Category Archives: Growing

Neat & Tidy

Many people who know me would have no hesitation to call me OCD.   I don’t think I’m that bad, everyone else is just unorganized.  I’m definitely not as bad as I was when I was younger.

Walking down the sidewalk as a child, was a bit of a challenge for me.  If I stepped on a crack of any kind, I could feel it in my foot.  I realize that I  couldn’t physically feel it, but I felt it nonetheless.  When that would happen, I would have to do so with my other foot.  If the left foot stepped on a crack, I would step on a crack with my right foot.  If I bumped my right hand, I would stop and bump my left hand in the same place, on the same spot.  Shoelaces had to be evenly tied.  If a store had different colored tiles on the floor, same method applied as if I stepped on a crack.  I no longer have to make things even, but every once in a while, I can still feel it when I step on a crack.

Even now though, I like things a certain way.  I like things to be orderly.  Organization is very important to me.  Symmetry is my friend.  Things should be color coded.  Everything should has a place, and everything should be in it’s place.  Ok, so maybe I embrace my OCDs.

Truth be told, the LORD is a God of order.  How can he not be?  Look how perfectly our bodies are supposed to work in harmony with each part.  Any further away from the sun and we’d freeze, any closer and we’d roast to death.  The earth is perfectly tilted and rotates at just the right speed so we’re not thrown off.  Everything produces after its own kind.  God is OCD if you ask me.

I heard a preacher talk about an experience he had where he went to heaven.  One thing he mentioned that he noticed was that there was no dust.  Seriously?  I find that quite amusing.  Of all the things that could be in Heaven, he noticed something there wasn’t.  I always knew dust was evil.

I guess if you think about it, that makes sense.  Why would there be dust?  Dust causes problems and if we believe Heaven is perfect in every way, then there won’t be anything that causes problems.  Thinking about that, do you know what else I believe isn’t in Heaven?  Wrinkles.  Not the kind that our skin develops…I’m talking about wrinkles in clothes!  I cannot stand it when I don’t take my shirts out of the dryer fast enough and they all end up wrinkly.  I will put them back in the washer for a rinse cycle and re-dry them.  In fact, I don’t think we’ll even need to wash clothes in Heaven!  By the way, any piece of clothing that says “wrinkle free” is a lie of the devil.

Seriously though, things are probably very neat and tidy in Heaven.  No dust, dirt, pollen…no scattered piles of stuff lying around on tables.  Everything has a place and everything in its place.  I’m sure Heaven runs like a well oiled machine.

Let me ask you a question, how neat and tidy is your church?  I’m not talking about dust and dirt.  Does everyone appear to “have it all together”?  When you meet and greet each other, do you ever get anything more than just standard answers?  I’m not saying that we should all spill our guts and spend 10 minutes vomiting the negative things in our lives all over the first person that asks how we are, but overall, does it seem like no one has any problems or things they are struggling with?

Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.  Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:  And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.  Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. – James 5:13-16

These are all very outward expressions of what’s happening inward.  James didn’t say to put your best face on and pretend everything is just hunky dory.  Going through hardships?  Pray.  Are you enjoying life?  Sing about it.  Feeling ill?  Call the elders.  Sinning?  Tell someone.  That’s not typical church life anymore.

I’m not talking about exalting your problems and wallowing in self pity, but a big reason people think they can’t go to church is because they don’t have it all together.  Guess what: neither does anyone else.  I was in a service once where the guest speaker actually made a comment about the church being so “neat”.  They didn’t mean it as a complement.  They saw through all the fancy clothes and smiling faces.  I would bet the Holy Spirit began to show them what each person was going through and how they were hiding it.  Again, I’m not saying we need to go blasting every personal issue we’re dealing with, but people need to know they can be authentic.

Some of the most effective messages I’ve preached was when I was the most transparent.  I think that most congregations think that their lead minister is some super saint.  Trust me, they’re not.  Do they have a special gift to preach the Word of God?  Yes.  Do they have a special gift to live the Word of God?  No.  If you continue reading past the 16th verse in James 5, here’s what he points out:

Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.  And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.

James is telling us that Elijah was no different than we are.  Elijah struggled with the same feelings as we do.  Have you ever read the story of him on Mt. Carmel?  God performs this miraculous sign in the eyes of 450 prophets of Baal and Elijah slaughters them all.  Then, shortly thereafter, Jezebel threatens to kill him.  What does he do?  Rain down fire from heaven to smite her?  No, he runs like a yellow bellied coward and hides out.  Then he whines to God about being the only prophet left.  Really?  Did you forget that quick what God did for you?  What a cry baby!  Yet that’s exactly why James says what he did.  Elijah was subject to fear (and the whole hose of other emotions) just like we are.  Despite that, God answered his prayers time and time again.

