Tag Archives: Religion and Spirituality

Be Astonished and Afraid

Jesus wasn’t looking for fan, he was inviting followers. We have spent the last 6 weeks examining this from many angles, however in a congregation our size it seems there are always some who hold on to the idea that being a fan of Jesus is what we do here. We are really missing something if we get from scripture that we are merely to believe or behave.   Jesus’ disciples certainly did believe and behave, but that isn’t what made them disciples.  They followed!

What’s the difference? At what point does believing or behaving become following? That’s a fantastic question and I’m really glad you asked it. The answer is much too long for a little column like this one, so I would suggest that you go back and listen to Joe’s messages on the church website.  Get a copy of the book “Not a Fan” by Kyle Idleman and read it. Most of all, pray. Examine your life and ask God, “When I did this thing today (be specific) was that the actions of a follower or a fan?”

Let me offer this for you to think about: in Mark 10:32 Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem.  This takes place just before Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion.

“They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished and those who follower were afraid.”  NIV

When you follow Jesus daily you will certainly have many moments were you are astonished at what he is doing in your life. You will also find yourself afraid, not the kind of fear that reveals a lack of trust but instead the kind of fear that leaves you no other choice but to fully trust in Jesus.  Jesus will often lead you to places that will make you uncomfortable – places you would not go on your own.

Please, please, please don’t let this series fade into a distant memory as a nice sermon series that meets your expectations for a quality worship service and message. Make a conscious examination of yourself through the lens of scripture, narrated by the Holy Spirit.  Determine to be a follower and put away the selfish ways of religious fandom.


A Great Time To Be a Fan – A Critical Time To Be a Follower

I’m writing this blog post on Thursday but it will post on Saturday. As of now the KC Royals are playing every game hoping that the next victory will help them squeeze their way into the post-season.  The Chiefs are off to their best start in recent memory with a great chance to knock out their new coach’s former team.  It’s a great time to be a fan of KC sports.

I suppose it’s a great time to be a fan of Jesus as well.  After all, He conquered the greatest enemy of all – death!  And while we may “share” in the Royals’ or Chiefs’ victory through the window of our televisions, we can only share Jesus’ victory if we follow Him.  And following Jesus is hard!  While being a fan of Jesus might be socially acceptable, following Jesus isn’t.  In fact Jesus himself said that if we follow him, the people will despise us.

“And all nations will hate you because you are my followers.  But everyone who endures to the end will be saved.” Matthew 10:22

“Students are to be like their teacher, and slaves are to be like their master.  And since I, the master of the household, have been called the prince of demons, the members of my household will be called by even worse names.” Matthew 10:25

It seems to me that we are in the middle of a message series that approaches those teachings of Jesus which the crowd considered to be too difficult to understand and/or follow.  John records in chapter 6 that many, in fact, turned away.  Remember that these are the same people who ate the miracle fish and bread meal earlier in the chapter.  It very well may be that this series offers a turning point for all of us who listen.  What if we find the cost of being a follower to high?  What if we discover that we prefer what is socially acceptable rather than obedience?

“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23


I Appreciate You!

Many churches across the country designate October as a month to tell their pastor that they appreciate them.  I have experienced this in  each church I have had the privilege to lead as pastor of worship.  It’s difficult to express just how much a word of encouragement from someone within the congregation can lift my spirits.

Somewhere I heard theses  statistics.  Upon receiving good news, a person will tell 3 people but when receiving bad news, the same person will tell 11 people.  I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I think the church as a body can take a different approach.  When someone does something well, we should tell them.  It matters.  It’s encouraging.  It’s instructed by God and recommended by Paul!

So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. (Jesus words) Matthew 7:12

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

At the top of this blog is a picture of my collection of encouraging cards and letters I have received throughout the years of my ministry.  I keep them all.  During times of discouragement I pull them out to be reminded that I am doing something that really does have a positive effect on the lives of those I’m called to serve and lead.  But it’s not always a Dayspring card coupled with a favorite candy bar.

I also have received my share of criticism and hate mail.  I hope you are not familiar with this style of communication.  It usually looks something like this.  The letter is addressed to you, but your name is spelled incorrectly.  If it comes in the mail, there is no return address.  Most likely it was found by the secretary because it was left on her desk, however, it is more likely that stepped on it Monday morning because it had been slid underneath your office door.  It is not signed.  The subject matter is almost guaranteed to en-capsule an event – which you do not remember – that happened months ago.  The handwriting is barley legible because of the spots where the goading instrument broke its lead or forced the ink through the paper onto the other side. The letter continues with a generalized evaluation of your ineptitude and lack of qualifications and social graces.  Several names for your misguided leadership style are suggested.  It is not signed.  This is where I file these letters.

