Tag Archives: church

Haggai; Caring For The Church

I’ve shared that our pastor obeyed God’s call to minister at another church, leaving us pastor-less for the time being. We certainly miss him. But what an exciting time to be a part of this fellowship!

I thought about us, and other churches like us with pastor search committees, as I read what God had to say through Haggai. The Jews had neglected the Temple, they let it fall into ruin. Yet their own homes were state-of-the-art. Maybe an exaggeration, but God said:

Because of my house, which remains in ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house. (1:9)

God was doling out discipline for their lack of care for His house. Now I’m not suggesting our church is in ruin because Pastor Whit is no longer here. Quite the opposite is true. In fact, the three men who have filled the pulpit since Pastor left have all had a similar theme – Don’t stop!

We’ve been encouraged not to think of this season as “limbo.” We’ve been challenged to step up our service and giving instead of sitting back and waiting until we call a preacher. Why? Because this isn’t Pastor Whit’s church. Never has been. Never will be. This is God’s church here on this island. And WE are charged with it’s upkeep and growth.

We had our quarterly business meeting last Sunday evening. The various committees gave reports, and we were caught up on where we are in the pastor search process. My heart was blessed as the reports were given, how excited people are about ministry opportunities in and through our church, how much prayer is being given for each area of service, and how much we are seeking God’s will for our future. I don’t see this church fellowship going into ruin any time soon!

But the potential is there. Not just for us, but for any church looking to call a Shepherd. Not just for us, but any church fellowship in transition.

For some people, it might be easy to step back a bit during these times, to sleep in on Sundays rather than taking a chance on the potluck preacher who is speaking this week until we call an interim. It might be tempting to cut back on giving since we’re not paying a preacher right now. (Who couldn’t use a few extra bucks each month?) It might seem we are within our rights to turn down ministry opportunities until we see where this thing is going.

But God needs us to keep his house in good repair – not because of a pastor – but because it’s GOD’s. Haggai reminds us there are consequences to pay for neglecting God’s house. I know we can apply this to our church fellowships as well.

You most likely have a pastor at your church. Are you letting him be the sole carer of God’s house? Are there things you should be doing to make your fellowship vital, fruit-bearing, and beautiful? Many times things start falling apart slowly, almost imperceptibly. We get used to passing by that door hanging off its hinges. We get used to not seeing the Smiths or Joneses in Sunday School, before we forget they were even there. Giving is down, but we don’t even realize the pastor’s salary has been cut, or that there is no money to repair the roof.

Dear one, we have the honor of caring for God’s house, for caring for His Church, for caring for his children. Let’s determine to keep His house in full repair, running on all cylinders, and being a bright light in our communities for Jesus’ sake.

With or without a pastor in the pulpit.

 

2 Kings 14-16; In Deference

As I continue to read through the history of kings, I notice some repeating themes. Like I said the other day, most of the kings follow in their fathers’ footsteps. Good kings influenced good kings, bad kings influenced bad kings.

It seems those who took on the position of a Jewish king may have had a death wish. Whether they reigned two weeks or twenty years, someone was always plotting to kill them and steal the throne.

Good kings followed God in varying degrees. Bad kings didn’t follow Him at all.

We get to King Ahaz in these chapters today. He was not a good king, even though his father Jotham had been. Scripture tells us Ahaz made a treaty with the Assyrians, sworn enemies of God’s people. We read that Ahaz remodeled the Temple, removed the basins, the canopy, and the royal entryway, he moved the walls and the Sea, “in deference to the king of Assyria.”

“When you show deference to someone, you make a gesture of respect. The noun deference goes with the verb defer, which means ‘to yield to someone’s opinions or wishes out of respect for that person.'” (Vocabulary.com)

Has the Church made a treaty with the enemy? Look at what has been removed from our places of worship: altars, pulpits, Bible reading, hymns, organs, steeples, pews, the list goes on. We’ve remodeled our sanctuaries much like Ahaz remodeled his.

I read this invitation this morning: “If you are looking for a spiritual home that is full of love, acceptance of all, and truly tolerant of all beliefs, ask me about…”

I think too many churches have removed sin from their vocabulary, they don’t talk about God’s holiness and His righteous judgment. They’ve removed so much of what makes the Church God’s house, in deference to whom? Non-christians? Christians who want to feel good about going to a Sunday service without the responsibility of living a separate life during the week? Satan?

It’s time to break our treaty with the enemy, and defer to God instead. God who is Holy, Fierce, Unchanging, who went to the cross because of sin; God who accepts those who accept Jesus, and rejects those who reject Him.

