Making Church an Option

While driving to work last Friday morning, I was listening to K-LOVE and one of the morning DJs, Amy, shared an interesting statistic. She said that one-third of the people polled said that going to church was very important to them. She did not share who conducted the poll nor who was among those polled. Either way the statistic is alarming.

If it was a mix of all Americans, then that statistic is very telling. It means that 2 out of 3 Americans do not consider church an important part of their lives. That alone explains many of the ailments in America. At America’s founding, the large majority of Americans not only considered going to church important, but it was also the central cultural influence in their lives.

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Dependent Freedom

This morning I looked up the word independence in my Thompson Chain-Reference Bible index and could not find it. However, I did find the words dependence and freedom. Americans like to consider themselves as a free and independent people. As Christians, we are to consider ourselves dependent of Jesus Christ:

“Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God.” (2 Corinthians 3:5)

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The Commodity of Heaven

The writer of Hebrews tells us that “without faith it is impossible to please God.” It is also true that a Christian cannot conduct God’s business, “His kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven,” without faith. As Dr. Charles Fowler recently taught my church during a prayer conference, “Faith is the commodity of heaven.”

Faith is simply trusting God. However, that simple definition can cause much confusion. As is rightly stated in Ewell’s Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, “Faith in God involves right belief about God.” It is vital that we have a biblical view of who God is.

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The Anchor of Anxiousness

Are you a worry wart? That’s seems like an inappropriate question, or at least grammatically incorrect. A wart is a thing; not a person. So, I guess we could ask, “Do you have a worry wart?” Or perhaps, more accurately and simpler, “Are you a worrier?”

If you ask people what they want most in life, many will say peace of mind. Imagine if the great majority of people actually had peace of mind. However, Christians should desire a greater level of peace. Instead of settling for peace of mind, believers need to strive for the peace of God:

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Celebrating Me

This past Easter weekend I heard a K-LOVE disc jockey tell her listeners that on occasion we should celebrate ourselves. For those of you not familiar with K-LOVE, it is a Christian radio station that plays great music and often delivers bad theology.

The young lady’s main point I believe she was trying to get across is that every once in a while, it is good to pamper ourselves. Although that is not at all what she conveyed, I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt. Her exacts words were, “Celebrate you, because Jesus does!”

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Mocking Jesus

There are times when I forget that I am going to have to give an account for every action and word I take and speak. Thankfully, God gives me reminders of this eternal truth and one such reminder came yesterday at church.

Our pastor is preaching on Christ’s seven sayings from the cross. Yesterday he was reading from Matthew 27 when the reminder came to my mind:

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No More Feelgood Sermons

Yesterday during at the beginning of his sermon, our Associate Pastor Rev. Pete Belmain made the following declaration:

“I’m sure there are lots of churches up and down this highway giving feelgood sermons. This nation doesn’t need anymore feelgood sermons.”

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Training or Trying

Besetting sin is the one that keeps coming back. You return to it like a dog returns to its vomit, to borrow a phrase from the Bible. That may sound disgusting, but you are disgusted with yourself every time you recommit this particular sin. The problem is you try so hard not to. That is the problem; you’re trying not to instead of training not to.

It takes discipline to live a holy life. The Apostle Paul says we are striving for a crown. We are in a race and there can be only one victor. Victory over sin has already been won; Jesus defeated sin and death at the cross and leaving the tomb empty. So we need to live our lives in such a victory. Even though there can be only one winner in a race, we can experience victory in Jesus if we will commit ourselves to loving and obeying Him. We need to run the race because in the end we have an everlasting crown waiting for us on the other side:

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Sullied Sacrifices

Imagine your loved one giving you a Christmas gift that looked as though it took him or her three minutes to throw together. There was no effort put into getting your gift, no cost or value, no sacrifice of time or resources. Now if it’s your two-year old child doing so, that is cute and heart-warming. If it is your spouse, then you’d be in a heap of trouble.

So why do we give such ungrateful gifts to the Lord our God? Why do we give Jesus the scraps from our table when we’re finished with the day? In some cases, we don’t even do that. The reason is we don’t love our Lord enough. We express our love to one another in the sacrifices we make for each other. To do otherwise is to be guilty of the same sullied sacrifices for which the Prophet Malachi confronted Israel:

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Foolish Heart

A very popular song from the 80’s was Foolish Heart by Steve Perry. Perry is warning his heart against foolishly falling in love, warns his heart that it has “been wrong before, don’t be wrong anymore.”

Many people live their lives as “one and done” if they are hurt in a relationship in order to protect themselves. Perry is wisely recognizing that our hearts can deceive us. We believe we know ourselves and yet Scripture tells us otherwise:

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Cutting Through the Deception

Random House Dictionary defines deception as, “The state of being deceived.” It further defines deceive “To mislead by a false appearance or statement; delude.” The biggest deceivers in our lives are usually us. I can convince myself that I am living a life pleasing to Christ, all the while going back to a besetting sin like a dog returns to his vomit.

