Category Archives: Love

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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After God’s Own Heart

ritmo-sinusal-imgI was reading through a few Psalms one day and after going over one of my favorites, Psalm 37,  I got to thinking about David (no surprise). The only time in the Bible that we have recorded as mentioning that someone was after God’s own heart, was referencing David. In 1 Samuel 13, Saul had disobeyed God’s instructions and as a result, the position of King was going to be taken from him. In verse 13-14, the prophet Samuel said to Saul, “Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the Lord thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the Lord have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever. But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the Lord hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the Lord commanded thee.” (Emphasis mine.)

Think about that for a minute.  The LORD considered David to be a man after his own heart.  What did he mean by that?  How are you one after someone else’s heart?  To me, I consider that to mean David would seek the things that are important to God; that David would find importance in the things that carried eternal value, not just what brought immediate gratification.  Even in terms speaking of one man to another, you would simply place value on the same things that another person does.  Paul said something similar to Timothy in Philippians 2:19-20 – “But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state.  For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state.”  You could say that Timothy was a man after Paul’s heart.  There was no one else that Paul would consider sending on something important.  He knew that Timothy would care for the church at Philippi just as he would as if Paul were there himself.  I think that the LORD saw David in the same light: that David would represent the Kingdom of Heaven well….but did he?

Granted David did many things that pleased God, however, there were a few things that did not go over so well with the LORD (in no particular order).

The most well known incident in David’s life is his affair with Bathsheba.  You can read about it in detail in 2 Samuel chapters 11-12.  To sum it up, a man named Uriah was a soldier in David’s army and while Uriah was out fighting a battle to which David should have been at, David had an affair with Uriah’s wife Bathsheba and she got pregnant.  When David found out, he commanded that Uriah be brought to him.  When Uriah came to David, he basically told Uriah to take a break and go home to his wife.  David did so hoping that Uriah would go have relations with Bathsheba and it would hopefully cover up his incident.  Well that didn’t work out because Uriah spent the night on the steps of the palace because he couldn’t dream of relaxing while his fellow soldiers were out fighting.  What a stand up guy!  When that didn’t work, David got him drunk and tried again.  No go on that angle either.  So David got a “bright idea” and told the captain to place Uriah at the most dangerous place in the battle and have the rest of the men fall back so that Uriah would be killed.  He told the captain by means of a letter that he handed to Uriah to give to the captain!  Uriah was carrying his own death warrant and never even knew it!  David believed Uriah to be such a stand up guy that he knew Uriah wouldn’t open the letter!  Well, needless to say Uriah was killed and David ended up marrying Bathsheba, but the baby died as a result of what David had done.  This from a guy who was after God’s own heart.

Another incident in David’s life was recorded in 1 Chronicles 21.  David ordered Joab to perform a census in Isreal.  Even Joab knew that was not right, but David insisted and God was not pleased.  As a result, 70,000 people were killed.

So here we have adultery, murder, lying, to top it off, genocide.  Yet David was a man after God’s own heart?  Didn’t God know that David would screw up like he did?  I believe so, but I still think God saw David as a man after His own heart.  Certainly adultery, murder, lying, and genocide are not things that God places value on.  Those are not things that pleases God.  However, reading past those mistakes David made, reveal why I believe David was a man after God’s heart.

In both instances, when David came to his senses, he owned up to what he had done and relied on the mercy of God.  So what’s the big deal about that?  David understood the value of judgement, mercy, and forgiveness.

David knew what he had done was wrong and knew that his actions would bring judgement upon him and upon Israel.  When the judgement came, David never accused God of being unjust in the punishment.  In other words, he took it like a man.  He didn’t whine about it or even attempt to negotiate with God.  In fact, when David saw Israelites being killed as a result of his census, David offered himself up to be slain in their stead.  He fully admitted that he was the one that deserved the punishment for what was done.

On the flip side of things, consider Saul.  It either eludes minds or for whatever reason, we skip over the fact that Saul was God’s first choice to rule as King forever.  I quoted it in the first paragraph, but here it is again: “And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the Lord thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the Lord have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever.” – 1 Samuel 13:13

Reading through the remainder of Saul’s life and his relationship with David, reminds me of Hebrews 12:15 (NLT) – “Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.

Saul was most definitely poisoned by bitterness.  He relentlessly and passionately pursued David at all costs.  How many lives were lost, how many resources were wasted, etc., all because Saul refused to own up to his mistake when confronted?

