Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Powerful Hugs

This past Sunday morning there were two people that absolutely made my day. Their names are Paige Grenz and Alex Meadows. These two little girls know how to give a hug! They have parents who love them and display love before them. Whenever Paige or Alex happen to see me they always come up and wrap their arms around me and they don't let go! One of the greatest blessings of being a preacher is that innocent children love and trust you. Their parents have taught them this is a person who cares for them and loves them and wants them to go to heaven.

These hugs were especially nice because my family was out of town and I was alone that Sunday. It reminded me of the fact that we have many people who worship every Sunday by themselves. One of the greatest things you can do as a Christian is to hug a widow or widower when they come into the church building. They need affection and they miss it. A kind smile and a friendly hug is a welcome gift to a person who deals with loneliness.

After I got those hugs from Paige and Alex, a lot of things didn't matter anymore. It did not matter if I said everything perfectly in the pulpit. It did not matter if I was going to sit alone or eat lunch alone after services. It did not matter that I was tired and it did not matter how other people treated me for the rest of the day. A display of unconditional affection reminds you of your value. People need other people who simply love them for being themselves - who care about them just because of who they are.

I want to say to Micah and Gretchen Grenz, and the Nathaneal and Casey Meadows (and to all of our young couples with children), thank you for bringing your beautiful children to Willow. Thank you for teaching them about God. Thank you for sharing these wonderful kids with us. They make our congregation better and our building a better place. They remind us to be pure, and think positiviely, and to encourage each other with kind words, warm smiles, and powerful hugs.

"But Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.'" ~ Matthew 19:14

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Bible: Not Just for Kids

I don't know when this happened or how, but it seems that we are living in a generation with adults who think that Bible study is not as relevant as it used to be. People think it is a great idea for their children to be in Lads to Leaders, but they themselves may not be interested in leading. People think it is super for their kids to go to VBS, but they themselves won't attend the adult classes that same week. And folks want their kids to have memory verses and they want them to learn the books of the Bible, yet many of our older folks do not memorize verses, and they cannot give you the list of 66 books or the minor prophets or judges of Israel like they once could.

Let me tell you - (those of the adult generation) - the Bible is not just for kids. It is God's intention that you, "as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby" (1 Pet. 2:2). We are further instructed as we age to "...grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Pet. 3:18). The key words in these verses are "desire," "grow," and "knowledge." We must continue to have that innocent desire to build a relationship with God. We must grow in the knowledge of God, which can only happen through diligent study (2 Tim. 2:15).

It a sign of spiritual immaturity, and certainly the work of Satan, for adults to be distracted from the thing they need the most: a personal, working knowledge of the holy Scriptures. But as long as "grown-ups" are happy with wandering through the foyer for worship and Bible periods, being casually late to class, and are not even concerned with attending Bible class or having their own personal time for Bible study, this problem of our adults being less educated on the Bible than our children are is going to persist.

It is absolutely wonderful to see adults taking an interest in the spiritual lives of the younger generation. But don't lose focus! The older generation must be equipped to lead the younger. We must be studying and preparing now. Many of us are becoming that older generation much sooner than we suppose. Every generation has a responsibility to know the word of God and to keep it.

There is never a time to quit studying God's word. Adults, pick it up again and God will bless you more than you have ever dreamed. The Bible is most certainly for children...all children everywhere, all the time. God be praised that we are all, by His grace and according to our obedience, regardless of age, children of God.

"I will delight myself in Your statutes; I will not forget Your word" ~ Psalm 119:16

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Where Visitors Go To Die

Having been raised in the church from infancy, and having been a located gospel preacher for 15 years, I have learned that there is a place where visitors and sometimes even members go to die. I was less than 10 years old the first time I ever went doorknocking, and about that same age the first time I participated in a weekly visitation program. I was afraid. I was weak. I was imperfect - I am still all of these things. The point is that there is really no excuse for not reaching out to people who need the Lord and His church.

There is a place where visitors go to die right in our church buildings. If you wanted to do a study on it in your local congregation, you would locate the spot. Visitors sit there, and nobody speaks to them. They got unlucky. They just happened to sit in that part of the building where some of the members only talk to their friends after services. They just happened to sit in that part of the building where members beat them out the door as soon as amen is said. They just happened to sit in that part of the building where there are members who have never decided to obey the great commission. Forget going into all the world...these members won't even go across the pew.

As a preacher, I am going to let you members out there know that I am looking for visitors on Sundays. Jesus died for our visitors, too. I may not talk to you every week because I am looking for lost sheep. If you would join me then we could make sure that there are no places in our building where visitors go to die. It may not be what you want to hear, but I know exactly where some of the "dead spots" are in our current building. And unless things change I hope that visitors don't sit in those particular places.

Move off "your pew" and make a place for a visitor. Invite a visitor to eat lunch with you after services. Introduce yourself and tell each visitor you are glad to see them. Invite every visitor to come to Bible class and show them how to get there.

There is a place where visitors go to die. Make sure that it is not next to you. You are accountable.

"Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all..." ~ Galatians 6:10

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Reservoir or Pipeline?

I went to a minister's worskhop this past Monday and was blessed with both instruction and fellowship from several of my preaching brethren. During our devotional period David Lipe taught from 2 Timothy 2:2 - "And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also."

As he discussed the charge to spread the message, the content of the message, the challenge within the message, and the character of those who teach the message, he asked a simple question - "When it comes to our relationship with the gospel, are we a reservoir or a pipeline?"

Too many Christians are like the Dead Sea. They are reservoirs that do nothing but hold the life offering Jordan stream. They never give it, but they always receive it. Although they have been blessed, by their inactivity they refuse to be a blessing to others.

Christians must choose to be more like the Sea of Galilee. Mankind sustains life by its constant qualities, and from it there is a perpetual spring that blesses every land to which it flows. There is nothing that the Sea of Galilee has that it refuses to share.

The gospel was never meant for reserviors. It was given to us that we might be pipelines from God to man. Each of us should examine our own relationship with God based on our willingness to carry out the great commission. If you are a part of a church of 200 - you should have 200 evangelists. It you are a part of a church of 400 - you should have 400 evangelists.

The gospel is not just for church members and visitors on Sundays before lunch. The gospel is for everybody, everywhere, everyday!

Are you a reservoir or a pipeline?

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation..." ~ Romans 1:16

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

If I Were Every Christian...

When a person is baptized into Christ, they put on Christ (Gal. 3:27). Unfortunately, too many people take Him off almost as soon as they put Him on. There is a great misunderstanding in the religious world about salvation. It is not a one-time event, but a lifetime commitment (Phil. 2:12).

Each one who has obeyed the gospel needs to constantly examine their relationship with God (2 Cor. 13:5). One of the greatest and most pratical ways to test the level of our faith is to measure the stature of the church in relation to my personal dedication to her success. If I were every Christian, how well would the church be doing?

If I were every Christian, what would the attendance be each Sunday morning, Sunday evening, Wednesday evening, Bible class?

If I were every Christian, how many people would be invited to worship?

If I were every Christian, would the contribution go up or down year by year?

If I were every Christian, would the sick or hurting or absent always get a call or a visit?

If I were every Christian, how much benevolence would the church be doing?

If I were every Christian, what would be the general response to the preaching and teaching of the gospel?

If I were every Christian, how much food would be prepared for fellowship meals, funerals, and those in need?

If I were every Christian, would there even be any fellowship beyond worship services at all?

If I were every Christian, would the church be happy, encouraged and growing, or depressed, skeptical and dying?

If I were every Christian, would the gospel be in the community, or would it just stay at the building?

"And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple." ~ Luke 14:27