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How would you worship if you knew today was your last opportunity?

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Would you change anything? Would you do anything different?

Would you notice the crying baby, or the fussy children?

Would you notice what the person next to you was wearing?

Would you take extra care in picking out what you would wear, or take no thought at all?

Would the volume of the music bother you as much as it usually does, or not at all?

Would you care that your favorite song wasn’t sung, yet again?

I’m jotting all of this down very early Sunday morning as I’m waiting to start getting ready for church. I woke this morning thinking, wondering, is there anything inhibiting my worship? And how would I worship if I had advance notice that this would be my last opportunity?

Worship

To offer Him praise and thanksgiving for all He has done in our lives,to take the time to express our gratitude to God for His many blessings. Isn’t that why we assemble on the Lord’s Day?

As I thought about all of this, my mind began to drift to the different types of worship we read about in the Bible.

Ritual Temple Worship

From the priestly worship inside the Temple we find the descendants of Aaron offering up animal sacrifices as an act of worship for the people: sin offerings, trespass offerings, guilt offerings, and on it goes.

Sacrificial Worship

The people often traveled great distances to worship, and let’s not forget that travel then was very hard and dangerous. Still, they went onward, determined to worship.

We see a man by the name of Elkanah going up yearly to the Temple to make sacrificial worship offerings. Year after year his wives went with him, and God received the worship of his wife Hannah, who was blessed with a son who you might remember was Samuel.

Emotional Worship

And how could we forget David, warrior king of Israel who danced in worship before the Lord with all his might?

Holy Worship

In the New Testament we read where there is worship in heaven, glorious, other-worldly worship where twenty four elders cast their crowns at the feet of God while crying Holy, Holy, Holy.

Whenever we find worship mentioned in scripture we typically find God responding to it, because we are told that God inhabits the praise of His people (Psalms 22:3)

Knowing all these things, the thought of “what if today was my last day to worship God” is front and center in my heart. Would we permit anything to inhibit our worship,if this was truly the case? Would all the things that we get hung up on now really matter?

As I continue working on this post, church has been over for nearly three hours. During the service today this topic was never far from my thoughts. Whether during the music portion, receiving the offering, or while being taught the word of God, I purposed in my heart that I would focus only on Him.

I couldn’t even tell you if anyone had a doughnut in their hand!😉

How then should we approach worship? Is there a right way to worship? Should our worship be limited by what our particular denomination allows, or considers acceptable?

Should our worship be traditional or contemporary? High Church or Cowboy Church? Quiet or loud, exuberant or solemn? Last time I checked, the Lord wasn’t handing out style points, but was looking for sincere hearts.

I don’t pretend to be able to answer those questions for you. I can, however, offer up this thought. I believe God expects, no demands, our very best worship. And what is “best” is different for each of us.

Take the busy single mom, who after working all day comes home exhausted knowing that her day is far from over. With kids to feed and bathe, homework to help with, laundry to be done, and a thousand other daily chores that won’t get done without her, her best worship opportunity might mean bowing her head and heart in the shower during her only 10 minute respite of the day.

Or think about the business man or woman who routinely works 80-100 hours a week. The pressure and stress never seems to let up, even on Sunday mornings. The advancements in technology have made intrusions into their quiet time with God almost predictable. For them, their best worship opportunity might be fleeting at best.

As I said, I believe God demands our best worship, and I believe He will meet with us, regardless of method, place, or duration. The important thing is that we acknowledge Him as Lord, and that we connect with Him as often as we can.

So, how would you worship if you knew today was your last opportunity?

If you think you know the answer, why not try it out the next opportunity you get? After all, it could well be your last “audition”.

Be blessed,

Ron

Why Prayer Meetings Fail

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Many Christians,especially newer ones,do not know that one of the primary strengths of the church used to be the prayer meeting.This should come as no surprise considering that the church was birthed in an Upper Room prayer meeting.

For so many generations churches of nearly every denomination practiced regular,routine corporate prayer because they understood the dynamics of regular communication with God. For the church to do the work of the church,prayer,especially corporate prayer was a necessity that could not be overlooked.

