Monday, November 24, 2008

The Difference Between Night and Day

Recently during a fellowship meal I was talking to a young lady who attends regularly and brings her children. If the doors are open, she is present. As we were talking about church matters she remarked how it always astounds her to see the difference in numbers with regard to worship and Bible class, or the difference between the number present at morning and evening services.

There are some who have legitimate reasons for not being at every service. Some have health issues and others have specific occupations that demand for them to be absent at times. Most of the time however, the reasons people miss are not legitimate.

Over the years I have tried to come up with every possible solution to this problem. I have addressed this in sermons, articles, and Bible classes. I have discussed it homes, counseling sessions, and other visits. The church has offered programs, changed service times, and done everything possible to make it easier for people to attend. But I believe the real difference is seen in three areas where people have spiritual trouble.

1. This is their tradition. Some families have always been Sunday morning worship only families. What is good enough for the parents, seems good enough for the children. It is not often that you see the second generation of believers to be more dedicated than the first. These people are difficult to change, and difficult to persuade. Later on, when their children are unfaithful, marriages are breaking down, and other problems arise, they often have regrets.

2. The kingdom is not first. Jesus instructed those who would be His disciples, "But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness..." (Matthew 6:33). Plain and simple, many people do not put the church first. The kingdom is an extension of themselves, rather than who they are. I do not know how to fix this problem. But I do know that people cannot excel spiritually as long as this condition remains.

3. This is their desire. Outside of those who simply are unable to attend, people are not at Bible class because they do not want to be there. They are not at the evening worship assemblies because they want to do something else. This is a heart issue. We all have a portion of our heart that God is still working on. So we are praying for God to work on hearts. Jesus said to His disciples, "With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer" (Luke 22:15). His desire was to commune with them. We will be what we need to be when we have the same desire to commune with our Savior as He has to fellowship with us.

The problem is as clear as the difference between night and day. It is about tradition. It is about priorities. It is about the heart.

"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength." ~ Deuteronomy 6:5

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Paper Messages

Each week before, during, or after worship services, a good friend of mine gets little paper messages. He sits on the second pew. He is the "announcement guy." David Pinckley is one of my best friends. He does a good job with all of the church work he is involved in. I do not know what I would do without him. He is trustworthy, dependable, and one of the most compassionate and loving people I know. That is why they give him the messages. People know he will make sure that the news will be made known to the brethren at the proper time and in the appropriate way.

These little notes are sometimes far from little. They often inform of a sudden death, emergency room visits, or some type of accident. Other times, they are reminders about certain function upcoming. They may be good news: a physical birth, a spiritual birth, an anniversary, or a significant birthday. Whatever you can imagine, and also beyond what you can imagine, has been handed to David in the form of these paper messages.

In our lives we recognize the importance of communication. We often not only give notes to others, but to ourselves. We have sticky notes on the refrigerator, in our office, on our school or business folders, and everywhere in between. I even put one in my shower once. Yes, it stuck. We give ourselves these reminders because the matters are very important to us. We know that if we do not remember, there will be problems and consequences. We are trying to make sure about what is important.

Some of these messages have altered the course of history. Abraham Lincoln wrote the Gettysburg Address on the back of an envelope. Our Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution started with notes on a paper that were organized and then transfered. The whole Protestant reformation began with notes on a piece of paper nailed to the door of a church in Wittenberg, Saxony, October 31, 1517.

It is still more amazing to think about the paper messages that are not man-made, but holy and divine. God chose to leave on paper for us the information He feels is the most important. These are not mere reminders, suggestions, or announcements. They are commands for living that will determine our very eternity. The Pentateuch. The Shema. The Beatitudes. The Golden Rule. These have become to many the most important things ever written. But they are only a part of the paper messages God has left behind for us to understand and live.

In your hand, God has placed a very important message. Read it. Think about it it. Obey it. Announce it to all in the proper way.

"For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope." ~ Romans 15:4

Monday, November 10, 2008


Do you remember when you would go to a function and they would offer "refreshments?" You know, like VBS, when you get cookies and punch. Refreshments were offerings that were not a full meal, but just enough to get you by. Sometimes they are further defined as "light refreshments." I guess the "light" part is just to make sure you understand it isn't going to be much. Overall the idea of refreshments always seemed vague to me. Seems like the server gets to interpret the word however they so choose.

But the concept is actually important. We all need to be refreshed from time to time. We are immersed in a culture where nothing ever stops, everything is demanded now, and stress and pressure never go away. All of us need to take a time out. We need to get out of town. We need to take ten minutes in our lives for cookies and punch.

This week I went away for a day and a half and spent time in the woods. I was alone. I had time to enjoy God's beautiful creation. I had some time to think. I had some moments to work on myself. I relaxed. All of these things help a person refocus and give them an opportunity to draw nearer to God. When you get away from some things you can actually see them more clearly. Everyone needs to step back from the portrait of their life and truly "get the picture."

Our Lord and Savior withdrew from the multitudes in order to receive refreshments. He did not spend his life on vacation as some attempt, but in small pieces He took inventory and prayed. Since we pattern our life after Christ's we should do the same. I fully believe that His moments on mountains were the defining moments of His sacrifice. He gained strength in the alone time. He learned to accept the will of God for His life. He was comforted by heavenly beings. He was refreshed in His spirit.

When was the last time you partook of the refreshments? If it has been too long I highly recommend doing it. Life is a great gift. Drink it in. Drink deeply. Make it count.

"So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed." ~ Luke 5:16

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Vote That Counts

Today while I am writing this the future of our country is being decided by our people. Regardless of how you feel about politics, we should rejoice that we still live in a country where the people have the right to select their leader. God has truly blessed us to have such freedom, and many have bled and died for us to have these rights.

I thought the biggest vote that would be cast today would be for the president. But I was wrong. Two people I spent time with made a bigger decision. Chad Hammond and Bennie McFall voted for Christ.

Chad voted for righteousness in his life. He voted for his family. He voted for fatherhood. He voted for the church.

Bennie voted for humility. He voted for obedience. He voted for his spiritual future. He voted for hope.

These two young men put on their Lord in baptism today. While the rest of America was deciding about the presidency, they decided for a King. While others fought for democracy, they yielded to monarchy. While people exercised their right to choose, these men submitted to the will of God.

God will take care of His people. He keeps His covenants. His mercy is abundant. His lovingkindness is everlasting. His will shall be done.

Knowing these things, Christian people don't have to worry about the future. You can debate all you want about the political realm, but there is no debate about heavenly things. There will be opposition to God and His word, but God is going to win.

I am thankful for two men and their encouragement today. In a day where the rest of our country was making a decision that will determine the immediate future, they decided on an eternal home. They cast the only vote that is really going to matter. They cast the vote that counts.

"And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever." ~ 1 John 2:17