A little more action, please.

It is an astonishingly low number of Christians who attend church with any regularity. Even the measure by which we base church attendance is startling—just three of every eight weeks (nineteen church visits annually). One study showed that just 20 percent professing Christians attend church “regularly”. What about the other 80 percent?

Sure, we can all come up with excuses as to why we don’t go to church. The kids had a ball game. It was a rough week, I needed the rest. Church is boring, there’s nothing there for me. I can serve Jesus at home as well as I can at church. Church is full of hypocrites. Have I hit home yet? I could keep going… But I won’t.

If we really break it down to the very root of the issue, most Christians aren’t in church on Sundays because they’re not willing to make the effort. Somehow, we’ve come to the conclusion that church needs to be like everything else—on demand, how we want it, when we want it, now!

But what about those very first believers? How did they feel about gathering together?

[Jesus] went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coast of Tyre and Sidon, who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those trouble by evil spirits were cured.

Luke 6:17-18 (NIV)

How far are you willing to travel to go to church? How much time are you willing to spend in transit? If there’s traffic, do you decide to stay home and try again next week?

This account takes place near Capernaum. Do you know how far Jerusalem is from Capernaum? 164 kilometres. That’s about 34 hours of walking. Tyre and Sidon would be comparable in distance. The crowds that followed Jesus travelled great distances at great expense. And I hear people complain that a 14 kilometre car ride is too far to go to church.

So what’s the difference between those who followed Jesus as he walked the earth and us now?

Expectation. These people came to hear Jesus. They came to get close to him. They came to touch him. They came to get something from him.

…and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all.

Luke 6:19 (NIV)

Excitement. Jesus caused a stir everywhere he went. Whether it was by contradicting the Pharisees or raising the dead, he gave the people something to talk about.

Evidence. Not only had people heard of Jesus’ message, but they had seen the evidence of it. Those who had experienced miracles by Jesus’ hand told others who told others who told others. The crowds knew that there was power and that it was a power that could change lives.

Without the first of these three, the second two don’t exist.

We must start with expectation. Very few people who go into church with the thought that it’s going to be another boring service are ever met with anything but. But the majority of those who walk into church expecting to meet Jesus there, do.

A little more action is required on our part. First, we need to get to church. Second, we go with the expectation that will we see God move. Third, we can’t give up.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV)

This leads me to my final point. When we come with expectation, we will show excitement and see the evidence of our beliefs. When we do these things together as a group of believers, something else happens.

Encouragement. The more you stay away, the less likely you’ll be to return. But the more you show up, the more involved you get, the more relationships you make, the more you’ll want to be there.

There is more purpose in the local church and the gathering of believers together than I can even begin to discuss here, but I cannot stress enough the importance of it.

On your way to church this week (I hope you do go), look forward to it—no matter what did or didn’t happen last week. Expect to receive something from God. Engage with the people around you. Sing along to the music. Maybe even clap along or raise your hands. Pay attention to the words being spoken. Listen for that one thing you can hold on to through the week. Don’t rush off afterward. Ask to be prayed for or pray for someone. Smile and wave to people on your way out. Then try it again next week. Do it for a month. See if all those ideas about church are really true or were simply made true by your own attitude and expectations.

Read: Joshua 21-22, Luke 6:1-26

The fellowship

I have heard many Christians who have walked away from one church, or the church altogether, blame other Christians for their spiritual state. The church didn’t do enough for them. The other members didn’t include them enough. No place was made for them. May excuses are given, but no responsibility is taken. Their cold spiritual climate is blamed on everyone but themselves.

This is the message he has given us to announce to you: God is light and there is no darkness in him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness. We are not living in the truth. But if we are living in the light of God’s presence, just as Christ is, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from every sin.

1 John 1:5-7 (NLT)

This passage puts the responsibility on the individual to be a part of the body, not the body to make the individual a part of them. If we are living in the light… then we have fellowship with each other. Fellowship with the rest of the church is a natural part of a healthy relationship with Christ. Expecting that the church tend to your personal relationship with Jesus is backwards. Jesus first. Church second.

It is ignorant of us to put thing in the wrong order and then try to pass the blame around without ever accepting the responsibility we have to keep ourselves in the light. No one else can do that for you.

Instead of spending so much time looking for someone or something you can blame, why not use all that energy and put it toward your relationship with God? If we all put as much effort into our spiritual lives as we do placing blame, the church would be a much happier place and we wouldn’t have to worry about where the blame goes because there would be no reason for it.

Get into the light. Then get into fellowship. In that order. The church can help you, but they can’t do it all for you.

Daily Bible reading: Ezekiel 47-48, 1 John 1

Success!

