Come, Entertain Me

 

CPC Flower ArrangementThe word come, when read in the Bible about Christ’s enjoining His disciples to follow Him, became their first step in living the Christian life. It is a disciple of Jesus’ first step. Jesus said, “Come, follow me.” In Mark 1:17-18 “And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men. And they immediately left their nets and followed Him.” We do not walk with Christ without following His teachings and direction.
I anticipate worship in a Christian church to be of my Lord Jesus Christ, to ask for forgiveness of my sins, and to take in the whole Word of God. And as I leave the church doors, I fully expect the Holy Spirit to go with me and keep me strong in the faith and use what I heard and learned to navigate through the channels in life. I expect that when I am in fellowship with other believers, I will be comforted, heard, even advised and disciplined by those who know and live the Word of God. I expect that other Christians will use their experiences based upon God’s Word to uplift me and help to direct my life. I pray that I will do the same for them. I pray that I will always comfort others, listen to others, advise and help direct others based upon the leading of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.
In a conversation with an individual a year or so ago, after a Sunday service, a comment was made to me that went something like this:
- I know I am a very quiet and non-social person, and I have been coming here for years, but I look around and always feel there are clicks/groups and there is no sense of desire by those clicks/groups to be changed by adding another person to them.-
I wonder how church can sometimes feel like another social gathering or social club. Can we come to be entertained rather than to be taught? Do we turn away from following Christ when we don’t like something we hear from the Scriptures because it is contrary to what our culture teaches us? Doesn’t everyone ask, “Is God trying to speak to me here?” “Don’t I have something to learn if I am following Jesus?” “Could I be mistaken in my beliefs?”
When we are following Christ in church we should react like those who first heard Jesus, “And they were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” We should come to church to obey Jesus Christ, learn His truths, His ways and how to live His life. To follow Jesus is to get closer to Him, advance towards His will, and to draw near to His holiness and goodness. In doing so, we are changed and Christ changes the world through us. We come to church to worship God and to follow Him, not to be entertained or just because we have friends or family there.
I was reading an article (Entertained to Death? Is seeker-driven entertainment a viable option for Growing your Church? By Eric Barger) about how many;
“compromising leaders help propagate lukewarm “religious” followers with no sense of Godly Biblical standards who miss the awe, reverence and supernatural power of God”. “Perhaps due to shrinking attendance and growing expenses, some evangelicals have slowly adopted the notion of “giving the people what they want” as their church plan. Now seen as “old fashioned”, “outdated” and “negative” are the Biblical ideals of discipleship, doctrine, righteousness, victory over evil and the conquering of sin. At any rate, this is the underlying rational being forwarded by a number of today’s popular growth gurus. Those whose books and teaching have lead the Church away from Biblical thinking have probably done so without overtly malicious intent. Nevertheless, the popularizations of the so-called “positive gospels” have come from a non-historical basis, a mix of bad theology and a “change or die” church growth mentality.”
I have been listening and learning from my husband Earl, a God-fearing man for over 16 years. Earl & Bob BeanHe has been preaching for 29 years. Every time he steps behind the pulpit I expect to hear God speaking to me. And every time for 16 years, I hear this man being used as a vessel by God to bring His Word to me. When I come to church, I expect the music, Bible verses, confessions and offerings all to be about worshiping God, not entertaining me. I’ve delved into the Bible for years. I read it annually and continue to study it in depth. I am given great insight by God in those Words and revelations as He determines. I would be aghast if Earl were to ever “compromise” Scriptures just to satisfy some political base in the pews.
If we watch the clock or are like those participants that “didn’t get anything out of that one, preacher,” perhaps we need to seek God more than we do our lunch. Perhaps that twelve noon kickoff tailgate party with friends was going through our minds, and we missed what was meant for us. Perhaps what was preached was from God to us, but we just didn’t agree with it or like the way it was presented. Jesus never said, “Come and be entertained.” He didn’t say, “If you agree with Me, then you might want to try it.”  Psalm 95 is powerful, and I commend it for reading and devotional study – but in particular verses 6-8; “come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God. And we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. Today, if you would hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah.”
Come to the house of The Lord. Come and hear His voice. Come and hear the uncompromised Word of God. Come and bow down to Jesus. Come to Him and expect no entertainment in return. But do expect forgiveness, eternal life, and a new and abundant life in Christ.