Self-deception is not a 21st Century phenomenon; the Apostle John addressed this delusion from which many in the new church suffered:

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Stopped Loving God

At a recent men’s Bible study, we had split up into small prayer groups when one of the gentlemen in my group said that he had once fallen out of love with God. I told my group I once believed that is what happened, but in actuality we stop loving God.

When someone falls out of love with another, that relationship is usually over. This is how so many divorces happen. However, if a person has stopped loving another, they’ve allowed their love to grow dormant, and that can be rekindled with purposeful effort.

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A Friend So Faithful

A brother from my church recently shared how his daughter had been told by her best friend that she no longer wanted to be friends. As you can imagine, this young girl’s feelings were greatly hurt. There are few emotions that sting greater than being betrayed or rejected. The pain literally sears our soul.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could have a friend who would never betray, leave, or reject us?

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An Opportunity to Escape

The call of God on the Christian’s life can be frightening. We say we want to serve the Lord, and yet we pray “except” prayers. You know which ones I’m talking about; “Lord, I’ll do anything and go anywhere you want me to except…” You can fill in the rest.

What we don’t realize is that we when refuse His call, we are being disobedient to God. One of the most infamous acts of disobedience in the Bible is that of Jonah. God instructed Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach against the wickedness of that city. The Bible tells us:

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Excusing Our Unbelief

There are times when my lack of faith turns to unbelief. This means I get to the point in my walk with Christ that I think something is beyond His control. I may try to soften the blow by saying I am lacking faith, but I have actually shifted into the realm of unbelief. I will either demand a sign from God or just head out into the wilderness on my own.

The scribes and Pharisees were notorious for demanding Jesus to show them a sign. The most despicable one is when they mocked Jesus on the cross, demanding He come down from it so that they would believe in Him. Another example is found in Matthew 12:

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Finish What He Started

Giving up in life has become the new easy. If something becomes too hard, we just quit and move on to the next great adventure or idea. A trail of unfinished products and projects are strewn behind us like a pathway of defeat and misery. If things don’t go our way, we just find a new way. Abandonment is how we deal with setbacks.

Aren’t you glad God doesn’t give up on us so easy? Imagine if God saw my behavior and said, “That’s it David, I can’t take this relationship anymore! You’ve failed me one time too many.” Now, if God was like that He would have given up on me some thirty years ago. Thankfully our God is abundantly gracious and merciful. I love the chorus from the MercyMe song “Finish What He Started:”

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Behavior Betraying Beliefs

One of my greatest challenges as a Christian is being judgmental. At times it seems like there is a fine line between standing on the word of God and casting my personal judgments upon another. If I am going to be a dispenser of grace, I have to take into account the dual nature of a Christian. This does not mean that I excuse sin, but I should not be quick to judge a person as lost because of their behavior. As my pastor says, “Sometimes are beliefs don’t match our behavior.”

Pastor Dennis was talking of the time when David pretended to be insane in the land of Gath, the home of Goliath. Saul had been pursuing David to kill him out of jealousy and David fearfully fled to enemy territory instead of relying on God to protect him. This is why in his later years David could write:

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Disgracing the Cross

This past Sunday, our Youth Pastor Andrew Bosak said that refusing to forgive is a disgrace to the cross. That immediately struck a chord in my spirit because I personally know what bitterness can do to a person’s soul. My angst towards my father for more than twenty years almost ruined me emotionally. When I finally recommitted my life to Christ, surrendering all control to Him, the first thing the Holy Spirit instructed me to do was to forgive my father.

I was overwhelmed by the thought. I thought getting back to Christ and living a sold out life to Him would be incremental. It has been, but Jesus knows my heart and He knew that the biggest stumbling block in my life was my bitterness towards my father. I had to forgive him if I wanted to grow in my walk with Christ. Andrew reminded me of the verse that God showed me to help me along:

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Grace for the Race

The Christian life has been described as a journey or a marathon. The Bible describes it as a race, but it is a long one not unlike a marathon. However, it is a journey in which we should not only strive to finish, but also to enjoy and mature. At the end of my life, I want to be able to utter the same words as the Apostle Paul:

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7)

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Biblically Breaking Bones

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” was a little chant we were taught to say as kids when someone said something mean to us. However, it was only half true. Words can hurt us and we are capable of saying some of the meanest things when we are upset or even impatient with someone.

Some of the meanest words I’ve seen recently has been from those commenting on presidential candidates, including from presidential candidates themselves. Somehow in our society we’ve come to point where we think insults, off-color humor, and snarkiness are the only means of persuasion. King Solomon knew better:

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