Tag Archives: the church

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.

 

May 7; First Things First

2 Samuel 5:13-16, 13:1-5:6; I Chronicles 145:3-7, 3:4-9

Amnon committed a sexual sin with his sister Tamar. What he did to her was vile and inexcusable. There should have been severe consequences for his behavior. But we don’t read that David, his father (and Tamar’s), said or did anything to Amnon.

Did David remember his own sexual sin he had committed with Bathsheba? Did the fact that the king had taken many women into his own bed prevent him from taking a stand against the sin Amnon committed?

Years ago I had a friend whose 18 year old daughter moved in with her boyfriend. My friend was not happy about it, but she threw up her hands and said to me, “How can I say anything? I did the same thing when I was 18.”

I wonder if she was giving her daughter permission to commit EVERY sin she herself ever committed, or just that one? I’ve come to believe that having committed sins in our past, then repenting and experiencing God’s forgiveness for those sins, gives us every right to speak up. I’d go so far as to say it gives us the responsibility to speak up. David took the easy, the comfortable way out and kept silent.

It angers me that Amnon was allowed to go on with life as though nothing had happened. Yet Tamar, the victim, ended up living in her brother Absalom’s house, “a desolate woman.” For whatever reason, Amnon’s sin was never addressed by David, and Amnon never repented.

Well it angered Absalom, too. Because two years later, Absalom had his brother Amnon killed. Yet another example of someone committing a sin to pay back a sin. When will we learn? What we see is another sin that is never addressed.

Absalom takes off and hides in Geshur. Good riddance, right? I mean the guy murdered his brother. Nope. Scripture tells us David “mourned for his son every day.” But even mourning his son’s absence didn’t prompt David to confront the sin. I believe that’s why, when the woman from Tekoa came to David, she could easily convince David to take Absalom back.

I mean, she invoked the name of God, so what she said must be true, right? “Send for poor Absolom, Bring him home. Accept him. You’re like an angel of God, David. You’ll do the right thing,”

So David, without asking God what he should do, invites Absalom home. Sounds like the Christian thing to do. I mean, who are we to judge?

What is glaringly missing from this account is any repentance on the part of Amnon or Absalom. Amnon died without asking for forgiveness. And Absalom doesn’t admit guilt, doesn’t ask for forgiveness for the murder of his brother.

Yet we read that eventually, David welcomes Absolom with open arms and kisses anyway. We will read more of this story, and see how embracing an unrepentant sinner will effect David and his entire kingdom.

Folks, welcoming sinners into the Church body is as destructive as David welcoming Absalom into his home. I believe Scripture is clear that repentance HAS to come first. The church that embraces sinners (who in reality are God’s enemies), the church that accepts sin, and refuses to keep the fellowship holy, is doomed for destruction. I know this is contrary to what most of us believe because it sounds so harsh, so unloving. But in reality, it’s the only loving thing to do.

I believe with all my heart that churches aren’t dying because of the hymns they sing on Sunday morning, or the lack of fancy technology, or a foyer with no coffee shop. Churches are dying because of sin in our midst. God will not bless sin. God cannot be present where sin is allowed to exist. Making our churches a comfortable place for sinners to come is counterproductive. That has never been what church was intended to be.

I think the account we see here of David’s life is an example of what happens when sin is allowed to exist without being addressed. I see Scripture telling us we need to keep the Church holy, undefiled, an exclusive organization for believers only. But I also believe Scripture is clear that we who are members of God’s Church need to be out there loving on people who haven’t dealt with their sin, spreading the Gospel, leading people to the Savior, making disciples, THEN inviting them to church.

First things first. And repentance has to be the first thing.

 

 

April 30; The Rescue

Psalms 19, 24, 65, 68, 110; 2 Samuel 8:1, 21:15-18; I Chronicles 18:1, 20:4

It occurred to me, after reading these passages this morning, that as members of God’s Church, we have an opportunity to help each other. We read psalms like the ones included in today’s Scripture and hear about our mighty, powerful, enemy-crushing God. And sometimes I think we might take it too personally.

Like: “I have this problem. I need to tap into God’s power and overcome this sin, or this situation. If victory doesn’t happen, there must be something wrong with me.” We have the mistaken idea God expects us to go it alone, or that means we don’t have faith. We end up feeling guilty and defeated because we still struggle, even though we are calling out to God to help us.

