Is church a pill?

A couple of things first. I’m referring to the weekly assembly on Sunday when I say ‘church’, since that is how much of the world uses it. The scriptures clearly teach that the church is actually the people. [1Cor 12:14]

When I say ‘pill’ I’m referring to the idea of a prescription but could just as easily work as “something disagreeable that must be swallowed”.

Do we treat church like a pill? 

Many folks take pills to treat some illness, and in most cases, they seek the pill rather than change the underlying behavior that caused the condition. Take diet pills as an example. For many, rather than reduce their calorie intake, increase their exercise and eat better quality food they will take a pill as if it will solve their condition.

That’s what I mean when I ask, “do we treat church like a pill?” Do we believe we can act ungodly all week long, and if we take a pill (church attendance), that our sinful condition will go away?

Please understand what I am saying. The weekly assembly of God’s people is a necessity for continuing in the Apostles doctrine and shouldn’t be forsaken [Heb 10:25; Acts 20:7; 1Cor 16:2], but it is not a ‘pill’ one takes to offset our bad behavior and sinful heart.

James wrote; “For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.” [James 1:23-24]

Here’s a question for you, how long after assembling with the saints before you revert to your sinful conduct. 24 hours or 24 seconds? I must confess that I’ve been guilty of this as well. For my family, we had screaming car fights before arriving to the assembly, acting all lovey dovey during the worship, then picking up where we left off with the battle as soon as we got back into the car.

How to take a pill

When you’re given a prescription from a doc, he also gives you a list of things to change. The weekly assembly can be viewed in much the same way. The lesson, prayers, songs, our giving and the Lord’s Supper all have an ability to teach us and remind us what manner of person we ought to be.

The medications we take, very often, would be much more effective if we also modified our behaviors that caused the illness. Without the modification of behavior we will remain sick and possibly die. Paul said something similar to the church at Corinth; “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.” [1 Corinthians 11:28-30]

Church attendance should remind us of the sacrificial gift of Christ, and the promise of His return when He will gather up the saints and destroy the world.

Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness,” [2Peter 3:11]

 

2 Responses to every sermon

I’ve found that there are two basic responses to every sermon. I’ve also spoken to other Gospel Preachers and they have come to a similar conclusion.

Walk out or Walk forward

These responses can be literally walking out of the auditorium or coming forward to the front to confess your sin in a public manner. They can also be done with your mind. So often folks, myself included, walk out or walk forward in our minds as we listen.

WALKING OUT

Walking out on a sermon, whether in your mind or physically getting up and leaving, happens for a variety of reasons…

You’re distracted – You’re sitting there, hot, tired and hungry thinking about lunch. Hoping the sermon is short, you begin taking steps to prevent yourself from falling asleep. If you’re someplace else in your mind, it matters very little whether the speaker is dynamic or boring. Sometimes you’re distracted by the goings on of other members shifting and squirming in their seats.

The remedy for this type of walking out is simple. Take notes. Engage your mind with the theme of the sermon. I have personally found this to be most effective.

Another tactic is to get some rest. So many of us stay up late and fail to plan for our Sunday morning worship. I’m guilty too. Saturday is a day off for most folks, and we just want to enjoy as much of our weekend as possible. I get it, I’ve been there. Eutychus in Acts 20 had the same trouble. If you’re going to stay up late, here’s a little tip that may help you feel more alert in the morning. Plan your sleep length in 90min cycles. 1.5, 3, 4.5 or 6 hours. Our bodies have up and down sleep cycles and we are at the top of the cycle [close to being awake] every 90 minutes. Do an internet search for sleep cycles and you’ll see what I mean.

Another reason we walk out is…

We think it’s about someone else – Yup, I’ve done this one too. While listening to a sermon you say to yourself, “self, I hope so-n-so is listening to this.” It reminds me of Nathan telling David about a man that had stolen a lamb in 2Sam 12:1-5. David became angry and demanded justice for the victim. However, look at what Nathan did in vs7, “You are the man!” Rather than trying to assign a lesson to another, we should be examining ourselves to see if it applies [1Co 11:28; 2Co 13:5].