Thankfully I have not received a letter like this for a long, long time.  If you have a pastor or staff of pastors, it is likely that they have received one or two of these during their tenure.  But this is not a blog about unfair critics and hurtful comments.

Please take the time to encourage your pastors next month.  Ministry can be full of discouragement and it’s easy to become disheartened.  A simple word of encouragement from you can go a long way.  Consistent prayer can go even further.  When both take place consistently, your pastor will begin to feel like he could move mountains!  Based on some of the best encouragers I’ve known over there years, here are a few ideas on how to encourage your pastor(s).

  • Send a card that expresses how much you value the role they have as your pastor. (cards are easier to file than emails)
  • Let them know that they made a difference in growing your love for Jesus. (often times the enemy tries to convince us that we aren’t making a difference)
  • Be specific about something they said or did and how it benefited your relationship with the Lord. (sometimes the deceiver tries to convince the pastor that no one notices)
  • When offering spoken encouragement, look your pastor in the eyes. (it’s a nonverbal way to communicate that you are their friend) (-Pastors sometimes falsely believe that they aren’t allowed to have friends among the people they lead. – I reject this thinking!)

I know that this blog has readers who are in a lot of churches other than mine. So I feel comfortable offering this as a 3rd party intermediary.  Don’t say to your pastor, “hey, I read this blog and it said I should give you this.”  Feel free to leave me out of it and make your encouragement your own.  Be personal.  Be genuine.  And let me know how it goes.  Share here on this blog what you did to encourage your pastor (or what you intend to do since it is not yet officially Pastor appreciation month.)

Bill Hybels has said on many occasions that he believes “the local church is the hope of the world.”  It’s true because the local church – when healthy – carries the light of Jesus.  Healthy churches are led by encouraged pastors.

And to my pastors; Joe and Andy, I love serving with you.  Thank you for being pastors for me and my family.  Know that I’m praying for your leadership and I submit to you as brothers and leaders under Christ (Ephesians 5:21).  May God bless your ministries wholly and completely as He has blessed me through each of you.


Do I Care What Others Think?

When it comes to corporate worship we can’t escape the fact that we are in the presence of others.  Wherever we sit or stand, we are surrounded by other worshipers. (And non-worshipers) In a world where image is everything, do we concern ourselves too much with what others think, when we should be focusing on God?

“What if they see me crying?”

“If I raise my hands, they will judge me.”

“Remember to turn the offering envelope upside down, so no one sees what I give.”

“Nobody complimented my shoes!”

“If I put the envelope in slowly, everyone can see how much I give.”

With the popularity of social media formats such as facebook, twitter and pintrest, etc… we are more concerned than ever before about maintaining an acceptable image.  Haven’t we taken this image conscious mindset to an unhealthy level?  Social media can be a great place to interact with friends, but in our humanness, we tend to only put forth the image we want others to see and we hide our real selves. I’m sure this isn’t true all of the time, but it’s true enough of the time.

Does this same tendency toward image influence our corporate worship?  Scripture teaches that God is the audience of our worship, not others.  When we make God alone our audience, we will care less about maintaining our image in front of others.  The next time you participate in corporate worship set aside the image you want others to see and lay your life open before God.

When we drop the image facade, our worship can be a testimony.  Let us be Spirit and Truth worshipers who enter His presence without our masks and worship the Savior without pretense.


Evaluating Our Personal Worship

Pastors and Worship leaders evaluate the Sunday morning worship hour each week.  Many times that evaluation is intentional and facilitated by a list of evaluation questions.  Other times the pastor enters his office on Monday, sits behind his desk, buries his face in his hands and mutters, “Well that didn’t go well!”  Clearly, intentional evaluation, done well, can be used to guide leaders to make necessary adjustments and improvements.  Reactionary evaluation, however, offers little or no building blocks for the leader to improve the plan.  There is no opportunity for the evaluated one to discover “a better way.”

I have been a part of many conversations on how to evaluate worship.  All of these discussions have been from the perspective of the ones who plan or lead worship services.  But I have not aware of many conversations which our own personal worship.

