“I Love The Church, but…”

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” – John 3:17

 

For over 2000 years the church has stood as symbol of the world’s great light, Jesus Christ.  I love the church, we are the hope of the world.  I agree, that sometimes, the church has done more harm than good.  But even in those times, I have to believe the Spirit of God was still at work within us, using us and molding us into vessels that He could use to reach the least and the lost.

I consider the great saints, from the Apostles all the way down to Mother Theresa, and all those in between.  Immeasurable numbers of faithful souls throughout the ages, all having one thing in common – a love for Jesus and a love for people.  To be counted among the followers that have made a huge difference (Martin Luther, St. Francis, Dietrich Bonhoeffer) and those whose names we do not remember, martyred for the sake of Christ – what a humbling heritage and legacy.

Sometimes I forget what the church is all about.  It is pretty easy in my mind to make it about what I want it to be.  I am a church program director.  Sometimes I get so focused on my own agenda that I forget that Christ has an agenda already laid out for us.  It has been the same since He left us from the top of that mountain, and it will be the same when He returns to gather us all together. The church exists for this one purpose only – to share His gospel and introduce people to Him.  That is it.  Nothing more.

How we do that can take on so many different forms – feeding, clothing, providing medical care, great music, beautiful art, powerful preaching…  the list goes on forever.  But at the heart of our activities must be a love for Christ and His people.

I am a little disturbed by the seemingly “christian” messages I am seeing in the world today.  For example, with Christmas coming, I saw the other day a beautifully decorated wall hanging that read, “Wise men still seek Him.”  What a lovely sentiment.  A sweet picture of three men on camels bringing sparkling gifts to the baby, the promised Messiah.  It conjures up all sorts of warm thoughts about what Christmas is all about doesn’t it?

But upon deeper reflection, I see that this particular platitude isn’t right at all.  In fact, it is so far off the mark that I am offended.  It’s not just the “wise, church folks” that still seek Him.  The entire world is seeking Him.  The lost and discouraged, and hurting world is seeking what only He can give – peace, unconditional love, complete acceptance, relief.

The only problem is, many of those that need Him the most are seeking in the wrong places.  They don’t know that it Jesus Christ that can change their circumstances and their lives.  So they look in so many other places, situations devoid of Jesus and the healing He offers.  Why do they do that?  How come they don’t know where to go?  Could it be our witness?  Could it be that we have been so focused on our own needs and making ourselves feel good about our Savior that we have forgotten to share Him with the world?  Have our sanctuaries, which should stand as a beacon of hope, become nothing more than members only clubs shouting the imposing message, “Only the righteous welcomed here?”

Christmas is coming brothers and sisters, a time when we all rejoice over a Lord that came into the world to save us.  Prayerfully consider what would happen if we each shared this wonderful gift with one other person.  What would happen if we took our heritage and place in history seriously and each invited one person to church during the holiday season?  What would happen if we didn’t think so much about what we want for Christmas, and instead, tried to give Jesus what He wants for Christmas, one more saved soul?

I love the church.  And my prayer today is that we would begin to take seriously our call and mission.

Be Blessed.

 

A Prayer Reminder…

Hi Birmingham Alabama friends!

This is a reminder that we have a prayer blanket for Gina Kitchens at the Liberty Crossings Church office.  Please feel free to stop by, tie a knot, say a prayer and sign her card.  It will be delivered to her on Wednesday evening.  So come on out and show her you love her and Skip.  Gina will be going in for her lymph node biopsy Thursday.

 

Blessings,

“I Would Rather Cut My Arm Off…”

Well, here it comes again.  The tightness in my chest; the nausea.  The creeping sense of fear and panic.  Why am I sweating so badly?  I can hear the sound of my heart speeding up as I walk down the driveway into the backyard.  “You can do this,” I tell myself.  “It will all be over in a couple of hours,” I keep repeating this mantra as I am steadily assaulted by brightly colored balloons  and what seems to be a hive-like structure of 5-year-olds – all running amok but with an underlying sense of order about them.  It isn’t quite as chaotic as it first appears.  They have all been here before, they know the drill.  And, unfortunately, so do I.

