Did you notice Him?

How was church this morning? Was the music the way you wanted? Was the sermon interesting? Did the Bible class topic pique your interest?

Was the coffee right? Were the right donuts and pastries available? Did you find the seat you wanted? Did you even go?

So often when we talk about church we think in these terms, and these issues. We are concerned with if we enjoyed church. We are living in the age of ‘me.’ We are so focused on our individual wants and desires throughout the week that often we carry those same feelings and actions right into our worship services on Sunday.

But I want you to imagine with me for a minute. What if Jesus was there Sunday morning?Would it make any difference to you?

If Jesus was at your church this Sunday morning, sitting in worship…how would your experience have been different? Would you have been as concerned with music, sermon, other stuff…or would you have focused more on having your heart and mind focused on Him?

Matthew 18:20 – For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

If you went to church Sunday in order to worship our risen Savior, He was there! He was available to connect with you in a way that just can’t happen when you are away from the ekklesia. It’s a promise He has made to his followers, and continues to keep every time we gather in His name.

So…did you see Him? Did you experience worshipping in the very presence of our risen Savior, or were you too busy focusing on other things?

This week as you gather together with other believers for whatever reason, take the time to seek out Christ in those moments. Those moments can be special, uplifting, and refreshing if we will acknowledge His presence in our lives.

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Pray For Trump

1 Timothy 2:1-4 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 

This One Thing Can Change Your Life Forever!

I hate being told to that I need to change.

I’d much rather have someone tell me that I’m doing everything perfect rather than telling me that something needs to change. In the minds of most people, “change” is always negative, but “do” is new, positive, improved. “Do” is good.

My wife and I were talking just last night about a situation where some people we know are having trouble with change. They are so paralyzed by fear of doing something different that they are missing out on a huge opportunity.

Change is hard. We get comfortable seeing our lives, our jobs, our faith, our way of doing things a certain way. So much so that when new information is introduced, we often struggle to make changes. We cling to what is familiar, and distance ourselves from a new, better way of doing things.

At least we have the comfort of knowing that we are not alone in this struggle. It’s been happening for a very long time. The Apostle Paul wrote a letter to a group of Christians in Rome who were dealing with the same thing. Here’s what he said:

Romans 12:2 – “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

Paul knew that this one change could affect every area of their lives. In short, he’s calling these Christians to be different.

Jesus tells us that the world is a messed up place that tries to get us to be just as messed up. So when we keep doing the same things the world does, when we keep handling situations the way the world does, we become just as messed up.

If you only take away one thing from this post, remember this:

Doing what you’ve always done gets you what you’ve always gotten.

So take a look at your life. Is it chaotic? Are choices you’ve made coming back to haunt you? Are things you planned not quite working out the way you wanted? At the end of the day do you just want to throw your hands up and think “What’s the point?”

If so, it’s time for a change. Learning to think about things the way God does can change every aspect of your life, as long as you will let yourself be different.

This post is part of a series of posts every day this week. To see the other posts on this same subject see these links:

 

Favoritism in Church: Is it really a problem?

Yesterday we looked at how Christians are called to be different, and that being different when compared to the world is a good thing. Every day this week we’ll be looking at examples that Jesus and his followers left us of just how different we are supposed to be in this world.

Today we look at both the early church, and the modern church. James, Jesus’ brother, gives us a view of how the early church struggled with this very thing. Apparently the early Christians were treating some of their members and visitors in a way that God didn’t appreciate. Here’s what he has to say:

James 2:3-4 If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, “You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor”—well,doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives?

Now to fully understand what was going on here, we have to understand where these Christians were coming from. Virtually all of them were Jewish converts, and as such carried their Jewish customs into their new Christian faith.

If we look at the example of the temple worship, it was all about people being treated differently. Only the high priest was allowed in the Most Holy Place once a year. There were other sections of the temple where only priests could go. There were areas where only men could be present. There were areas where only ethnic Jews (non-Gentiles) could worship. There were areas where Gentiles could be present. And the ceremonially unclean could not be present.

Additionally it would seem that worshippers were treated differently based on how they prayed in public, as well as the offerings they gave. This was common practice.

And in many ways it still is. Men and women aren’t allowed to sit together in some synagogues. And other synagogues today where you sit depends on how much you can pay.  This practice of treating people in an uneven way was very common.

As James tells us, Christians should be different! We are not supposed to show favoritism!

James 2  – Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin…

I think churches still struggle with this. In most Sunday morning gatherings one can look around and see far more similarities than differences. Everyone has about the same income. Everyone dresses about the same way. Everyone looks about the same.

What James was calling the early church to do, and what we as a modern church are still being called to do, is to not be afraid to take the Gospel to those who are different. Yes, it’s easier to share our faith with the people we spend the most time with…the people who tend to be the most like us. But we are to treat everyone as if they have equal value to God. Because they do!

This is different. And Christians are called to be different. In a world that thrives on labels: outcasts, awkward, rich, poor, Democrats, Republicans, Independents, liberals, conservatives, gay, straight, black, white…it shouldn’t matter. EVERYONE needs the Gospel, and needs to feel welcome in our assemblies because every person we meet is a child of God, and he wants his love and his message and his salvation to reach everyone.