Worship leaders can attend conferences, enjoy conversations with fellow worship leaders, participate in webinars on worship leading, all in an effort to be better worship leaders.  But what process is there for disciplining all believers to become better worshipers – the kind of worshipers the Father seeks?  Sometimes I wonder if we just expect that developing and training better worship leaders will automatically translate into having churches full of better worshipers – the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.

If Pastors and worship leaders don’t intentionally guide their evaluations process, the default will takes us to the ABC’s of Sunday morning evaluation.  Attendance, Baptisms, and Cash – though these are important to the church’s ability to continue to grow and function, they are not very good indicators that Spirit and Truth worship has taken place.  So what is?

In our modern church cultural, we tend to ask questions like:

  • “Was there and attitude of excitement?”
  • “Did we enjoy ourselves?”
  • “Did I sing all the notes correctly?”
  • “Did I sing harmony?”
  • “Did the sermon move me?”
  • “Did the prayers motivate me?”
  • “Did the leadership inspire me?”
  • “Was twenty dollars enough? Should I have given more? The usher kinda glared at me.”

I won’t say that I’m a divinity expert, but I don’t think that there is a biblical standard for these kind of questions.  In fact, when I read through them a second time, they seem rather self serving.  These questions, however represent the unwritten worship rules in most church worship services.  Perhaps there’s a good reason they are unwritten.  If we were to examine ourselves using the gift God has given us – His Word – then we would commit to a completely different standard for evaluating our own personal worship.

  • Did I present myself with HUMILITY  -Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.(James 4:10 ESV)
  • What about my worship offering communicated to God that I am COMPLETELY HIS?    -I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.(Romans 12:1 ESV)
  • Did I offer HONEST CONFESSION or try to deny and justify my sin to God?     -Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place?  He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. (Psalm 24:1-4 ESV)
  • Does the LOVE I claim to have for God in this moment overflow to the other areas in my life?     –Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV)
  • Are others encouraged and uplifted in Christ, because of my TESTIMONY?       – And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, (Ephesians 5:18-19 ESV)
  • Did I express my THANKFULNESS to God or merely complain about all my misfortunes?     –Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, (Ephesians 5:20 ESV)
  • Do I SUBMIT myself to everyone else within the family of faith?         –Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:21 ESV)

What if we began evaluating worship using the second list of questions? What it that became our new normal?  Would it reform the way we think about worship?  Would it bring revival to our own walk with God?


Sing, Sing, Sing!

I’ve been a worship pastor for 18 years.  Much has changed for us with regard to worship in the church.  New technologies such as big screens with moving video backgrounds have found a home in our places of worship.  That’s not a bad thing!  It’s also not the “bees knees” as they say.  Well some people use that phrase.
It seems that the one thing that unites the churches of God today is that we love to fight about worship style.  As Stephen would say – “You stiff-necked people!”  GET OVER IT!  Are you too blind to see that it is not the Father who has caused you to be so opinionated about music or to prefer a certain style?  No, it is the evil one who divides us.  Too many of you have chosen to love your music style more than you love the One you’re attempting to sing to. You have forgotten your audience is the living God.  He is not impressed by your style!  He is interested in your broken and contrite hearts! Psalm 51.
When did it happen that we began to replace loving God with music appreciation?  Do we really expect that God will one day place a crown on our head and say; “I’m so glad you forced your new songs into the the fabric of church life, totally relevant, dude?” or will He say “Thank you for fighting to keep hymns in the church.  Those are my favorites too?”  Absolutely Not!
I understand all the reasons and all the arguments people offer for adding technology and for calling upon various styles and they are not bad reasons.  We want to be relevant in our methods.  This is a good thing.  We desire to sing our songs in musical languages that our guests, who may not have a church background, can understand. This is noble. I’m in agreement with these motivations, however (COMMA, DOT, DOT, DOT) let us keep our primary motivation for music and its accompanying technologies centered on Christ.
Colossians 3:16Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.
The psalms and hymns and spiritual songs help us fill our lives with the richness of Christ.  We sing the attributes to God to remind ourselves, Who it is we worship.  We sing out the truth about God’s love for us as an encouragement to each another.  We sing our praises to God out of thankfulness for all He has done and all He will do.  The body encourages the body.  There is just something about singing it out loud that helps us internalize the richness of Jesus and allows Him to fill up our lives.  It can’t be reproduced by listening to a song on the radio.  It must be done out loud and in cooperation. (It is called cooperate worship, right?)
Sing, Sing, Sing! People of God, sing TO each other and be encouraged. Sing WITH each other to God and give Him thanks and praise. Sing AS ONE body and dwell in unity!  This is what psalms and hymns and spiritual songs can help us do.  What God meant as a tool to remind us to be filled with His richness and to unify us, the evil one has used to divide us.  The evil one has no greater joy than dividing the people of God.
Father, forgive me when my pride has derailed my best efforts to worship You.  At times I have made an idol out of my own tastes and traditions.  Forgive me, Lord, when I’ve failed to encourage others because I pretended that style was synonymous with worship.  I long to be filled with the richness of Christ and to encourage others to be filled with the same.  Help me use ALL psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, new and old, as a medium for the body to worship and give thanks as one.

