Tag Archives: the church

August 11; Are We Them?

Ezekiel 5-9

You know what struck me as I read Ezekiel’s vision and heard God talk about the detestable things that were happening, and the way He was going to punish them? God is talking about His people! He’s not pointing out the sins of unbelievers. He’s pointing out the sins of His chosen Israel. And they are doing these detestable things right there in the temple.

It makes me sad when I read a bunch of them in the inner court of the house of the Lord, turned their backs on the temple, and bowed down to the sun in the east. They’d turned their backs on God right in the middle of God’s House.

Dear Church, please take the warning. God sees what goes on behind closed doors. He hears the conversations we’re having about compromising, tolerating, accepting all manner of sin in order to get people inside the walls of His house. He is very aware of the sin in my life – and in yours.

I’m afraid we’ve begun to turn our backs on God right in the middle of His house in 2019. Every time we back off a little on our message, every time we embrace a casual worship, or a feel-good theology, or ignore sin in our own lives, we make a shift toward worshiping the sun in the east.

I hope you’ll read Ezekiel’s vision. I think you’ll hear God’s anger, His rage. “Is it a trivial matter for the house of Judah (or the Church) to do the detestable things they are doing here?… Therefore, I will deal with them in anger, I will not look on them with pity or spare them…” (8:17-18)

I can’t help but believe these chapters are not just about an ancient people. What was true for them is true for us today. God may be talking to and about them, but, dear one, we are them.

August 7; Settled In And Busy

Jeremiah 29:1-32, 49:34-39, 50:1-46; 2 Kings 24:18-20

It’s fairly easy to read Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles in Babylon and see a parallel in present day America. It causes me great concern to see a large portion of Americans working so hard to see this administration fail. Doesn’t anyone get it? If the administration fails, the country suffers. (of course, then the socialist agenda can swoop in and save the day. And some of you already think that’s a good thing. Wake up, America.)

We should be praying for our country like Jeremiah told the Jews to do concerning Babylon. Because if the nation prospers, “you too will prosper.” Jeremiah warns them to turn a deaf ear to the liars. And for heaven’s sake, DON’T encourage them!

I think there is a parallel between Jeremiah’s letter and the modern church, too. Christians aren’t snapped up into heaven the moment we are saved. We live in this fallen world among sinful people, much like God’s people in Babylon. But Jeremiah tells us to settle in. Build houses, plant gardens, enjoy the fruit of you labor. Marry and have lots of babies so they can grow up and have lots of babies. “Do not decrease.”

Wasn’t Jesus’ message similar? He told us in Matthew 10:16 He was sending us out to the wolves, not taking us home. He told us to go, make disciples, be the light in this dark world. He wants the Church, like He wanted the Jews, to grow one person at a time. And again, He warns us about false prophets who claim to be sent from God, but are clearly not when you hold them up to the Truth of Scripture.

We need to be praying for God’s Church in 2019. Because if the Church prospers, we prosper, too. The world prospers when the Church is healthy and growing. That is simply God’s economy.

Today, God is asking me how I am doing. Have I settled in, planted seeds, led people to the Savior? Or have I put my feet up, secure in my salvation and looking forward to getting this life over so I can be in glory? Am I grounded in Scripture, standing firmly on the Truth as God has revealed it? Or have I listened to half-truths and out-right lies without discerning what is True in God’s Word?

I believe God is challenging me to settle in here on this island where I live. Then, get busy living the Christian life and talking about my Savior. I believe God is challenging my prayer life, to pray more for His Church, His children in the world. He has promised me that one day He’ll take me home. But unless it’s today, I’ve got to get busy.

 

June 12; There Is Still Some Good

I Kings 14:1-18,22-28; 2 Chronicles 11:5-12,18-23, 12:1-12; Psalm 89

When Solomon’s son Rehoboam and the leaders of Judah repented after having sinned as a nation, God did not destroy them like He said He would. When they humbled themselves, God delivered them. Their sin resulted in some consequences they had to live with, but God spared them.

Here is the verse that jumped out at me this morning. It’s found in 2 Chronicles 12:12, and it says:

“… Indeed, there was some good in Judah.”

I think this verse stood out to me because I think there is still some good in the USA, too. There are churches standing true to God’s Word, people being led to their Savior, Jesus Christ. There are state legislators who are taking a bold stand for life, and national leaders who are vocal about their faith in God. There are local fellowships reaching out to the lost, the needy, and the unloved in Jesus’ name.

