Sunday, April 1, 2012

Why is Church important

Often these days we hear people say that chuch is not important, because it is enough to be an individual Christian. They say that the week is so filled with activity that Sunday morning is often the only time they have to rest or have "family time." So why is Church important?

First of all we need to understand what we are talking about when we say church. It is not a building, although we do call our building church. Church is you and me, it is people, it is people who believe in the one, but triund God.

We often say that we are going to church and while that may be true in the sense of a building as a destination, when we say that we are going to church what we really should be meaning is that we are going to worship. When we go to worhip we are setting aside time for God, it is one of the ways we give to God. We demonstrate what is important to us by what we spend time on and if God is important we ought to be able to routinely set aside Sabbath worship. But some folks say they can worship by themselves, when and where they want. So why is church important?

Well, individual worship is like anything that we try to do individually, it is hard to stay committed and do it regularly. And if worship is important we want to do it regularly. And the best way to stay committed it to do something with an accountability partner. Jesus understood our propensity to wander and our need for support and that is why he sent his disciples out two by two. So we need church to hold us accountable and to encourage us at the appropriate times.

While others keep us accountable, church has another function that helps. Church reminds us what is important and keeps us focused. Jesus was forever teaching lessons that made no earthly sense (it is in giving that you receive, love your enemies, etc). And often Jesus asked his disciples to do mundane things like donkey detail. And Jesus asked that we give up our life to save it. None of those things are easy, but all are what God calls us to do. Let on our own, we do not gravitate to those kinds of things, we want the comfortable or the easy. So, church keeps us on track.

And while all thest things are important, perhaps a more compelling reason that church is important is that God created it. Yep, the gift of the Holy Spirit and the birth and spread of the church is what the Book of Acts is about. The last part of the Book of Acts tells how the church spread and you and I are the final chapter of Acts. Today we are writing Acts, chapter 29 as we witness to others and "prepare the way" for others to come to the Lord even as we grow in our own discipleship.

Finally, to those who say I need a family time, I would like to offer an alternative: what better family time is there than to put God in the midst of your relationship and come to worhip and study on a weekely basis?

Blessings for the journey!


Saturday, March 31, 2012

Letting the secret out

Kurtis Braun reminded me this week that I had not let everyone in on the secret about Lent this year. What secret? The one that has the potential to spoil the self-denial of Lent. The season of Lent has more that 40 days. What? We always talk about the 40 days of Lent, so how can that be, what is right? Well, there are 40 days of self-denial in Lent. BUT every Sunday is a feast day! So, Sundays do not count! Therefore, no fasting is required on Sunday! AND if you take out the Sundays during the season of Lent, guess how many days are left? Right, 40!

It is not a question of trying to get over on your own self-denial. It is a recognition of God's grace even in the middle of self-denial. And Sundays should not be interpreted as an opportunity to gorge yourself with the very thing you give up Monday through Saturday, even though that can be a temptation.

I do not know if you have chosen self-denial during this Lenten season or not, but if you did, I pray that it was a meaningful time for you. And if you were attempting a lifetime change with something, I pray that by God's grace you are successful. After tomorrow, just six more days left.

Blessings for the Journey!


Thursday, March 29, 2012

What ya gonna do about it?

          I remember when I was young and learning how to play sports.  Often I would struggle to do things well and get frustrated.  Then my dad would ask me what I was going to do about it?  Was I going to quit, or was I going to work at it and try to get better?  He would always ask if I had done my best.  I hated that question because often I had not practiced like I should have so how could I ever say I had done my best.  And if I said I had not done my best, I knew I had let him down (and I had let myself down even though I did not want to admit it.) and I knew I ought to do something about it.  I ought to try again and do my best.

          Recently we watched the movie Courageous at church.  And I have heard that the response of some of our dads was: "I guess I am not such a hot dad."  Well, in the words of my dad adjusted for the times, "What ya gonna do about it?"
          It is easy to realize you have not done well at something and mope or quit.  But it takes a little something extra to realize you have not done your best and commit to doing better.  At one time, I did not think I had been much of a dad and I decided to do something about it.  I believe I got better at it and think I am seeing some of the fruit of my labors and my love in the young women my daughters are becoming.

          In the words of a TV fitness instructor: "You can do it!"  The question is:  will you choose to?

Blessing for the journey --


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

How do they do it?

