You are far more Precious to God than the Person you Love most on Earth is to you

You are far more precious to God than the person you love most on earth is to you.

Yet, I so often see people as opportunities for me to feel fulfilled rather than opportunities for me to relate with the secure unthreatened love of Jesus.  And that depersonalizes them into useful objects that I either appreciate or despise.

God didn’t put us on earth to retire comfortably, but to draw the people in your sphere of relating to Him by the power of our holy, radically self-sacrificing, other-centered love.  We are here to live A NEW WAY, to draw close to God in order to be formed into the likeness of His Son.

Of course we’ll face opposition where the battle to be holy will become so difficult and the narrow road so steep that we may leave the narrow road for a season.  But know this: God will not leave us there!  There is always a way back from sin!  Tears of hope will flow every time we experience God’s loving mercy when we fail.  God still loves us.  He will not give up on us.  He still has a plan.

So we must remain alert to compromised spiritual leaders who entice us more with the hope of blessings than with the promise of holiness, who lead you to think that God’s love makes Him more concerned with your present comfort than your eternal joy.

Can our Love for God just be another form of Self-Centeredness?

Love has no meaning unless it remains alive when the one you claim to love seems distant and unresponsive.  If you love God only when He immediately satisfies your desires, your love is merely one more form of self-centeredness.  Your love becomes trust only when you choose to believe that God brought you out of something bad to bring you into something good BEFORE YOU EXPERIENCE THAT SOMETHING GOOD.

Then your love is sustained by confidence in God’s character, not by enjoyment of current blessings.

How Church Leaders Should Handle “Problem People” (part two)

Bill Easum puts it this way in his book, Go Big:

One of the hallmarks of Jesus’ ministry was his constant attack on the status quo.  He challenged it every time he could.  Jesus loved people too much to allow them to remain such small persons.  Being nice has nothing to do with being Christian.  Being nice is often nothing more than a lack of compassion for people.

People who would rather be nice than Christian do not love enough.  They do not have enough compassion.  Instead, they are afraid of hurting someone or being hurt.  Fear is the opposite of love.  Remember, “Perfect love drives out fear” (I John 4:18).

This does not mean that we should set out to intimidate the bully or kick people out of the church.  But it does mean that we care enough about the future of our church not to allow anyone to stifle its ability to liberate people from bondage or victimization.  It means that we care enough about the bully that we will not allow the bully to intimidate the church because we know the spiritual vitality of both the bully and the church is at stake (120-21).

Does this seem reasonable?

How Church Leaders Should Handle “Problem People” (part one)

I’m so glad that I have had so few “problem people” in my 15 years of full time ministry.  But the few times I have had “problem people” in the church I discovered that it was best to handle problem people quickly, directly, lovingly, and firmly.  We are encouraged in Titus 3:10 (The Message), “Warn a quarrelsome person once or twice, but then be done with him.”

Most stuggling churches are held hostage by 1 or 2 bullies or controllers who are opposed to the church making any change, even if the change would give the church a chance to thrive once again.  These people get their sense of self-worth by keeping the church so intimidated, either by their actions or their money, that very little can happen without their approval.  The sad thing is most of the leaders know that these people are a stumbling block to the church’s future but they won’t do anything about it.  They don’t confront the bully because they think that is the “Christian” thing to do, and in so doing, assist in the stunted growth or death of the congregation.

What’s your experience with “Problem people” and how have you found the best ways to handle them?

The Church (part six: your friend)

A river is purest at its source, and so we learn what the church is to be by studying the New Testament pattern. Acts 2:42, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”

Church can be an enemy; church can even be neutral. Neither are what God intended. Here are some ways you can make sure the church is your friend, not your foe.

1. Make a commitment to be there every week.

People come up with great excuses. They will say, “I worshipped on the golf course.” They must play better than me because when I play I get to see a lot of God’s creation, woods, rough, lakes, sand.

Hebrews 10:25 reminds us, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

The early New Testament church met throughout the week, even during some periods meeting on a daily basis in homes. The Bible tells us to pray, to study Scriptures, to partake of the Lord’s Supper, and to give offerings.

2. Participate with the right attitude.

Have the right attitude when you are there. Worship is not a chance for you to judge and pick apart everything. It is an opportunity to soak in the spiritual and biblical teaching and to be fulfilled through fellowship and encouragement. Go to church to participate, not evaluate.