I pray to my loving Father, “Help me, Lord,” as I begin the exchange of expected pleasantries, all the while, doing my best to keep the terror inside me from showing on my face.  My God in heaven, how do I loathe children’s birthday parties…

Now, some of you may be laughing at this point.  It does sound quite ridiculous, to be so afraid of something so benign as an afternoon filled with cake and small talk.  But these gatherings terrify me.  I can’t stand them.  I am distressed from the minute another invitation comes home in a backpack, to the minute we pick up our goodie bag and head to the car.  Why do I feel this way, you may ask?  I can’t tell you.  I wish I didn’t, but I have always, since childhood, been horribly afraid of group gatherings.

And for those of you that actually know me, please understand that it is not about you, or your lovely children.  It is all about me.  See, I am an extreme introvert; painfully shy – and the more people in the crowd (i.e. 20 parents standing around talking) the more my anxiety takes over and drives me into my inner cave mentality.  That is why, in these situations, you will normally find me sitting in a corner pretending to oversee my child (but really he doesn’t even care that I am there,) because friends, I am most likely one labored breathe away from shutting down completely.  It is true, this particular social convention creates more fear for me than is imaginable for most of you.

But, I would bet, some of you know exactly what I am talking about.  In fact, I figure many of us out there feel exactly the same way when walking inside a church building.  You know the struggles.  Hoping that the preacher will forget the “handshake time,” at the beginning of the service.  Not being able to walk into that small group because you won’t know what to say, or worse, being asked to introduce yourself to all these strangers.  Or what about the “fellowship time?”  You know, that awful 15 minutes when everyone stands around drinking coffee and “visiting” as we in the south refer to it.  That’s the worst, because the introverts in the crowd can’t insert themselves into a conversation and we are pretty awkward feeling as we stand in the corner, nursing our coffee and try to look like we fit in.  It’s a miracle of God than some of us even make it to church at all.

The reason I am bringing this up today, is not to tell the introverts out there to buck up and get over it.  I am not telling you that your fears are unwarranted, or that believing in God will help you to get past them.  It is on my heart today to write, and pray, for the extroverts, those that can make coming to church so much easier for the rest of us.  For you happy, never-met-a-stranger folks, I am so overjoyed for you.  It must be wonderful to stroll into church on Sunday morning with smiles and hugs all around.  So I ask you, as followers of our Lord, please be kind and patient with the rest of us.  Maybe, in your zeal to engage and catch up with others, you might look around, and include that person that seems a little out of place.  Maybe you might pay attention and seek out those that don’t seem to have anyone else to talk with.  And maybe you might be blessed with a sense of the Holy while doing it.  Just a thought my dear, outgoing friends.  Share a little of that joy you are carrying around with you.  Be A Blessing!

Dearest Lord,

How great Thou art!  For You made me to be a member of the body of Christ.  I contribute to my church family in my own, unique way, just as everyone does.  Thank You for those outgoing and lovable folks that make friends so easily.  I pray today that no one would ever leave our church feeling left out or unloved.  Help us to create an atmosphere of warmth and welcome for each person that walks through our doors.  And help us, each one, to be attuned to those than need that extra smile, handshake, or invitation.  Create in each one of us, a heart filled with radical hospitality, overflowing with the love of Jesus.

In the name of my Salvation I pray,

Amen

ps.  For those of you considering inviting my children to your next birthday party, please do not hold their mother’s craziness against them.  My kids love parties, and will be most happy to attend.  And I will be most happy to drop them off and pick them up in a timely fashion. LOL

 

 

 

“Struggles…”

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”  – Lamentations 3:22-23

 

Have you ever done something that you really regret?  I have.  More than once.  I have done things, both intentionally and unintentionally, that have hurt others.  Heck, I have even done things that have hurt myself, knowing the outcome before even doing it.  But I was unable to stop myself for some reason.

