The Present Crisis

Not to be alarmist or anything, but we do have a crisis of family in our community. This is the gift of modern “civilization.” Let me tell you what I see. Because I am sure you see it too. Everyday, after school, kids get off of the bus. Perfectly normal, yes. But where do those kids go? Do they go home? Some do. Some stay out, go down to the park, to friends’ houses, or they simply roam the streets, looking for something to do. Where are the parents? Not at home. They are working. They are out, often with no option but to leave their kids to fend for themselves. These kids, roaming unsupervised, are allowed to do anything they want, to go through backyards, church lots, and responsible to no one. Will there be any discipline of these kids? Not if the parents are too tired to give it.

Is this the parents’ fault? Not entirely. Many of these are single parents, who must work these long hours to support the household, to pay the bills, to make ends meet. Why are they single? They are single because a husband, a wife, a boyfriend, or even a girlfriend have walked out and abandoned them because. Life with them was too “difficult” too “stressful” and “they just couldn’t take it anymore.” Everyone has heard these words at one time or another. But somehow some couples manage to stick it out, while others fall apart.

The reasons for this abandonment are legion. When all is said and done, we have single parents trying to help their families survive with what Minimum Wage is willing to pay them. It’s not that these parents don’t care, it’s that they have no energy left-over to care. What energy they do have is making supper, ordering the kids to be quiet, and off to bed. I’m a parent. I know how much energy is required, even demanded to “raise up a child in the way he should go.” A single parent doesn’t have anyone to talk to. They have no one to lean back on. So, yes, many will take up the next boyfriend or girlfriend willing to give him or her an ounce of concern. We have adults in our community so starved for affection that they will take up with anybody, settle for anyone to give them that affection. Have they lost their senses? No.

As adults, we are hungry, and this is the necessary stuff of life that we need. Marriage was designed by God to fill that niche, to satisfy that need for intimacy and affection in a healthy and loving relationship with someone of the opposite sex. When marriage ends in divorce, when marriage is avoided altogether, parents suffer, and children, just as we see it today, roam the streets looking for affection, attention, from anybody. This is the reason for nearly every problem we have in our community. The Breakdown of the Family. If our families don’t function, our community doesn’t function.

Is there hope?

I believe so, or I wouldn’t be in the ministry that I’m in. Obviously, the correct Sunday School answer is Jesus. But what does that mean for hurting families? That means a community of faith like the church that will reach out and will embrace these hurting parents, will support them and strengthen them. That will give them hope for tomorrow through our Savior Jesus Christ. That means reaching out to the kids of your community and giving them guidance, leadership through the rocky years of adolescence and beyond. It will require the members of your community that are Christian to reach out to the families that aren’t. And that begins with you.

In order to avert this crisis, we’ve got to begin where we can do the most good for the moment, at home.

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Inconvenienced For Christ!

A few weeks ago, I was talking about getting volunteers for our VBS program and asking any and all to help out. Anyone who helped I know would be “inconvenienced” for the week, but only that they might introduce some small child to the Lord. What a task! A responsibility to witness to the truth of the gospel is ours, and what greater opportunity than VBS!

What did you say?

Many chose not to be “inconvenienced for Christ.” I know the reasons, because I’ve used them myself. But, I fear that these will be the testimony of millions before the throne of Christ.

He’s coming you know. He’s coming for you. He will ask you to give an account for the talents you’ve been given. (Romans 14:11-12) “For it is written, “As certainly as I live, declares the Lord, every knee will bow to me, and every tongue will praise God. Consequently, each of us will give an account of himself to God.”

What will you say?

You might believe that the missionaries and ministers fulfill the great sacrifices. You might think that the only the professionals can accomplish the great missions. “I just don’t have the time or training.” Nonsense! Did the Lord only call the missionaries and ministers? No.

Every Christian is called to ministry (Rom 8:28 “And we know that he works all things together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose”), for we have all been tasked with the ministry of reconciliation (2Co 5:18 “All of this comes from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation”), bringing this lost world under the subjection and saving knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (may His Name be praised). We have a duty to our King to serve Him, wherever we are. This call isn’t just for religious nuts, or the slightly dazed and confused. It’s time we proclaimed the truth about Jesus!