Lastly, one reason we walk out is

We disagree – It’s ok to disagree, but be careful about HOW you disagree. Is your disagreement based on scriptures? Will you “try the spirits whether they are of God:” [1Jo 4:1]? Or, are you just disagreeing because you or a family member are committing the sin under consideration and don’t see anything wrong with it?

You might say to yourself, ‘that’s just his opinion’. Are we entitled to have an opinion on scriptural matters? Some people have said, “I know what it says, but I don’t like it.” When it comes to sin & doctrine, as enumerated in God’s word, we have no choice but to accept it and to obey it. Nothing in scripture is up for a personal interpretation that suits your opinion, [2Pe 1:20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation].

If the speaker is wrong, then go to him about it privately. Perhaps he misspoke, or you misunderstood, but bring BCV [book chapter verse]. We can both be wrong, or one of us can be wrong and the other right, but we cannot BOTH BE RIGHT. I want to go to heaven and you would be a great friend if you show me where I was mistaken so that I could make correction.

It’s for this reason some folks church hop. They find the teaching to be contrary to their personal desires and go searching for a place of worship that suits their tastes. Or they stop worshiping altogether. This is not new, Paul warned that there are some whose ‘god is their belly’ [Philippians 3:19]. He also said, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears” [2Timothy 4:3].

There may be other reasons why folks “WALK OUT” on a sermon, but my desire is that we all “grow in grace and knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ [2Peter 3:18].

Where is your mind when you “WALK OUT” on a sermon?

Next week we’ll examine ‘walk forward’.

What if I don’t want to?

IMAGINE WHAT THE world would be like if we only did those things they wanted to do. What if we only ate the things we wanted to eat or got up only when we wanted to and only did things that felt good?

Actually, I’ve done that on the food side of things, eating only what I wanted, and the results are devestating. Weight gain, health and heart problems as well as the total lack of energy.

All success is predicated on the idea of doing those things we don’t want to do. Successes in business, in relationships and health are found when we do things that others don’t like to do. The fact is, we should do MORE things we don’t like to do. Better, we should find things we don’t like to do and learn to like doing them.

Paul said, “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” [1Cor. 9:27].

Rather than success, let’s use the word grow. Growing means more than just getting physically bigger, it also means getting better. We can grow in many areas, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. Peter said, “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever.” [2Peter 3:18]

Growth requires effort, it requires us to train our bodies and our minds by doing those tasks that seem unpleasant at the time. This is the full idea behind the word ‘chastening’ in Hebrews 12:11. “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.”

The word we often use to describe training is exercise. Not only should we exercise our bodies, we should exercise our minds. This training of the mind and the body prepares us to respond in those times of need.

Doing laps may sound horrible (they do) and boring, but come gametime, you’ll be glad you did. Michael Jordan said, “I play to win, whether during practice or a real game.” The same can be said about the hours spent in the study of God’s word. Come gametime (ie. Evangelism,  times of trouble etc.) you’ll be glad you spent the time. No one is ever faithful during difficult times or times of persecution that wasn’t first faithful during times of ease.

Success (growth) or failure in any endeavor is not an event. Successful marriages, financial well being, educational degrees and the like are only ever achieved by multiple tiny decisions to do unpleasant things over and over until.

Yes, I intentionally ended the sentence with ‘until’, because the next question is, “how long?” Until you’ve made it, until you have it, until you face the judgement.

“That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ:” [1Tim 6:14]

The Lonely Ember

A MEMBER OF A certain church, who previously had been attending services regularly, stopped going. After a few weeks, the pastor decided to visit him. It was a chilly evening. The pastor found the man at home alone, sitting before a blazing fire.

Guessing the reason for his pastor’s visit, the man welcomed him, led him to a big chair near the fireplace and waited. The pastor made himself comfortable but said nothing. In the grave silence, he contemplated the play of the flames around the burning logs.

After some minutes, the pastor took the fire tongs, carefully picked up a brightly burning ember and placed it to one side of the hearth all alone. Then he sat back in his chair, still silent. The host watched all this in quiet fascination.

As the one lone ember’s flame diminished, there was a momentary glow and then its fire was no more. Soon it was cold and “dead as a doornail.”

Not a word had been spoken since the initial greeting.

Just before the pastor was ready to leave, he picked up the cold, dead ember and placed it back in the middle of the fire. Immediately it began to glow once more with the light and warmth of the burning coals around it.