Yes, I know that evil is rampant, that Satan’s lies are being proclaimed in the media, in our government and universities, and even from some pulpits. Yes, I know there are people killing people every day, and those who stand for the Truth of Scripture are being harassed. Our country is in serious trouble.

But Satan’s troops have nothing on the army of God. Evil can’t win when God is in it. When God’s people (that’s us Christians. What follows isn’t expected of non-believers) humble themselves, when we Christians repent of sin in our own lives, when those of us who say we follow Jesus REALLY follow Him, God will deliver us. He’s done it countless times before as recorded in the pages of His Word, and in the pages of history. He can do it again.

In fact, I believe He wants to do it again.

So come on, Church, my brothers and sisters in Christ. Let’s do it! Let’s get on our knees and humble ourselves, one soul at a time. Then let’s see what God can do with the good that is still here in the USA.

May 25; But Then Monday Comes

I Kings 8:62-9:28; Psalm 132; 2 Chronicles 7:4-8:18, 9:21

Solomon’s Temple was completed, and busy with activity. But Solomon didn’t just sit back and enjoy the fruit of his labor. He built a house for his wife, built and rebuilt cities, conquered other cities, built ships and financed mining expeditions, and he observed all the feasts and Sabbaths of the Lord.

Have you ever been involved in a project that required long hours and hard work, decision making, and overseeing workers? The job is complete, you step back with a sense of accomplishment and euphoria. You drink in the accolades, and have a wonderful sense of well deserved satisfaction.

But then Monday comes.

Have you ever been on a retreat or at a conference where your heart soared in worship, you were encouraged, uplifted, and challenged? You leave there excited to be a child of God, and excited about what He is doing in your life.

But then Monday comes.

Life is full of ups and downs. Some people are driven to live in a state of euphoria, some others experience  the down times and can’t seem to pull themselves up. Because when Monday comes, when things settle down and the day-to-day happens, you are the only one changed. The demands of the day are the same as always. The attitudes of people around you are the same as they were. And you have some choices to make.

The same is true in our walk with the Lord. Sometimes God brings us through valleys, and sits us up on that mountaintop. He is so real to us we feel like we could reach out and touch Him. We look around with His eyes of love, and see this wonderful world He created. But it’s unrealistic to think we can stay there. Because Satan is gearing up for round two.

Sometimes our walk with the Lord feels distant. We don’t feel blessed, or even heard. We try, and try, but nothing changes. I think that is a tragic place to live.

God seems to be encouraging me, through Solomon’s example, to keep going. There is always something to be doing for God’s Kingdom, always people to minister to, phone calls and visits to make, people who need to hear what Jesus did for them. Sometimes you have to get off the mountain to meet people where they are. And sometimes you have to let God drag you out of the pit, and into the lives of others.

Solomon enjoyed the celebration of the Temple’s completion. But when Monday came, he started another project, then another. I am reminded that the work of the Church, the effort to make disciples, to minister to hurting people will never be done until God calls us home or Jesus returns. We’ll have our ups and downs, our victories and defeats. But when Monday comes around, where will we be?

Besides, no matter if we are basking in the satisfaction of a job well done, or struggling to keep our heads up, we have reason to lay it all aside and praise God. Solomon did.

My prayer is that we all will be exactly where God leads us, busy working, continually praising Him, for His sake and His glory. And one day, when we look into those eyes, we’ll hear our Savior say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” And we’ll have lived our last Monday.

 

May 22; Spectacular

I Kings 5:13-18, 6:1-38, 7:1-12, 9:15-16, 20-23; 2 Chronicles 2:2, 17-18, 3:1-17, 8:7-10; Psalm 127

Whenever I read the description of Solomon’s Temple I am amazed at what must have been a beautiful structure. All the gold details, the intricate carvings. I can imagine the look of the chiseled stonework, and the scent of freshly cut cedar. It took seven years of hard work, but the result must have been spectacular.

Paul, in I Corinthians 3, reminds us that we are God’s temple. You and I, as believers in Jesus are together building His Church. The foundation is Jesus Christ. Each of us are building on that precious foundation using a variety of materials: gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. (vs 12)

I’m pretty sure none of the walls in Solomon’s Temple consisted of stacked hay bales. It probably never crossed Solomon’s mind to use anything less than the best building materials for that Temple. Why would anyone choose inferior building materials for God’s Church today?

I think that if I’m trying to build God’s Church with good works: church attendance, honesty, charity, mowing my neighbor’s lawn, I’m using inferior building materials. Good works aren’t good enough. It would be like trying to build a wall using filthy rags. Really?