It’s time to be different. It’s time for each of us to share the Gospel, and to share it with everyone.

Don’t Make This Mistake Today!

Have you ever wondered why people are afraid of being different?

How boring would this world be if we were all the same?

If we all had the exact same abilities, and all had the same areas of deficiency, what would this world look like?

The same is true of the church.

The apostle Matthew tells us about Jesus’ thoughts on being different.

Matthew 5:14 “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.

Cannot be hidden…yet too often we try to hide. We are called to be a bright light in a dark world, but we try to cover our light. A city perched on a hilltop for all to see, but we often try to camouflage who we truly are.

Jesus tells us that we shouldn’t try to hide!

Matthew 5:16 – “In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

We are called to be different. We are called to stand out. We are called to shine our lights so bright that people will take notice of how different we truly are called to be as Christians.

This week we’ll be looking at examples that Jesus and his followers left us of just how different we are supposed to be in this world.

In the meantime, don’t be afraid to be different. Don’t be afraid to stand out.

Don’t be afraid to shine!

Picture by Stefano Cacciatore

The Shocking Truth About Floaters

Floaters frustrate me.

Do you know what I mean by “floaters?”

Floaters are the people who float from church to church so frequently that they never settle in one place long enough to really be a part of a church family.

Floaters frustrate me.

I knew a family of floaters one time. The head floater of this family told me that his family simply couldn’t find a church family that suited them. Oh they’d find churches where they liked the music fine, but didn’t much like the sermons. They’d find a place where they liked the sermons, but didn’t much like the music. And the members of these churches  seemed friendly enough, but the floater family never could seem to make friends (probably because they wouldn’t stay put long enough to really get to know anyone.)

Floaters frustrate me.

But they are also a valuable source of insight and information for a church.

You see, floaters have had far more first experiences with churches than you or I probably ever will. They are hyper aware of their surroundings each and every time they step into a worship service. Because of this, they will see things and experience things you miss due to familiarity.

What do I mean? When we become familiar with our building, our worship style, our Bible class style, the layout of our building and parking lot, we overlook certain things that might be off-putting to visitors simply because they are familiar.

I’ll give you a couple of examples. I visited a church a few years ago that had a serious odor as soon as you walked in the front door. It was bad. It smelled like an open sewer the moment you cracked the front door. Turns out that there were bathrooms just inside the front doors that were causing the problem (huge problem), but nobody there seemed to notice.

Another example was a church that had a lighting problem. Over the years a large number of bulbs and fixtures stopped working, and nobody bothered to fix the problem. It was so bad that I witnessed people getting out flashlights in order to read their Bible. And no, I’m not exaggerating.

We become blind to the way other people view us, our worship, and our facilities. It’s a good idea every once in a while to ask visitors, or frequent floaters how things could be improved.

If nothing else, ask yourself some of these questions as if you were visiting your church for the very first time:

  • When I pull in the parking lot, can the entrances clearly be identified, or am I going to have to drive around the building a few times in hopes of finding an entrance?
  • Does the exterior of the building look like this church cares about its facilities, or is the landscaping and appearance an absolute mess?
  • If I am stepping into this building for the first time, do I have any idea where I’m going? Are there signs and people here to help me find my way?
  • Will anyone explain to me what I’m going to experience during my time here? How long is the service? What are we going to do? Why are we going to do these things? How am I supposed to find this information out?
  • If I visit the church website (yes, you absolutely need one) will I be able to answer all of the previously mentioned questionsas well as get a sense that this is a loving, vibrant, and active congregation that cares deeply about people? All people?

And quite possibly the biggest question of them all:

  • If I were to attend this church as a visitor, would I feel that my presence was greatly appreciated, that people cared about me enough to get to know me, and that my time here was the highlight of my week?

If you are unsure about that last question, then I would suggest your congregation do some serious rethinking of how you do things, because you just might be the reason those floaters keep floating by.

And floaters frustrate me.

 

Gone – How Time Slips Away

I have to be honest, I got the inspiration for today’s post from The Daily Post, but it’s something that has been on my mind quite a lot lately…the lyrics to one of my favorite Willie Nelson songs.

It’s been so long now but it seems now,
That it was only yesterday.
Gee, ain’t it funny how time slips away?

The idea of time slipping away has been front and center. My oldest daughter recently turned four. My youngest turns two on Saturday.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about “should have done” and “what if’s” and how life would have turned out if some different choices had been made along the way.

Every so often I look around and wonder where the time went, only to feel lost as to where my time should go. Click to Tweet

We try so hard to plan out our lives, to control our own destiny, to organize everything just so…but then I remember the words of James.

James 4:14 – How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.

And as I have seen friends this week deal with the tragic loss of their loved one that was taken from this life far too soon, I’m reminded that we really have to make the most of every opportunity we have because we really don’t have time to waste.

So hug your loved ones a little tighter, treat others a little kinder, and don’t waste your time worrying about the things you can’t change.

Because before you know it, your time will be gone.