As the pastor reached the door to leave, his host said, “Thank you so much for your visit and especially for the fiery sermon. I shall be back in church next Sunday.”

Source: unknown.

It would be difficult to add much to this simple illustration, but there’s a little room so I must. This story demonstrates an important reality regarding our role in the worship. Sure, you can see yourself as the lone ember, desiring to be uplifted by the others, but do you see yourself as a part of the larger fire?

Many complain, “I get nothing from the worship” or “that church is so cold” looking only at how it affects THEM. The illustration also shows what we GIVE to each other, of which you are a part.

Rather than asking, “what do I get” ask, what do I give? When we come together, as the Lord commanded, we give so much to each other. The New Testament writers presented a picture of giving in our coming together (I’m not referring to the monetary collection). You say that you gain nothing from the worship, but what do you keep with you in your absence?

Here’s what you give us

  • Love – And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Hebrews 10:24
  • Exhortation – not forsaking our own assembling together, as the custom of some is, but exhorting one another; and so much the more, as ye see the day drawing nigh. Hebrews 10:25
  • Teaching – Teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. Colossians 3:16
  • Proclaim the Lord’s death – For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink the cup, ye proclaim the Lord’s death till he come. 1Corinthians 11:26, 30
  • Fellowship – And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and the prayers. Acts 2:42
  • Edification – Let all things be done unto edifying. 1Corinthians 14:26b

Do you see it? We need each other. I need you as much, or more than, you need me. The worship is an assembly of the local saints together in one place. We can’t do it alone. Matt 18:20.

Is One Denomination as good as another?

all-denominations

IT ALWAYS amazes me when someone explains how one denomination is as good as another regarding worship or salvation. Denomination, by its very definition means division. Today, there are around 33,000 Christian denominations in the U.S.

These 33,000 are subdivided into 6 major mega-blocs in order of size, rounded slightly for convenience:

  • Independents (about 22000)
  • Protestants (about 9000)
  • “Marginals” (about 1600)
  • Orthodox (781)
  • Roman Catholics (242)
  • Anglicans (168)

One reason there are so many denominations is because of the variety of teachings. Some teach baptism by sprinkling, others teach no baptism at all. Still others teach sin is wrong whereas others teach no repentance is required. You can join a black only church, a woman church, or even a church of Satan! Is this what Jesus had in mind when He built His church?

WHY SO MANY DIVISIONS?

Some very important questions are raised when you begin to think about these divisions. Did God authorize so many divisions? Is one denomination just as good as another? Does it matter which church you join? All of them are important questions, so what does the bible say? The Apostle Paul found this division problem as far back as the 1st century, and he wrote to the church to correct it;

Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?” [1Co 1:10-13]

It’s clear from this text that God had no intention for us to divide up into these denominations. These divisions are causing confusion among people and they are being led astray, or even being turned off of religion because they don’t know where to turn for truth. If ANY DENOMINATION will do, does that make God an author of confusion? Certainly not…

For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.” [1Corinthians 14:33].

Let’s illustrate why this fallacy of “any denomination is as good as another” is wrong. Look at our own currency. We call the different size bills, denominations.

denominations-bills

If you could have only one of these bills, which would you choose? Since, “one denomination is as good as another” it makes no difference which bill you take, right? After using this illustration, one person said, “Yes it makes a difference, one denomination goes farther than the other.” That is exactly right, just as in our currency, so also with denominations of religion, one goes farther UP than another. Again, we go back to the scriptures for the answer…

Jesus said, “I will build MY church.” [Matthew 16:18]. He didn’t say “churches” plural, He said “church” singular.

Jesus sent the Holy Spirit who instructed Paul to write, “there is ONE body” [Ephesians 4:4], and the body is the church, [Ephesians 1:22-23].

The reason there are so many denominations comes down to this one point; error. Jesus said, “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures,” [Matthew 22:29]. We are supposed to teach the same thing [Mat 28:20], when we do we will be added to the one church that Christ has built.

You’ll be shocked to know what one church is doing on Christmas

How’s that for a title? Did I get your attention? I’ve noticed that many websites use shocking titles to attract readers so I decided to give it a try. The trouble is, what I’m about to tell you is shocking for all the wrong reasons.