Why are we so worried about what others in our congregation think about us?  Why are we so quick to want to hide our past mistakes or current struggles?  Are we afraid that people will think less of us?  Who cares if they do!  Your victory over your past may just be what someone needs to hear.  Your current sin may be someone else’s past victory.  How easily we have neglected the fact that we are ONE body of Christ and when one part of the body is not working right, it affects other parts.  If we never take care of the parts that are hurting, healing can never take place.

If you break an arm, but just let it swing around all over, it will never heal.  Instinct tells you to hold the broken arm with your good arm to support it until it heals.  However, if you don’t know its broke, there’s nothing you can do about it, and it will get worse and take much longer to heal.  That may not be the case with our physical bodies, since we know when something is in pain, but if the other member of the Body of Christ don’t open up and do as James instructed, then they end up feeling isolated and ashamed.

I heard a preacher once say that if you’ll admit to someone what you’re going through, then the enemy has nothing to blackmail you with.  I absolutely love that.  Condemnation can only rule over you if you let it.  James knew that.  Paul knew that.  There is no healing that will ever take place if you never talk about the pain.  Besides, it just plain selfish to keep those things to yourself.  Not only are you crippling the Body, you are robbing someone of the joy they can experience by having the opportunity to help you.

Think about this for a minute: Did you know we have an advantage over Elijah?  We actually have an advantage over every Old Testament “faith figure”.  Why?  They only had the Spirit UPON them.  We have the Holy Spirit IN us.  We don’t need these outside manifestations to know God and to hear His voice.  He dwells within us.  Our bodies are now the Temple of the Holy Spirit.

I like what John said in 1 John 3 that we can have confidence that God will give us what we ask for.  One of the easiest things to pray is simply, “God, help me!”.  Jesus told us that the Father knows of our need before we ask.  We still need to ask, but He is ready to answer when we do.

There’s a story that fits this topic perfectly.  It’s told with some variation, but it’s something like this:  Floodwaters are rising in a town and a man is on his front porch watching the scene.  A car pulls up and offers him a ride out of town.  The man refuses and says, “God will help me.”  The water rise and he has to escape to the second floor.  He’s looking out a window when a boat comes by to get him out.  He refuses again stating the same reason.  The water rise some more, and now he’s on his roof.  A helicopter drops a rope but he refuses once again, stating God will help him.  Soon the waters rise enough that he is treading water, but he eventually wears out and drowns.  When he gets to Heaven, he accuses God of letting him die.  God responds by telling him, “I sent you a car, a boat, and a helicopter.  What more did you want me to do?”

Even though this is true regarding so many of the tragedies that are occurring everyday, it rings so much louder when we are walking through the foyer on Sunday mornings shaking the hand of our car, boat, or helicopter that God has sent to get us out of the flood waters that are rising in our lives.

In the end, we do need to use some common sense and wisdom in sharing with others.  There are some things that shouldn’t be shared publicly and some things that shouldn’t be shared with certain people.  There is a time and place to be transparent.  Not to say that it isn’t Sunday mornings during the generic “meet & greet”.  However, that obviously that isn’t the time to blurt out that you’ve had an affair or something like that.

Let me close with this: Paul told the Galatians in chapter 6, verse 1-2, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.  Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.

Not only do we have on obligation to allow others to help us, we also have an obligation to reach out if we know someone is struggling.  I know that can be awkward, but if we really love our brothers and sisters in Christ – like Jesus instructed us to – we won’t be afraid to get our hands dirty.

The body of Christ would be much more effective and powerful if we’d only be willing to admit what everyone else already knows: you don’t have it all together…we don’t have it all together…I don’t have it all together.

And that’s ok.

 

 

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Playing Church

playgroundI will admit I don’t have a very diverse church background.  I’ve only regularly attended five different churches in my short lifetime thus far.  One was a Lutheran church when I was a very young child, one was just a simple Evangelical church when I was an adolescent, two have been “non-denominational, and the one I attend now is borderline “non”, but more closely aligns with the SBC (Southern Baptist Convention).  It’s by far the smallest one I’ve ever been to.