And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord. And Nathan said unto David, The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die. – 2 Samuel 12:13 KJV

I love this.  David’s response was so simple.  Obviously, he didn’t just own up to his grave error to get out of trouble.  I believe in that moment, his eyes were finally opened to the life he had been living.  He didn’t like what he had become.  He truly felt remorse for what he had done.  Was he forgiven?  Yes.  Did God show him mercy?  Yes.  Was there still punishment to be dealt?  Yes.  Unfortunately, that was how it worked under the first covenant.  Thanks be to God that we won’t suffer judgement due to our actions.  Will there still be consequences?  Possibly, but it won’t be God that’s punishing us.

In the end of it all, no matter what you do wrong or why you did it, it’s highly unlikely you’re too far gone to be forgiven.  In fact, the sacrifice that Jesus made on our behalf is so powerful, He has already forgiven you for it.  At the same time, the LORD always gives us a choice.  Just as Saul and David chose the end of their story, albeit two separate ways, you get to choose the end of yours.  Will bitterness and pride direct your path?  Or will you allow the Godly type sorrow to lead you to repentance?

There is much truth to the saying, “Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.”  David played a stupid game.  One that cost him a child.  The games we play, may very well end up costing us dearly.  Will every consequence be negated if we simply admit our wrong doing?  Probably not, but nevertheless, it’s the right thing to do before the sight of our merciful, gracious Heavenly Father.  Whether or not you do it, all depends on the condition of your heart, which God is well aware of…even better than you are.

I think one of the most important lesson of both incidents that were mentioned above, is the David was more than willing to accept punishment for his actions, no matter the cost.      Reminds me of someone else in scripture, except that He was more than willing to accept the punishment of not just someone else’s actions, everyone else’s.


Decreasing Ourselves

He must increase, but I must decrease.” – John 3:30

At the time that John the Baptist said that, people had begun following Jesus instead of him.  They had started going to someone else to be baptised and to learn from.  John didn’t get angry.  John didn’t get jealous.  John didn’t start a revolt against Jesus and begin a smear campaign.  His response (to those who came to tell him that people had begun following someone else) was clearly not the response we’d hear from someone in a similar situation in this day and age.

John had no problem with someone else taking the lead role from him, even it that meant he was no longer going to be the popular kid on the block. It meant that he was no longer going to be surrounded by crowds of people.  No longer was John going to get all the accolades.  And he was OK with that.

We sure aren’t…as a society that is.  It’s our way or the highway.  It’s a dog eat dog world.  You have to fight and claw your way to the top.  Be loud and proud.  Meekness is weakness.  On and on it goes with behavior and attitudes just like those and much of it from Christians.  Yet nothing could be farther removed from what the Bible teaches us.

The Bible says that before honor is humility; the meek will inherit the earth;  if we humble ourselves, then we’ll be exalted; if we want to be in charge, we should be the servant.  All that boils down to is putting others before ourselves.  It causes us to place selfishness aside.

I admit that it’s hard to do those things.  It would seem to go against human nature…and it does.  It goes against our fallen nature.  The one we received when Adam transgressed in the garden.  This old dead, disconnected spirit we inherited doesn’t like those things.  It doesn’t like putting others first.  It likes to live for self’; to do whatever makes you feel good.  Never, ever allow others to get ahead of you.  If you do, there might not be enough left for you.

That behavior may be the norm for the rest of the world, but it should have no place in the life of a Christian.  Once you believe on Jesus, you receive a new spirit.  One that contains the ability to enable you to put others before yourself.  For us, Christians, allowing Him to increase in our lives is putting the needs of others before our own.  Specifically the needs of other believers.

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.  By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. – John 13:34-35

Jesus said that all the world will know we are His disciples if we love each other.  Love always puts the other person before themselves.  Here’s a portion of 1 Corinthians 13:5 in the Amplified Bible:

Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking…

The one man who had a right to exalt himself never did.  The one man who deserved all the honor and praise of men, never sought it out.  The one man who had the knowledge, wisdom and right to lead others, dedicated his life to serving.  In fact, he sacrificed his life for others.  He gave everything he had to give in every way.  All for love.

Giving less than you have within power and means to give, isn’t love.  Unless it costs us something, it’s not a sacrifice.  Let’s finally let the world see Jesus in us.  Let’s put others first.


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