You see, our local congregation, The Frankilin St. church of Christ in Borger Texas, is NOT changing it’s services on Christmas day. This news is shocking because so many denominations have altered their services to celebrate a man made holiday instead of the God commanded commemoration of our Lord’s death.

Look at what was written to the 1st century church:

For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.
[cr. Mt 26:26; Mr 14:22; Lu 22:19]

Many will rationalize their decision to cancel services by saying, “it’s for the family.” That sounds great, but what about the family of God? “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” [Gal 3:26]

So, we shall be worshiping the Lord, as He described, on the day He ordered, in the manner in which He authorized, to remember His death as He commanded.

Besides, when you think about presents, what is the greatest gift ever given which was given for the whole world?

Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.
2 Corinthians 9:15

 

God’s plan for you

new year 2016

As 2015 ends, and 2016 is about to being, folks are putting together resolutions and plans for the new year. But, have you ever considered what Godly planning looks like? As you make your New Years Resolutions, let’s consider a Godly formula for making plans. 

BIBLICAL EXAMPLES OF PLANNING… The Scriptures show us many folks planning, some good and others making evil plans…..

EVIL PLANS – The Psalmist said, “Who plan evil things in their hearts; They continually gather together for war. (NKJV) [Psalm 140:2]. Solomon warned his son not to go with those who plan evil, “If they say, Come with us, let us lay wait for blood,” [Proverbs 1:11]. Jesus Himself told a parable of a man who planned fraud against his master [Luke 16:4 ].

Clearly, the scriptures condemn the making of evil plans, rather we should be making Godly plans….

GODLY PLANNING – Paul was planning to visit the church at Corinth to encourage them, “And in this confidence I was minded to come unto you before, that ye might have a second benefit; 17 Therefore, when I was planning this, did I do it lightly?” (NKJV) [2Co 1:15]

When MOSES was leading the children of Israel out of Egypt, he was working without much of a plan as he decided matters between one another. Jethro, his father-in-law, taught him a better way. “Hearken now unto my voice, I will give thee counsel, and God shall be with thee: Be thou for the people to God-ward, that thou mayest bring the causes unto God:” [Exodus 18:19]

DAVID faced Goliath with a plan. “This day will the LORD deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.” [1Samuel 17:46]. If you’ve ever wondered why David, a man of faith, needed 5 smooth stones, this is the reason, he needed one to kill Goliath and with the others he planned to route the Philistines!

There were others plans made as well. As men moved to fulfill commands of God to build the Temple, they made plans and set aside materials to ensure an expedient completion. [1Ch 22:1-19; 28:14-18; 29:1-5; 2Ch 3:1; 5:1]. Then Nehemiah also made plans as he oversaw the rebuilding of the Temple, after their return from the captivity. [Nehemiah 2:7, 8]

[Since God has ALLOWED MAN TO PLAN, ought you plan your life to serve Him?]

GODLY PLANNING FOR OUR LIVES – As we’ve seen, God has allowed and approved of man to make plans to serve Him. Looking at additional scripture, we find that planning is wise.

IT’S RIGHTEOUS TO PLAN – The book of Proverbs teaches us to make plans, by telling us to give thought to our steps, and that the plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance. Included is a warning to those who fail to pause and plan that living impulsively only leads to poverty. [Proverbs 14:15; Proverbs 21:5]

Our Lord commended planning when He told how the wise count the cost before building a tower [Luke 14:28], or when a King goes to battle [v31, 32]. Let us never forget that obedience to Him is like the wise one who built his house on a rock [Matthew 7:24-27].

The Prophet Isaiah wrote, “But he who is noble plans noble things, and on noble things he stands [32:8 ESV]. Shall we not, as children of God, make noble plans? The question then becomes, what are noble plans and how do we make them?

Using scriptures, let’s look at a 7 step formula for making Godly, noble plans.

Step 1 – KEEP GOD’S WILL IN MIND – The first, and most important step is to begin with God’s plan / will. Before making any choice or plans ask yourself, “Is this what God would want?” We should always consider whether or not our plans are involving sin, if so, it no longer qualifies as noble.

Looking again to the Proverbs, “There are many devices (plans) in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand” [Pr 19:21]. By committing our work to the Lord, our plans will be pleasing to the Lord [Prov 16:3].