Holy God, I thank you for pastors and churches who are standing on the Truth of Scripture. I thank you for congregations of people who are not afraid to resist trends and political correctness. Bless their fellowships in a mighty way. I pray for those who are caught up in the treaty between your people and the enemy. Convict hearts, Lord. Drive us to our knees. And may Your people worship You in spirit and in Truth, according to Your Word. Then, Father, enable us to get out there and do what You intend the Church to do, introduce lost souls to their Savior, Jesus Christ.

 

Deuteronomy 1-3; “Why” Doesn’t Matter

I will admit I am a bit disappointed in Moses. As he is teaching an important history lesson to the children of Israel before they finally go into the Promised Land, he says something that is only partially true. He says it in 1:37, then again in 3:26.

“It’s because of YOU,” he tells them, “the Lord was angry with me and won’t let me go with you into Canaan.” Now, while it’s true the Jews had been whining about not having water, their verbal attacks on Moses were not the reason God was angry with him. It was Moses’ own disobedience that resulted in God’s punishment.

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day. She shared that her son, a man who is celebrating fifteen years sober after many years addicted to drugs and alcohol, doesn’t want anything to do with church. A while back he attended a service, and an elderly saint said something that offended him, so therefore all Christians are judgmental and unkind.

Now being verbally attacked, whether you’re Moses or a recovering addict, is unfair, embarrassing, infuriating. You may have reason to be upset. But the fact of the matter is, when you stand before God, He’s not going to ask you how you felt you were treated by others in this lifetime. He’s not going to ask any of us WHY we refused to obey Him.

The “Why” won’t matter. But the “What” will.

What did you do with my Son? Did you repent of your sins? Did you accept His grace? Did you obey His Words? Did you live your life in such a way that drew others to the Savior?

When you meet Jesus face to face, the only thing that will matter is, does He know you? No excuses. No pointing fingers. Just you and Jesus.

What will you say?

Exodus 24-26; Where Worship Is

I know people say you can worship God anywhere. I actually hope you do worship Him often throughout the day, every day. I’m sitting here in my enclosed porch watching a couple birds make their home in a birdhouse that was once my dad’s. A squirrel just ran along the top of my fence. And my azalea bush is at the end of its beautiful display. I worship the Creator in the magnificent work of His hand.

But does sitting here today mean I don’t need church? God’s instructions to Moses concerning the building of the tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant include minute details. These were carefully instructed, ornate, expensive, purposeful places where God’s people would gather to worship.

As I read these chapters it occurs to me that if God was so interested in the physical places of corporate worship back then, He probably is still interested in us taking our places of worship seriously. In the building of these structures God was providing a place for the Jews to gather together to worship because corporate worship was important to Him.

Still is. Don’t neglect the gathering of saints just because you think you can worship God on a golf course. Oh, go ahead and worship Him on the golf course. Just don’t do it on Sunday morning when you have the unique opportunity to gather together with other believers and worship God as one.

I think God, by the example we read in these chapters, must think it’s pretty important.

November 4 – Warm Fuzzies

Matthew 22; Mark 14

I love reading the Bible. It can humble me, challenge me, encourage me, or tickle me. Today I was tickled.

Jesus has less than a week to live on planet Earth, as reported in the chapters we read today. He still has a large following, and the Jewish elite are still trying to trap Him: Should we pay taxes? Who is married to whom in the resurrection? What’s the greatest commandment?

They tried hard to get him to say something… anything… that would show Him up in front of his followers, and give them reason to get rid of Him once and for all. So Jesus gave them a bit of their own medicine. He asked them:

How can the Christ be David’s son, if David himself called Him, Lord?

Here’s what tickled me. The large crowd were listening to Jesus answer question after question. They heard Him ask the hard question, too. Their response?

And the large crowd enjoyed listening to Him. (Mark 12:37b)

I’m not a preacher. But I think if, after preparing a sermon and preaching my heart out, someone shook my hand on Sunday morning and said, “Enjoyed your sermon today, Pastor,” I’d go home and throw something. If all you get out of hearing God’s Word proclaimed is a good time, then either your pastor isn’t doing his job, or you aren’t going in there prepared to hear what God has to say to you.

I said this verse tickled me. It did. I even laughed out loud. Until I remembered that these very people, these followers who “enjoyed” listening to the exchange between Jesus and the Jewish leaders, were the same ones who  cried, “Crucify Him,” only days later. I guess they’d stopped enjoying what they were hearing.

Your pastor is preparing a message he’ll give two days from now. Are you preparing, too? God has something to say to you through the words He has given your pastor. I can say with confidence that God isn’t interested in tickling your ears, or giving you warm fuzzies so you go away feeling good about yourself. I’m pretty sure He wants to challenge you to live for Him in a more effective way, He wants to put a finger on sin in your life so you’ll repent of it, He wants to humble you, drive you to your knees, so you’ll admit how much you need Him.