Live Like You Were Dying (Wait! I’m not done yet!)

Sunday we finished, what I believe will prove to be, a pivotal series in the life of our church. And I find myself asking the question “Where do I go from here?” I feel like I’m just starting to apply these principles into the fabric of my everyday living and I’m not ready to put away.  Do you feel that way too?  I have asked our Church Librarian to suggest a few books from our library that will help us continue on this journey – even when the sermon series is over and the small groups have completed their studies together.  Thank you Barb Rich for being my guest blogger on the Schoeneblog, today.
by Ann Voskamp
 
 Just like you, Ann Voskamp hungers to live her one life well. Forget the bucket lists that have us escaping our everyday lives for exotic experiences. ‘How,’ Ann wondered, ‘do we find joy in the midst of deadlines, debt, drama, and daily duties? What does the Christ-life really look like when your days are gritty, long—and sometimes even dark? How is God even here?’ In One Thousand Gifts, Ann invites you to embrace everyday blessings and embark on the transformative spiritual discipline of chronicling God’s gifts. It’s only in this expressing of gratitude for the life we already have, we discover the life we’ve always wanted … a life we can take, give thanks for, and break for others. We come to feel and know the impossible right down in our bones: we are wildly loved — by God. Let Ann’s beautiful, heart-aching stories of the everyday give you a way of seeing that opens your eyes to ordinary amazing grace, a way of being present to God that makes you deeply happy, and a way of living that is finally fully alive. Come live the best dare of all!
When Life Is Hard by James MacDonald

When life is hard, you know, really hard, we often spend all our time pleading, begging, yelling, refusing, and questioning. While none of these things are necessarily unusual, they are missing the ultimate point. When life is hard, when things get ugly, when all hope seems to be lost… that is when we are able to display the superiority of the life lived in God.
It is in those moments of despair, when we question what is happening, when we don’t know what to do, when some trials never…seem…to…end, that we can lean most heavily into God’s promises and truths.

Don’t Forget To Dream: Pursuing a Life That Matters-Shaped by the Heart of God 
by Tim Dowdy “Don’t Forget to Dream” by Tim Dowdy is a book of encouragement for young people. Many times they set goals for themselves only to have them crushed. Dowdy’s book offers hope for crushed dreams. He offers the path to fulfilled dreams. Each chapter contains anecdotes from Dowdy’s memories, scripture that supports Dowdy’s statements, words of encouragement and a challenge. Dream Resolution is an area to record your intentions in that particular area. I highly recommend this book for high school, college students, and all young people.

Live Big!: 10 LifeCoaching Tips for Living Large, Passionate Dreams by Dr. Katie Brazelton

Life coach Dr. Katie Brazelton provides readers the tools they need to move from daydreaming to real adventure. In a friendly and encouraging tone, Katie takes readers through ten steps, from Face Your Fears to Capture Your Live Big! Dream. Each of the ten steps gives readers a broader, richer understanding of how to start, run, and finish the race well ahead of the pack. And on each step of the way, Dr. Brazelton offers inspiring messages, stories, scriptures, and prayers..
With busy lives and complicated schedules, most people don’t think they have time to fulfill their dreams while still juggling work, family, friends, and God. Dr. Brazelton’s Live Big! has just the right-sized bits of wisdom to help readers get started on the process of finding their God-designed purpose. .

Outlive Your Life:You Were Made to Make A Difference  by Max Lucado

These are difficult days in our world’s history. 1.75 billion people are desperately poor, natural disasters are gouging entire nations, and economic uncertainty still reigns across the globe. But you and I have been given an opportunity to make a big difference. What if we did? What if we rocked the world with hope? Infiltrated all corners with God’s love and life? We are created by a great God to do great works. He invites us to outlive our lives, not just in heaven, but here on earth. Let’s live our lives in such a way that the world will be glad we did.

