Who Will You See Sunday?

andy griffith show pic

My family and I are fans of the Andy Griffith Show.  To this day, we watch an episode or two practically every week.  Those shows are full of good down-home humor with many connections to life even today.

In one scene of the episode, “The Sermon For Today,” Aunt Bea and Clara Johnson are found in deep discussion on the phone about what they were going to wear for church that morning. This was of great concern to these two dear ladies because a visiting preacher, Dr. Breen from New York City, would be delivering the sermon.  They wanted to make a good impression upon the special “sermoner” from the big city!

Who are you preparing to see this Sunday?

As was noted in Wednesday’s blog, Christ is the Church. He is the Head, the Architect, the Chief Shepherd, the Master Builder, the Owner, and the Transformer of Lives in His Body, the Church.

Christ also is The Face of the Church, not the pastor, the deacons, the denomination head, or anyone else.

So, when you prepare for the worship gathering this Sunday, make it all about Christ.

  • Christ goes with you because He dwells in you (Colossians 1:27), and He is your life (Colossians 3:3-4).
  • Christ is the reason the Church exists (Ephesians 1:22-23; 2:14-22; 3:10-11)
  • Christ is One Who is read in print (Bible) and electronically (Bible app) and is preached about from the pulpit (John 1:1, 14; 2 Timothy 4:2).
  • Christ is the Savior of all who gather, those who have received His free gift of salvation as well as those who have yet to do so (John 1:12; 3:16; Romans 3:10-25; 10:9-13; Ephesians 2:8-9)
  • Christ is the Truth, the main topic of conversation, as you share with others in life-on-life discipleship (Ephesians 4:15).
  • Christ is the only One Who is worthy of all the attention on Sunday (Colossians 1:18-19).
  • Christ is the One you are looking to show-up with great fanfare at any minute (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17).

Church is not about what the ladies (Bea & Clara) are wearing, or where the preacher is from, or how long the sermon lasts, or any other peripheral issue.

The Church is the body of Christ of which you, as a born again believer, are a member (1 Corinthians 12:12-13).  So as you prepare to gather on Sunday, be looking for Christ in every facet of ministry.  If the church you attend is a solid Bible-believing, preaching church, Christ will be there.  Look for Him (Hebrews 12:1-2).  He is the One you really want to see, to fellowship with, and to hear from in Church!!

To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, these things says He Who holds the seven stars in His right hand, Who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands (Revelation 2:1).

The Face of the Church

faces

Every church has a face.

Mention First Baptist Church of Atlanta, GA, and immediately Dr. Charles Stanley comes to mind.  Reference Thomas Road Baptist Church of Lynchburg, VA, and you think of Dr. Jerry Falwell.  Of course, many other examples could be given.

Perhaps, if I could mention the churches you have attended in your past, what face would come to mind?  The face of a pastor, deacon, Sunday School teacher, worship leader, youth leader, etc.?  When you think of that face, it probably brings joy or sorrow, contentment or criticism, or a variety of other emotions.

Truth is, the face of every true, biblical church is Jesus Christ.  The church is the Body of Christ.  1 Corinthians 12:27 states, Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.

A church is to grow into Christ in such a way that it fulfills the provision and mandate of Ephesians 4:11-16, And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

I totally understand that when you look at a church you see people.  But in reality, you should see Christ . . .

  • Saving depraved, darkened, desperate, repentive sinners (Luke 13:5; 19:10; Romans 3:10-23; Colossians 1:12-14).
  • Transforming His children into Christlikeness as they look into the mirror of God’s Word (2 Corinthians 3:18) and humble themselves under mighty hand of God (1 Peter 5:6b-7).
  • Interceding for His children as they pour out their hearts to God in prayer (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25; 1 John 2:1).
  • Carrying on His ministry through His servants (Acts 1:1-2 and following) albeit they are weak and needful of His daily, sufficient, sustaining grace (1 Corinthians 1:26-31; 3:5-9; 2 Corinthians 9:8).
  • Nourishing and cherishing His church as the body submits to the Chief Shepherd and to one another (Ephesians 5:23-30).
  • Gathering His people together for the purpose of fulfilling the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), discipleship (Ephesians 4:11-16), and the numerous “one another’s” (Romans 12:9-16; 15:7, 14; Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 10:25; 1 Peter 4:9; to name a few).
  • Restoring broken homes and marriages (Romans 5:1-21; Ephesians 5:18-33).
  • Being the life of the church (Galatians 2:20; Philippians 3:14; Colossians 3:4).
  • Chastening, cleansing, and identifying those He loves (Hebrews 12:5-15).