I dare you to prepare your heart to be changed Sunday morning. If your pastor is doing his job, and you are doing yours, you can expect something truly amazing to come out of it.

Father, I want to be ready to hear from you on Sunday. I pray that You will point out sin so that I can ask you to forgive me, and enter Your house with a pure heart. I want you to beat me up, if I need it. I want you to humble me, light a spark within me, draw me closer to you. I pray for my pastor. Thank you so much for this man who is truly a vessel you use to speak to me. God, encourage his heart. Give him clarity, discernment, power. May he continue to allow You to speak through him right to me. Defeat Satan’s attempt to block what You want to do in our church. May my pastor be an instrument in Your hands to help me love You more, and serve You better. Bless my pastor today, Lord. And make him a blessing to your people who are not looking for warm fuzzies on Sunday morning.

April 6 – Safe Places

Judges 19-21

Where do you turn when you feel lost, or afraid, or overwhelmed by the circumstances of life? I hope you all can answer that question by saying you go directly to God in prayer.

But I’m talking in addition to that. When you get up off your knees, where do you go to feel safe? Who in your life represents that safe place we all need from time to time?

Judges 19 tells of a Jewish man traveling with his wife and servant. It was getting late in the day, and they were close to a town of non-Jewish people. The man decided to travel a bit further because he did not want to stay with foreigners. They went, instead, to Gibeah, a town of the tribe of Benjamin.

First of all, the travelers were ignored by their fellow Jews. No one offered to take them in until an old guy showed up and invited them into his home. Read the account for yourself. It’s horrible what happened.

Shouldn’t we be able to feel the safest with our families? Shouldn’t we be welcomed and cared for by those related to us? And shouldn’t the same be said for our churches?

This story made me think of those who have been hurt or betrayed by people in their homes, or in their churches. We probably all know someone who tells of mistreatment at the hands of those who they trusted to care for them. Maybe you have experienced that pain yourself.

If you describe your home as a Christian home, is it the one place on earth your children feel the most welcome, the safest, the best loved? Even when discipline is required?

Is your church fellowship warm and caring and forgiving? Or is there gossip and jealousy and pride running rampant? Do your members have reason to trust and support each other?

If there is hurt going on, don’t just stand by and let it happen. That makes you just as guilty as the one inflicting harm. Let’s put our homes and churches in order and set them as the standard for which everyone else strives.

Our Christian homes and our churches need to be the safest, most caring and loving places in the lives of our fellow Christians. And making that a reality is something you can do.

Dear God, I pray for all of us today as we take a look at our homes and our church fellowships. Convict those of us who are guilty of holding grudges, or having a mean temper, or who gossip, or are jealous… I pray that you will help us to repent, to speak up against mistreatment of our brothers and sisters, and to demand that our homes and churches be the safest place for a Christian to be. May You be glorified as we love one another like You love us.

Feb 20 – No Work For The Wicked

Leviticus 22-23

When God was setting down the rules for the special sabbaths the Jews were to observe throughout the year, He always gave the instruction that no laborious work was to be done on those days. It seems very important that the people understood there was to be no work, because that direction is repeated often in the verses we read today.

Got me to pondering. God must have wanted their full attention during these times of sacrifices and celebrations. It reminds me of the encounter Jesus had with Mary and Martha recorded in Luke 10. Martha was busy preparing the meal while Jesus Himself was speaking in the next room. Scripture says Martha was distracted, and Mary who sat at Jesus’ feet chose the better part.

So in my walk with the Lord this side of the cross, what can I glean from what I read today? God seems to be asking me what it is I allow to distract me during my time with Him. Where does my mind wander when I read His Word or pray?

When I sit in church do I play a game on my phone? Do I take my baby into the service where, not only I am distracted by her crying and cooing, people around me are distracted by her, too? Do I worry about the roast in the crockpot? Think about the big game this afternoon? Or go over in my mind that strategic plan for work?

God gave us six days to be busy. He asks for one day out of the week when we focus only on Him. One day. And sometimes I think He’d appreciate the one hour we are in church, if our focus was truly on Him alone.

Reading these chapters in Leviticus today helped me understand how important it is to God that we give Him our undivided attention in our worship of Him. It’s a choice, my friend. It’s an act of will, that I put every thought out of my mind except the thought of God, His Holiness, His love, His interest in me, and His demand to be worshiped above anything or anyone in my life.

I hope you are planning to attend the worship service in your church tomorrow. Will you put aside any distraction and choose the better part? Let’s prepare to worship God tomorrow as He deserves. No work. No distractions.

Just God. And you focusing only on Him.