Now, maybe it is you. Maybe you really aren’t being obedient, or repenting of sin. But it also could be God wants to use one of us to come along side you and be His power for you.

A Philistine named Ishbi-Benob said he was going to kill David. “But Abishai son of Zeruiah came to David’s rescue; he struck the Philistine down and killed him…” (2 Samuel 21:17a)

I’m not saying David wouldn’t have successfully beaten Ishbi-Benob himself. But I love it that he didn’t have to. Abishai rescued him before the Philistine even got to David.

I hope you are close enough to your church fellowship that you recognize when someone is struggling, even when they wear that cheery smile every Sunday. I hope you faithfully pray for them. But I also hope you ask God if He wants you to stand along side this person, to prevent this person from having to handle the problem on their own, to rescue this person.

What a privilege it is to be God’s arms that wrap around a hurting brother or sister, to be his voice that speaks words of comfort, to be his legs to go into action on another’s behalf.

Even Christians hurt. Even Christians struggle sometimes. Let’s ask God to show us how we can come to the rescue.

 

February 28; Get Out

Numbers 5-6

Let’s face it. Sometimes Scripture is hard to swallow. Sometimes what we read doesn’t make us feel good about ourselves, and often what Scripture tells us to do seems impossible. Political correctness? Forget about it.

When I read this portion of Scripture telling the Jews to toss all the diseased people out of the camp, I get it. In order to keep the rest of them healthy, the infected ones had to be removed. It was black and white. Are you diseased? Get out.

I imagine there were tears as loved ones were separated. I imagine someone felt it wasn’t fair. But it had to be done to keep the rest of them undefiled.

That makes sense, until I remember that Scripture often likens disease to sin. Putting the spiritual spin on these verses isn’t as black and white, although I guess it should be.

I believe the modern day Church has gotten so far from what God intended. I see us becoming more concerned about people’s feelings instead of their souls. I wonder if we think that if we provide an inviting setting, an exciting experience, a laid back atmosphere, sinners will come into our midst. Do we think that’s a good thing?

Isn’t that the opposite of what we see here in Scripture? “Oh, you have leprosy? Come right in and make yourself comfortable. My healthy skin will just rub off on you.”

It burdens my heart to know the church has in some cases, not only turned a blind eye to sin, it’s welcomed sin into our midst. And don’t use the argument that we live under grace after the cross. Grace is not acceptance of sin. Grace is not even love. Grace is God dealing harshly with sin, forgiving sin through the blood of Jesus which He shed in a very, very painful way.

The New Testament writers continue to tell believers to come out from among the world, to flee sin, to brush the dust off our feet. Yes, God loves sinners. Yes, Jesus ate with sinners. But Jesus went to them. He didn’t bring them into the synagog first to tell them the Gospel.

Matthew Henry reminded me that when Jesus returns He will “gather out of his kingdom all things that offend.” In the new Jerusalem, nothing unclean will enter. (from Rev 11) (Commentary In One Volume; Zondervan Publishing; 1960; page 146) Will there be people who sit in our pews today who will be “gathered out,” fully expecting to be accepted just like they are in those pews?

The assembling of ourselves as a church body is intended to edify believers, strengthen believers, encourage and challenge believers to go into the world to share the Gospel. And, dear one, we must keep it pure, undefiled. It’s not a social club. The Church is an exclusive organization. Only believers in Jesus Christ can be included. You might not think that’s fair. And that might be the problem.

Sin should not be tolerated in the church. Period. But I thank God that, even those diseased Jews who were thrown out of the camp, were welcomed back once they were disease-free. But the healing came before the welcome.

I just think maybe we shouldn’t be so concerned about growing our churches. The number of people attending your church is meaningless. However, the number of new believers who come as a result of someone from your fellowship leading them to the Savior is everything.

Keep the sin outside the camp.

 

 

February 13; Busy Hands. Joyful Hearts.

Exodus 33:7-36:7

I’m part of the sewing ministry at our church. And I don’t sew!

Our little group has made draw-string bags for several agencies, including homeless shelters, and the foster care system. We’ve made and filled diaper bags for the Pregnancy Support Center. We’ve made blankets for veterans going on Honor Flight, and wheelchair bags for nursing homes and the VA. We’ve even made dolls and wordless books for mission trips. And those are only the things I can think of off the top of my head.

I don’t sew. But I can string a bag with the best of them. (well, after learning how NOT to prick myself with the safety-pin)

Our group consists of between eight and twenty women who gather at the church once a month to work on the latest project. The sewers plug in their machines along the wall. Those who iron set their station up next to the kitchen. The rest of us sit around round tables with our scissors or string. And we keep busy for about two hours.