“If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that,” ought to be our beginning attitude. [James 4:13-15]. Along with faithful obedience to the commands of God [Deuteronomy 28:1-68; John 14:15; Matthew 28:20].

Step 2 – SEEK WISE COUNSEL – “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed,” [Proverbs 15:22]. We need to seek advice, but seek it from the right sources.

We need to ask GOOD PEOPLE, folks that are already living a Godly life. “Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils,” [1Corinthians 10:21; Ephesians 5:11]. Remember that Paul taught, “Evil company corrupts good habits,” [1Corinthians 15:33].

We should make plans by seeking advice, [Proverbs 20:18]. Even something like building a house, and filling it with our stuff, needs wise plans and advice or it will fail, [Proverbs 20:18; 24:3-4].

Sometimes NATURE provides us wise counsel. “Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest,” [Proverbs 6:6-8]. Job said to “ask the beasts” [Job 12:7], “and they shall teach thee.” God’s own creation can be a source of wisdom and counsel.

But God gives us a warning about FALSE INFORMATION. There are silly myths, false and selfish desires which cause us to seek teachers to tell us what we want to hear, [1 Timothy 4:7; Proverbs 19:2; 23:4; 2Timothy 4:3]. You’ve met those folks. They ask for advice but seldom take it, doing what they had intended from the beginning as they chase their own lusts.

Step 3 – SET THE RIGHT PRIORITIES, Sometimes we make nonsinful plans, but we’ve neglected other areas of our lives. Jesus condemned the Pharisees for this very thing. “..ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith:” Note that He wanted them to do the “WEIGHTIER MATTERS” but He also wanted them “not to leave the other undone” [Matthew 23:23].

Our first priorities are always to seek the kingdom of God, [Matthew 6:33], then the others things will be added to you. We also need to be mindful of giving, being benevolent, and taking care of our family’s needs [2Corinthians 9:7; 1Timothy 5:8]. If we seek our own selfish ambitions, we’re no longer making noble plans.

Step 4 is to PUT THINGS IN THE RIGHT ORDER, to do the things that are expedient to complete our plans. “.. get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house” [Proverbs 24:27 ESV]. We’re commanded our worship be done “decently and in order [1 Corinthians 14:40], should our lives, which is a service to God, be any less?

Step 5 is to DO IT, we need to get busy with our plans. Without work, no plans ever come to completion. When we work, let’s do it with all our might, [Ecclesiastes 9:10], without being slothful with our business [Romans 12:11], and to “do it heartily, as to the Lord” [Colossians 3:23]. God wants us to be active, not to be thieves, rather, “labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth” [Ephesians 4:28].

Step 6 is to EVALUATE the successes or failures of our plans. Are you still doing the right thing? Has your work changed making it sinful? Paul told the Corinthians to examine themselves, whether they be in the faith [1Cor 13:15], which must include our work activities as well as spiritual. If we stray away from the noble, Godly plans then let us bring ourselves back to the right.

Step 7 is to EXPECT TROUBLE and to prepare for it. This is a realistic view of life and many of us want to avoid or ignore trouble. Unfortunately, it is a part of life and the scriptures teach this. “time and chance happeneth to them all” [Ecc 9:11], is a reminder for us that things happen. Some good, and some bad. Look at the weather, God causes the rain on the just and the unjust, but sometimes floods come with the rain. [Matthew 5:45; 7:27] Consider the recent flooding in our own area.

Because of sin, and the broken world we live in because of sin, life is sometimes a struggle and we ought to expect it. We’re going to sweat, we’re going to get cut by thorns, but god has given us the strength to endure it. [Genesis 3:17, 18]

Even the people around us will sometimes be against us. Be it for jealousy or envy, they will be obstacles to our success [1Pe 4:4]. But don’t let the ungodly of this world, keep you from doing noble things.

CONCLUSION: With Godly planning, we can make the best of this world. God wants joy for us, but not just for this life. He has bigger and better plans. He has made a plan of SALVATION, which He made even before He created the world [Ephesians 1:4; Romans 16:25, 26; 1Peter 1:20].

His plans meant that His son, Christ Jesus, would be slain. This too was determined before the world was made [Revelation 13:8; Titus 1:2, 3].