How do people who do not know the Lord deal with death of a loved one? As I deal with people in the midst of the crisis of a family death I see many different reactions, but often I get asked if I know where their loved one is or will be after they die. The short answer is that I am not the judge, so I do not know. BUT I do know that Jesus promised for those who believe, eternal life awaits. So the real question is: did the one who died believe? In the case of people I know, like Irving Thorpe or Millie Wilkes -- people who I have seen live their faith, love unconditionally, give with extravagant generosity, and forgive with grace -- they are indeed heir to Jesus' promise. And I know that even as modest as Millie was and Irving is, I heard both of them say that they lived with the assurance of where they were and are going.

But what if you do not have that assurance? Well for them, there is hope that our merciful God will intercede and bring them eternal life, or there is nothing and this life is all there is. I have not encountered anyone who is satisfied with the nothing option. So where does the hope come from and how can that hope bloom into assurance? Well, that is pretty easy -- open your heart to the life Jesus is calling you to and believe in him. And I know that is easy to say but the proof is in the doing and that is much harder.

I will never forget the day my grandfather died and my Aunt Sallie was deleriously joyful and praising God. That was the day I thought I knew why they called her crazy Aunt Sallie. But I was oh so wrong. She knew where my grandfather was and even though she hurt for his loss, she rejoiced in the assurance that Jesus had prepared a place for him. I did not understand that then because I had no relationship with God at the time. Oh, I had gone to church and I know all the stories and knew about God but I did not know God. And I hung out with folks who were just like me, so they really could not explain what was going on with my Aunt Sallie either.

One of the great values of church is to have people that have a relationship with God around to support you and encourage you in the good times and in times of crisis -- people like my not-so-crazy Aunt Sallie. Somehow people who know God can find the right thing to say in our times of crisis. They say things that give us hope or keep us from ending with this life being all there is. But without that kind of support, there are too many questions and not enough comforting answers. So the kind of folks we hang out with make a difference too.

So I pray that each of you who may read this will seek a relationship with that will help you through life's difficult times.

Blessings for the journey!


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Do You know the Joy?

I was recently asked about the joy that God brings to our lives and how you know you have it. It seems to me that it is obvious when you have it and I know it comes from opening yourself to a relationship with God and with opening yourself to being a vesel of God's love. I see that joy often. I see it when I see folks like Earl Kemper and Mike Jamison working together on a project for the church. I see it in our youth as they do things like the 30 hour famine. And this past Sunday I saw it in Rosanne Williamson and Gayle Ferrell when they unveiled two new sets of paraments they had made for the sanctuary. That joy carries with it an energy that just makes you glow. If you have not discovered that joy or have not felt it in a while, open your heart and share your gifts and see how that works for you. Lent may be a season of introspection and denial but even in those two actions there can be joy. I pray you will seek it.

Blessings for the journey!


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Rights and Choices

In a recent devotional I read that in our culture we empahasize rights to the point that we have come to insist on them. We insist that our rights are inalienable and God given. And in our rights based society, we seem to have adopted a sense of entitlement. Rights are important in a democracy, but in the Kingdom of God, rights are almost irrelevant.

Those rights based thougths often translate into a right to go to heaven or to be forgiven with no obligation on our own part. It is as though we deserve God's grace, no matter what we believe or what we have done. In other words, we become self-centered instead of God-centered.

We like our freedoms. They are good and God has blessed us with them. But God does not guarantee them as our rights. Our freedoms are gifts from God. And the greatest freedom is our freedom of choice. We can choose to believe in God and live as though we do. We can choose to make God the most important thing in our lives. And we can choose to focus first on ourselves and what we want. But as we choose, we need to remember that our choices will make a difference.

In my experience if we choose to love God and do what he would have us do, then our lives are filled with joy and peace even in the midst of very difficult circumstances. And that is a choice that can make a significant difference in the quality of our lives.

Blessings for the journey!


Monday, March 12, 2012

Faith -- It is not an occasional sprint, it is a marathon!

If you were going to run a marathon, would you show up on race day without ever having run a race or practicing? If you did, you would not do very well in the marathon. If you were on a sports team, how well to you think you team would do without practicing? If we want to hone our skills in anything, we need to practice. That is the way it is with our relationship with God and with discipleship as well.

Casually working at something or trying to fit it in after all the other things of life are done is not going to get us very far. The Christian life is meant to be something that is practiced, something we dedicate ourselves to, it is something that demands our attention and our focus. Spiritual growth, discipleship, and our relationship with God does not happen by accident. Gotta stop now it is devotional time.

Blessings for the journey!