Monday, October 31, 2011

Go to Church

For various reasons I haven’t been very preachy here on Time of the Preacher lately, but there have been things on my mind that I feel compelled to get out, so bear with me through this bit of preaching......

If you read this and think, “He’s writing this about me.”, you’re probably right.  But before you feel too special or get your feelings hurt, realize that I’m probably also writing about someone else.  
I see a lot of young couples around me struggling with the same things.  Who feel like they are beating their heads against a wall while trying to do everything right.  Taking care of various responsibilities with their jobs, marriages, homes, and children.  It gets overwhelming and because of their frustration and time constraints they withdraw from the church rather that run toward it.  They choose a kind of Oprah spirituality rather than the gospel and it leaves them wanting.  I see Christians being beat up by the world, tossed around our culture like a ship with no rudder, sail, or anchor.  My heart aches for them.

My advice to young and old is simple.  Go to church.  I don’t mean just show up at a church building.  I mean go to the church, the bride of Christ, the community of believers.  “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting on another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” -Hebrews 10:24-25
I’d like to challenge you to invest yourself in your local church.  Bless others and make yourself available to be blessed by others. Make it a priority.

Jeremiah 29:11 has become one of the most popular “coffee mug” verses in recent years:  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”  I’ve seen lots of folks claim this as their favorite verse believing that it means that God plans for everything to eventually be wonderful in their life, that in time He will make them healthy, wealthy, and wise.  However, many of you may dismayed to find out that this was not a promise of God to an individual promising a great job, a perfect spouse, and obedient children.  Read the whole chapter, or the whole book of Jeremiah if you dare, and you will find that it was a multi-generational promise to a community of exiles.  Though exiles in Babylonian captivity, they were told to build houses, plant gardens, marry, raise children, and to seek the Lord while living in community as they awaited delivery from their captivity.  They were told to live in peace within the culture, but not to conform to it.  As it was for those Jewish exiles, I believe that it is through community and through generations that the Lord will bless us with hope and future.

I’ve seen the benefits of this in my own life.  I’m thankful that Leslie and I both had mothers who took us to church whenever the doors were open.
I’m thankful that Frank Daniels continually presented the gospel to me during my teenage years, and that he encouraged me to grow in maturity and leadership.
I’m thankful that James and Cindy Gray were there to model healthy marriage and mentor Leslie and I during our first couple of years together.
I’m thankful that Bill Vaughn held our babies (and hundreds of others) and for all of the meals we got to share with him and Helen.
I’m thankful that Lou Ann helps us teach our girls to be ladies and that Irv teaches me to be patient and gentle with my wife and children.  

I wouldn't have the blessings of these relationships without being plugged into the church.

Is your precious baby about to make you pull your hair out?  Take him to church and let your blessing be a blessing to someone else.  Let someone else hold him for a while.  He will be a blessing to them and you will get some relief and perhaps some new perspective.  

Has the shine worn off of your young marriage?  Are you wondering how to love each other?  Scared of adding to the divorce statistics someday?  Go to church and let people who have been married for 50 years teach you how it’s done.  Find out why that old man still has his arm around his bride who hasn’t been considered “hot” by anyone in 40 years.

Have you complained about worship, a Bible class, the singing, or home groups or the by using phrases like, “I just don’t get anything out of it”, “they just sing old songs”, “they just sing new songs”, “it’s mostly old people”, or “it’s just for young people”?  Perhaps you need a change of perspective and should seek first to bless others with your presence and participation rather than going in as just a consumer.

I know that living out this life of community may not be easy or comfortable for a lot of people.  Our culture is opposed to it.  We are greedy with our time.  We are fearful of exposing our imperfections and quick to complain about the imperfections of others.  I’ve seen a lot of congregations where generations are just tolerating each other, sharing space but not sharing their lives.  If you find yourself in this situation, maybe you should be the one to make the first move.  To borrow phrasing from JFK, ask not what your church can do for you, but what you can do for your church.  “...for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap...and let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.  Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” -Galations 6

May you bless and be a blessing through the church and so much the more as we see the Day approaching.

Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen

“There is no other context for your faith as a Christian than to be in community with other people.  I’ve heard a lot of people say to me over the years, “It’s just me and Jesus and that’s all I need.”  Well, that’s not the gospel in scripture.  If you are going to be those who claim to love Jesus then you will be compelled to love also the things that He loved.  And He not only loved, but came and gave Himself up for the church and that makes it our concern as well.”   -Derek Webb

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them.  -St. Paul , Romans 12:1-6

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  -Jesus, Matthew 11

Books to Read:

Proverbs-  In your Bible.  Right in the middle.  Timeless wisdom.  Most of it was written by Solomon, known for being a pretty smart guy.  

Romans-  Also in your Bible.  New Testament.  Written by St.Paul.  I’m not against “Bible study”, but try reading it without studying it.  Just read it straight through.

Stop Dating the Church By Joshua Harris.  He’s better at presenting this idea than I am.

A Song to Hear and Consider

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Fishing With Woody and Luke

Had a good time camping and fishing with Aaron and his firstborn.  Jazbo even got to spend the night at the lake with us. 
"....a boy don't get to be a man with clean britches on." -Elmer Kelton


Saturday, October 1, 2011

We Have to Drag Them Out of Bed on School Days

The girls were up at 6:15 this morning.  They had John Denver's "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" playing on repeat and turned up as loud as it would go while they hillbilly tap danced around their room.  So loud they rattled pictures off the wall.  Leslie had told them last night not to come out of their room until they could see sunlight through their window.  They obeyed. Made their daddy smile and their mother groan.

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