His plans include for us to be a thinking people, [John 14:26]. His plans include for us to be obedient to Him [Ephesians 2:10; Titus 2:14; Matthew 28:20], to obey the Gospel [1 Thessalonians 1:8].

Finally, His plans include for us a FUTURE HOME which Jesus has gone to prepare [John 14:2]. A place that shall have no death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain and God shall wipe away all tears [Revelations 21:1].

We can make all the plans in the world, but if we fail to plan for eternity, we’ve lost it all. “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” [1Peter 4:17]

Spencer

The Force Awakens

star wars

It’s been 32 years since Return of the Jedi, the final episode of the Star Wars trilogy that began in 1977 with episode IV A New Hope. Since the announcement of an episode 7, adults and children alike have endured a 2-year, Christmas like anticipation for the movie to finally arrive in Theaters, of which I am one.

Stories abound of fans scrambling to purchase tickets, pilgrimaging to theaters in droves, to be witness to the first public viewings. Folks have called in sick, one website offered a list of plausible excuses to use when you call off work, so as to be a part of this momentous event. Threats of “unfriending” folks from Facebook if they reveal any spoilers to those of us who have yet to navigate through the sea of people for one of the early showings.

This article shall neither bash those among the masses who make the trek to the early movies, adorned in their Jedi regalia, nor those who couldn’t give a rip that a new Spock movie just opened. (laugh if you got that joke.) No, just a comparison shall I draw. (laugh at that one too.)

I am curious about a few things, have we as a church ever posted online, for any amount of time, displaying our excitement for the coming day to worship our Lord and Savior? Or even better than that, the breathless anticipation of the Return Of The Christ? Oh how I long for the day we could anticipate the 1st day of the week, or His wonderful, triumphant return.

____________________________________________________
Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. [Hebrews 10:25]
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I can’t believe you missed it!

Has anyone ever excitedly said to you, “I can’t believe you missed it!”, when referring to the Sunday worship that you had to miss due to illness or work? Have they ever gushed out every single line from the sermon, every emotion and every point drawn? No? Yeah, neither have I. What I HAVE heard was, “Missed you on Sunday”, in that tone as if they were really saying, “what kind of sin kept you from the worship?” Worse than that are those that say, “missed ya on Sunday”, but really saying, “I had to be there, why weren’t you?”

To be sure, If I were given a $200 million budget and 3 years, I may be able to produce a sermon entertaining enough to draw in the numbers comparable to Star Wars. But alas, I do not. I have 6 days to produce 4 lessons (2 sermons & 2 bible Classes). Not counting the myriad of other personal Bible studies, calls and questions I receive. No, my budget is far less.

We have no authority to do anything of the sort. We are to “teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you:” [Matthew 28:19-20] We have no authority to draw anyone by any carnal lust whether it be food, entertainment or money. No, we have the Gospel to draw folks in, drawn in with a “true heart in full assurance of faith” [Hebrews 10:22].

Our Lord warned us about such things. “Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. 27 Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.” [John 6:26-27]

He was pointing out that some will only come if you feed them with food, but they should be laboring for the spiritual food that brings about everlasting life. A preacher once said to me, “what a person is converted with, they are converted to.”

I have nothing against Star Wars or many other forms of non-sinful entertainment. The question I must ask myself, and you must ask yourself, is this; Do I care as much about the worship of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and His Triumphant return as I care about a movie?

Spencer Blackwelder
Evangelist, Borger, Tx

If I only

 

THERE ARE LOTS OF ALIBIS for a weak church, but very few reasons. Churches that are weak have one distinguishing trait in common. They know all the reasons they’re weak, and have what they believe to be air-tight alibis to explain away their own weaknesses.

Some of the alibis are even clever, and quite a few are justified by the facts. Unfortunately, an alibi won’t be heard at the judgement [Mat 7:21-22]. All the Lord will want to know is, “HAVE YOU DONE THE WILL OF MY FATHER?” [Re 2:5]

A character analyst compiled a list of the most commonly used alibis. Though this was in context of business, I’ve learned that these alibis are used in any context, even the church.