But if you walked in on us, you might think you’ve walked into a party. There is always laughter as we sit and talk to each other like schoolgirls.

Sometimes you might walk in and think you walked in on a church service, if someone is sharing a hurt. There’ve been tears shed at sewing, too.

That’s what I’m kind of picturing here as I read about the people creating the Tabernacle in the wilderness. Did the women put their spinning wheels in a circle and enjoy some laughter as they spun their yarn? Did the embroiders sit together and discuss parenting, or share a recipe or two while they worked? If they were anything like our sewing ministry, they most likely found joy in doing the work of the Lord together.

I think God gave us a pretty good picture of a healthy church here in Exodus: Individuals using their gifts collectively to do the work God had for them to do.

I hope you are busy doing what God asks of you. But may I suggest you not do it alone? Gather with other like-minded people and work together. The job certainly is the focus. But the fellowship is a bonus blessing.

Busy hands. Joyful hearts. It’s a pretty great combination.

I Corinthians 1-5; A Little Yeast

It occurred to me as I read this portion of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians that we Christians are concerned about the state of the world; we lament over the blatant sin, the disregard for Christianity, the increasing ungodliness accepted as normal. And we are right to do so

But Paul is talking about caring for the temple. I wonder if we’re as concerned about that as we are about the world. It’s easy to point fingers, to talk about “they.” It’s not as easy to point those fingers at ourselves.

Paul tells us we ourselves are God’s temple. (3:16) He asks us to consider our foundation, and our building materials. Are we building our faith on the standards of the age, the wisdom of the world? Or is our foundation Jesus Christ, our faith built on Scripture, God’s wisdom? Is our temple built by we who are servants, obedient, faithful?

Paul warns us not to go “beyond what is written.” Do we even know what is written? Building and protecting this temple called Connie involves reading and studying God’s Word apart from anything else. It means obeying God by keeping myself pure, by listening to His voice and sharing Him with others. Caring for this temple, where God lives on earth, involves effort, intentionality, humility.

Now, I believe if we Christians took better care of our temples, our own lives and relationships with God, then our world wouldn’t be in the state it’s in.

But God pointed out something else to me this morning. We Christians aren’t taking very good care of God’s Church, either. I guess that’s a direct result of not protecting ourselves from sin. But Paul addresses the problem of ignoring sin in the church. He even said the church in Corinth was proud of the fact that they embraced a man guilty of a sexual sin. “Shouldn’t you rather be grieved over this sin,” he asks?

I can’t help but think of whole denominations that embrace homosexuals in their congregations and their pulpits. Shouldn’t God’s people be grieved instead? But Paul doesn’t stop with the sexual sin this particular church-goer was guilty of. Paul includes, “greedy, an idolator or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler” in his list of people who should not be comfortable in our pews.

Paul goes so far as to say they shouldn’t be welcome in the church. I know that goes against what many of us believe these days. But I think we need to consider the truth of what God inspired Paul to write.

I remember years ago, after the contemporary movement was introduced as a result of surveys given to unchurched people about what they would like to see in churches that would encourage them to attend, Ravi Zacharias said something to this effect:

Church should be the last place a sinner feels comfortable.

And I believe that. A church that prides itself on tolerance, on open doors, on a come-as-you-are-and-stay-that-way approach, isn’t a church at all, no matter how involved they are in their communities. It’s a social club. I think I’ve shared about the “church” that advertises by saying, “Come worship with us. We won’t tell you what to believe.” Is that where we’re heading?

It is if we don’t start protecting our temple, caring for our churches. It has to start with each of us individually. But it also has to spill over into our churches. Do we allow sin into our midst, hoping that somehow it will turn into purity? Paul says beware, a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough. “Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast.” (5:7) I think that is true both for my heart, and in my church.

If I accept a little sin here and there in my life, it doesn’t stay little. It grows, and it invites its friends in. If we accept, or ignore, a sin in our church it won’t stay little there, either. One sin becomes two, then four, and we end up with an unusable batch of dough. Paul challenges us to become “bread without yeast,” a fellowship without sin.

I hope you’ll read these chapters in I Corinthians. There is so much here. Some of it is hard to hear, some of it will thrill your soul. Let God speak to your heart today, and may it change us. May it change the Church.