If I preach a gospel other than Jesus Christ, I’m building a house of straw even if I have thousands of followers.

I want my life to be built on the sure foundation of Jesus, built up by the gold of His Word, decorated with the jewels of submission and obedience. And I want to contribute to the building of His Church with the souls of people who come to Him because I invested myself in their lives for Jesus’ sake.

Solomon’s Temple must have been spectacular. It’s what he thought God deserved. I think God still deserves spectacular.

May 16; How Far Will It Go?

I Chronicles 6:31-53, 25:1-26:32

I love that the names of the men assigned tasks in the ministry of the temple (not even built yet) are listed here. Most of these men are unknown, regular guys – except for this one thing. Most of these men aren’t listed with kings, or warriors, or prophets. Yet their names are being read today, thousands of years after they’ve gone.

Why?

They served God.

I also love the fact that so many fathers and sons worked side by side in their ministries. I would think nothing could be sweeter for Christian parents than to have their children serving God alongside them. What a blessing that must be!

There is something else that I noticed here in these lists: Accountability.

All these men were assigned duties, and with that we read about the supervision of their fathers, or the commanders, or those who were “in charge.” All the men were given jobs, but none of them did their “own thing.” Even those with authority still answered to the king.

This is a great picture of the inner workings of the Church, isn’t it? Ordinary people working shoulder-to-shoulder in various ministries, some with the responsibility to oversee, to ensure the works gets done to the glory of God, and ultimately, all are accountable to the King of Kings.

You and I might be just regular people, working behind the scenes in ministry of some kind. We might never be lauded or applauded in this lifetime. The men whose names we read today probably weren’t, either. But here we are so many years later, talking about them. I guess we’ll never know how far-reaching our obedience in ministry will go, either.

May 15; Building The Church

I Chronicles 23-24, 6:16-30

I’ve shared that my church is in the middle of a building project. We are excited about moving forward, to laying a foundation now that the land is cleared, to see walls go up, and to eventually move to the north end of the island. The drawings of our future home are beautiful. Not ornate. But you’ll definitely be able to identify it as a church, unlike the remodeled garage we worship in today. It’s so exciting.

David was excited about his building project, too. We saw yesterday how he did the prep-work, buying materials and hiring skilled workers. David even went one step further, an unimaginable step, when he made Solomon king in his place. A king just didn’t do that. Death was the only thing that removed a king from a throne, or maybe an enemy victory. Never a willing abdication in favor of a son.

I imagine David was hoping he’d live long enough to at least see the temple built, even if God had told him Solomon was going to be the builder.

But, and here’s what spoke to me today, David wasn’t only concerned about the physical building of the temple. Oh, he wanted it done right, with the best materials. He wanted it to be the most beautiful building in the world. But David was not satisfied with a  beautiful structure. What use would it be if there wasn’t ministry happening there?

So, even before the foundation of the building was laid, he assigned people to be gatekeepers, musicians, officials, judges, bakers, dish washers, as well as priests. David doesn’t seem to be satisfied with the outward appearance, and not with what was to happen inside.

It’s nice to worship in a beautiful building with state-of-the-art technology, comfortable chairs and air-conditioning. But if there isn’t ministry happening in there, what good is it? The size or appearance of our churches are meaningless if God isn’t finding willing workers inside.

There are vital, beautiful churches that meet huddled together in someone’s living room, or in buildings with holes in the roof, and dirt floors. There are amazing churches meeting in store fronts, in tents, or barns where people are gathering together to worship, and grow, and then getting out there and making disciples.

Sometimes I think we put too much emphasis on the physical, how our churches look, from the size of a steeple to the look of a stage, from how the landscaping looks to how the worship service looks, we neglect the ministry opportunities and responsibilities.

Let’s take care of our buildings, make sure the bills are paid and the lawn is mowed and the toilets flush. But let’s also remember why we have those buildings in the first place. Are we using them during the week for ministry, or only on Sunday for a couple hours? Are we who meet on Sundays sharing the Gospel when we leave those four walls, or are we only there for an experience?

You know the Church is not a building. It’s important to take care of our meeting places, but the Church is you. It’s me. Building God’s Church doesn’t involve hammers and nails, but men and women who are out there serving, ministering, people who are involved in the lives of other people, and leading them to their Savior.

I pray that we will have the same singular focus on growing the Church as David had in seeing that temple built. Let’s build the Church one redeemed soul at a time.