a social statement.

We must examine our priorities and see where corporate worship fits in. Is worship important to us? Have we set aside Sunday as the day we corporately worship no matter what else may come up? Are we going out of legalism or because we truly desire to hear God's Word being taught? Nothing is ever on our calendar on Sunday mornings. That is worship, period!! I long for Sundays! I love Sundays!!

Where were you Sunday? In church worshiping in spirit and truth or sleeping in, taking a drive in the country, watching TV?
Hebrews 10:25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
I highly recommend reading "The Ultimate Priority, John MacArthur on Worship". You will gain a clear, Biblical perspective on the whole purpose of worship and what true worship is.

Hope to see you in worship Sunday!

For Christ and His kingdom,

Monday, January 22, 2007

When we suffer

Our church has experienced great suffering in the last 2 weeks that has most certainly refined us. Being in the Refiners fire is not always pleasant but does always produce that which God intended and that is for us to come out as gold and praise His great name.

Our pastor and his wife experienced their 3d miscarriage. We were so excited when she conceived! She was farther along than with the other 2 and things were going so well that we were sure that God would bring this pregnancy to full term. We were all devastated to learn that God had other plans when they received news that the baby had died. Certainly God is ultimately the One who orders our steps and makes His plans come to fruition no matter what we may plan. They have both been a testimony of God's grace as they have continued to praise God and bring glory to Him in the midst of their trail. They have remained faithful to their God and King.

A little over a week later our dear friend and co-laborer in the faith experienced a near fatal car accident. His wife happens to be my best friend and we have a long history of friendship together. She has been there for me in difficult times and now it's my turn to undergird her. It has been my pleasure to serve her and help her in this very difficult circumstance. Yes, it hurts me to see her suffer but I know that God is refining her and she is experiencing God's grace for each day. Their place at church will be empty for a long time but we will be reminded each time we meet for worship that God is teaching our body lessons as well that will refine us.

Our friend has a long road ahead of him and he will be able to see a functioning church body as we come to his aid and minister to him during a long recovery. We will never understand why God chose him, one who always brings joy and laughter to our lives, one who has a true and tender servants heart, one who is faithful to the Lord and his wife, one who wants desperately to see his father and son come to faith in Christ and yet how humbling that God would choose any of us to be His pawn as He works through the Holy Spirit to draw others to Him. This may be a part of the call to his son and father to repent and believe. Indeed, it is a pleasure to suffer for the cause of Christ if even just one comes to repentance.

If you are reading this as a believer, lift up a prayer for our dear friend, Ken, to the Great Physician on his behalf. Pray for God to use this tragedy to bring triumph over sin, by repentance and faith, for those watching. We are all going to be in the crucible of affliction at some time or another. Is it your desire to be used of God, tested and to come out as gold? Or will you gnash your teeth and scream your hatred at the Sovereign of the universe as His does his refining work in your life? If you are an unbeliever, beg Him to have mercy on you, repent and come to faith in Christ today!! You may not have tomorrow. In an instant your life could be snatched away and then you will believe in this Sovereign God!

Yes, it is good that we are afflicted, for God will get glory and use it for our good. Jesus was willingly afflicted for us, how can we do any less?

For Christ and His Kingdom,

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Guess who's coming to dinner?

When is the last time you had someone to your house for dinner? Coffee? Lunch? To play games? There is a lost art in the church today called "hospitality". People's lives have become so complicated and busy that they simply don't have time for anyone else. Or so it would seem! If we don't have time for other people then we have missed the boat!! We are certainly not following the example Jesus set for us by giving of Himself to and for others. I know we are busy and time is a precious commodity but frankly folks, we're not THAT busy!

Hospitality is a command in Scripture, not a suggestion. It is a requirement of church leaders, did you know that? Your elders/pastors should be regularly hosting people in their homes and ministering to those in need. I think we have let the urgent replace the important in our lives and because of the many demands on each of us daily we can easily use that as an excuse to hide behind. Perhaps it's time to reorganize our priorities. I have found that the best way to get out of the daily rut of life and get my socks blessed off is to make time for other people. When my circumstances are less than desirable, I'm having a bad day, things aren't going quite the way I expected, I look for someone I can minister to. Suddenly, my problems fade away!! Imagine that! I help someone else and I don't have problems anymore. I guarantee it works! Just try it! Next time your having a bad day, got out and help someone else and watch what happens!