There is so much more that could be said, so much more that Christ wants to do in His Church.  Even when we mess up, act like little immature children, make wrong choices, complain, criticize, get angry, etc., in the church, the sovereignty of God and the gospel can work through the sin and selfishness to accomplish His redemptive plan for His glory and our good.

The face of the church is Christ; the Christ who transforms, transcends, and triumphs over all sin and man (Romans 5:20; 2 Corinthians 2:14). Look for His face not man’s.

That Church . . .

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  • Just doesn’t feel right; is not the right fit.
  • Hurt my family years ago, and I will never forgive them!
  • Is so unfriendly.
  • Is too big.
  • Is too small.
  • Doesn’t meet my (our) needs.
  • Is too contemporary.
  • Is too conservative.
  • Doesn’t have a kid’s ministry.
  • Is full of hypocrites.
  • Comes across as being full of perfect people.
  • Will judge what I wear.
  • Sings music that’s too loud and too worldly!
  • Sings only the old songs.
  • Just wants your money.

And I have just covered a few of the gazillion statements I have heard over the years in reference to church.

My dad pastored ten churches over the course of his fifty year ministry.  I personally trusted Christ as my Lord and Savior at the age of five in Marietta, Ohio.  Church has been my life for fifty-nine years.

Oh the stories I could tell about church, good and bad! Perhaps as I continue to write about this subject, I’ll share some of them.

Today, my heart is simply to say this, our perspective on church is totally skewed if we look at the church through the lens of finite, temporal man alone.  Furthermore, the only correct view for all of life, including the church, must come from absolute Truth, the Word of God.

Consider the following:

The Church is God’s idea, not man’s.

I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long; but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth. (1 Timothy 3:14-15).

Jesus Christ is the “Master Builder” of His Church, not man.

Jesus said He would build His church and that no power of hell could destroy it.  Jesus Christ’s definitive statement recorded in Matthew 16:18 says, I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

The Church belongs to Jesus Christ alone, not man.

I will build my church (Matthew 16:18).

Jesus Christ is the head of the Church, not man.

And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent (Colossians 1:18).

The Church is Christ’s body, not man’s.

And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all (Ephesians 1:22-23).

The Church is to be built upon Christ, not man.

Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together grows unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are built together for an habitation of God through the Spirit (Ephesians 2:19-22).

Therefore, in EVERY discussion, attitude, action, response, and thought about church, you must begin with Christ, not man. To come to the right conclusion, you must end with Christ in mind, not man; His Word and not man’s perspective.

Tomorrow, I will continue these thoughts.  In the meantime, look back at the list statements mentioned at the beginning of this blog.  Where is the consideration, counsel, and wisdom of Christ seen in any of them?

Principle:  You cannot have a high view of Christ and a low view of His church at the same time.

A Marriage that is Merry and Bright!

Christmas DateBeing the romantic at heart, Christmas provides many opportunities for strengthening your marriage.  There is enough unnecessary stress during the holidays.  Therefore, instead of bowing to Grinch stress, let me offer some helpful suggestions to make your marriage “be merry and bright.”

Men, take 15 minutes.  Get your December calendar and mark out at least five days you and your wife can have a date.  Come on, men.  Get up right now.  Go get your calendar.  Got your pen?  Now, write “Date w/ _______” in five day boxes on your calendar.  If you don’t plan it, most likely it will not happen.  Furthermore, when someone invites you to another activity, you say, “Sorry.  I have something already planned for that day.”  Your wife will see that she is your top priority, and the mistletoe will become even more special to both of you!!!

“After the Kids Go to Bed” Date:  You did not marry your kids.  You married your wife, and she needs you to spend time with her without interruptions.  So, meet in a cozy place in your home.  Make or purchase your favorite snack and drink.  Play some soft Christmas music in the background.  Play a game, work on a puzzle, watch your favorite Christmas movie, . . . just do something together AND SILENCE YOUR PHONES.  When you are done, read Luke 2:1-20, and pray together.

“Fireplace” Date:  Find a location with a fireplace such as a restaurant (Panera, Chop House, Cracker Barrel), a coffee shop (local) or a hotel lobby (Grove Park Inn; DreamMore Resort, Dollywood).  Sit as close as possible to the fire . . . and to each other.  After securing a coffee/hot tea and pastry, just talk.  Ask each other the questions.  Enjoy each other’s company.  Block out the rest of the world.  Check out this website for some good discussion starters: 50 Question to Strengthen Your Marriage  (Don’t get distracted by the other articles on the blog site.  Stay on point.)