As you read the list, examine yourself carefully, and determine how many of these alibis, if any, are your own property. Consider this, the teachings of the scripture makes every one of these obsolete. [Ge 3:12,13; Ex 4:1,10-14; 32:22-24; De 30:11-14; Jg 6:12-17; 1Ki 19:19-21; 2Ki 5:10-14; Jer 1:1,4-10; Mt 8:21; Lu 9:59-62; 14:18-20; Ac 24:25; Ro 1:20; 2:1]

  • IF I didn’t have a wife and family. ..
  • IF I had enough “pull” . . .
  • IF I had money . . .
  • IF I had a good education . . .
  • IF I could get a job . . .
  • IF I had good health . . .
  • IF I only had time . . .
  • IF times were better . . .
  • IF other people understood me . . .
  • IF conditions around me were only different . . .
  • IF I could live my life over again . . .
  • IF I did not fear what “THEY” would say . . .
  • IF I had been given a chance . . .
  • IF I now had a chance . . .
  • IF other people didn’t “have it in for me” . . .
  • IF nothing happens to stop me . . .
  • IF I were only younger . . .
  • IF I could only do what I want . . .
  • IF I had been born rich . . .
  • IF I could meet “the right people”. . .
  • IF I had the talent that some people have . . .
  • IF I dared assert myself . . .
  • IF I only had embraced past opportunities . . .
  • IF people didn’t get on my nerves . . .
  • IF I didn’t have to keep house and look after the children . . .
  • IF I could save some money . . .
  • IF the boss only appreciated me . . .
  • IF I only had somebody to help me . . .
  • IF my family understood me . . .
  • IF I lived in a big city . . .
  • IF I could just get started . . .
  • IF I were only free . . .
  • IF I had the personality of some people . . .
  • IF I were not so fat . . .
  • IF my talents were known …
  • IF I could just get a “break” . . .
  • IF I could only get out of debt . . .
  • IF I hadn’t failed . . .
  • IF I only knew how . . .
  • IF everybody didn’t oppose me . . .
  • IF I didn’t have so many worries . . .
  • IF I could marry the right person . . .
  • IF people weren’t so dumb . . .
  • IF my family were less extravagant. . .
  • IF I were sure of myself . . .
  • IF luck were not against me . . .
  • IF I had not been born under the wrong star . . .
  • IF it were not true that “what is to be will be” . . .
  • IF I did not have to work so hard . . .
  • IF I hadn’t lost my money . . .
  • IF I lived in a different neighborhood. .
  • IF I didn’t have a “past” . . .
  • IF I only had a business of my own. . .
  • IF other people would only listen to me . . .

IF * * * and this is the greatest of them all * * * I had the courage to see myself as I really am, I would find out what is wrong with me, and correct it, then I might have a chance to profit by my mistakes and learn something from the experience of others. [Job 13:23; Psalm 119:59; La 3:40; Hag 1:7; 1Co 11:28; Ga 6:3-5]

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Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates? [2Corinthians 13:5]

_______________________________________________

We know that there is something WRONG, or we would now be where WE WOULD HAVE BEEN IF we had spent more time examining our weaknesses, and less time building alibis to cover them.

The ideas in this article are not new, [Ecclesiastes 1:9 The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.] We use the word excuse rather than alibi, but the meanings remain the same. The writer of Ecclesiastes also wrote that time and chance happen to us all [Ec 9:11]. We could add this to the list of alibis, but I believe this proves that every person has difficulties, albeit at different times and in different areas. Rather than use this as another reason for NOT, let’s DO despite the difficulty. Revelations 2:10, “be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” means that we should remain faithful, EVEN IF IT CAUSES OUR DEATH.

Are we using excuses as a church, and if so, how can we turn that excuse into positive action? Just a thought.

When Church is Boring 

church is boring

LET’S BE HONEST, sometimes we get bored, even at the worship. What are we to do, change it? But what would we change?

Denominationalism has taken on this problem of boredom head on. In an attempt to keep folks in the buildings (and their money) they have made some changes. I’ve told you about the hip hop church, but I’ve also seen “churches” adding coffee shops, gymnasiums and activity centers with pizza.

            We have, in our own area, churches for cowboys, churches for blacks (I abhor this idea), churches for old, churches for young, all in an attempt to make church more attractive to people. Many have embraced the idea of “churchitainment.” 

