When Felix Baumgartner, a 43-year-old Austrian skydiving expert, completed a record-breaking jump after flying to an altitude of over 128,000 feet in a helium-filled balloon, some thought he was crazy. At one point, in his free fall that lasted over four minutes, he reached a speed of 843 mph! Some of you are ready to sign up; others are ready to throw up just thinking about it!
I understand that we all have different personalities, but regardless of our natural bent, do you think God has something great and full of adventure for you? Do you believe that following Jesus is boring or the thrill of a lifetime?
It’s my conviction that we love and serve a great big God who has a unique and amazing destiny for each of us. In fact, it is so off the charts that we should feel absolutely inadequate and intimidated to attempt it without God.
Why? Because that’s where faith comes into play. If we can do “it” (whatever it is) without God, then where is faith in the equation?
Do you think God plays favorites? Do you believe that some are called to adventure in His Kingdom and others are simply invited to watch like fans watching players on a field?
Or perhaps, you’ve determined that you don’t have that much to offer God anyhow.
Maybe you’ve bought into the lie that your past and all your failures have somehow disqualified you from anything great or anything of importance in God’s Kingdom.
Possibly a fear of getting hurt or a fear of failure or the fear of looking foolish has crippled your faith.
Please read this next part carefully: God knows everything about you, your past, present and your future, but He also sees what you can become in and through Him.
A rather famous verse for some, that is often used completely out of context, is found in Jeremiah 29:11 (TLB), “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.'”
This is a promise given to the Hebrews in exile in Babylon. God’s saying, “Yes, you’ve blown it, but I’ve not given up on you!” Though this is a specific promise to the Israelites, there is something of God’s character and nature revealed here that does apply to all of us.
God always has a plan for His kids even when we blow it.
It is always for our good and never evil.
And His plans are always filled with hope for our future.
We see this consistently taught and demonstrated in the Word. The Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:10 (NLT), “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”
Despite our broken misconceptions about God or ourselves, and regardless of our past failures, and even in the face of our present fears, Jesus offers each of us an invitation to experience the thrill of being His follower and discovering our destiny in Him.
You might be thinking, “You don’t know me. That’s just not possible! I’m too young, too old, too weak, too broken, too messed up, and it’s just too late for me.” Can I gently remind you, God loves to do the impossible? It’s one of His specialties. And if you believe nothing is impossible with God, then how can you be content to live a life of mediocrity?
It’s my conviction that if you are not blown away sometimes but what God asks of you, then you may not be listening. And frankly, if your relationship with God does not make you uncomfortable at times, then perhaps you have domesticated God, and you’ve made Him a puny god in your life.
I’m imploring you; don’t choose lesser things (like fear) or allow anything (like your past) to keep you from the greater things that are yours for the taking in Christ. You can change your world when you step into the adventure of following Jesus and choose to live believing that He delights to do the HIMpossible through you.
Not too long ago, a family entered our church lobby looking fairly stressed. Having had a few fights on my way to church over the years, I understand the potential for family tension on the way to worship. It also seems that Murphy’s Law is extremely active when people are on their way to something that’s good for them.
As I smiled and said, “Hello” to this family, one of their kids (a junior high boy) said under his breath, “Church sucks!” From the look his mother gave him, I suspect he was grounded for a long time following that comment. Unfortunately, the dad almost winked at him as if to say, “I understand how you feel son; I don’t want to be here either!”
As you can imagine, this is not a great confidence booster for pastors.
You see, for pastors, church is like the Super Bowl, except it happens every Sunday. We love it! We’re excited to connect with our community of faith. We look forward to investing in the lives of people we love. So when they don’t show up, or worse yet, they show up with an attitude, it’s hard for us to understand.
Sure, at times I’ve left after a service and thought, that sucked, but that feeling is reserved for those times when I felt like I’d bombed. Generally, however, church refreshes my soul, and I leave thankful for what God did in our midst.
So what’s going on? Why the growing attitude by some (many?) about Church?
Perhaps some have developed a consumerism mentality. For them, church is about being entertained or having their needs met. So if they don’t like the songs, the volume, the message, the room temperature, or whatever, they get irritated.
