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

Sshhh…

Have you ever been in a prayer meeting where everything is quiet and the peace of the Lord is permeating the room and you’re all just basking in the presence of God… then someone just has to fill the silence with what is usually a loud and long-winded prayer? There seem to be those who cannot abide the silence. Well, heaven is one long, unending praise and worship service. Maybe, but sometimes, worship includes silence.

When the Lamb broke the seventh seal, there was silence throughout heaven for about half an hour.

Revelation 8:1 (NLT)

There are several theories as to the purpose or reason for this silence. Some believe that it is heaven—the elders and the angels surrounding the throne—waiting in expectation for what will follow the breaking of the seventh seal. Others believe that the cries of the saints below were so great that it silenced the heavenly host.

I believe that the silence itself is just as important as the reason.

There is a time for loud, boisterous, joyful praise. And there is a time for quiet contemplative worship. And there is yet a time for silence. How else are we to hear what God is saying if we never take the time to listen? We know from the Old Testament accounts that God can speak through a burning bush or He can speak in a still, small voice. Sometimes He needs to get our attention and other times we need to give Him our attention.

Whatever the reason for the half hour of silence in Revelation, all of heaven stood at attention. They waited. They listened. They prepared. There was a pause. A weighted silence.

Prayer, praise, worship—these things do not necessarily require sound on our part. Sometimes, the silence can hold more weight than words. If heaven can handle silence, so can we.

Daily Bible reading: Obadiah 1, Revelation 8

What did you expect?

One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and started out… And all the people in the region of the Gerasenes begged Jesus to go away and leave them alone, for a great wave of fear swept over them… On the other side of the lake the crowds welcomed Jesus, because they had been waiting for him… So they began their circuit of the villages, preaching the Good News and healing the sick.

Luke 8:11, 37, 40, 9:6 (NLT)

Isn’t it rather amazing that on one side of the lake, Jesus was feared? He performed one miracle and it terrified the villagers so much, they asked him to leave. It had been an unscheduled stop, so I don’t think that Jesus and his disciples were too put out by the request.

While on the other side of the lake, the villagers had been expecting Jesus. They were waiting. Anticipating. Jesus and his crew were able to travel to the surrounding towns performing miracle after miracle.

What was the difference?

Expectation. Where there was anticipation of Jesus’ arrival, great things were bound to happen. Where he hadn’t been previously announced, he was able to do nothing.

When you go to church, is it just another day? Another thing to check off your schedule? Or do you show up expecting to meet Jesus? Do you arrive in anticipation of what he is able to do?

I tell my teams of church volunteers all the time to come expecting every Sunday. I can’t tell you what you need to expect, only you can decide that. The woman who had been bleeding for more than a decade expected healing when she simply touched something that was touching Jesus. Jairus expected that his daughter would be healed if Jesus could only come home with him. Even the demons who had held a man captive in his own body expected something of Jesus. They all expected and they all received.

If we expect nothing of Jesus, we don’t have the right to be disappointed when nothing happens. Whether you need healing, breakthrough, or simple affirmation, expect it. Never once did Jesus turn someone down when they needed something, but they key is that they all approached him with a request. He never pontificated about how his great power and grace healed, but proclaimed that their own faith made them well.

What do you expect from Jesus today?

Daily Bible reading: Judges 8-9, Luke 8:22-56

Kingdom

And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables…”

Mark 4:11 (ESV)

If you’ve been around churches for any length of time, you may have heard said that the Bible is like a love letter written to Christians. As cliché as that sounds, it’s sort of true.

Many non-believers read the Bible and come out of it confused, while others come out of the experience enlightened. What’s the difference? Why doesn’t everyone experience the Bible in the same way?

Have you ever been in a church service where you see people with their arms raised, tears streaming down their face while you stand with your hands in your pockets watching, wondering if you’ve missed something?

We all experience God in different ways. Don’t misread this, God doesn’t change, we just see different facets of Him. If we are open, He shows us what we need when we need it. In this verse in Mark, Jesus had just told a large crowd the parable of the sower. All the crowd got was the parable. This group is like a non-believe reading the Bible without any expectation and probably a lot of cynicism. These people aren’t privy to the explanation. They heard the words and walked away.

Once the crowd had gone, Jesus explained his story to his disciples and those who had remained near by – the people close to him, the people who were seeking answers. These are the people who look to the Bible for answers. God says that if we seek Him, we will find Him. We have “been given the secret of the kingdom of God.”

When you stay close to Jesus and ask the questions, you get the good stuff. You get the secrets.

Daily Bible reading: Numbers 5-6, Mark 4:1-20