Surviving in an Angry World: Finding Your Way to Personal Peaceby Charles Stanley

The premise of this book is that learning to let go of anger—and ultimately forgiving the offender—will transform the foundation of every kind of relationship we have. Stanley defines anger as “a strong feeling of intense displeasure, hostility, or indignation as a result of a real or an imagined threat or insult, frustration, or injustice toward yourself or towards someone who’s very important to you.” Building on this definition, Stanley…
1. Helps readers identify the signs of anger, so they can identify anger in themselves. 
2. Reveals the far-reaching consequences of anger, which encompass the spiritual, emotional, and physical.
3. Teaches readers how to handle anger through thirteen concrete steps.
4. Walks readers through the steps to true forgiveness and the healing power it brings.
Thanks again Barb for these suggestions. Barb has assured me that all these books are currently in the library and not checked out at this time.  Let me suggest a couple other ideas to keep the Live Like You Were Dying theme in front of you.  Go back and do it all again!  You can listen to all the sermons a second time here on the FSBC family website.  Go through the book again, too.  You can get a DVD from me if you’d like to watch Gary Smalley’s teaching one more time.  The important thing is DON’T FORGET and DON’T QUIT.  We’ve heard it, now let’s live it… together.
“Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” Deuteronomy 4:9 NIV

Give Forgiveness (What’cha doin’ with that rock?)

Of all the things the modern church needs to stop procrastinating with, it’s forgiveness!  Christ DIED for FORGIVENESS!  Some friends brought a paralytic to Jesus and what was the first thing he said? “Take heart my son, your sins are forgiven.”  We live forgiven lives, because of Jesus death – His blood shed for the forgiveness of our sin.  Do we hold his death in contempt when we withhold forgiveness from others?
Sunday we dealt with this issue of forgiveness.  Not one of us can escape.  We all need to forgive. We MUST! No evil could be done to us that cannot be forgiven.  Yet, because we’ve been hurt, we will hold on to a grudge or a conflict because it helps us justify our pain.  There are couple tricks our enemy likes to use to encourage us down a path of unforgiveness.
  1. We can hold it over their head. – Somehow we have allowed ourselves to be convinced that withholding forgiveness gives us power over the person who hurt us.  That is a Lie!  An unforgiving heart is not empowered, It’s imprisoned!
  2. Withholding forgiveness legitimizes my hurt. – No.  It doesn’t.  It only lengthens your hurt.
  3. They should suffer for what they did to me. – Ummm, I don’t know how to tell you this, but… They probably haven’t given it another thought.  How much time have you wasted meditating on their crime and your pain?
As we entered the service yesterday each of us was given a rock.  We were to hold that rock throughout the service.  Awkward doesn’t begin to describe it.  Hindered, restricted, annoyed also fit the bill.  I had to put it in my pocket and it rubbed my leg as I tried to worship.  I attempted to focus on God, but my mind kept returning to the rock rubbing a raw spot against my leg.  When I sat down I took it out and held it in my hand.  My leg was relieved by now I only had one hand free to follow along in my YouVersion bible app.  I was afraid I would scratch my iPad with the rock.  I couldn’t hold my wife’s hand, which we sometimes do while sitting together in church.  The rock came between us.

Finally, when I got up to sing the song of response, I let it go, laid the rock down at the alter.  I’d held it long enough that I could describe it in detail.  I could go back later and among all the rocks, I could tell you which one was mine.  The thought came to me after the final song to go back and pick it up.  THAT would have been a mistake.  I would not have wanted to answer the question later.

“What’cha doin’ with that rock?”

I would have answered honestly. “It is a reminder to me of the bad things people have done to me.  And how I need to forgiven them.”

“Well, if you’ve forgiven them, then why do you want to be reminded about what they’ve done?”

…good question

Father, help me to forgive as you did.  The same death you died on the cross for me is given to the ones who have hurt me.  I have no room to stand and judge anyone.  Thank you for forgiving meI celebrate your forgiveness and pass it on to those whom I need to forgive.

Where do you stand on the subject of forgiveness? Have you been restored after a broken relationship?  

Is there anyone from whom you are still withholding forgiveness?  Please leave a comment below.