Perhaps some are too busy, and other things matter more. They’ll show up only if their kids don’t have a soccer game, they’re not up too late on Saturday night, their favorite sports team isn’t playing, it’s not too cold or snowy (you wouldn’t want to die on your way to church!), or it’s not too nice and sunny (why waste a gorgeous day inside?).
Perhaps some have convinced themselves that they don’t have to go to church to be a part of the Church. They think: I’ll watch it later online, or I don’t have to go to church to be a Christian.
Perhaps their church really does suck and is a waste of time.
(Congratulations if you’re still reading this blog! Hopefully, that means you care about this thing called the Church of Christ.)
Can I suggest a few things for your consideration?
1. It’s not just about you.
Of course, every pastor hopes you will be blessed and personally encouraged at church, but what if that song you dislike is a favorite of someone else and just what they needed? The message on any given Sunday may be “old news” to you, but what if it’s just what Dr. Jesus ordered for someone else?
By the way, when a church tries to be everything for everybody it rarely is anything good for anybody.
Here’s a radical idea: What if you went to church praying, “Jesus, what can I say or do today in church to demonstrate what You have done for me, and how can I be a blessing to others today?” What if you went with a servingattitude rather than worrying about what you’ll get out of it? Isn’t it more blessed to give than to receive?
2. Church should involve sacrifice.
For hundreds and hundreds of years, the Jews understood coming to the tabernacle or temple as an act of sacrifice. It cost them time, energy and money to participate in worship. Sometimes they traveled great distances. And they always brought the best of the best to offer in grateful sacrifice to God. King David once said in 1 Chronicles 21:24 (NIV), “I will not . . . sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.”
Jesus said in Matthew 6:33 (VOICE), “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” Some might argue that Jesus was talking about the kingdom, not the church. Uh . . . He created the Church and without a doubt He and His followers would absolutely include the community of faith in God’s kingdom.
Frankly, when we place other things, other activities (like choosing sports over church) or even more sleep above gathering together as His bride, we are simply not putting His kingdom first. People make time for the things and activities they value most.
3. Being a Christian involves being in community.
Yes, church is more than just an hour on Sunday. And yes, I suppose you can be a Christian without going to a church service. But going to church matters. You truly can’t and shouldn’t do your faith alone.
We need each other. We need to sit next to others who are very different from us yet have the same Spirit inside. We need to join our voices together in song and praise. We need to be refreshed and refueled by the teaching of the Word through the pastor God has placed in our lives. We need to serve others. We need to understand that God never condones isolation. We need to prioritize in our lives the gathering of the saints. We need to make church not about our convenience but all about a sacrifice of love for the One who sacrificed His all for us.
I don’t care if you meet in a home, a garage, a tent, a stain-glassed cathedral or a former K-Mart! But if all of the above is not happening in your life on a regular basis and in whatever church you’re a part of, then you’re missing it.
By the way, if your church actually does suck, then find one where you can whole-heartedly engage, and stop making excuses for staying in bed on Sunday.
For the first century Christians, and even in most of the 20th century, church was at the center of community for believers. Instead of attending 2-3 times a month, the first church worshiped daily (Acts 2:46-47). I, and maybe many of you, grew up attending church 2-3 times a week.
Sure, the culture has changed, but I humbly suggest that we still need the influence and encouragement that best comes through a community of like-minded believers. Frankly, we need each other now more than ever.
Let us consider how to inspire each other
to greater love and to righteous deeds,
not forgetting to gather as a community,
as some have forgotten, but encouraging each other,
One of the many traits we humans have in common is our tendency to fail. We can deny this reality, but it’s better to own it and run to God’s throne of mercy and grace. My path to His presence has few weeds. It is an often-traveled trail that leads me to His forgiveness.
May I pray for you?
Father, lead us to the cross, not just once but over and over again. Remind us of your grace and mercy. Draw us with your lovingkindness. Thank you that when we look into your eyes we see love. We are humbled by your faithfulness and goodness. Because of Jesus . . . amen.
Since we have a great High Priest, Jesus, the Son of God
who has passed through the heavens
from death into new life with God,
let us hold tightly to our faith. For Jesus is not some high priest
who has no sympathy for our weaknesses and flaws.
He has already been tested in every way that we are tested;
but He emerged victorious, without failing God.