The largest one I’ve attended was living in Branson.  It’s where I grew the most spiritually and I definitely learned a lot of practical life lessons while I was there.  When I moved back to my home town, I went back to the church I had been attending before I moved.  One day I was having lunch with one of the leaders there and he asked me about attending church there in Branson.  I don’t remember much at all about that conversation, but I do remember specifically telling him, “They don’t play church.”

I might as well say this now, I am not against the local Church.  I think it’s a scriptural thing that we meet together locally, with other believers.  We need to fellowship, and hear the word preached.  These are good things.  Playing church is not.

So what do I mean when I say “playing church”?  You should have a pretty good idea what it means.  Children like to play dress up.  Children like to play make believe.  Children like to play hide and go seek.  A lot of Christians like to play church.  Make sense now?

I know that sounds like a harsh rebuke, but it’s the truth nonetheless.  However, I’m not referring to the group of people you think.  Many people go to church simply because it’s “what you do on Sunday” or on major holidays.  Many go to simply soothe their conscience because of how they lived the previous week.  I can get past that type of hypocrisy.  The ones I’m talking about are the real holy rollers.  They, more often than not, play church.  Church for them is generally a social gathering under the disguise of religion.

You see, these people claim to know the word.  They don’t tell you that you have to be there every service, but it’s implied.  They shift their duty of service to missionaries overseas so they don’t have to get their hands dirty locally.  They all walk and talk like each other.  Their “small groups” only contain members of their own church.  It’s all about attendance and retention.  They are more internally minded.  Everything just seems picture perfect.  They are so preoccupied with “doing church” that they neglect BEING the church.

Be honest with yourself as a leader or a general “member” of a local church.  Do the people around your table all walk and talk like you?  Are you all somehow connected relationally or geographically?  Does your leadership table generally answer questions how you want to hear them?  How challenged are you by those closest to you?  Are you easily offended or defensive of someone who shares different views than you?  How often do you share your platform with someone of a different background/church affiliation?  Are the decisions you make conceding change in your church affected at all by trying to make the most people happy?

Those questions should reveal some indication if you’re playing church.  The things I want to touch on from here on out are obviously found in scripture, but are hardly ever discussed or (I doubt very much) put into practice.  Now, I realize that some of those things that the various writers said to the Churches of their time were specific to that particular group of people at that time.  However, there are many things that are applicable to the way we should be doing church today.  I’m going to go through a few things and you tell me if you’ve ever seen these things happen in a Church today.

  • 1 Timothy 5:20 – Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.

When was the last time the leader of your church stood behind the pulpit, pointed the finger at someone, and called out their sin before the entire congregation.  Yet ins’t that a pretty clear instruction of what Paul is suggesting to Timothy?  Does this passage mention that should happen in a church?  Not specially, but it doesn’t have to.  Paul had trained up Timothy to be a leader, one who Paul even instructs on how to handle an Elder in need of rebuke.  I believe that it’s applicable to how the Church should operate.  Now, I’m not saying that every week, the leader of the Church should spend an hour rebuking every person in the congregation for every little thing.  There is a balance here.  I believe that there would be occasions for it.  Sometimes people need to be called out on their sin publicly.  It’s too easy to sit behind closed doors in a “counseling” session and act like you’re sorrowful and repentant.  You can pull the wool over one person’s eyes, but it’s little more difficult to do so in front of a room full of your peers.  Some people are only sorry if they get caught.

  • Matthew 18:15-17 – Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

Ok, this is pretty heavy too.  Here, Jesus is talking about something that happened between two believers.  I don’t think anyone would do any of this.  What I want to focus on is “tell it to the church”.  It does NOT say “tell it to the pastor behind closed doors”.  Sorry folks, when Jesus says the church, he means in front of all.  That is similar to what Paul told Timothy.  What’s even more powerful, Jesus tells you how that person should be treated if he doesn’t listen!  Tell me the last time a “church” did that.  Hmmm…I’m wiling to bet never.  You realize this statement is coming off the heels of when Jesus told us what to do if our hand or eye offend us.  Cut it off.  Not literally, but we are to deal with sin swiftly and severely.  Which is exactly how He told us how to deal with a stubborn offender.

  • 1 Corinthians 5:1;5;11 – It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wifeTo deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.