When we open our homes for ministry we are adorning the Gospel. It is our avenue for getting the Word to those who otherwise may not hear it. What needs to be understood here is that hospitality is not just for our "friends" but rather for those in need, the lepers, diseased, unlovable, outcasts who cannot repay our hospitality. Okay I hear you out there saying, "who has leprosy today?". Well, it may not be the Biblical form of leprosy that we are familiar with but trust me, there is another from of leprosy called by many other names in our society today. You should be meeting with your friends and hosting church family members but you also are to be hosting those who are needy. Those who could never repay such kindness. That is where the real blessing lies.

We need to get our of our comfort zones and step into the blessing zone of hospitality! Swing open those front doors and watch what God will do! Start by inviting someone you don't know or don't know very well. Perhaps you have a neighbor who lives alone, or one who is going through a tough time. Maybe a co-worker who is asking questions about Christianity or who is even hostile towards it. Maybe that homeless person that you pass everyday on your way to and from somewhere. Don't you think Jesus would have stopped and touched that person? When we invite people into our homes it gives them a glimpse into our lives, who we are, what makes us tick. Perhaps that co-worker who is hostile towards Christianity has only seen examples of unkind behavior or hypocrisy from other so-called Christians. This is the part where you adorn the Gospel instead of blaspheme. Your home is a personal place where you invite people to come and watch you live and serve. It is a place where you can dispel their fears, lift their fallen spirits, wipe their tears, lend an ear, give an encouraging word. Can you think of any reason NOW not to open your home?

There is another reason you should do this. YOU need it! Perhaps you are the newly married couple who needs an older, godly couple in your life to model what a Biblical marriage is. You need to spend time with them! Get them in your home and watch them! Perhaps you are the new Christian who has no clue where to start in this journey. You need a more mature Christian who has been a consistent example of godliness to you and could provide you with the guidance you need. Get them in your home! Maybe you're the shy person who really doesn't know much about how to be hospitable or how to discipline your children or how to clean your house or how to study the Bible. You know people who can teach you all those things so what are you waiting for? Get them in your home! Use their talents and skills for God's glory!

Are you beginning to see the importance of this ministry? You can't afford NOT to do it! God commands it, we need it, it is our scriptural duty, it is a distinctive mark of Christians and Christian communities!

The New Testament shows itself to be a close-knit family of brothers and sisters:
Rom. 16:5& 16, I Cor. 16:1, 20, 2 Cor. 13:12, i Thesss. 5:26, I Pet. 5:14, Gal 2:10, Heb. 13:16, James 2:15.......need I go on?

Here is a quote from Alexander Strauch's book, The Hospitality Command (I highly recommend it!)
"I don't think most Christians today understand how essential hospitality is to fanning the flames of love and strengthening the Christian family. Hospitality fleshes out love in a unique personal and sacrificial way. Through the ministry of hospitality, we share our most prized possessions. We share our family, home, finances, food, privacy, and time. Indeed, we share our very lives. So, hospitality is always costly. Through the ministry of hospitality, we provide friendship, acceptance, fellowship, refreshment, comfort, and love in one of the richest and deepest ways possible for humans to understand. Unless we open the doors of our homes to one another, the reality of the local church as a close-knit family of loving brothers and sisters is only a theory. A cold, unfriendly church contradicts the gospel message."

Matthew 5:14 says "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden." Our homes are a launching pad for the Gospel, a lighthouse for those groping in darkness. Turn your lights on!!!

Acts 5:42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ. For they went out for the sake of the Name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles.
Jesus preached in homes. We can share the Gospel right at our kitchen tables!

3 John 7,8, Therefore we ought to support such men, so that we may be fellow workers with the truth.
Host a missionary family. Talk about being blessed!! Their stories are awe inspiring!

Open the doors and they will come! If we are too busy then our spiritual priorities are wrong, plain and simple! This week invite someone to your home and savor the sweet blessing you will receive! I would love to hear your stories or comments on how you were blessed by being obedient to this command.

For Christ and His Kingdom,