Growing up in the church, I never ceased to be amazed at the excuses Christians will come up with for their own sin. I’m probably guilty of it myself. You hear things like, “we’re no longer under the law” or “I’m covered by grace”. While those are both true, they are not free passes for us to sin. Many believers are under the impression that, because Jesus came to fulfill the law of Moses, that we have no code to live by.

So then that was Jesus’ ministry for?

We read in the Old Testament of King Hezekiah. Finally, there’s a good one in the bunch.

He remained faithful to the Lord in everything, and he carefully obeyed all the commands the Lord had given Moses. So the Lord was with him, and Hezekiah was successful in everything he did.

1 Kings 18:6-7a (NLT)

Don’t you think we could learn a thing or two from this guy? We can simply believe in Jesus as our Lord and Saviour and basically use our salvation as a Get Out of Hell Free card so we can continue to live our lives however we want or we, like Hezekiah, can obey the Lord and see success in our lives. Shouldn’t the choice be easy?

Rather than the entire book of the law (which is pretty much impossible to follow to the letter), Jesus centred his entire ministry on two commands:

  1. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.
  2. Love your neighbor as yourself.

Matthew 22:37, 39 (NLT)

Love. That’s it. No more excuses! We don’t have a free pass to do what we want when we want. If we dare to call ourselves by the name of Christ, we should strive every moment of every day to live worthy of the name. Jesus is love. We should be love. I believe that the greatest success we can achieve on this side of heaven is to live as Christ. So I will leave you with the words of the apostle Paul:

For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ…

Philippians 1:20-22 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: 2 Kings 18-19, John 6:22-44

The invitation

If you got an invitation directly from God to join Him at His table for a feast, would you go? Or would you make up an excuse to not have to attend? You’re probably thinking that the answer to this one is a no-brainer. No need to think about it. Of course I’m there!

Are you really?

In Luke 14, Jesus is teaching about humility. Instead of sitting at the head of the table and then embarrassing yourself when you’re asked to move down for a more honoured guest, sit at the foot and be honoured when you’re asked to move up. One man pipes up, “What a privilege it would be to have a share in the Kingdom of God!”

But Jesus goes on to share:

A man prepared a great feast and sent out many invitations. When all was ready, he sent his servant around to notify the guests that it was time for them to come. But they all began making excuses. One said he had just bought a field and wanted to inspect it, so he asked to be excused. Another said he had just bought five pair of oxen and wanted to try them out. Another had just been married, so he said he couldn’t come.

Luke 14:16-20 (NLT)

It turns out that, because the guests who were honoured with invitations wouldn’t come, the man went out and invited anyone he could find until every seat at his table was full.

But that would never be me! I’d never turn down an invitation!

I’m pretty sure we’ve all turned down an invitation or two—or even more. I’m inclined to believe that those who have been in the church for a long time turn down more invitations than those who are new to the faith.

What do I mean by invitation? I mean the opportunity to spend time with God. The chance to simply bask in His presence to do His work. When we’ve had many invitations, we tend to lose sight of the honour bestowed upon us because God wants us at His table. When we have the opportunity to serve, it is God allowing us the honour of furthering His Kingdom. When there is an invitation to worship, God is allowing us the honour of simply being in His presence.

How many times have you been too busy to attend that extra church service or too tired to put in an extra hour or two serving? I’ll be the first one to put my hand up and say that I’m guilty of doing just that.

Can you imagine how much more effective the Church would be if we would recall the honour in the invitation rather than offer excuses as to why we can’t go? God Himself has reached out His hand to you and asked you to work along side Him and to dine with Him. Why would anyone want to turn down that kind of invitation?

Daily Bible reading: 1 Samuel 13-14, Luke 14:1-4

Much.

With God’s power working in us, God can do much, much more than anything we can ask or imagine. To him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus for all time, forever and ever. Amen.

Ephesians 3:20-21 (NCV)

I’m not good enough.

I’m not talented enough.

I don’t feel called to anything.

There are all common excuses in the church. And all of them are saying that God doesn’t measure up.

WHAT?!?!?

If God, in His infinite wisdom and knowledge, failed to make me good enough, failed to give me enough talent, failed to call me to a greater work, that would mean that He has fallen short of who He says He is.

But He has made me good enough. He has given me enough talent. He has called me to a greater work. And, in that realization, is where God can do the much, much more that Paul talked about in his letter to the church at Ephesus.

If everything I do brings God glory in one way or another, what kind of glory is He really getting from everything I do? Is He proud of what I’ve accomplished in His name with what He has given me? or am I one of those people He would rather not be associated with?

I need to recognize all that God has given me and make me to be and then act like I know it so that He receives the glory He deserves.