So let us step boldly to the throne of grace,
where we can find mercy and grace
to help when we need it most.
Hebrews 4:14-16 (VOICE)
Want to read more about God’s grace? Check out my latest book: Perfectly Imperfect: A Devotional for Grace-Filled Living! Click here to order it today! Or go to Amazon to find out more about this book.
I’ll admit it: Sometimes we Christians are known more for what we’re against than what we are for in this world. Sometimes we make a big deal about things that may not be that important and forget to focus on the things that really do matter most. Sometimes we get all high-and-mighty and act as if we’re better than others.
But sometimes we do need to take a stand and speak the truth in love. William Wilberforce was a devout believer who fought against slavery in England. Martin Luther King, Jr. was also a believer who stood against racial inequity. In fact, throughout history, Christians have often been at the center of the battle for truth and justice.
Typically, I loathe jumping on trendy bandwagons. I’m well aware that many Christian bloggers are sounding off about the movie Fifty Shades of Grey. However, I am terribly disturbed by our culture that continues to normalize the abnormal. Inch by inch, we are marched to the edge of immorality and degradation and told, “It’s okay, this is normal, and if you challenge me on that then you’re just intolerant!”
Well, sometimes it’s good to be intolerant, especially when we are standing with Jesus who loved all but hated sin. For the record, He hates sin because of what it does to the people He loves.
So here are some good reasons to avoid this bad movie like the plague:
It breaks Jesus’ heart.
Jesus would never treat another human created in the image of God this way. As Christ-followers, neither should we.
This kind of “love” is harmful and destructive rather than selfless and wholesome.
The Bible describes love as “kind . . . it does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking . . . it does not delight in evil . . . it always protects.” (1 Cor. 13:4-7)
It’s not just BDSM (which sounds harmless); it’s bondage, domination, sadism, and masochism.
Emotional, physical, and spiritual bondage is always bad.
Dominance is the exact opposite of supportive, selfless love.
Sadism is defined as a desire to inflict pain on others, especially for sexual gratification, or is defined as getting pleasure from being extremely cruel. Seriously? This is okay?
The definition of masochism is getting sexual or emotional pleasure from being mistreated or mentally or physically abused.
Anything that promotes abuse of any kind should be offensive to us.
We won’t tolerate a football player knocking his girlfriend out in an elevator, but as long as it’s consensual and erotic, it’s okay. Are you kidding me? It’s still abuse.
It promotes lust.
Lust is never satisfied.
We don’t need anything else filling our minds with garbage (there’s enough of that on TV).
When it comes to pornography or sexual abuse, the “law of depreciating returns” means that the more one participates, the more graphic or intense our experience needs to become to get the same erotic response. Simply put: we become emotionally calloused and need weirder, wackier stuff to arouse us.
Consenting adults (married or not) who claim BDSM enhances their relationship are broken. Something, somewhere in their past has created a fracture in their soul, and they need healing, not abuse.
This movie (from what I’ve read in reviews and seen in trailers and posters) appeals to our human nature that tends to drift out of curiosity to what can kill us (think Adam and Eve in the garden). Unholy curiosity (i.e. unwise experimentation) can kill more than a cat.
As a parent and grandparent, I would never want my daughter or son treated this way.
In an interview on NBC the female star, Dakota Johnson, said, “I don’t want my parents to see this movie.”
Everything we do should honor and glorify the One who gave His everything for us (1 Cor. 10:31). Can anyone truly make a reasonable argument that BDSM honors Jesus?
I realize I’m swimming upstream on this one. Over 100 million people have read this book, and the movie grossed over $250 million on the opening weekend (a new record). However, my challenge is simple: Would you sit next to Jesus and watch this film? I think not.
As James Emery White recently wrote, “Celebrate sex this Valentine’s Day. Every day, for that matter. But not the fallen kind. Not the Fifty Shades of Grey distortion.”
So guard your heart, protect your mind, and honor Jesus. He died to set people free.
For you know that we dealt with each of you
as a father deals with his own children,
encouraging, comforting and urging you
to live lives worthy of God,
who calls you into his kingdom and glory.
1 Thessalonians 2:11-12 (NIV)
Mr. & Mrs. is a great Valentine’s Gift! Read what Kurt has to say about marital sex and other important topics! Order it today here.