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The Rain Came Down, Did His People Persevere?

It is 5 AM, and it is Palm Sunday.  The only thing I hear is rain – a torrential downpour.  This is the beginning of Holy Week.  Earl is already in the shower, and I have to swing my feet off the bed and get down to the kitchen to get his breakfast cooking.  It’s part of my ministry, and I’m happy to do it.  I persevere to make sure that the work that the Lord has given me gets done.  But it’s raining, and it feels like sleeping weather.  My feet still hit the floor, and I get started.

I have to study a little more.  I’m teaching the Sunday school lesson.  I worked on it yesterday, but I’m not feeling confident with what I’ve got.  Yet I must persevere, I can’t present what God does not intend.  Clean up the kitchen, sit down and study.  I look out my window to see lightning, and I hear the resulting thunder.

Shower, dress, but no, the dog will not go out in this rain.  Can she cross her paws for the next 5 hours?  I open the door, it’s raining so hard that there is a fog-like consistency in the air.  The dog backs away.  A thought  runs through my head, will God’s people persevere and come to chuch today?  It’s raining so hard.

I realize that I can’t go through the newly created pond at the bottom of my entry stairs in my shoes.  I quickly change into my Duck shoes, throw the high heels in a bag and grab the umbrella.  Will the umbrella actually open?  Oh please Lord, let the umbrella open.  It does.  Thank you Lord!

As I drive through the streets, the meer couple of miles to the church, God begins to speak to me in my mind.  I’ve learned to listen.  Today it is not His quiet voice, but a strong voice that tells me to tell His people to persevere.  Dear Lord, will your people come to hear?  So here is what He told me in my thoughts.

Spring Blooms

Spring Blooms

I give you the rain.  You receive the fresh aroma of Spring.  I nourish the ground for all My nature to grow.  My gifts to you include the beautiful gardens, flowers and trees – lawns so lush – vegetation so green.  My water helps to provide all that for you.  You have water to drink and shower and clean.  My gifts to you.  I give you My Word so the pastor can speak.  He’s been provided with a sermon to nourish My people – to offer their worship – lift up their voices.

God is good.  He gives many good gifts.  Let us not use those gifts as excuses not to come and worship.  I was pleased to see all those whose worship of God meant more to them than the possibility of enduring the rain and getting a little wet. His people do persevere.

Our pastor, our music department, our staff, our ushers, Sunday School teachers – as well as all those who prepare the coffee and refreshments – all worked really hard to be sure that the ministries that God entrusted to them were carried out.  They persevered through the rain.  And we were all blessed this rainy, stormy, Palm Sunday, 2013.

“Therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure.” 1 Thessalonisan 1:4

Message of the Beatitudes – Seven- Peacemaker

     “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God.”  Matthew 5:9

     So here I am, wondering, do I have what it takes to be a “PEACEMAKER”?

     There could be a difference between a peacemaker and a peacekeeper.  It might be helpful to distinguish between them.  Personally, I believe a peacekeeper is one who tries to a great extent to avoid conflict. This is someone who will not cause waves in a situation.  They just want to keep the peace.  I believe that I might be basically just a peacekeeper. 

     On the contrary, I believe a peacemaker may even have to bring conflict to the surface between individuals to help reconcile any differences.  These are people who are not afraid to iron things out.

The key difference is; a peacekeeper knows that conflict exists but tries to avoid any flare-ups between parties.  A peacemaker takes the potentially hazardous conflict and attempts to reconcile the parties by putting an end to the controversy.

I believe peacemaking requires more Christian attributes and gifts than does peacekeeping.  Peacemaking requires forgiveness whereas peacekeeping may avoid the discussion of forgiveness altogether.  Does someone have to ask for forgiveness before reconciliation takes place?  I believe so.  I have discussed this with Earl.  I have determined that he is correct when he says forgiveness has to be asked for before one can forgive or be truly reconciled.   Doesn’t God call people to repent and ask forgiveness from Him?   I’ve argued that I can forgive people regardless of whether they’ve asked for it or not.  This really is wrong.  What I’ve actually done is made peace within myself in order to avoid conflict from without.  This is a peacekeeper’s way of dealing with situations.  It may even be an insult to tell an individual, “I’ve forgiven you,” when he or she may actually believe that I need to ask for forgiveness from them!  People are not truly reconciled by just making peace within ourselves.