But you’re tired. You like your life the way it is. Christ will only get in the way, mess things up, be too much of a bother, an inconvenience not to be pursued. Sadly, many will die with these words on their lips. (Luke 12:19-20) “”Soul, you’ve stored up plenty of good things for many years. Take it easy, eat, drink, and enjoy yourself.” But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Now who will get the things you’ve accumulated?’”

What will you say?

You see, Jesus isn’t just for the super-religious. Life is too short to be a spectator. Jesus isn’t for the pious, the perfect, the morally pure. (Mar 2:17) “When Jesus heard that, he said to them, “Healthy people don’t need a physician, but sick ones do. I did not come to call righteous people, but sinners.”” Jesus calls you to come to Him, to become a “beloved disciple” whether you feel you deserve it or not. Are you willing to be “inconvenienced for Christ?”

What will you say?

Eyesores

I had the privilege of attending the Town Board Meeting last month. I was curious about what was going on in town, so I decided to drop in on Town Hall on a Monday Evening. I was not disappointed. I had taken my 7-year-old son with me, but he didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I did.

It seems that the most pressing problems in our community has to do with eyesores, those properties that nobody cares about. According to the Town Board, these are usually properties that the owners have simply left to fend for themselves, and houses make very poor caretakers. Houses cannot mow their own grass, or keep kids from wandering around inside of them doing who-knows-what. Though the town has tried to enforce local ordinances about keeping one’s yard and property in decent condition, the owners not only have not cleaned things up, but also have yet to return to town.

Thus, we have eyesores as next-door neighbors.

What others might not know that these eyesores are problems. They create places for kids to hang out and potentially injure themselves. They are places where drugs are likely sold and exchanged. They provides homes for vermin and lost animals, and by result, cause one to hold their nose as they pass by. The real trouble is, its easy to point to these eyesores and say, “There’s the real trouble about this town.” That couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Tearing down buildings and cleaning up properties are only taking care of symptoms. They aren’t the cure. We could tear down every building in town and level the entire town to dust, but the real problems, the real issues at stake would not have been touched.

Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.”1 The real issues, he says isn’t what you see on the outside, but what’s on the inside.

Sure we’ve got houses that look rundown, smell, and are eyesores. But if we were to come to your house, and look inside, would you qualify? Would the inside of your house be free from the clutter and the odor that your outside claims to be? And even more importantly, if we were to look inside your heart, would the same stench and disgust revile our nostrils, or the same vermin inhabit your thoughts and desires?

You see, it’s easy to look at someone else’s house and say, “That’s an eyesore!” But it is very difficult to lay that same standard to our heart, and feel proud of it.

The Apostle Paul once wrote, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”2 I’ve sinned. I’m sure you have too. We’ve all done something or several things that make our souls an eyesore to our Creator. That once beautiful structure called a human heart was filled with wonder at God, at the things He has made, but now is filled with hurt, with suffering, with hate and malice. We are surely an eyesore in the eyes of God.

But God wasn’t content to leave us that way. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”3 God sent His Son, one who knew how to clean up the eyesores, who came himself, lived as one of us, and shed his own blood for the eyesores of our souls, so that our eyesores would be beautiful again: not perfect, but at least presentable.

It will take some elbow grease and some hard work to clean up the eyesores in our community. But to clean up our soul is far easier. Simply embrace the Christ who has come to save us by believing that He is the Savior and Lord of our “house.” Repent of your sins and confess His name and Lordship before men. Be immersed into Christ and live for Him, and so receive His gift of His Spirit, his Presence to move in to your soul and help you live, and clean up the messes that happen along the way.

Your friends at the Church welcome you this Sunday to join us in our “house-cleaning” we do every week. A quick broom to the soul never hurt anybody. Won’t you come?

1 Matthew 23:27

2 Romans 3:23

3 John 3:16-17

It’s Hot!

Now that’s some news! There’s just something about summer. It’s always hot. But it wasn’t that long ago that it was cold. And then we wished for summer weather. Well, your prayers have been answered. It’s hot! Do we have cause to complain? No, not really. It’s a trait of human nature, and a trait that God dislikes.