Honesty; The Best Policy

Honesty is hard! So hard that I find many people avoiding it all together. I’m not saying they have been dishonest with me. I can’t be sure. I do know this, that honesty is a must for those who choose to follow Christ.
I can think of many cliches regarding honesty and many of them seem negative. “Can I be honest with you?” “To be honest, I…” “Let me be brutally honest,” Brutally Honest? Does honesty have to be brutal?
I guess honesty can be brutal to those who prefer the world of their own ideals to the truth that is staring them in the face. Take it from a recovering idealist; Truth is better than the seduction of a false reality. But I don’t think honesty needs to be “brutal.” It’s not something that needs to brings us fear.
Jesus declared himself to be “the TRUTH, the way and the life” and No one comes to the Father except through Jesus. In order to “come to the Father” we must face the truth of who Jesus says He is and who He says we are. It is impossible to come to God with out coming through Jesus, Who is truth.
Honesty is good. And I don’t simple mean being honest by telling the truth to others. It is imperative for us to be honest with ourselves. Our failings, our brokenness, our inadequacies take on a transformational value when we are honest about them. For instance, if we treat failure with denial, we are doomed to fail again. On the other hand, if we are honest about our failure, we will seek help and advice and turn that failure into an opportunity for growth. Same goes for our brokenness and inadequacy. Healing and Courage will come from truth and honesty. Faking it, will only lead to more pain and more fear.

My prayer for “Live Like You Were Dying” is that we as a the body at FSBC will be honest to God about who we are and where we can improve.

Father help me be honest with myself about the kind of husband, father, son, employee, leader, steward I have been. Help me be honest about how I have spoken to others so that I can Speak Sweeter. Spirit, lead me to a place where I can be honest about the feebleness of my attempts to “love” others and help me to love deeper with Jesus’ love. Where I have chosen to hold on to hurt and anger and bitterness, help me to forgive others as you have forgiven me. I don’t want to wait until my life is nearly over to do the things I ought to. Lord, I realize I’m asking for a blessing I don’t deserve. Please grant me the blessing to live a transformed life.


What’s In It For Me?

The following is a fictional memoir and does not reflect the attitudes of anyone I know personally, though it may reveal the inner struggles we are all trying to overcome as we become the church He died for us to be.

Worship to day didn’t do much for me. I wasn’t inspired. Worship is there to inspire me and motivate me and I just didn’t feel it. People around me were raising and clapping their hands. A couple in front of me stood up and I couldn’t see. I mean, the worship leader did’t  even ask us to stand up. I was doing it right and they were doing it wrong, yet they seemed inspired and I went away feeling worse than before.

The scripture must have been a good one, because I heard a lot of “Amen” and “That’s Right” from folks around me but I guess I just didn’t get it. It was from 2 Corinthians 4:7 “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not us.”

To me church should be about helping me be successful as a person. I mean, God wants me to be successful right? That way I can show him how good I am.  Being more successful means I can upgrade my wardrobe.  As I dress nicer for church, people will know that I really love God.  When we dress nice for church, it’s like we’re telling God “thank you for the blessings,” right?  I want Him to be proud of me and pleased with me. If I’m successful, then I’ll give credit to God. Wouldn’t he want that?

The pastor kept saying that as “jars of clay” in the hands of God there will be no doubt that the power comes from him. Then he read from Luke 9:24-25 “For whoever would save his life would lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?” I couldn’t make sense of this, because God gave me this life, why would he want me to give it up? That doesn’t seem like good stewardship to me.  And I KNOW for a fact that God want’s us to be good stewards. He said so.  I think it’s in Genesis or Deuteronomy.

Lose my life for God’s? On purpose? That’s just not the kind of message I’m looking for. What’s in that for me? I’m looking for a church where I can feel good about myself and my ambitions. I think God wants me to feel good and be successful for Him. This “jars of clay” idea just doesn’t fit my idea of God.

I think I’ll have to look elsewhere for the kind of inspiration I need. I don’t mean leave the church! Good heavens, no. I have some really good friends there. They’re humble, simple people, never who complain about what they don’t have, but give thanks for what God has given them. They are true servants. If I had a nickel for every time they brought me a meal when I was sick or when our baby was born or my mother passed away, well then I’d have a lot of nickels. I’d probably be able to start tithing! Ha-Ha- I’m just kidding. Anyway, I wonder why worship can’t get me inspired enough to be more like those people.  I guess God just hasn’t opened the right door yet.
For now, I’ll just have to rely on myself for my own inspiration and work my hardest to get ahead in this world to make God proud of me.
Do you find anything here that resembles your own struggle to understand who you are to be “In Christ?” Do you value your own success. Do you devalue the “jars of clay” in which God has chosen to store His richest treasure – (you)?