Through the centuries the practice of corporate prayer has dwindled until in most churches it’s not even practiced any longer,and if it is it’s so sparsely attended as to be of little effect. I suppose the case could easily be made that the demise of the corporate prayer meeting coincides with the general attitude of the Laodicean church today,which is that the church of today is in need of nothing.

Especially God.

This mindset that we are in control,that we are capable of sustaining our own evangelical empires apart from God is something that the church of the book of Acts would reject outright. As would countless millions of Christians through centuries past who routinely cultivated their personal relationship with God through prayer.

Today’s prayer meeting,what little there is of it,has drastically changed in many ways from what our predecessors new,especially considering this major point: what we pray about,or for,is different now. Let me explain.

It used to be that churches had a burning desire to have a positive impact on their community for the sole purpose of winning their community for Christ. They lived the Christian life outside of the church and were examples of God’s love and grace,which served to draw the lost to the church. The primary method at their disposal to accomplish all of this was prayer!

In return,communities recognized that the church genuinely cared for them,and were concerned for their well being. What they saw was Christ extended to them in a way that they were receptive to. Such is the love of God. Like moths drawn to a flame,the love of God will draw lost men and women when nothing else will.

Churches,pastors,lay members alike were all united in the shared goal of reaching the lost,and they knew that prayer was the only way to make that happen.Think about it…what else did the church have at their disposal?

Before the days of the internet,conferences of every conceivable type, car shows,and bouncy houses God’s people relied on the sovereign moving of the Spirit,wrought by prayer,to bring the lost in.

Oh,to be able to go back in time!

Today we have every means of the newest,latest technology at our instant disposal,ready to use to market our latest strategy to bring them in.A very small percentage of this works,the vast majority does not.

Church advertising budgets(disguised as evangelism) are expanding every year,yet the results are the same:pitifully few new converts are being added despite the staggering amount of dollars spent. Growth,what there is of it is mostly from other churches,drawn to the latest gimmickry or cult of personality preacher. History has shown that this is not sustainable growth,as true discipleship has given way to strategies and methods not designed to develop the believer,but to entertain.

In short, prayer has been supplanted in today’s church by every means available. God Himself has been replaced by the inventions of man. The Holy Spirit is no longer welcomed or needed in our churches as the principal agent to draw the lost.

And I think I understand why.

Because we don’t know the One we claim to know.

We use His name.

We use His building.

We sing songs supposedly written in His honor.

We preach sermons using His words.

But we do not know Him like we claim.

If we knew Him like we claim that we do,we would be different. We would be changed.Our hearts would be pure,as would our motives. We would not be this sickly,anemic,weak institution that the world mocks in derision. If we knew Him like we say we do,we would demonstrate His attributes in all that we do.

Perhaps most importantly of all,we do not know Him like we claim we do because we ask Him to do everything except what we desperately need the most:

To change us from within.

We ask Him for things. For stuff. For favor. For anything that will please the flesh.

But we do not ask Him to change us. 

Prayer meetings are no longer in vogue. They are considered old fashioned,relics from a by-gone age. At least that’s what the church of today is being taught.

Could it be however that the real reason that prayer meetings fail,have gone out of style,are no longer considered essential,is because we do not know Him after all?

Something I pray that causes us to stop and think about on this rainy Monday…

 

Aren’t They all Churches of Christ?

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Sunday afternoon my daughter and I went driving for a couple of hours as part of the requirement for her getting her license.When we drove past a local Church of Christ she asked me “aren’t they all churches of Christ”? Wow…what a question!

My daughter has been raised in church so she is of course well versed in “church”culture. Yet her question prompted me to ask her a question in return,which was “is it confusing for an 18 year old to see churches with so many different names”?

“It sure is” was her immediate response.

All of which got me to thinking: what kind of Godly relationship can we expect our children to have with the Lord when we who are supposed to be the leaders of the church are sowing so much confusion into their lives? How in the world are they supposed to know who’s right and who is wrong?

For example: according to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, there were an estimated 43,000 Christian denominations in 2012.

Forty.

Three.

Thousand.

Which begs the question:

Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?  1Co 1:13 KJV

So I ask again: how is anyone,much less a young adult,supposed to figure out which church to attend,or which doctrine is the right one?