It seems to me, that in spite of all my education and religion, I am still just a created being led pretty much by my desires instead of my intellect.  I seem to remember the Apostle Paul being in the same situation.

“I love to do God’s will so far as my new nature is concerned; but there is something else deep within me, in my lower nature, that is at war with my mind and wins the fight and makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. In my mind I want to be God’s willing servant, but instead I find myself still enslaved to sin.” – Romans 7:22-23

I struggle with all sorts of things.  How about you, what is it that you can’t quite break free from?  What is it that is a threat to your life, your peace, your relationships?

Of course I can’t afford it, but I want ____________, so I spend money I don’t have.

Yes, it is wrong to say _________________ and hurt his feelings, but I am angry and justified in the way I feel.  So I say what I think.

Absolutely I know that associating with that person will lead me down the wrong path, but something deep inside me wants to go anyway.  So I join them, but just this once…

 

Whether a small one-time offense, or living an entire lifestyle that we regret, I believe we all have things that we wish we hadn’t done.  Because the fact is, we are all fallen, we are all sinners, and try as hard as we can – none of us are perfect.  That is a pretty bleak picture isn’t it friends? Knowing that no matter how hard we try, we will ultimately end up failing.

But there is good news for those of us who believe in the redeeming power of Jesus Christ.  And it isn’t just some far-off notion of forgiveness one day in heaven.  There is good news for us today, friends.  His mercies are new every morning.  Do you understand?  That today can be a new day.  Today can be the day that we are set free from whatever it is that chains us into failure, guilt, and shame.  Today can be the day that we start over.

All we have to do is ask for some help.  Jesus is there, waiting to pick us up and to give us a new life.  Don’t get me wrong, changing our nature is not easy.  It is near to impossible.  And that is why we fail most often, because we are trying under our own power to change.

But if we really want to be successful, we need to get rid of our “self attitude.”  We can’t rely on ourselves, can we?  At least, it has never worked for me.  Instead, we have ask the Holy Spirit to fill us – to lead us in the right direction, to change our attitudes, our hearts and our desires.  And, if you are like me, I have to ask Him to do that every single day.  Once is not enough.  Every morning I have to ask for that compassion He offers, and allow Him to take control of my thoughts and actions.  This is the only way to create lasting change in our lives, friends.  And it is always a change for the better.  It just requires letting go of some pride.  And that is my biggest obstacle.  Admitting that I can’t control myself is a hard blow.  But it is a lot better than the alternative of bad decisions isn’t it?

Lord,

Thank You for Your mercies, that flow abundantly over us each day.  We all have struggles of some sort.  And I pray today that we would not be defeated by them.  I pray today that, in all humility, we would allow Your precious Holy Spirit to guide us and strengthen us in our fight against our own tendencies to do harm.  Renew our hope, this day, that we can overcome those desires that cause destruction in our lives.  And mold us into Your own image, that we might testify to Your faithfulness and redemption.

In the name of the Son we pray,

Amen

This is one of my favorite songs.  It is a powerful reminder that Jesus never leaves us in times of struggle.  Be blessed and encouraged today friends.

 

“Living Into the Glory…”

Sweet King of Heaven,

The angels sing of Your glory.  The birds this morning sing of Your glory.  The trees in the morning sun sing of Your glory.  And I, the one made in Your image, sing of Your glory.  Fill me this day with Your Holy Spirit.  Fill me to overflowing, so that every encounter I have today will be a holy one.  Let me see the world through Your eyes.  Help me to feel Your presence every minute and to breathe deeply as I inhale Your Spirit.  Help me Lord, to truly live today, and not simply to function.  Help me to see opportunities instead of challenges.  Help me to love instead of complain.  Show me how to laugh instead of worry.  Create in me a spirit of the sacred, and not just the ordinary.

In the name of my Redeemer I pray,

Amen
“The glory of God is a human being fully alive; and to be alive consists in beholding God.” ― Saint Irenaeus