3. Make an effort to serve.

Love and service go hand in hand. Both can dramatically affect your attitude and have incredible benefits for the church. Get involved.

If people do not serve at our church, light bulbs would go out and never be changed. Weeds would overtake the landscape. The Word of God would not be taught to children, and lives would not be changed. Marriages would not be salvaged. Rebellious teens would not find loving individuals with the strength and support to follow through with tough love. People would not be surrendering their lives to Christ. The church without servants would be a very empty building. Indeed, the church without you is just another building.

Someone has defined the scene at a football game as follows: “50,000 people who desperately need exercise watch 22 people who desperately need to rest.” Sometimes that accurately describes the 21st century Church. Too many Christians sit and watch the action without ever becoming a part of the action.

4. Make it a habit to invite others.

The followers of Jesus are required to go into politics, into business, into homes, into education. The purpose of the gospel is to penetrate the whole of common life.

5. Pray for the church.

Pray for the leaders, the members, and their impact in the community. They/we/I need it—desperately. Paul conveyed the message in 2 Thessalonians 3:1, “Finally, brothers and sisters, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you.”

L.L. Parrott said, “What the church needs is more action, less factions, more workers, fewer shirkers, more backers, fewer slackers, more fasting, less feasting, more praying, less playing.”

Prayer is the power that propels the church to truly be the body of Christ.

6. Live a life that honors God and His Church.

Have you ever been out driving and you see a really unique car? I mean a classic old-time car, or a really beautiful sports car, or even a limousine? You know, cars that just stick out like a sore thumb, except instead of being a sore thumb, we’d like to see it in our garage.

That begs the question: How obvious is it to others that you are a Christian? Just as a classic is distinctive in a sea of cars, do you stand out among people?

Like it or not, people are walking up and taking a closer look at you to see if your actions match your beliefs. They are checking under the hood of your life. Double-mindedness turns churches into enemies. God doesn’t need that, and your community doesn’t need that, because it sends a mixed message. 1 Peter 2:12 says, “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”

Author George McDonald says, “Don’t tell me what you believe about God or even what you think you believe. Tell me what you didn’t do today that you wanted to do, but you didn’t because you love God. And tell me what you did do because you love God.”

The Church (part five: divided)

Satan wins a victory any time he succeeds at dividing a church. The New Testament is laced with encouragement to work toward unity. Listen to a partial listing of reminders.

  • Be devoted to one another.
  • Honor one another.
  • Live in harmony with one another.
  • Love one another.
  • Accept one another.
  • Instruct one another.
  • Greet one another.
  • Agree with one another.
  • Serve one another.
  • Bearing with one another.
  • Be kind and compassionate to one another.
  • Speak to one another.
  • Submit to one another.
  • Forgive one another.
  • Teach and admonish one another.
  • Encourage one another.
  • Live in harmony with one another.
  • Offer hospitality to one another.
  • Clothe yourselves w/ humility toward one another.

Look at Paul’s discourse on the church in 1 Corinthians 12, “But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”

 

I’ve seen churches split over the smallest of things, which tells you oftentimes pride is a factor. Church leaders feel like they must save face. In fact, more churches split over personal differences than doctrinal differences. Feelings get hurt, or someone else gets more attention, or those who have been members for a long time form cliques excluding others and dividing the church.

 

A man was stranded on a deserted island all by himself for years. Finally one day a boat came sailing into view, and the man frantically waved and got the attention of the captain. The captain greeted the stranded man.

After a while the sailor asked, “What are those 3 huts you have here?”

“Well that’s my house there.”

“What about the next hut?”

The man said, “I built that hut to be my church.”

“What about the other hut?”

The man huffed and said, “Oh—that one—is where I used to go to church!”

A united church is a powerful testimony for the Lord.

The Church (part three: bibleless; part four: legalistic)

What am I talking about here? There are tons of “churches” today who do not really believe in the Bible. Their ruling authority is not God’s Word, it’s reason or experience, but not Scripture. That‘s why their beliefs change along with the whims of our culture.