We have instilled in our daughter the importance of reading her bible and of having a right relationship with the Lord,but I have no illusions that she will agree with me on every single point of doctrine.Nor should I expect her to read from the same version of the bible that I do.She is an independent young woman who with God’s help must chart her own destiny.

So what of those who do not yet know the Lord but may be seeking Him? To which of the 43,000 denominations do they turn to? Yours? Mine?

Of course,all of us believe we “know the way”,or at least have some assurance that we are on the right track.And heaven knows we could start our own version of jihad,or holy war by laying claim to having the answers for everyone.For certain we all know that wars have been fought and inquisitions enacted throughout the ages all in the name of “church”.

Many Christians today like to believe that their church can be traced back to the Apostles and Disciples of Christ.Some believe that their church was started due to a direct revelation from God Himself.Still others lay claim to a particular religious figure from the past,or as in the case of most mega churches today they follow a personality.

But do you see how difficult it can be to sort through this mess of religiosity?

Catholic,Baptist,Methodist / Wesleyan,Lutheran,Presbyterian,Pentecostal/Charismatic,Episcopalian/Anglican,Churches of Christ,Assemblies of God,Church of God,Seventh-Day Adventist,Church of the Nazarene,Church of the Brethren,Independent Christian Church…and on and on it goes…

Jesus said that “Do [you] suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division.” Luk 12:51 NKJV

Jesus was NOT referring to the church in this passage! Any division in the church comes not from Him ,but from US!

If the church’s divine mandate is to go out and make disciples of all nations,is it any wonder the church is failing so miserably? We cannot even agree among ourselves what we are to believe! And we expect the lost to somehow look at us as the answer to their lost condition,to entrust their eternal souls to our care?

Something has gone horribly wrong in the church! It would seem that any person that disagrees with their church doctrine or polity is free to start their own…to the tune of 43,000 of them! And I can assure you I have seen this happen far too often.The next time you’re out driving in your city,start looking at the various church signs out there.The number of them is astounding! Are all of them right? Are all of them wrong?

I cannot presume to speak for anyone other than myself in matters of faith and salvation.We are all on a journey of our own.Indeed,we are instructed in the word to work out our own salvation:

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;   Phl 2:12 NKJV

What I do know is that many established,long time Christians are finding themselves at a critical juncture in their faith walk.Gone is the confidence they once had that the church had all the right answers.The church has been silent for far too long on issues of grave importance.Either that,or they have given them a simple,cursory response when what was called for was the voice of God thundering from the nations pulpits!

To answer my daughter’s question:”aren’t they all churches of Christ?”,I have to be honest and say I think not.What I know to be true and without fault or wrong is not any church or particular denomination,but rather Jesus Christ Himself.

He is the spotless Lamb of glory,God’s sinless sacrifice offered once and for all for the sins of all men everywhere.

And upon this truth I stand.

Christ, and Christ Alone…..

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I’ve been reading and thinking quite a bit lately about the single most important “thing” in this life,and most certainly the life to come. This “thing”,for lack of a better term, is “Salvation”.

“Salvation”. No matter how you describe what happens at the end of this life,every Christian has this hope within them that by the grace of God they will be…

  • SAVED
  • REDEEMED
  • RESCUED
  • SPARED
  • RANSOMED

Call it by whatever name you, your church, or your denomination calls it. The meaning is still the same.

Abiding within the Christian is a promise from God who cannot lie that we are going to be saved.Awaiting us is a new home in Glory,and an eternity that will be spent in His presence. Never again will our bodies suffer disease.Pain will be a thing of a past that we will no longer remember.

For the rest of eternity we will never know the heartbreak of a loved one going on before us. Every tear shall be wiped away,for in that place of eternal joy there will never be another tear of sadness or grief shed.

Sounds great,doesn’t it? So how do I get this Salvation?

Well, it cannot be earned or bought with money. You can never do enough good deeds to receive it. No one else can get it for you. It’s something that millions,perhaps billions have attempted to gain but in spite of their best efforts to buy it,earn it,or steal it have fallen short of the mark.

No friends,this Salvation is made possible because of Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice on the Cross. In other words,the price has already been paid.Now if that isn’t the best news you’ve ever heard!!!!