            We’ve come to a time where it’s hard to distinguish between a worship service and a concert. Dimmed lights over the audience and flashing colored lights on the stage. Worship leaders have become pop stars for the church. Preachers are becoming famous for proclaiming motivational messages rather than the “…whole counsel of God.” [Acts 20:27].

            Folks have now been trained to seek out churches based on their entertainment value over the spiritual truths it proclaims, unaware that the main work of the church is to teach God’s truth. [Matthew 28:18-20; 1Timothy 3:15]  

            Some of you may never go that far, yet still insist on change. In Recent times we’ve seen churches of our Lord introduce instrumental music into the worship, seeing no wrong with such. No, it didn’t happen overnight, hand clapping & cheering replacing the old-fashioned “AMEN”.

            If I wanted to introduce instrumental music to this congregation I would stop teaching that it’s wrong. Then after some time of never teaching on it, I would begin by speaking positively about the instrument, bringing lessons from the Old Testaments use of the lyre and the harps.

            Next I would suggest that it’s ok. I could even put together a mid-week instrumental service. After that has taken hold I would then move it closer to the first day of the week. Then I would turn the evening Sunday worship into a “contemporary” worship while keeping the “traditional” worship in the morning.

            After everyone was used to that I would then ask, “Why are we divided?” Suggesting that both worships be the same. I would appeal to your emotions and point to the successes of other congregations.

Nothing New Under the Sun

I hope you see, this is exactly how denominations have strayed from the truth. “..There is nothing new under the sun.” [Ecclesiastes 1:9]. Way back in the early history of the nation of Israel, they said, “Make us a king like all the nations.” [1Samuel 8:5] They wanted CHANGE, like the other nations. The problem was that they had REJECTED GOD. “And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.” [1Samuel 8:7]

If you would like to reject God, by ignoring His will, we too can become like all the churches. God’s word said to “sing”. [Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16] That which is specifically authorized makes all other choices unauthorized. Singing with the voice is the only authorized form of music for the worship.

“Where is My Honor?” 

            God asked the Israelites this question in Malachi 1:6. He asked because they had found “church” boring, speaking about their worship. He goes on through the prophet to quote what they were saying, “Behold, what a weariness is it!” They had even “snuffed at it”, [Malachi 1:13]. Even back then, folks found the ways of God boring and stopped following His commands for the worship.

            God proposed 2 changes to those that found it boring, turning up their noses at the worship: (1) Shut the doors, stay home and stop worshipping in vain, vs10. (2)He obviously would prefer them to repent, take it to heart and give honor to His name, lest He “will even send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings.” [Malachi 2:2]

            Please look closely, He never says to change His commands for the worship to accommodate our tastes, preferences or desires. Has God changed? Is He a new God that has no concern for how we worship? Jesus told the Samaritan woman, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” [John 4:24]. He condemned the Pharisees; “But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” [Matthew 15:9]

            I can shorten my sermons, fire them up a bit, making them more like motivational speeches instead of “instruction in righteousness.” [2Timothy 3:16] The song leader can select only upbeat songs and we can say more meaningful prayers. The real answer is not to change what God has authorized for our worship, (prayer 1Corintheans 11:24], vocal singing [Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16], giving cheerfully [2Corintheans 9:7], preaching & the Lord’s Supper [Acts 20:7]), but to change our hearts as worshippers.

            To worship in “spirit and truth” is to worship with our whole hearts, loving Him fully, [Matthew 22:37] and to worship according to His command, according to His revealed word, for His word is truth. [John 17:17] When we read the New Testament, we find some Christians worshipping in error with regard to the Lord’s Supper. Paul said, “What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.” [1Corintheans 11:22]

            Are we exempt from doing things God’s way? Can we change the worship because we find the “old paths” boring? Can we change the worship to attract more people? If you can find any passage authorizing these changes then let’s do it. The problem with making changes, it requires us to sin by ignoring God’s commands and these errors lead to more changes until we can no longer recognize the church found in the New Testament.

Someone once said, “WHAT PEOPLE ARE CONVERTED WITH, THEY ARE CONVERTED TO.” How about we just stay on the “narrow way”, which is the way that leads to eternal life. [Matthew 7:14]

Spencer Blackwelder
Evangelist for the church of Christ in Borger, Tx