Ancient Israel mastered the fine art of complaining. When they were liberated from Egypt, were they thrilled? For about a day. When they reached the Red Sea, they “murmured” against Moses. “Murmur”-ing is a quiet form of complaining. When they crossed the sea of dry land, watched the Egyptians drowned, and finally walked as free men, they started murmuring against Moses because they had no food. God heard them, sent them Manna (bread from Heaven), and they filled their bellies, that is, until they tired of Manna. “We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost – also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!” (Numbers 11:5, 6) So the Lord sent quail to give them meat to eat. But God was so angry at their ingratitude that He struck them with a severe plague! “Again and again they put God to the test; they vexed the Holy One of Israel.” (Psalms 78:41) Thus we receive the warning in 1 Corinthians 10:10, “And do not grumble, as some of them did – and were killed by the destroying angel.”

These are chilling words on a hot day. We can find a million things to complain about, but what does God think about it? God is the one who constructed the seasons, both the heat and the cold. In fact, if you go back into the Scriptures, you might find that winter and summer are consequences of the flood. Before the flood, the world was a temperate paradise. A layer of water in the upper atmosphere protected the world from the sun’s harmful radiation.1 But with the flood, that water, and the water under the earth flooded the surface (Genesis 7:11) and exposed the ground to direct sunlight, and the extremes of the seasons. And why did God send the flood? “The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.” (Genesis 6:5) So whose fault is it that it is so hot? Ours, because we are still wicked. We still wander away from God, and resist His will for our lives.

So what is it that God wants from us? He doesn’t want anything from us. He wants us, just as we are, to love Him, just as He is. He is the bringer of rain, to cool hot days, and of clouds, to shield from the sun. He is the Grower of green things, to feed you and to please you with its beauty. He loves you in so many different ways, but most importantly, He sent His own Son to you, to die for you, to pay for your wickedness in His Father’s eyes, and finally to rise again from death, to invite you to Him, if you are willing. His grace truly is amazing.

The path to Him is very simple:

Believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and that He died and rose again.

Confess that belief to others.

Repent of your sins before God and change your heart with His help.

Be immersed for the forgiveness of your sins, and receive the presence of the Holy Spirit and the gift of eternal life.

Grow in Christ, through prayer, Bible study, time spent with Him, attendance and participation in and with Church.

Stop complaining. It’s always going to be hot in summer. But it sure beats Hell!

1 C. Theodore Schwarze, The Marvel of Earth’s Canopies (Chicago, IL: Good News, 1957), 24ff.

Penciling In

Another year has come and gone, and we are faced with a new year, complete with new challenges and new opportunities. There is something about opening a new calendar, and putting away an old one. The scent of fresh paper, the sound of crinkled plastic, and the bright and playful colors of the approaching year’s pictures. But, just as soon as the new calendar is opened and hung, it becomes filled. Without fail, it becomes a battlefield, with armies of meetings and programs threatening the placid surface of the page. The old calendar bears silent witness to the war between your time, and the time claimed by everyone else, your job, your children, and your spouse.

I can’t speak to all of your other commitments, but I can guarantee at least one hour a week well worth the investment of your time. That hour is the hour you spend with God and His people. Many of you may not have been to church in recent months. I want to formally invite you to revisit God’s house, where His name is worshipped and His word is read and examined. That hour, and you can put this in your calendar, is the hour you spend with Jesus. Jesus won’t monopolize your time; it must be freely given. But for the cost, it is the most profitable 60 minutes of your week. For what you give, you get peace of mind, and of heart. There is joy here, and love. There is also hope. For here is a Savior, and a forgiver of sin. If you want the rest of your 167 hours to be meaningful, I ask you to spend 1 with Jesus.

Why should Sunday occupy an important part of our time? Examine the following:

It is the day on which God created light. (Genesis 1:3)

It is the day on which our Lord was resurrected and on which He appeared to His Disciples. (John 20:19, 26)

It is the day on which the 120 believers received the baptism of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. (Leviticus 23:15-16; Acts 2:1-4)

It is the day when the Apostle John was given his revelation of the glorified Christ. (Revelation 1:10)

It is the day on which the early Christians gathered to worship (Acts 20:7); to hear the Word (Acts 20:6-7): and to make their contributions for God’s work. (1 Corinthians 16:2)

The first day of the week, Sunday, is the foundation for the remaining six days. If the foundation is holy, so will the rest be holy. But if the foundation is full of holes, the rest of the week cannot stand.