So how can you know that this is real and not some made up tale from long ago? How about we search the scriptures for some proof?

The apostle Peter delivered quite a message to the chief priests,rulers,and scribes the day after he and his fellow disciples had been imprisoned for teaching the people about Jesus. In this message,which I have included below, Peter spells it out very plainly in whose name comes this salvation I am speaking about.

Acts 4:1-12…

1:And as they spoke to the people, the priests, and the temple commander, and the Sadducees came on them,
2:  being grieved that they taught the people, even to announce through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.
3:  And they laid hands on them and put them under guard until the next day, for it was already evening.
4:  But many of those who heard the Word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand.
5:  And it happened on the next day that their rulers and elders and scribes, gathered to Jerusalem,
6:  and Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest.
7:  And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, By what power, or by what name have you done this?
8:  Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, Rulers of the people and elders of Israel,
9:  if we are examined today on a good work for an infirm man, by what this one has been healed,
10:  be it known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, in this name does this man stand before you whole.
11:  This is the Stone which you builders have counted worthless, and He has become the Head of the Corner.
12:  And there is salvation in no other One; for there is no other name under Heaven given among men by which we must be saved.   Emphasis mine

Well there you have it friends. Salvation comes from Christ and Christ alone. No other name that has ever been spoken can save you except Jesus Christ. Praying to or calling upon any other is futile.

Christ, and Christ alone…..

Romans 10:9-10
that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Ephesians 2:8-9
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.

Romans 5:1-2
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Be blessed,

Ron

If Jesus Built This Church on Love…….

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I’ve been thinking about a gospel song from many years ago entitled “Jesus built this church on love”. In case you’ve never heard the song here is a sample of the lyrics:

“Do you ever just get to wonderin’/ ‘bout the way things are today?/ So many on board this gospel ship/ Trying to row in a different way/ If we’d all pull together/ Like a family me and you/ We’d come a lot closer to doin’/ what the Lord called us to do.

Chorus: “Jesus built this church on love/ and that’s what it’s all about/ Trying to get everybody saved/ not to keep anybody out…”

What got me to thinking about this old song was the simple message of the song title itself. “Jesus built this church on love”…

The more I keep thinking about those simple words the more obvious it becomes that Jesus actually did build His church on love. Or at least that was His intention until we got in the way and decided we knew a better way to build a church. Notice the difference there?

Jesus said He would build His church. We the church of today want only to build “A” church. I wonder how well we’ve done in building “A” church?

Jesus did NOT build His church on the things that we all too often stumble over.For example Jesus did not build His church on a particular denomination. Shocking isn’t it? Especially to those of you who love to espouse your denomination’s doctrinal positions above the word of God!

Neither did Jesus build His church on a foundation of rules and regulations. Sorry legalistic Christians, if it isn’t in the Bible you’ve went too far!

Oh, and lest I forget, Jesus did not build His church upon the traditions of men that dare attempt to usurp the authority of Christ on earth.

Nope. In it’s most basic,simplistic fashion the church of the Living God was built on love. The love of Christ for a sinful world. A love so deep that One would dare give His own sinless life in order to become the very foundation of this church.

If Jesus built this church on love….then where is it?

Where in the world is the love that the church was built upon?

Where is the love for one another within the body of Christ? From where I sit on the front row of the church I see a famine in the church.I hear all the right words. I listen to songs about the love of God. I hear sermon after sermon filled with words about love.

But I don’t SEE much of it. What I do see is this:

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. James 1:22-24

I hear hearty “Amen’s”. I see heads nod in affirmation at the call to love one another. Hearers of the word abound! After all, if all we ever do is hear the word and never act upon it…it costs us nothing!!

So what does the Bible have to say to us about loving one another?

John 15:12 (NKJV)
This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

John 15:17 (NKJV)
These things I command you, that you love one another.

Romans 12:10 (NKJV)
Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another;

1 Peter 3:8-9 (NKJV)
Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous;
not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.

1 John 4:11-12 (NKJV)
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.

Seems to me we ought to be all about the doing when it comes to loving one another and not just be content witn hearing about it.

Yes, Jesus built His church on love.

But if we’re not careful we will dismantle it with our lack of true love for one another.

Ron