“Book Store” Date:  Locate a table near the coffee shop of a local bookstore or a reading couch.  After you’ve found your spot, then you begin your three to five round search for books.  On each round, both of you look for a book for that round’s subject.  Give about 5 minutes for each search. Once you have found your book, return to your location.  Taking turns you share your findings with each other by reading a portion of the book to each other, discuss it, and then return the books at the same time. From there, go find the next round’s subject and repeat as described above.

  • Round One:  Find a children’s book that was one of your favorites as a child.
  • Round Two:  Find a cookbook that has one of your favorite recipes.
  • Round Three: Find a book that gives info and pictures of a place you would like to visit.
  • Round Four:  Find a book of romantic poetry.  (Be sure to read the poem you found to your spouse.)
  • Round Five: Find a clean joke book.  (My wife and I have laughed so hard tears ran down our cheeks.)

When you have completed this fun, romantic, insightful evening, men, share your next date idea with your wife.  Watch her reaction!!

“Grocery Store” Date:  Men, you probably don’t go to the grocery store with your wife.  May I just say, you are missing out! Truth is, every time you’re with your wife, especially alone (if you have children still at home), it should be an event, not just another trip out with “what’s-her-name.”  My wife and I have had more fun over the years shopping together, even at midnight.  And your wife will definitely need to buy groceries for the Christmas season.

As you stroll the aisles, certain food items make for good conversation.  The music played throughout the store can create a dance moment right there on Aisle 8 (It’s ok to dance….it’s your wife!).  The card section makes for some good laughs as you read humorous cards to each other or tender moments as you share the romantic ones with each other (That way you don’t have to complain about the price of cards or wonder what romantic thing you can say to each other!!).

“Light It Up” Date:  Prepare your favorite hot drink, bring along some snacks, warm up the car, and go for a drive looking at Christmas lights.  Be sure to listen to Christmas music.  Hold hands; drive slow; enjoy the moments; stop for a kiss here and there; and if it’s snowing, get out of the vehicle, walk in the snow for a block or two (snowballs are allowed, too)!

God created marriage and expects us to rejoice with the wife of our youth (Proverbs 5:18).  Husbands, brighten your Christmas and your marriage!

May Your Days Be Merry and Bright

 

National Enquirer Prayers

two men gossiping

“What a blessing to have friends you can ask to pray for a situation, and they don’t ask questions.”

Have you ever heard the tag line, “Enquiring minds want to know”? This line was made famous many years by the tabloid National Enquirer, sadly located in your supermarket checkout line.

National Enquirer has made millions on man’s insatiable desire to know the stuff of somebody else’s life, even if it is a lie.

That same National Enquirer search can be found among well-intentioned people who “pray.” Have you ever heard someone say, “I just found out (circumstance) about (name).  I’m only sharing this so you can pray about it.”  The bait has been thrown out, and wham!  We take it hook-line-and-sinker!  Do we really want to know so we can genuinely intercede or do we just want the National Enquirer version?

Or, someone is going through a rough time in their life, and they ask you to pray for them.  To further “enquire” may lead you into an area of their life they are not comfortable sharing. It puts them on the spot and causes them to perhaps not ask for prayer support in the future.

gossip in prayer

Have you ever considered that you really do not need to know all the details?  God already knows. What else matters?  Prayer for others gives you the opportunity to mention their name before the Throne of Grace, to pray Scripture for them, to pray for the need even if you do not know the details, and to bear one another’s burden (Galatians 6:1).  May I remind us that the Holy Spirit even prays for us when we don’t know what to pray (Romans 8:26).

How much more content our lives would be if we hungered for what God wants to say to us every day from His Word rather than the tidbits of other’s lives.   James 1:26 reminds us, If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.

Yes, “enquiring minds want to know,” but settled hearts are satisfied to just mention your name to our omniscient Heavenly Father.

Come On In!

Hospitality Quote

“How in the world could I carry on a conversation with folks from India?  I don’t even like to talk.”

This was the transparent admission of a lady who had recently hosted a family in her home from a totally different land, speech, and culture.  As she shared her story, she quickly admitted that the evening was one of rich blessings!  During their meal together and discussion around the table, she and her husband learned of God’s work in a far off land; His answers to prayer; His working in the hearts of lost souls; His provision of peace, power, and protection; His encouragements to these precious servants of the Lord even in the most difficult of times.  She was more than glad she had stepped out of her comfort zone. Her invitation to “Come!” set the stage for some “unexpectedly happy results.”

Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality (Romans 12:13).

Show hospitality to one another without grumbling (1 Peter 4:9).

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares (Hebrews 13:2).

In the Hebrews passage, the writer is not advocating hospitality on the off chance that one might happen to receive an angel as a guest but rather because God is pleased when believers are hospitable.  Sometimes unexpectedly happy results follow acts of hospitality.  It was highly esteemed in the ancient world and was certainly very important for Christians. Accommodations at inns was expensive, and in any case inns had a bad reputation.  But as Christian preachers traveled around, believers gave them lodging and so facilitated their mission.  Without hospitality in Christian homes, the spread of the faith would have been much more difficult. (The Expositors Bible Commentary, p.146)

You see, when you invite folks into your home, it’s not you or your house they need to see; it’s Jesus.  His invitation to you and everyone is always, “Come” (Matthew 11:28-30; 14:29; 19:14; Luke 6:47).  Therefore, in following Christ, you, too, say to others, “Come.” That invitation opens up another opportunity to share Christ and to live out the gospel.  Remember, Christ is the initiator in the invitation to come; therefore, you follow His lead and be the initiator in inviting others.

Have you recently taken the opportunity to host someone in your home? Have you prayed about it? Are you willing to trust in the grace of God to help you experience the joy of hospitality?  How about the next guest speaker or missionary who’s coming to your church?  (You want to really encourage the heart of your pastor?  Look at the church calendar to see when the next preacher or missionary will be at your local church.  Weeks in advance, tell your pastor you are more than glad to host them for a meal and/or provide their lodging!) What about the family that’s been visiting your church for the past couple of Sundays?  Thought about having your neighbor over for a cup of coffee?

Don’t be looking for an angel, but do remember “God is pleased when believers are hospitable.”

Come on in!

 

Sandwiches & Stories

“You used a Black & Decker drill to perform surgery on a man in jail?”  That was my response a few years ago as an OB-GYN doctor serving in medical missions in Africa told her story while we were gathered around our dining room table.  Even better was the fact that this man later came to believe in Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior (John 3:16; Romans 3:23; 6:23; 10:9-13).

This story was one of probably a thousand or more in my lifetime! Growing up in a pastor’s home provided many opportunities for evangelists, college presidents, pastors, and missionaries to put their feet under our kitchen table and/or sleep in our guest bedroom.

I can remember as a grade school aged boy sitting at the kitchen table after an evening church service listening to all kinds of ministry stories.  Those memories are also a part of my junior and senior high school days as well as college.

With eyes wide open and ears open even wider, those narratives told me that life was full of blessings, fun, hardships, trials, laughter, questions, burdens, answers to prayer, rich in Bible knowledge and application, and tears to name a few.  But no doubt about it, those stories from real Christians revealed a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ and an unshakable faith in an awesome, faithful, promise-keeping God!

Interesting enough, I did not learn until long after I had left home that it was my dad who invited most of those folks home.  My mom really did not like duty in the kitchen.  That was just not her “cup-of-tea.”  I share this to encourage you.  Our meals were usually very simple.  The table was not elaborately set.  Mom used what she had, and in our early days at home, that was not much.

You see, it was not the food at the table I remember or how the table was decorated that has left an indelible impression upon me.  Most assuredly, it was all those hours in the presence of simple servants of the Lord.

How grateful I am that many, many times, my folks would let me stay up on a school night way past bedtime to sit under the influence of such godly men and women.  The eternal influence in their eyes was always more important than the temporal influence.

May I encourage you to host missionaries, evangelists, preachers, and other servants of the Lord in your home?  How cool it is to have a faithful missionary from a far-away land while eating dessert share accounts of God’s grace, protection, and answers to prayer!  What an impact it is to listen to a preacher tell about a lost soul receiving Christ as his Savior or expound the Word while eating a grilled cheese sandwich!  Oh, how wonderful to hear a college president while enjoying a bowl of corn chowder share how the Lord provided the school’s needs at just the right time!

Parents, your children need to experience this!  They need to experience it often.

Prepare the guest room, fix some sandwiches and invite a servant of the Lord into your home.  By the way, be sure to open your ears, too!

Thanksgiving on the Clearance Aisle

 

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One stroll through such retailers as Target, Wal-Mart, Dollar General, etc., and you might be left with the impression that we went straight from Halloween to Christmas! Tucked over in a corner, like it was an afterthought, are the remains of fall decorations already clearance priced. What happened to Thanksgiving?  Did someone misplace it?  Did the Grinch steal it, too?