Please pencil Him in.

OOOH, SCARY!

I know it’s become something of a tradition for churches to harp on evil Halloween. You see articles like, “Satan’s Birthday” and “the night when evil reigns.” I think all of these are nonsense. When it comes to special days on the calendar, each Christian should decide for himself what days he chooses to use to honor God.

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.
(Rom 14:5-6 ESV)

It is true some groups, like Pagans and Wicca put more emphasis on Halloween than Christians do. I’m not saying that’s alright, it’s just a fact. But Halloween is more traditionally the night before a far more important holiday on the church calendar, All Saint’s Day. The Catholics recognize November 1st as the day to honor all the saints. Not a bad idea if you ask me. Because we need to be reminded of Saints, like those mentioned in Hebrews 11: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Deborah, Samuel, David, Gideon, to name a few. All of these were honored because they were faithful, without ever seeing the Christ in their lifetimes. They believed in Him, and trusted Him. That’s what made them saints.

Halloween then is simply a shortened version of “All Hallow’s Eve.” We say the words all the time when we say, “Hallowed be thy name.” “Hallow” is a word meaning “holy.” “separate” and “special.” Unfortunately, the world has taken what was once a time for meditation and prayer, and made it into a dark and forbidding day, a day to remember and honor evil. That’s sad. And I think it’s high time to take back what is ours. It’s time to make Halloween a holy day again. Make it special. Either by taking your kids out for candy, or spending some time with your spouse by a fire roasting hot dogs and marshmallows. This is a special time, as special as Thanksgiving or Christmas, because “this is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Rather than shower ridicule and criticism upon those who have made it a celebration of sin, let’s be praying for them, and showering them with mercy and compassion. Satan has no power in the face of God’s love.

This is the love we can share through Christ Jesus. “Greater love hath no man than this, that he give up his life for his friends.” Don’t let another day go by in loneliness and despair. You aren’t alone.

So, Are You Coming?

If you are one of those 33% that don’t go to church anywhere, then this article is for you. So those of you who are already members AND regular attenders at a church, either this one, or elsewhere, I ask you to give this article to someone you know.

Now, it’s just us. You the rare-if-ever church-goer, and me, the minister of a local church. The question that plagues me is what can I do, or what can I say that might encourage you to darken the doors of our church building? You may have some objection to coming to church, and this I fully understand. There are times when 9:30am is really too early to be in a church building on a Sunday morning. Sometimes I am tired from my busy weekend and would really just rather stay in bed. I can’t. And its not just the fact that I have to preach on Sunday morning, but that I want to be in this church. This is where all my friends are. The people I love come to church. This is my family.

Some people just don’t like church. It’s filled with too much politics. If you agree with this statement, I am your newest best friend. You are the kind of person that truly loves the Lord. Amen, brother. Because you have a place reserved for you in Heaven. I hate church politics. It only gets in the way of real worship and expression. What we need here at Jesus’ Church are more people that think like this. They are willing to worship Jesus no matter what. If you are willing to trust in Jesus alone, then you have a home here with us.

Some people have been to this church before and have either been burned or felt that they weren’t welcome here. I want to tell you that this church isn’t your father’s church or the preacher’s church. This is Jesus’ church and it belongs to Him. We have the great privilege of being invited to belong.

Listen, I don’t want to beat you up over this, but it’s very important that you find out the answer to this question: If you were to die tonight, and God asked you at His throne, “why should I let you into my Heaven?”, I want you to be prepared to answer. Only Christians can say with confidence, “Because Christ has died for me.”

Christ isn’t just an odd concept. He is a living, real person. He has done a marvelous thing for us. He lived just like we do. He was working-class, and never made any bones about it. He lived his life, the best life that was ever lived, and died for you. He died so that you, and I mean you on a personal level, could stand before His Father, and answer. Your eternity depends on it. Don’t wait any longer. You need to decide today.