The problem is, the more we focus on public opinion the less we focus on the truth of Scripture. People. say, “Why do so many religious leaders have such varied opinions on the hot topics of today like homosexuality and abortion?” That’s easy to explain: many don’t see the Bible as the standard of truth.

They do it in the name of love and tolerance, but they ignore the truth of Scripture. It is unbelievable what some preachers do to malign and twist and justify their position. They quote others, take verses out of context and cast aside any principles of biblical interpretation.

The Apostle Paul said in 2 Timothy 4:3-4, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” This is that time in many churches.

If Jesus is merely a good teacher who could captivate a crowd with His lessons and fool them with His “miracles” then there’s no need to even have churches. C.S. Lewis said, “You cannot merely say that Jesus Christ was a good man. He has not left that option available to us, for if He is not the Son of God, as he claims, then he is a terrible liar, NOT a good man.”

The danger of a church without the Bible is that there is no belief in absolute truth, and you can melt into a pool of moral relativism. If there is no motivation to righteousness, no application of the Scriptures, no desire for transformation, is that really a church or just a country club?

A Sunday school teacher challenged her children to take some time on Sunday afternoon to write a letter to God. They were to bring back their letters the following Sun. One boy wrote, “Dear God, We had a good time at church today. Wish you could’ve been there.”

When I first started driving at the age of 16 one day a truck passed me and a small rock fell off of it and bounced off my windshield leaving a tiny crack. I was on my way to school. I thought, “No big deal, it doesn’t affect my vision, and it’s not that big.” A couple of weeks later as it got cold out, I noticed this thing was bigger than just a couple of inches, and I didn’t remember it being that prominent before. The next week I intentionally looked at it and realized it was now over 20 inches long; it covered more than half of the lower portion of the windshield. Now if I had cont.ed to do nothing, someday that could have become an “in your face” problem, literally.

I’ve seen this happen with churches. It’s just a little oversight or indiscretion by a church leader; or it’s just a small deviation from biblical doctrine; or it’s not a problem, “they just have a personality conflict” goes the rationale, but before you know it, the problem gets larger and larger.

The lantern had but one small crack, but the wind found it, and the flame no longer burns.

4. The legalistic Church

The Sadducess in Jesus’ day were the religious leaders of the day who ignored the Bible. The Pharisees were the legalists. They were like people who are so narrow that they can see through a keyhole with both eyes.

Be leery of a church that puts demands on you that are not clearly spelled out in Scripture. Some churches will say: no swimming, no caffeine, and no shorts. The Apostle Paul had spent his time in legalism. He’d done all the right things, but they were meaningless compared to knowing Christ; he considered them as a loss. That’s why he could say in Galatians 5:1, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Paul saw legalism as loss for the sake of Christ. Does your church make any demands that aren’t scriptural?

The Church (part two: self-centered)

This foe can manifest itself in several ways. First by only caring for those inside the church and neglecting those outside the church. Jesus said in Matthew 25:40, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

I’ve noticed something about uncaring churches versus caring churches. The size of the congregation doesn’t matter. You can walk into a church of 50 people and it can be the most cold and uncaring place you’ve ever been in—people hate each other and don’t care about you. You can also walk into a church of 50 where the people really care for one another and will minister to you. The same thing can happen in a large church. I’ve been in large churches that were cold and uncaring, and I’ve been in large churches where the people are ministering to one another. Real ministry involves practical action. I love it when we get a thank you note from someone in the community or from some agency that we work with and often they will write, “I believe I experienced God that day.”

Much depends upon the attitude of the person attending the church for the first time. If the guest doesn’t make eye contact with anyone, or retreats at invitation, or has a cynical attitude or preconceived notions, and doesn’t get to know anyone, then his or her church experience was deeply affected by their own apathetic attitude. It may have been a friendly church; the guest just wasn’t receptive to that welcome.

Another way a church can be self-centered is by having an arrogant spirit. That can do so much harm to the Kingdom. And we need to be careful of that. Which ever church you call “home,” I hope that you dearly love it. I hope that you want to tell everyone you can about it, and how the church has helped you to grow spiritually. But in your zeal, be careful not to come on so strong that people mistake your passion for pride. Remember that our commission is not to drive people to a church, it is to lead them lovingly to Christ. A little salt is great, but too much ruins the meal. An elitist attitude can quickly turn a church into a foe rather than a friend.