Aww, never fear!  Thanksgiving is always here!

Thanksgiving is every day.  In the words of Pastor Rick Johnson, “Soak your soul” in the following living words of God:

Ephesians 5:20 – Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Thessalonians 5:18- Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Hebrews 13:15 – Through Him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name.

This morning, as I have done in past years, I am daily logging a “note of thanks” in my journal.  A focus on gratitude redirects our selfish hearts to hearts warmed by the goodness of God seen all around us, even in the hard times.

How about joining me this month?  Start a thanksgiving journal. Communicate each day with others your note of thanks.  When asked, “How ya doin’?”— share your thanksgiving note!

Don’t let thanksgiving be on the clearance aisle.  Put it up front for all to see and hear!

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. (Psalm 100)

Men, How Would You Answer?

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The following question was posed today on Facebook:

Which would you rather be known as:

  1. A good man
  2. A man who is “good at being a man?”

Why?

The first thought that came to my mind was the human connotation of being known as a “good man” (#1); a morally good man, a nice person.  Nothing wrong with that, but goodness alone will not get me to heaven (Romans 3:10; 5:6-8).

Then I considered the second option and quickly said, “No.”  In every area of the world, even in my own neighborhood, there is a varied criteria for what makes up a man.  So the standard for being “good at being a man” would fluctuate like corn stalks in the wind.

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So which is the correct answer?

I chose #1.  Why?  Well, when it comes to having an absolute standard on the issues of life, you turn to the Word of God.  These passages of Scripture give us the characteristics of a good man.  Check’em out, men!

Psalm 37:23 – The steps of a good man (“a strong man, a warrior”) are ordered by the Lord, And He delights in his way.

Psalm 112:5 – A good man (“happy; joyful; benevolent”) deals graciously and lends; He will guide his affairs with discretion.

Proverbs 12:2 – A good man (“happy; joyful; benevolent”) obtains favor from the Lord.

Proverbs 13:22 A good man (“happy; joyful; benevolent”) leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, But the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous.

Proverbs 14:14 – The backslider in heart will be filled with his own ways, But a good man (“happy; joyful; benevolent”) will be satisfied from above.

Matthew 12:35 – A good man (denotes the soul considered as the repository of pure thoughts which are brought forth in speech) out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.

Acts 11:24 – For he was a good man (upright, honorable), full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.

So men, which would you rather be known as?  #1 or #2?

In a Split-Second!

Missle Cruiser

That’s all it takes for news anyplace in the world to reach the world along with its far-reaching impact due to the internet.  It impacts the minds, hearts, and emotions of millions . . . in a split-second!

Even the worn-out announcement “Breaking News” still grabs the inquisitive minds of so many!

Early this morning as I sat by the fireplace reading Jeremiah 14-16, I repeatedly saw phrases like this: Then the Lord said to me . . . The Lord said . . . Therefore thus says the LORD.

Compare for a moment earthly, internet news and the words of God.

  • The news you hear in the world turns old in moments; God’s Word is never stale, it’s eternal and life giving (Psalm 33:11; 119:25, 89, 92-93; 1 Peter 1:25).
  • The news you hear in the world is often tainted by man’s viewpoint; God’s Word is always pure, perfect and true (Psalm 119:160; Proverbs 30:5; John 17:17).
  • The news you hear in the world is always a symptom of a greater problem; God’s Word always correctly diagnosis the case and prescribes the correct remedy (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
  • The news you hear in the world can quickly become irrelevant; God’s Word is always relevant and fresh for every situation of life (Psalm 119:89-96).

As I pondered God’s direct communication to and through Jeremiah to Israel and their subsequent response, I thought of my response to God’s Word as I read its pages.

Which affects me more; which grips my heart the most; which grabs my inquisitive mind?  News on the internet or the truths of God’s Word?

Spend some time meditating on Psalm 119:97-104.  In a split-second it can change your life, and it’s always for good.

97 Oh, how I love Your law!
It is my meditation all the day.
98 You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies;
For they are ever with me.
99 I have more understanding than all my teachers,
For Your testimonies are my meditation.
100 I understand more than the ancients,
Because I keep Your precepts.
101 I have restrained my feet from every evil way,
That I may keep Your word.
102 I have not departed from Your judgments,
For You Yourself have taught me.
103 How sweet are Your words to my taste,
Sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104 Through Your precepts I get understanding;
Therefore I hate every false way.