I know I’ve chopped together some scripture, but go read the entire chapter for yourself and you will see I’m not taking things out of context.  First, Paul says to basically excommunicate the person who was committing fornication with his stepmother (disturbing, I know).  There are things that Paul has no tolerance for.  We should be the same, despite the fact the world wants us to tolerate everything.  What’s more shocking to me is that in verse 11, Paul tells us not to associate those whom are called BROTHERS that are indulging in sin.  If someone is a “brother”, that means they are in Christ.  That’s right.  Those who have believed that Jesus was raised from the dead and have confessed him as Lord.  We are to cut them off from fellowship.  We don’t.  We coddle them.  We hold their hand.  We rub their back and say everything is going to be ok.  Can’t find that in the Bible.  Now this example that Paul gave was very specific to the Church at Corinth, but it’s still a clear guideline of how to deal with certain behavior.

Before you start throwing other scriptures at me in an attempt to discredit or prove me wrong, I’ll go ahead and give you one: 1 Peter 4:8 – And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.  That’s all great and everything until you look up the word “cover” and it’s the same in Matthew 10:26.  Go ahead and see for yourself.

Honestly, it doesn’t matter what scripture you try to use, it doesn’t change the truth of the ones I’ve presented.  Unless you’re comparing New Testament scriptures to Old Testament ones, scriptures don’t necessarily cancel or negate each other.  Besides, these are instructions to the Church as a whole, so these scriptures need to be taken literally.  Am I saying that they need to be carried out every single time Christians meet for fellowship and breaking of bread?  No, but they can’t be ignored either.  I’m not ruling out compassion, sympathy, or charity.  I totally believe there is a balance to  the scriptures.

I realize that this may come off as harsh, but it’s been far too long since the Church has acted like the Church.  Smith Wigglesworth comes to mind quite often when I consider how the Bride of Christ has waned.  I say this because too many local gatherings have become like rock concerts and social gatherings that are hardly distinguishable from their pagan counterparts.  Should we have fun in Church?  At times, yes.  Should we go all out in praising God during Church?  Sure thing.  Yet what has happened is that now if we dare present a challenging message or something that reveals our sin, people walk away.  Too many people want something to make them feel good no matter what and don’t you dare peek into my private life.  Smith knew the value of tough love, but tough love is only love if it’s spoken in sincere truth.

It’s sad for me to think that if we did any of the things that the Bible instructs, people would walk out by the droves, even if you showed them multiple scriptures to back it up.  Why?  People don’t want the Bible to get in the way of how they act or what they believe.  People want to play church.

One of my top 5 favorite scriptures is found in Galatians 4:16:

Am I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?

I do not think you understand the power that is contained in that question.  In Galatians 3:1, Paul basically called the church in Galatia stupid for how they were thinking and behaving.  Our current dictionary defines foolish as someone lacking good sense or judgement.  First can you imagine how a local church would act if the leader got up and accused the congregation of being foolish?  Telling them they are being stupid?  We can’t because no one would dare do it.  Do you know what that equates to?  The leader don’t love them enough.  That’s right, if you don’t tell someone the truth, you don’t love them enough.  Paul loved the church at Galatia enough to risk losing them.  That’s what’s so powerful about that scripture above.  Love will risk all.

Paul risked everything he was to the Galatians because he loved them.  He risked them alienating him, hating him, because he told them the truth.  You realize the model Paul was using…the same one as Jesus.  Jesus risked all not only for us, but for the Jews when He was on the earth.  He told people the truth no matter what it cost Him.  He lost some of his own followers because of the truth He presented.

What are we willing to risk for the truth?  How strong is our love for others?  Do we love others enough to tell them the truth or do we “love them too much” to tell them the truth?  If your answer is the latter, then you really don’t love them at all.

In these dark times, however no darker than before, we must ask ourselves some questions:  What are we willing to risk to really be the church?  To actually act like the church?  The answer to those questions will either continue to withhold or release the power of God to bring Kingdom changes to this earth and usher in the second coming of our Lord Jesus.

Family can sometimes be the most difficult people to deal with.  As the body of Christ, and members in particular, whether Baptists, Pentecostals, Charismatics, Catholics, etc., if Jesus is our Lord, then we are all connected – we are all brothers and sisters in Christ.  We are all part of the same family.  We are all to love one another as Jesus loved us.  He loved people enough to tell them the truth regardless of what it cost Him.  Paul did the same.  Isn’t it time we followed suit?

Bride, it’s time to get off the merry-go-round, hop off the swing, and make it your last trip down the slide.  Tear down the fences.  Grab the dozer and the backhoe.  Dig like you’ve never dug.  Lay the foundation and begin to build the Church the way it was intended.


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