This is where a peacemaker makes all the difference.  Instead of burying my head in the sand and pretending discord doesn’t exist, I need to vocalize how I’m feeling and get the feelings of the other person involved.  Then, with a Christ-like attitude, begin to understand and work on improving the situation that has caused such a struggle in the relationship.

Jesus was very clear about this during the Sermon on the Mount verses, again Matthew 5.  Look at verses 23-24 “If therefore you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.”    

This is a very serious directive that Jesus has given us.  It could quite possibly be put like this way.  If you are in church and The Spirit reminds you that you and your brother or sister are at odds, leave church before offering yourself to God and be reconciled with your sister or brother and then come back and be reconciled with God.    Our relationship with our fellow brothers and sisters is so important to God that He doesn’t accept our worship until we have truly reconciled with our sisters and brothers – provided, of course that it is possible to reconcile with them!  Paul said it this way, “If possible, as far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.”  God’s ministry and goal for all individuals is reconciliation.  That is not just reconciliation with Him, but between all of us.  How do we expect God to reconcile with us in our sins, when we can’t even reconcile with each other for wrong doings?

Peacemaking is a never ending requirement during this lifetime in order to be like sons of God.  This is the ministry of Christ that He has given to us. 2 Corinthians 5:18-19, “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.  Let us look to His ministry of reconciliation whenever and wherever it is possible – as far as it depends on us – through Christ our Lord.

Reborn to be Free

I would like to take a moment to introduce you to Maggie Mae.  Maggie is our 16 month old Great Dane, and she is a brilliant dog.  She is always surprising us with her cleverness.  We got Maggie when she was 7 weeks old.  Earl took four hours deciding, while watching all the puppies in the litter before finally picking Maggie.  It was her natural curiosity that tickled Earl.  Now, Earl and Maggie are inseparable.  She loves and adores him and will protect him from me at all costs, including hugs and kisses….oh the dog’s life I live.

One day when I was getting ready to start work in my home office, I found Earl and Maggie watching the old 1966 movie “Born Free”.  Maggie does not watch TV normally, but on this particular morning she was so engrossed in the film, it was comical.  It was the end of the movie, where the lioness, Elsa, had been training for weeks to learn to hunt and kill for herself, so she could be set free in the wild and be able to survive on her own. 

Now Maggie has her big dog stuffed toys: a moose, a cow, a turkey and her squirrel.  Each day Maggie is let outside to spend the day in the great wild of our backyard.  As I passed the kitchen window, I happened to see Maggie running past with a squirrel in her mouth.  My thought was “How did she get her toy squirrel outside?” and so I went to go and get it when I noticed her toy squirrel on the living room floor.  My jaw dropped.  I went racing for the window only to see Maggie outside frolicking with a real squirrel, dead in her jaws.  I cannot figure out how Maggie, this huge 140 pound Great Dane managed to kill a squirrel.  Then, I believe as a gift for Earl, she left it on the back porch. 

But in remembering her total immersion in the Born Free movie, I saw her acts as analogous to those of Christians.  When we totally engross ourselves in God’s Word, and we allow Him to teach us His ways, we will actually take what we’ve learned and apply them to our everyday lives.

We are set free to serve God in the capacity to which He appoints us.  Just like Elsa, she went into her natural habitat and after learning how she was to hunt, she applied herself.  When we are set free in Christ, we break the chains of slavery to this captured world of evil and we are given new life.  In Galatians 5:1 “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to the yoke of slavery.”  We are to walk away from our dependency on what the world has to offer and immerse ourselves in the world that God has to offer us.

We were born to be free in Christ.  It is only through being born again that we taste and live that freedom.  1 Peter 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”.  It is through this hope that we are assured of a new life both here on earth and later in an eternal life with Christ.  For in John 3:3 “Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”

Where Maggie saw Elsa and learned how to hunt to survive, we should see The Lamb and learn how to love, to have compassion, to give to those in need, to worship and glorify God and to live an abundant life in Him.  For once we learn His way of life we are born again, to be free.

“If therefore the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” John 8:36

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